avoiding a farewell dinner, a coworker’s secret unpaid overtime, and more

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

1. How can I avoid a farewell dinner from the job that’s letting me go?

My question is regarding a farewell dinner that I’d really rather avoid attending. I was recently let go from a small company. The circumstances were pretty reasonable. I understand their reasons were not personal and not related to my work performance. However, I have been frustrated and upset by the way they have handled the process, and ultimately I feel a bit bitter about leaving.

As my final date draws closer, the boss has been suggesting a farewell dinner. As it’s a long weekend, I made the excuse that I needed to get home and pack for a trip. That led to a conversation about alternative dates, which I’ve managed to deflect with the excuse that I’ll be busy with other activities.

My excuses are running out though – they’ve now suggested that I choose a time that I’m free and they’ll work around my schedule. How can I gracefully let the boss know that I’d prefer not to be the guest of honour at an awkward dinner? If I have a conversation which betrays the fact that I’m more upset about leaving than they realize, will that make it more difficult to leave on good terms?

I was originally going to suggest that you plead a busy schedule between now and then, but they’ll probably just change it from a dinner to a workday lunch. So I’d say this: “I appreciate the thought — thank you. I’m actually not one for formal farewell events, so I’d prefer to say my goodbyes informally, but it’s really kind of you to make the offer.”

2. Should I speak up about my coworker’s unpaid overtime?

My coworker and I are both non-exempt hourly employees. When I was hired, our boss was very clear that I needed to make sure I kept my to 40 hours/week except when we have special events. I know she has had a similar conversation with my coworker multiple times, and she has explicitly told him that he can’t work unpaid overtime. Despite this, I know he’s staying late and often working from home. This morning I came in and found an email from him timestamped 12:30 a.m.! (For what it’s worth, I think this is both because he has too much work to get done in the work day and because his time management skills are abysmal. He has also implied that he enjoys the rush of pushing deadlines/being too busy.)

I’ve been firm where this directly overlaps with my job–for example, I won’t let him borrow equipment I’m responsible for so that he can use it outside of work hours, because I don’t want to get in trouble if something happens to it. Usually, though, it doesn’t affect me much, other than in that it gives him more room to mismanage his time (which has occasionally impacted his ability to do tasks that I’ve requested). Do I have any responsibility to mention it to my boss, especially since our performance reviews are next week? Or is this none of my business?

I don’t think you’re obligated to mention it as long as you’re not in a management role (over anyone, not just him; if you are, that makes you part of the company’s management team and you should speak up). But I also don’t think you’d be out of line if you did mention it, since what he’s doing is exposing the company to legal risk. (They’re required to pay him for that overtime, even if he’s not logging it.)

3. A messy salary situation with board members

Last year, I was hired by a local nonprofit community center to start a program that over time became large enough to spin off into its own nonprofit. I am now the director and only employee of this new nonprofit. The director of the old nonprofit is my board president. Another member of my board has led a different, very successful program at the old nonprofit for almost 10 years, and is also a friend.

A few weeks ago, this board member confided to me that she hasn’t had a raise in several years, and that every time she asks for one, she is turned down by her director (my board president.) Together we strategized ways she might approach asking for a raise again, as well as raises for her underpaid staff. I didn’t think about this conversation again until a few days ago, when I was meeting with my board president (her director) to go through applications for a new position I am looking to fill. I am the only employee of my new organization, but filling this new position will make me a manager. While discussing the salary of the new position, my board president (out of nowhere) suggested that we raise my salary once the new person comes on, since I will be adding new responsibilities.

I am happy about the raise (especially since this is nonprofit work we’re talking about, so the salary is small compared to the private sector), but now I feel like I’ve been put in an awkward position. With this raise, I will be making more than the board member who has been running a much larger program for several years, and I didn’t even have to ask for it.

This wouldn’t be an issue if my board president weren’t also her boss. Under normal circumstances, I would just keep this to myself, because I don’t know the specifics of her situation or performance, but since she’s on my board she’s eventually going to see my organizational budget and new salary. I also am not sure if my salary is something the board should vote on (our bylaws don’t explicitly outline this.) Is there anything I should do or say in this situation? Do I take the raise, or suggest it be put to a vote? I have worked for enough dysfunctional nonprofits by now to know I should value my healthy, functioning board of directors. I don’t want this to breed the beginnings of resentment, but I also don’t want to turn down a raise! What should I do?

It’s not outrageous that you’d earn more than she does, since you’re running the organization, whereas she’s running (presumably a department). Granted, it’s an organization of two, but it’s still a different type of responsibility (and presumably includes fundraising and other responsibilities that are different from hers). But even aside from that, you should keep your pay and her pay separate in your mind. They’re two separate organizations, and there’s no reason for your salary and her salary to have anything to do with each other.

As for whether your salary should be voted on your board or whether your board chair has the authority to approve it herself, just ask her that! (“Should the board vote on this, or are we able to just move forward with it?”)

My bigger concern here is actually be all this cross-pollination between the two organizations, which has the potential to create conflicts of interest — or just conflicts — over time. I’d work on bringing in new board members who aren’t part of the other organization.

4. Can employer force me to give them access to my personal phone for work?

My employer wants to take away my company-provided Blackberry and install MDM software on my personal smartphone. Since it’s my phone and accesses not just my data, but my family’s, I don’t want to give them access. Can they force me to?

I understand that they can require me to provide my own “equipment” like uniforms, or physical tools. But this has implications beyond what I wear, or a a screwdriver that I hold in my hand—not just for my own privacy, but for other people’s, whose consent is not implicated in my employment.

Yep, they can. And yep, the privacy implications are really troubling.

This page has some tips for protecting your privacy in this situation, including thinking about having a separate personal device.

5. Explaining I’ll need time off to attend the trial for the death of a family member

A close family member died last year (think parent/sibling/child) and criminal action is being taken over the circumstances surrounding their death. I haven’t worked since their death (around six months) but am going to be job-hunting once I move cross-country with my boyfriend’s job in several weeks’ time. We don’t have a fixed date or timeline for the trial yet, but obviously I would require some/all of the time off work. Whether that is paid or not is immaterial at this point: my question is how do I bring this up?

Of course, when interviewers ask about upcoming holiday time that’s easy because it’s two fixed dates, for a positive reason and ta-da. But when it’s something like this – when the backstory is grim, has made national news and has an uncertain timeline – it’s harder to bring up without burdening the interviewer with my life story. I’m keen to get back to work, and the timescale will almost certainly be too long to just not to work until everything’s over. What approach would you take when explaining the need for time off?

I’m so sorry. I’d say this: “My family member was killed last year, and I’d like to attend the trial, but it hasn’t been scheduled yet. Could we arrange for me to take roughly X days off when that happens? I’d be fine with taking it unpaid if I need to.”

Or, if you’d prefer to disclose less, you could change that first clause to “my family member was the victim of a serious crime last year.”

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 326 comments… read them below }

  1. Mando Diao*

    OP1: It seems to me like the company feels bad about having to let you go, and they genuinely want to do something nice for you and perhaps present you with a check or a gift. Obviously you don’t have to sacrifice your comfort so they can assuage your guilt, but I wonder if there’s a tactful way to suggest the kind of farewell gift or event that might suit you better. Would you be okay with an in-office lunch catered by the restaurant of your choosing? Your coworkers would definitely appreciate that sort of thing, and in my experience, people’s attention tends to drift pretty quickly in that kind of set-up. You’ll be the center of attention for five minutes until everyone starts checking facebook on their phones. I’m making this suggestion because it doesn’t seem like you can get out of this entirely, but you can at least try to control the food and the environment.

    1. MillersSpring*

      I’m concerned that the LW previously may have said, “Sure, sounds great, maybe soon,” and now saying she doesn’t want a farewell event will seem like she’s been fibbing. If that’s the case, to Alison’s suggested verbiage, I’d add, “After a lot of thought, I must admit…” Or perhaps, “I’m sorry, and I’ve tried to avoid just stating this, but actually…”

      1. Jeanne*

        It will be a little trickier now, but your wording is right. Say you thought about it, you know what you prefer, and no thank you to any farewell event.

      2. Mando Diao*

        In this instance, as a manager, I’d be concerned about the whole office though: they’ve likely been told that there will be a dinner or lunch at some point (and like it or not, OP has perpetuated this misconception by not saying no outright), and it’s bad form to renege on that.

        My bigger point was that while it would be ideal to shut this down altogether, it looks like that’s not going to happen, so the OP might have to settle for steering the ship toward the most low-key version of an office party possible. Otherwise, there will be a fancy after-hours dinner planned around her.

          1. Doriana Gray*

            Thank you. It is not the job of the departing employee, especially one who’s being laid off, to make the rest of the people in the office feel better.

            1. Sadsack*

              Yeah, I don’t think OP should be concerned about her coworkers’ being let down. They should understand this may be difficult for her, being how this was not a voluntary departure. Anyone who feels let down over this is being selfish.

            2. Stranger than fiction*

              Totally. And it seems odd to me that they’d be so persistent without realizing how awkward this is. She’s not retiring, they’re letting her go. Nothing to celebrate. It seems like it’s more important to the coworkers to make it feel all “nicey-nice, we still like you”. Plus, assuming this is for financial reasons, it seems like a mixed message to say “we have to let you go, but hey let’s take the whole company out to dinner and spend $X00”.

              1. F.*

                You have put your finger on why I was very uncomfortable with this idea. I have been laid off twice, and both times I was escorted to the door with a box of my personal belongings to lug home on the bus. While unpleasant, at least my former company didn’t try to sugarcoat it.

              2. Elizabeth West*

                I worked at a place that had big food days for anyone who left voluntarily but nothing if you got fired. When I gave notice, they threw a going-away for me. It felt weird because I wasn’t leaving due to getting a better job, moving, a life event, etc.–I was quitting because the job had changed (more sales, which I suck at), and I didn’t like it anymore. And my boss knew it. But they were still all very nice about it.

                I think it’s fine for the OP to say she appreciates the offer, but she would rather not make a fuss.

            3. Girasol*

              I was part of a big downsizing where there was all sorts of fuss made over congratulating us on years of services and wishing us well in next endeavors. Those remaining passed the hat for going away gifts and we had a party. Our manager tried to keep up a positive vibe that we were all going on to bigger and better things rather than, at least in the short term, to unemployment in a bad job market. It felt surreal and I politely (I hope!) weaseled out of as much of it as I could. Later I came to think my behavior was self centered and that I did have some responsibility to my manager and my friends remaining to assuage their survivor guilt. It wasn’t their fault that half the department was laid off. They were good people who had to face a difficult and uncertain future in the company themselves. LW, if you can find it in yourself to go along with this, you might like yourself better later.

              1. I'm a Little Teapot*

                Don’t feel self-centered about it. You were in a worse spot than they were, and it was not your responsibility to expose yourself to even more stress and embarrassment to protect their feelings. Their guilt is not your fault or your problem.

                1. Jeanne*

                  I agree. When laid off, you have no responsibility to make the remaining employees feel better about keeping their jobs. Your only responsibility is to remain professional.

              2. Doriana Gray*

                Later I came to think my behavior was self centered and that I did have some responsibility to my manager and my friends remaining to assuage their survivor guilt.

                No, you really didn’t. This doesn’t even make sense.

          2. Sunflower*

            Quite frankly, I think the others might be relieved. It sounds like the circumstances surrounding OP’s departure are a little..tricky? It doesn’t doesn’t sound like she was laid off but also wasn’t fired so it’s possible the coworkers feel just as awkward about the dinner as OP does.

        1. Colette*

          My assumption is that this dinner would consist of everyone going to a restaurant and paying their own way (possibly with others covering the OP’s meal). I doubt anyone would be more than mildly disappointed at missing out, and some people would be relieved that they wouldn’t have to reorganize the rest of their life around it.

        2. Scotty_Smalls*

          I kinda think the optics of this will be bad if people were told there would be a farewell dinner and now there’s not. Either that the company sucks and took away OP’s dinner for no good reason. Or that OP did something to warrant no dinner. It might be best to ask for a low key lunch. Or make it clear to those OP works with that she preferred not having it.

          And granted, it seems that the company sucks at laying people off anyway. But the company doesn’t want to advertise that. Nor should the OP since she needs the reference.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It doesn’t have to be that complicated — “Jane’s schedule ended up being very full between now and when she leaves us, but we wish her all the best.”

    2. Sherm*

      It’s easy to get out of this entirely: “No, thank you.”
      (Boss): “But you said earlier you wanted to.”
      “I’m sorry for the confusion, but I must say no.”
      (Boss): “We just want to show that we like you and we wish you well.”
      “Your kind invitation already shows me that. Again, no.”
      (Boss): “Well, gosh, we’d hate to think that there are hard feelings involved here. Can’t we just treat you to dinner?”
      “Well, what you think really isn’t my business. I should get back to work.”

      I was let go once, and I completely understand OP#1. No way did I want a farewell dinner. “Can you pass the butter while I worry about how I’m going to pay rent?” Yeah, no thanks.

      1. Colette*

        This reads as a little harsh to me – the OP should acknowledge that she has (outwardly) changed her mind. There is no point in making her last move with that company something that will make them think less kindly of her.

        1. SCR*

          But they’re letting her go and she really may be genuinely upset about that. I would not be concerned with the company’s feelings at this point. Wrap up your stuff as best you can and move on as quietly as you want.

          1. Gandalf the Nude*

            It’s not about the company’s feelings, it’s about maintaining a positive relationship with a former employer. OP has just been laid off and is, presumably, looking for new work. This is not the time to coldly alienate what sounds like a positive reference and potential network contact.

            1. Sadsack*

              Yeah, there’s no reason not to at least try to keep it friendly. Anything else will just have potential to hurt her in the future. As long as she is able to avoid the party, why be adversarial about it?

            2. What does you name mean?*

              While it may not be about the company’s feelings and it’s about maintaining a positive relationship with a former employer, OP has been gracious.

              I would add if a company ever told me after they laid someone off, they insisted on holding dinner for that person, I’d think they were odd. What is there to talk about?

              1. Gandalf the Nude*

                I’m not referring to the dinner in general, which I agree OP should be able to graciously decline. I’m referring specifically to Sherm and SCR’s stances, which I think are more likely to detract from the work OP has done to keep a good relationship.

            3. Erin*

              I agree. It should definitely be possible for her to bow out gracefully and still maintain good relations.

              I’m assuming the employer is coming from good (although possibly misguided) intentions. Which would imply he’s at least somewhat reasonable and understanding. In which case I’d probably just say something like. “That’s really nice of you to offer. My schedule is really busy right now, like I mentioned, but also, honestly, I would just feel rather uncomfortable. I hope you understand if I decline. Again, I really do appreciate the gesture.”

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Whoa, yeah, that is way too chilly if the OP wants to preserve relationships, references, etc. There’s no reason to be that chilly when there are plenty of other ways of getting the outcome she wants.

          1. Honesty the Best Policy?*

            What if the OP is pulls her boss aside and says something like “I appreciate you trying to make my exit pleasant given the circumstances. I’m grateful for the show of kindness. A dinner/lunch is would be uncomfortable. My preference would be no dinner/lunch but thank you again for offering”?

            Allison, you stress honesty, so what do you think?

      2. MashaKasha*

        Yea, while I wouldn’t advise having that exact conversation, the farewell dinner idea strikes me as a bit tone-deaf. “Hey, Bob, guess what? You no longer have a job! Let’s all go out and celebrate!”

        If they feel bad, and want to present OP with a check or a gift card, then why don’t they put it in an envelope and present OP with it?

        We had one g0ing-away thing at OldJob for a colleague who was let go, but that was different in that none of us agreed with the decision, and the person who let the colleague go was most definitely not invited or welcome at the gathering. Other than that, I can’t recall a farewell dinner like that, because… it’s a fairly terrible idea?

        That said, the idea has been floated, they meant well, and while I agree that OP should be able to bow out, there’s got to be a way for her to bow out gracefully. No need to burn the bridges when she might need references from them in very near future.

    3. AnotherHRPro*

      This type of situation is really not that unusual. The OP’s manager and coworkers want the opportunity to say goodbye which is reasonable. However that does not trump the OP’s desire to avoid such an event. The OP should just be honest with their manager and tell them that they would not be comfortable attending a goodbye event and that she would prefer to say goodbye to individuals in her own way. If the OP’s manager and co-workers are at all decent, they will respect this request and completely understand.

      1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

        The OP’s manager and coworkers want the opportunity to say goodbye which is reasonable. However that does not trump the OP’s desire to avoid such an event.

        This. I have had employees who want a big good bye party and other who would prefer to slink out of the door.

        For one of my employees who was *loved* but didn’t want any sort of goodbye event, I put a stack of different blank cards on my desk and just had people come in and write notes. He loved the envelope of cards that he could read privately on his own time and everyone felt like they were able to send him off.

    4. OP #1*

      OP #1 here. Thanks all for your thoughtful comments! I feel better now about having turned down the dinner after reading them. We did manage a friendly solution in the end – I suggested a low-key alternative that will be easier on us all.

      It’s interesting that so many of you suggested that my colleagues needed the dinner/celebration as a guilt-relieving mechanism. I have found myself in a string of uncomfortable conversations in past week with my bosses and each of my colleagues which did give me the impression that they all very uneasy about my sudden departure and the circumstances surrounding it. This is part of the reason why I felt that it was necessary for me to accept the dinner and also the reason why I felt that a dinner would have been seriously uncomfortable!

      But you’re all right – all we needed is an opportunity to say thank-you and goodbye to each other. Case closed!

      1. NYC Weez*

        I’m glad you worked something out, but I’d like to echo the opinions above that as the person directly affected, your preferences are far more important than your coworkers in this situation.

        Our team recently experienced a layoff with multiple people losing their positions. We set up a goodbye dinner, which only around half of the people losing their jobs attended. Some of my teammates were concerned that we should make more of an effort to include them, but I pointed out that extending the offer was a kindness—trying to compel them to attend wouldn’t be. Some people wanted a huge fuss over their departure, some wanted to slip away privately, and some just wanted to be with their closest colleagues. Every one of those reactions was appropriate and needed to be respected. We couldn’t change the decision of the company, but at least we could let the affected choose their own style of departure.

  2. Jade*

    Oooo #4, if I were you, I’d be looking for a new job if my employer required such a thing. If you want me to play by your network’s rules, you’d better be giving me a company’s device, cause you’re not intruding on mine to do it.

    1. Undine*

      I wonder, are they demanding op4 must have a smart phone and give them MDM access, or is it optional, in that, if you want the convenience of a phone, you have to supply it yourself and install an MDM? I don’t have a smart phone, and I don’t even have a phone plan – I have a pay-as-you-go phone. My overall cost is maybe $1o a month. So for me, a required extra phone would be a significant cost, not just the cost of the handset, but the cost of a plan as well. And I don’t want a smartphone — I know I would waste time on it, and I like being able to step away from the Internet when I go outside. Would I be able to refuse the offer entirely? (I know there are some jobs where they expect the connectivity of a phone, mine is not like that.)

      1. Artemesia*

        Good point. TIll recently I just had a pay as you go flip phone and I wouldn’t want to have to pay for a phone plan on a smart phone for the office.

      2. Jeanne*

        You can always refuse anything that alters the terms of your employment. Unfortunately, they can say no phone no job. If you did not have a plan before, you could easily have to pay $100/month now. I think it’s a pay cut being foisted off on these employees as a “convenience.”

      3. Nobody*

        I hate when people assume that everyone has a smartphone. I, too, have a cheap flip phone with a low-cost pay-as-you-go plan, and I would be really annoyed if my employer forced me to buy a smartphone with an expensive monthly plan just to use for work. I think they get away with this kind of thing because most people already have their own smartphones, but I choose not to spend my hard-earned money on that. If an employer is going to force me to spend more on a phone than I otherwise would, they better compensate me accordingly.

        1. Jinx*

          I just graduated to a sliding-keyboard phone two years ago, and I still consider that snazzy. :P But more and more often places will assume you have access to apps and the internet from your phone. I don’t know how many times my bank has nagged me about getting the mobile app, no matter how many times I tell them I don’t have a smartphone.

          1. Charlotte Collins*

            I love my sliding keyboard phone. It fits in my pocket and my tiny hands! Also, when I drop it, it doesn’t break.

            1. Allison*

              Oh man, I loved my sliding keyboards! The last phone I had with a keyboard was, I vaguely recall, also a smartphone (just not top of the line), so it was the best of both worlds, and I picked it out because it had the keyboard. I remember getting it and initially the guy at the store said they were all out and my mom told me to go pick something else, the guy tried to sell me on something else by showing me the voice-to-text function (ugh), but I wanted THAT phone g-darnit! Finally he made a call, and I forget if my mom and I had to drive somewhere else or if we had to go back later when they got another one delivered, but I got my keyboard phone. Worth the hassle.

              But a couple years ago I realized the phone was no longer working very well, and if I wanted a really nice smartphone like a Galaxy I would need to adjust to a touch screen keyboard. It hasn’t been easy though, even though I’ve had this thing for a while.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                My last phone was a sliding phone too! I liked it a lot. I still have it, though it’s a Net10 phone and I can’t use it for anything else unless I reactivate my account.
                But I changed to a PAYG smartphone when I got a job where I could afford the $50 a month plan rather than the $15 plan. (Now I have a regular phone plan, though no contract –yay, T-Mobile!– since my needs have changed.)

                If I were still at Exjob, there is no way I could have done this, because I couldn’t afford the $50 a month phone–not the phone itself or the bill! I would have had to quit if it were required.

                If the company wants the employee to have a work phone/laptop/vehicle, they need to provide it. If nothing else, they need to do it themselves for insurance purposes.

                1. Middle Name Jane*

                  I love that so many people don’t have smartphones! I thought I was the last holdout. I had a flip phone until just over a year ago when it started to die on me, and I decided to bite the bullet and get my first smartphone. And then a few months ago when I accepted a promotion, it came with a work phone. I was given the choice of being issued an iPhone by my company or using my own phone and getting a subsidy for my monthly bill (but having company stuff installed on it). I didn’t hesitate. I took the iPhone. No way do I want my company having access to my personal business on my phone. It’s worth the hassle of carrying around two phones/chargers, etc.

              2. Chinook*

                Allison, you are not alone in not looking forward to adjusting to a touch screen keyboard. I am writing this on my BB Passport and don’t know what I would do if have to replace it because BlackBerry are the only ones left with real keyboards. I would rather have a lack of apps than the touch screen as it doesn’t always believe that I am touching the screen either due to dry skin or wearing gloves (both of which are not by product of the climate here).

                As an added bonus, BlackBerry allows me to clearly delineate between work and home and, with a touch of a button, I can remove all work stuff. But, if BYOD policies required me to let IT wipe my phone for any reason, I would invest in something cheap for work use. Even with cloud backup, I don’t want to risk losing everything stored here.

                1. Honeybee*

                  BlackBerry just released a new phone that still has a physical sliding keyboard – the BlackBerry Priv. I think it’s also focused on privacy, hence the name.

              3. Koko*

                Yes, I had a Droid 2 which was a smartphone with a slide-out keyboard. To me, that was the apex of cell phone hardware technology and the elimination of physical keyboards is a huge industry-wide failing.

                When I got my first smartphone I got a Google Voice number primarily so that whenever I’m near a computer I can type all my texts into their browser interface instead of dealing with my phone. When I’m out and have to use my phone, I use Swype which helps a little, as it’s a bit easier to trace a path than to tap in a very specific location, and its engine is more forgiving of inaccuracy than tapping. But there are still time I want to throw my phone out the window because I keep having to go back and correct misspelled/miscorrected words. I get so irrationally frustrated when I can’t type at the speed I think.

          2. hermit crab*

            I’m in the sliding-keyboard phone club too! My dad refers to it as a “typewriter phone,” haha. I love it and I’m keeping it till it dies, but I agree that the app nagging from banks (and drugstores, and airlines, and everybody else) is getting really frustrating. At least it hasn’t started happening from my job yet.

          3. Stranger than fiction*

            Oh how I miss my sliding keyboard! I could text like nobody’s business. My iPhone keyboard is totally off and it makes me very very angry on a daily basis. I haven’t messed with trying third party keyboards since I’m upgrading soon and hopefully the next one will calibrate better.

            1. KR*

              I got a droid turbo and the keyboard is so intuitive I love it. The screen is huge too and now that I’m used to it my roommate’s iPhone feels way too small. Try it out.

        2. MsChanandlerBong*

          Here’s a shocker: I don’t even have a cell phone at ALL. People’s minds are blown when they hear that. My husband’s been out of work for six months, and we’ve had to slash expenses. No more $100/month for two cell lines. We don’t have a landline phone, either. We use Skype ($2.99/mo. for unlimited long distance and $6.50/mo. to have your own phone number, so $9.49/mo. for unlimited calls to the US and Canada), and we keep our non-activated cell phones charged in case we have to call 911.

          1. Lauren*

            Slide over and make room for me on that “no phone at all” bench, would ya? I loathe them and won’t have one at all regardless of the type. So if my employer asked me to allow them access I’d have to laugh and say “to what? My garden hose?”

      4. Lindrine*

        At my current job if people want access to work email on their phone and don’t travel/have a high level role that provides a phone, then they have to put security software and encryption on the personal phone. It is optional right now to have work email on the phone.

        1. Allison*

          A lot of my coworkers get work e-mails on their personal phones, I think I’m the only one on the team who doesn’t, mostly because I don’t even know what the process is and it seems too complicated to be worth it. I like it this way because it means I’m not plugged in all the time, but then I wonder if it looks bad that I’m the only one who isn’t.

          1. Windchime*

            My workplace recently moved to BYOD. I went through the motions of putting the app for work email on my phone, only to be told that I would need to upgrade my plan. Err, no thanks. I have a smartphone, but I’m not really keen to be connected to work 24/7, which is how it would feel if I had work email on my phone. If someone from my team needs to contact me, they can text or call me. Otherwise, the email can wait till morning. I’m lucky to have that option, I know.

            1. Allison*

              Me too. A lot of people have this idea that everyone needs to be on call or the time or they won’t really be able to do their job, but I unplug when I leave and plug back in when I get in the next morning, and there’s rarely an issue unless someone forgets and somehow assumes I’m just as plugged in as they are, and doesn’t think to call my cell. If you have time to e-mail me, you have time to call me.

        2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

          My current job provides a work phone for everyone.

          However, at my last job, if your role was not high enough for the company to provide you with a phone, you were not allowed to receive work email on it. It was so nice to truly be off work when I left the building!

    2. John*

      BYOD — using your own devise for email vs a company-issued BlackBerry — is becoming the standard. Those who won’t work for those kind of employers won’t have a whole lot of options.

      1. A Non E. Mouse*

        Speaking from an IT perspective, I don’t like BYOD – it makes my life infinitely more complicated, because instead of supporting one or two types of devices, I have to support them all. Sometimes when the user is several states away, with a device that came out *that day* and there’s little to no Google-magic for me to summon on it’s settings.

        From an end-user standpoint – I do not have company email on my personal phone. Nuh-uh. If I was required to have a phone with company email on it, I would carry a second one.

        Too invasive, and I know from *this* side how thoroughly it can wreck your world if IT is directed to wipe the phone of a leaving employee. And yes, you accept those terms when you install the software/hit “yes” or “ok” during setup and it tells you that “accepting this agreement allows access to certain security features….”.

        With one push of a button, I can literally reset your *personal* cell phone to factory settings, if our corporate email is on there. Pictures, apps, all of the things you’ve done personally, gone. It wipes any SD cards in the phone at the time as well. GONE.

        I highly recommend a second, work-only phone.

        1. Kyrielle*

          I have never worked anywhere that required BYOD (yay!) but I’ve now worked two places that allowed it. I’ve never signed up. Seriously, we have a web mail interface if I desperately need to check email, but normally I don’t need to check in when I’m on the go.

          If I worked at a place that *mandated* BYOD, I would seriously consider quitting over it and finding somewhere else. If I adored the job and didn’t want to leave it, my other alternate would be a second device, as you mention. The only pictures on it would be photographs of white boards related to work, and if they wanted to brick it they could feel free.

          But…I really don’t want to work anywhere that thinks BYOD is a good thing to require. Not just because it means a second phone or risking your personal data, but also because it means they don’t mind imposing expense and/or aggravation on their employees (the person who might lose personal photographs; the person who pays for a second phone and line; the person who didn’t have a cell phone or had only a basic and now needs a smart phone; and IT folks who, as you note, now have the potential for a multitude-of-devices-on-the-market sized headache).

        2. Dynamic Beige*

          I did a meeting about 18 months ago where they announced that they would be starting a BYOD plan. I had never heard of that before and I was immediately horrified. People in the audience applauded.

          To a certain extent, I get it. It’s a big savings for the company because they’re not having to buy a fleet of cellphones, maintain the contracts/numbers on that. People only have to carry one device, not two. They get to pick the phone they want to use because they are the ones paying for it.

          But… considering their employer can wipe their phone at any minute causing them to lose everything — contacts, e-mails from family, texts, photos (how many people actually use and carry a camera any more?) — I don’t think it’s worth the risk or the convenience. Some people may say they can back their phone up and retrieve all the information, but how many people legitimately do that on a daily or weekly basis? I would guess a very small percentage.

          I watched a documentary the other day called Facebookistan that was both enlightening and frightening on the amount of data that gets collected on people and how difficult it is to gain access to what has been collected on you. I can see a bunch of “my company fired me because they checked the GPS on my phone when I was out sick and it showed I wasn’t at home… but I was at the drugstore getting medicine” type things coming down the pipe if they aren’t already.

          1. John*

            Wait — at my company, they can wipe the “container” from which we access email and shared drives, but that is it.

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              That’s how I’ve always understood it from my friends who have their work email on their phones.

              1. Kyrielle*

                This depends on what software they are using! My last company was very clear that if you used the BYOD service, your entire phone would be subject to remote wiping in the event you left. (And thus, very few of us wanted to BYOD…imagine that.)

            2. A Non E. Mouse*

              At our company, we don’t have a specific app (the Good app referenced in other replies) – the employees use the mail app inherent on their device.

              I can verify that, using the inherent mail app on phones, when I click the Wipe button it wipes the phone. I’ve literally tested this with devices in my own hands, with my own eyes, hitting the button on the server as I hold the device.

              I did these tests to prove it was a bad idea for us to do BYOD, but .

          2. Honeybee*

            I back my phone up daily, because it’s automatic. I have an iPhone and my phone backs up its data to the iCloud every night between like 2 am and 4 am when it’s plugged in. As a matter of fact, I got rid of my iPhone in November, got a Galaxy phone, and then got tired of the Galaxy phone after about 3 months, so I sold it and re-purchased another iPhone about a month ago. I was able to restore all of my pre-Galaxy contacts, photos, apps, and purchased music from my old iCloud backups.

            You can pretty easily set your phone up to automatically back up to the cloud every night when you plug it in, but that has its own privacy concerns I suppose.

        3. Kobayashi*

          I’m assuming this is with specific software installed and not just setting up the default mail app to check the server via pop or imap?

          1. KR*

            It must be. We use Google for our email service and we can’t wipe anyone’s phone. We can disable their email account, change their password on a dime, or suddenly kick them out of their account and make them log in again. I know because I can do all that from my phone. ;)

          2. Myamitore*

            Unfortunately no. IT can wipe your entire phone even if you’re just using the default mail app on your phone. That’s why there’s a pop-up asking for your consent when you add a company email account to your phone.

            Source: IT person who has had to wipe someone’s phone, and felt really guilty about it :(

        4. Murphy*

          I also don’t like it (in addition to all the reasons you stated) simply because I don’t want my work with me at all times. I want to go for a walk or to dinner with my husband and not wonder if that blinking light is work or personal. I have a separate work device now (a BlackBerry) and will never combine the two (if I had to bring my own device I’d absolutely get a cheap second phone for the purpose).

      2. neverjaunty*

        I doubt that. BYOD has a host of security issues, not to mention legal and financial headaches (since generally you have to compensate employees for work usage on their personal phones).

        1. John*

          The work usage isn’t usually a problem. Given the generosity of current cell phone calling and data plans, most usage will fit within users’ current plans.

          Companies are actually worried about BlackBerry security issues, as their financial condition wouldn’t seem to allow them to invest in keeping ahead of security threats.

      3. Ms. Didymus*

        Checking company email on my phone is one thing. I am fine with that.

        The very idea of them installing software on my phone would have told me I don’t need email on my phone, though. The privacy implications there are very upsetting.

        1. Ms. Didymus*

          I should clarify, I mean checking it via webmail. I wouldn’t even download the Outlook app….

      4. Engineer Woman*

        If told upfront at hiring that job entails BYOD, then the cost of maintaining (or even purchasing a smartphone) can be part of consideration for accepting the position. However, after some time working, then being told you need a smartphone, potentially needing to upgrade data plan (assuming you even have a data plan) is money that isn’t budgeted when originally accepting position. Essentially your salary is being lowered by requiring employee to absorb IT costs. Not fair.

      5. Engineer Woman*

        If told upfront at hiring that job entails BYOD, then the cost of maintaining (or even purchasing a smartphone) can be part of consideration for accepting the position. However, after some time working, then being told you need a smartphone, potentially needing to upgrade data plan, this is essentially lowering your pay.

    3. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Same here. In fact, my only cell was provided by work for years. (It was the Motorola waterproof & shockproof brick w/ the 2- way, I loved that thing.) Finally, in 2006, I got my own. Before then, I didn’t feel a need for being constantly accessible in my personal life, but logistics had become complicated. Shortly after I got it, I was in the office at my desk (instead of in the field dealing with crises) and had both cells sitting next to my keyboard. Supervisor comes by to talk. Notices second phone. Starts saying ‘Oh, we can switch everything to you personal phone…’ And I answered “I don’t have a personal phone, Jim.” He looked at my phone and appeared to be about to say something and I repeated myself, softer and very smoothly. He looked taken aback and I kept staring at him. He said, “Oh, okay.” and left. My phone issue never got brought up again.

      I have a work-issued phone and a personal phone and never the twain shall meet.

      1. Mona Lisa*

        This is how I feel, too. I have a strong desire to keep work and personal life separate. At my last job, one of my co-workers offered to set up my e-mail to forward to my phone, and I politely turned her down, saying that I really didn’t want to be that accessible when I went home. (It was an exempt, non-profit job, and people had a tendency to treat everything as an emergency and work long hours. Most of the time it really wasn’t an emergency.)

        I made the mistake of giving out my personal cell phone number for emergencies at my new job, and I’m starting to regret it as now some co-workers insist on texting me instead of e-mailing since they know that I don’t have that set up to forward to my phone.

          1. Mona Lisa*

            Ha, yes, I try ignore those texts outside of work hours, but it’s the ones I get during work instead of sending me an e-mail that bug me. I’ve also gotten phone calls outside of work hours from people (really, one irritating co-worker) who are salaried (I’m hourly), and she continues to call/text until I answer.

            1. Perse's Mom*

              My mom used to have this issue on her days off when she worked the cash office of a retail store. Coworkers would call her at home with questions. I don’t remember if she said something to the store manager about it or one of the coworkers mentioned having called her, but the manager actually put a stop to it – he said she’d have to be paid for any time she spent on the phone answering questions about work, and given how hard they ride the line on hours, that was NOT OKAY.

      2. Ms. Didymus*

        Great response for any invasion of privacy: what you are asking for doesn’t exist. This can also include social media accounts. Deny, deny, deny.

        1. OlympiasEpiriot*

          Yup. Especially with that guy (who has since retired). “Who are you going to believe, me? Or your lying eyes?”

    4. MissDisplaced*

      I hate this too and wouldn’t do it. It just feels to me like it’s a way to pass on company operating costs to the employee. What makes them “assume” you even have a smartphone?

      If they’re requiring or insisting on this, I would get a pay-as-you-go phone for work purposes only.

  3. bookmoth*

    OP4: You could get a second phone that’s just for work. I don’t know how much it would cost, but I assume you could decuct it from your taxes if you only used it for business.

    1. Artemesia*

      I am not a phone person and only got a smart phone when traveling to Europe; I got an Android device for around 100 bucks. Would something like that work with the job network? I’d do that before I let them invade my personal phone if it accessed my own links and data.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      This is one of those situations where it might be worth it to get an additional phone just to avoid the agony. There’s been too many cases where the employer bricked the phone once employment ended. Barring that, they would wipe it. The pain of losing/violating your personal data exceeds the cost of a phone in my view.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Is it possible to add a second phone to an existing plan, or would the employe have to get a new data plan to handle the second phone? (I have a pay as you go stupid phone, and I’m not in the US, so I’m not sure how the plans work).

        In the first case, I would probably shell out for a cheap Android rather than let them access my personal phone – no-one installs software on my devices but me, and the privacy implications are disturbing. Plus, there’s the access issue – if your work phone and personal phone are the same, they pretty much have 24/7 access to you, inside work and out. A work only phone can be left at home or turned off.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          Many places have “family plans” that allow several other phones. Many places of employment have employee discounts for these types of plans. I’d find a used phone and add it to the plan. Sure, there are setup fees for an additional phone number, but separating it makes it way easier.

          1. A Teacher*

            But to add a second phone to my plan, its $10 more a month and the cost of the phone so for an iphone 6 it would be another $32 a month until its paid off–so I’d be paying $42 a month on top of the phone I already have for a “work phone” and that’s excessive to me.

            1. Engineer Girl*

              That’s for a new phone bought through the service provider. I’d find a used phone for cheap.

            2. Anonymous Educator*

              I wouldn’t get an iPhone 6 or any high-end phone for a second phone. Your primary phone would be your own regular phone, and then you’d get a far cheaper, used phone to be your secondary BYOD phone that your employer could wipe.

            3. Chinook*

              *Canadian consumers here switching between being in awe of your prices and unlimited plans and weeping quietly while mumbling something about stupid CRTC/Bell/Telus/Rogers*

              1. Shell*

                Yeah, our discount carriers are cheap ($25 for unlimited everything for me), but coverage is limited and often the signal drops off randomly.

                I am not an important person so I put up with the crappy signal. But if the steady coverage is important, you pretty have to go with the Big 3 in Canada. Deep sigh.

                1. Murphy*

                  Not necessarily (re: discount carriers). Some of them run on the backbone/are really the big guys but with more reasonable rates (Koodo is really Telus and Fido is really Rogers).

                  We have Koodo which is $113/month for our two phones (not with unlimited data, mind you, but with enough). It’s effectively Telus, so I get the same coverage someone on Telus would. I highly recommend Canadians look into Koodo and Fido. If enough people move to those providers, the parent companies will be forced to change their game.

          2. A Teacher*

            And on my family plan a “cheap” phone with a 2 year commitment is still an extra $24 a month… Sorry, shouldn’t have said for a fancy smart phone.

      2. ginger ale for all*

        I have an android from Cricket that cost $30.00 outright, an older basic model. The monthly charge for phone service is $45. I could have chosen a cheaper plan ($10 less per month) or a more expensive plan ($10 more per month). So if you have to get one, there are cheaper options but it still would bug the heck out of me.

    3. Engineer Woman*

      I agree the potential issues warrant ponying up for a work-specific phone. Get the cheapest smartphone you can for work purposes. Maybe even a used phone. On a separate note: what if the employee doesn’t have a smartphone already? Some people swear by those pay-as-you-go voice-only flip phones.

      1. Artemesia*

        I love those flip phones and used one for many years — only got nudged into a cheap smartphone so we could use the family plan when traveling rather than buying sim cards for 4 countries or having huge roaming fees.

      2. Sunflower*

        My company is switching to BYOD. You are encouraged to BYOD but can keep company issued phones. The advantage is we get reimbursed like $60/month for BYOD and there is no software so it’s worth it to most people it.

        If someone is requiring BYOD, I think you need to reimburse them. My super cheap company used to reimburse me $30/month for data

        1. Electron whisperer*

          I once had a employer insist that they needed to be able to contact me while I was on holiday (They really did not need to)….
          I supplied contact details that read something along the lines of 2MHz maritime band, CW, callsign is XXXXX, wireless watch is kept for 5 minutes either side of the hour, cell does not work in the middle of the Atlantic.
          I even offered them the loan of a 1500W marine transmitter and a morse key, even offering to rig a suitable dipole (on work time) apparently this was not what they had in mind.

          Regards, Dan.

    4. Mockingjay*

      Unless you get a cheap, pay-as-you-go phone, most wireless companies are going to lock you into a 2-year contract. Also, the pay-as-you-go phones can have limitations in a corporate setting: email, wireless access, etc. are not always compatible.

      I refuse to use my personal phone for work. We are on a family plan at a reasonable rate, but with 4 of us we come pretty close to hitting the data limit each month. Having to use my personal phone for the company would likely push us over that.

      Our wireless company recently changed their family plans (read: raised the rate!) but we are grandfathered into the old plan. If we make any alterations to increase the data limit, we will be swapped to the new, more expensive plan and locked into another 2-year contract. So I’d essentially be docked pay to use my phone to support the company. Not to mention that the BYOD software would have to be installed as well. No thanks.

      1. themmases*

        That is not at all the case anymore. All the big carriers offer at least prepaid plans and no-contract plans are standard at T Mobile. Among discount carriers prepaid and no-contract plans are the standard.

        If the OP took the advice in the thread of buying a cheap unlocked phone to a BYOD carrier, they also wouldn’t be bound by any payment plan on the device.

        I agree with others in the thread that the OP shouldn’t have to do it– and it’s hard for me to believe it’s a savings for the company to have to support all these different phones– but the assumption that a contract would be involved is quite outdated.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yep, this is why I stayed on PAYG so long and finally when I went to a regular carrier, I went with T-Mobile. I did NOT want to get stuck paying an ETF fee if my phone had no coverage, etc. If it starts to suck, I can walk away any time.

          I did really like Net10 and if I wanted another PAYG phone I’d go back to them (though their customer service is terrible), but my needs changed and I had to have something with more options / data.

        2. Honeybee*

          These days all of the major carriers (Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint) are BYOD carriers. You can purchase a used (or new) unlocked or locked to AT&T phone and bring it to AT&T, and they will even give you a discount on your monthly service for bringing your own phone. The other carriers are doing this too.

      2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Yeah, we have 4 iphones on T-Mobile for about $100 a month, family plan (but not unlimited data). No contract. We bought our phones and brought them to T-Mobile. (Son #2 is clever so he buys us refurbs and as long as we don’t mind being X versions back, our phones are pretty cheap.)

        I think we started with T-Mobile four years ago now, never had a contract.

      3. Anonymous Educator*

        You only get locked into a two-year plan if you buy your “free” or “only $200” new phone subsidized. If you buy a used phone outright unlocked, you can just bring it to your carrier and not be locked into a plan. The new Nexus 5x phones are fairly affordable for a new phone. And if you go used, you can get even cheaper, especially if it’s an Android, as opposed to an iPhone.

    5. Kimberlee, Esq*

      I have to shill my phone plan here. I use Ting, where you have to bring your own device (used works!) and it’s all pay as you go, and it’s cheap. Used to have 3 lines on an AT&T family plan, where we used almost no data, and it was $115 a month. Same 3 lines on Ting, using basically as much data as we want, and it’s around $67 a month. You can add a new line whenever, for the base price of $6.95 a month, IIRC. I am planning to get a line JUST so that I have a DC number for my door buzzer to call. It’s cheap enough to do that. And you don’t need to have a smartphone.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq*

        (honestly, even just not having to worry about plans is nice. The more you use, of minutes, data or texting, the cheaper it is per unit, and it automatically scales… no limits, no overage fees, no need to figure out where you are this month and how much data you have left.)

      2. Liz*

        Another Ting user here. We’ve got 2 devices and rarely pay over $30 a month for them. (We don’t tend to use data though, so most of it goes on voice and text.) I love the flexibility too!

  4. PsS*

    #4- That’s BS. Push back on it. In certain types of jobs, once you use your personal phone for work it becomes subject to FOIA and your personal stuff can be subpoenaed.

    1. Undine*

      Here’s an interesting fact sheet on BYOD concerns for both employers and employees. They suggest talking to HR about your concerns. Potentially location tracking, remotely wiping the device, privacy, all these things are concerns. Some software apparently also makes it super cumbersome to switch between personal and work functionality.

    2. Jeanne*

      I agree with pushing back. Why are they taking away company phones and saying you have to use your own? I think it’s so they save money at your expense. You’re basically taking a salary decrease. For your own privacy, you now have to get a second cell phone, probably with unlimited data. Do they also think now that you will be available 24/7 because who turns off their personal phone? And the privacy stuff is a mess.

      Maybe a number of you can get together to ask them to reconsider. But if they refuse, don’t let them have your personal phone. They could end up with permission for your personal email, all your contacts, your GPS, texts, etc. get a second phone.

      1. NJ Anon*

        Maybe they could get reimbursed for the cost of a new personal phone and plan although that wouldn’t save the company any money.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      In certain types of jobs, once you use your personal phone for work it becomes subject to FOIA and your personal stuff can be subpoenaed.

      That’s why people are recommending getting a second cheaper phone (maybe tax deductible, since it’s for work?) and not putting any personal stuff on that phone.

    4. justcourt*

      Actually people in any type of job could have their devices taken as part of discovery if their employer is involved in litigation.

  5. Stephanie*

    #4: Yeah, my mom chose not to have her work email directed to her personal phone because she would have had to install an app. (Granted, she has a job where it’s not expected that she respond to emails immediately.) She said WFH employees had their location tracked via the app.

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      Yeah, I have a work cell phone for this exact reason. You can install an app on your personal device to access your work email, but then that means my employer could potentially have access to all the data on my phone, work or otherwise. No way.

      1. Elysian*

        What is the app? I know there are a variety, but I feel like there’s a way to do this right. My employer uses the Good app, and while they will give me a phone if I want it (and in a previous job, I carried two phones because I was concerned about the security), with the Good email suite, my understanding is that my employer can only control things within the app, and the app is sandboxed off from the rest of my phone, so that if my workplace wants to wipe work data, it only wipes work data and not personal data. (If you’re in IT and I’m wrong, let me know!!) I know there are other solutions, but I don’t think that every work-secure app on a personal phone is inherently bad.

        1. Mr. X*

          I’m in IT and that’s correct. I administer Good for my company and while I can see what other apps are installed on the phone, the option to wipe the whole phone is greyed out for me and I can only wipe the data contained in the app, which is sandboxed as you said. Besides, we have too much other stuff to do to worry about stuff on your phone!

          1. Judy*

            Since there is an option to wipe the whole phone in the administration settings, that does imply that some companies can wipe the whole phone. Your company just doesn’t (most likely) pay for that option.

          2. Karowen*

            This has its own privacy implications, though. What if you’re not open about your sexuality at work (for whatever reason) but have grindr* on your phone? Or have job search apps? While Good seems like a much better option that some others, having a separate cell phone – or at least offering it – is a better way to go.

            (*I think grindr is the dating app exclusively for gay people but I could be horribly wrong.)

            1. This*

              I have a fertility app on my phone to track my baby making attempts. I’d rather my employer not know that.

              1. Kyrielle*

                Yep. Odds your employer or IT cares, very low, but unfortunately not a complete zero. And absolute radio silence is what I’d want for that if I had it. (And for the health apps I do have, and for the contacts list that includes specialists, and…yeah.)

              2. John*

                The logical extension of this is your company can monitor your web usage, and I suspect many in your situation have searched about fertility from work. But what IT army has the time or inclination to follow your every move?

                1. College Career Counselor*

                  They don’t. Until you something happens that brings you to the level of scrutiny where someone wants your phone’s data dumped NOW. Or someone just gets bored/curious.

          3. Artemesia*

            You have too much to do. But there are a not insignificant number of creeps in IT who like to troll through other people’s email etc. Don’t assume everyone has your ethics.

          4. Elysian*

            I had no idea you could see what other apps are on my phone! That’s a little unsettling, but not enough for me to go back to two phones… I hope no one is looking too closely at my fertility tracking apps, etc.

        2. Ann Furthermore*

          My employer also uses Good. Theoretically, they would only have access to that part of my phone, but I just don’t like sharing data. At all. I just had to order a new debit card because mine was hacked somehow and someone charged over $200 to my account. And the card has never been out of my possession. So I just don’t like even the potential for sharing data. Even though there’s nothing on there I’d be embarrassed for anyone to see — who the hell cares about my texts with my friends asking who’s bringing wine for bunco — it’s just the principle of the thing.

    2. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

      This is why I won’t do it for my phone. I don’t need work email on my phone. There’s no reason for it. At an old job a long time ago I had Palm PDA and in order to get my calendar on it, it required annoying software installed on it. They introduced that months after I got the PDA. I wouldn’t have gotten it if I’d known they were going to do that. Never again!

    1. Undine*

      Yes, this is doubly tragic – to lose your family member and then to be facing the ordeal of the trial. As always, the best time to ask is after a job offer and before you accept. Consider also if you want to ask this in email instead of verbally. I know if I had been in that position six months after my sister died, I would not have been able to do it without tearing up. Email gives you more control over the tone and the message.

      1. OP#5*

        I’m just relieved there’s progress. It’s very hard to think about any kind of closure when these things are still chugging along. And I suppose it is horrendous if I think about it happening to someone else, but somehow it becomes almost normal when it’s you. I think I scare people sometimes with my “a, b and c happened and now we’ve got to do x, y and z” attitude when talking about it! At the same time, though, the whole situation is very anxiety-inducing (especially with a cross-country move looming – excellent time for a promotion, boyfriend!), and I do still cry at inexplicable moments, or when I have to explain for the hundredth time that, yes, the state is going ahead with prosecution. I was looking for a way of retaining some element of control when I emailed Alison, and email is an excellent idea. At least then, I can edit it down, too. I also feel like people are less likely to ask potentially intrusive questions – whether out of politeness or noseyness – over email, and more likely to stick to what’s in front of them.

        1. Case of the Mondays*

          Are you going to the trial because you want to be present at it or because you are a witness or giving a victim impact statement for sentencing? I only ask because if it is the latter (witness or victim impact statement) you may have some statutory protections depending on your state. My state requires employers to protect the jobs of victims of crime that have to miss work to testify. Here, your employer can’t fire you but they don’t have to pay you. I don’t think you get the same statutory protection if you are just attending the trial and not actually participating. The statute was later expanded I believe to include other witnesses beyond the victim. It actually blew my mind that such a law was even necessary. It never occurred to me that you could be subpoenaed and required to miss work by a court of law but then fired from your job for complying with the subpoena.

          I’m also very sorry that you are in this position.

          1. OP#5*

            Not a witness, but we haven’t been informed yet about victim impact statements. It isn’t unreasonable to think I’ll be asked, though… and as horrific as that would be, it would make the work conversation easier as there would be something concrete to talk about. Although, like you, the thought that anyone could deny me going (even unpaid) is awful: why would I choose to attend a trial where I’m not super-close to the victim? I (normally) have better things to do than sit in court!

          2. Retail HR Guy*

            Actually, some states also protect just going to the trial even without any testimony or other participation.

          3. Robin*

            In addition to laws protecting your job if you attend the trial (depending on the state of course), the Oregon Supreme Court just upheld an order of restitution for the defendant to pay for a victim’s lost wages to attend a trial. Of course, she was subpoenaed to appear, so you may need to speak with the prosecutor about if he/she is willing to do that. In Oregon, a first-degree relative (next of kin) of a deceased victim is considered a victim in the legal system. Getting subpoenaed does not necessarily mean you’d have to testify, but it does grant protections for your job (and possibly restitution).

            In addition, many states’ Crime Victim Compensation programs will consider lost wages related to the crime a reimbursable expense, but there are often eligibility requirements that you apply within a certain amount of time. Compensation programs also help reimburse for counseling expenses beyond what your insurance may pay as well. You can check with the victim services in the prosecutor’s office for specifics.

            I’m so sorry that you are having to deal with the loss of a loved one and the legal system, and the added stress of a cross-country move. I wish you all the best.

        2. orchidsandtea*

          OP 5, I’m so sorry. After a (nonviolent, unpreventable) loss in our family I’ve vacillated between wanting to read about everything related and wanting to think about anything else, between complete apathy and demanding to move, dye my hair, get a new job, anything. I can’t claim to know how you’re feeling, but I can imagine there’s some of the same. Someone told me that it’s like rearranging deck chairs on a sinking ship, finding the pieces we can control in a situation that we’d never choose. But someone else told me that it gets better, that it won’t always be this way. I’m holding tight to that idea, and I hope you can too. Best wishes to you.

          1. OP#5*

            Thank you, orchidsandtea.

            I’m sorry you’ve gone through a similar thing. This loss was completely preventable, which is so hard to deal with. I have the same feelings of never wanting to leave my family and wanting to spend the first anniversary on the other side of the world, etc. So much of my identity is tied up with this person that it’s almost impossible to imagine the rest of my life without them.

            I hope it gets better. People talk about ‘moving on’ and ‘closure’, but at the moment it feels like I’m growing around it and it still manages to poke its thorns out more regularly than I’d like.

            1. Rebecca in Dallas*

              I’m so sorry for what you’re going through.

              It’s not the same at all, but I lost a close family member to suicide about 3 years ago and I won’t say it gets better or easier, but it gets easier to navigate.

              Someone described grief to me as a hole in the floor. At first, it’s huge and there is no way to move around without falling in. The hole will always be there, but it gets a little smaller as time goes on. You’ll be able to move around it with fewer trips and falls, but of course it won’t ever go away.

              1. OP#5*

                I’m sorry you’ve experienced bereavement by suicide, too, Rebecca. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

                I like your floor analogy. I dislike it when people talk about grief as something you can ‘get over’ – like it’s some linear process. But the hole in the floor works very well indeed. :)

              2. Navy Vet*

                First of all, I am so very sorry for your loss.

                The grief never goes away.

                I lost both my grandparents in 2013 within 3 months of each other. They helped raise me and were like parents to me. It does get easier. I’m not 100% certain if it get easier because the grief fades a bit with time, or you just get used to the hole in your heart.

                That eing said, just in case you have to bring it up in the interview, start practicing your stock phrases on what is going on, so you can deliver it with as much composure as possible.

                Treat it like politicians do with their catch phrases and slogans…I get the feeling most of those folks say the same thing so many times it starts to lose meaning. This event will obviously loose meaning to you. However, if you practice the canned responses you have for interviews enough it may be easier to say in the manner you want to deliver it.

                1. OP#5*

                  In my limited experience, I feel like the grief very slowly – almost imperceptibly so – fades into the background (a bit like if you have tinnitus and you just get used to it being there), but it still manages to sneak up on me when I’m least expecting it. I’m sorry about your grandparents: I’m incredibly fortunate to have got to my mid-twenties without losing anyone close to me.

                  My brain turns over responses in my head all the freaking time. It drives me absolutely crazy, but it’s useful even for bumping into acquaintances who know what has happened but who I haven’t seen in a while. I find all those ‘first times’ incredibly difficult.

    2. GreenTeaPot*

      #5, I am so sorry.

      About 7 years ago, I hired someone who was in a situation like yours. The employee did not tell me until after I’d made an offer, but given the circumstances, I had no problem with that. She had to travel across the state for the trial, which meant she was gone for about a week. She didn’t give me a lot of details, and I did not press for more. (I did some Internet research myself, just to verify her statements.)

      1. OP#5*

        This is exactly the reason I wrote to Alison, GreenTeaPot! :) From a (potential) employee’s point of view, you don’t want to bring up this Thing that has happened to you, a. because sometimes even getting to the interview in one piece is an accomplishment, and b. because you rightly or wrongly worry it will be a huge drawback to your application. I can see why leaving it out until after the offer has been made is problematic for the other side, though, so I shall probably mention it at the end of any final interviews.

        1. GreenTeaPot*

          That’s probably the best approach. I do recall wishing I’d known a little earlier…

          Still, In our case, it was not a problem, and we were able to work around it. The employee made an honest effort to get back to the office on time for an event.

          Also, she had some good skills, and was better with customer relations than the person she was replacing. That made a difference.

        2. Kyrielle*

          First, I am so sorry for the circumstances.

          Second – I agree – wait until you have an offer.

          Bringing it up at the end of the final interview is a kind impulse, but I recommend against it. Not only do you not want it to change the odds of your getting an offer, but also bringing it up then is kind of odd – I don’t think an employer would judge you much for it, given the circumstances (which most of us would imagine would rattle us a lot), but it is an odd moment to bring it up. And you don’t always know which was the final interview until it’s over – even if they say you’ll hear back in X timeframe, that can still mean another call for interview (or an offer or rejection).

          Bringing up time off that you will need, whether it’s for happy reasons or something like this, is a very normal thing to do at the offer stage (after receiving but before accepting).

          1. OP#5*

            Thanks, guys.

            I suppose I’m just aware that I’ll be inconveniencing my job right at the start. But, then, it’s not exactly like I’ve done this on purpose, and I wouldn’t choose to go and relieve the details in court if I could help it. Unfortunately, though, that’s the situation I find myself in.

            1. ThatGirl*

              I would consider this in the same vein as, say, a minor surgical procedure, or a paid-for vacation, or your partner giving birth — it’s going to happen, you need to be there, and any employer who’s reasonable will be able to work around it with you. This exact thing may not come up a lot, but broadly similar circumstances do.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yep, offer stage is the time to do it. If it’s an issue, they can say so then (but it’s very unlikely that they would object). But raising it earlier will feel premature because they won’t yet be at the stage where it makes sense for them to be spending time working that out.

  6. Apollo Warbucks*

    #4 I’m not bothered about privacy so much as giving an employer the ability to remotley wipe the phone as and when they please.

    I’d try saying to your boss that you aren’t able to use your personal phone for work and if you need me to be contactable out of the office then you’ll need to provide me with a phone

    1. Anna the Accounting (Almost) Grad*

      Yeah, me too. Being in the office when I’m supposed to is on me; off the clock, the electronic leash is the reponsibility of the company holding the other end of it.

    2. Student*

      It doesn’t seem to come up as often as the location tracking, but the cell phone also has a microphone and a camera that can be remotely accessed and enabled by some apps. It’s not that I think most employers would listen in on conversations or take random photos/videos, but I’m sure there are a few that would. Maybe they’d only do it during, for example, the union’s meeting.

  7. Jeanne*

    For #5, I hope you can find an employee who will be willing to give you the time off. Do you want your manager/HR to keep the reason for your leave of absence confidential? If you do, mention that upfront. Also, how long will you need to take off of work? Do you expect the trial to be a few days or a few weeks? You may need to find that out. The DA’s office or your family’s lawyer may have a guesstimate based on past trials. If they say 4 weeks, would you ask for all the time or the beginning and end or what? It helps to know before asking.

    1. OP#5*

      Thanks! Having the option to go (even if I ultimately sit in my pyjamas at my parents’ house all day) is a pre-requisite of taking any job, so if I end up not working then so be it (although not ideal).

      I thought about confidentiality but ultimately it’s almost certainly going to end up being horribly public… my only hope is that no one connects me with it and that I’ll be left alone. Being door stepped by the tabloid press is never nice.

      Thanks for the prompt re: some/all of the time, too. I think it definitely helps to know before asking. Although Alison’s suggested wording makes it seem very straightforward (no bad thing!) – and, to an extent, it is – I have a lot of anxiety around it and it’s a hard thing to explain in the moment.

      1. JMegan*

        The move to another state will help as well, especially if you keep things like the lease and other moving docs in your boyfriend’s name. Take the opportunity to get your name off the public record as much as possible. I don’t imagine it will stop the tabloids (and ugh, how awful that they would do that to someone who is grieving), but you might be able to slow them down a bit anyway.

        I’m so sorry for the loss of your family member. That alone must be a significant amount of stress for you, not to mention all the other stressors in this case. Take care of yourself.

        1. OP#5*

          I’m outside of the US, in a significantly smaller country – my move is probably the equivalent of an American moving from one end of a state to another. ;) But, yes, I’m hoping that it will be enough to deter most people. I know everyone needs a job, and there’s a demand, yada, but I have no idea how you can be a tabloid reporter. Seriously, if anyone is I would love to read an AAM Q&A as it blows my mind that people can be balshy enough to approach a grieving family (even if they are being paid to do it).

          Thank you. It is the most difficult thing that’s ever happened to me, without doubt, but I feel I owe it to them to be brave. :)

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I know everyone needs a job, and there’s a demand, yada, but I have no idea how you can be a tabloid reporter.

            OMG I have to agree with that. It takes a special kind of ballsy to do the job. And it’s not necessarily a good kind. If they paid the same and you gave me a choice, I think I’d rather clean up poo all day than do that.

            1. Oh, I'll Answer The Phones.*

              Flinging poo vs cleaning it up – at least one of them leaves clean for the day.

              1. OP#5*

                Hahaha, essentially.

                I guess it’s like any job involving unpleasant aspects – I suppose eventually you become desensitised to the situation (not that it in any way justifies asking insensitive questions, but it’s the only explanation I can think of for being able to continue going to work every day).

            2. OP#5*

              I would quite literally rather work in a sewer.

              The people that get sent to doorstep families are usually really junior staff who are working their way up, so if I actually had the headspace for humour in the moment I’d probably find it quite amusing that someone who looks like they’d just left high school was asking about my dead relative. In the actual event, though, it’s just crass.

  8. Engineer Girl*

    #4 – the letter never stated for sure that the employer was forcing them to use their private phone – just asking if it was legal. I’d really push back on it and tell them no. If they take your blackberry then fine. I’d also contact your IT department (or whoever runs this scheme) and find out what the real deal is. Sometimes middle men come in and say “you have to do this” when it really is “it would be nice if you do this”. Or someone pushes their preference as the only solution when it’s not. OP could even ask if the employer would buy them a separate smart phone or a used one. In short, contact them and find out your options. I suspect that you are only being told of some Vs all of the options.

    1. MJH*

      Our entire (large) company switched over to this plan. There were no middle men or anything and it came from the top down. You install some security stuff on your personal phone and then you can get work email and access.

      I know there are worst case scenarios aplenty, but in reality this has worked just fine for our company. They rolled it out. We all have it. It’s really not a big deal.

          1. Case of the Mondays*

            At my old law firm we were told that some things are just a condition of employment. They don’t buy your suits, they don’t buy your car. You need both to get to court. (No public transportation in part of my state). You need internet at home to remote in. They don’t pay for any of those things. Cell phones are now an additional expectation of employment. (There).

            1. Jeanne*

              I think for some of us the problem is we’re not lawyers. As a lawyer, you know the implications of using all your home devices for work. You know if you need separate phones, computers, etc. When the issue is thrown at the rest of us, how do we know what is best to do? That’s definitely part of the discussion.

              The other part is the money. If you earn $40,000 per year and you always had a company provided phone, this is a pay cut that could matter in your finances. You took a job knowing providing your own phone was necessary. OP took a job knowing it was a company provided phone.

              1. Honeybee*

                I mean, I think it’s the same as any other thing that introduces liability, like doing personal stuff on a work computer or driving your coworkers to and from company events that are off campus or something.

            2. MissDisplaced*

              Uh. No. I can and do expect my company to provide the computer I work on.
              And more so if they install special security software on it.
              Not. On. My. Property.

        1. Kelly L.*

          I have this vision of plonking my crapphone onto the desk and saying “Good luck with that.”

      1. College Career Counselor*

        Of course it works just fine for the company, in the name of almighty efficiency/access. It’s the employee for whom this is an invasion of privacy. I don’t want my employer to have access to my phone, my data, the websites I use, etc. Doesn’t matter that I have nothing to hide–it’s MY nothing, and I’d like to keep it that way.

  9. Mando Diao*

    OP5: I am so, so sorry for your loss. Has anyone involved with the case given you anything resembling a time frame for the trial? I’m involved in a court case concerning allegations that arose two years ago. I’ve been part of it for over a year, and the trial itself doesn’t look like it’ll get underway for at least another year or two. These things don’t always have the momentum you’d expect once you’re on the inside of it. I actually thought about discussing this in job interviews or even when accepting positions, but I eventually decided not to bother. The case may end up being settled out of court. I might have moved on to a different new job by the time the case goes to trial. I might end up not being needed as a witness, or I might decide that, when the time comes, I’m not emotionally able to sit in that courtroom every day. I’m not going to make that decision until action is necessary, because it could be five years before this thing finally plays out. I’m not going to adjust my whole life around other people’s heel-dragging and time-wasting.

    Are you a witness? You may not have a choice as to whether you need to return for the trial, and your job might be protected in that instance (Alison, any info on this?). If you need to give testimony in the trial, I’d start by informing the involved attorneys that you intend to leave the state. They might be able to give you a time line.

    1. OP#5*

      There has been no official timeline yet – it has taken an extraordinarily long time for it to even get to this point – but we have heard informally that it will be in three to four months’ time, although no word on how long it will take to complete. The system here (non-US) is so slow and clunky.

      I’m not a witness, no, thank goodness.

      I hope the trial you’re involved in is resolved how you would like it to be.

        1. OP#5*

          Thank you, Cnon.

          No one wants to be that person with “personal issues” at work, but what can you do? Alison’s response was super-helpful in reminding me that, despite the national press coverage, I don’t owe anyone anything. No one ever gives advice on how you’re meant to handle these things with work, or how you’re supposed to navigate your way back to the “real world” after something like this, either.

          1. John*

            I can’t imagine an employer who wouldn’t want to do the right thing in this situation, which is why you should consider being forthcoming about the nature of the crime (that your family member was killed).

            So sorry for your loss.

            1. OP#5*

              Thanks, John.

              As I’ve said, their death was widely publicised at the time and this legal action is a kind of test case as there’s not a lot of precedent for it, so ultimately the details will probably be out there. Thanks for the confirmation that there are some good guys out there, though (reading AAM can skew it a bit…!) – getting back into the workplace is daunting enough.

          2. Pwyll*

            I’m so sorry, OP.

            You wrote something that I think is really important– you absolutely do not owe the public or the press or your employer anything for what you’re currently going through. I used to work for a PR firm that would do pro bono crisis communications work for families who lost loved ones in tragedies. I’m still disgusted by the sense of entitlement and demand we’d see from the press and the public, as if victims’ families owed something to everyone during the hardest periods of their lives. I like Alison’s language above, and I think it’s important to note that even in asking for the time off to attend the trial, you don’t owe the details (the “life story” as you said in your letter) to your new employer. A reasonable employer will be satisfied with “I lost a family member and will need to be attending the trial.”

            1. OP#5*

              Thank you, thank you, thank you. We have had access to a great press officer, who has been a huge help in drafting statements and keeping the press at bay. This was only thanks to our family connections, though, and I shudder to think what our lives would be like if we couldn’t afford this service or had no access to pro bono assistance.

              I haven’t been able to read newspapers in the same way since. What kind of harassment (let’s face it: having your friends contacted for details, and your social media accounts dissected for public consumption (locked down now!) at one of the most vulnerable times of your life borders on harassment) have these poor families had to face just so a newspaper can get an “exclusive story” or photographs of grieving people? It is sickening.

              As I said above, the case will be somewhat of a legal first, and it scares me to think of them becoming the poster child.

              1. Granite*

                I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve screamed at the tv/radio/internet when some reporter asks a grieving family member how they feel. How the F do you think they feel? They feel bad! Leave them alone!

                Though I can offer one bright spot. There’s an NPR reporter, whose name I can’t come up with, whose way of handing these interviews (which are always on the family’s terms to begin with) I really like. He will ask the family member, “What would you like to tell us about your loved one?” I love that question, both because it is so open ended / non invasive, and because it focuses on the person rather than the death / way they died.

                1. OP#5*

                  Exactly. I can’t think it makes for very ‘interesting’ reporting either: “Grieving person feels sad” – well, shock horror.

                  That is such a great question. I need to remember that myself when I talk about this.

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  That’s a good question to ask. It humanizes a tragedy, too–I think most of us have grown so used to seeing all these bad things on the news that we’ve become disconnected from the fact that there are actual living, breathing, feeling people who are dealing with it.

              2. Small town reporter*

                First, I’m so sorry for your loss, and for the fact that people who share my profession have treated you so badly.
                I do want to say, as a reporter, sometimes the decision to interview the family isn’t about being exclusive or salacious. My goal is to memorialize someone who had family, and who had a future that was cut short. It sounds like the reporters who have approached you aren’t taking that route, though. They’re doing it wrong — that’s not how I was trained to do it. That NPR question down the thread here is actually my number one question I use. I also just let people talk (and if someone says no, I don’t bother them again).

                1. OP#5*

                  At least there are some nice reporters in the world.

                  In such an internet-heavy age, unethical press does worry me, though. When I was 13, if I wanted to find something out about someone that had been in the newspaper, I had to go to the library and request to hunt through all the archives. My 13 year-old brother can switch on any internet-enabled device and enter just the name of the person. That’s enough to bring up a level of detail that none of us wanted to be made public, along with unrequested comment and political implications. I’m not saying that the rise of the internet is the fault of the press, but it bothers me. Where I live, journalists are no longer allowed to publish identifying details of victims’ homes in their reports as lots of families have been broken into during funerals. We had armed police outside (again, because we know someone).

            2. Case of the Mondays*

              Thank you so much (and your old firm) for that pro bono work. I lost a friend to a very high profile and random car jacking and murder. The press ate it up because it fed into a lot of racism and classism fears of the general public. (Suburban white kids vs. adult black inner city men). My friends family actually had to get a restraining order against one member of the press that was so aggressive. I’m all for freedom of speech but this was just unethical conduct. We also had to have police escorts at the funeral/burial to keep the press at a respectable distance. Nonetheless, my face was all over the news comforting a friend. They must have had a crazy wide lens because they were across the street and the shots looked like they were standing next to me.

              1. OP#5*

                We had press at the funeral. Where I live, churches are public places and anyone is allowed in at any time, so we couldn’t stop them – their behaviour didn’t warrant a restraining order.

                1. Oh, I'll Answer The Phones.*

                  We had police at the funeral, to prevent reporters or those who were threatening us from getting close. But we had the service at a funeral home, not a church.

          3. Temperance*

            I lost a relative to a crime (drunk driving – just to be clear, she was killed, and not the drunk driver), and I would have been involved in the sentencing and court appearances had it not all been during my bar prep.

            I ended up telling people because the crime was so awful and shocking, and everyone knew about it. (For background, the woman who killed her hit her car on purpose, and her car was full of teens who are thankfully unharmed. She was on pills, marijuana, and Four Loko.) I tried to say nice things about my aunt instead of give gory details of the crime, which they had all known because the local news decided to show graphic photos of my aunt’s car full of blood.

            So my advice is, if people ask, say nice things about your relative, or about how you are hopeful that he/she will see justice. If afterwards you say something like “I will always miss RELATIVE, but I am happy that he/she has seen justice. I’m trying to heal now or I’m trying to move on now”, people will drop it.

            1. OP#5*

              I’m so sorry about your aunt.

              I think that’s the thing: they had twenty-odd years of life before this horrific thing happened to them, and even though their death was awful, it doesn’t define them. I struggle with that a lot personally, so it will do me some good to focus on all the good bits and lovely memories. :)

      1. Oh, I'll Answer The Phones.*

        Mando Diao is correct – it is possible things will be resolved in the timeline you’re given, but it’s also possible that it won’t.
        OP#5 – I want to say thank you for your question. My heart dropped & these florescent lights got a little brighter when I read it, because I am in the exact same place right now. My family member was killed one and a half years ago, and we are awaiting trial in July. The person on trial has also been diagnosed with at least one terminal illness (one, last I heard), plus he had to have part of his foot amputated as a result of (I’m not saying all diabetic people don’t, but he WILLFULLY did not) not taking care of himself and his diabetes illness. His illness(es) has exacerbated the length of the trial, and I honestly think he’s trying to run out the clock. He has actually been released recently due to how expensive it is for the small town where he is jailed to keep him reasonably healthy, and the one person he was released to played a major role in my family member’s death; there is also proof (police officer witnesses, who had to physically restrain her) that the person he was released to tried to explicitly cover up and remove evidence from the crime scene immediately afterward.
        My family member was also killed the day before Thanksgiving (US holiday… sorry, idk if that’s known where you are), which you could imagine made job searching (did I mention I just moved across the country to be with a long-distance boyfriend of 7 years, something I’d been planning on long before this happened?) much more difficult as, not only would I be asking for time off around last Thanksgiving, the anniversary of the death, but extra time to be with grieving family (who have all lost their freaking minds and are completely falling apart – this was some people’s mom, and the Absolute Linchpin of this family) and time off for the trial. My advice for job searching is to network – use anything and everything you can find to get a leg up in your new area; it is my opinion that jobs you get through networking tend to work with you more on personal issues, as maybe they have more invested in you personally from the outset? I found a position through my bf’s coworker’s wife; so, lucky, yes, but I couldn’t have found this position otherwise as it wasn’t being advertised. And definitely pass any info you feel comfortable sharing with employers on calmly – whatever method you need for that, be it email or whatever. I have learned that employers / coworkers / interviewers don’t need really any details. And I know that sounds obvious (or horrific or awkward or painful) to those of you in management, or possibly with more experience, but when this happens, throw Norm out the window. There is no playbook on how to handle this being passed out at the funeral, and you just find yourself scrambling to ‘do it right’, to get to a place where you can rest.
        I tried to keep “the story” of the crime out of my message, because my point is this – homicide trials (most likely) can and will, if given the option, be dragged out as long as they can. Everybody is doing what’s best for their case, and it takes time. A good place to start is to decide how involved you want to / can be. Are you going to want to attend every stage of the trial? Forgive me, I don’t remember what it’s technically called and of course I don’t know how the law goes where you are located, but the parts where they decide what evidence to include (this one happened on my birthday last year), what the crime actually is (homicide vs whatever), and other smaller parts that have to be done before the big trial? I agree that being upfront (around offer time, not necessarily interview time) with potential employers is the best thing. I felt like I had to separate myself, as a matter of not letting my memory of this family member become overrun with feelings about the trial and the person’s release, so I found myself reading this post and thinking that I need to figure out if I will be able to travel for the trial, as it has been so long since I brought up the subject to my employer (if I ever did, I might have just been very vague about a family death). Even if I drove my rickety car alone and slept in it to save on cost of travel, it would be worth it.

        I wish I was through the woods on this so I could offer something more helpful, not just ramblings about my own situation. You sound like you’re in a good momentum, from your comments like “I think I scare people sometimes with my “a, b and c happened and now we’ve got to do x, y and z” attitude when talking about it!” Try to balance that awareness and energy that you focus on the trial and your loss with healthy self-care, and don’t be afraid to step back from it every now and then, if just to look at it all at once or none at all. Don’t let yourself get burned out, as you might need to be a strong face for your family – and I hope yours is able to contract together through this! Also, see if your area offers anything comparable to a Victim’s Advocate – they can be great liaisons between civilians and police, lawyers, doctors, etc.
        My mom said yoga helped her with the crying spells (to be clear, I think she cries in yoga and that gave her a safe place to do so, not that she did yoga and suddenly had no urge to cry). I personally don’t yet have a mechanism for dealing with it, but my panic attacks are slowing to a halt, and when thinking about it I can focus on breathing and getting to a safe, alone place to get through it if I can, and if I’m at work or driving and unable to commit time to it or get somewhere like that, I can usually buck up and make it through.
        I’m sure you have plenty of people in your life telling you this, but keep your head up. One day, you too will look up and realize how long ago it was that you felt this way. And one day, hopefully, we’ll both be looking up realizing how long ago it was that we even thought about the trial. Time really does go marching on, and we putter our feelings and ambitions through it; even when it’s good, even when it’s painful.
        And I am so sorry for your loss.

        1. OP#5*

          Thank you.

          It seems wherever we are in the world, the justice system makes some stupid decisions – I hope the trial is resolved before the accused is too weak to stand. It has already been an extraordinarily slow process, so it doesn’t feel real. I keep thinking I’m going to jinx it! They have already charged the suspect. We’re waiting for the plea hearing, and then I think it’ll be straight into the main. We’ve got an inquest to get through first, though. They’re standard when someone dies in non-natural circumstances, and separate from the criminal proceedings.

          There is definitely no instruction manual, and I really wish there was. My boyfriend’s job offered me career support as part of his relocation, so I might take them up on it. He works for a huge telecomms company in a very specific job, so there is zero danger of us even interacting during the work day. So that is a potential option.

          I have to be strong for so many people right now – I know I need to improve in the self-care area, but it’s tough. I’ve taken up cross-stitch, hah, as – just to add to the mayhem – I’m about to become an aunty, which is an exciting antidote. So currently stitching more baby samplers than one nursery can reasonably hold.

          (Off-topic, but: I live in a non-Thanksgiving country but I really think it should be A Thing here. Although less of the sweet potatoes with marshmallows thing, please. Bleugh)

          1. Oh, I'll Answer The Phones.*

            Well first, you won’t jinx anything! There was press stuff around my family too, especially since family of the accused went on TV and the internet to talk about how awful my family member who died was, how this had to have been self-defense (the defense’s claim currently is that he was trying to kill himself and it was an accident – that’s why I mentioned how important it is to know what the charge ends up being). My family member worked at nursing homes, cutting hair and just talking with people. When they couldn’t pay her, she started volunteering, which made her retirement difficult. She cried one Christmas (I have it on video and refuse to remove it from my phone) while telling us about how lonely some of those people were, how some of them could live at home if they just had family to help out, and how sad it was for those who didn’t, and here’s this person on TV and multiple online newspapers trying to convince the world that my family member had been abusing the accused, when in reality we all watched her pointlessly try to change his lifestyle. I mean, it was so, SO preposterous, but there this person was, getting to say whatever she wanted, to anyone who would listen. I cried in court (this was the one on my birthday), and it showed up in papers that I ‘hadn’t been able to control myself’ – that person, running their mouth. There were also property issues involved; I couldn’t believe this was something we had to do, but we as a family had to take our own civil suit in order to stop the accused from selling property he had jointly owned with the deceased (which, I guess in the law’s eyes she had given up her right to own by being murdered?) in order to fund his trial. The family to which the accused was released also broke in to the crime scene (formerly, my family member’s home) and stole (or destroyed, and I’m talking old, irreplaceable pictures of my family member’s first child, who died in a tragic fire in infancy from which my family member had barely escaped) countless, priceless and arbitrary, items from the home. Also there were items belonging to another family member just being held at the home for storage. That person (who took / destroyed the stuff) had to be demanded by the court to return the items and or pay for the damages; as far as I know, this hasn’t happened and she’s still in contempt of court, though fat lot of good that did as the accused was subsequently released to her (?!?). Anyway, point being here that we were actually legally bound to not talk about the crime or trial, or risk losing our small, precious stake, which was our one chance at justice by having the person who did this committed to prison. And yet, we had to listen to those who had nothing to lose shoot their mouths off. That’s what kept us quiet – we had something to lose by talking, our one shot at justice. I can tell you the thing that helped me do this the most was keeping my eyes off the papers, staying out of what was said about me and my family. Ignore it. Change the channel, ask the bartender / waitress to change the channel if it’s on tv, and don’t let yourself google news updates; but stay out of the tabloid crap. It’s worthless to you; your actions and ability to be strong through this is what matters.
            Oh, and times I’d be in a bar, and the person I struck up light conversation with would just have to comment on the crime if it came up on TV. I realize, people in bars aren’t necessarily watching what they say; but they should. (that goes 4 billion for people commenting on the internet, about crimes in which they themselves are not involved)
            You are very fortunate that the police are interviewing your family. At the time of the crime, my family member made it next door to a neighbor, and was able to explain (in three words) what happened before finally collapsing. This is the best piece of evidence we have, as she was able to say who did it and how. Months after the crime, we were hearing from the neighbor, a family friend, that the police had not yet interviewed him (though I believe that has changed by now). Even if there were perfectly legitimate reasons for the delay, it doesn’t make our family feel any better to be told ‘No, we haven’t talked to any of you and no, we don’t have an immediate plan to.’ Meanwhile, we’re listening to the defense IN COURT ask for clarification on the term “multiple” – I was pretty sure multiple just meant more than one, and I didn’t have to go to ‘lawyer school’ to know it.
            It might get messy, and finagled, and obfuscated, and hard, so be prepared for that.

            That is awesome about the career support! I know you spend a lot of time and energy focusing on what to do next for the trial, for your family, for your career and your own life; take advantage of the times others offer to take care of you! That’s one thing you can use to increase self-care; telling yourself that you’re doing just fine, it’s perfectly, absolutely natural to feel how you’re feeling, and that it’s ok to rest. You Need to rest, and to make it a habit.

            And ha! I started latch-hooking. I don’t make anything out of it but shaggy, itchy pillows, but I’m starting to branch out away from the pre-made patterns you can buy in kits & to do my own designs.

            One last thing to add (the parallels between us are pretty nuts): my cousin was expecting at the time of my family member’s death. My family member had thrown her a baby shower just before that happened, and I cannot tell you how excited my family member was to add another tier to the family’s generations that she had cared for. The baby has since been born, and my cousin’s sister is now also expecting (a third cousin of ours has also had a baby in this time)! I will add to your hope supply by saying that our family, no matter the circumstances, has corralled around these kids. It certainly won’t be the same family that we ourselves grew up in, but I think those of us entering adulthood (the generation having the new generation) are recognizing how much we need each other as family, and we are creating our own sort of family around all this, around all our needs. So don’t be afraid, either, if you feel dynamics shifting in your family as a result of this; your family is healing from trauma and will probably undergo a shaky recovery.

            And I have mixed feelings about the sweet pots & marsh casseroles, myself.. But then, I’d just as soon ignore the turkey & have a whole ham to my greedy face. Honey-baked ham does NOT want to find me in a dark alley.

            1. OP#5*

              That sounds like such a horrible, horrible mess. I really hope it’s all resolved soon. There is so much more I would love to say to you but, like you say, we have one shot at this and I don’t want to mess it up. Maybe I’ll send an update in when I’ve got myself a sweet new job. ;)

              Well, you’ll be pleased to know I had a nap this afternoon and it was gloooorious. :) The only downside now is that it’s, like, 10pm here and I’m a bit too wide awake. Time for some cross-stitch. ;) The unborn baby is having a similar effect on us. It’s both grandparents’ first great-grandchild, so it truly is the beginning of a new generation. My parents are so excited to be grandparents – they’re buying all these cute little outfits and toys. I do catch myself feeling sad that this baby won’t have my childhood, though – we lived in a very rural place when I was growing up, and it was such an amazing childhood. Additionally, I’m very close in age to all of my siblings, so there was always someone to play with, whereas this baby (hopefully) won’t have that. I say hopefully, hah, because my sister is young and this baby was very much unplanned. I’m not sure my parents could cope with the shock if it happened again any time soon!

              I’ve never understood the turkey at Christmas fascination myself, either. At no other time of year would I say, “Mr. OP#5, what I would really love is a turkey for dinner.” No, it just wouldn’t happen. And somehow on 25th December it’s the best thing in the world.

              1. Oh, I'll Answer The Phones.*

                Oh I have Friday-brain today..
                Good for you for your nap! I’m running on fumes from this week – think I’ll take a nap from tonight to Monday morning – interspersed with netflix and whatever sustenance requires the least work : ) (so, no whole turkeys.)
                Hey, that is really awesome for your family! Idk if yours is like mine, but we are genetically baby-crazy. There is always room for friends & more family in the homes in which I grew up (we were sort of urban-commune-y, all the kids getting passed around between aunts & uncles; I also grew up with two cousins, the three of us born within six months, making us more like sisters that just happened to be assigned to different parents). Which drives my bf nuts; he’s not sure if he wants kids or not, and neither am I yet. I think I see family as a support system and he sees a large family as an obligation / responsibility. Which, both are partly right, but he’s definitely the realist to my dreamertude.

                And yes! I think you should def write in to update on your job search! I was surprised how many people echoed what you’re going through, and I think it would be great to learn more about how to navigate the rougher, murkier patches of life, like this one.

                If nothing else, know that you have a lot of supporters here, and I send you all the good feels that data connection can handle. And all the best to your folks (and the upcoming wee-folk!)!

  10. Aswin Kini MK*

    @AAM and OP4:

    Are we really sure that it is legal in the US to force your employee to lend their personal equipment or vehicle? I can understand that they have complete legal rights to add clauses that require you to use your own personal vehicle for official use, but even then they have to provide some monetary compensations such as gas allowance.

    In this case, I find it extremely difficult to believe how US laws (which provide better protection from employers than those in countries like India) allow such “open exploitation” of employees. Yes, I know exploitation is a strong word here, but please understand that once you provide your personal phone for official use, they can track your personal data, reach you at unearthly hours, and worse restrict/delete personal data which they should not have accessed in the first place.

    Can AAM enlighten us on this? As far as I know, I have a lot of my friends in US using their personal devices (Mobile tablets, iPads, and phones) at work as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), but never have they ever been forced to lend it, rather they opted to us it on their own accord.

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      I’m sure it probably is legal, first because unfortunately privacy and safe harbor laws are not nearly as comprehensive in the US as they are in some other countries. And second, technology evolves much more quickly than laws do.

      1. Aswin Kini MK*

        I am a bit shocked that this is allowed in US. While I can understand that unemployment is still high and jobs are on demand, I was not aware that employees can be exploited like this. Asking your employee to lend their phone for official use? Guess these are desperate times indeed for employees in the US. I hope things improve soon.

        1. Honeybee*

          The U.S.’s work protections are actually pretty middle of the road, and honestly worse than a lot of other (most?) industrialized countries. I think exploitation is kind of a strong word for it, but yes, employers have a lot more leeway here than they have, say, in a lot of Western European countries.

    2. Elysian*

      Yup, you can be forced to use your personal device or vehicle without compensation in most states (a very few handful of states have restrictions on this). If you’re using stuff for work that doesn’t get reimbursed, sometimes you can deduct it on your taxes, but that’s hardly compensation. There’s generally no adding of clauses because most people in the US don’t work on a contact – you’re just told “this is what you have to do,” and then you do it or you don’t have a job.

      1. neverjaunty*

        While I’m sure that is the practical reality, how is “you must pay for us to make you have a cellphone” any different from charging employees to pay for uniforms?

          1. Kelly L.*

            It would be the equivalent if they got to confiscate or bash up your tools when you moved on to a different job.

            And some places do charge for uniforms, and yes it’s kind of gross. At least they usually don’t cost much–I think I spent more when I worked at the “wear your own khakis” place, because I kept ruining khakis and having to buy them at retail–but it can be a burden, especially since the jobs that do it generally don’t pay much in the first place.

        1. Elysian*

          You could argue it isn’t any different, I suppose — lots of places do require people to pay for their own uniforms. As I said, there are some states where the laws might be different, but on the whole the only issue at the federal level would be the minimum wage. It would certainly be an interesting minimum wage claim for someone to bring — “My workplace makes me carry a phone with a data plan, which brings me below min wage,” but I feel like for most jobs where this is an issue, there wouldn’t be much of a minimum wage claim anyway (probably are either exempt or being paid enough over minimum that the cost of the cellphone plan wouldn’t cause a min wage issue). If you’re nonexempt the bigger issue would likely be the company’s failure to pay you for work done on the phone off the clock, which is a huge problem in itself.

        2. fposte*

          Do you mean charging employees when they provide their own uniforms? Because places charge employees for company-provided uniforms with considerable frequency.

        3. MissDisplaced*

          Yes, a personal cell phone or computer IS VERY DIFFERENT from a uniform.
          One does not put or store personal and confidential information on or in a uniform.

    3. Slippy*

      Yeah it is legal as far as I know here in the US. The ironic thing is that a citizen has far more privacy protections against the government than businesses. Employers have great leeway in what they can demand of their employees as long as the employees are paid (any amount) and it is not physically dangerous (and even then there is a lot of wiggle room).
      The argument, as always, is if you don’t like it then quit and find someone who does not offend you; despite how impractical or impossible that may be.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        You definitely want more privacy protections against the government. They’re the ones who can legally imprison and even kill you.

        Not to say that privacy protections against employers aren’t important too; they are. But there’s no irony that legal protections are greater when it comes to the government.

        1. Slippy*

          Companies can do both as well, they just do it in a slightly roundabout fashion. See union busting both here and abroad. Also see how Nevada casinos are recouping losses with threatening jail time.

          1. Honeybee*

            Well, no, companies can’t do either. I don’t see how union busting is legally imprisoning or killing you. And as far as I can tell, Nevada casinos are threatening to prosecute people for cheating aka fraud, which is actually illegal. And even in that case, the casino can’t imprison you – they can go through the courts to attempt to get the government to imprison you for doing something illegal. (I also don’t think they’re using that as a real strategy to recoup losses – by all accounts, NV casinos are making less money because people don’t go to Vegas to gamble anymore. They go to watch Celine Dion’s residency or stay at fancy hotel or see Cirque du Soleil, but the problem is more that actual spending on gaming is down by a lot.)

        2. MissDisplaced*

          It’s funny though, because I’ve heard of a case where the employer was trying to “imprison” or detain employees.

          Case: While trying to get employees to sign a reprimand or PIP they were taken into an office. Employees were told they physically could not leave the room until they signed the agreement, whether or not they agreed with it. One employee was detained in this manner for refusing to sign the form for 4 hours.

          To me, this is unlawful detainment.

  11. Rebecca*

    #2 – working off the clock has got to stop! Not only is it illegal, but it skews the work hours and overtime reports, and it makes it look like teams are able to get much more work done in a shorter amount of time. It might make the individual feel good that they’re donating their life and time to the company, but it IS NOT FAIR to their coworkers!! I work in a department where this was rampant, and many of us are still struggling under huge workloads because the work hours and OT report numbers didn’t warrant hiring anyone, because dozens of hours per week weren’t being reported! I cannot tell you how much this irritates me. What’s worse is our manager was preaching “no overtime” and all the while knew people were working off the clock, and made a few off hand remarks to knock it off, but finally, when enough of us complained about it, she did put a halt to it. Now, we are getting more staff, but until they’re trained we’re still struggling.

    #4 – legal or not, the answer is no. What a crappy thing to require of an employee. I think the company should provide the phone if it’s that essential.

  12. Ruffingit*

    I get that the company is trying to do something nice for OP 1, but I feel like a dinner is just too much. You laid off this person, even in the best circumstances that is rough. Just give her a nice check or something and let it go at that.

    1. Rin*

      I’d be tempted to ask, “How about you just give me the money you were going to spend on this dinner; you know, for rent a food…”

  13. SCR*

    OP1: I was in this exact situation last year. I was laid off and it put me in a horrible financial position and was let go right before my year anniversary which would have meant severance and a flight home (I was overseas). I had to work out the 30 days’ notice to get my last month’s paycheck and it was so awful / awkward to be working for a place for a month knowing I was let go. So when my boss asked me if I wanted a goodbye party, I just said no. Everyone knew I was laid off, it wasn’t my choice and I was really stressed about what I was going to do. I was pretty secretly bitter, I would not have been able to be pleasant at a goodbye celebration. Luckily they didn’t see that outwardly and seemed to genuinely think I was okay with the situation which I guess is why they wanted to throw the party (likely a company paid for happy hour) but didn’t press the issue. My old boss and I are still friendly and he still mentions it and doesn’t get why I didn’t want one. I just chock it up to the fact that some people can be really obtuse.

    1. AnotherHRPro*

      I’m so sorry about your layoff. The reality is, some people do want the party/dinner. We are going through layoffs right now and some employees want the goodbye recognition. Others do not. We try to honor each person’s preference.

    2. Artemesia*

      Wow that is really gross to lay someone out just short of having to pay for the trip home. I know someone who worked for almost nothing Plus equity in a start up and set up their entire media presence (a media based company) and then was fired the day before the equity vested i.e. they stole his labor for a year. I have sense learned of several acquaintances that has happened to — apparently cheating workers is a start up ‘thing.’ But your situation is right up there. And they wonder why you don’t want a party. Yikes.

      1. Brandy*

        This happened to me, except I was laid off for non performance reasons two weeks before I was due for my bonus (paid in Q 1 for the prior year).

        I had a $50k bonus target (it’s a large portion of my salary) which I beat every one of the six years I was at the company, and had met all metrics to beat it again. I called a lawyer who got me the $50k but not the “above and beyond” I truly deserved.

        Figured it would take my $350/HR att’y too much time to chase down the 5-10k which would be mega-taxed anyway, so I let it go but I am *still* bitter that they thought it was NBD and I’d just take my severance and go quietly. I probably could have argued without the lawyer for it but I was so livid I couldn’t see straight.

        Plus, they asked that I work for A MONTH after I was told my job was ending (Dec- end of Jan, bonuses paid 1st week in Feb).

        Jokes on them because I now am getting severance for several more months and just got a new job paying 130% my old salary and a fat starting bonus. With a role that has a lot of power to move business to the old company or one of its competitors.

      2. SCR*

        Yeah, once you did a year of service you got $1500 to cover a flight home and 75% of one month’s pay as a gratuity if you quit or are laid off (standard in the country I was living in). I was less than a month outside of getting that benefit. There were financial issues, which is why I got laid off but ugh.

  14. Rubyrose*

    #4 – push back. My former company decided to add additional security to laptop login, which involved entering a security code that changes every 60 seconds. Their method for you getting this code – an app on your cell phone.

    At the time I had a phone that was an early smartphone, so I could have loaded the app. But for security for me, no, that was not going to happen. So their response was that it was going to cost them $40.00 to send me a security fob. OK, send it out. Had to go through an additional 2 emails of their saying “are you sure you want to cost the company $40.00 for this?” and my saying yes. They caved.

    1. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

      $40? My World of Warcraft keyfob cost $6 and I got a free pet to go with it.

      1. Perse's Mom*

        Maybe they were using some kind of fancy name brand fob, but I’d guess it’s the difference between special ordering a handful of them and getting a massive discount on ordering hundreds/thousands/millions.

        1. Rubyrose*

          They were using RSA, which I think (don’t know) is a name brand.

          Well, if they had ordered for everyone, it would have been a couple of thousand people, which you would think would have brought the cost down.

          I apparently was slighted – did not get a free pet!

    2. moss*

      Sounds like RSA. That does not HAVE to be an app… you can do that right on the computer you are using to log in.

    3. Honeybee*

      I understand the pushback behind having your personal phone with MSM software, but I genuinely don’t understand the quibble with installing a two-factor security app on your phone. What’s the concern there?

    4. MissDisplaced*

      That’s the other thing about these security apps, they can be an nightmare.
      I’m lucky in that my company provides a mobile. However, the security app on the phone is so secure, it requires a 8 digit passcode to open. It also locks the phone in like a minute, which is super annoying when trying to take photos or do normal things (there is NO changing this setting). I put up with it because the company pays for the device and it’s their rules, but imagine if this was YOUR personal device! No way!

  15. Chriama*

    #4 – what if you just said you don’t have a smartphone? Your old one broke and you can’t afford to replace it? Can they just say “get one or you’re fired”? That seems awfully unfair.

    1. Not Karen*

      Yeah, seriously. I just got a smartphone two weeks ago and I don’t have a data plan (don’t know if that’s relevant to MDM software…).

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      They can say you need to have a smartphone, just like they can say you need to have a suit.

      Whether or not they will say that depends on the job and the employer.

  16. Lucky charm*

    #1 – I was in the same boat as the OP. I had been in the job for less than a year and hated it so much that it was causing health issues. My manager (who was the primary reason it was such a horrible job) offered to have a going away lunch for me. I declined because I don’t like being the center of attention, didn’t want to answer questions like “so what are you going to do next?” and honestly, I didn’t care for many of my coworkers either (it was a very dysfunctional place in general and my department specifically was full of back-stabbing climbers who only looked out for themselves). I said goodbye in private to those that I wanted to and that was good enough for me. I ended up getting a job offer on my last day at Old Job and had three weeks off before starting my new job. Old Manager continued to reach out for a few months after parting ways, but I always ignored her. I ended up using someone else I worked with at a the company for a reference and it’s never been an issue.

  17. K.*

    #1: I wouldn’t have considered any kind of farewell event when I was laid off. I get it when the person is leaving voluntarily, but layoffs are another story. What awkward dinner conversation – “So, what are you going to do next?” “File for unemployment. Beyond that, dunno!” I’d just say no thanks.
    #4: I’m very “separation of church & state” when it comes to work & personal, so I’d get a separate phone for work. I had one at my previous job. A few coworkers just used their personal phones because they thought it was annoying to carry two phones – and it kind of is, but my wanting personal privacy trumped that annoyance.
    #5: I’m terribly sorry for your loss, and hope things go as well as they possibly can.

  18. Lily in NYC*

    #1. I work a lot of free overtime. I don’t love it, but I’ve made my peace with it for various reasons (my work duties have changed to the point where my office could easily make me exempt and they probably will do so during review season). A few years ago, one of my coworkers was annoyed by it and reported it and the company ended up having to pay me over $8000 in back overtime. However, it backfired on her because the bosses were pissed at her for reporting it and when her immediate boss put her up for promotion they turned it down. They said she “wasn’t ready” but it was pretty obvious they were being vindictive. Please don’t think I am condoning how they treated her; I’m not. I’m just giving an example of how doing the right thing can backfire on someone even though s/he has good intentions.

    1. Not an IT Guy*

      This…I’ve had managers order me to work off the clock before. Even our company code of conduct demands that I perform off the clock work. But I know if I speak up or complain I’m as good as fired, simply because it’s allowed.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Even our company code of conduct demands that I perform off the clock work.

        Can you expand on that? Your code of conduct demands you do something that isn’t actually legal? Is that in writing? Or does it just demand that you work outside of normal working hours when necessary, but “and we won’t pay you for it” is simply implied?

        1. MaggiePi*

          Also very curious about this. If it is in writing, could a little birdie send a copy to the DOL?

          1. Not an IT Guy*

            We get evaluated by the company we distribute for, and we receive credit for displays, uniforms, etc. based on our overall score. We stated to them things like we’re staffed by dedicated personnel at all times, open during lunch, and the like. Since I work at my location by myself I have no choice but to work during lunch (while punched out) if customers walk in. If I don’t assist customers, then that means we lied for financial gain which is a violation of the code of conduct.

    2. Oryx*

      If you’re a non-exempt employee, working free overtime is *illegal* — so, no, you shouldn’t make peace with it. The fact that your co-worker was essentially punished for reporting the illegal shenanigans of your employer is absolutely horrifying.

      1. INTP*

        Right? Not to mention that she could have saved the company from accruing thousands of dollars more in OT liability if the company had actually put a stop to it rather than punishing her to make sure no one else had the guts to speak up about such things. The proper response would have been, “Thank you for telling us while it’s only $8000.”

      2. Lily in NYC*

        I’m not going to get in a debate about this. Not getting fired is more important to me than a stranger’s opinion of me.

        1. Honeybee*

          I interpreted Oryx’s anger to be primarily directed at your employer, not at you. You obviously have to do what you have to do to stay employed.

    3. Ms. Didymus*

      Her company should have been grateful it was discovered and remedied internally and not via lawsuit after the fact.

      When will companies (and employees) realize that employees cannot waive their right to overtime. I’m dealing with this with someone at my company now. She works an extra 15-20 minutes every night without logging it. Not only does this mess with our numbers when we are trying to make a case that we need more people (which would reduce her feeling she needs to work late) but it is ILLEGAL and putting the company at risk. Just yesterday we had to tell her that if she does it again, we’ll have to let her go.

      1. K.*

        Yeah, I’m taking a longer than usual lunch today. Normally I take half an hour and come in half an hour early so I net 40 hours a week, but I’m taking an hour today because I was here half an hour late yesterday. A bit of work came in right before end of day yesterday and my boss and colleague and I were discussing it until 5:30. They’re exempt, I’m not. No overtime allowed, so I have to cut half an hour before 5:00 on Friday. (Which is fine with me – it’s nice out today, so I’ll sit outside and read for another half hour.) Not logging the time would get me in trouble, as would working 40.5 hours this week – but not logging it would get me in more trouble, I think.

      2. Anon for this*

        We deal with this in a law firm. Basically, the lawyers expect the assistants to be super human. They can’t work overtime. They can’t stay late. But, they get in trouble if they don’t get all the work done. If they say it is too much they are told to find a way and to work faster. If they work faster and there are mistakes they get in trouble for not doing the work correctly. Maybe they are screwing off on Facebook and not doing their work or maybe there really is too much work and they need to be authorized to work overtime or maybe they need to hire more people.

        1. I'm a Little Teapot*

          Yeah, I’ve worked in an environment where there was simply too much work to do during the day, with no authorization for overtime; it was either work unpaid overtime or get in trouble for leaving things undone. Being put in that position is incredibly shitty.

    4. jm*

      We have a number of people who insist on working “free” overtime. They say they are volunteering and try to make the managers feel bad for not accepting their free, volunteer labor. Unfortunately, as your company learned with the $8,000 back overtime payment, there’s no such thing as free work when you’re non-exempt.

      If our organization was faced with a lawsuit over unpaid overtime, I’m told all non-exempt employees’ time cards would be audited, and the company would have to pay everyone for unpaid overtime, not just the plaintiff in the lawsuit. It could amount to a huge amount of money.

      Ultimately, employees who have been asked not to work OT need to honor their managers’ requests. To continue to work OT when the manager has asked you to stop is insubordination.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I agree. The problem for me is that no one would here would dream of making that request. There are some departments where people put in for every minute of overtime and it’s fine. But my dept. is different, my boss is not American and doesn’t understand the difference between exempt and non exempt (she’s an SVP and asked me if she should be getting overtime herself). And to complicate matters, I am an EA in title only and the vast majority of my work is the same as an exempt employee. If I push to put in for overtime, they will trump up a reason to get rid of me because they are already paying me more than other people with my title here (that’s the mindset here – “Hey, you make good money and you got a raise in July, so you shouldn’t be putting in for overtime”.)

        1. I'm a Little Teapot*

          You don’t have to be American to understand an explanation of the difference; it sounds like the suspiciously convenient kind of “not understanding” rather than actually not understanding.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think we can (and should) trust Lily to have the best assessment of her own situation.

            Overtime law doesn’t need to trump every other consideration for Lily; she’s allowed to weigh other factors too and decide what she thinks is in her own interest.

          2. Lily in NYC*

            She truly didn’t get it (she’s accustomed to a start-up environment where everyone works 16-hour days). She understands it now that I’ve explained it. But their reasoning is the same as what “anon for this” wrote a few comments above this one (11:34 am).

            1. Student*

              Have you considered looking for a job where your employer doesn’t steal from you? that’s what they’re doing – stealing thousands of dollars from you. You could be working another part-time job that actually pays you in all your overtime hours, among other possible uses of the time.

              I can completely understand going along with it to survive. I’d just be looking for someplace that doesn’t routinely steal from me. Because that’ll only get worse as time goes on.

              1. Lily in NYC*

                I make a lucrative salary and get six weeks of vacation and enjoy my work. I’d leave if I felt otherwise.

          3. OP#5*

            To be honest, I kind of get the gist of exempt vs non-exempt thanks to my AAM addiction, but I don’t think I could confidently explain it to anyone. There is nothing even remotely comparable in my country, either, so for me it seems like an odd distinction to make. For example, Mr. OP#5 has a salaried management job and isn’t usually entitled to overtime: he works as long as he needs to do get the job done. However, he works in finance and since we’re approaching the end of the financial year, he has to work over the weekend the weekend after Easter. That weekend he will get overtime. From his job title and description, I’m guessing he’d be exempt in the US, but I definitely couldn’t tell you why.

            1. Honeybee*

              It’s because he manages people, it sounds like he does professional work requiring the exercise of independent judgment, and he makes a salary over $455 a week. The former puts him in the “executive” bucket and the independent judgment thing puts him in the “administrative” bucket. There are three other major buckets – professional, computer employee, and outside sales.

              The distinction is mainly out of recognition of the idea that professional, administrative, and executive employees routinely have variable schedules and business needs that require them to exceed 40 hours a week. The theory is that 1) it evens out in the end, as in some weeks they might work 50 but other weeks they’ll work 30, and 2) they are compensated appropriately for that (although the threshold for exempt salaried work in the U.S. is abysmally low – $455 a week is roughly $23,000 a year. There’s talk of raising it to something like $57,000).

              The Department of Labor has a handy fact sheet for exempt employees under the FLSA:


  19. Erin*

    #5 – If you have the same last name as your family member, and it’s national news, then I’m assuming it’s highly possible potential employers will connect the dots.

    I’d err on the side of transparency but without getting overly detailed or emotional. And the way your letter reads, it seems like you’re already on this path. I think this falls in the category of, life happens, and reasonable employers will understand this and work with you on it.

    Moving across country while this is going on must be really stressful. You have my sympathies, and admiration that you’re ready to get back to work during this time.

    1. OP#5*

      I’ve actually joked with my boyfriend about getting married sooner rather than later to avoid this exact situation. ;)

      Thank you – that’s really lovely of you to say. I don’t feel calm or composed inside, though, hah – the delete button is very useful!

      Yeah, the move has been stressful. Luckily it was sponsored by his job, so all the practical bits have been taken care of (and I just don’t go into the spare room… boxes galore!). I think after a while, you just want something, anything, in your life to be somewhere approaching normal, and work is the easiest thing to, er, work on. :)

  20. Allison*

    #4, When I worked for a startup a couple years ago they had me use my personal phone and laptop (mostly laptop, phone was just for the occasional call with coworkers), but they didn’t insist on putting any software on it, so it never felt like an work/life integration issue. I could have understood if they wanted to put some security software on it, but anything else? I would have preferred to have my own.

  21. CAA*

    #4 – if you happen to be located in California, and there’s an actual requirement to have a cell phone and use it for work purposes, then your employer must either provide the phone or reimburse you for a portion of the cell phone bill. Google Cochran v. Schwan’s if you need the info.

  22. Newbie*

    #2 – Rebecca made very good point above regarding the importance of having accurate overtime records. Staffing levels are often dependent upon how much overtime is required to complete the work or the amount of work that is behind schedule due to staff being overwhelmed. Not having that documented is problematic from several angles, as well as being illegal.

    From your letter, there also seems to be the issue of time management (or lack thereof) with this coworker. You seem to suspect that his practice of working extra hours may be contributing to this. You should certainly speak up when his poor time management impact on your workload, for example if he misses a deadline getting you what you need. You may not need to or want to mention the unpaid overtime in those situations, but you should definitely bring it to the attention of your manager when your work is impacted negatively. What caused him to miss the deadline isn’t your issue, but bringing to light the missed deadline (or whatever the issue is) should result in his performance being more closely monitored, which could make the unpaid overtime apparent to the right people.

  23. No Longer Just a Lurker*

    OP#4 – tell your work that because you are on a family plan all of your family will have access to work stuff (there is a setting on some phones that automatically push any apps/software onto all connected devices – at least on iPhones as it happens to me anytime a download an app, update a calendar, or purchase a song it goes to all 3 devices) and that you will not be changing that feature because of reasons (teenagers need to be tracked, shared calendars, etc…). Should give them pause. They have provided your phone for years so there is no reason they need to change that now. Also listen to what the IT guy said about wiping phones if you leave. My brother is also in IT and had to do this a few times and it caused lots of problems for the departing employees since they had everything stored on their phone.

  24. INTP*

    #2: I might disagree with Alison here. If they’ve been very emphatic that working unpaid overtime is Not Okay and a Big Deal, then I think you should give your boss a discreet heads up about what is going on. They might have had issues in the past, and it won’t look favorable for you if it’s found out later on and they owe him thousands of dollars more in back pay than if you had reported it right now given that you know it’s definitely against the rules. I wouldn’t make a huge deal of it, just a conversation with the boss alone framed as information you thought she should know because of the liabilities it can create for the company, and she can decide what to do about it.

  25. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    #2: In a similar situation, I’ve talked to my manager. A coworker of ours who is a bit shaky on priorities admitted in a small group setting that she regularly works off the clock, and seemed unconvinced when the rest of us reacted with a unanimous OMG STOP. So at a discreet moment, I pulled my manager aside and presented it to her.

    I’ll note that I was careful not to make my presentation an “omg guess what Jane is doing!” kind of thing. Instead, I told her that Jane admitted to working off the clock, while logged out for lunch and at the end of the day, and emphasized that 1) the rest of us had talked to her about stopping, and 2) I felt that Boss should be aware that it had happened, even if Jane listened to us and stopped, because I didn’t want it to be a surprise if someone found out.

      1. OT*

        Couldn’t they allow her extra unpaid breaks though? So, if she has to work later because she spends a cumulative 2 hours per day on the internet, talking with coworkers, spacing out, etc. that’s not work time. It would need to be logged of course. So her time sheet could be 8-10. 10:20-12. 1-3. 4:20-6:00. Etc.

    1. OP#2*

      There might be–I know he does have some sort of medically recognized issue, though I don’t know if it’s at an ADA level. I know our boss has asked him not to work unpaid overtime, so I don’t think that’s the case–and in a lot of these cases it’s not that he’s working late, it’s that he’s working from home, checking email on his phone on his days off, etc.

  26. AllisonAllisonAllisonetc*

    I’ve actually went through something similar when starting my current job… I was the main witness in the retrial of the man who committed a violent crime against me, and the retrial was set to begin right as I was supposed to start the new job. I did what was suggested by Alison and others and waited until I had an offer and we were talking start dates to bring it up (originally we pushed back my start date to be after the trial… then the trial got delayed and I had to take a week off just a couple months in, ugh) and offered to supply a subpoena if necessary (in order to impress that this really wasn’t an optional thing). I didn’t go into detail, just said I was a witness, and the only real pushback I got was in trying to get my manager to understand this was an out-of-state trial so no I wouldn’t be coming in and working half days.

    I’m sorry for your loss and good luck in your move and job search.

    1. OP#5*

      I hope you got the outcome you wanted.

      None of my family are legally obliged to go to the trial, but I’m hoping common sense will prevail if/when it’s an issue.

  27. justcourt*

    #5, I’m really sorry about what you’re going through.

    Four years ago I lost two family members in a murder/suicide. Obviously there wasn’t a trial that I had to take time off work to attend, but I did take time off after it happened. It was so hard fielding questions from curious co-workers.

    I don’t have any advice, but you do have my sympathy.

    1. OP#5*

      I’m sorry you’ve gone through bereavement through suicide, too, justcourt.

      Human beings are just so nosey. I must say, though, all this has made me so much less nosey because I know how awful it is to be pressed on things you don’t want to talk about.

      1. justcourt*

        Same here.

        I just read the post above about pro bono PR for families of tragedy, and it reminded me of how nosey the press was. One member of the press called a family member pretending to work with the funeral home and asked for details to include in the service. Even after 4 years I have a physical reaction in my stomach when I think about that additional violation.

        I’m glad you have access to the kind of help Pwyll. Hopefully, you’ll have that help during the trial as well.

        1. OP#5*

          Impersonating someone is gross. It reminds me of the nurse in the UK who hanged herself after two Australian radio presenters called the hospital pretending to be members of the Royal family after the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to Prince George. I don’t know what/if any details she divulged, but I thought it was awful.

  28. Bee Eye LL*

    OP # 1 – I see this both ways. One, they are trying to do something nice for you because they let you go. Two, they are trying to do one last thing to control you before you go.

    If you don’t want the dinner, then don’t do the dinner. They FIRED YOU. Right? If they really wanted to do something nice they’d work out a way to let you keep your job. You could just not show up for that last day, or simple not go to the dinner, but that may bite you back one day. On the other hand, just say NO. They can’t force you to do it since they are cutting you loose, anyway.

    If you want to say goodbye to your co-workers, arrange for a private lunch/dinner with the ones you like.

      1. Amy UK*

        Is it really different though? Sure, on paper it’s different, but the end result is still the same with regards to the dinner. However much they “didn’t want to lay her off”, they still did.

        “Let’s put on a dinner to say goodbye to the person we’re forcing to leave a job she was content to stay in, and all circle around the fact that we’ve made her unable to pay her rent or bills until she finds something new” is still an amazingly insensitive idea whether you’ve sacked them or laid them off.

  29. Master Bean Counter*

    #4–When I started my new job I found out that my position came with a cell phone and internet stipend. Both are very generous. Having converted to the pre-paid world a while ago I’m actually getting enough money to cover two cell phones. All I had to do was install the Outlook app and sign in with my work credentials. I assume if I ever part ways my account will be locked.
    I really wasn’t concerned about how much access they have to my phone, given that I really don’t do anything exciting with it. but now I’m wondering… But I’m not working for loons anymore so I’m not that worried.

  30. KC*

    #1- I was in a similar situation when I was in a temp job for a few months. I ended up finishing the work a little ahead of schedule and my boss wanted to take me out with some of the other people at the company before i was done there. The last few days i didn’t have anything to work on, so i called out and said i had a family emergency. For some reason, at that time, i couldn’t stand coming into work and not having anything to do. A nice byproduct was avoiding that awkward meal. I was a little worried afterwards that i might have burned a bridge with the temp agency and the company but i don’t think that was the case since the temp agency contacted me about another opportunity later that ended up resulting in a perm job.

  31. Gene*

    For #4, Google Project Fi. About $200 right now for the phone, $20/mo unlimited T&T, $10/GB for data, the data rolls over, and the international rates are great.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      And that’s $200 to own the phone—not a down payment to lock you into a two-year contract. And, if you have unused data, you get that part refunded every month.

    2. CAA*

      Republic Wireless also works the same way as Google Fi. RW is slightly cheaper than Fi, but you do have to purchase a customized Motorola phone that will only work on the RW network, whereas the Fi phones are standard Nexus phones you can take to another carrier in the future. Total monthly bill for the two RW phones in our household is $30. Fi would run us $50/mo for the same usage.

    3. Chriama*

      As a Canadian, I’m wildly jealous of the options you guys have for cell phone plans over there. My biggest issue is data, which is something like $30/gb here (although plans usually come bundled with 0.5-1gb and it’s $10 to get a higher tier plan with 1 more gb). But still, $30/gb is highway robbery :'(

    4. Erin*

      Oh my God my husband is *obsessed* with projectfi. I got it myself last week. I have to admit I love it, and I’m not a big phone person (just got a smartphone about seven months ago).

    5. Honeybee*

      Wow, I wish I had seen this post about 5 months ago – I had forgotten about Fi, and I now live in an area that gets the service. I was planning on getting a new phone and the Google Nexus 5X was near the top of the list, although ultimately I decided against it because I need more storage on a phone (and I ended up switching back to an iPhone anyway).

      I don’t really like the styling of the Nexus 6P, but I’m looking it and realizing how much cheaper it is…it’s nearly half the price of my iPhone for specs that are the same or better in every area. This is one of the reasons I have mixed feelings about Apple…sigh. Their stuff is so overpriced.

  32. BookCocoon*

    I had/have a similar issue to #2, except the boss is not concerned about the unpaid overtime. I was in this coworker’s role previously and had to constantly push back about the fact that I was hourly and not salaried, and that if I was asked to stay late for something I had to get time off at a different time in the week. Now someone else is in the role who has been out of the workforce for a long time, and I realized she was coming in early and staying late to get work done, and that Boss is aware of this. (I am also still in a non-exempt role and he’s said I absolutely cannot work overtime because he doesn’t have the budget to pay me any extra hours, so I know she’s not being paid for it.) I found the opportunity to mention one time, in a more general sense (of “This was something I learned when I was in the role”), that our organization can get in trouble if hourly employees work unreported time. I think she’s cut back on voluntary overtime but I don’t think she will push back if Boss asks her to stay late for something.

  33. Violet Fox*

    #4 Does your company have written privacy and security policies for BYOD? Asking for copies of these sort of policies might be a good place to start.

  34. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    OP1 – been there , had to do that.

    A group of us were laid off. They held a reception/party for us at a restaurant.

    It was a group of eight of us who were let go. I went. I had one drink. It was too awkward.

    I left.

  35. Q*

    I’d let them schedule their dinner for sometime after my last day. Then I’d call them 15 minutes after I was supposed to be there and beg off due to a family emergency/issue/whatever.

    But I’m a terrible person.

    1. Master Bean Counter*

      I kinda did this. My last week at old job I was just getting over a cold and they brought in a new person who seemed to bathe in her perfume. She was off Monday and Tuesday. My going away lunch was scheduled for Thursday. On Wednesday I spent way too much time coughing and gasping for air, because the new girl sat 4 feet behind me. I decided I was done right then and there. I had already been trying to find a way out of the lunch and taking off two days early because I could no longer breathe was the best excuse.

  36. animaniactoo*

    I believe the answer to #4 is actually wrong. I keep casual track of privacy stuff for a number of reasons and this is one I’ve seen come up before. The difference may seem like splitting hairs, but they’re very important hairs to split.

    An employer can require that you install their security software (or other apps) on your phone IF you are using it for anything work related, like accessing your e-mail. They can require that you have a smartphone or cell phone for work capability. They CANNOT require that your personal had it for 10 years and everybody and their mother has the number phone be that phone.

    So, really, the answer is “No, they can’t force you to give them access to your personal phone that you never use for work” but “Yes they can force you into paying for your own (tax deductible) work phone”.

    In which case – you might want to look into a provider like Tracfone, where for $90 you can get 3000 minutes, 3000 texts and 1.5 gb of data for a 90 day block of service.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think we’re saying anything differently here; an employer can require that you use a personal cell phone for work and give them access to it. You can decide which personal phone that is.

      1. animaniactoo*

        I do think it’s an important clarification to spell out because the OP here isn’t thinking about getting another phone, their first jump is “but my personal phone is on my family’s plan and that will have implications for them”.

        Part of the privacy implications are that GPS features may be enabled and tracked, some security software allows the phone to be bricked which means that you lose any of your personal stuff that hasn’t been backed up, the device can become unusable completely, and so on.

        Towards that, I think simply saying “yup, your employer can legally force you to use your personal phone” doesn’t go far enough towards being clear that personal phone can be one that is strictly for work usage, none of your personal stuff is on it, and unless you’re required to carry it at all times, you can leave it home when you’re off the clock, and the OP does not have to worry about the impact on his family’s plan, etc.

        1. animaniactoo*

          On the other hand, it appears I may be suffering from reading-in-small-break-periods-misunderstanding, because I went back up to read and doublecheck, and you did say to think about having a separate phone. My bad!

  37. JW*

    OP 1 – thanks for asking this question as I am facing a similar situation and was literally (not an hour ago!) wondering how I approach this conversation. I am a maternity cover contractor and they’ve been jerking me around on will they/won’t they extend a full time role vs extending the contract to do work I didn’t want to do vs. poor communication and complete upheaval in the department (we’ve had almost 100% turnover in the time I’ve been there, including very senior leadership of my dept). Now they are doing a search to fill my role with a FT person, but are looking for someone with, well, my background, but I was not invited to apply, despite having executed some excellent projects with high praise. Maybe just a tiny bit bitter over here :)

    At any rate, its probably a good point that I will be leaving and off to new (hopefully) better pastures, but I really don’t want to have awkward drinks and gift giving with people, some of whom have not been very decent, and if I haven’t found anything by then I don’t want to be cranky or sad or pitiful. It’s completely expected and part of the culture, though, and I wasn’t sure how to just say no, but everyone has provided some great examples to resist the pressure I am sure is coming!

  38. bob*

    #4: DON’T DO IT! At least until you find what the gruesome details are!

    Some companies that require you to install MDM software will actually wipe your phone when you leave the company.

Comments are closed.