my manager is coaching my new running group, jobs that require cars, and more

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

1. My manager turned out to be the coach of my new running group

I recently joined a running group outside of work. My manager is also a runner and I knew that she was involved with the same group, but I did not know to what extent. It turns out she will be the coach of the group that I have just joined. Is it weird or inappropriate for me to be a part of this group?

I don’t think it’s inherently problematic — I think it depends on what you’re both comfortable with. If you’re comfortable with it, then just check with her and offer an easy out by saying something like, “Hey, I’d didn’t realize you’d be coaching this group. I totally understand if it will be weird to have me in it — would you rather I check out a different one for now?”

My only other concern would be whether it’s likely to cause perception issues with others in your department. If it means that you two will be spending lots of time together outside of work, it’s possible that it could make people worry about favoritism … but based on the admittedly little that I know about running groups (or running, or really any kind of athletic activity), I think that probably isn’t going to be a huge issue. But it’s something to watch out for if you’re mentioning it to others.

2. Jobs that require car ownership

I’m self-employed and living in a major northwest city. Lately I’ve been looking for a part-time position to serve as a steady supplement to my freelance income.

Except… nine out of the last 10 job listings I’ve looked at have listed a “reliable vehicle” as a requirement. I am completely baffled by this. I don’t own a car, and part of my reason for living and working in a major city is that I don’t have to own one to get around. Also, I’ve noticed that most of the organizations I’ve seen with such a vehicle requirement are nonprofits offering low pay ($17/hour or less) for these kinds of part-time positions. Doesn’t requiring a vehicle for a job that barely pays a living wage in a city with a high cost of living unfairly discriminate against candidates who don’t already have the means to own a car (or Zipcar membership)? If a car is absolutely required, then shouldn’t the organization subsidize it or be flexible in making alternative arrangements with employees?

It depends on the nature of the work. Some jobs truly do require cars. In some of those jobs, the requirement is so frequent (for example, delivery person) that yes, a decent company will supply the vehicle. In other jobs, the need for a car is sporadic but still necessary. In the latter case, alternatives (cabs, Uber) can sometimes be feasible, but not in every case (because of expenses or logistics). In other cases, yes, the requirement might be poorly thought-out. We can’t really know without knowing more about the job and what’s behind the car requirement.

It’s perfectly legal, though, unless it can be shown to be having a disparate impact on people of a particular race or other protected characteristic and there’s no genuine job-related need for the requirement.

3. Is this the same job?

I am currently looking for a new job. I submitted my cover letter and resume for a controller position at a nonprofit. The HR rep contacted me to do a phone screen with her. It went really well. So much so, that at the end she said she would be getting back in touch to schedule an interview, which she did. After some back and forth, we were able to schedule one for Wednesday.

Two days later, I saw a job posting from the same company for an accounting supervisor. The job description and qualifications are nearly identical. The salary range is lower. I am wondering if this is the same job. I would be really annoyed if I go on the interview only to have a bait and switch pulled on me. Should I contact the HR rep prior to the interview and ask? If that is the direction they are going in, I would like to know so I can decide whether I want to go through with the interview.

Sure, it’s fine to do that. I’d send an email to her that says this: “I noticed that you’re also advertising for an accounting supervisor. Is this the same position as the controller role we talked about last week? I noticed that the job description is very similar, but the salary range is lower, so I wanted to check with you ahead of our interview.”

4. Did my company give my information to headhunters?

I’ve got an issue with headhunters calling me at work. I have a shared office, and my boss has the office next to mine. It’s a very casual environment and most of us default to answering our desk phone with the speaker phone. For the last few months, I’ve been receiving calls from headhunters on my desk line. I’m not actively searching for a job and I most certainly don’t have my desk extension posted anywhere, so I’m not sure where they’re getting it from.

Earlier this year, the company decided to change everyone’s job title, basically just replacing our level numbers with adjectives, so now a level 2 manager is a lead manager, as an example. When they rolled it out, there was some error and my title was changed to something completely unrelated to my field. I contacted HR and they corrected it. It was shown on internal company sites only and was fixed in a little over a week, but shortly after that I was contacted by a headhunter for a job in line with the incorrect job title. How would they even get that information unless the company provided it? I’ve asked around our site and no one has given out my information to headhunters and I’ve never worked at any of our other sites. I’d like to get this to stop but I’m not sure how. It’s been different people representing various companies each time.

I should also note I’m not very active on social media. My employer isn’t listed on my Facebook page, and I’m only on LinkedIn a couple times a month.

It would be pretty odd for your company to be giving out your information to headhunters (usually companies want to stop recruiters from contacting their employees, not make it easier!). So I don’t know how it happened, but it would be an interesting question to ask any future recruiters who contact you and appear to have the incorrect title.

Beyond that, though, it’s pretty common to get calls from recruiters, at least in many fields. They’re probably finding you on LinkedIn or other other industry directories. You can just ignore the calls or tell them that you’re not interested.

5. Contacting the company owner, my mom’s friend, for a reference

I’ve been trying to hunt down references from my last job. The manager I worked under has gone off-radar, and the branch where I worked is closed for refurbishment. I don’t have contact details for anyone else I worked under. I’m a student, and this is the longest position I have ever held, so the references from here would be really helpful.

However, my mother worked for the same company years ago (before I was even born) and, as such, is close friends with the woman who now owns the company. I don’t know the woman, I have met her once or twice but we haven’t spoken since I was tiny. She and I were certainly never together in a work environment. Would it be out of order for me to go straight to the owner for a reference?

I don’t know that she would be able to be helpful. At most, she’d be able to confirm that you worked at the company, but she’d do that by consulting the same company records that their HR would also have access to. So I’d start by contacting HR at their headquarters to see if they can verify your employment dates. If they can’t, then yes, your mother’s friend could possibly be helpful in doing that … but that’s not a reference, just an employment verification.

For references, you’re going to want to find people who can speak to your actual work. Can you try coworkers from that job instead — the more senior to your position, the better? (They’re not ideal, but they’re better than nothing. They should definitely be senior to you though, not peers, since I’m assuming you were pretty junior.) If not, then just focus on getting references from other jobs, and explain the situation to reference-checkers.

Students’ references are often kind of rough, since it’s common to have a pretty limited work history at that point, so I don’t think it’ll end up being a huge problem.

{ 260 comments… read them below }

  1. Mando Diao*

    OP5: Can the owner of this company find the updated contact information for the manager you worked under? Can she put you in touch with any of the higher-ranking employees from your branch who may have been relocated to other offices? Can you try to track some of them down on LinkedIn or Facebook? Just ask them if they’d mind being listed as a reference, and which phone number you can put on your reference list. They’ll say no if they’re not interested. I’m mentioning this because OP states that she can’t list her old coworkers because she doesn’t have their contact info. Younger people haven’t always been taught that for jobs it’s totally okay to proactively reach out to someone you aren’t close to on a social level. You aren’t limited to the people whose numbers are in your cell phone. It’s not weird or creepy to send an “out of the blue” social media message to someone for this purpose.

    1. Gaara*

      That’s what I was thinking, too. The owner may know the contact info for someone who would be a reference.

  2. Engineer Girl*

    #4 – It’s possible an unscrupulous person at your company gave the headhunters the internal phone list. I’ve had that happen at my company and the company was incredibly upset about it. The phone lists are usually available to the entire company, not just the local site.

    1. GiantPanda*

      Maybe someone is involved who used to work at your company and whose access to the intranet was not revoked.

      1. ReadItWithSpanishAccent*

        It is not that difficult to get somebody’s telephone. They probably caught the receptionist with her guard low and pulled up an “oh I *really* must tell him I am not going to the meeting / whatever” to get your phone number.

    2. Patrick*

      I’m pretty sure this has happened at my company, but we also have a first initial/last name email format that makes it pretty easy to figure out 98% of employee emails.

      I know OP said their incorrect title was unrelated to their actual job, but I’ll also say that the lower tier head hunters seem to cast a much wider net. For instance, I’m a teapot buyer but often get very generic emails for teapot planner or allocator roles. These are pretty much always for smaller companies you’ve probably never heard of, and the few times I’ve engaged one of these headhunters I’ve gotten the impression that the hiring company said “get us someone from Company X.”

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Speaking of wide nets, I remember when I used to be an Account Manager (as in Sales/Sales support), I used to get tons of recruiter emails for Accounting jobs.

    3. BusSys*

      There could be an employee directory buried on the main external website. I got external calls often when that was the case.

    4. OP4*

      It’s possible. I’ve asked them who gave them my information but they always tell me that’s confidential.

      The job title mix-up was pretty out there, think difference between sales rep and IT.

      1. LBK*

        It’s confidential? Uh, it’s your information…how is the source of your own info confidential? I would push back on that the next time someone says it and insist that if someone is giving out your info, you need to know who (if nothing else because it’s not accurate).

        1. TootsNYC*

          The info may be about you, but the identity of the source is not yours to control.
          I can think of many legitimate situations in which someone might in all honor and uprightness not want to reveal their source.

          In this case, it means, “I don’t want the secretary who leaked the phone list to get in trouble.”

      2. Meg Murry*

        Its possible an old version of your resume is out there somewhere (Monster, LinkedIn, etc) and has just the right combo of key words to hit as a match for a recruiter that isn’t reading carefully. I had that happen for a little while – I got a flurry of calls looking to send me for interviews for Chocolate Engineers because my resume included both the words Chocolate and Engineer in separate places- but I have no experience as a Chocolate Engineer, and anyone who had a clue what Chocolate Engineers actually do would have realized that if they read my resume. This was a case of recruiters just scattershot calling *anyone* in the “throw it against the wall and see what sticks” technique. I’ve also been hit with times when I’ve gotten called from 5 different recruiters over the course of 2 days all working for the same (shady) recruiting firm using the same scattershot technique.

        1. Natalie*

          But the OP says they’re getting recruiting calls for the totally incorrect job title they had for a very short period in error. That would never have been on their resume.

        2. OP4*

          My email and cell are both posted on Linkdin and they generate a good number of hits from head hunters. I’d actually prefer them to go that route. I intentionally keep my office number off social media.

      3. Mike C.*

        What is stopping you from saying, “No, that’s absolute bullshit, if you want to do business with me you come clean with the source of your information”?

        They’re coming to you, if you don’t like how they’re treating you or how they’re doing business, call them out in clear, plain language.

      4. neverjaunty*

        “That’s confidential” means “I got your name in a way you wouldn’t like.” Hang up on these people.

        I got my current job when I accepted a call from a headhunter entirely because he disclosed who referred him to me – and the referral was someone I trusted, so I listened.

  3. First Initial dot Last Name*

    OP #2 I’m from a Major Northwest City, don’t have a drivers license or car, and didn’t have either while living in said city (for 36 years), or the Other Major NW City 150 miles to the south, where I went to college. I found the requirement to have a DL and or a car rather troubling too, as the job postings generally don’t indicate a need for either within their posting. I have begun to wonder if the requirement for a DL was a lazy shorthand for local ID, proof of citizenship or work permits. I know I’d really appreciate some clarity in the job postings like, “Office location not served by public transit/schedules” that’s a problem I can solve on my own, thankyouverymuch.

    1. Blurgle*

      You see, I’d be thinking “disabled people need not apply”.

      Unless the job has a demonstrated need for a drivers’ license such a requirement is discriminatory toward certain categories of the disabled.

      1. Dan*

        Well, if the certain categories of the disabled include those who can’t drive, than “discriminating” against them isn’t always unfair. In my city, the para-transit system has been notorious for being late and missing appointments. If on-time arrival is a critical part of the job, then stating “must have reliable transportation for on time arrival” isn’t inappropriate. I’m not telling you that you must have a car, but I am telling you that you better show up on time and relying on the city transit system is going to make you late way too much.

        I mean, if the car really isn’t required for the job, you can always lie and say you have one and nobody will know.

        1. JessaB*

          In every city I have ever lived in paratransit is late. ALWAYS. It seems to be a function of the service. And given the large amounts of groups that serve the disabled I do not know why there has never been a major organised complaint/lawsuit about that.

          Every friend I have that uses it has lost at least ONE job (hard to get when you’re disabled) for being late. There may be good services out there, but I’ve lived in NY, Florida, Georgia and Ohio and have friends in IL, Washington DC and California, and nobody seems to view these services as useful to keep a job via.

          It’s bad enough when you have doctors who charge for missing appointments.

          1. OhNo*

            As someone who is disabled and used (and still occasionally uses) the paratransit system in several cities, I can confirm that they always have problems running late. Always. But, I used it, and I got to work on time the vast majority of the time, because I planned the rides carefully. I wasn’t late any more frequently than anyone who had a vehicle and might have car trouble or get stuck in the snow.

            It is NOT okay to assume that disabled people are going to be late all the time just because they have to use paratransit. Just like everyone else, we can find ways to make it work if we have to.

          2. Franky*

            Just on the note of the public transit systems being notoriously late… having a reliable vehicle doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be whizzing to work and around town for work related transportation on time and without delays… this is particularly true for very large urban centers where gridlock can make it impossible.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              My work is across town from where I live, and I have to drive through an industrial area to get to the highway. Traffic is different every day, too. I was late the other day because I played Red Light Roulette with several large trucks and lost. >:(

              1. Petronella*

                Yes, in my large sprawling city, it’s been my experience in several jobs that people who drive to work are late as often as those who use transit, if not more so. The freeways are far less predictable than the bus and train schedules. If being scrupulously on time is a job requirement, then lots of advance planning is required, no matter how you get to work.

                1. anonderella*

                  Idk if I 100% agree with you on that freeways are far less predictable than bus/train schedules, though I think you were generalizing to make a point. To agree with you, I don’t like taking the highway because I can’t just get off if there is traffic, whereas if I am stuck on a city street, I can usually find some neighborhood to duck through and cut about 15 minutes of stand-still bumper to bumper action out of my commute – which I could not do on a bus.

                  To counterpoint you, that’s why I enjoy having my own car – if I want to change my route to avoid something or add a stop in, I can. If I decide halfway there that I can take a faster route if I want to stop for coffee, I can do that. Having a car makes me more independent and adaptive.

                  I do agree with you completely that no matter your method of travel, you should be putting the right amount of planning into it.

                2. Queen Gertrude*

                  Replying to anonderella:
                  See that really depends on the geography of your city. I live in Seattle where there are only bridges leading into the city from the north. Driving, if I risk it and take surface streets instead of the interstate I not only have to deal with heavy bottlenecks at those smaller bridges, I also have to risk those bridges closing to boat traffic. They do limit boat traffic during very specific times of day, but those windows are small and if you miss them you are SOL for ~7 minutes at a time (more if there was a backup of boats waiting). Also, many people in this area actually commute to neighboring cities and the transit is very robust between those cities so they could bus it. For drivers that means going over more bridges or around the lake. The buses get to take express lanes and bypass car traffic to an extent. Buses don’t have to deal with finding and paying for parking which can cost as much as a third of my rent in Seattle proper. Argh, I can’t imagine trying to pay for that on a non-profit salary. Or you could risk playing musical chairs with your car by moving it every two hours if you are lucky enough to work in an area that still has free 2-hour street parking.

                  TL:DR Not every city works the same ;)

                3. anonderella*

                  @ Queen Gertrude (I loved saying that in my head),

                  Oh yeah, you are totally right there. I’ve never lived in a city with very good public transportation, like buses that will travel from downtown to the suburbs, or even one suburb to another. But even regardless, you’re right about there being certain geographical differences and circumstances, especially your example about boat traffic; if you’ve never lived in a city with boat traffic, it is pretty strangely non-intuitive.

                  Thanks, you make really good points!

                4. zd*

                  Or my city, where there is really only one bridge from my part of the city to the central downtown area. So, if you drive, there’s no way to ‘get around’ traffic. The transit is a lot more reliable and predictable than driving.

        2. Natalie*

          It’s not remotely acceptable to assume that “disabled” equals “uses paratransit system” equals “will be late and thus shouldn’t be hired”. People vary in their level of disability (can use the regular and perfectly reliable bus system), their means (cars modified for disabled drivers) or their willingness to get to work early via paratransit so they won’t be late. What you’ve described is both illegal and immoral.

          1. Kyrielle*

            This. “Must be able to arrive on time consistently” is a reasonable requirement for some jobs. (Not actually for mine, because we have highly flexible schedules, and thus consistent arrival times are not a big deal.)

            “Must have reliable transportation” is a little more dubious (maybe it’s unreliable, but they arrange to be either on time or a half hour early, and spend the half hour in a coffee shop on days when it happens).

            “Must have/drive a car” is not reasonable if the job doesn’t require use of a car to perform its duties.

            1. sunny-dee*

              It may be, though, that the person is required to be able to go to multiple sites or to move between sites in ways that public transit wouldn’t easily allow. The car may not be required for the duties, but the mobility between sites is.

          1. Milton Waddams*

            Non-profits seem to do this a bunch, especially if their target donors are from a higher social class and management is worried about their working-class assistants alienating donors on the phone. “Reliable transportation” is a reliable metric that won’t likely get them sued, as it is not limited to poor people of any race or gender.

            I think the sweet spot they are looking for is “downwardly mobile middle class”, as they likely have the culture down, but are financially needy enough to put up with the dysfunctional environment many small non-profits seem to develop.

            1. OP #2*

              OP #2 here! I should have been more specific in my question to Alison; NONE of the jobs I’ve looked at are delivery jobs or things like Uber, because of course those would require a car. The jobs I’ve been referring to are almost entirely at (you guessed it!) nonprofits, and mostly in communications/events. These orgs seem to be hinting that a car is a “requirement” for attending and working events, but as I see it, other arrangements for getting to fundraisers and such (and even picking up supplies!) can always be made.

              So yes, I do really worry that this is a discriminatory practice (both in terms of class and disability, as folks above mentioned) couched in something vague.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Eh, I wouldn’t assume that! Another commenter, Al Lo, talks elsewhere on this page about someone who needed to have a car for exactly this kind of thing, and why alternative arrangements weren’t feasible. Events often have lots and lots of last-minute running around that you need to have a driver available for, and the driver often really does need to be a specific person since other people have other roles to fill during that time.

                1. OP #2*

                  Thanks for your responses, Alison! As I mentioned in my original question to you, though–if an events job, for example, really does require a car, then shouldn’t the employer be partially responsible for helping you attain one (or a Zipcar membership or something) if you don’t have one already? Because if someone is otherwise fully qualified for a job, then denying them the position because they don’t own a car still seems discriminatory to me.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  But do you mean discriminatory in the legal sense? Non-car-owners aren’t a legally protected class. Employers discriminate based on all kinds of things (and often rightly so) — education, skill set, intelligence, ability to work certain hours, etc. That’s not illegal. It’s only illegal if it’s based on race, sex, religion, etc.

                  You could certainly debate whether or not an employer has an ethical or practical obligation to help you attain a car if they require it, but there’s no legal obligation to do it. And practically speaking, car requirements for certain jobs are such a common, widespread thing that I think it’s generally considered pretty acceptable.

                3. OP #2*

                  I understand that legally there’s no recourse. It’s more the ethics of it that I’m wrestling with.

        1. Wade*

          I’ve heard that private K-12 schools pay unlivably low salaries to their faculty because they assume that the teacher’s spouse is the main breadwinner in the family.

      2. Ever and Anon*

        Does anyone know if there’s any kind of advocacy going on for this kind of thing? Not everyone can have a car, and it’s really unfair to restrict lower-paying jobs to people who already have the money for a car. Especially if they would otherwise be qualified for it.

        I wonder if in general, there should be some kind of employer registry or office that approves job restrictions and makes sure they’re not unfairly discriminatory.

      3. annonymouse*

        There’s a few reasons the employer might need you to own a car as a requirement of a job.

        Where I’m from the reasons are:

        No public transport anywhere near location or none running at the start time. Think factory work where you start at say 6:00am but the earliest public transport can get you there is 8:30am.

        You often have to go from one branch to another during your day and public transport will be too slow

        You might need to have bulky equipment as part of your job. Not something easy to take on public transport

    2. Ann Cognito*

      At a prior job I had, a non-profit, we had a number of administrative-type positions that required driving, but our job postings always made it clear why. If driving wasn’t an actual need for the position, we would never say someone had have a car, and we never cared how someone got to work. I think that’s where companies go wrong, by not explaining the necessity.

      OP: Maybe apply for the position anyway, and if they call you to phone screen you, or invite you to an interview, ask about the driving requirement then. It could be it’s something they put in without thinking (not good!), and it turns out it’s not actually a requirement.

      1. Queen Gertrude*

        I was going to suggest doing the same. Different employers will have different understandings of the definition of “reliable transportation” or “reliable vehicle”. Just like Alison mentioned they may only need you to have a car once in a while. They may just need you to be able to get to work without having to count on making two buses. Maybe you live within walking/biking distance and the whole “reliable vehicle” point is moot? The wording could be leftover from when someone with seniority thought it was more important and now it’s not. The point is you will never know for sure unless you get to the point where you ask them.

        1. Natalie*

          Eh, in a lot of the huge cities (which it sounds like includes the OP’s case) public transport is going to be as or more reliable than driving given the traffic situation. These requirements are usually (IMO) poorly thought out proxies for some other issue, some more appropriate than others.

          1. sunny-dee*

            On the coasts, maybe, but that is not the case in any city in Texas. As deplorable as the traffic can be, driving is much faster and more reliable than public transit, and public transit doesn’t go everywhere. It could be that they need someone to be able to move rapidly and reliably between Site A and Site B or to go outside the city on occasion.

        2. Willis*


          Plus, plenty of people in large cities own cars but still opt to commute to work via bus, bike, carpool, or on foot. I’d be inclined to apply anyway, unless the job description makes it clear a vehicle is needed (delivering stuff, routinely traveling between sites, running errands, etc.).

        3. Rafe*

          I actually always interpreted “reliable transportation” as Must Be On Time, more than, “You’ll need to drive during work hours once in a while as part of your job responsibilities.”

          1. SophieChotek*

            Yes, this was my thought also.

            Though of course, if they really mean the latter, I would think that should be clear very soon in job interview or better yet, listed in responsibilities (must deliver X to clients).

            1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

              Hmm. I worry when we go down a path of insisting that every eventuality must be disclosed in the job posting or interview.

              In my line of work, I’ve always had to get around, frequently, to meetings in lots of different places. It’s not something that’s ever discussed – although it could be, if someone asked – and it’s not a key part of the role, exactly… it would just be a problem if I announced I could only meet on the east side of the city, or only along the one train line, or could never be the person who runs out to get snacks before a meeting, or etc.

              1. Anonymousaurus Rex*

                This is what I’m thinking. There was no requirement for me to have a car or drive explicitly when I was hired, and I took my job largely because I can bike to work. But soon after I sold my car, it turned out I had to take meetings a far drive away. My company would pay for a rental, but it got to be so frequent that I just bought another car :/ Luckily the mileage I drive practically pays the car payment, and I still bike to work 90% of the time. But I think I’d be annoyed if it was actually a requirement to own a car. I’m lucky that I had the means to get my own car for convenience, but if you’re traveling for business meetings, the company should cover these expenses.

          2. Joseph*

            Yeah, reliable transportation as many companies define it is strictly a function of wanting you to be on time, flexible, and presentable.

            Or, to put it another way, no transportation related excuses allowed – “the bus was late”, “I look terrible because the office is four blocks from a stop and it was pouring rain”, “I can never stay an extra five minutes because then I’ll miss the bus” or anything of the sort.

        4. AndersonDarling*

          This is why I see this on job ads in my area. It’s usually for warehouse or manufacturing jobs. I’m guessing that they have had so many employees who can’t make their shift start time that they add “reliable transportation” to the ad.
          I’ve also seen ads that state “there is no bus service to our location.”
          “Reliable Transportation” doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to own a car, it just means that you have to be able to get to work on time. You can carpool or have someone drop you off and pick you up everyday. But the employer isn’t going to tolerate “the bus was late” as an excuse.

          1. Sountherner*

            Ive seen this on “Welcome to Sweetie Pies” on the O channel. Its a restaurant but all employees are told they need access to 2 cars. so they cant call in saying one broke down.

              1. Petronella*

                That is a really stupid rule. What is Sweetie Pies? Is it a real place or is it some fictional TV show? It’s stupid either way.

                1. Southerner*

                  Its a real restaurant. Its access, so like you and your husband, etc. They don’t want easy excuses for calling out.

    3. MK*

      Unfortunately, people who need the job might “solve” the problem by convincing themselves that a 3-bus 2-hour commute is workable in the long run; only to realise it’s not a few months into the job.

      1. Alice*

        Actually the license requirement might have a disparate effect after all. According to an Atlantic article I just read, there’s a significant racial difference in the rates of license holding and also of license suspension (for moving violations but also for non-payment of fees and fines), at least in some states. The article also suggests, as First initial says, that some employers use a license requirement as a proxy for employability.
        Link to follow.

        1. Susan C*

          I read that too, this whole ‘not having a license obviously means you’re not a responsible or competent adult’ mindset really boggled my mind – can’t say I’ve encountered it in this way over here in Euro-land, but I wouldn’t vouch for its absence. (CurrentJob requires a license, but for the perfectly legitimate reason of client sites in hard to reach places, and also offers lease cars)

          1. Aella*

            Neither I nor many of my friends have licenses, on the not unreasonable grounds that we live in London, and car ownership would be expensive and pointless.

          2. Jennifer*

            I can say as someone who didn’t drive for most of my “adult” life, it’s a huge problem not to in America. It causes you and others many problems unless you live in NYC, I guess (which I do not), because life isn’t designed to be car-free. So yeah, people don’t think you’re a competent adult because you can’t take care of your shit by yourself with your car. You always need help in the form of rides or public transport, you can’t just hop in your car and go if someone wants you to go, and as others have pointed out, public transport is frequently late. A coworker of mine has been getting in trouble of late because of her bus being late. No fault of her own, but they don’t care and that doesn’t mean she won’t get punished anyway, have to use her “vacation time” to cover a 5-20 minute lateness, etc.

            1. kt (lowercase)*

              There are a lot more places than just NYC where it’s not a huge problem to not have a car. I live in, I suspect, the same city as the OP and I have numerous coworkers who don’t have cars or licenses by choice, including my boss. I have a car, but neither I nor my spouse has ever driven it to work because commuting by bus is cheaper, easier, and less stressful than driving in city traffic and parking downtown. There are certainly huge swathes of America where life without a car is very constrained and difficult, but NYC is far from the only place where that’s not true, and I’m pretty sure it’s not true in the place where OP lives, either.

        2. Kelly L.*

          Yeeeep. And a difference in terms of who uses public transit (as well as who is perceived to use public transit–I think the demographics are even more extreme in people’s heads than they are in reality). There’s a mall here that some people quit going to because they extended the train line there. It’s Grossy McGrosserson (the racism, not the mall itself). There’s another mall they were building and lots of people were like “Noooo, don’t extend the bus lines here! Undesirables in our mall!” and the store owners were like “But we need poor people to take the low-wage jobs here!” I don’t remember how that one turned out.

          1. Wade*

            Buffalo’s upscale mall, Walden Galleria, did not have a bus stop on the property – the closest stop was across a busy highway. There was a tacit assumption that this was because the owners didn’t want black people at the mall. Then a black woman got killed crossing the highway from the bus stop after dark, and the furor following this led to the mall management finally allowing a bus stop.

      2. neverjaunty*

        Well, sure, but people with cars convince themselves they can manage a unmanageable commute all the time. If it’s not evident from the job listing why a car is required, the OP might try inquiring at the phone screen.

        1. Petronella*

          Hah! good point! I’ve known people who were willing to spend 4 hours a day or more in their cars. I had a co-worker who was seriously considering buying a house that would have had her driving through mountain passes for an hour, to get to a job that allowed no leeway for lateness. I’ve a cousin who drives 15 minutes to a ferry terminal, then has a 40-minute ferry ride, then a 40-minute drive to her office, every single day.

          1. Susan C*

            Admittedly, the ferry ride seems like a great opportunity for having breakfast in peace, doing your nails or some recreational reading – and all with more quiet and privacy than you’d have on a train! Sounds kind of nice to me! (To my mind, commute time that can be used like that only counts as maybe half, part of why I opted out of driving for as long as I did).

      3. INTP*

        Yes, I’ve had at least one carless coworker (and I haven’t had many carless coworkers) quit a job shortly after training for that very reason. In his case, he convinced himself that the salary would work for him while living with a friend, then decided to move to a neighborhood where he could afford a studio with no roommates, which happened to be a 3 hour bus ride away. He was late half the time then quit the job.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      The requirement for having a reliable car is not strange here at all, especially with lower paying jobs. This is because so. many. employees fail to consider how they will get to work. This leads to higher turn over rates. It’s a substantial problem.

      We do not have public transportation between towns here and cabs are wildly expensive for this area. Carpooling may or may not work out depending on how responsible the driver is.

      Since rates of pay are much lower here than in a city area, it’s pretty normal to see jobs listed as paying less than $10 per hour and the person must have a car.

      It never made sense to me, but some employers do not see a problem here. All they see is on-going problems with getting people to show up for work and show up on time. This is how I would read that ad, “Here is an employer who cannot keep help. They have decided they are going to increase employee retention by making sure each candidate has a car to get to work.” Yes, I would use that statement as a warning flag to be on the watch for other problems.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

        I have so very many problems with this. My personal background is that I left home when I was 18 and could not even think of getting car until my later 20’s, so you’re not going to find somebody more empathetic to real world lack of car issues than I am. For all of their privilege in other ways, PTB at Wakeen’s and Wakeen himself are also sympathetic to the issue.

        And, we’re not well public transportation accessible! :-( (Blame NJ, not us. NJ public transit is terrible, unless you park your business and your home next to light rail.)

        As issue laden as all of that is, we have never put vehicle required in an ad and never will. Sure, we’ve had problems, but I think I’ve had more problems from lower paid jobs with employees with clunkers than from other people who found smart ways to get to work like “my mom drops me off on her way to her job”. See: carpooling! I carpooled a lot!

        Vehicle required ads for jobs that don’t require vehicles make me angry. There were plenty of days my money for lunch went to the bus and I went hungry but I got to my damn job. This is the actual and real world as much as “my daddy cosigned my car loan and helps me pay my insurance” is, probably more.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yep. I hear ya. People who are going to get to work will pull out all the stops to get there. The preemptive strike of requiring a car in the job ad does nothing, except scream “clueless employer”. It’s the determination of the person.

          I can remember the car-less me, walking to work at 5 am and pitch dark. I’d hear footsteps behind me and wonder, “Do I turn around and confront those footsteps or do I just walk a little faster?” One time the I did turn around and saw the largest raccoon I have ever seen in my life. He was helping himself to a garbage can full of stuff.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

            Snow and ice and 0 degree temperatures, switching buses/el train at 63rd & Market in Philly at night.

            No raccoons. :-)

            1. JessaB*

              Snow, ice, the LIRR, the IRT, and then walking 15 blocks or more from Penn Station because busses? Not so much on time in the snow. In Manhattan at night. (is this our generations version of walking up hill to school in the snow both ways with holes in ones shoes to school?)

          2. Elizabeth West*

            I used to walk to work when I lived in Santa Cruz. I did have to start in the dark! And the fastest way took me over the railroad bridge, which was kind of scary in and of itself. Plus, the rocks cut up my shoes. :(

        2. Belle*

          I totally agree! My husband and I share a car. We often car pool to work and depending on the day’s agenda, either he keeps the car or I do. We also have a friend that bikes to work and is never late, even in the snow. So it really depends on the person and job requirements!

          1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

            The younger generation seems to have a healthier attitude about transportation and than our current cohorts in power do. One multi ton vehicle per human being necessary seems to be phasing out.

        3. Mimmy*

          And, we’re not well public transportation accessible! :-( (Blame NJ, not us. NJ public transit is terrible, unless you park your business and your home next to light rail.)

          Amen to this!! I live about 10 minutes away from a major state university in central NJ, and even there, public transit is so-so (though better than outlying areas). About the only place where it’s truly good is within Trenton.

      2. Meg Murry*

        Yes, I wonder if “must have reliable vehicle” is also a proxy way of saying “this listing is under MegaCity, but the job is actually in an industrial park in OutlyingSurburb where there is no public transit or only 1 bus stop that is several miles away that only runs once an hour or two. There are no sidewalks on the streets leading to our industrial park, and in the winter you will be coming to work when it is still dark out”

        Back in the day, “reliable vehicle required” was common in my area when companies were posting ads in newspaper classifieds and paying by the word as a shorthand for “no public transit comes here and this is assembly line shift work where there is a strict attendance policy”. But now that most advertising is online, I don’t understand why companies haven’t switched to saying “not accessible by public transit, reliable transportation required” or similar.

        1. Tris Prior*

          This brings up another pet peeve, as a non-car-owner: ads need to LIST THE ACTUAL CITY THE JOB IS IN. When I was job-hunting, it drove me insane to see ads that said the job was in Chicago, but it turns out that it’s in some far-flung suburb that you can’t get to on the train. I wasted time applying to many jobs that I cannot get to. So silly. Just be up front about where the job is! (and I agree with stating that there’s no public transport, if that is the case.)

          1. AndersonDarling*

            Ugh! The staffing firms/temp agencies are so bad with this! I see so many jobs that are listed in my suburb, but then the agency calls and it’s actually 20 miles away in another suburb!

            1. Meg Murry*

              No kidding! I am constantly getting calls from headhunters saying “we have a position you are qualified for”. Great! With what company? We can’t tell you, that’s confidential. Ok, where is it, East side of the MetroCity or West? We can’t tell you, that would give it away. But it’s a really great opportunity!

              I live right on the edge of where commuting into downtown MetroCity is possible within an hour drive. Going to the opposite side daily isn’t going to happen for me, and I’m not going to move. So sending me for an interview at a company that is 1.5 hours away (before traffic)? Waste of everyone’s time.

              Finally, I started telling headhunters “Open MapQuest (this was before Google Maps was common). Put in [my zip code] and the company address. If it is more than 40 miles or 60 minutes, I am not interested. Period.”

          2. Belle*

            Totally agree! I am job hunting now and it is driving me nuts that the work location isn’t listed. Some places have multiple buildings in our city — so it could really differ on whether it is a 5 minute commute or an hour. I wish they would just put the location in the ad.

          3. blackcat*

            One of my friends recently posted to Facebook:

            “Dear companies,
            Natick and Framingham are not Boston.
            Carless in Cambridge.”

            1. leslie knope*

              YES. so many times listings for “boston” are actually somewhere miles away.

          4. Snazzy Hat*

            Total agreement! My house is a two-minute walk from a major bus line that ends downtown. I live in The City (not NYC, just being vague) within two miles of three neighboring towns. When you say “The City”, do you mean the actual city, downtown, or the greater city area? If the first, which neighborhood? If the second, yay! If the third, which town, and which *part* of that town?

            From a different perspective, I recently applied for a job in Outer Suburb which borders Closer Suburb. Okay, fine, the commute would be annoying, but a little over a half hour, definitely less than an hour. The job description said they were taking only local applicants from “The City, [Closer Suburb ZIP code]”.

            Wait, what? Are you looking for people only from The City? Only from Closer Suburb? My cousin lives in Outer Suburb; should he not apply? Even requesting applicants from only Our County would be rude, since Northern County is a few miles away!

      3. Southerner*

        We have similar public transportation and they are building all these condos with no parking. It makes no sense. In a city with better public transportation maybe, but It wont work here.

    5. Responder*

      Working in HR, I can easily see “Office location not served by public transit/schedules” blowing up right quick. That’s going to seem like a whole lot of discrimination, even as a simple fact. A lot of offices just aren’t near bus stops, it can be a concern for safety to have people walk from them (especially in inclement weather or off hours), and buses aren’t known for being on time, all the time. That won’t stop people from accusing a company of making it difficult to get hired on.

      It sounds a whole lot more like what they mean is ‘reliable transportation’, which is a justifiable requirement. No one wants to put the effort into hiring just to find out that the employee is constantly late with fluctuating bus arrivals, or their car breaks down for the 4th time in a month, or their boyfriend is refusing to take them to work today because they got into an argument.

      Frankly, I would apply then ask for clarification as to whether you will be required to drive as a part of the actual job. If not, no worries!

      1. Megs*

        Even the “reliable transportation” requirement seems unnecessary to me. Just make it clear that a condition of employment is showing up at a certain time and let people work that out on their own. I can certainly think of reasons why someone might be bad at showing up at a specific time every day even with reliable transportation – one of the biggest perks of my current job is 100% flexible hours, and it’s awesome. If I know I’m going to get fired if my butt’s not in a door at a set time, though, I’ll make it work. Part of busing (and honestly, commuting period) is knowing how reliable your routes are and building in a buffer.

        1. OhNo*

          Exactly. If the company has had trouble with people being flaky about arrival time in the past, say so. Say so in an interview, and either ask about the potential employee’s plan for getting to work on time, or just get confirmation that they will be able to make it in at X o’clock every day.

          If you point out that it’s really important to you, most people will get the hint and either figure something out or self-select out. If nothing else, you will have a clear and unimpeachable reason for firing them if they can’t keep up, because you let them know from the very start that it was vital.

          1. Megs*

            That reminds me of one of my worst retail jobs, where they were really, really, really strict about reading on the job while running the register, no matter how slow it got. When we started, we were told that if management saw us reading on the job, we’d be fired on the spot. Other employees quickly confirmed that this was the case. That store may have had a lot of other problems, but you better believe no one read on the job. I’m not saying that I’m in favor of zero tolerance for tardiness (I’ve worked at least one job where that was the case, and it was amazingly nerve-wracking), but I do think that people will take employers seriously if given reason to do so.

        2. Susan C.*

          This. These days I commute by car, and based (to an extent) on time of the day the same route varies between 35 and 60+ minutes. Percentage-wise, that kind of discrepancy would’ve been an extreme outlier when I was commuting (much further) by train(s).

          1. Megs*

            Aw, trains are so nice – my last big commute switched from express bus to light rail, and although it added 20 minutes to the everyday commute, it was amazing in terms of reliability, especially in severe weather (and buses were already more reliable than cars in those circumstances). I remember a couple of snow days where almost the only people who showed up were the people taking the train – all the drivers stayed home!

            1. Windchime*

              Here in the Seattle area, we have a light rail line that runs between my city and Seattle. It seems pretty reliable–until there is a big rainstorm and a mudslide happens and a portion of the track is blocked. And that seems to happen several times a season. So it sounds like it’s reliable most of the time, but the rest of the time they put you on a bus.

              I always thought it would be kind of cool to take the train to work.

              1. Megs*

                Yeek, we don’t so much get mudslides in my part of the world – just snow and absurdly cold temps and the occasional tornado. I’ll agree that taking the train just felt cooler than the bus. It was less crowded too, which was nice, but obviously would depend on your area.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  I love trains because I can sit there and read or zone out. I was like a vulture for those free papers on the London Underground. Whenever I’m someplace that has them, I take them everywhere, because I NEVER get to do that here.

      2. JessaB*

        There’s a difference between “the bus actually doesn’t go anywhere within 20 miles of this place, we’re out in the boonies,” and “the bus stop is 2 miles away and we think we’re going to police the fact that we don’t want our employees who may be able to, to walk that far.”

        I think maybe this needs to be discussed via the first phone interview and not stuck in the advert at all. And yes it’s a pain in the keester to train someone and find out they really DON’T want to do that 2 mile walk. But there are plenty of people who would and have done and can, and also those who stick their bike on the rack in front of the bus (near us where we DO have busses, they’re really “bring your bike” friendly, in Ohio.)

        Can you get burnt? Yes. But I think that’s the price of doing fair business because otherwise you’re kind of excluding a whole lot of people that may end up turning to disparate effects because low income people live in x area of town vs everyone else.

        Also if you’re in factoryville and the busses DON’T go out where you need them, maybe you need to get together with the other plants and petition for them to do so. I know that back in the day in NY I went to Bronx Science HS and busses/trains were a nightmare, and private ones were crazy expensive, so the school and the parents got together and got an express bus initiated by the city. There were enough people to make it worthwhile.

        Towns/cities want jobs. If the price of new shopping centre/new distribution plant/new factory is “we want a bus that comes out here, so our workers can get here,” it’s a heckuva lot easier to do than it used to be.

        1. Prismatic Professional*

          *workers and customers can get here

          As Moist von Lipwig says, “Make it easy for people to give you money.” :-) Transportation to my (imaginary) place of business is part of that philosophy. :-)


      3. INTP*

        I think the ideal solution would be to just put the exact address of the building where the employee will work in the advertisement. Smart people will figure out whether the commute is workable before they apply. Dumb people will apply regardless of what you write in the job posting.

        I do agree that “Location is not served by public transportation” in the job description would come across to many people as “We don’t want people without the money to own cars to apply,” even if it’s a simple fact that the company can do nothing about.

    6. Menacia*

      A coworker of mine was just let go, he had not driven to work in the last 10 years of his employment and his elderly father drove him every day. While he was never late to work because of his situation, it was a problem during the day because he could never do site visits or be called upon to go fix a problem in another location because he did not drive. Never quite knew why he stopped driving, but the company really accommodated him and the rest of us took up the slack. I recommended the posting for his position state that some local travel is required because we do not want someone else who cannot drive in this position, and my manager agreed. We need to be able to go on the road when necessary, and yes, we have company vehicles for long trips, but driving is very important. I did not see anywhere in OPs posting if she had inquired about the driving requirement in the job postings. It could be a way for companies to weed out specific people, but there could also be a relevant reason, whether it be unreliable public transportation, or the need to drive to different locations during the work day. I worked in a major city with very good public transportation for 10 years, and had no car, during that time I held two jobs in two different towns serviced by said public transportation. I would not be able to do the same in the state I am currently living as there is no public transportation infrastructure to speak of.

      1. Menacia*

        Just an FYI, coworker was *not* let go do to his non-driving, was totally unrelated and well warranted.

    7. The Rat-Catcher*

      I am (what sounds like) one of the few that works in a job where the ability to drive and access to a car is a bona fide requirement. But to people who are looking in that field (child welfare), it should be fairly apparent why that is. We’re in a rural area, so public transit is nonexistent, and we have a limited number of vehicles available (and of course even to drive those requires a license and a not-horrible driving record).

      We actually had a woman let go last year due to a seizure disorder that prevented her from driving.

      1. OhNo*

        Is it safe to assume that the disorder was something she developed after being hired? Or did she make it all the way through the application and interview process without ever realizing that she’d need to drive?

        I’ve always been kind of curious what would happen for those kind of jobs if you made it through the process but then couldn’t do that part of the work. I don’t drive, so I’ve always just avoided applying to jobs where that might be an issue, but I can’t help but wonder what would happen if someone applied, got hired, and then… couldn’t do it.

      2. The Rat-Catcher*

        She developed it later. She had been doing the work prior to that for several months. I’m sure they framed it as her leaving voluntarily and not as a layoff. I don’t know what would have happened if she had tried to push the issue (she wasn’t a great fit for the work anyway, and I think she realized that).

    8. Elizabeth West*

      It’s possible that in a lot of cases, the requirement means “Can you get to work on time?” I live in a city with very weak public transport, and though I’ve never seen an advert where a car was required, I’ve been asked numerous times if I had reliable transportation. Before I got a better car, I had to lie!

    9. Stranger than fiction*

      I wonder what would happen if people applied to these anyhow? Could it be part of a template wherein they do have certain jobs that require driving, but leave that on the ads for all openings?

  4. gawaine*

    OP1: From some personal experience on this – this can be an opportunity, either for better or worse.

    I’ve done some races with people in the office, but there’s one that has shown up late for races, blown them off, and failed to keep up with her training. Given that she’s also had problems with her time management at work, doing those things outside work didn’t do her any favors in terms of perception.

    On the other hand, where people didn’t expose those kinds of flaws, it’s been a great connection. My CEO is an amazing runner, and our company has sponsored a number of otherwise expensive or hard to get into races. I’ve done a few with people who are much better athletes than I am, but I’ve felt that because they could tell that we all took it seriously, it did work out for the better, and kept the connections going.

    1. LSCO*

      I don’t think it’s particularly fair to gauge someone’s professionalism/work ethic on their commitment to athletics.

      Running is, for most people, a hobby whereas work pays the bills. Yes I’ll blow a race off if an old friend I haven’t seen in ages comes up to visit, but I won’t skip a day off work for the same reason. I might be late for a race due to traffic or having to drive to unfamiliar places or just because I didn’t leave myself enough time to get there, but for work commitments I’ll give myself much more wiggle room. Sometimes I’ll go through periods where I can’t be bothered with training and I’d much rather eat pizza & watch Netflix – but if I feel myself burning out at work I’ll plan for some downtime or take an annual leave day. My athletics commitment & work commitment are not related.

      (Ironically, usually when I’ve had to blow races off/show up late/lapses in training it’s been because I’ve been busy with work and the work has taken priority)

      1. CheeryO*

        Yeah, I train for myself, period. If I feel an injury coming on, or if I’m totally overwhelmed with other commitments, you better believe that I would blow off/phone in a company 5K, but that doesn’t mean I’m not serious about my running, and it definitely doesn’t reflect my broader time management skills.

        1. INTP*

          Yeah, for me exercise is strictly for health. I obviously try to do it consistently, but if I get really busy and there are not enough hours in a day for me to have a full night’s sleep, healthy meals, an hour of downtime in the evening, and a workout, I drop the workout, because that makes the smallest difference in how I feel short-term. Me flaking on workouts is evidence of an intentional and proactive prioritization system, not a LACK of time management. I’m not a professional athlete, why would I skip other things that are more important to my health and happiness just to get in a workout?

    2. Sarahnova*

      I would be really, really worried about using someone’s engagement with a run club as a means of making a judgement on her work.

      Unless she is part of a team she is letting down and causing genuine inconvenience to, whose business is it but hers if she blows off training or is late to a race? Maybe she has a hamstring issue and needs to rest it, maybe she has decided to prioritise time with her family outside of work. Her issues with time management *at work* should be tackled *at work* and nowhere else. It otherwise sounds, honestly, like looking for any and all ammunition to make a negative judgement on her.

      1. Megs*

        Yeah, this perspective seems like a really strong argument against running with your boss/coworkers.

    3. Mike C.*

      This is exactly the sort of thing I would be afraid of at work – the type of boss who can’t keep work and personal life separate.

      1. JessaB*

        Exactly. One is a voluntary act and one is work related. I wouldn’t mind being in a sports club with fellow employees/bosses, but I would definitely NOT want to be in one run by them. Unless it’s literally on company time/dime, in the company gym etc. and is absolutely voluntary as to participation level (IE come when you want, Joan in accounting is a circuit trainer and she’ll show you how to use those machines, and Jon in IT is really good at yoga and runs a group at 3 on Tuesday, and your company sponsored “x hours of time off to exercise or whatever, each week,” will cover that hour. Etc.)

    4. AnotherAlison*

      Wow. There are so many opportunities for training to go awry that would not hold true for work commitments. (Um, mostly freaking work that takes up all of one’s personal time and does not allow for training. Oh, I’m sure there are people who work 11 or 12 hours a day and still do Ironmans, but I’m not one of them.) And there’s also injury. A strained hammy doesn’t affect my work, but it does affect mytraining.

    5. neverjaunty*

      This makes sense when the issue is the company paying for a runner’s participation, or when a runner’s absence causes problems for the rest of the team. As others have noted, it isn’t so good when commitment to a hobby is seen as a test of character.

    6. OP #1*

      Thanks for the input, everyone! To be clear, I don’t believe at all that my manager would draw comparisons between my commitment (or lack thereof) to the running group and my work performance. My biggest concerns are (1) making her uncomfortable/blurring the lines between work and personal life, (2) other’s perceptions of me spending time with my manager outside of work.

      I’m going to use the language Alison suggested and see what kind of reaction I get.

      1. Rebecca in Dallas*

        I think it will depend on how much time a coach spends with the runners. In my running group, we are divided up into smaller groups based on our pace. Each pace group has a leader (or 2 depending on the group) and each coach oversees 4-5 of the pace groups. So I wouldn’t have a problem with my manager being a coach because I wouldn’t spend much one-on-one time with them (and they may not even be over my group anyway). However, if they were my pace group leader, I might switch groups. You might ask the organizer how it works!

        And have fun!

    7. INTP*

      That’s actually a good illustration of how mixing work and play can bite you professionally. Person A sees running as a fun, health-promoting activity that they like to engage in but certainly wouldn’t prioritize over things even more important to their health and happiness. When life gets crazy, Person A is going to sacrifice running for sleep and family time, not vice versa. Person B sees training as a matter of self improvement and signing up for a race or joining a running group as a serious commitment. (I’m in a running family, many of my parents’ friends are marathoners/cyclists/triathletes, I know how common this mindset is.)

      Person A is no less committed to the things they’re committed to in life, running just isn’t one of them. But Person B is going to get annoyed at their “flakiness,” which means that they will start picking up on every little thing Person A does wrong at work. Maybe they’re flaky at work, maybe they’re not, but at the end of the day Person B’s perception of them is still way worse than it would have been had they never shared a running group. (And conversely, Person A might start noticing all the ways that Person B seems rigid, inflexible, and to have their priorities backwards at work, when otherwise they wouldn’t.)

      Maybe athletics are a sensitive point for me but I just don’t want to deal with the attitudes of more competitive people and all the inferences they might make about me. Based on the way some of my coworkers talk about their workouts I’ve gotten a little embarrassed just from them catching me leisurely walking on the treadmill watching The Vampire Diaries in the office gym, lol.

  5. Dan*


    To your question about whether the car requirement “unfairly discriminates against” … no, it doesn’t. I’m more of a capitalist than a socialist, so if the employer is able to find someone who meets the job requirements at the wages/salary they’re willing to pay, then so be it. If the employer can’t find that, then they either pay more or don’t fill the job.

    1. Blurgle*

      If the job doesn’t actually require use of a car it might very well discriminate against the disabled, and pretty horribly.

      1. Dan*

        There are a lot of “disabled” people who can drive.

        As an employer, my primary concern is to fill the position with someone who will get the job done when I need them to. If I can find a person to do that at a wage I want to pay, then I don’t care about much else.

        FWIW, I work in a field that doesn’t give two shits about when you show up to work, or what mode of transportation you use to get there. Even if you show up to the interview in a wheel chair, I’m not going to ask about how you plan on getting to work. It just doesn’t matter.

        But in some fields, getting to work “on time” matters, and I’m going to trust an employer’s judgement on that one. If they want you to have a car because they’ve gotten burned by people who don’t have one, then so be it.

        Like I said, I’m mostly a capitalist. That means I generally don’t have a problem with the requirements an employer imposes on its employees. The reality is, the more requirements you have, the more limited your pool is, and the more limited your pool is, the more you have to pay. So making unnecessary requirements without any business justification just costs you in the end.

        I work in the suburban parts of a major metropolitan area. My last job was far enough out and not accessible by mass transit. That means potential staff who live in the city without cars couldn’t accept jobs with us. Should we have moved closer to the city so those without cars could work for us?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But Blurgle is talking about disability discrimination. Legally, if you can’t show a bona fide job-related need to require the car* (more of a need than that you’ve been burned by non-drivers in the past not getting to work reliably), you can’t reject someone for not meeting that requirement when their disability prevents them from driving.

          * And in the case of disability law, you’d need not just to show a need for the car, but that it was linked to an essential duty of the job.

          1. Dan*

            Is there a difference between “must have a car” and “must have reliable transportation”? Most jobs I’m aware of that didn’t *truly* require a car were using some permutation of that to say “we don’t want you to rely on public transportation, because it’s unreliable, you might be required to work overtime after it closes” or something like that.

            TBH, in the low wage jobs that I’m thinking of (where “must have a car” might actually show up in the job description) a lot of those guys have junker cars that break down half the time, and don’t count as reliable.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yes! “Must have a car” can mean “you will be using your car for work-related activities.” (For example, see Al Lo’s post just below.)

            2. Patrick*

              Is requiring a car to ensure that employees get to work on time a common thing? I’ve worked retail, service and professional jobs before and have never come across it, it was just assumed you would know to be on time whether you’re driving, walking or flying in a spaceship.

              I guess I do live in a major city where public transportation is fairly reliable and not looked down upon…I don’t think a car reflects whether someone will be a dependable employee or not.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                It’s a big deal in rural communities. And people seem to need to have it explained to them that not having a ride is not an acceptable reason for missing work. This is a frequent conversation.

                I can see where an employer could get sick of the “I don’t have a ride” excuses for not reporting to work. I think the lower the pay rate, the more often an employer hears this excuse. I had a issue with this. I used to say to my bosses, “For what we are paying them, they probably cannot keep a car maintained and on the road.” I felt it was to be expected that they would call in because the car broke down again, etc.

                1. Shortie*

                  Yes, that’s been my experience too. I lived in a rural community for years and could not believe the number of friends and acquaintances (and even one family member) who would call out of work because their “ride didn’t come through”. Having your own reliable car was important. Such a requirement makes no sense in an area like the OP’s with public transportation, but it’s definitely an issue in rural areas. Perhaps whoever wrote the job description has a hangup leftover from living in a rural area?

              2. Natalie*

                I think it’s often used as a proxy, but in a city with good public transport most employees probably just ignore the requirement. If they don’t have reliability problems the boss never notices that they don’t drive to work.

                In my experience at least, my retail coworkers with cars were no more reliable due to breakdowns and traffic jams (buses here can use the shoulder so they flew right past traffic), but never underestimate the effect of cognitive dissonance.

              3. Allison*

                A lot of people are very optimistic that they’ll make it work, and/or they’re optimistic that whoever they rely on for rides to work will be reliable.

              4. INTP*

                In southern CA, it’s not that common to explicitly require it on a job description, but it’s common to try to subtly suss it out and favor applicants with a car. What’s most common is for the interviewer to ask if you have a reliable way to get to work, and if you then respond that you have a car, it definitely gives you an advantage. This would be done even for lower-wage office/professional jobs. (Not so much for high wage professional jobs.) The professional jobs are often located in suburban areas, where direct transportation to affordable neighborhoods doesn’t really exist. There are transportation lines that middle class people take but for time efficiency they require driving to the transport terminal and taking a shuttle from the transport terminal to the office.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                This. We talk about the cost of child care, the cost of cars, etc. and yet so many people do not see the need to raise minimum wage. That is a different convo for a different day. However, the main point is that it costs money to keep a job.

              2. LBK*

                Yeah, the circular logic of that statement seemed to whiz right over Dan’s head…how do you expect someone to buy a nicer car with a low wage job?

                1. Murphy*

                  Also the assumption that there’s a balanced relationship between employer and prospective employee. There isn’t and people don’t have an abundance of choices. It’s a faintly icky way of doing business.

                2. I'm a Little Teapot*

                  YES to Murphy. People willfully overlook this obvious and essential flaw in the “free market” ALL THE TIME and it makes me want to scream.

                  Any relationship in which one party is at a vast disadvantage compared to the other needs outside oversight, or the stronger party is VERY likely to exploit this uneven dynamic. It is only “free” for the privileged and powerful. For others, it’s coercive.

            3. Alton*

              As someone who doesn’t own a car, yes, there’s a difference. When I see a job description state that a car or druver’s license is needed, I assume that means that the duties of the job involve driving, and that walking or public transportation probably wouldn’t suffice due to the distance involved, the amount of stuff that needs to be hauled around, etc. And since I don’t drive much, the last thing I want is to be put on the spot and asked to drive a company pickup truck or something.

              Also, I’ll be the judge of what’s reliable up until the point that my attendance becomes a concern. I always arrive at work anywhere from 10-30 minutes early because I take an early enough bus that only a true emergency would make me late. Working late would be more of a concern, but that’s something I could plan for. It’s far more useful for me if a job is upfront about requiring overtime or needing flexibility, because I take things like that into consideration when planning how I’ll commute.

              1. Megs*

                “Also, I’ll be the judge of what’s reliable up until the point that my attendance becomes a concern.” Agreed! I understand that employers want employees who show up reliably, so just make that clear and discipline people who break the rules, regardless of their transportation choices. I’ve known plenty of people with cars who are consistently late for all sorts of reasons. And I get that the reliability of public transportation can vary by region, but I still think it’s a bad road to go down to assume that people without cars are automatically less reliable. I’ve never owned a car in my life and tend to be much more punctual than your average bear, both because that’s just how I am, but also because you don’t get to just take another five minutes on your hair if you’re catching a bus.

                1. Stranger than fiction*

                  Totally, and even “reliable” cars need to go in for service or have things happen to them sometimes (flat tire, etc).

    2. Mike C.*

      The ability to not unfairly discriminate against employees in hiring doesn’t really have anything to do with a capitalism-socialism axis.

    3. INTP*

      But if a car isn’t used at the job, it’s not a matter of finding someone who meets the job requirements but someone who has the particular non-work-related personal characteristics that the hiring manager/company/whomever likes to see. And these are absolutely used to discriminate against people with certain class/race/etc backgrounds, if not by design then by disparate impact. (This is by no means limited to the car issue, but also requiring degrees when the job doesn’t require degree knowledge and requires enough experience that no one would qualify for the job without proving a certain level of intelligence, “cultural fit” tests requiring candidates to prove they can fit in while drinking beer with the frat broish employees, etc.)

  6. Al Lo*

    My non-profit is hiring for a position that, until recently, has been filled by someone without a car, but that requirement is being clarified or changed in this hiring process. Getting to work is one thing, and it’s I the employee to manage the bus or a cab. That’s fine. Most of the time. In our case, though, there are quite a few off-site events that this employee is part of the management team for. Even though he can get there on the bus or get a ride, when he’s responsible to run back to the office or something like that, which is fairly often, in his position, he has to take a second person (who can’t necessarily just do the errand) away from the event to drive him. Transportation that takes longer, like transit or waiting to call a cab, isn’t acceptable during those time sensitive events.

    It would be a different scenario if someone chose not to drive most days but had a vehicle available for those events, but we found it very limiting and will definitely make the requirement known when hiring for this job in the future.

    1. Al Lo*

      In this case, also, the employee had punctuality problems that were exacerbated by the lack of car, but that’s an employee issue, not a vehicle issue.

      1. dragonzflame*

        My guess is that they actually mean ‘must have reliable transport’ but haven’t worded it well. Phrases like that are often there to weed out people who rely on things like getting rides from flatmates or hitchhiking to get to work.

        1. INTP*

          It could also be to weed out people taking public transport in certain areas. In socal at least, unless you’re near a downtown area or on the same major road as your employer which happens to have a bus route, usually public transportation is inconvenient – it might take 3 hours to go 10 miles by bus. There’s a perception that people will quit their jobs quickly because the commute is too grueling or will be late frequently (the same assumptions that would be made if someone applied to a job from a city 3 hours away and said they planned to commute).

    2. Meg Murry*

      Depending on the frequency of the events, would the company consider paying for a rental car or ZipCar membership for those days, provided the employee has a valid license? My last company got a discount corporate rate from Hertz and we were required to use a rental car rather than mileage reimbursement for any trip more than 50 miles.

      1. Joseph*

        Some companies might consider it if it’s truly an every-day thing, but in general, it’s pretty hard to make the math work on rental cars.

        >If you’re driving 20 miles round-trip in a personal vehicle, that’s about $10-15 for the company (depending on the mileage rate).
        >Renting a car typically starts at $20, plus $2-3 for the gallon of fuel you’re using up. Plus the additional time/costs of going to Hertz for pick-up/drop-off as opposed to just walking outside to your personal vehicle in the parking lot.
        >ZipCar is $8/hour plus whatever annual/monthly fee you’ve got. But you also need to consider the time/cost of actually getting to the ZipCar. If your office is basically anywhere *except* downtown in a major US city, you’re in trouble – even the suburbs don’t have cars.

        It might make sense for long-trips (50 round-trip miles in a city is pretty far, assuming you’re using a reasonable route), but for the simple “drop a package at UPS”, “pick up supplies”, “run to the office and grab some documents”, kind of trips that are typically involved at most jobs, it’s just not cost-effective.

        1. Meg Murry*

          Yes, I agree it doesn’t make sense for a job where you have to run errands regularly, but it might if it’s only for a couple of events a year – especially if parking near the office is at a premium.

  7. Sandy*

    In many countries, it’s still very common for the company to provide a private vehicle or, alternatively, provide a generous car allowance.

    Didn’t companies in the US used to do this? Like in the 60s and 70s? Any idea why the move away from that? Is it just a question of companies putting the onus on the employee to provide what they used to?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m totally speculating here so I hope someone with actual knowledge on this will chime in, but my impression is that it was limited to fairly senior positions or something like sales, where you had a territory you need to cover. I don’t think it was ever widespread. But I think I’m cobbling this impression together based on novels and old movies.

      1. KG*

        Anecdata: My dad is in a sales-ish position (he’s the geek they send in to answer the other geeks’ questions before a sale) that required significant amounts of travel to neighboring states, usually with fairly large equipment in tow. He’s gotten a new company car every November for…well, at least the 29 years I’ve been alive. His job now requires much less travel, but he still gets the company car, likely due to seniority. This is at a large, big-name tech firm (and two subsequent spin offs, which may narrow it down for some readers).

      2. Not So NewReader*

        My husband starting working a field in the early 80s where the industry standard was to provide a company vehicle for use during the work day. (This was a front line, customer service position.)
        At first personal use was generous. It was like we had a second vehicle. As the years rolled by the rules got tighter and tighter. Personal use was no longer allowed. Employees became resentful of having to find parking space on their own property for a work vehicle. (This is huge problem when you rent.) Then problems came up with maintenance as employees were forced to drive vehicles with marginal brakes and so on. Gradually, it became an industry standard to let the employee provide a vehicle for work and let the employee decide on his own maintenance program for that vehicle. This would reduce the amount of on-going arguments about vehicle safety. It worked into a good deal for the company because they no longer had to pay insurance on company owned vehicles etc. It sucked for the employee, because their insurance rates went up. My husband was diligent about changing the oil every 3K miles. He did an oil change every 5-6 weeks, which we paid for. Maintenance costs were pushed back on to the employee, also.

        I calculated that we paid about $5k per year in UNreimbursed vehicle expense for my husband to keep working. It was probably closer to $10k but I got tired of working with the numbers. The company insisted we used the vehicle for personal use, but that was not possible as the vehicle was loaded to the ceiling with company stuff and unloading it was too time consuming and there was no place to put the stuff on our property.

        Currently, there are still some companies in that industry that provide company vehicles. One such company bought GPS units and had the employees install them in their company cars and on their own time. Now the company calls the employee when the GPS shows the employee has deviated from his route by even as little as a block or two. (I guess they never heard of a flat tire or a coffee break.) Having a company vehicle can be new levels of misery.

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          In the UK if people use their own car for work they claim back a certain amount per mile currently (£0.45 / $0.64) which is more than enough to cover fuel and wear and tear, is that not the same in the US do companies only reimburse employees for fuel?

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Yes, my husband had a per day flat rate plus mileage that the company paid.
            When we did our taxes it worked out that we were still way behind what the government allowed and we showed an out of pocket expense each year in the range of thousands of dollars. I tried calculating out in real numbers what was going on and that was even worse. On average my husband drove 500-700 miles per week year round. We had to have a vehicle less than five years old in order to qualify for the company reimbursement for the per day flat rate. This meant buying a newish vehicle roughly every 4 years in order to stay on top the vehicle age requirements.

          2. Noah*

            Depends on the company. Where I work it is usually more cost effective for them to rent a car for the day instead of paying you mileage reimbursement. If you want to use your own car, they will pay you whatever the rental rate was but not the full IRS mileage reimbursement rate of $0.56. You can claim the difference on your tax return, if you have good documentation of mileage for business reasons.

          3. Joseph*

            Many companies in the US reimburse personal vehicle at or near the IRS recommended daily rate of about 50-60 cents per mile (varies annually and based on location).

            It’s generally considered to cover not just gas, but also wear-and-tear on your car and your liability for insurance deductibles in the case of accidents.

        2. Sarahnova*

          Since my job potentially requires driving to various client sites, I am paid a “car allowance” annually on top of my salary to help fund car purchasing and maintenance. I also earn a mileage rate on trips other than “home to office”, which is not covered. I’m presuming car allowances are not common in the States?

        3. 2 Cents*

          wow, a block or two? If I worked for them, they’d quickly learn that I always miss the turnoff my first time anywhere and that’s why I’m so good at turning around :P

      3. Natalie*

        It’s common in some blue collar jobs as well, but it’s a work truck/van full of tools and such and generally isn’t driven outside of work reasons.

      4. Judy*

        The only place I worked where there were plenty of company cars was an automobile company. Any manager (not lead, but higher) got one. If you needed to go to another location locally, you would borrow a car from a manager. The company cars had assigned spots, so it was generally much better than getting your car from the wilds of the parking lot. Each building had visitor spots, so it made it much easier to run errands.

        In other companies, there were “company vehicles” but they were generally golf carts and the like, because the plants were all contiguous. There would be a place for keys in each department, you just checked them out. My current company has a couple of trucks, but they’re used for visiting customer sites, I doubt I’ll ever drive one.

      5. K.*

        My dad had a company car at one job; he was a c-suite exec. I think they were the only ones who had them. My former colleague’s husband has one and he’s in sales (he drives something like 20K miles a year), although I know other sales people who don’t have them. The sales team at my old job didn’t.

      6. Ama*

        My dad had what he referred to as a “company car” while working as an accountant for a health insurance company in the 80s and 90s, but now that I think about it, he actually did have a “territory” in that he frequently needed to visit hospitals in rural areas 2-3 hours away.

      7. automotive engineer*

        In my industry it’s very common for the company to provide vehicles to upper level folks in general (for personal use too) and also to have vehicles available for everyone else should they need to do work travel that involves driving rather than flying. On the other hand I’m in an industry that has easy access to a large number of vehicles so I can understand why this is totally not a thing for engineers in other industries.

    2. Mando Diao*

      There are many reasons why a job might not warrant a high pay or not all that important within the company structure but still require the employee to move between different locations. Or it could be a case of competition for non-profit jobs, even part-time ones. It’s possible that the company only instated the car requirement to cut down on the number of applications from new grads in a major city. I wouldn’t expect a car allowance for a part-time job that pays $17/hr in a high-cost urban area.

      1. Al Lo*

        I do a decent bit of driving within the city for my job (off-site events about 8-10 days/month), but I would never get a car allowance. For one thing, I’m at a non-profit, and a car allowance would not fly. For another, I do drive for work, but just not often enough. The tasks in my office that require driving are spread out among enough departments that it wouldn’t work to consolidate it into one person who could theoretically get a car allowance and do all of the driving. I do get mileage reimbursed, so that’s the return on using my own vehicle.

    3. Not a Tax Guru*

      I have family members who receive private -company- cars as a normal employment perk (living not in US). As far as I know, it has a lot to do with how taxes are structured in the country (i.e., much higher and more progressive tax rates on wages/salary with generous exclusions of other (non-wage) benefits).

    4. Menacia*

      I work at a company with a vehicle fleet for field and other staff personnel. My department has a vehicle assigned we can take if it’s available. Otherwise we can just reserve one of the loaners in the fleet. It’s worked out very well for me so I don’t have to put wear and tear on my own vehicle when I need to visit locations that are long distance and need to put (sometimes pretty dirty) equipment in the vehicle. I think it’s a great perk.

  8. L*

    I work in social services, many/all of our positions except for the directly government funded ones require you to have a car, as well as a very impeccable driving record (which is important, because we’re often driving around clients). Nothing pays over twenty dollars an hour, and when I started five years ago nothing paid over fifteen. It is another sort of “tax” on low paying, high stress, women dominated helping professions.

    I wish I knew more about the laws surrounding transport and personal vehicles and whatnot, I was in an accident on my lunch break (b’h no one was in the car except for me) and it made me realize was a tangled web liability is especially when driving a car for work reasons.

    1. Jack the Treacle Eater*

      Use of car for work seems to be common in social work / community jobs and caring professions. There’s also an increasing tendency for some of the budget parcel delivery companies (in the UK at least – My Hermes etc.) to have those collecting and delivering parcels at the local level to use their own cars, or to contract people on a self employed basis where they have to use their own cars.

      These are commonly very low paid jobs and it often seems to me that once the true running costs of the car are accounted for, it’s likely the employees are below minimum wage or certainly not making much money. The companies often seem to be attempting to pass their costs off on to the employees.

      In the UK there are different classes of use for vehicle insurance, and you have to have the appropriate class; so if your car is covered for social, domestic and pleasure use and it comes out you were travelling for your employer’s work your insurance might be invalid, which is a serious offence.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        Oh, they absolutely are passing their costs off to employees. I know someone who used to drive a newspaper delivery route and the pay was so low (with no reimbursement for expenses) he actually *lost money* on the job. The company was constantly hiring, because there was – unsurprisingly – constant turnover as people realized this.

  9. Kit*

    #2 I’ve never owned a car (and barely know how to drive, honestly), and every time I’ve applied for a job requiring reliable transportation I’ve just asked about it; 100% of those employers were just tired of people calling in ‘shitty bus’. I walk to work, it’s never been an issue.

    1. Jennifer*

      It’s nice to be able to walk if you can. I do that myself. We also have pretty reliable in-town busses–it’s the county ones that have to go from town to town that have the problems with lateness.

  10. Boo*

    #1 If it were me, I’d probably use a bit of both options suggested by Alison: “hey, I didn’t realise you’d be coaching this group and I wouldn’t want any of my coworkers to get the wrong impression or have a perception of favouritism or whatever, so I’ll check out a different one for now”. That gets you out of running with your boss and lets them know you’re mature enough to realise that perceptions matter and able to have a conversation about it.

    But then, that’s because I wouldn’t want to run with my boss and any weirdness in that scenario would probably all be mine. If you’re cool with it, Alison’s wording is great.

    #2 Yeah I don’t drive and my first few jobs all had a bit at the bottom of the job description to say “reliable transport required” however I always took that to mean I could use any kind of transport including my legs provided I got my butt to work on time. I do think it’s one of those badly worded, out of date phrases which has just been left on a lot of job descriptions which makes it sound like you need a car when you don’t or it isn’t applicable to the job. I think what you need to do is look at a) what the job is as e.g sales or social work you may need a car to get about and b) where the job is located e.g. some industrial estates are only accessible by car. Mainly I’d take it with a pinch of salt.

  11. OP 3*

    After letting this bug me all weekend, I emailed the HR rep Monday morning and asked if these were two different positions or one in the same. She got back to me relatively quickly acknowledging they were the same. She said she had been getting a lot of “CFO types” responding to the posting so she did the second one as a test.


    Unfortunately I did not address the salary range difference in my initial email so I emailed her back and asked if the new (lower) range was set in stone. I did not hear back the entire day. After thinking about it and talking to a few people, I decided to cancel the interview. It was either shady or just not handled competently on their end.

    1. mazzy*

      I don’t think this is a red flag at all, I think you should have done the interview. We did the same exact thing recently. We received far too many MBAs and former senior directors etc for a job that is for someone a few years out of school, I tried to roll with it and talk to some and they wanted 20k more on average than the salary in the ad.

      1. OP 3*

        I do hiring as well. We placed an ad for a bookkeeper. I was getting resumes for CPA’s and MBA’s. They went in the circular file and I kept the appropriate ones. No need for a second posting with a lower salary range. And when I asked about it, I did not get a response. Felt squiggly to me.

        1. OfficePrincess*

          I wouldn’t expect HR to respond back the same day to a salary question though. Since HR generally isn’t setting the pay rate themselves, it can take time to find an answer and respond back, especially since there are so many variables that go into what a company is willing to pay.

          1. OP 3*

            I thought about that too but what bugged me was the original range’s maximum was my minimum. In the new posting, the range’s maximum was below what I would accept and we discussed that in my phone screen. She had to know this would come up. (Or should have.)

            1. Megs*

              That seems really reasonable to me. Re-framing the ad to try and focus the search better is one thing, but actually *lowering* the salary range because you’re getting too many overqualified people applying seems bizarre.

      2. LBK*

        I don’t think that aligns with the OP’s situation – why would you advertise for a controller with a controller’s salary range if that’s not actually what you want to hire? Are they hoping that since CFOs were applying to be controllers, if they listed it as an accounting supervisor then controllers would apply, and then they could just say “Oh, actually you’re going to be a controller and we’re going to pay you more than the listing you applied for stated?”

        It’s one thing if they realized that the title was wrong and that it was therefore attracting the wrong kind of candidates…but the salary range also being lower doesn’t make any sense to me if that’s the explanation.

        1. OP 3*

          Yes, this. My husband wondered why I cancelled. I said if they get candidates willing to work for the lower salary rang, they are going to hire them, not me. It’seems a nonprofit so they want to save $. If she had come back and said they’d be willing to meet my minimum if I was the person they wanted to hire, then I would have gone.

    2. Franky*

      I really get where they were going with this. I worked at a small business with a woman who had the title “Controller” and everyone thought it was a high power executive position and that she must be a genius with accounting. Accounting supervisor would’ve been a much more accurate description of her job.

      1. LBK*

        To echo my comment above, if they realized the role was actually more like an accounting supervisor and so they fixed the title accordingly, that’s fine…but then why drop the salary too? The fact that the duties didn’t change makes it weirder. It kinda sounds like they basically do want a controller and just don’t want to pay one.

  12. Caledonia*

    #2 – I’ve seen job posting that require car ownership/access to a car. These are usually essential requirements. I think it’s a way to discard applications easily, as there is one such vacancy for an admin role in a community hospital which is 2 stops down the railway line (takes 15 mins by train) and 5 minutes walk from the station. It is based in the hospital, so I can’t really figure out why you need to have a car.

  13. NJ Anon*

    #2 I would ask about the requirement. It could be running errands is part of the job description (or not, just sayin’).

  14. Happy Hunter*


    While not a headhunter myself, I work in and among many. It is indeed highly unlikely a company is knowingly providing their employees’ information. However, there are many, MANY ways to get information on people that are unknown to the general population – none of them are illegal, most are free and extend far beyond a simple google search. Generally, the info is related to work history and contact information (rather than the identity-stealing variety) and comes from info companies do actually make public.

    Please bear in mind, while there are some unscrupulous recruiters out there, most are very seasoned and grounded individuals with a wide altruistic streak. Mentioning you do not want to be contacted under any circumstances should shut (most of) them down permanently. You should know though it pays to say this in a respectful way as a lot of companies source high-level employees strictly from recruiting firms and being a jerk to a recruiter can get you blacklisted to a company that has an exclusive staffing contract with your dream company.

    One more thing, it is a compliment to be contacted (providing it’s about the correct title!) from a headhunter. It means your work history and experience have made you a valuable asset in the workforce. Remember that next time you have a bad day at your current job and best of luck to you!

    1. OP4*

      Thanks Happy!

      I don’t mind the calls, I’d just prefer they quit using my office extension and either email me or call my cell, both of which are posted on Linkedin and on old copies of my resume from previous job searches. It just gets awkward to have the boss in my office discussing a project with me and get these calls. I’m really trying to stop using the speaker phone because it’s happened a couple times already and puts me on the spot to shoot them down even if I may be interested in it and then have the discussion with the boss about why I’m job searching when in reality I’m not.

      1. Happy Hunter*

        You’re more than welcome! Recruiting is seen as such a dirty profession and it’s a shame when there are some really awesome recruiters and they can be an amazing way to move forward in your career. They’ll open doors, give honest career advice, and even prep you for interviews or rewrite your resume for free. Personally, I do agree with you about getting calls at work. I find it to be an annoying tactic that catches people off guard, potentially puts them in a bad spot (ie: yours), and rarely pays off. Were I you, I’d tip off my boss with basically what you wrote above or even let him/her hear you politely say, “Thank you, but no thank you. I’m very happy in my current role. Please take me off your list.”

        Side note, this could actually really work in your favor if you ever ARE searching and the boss overhears. “Oops, just another of those mistake calls!”

      2. Meg Murry*

        Often recruiters say “well, do you know anyone else that may be qualified?” and that could be your out. You can respond with “If you give me your email address, I can pass your information to some of my former colleagues who may be qualified”, and then you could email the recruiter later that night from your personal address and tell them to call your personal number. Just have in your back pocket “oh yeah, my friend Paul who I went to school with that is at ChocoPots in looking to move on” if your boss asks.

        But yeah, stop with the speakerphone answering, because someday when you are expecting a personal call (from a recruiter, or doctor’s office with results, or a family member) you’ll look suspicious if you suddenly start taking only some calls on the handset. Plus speakerphones are just annoying for your neighbors – if you really need to be handsfree, get a headset, don’t make me listen to your raised voice and the callers. In most offices, unnecessary speakerphone use would shoot you to the top of on my annoying coworker list very fast, maybe just below the fish microwaver.

  15. ashleyh*

    Letter 2: at my first job we advertised all positions as requiring reliable transportation and this just meant you needed reliable transportation to/from work (i.e. A bus was fine). We also hired a lot of part time people.

    1. Captain Radish*

      In my experience, putting “reliable transportation” is an attempt to weed out people who may be “I want to work here but I have no way to get here.”

  16. Swistle*

    With #2, about needing a reliable vehicle, what I have found with most of the jobs I apply for is that they’re trying to avoid the “I can’t come to work, my car broke down” and “I can’t come to work, I don’t have a ride” types of excuses. I remember from my HR training that unless the car is literally needed for the job, a better way to say it is to ask for the candidate to have “reliable transportation”—i.e., assurance that they can get to work SOMEHOW, whether that’s by public transportation, consistent rides from friends, bicycle, or their own vehicle.

  17. CheeryO*

    #1, How big is the running group? Mine has nearly 100 people in it, and I barely interact with the coaches. On the other hand, I spend a LOT of time with my pace leader. I don’t think I would want to spend hours running with my boss every week, but I also don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with doing so if it doesn’t bother you. You should be able to join whatever running group you want to join. (Then again, I live in the world’s biggest small town. You can’t go anywhere without running into someone you know. If I told my coworkers that I accidentally joined my boss’s running group, they’d be like, “Of course you did!”)

    1. Lia*

      Yeah, this is what I came to post. I am a pace leader for a long-distance running group, and we have anywhere from 60-120 people show up for runs. With a dozen pace groups, you get bonded to the pace leaders, but coaching interaction is pretty limited (although they do know everyone and we have a website we all interact on, where we post training tips, race info, meetup information, etc).

      I actually wound up running a race that my boss ran last year, and I beat him pretty handily, LOL. It’s a decent sized race, with about 1000 competitors, and so I never saw him there — only found out the next week when I looked at the results! I didn’t rub it in, though!

      1. CheeryO*

        That’s hilarious. Luckily my boss is not a runner, but I have several coworkers who were disappointed to hear that I would not be running the Corporate Challenge this year, because they all wanted to try to beat me.

    2. LQ*

      This is very interesting. In all the sports groups I’ve been a part of I’ve had a lot of interaction with the coaches. I have a relative who does 2-5 a week depending on the season and also spends a lot of time with the coaches. Even her big groups are under 30 people and most are 10-12 with a few being as small as 6.
      (Tennis, skiing, hiking, rollerblading, rollerskiing as the sports.)

      This might give some perspective of what others would think, I’d think if your boss was the coach you’d be having a lot of time with them and with the experience I’ve had I’d think that I would have a not unreasonable expectation. (SUPER WRONG apparently! Which is really interesting so thank you for sharing!)

      1. CheeryO*

        Of course! Yeah, I’m sure it can vary quite a bit – mine is based out of my city’s only running store, so it gets huge numbers of participants. The coaches handle all of the organizational stuff and give us our workouts, but I’m not sure if they even know my name.

  18. Franky*

    #2: My husband is a rather unskilled worker and works for a company that always has a ‘need reliable vehicle’ listed in their job ads… well not only do we not own a car but he doesn’t even have a license!

    His boss explained to him that since they deal with many clients on-site that he needs to have a good percentage of his work force capable of travelling to these sites quickly, there is also the issue that a good number of their clients operate nowhere near the reach of public transportation. So the boss knows that if you use a cab that practically all of your income will go to getting from site to site.

    My husband was lucky because he found the job through a disability assistance program. They are very accommodating with him and assign him all of the ‘urban core’ clients so he can use the transit or even walk from our place. But even though they try to accommodate him, it is not ideal and I would not encourage anyone to reach for jobs like this.

    The people with vehicles get the majority of the hours and he is lucky to get 12 a week, don’t even get me started on the fact that he is minimum wage to boot. About half of his income goes to paying for his transit pass so his income is really low. At most, it is something for him to do and earn spending money. If he got a license and we bought a vehicle (which we could never afford because he makes so little… the vicious cycle), his boss told him that he could be making 5x as much money.

  19. Down the road*

    #2 Often the requirement for a car is less about getting to work than it is about needing to move around during the day. We have two locations and staff often need to move from one to the other during the day. Some of our roles additionally require running errands… and often times errands are relegated to lower-paid staff. There could be legitimate need for a car.

  20. TheCupcakeCounter*

    LW#4 – I had the same thing happen and when I asked the recruiter who contacted me at work they told me they simply called the front desk and asked to speak to me. It happened more than once so I am guessing it is pretty common.

  21. micromanagedrat*

    I wonder if statements about reliable transportation are also shorthand for “business hours are 9am-9pm and the last bus leaves at 7:45.”

  22. Erin*

    #2 – For most jobs, I would assume the car requirement could also translate to, “must have reliable transportation.” It would most likely be fine if you point out that you do. Assuming of course, the public transportation you use is in fact reliable and doesn’t have a reputation of constantly running behind schedule.

    Unless you’re going to be meeting with clients, running out to buy supplies, or otherwise using a car during work hours for noncommuting things…I can’t see why you’d need a car. In any case, it’s reasonable to bring up and ask. I wouldn’t take yourself out of the running for a job just because you see the car requirement.

    As others have indicated, it could also be a case of someone car-less missing work before. If you ask about the car thing, they might say something like, “Oh yeah, that. We just add that automatically to our job ads since we had an employee years ago who constantly blamed the bus system for not being able to make it to work on time. If you have reliable transportation and you’re not late, the car won’t be an issue.”

    Sometimes rules like that are put in place simply because one person screwed it up for everyone, so they’re trying to cover their butts from allowing it to happen again.

  23. Jodi*

    Tangentially related to #4…I’ve worked in casual offices before but would get annoyed pretty quickly if everyone took calls on speaker phone. What’s the point? What is the person who calls starts rambling about something unrelated/inappropriate? Is it really that hard to pick up your phone when it rings, rather than press speaker? Do people sit with headphones in as to not be distracted by other people’s calls? I obviously have a lot of questions about this practice…

    1. anonderella*

      I’m gonna hop on your tangent train – I work in the front of the office near all the other higher-ups; I am constantly hearing them answer (or even *place* < wtf?) calls on speaker, only to hurriedly take it off when they hear the other caller say something unsavory or confidential. Think Boy's Club, slight racism, secret project info, etc. It sucks to know that some of my bosses are pretty good guys, but you can't help what other people say.
      And taking it off speaker…. doesn't unring the bell, boss.

      And I am always surprised how many of them take forever to tell the person on the other line when there is someone else in the room with them, which just increases the mishaps. If I were placing the calls, it would go like "Hey Bob, how are you doing? I've got Stan in here, we were just going over the Teaports (teapot reports) and had a couple of questions for you if you have a moment."

      Reminds me of that comedian, the name long forgotten (and super paraphrased):
      "You know those phones people are using now, like the walkie-talkies? You never overhear an intelligent conversation on those things: 'That's right, doctor; you make an incision here along the-'. It's always somebody like: 'Duuude – I heard you banged that chick with the fat ass last night!' "

  24. Mimmy*


    Ahh the dreaded “must have car/drivers license/reliable transportation” requirement! I’ve written here before about this being the bane of my existence as I cannot drive due to a vision impairment. Here’s the strategies I’ve used:

    When I look at the job ad, I pay careful attention to any specific duties listed and how the requirement is worded. Helpful to me is when an ad states something like “must have drivers license for travel across the state / to teapot schools across the county”. Even when a transportation requirement isn’t overtly stated, sometimes it can be easily assumed just based on specific duties, such as “visit clients in their homes” or “outreach to community centers” (my background is social work / human services, so I know my examples may not be relevant to you).

    When it’s not clear to me, I’ve in the past applied and, if invited for an interview, asked if the job had any driving duties (I probably need a better way of phrasing that though, lol).

    I have my own issues with this, which I may bring up tomorrow in the open thread, but OP #2, I hope this is helpful to you.

    1. I'm a Little Teapot*

      Considering how many jobs are barred to people with disabilities (though which jobs of course depend on the disability) I wonder if employers should be legally mandated to preferentially hire people with documented disabilities. The “free market” crowd would kick and scream, but not as much as they probably would about making disability benefits more broadly available, easier to get, and much higher paying – which is the only other decent alternative I can think of. Our current system, in which people with disabilities have horrifying rates of unemployment, poverty, and homelessness, is unconscionable.

  25. AW*

    #4 – Are you sure no one put in an order for business cards, name plates, or anything like that? No heads up email to customers about how the company will start using these new titles?

  26. Milton Waddams*

    #2: Assuming that the “reliable transportation” requirement is genuine (as opposed to being a social class filter), I’ve found that sometimes it is because the business was founded or is currently headed by someone who has relied on a car their entire lives and does realize that business tasks can be structured in a way that makes this requirement optional. A lot of times it has never even occurred to them that this is possible, despite the potential cost savings.

    Often-times, for better or worse, it is the unspoken assumptions that are most expensive for a business. Perhaps on the worse side, if the assumption is lifetime employment, turnover will be expensive. However, re-structure the business with high-turnover as a normal part of the process (as many have), and the cost of turnover goes away. This is true for a whole bunch of things, and is the real power source of “business process improvement”, behind the management faddism.

  27. DCGirl*

    With regard to Letter #2, I once interviewed for a job at a non-profit whose mission was to help homeless people enter the workforce by teaching them skills in the food service industry. It even had a small cafe open to the public where its clients cooked and served breakfast and lunch every day. The position I applied for was office-based and didn’t have any language that would indicate a car was essential to the position.

    I didn’t have a car, but its offices were on the bus route that ran right in front of my apartment building. I was turned down, actually during the interview, when I stated that I didn’t own a car because they said it would make it too difficult for me to get to work. Like, “We may as well not proceed further if you don’t own a car. You’ll need a car if you have to work late.” I said that in the presumably rare occasions on which I worked past the last bus at 9:00 p.m., I’d be happy to pay for my own cab. No go. The interview was over.

    I figured I had nothing to lose at that point. I looked at the hiring committee and said, “Can I ask you a question? When the homeless people graduate from your program and get jobs at restaurants that presumably open before the buses start running and closes after the buses stop running, how do you expect for them to get to and from their jobs?”

    I could hear crickets chirping and tumbleweeds blowing as I gathered my things and left the conference room.

  28. Noah*

    “Doesn’t requiring a vehicle for a job that barely pays a living wage in a city with a high cost of living unfairly discriminate against candidates who don’t already have the means to own a car (or Zipcar membership)?”

    Doesn’t requiring a law degree for being a low-paid, public interest lawyer discriminate against candidates who can’t afford to pay for law school then earn a low salary?

    Doesn’t requiring a medical degree to be a low-paid, clinic doctor discriminate against candidates who can’t afford to pay for medical school then earn a low salary?

    Doesn’t requiring a drivers license for a job discriminate against people who don’t have the means to rent or borrow a car for the driving test?

    Doesn’t requiring CPR certification for a lifeguard job discriminate against people who can’t afford a CPR certification class?


    1. ElCee*

      Except that the difference between the work vehicle requirement and every one of your examples is that those requirements are specific to a FIELD rather than a single job opening.

      1. Lore*

        And that your examples actually relate to skills critical for the job. If your job is driving a truck, yes, you need a driver’s license (and you could not make an ADA accommodation for someone whose disability made them unable to drive). If your job is in an office and you don’t ever have to travel to offsite locations only accessible by car, that’s a very different story.

        1. Noah*

          I’m assuming that this job actually requires the person to have a car and drive places. If the job is fry cook, I agree that a car requirement would be absurd. I’ve never heard of a job that requires somebody who doesn’t have to drive a car for their job to have a car. LW just seems irritated that the jobs she wants require being able to drive places.

          1. Megs*

            Well, now you have learned that many of us have absolutely encountered employers who say “requires car” for jobs that do not require cars. It’s quite frustrating, as I’m sure you could imagine, to be told that your $6/hour barista job wants to see a copy of your drivers’ license.

    2. Megs*

      This makes no sense. Are you a troll?

      Amusingly, at least two of your examples – public interest lawyer and low-paid clinic doctor – actually DO come with some fairly substantial incentives to encourage people with high debt-loads to take them in spite of the low pay. But thanks for playing?

      1. Megs*

        My apologies, I posted this before your 1:26 comment and thought you were being disingenuous when it appears you were just being hyperbolic. I would have adjusted my tone of disbelief accordingly.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Hmmm, I’d rather not have people accuse other of trolling here! (I saw your follow-up but wanted to note it because it comes up from time to time and I think makes it a less pleasant place to talk to others.)

  29. Anon Again, Anon Always*

    I have also lived in both Northwestern major cities, and the type of job I believe OP2 is referencing has become astonishingly common, especially in Portland. My guess is usually that these are small offices, and the part-time, low-wage jobs are catch-alls, nearly always requiring some kind of specialized knowledge, but also incorporating random errands, usually confirmed by duties listed.

    I’ve lived in these cities partially because of the joys of non-car-ownership, so this kind of thing frustrates me. It does indeed seem like offloading company costs onto employees who aren’t paid nearly enough.

    The state and county jobs have a standard “access to reliable transportation” which differs from “must have driver’s license and car.” I realize there are small, struggling non-profits out there, I just question how setting that standard for a new hire isn’t a weird thing. Doesn’t that mean you are hiring people based on their material possessions?

    I mean, is it going to be a trend someday that the org can’t afford to provide phones, so applicants must provide their own?

    (Please, please let the number of people who’ve experienced that be slim to none.)

    1. Petronella*

      “I mean, is it going to be a trend someday that the org can’t afford to provide phones, so applicants must provide their own?”
      Ooooh, I bet we will start seeing this, within the next five years.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies are already a trendy Thing. Because cost-shifting, economic barriers to employment, remote snooping and wiping of employees’ personal devices, and massive data insecurity are AWESOME!

        1. Anon for this one*

          My company’s executive management team actually discussed this the other day. Someone brought it up as a serious possibility for saving money, and I was completely flabbergasted. The person thought it made sense because “everyone has a phone anyway”. In addition to cost-shifting, economic barriers, and massive data insecurity as Little Teapot mentioned, it could cause major issues with work-life balance (think rude customers calling your cell during off hours or, worse, after you leave the company), hearing/reception/audio quality, and having your device and battery wear out faster than they would otherwise. Not to mention not everyone has unlimited plans (I don’t). I could not believe this person was serious, but she totally was!

    2. Mando Diao*

      I thiiiiiiiink part of it might be that getting to leave the office on the clock is something that a lot of people view as a perk. Heck, I view it as a perk. Before I took my current remote position, I always volunteered for the driving errands.

      There are also companies who deliberately seek out people who don’t necessarily need the money and won’t be pushing for full-time status, or who are happy to essentially volunteer for the cause and accept their low pay as a perk of doing something they’d have gladly done for free. Given the funding issues that plague non-profits, I can’t say it’s wrong to filter for those kinds of applicants. I could say it’s a problem that so many orgs are taking this approach, but it might be starting to be an industry-wide standard, which isn’t always something you can fight.

  30. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Y’all, I’m seeing lots of confusion in the comments about the car thing.

    To clarify:

    – “Must have car” and “have reliable transportation” are usually two different things. The former usually means “you will have to drive as part of doing the work of this job — like during the day, not just to work in the morning and to home at night.” The latter usually means “we will be sticklers about you being here on time and will require that you have a way to do that” but generally allows for public transportation to be your solution.

    – “Must have car” is not unreasonable when the work of the job actually requires you to run errands, visit clients, attend off-site meetings, etc.

    – “We are not located near public transportation” is not a discriminatory thing to put in an ad if it’s true. Many candidates appreciate having that information up-front, as it allows them to self-select out if the job won’t work for them.

    – Yes, some companies put “must have car” or “have reliable transportation” in their ads when it’s not really a true requirement to do the job. That is problematic for all the reasons people have listed here. But that’s not the case with ALL jobs that list these things; with some, it’s a bona fide, legitimate requirement of the job.

  31. Wren*

    re: using zipcar for work related driving (#2)

    My spouse has long cycled to work. His previous job occassionally required him to make out-calls and drive there, and he successfully used a car share to do that. He was only reimbursed mileage by his employer, but that more than covered the car share costs. This will probably depend on usage levels, how good the mileage reimbursement is, zipcar fees and location of the cars themselves (cars were sufficiently close by, and spouse would take a folding bike the days he expected to get a car) so you’d need to learn more about the details of the job’s car requirement to see if this was worthwhile. I’m just saying, don’t rule out the zipcar option!

  32. bopper*

    I thought that “reliable vehicle” is short hand for “will get to work on time, every time” and no “the bus was late” or “my car brok edown”. They have probably found a corrrelation between those who do not have a reliable vehicle and those who do not show up to work on time.

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