should I ask my coworker why she didn’t hire my son, I stole from an employer years ago, and more

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

1. Should I ask my coworker why she didn’t hire my son?

My son recently graduated college and applied for a job in a different department at the same company where I have worked for 35 years. He had a lengthy phone interview and an even longer in-person interview with several managers, and then they declined to make him an offer with no explanation. At my suggestion, he wrote a thank-you letter and asked for feedback/suggestions on improving any skills where he may have come up short, even including a stamped self-addressed envelope. He got no response. ‎I am a hiring manager myself and have been on the other side of this, in which case I did share that it was just skills mismatch.

Now I am wondering if it would be out of line to speak to my counterpart in that other group to find out why my son was not hired?

Yes, it would be out-of-line (and it would make your counterpart relieved that she didn’t hire your son, since it would signal that if she did, you might have inappropriately intervened in her management of him). You can certainly use your insider knowledge of the company to coach your son behind the scenes, but you can’t intervene on his behalf. That’ll undermine him and make him look like a weaker candidate. It will also make your coworkers really uncomfortable, since it will come across as inappropriate pressure, even if you don’t mean it that way, and they shouldn’t have to defend their decision to you.

For what it’s worth, on the requesting feedback thing — some hiring managers will give feedback to rejected candidates and some won’t. But few will do it by postal mail (since it’s much less convenient), so in the future I’d suggest your son use email for those requests!

2. I stole from an employer years ago and worry about running into them now

So, over 10 years ago, I made a stupid mistake and stole from an employer. I was a top performer but found myself in a desperate situation and with the means to make some poor decisions. I was caught and fired (thankfully, I might add… the guilt was already weighing heavily on me). I returned all the funds that were taken, and the owners took pity on me and didn’t press charges.

Years later, I’ve built a successful career in a new field (and away from money). However, I still feel very guilty about what happened and live in fear of running into the owners in town. I am having a difficult time letting it go even though it’s been so long. Since my career is taking off, I’m being expected to attend more local business events and it’s only a matter of time before we end up running into each other. It has given me a lot of anxiety about these events. When that happens, should I politely avoid contact? Apologize again for the past? Act like it didn’t happen?

I think you would get a lot of relief if you addressed it proactively now, so that you can stop fearing running into them without warning. Why not write them a letter now, saying that you’ve spent the last decade reflecting on what happened and trying to make amends in your life (if that’s true), apologizing for what happened, and telling them that you’re grateful that they gave you the chance to course-correct your life?

3. Should I be suspicious of this reference situation?

I manage an independent cafe with several locations. We have a promising applicant for a full-time position. He’s demonstrated technical proficiency and enthusiasm, and hiring him would save us a lot of time we’d otherwise use training someone without his barista skills.

He did not list his last two employees as references, saying that both were part-time work and that he’d prefer we contact his last full-time employer who is also one of his best friends. He says he left the last two jobs on good terms. The listed reference spoke well of him.

Am I wrong to be suspicious of his explanation? And is it legally or ethically wrong for me to call his former employers?

Believe it or not, our town has a significant labor shortage in hospitality, and my options for candidates are limited. I would like to hire him, but I feel peculiar about the references or lack thereof.

I would be totally suspicious! The reference he gave you really doesn’t count if the person is a good friend — it’s possible that there could be some value in talking to him (although I probably wouldn’t even bother if it’s a “best” friend) but you definitely wouldn’t want that to be your main or only reference. There’s no legal problem with calling other references without the candidate’s explicit permission, but in this case, I’d just tell the candidate directly that you’d like to speak with his managers from the last last two jobs and ask to be put in touch with them. If he resists, ask why and see what he says.

4. My company says I have to pay back the cost of a training course

I was told by my company I had been chosen to participate in a course (Lean) and asked if I would be interested in supporting this initiative. I said yes. Information was sent to me and three others about dates and what to expect. Nothing was said about the cost or expectation of reimbursement. Three months later and a few weeks before we were to start the course, we were all issued letters requiring us to commit to two years of service or pay back the course. We were all very uncomfortable with the way this had been communicated and said so, but the company just said it was a great opportunity and we should do it. I felt not signing would be career suicide and told my boss, who did not disagree and just told me if I quit I could get my new company to pay. I hardly had time to start looking for work since the course was then only weeks away.

12 months later, I am quitting and they want $7,000. My new company doesn’t not want to pay the $7,000, and my husband wants me to hire a lawyer and fight this. I work in a very “small world” industry and fear fighting will only make things worse.

Everyone involved here made mistakes: your company should have told you about the agreement earlier on, your boss shouldn’t have assured you you’d be able to get a future employer to pay it back, and you shouldn’t have signed something you weren’t willing to abide by. I hear you that you were worried that it would look bad to refuse to sign and back out of the course, but it’s really not career suicide to do that. (A good way to frame it is, “I’m not planning on leaving in the near future, but I can’t predict the course life will take, and I’m not comfortable taking on a potential debt of this size in case something unexpected happens, like a health issue or an emergency move.”)

Since you signed a agreement clearly agreeing to pay back the money if you left within a certain time period, I don’t know that a lawyer would be able to get you out of that. But it’s possible that a lawyer would be able to help you negotiate a smaller payment or otherwise ameliorate some of this. (And keep in mind that the lawyer can just advise you in the background if you want; you can do the communicating with your company, which will help it look less like “fighting” with them.)

5. Are you supposed to invite your boss to your wedding?

My fiancé and I got engaged in mid-July. We’re working on wedding planning. We were discussing the guest list and he said he’d like to invite his boss because it was the standard, polite thing to do when working in the private sector. (Whether that’s true or not, I have no idea.) Regardless, his work environment is lovely. He’s very well paid, there’s weekly free lunches for the entire staff, a fully staffed (and free!) kitchen and bar. They do “company outings.” I’m sure the camaraderie is excellent. But I work in a public school district. My principal is very nice, but I don’t see him often since obviously he’s a busy man. It’s just a very different dynamic from my fiancé’s work. What’s the polite thing to do? Is there some unwritten rule I don’t know about?

There’s definitely not a universal etiquette rule that you’re supposed to invite your boss to your wedding. Loads of people don’t invite their boss to their weddings — in fact, the majority of people don’t, as far as I can tell. If your fiance wants to invite his boss, that’s totally fine — but it’s definitely not a standard thing you’re expected to do. You absolutely don’t need to invite your own boss if you don’t feel like it. No one, your boss included, will find that rude or weird.

{ 219 comments… read them below }

  1. Christopher Tracy*

    OP #1 – you gotta let this one go for all the reasons Alison mentioned, plus you may be harming your son’s chance at getting a different position in a different part of your company in the future. I know that one of my former managers just interviewed the son of one of her colleagues (I was on his second interview panel), and she wasn’t too sold on him for the job she was hiring for. However, she knows a ton of people throughout the company and helps staff other divisions frequently. She’s been known to pass along the resume of candidates that weren’t quite right for what she was looking for to other hiring managers, and because she does such a good job at picking employees for her program, these hiring managers often end up hiring her referral. If your colleague is anything like that, you don’t want to run the risk of making her think you have boundary issues that would crop up should she refer your kid to someone else who may be hiring in the company.

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      Exactly. Excellent advice. I know the Op and her son must be dying to know the reason and how frustrating that can be though. Maybe the Op can at least find out more about the candidate they did hire and that may give some insight?

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        I mean, I would assume, with no other information, that there isn’t necessarily a reason the son wasn’t hired (i.e., that he was inadequate in some way or messed up). The far likelier reason is they just found a better candidate.

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      Yeah, the only time I could see this being OK is if the OP was good enough friends with the hiring manager that s/he would not be taken aback by the question. I have a small handful of colleagues that I’d be comfortable bringing this up with. We’ve worked together for many years, know each other well, we’ve traveled together for work, and sometimes we do things together outside of work. In those cases, I’d be fine with asking one of them, “Hey, was there something specific about Algernon that made you take a pass on hiring him, or were there just more qualified candidates in the pool? He’d like to know if there’s anything he can take from this and apply to future interviews.” Anyone else though, and I’d leave it alone. There’s a difference between being friendly with someone and being true friends with them, and someone in the former category may not know you well enough to know that you’re asking a genuine question rather than interrogating them like a nutty helicopter parent.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Agreed. It would be so weird to get a call from a rejected candidate’s parent, and even weirder if I had to see that person at company events. I would also find getting a letter and self-addressed, stamped envelope odd, too. Usually, if you can even give feedback at all, no one’s going to want to put that in writing.

        We had to fire someone who was related to someone higher up the organizational chart, and the hoops required in that experience has really soured me on hiring family members of other employees, though I have happily forwarded these candidates along to industry peers, with the referrer’s permission.

  2. Christopher Tracy*

    OP #4 – ask your old company to pay back the money in installments. This is the only way I can see this working out since legally, you owe this money. $7,000 is a lot of money to ask for upfront, but if you try to make a good faith effort to pay it back, they may allow you to do it at a pace that’s not prohibitive to you (and if you do negotiate a payment plan, stick to it for your future reference’s sake).

    Meanwhile, your former company sucks for asking for reimbursement for a class that they should have known you would have felt obligated to go to that was for their benefit. I could see if it was tuition reimbursement since that really benefits you and you can up and take that knowledge elsewhere, but a training class that was presumably for this particular job? I’ve never seen a company do this, and my current one frequently sends us to expensive training courses for work.

    1. Jeanne*

      It’s pretty appalling that they would ask an employee to pay for training. But I just don’t see a way out of it now. I think a payment plan sounds like a good idea.

      1. Oryx*

        They aren’t asking the employee to pay for training — they are asking them to pay it back because they broke the terms of the arrangement. For employers, training an employee like this is an investment and it’s not uncommon to expect an employee to stick around for a little while after the training so the employer can recoup the benefits of the investment. Otherwise there’s nothing to stop an employee from doing the training and quitting right away and taking those new skills to their new employer.

        I agree they should have made it all clear upfront, but the OP knew what they were doing when they decided to quit before the agreed upon time.

        1. Audiophile*

          No one quit. They told OP #4 that she was chosen to participate in a training along with a few other employees. Then a few weeks before the training would start they asked everyone to commit to two years of employment or owe the company money. It sounds like OP #4 felt pressure to attend the training or hurt her career at the organization.

            1. Callietwo*

              This is from the letter:
              _12 months later, I am quitting and they want $7,000. My new company doesn’t not want to pay the $7,000, and my husband wants me to hire a lawyer and fight this. I work in a very “small world” industry and fear fighting will only make things worse._

              So they are quitting which is the only reason they’re being hit up for the $7K .

          1. Jo*

            That’s exact right. One person refused to sign his letter and he was not looked upon favourably and can forget promotions. If I had been told of the terms up front I would have started looking for work right away and had 3 months to do so befor I would have had to sign. I could have refused yes, but in that political environment I would have had to leave.

      2. Joseph*

        “It’s pretty appalling that they would ask an employee to pay for training. ”
        In most cases, I’d agree with you, but $7,000 is a pretty expensive training course for most industries – not just a one-day or even one-week course, but something that leads to some kind of formal certification. If so, it makes perfect sense: The company shouldn’t spend a huge amount getting your Teapot Masters Certification and then have you take it straight to the competition.

        1. the gold digger*

          Seven thousand dollars? Yes, that is more than one year of tuition at my private school when I was in college. It is more than I paid for two years of graduate school. That is a ton of money.

          1. Is it Friday Yet?*

            One of my old companies had this in place for tuition reimbursement. I believe you had to stay their for 12 months after completing a course or had to reimburse them for tuition. It’s one of the reasons I chose not to go back to school. I didn’t want to owe them thousands of dollars.

            1. Lemon Zinger*

              I work at a university, and full-time employees are granted a generous tuition reduction stipend every year. People move on all the time, and there is no requirement about staying on board after you complete your program. I’m thrilled about this, so naturally I started graduate school as soon as I could!

            2. Jo*

              Our company had that same policy and changed it when the presented us with our letters… Because of how expensive the course was. Overall a crappt situation. I have chosen not to pursue legal action which I can due to the fact that they changed the terms of the agreement on us and made us feel pressured into signing. However I take responsibility for signing it and was hoping maybe the company would give me a discount given the terms but they will not. If I fight it it will get around and I’ll be blacklisted. No win for me lol

    2. chickabiddy*

      I’m sorry that this is a troublesome situation. And I’m only somewhat familiar with it, but it doesn’t seem to me like Lean is specific to a certain job. I would expect that the training/credential would be valuable in other positions as well. As such, I don’t think it’s inappropriate for the company to expect reimbursement for their investment. I do think it was not great for them to spring the contract on you with very little notice and apparently some pressure. I don’t think that going full-speed-ahead with a lawyer would be good for your professional reputation since you did sign a contract, although seeking an opinion definitely wouldn’t hurt.

      Do you have unused vacation time that you could offer as partial satisfaction?

      1. Jack the Treacle Eater*

        Lean is very useful for a wide range of positions particularly in manufacturing, but the training itself would have to be good (which you’d hope it would be for $7k) and also really needs practical experience.

        In one way you can understand companies asking for a quid pro quo in return for expensive training, but it does sound as though they mishandled it badly and inevitably an employee will feel obliged to sign an agreement, which they either don’t seem to have recognised or cyncially ignored.

      2. Christopher Tracy*

        I skipped right over the Lean part, though if OP is going to a different company that doesn’t require that kind of training or is switching industries altogether, then it would be job specific. Still, Jack the Treacle Eater is right that the company erred first here (and worse) – telling an employee you want them to take a training course for work and then springing a contract on them only weeks before it begins is very likely going to put the employee in a spot where they think they can’t say no. At that point, the course is probably already paid for by the company, and the employee may feel like if they don’t sign the reimbursement agreement, that’s going to signal to the person who requested she take the course that she doesn’t intend to be there much longer, which can have an adverse effect on the types of projects or assignments she receives or further training opportunities she could use while she’s still with them.

        1. CEMgr*

          The OP has several potentially meritorious defenses to repayment, and I’d urge OP to explore them with a lawyer during a free consultation.

          1. John B Public*

            Proving the contract was signed under duress is potentially a way to get out of it, but IANAL. Regardless, speaking to counsel is a smart way to figure out what your options are.

      3. Ellie H.*

        I have never heard of Lean before, but it seems insane to me that a company would essentially require that its employees get some random training that they weren’t previously aware of or interested in, present it as not optional (like you have to go out of your way and combat resistance to even find out if it’s optional, and be discouraged from it) and then require repayment. So my take on this is pretty different from others’.

        1. periwinkle*

          Lean is basically Six Sigma. My org uses a variant of Lean – we’re a manufacturer but Lean is used in every function for process improvement. It’s useful outside the OP’s org but still, $7000 and they’re not even pro-rating it?

          1. Product Person*

            Exactly. Pro-rating would be the right thing to do here. How long was the course? Presumably the company benefited from OP’s training for at least a period of time, since says she quit 12 months later.

    3. Vicki*

      OP #4 – I’d say _defnitely_ talk to a lawyer first. Where I live, our County Bar Association provides the ability to talk to a lawyer for half an hour for a very modest fee.

      You may (or may not) Legally owe the company anything. Did you have a lawyer advise you before you signed that letter? Many such “agreements’ can be considered null & void if the signer did not have legal advice, did not really understand what they were signing, felt pressured into signing, etc.

      Talk to a lawyer. It’s worth the peace of mind. (Also, the mere fact of being able to say to the company, “I’ve spoken to a lawyer and he advises me…” can have a lovely effect on the outcome of the interaction. (Been there; did that.)

  3. IANAL, but ...*

    #1 please let it go. Another possibility is that they just didn’t want to hire a co-workers son. I had a similar problem as a hiring manager, and I really dodged a bullet. I didn’t find out the relationship until the end of the process and I was harassed for YEARS by the offended parent. Hiring the child could not have improved my life I’m sure. I’m sure you wouldn’t act that way, but their fear is real and based on evidence around the world. Let it go. Don’t ruin your career being offended for your child.

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      Totally agree. Nice user-name, btw.

      How many stories do we have here where some higher-up’s relative is a problem employee and nobody feels like they can discipline him or her? Look at the update last week from the person who’s new team member was forcing the administrative assistant to watch her kids and falsifying time cards.

    2. Lemon Zinger*

      Glad you said this. There are so many issues with hiring multiple members of a family on to the same company. The fact that OP wrote about this indicates that he/she may not have good sense about professional norms in these situations.

      Anybody who graduates from college is an adult, and should be treated as such. He needs to act for himself.

  4. Observer*

    #1 – stay out of this, completely. Alison is completely correct.

    Also, a stamped self-addressed envelope? Seriously?! If that’s the kind of advice you are giving your son, please step back and understand that your advice is out of date and / or highly idiosyncratic. Sending a thank you note on paper is one thing – it looks nice. But, implying that you expect a full formal letter in response is just not reasonable. Even managers who might be willing to spend a few minutes to provide some information are not going to do that.

    1. Dot Warner*

      Yeah, that jumped out at me too. I can’t remember the last time I needed to use a SASE for anything!

      OP, I know you mean well, but this level of “help” is going to do your son more harm than good. Nobody wants to hire someone whose mother interferes in their work life. Make like Elsa from Frozen and let it go.

      1. Rebecca*

        I use a SASE when I pay my property taxes. Can’t pay in person due to work schedule, can’t pay online, and they won’t accept a credit card over the phone. I would never do this in a work situation!

        1. VA anon*

          A SASE is an empty envelope stamped and addressed to yourself so the recipient can send you something in return without having to pay the postage.

          1. Regular Poster but Not Using My Name Today*

            Yes, that’s why I use a self addressed, stamped envelope. If I want a written receipt, other than my canceled check, I have to send one with my bill copy and check. Archaic, yes, but it saves me from taking 1/2 day vacation to deal with tax issues.

        2. GreyjoyGardens*

          That’s terrible that they won’t let you pay online. I’m glad my county downright encourages people to pay online via a credit card. That makes it so easy!

    2. Rando*

      I had the same reaction to the envelope. I would laugh out loud if a candidate expected me to write them a letter and mail it back! Maybe the best advice you can give your son is to read this website, instead of specifics.

    3. EddieSherbert*

      +1. Obviously you meant well, but this is definitely out-dated advice.

      Also, maybe I’m imagining the timeline differently, but usually I’d aim for sending the thank you note to the interviewer within a day or two of the interview (when I am, or think I am, still in the running).

      Unless I was really impressed with the company/ interviewer, or planned to re-apply to the company, I wouldn’t send one after I was rejected. I don’t know what protocol is there, or if that’s considered normal, but I just wouldn’t see the point after I’m already rejected – since it’s just a nice extra thing to do and not required.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      OP can tell her son it’s perfectly fine to send a thank-you note via email as well. A paper one is nice, but it’s not necessary. And it’s much easier, as Alison said, to ask for feedback in email since it’s immediate.

  5. Coco*

    #4 Alison, do you mean, “communicating with your company … will help it NOT look like ‘fighting’ with them”? As in, if the lawyer just advises but you do the talking, it will look less like fighting? The wording was a little ambiguous.

  6. Observer*

    #5 – inviting your boss is not uncommon. I don’t think it’s a “universal etiquette” thing. But, if that’s the culture in his office, then it’s the culture in his office. I disagree with Alison – some people would most definitely find it rude, but again, it depends on the workplace in question.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think we disagree though — I said no one will find it rude if the OP doesn’t invite her own boss, in a context that sounds very different from her fiance’s.

      1. Jeanne*

        It’s not rude to leave the boss off the guest list. Just follow some normal etiquette. Don’t talk about how amazing the wedding will be and who you’re inviting in front of people you’re not inviting.

      2. Observer*

        Oops – I misread. I thought she was questioning whether it’s necessary to invite her fiance’s boss.

        1. OP#5*

          It’s not even that I don’t like my boss! He’s very nice and we both love Disney. :) But I rarely see him so it feels awkward to invite him to my wedding. But then based on what my fiancé was saying, I wasn’t sure if I should just offer to be polite or not.

          1. Is it Friday Yet?*

            I would not invite him if you’re not close. Don’t feel bad. As others have mentioned. It sounds like your husband might have a different relationship with his boss and a different work environment entirely.

          2. Observer*

            I hear you. I think Alison is correct here. If it’s your boss you are thinking of, I can’t imagine it would be an issue to not invite him. Very different workplace culture.

    2. Bookworm*

      I wonder if this is a changing etiquette practice? I work in the private sector (in the US, for whatever that’s worth) and I’m at that age where it seems my social calendar is a medley of weddings.

      None of the weddings I’ve attended have included bosses and – for those in which I was involved in the planning processes – I’ve yet to meet anyone who’s invited a boss to their wedding. Certainly a number of weddings have taken place among my own team and no-one expects an invitation, boss or otherwise. So perhaps this is shifting norm?

      1. nofelix*

        Indeed. I work private sector in the UK and similarly have not seen any bosses at weddings, and I’m not inviting him to mine. I’d have to bump a friend or relative off the guestlist for him, and he wouldn’t know anyone there. Seems bizarre to invite him.

      2. Xarcady*

        Back in the 90s, when everyone I knew was getting married, many/most of them did invite their boss, if they were inviting any co-workers. There tended to be a mindset of if you were inviting people from a group, you had to invite the whole group. So if you invited one co-worker, you invited your entire department, if you invited one second cousin, you invited all your second cousins, etc.

        I don’t think I ever saw a boss at a wedding, though. Mostly, they declined the invitation and sent a token gift. I suspect they had other things they wanted to do with their weekends then attend weddings.

      3. KayDay*

        This has completely been my experience as well. I have never heard of anyone’s boss attending their wedding (I guess it’s possible they were invited but didn’t show….). In fact, I don’t know of many people inviting all but their absolute closest co-workers (if they invite anyone from work at all).

        I am absolutely no expert on wedding etiquette, but as far as my opinion on the subject goes, I’ve often felt it’s pretty reasonable to not invite anyone from work to such a personal event. Most people are pretty understanding that people like to keep their work-wold and their personal-world separate, and would not be offended by not being invited to a co-worker’s wedding.

        1. Joseph*

          I got married a few months ago and neither of us invited our bosses, though we each did invite a couple co-workers or former co-workers who we were particularly close to. The delineation line we drew was basically “do we hang out regularly outside of days when we are working together?”
          Really, I think most people are reasonable about it, realizing the crazy expense that comes in – food and drinks are one of the biggest expenses and are directly proportional to the number of people who come.

        2. OP#5*

          His office is pretty chill – they have nerf gun battles and a casual dress code. They often do monthly evaluations over a beer or a company-paid-for lunch. I suspect his boss is, at least on some level, someone he considers a friend just because of the freely open work culture. Nothing against my boss, of course. He’s really great. But I also wouldn’t choose to invite him in the place of some of my family or friends!

      4. hermit crab*

        I got married last September and invited my manager, along with a few other close coworkers (they all came). It definitely wasn’t because of any etiquette standards, though! My s.o. didn’t invite anyone he worked with.

      5. Elizabeth West*

        I’ve only seen this happen when people are friends and hang out together, like at the cafe job in CA. I would totally have invited my boss if I had gotten married back then–most of my friends were work friends and we hung out at happy hour all the time.

        I wouldn’t invite CurrentBoss because I’m not friendly with her, but I might have invited FormerBoss if she were in the same state (or I knew she would be here at the time).

      6. Rusty Shackelford*

        I invited my boss to my wedding because I liked her, not because she was my boss. Since the LW doesn’t have a close, friendly relationship with her boss, there’s no reason to invite him.

        1. WorkingMom*

          I think this is a key component. Do you like your boss? Do you enjoy socializing with your boss at happy hours, lunches, etc? Also office culture plays a role, of course. If you have a good relationship with your boss and enjoy their company in social settings, and you’re inviting other coworkers too, go ahead, or don’t, whatever you want to do. I don’t think any (reasonable) boss would be offended at not being invited. I will tell you that I was recently invited to an employee’s wedding (I have a very good relationship with this employee in and out of the office), and I was truly honored to be invited. My spouse and I went and had a wonderful time with other coworkers who were also invited. I’ve had other employees and colleagues recently get married and I wasn’t invited to their weddings, and I was not offended in the slightest! It’s YOUR wedding. Invite who you want to invite and don’t worry about anything else!

      7. Lemon Zinger*

        It really depends on the style of the wedding, too. Many couples are going with smaller, more casual weddings these days, especially with the explosion of the wedding industry. Everything is impossibly expensive!

        My parents’ wedding was paid for by my wealthy grandparents, who viewed it as an occasion for social climbing. There were 400 guests, including (but not limited to) my grandfathers’ business associates and boss, my mother’s business associates and boss, and a few of my dad’s coworkers– who were his friends anyway.

        1. Oryx*

          This was how my younger sister’s wedding was — it’s pretty much the main reason I’m so glad she got married first because my parents got that out of their system and don’t really care what I do.

        2. OP#5*

          Yes, we know we’ll be totally paying for the wedding ourselves. So, no offense, I’d rather save that money or invite someone I’m closer to than my boss.

    3. Mander*

      My husband invited his former boss to our wedding, but they had become friends and he was not actually working for him at the time. I sure as heck didn’t invite my PhD supervisor, which was the closest thing I had to a boss at the time.

      I’d say if he likes his boss and genuinely wants the boss to be there that’s one thing. But I don’t think there is any sense of obligation to invite them.

      1. Sigrid*

        My (highly dysfunctional) PhD supervisor had a rule that she needed to be invited to the weddings of any of her graduate students, even if they got married after they got their PhD and left her lab. I got married after I left and *didn’t* invite her, because honestly if I never see her again in my life it will be too soon, and she’s never forgiven me for it. Fortunately I’m no longer in academia and she can’t directly affect my career, but I’m connected enough to my old career that I still hear, both through the grapevine and occasionally from her directly, that she’s still upset about it.

        1. Chameleon*

          Wow, I’ve heard some good advisor horror stories, but that is awful. My advisor was exactly the opposite…he didn’t even show up to my graduation party.

          1. Sigrid*

            Honestly, that was a pretty minor thing in her spectrum of dysfunction. There are a lot of reasons why I’m no longer in academia, but never having to deal with her again is a major one.

      2. Newby*

        Pretty much everyone in my program invited their PhD supervisor to their wedding and they came about half the time. It was pretty standard at my school.

    4. Jack the Treacle Eater*

      I can’t understand why anyone would want to invite their boss, let alone why they’d feel obliged or it would become part of social etiquette. Weddings are for family and close friends – to invite the boss seems like currying favour or an unacceptable blurring of boundaries.

      1. MK*

        “Weddings are for family and close friends”

        Eh, not really? Or rather, it ofetn depends on the culture, but should depend on the people getting married; they are the ones who decide what their wedding is about. If a couple wants everyone they ever met there to celebrate their nuptials and have a 500+ guest list, of course they will invite their boss (most big weddings I attended have a “coworkers/colleagues” table at the reception); maybe it’s about currying favor, but often it’s about “I want the whole world to share my joy”. The same goes for boundaries; the people involved decide where they draw them and what is acceptable.

        1. Jack the Treacle Eater*

          Cultural difference maybe. See a lot of the posts above and below, particularly from UK posters. I certainly can’t think of any weddings I’ve been to where the boss, managers or co-workers were invited unless they were personal friends, not just work acquaintances.

          And how many issues have we seen reported on AAM due to a blurring of the boundaries between personal and work life?

        2. OP#5*

          Ours will definitely be a small wedding. Probably 50 people total. (My father has 9 siblings and my fiancé has a huge group of cousins.) We’re squished for space because we’re hoping to rent out the restaurant where we met on our first date (which can hold 80 guests). I wouldn’t invite my boss mainly because of the number limit not because I don’t like him.

      2. Not an IT Guy*

        I can tell you exactly why people from my work were invited to my wedding, including my boss: At-will employment.

      3. Rmric0*

        (In the US at least) It seems to me that the idea of inviting the boss is a holdover from an era where, for a certain class, a wedding was much more of a social event for the couple’s parents. They’ve certainly shifted to be much more about the couple

        1. Gaia*

          Literally just dealt with this with a direct report. We had been discussing her upcoming wedding and she’d mentioned she wanted just close friends and family so they’d decided not to invite any coworkers. It came up when we were talking about how out of control some wedding sizes seem (500+ guests, etc). Three days later I got an invitation from her mother at the office. My direct report is the one that receives mail at the office and was horrified. It was super awkward. I told her I’d just pretend that didn’t come and she could talk to her mother.

          Her parents are of a certain class and have strong beliefs about their daughter’s wedding. Hearing about it all just makes me grateful mine wouldn’t be able to pay for my wedding – I don’t want the drama.

          1. Relly*

            Our guest list was over 300, but that’s entirely because I come from a huge family. (I mean HUGE. I have 30-odd first cousins, many of whom are married with kids themselves. It really bloats the headcount in a hurry.)

            Of course, my MIL got upset that “my side” was so much bigger than “his side” (his family: not huge) so she submitted a list of 10-15 extra couples she wanted to invite to make things “more fair” … Ah, weddings.

        2. Development Professional*

          I agree that it’s from another era, but not about the parents – in that case, you’d be inviting your dad’s boss, not your own.

          It’s a hold over from a time when most people would expect to remain with that same company for the next 20-30 years. Maybe your boss would change, but it was symbolic of the nearly lifelong relationship with an employer. Today, so many people change jobs multiple times in their career. The idea of investing in and recognizing the importance of your relationship with your employer just doesn’t resonate any more.

      4. KWalmostB*

        I’m from the Caribbean, and it’s pretty much still the norm here to invite one’s immediate boss to the wedding. Our society is really small and can be quite insular, and you’re more likely to see or socialise with your boss than anywhere else I’ve lived (North America, Asia and Europe). It’s kinda hard to get away from it.

        I’m getting married in December and while for me, this is a no-brainer (I’m self-employed in the wellness industry), my fiancé had invited his supervisor out of politeness. Now the supervisor has resigned and will likely be leaving just around the time of our ceremony, and now Sir B (whose role may change as a result of this shift) is seriously considering inviting his soon to be new supervisor.

      5. hermit crab*

        My s.o. and I had a smallish wedding, inviting just close friends/family/other special people, but we invited my (now-former, then-current) manager because she falls in that category to me. I certainly didn’t invite her out of any sense of obligation. It’s just that different individuals have different kinds of important people in their lives.

      6. Amy*

        I don’t think it’s that strange. I invited my immediate team to my wedding (4 co-workers + boss.) I spent 40 hours a week with these people! And I happen to like them too. I don’t think I’ve spent a total of 40 hours over a lifetime with some of my great aunts.

    5. FTW*

      At my firm, it’s pretty typical to invite your boss and even your boss’s boss.

      We are pretty flat in culture and very supportive of each other, so it feels natural and in no way an obligation.

  7. NPOQueen*

    OP #1, I was on the hiring panel for an administrative assistant candidate a couple of years ago. Our process was moving very slowly due to the inability for everyone to get together (it was the busy season for fundraising). We’d done our final round of interviews and were trying to get together to compare notes and make a decision. It took a few days to get together, and during this time, one candidate’s mother phoned in. She knew one of our fundraisers and called her to check in on the process. It left a very bad taste in our mouths because firstly, we are considering hiring the child, not the mother. Secondly, now we don’t know how involved the mother would be if we did hire her child. Would she get upset if her child got menial tasks? Would she call in if the child didn’t do well in a performance review? The mother might have just wanted to follow up, but for us, we didn’t want to take that chance. Her child was on the edge anyway, and that call tipped the scales in a bad way.

    I’m glad you want to help your son, but so many things can be read into your inquiry. You could be perfectly lovely, or you could be a helicopter parent. My hiring panel decided not to take the chance.

  8. Blurgle*

    OP #1, you might also want to ask yourself if your son would appreciate knowing that you don’t think he’s capable of handling his own life as an adult and needs his mommykins to do everything for him behind his back. Really: if my mother had tried that stunt I’m not sure if ten years would have been long enough for me to forgive her.

    1. ginger ale for all*

      That seems harsh. If she was a true helicopter parent, she wouldn’t have written in for advice, jmo.

      1. Blurgle*

        I don’t think it is harsh. I also think parents, helicopter or not, sometimes need a bit of a nudge to stop seeing their children as “kids” – but if they don’t stop, the harm to their relationship can be far deeper and far longer-lasting than a few words on a blog could ever be.

        1. OhNo*

          Agreed. It might be one thing if the son had asked her to do this, and she was just checking to see if it was appropriate. But there’s no indication that he even knows she’s considering this, which is just not kosher.

          OP, please step back and let your son manage his own professional life. I know it’s counter-intuitive, since you have experience and want to help him out, but there’s somethings that you just can’t do for him. This is one. Stick to giving advice and being supportive if things don’t work out.

      2. EddieSherbert*

        Yeah, I think what you want to convey is appropriate but how said it is overly harsh. It’s definitely true that some parents need to put extra effort into letting their kids lead their own lives – but OP#1 wrote in to AAM for advice, and we’re not here to be rude to them.

  9. Artemesia*

    I would not put the past theft in writing 2
    Perhaps seek him out or even call. Having the talk makes sense but don’t put it on paper.

    1. Mander*

      I don’t think I would put it in writing either. If you are super worried about it maybe ask the people involved to meet you for coffee, or else just wait until you actually see that person at an event and then take them aside somewhere. It’s probably better to express these things in person, anyway, so that your genuine emotion is easier to read.

    2. Photoshop Til I Drop*

      Agreed. I’m perplexed that the advice is to rehash something from years ago by admitting guilt on paper. This is a terrible idea.

      1. OhBehave*

        Agreed. Ten years is a long time. Rehashing this in written form is a mistake. It will only serve to remind them of your theft and the handling of the incident (this person may not have agreed with the solution!). Why rock the boat? If you do happen to run into them at a function, greet them in a friendly manner and move on. They will see that you have succeeded despite your setback. The best way assuage your guilt is to treat those around you with the same grace you were shown.

    3. hbc*

      I’d be surprised if the theft wasn’t already well-documented at the company. Unless their accounting department is very laissez faire, you don’t just have ex-employees sending you money for undocumented reasons. Plus, it’s a decade later and the money has been repaid–exactly how much harm could be done with such a letter and what would be the motivation?

      If I put myself in the owners’ place, I’d be a little annoyed if I had to put time on my schedule just so a former employee could feel better. A letter is perfect for expressing gratitude like this.

      1. Another Manager*

        No. No. No.

        I’ve worked at companies that purge their files every 10 years, every 7 years and even every 3 years. You don’t know if they even kept a record or if the owners have handed over some of their responsibilities to other managers who currently don’t know about the incident. You don’t know whose hands that letter will fall into!

        I’d wait until I saw them at an event and see how they react. If the opportunity it right (like, if they’re not busy talking to others), perhaps approach them. Just make sure it’s not a networking event where it’s loud. You don’t want to have to yell into someone’s ear.

    4. Agree with Artemesia*

      Offering a written confession is extremely risky. This is very harmful advice IMHO. It’s certainly not worth the gamble that the former employer is in a forgiving frame of mind. I wouldn’t do this without at least consulting an attorney first.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        If they didn’t press charges at the time, is there some reason why they’d have gotten *more* strict with time? LW #2 was found out and fired; this isn’t a case of admitting something the former employers didn’t already know.

        1. Natalie*

          It’s probably irrelevant since it’s been 10 years – that’s going to be outside of the statute of limitations for theft basically everywhere.

          1. Anon7*

            Well, assuming theft was the charge they chose. There might be other options – fraud, perhaps? Identity theft, depending on how the money was taken?

            But even setting aside the issue of criminal charges, it’s not generally wise to send an admission of an ethical violation out into the world. You never know whose hands it may end up in. She could still get fired, demoted, or prevented from advancing if the wrong person found out.

            1. Natalie*

              Sure, I’m not saying she should necessarily write the letter. I just thought it was worth pointing out that she’s very, very unlikely to be charged considering that she is pretty anxious about this.

        2. Alton*

          I still think it’s very risky to admit to a crime in writing. Even if you’re potentially okay with accepting legal consequences, I wouldn’t recommend that anyone provide an official statement without a lawyer representing them.

          No, it’s probably not likely that they’d be stricter now years later. But you can’t know for sure what the climate is like or what’s changed.

          1. JessaB*

            Or who else would see such a letter. Depending on the type of firm documents may be reviewed by outside sources. Or someone who just doesn’t like OP may see it and blab it all over the place. It’s a long time ago. And OP has been working at this point for a long time. You do not need current/future employers to have this shoved in their faces. It could cost you a lot. Do nothing without a lawyer involved.

    5. OhNo*

      It is possible to write a letter without an express admission of guilt, if that’s a concern for the OP. Something like, “I still feel terrible about the circumstances surrounding my departure. I can’t thank you enough for the kindness you showed – it gave me opportunity to turn my life around and become a better person.”

      No need to admit guilt, or reference the specific details. If the owners remember the incident, they’ll know exactly what OP is talking about without having to say, “Hey, remember that time I stole from you?”

      1. EddieSherbert*


        I’d personally lean towards letting it go, and just seeing how things go when I do see them. But if you really would prefer talking to them, or thanking them for how they handled it, you can totally send something without “confessing.” Good luck, OP#2!

      2. Agree with Artemesia*

        Okay, but the advice was to send a letter “saying that you’ve spent the last decade reflecting on what happened and trying to make amends in your life (if that’s true), apologizing for what happened, and telling them that you’re grateful that they gave you the chance to course-correct your life.” I’m afraid such language does imply wrongdoing. Telling the OP that the employer *probably* won’t use such a letter against her falls into the category of, “This is a risk I’m fully prepared for you to take.”

    6. Meg Murry*

      I think writing the letter may be therapeutic to the OP – but I don’t think s/he should actually send it. And s/he should probably address it to “Dear Former Boss” or something generic and not put it in an envelope with the address – because that sounds too much like the plot of a crazy novel/movie where the letter accidentally gets found and mailed and then hijinks ensue on the pursuit to get the letter back. :-)

      I think writing it out should help OP address these feelings, but I don’t think it’s necessary to actually send it and re-stir up this past hurt. After all, the owners have moved on from this and have probably encountered other not-great former employees since then, no need for OP to shoot him/herself back up to the top of that list instead of buried back in their distant memories.

      As far as how to treat the former bosses when they encounter them around town, I think just a casual head nod across the room if you happen to make eye contact is enough – otherwise, don’t make a point to avoid them or pretend you don’t know them, but don’t go out of your way to chat them up either. It will be awkward, but I doubt the former bosses are going to call out OP in the meeting as “there’s that terrible person that stole from us 10 years ago!”

      Relatedly, OP, you mention that you stole the money due to being in desperate circumstances. Would it help your guilt to donate time or money toward a cause to help others in that kind of circumstance? Perhaps there is a community fund to help people who have medical expenses not covered by insurance, or that provides assistance to people that can’t pay their utility bills, student loans, gambling debts or whatever drove you to your poor decision. Of course you can’t change the past, but perhaps you can help someone else from making the same mistake in the future.

      1. JenVan*

        OP #2, I’m a member of a program in which we make amends for all the wrongs of our past. It’s actually necessary that we do so in order to recover. I think Alison’s advice is spot on, whether you do so in writing or in person. I don’t think writing a letter would be as terrible as some make it sound, just carefully word it. However, if your former employers will be willing to see you, I would do so in person. You would be surprised how many people are very accepting of these kinds of genuine apologies. Most of the time, all they want to hear is that you’ve cleaned up your life and haven’t harmed any others. I think the fact that they didn’t file charges in the beginning says a lot about their potential reception of your apology. Also, there are statutes of limitations on criminal acts, but carefully wording a letter can be useful too.

        I believe proactively making an attempt at amends will offer a huge relief, and not only because you may see them on the future, but for your own mental health as well.

        Good luck!

  10. Anna*

    #4 – I’d refuse to pay. It’s not clear you legally owe the money, it’s ridiculous that they asked that of you in the first place, etc. The company is unlikely to try to pursue you for the $7k and it’ll cost them a lot more in legal fees if they do. If they pitch a huge fit then consider offering to split it and pay $3,500. People sign things all the time that then get renegotiated. And remember – they can’t take the $7k out of any pay they owe you.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It sounds pretty clear she owes the money; she signed a contract agreeing to pay it. Education reimbursement agreements are really common, and they are definitely enforceable. But yes, she could certainly attempt to renegotiate the amount. Ultimately it’s up to the company though, assuming it’s a legally sound contract (no reason to think it’s not though).

        1. ginger ale for all*

          But the employee may want to think about the fact that this company will be on her resume for years to come and she made need a good reference. Someone mentioned installments and that might be the way to go. Best wishes.

          1. Gin Fizz*

            Just because a job is on your resume doesn’t mean they need to be a good reference. In fact, it’s silly to expect a good reference from a company you’ve left. You can ask a fellow employee, or a manager if you’re on excellent terms with them, for a reference, but that’s different from listing the job on your resume. If a future employer calls the company (i.e., HR), all they are going to give are verification and dates of employment. Stating anything personally negative about the employee that does not adhere strictly to facts can potentially open them up to a defamation suit, and they know this.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              But this would adhere to facts.

              Negative references aren’t uncommon; it’s not illegal to give a bad reference. And it’s especially not illegal to give a lukewarm, unenthused reference, which is often the bigger worry.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          There’s certainly no harm in talking to a lawyer, and I noted that in the answer to the OP, but for what it’s worth, it’s very much not operating in good faith to sign a contract that you don’t intend to honor.

          1. neverjaunty*

            While that’s true, it’s also very much not operating in good faith to pressure an employee retroactively like this with job security hanging over her head if she refuses.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              We don’t know there was particular pressure; maybe there was some but the letter doesn’t describe any.

              It’s perfectly possible to opt out of this kind of thing using the type of language I described in the answer to the letter.

              I understand that the OP felt she had to sign, but it’s not clear that that came from the employer rather than from her own assumption about the situation.

              1. Retail HR Guy*

                “I felt that not signing would be career suicide and told my boss, who did not disagree…”

                Maybe not 100% clear but wouldn’t the boss be strongly implying that it would, in fact, be career suicide by declining to correct OP?

          2. Duncan*

            It wasn’t retroactive; it was a few weeks before the course began. The OP may have felt pressure to sign, but there was no duress in the legal sense (based on what I know from People’s Court, anyway!) The OP inferred it would be career suicide not to sign, but it’s not clear how or even if that was actually expressed. If I had signed that document, I’d be biding my time until the two years was up.

            1. Christopher Tracy*

              The OP inferred it would be career suicide not to sign, but it’s not clear how or even if that was actually expressed.

              The OP says in her letter that not signing would have been career suicide, and when she spoke to her manager, he didn’t disagree. So even her manager didn’t bother quelling her fears about what would happen if she said no, possibly because he knew she was right regarding this particular company (normal, functioning companies will allow you to pass on training that isn’t mandated by some type of regulation or licensure board).

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Eh, the boss just sounds misinformed about what’s typical for employers to pay for when hiring someone (“your next employer will pay for it”). That doesn’t mean he thought it would be career suicide for her not to sign it. It’s perfectly reasonable to decline to sign on the grounds that you can’t predict what will happen in the next two years, per the language I used in the post.

          3. nofelix*

            Well he did kind of intend to honour it, via a future employer paying per his boss’s advice. This seems like the result of the employer taking advantage of the power dynamic and the 4 employees’ inexperience.

            We know that he should not have trusted his boss’s advice, nor accepted the company ignoring their questions (“just said it was a great opportunity and we should do it”).

        3. Employment Lawyer*

          Ha. Well, since I’m here….

          Most obviously I’d try to prorate it. They got 50% of their “repayment period” out of you, so it’s ridiculous to expect you to bear 100% of the burden. You might have a decent argument for a 50% reduction, both on ethical grounds and maybe state law grounds (depending on your state.)

          Alternatively you can retract your resignation (or don’t quit) and get fired instead, which MIGHT (depending on the contract) be worth it.

          And finally, you can always negotiate. Two weeks’ notice is fairly short and though it’s standard it is hard for employers. If you’re a valuable employee you might have some leverage. Do they want more notice? Do they want you to work increased hours and train your replacement? Do they want you to avoid working for a direct competitor–would you sign a noncompete as a substitute for the fine? Do they want you to commit to answering questions, etc?

          1. VivaL*

            I was just coming to say this, so +1 on the prorating, negotiating down, negotiating in lieu of, etc. etc.

          2. CAA*

            I’m curious as to whether this was properly taxed and reported to the IRS. They’re treating it as repayment of a tuition reimbursement, but if that’s the case, then everything over $5250 should have been reported as income on her W-2s for the year(s) in which she took the classes — unless taking them was required as a condition of employment. If the classes were required in order to continue her employment, then I would think she has a decent case for not having to reimburse the $7000.

            Anyway, even if she chooses not to talk to a lawyer now, if she ends up repaying some or all of this money she needs to talk to a tax professional when it comes to filing her 2016 taxes. (Not necessarily a CPA. An ordinary tax preparer should be able to handle this.)

          3. Op4*

            Thanks for all the great feedback. I did consult a lawyer who did say I had a case since they changed the terms of the agreement. I could plead duress but it would be harder since no one held a gun to my head. That said I knew if i didn’t sign I would have to find a new job. I have a family to support so quitting then wasn’t an option. I recently approached the vp of HR to see if they would consider a compromise since they have most definitely reaped an roi on this one. She refused to admit she did anything wrong and fully expects repayment. I work in an industry where I will see her our CEO and others regularly. I see fighting this as future career suicide because I will be talked about and facts will be omitted.

            What I have taken from this is to get all the information before agreeing to take a course! I hope this creates good karma for me and 7k comes my way differently

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I just don’t get the “if i didn’t sign I would have to find a new job.” Why not use the framing I suggested in the post and say you weren’t comfortable committing to that since you couldn’t predict what kind of personal emergencies the future might hold? That’s a normal thing to say, and it gets said all the time!

              (I’m not intending to criticize you here, just trying to illustrate this for the future or anyone else who’s reading.)

            2. Not Your Honey*

              I don’t understand the “if I didn’t sign I would have to find a new job” part either – unless there were other bigger factors going on, like performance issues. Perhaps management was strongly signalling to the OP that there were gaps that could only be addressed through this training and stronger commitment to the job? In some places, refusing to sign the agreement (and potentially having to forego the course as a result) could cause some awkwardness, but it would have to be an off-the-charts dysfunctional company for that alone to force you out of the job…

        4. CEMgr*

          Agreed, it’s quite possible OP has meritorious defenses. Not every signed agreement constitutes an enforceable contract….this is a common misunderstanding and potentially a harmful one. Possible defenses (which of course would need to be developed correctly in any individual cases by a lawyer working with all facts in hand):
          * Misrepresentation
          * Fraud
          * Fraud in the inducement
          * Inequity
          * Countersuit based on non-payment for hours spend
          * Unconscionability
          * Undue influence

    2. Christopher Tracy*

      It’s not clear you legally owe the money,

      Yes it is – she signed a reimbursement agreement, which in a lot (most?) companies is either drafted in part or in its entirety by the legal department. If she chooses not to pay the money back, that’s a breach of contract. Depending on the size of her company, they can and will come after her for this money. All they’d have to do is hand it over to a collections department or whatever group they have at the company who goes after unpaid debts, and her former manager and whoever suggested her for the training in the first place will go back to business as usual. Meanwhile, OP will be dodging collections calls and quite possibly a small claims suit. They’d want to get their money back if they’re regularly paying for trainings like this, and reimbursing tuition for degrees, to make an example out of OP so the other people who’ve signed these agreements will know these things will be enforced. All of this not even considering what her future reference from this company will be going forward if she doesn’t pay it back (and OP said she’s in a small world industry where everyone knows everyone – OP does not want to get the reputation for backing out on contracts and stiffing her employer when it suits her. That would make me decline hiring her for my company if I found something like this out.

      1. Gin Fizz*

        It’s worth having a lawyer look over it, though. Just because it’s written down and you signed it doesn’t mean it’s enforceable.

  11. Violet Fox*

    I have a bit of a question. How common are situations like #4 where a company will pay for some sort of training but only if the person being trained sticks around for a set amount of time (1 year, 2 years etc)? Is this something someone can expect if work is paying for additional training?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s more typical if you’re taking advantage of tuition reimbursement — like having your employer pay for classes toward a degree. It’s not at all typical if it’s job-specific training. In this case, it was a Lean training, which isn’t job-specific, so it’s somewhere in between those two things.

    2. Nurse Ratched*

      I’m sure it depends on the industry, but in healthcare it’s not unheard of for specialties that are time-intensive to train and in high demand. When I took the program to become a critical care nurse from a telemetry nurse I had to agree to 2 years at a certain FTE or else I had to pay back my salary for the didactic portion of the class. I know the operating room and advanced cardiopulmonary do the same thing.

        1. Nurse Ratched*

          The course itself doesn’t really have a cost. Our clinical nurse specialist teaches it 2-3 times a year as part of her role. It’s only available to employees and we are paid our normal wage for the time we spend in class. The whole program lasts 4 months and it’s a combination of classroom, skills lab, and precepted shifts on the unit. If I had to guess, it’d maybe be a month’s worth of salary on the non-patient care stuff.

    3. Grey*

      It’s common for employers to cover the cost of any optional training or education since you’d be using this knowledge to their benefit. A repayment agreement typically goes along with that. You employer doesn’t want to pay for something they won’t benefit from, and they don’t want to pay for helping you get a new job.

  12. Em Too*

    #4, is that the full amount? I wonder if they’d be prepared to take half, since you stayed half of the two year period?

    1. HR Pro*

      Yes, I came here to say the same thing. I think a pro-rated payment is a good approach to take with negotiating the payback, since you have been there for one year of the two-year requirement.

      Also, ask for a payment plan, as others have noted.

      1. RVA Cat*

        Most tuition reimbursement plans are structured that way, where they “vest” after two years but if you leave prior to that you pay back the pro-rated amount.

      2. Op4*

        They did pro rate it but they did it in a way that I would have had to stay for 15 months to get 25% off 18 mos for 50% and so one. I wish I had tried to negotiate that at the time of the letter. I’d be ok with $3500 but 7 stings for something that only gets me a certificAtion. And just a green belt. If I could say I had my black belt… Well that would a resume builder lol

    2. Lady Blerd*

      I was going to ask the same thing as well. LW4 should at least try to negotiate for an amount that is the pro-rata of the time she stayed with the company.

      That said, they did sign the agreement. This is an expensive lesson to learn but they chose to sign it.

      1. OhBehave*

        OP did sign the agreement at the time of training so they were fully aware of the consequences of not adhering to the details. Assuming the next employer would want to fork over the cost of this training seems naïve to me. How were they to know that the next employer would value this training?
        Getting them to agree to half the amount or payments may be their only option.

  13. embertine*

    LW #3, I had a similar situation – I didn’t steal, but in my early twenties I left a work placement very abruptly after only a few weeks where I did not behave professionally at all (due to immaturity but also difficult personal circumstances). Around ten years afterwards, I wrote a short letter to the company acknowledging my behaviour and apologising. I kept it brief and straightforward and thanked them for the opportunity they had given me. I received a very warm email from my former employer, stating that it was water under the bridge and he was pleased I was still working in the industry.

    I think provided that you can avoid overdoing it with the self-flagellation, AAM’s advice is spot-on. Address it now – you will feel better.

  14. Courtney*

    #3 Do not hire without checking both of those references! Totally fishy!! We just dodged a bullet in a very similar situation. Turns out our seemingly amazing candidate had stolen cash from his last two employers. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with checking references not listed by the candidate so long as you aren’t calling their current employer without their permission. In fact, I make it a point to talk with the former supervisor if the candidate has left them off the list of references.

  15. Big10Professor*

    #4: I think a key part here is that it doesn’t really sound like the OP wants to fight it, nor does it necessarily sound like the 7K would be a burden. She could try to negotiate it (is 7K the full amount? Maybe pay half because you stayed one year instead of two) based on the fact that it would cost the company a lot to recover it, but making this as quick and easy as possible is probably her best bet.

  16. Photoshop Til I Drop*

    #4 If you end up having to pay this back, look into claiming the amount on your taxes. Required training for a job probably qualifies, and will ease the burden a bit.

  17. Rmric0*

    No, you don’t have to invite your boss to your wedding (and FWIW it is not ‘standard’ it us probably quite rare). I think the idea has its roots further back when, for a certain class of people, weddings were more of a showcase and social event for the couple’s parents.

    1. Rmric0*

      Of course YMMV with your region and your particular culture, it might also be different for your FH if that’s more common in his organization/field.

  18. Trout 'Waver*

    In regards to #4, what about duress? If the OP believed that she had to sign it or be fired or miss future promotions, wouldn’t that make the contract voidable? The company selected OP for the training, didn’t disclose the terms up front, and the OP thought it would be ‘career suicide’ to not sign. I’d talk to an attorney immediately to suss it out.

    Also, the company is being idiotic here. If they are big enough to have several Lean certified people, they’re not hurting for $7k. They’re going to take a much bigger hit to morale. If my company tried to go after someone like this, I’d immediately start looking for a new job.

  19. Jubilance*

    #4 – Signing away 2 years of your life for a one-time LEAN course is ridiculous. I’ve seen companies do this when they provide a large sum to pay for a degree, but a one-time course? Nuts! You’re probably stuck paying the money but hopefully your new company is more reasonable about paying for training (it’s the cost of doing business).

    1. Meg Murry*

      At first I agreed with you ($7K for a Lean course? Wow, they got ripped off) but I think it makes a big difference if they were talking about a one time training course that was 1-2 days, or if this was more of an ongoing multi-session training in preparation to take the exam to get a Lean Certification, or Six Sigma Certification. Because a one-off class is mostly going to befit the the employer – but a full out certification could certainly be something that enhances the employee’s resume. I’ve never had to sign repayment agreements for 1-2 day courses, but I have when taking a semester-long course that the company paid for (although that was only for 6 months following the conclusion of the course, not 2 years).

      A 2 year repayment seems a bit steep (most companies I’ve seen would consider it a cost of doing business, or put it more in the 6 months- 1 year timeframe, or a least with some kind of pro-rating). But since OP did sign the paperwork, I think they are probably over a barrel and can only negotiate from here without making their life miserable or at best totally burning this bridge for future reference seeking.

      1. Jubilance*

        I’m experienced in LEAN and Six Sigma, and the portion that takes the longest isn’t the classroom training, it’s actually completing projects which you need to do to get a Green/Black belt certification. I can’t imagine the classroom training portion taking longer than a week, and I’d be really surprised if it was longer than that.

  20. Sorry*

    OP2: Writing a letter is a HUGE no-no. They took pity on you then, there is a chance they won’t take pity on your now. Unless you are 100% certain that they can no longer have you charged do not write any kind of letter regarding your theft.

    Who knows what happened after you left… maybe they found some irregularities and attributed it to your stealing but didn’t pursue any charges because you were gone. If they get a signed letter admitting that you stole from them you risk them seizing the opportunity to go to police or sue you. Or maybe they changed their mind after you left but didn’t have anything to prove what you did and the letter opens up opportunities for them.

    I understand the guilt. In my younger years I was a thief… if there was money around I’d find a way to pinch it and get away with it because I was so trusted. I always left jobs with so much anxiety that I’d get caught before I was out the door, while I never was caught red handed I am positive that at least one of my employers would’ve had suspicions after I left. For that reason I make sure I never apply for positions where I’d be responsible for handling cash.

    But I did get caught once with time theft. I was dragged into the office and given the third degree… then I broke down crying and apologized so they pitied me and said it was water under the bridge. I get anxious at the thought of bumping into them. Even though I know they would never say anything to my face, I can imagine they’d be silently judging me and wondering if I am pulling the same tricks with my new employer.

    The biggest part is not avoiding them, you don’t need to chat them up like they are old friends but at least be professional. Can you imagine the horror if someone asked them why you were avoiding them/acting weird and their comment was that you stole from them? It would be instantly believed because of your behavior.

    Should you bump into them, keep the conversation professional. It is fine to pretend like it never happened, chances are they’ll feel awkward and pretend the same thing. It is your chance to paint yourself as a professional in their eyes.

    The biggest thing you must remember is that there is no point in apologizing again and again when the matter was resolved. If you feel compelled to apologize in hopes it’ll ease your guilt, this is something that should be done either face-to-face or in a phone conversation – not written down. If bumping into them you can make a comment like “I am really embarrassed about what happened when I worked for you. I just want you to know that I am sorry it ever happened and I’ve come a long way since then.”

    One thing I find that helped me personally was counselling, talking to a unbiased party can really help put into perspective what happened and why you are so embarrassed by it. Another thing is writing a letter and burning it – write out what happened, why you did it, why it was wrong, and why you are sorry as well as how you’ve changed.

      1. Sorry*

        In regards to stealing money – I am not entirely sure that I’ve changed my ways. I only really minimize the risk of repeating the behaviour.

        I had started stealing as a young child in school – starting off with pens, treats off the teachers desk, and then going up to things like toys and books. Looking back, the extreme reaction of my mother when I was caught multiple times really taught me not that stealing was wrong, just that you need to not get caught.

        In every job I had up to the age of 20, it involved handling money. For some reason I just could not control myself when there was the opportunity to grab even a quarter without anyone noticing. I’d steal from the register, short people on their change, and never missed a chance to skim from the coin rolls in the safe. It was when I was promoted to the cash office of a grocery store that I really got bad – it was no longer a coin here and there but I was dealing with thousands of dollars every day. Looking back, I probably stole upwards of $1000 for no reason other than I was compelled to. No one ever called me on shortages because it was the nature of the business and I was very trusted.

        After I left that job and got away with it I swore up and down that I’d never do it again… but then I got an internship with a business that let me have my own cash drawer. Even then the temptation was too great – I did not steal much (maybe $10 over the summer) but I knew then that if I could not even get through a summer without stealing a few dollars every month that I had a serious problem. I had a horrific day when my cash was short $100 (not stolen) and I was terrified that they’d accuse me of stealing the money and fire me, but it was just an adding error on my part.

        After that I turned down a bank teller job offer because I knew I’d end up stealing again and my luck would eventually run out. So I only applied for jobs where cash wasn’t going to be involved – which did help. But again, I found myself looking in the office supply cupboards wondering if there was anything I could grab… and then came the time theft.

        Something just clicked in me that because I wasn’t getting ahead from pinching money that I should be getting something out of it other than a paycheque. So I started to waste time at work, sometimes excessively. If my supervisor was out for the day I would do only enough work to have something to show her. It was getting caught constantly minimizing browsers and not clearing my history that got my called into the office and yelled at. Since they no longer trusted me (and were always looking over my shoulder) it was easy to stop the behavior because there was a constant risk of being caught. It was also their disappointment in my behaviour that really weighed heavily on me… it was years ago and it still haunts me to this day.

        I still struggle with the time theft in my new job, I do my best to keep internet browsing within my 2 breaks a day… but there are still days where I get out of control. There is even cash involved in my job but the balancing is the responsibility of another employee, so there is no chance for me to get into my old ways of taking money.

        I am still at a loss for how to fix the behavior – it seems to boil down to supervision. If left alone I know I will waste time – so I really need to get into an environment with constant supervision to stop my time theft problems. Even with the cash, having someone else responsible eliminates my opportunities, so I again need to focus on jobs where that will not be a responsibility.

        The weirdest thing is that it is only professionally that this is a problem. I haven’t stolen outside of work since I was a teenager slipping a $0.10 chocolate into my pocket. I would never dare dream from stealing from a store, or a friend, but for some reason stealing from work seems morally acceptable in my brain – even though I know it is wrong and feel immensely guilty because of it.

        It kills me that I can’t just take a good job because I cannot trust myself. Everyone wants trusted employees that can work unsupervised – I want to be that person but it does not seem possible.

        1. WellRed*

          Isn’ there some sort of program or app that will block you from surfing the internet except for during certain times (that you can set yourself)?

          1. SarahTheEntwife*

            There are several, and ones that will block certain sites only if you need the internet for your job (or whatever else it is you want to be doing instead of checking Facebook). I like LeechBlock.

        2. MissGirl*

          Thank you for your insight and good on you for recognizing there’s certain things you can’t do right now. Have you ever considered therapy for your compulsion? I have a friend in addiction recovery and the behaviors sound similar.

          1. Candi*

            I second the recommendation to look into therapy. Kleptomania is “the compulsion to steal”, and is a very real disorder. A good therapist can help you explore ways to blunt the edge of the compulsion that don’t involve constant supervision.

        3. Chriama*

          Wow, I’m really impressed with your level of self-analysis here. I was wondering if you’ve ever considered therapy? You seem to have a good understanding of how to insulate yourself from certain behavior, but maybe something like CBT can help you actually change those behaviour.

  21. Jesmlet*

    Op #1- Also consider that unless it is about specific skills, there’s very little chance they would tell you why he actually wasn’t hired. For all you know he could just not interview well, or have said something that turned them off. Also consider the effect any feedback you get from them will have on him. He doesn’t need the message that mom will swoop in and help him out when he doesn’t succeed in something like this. It’s more than likely going to happen many more times so don’t give him the idea that he should have been hired and is entitled to feedback when he isn’t. Just accept that he wasn’t and try again somewhere else.

    1. Non-Prophet*

      This is a great point. OP1 is very unlikely to get an honest answer from the hiring manager, unless her son just didn’t have the requisite skills. If the hiring manager thought he wouldn’t be the right fit for some other reason (e.g., if he came across as pushy or immature or nonprofessional), the hiring manager probably wouldn’t feel comfortable disclosing any of those factors to his mother. Parents are known to go on the official juice when someone criticizes their children (OP1, I’m not saying you would do this, but just presenting a hypothetical).

          1. Non-Prophet*

            Haha, I’ve had a few amusing autocorrect mistakes in my day. I once tried to text my friend “congrats!” when she told me about a promotion. Instead, my text autocorrected to “Congress!” (With the explanation mark and everything). She was very confused…

  22. Tiny_Tiger*

    OP #5: With how expensive weddings are these days, whoever came up with that etiquette rule is out of their gourd. Why would you invite someone from your professional life to an event for your private life and spend X amount more just for “good etiquette” sense? If you’re on really good terms with your boss it might (MIGHT) be a different story, as seems to be the case with your fiancee, but I would not feel any pressure to follow his example whatsoever. Most of my family didn’t even get an invite to my wedding as it was a very small affair done in Las Vegas, forget coworkers or my boss(es).

  23. Anonymous Educator*

    For OP#1: I used to work in high school admissions, and it was fairly typical for the admission offices I worked in to preemptively call a parent of a current student (for a sibling) or a board member parent or faculty parent if the student was not going to be admitted to basically say something along the lines of “Hey, we can’t take your kid, but we wanted to give you the courtesy of a personal phone call, since you’re part of our community, to let you know instead of you just finding out via a form letter.”

    I believe that would have been great for your colleagues to have done for you (not necessarily explaining the reasons he wasn’t hired—they don’t owe you that), but I don’t think it’s something you can demand of them if they don’t. I also think it’s a bit different with high school admissions (these are 13-year-old kids we’re talking about) and job interviews (your son is an adult).

    Definitely let it go.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        That’s what I said, didn’t I?
        I also think it’s a bit different with high school admissions (these are 13-year-old kids we’re talking about) and job interviews (your son is an adult)

        1. Cat steals keyboard*

          No, you said it would have been great for them to have done that.

          It wouldn’t. It really wouldn’t.

        2. Oryx*

          No, you said you think they SHOULD have called the OP to give her a head’s up they weren’t hiring son. That’s not a good idea whatsoever.

    1. Observer*

      It’s MORE than “a bit” different. It’s so different, that it really would not make sense to expect the coworker to give mom a heads up.

        1. Observer*

          But you did say that it would have been “great” for them to have done it for her. I don’t understand why they would even have thought of it.

  24. Trigurl01*

    #4 — paying back $7000 in training. OP you definitely need to speak with an attorney. I was in the same situation and found out the agreement wasn’t binding and my company didn’t always enforce repayment. I don’t remember the legal term but I saw it as type of discrimination by my former company and the attorney advised that companies have to enforce 100% or they have no legal standing. I advised them what my attorney told me and they dropped it. I also made sure to let my former company know they can’t report this on my credit report.

  25. Snarky*

    #2 – I think you should do what Alison suggested and write a letter to the former employer. If the comments here have you worried about putting it down on paper, just don’t explicitly state the issue you’re addressing. (Besides, if you stole from them, they’re going to know exactly what you’re talking about without you spelling things out.) You can just state something along the lines of “I know I made some serious mistakes when I worked for you years ago which I regret, but I wanted to take a moment to thank you as it was the beginning of me turning my life around” (or whatever you feel comfortable expressing.)

    Writing the letter will make a possible future interaction a lot less awkward and, if I were your former employer, I’d be overjoyed to know that you turned yourself around. If I ran into you just happenstance, I’d wonder where things were at with you. Writing the letter lets them know that you’ve learned, that you’re not the same person any longer. These are all good things!

  26. Retail HR Guy*

    Re: #1, it would definitely be crossing a line to use your company position to get a coworker to reveal not-normally-shared private company info (the rationale why someone wasn’t hired) for a personal reason.

    I actually had to fire one of my direct reports go over something similar. The differences being that she demanded to know why her daughter wasn’t hired instead of just asked, used her position in HR to intimidate this coworker, actively tried to cover up her actions, and, being in HR, she knew damn well that all of this would be against policy and couldn’t plead ignorance.

    People get emotional when their family is involved, and that can lead to unprofessional decision-making. Take the high road, OP#1, and stay out of it!

  27. Middle Name Jane*

    OP #5:

    I have the opposite problem. My manager’s manager sent invitations to all of us (over 10 people) for her son’s wedding. This manager barely acknowledges my existence, and I didn’t even know she HAD a son. What’s even better is that the invitation didn’t have the parents’ names on them, so I had no clue who this couple was. It wasn’t until the next day at work that we all put two and two together. Needless to say, I checked the “regrets” box and sent the RSVP card back. What a shameless gift grab.

    I’m not married, but I wouldn’t want my boss or any of my coworkers (even those I’m friends with) at my wedding. I want something small and intimate with family and only close friends, but that’s my personality.

    1. OP#5*

      I do plan to ask a few co-workers to attend (depending on cost and space), but I’m actually friends with them outside of work, so it doesn’t feel. But it’s not like I have BBQs with the principal on the weekends!

      1. OhBehave*

        I was married a few months after starting work in a high school. My colleagues gave me a name plate with my married name and that’s it. I was stunned and thrilled. I certainly did not expect a shower nor did they expect to be invited to the wedding. You’re asking those you are friendly with (if there is space/money), which is just fine. Believe me, the principal hasn’t a clue when you are getting married. I’m sure they will be happy for you, but there is no expectation.
        Congratulations and have a fun wedding!

  28. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #2 ICKSNAY on the letter. But do consider this.

    Any encounter you have with the former employer may be equally or even more uncomfortable for him, than for you. If per chance, you do have a face-to-face encounter – just state what you may have said in the letter.

    State that you have gone forward and done well since your termination there, and now know exactly what to do to proceed and progress on. And that you’ve been doing it, and life has been good. Also ask, “hopefully things are going well on your end, at your site, too?”

    They know what went on. You know what went on. And you and they have likely put the incident in the past. As I once told a former lady friend = “Don’t dwell on the past. Don’t be concerned about what could have been. Focus on the present and the future.” Same thing here.

  29. Cat steals keyboard*

    #2 I think if I was your former employer I would be absolutely delighted to learn that my decision not to press charges was the right one – that you took the second chance and used it to live your life well. Try to remember that the thing that’s eating you up right now is something they already know. The things they don’t know, on the other hand, are things that reflect well on you. If you run into them you can tell them how you’ve learned from that mistake and succeeded. How would you feel in their shoes? Chances are it will give them the warm fuzzies. Either that or they don’t even remember. Either way, I hope you can give yourself a break on this.

    1. Anon today*

      This is a good answer. And in response to those that advised against an admission of guilt, you don’t have to be that explicit. You could simply say that you have been reflecting how fairly and thoughtfully the employer responded to you all those years ago and want them to know that it has helped you navigate your career and choices well since that time.

  30. DaniCalifornia*

    I invited my boss and all of my coworkers with spouses to my wedding, but I work in a 10 person firm and we are closer than a normal office. Everyone appeared to have a great time and I enjoyed having them there. I think it really depends on your personal relationship to your coworkers/boss and office culture. Evaluate and decide.

  31. Anon today*

    On the subject of stealing from a former employer, my spouse got a background check call for his ex out of nowhere. They had been divorced and not in contact for more than 20 years. Ex had applied for a job with some government connection and they said they were required to call former spouses. Funny thing was there was no particular animosity, he really didn’t care to burn her in any way but took the position that his ethics required him to answer honestly. He was aware that she had stolen from former employers in her youth and been caught. So he said, well she’s basically a good person but I wouldn’t give her a job that involves handling money or inventory because back in the day if she felt wronged she felt entitled to make herself whole by helping herself. Turns out the job was property clerk for the court. They did hire her so not sure why they bothered to make the call.

  32. blatantlybianca*

    OP #1 – there’s no way to do this without creating the appearance of being a helicopter parent, which will only serve to raise concern’s about your his ability to handle tasks independently. Not sure if you’ve considered coaching your son via mock interviews? As an experienced hiring manager, you may be able to coach him on things he may not be aware of conveying during a phone or in-person interview. I also concur with other commenters re: emailing his thank you note, versus snail mail. I know that I personally do not check our mail station, nor do I regularly go into our office so I often miss mailed items.

  33. kapers*

    OP #2, I totally get how you are feeling, but I think this is guilt and anxiety talking, not reality. You are not under anybody’s microscope but your own at this point. And I understand AAM’s recommendation to take a proactive step of writing the letter, and you should write it all out, but I love the idea of never actually sending it.

    Once someone has accepted your apology and forgiven you, it’s water under the bridge. Apologizing again might make YOU feel better but it places quite a burden upon the recipient, because then they have to deal with an uncomfortable issue they thought they had put to rest. It shifts labor back onto them, puts them in the position of once again having to take care of your feelings, and it borders on the too-personal when your relationship was professional. What if they only forgave you so they could move on or avoid legal hassles, and your reopening the issue pisses them off?

    And yes, I might be overly legalistic, but better not to put this in writing even if you are vague. I’m not saying they are going to or even could pursue charges in this particular crime, but you don’t want this hanging around in print forever, you know? You don’t want it misconstrued, you don’t want to wind up a convenient scapegoat, you don’t want it filed away for future employees at your old company to see.

    If you want to do something proactive, you can map out what you might say and how you might act if you do encounter these folks professionally. Plan, even practice, how to speak with dignity and professionalism. If you see your former boss, don’t bolt– approach them professionally, and if you have the chance to, privately thank them for their understanding all those years ago as it was the impetus for your improvement. Catch them up on your improvement and be proud of how you’ve improved! Sure, when they first see you they might see you as who you were then, but you are different now. Nobody can take that from you.

  34. Laura*

    OP #1 – I was asking for advice on how to improve for awhile when I was interviewing, and never received more than “sorry we had a lot of strong applicants.” A mentor told me that it would be interpreted that I was looking for a way to cause trouble so that it was usually policy to not say anything. It may not be the case at your company but it may have been at previous place the hiring manager may have worked.
    OP #3 – Ask the applicant why. I don’t give out a former manager’s name because he knows I know that all he can do is refer them to HR for dates. If I was to give out his name, he would likely hint to the interviewer that I was ignoring established policy Yes, I left this job 8 years ago for an internal promotion but it would end badly for me if I gave out his name.

  35. Golden Teapot*

    #2 – I was going to say appologize again and offer to make it up to them now that you’re more successful. However, having read the comments, I’m inclined to agree that it’s best considered water under the bridge. You don’t know if the same people are working there now or how the company is doing. If they get a letter in which you admit to theft, they could sue you, or it could end up damaging your reputation just by being out there.

    So I would let it go, but if you run into them, either give them space or be exceptionally warm and friendly, in accordance with any signals they give you. And you could go out of your way to make it up to them. But I would exercise restraint there too because you don’t want it to seem like you’re trying to bribe them to keep quiet about it. Some sort of token gesture or face to face apology could be enough.

    But in the end, we all make mistakes. You gave the money back and were forgiven. So stop stressing.

  36. DragoCucina*

    OP#4 This should have been presented to you far in advance, but there may have been an unknown incident that spurred the letter. We had to institute something similar after a couple of employees had a waited until after cool training opportunities and then quit. Our payback is prorated based on cost and time. Only training more than $500 must be repaid. After 6 months there’s prorated percentage that goes down based on time still at our non-profit.

  37. boop*

    4. Maybe it’s just because I have a tendency to stay too long at shitty jobs but… why did you job search knowing that you signed the contract? It’s valid to argue that you can’t predict when life and emergencies happen to you, but it loses credibility when you intentionally go out looking for new work after promising that you won’t. You agreed to either wait two years (which just fly by anyway) or pay the fee. So… pay it.

    1. Vicki*

      It was a year later. You have no idea what changed in the meantime. I did a job search at a company where they offered us some Very Good stock options if we stayed. I would have loved the stock but the job had become untenable.

  38. Vicki*

    #4 – any people here are saying “You signed; you’re obligated.”

    This is Not True. The known fact is: you signed.
    The obligation is unknown.

    The company wants you to think you’re obligated.

    Talk to a lawyer. Do it _now_. If you were not advised by a lawyer when you signed, you may not be obligated. If you believed you were under pressure to sign, you may not be obligated.

    At the very least, you should be able to work out terms.

  39. Cranston*

    I had to babysit an executive’s son because he couldn’t find a job anywhere else. He watched Netflix all day and I had to clean up after him. It was pretty demoralizing, and I’m looking for a new job.

  40. Candi*

    A quick Google tells me that the statute of limitations depends on whether it’s misdemeanor or felony theft, but ten years puts you in the clear for prosecution just about everywhere in the US.

    If you see the owners in person, thank them for taking a chance on you and allowing you to build your life to the wonderful one you have today.

    If you write a letter, keep it vague; blackmail is still a thing. Something like:

    “Years ago, you took a chance on me when I deserved no such consideration. Thank to your kindness, I have rebuilt my life and more, with even better prospects ahead. I hope you are doing well, and that the compassion you show others returns many times over.”

    (Okay, maybe not that flowery.) :P

    But whatever you do or don’t do regarding communication with your former employer, there’s something I think you can do: Pay it forward. Get involved in some form of community outreach that will let you teach others “Learn from the experience of others. Learn from their mistakes. Pay attention to what went before so you don’t fall in the mire.” Whether you share your personal story is up to you; certainly there are enough stories in the world that you shouldn’t have to. And a mentor at the right time can help redirect a kid in danger of being lost.

  41. The Claims Examiner*

    #5 – I did invite my whole office and my boss to my wedding, but we are 6 people total, and all work very closely together on a team and are friends. My mom invited only a few people from work to her wedding long ago, and said that people she wasn’t close to and weren’t in her department got really upset that they weren’t invited (there were at least 3 large operations sites with tens of thousands of employees in our area; not feasible to invite everyone!). I think it depends on where you work, but really if I were a teacher, unless this was a very small school, I probably wouldn’t invite my principal with the level of interaction you’re saying you have..

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