update: my employee secretly brought her kids to work and forced a coworker to watch them

Remember the letter-writer earlier this year who inherited an employee, Mary, who had secretly brought her kids to work and forced an admin to watch them? Here’s the update.

I spoke to the admin before she left the company and she provided a schedule of when she had to watch the kids. I compared that to old timesheets that I convinced Finance to give me (more on that later) and confirmed that timecard fraud had occurred. Mary did not clock out when driving her kids to school. Thank you to the readers who pointed this out! Even after hearing this, my manager pushed for me to “rehabilitate” Mary and said that what was done was done and warned me that I was not allowed to fire Mary.

I decided if I couldn’t fire her, I’d lay her off. I assessed the drop in support requests from other departments since this drama unfolded and people stopped wanting to work with her, and found that we had a 82% reduction! Based on that, I started paperwork to lay Mary off due to lack of work in this position. When I presented the data, my boss still said we had to keep her but the COO (who has taken over since the CFO was put on sabbatical) agreed it was the right decision. Within two months of my letter, Mary was gone.

Back to the timesheet issue. When I was justifying Mary’s layoff to the COO and my boss, my boss vehemently disagreed with the decision and said that one issue wasn’t enough. Off the cuff, I mentioned the timecard fraud. The COO investigated after Mary had been laid off and determined that she should have been fired.

Because I accessed “private documents” from Finance, I was fired. (I was told by the finance manager that I have access to her current timesheets as her manager, but her past timesheets were “private.” I told him that was ridiculous and to give them to me anyway. I guess it’s a company policy because when I was fired, the COO specifically said the same policy.)

Because my boss tried to cover up the timecard fraud, he was fired.

After you ran my letter, I investigated the room the kids were hidden in. It’s a small back room we use to store extra furniture and the janitor’s cleaning chemicals (!). The room smells like pine sol and bleach even when the door is open and has no ventilation system or windows. It’s far from the bathroom and the youngest was still in diapers. Frankly, I don’t think this room is safe for kids and I don’t want to mother-blame or anything, but who would leave their kids here for 2-5 hours a week?! The only thing to recommend it is the fact that it’s by the back door no one uses (because the dumpster partially blocks the walkway to that door), which is how Mary was able to get her kids in and out with no one the wiser.

{ 351 comments… read them below }

  1. Interviewer*

    Shocking ending to the story! OP, I’m so sorry, and I truly hope you’ve found a much better job by now.

    1. Annonymouse*

      What the actual F.
      Seriously this is one messed up work place.

      CFO – corrupt and abused her position
      Your old boss – incompetent people pleaser who covered up time card fraud
      Mary – I can’t even.

      The COO might be trying to make things right at your old company but it looks like you got lumped in with them (rightly or wrongly).

      Chin up, at least you can move on and find somewhere not so messed up.

  2. Cake Name*

    Well, at least they solved the problem by removing absolutely everyone. Scorched earth is still a solved problem, right?

    1. Chriama*

      Right??? I don’t understand what’s going on here. I guess the COO was hearing so much he-said she-said that he decided he’d rather just start over with an entirely new staff?

      1. Katie F*

        I kind of get it. The COO’s perspective is that he has one employee who is literally sneaking her children into the workplace nad taking another employee’s time up by forcing her to watch them instead of doing her own job, which is a HUGE insurance/liability issue on top of breaking basic workplace codes… one employee who knew about this and refused to sign off on firing said employee or laying her off (and seemed to resist even the idea of disciplining her for it). This employee being a manager means he was refusing to act according to his own job codes… and a third employee who, in her zeal to find proof of the first employee’s inappropriate workplace behavior, knowingly insisted on being given documents she had been told workplace policy did not grant her access to.

        I mean, even just from the COO’s perspective, without all the rest of the information, that’s a cluster that needs dealt with one way or another. Maybe it just seemed simpler to start over.

        1. BethRA*

          Right, but what kind of precedent are you setting when you fire the person trying to resolved the cluster? If I worked at that company and I saw something inappropriate going on in the future, I would think two or three times before coming forward or trying to deal with it.

          1. Katie F*

            Yeah, kind of explains why we so often see these workplaces where massive corruption or other problemsa re going on but nobody dares bring it up to management – management, in this case, swept in to fire the person who spoke up instead of the person who committed the infraction in the first place. That’s not going to lead to a positive workplace environment.

            1. Chriama*

              Looking at it again I’m thinking either
              a) there was already an ethics hotline and OP should have used that, or
              b) someone wanted her gone in retaliation for firing Mary, who was related to the CFO

              Maybe both. I do hope the COO explained the ethics policy to everyone clearly even after firing OP, or else he’s really creating a situation where corruption can flourish in the future.

              1. Christopher Tracy*

                b) someone wanted her gone in retaliation for firing Mary, who was related to the CFO

                This is my guess.

                And the fact that the CFO is still employed when she started this whole mess is amazing. Not surprising, but still amazing.

                1. Pam*

                  Don’t you think it’s screamingly possible that the CFO might have been sleeping with Mary? The whole thing is so absurd!

            2. Jennifer*

              I have seen so many bad stories about whistleblowing and how the whistleblower gets punished far more than the wrong doer…

              1. AF*

                That’s what I don’t understand – why would you not be able to see previous timesheets? What if there was some other kind of auditing or reporting issue that you were involved with where you needed to see the timesheets? It’s not like these are medical records – they’re directly related to your company and your employee.

                1. TrainerGirl*

                  I was once employed as a workforce manager for a help desk, and had a case of leave fraud. I didn’t access timesheets, but reported my findings from the scheduler to management, and they did not report the fraud (taking vacation time without reporting it on timecards) because they were afraid that they would be fired for not noticing/reporting it earlier. It had been going on for a few years when I discovered it. This can be very touchy and off limits, depending on the company.

                2. Julia*

                  Right? I thought they’re there to have a record on who was where in case something needs to be looked up!

          2. Rafe*

            Eh, the person “trying to resolve” the cluster wasn’t a manager, had already been told flat-out could fire the person so decided to lay her off (which is pretty much the same thing, no?) AND sought timesheets from finance that she was flat-out told she couldn’t take but did anyway. She created her own whole set of cluster.

            1. MashaKasha*

              She was a manager though… She had been hired to start and head a new support department. The only employee she was given for a start was Mary, whom no one wanted to work with after the whole forced babysitting thing came to light. Just because she only had one report, and that one report turned out to be a fraud, doesn’t mean she wasn’t a manager.

            2. BethRA*

              She was Mary’s manager, and was trying to look into possible fraud. Again, not something I’d want to discourage.

          3. Chriama*

            That’s the issue. I feel like a reprimand for acting outside job policy and a reminder/creation of a safe reporting policy or ethics hotline would do more to fix things than firing absolutely everybody. I think that makes other people less likely to report serious issues in the future too.

            1. PlainJane*

              “I think that makes other people less likely to report serious issues in the future too” – yes. Way to guarantee that no one will report anything ever. There are alternatives to firing–like discipline–that would have addressed the mistake the OP made without sending a message that whistleblowers will be punished right along with everyone else.

        2. SquirrelsJustWannaHaveFun*

          The finance employee should have never given the OP the personal timesheets. If it’s against company policy, then finance should have adhered to policy. Not that so many people should have been fired, but the person in finance who gave personal documentation to a non-manager earned disciplinary action as well.

          1. Katie F*

            Oh, I 100% agree with you. I just meant that I could see why the COO, brought into everything long after it had all gone to hell, might think “You know what, let’s just salt the earth and begin again.”

          2. EddieSherbert*

            I thought of this too… but then my thought was that I’m surprised they didn’t start firing finance too! (I’m glad they didn’t, but it seems in line with their thinking)

          3. Mike C.*

            Yeah, that’s an excellent point.

            Lets also point out that the policy makes absolutely no sense. In no way is that information so “private” that a direct manager shouldn’t be allowed to see it.

            1. Jadelyn*

              Especially given that, one assumes, the manager had to sign off on the timesheets at the time they were submitted anyway! So they’d have seen those, but who keeps copies? Thus, needing to pull records.

              1. ArtK*

                In this case, a *previous* manager had seen and signed off on the time sheets, not the OP. Apparently, moving Mary from one manager to the OP put Mary’s previous time sheets off-limits to the OP. Which is extremely strange. But, at worst, the OP should have gotten a reprimand for that, not be fired (and the finance person should have gotten the same punishment.) The firing of the OP for this relatively minor infraction sounds very much like retaliation.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  @OldAdmin: Do you mean in the legal sense? If so, no — since retaliation only violates the law when you’re retaliated against for legally protected conduct (like reporting discrimination or harassment). In this case, it would be legal for them to retaliate against her for the time sheets thing. Not reasonable, but legal.

              2. Ruffingit*

                Just to clarify the records the manager got were not the ones that she signed off on. They were records from Mary’s previous job at the company. So the OP would never have seen them before. Mary’s previous manager would have signed off on them.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  @ Amber T: Right? If OP was not supposed to see those records then it why fire the boss for covering it up. The company covered it up by their own policies, not the boss.
                  Employee: “I think there is time card fraud going on.”
                  Company: “Sorry, it is against company policy for you to look at records to figure that out.”

                  No need to fire the boss, the boss was following company policy. The boss did not look at time card records. The boss did what the policy said he should do.

                2. nofelix*

                  If I’m reading this right, the boss had access and OP did not. It sounds like the reporting structure was ambiguous and that OP was given managerial duties without the associated powers. She reasonably assumed she could look at her employee’s timesheets, Finance agreed to it (!) after some persuasion, but actually it wasn’t allowed. The responsibility to manage Mary’s timesheets still rested with the boss and that’s why he was fired.

          4. Adlib*

            At the very least, the finance person should have gone to their boss to have them handle it with OP (i.e., explain the policy) since the finance person is a junior position instead of just giving up the records.

          5. LBK*

            Yeah, I’m extremely confused on how the it’s the manager’s fault that someone else violated policy by providing her documents she shouldn’t have had access to.

            1. Callie*

              OP was told it was against company policy. She dismissed the policy as “ridiculous” and insisted on being given the timesheets anyway. She accepted the timesheets. She made her choice and the responsibility is hers.

              1. nofelix*

                Maybe this is naivete on my part, but I feel if someone says they can’t do something because of policy, and then you convince them to change their decision then that’s on them, not you. If finance hold the records and give them out then that counts as a dispensation. It’s not the same as accessing the records without permission.

              2. nofelix*

                OP’s comment below further cements this not being her fault:

                “The finance manger never said it was against policy explicitly, he said he wasn’t allowed to give them to me and I insisted. If I’d known it was a specific policy I wouldn’t have broken it.”

        3. Beckie*

          What happened to the person in Finance who provided the documents, against policy? Were they fired? That strikes me as a missing detail in the story.

          1. coffepowerd*

            Good point, but due to the imbalance in power between management and a rank-and-file HR person, I don’t think the HR person can be found at fault for following marching orders.

      2. CMT*

        I think if I were in the COO’s place, I’d be inclined to do the same thing, just because it would be the easiest option.

        1. PlainJane*

          Yeah, but when you hold a COO position, you should be expected to do more than take the easiest option. People in high-level positions should be expected to think, to evaluate, and to make decisions that are ethical and make the best sense for the company. I don’t think that’s what happened here.

          1. coffepowerd*

            There’s also close to 7 billion people on the planet. (some) People think they are way more indispensable than they really are.

            1. The Strand*

              Others have skills and abilities that are valuable and hard to find. It’s inefficient and short sighted to not understand that the street runs two ways: companies need people, too.
              One of my departed colleagues has still not been replaced after a year despite tweaked job descriptions and multiple interview rounds. One person who was offered the job turned it down, because the company (with the attitude that people are interchangeable and should be grateful to take the job) refused to offer a perk that is standard in the field.

        2. The Strand*

          And if I had a COO who was inclined to do that, I would lose all loyalty for the place I was working, since someone who reported fraud (and what sounds like child neglect) was treated as poorly as the person who committed it and multiple people who covered it up. Horrible message to send to ethical employees.

    2. Amber T*

      I’m curious as to why OP’s boss changed his tune so drastically (why he went from “I don’t think you should fire her but you can” to “You are not allowed to fire her.”). Was it because he realized he facilitated the time card fraud and hoped to keep it all under wraps?

      1. Effective Immediately*

        I’m wondering if he knew the COO would fire everyone involved and was trying to roundabout-warn the OP. OP would have to have evidence, and in order to get that evidence, would have to break company policy; if OP’s manager knew that, it would make sense for him to try to steer her away from taking that road.

        1. Christopher Tracy*

          Then OP’s former manager should have just said that instead of hinting around (if that’s what was happening).

  3. Lemon Zinger*

    I’m so sorry you were fired, OP. This company is dysfunctional in ALL THE WAYS. It’s really a good thing you got out!

    1. neverjaunty*

      Yes, this. I hope you are in a far better job not working for dysfunctional twits, OP! You absolutely did the right thing.

  4. Katie F*

    Wow, it’s not often we get an update where the end result of “basically everyone got fired”. That came as a shock.

    It looks like this workplace was a cluster all on its own, and just about everyone was either breaking codes (even if you did so unknowingly – and I agree, the “current timesheets are okay but past timesheets aren’t” is a weird policy and I would have had plenty of questions about that) or refusing to act within their purview (the boss refusing to allow firing/laying off).

    As far as “who would want their kids there 2 – 5 hours per week”, I imagine the answer is a desperate parent with no other childcare options who finds a “workaround”. Not that she was RIGHT, but if my daycare stopped taking my daughter tomorrow… I can’t NOT work. I’d have to scramble to do what I could. Thankfully I could just work from home, even if I had to work weird hours, but sme people can’t – and for less than 10 hours a week? Maybe she figured it was worse to miss work that often than it would be to hide her kids in a back room.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Or the abrupt ending to a role-playing game when the game master is sick of the characters bickering: “Rocks fall. Everybody dies.”

        1. RVA Cat*

          Also the Sept explosion from Game of Thrones. Apparently the COO follows the Queen Cersei school of problem solving.

    1. N.J.*

      The thing is though, she stayed them in a room full of chemicals and forced s different coworker to watch her kids. Sympathy aside for someone who is put in the position of deciding between work and kids, Mary didn’t just sneak her kids into a spare office or something. She was negligent and forced someone else to watch her kids for her, and if I remember correctly she threatened to fire or otherwise discipline that employee if they did not comply. No sympathy from me here.

      1. Katie F*

        Yeah, I’m not saying that as a “poor Mary, let’s feel bad for Mary” statement, just as an answer to OP’s question. The person who decides to do that is a parent with no other childcare options (and apparently a school that doesn’t offer Before Care for parents who have to be at work early, which strikes me as unusual for a preschool but maybe that’s just normal in my area) and ALSO a massive sense of entitlement, which seems to have been at least partially garnered by having a relative in the company willing to protect her from the consequences of her actions.

        The company NEEDED to fire her, and should have done so the MOMENT they knew what she was doing. I feel for parents, of course – I am one – but she put the company in serious risk of liability if anything had happened to those kids while in that room/at work.

        1. Lindsay (Not a Temp Anymore)*

          I’m reading it not so much that there’s no before school care, but that Mary couldn’t get her kids to school and get to work in time for her PIP requirement. So she’d go to work with the kids in tow, show face for her time requirement, and then disappear to take the kids to school.

        2. Sally*

          My reading is that Mary had a time managment/ punctuality problem and could not get out of the house, to her kids’ school, and back to the office in time for her morning 8 or 830AM meetings, and as a result, was skipping the “to her kids’ school” step and bringing them to the office, doing the morning meeting, then taking the kids to school. If that’s true, Mary’s preschool having before care would not have made any difference, since the problem was less about child care and more about Mary’s ability to get to work before her morning meetings.

          1. Beezus*

            I read it this way, too. I have before school care – I truly only need it about once a month for an early meeting, but I try to use it a few days a week just to keep my spot and keep it part of the routine. I’m not the most punctual person, and the school bus arrives at the daycare place pretty early, so if I am running 5 minutes late, we miss the bus and I wind up dropping my son off at school 30 minutes later instead. If I had a firm need to be at work earlier, I would make other arrangements and make punctuality a priority, but in my current situation, I don’t care.

          2. Katie F*

            Yeah, on going back and reading the original letter more closely, it does sound like it’s a moot point whether the preschool had before care, because Mary apparently couldn’t get moving fast enough to get them there and get to work on time, anyway.

        3. Seuuze*

          What if those children were able to open and drink some of those nasty chemicals???? Children unwittingly do these types of things. Doing what she did, keeping her kids in a small dangerous closet is NEGLECT.

  5. Good_Intentions*

    Wow, that’s quite the update.

    I’m so, so sorry that you lost your job. You were just trying to do the right thing by the business, which should have easily been resolved given the 82 percent reduction in people wanting to work with the admin.

    If you feel up to it, could you please let us know if you’ve been able to secure other employment? Also, were you able to speak with the janitor about improving ventilation in that back room where the children had been hidden? The idea of Pine Sol and bleach fumes in an enclosed area sounds dangerous for everyone on the premises.

    Thanks for taking time to write an update for AAM.

  6. Ask a Manager* Post author

    And for the record, I can’t think of any reason why a manager shouldn’t be able to review past time sheets of someone who now works for her. It’s ludicrous. (And even if you want that as a policy anyway, firing someone for it in this context is ridiculous.)

    1. Anna*

      Exactly what I was thinking. Considering they are a matter of record, this is a bizarre stance. Makes me wonder if that policy was put in place for other egregious issues.

    2. BethRA*

      It’s such an extreme response it seems like retaliation – like OP was seen as part of a problem for trying to address a problem, and they just found an excuse to get rid of her.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Bingo. And how interesting that OP’s manager said she “couldn’t” fire Mary for blatant misconduct, but somehow had no problem firing the OP.

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          Well there wasn’t a POLICY that said that you can’t stash your children in the cleaning supplies cupboard…

        2. CMart*

          It sounded to me like the COO did the firing, not OP’s manager. OP notes that the COO confirmed the past timecards were against policy.

          1. 2 Cents*

            Yeah, but confirmed as in “knew without talking to anyone first” or confirmed as in “knew only after the finance guy felt his job was on the line and said ‘how about we tell her this…'”

      2. Joseph*

        I don’t know if it’s retaliation as much as the COO just getting so fed up with the whole thing that he decided that it was easiest to just bulldoze the entire department and start from scratch.

      3. Katie F*

        Mary is apparently related to higher-ups in the company (which she had previously used to keep herself from being on the chopping block for this issue), so I’m guessing this is 100% retaliation to the OP for not “keeping her mouth shut”, so to speak, about the problem.

        1. Beezus*

          Not only that – Mary was related to the CFO, and the OP was fired for violating a finance policy. I don’t think it would be crazy to speculate that those things are related.

            1. Evan Þ*

              If OP hears that, might she have grounds for sending in a tip to CPS that there might be children in danger in this particular room at this particular time of day?

    3. BRR*

      Me either. An employee doesn’t get a reset when they get a new manager. The manager is responsible for the employee as a whole.

      When we’ve talked in the past about how company policy can’t cover every possible situation, I never thought this minute item would be included.

      1. I'm Not Phyllis*

        Right? If she had committed fraud in another way (say, making personal purchases on a company card) would they have denied access to the old bills?

      2. TuxedoCat*

        This is actually happening to my friend who is a new manager. She has an employee that gets nothing done and is hostile in a client-facing position, but my friend can’t just fire her even though this person has been like this since the last manager. My friend finally go this employee on a PIP.

    4. Aurion*

      And the COO even agreed that Mary should be fired! If viewing past timesheets was not allowed, how exactly was anyone going to prove that there as time theft?!

      This is lunacy. I hope the OP is with a much better employer.

    5. Original poster*

      You didn’t read the original article – she had day care but routinely ran late and didn’t get her kids there in time. Her previous boss was watching her clock in time so rather than get ready earlier she hid her kids in the back room with an EA until she could sneak out to take them to school.

      1. Original poster*

        Sorry im posting from my phone and tried to post on one above this. I don’t have a job but I’m early for an interview and posting from my car.

        The finance manger never said it was against policy explicitly, he said he wasn’t allowed to give them to me and I insisted. If I’d known it was a specific policy I wouldn’t have broken it

        1. Always Anon*

          Well it sounds like the finance manager is the person who needed to be fired.

          But, good luck on your interview. I hope you end up in a much better organization.

        2. LBK*

          “This isn’t allowed but I’m doing it anyway because you asked me again” is some of the flimsiest logic I’ve ever heard, especially in justifying why *you* are the one who got punished for it. I’m really sorry you had to be subjected to such infuriatingly empty logic.

    6. Apollo Warbucks*

      Could there be a legal reason for it? I used to do it support for a time and attendance system and could access all the timesheets I want but we had some very strict control over who could request copies, it was the same with door access card records and Internet history.

      Im sure that was due in part to the UK data protection act as well as company policy.

      But given the context the firing seems stupid.

        1. CAA*

          Nope. I’m in California, and in our system I can see all the timesheets my employees have filled out since the company started using its current electronic system. That includes employees who’ve been here longer than me and those who’ve moved onto my team from other teams. We are a government contractor, so there’s a huge emphasis on keeping time accurately and filling out timecards daily.

        2. Witty Nickname*

          Nope, as great as CA can be for employee protection, this is not something that is protected (nor do I think it should be). My husband has had to access not only time sheets, but also records of when people he managed scanned their badges in and out of the parking garage and building to compare them before firing them for timecard fraud. He had to go through HR to do it, but he was allowed to have all of the records he needed.

    7. Manager*

      I think there is more to the story here. It’s a good lesson that when you boss adamantly tells you not to do something that you shouldn’t do it. If you are so in opposition to your boss, it’s time to look for another job.

        1. HRish Dude*

          I don’t even think they read this letter considering the “time to look for another job” comment.

      1. Observer*

        So, when your boss adamantly tells you to commit or aid and abet fraud or other illegal activity, your only legitimate choices are find another job or do what your boss says? What if your boss is demanding “favors’ (sexual or otherwise)?

    8. sam*

      I have no idea if this would be the case, but I’m wondering if OP would have grounds for some sort of whistleblower protection case. She basically got fired for outing others shady behavior, and the ‘policy’ they fired her for violating sounds pretty pretextual given the circumstances.

      1. Master Bean Counter*

        That was my thought exactly. And if I were the OP I’d talk to an employment lawyer. It sounds like a case could be made for whistle blower retaliation. I don’t know if it would hold, but it’s worth a conversation.

        1. Green*

          Whistleblower protection is pretty contextual.
          (1) If you are whistleblowing against illegal activity, you may have legal protections.
          (2) If you are whistleblowing against policy violations for a government contractor that result in extra expense for the government or violations that are construed to be that, you may have legal protections.
          (3) Your organization may have a policy protecting whistleblowers, which you could pursue up to the highest levels, but usually you’d only have a recorse to the courts if it was applied in an illegally discriminatory way (all the white whistleblowers are fine, but the black whistleblowers get fired.)
          (4) If you work for the government, you may have whistleblower protection.

          1. Master Bean Counter*

            Yeah I realized my mistake, what applies in government doesn’t apply everywhere. I forget that some days…

      2. Colette*

        It’s all internal, though. No one was breaking the law (except Mary, but her victim was the company, not anyone outside). I can’t imagine this would qualify for whistleblower protection. I mean, if you come to my house and pocket the silverware while I’m out of the room, another guest who tells me won’t have any protection if I get mad at her and kick her out for telling me – even though you were committing a crime.

    9. Dina*

      That policy BEGS for time card fraud to happen on a regular basis. So OP got fired for performing an audit no one else would know to perform… great.

      1. Gandalf the Nude*

        Well, not that I think OP should have gotten fired, but she could have asked the Finance Manager to investigate. Or gone to the COO. They would have come to the same conclusion.

          1. Amadeo*

            Heh, frankly if one of my nephews or my niece pulled this crap at a company where I was a C-level individual, *I* would fire them out of sheer embarrassment! I do hate the way this turned out for the OP. It sucks and the time-card policy is just bizarre.

          2. Gandalf the Nude*

            The CFO was already under investigation when OP first wrote in. And it’s unclear from the letter where in the order of the events the CFO’s “sabbatical” falls, but it’s possible the head of finance was reporting to the COO by the time of the request too. In either case, and even if the CFO was still installed, the finance manager would probably be in heaps of trouble if they ignored or covered up time card fraud.

    10. EB*

      I can’t see past time sheets (wish I could) for my direct reports. I just get overall reports every so often. Past timesheets would be great because I actually hire people with grants so I have to keep track of everything manually when we get close to the end of the grant.

      OTOH, I would never be able to go into finance and order a payroll person to give me the past timesheets even though I have a higher position because we are completely separate report lines and payroll and finance assistants only report to their managers (so every so often I have to go begging for an early report, they’re pretty nice about it though when I explain why).

      1. featherwitch*

        I’m required to sign off on my employee’s timesheets, and every time I do it, I am saying that I have direct knowledge/observation of their time and attendance, and that to the best of my knowledge, it is correct. Mis-representing time sheets will get both me and the employee in trouble. If my company disallowed me to look at prior timesheets due to some crazy policy, I would be making a copy of everyone’s every time, along with my approval. There are several times when I have had to go back and look at prior timesheets- not due to any wrongdoing, but because I needed to calculate how many hours my intern worked compared to budget, or when I had to justify overtime payments.

    11. My 2 Cents*

      Alison, can you think of any sort of whistleblower protection that the OP would be entitled to for this? She was uncovering fraud in her department and got fired for it, should she have protection?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        In most states (maybe all?), to get whistleblower protection, it has to be related to an illegal activity of the company. For example, if you object to discrimination, Medicare fraud, or something else that is a violation of a law and you’re fired in retaliation, then you’d likely to be covered. So it likely wouldn’t be in play in this situation.

        1. InTheClearing*

          What if the false timecards were showing client work that wasn’t actually done? For example, the employee is falsifying a timecard to show they spent 40 hours on a project for a state/federal client, but really only worked 20. Is that still something that just needs to be addressed internally?

    12. Leah the designer*

      This is exactly my thoughts. My manager, our sales, project managers, accountants, and all our CSR’s can review my time sheets–but they need to so they know how much design time to bill the client for. I honestly don’t know why someone’s direct manager shouldn’t be able to review past time sheets.

    13. AtomicCowgirl*

      I agree that the policy is ridiculous. That said, it’s probably a good learning moment for anyone else who might come across a similar policy at work. The right approach at that point would have been to involve the COO and explain the situation and the concern that there might have been a possible time card issue that needed to be investigated and let the COO take it from there. That way the OP avoids blatantly going against policy gives the COO no grounds for termination. Even when a policy is stupid, violating it will get you fired. You have to find a way to get around it with a clear conscience and a clean nose.

      1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

        But finance guy didn’t tell her it was policy just that he couldn’t do it, and then did it anyway when she said she needed them. OP didn’t know it was a policy until after the fact, unfortunately.

        1. Chriama*

          Hmm. OP was above the finance guy in the hierarchy, he said it wasn’t allowed and OP said ‘give it to me anyway.’ I don’t blame her for thinking if it was against policy he would have protested harder, but I also don’t blame him for not wanting to contradict someone who outranked him directly to her face.

          1. Christopher Tracy*

            I do. I’ve had to tell many people above me on the org chart at two different companies No many times. Policy is policy and I’m not breaking it for anyone unless and until my own manager tells me, in writing, that the policy can be waived for X reason just this time. If Finance Guy knew this violated policy, but OP was adamant she needed it, he could have emailed his manager to ask if it was allowed because OP was asking for it, and when the No came down from on high, he should have stood his ground because he has it on authority from someone higher than OP that she did not in fact need/could not have the timecards.

    14. Seuuze*

      I do wonder, however if she could have obtained the information she needed by asking finance staff for a report on the timesheets with specifics about she needed, therefore circumventing the stupid rule. The no timesheet rule is ridiculous. It is like being hired as a manager and not being able to review the personnel files of the employees you supervise when they were employed at the company before you were. To me, timesheets are an integral part of supervising, duh, and so should certainly be available for review. They can show a pattern of missing work.

      I worked for a government agency where the employee regularly falsified his timesheets so that he could bank a huge amount of sick and vacation time before retirement. He always got away with it because he lived with our department manager. She colluded with him by signing him out for fictitious “seminars” so that he could take the day off after their two-week vacation because he needed to “recuperate” from vacation. Or he would be gone for the day and not signed out. Nobody cared, so it just went on and on. Sickening and really, really bad for morale.

    15. DoDah*

      It is ridiculous but it absolutely sounds like the arbitrary and ever-changing policies my former employer would implement. ToxicCompany was sued for wrongful termination so many times that salting the ground became the likely scenario to almost every employee issue. If you “point out a problem–you are the problem.” The only exception to this was when a relative was involved–and there were quite a few of those.

  7. BethRA*

    Wait, Finance Manager gave you documents you shouldn’t have been given access to according to company policy, and YOU were fired?

    That stinks.

        1. BethRA*

          ? She looked at her employee’s timesheets. That’s not something that’s normally kept “private” from someone’s supervisor.

        2. BRR*

          I agree that certain information is private. But like BethRA says, a direct report’s time card, even if it’s from before you were their manager, is usually something a supervisor is privy to.

        3. Always Anon*

          But, it’s a timesheet, not the companies finances.

          It’s not like the OP was asking for a copy of Mary’s paystub.

        4. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

          I don’t know of anything (aside from this company’s policy) that would prevent a supervisor from having access to an employee’s time card. Ours are online and once the employee is assigned to a manager they have access to the full history.

          1. Ange*

            The only reason I could think of to have this policy would be if there had been an incident where someone’s manager went looking in their old time sheets, and bullied them about something they found there and there was a huge fuss, so they overreacted by making it so no managers could look at them. It’s still a bizarre policy, but it’s possible there is some rationale for it.

    1. Beancounter in Texas*

      The finance manager should have been disciplined for breaking the policy about timesheets, if not fired as well. He broke the policy too.

  8. AF*

    OP, I am so sorry. I wish I could think of some kind of recourse for you (anonymous report to…someone? Dept of Labor?), but wow. I hope you find something awesome very soon – you deserve much better than this ridiculousness.

  9. Ms. Minn*

    HOLY COW! So much dysfunction. OP, I’m so sorry you were fired, but I hope (and think) this will turn out to be the best thing for you in retrospect. This level of crazy was not going to be good for you in the long run.

      1. hi.*

        No, she got laid off, not fired. She was the one who deserved to get fired most, and she probably got a severance package and was able to score a new job more quickly with “layoff” as the reason for leaving her last position rather than “fired for fraud and unethical conduct.” I am so shocked by this entire story!!

    1. Menacia*

      Yes, this is exactly what I was thinking, while she got laid off at least she did not get fired like everyone else! I’m sure she and her aunt are chuckling over that one. Time to move on and not look back, OP!

    2. Kristin D*

      It is crazy that they were so hesitant to fire some whose actions were so obviously grounds for termination, but then just started firing people all over the place for less serious acts.

  10. Joseph*

    “When I was justifying Mary’s layoff to the COO and my boss, my boss vehemently disagreed with the decision and said that one issue wasn’t enough. ”
    Seriously? In what universe is “The entire company refuses to work with her”, “We have no work for her to do”, and “Threatened and blackmailed an employee” not a good enough justification by itself, never mind all three (plus various other issues like the timesheets, safety/liability risk to the kids, etc)?

    1. neverjaunty*

      I’m guessing Mary and Boss were besties, and/or Boss had been covering and making excuses for Mary and didn’t want to get caught out.

    2. MashaKasha*

      Agree; and besides, how does one call something that kept happening every day, for a year, “one issue”? That’s more like a couple hundred issues, if you ask me!

    1. fposte*

      That’s perfectly legal to do, though. Even reporting the time-card fraud, which was actually illegal, may not rise to the level of a public policy exemption.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        It sounds a little bit like whistleblowing… she reported the CFO’s relative was stealing from the company by fudging time sheets. She investigated the fraud and took action on her findings, but then was retaliated against.
        It’s not the strongest case, but if she got a lawyer, she may get a settlement out of it because the company just wants it to go away.

        1. fposte*

          Only certain kinds of whistleblowing are legally protected. The mere fact that an activity is illegal doesn’t make reporting it whistleblowing. Nationally speaking, federal employees are protected under the Whistleblower Act and the OSH Act covers OSHA reports. There may be additional state protections, but they’re unlikely to extend to somebody making an internal report to the company about something that only hurts the company. It never hurts to see if a lawyer can shake the tree, of course, but there’s no obvious protection in this situation.

            1. Kristin D*

              For example, in California, there’s a whistleblower statute that protects someone who reports illegal conduct on the part of his/her employer, but the employee has to report the employer’s violation or noncompliance with state or federal statute or regulation. I don’t think one employee’s time card fraud would suffice.

                1. Kristin D*

                  Exactly. I mean, even if you could some how stretch to construe the employee’s time card fraud as theft and, thus, a violation of the Penal Code, it wasn’t a violation by the company. And, as I understand it, that’s not the kind of thing these statutes are intended to address.

          1. The Strand*

            I think shaking the tree is reason enough. Perhaps the company’s shareholders would be interested in reading about a lawsuit in the newspaper, describing bad behavior and inefficiencies? Oh no? Well, then how about a change from “fired” to laid off, with a nice reference?

        2. Kyrielle*

          I’m not sure about that, but it might be worth asking an employment lawyer. I wouldn’t even be hoping for money – just for the company to come to an agreement about what they’d say when asked for a reference.

        3. Cochrane*

          The LW getting saddled with a reputation as a whistleblower/lawsuit filer sounds like the kiss of death to pretty much any career.

          Unless you’ve got a slam dunk case with a big payday coming, it’s probably better to walk away and try elsewhere.

      2. Trout 'Waver*

        I wasn’t thinking in terms of legal/illegal. And I didn’t mean retaliation in the legal term referring to harassment. I should have used ‘payback’ or some word without a rigorous legal definition.

        I was thinking on the civil side of things to make sure the OP gets unemployment and possibly severance. This seems like the type of situation where the company would contest. And they certainly haven’t shown any ethical behavior anywhere throughout this.

        1. fposte*

          But there is no civil side–that’s what I’m saying. There’s no tort here. I’m not opposed to tree-shaking in a situation like this, and Kyrielle has a good point about considering negotiating a reference, but this is a pay-to-go-away situation, not a payment based on any wrong.

  11. ZenJen*

    Sorry, OP, but I hope you have found or are going to find a MUCH better job in a nontoxic environment!
    And, I’m also wondering why the Finance Mgr didn’t also get fired? I also don’t get how seeing old timesheets are a security issue??? I work for gov, and we often NEED to go back to old timesheets to make valid corrections. I couldn’t imagine anything being on lockdown like that–it’s a company-only database.

    1. Original poster*

      He wasn’t fired because I’m a higher level than he is and he reported the incident to his boss. They were already investigating my ‘privacy breach’ when I told the COO. Or so I heard.

      1. Always Anon*

        Well if they are firing willy nilly that doesn’t seem fair to me.

        Mind you this entire situation is bizarre. It seems like Mary had a lot of people protecting her, and the people who were dragged into the situation were the ones who paid with their jobs.

        1. TL -*

          He was the only person not acting under his own directive, though – he did as a higher level person told him to do (not the best) and then reported it to his boss, where he probably got reprimanded.
          By the time the OP/everyone else was on the chopping block, he’d already been dealt with. Firing him doesn’t make sense in that case.

          1. Cully*

            I agree with you – he was doing what he was told by a higher up. I imagine it would’ve been different if he had not told his boss and just gave her access to the information in secret.

      2. Clever Name*

        That really is crazy. They’re saying that the hours an employee works is “private information”. For their manager even! I’m speechless.

        1. Katie F*

          In this case, I think the argument was that the hours Mary worked WEREN’T information the OP should be privy to, because she wasn’t actually OP’s employee at the time of the Great Childcare Catastrophe, just someone who worked at the same company. That’s why current timesheets were fine to ask for – because by then, Mary worked for OP. But at the time she was sneaking her kids in and out, she didn’t.

          1. Aurion*

            I think it’s reasonable for a manager to view her direct report’s timesheets, even for a period when she wasn’t the employee’s manager. But even if there was a specific policy forbidding that, I think the fact that OP was investigating time fraud should supercede such a (ridiculous) policy.

            Lunacy all around at this company.

            1. Kristin D*

              An employee can just hope that she doesn’t get caught before she gets transferred to another department. Once that happens, *poof* no one can investigate any bad conduct because she has a new manager! Lunacy, indeed.

          2. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

            Even if that is the thinking behind the policy, it is a bad policy and not something that should be a termination-worthy offense for breaking, especially when breaking it was to get rid of a toxic employee no one would work with that harassed and bullied another coworker AND cheated the company out of money.

            1. DoDah*

              How do we know this policy wasn’t retroactively created to protect a relative of the CFO? And since Mary was laid off and not fired. I’ll bet they’ll just rehire her after the dust settles.

      3. ZenJen*

        oh wow, that stinks, but good that you were honest about your actions even though there were secret policies in place.

        and GOOD LUCK on your interview!!!

  12. bemo12*

    I don’t think what happened to you was right or fair, but I can sort of see where they were coming from. It sounds like this office was a drama bomb and the COO just had enough and got rid of all the offending parties under the guise of “policy infractions”.

    1. nicolefromqueens*

      With the information here, it sounds like retaliation against OP, but I could totally see the company’s view. CYA: you can’t get away with firing laying off just one person who violated policy. But of course that only works is a) everyone who violated policy was let go (including the finance manager); and b) everyone was either fired or laid off, not one person getting laid off while everyone else got fired. Though IME, it’s common for an employee to face lighter consequences than a manager for violating policy.

    2. Tex*

      If the CFO (Mary’s aunt) was put on sabbatical, I’d bet money that there are deeper, darker financial problems in this company. The COO (probably with the CEO’s blessing) decided a clean slate was the best way to salvage things and set an example for other employees. It’s terrible that OP became collateral damage while trying to puts things right.

      1. Trillian*

        Or wanted someone who had shown they would investigate out of the way before they found worse.

        Good luck with the job search, OP. Living well is the best revenge.

    1. Chickaletta*

      Totally. And to think there could have been so many other better options she could have considered as a mother:
      – find a daycare that opens earlier
      – find a job that doesn’t start so early in the morning
      – ask a trusted friend/neighbor/family member to watch the kids in the morning and take them to daycare
      – talk openly with her manger in the first place about her situation to find a workable solution

      As a working mom myself, I completely sympathize with how difficult it is to work childcare into the work schedule. So many of my friends are in the same boat. How to get to work on time when daycare isn’t available before 8am? (or after 6pm?) What do you do when they’re sick and can’t be at daycare or school? How do you get three kids under the age of six out the door on time every day? It’s unfortunate that we live in a culture that is generally unsympathetic to this issues and lays it all out on the parent to manage. Although I don’t agree with how Mary handled her problem, I can understand how our culture created a situation that was ripe for it. She’s hardly the first parent to sneak her kids to work. I hope she has learned her lesson though and handles it better now.

      1. CDN*

        Yep. And as a mom you know that all of those options may have been dead ends (especially finding a new daycare– my area has a minimum two-year waiting list, no joke). The culture pushes women to work but then shrugs when they need support that looks any different from a man with a stay-at-home-wife.

      2. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

        But her daycare being open wasn’t the issue. The issue was her not wanting to get up early enough to get her kids to daycare and then get to work with enough time to clock in on time since her “in time” was being watched

        No sympathy. She had a solution – wake up earlier – and chose to bully a coworker and cheat the company instead

        1. animaniactoo*

          I searched both threads – it actually doesn’t say that anywhere at all. We have no idea if the daycare was open earlier or not.

          1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

            I was pretty sure the OP mentioned it in the original thread. But even if it wasn’t stated, I don’t know of any day cares these days that don’t open until 8am – because almost everyone has to be at work AT 8am.

            But for argument’s sake let’s say her daycare opens at 8 and she had to be at work at 8. Why would you take that job knowing that? Oh that’s right, because her aunt was the CFO and she used that relationship to bully and harass a coworker.

            There is no scenario where Mary is not completely at fault. She created the circumstances here. Nothing else.

            Again, as a parent I am well aware of how hard it is to have a full time job and kids in the US. But our shitty culture isn’t what created this. Mary’s shitty behavior is.

            1. AthenaC*

              It wasn’t in the earlier letter or the update. The OP clarified upthread that Mary had daycare available early enough to get to work on time but for whatever reason she couldn’t manage this.

        2. Observer*

          While I TOTALLY don’t agree with Mary – and I have very little sympathy with someone who uses her position to force someone else into doing this kind of work for them, I have to say it’s really not so simple.

          When dealing with young children, it’s not always just a matter of “get up earlier.”

          1. SAHM*

            Idk, in my experience my kids are always up before me (my four year old in particular wakes up at 4/4:30 every morning and wanders the house until my husband gets out of bed around 5), but getting everyone dressed, fed, and out the door within a reasonable amount of time ….. yea, like herding cats

          2. Chickaletta*

            ^^ This. Every kid is different too, just because something works for family A doesn’t mean it works for family B.

            My five year old son takes 20 minutes to put on clothes in the morning and I have to be in the same room as him or else he won’t do it. Multiply that by three kids, a fit or two about watching tv or playtime, throw in breakfast and whatever other crap has to get done in the house in the morning, possibly a commute to the daycare and then another commute to work all during rush hour, and sometimes 4 am isn’t early enough.

          3. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

            Yes, kids are a handful, especially multiple young ones. And adjusting sleeping schedules takes effort. And yet, millions of families manage it without bullying and harassing coworkers.

            So, no, no excuse. Mary sucks and this is ALL on her. Plenty of families figure out how to deal with young kids who don’t understand schedules. That is not an excuse for the behavior here. Not by a long shot

            1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

              It really is so simple. Don’t be an asshole to other human beings and use your kids as an excuse. There. Simple.

  13. designbot*

    I’m trying to figure out how, if you go to Finance and ask to see documents and they give them to you, and it turns out you weren’t allowed to see them, that’s your fault. I’d liken this to medical records or similar–it’s the keepers of the information who are responsible for not distributing it, not the responsibility of outside parties not to look once it has been distributed.

    1. Cully*

      OP mentioned above the finance person was less senior than her and reported what happened to his boss. So I imagine the situation was sort OP ordering him and he didn’t think he had the right to refuse.

      1. KP84*

        That is probably what happened – in my job I am required to run reports on a weekly basis for upper management. I basically have to run what they ask even if it takes hours to create or is full of useless information (I am convinced most of my managers just attend meetings, pretend to read reports and then kiss their bosses’ behinds). I don’t have a say in what the reports are nor can I push back to say they are a waste of time.

        It sounds like the finance manager was covering his own butt by immediately telling his manager. The OP, while railroaded by her company, did put the finance manager in a tough spot.

        1. Mabel*

          Also, I keep wondering – If the Finance department could look at the old time cards and see that Mary was on the clock when she was driving her kids to school, why didn’t they just call that to the attention of whoever needed to know? Weren’t they interested in potential time card fraud?

          I’m really sorry the OP was fired. And I’m glad s/he is out of there. That place sounds like a complete disaster.

          1. davey1983*

            Considering the situation, it is possible that someone at the Finance department was aware of the time card fraud, but who would they report it to? This company apparently fires people for reporting such things, and Mary was being protected by the CFO.

            If an employee knew about the fraud, their options were probably report it and get fired, or let it go and keep your job. Most people in that situation tend to look the other way so they can keep their job.

  14. brightstar*

    OP, I’m sorry it worked out like that and hope you’ve found a better situation.

    I’m wondering if anything was done to Mary’s aunt, the CFO who was threatening employees?

    1. Nea*

      The letter says that the CFO was “on sabbatical” – whatever that means in this context. Presumably “shuffled away so we could figure out what to do about Mary.”

  15. CDN*

    ‘but who would leave their kids here for 2-5 hours a week?!’

    Someone who had no other option? It’s amazing in all of this that nothing like flexible hours for parents, on-site childcare (America loves kids when they’re inside a woman’s body and families when they’re on the campaign trail), or anything at all that might be done to accommodate an employee who was by all other accounts, doing her job.

    No woman does this because she’s a con artist. She does it because she has to get them to freaking school on her own.

    What a country. Good luck with it.

    1. fposte*

      I’m with you on the depressing lack of support for child care in the U.S., but it’s on Mary that she committed time card fraud and demanded another employee provide her with child care for free.

    2. designbot*

      I had sympathy for her, right up until she turned to blackmailing another employee and using her relationship with the CFO to force them to cover for her.

    3. Emmie*

      Mary could’ve asked OP to adjust her hours to accommodate the daycare time. There’s nothing suggesting she did. We don’t even know if the company would have accommodated the request. OP has my sympathies. She shouldn’t have been fired.

      1. Original poster*

        @emmie read the original post, I wasnt her boss at the time and she was the receptionist – she had to be there to open up and answer phones.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          OP, Emmie is sympathetic to you! She’s countering CDN’s post and is on your side (at least that’s how I read it)! :)

        2. Anon for this*

          Hi OP: I stand with you completely! You should NOT have been fired, and you have my sympathies. Victoria is right. (Thank you, Victoria!) I was countering CDN’s post.

    4. Adam V*

      There are plenty of other jobs that don’t have specific in-the-office requirements (Mary’s new job, for instance). If you can’t work specific hours because of your kids, then you have to self-select out of that job, not take it and hide your kids from your boss.

      1. MashaKasha*

        I think the big reason why Mary didn’t self-select out of that job was that she thought her CFO aunt would always have her back and make sure nothing bad would happen to her. So she didn’t even bother looking for one with a truly flex schedule. In her mind, her aunt was her flex schedule.

        And she would’ve gotten away with it, if it wasn’t for that meddling OP (sorry, couldn’t resist)

        I’ve turned down quite a few jobs with early/strict hours back when my kids were young. It sucks, but it is what it is. I could work those jobs now if I wanted to.

    5. Temperance*

      Okay, but if being on time is a requirement of the job … find a different job. This woman was the freaking receptionist, and probably the one person who really did need to be on time. Come on.

    6. Bend & Snap*

      I’m a single mom with a full-time job and I would never, ever, ever do what Mary did, even one time, even in a pinch. And I have no friends or family where I live.

    7. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      From the original letter it seems pretty clear Mary is a bully and an entitled one at that. This is not a desperate woman begging for help as a last resort. She couldn’t be bothered to wake up earlier and harassed and bullied a coworker instead of acting like a damn grown up.

      There are many many many issues with child care and parent work-life balance in the US. Mary’s situation was not because of that. She created it.

    8. I'm Not Phyllis*

      No … sorry. She had child care but she never made it there on time. If she needed accommodation she should have asked for it. She bullied a coworker and committed fraud – and therefore doesn’t get my sympathy.

    9. Observer*

      Actually, she did have other options. Most importantly, she had the option of looking for another job – which she never bothered to do, apparently. It wasn’t till the company essentially created a new position for her that she moved out of the receptionist position.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      In a normal context, I would agree with you. But just because she has kids does not give her the right to order other employees to take care of them nor does it give her the right to bully those employees. There are millions of parents out there who can navigate childcare without resorting to forcing people they work with to tend to the children and then threatening the employees if they don’t take care of the kids. (I have even gotten to the part about keeping the kids in a room loaded with chemical smell.)

      While I do think that we as a nation do not care about our kids and our elderly, I think that Mary’s response to her problems was wildly unprofessional and worthy of dismissal.

  16. Adam V*

    Holy crap.

    Sounds like Mary, Boss, CFO and COO were all in cahoots here – COO ended up being forced to fire Mary because you had proof of timecard fraud (that they had done their best to prevent you from getting access to), but took you down too.

    Best of luck at the new job, and if asked “why did you leave your last job”, I would totally send them the link to this story.

    1. designbot*

      I disagree on a couple of points here. First I think that COO was also a reasonable person trying to do their job and caught up in this. He agreed that laying Mary off was the right thing to do, and when the timecard fraud was brought to light investigated and agreed she should have been fired. He investigated this despite knowing that OP didn’t have the right to access that information, and terminated both people involved (he recognizes that two wrongs don’t make a right).
      I also would never forward this to an employer. No matter how much fun we all have laughing at these situations and how much value we get learning from them, I think this would fall under the “don’t talk badly about your previous job” rule, because nobody would want to see their company get similar treatment someday.

      1. Adam V*

        The OP *should* have the right. A company regulation prohibiting a manager from viewing their own employee’s past timesheets is asinine.

        In addition, knowing that Mary was being protected by the CFO (her aunt) and OP’s boss (who the COO fired over the coverup) should have given the COO the leeway to say “this was an extraordinary situation, next time I want you going through the proper channels, but we aren’t going to fire you for uncovering the truth”.

        And the “I would send them the link to this story” was tongue-in-cheek. I guess I need to include a “/s” next time.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I see no need to protect a company from its own shame.

        However, I think that the story is so involved and so epic that it would detract from an interview by its intensity and length. OP, you want to showcase YOU on an interview and not the bizarre-ness of previous place. I think find a way to sum it all up briefly, state something that you have learned from all this and try to move the interview conversation forward.

  17. Anon today*

    Wow and wow. From experience, though, there’s frequently this narrow view about following policy rather than thinking about what outcome the policy is intended to secure. My spouse works for a highly recognizable national brand company that is frequently touted for it’s culture. He was suspended without pay for a week for pulling a toxic gas alarm and triggering an evacuation. In fact there was a leak and the evacuation was appropriate to keep people safe. He was suspended because he is no longer on the safety committee (had been for years and reacted instinctively) and wasn’t authorized to pull the alarm. um , okay. Was not both the intention of his action and outcome exactly what was intended by the policy? Fine, explain the policy, retrain and tell everybody what to do properly next time. Even memo to the file, but a suspension for a 25 year employee with no other performance issues?

      1. Anon today*

        He tried. Multiple meetings with the various powers that be, asking for details, taking notes, talking to lawyers, pointing out that he was never trained on the new procedures, etc…. HR Lady finally told him she was over talking about it and there would be no more conversation. He could have pushed it a couple of ways (including a report to the company ethics hotline about the inconsistency with the highly touted “values” they publish) but he was too exhausted and humiliated by all of it to continue. The thing is it took weeks for them even to articulate why he was suspended. He was called at home while on vacation and informed not to report the following week and basically accused of causing the leak. When he called HR and asked for the document the manager read from to be sent to him they said they could not communicate with him while on suspension as they would then have to pay him for the time. Post suspension they backtracked on what he was originally told and eventually coughed up the “you should not have pulled the alarm” line. What we think is that it was a knee jerk reaction to blame somebody for the leak and after he told them how to investigate (and found somebody else was responsible, a guy who was disciplined and fired) they were too embarrassed to go through the process of retracting the suspension so they leaned into the policy violation thing.

      1. Chinook*

        I am shocked that only certain people are allowed to pull an alarm! One of the things I love about where work is that anyone, whether it be employee or contractor, has the right and responsibility to call our Control Centre to tell them to shut down our pipe (which would cost us millions) because human safety (and the environment) trumps everything. I could never imagine working somewhere where pulling an alarm for a later verified emergency could get me in trouble. Would they rather have people get ill and/or die?

        1. Mike C.*

          In fact, there are states that require people who are able to react to an emergency to do so. It looks like this sort of policy could go against such laws.

    1. Observer*

      Seriously?! So, he should have allowed people to be posed by the gas? What kind of policy is this, anyway? I honestly wonder if it’s even legal.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      This is insane.

      So, let’s see. If he ignored the gas leak and some people died, that would have been okay?

      Did he call OSHA on this one? I think OSHA would like to know that pulling an alarm in an emergency is an offense worthy of suspension at this company. I think that OSHA would find this damn interesting.

    3. Mander*

      Right, so if I’m the receptionist and I spot a fire I should go looking for the person who is authorized to pull the fire alarm, right? If I smell gas I need to email the CEO before getting out of the building?

      Bonkers. If someone recognizes a potential emergency situation they should alert people, even if they turn out to be wrong about it.

    4. MashaKasha*

      This is absolutely freaking insane. So, if I spot a toxic gas leak and I’m not authorized to pull the alarm, walking out and letting everyone else fend for themselves is okay, but pulling the alarm and potentially saving their lives is not?!? This has to be the pinnacle of bureaucratic insanity.

  18. Serin*

    It’s like ‘Hamlet’ in the workplace. Everybody dies, and they bring in the new manager, the King of Norway.

  19. Temperance*

    Wow. I remember that letter, and hoped for an update from you.

    I have a question, though …. why wasn’t the Finance manager who gave you the forbidden timesheets fired, too, since she also violated protocol? It smells fishy to me.

    1. davey1983*

      The OP mentioned in a comment above that she was higher up in the organization than the finance employee, and that the employee reported the incident to their boss. The finance employee apparently felt like he couldn’t say no to a superior.

      That being said, the OP also pointed out that she didn’t know it was against company policy until after the incident, as all he told her was that he couldn’t give her the records.

  20. Fluke Skywalker*

    Wait, so the CFO– as in Mary’s aunt– is on *sabbatical*?? They didn’t fire her for the crap she pulled?!

    Jesus, OP. This place sounds crazytown bananapants. You didn’t get out the way you wanted to, but you did get out, and you’ll end up somewhere better.

    1. Cully*

      Just like Mary, chances are she has a big target on her back and will be squeezed out when the opportunity presents itself.

    2. Temperance*

      I’ve heard of “sabbatical” being used in a variety of negative ways, so maybe it’s institutional? Like, Jim is on “sabbatical” with the understanding that we’re giving him 2 months to get a new job or he’s fired.

    3. Jesmlet*

      This is my question. So CFO gets to come back after some time off but everyone she screwed over with her ridiculous nepotism gets to be unemployed?

  21. Required Name*

    Well, that turned out terribly for the OP. How awful.

    I might be cynical, but I wonder if the firings happened not to clear out “drama” but because the CFO is just on a sabbatical and may be coming back. Less of a clear out, start over situation and more of an appeasement – your niece lost her job but so did everyone who made that happen. Regardless, neither situation is ok, and you shouldn’t have been fired.

    Also, this obviously isn’t your fault OP, but I do hate that they decided you couldn’t fire her but you could lay her off. (I’m assuming they wouldn’t have let you turn around and hire someone to replace her, since the lay off was justified by lack of work.) My department has a similar-ish situation with a support staff member no one wants to work with (less hiding kids/vengeful relatives, more utter incompetence/you can’t get fired unless you deliberately set the building on fire). The work is still there and stills needs to be done; we just compensate by overburdening the awesome support staff and/or doing it ourselves, even though we’ve been told on more than one occasion that we should be focusing on other things. I’d be willing to bet the same thing happened there if the support requests only dropped so dramatically once everyone stopped trusting her; if you had been allowed to replace her, the requests likely would have gone back up. Lay off/no replacement basically just punishes everyone else for Mary’s bad conduct so she’s not quite as inconvenienced.

    I hope you’re able to find a great new job with way less dysfunction, OP.

    1. Nea*

      More than that. Mary, as a laid off employee, can be hired back by that company. Whereas OP can’t on account of being fired.

      1. Yep, me again*

        and that’s probably going to happen in this case once the CFO comes back. Anyone who objects will probably be fired.

      2. GreyjoyGardens*

        California is worker-friendly in that regard. I think OP should file for unemployment, and fight the company if necessary. If I were a judge and the OP sent me this link I’d award OP unemployment so fast their head would swim. OP should not roll over for these people.

    2. LawCat*

      You can still get access to unemployment if you’re fired. If I were OP, I’d definitely file for unemployment.

  22. Yep, me again*

    Floored! Absolutely floored. It’s like reading about a goat rodeo.

    The owners of the company really REALLY lost control of their own company….


  23. animaniactoo*

    I suspect that under this company’s rulebook, the possible timecard fraud should have been reported to HR for HR to investigate. But because OP took it upon themselves to review and investigate, they violated the “due process” of it, blah blah blah, had it in for employee, blah blah, etc.

    1. Temperance*

      That’s so wacky, though – this woman was her direct report, and LW was fed a bunch of lies about her ability and performance. What a dysfunctional workplace.

    2. Leatherwings*

      Yeah, that probably was their thinking. It’s so shortsighted though, I’m frustrated just thinking about it. If a policy is so rigid that a person’s manager gets fired for performing duties almost every manager can and should perform, then by god they should probably re-think it. Or set it on fire.

    3. CMT*

      I don’t think that would be an unreasonable policy for the company to have, though. And it does sound like OP was not inclined to try to work through any “official” channels.

      1. Chriama*

        That’s what I’m wondering about. Her boss was stonewalling her, but wasn’t there another way to try and get this officially investigated? I’m not sure if she’d already gotten the timesheets when she started reporting to the COO, but it not then that was a good time to bring it up to him. At the very least, why not discipline her for not meeting current job requirements rather than trying to track down past violations?

      2. Mike C.*

        It’s really unreasonable, as accounting for the time of subordinates is one of the fundamental duties of a manager.

        1. CMT*

          Mike, that’s not the policy I was talking about. I don’t think it would be unreasonable to have HR investigate this, rather than a manager going on a wild goose chase.

      3. Leatherwings*

        Yeah, I’m with Mike C. here. How is this possibly reasonable? Seriously, what rationale does one have to prevent a manager from accessing past timesheets submitted by their employees?

  24. Leatherwings*

    I’m just so so sorry OP. This workplace sucks.

    Aside from the obvious nonsense, I can’t understand why any company would have a policy on not being able to view old timecards. That’s beyond stupid.

  25. Yep, me again*

    No, you know what this is like? Monty Python and the holy grail!

    The persons responsible for this sacking have now been sacked….

  26. Critter*

    Perfect example of why it’s such a horrible idea to have family members in the same company. It’s absolutely doable for many companies, but you need to have really specific policies in place that everyone has to adhere to. Mary should have been let go way before this for not being able to be at work on time, which is such an important function of a receptionist’s job. But she was protected by a higher up relative and then the fit hit the shan.

    Good luck, OP!

    1. GreyjoyGardens*

      This is how family businesses get to be so gawd-awfully dysfunctional. Remember the letter of a couple years ago with a terrible, incapable, possibly developmentally challenged employee protected by her mother? The one whose disreputable, criminal sons wandered around shirtless?

      I haven’t had any experiences this bad, or even close, but I will no longer work for family businesses if I can help it precisely because they seem to enable dysfunction.

  27. Jess*

    So your boss was fired for covering up her timecard fraud and you were fired for uncovering her timecard fraud?


  28. ginger ale for all*

    I can only think that Mary must have been promised a clean slate to work with and that by going back in to her history, it caused bad blood. However, with hindsight and pessimism, I would have thought that Mary would have made mistakes from that time forward that could have gotten her fired. If she had demonstrated such poor judgement in that area, surely that bad judgement would have surfaced again.

  29. ArtK*

    OP, I’m sorry that this backfired on you, but… had you described the situation here and *not* been fired, I would have been telling you to run, not walk, to the nearest exit. There are policies that make sense only for protecting people from investigation and clear incompetence in management.

  30. AndersonDarling*

    OP, I hope we get another update from you when you find a new and better job. I would like this saga to have a happy ending!

  31. AF*

    If I have this right, one person got fired for COMMITTING fraud, another person got fired for KNOWING ABOUT and COVERING UP fraud, and another person (the OP) got fired for UNCOVERING fraud (albeit, through means that went against company policy). As others have said, this guarantees that no employee will ever know what to do in the event of fraud, because they could be fired for knowing anything about it and taking any action. This is literally a lose-lose-lose situation.

  32. kobayashi*

    This is what you do in California. You talk to an employment lawyer, who is likely to tell you that firing you was legal, but if you get a lawyer with shaky ethics, that lawyer looks at any viable cause of action (gender discrimination, FMLA retalation, whatever), creates a demand letter, files a cause of action, alleges all sorts of wage and hour violations (having no actual knowledge any such violation occurred), and shakes down the company with the threat of discovery on wage and hour violations (where the lawyer is likely to find some technical, small violation, at the least) and then recover all his or her attorney fees and expenses…which will often motivate a settlement.

  33. Not So NewReader*

    OP, I am sorry for all the crap you went through here, but I am glad that you are away from this company.
    This stuff does not exist in a vacuum. “Oh the company is great except for this problem with Mary.” No. The problem with Mary existed because there are many other dysfunctional things going on at the same time. I cannot imagine what all you have been through. I am so sorry.

    My one bit of advice is get out sooner. You start seeing signs of dysfunction at your New Place get out. Don’t try to fix it, don’t try to help them. “We like our dysfunction the way it is, thank you very much.” It took me a bit to learn this. Places that run poorly, do so because they WANT to run poorly. If they did not want to run poorly they would have fixed it long before you got there.

    My wise friend gave me a pearl of advice that I have held on to like gold. “If you try to help people/companies that do not want to be helped, and you INSIST on helping them, you WILL end up injured in some manner.” And we see it here. Your injury came in the form of termination and probably a big dose of PTSD.

    Make it your new mantra that you will only help people and companies that WANT to be helped.

    If you see yellow flags, stay alert.

    If you see red flags, you know what the red flags mean and start job hunting again. Do not stay and allow yourself to be so disrespected and so disregarded.

    I hope your interview went well today. I wish you only good employers for the rest of your life. Let us know how you are doing in the Friday forum, if you would like to do so.

  34. Mander*

    I immediately jump to the conclusion that there is far worse fraud going on and if the OP had continued their investigation they would have uncovered that, too.

    Possibly not justified but I do wonder.

  35. Milla*

    The worst part is that the woman who did this will easily find a new job because she was “laid off” while the OP will have difficulty after being labeled “fired”.

    One hopes the finance department person who gave out private documents they knowingly shouldn’t give out also got fired, because that was severely poor judgement. And hopefully that the poor worker threatened with firing if she didn’t watch the kids and lie about her co-worker’s absences sued or something for being forced to take part in time card fraud.

    If you want to be extra vindictive, call Child Services and report that this woman left her three small children in a closet with chemicals at work for hours. It may be kicking someone who’s down, but it would very much emphasize that this is unacceptable and possibly dangerous behavior.

    1. Desiree Renee Arceneaux*

      This seems inconsistent to me: if the junior employee deserved to be fired for giving the info to OP, then OP certainly deserved to be fired for demanding that info.

      My opinion is that both of them should have been reprimanded at most — the junior manager mildly, and the OP more strictly.

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