when you’re accused of plagiarism, parents who won’t turn over their kids’ identity documents, and more

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

1. I was accused of plagiarism

I was accused of plagiarism earlier this year. I couldn’t believe it because I take academic (and my own) integrity so, so seriously. I previously worked in academics, nothing like this has ever happened to me before, and I was devastated. My manager presented the paper and facts to me plainly but forcefully. I clearly had cited incorrectly, and the errors were pervasive. Again, I was just devastated and felt horrible. I would rather be a poor performer than a plagiarist. I met with everyone on my team, apologized, and told them how important integrity and open, honest communications are to me. They thanked me for handling everything so responsibly and decided not to fire me. (Yay.)

But then I got sick and my manager said I was erratic, non-responsive, did poor quality work, wasn’t capable of doing my work (so shouldn’t be staffed on the project), and that I had plagiarized. It then got raised as a complaint to HR. Since then, everyone, including HR, has praised my contributions and said I’m doing everything right.

I recently got sick again and it’s freaking me out because of my last experience. It’s time for end-of-the-year reviews, so I have been rehashing the scenario and I can’t help wonder if it could have gone a different way. There were serious citation errors and I did a bad job on a written project, but am I labeled a plagiarist forever? I did get sick, but I try to make up the hours and communicate when I’ll be out of the office. I should have taken off earlier in the plagiarism case because I had a viral illness aand the project was stressful, high profile, impossible turnaround (which we met), and understaffed.

I am still so upset about this incident and want to put it all behind me, but I don’t know if I can. I am trying to act reasonably and in good faith, as well as own my shit and stop something like this from ever happening to me or anyone else. People have praised me multiple times for how I handled this, but yet in my organization, I’m still a plagiarist guilty of trying to pass someone’s work off as my own instead of someone who was coming down with an illness on a tough project who made a serious error. What do you think? How can I put this behind me?

Oooh, this is really tough. If you were known for doing excellent work before this and it’s credible that what happened was a mistake rather than intentional plagiarism, then I think you should be able to put it behind you with the action you’ve taken and are taking. But if either of those two elements aren’t present, I do think it’ll be hard to get past at this employer, unfortunately. (In particular, if this didn’t happen against a backdrop of previously excellent work, people will be more likely to look at this as part of a pattern.)

Do you have the kind of relationship with your boss where you can talk to her about this? You might get some really useful insight from that conversation, whether it’s that this is totally recoverable from or that yeah, it’s going to keep following you around there.

2. Parents who refuse to turn over their kids’ Social Security cards so they can legally work

I hire a large number of federal work studies and student wage employees for our department. I keep running into the same problem over and over. Mom and dad are refusing to give their children their Social Security cards and birth certificates. One of our students had to order their birth certificate and order a replacement social security card because their parents wouldn’t give up the documents. If they are requiring their children to work, they should make copies for themselves and give the originals to the students. One student didn’t have the funds to purchase a birth certificate, and his mother refused to mail him any of his documents. So he’s not working this semester.

We will hold a position open for only a week awaiting documentation; otherwise I’ll hire someone else because we cannot wait two to three weeks. This is a problem and I have had parents call and attempt to push me into accepting a copy. I’m curious: I know a few years back that one of the offices on campus got hit $2,500 per individual I-9, where they had kept a file copy of the I-9 and supporting documentation in the office when sending the original to HR. There was also talk of IRS charging the individual a fine per copy along with the university. I’m not sure how that panned out because it was a confidential matter.

What is the dollar amount that a company and the individual employee be charged with if they say they saw an original Social Security card, etc., when in reality it’s a copy and it’s caught by the IRS? People do not realize how severe the penalty can be.

I don’t know; you’re asking me something outside of my area of expertise, but I’m sure it’s a relatively simple search on Google. (Okay, I just gave in and Googled it for you. It’s here.) But I’m printing this letter because these parents are being ridiculous. I can understand parents being wary of entrusting these documents to their kids because they might get lost — but the majority of the students you’re encountering are probably legal adults and are entitled to possess their own damn identity documents regardless of their parents’ worries. It’s pretty horrifying that these parents are standing the way of their adult offspring being able to get legal work.

3. My boss wants me to start work at 4:15 a.m.

My boss is going to be asking some of us to start work at 4:15 a.m. to accommodate customers on the east coast. I’m not a kid (nearly 60), and I’m already getting up at 3:30 a.m. in order to commute to be on time for a job that starts at 6 a.m. I’m planning on telling her I’m not willing to get up earlier, even though it’s likely I will be working from home for that ridiculous shift.

I’m already not in her good graces, and have been actively seeking other positions where I can use my skills, experience and education. Should I prepare to be fired, and if so, what can I tell another employer in the event that happens?

Ooof, I don’t blame you for not wanting those hours. It’s possible that she’ll insist this is now a requirement of your job and fire you if you refuse, but it’s also possible that she won’t. It’s hard to say without knowing more about her and about the situation, although it’s true that the fact that things already aren’t great between the two of you doesn’t bode well.

If you do end up leaving the job over this, you can simply tell prospective employers that the hours of the job changed to a partially overnight shift, which wasn’t feasible for you. People will understand that.

4. Applying for a job with someone who fired me four years ago

In the beginning of my career, I worked for the editorial director of a website. I was much more inexperienced for the role than we both thought I was; I dropped the ball on a couple of important assignments because I simply did not know what to do. This led me to being fired from the job by my then-boss.

Fast forward four years, I have gained much more experience and have a lot of accomplishments under my belt. My old boss is at a new company who is hiring. We are connections on LinkedIn. I would love to be considered for a job at that company, a role that I am qualified for in skills and experience, so I was thinking of sending her an email of interest.

After I was fired, I emailed her a letter, thanking her for the opportunity and asking for ways that I can improve my performance. I took her advice to heart and made improvements moving forward that have helped me greatly in my career and as a person. We ended things on a cordial note, which makes me think that I can reach out to her again. Do you think it is too soon or is it water under the bridge and we can move forward?

Well … I’d be pretty hesitant to hire someone who I’d fired four years ago for dropping balls. That’s not because I think it’s impossible that they’ve learned and grown since then, because of course that happens all the time; rather, it’s that it’s a risk, and it would be tough to feel excited about hiring someone when the problems were significant enough previously that I had to fire them.

That doesn’t mean that she’ll feel the same though. And I don’t think you have a ton to lose by just applying and seeing what happens. I can’t tell if she’s the hiring manager for the new job or not. If she is, I’d send her a separate note telling her why you think you’d excel at the role and saying that you of course understand if she doesn’t think it’s the right fit. If she isn’t, I might just apply on your own and not reach out to her (since any recommendation she makes to the hiring manager will be impacted by the fact that she’ll almost certainly need to mention what happened previously, and I think that will hurt more than help).

5. Was this job coach’s advice good?

I saw a job coach give a webinar yesterday about job searching, and she recommended a three-part CV/resume that comprises of a cover letter, a Skills/Accomplishments Sheet and a Work Experience History (the actual resume). She also recommended an objective statement that reads like a headline as might be found on LinkedIn. In your article and other web articles, the objective statement is discouraged. I am recently laid off and starting my job search. Wondering if this advice is something new and reasonable to follow.

You need a cover letter and a resume. If employers want something more, they’ll ask for it. You don’t need a separate skills/accomplishments sheet; that’s info that should already be incorporated into your resume, and it’s going to look a little amateurish to send it separately. And no, don’t use an objective — they come across as very, very dated now. (That said, I can’t tell if she was actually suggesting an objective or something more like a profile section or headline, which can be fine if they’re done well.)

{ 558 comments… read them below }

  1. jack of all trades

    My daughter will be working on campus this semester and has worked at another campus the last two summers. She has all her documents and has known exactly where they were located if she needed them. I suspect that these parents are paranoid about identity theft. But if they don’t trust their children with their own social security card I don’t know why they even let them go to college.

    1. Jeanne

      I agree with you. At some point they need to be responsible for their own Social Security card. If the parent is that worried, show them how to mail it home, certified if necessary, after all the paperwork is done. I also don’t get the logic. The parents applied for financial aid which resulted in the student being offered a job. Yet the parent refuses to make it possible to take the job. My advice (which shouldn’t be necessary) is to add a letter to the financial aid package stating that if the student doesn’t have that documentation the job will be denied and that portion of aid forfeited.

      1. Christopher Tracy

        If the parent is that worried, show them how to mail it home, certified if necessary, after all the paperwork is done.

        This is what my mom had me and my brother do, and I was grateful for it since a couple at my school actually was stealing other students’ socials, credit cards, and mail, and then opening up new credit cards, taking trips around the globe, going on shopping sprees – you name it (they eventually got caught). And my brother would lose his head if it wasn’t attached to his body, so my mom definitely didn’t want him keeping those documents (but he kept forgetting to mail them back to her so she went months without seeing them again, lol).

        1. MashaKasha

          That is a good point. I was going to comment on how ridiculous this is, but your comment made me realize this is not about parents not trusting their kids – this is about parents not trusting their kids’ randomly assigned dorm roommates, who could theoretically give the key to the shared room to everyone and their dog. This does sound like a valid concern to me, if truth be told!

          1. Kyrielle

            Yep. I was just thinking that when my kids are old enough to face this, I’d probably see if there was a bank near or on campus and introduce them to safety deposit boxes. Because in a dorm room, the chance of both theft and losing the darned things is a bit too high. (They can be lost due to a merely-careless roommate and not the kid, too.)

            1. Christopher Tracy

              My brother’s first school was literally out in the middle of nowhere. I don’t recall seeing a bank for miles and his car was not the best or most reliable to get places. He preferred her to have his docs because she could just lock them up in her home safe and not worry about it (and since he had a license, he really didn’t need to carry the social or birth certificate around anyway since you need both to get the license in the first place). I had a bank just off campus, so I do wish my mom would have told me about safety deposit boxes there (though I did also forget to shut down my bank account once I graduated and moved out of state, so it’s possible I would have forgotten to get them out of the bank when leaving too).

              1. Natalie

                “and since he had a license, he really didn’t need to carry the social or birth certificate around anyway since you need both to get the license in the first place”

                If you’re in the US that’s not at all true – in many (most?) states you do not need to prove citizenship to get a drivers’ license. That is the precise reason the I-9 requires a combination of license/state ID and proof of work authorization.

                1. Christopher Tracy

                  Oh, see in my state, he used his birth certificate and social to get his license. That’s what I meant.

                2. Natalie

                  Sure, they are generally among the documents one can provide to get a driver’s license, but there are other acceptable documents as well, so simply having a DL doesn’t proof you have a US birth certificate or a social security number. And you are generally allowed to get a US drivers license even if you aren’t allowed to work in the US (student visa, for example).

              2. Kyrielle

                Hence “if” there was a bank. :) I know there isn’t always, but as long as there was, yes, I’ll introduce them to that. If they prefer me to hold the documents I’ll explain the ramifications thereof and be happy to keep them in mine if they’d rather after that, especially if there’s not a bank handy to campus.

          2. Christopher Tracy

            Yeah, after the stealing story came out, all of the people I knew at my school that had those docs sent them home. Then someone actually stole my W2 from my little work-study job one year, and I was terrified someone was going to steal my identity. This is a valid concern.

          3. De Minimis

            I had a moronic roommate in college who refused to lock the door. Ever. I don’t know if he just didn’t want to be bothered with remembering his keys or what. He was an international student so maybe it was a cultural thing, I don’t really know. I had numerous things stolen [interestingly enough, none of his things were ever taken] and finally decided to just move out of the dorm. I still hold a grudge!

            1. GreyjoyGardens

              Maybe he didn’t want to lock the door so his sketchy friends could steal from you. Unless your things were vastly superior to his, this sounds really fishy.

      2. eplawyer

        I like this. Make it c lear to the student that they must have the documents when they arrive on campus. THat gives the legal adult time to request the documentation for themselves.

        And parents, stop trying to control your kids’ lives. So they have a sketchy roommate, you can be a victim of identiy theft even without a sketchy roommate. Let them be adults and handle the situation like adults.

    2. Hannah

      But if they don’t trust their children with their own social security card I don’t know why they even let them go to college.

      Exactly!

      I’m sure there are parents that would argue that their kid is not responsible enough to hang onto their own documents. Sounds to me like they aren’t ready for college or a job if they genuinely can’t keep track of a piece of paper yet.

      1. Mike C.

        I don’t understand why this decision on the part of the parents is somehow a reflection on the students.

        1. Jaydee

          I think she means the parents can’t have it both ways. Either little Jimmy is responsible enough to attend college, live on his own away from parents, and hold a job – in which case he is responsible enough to possess his own Social security card and birth certificate – or he is incapable of safeguarding two pieces of paper – in which case, should he really be out on his own?

        2. Blossom

          I thought Hannah’s point was that, if the parents can accept that the kids are ready for college and a job, then they should accept that they are also old enough to look after their own documents.

      2. Anon367

        I have never needed my social security card for a job. I’ve always used my passport card instead. Is OP making it clear to the students that there are other documents that can be used instead? A passport or passport card is good enough on its own.

        1. Alexandra

          Plenty of young people don’t have passports. A passport is considered the most thorough form of identification and you don’t need anything in addition to it, but if you don’t have one you need to have other documentation.

        2. Koko

          A lot of young Americans, especially those not from coastal states, don’t have passports. Overseas travel for youngsters tends to be restricted to a few special groups: families with relatives overseas, upper middle class families who live in coastal or border state regions, and the wealthy. I grew up comfortably middle class and we vacationed every summer at the beach, but I didn’t travel overseas until I was in graduate school. I got my first passport around age 23 or 24.

          1. Another person

            That makes sense. I grew up within an hour of the border, so it was very common for everyone to have a passport (especially after they changed the ID rules because when I was younger you didn’t need a passport specifically, just an ID). So I’ve had a passport ever since they changed that law, basically, and so did everyone I knew. It was definitely easier to just use my passport for jobs. I didn’t even take my social security card from my parent’s secure filing system until I moved to Illinois and they required a social security card for changing your driver’s license by state (which is a little ridiculous–they wouldn’t even let me use a passport as an acceptable form of proof of citizenship!)

            1. saf

              I also grew up very close to the border, but when I was a kid, you didn’t need a passport for Canada (or for Mexico for that matter, but that was far away.)

              1. Anna the Accounting Grad

                Heck, it wasn’t needed as recently as 2008, provided you were traveling by certain kinds of transportation (e.g., not flying). My mom and I had a trip to Seattle and tacked on a weekend in Vancouver, and she had no trouble at the border with her driver’s license and a copy of her birth certificate.

          2. SL #2

            In all honesty, this is not something that would’ve ever occurred to me… but I live in a coastal state and I have lots of relatives overseas. I’ve basically had a passport since I was born. Which probably explains why I sat there reading this letter and going “…why aren’t they just using their passports???????”

          3. Anon367

            I got my passport and card at 17. I would do the same for my kids, because you never know when there will be a fabulous opportunity abroad and you’ll need to get everything together fairly quickly. As long as you’re over 16, your passport is good for a decade.

          4. calonkat

            Agree with the idea that people in the US may not have passports. I’m in my 50’s and from the center of the continental US and have never had a passport.

          5. Callie

            I’m 41 and don’t have a passport. The last time I went out of the country (my honeymoon), US citizens didn’t need a passport to travel to Canada or Mexico. But that was 20 years ago. No time or money to leave the country since then.

            1. Jeanne

              I’m a little older than you and never had a passport. I went to Canada as a kid when no passport was needed. Now I can’t afford to travel at all.

          6. Jennifer

            I didn’t get one until I was over 30, because I never go anywhere.

            (It was for a 1-day cruise to Mexico and I didn’t even get a stamp. What was the point?)

          7. Stranger than fiction

            I grew up near a border, but a passport wasn’t required to get back until just a few years ago (or several years, I’ve lost track)

        3. Anxa

          I’ve needed it several times. Passports are far too expensive to use as a form of ID if I don’t actually need one for travel.

        4. Moonsaults

          I filled out my I-9 for a side job I took awhile back and handed over my passport card as ID. It blew the owners mind because he was one of those folks who didn’t even know that there are many other options besides the typical SS card and license/ID combo >_< Granted he was also confused that I had supplied my own I-9 because I've done payroll for so long, I just grabbed a copy to fill out to save me trouble LOL

          It's not just a kids thing, many older Americans dont even know that it's always one that proves identity and one that proves citizenship or one that proves both in one swoop.

      3. Observer

        The problem is that in these cases, the parents do NOT accept that their child is mature enough to be on their own. And the parents re most definitely going to try to control everything they can remotely.

        Haven’t you read what college administrators have to say about dealing with parents who call them about their kids’ marks, teachers, dorms and everything else?

    3. Jen Erik

      We had this with a recent wedding and a birth certificate. In that case, it wasn’t a distrust of the (adult) child, it was a profound distrust of the postal service’s ability to get the documentation safely to the (adult) child.

        1. Blossom

          Well… why would you, unless you needed it? I don’t think I took my birth certificate along to university with me; I had no need for it, and it was safest back home. I have it now (as a working adult), but I can’t remember at what point I took it; I expect I needed it for something or other, like a passport renewal, and it’s been with me ever since.

          1. Jayn

            This. My parents gave me my SIN card in high school, but not my birth certificate until I was 22 and asked for it (which makes the distrust of the postal system a bit amusing to me, because they mailed it to me internationally). I just hadn’t needed it until then.

            1. Kelly L.

              Yeah, I went off to college with my state ID and SS card, but I don’t remember needing my birth certificate for anything until I lost my SS card and had to replace it. I was probably 27 or so. That’s when I asked for it and got it.

            2. nerfmobile

              hah. when i did need my birth certificate as a young adult, my dad couldn’t find it and we had to request a copy from the state.

          2. Bob Barker

            I have a distinct memory of requesting a new original birth certificate when I was 19, and working a summer job. I don’t remember why I had to do it — my mother wouldn’t have refused to let me use the original-original to start the job at least. But I think that was part of her idea of what grownups do: she kept the original-original record, and told me to go get my own. Which I did!

            (Why does she need a record of my birth, now I’m an adult? I don’t know. But it was informative to me, at 19, to see how the world of official paperwork functioned, and to recognize that “you are who you say you are” is not as simple a thing as it had been all my life till then.)

            1. irritable vowel

              I think for parents (and perhaps mothers especially), the birth certificate is more than a legal document, it’s a precious memento of a huge occasion in their lives. I was 40 years old before I convinced my mother to give me my birth certificate! For those of us with parents of an older generation, these documents are also things you guard with your lives because who knows how you might ever get another one. They don’t realize that it’s a fairly easy thing to request a copy from the county records office.

              The Social Security card thing is ridiculous, though. The only reason one has a SSN is to be able to work in this country, it makes zero sense for the parent to safeguard it. It belongs to the child only. As others have said, identity theft can certainly happen without someone stealing your actual SS card (indeed, in most cases I’m sure it does).

              1. chocoholic

                We have needed SS numbers for our kids since birth so that we can claim them as dependents on our taxes, so there is a need for them prior to being working age. I can’t say I have really thought about giving the kids their cards when they are in college, but I do try to hand over responsibility for things as they need it so I probably will.

                All that said, I am soon to be 44 and I am not sure if I have my own birth certificate. Hmm. I will have to check at home, but I am not sure I have ever needed it. And I don’t really know when I became responsible for my own social security card. I had to have had it before I got married since I had a job, but its possible I didn’t get it from my dad until I needed it, and then I probably just never gave it back. I have my pre-marriage SS card card and my current SS card in my files at home.

                1. Suz

                  Me too. I’m 50 and my mom still has my birth certificate. I don’t recall ever needing it for anything. But I’ve had possession of my SS card since I got my 1st job at 14.

          3. Lily

            When I left my parents’ home for college, my mom gave my all my documents including the birth certificate (while, of course, stressing that it was the original and it would be a bad idea to loose it). I thought all the parents did this.
            … then we had to bring our birth certificates for a state diploma 2 years later, and almost all the other students had problems getting theirs in time.

            1. Lily

              Btw, the folder she gave me contained EVERYTHING. From the medical records of my early childhood to all of my school certificates.

            2. Koko

              My mom did the same with me, but I also worked part-time throughout high school and college so it’s not like she could have not given me them…*rereads letter*….well, I guess she *could* have not given me them. It just wouldn’t have been a smart idea for my employability.

          4. Pope suburban

            Exactly. I had to get a copy of my birth certificate when I moved and my new state required it to get a driver’s license. That was the first time I needed it, ever, and who knows how many years after my parents needed it for anything (I’m quite sure they have the original, but I’m also quite sure it’s in the basement, with the flotsam of years, so it was easier to get a reprint).

        2. Ama

          The reason I don’t have my birth certificate (at 36) is that when my parents sent my passport to me a few years back UPS nearly lost it. (They delivered it to a different building of the campus where I worked at the time, but insisted they’d delivered it to my building. Thankfully whoever sorted mail at that building recognized that the address was a campus one and stuck it in the internal mail system.) Since that incident, I don’t want to risk my birth certificate going missing in the mail. I’ve been meaning to pick it up from their house the next time I visit but I only go home about once a year and it’s easy to forget.

          However, I have had possession of my social security card since I got my first job at 16, when my mom handed it over and said if I was responsible enough to get a job I was responsible enough to keep track of the card for the rest of my life. I’ve actually never needed my original birth certificate since I’ve always had a driver’s license to go along with it.

        3. Kristine

          I’m almost 30 and I don’t have my birth certificate. I’ve never been asked for it before and it’s never occurred to me that I’d need it.

          1. KWalmostB

            Not sure of the process in the states, but in Jamaica, we absolutely need our birth certificates if we want to get a new passport (or US or UK visas), or if you’re getting married or anything like that. I’ve had mine since I was 18 and in university.

            1. MegaMoose, Esq.

              My experience has been that people in the US are far less likely to have passports than people in other countries, especially smaller countries. For many people here, the only time you need a birth certificate is when you get your drivers’ license (or more rarely, state ID card) which usually happens when you’re still living with your parents. That then becomes the ID you use for pretty much everything else except for work, where you usually use a Social Security card your parents probably got for you when you were a kid.

            2. Izzy

              In the US, if you already have a passport, you can get a new passport by using the old passport as proof of citizenship and identity. I’ve never used my birth certificate for much of anything, the passport is easier and I got my first one when I was still in diapers (but as the commentator above says, most Americans don’t have passports).

        4. Oryx

          I’m almost 35. I don’t have my birth certificate. I have my SS card because I’ve always needed that for jobs but I’ve never needed my birth certificate.

      1. GigglyPuff

        My mom is like that now, but she has a perfectly valid reason. Her tax refund got stolen by people who worked in the large postal sorting office one year, and it took her years to get her refund back. By the time she did, the people were already out of jail.

        1. Meg Murry

          Yes, you can – but if the student lives in a dorm, they either won’t get the package and FedEx or whoever will return it, or the person behind the front desk will sign for it and then the package could still get lost there. Or all FedEx packages for the whole campus will go to the central mailroom, where it could still get lost.

        2. Jennifer

          Anywhere that requires a signature usually means that you need someone to be physically home on the day when they arrive, though. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a housewife at home to do that, nobody’s gonna do that where I live, and my work won’t let me send personal packages there. College students are in and out so who knows when they’re home. I get really ticked when someone requires a signature because that usually means I don’t get it or some other horrible package drama ensues.

      2. Noah

        I don’t really get the distrust of the postal system thing. The state mails you a certified copy of your birth certificate via regular mail. If you are that worried, just order a new one. I did this recently because the one I’ve had since childhood had been folded and unfolded so many times it was ripped and the passport office didn’t like it. They accepted it, but I figured I would avoid the potential issue in the future and is was all of $20 to order one online.

        1. Elizabeth West

          I had to leave my birth certificate AT the passport office and they mailed it back to me, no problem. Say what you will about the postal service, but I’ve had very little issue getting things sent to me or sending them to someone else.

          Bills seem to have no trouble getting to me, either! :P

          1. SpaceySteph

            I think the majority of mail gets where it’s going, but there are outliers. Four months after my wedding, a response card came in the mail from my uncle. It was postmarked November (a couple months BEFORE my wedding) and a bit beaten up. No telling where it spent the intervening 6 months. Sure 70-some reply cards made it to me as planned, but one didn’t. If that one letter had been important personal documentation, then it wouldn’t really matter about all the many bills (which I pay online anyway) and advertisements and coupons that did make it when the one important thing didn’t.

            1. Elizabeth West

              Haha, this is true–we had a client at my lab job whom we were sure had not sent us a check; they insisted they had. They resent it. We finally did get the original, six months later. The reroute was postmarked in Honolulu!

        2. Rusty Shackelford

          I don’t really get the distrust of the postal system thing.

          You’d get it if you received someone else’s mail as often as I do.

          1. Ife

            I once received more mail for my neighbors than I did for myself. I check the mail once a week, so that was a pile.

          2. Jen in Austin

            It’s not the postal system so much as the local carriers. Ours is so bad I finally gave up and got a mail store mailbox.

      3. Jennifer

        Given the drama we have with the post office losing official documents frequently, I kinda can’t blame them.

    4. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

      I used to have zero sympathy for parents like that [insert my own story of “emancipation” from my controlling mother] until I saw my own husband’s head explode when our ditzy 19 year old son told him that he had to take the documents “right now” because he and his friends were going up to get passports spur of the moment.

      My husband had walked through fire for the birth certificates and social security cards. I’m a widow and he’d legally adopted the children but the lawyer botched the last mile of the adoption, we found out years later. My husband spent two weeks in all kinds of offices dealing with all kinds of things to finally get those doc. Add that to my son who, god bless, loses and forgets everything, and then add the spur of the moment notice with “guys will be here in 15” and ……..fireworks.

      Me, I pull the husband by the ear and say “these are his docs, he’s an adult, you have to give them to him”.

      It was, we don’t have scenes in my house, but this was a scene.

      And the husband was the one I felt sorry for. And the son got his docs.

      1. Observer

        That’s the difference between your husband and “those” parents. YOUR SON GOT HIS DOCUMENTS.

        And, although I totally sympathize with your husband, I’d have had a lot less sympathy if he hadn’t handed over the docs. And, this is for a TRIP. Refusing to hand over documents required for work?!

    5. Simms

      I still don’t have a copy of my birth certificate because my mother refuses to let me have them. Not because of security issues but because she views them as baby collectibles as if they were a first shoe or something similar. I haven’t been able to get a copy either because I was born abroad on a military base and trying to get a copy of those records seems to be like pulling teeth.

      1. Elysian

        My dad withheld my docs from me because, in his opinion, he only had to give them to my future husband on the day he asked permission for my hand in marriage. I ended up convincing him I would return them after I got my passport and then never did, which is really for the best. I didn’t get my passport until I was 21 or so and definitely worked in college, so I’m actually not sure how I handled that. I think I was allowed to have my social security card but not my birth certificate.

        1. Nea

          “he only had to give them to my future husband on the day he asked permission for my hand in marriage”

          Jaw. On. Floor.

          There was a time when a copy of the birth certificate was enough; I don’t have the original of mine either, but I do have a copy, and the original SS card. It’s been years since I’ve been asked for anything except the SSN (not the card) and my passport.

          1. Elysian

            Yeah, now that I actually have a passport I use that, but I didn’t have one until my junior year of college at the earliest. I did have a drivers license and I think I had my ss card, so I probably used that combo.

          2. LawPancake

            Apparently my parents only had a copy of my birth certificate, which I took when I moved out, and up until trying to get a passport I had no idea that it was only a copy and not the real thing. I didn’t even have any problems getting a drivers license.

        2. Nea

          “he only had to give them to my future husband on the day he asked permission for my hand in marriage”

          Jaw. On. Floor.

          That said, there was a time when a copy of the birth certificate was enough along with the original SocSec card; I don’t have the original of my birth certificate either.

        3. Karo

          A Passport is a “List A” document, meaning that that’s all you need in order to complete the I-9 – it establishes both right to work and residency, or something like that. Social Security Card/Birth Certificate/Valid State ID are “List B and C” documents, which have to be used in combination.

          /nerd.

          1. Paige

            Exactly. I’ve just relied on my passport for years. When I’ve worked for offsite contractors they’ve accepted a scan of the passport (maybe that’s not ok?!?!). Come to think of it, I have no idea where my SS card is… uh oh.

            1. Elysian

              Yeah, but if you don’t have a passport (or if your passport has expired, etc) you’re left with looking for other docs. It is way easier once you get a valid passport.

              1. Elizabeth West

                My folks got one for me at 18 because my graduation present was a trip to see my auntie in London (see, London and I have had a thing going for a long time, LOL). But it expired years ago. Thank goodness I did get all those documents later, though I don’t recall when exactly.

          2. Manders

            Ah, that makes sense! I was totally stumped by this question since I’ve never, ever had to hand over a social security card or a birth certificate for anything–but I’ve had a passport since I was a baby. My parents sent me off to college with my passport, but kept my social security card and birth certificate at home in a safe. There’s also an issue in my state with the TSA threatening to not accept driver’s licenses as ID, so everyone I know has a passport just in case that’s ever enforced. It didn’t occur to me that a lot of the students OP deals with wouldn’t have a passport.

          3. Stephanie

            My state agency required seeing my actual social security card regardless of what documents I used for the I-9.

              1. Stephanie

                As I understand it, it is a state requirement unrelated to the i-9 and federal requirements. They do not require it for the i-9 itself.

      2. MK

        In my jurisdiction withholding someone’s personal official documents is a crime. While you may not want to press charges against your mother, maybe you can make an argument that legally you must have therm yourself.

      3. Liane

        Your (US) Representative’s or Senator’s local office can be very helpful in dealing with Federal agencies, once you’ve tried and failed. They all have staffers who help out constituents who run into problems. I have only asked for help with 1 or 2 Medicare SNAFUs when my dad was alive, not anything military or VA related, so it might not work as well but give it a try.

        1. Simms

          Unfortunately I don’t have one of those. I’ve been living in Canada for the past 2 and a half years so I don’t know who I would reach out to. Also the American embassies in Canada tend to be rather…brusque to Americans living in Canada due to so many of us renouncing our citizenship (I plan to as well in another couple of years.)

      4. Elizabeth West

        My mum is like that with stuff too. I got frustrated that I couldn’t participate in any #throwbackthursday stuff online because I don’t have ANY childhood pics–she holds the albums hostage. And it practically took a bulldozer to get my great-grandmother’s artwork that hung in my room as a child.

        I’m convinced some of the stuff is withheld because I’m single and don’t have a family of my own. I’m not sure she sees me as an actual adult.

        1. Unegen

          I’m sorry you have had to deal with that. I know what it’s like. My parents hold the identities of my extended family hostage. My mother has relatives on her (now deceased) father’s side of the family that she never mentioned for years but let slip that she communicates with frequently. My father has extended family that he talks to but never told me their names. In neither case are these mystery people negative in any way; my parents just see them as “their” family, not mine. Kind of like how you might joke that your pet poodle is your mother’s granddog, but you don’t actually think they’re related. To them, I’m not as human as they are, therefore their family isn’t my family.

          1. anonytime

            “To them, I’m not as human as they are, therefore their family isn’t my family.”
            Wow, that’s awful! And, ironically, really inhuman of them.

          2. Marisol

            Families are terrible. I hardly speak to either of my parents cuz their so screwed up.

            I bet if you wanted to you could find a way to circumvent your parents and get in contact with the other relatives–they might like having a relationship with you! Not that you needed any advice, just a thought that occurred to me…

      5. many bells down

        My husband was born in Guatemala City. Right after the 1976 earthquake. We didn’t get a birth certificate for him until he was in his 30’s. I have no idea how his family managed to get him documentation all those years.

      6. EmmaLou

        I don’t know if they still do, but they used to be very pretty and colorful and have your little baby footprints… so I can see a mother not wanting to let that go. The replacements are very boring forms. (I have my original, husband has a certified replacement) Do make sure if you get a replacement that you get the more expensive one as Real Official Official Places can’t take the cheaper “just a copy” ones. Now, though, for Nostalgia, you could scan your birth certificate on nice paper and give the copy to mom and keep the original.

        1. Natalie

          I think those cute ones with the footprints were only ever keepsake birth certificates issued by the hospital, not government documents.

          1. Random Citizen

            Yeah, I found out recently that mine of just the hospital souvenir one, and I have no idea where my real one is, or if I ever got one – my Mom was stumped, too. I should go get a real one someday, but I haven’t bothered yet. My driver’s license and SS card have worked for everything so far.

      7. skunklet

        You should have a Consular report of birth abroad, issued by the US Department of State, that’s where you’d get it…. (my son was born when I was in the Navy in Spain).

    6. Bwmn

      In my adult life I’ve lost my social security card and passport. Replacing both wasn’t pleasant, but it also wasn’t the end of the world.

      That being said, for any parent with all sorts of reasons why not to give the social security card and birth certificate to their child – if they have a passport, that works in lieu of both, correct? I’m pretty sure every US job I’ve applied for, I’ve just provided that. Replacing a lost passport isn’t quite as difficult and then it still does allow mom and dad to hold onto the other documents.

      1. BusinessCat

        This is the best perspective. I really did misplace my documentation after my parents gave it to me at college. I found it again later, but it underscored why a reasonable parent could be concerned about this. Moving every year in and out of dorms and important life documents don’t mix that well. BUT, these documents can be replaced! and a passport counts for both, is easier to replace, and easier to keep track of/not damage than the flimsy paper of the other id forms. Sharing the full list of acceptable documents with the job posting will probably help OP.

      2. the_scientist

        I actually didn’t realize that a birth certificate was required in this instance in the US. I was eligible for work-study jobs in university because I received provincial and federal student aid. I actually didn’t even need my birth certificate to pick up my loans every semester, as far as I can recall…….just my SIN card and one of driver’s license, passport, or birth certificate. In terms of jobs, I usually just had to give my SIN number, not show the actual card itself….and certainly no birth certificate or passport. Usually on a job application you have to indicate if you’re a Canadian citizen and if you’re eligible to work in Canada; that’s it.

        That being said, I agree that parents are being ridiculous……but my mom is also extremely distrustful of Canada Post and I can see her being unwilling to mail my birth certificate to me, so I have some sympathy for these kids.

        Also, I DID actually lose my SIN card (I got it back, though, with no identity theft!) and it wasn’t the end of the world….I just went to a service Canada office, provided proof of identity, and got a slip of paper verifying my SIN number. When I started a new job and didn’t have the card to photocopy, they let me use a photocopied tax return instead.

        1. Michelle

          Page 9 of the I-9 form lists what documents you can present. Employers usually want driver’s license and SSN because it’s easiest and they think most people are in possession of them. But the I-9 also clearly states that you cannot tell the employee what documents you will accept and you should be furnishing a copy of page 9 to them. They might have something from List A .

          I agree that parents refusing to give college students their birth certificate or SS card is ridiculous, but you can work around that for the I-9.

          1. the_scientist

            Ah, so it sounds like the OP should be providing students with this list when they get their loan agreements or some such as reminder that they need to provide *some* documentation from the list of acceptable types.

            1. J

              I mean, sure, except the I9 requirements are the same for every legal job in the US. The parents should know if they’ve started a job in the last 30 years. (And if they don’t know specifically, it’s easy to look it up online.)

              1. Michelle

                I think passports would be find for college students- it’s on List A and easier to keep up with than DL & SS card. I think most employers like DL & SS cards because those are usually things you need for job for purposes other than I-9’s.

        2. Bwmn

          Unless I have incorrectly applied for jobs in the US my entire life, I’ve always used my passport (which is accepted in lieu of social security card + passport).

          I’ve had a passport since I was a kid, and while you do need both to initially get a passport, once you already have one as long as you renew it regularly you can just get the new one using the old one. And while yes, 18 year olds are adults and all that – college students are also usually moving a lot – if not twice a year, sometimes more often. And among the very best of us, moving is a great time for things to get lost. So as a PSA, I’m actually far more on the side of a parent getting their kid a passport pre-college for these purposes vs. giving them the other documents.

          Counting every time I moved into/out of a dorm or student housing – I’ve easily moved around 20 times since I was 18. My parents haven’t moved once and neither has my birth certificate, so the chances of it being misplaced/lost are just far far less. Not to mention the sentimental value my mom places on it.

          1. Anon367

            Ditto. Plus it’s easier if there’s an opportunity to study abroad if you’ve got a passport. My undergrad department was going to have a winter break study abroad and it was nice to know that I had one less hoop to jump through. Sadly, funding or something fell through.

            I actually still don’t have my birth certificate. Even post college, you’re still moving around more frequently. I’d rather my mom had it in her safe where it is right now.

        3. Jennifer M.

          A birth certificate is not specifically required. You have to show documentation of your citizenship and legal ability to work. A US passport will work on its own. A photo ID (including driver’s license, state issued id, student id, etc) PLUS a document such as a SS card or birth certificate or X or Y, etc can also be used. So an individual doesn’t have to have both at the same time.

          I’m 40 and have my SS card and have had it since my early 20s (for on campus work as an undergrad I used my passport). Still don’t have my birth certificate, but I know exactly where it is in my dad’s file cabinet and he’d give it to me if I asked for it.

        4. Anja

          Canada here as well – as far as I can remember I’ve used my birth certificate…twice. My parents probably used my birth certificate to get my first passport when I was a baby/toddler (my mom wasn’t/isn’t a Canadian citizen so I couldn’t piggyback on hers, which is what they usually did at the time but we were living abroad) but that is out of the span of my memory.

          I used it when I got my driver’s license as one of my pieces of ID, I think. And then at one point ordered the long version of my birth certificate (the one with your parents’ names and places of birth) online so I could apply for my German passport.

          I’m not entirely sure where my birth certificate is now, actually. …or my SIN card. At least I know where both passports are, though!

      3. I used to be Murphy

        See, I think giving my kid her documents and letting the chips fall where they may is a perfect example of “natural consequences.”

        You lose a passport and can’t go on vacation? Wow, that sucks. You should probably be more careful.
        You lose a birth certificate and have to pay to have it replaced? Wow, that sucks.You should probably be more careful.

        In short, the message is, losing stuff has consequences. If you’re an adult, either be responsible with your documents or suffer the consequences.

        And also, have identity theft insurance.

        1. Bwmn

          My only push back for this with college students is that with all of the moving into/out of student housing – there is just such a greater chance for things to get lost that’s arguably not helpful.

          I’m very pro-get a college student a passport, but I think giving them all of their documents in college is a natural roll of the dice. During undergrad alone I did a “major” move at least 8 times. To assume that nothing would ever go missing all those times is unrealistic.

          1. Natalie

            Eh, it’s not like you’re only allowed one official copy. The parent can keep the originals and get certified copies from the county or whatever, and give their kid the certified copies. Your student now has everything they need to get their own job and if they do happen to lose their documents it’s not the end of the world.

            1. Unegen

              I don’t recommend relying on certified copies, though. They might be legal documents but if the person processing your (whatever) doesn’t realize that, your (whatever) could be rejected. Kind of like how $2 are perfectly legal money but nobody recognizes them as such so spending them involves convincing someone the money isn’t fake. You would be amazed how many low-level (like DMV counter level) people don’t understand the concept of certified copies.

                1. AK

                  Me either. Recognizing valid documents is supposed to be part of their training – it was a part of mine when I worked at a similar job.

                2. Cats!

                  I’ve run into trouble because the copy was certified but NOT WITH A RAISED SEAL (the horror!) which I had to SPECIALLY request otherwise it was not anything useful outside of my state, aka with the feds.

                  My eyes did not stop rolling, I swear.

              1. Anxa

                I had a DMV issued-state ID instead of a driver’s license and going to bars was a real roll of the dice. I had to back out of a lot of birthday events, etc., because I didn’t want to be the one that couldn’t get in somewhere and either relocate the party or have to find a way home.

                (I always found it ironic that I was the one with no intention of driving, but I was the one who couldn’t go to bars…that you needed a drivers license to drink….how odd).

            2. Sarah

              Exactly.

              I’m not getting where it’s written that a parent is responsible for handing their kid their birth certificate. Parents need them for plenty of things after the kid is grown, not just nostalgia. And it’s not like there’s never been a fire or flood and people have never had to replace a birth certificate, so there’s no credence to the idea that a “certified copy” isn’t the same as the original.

              There’s also a difference between a kid who’s asking for a favor and one who’s making snarly, snotty demands. There are any number of reasons a parent would think it’s not their job to hand their kid a birth certificate, that the “kid” can fill out the forms and get their own.

              1. EmmaLou

                Which plenty of things? Why would my parents need my birth certificate and social security card after I was grown? They are my documents. Not my parents’. They don’t own me like a pet. Even when my mother was buying bonds for the grandkids she just asked the parents for the SS#s. Note: My mum just handed mine over when I needed them.

        2. AndersonDarling

          This is funny because my husband just got a new job and he revealed that he lost his soc sec card years ago. He brought in his birth certificate for the HR Rep and that has held the wolves off for a while. He is training on the road and cannot leave during the day to get to the soc sec office for a replacement. So in this case…I’m gonna have to take off to try to get the replacement card for him. (He loses the card, and I get the consequences.)
          I just hope they will let me get the replacement card without him being present.

          1. Natalie

            Was he born in the US? If so his birth certificate is perfectly acceptable for the work authorization part of the I9, and his company cannot require him to provide a different document.

              1. Marisol

                Well isn’t it required to get paid? Or at least, to withhold payroll taxes, and I don’t think many companies would want to cut a check that they don’t run through normal payroll, but…what do I know…

            1. AndersonDarling

              He was, so he should be good. Thanks for the info! I’ll probably still need to get the replacement at some point, but I can do it at my leisure.

      4. Lucie in the Sky

        Your comment finally set off a light bulb on me. I actually don’t have my SS card or my birth certificate — but I don’t have the SSN memorized. I lived overseas for college and post college for a long time and when I got back I’ve always given them my passport for this purpose! I was trying to figure out why I’ve never needed these things at age 29!

      5. AK

        I lost my (original!) birth certificate when I was nineteen. The trip to get another certified copy was enough of an annoyance that it taught me to be much more careful. But really, the worst of it was the several hours in the basement of the (very large) county building in the (very large) city where I was born. That was 18 years ago and I’ve half expected someone to show up claiming to be me ever since, but to my knowledge it hasn’t happened yet.

    7. Red Rose

      I did send my two off to college with their SS cards, but I don’t think their birth certificates (can’t remember), but I’ll admit to being a little uneasy about it at the time. Why? Because I don’t carry my SS card constantly, but keep it in a safe place at home until I need it, so it’s one less hassle if my wallet gets snatched. Living in the dorms with a bunch of strangers you just don’t have the same kind of secure spot to keep it and identity theft is a real thing.

    8. Kaytee

      I really hate to say it, but in many cases I think it’s less a matter of lacking trust and more a matter of wanting to retain control. You happen to have a healthy relationship and solid boundaries with your child. Many don’t. Some parents are either helicopter to the core or just abusive, and they KNOW how not handing over these documents will prevent their kids from becoming independent. Maybe mom in this LW’s case worries that her kid won’t be capable of studying and holding down a job at the same time, so she just creates a situation whereby the kid can’t get a job. This happens, sadly, all the time.

    9. Grapey

      Or the parents are just plain old controlling and abusive.

      About 10 years ago, my best friend and his mom had continuously fought about his birth certificate so he could get his drivers license at age 20. There was one last incident where he asked me to wait in the car and be ready to take off at a moments notice. About 15 minutes passed and I saw his mom quietly sneak out the back of the house and put a manila envelope in the BARBECUE. His mom didn’t see me in my car. When my friend came out and said dejectedly “I knew she hid it, but I can’t find it”. I told him about the grill. He ended up getting it but not without a mad dash towards my car with his mom behind him. It was one of the most adrenaline rushed situations of my life and I wish I could have legally run that b**** over.

      That experience legit changed my life. I lost any desire to become a parent when there are so many kids that need help in the world, so I became a mentor/court advocate…I wish people needed to pass exams to become parents.

      1. Cats!

        I started university at seventeen in the States. One of my friends had NOTHING apart from a student ID with a blurry picture on it, to prove who she was. No bank card, no permit or license, no state ID card (the alternative to a license in my state). Her parents were nutso and I remember trying to gently encourage her to get SOME form of ID, even her health insurance card!!! because she had nothing other than this little student ID that was fairly worthless. They didn’t trust her with anything and she said they assumed a hospital would call them if needed for anything. HIPPA was apparently meaningless to them as well.

      2. ReanaZ

        Yeah. This is what I was coming here to say. Every single person I know whose parents wouldn’t give them their ID documents when they left home weren’t the product of loving, but overbearing helicopter parents, but abusive, manipulative jerks who knew that controling their kids’ ID meant controlling them. Obviously my anecdotes aren’t data but it is 100% of my anecdotes.

    10. Jennifer

      I got sent out of my new job on the first day and had to get my mommy to drive my SSN card up here (luckily it wasn’t a huuuuuge drive, but long enough to suck on a weekday night) because she didn’t trust me with having one. I had a photocopy for my previous job and that was fine, but not at the new one. I felt like such a dumbass, lemme tell ya.

  2. Gaia

    I was accused of plagiarism my junior year of college. I’ll never forget it. I was called into the Dean’s office and asked to read him the first paragraph from an open book he handed me. It was on Swedish business customs. I was so confused and when I asked him what this was about he told me I had been accused by my professor of having handed in that paper the previous spring for my final (the class was a Business Writing course and our final paper was on international business customs).

    I was outraged. Not only had I not written a paper on swedish business customs, my professor had given me an A and then months later accused me (out of nowhere) of plagiarism. Luckily I was able to produce a copy of the graded paper showing my paper was on Japanese customs and in no way plagiarized. In fact the class was only 7 students and none of us had been assigned Sweden. The Dean was horrified. I was embarrassed and angry. This was a very small school and I had 5 more classes with this professor.

    She never did apologize and just tried to act like it never happened.

    1. Christopher Tracy

      Yeah, that would have pissed me off. Unless you have hard proof of something like this, you don’t go accusing someone of being a liar and a cheat. She attacked your integrity without having a clue as to what she was talking about, and then ignored her error like it was no big deal that she humiliated you in front of the Dean (and almost got you disciplined for something you didn’t do). Your professor was a piece of work.

    2. Artemesia

      I have dealt with a lot of plagiarism cases and no one would level this charge without copies of both documents. The Prof should have been disciplined for that. Outrageous.

    3. Mookie

      I sometimes still smart over a high school teacher failing me on an in-class, open-book exam because I described characters from On the Beach as “disillusioned.” She claimed I copied that word off of the book jacket, but the book I used (which was her personal copy that she lent me) had no jacket nor blurbs.

      I’ve been nurturing this martyrdom forever, but yours is truly a nightmare scenario. That professor is a disgrace for not owning up to her error.

      1. Chriama

        Haha! Speaking of teachers that wronged me… I remember in grade 3 we had a math worksheet and one of the questions was making up your own word problem. My teacher took half a point off because my question used inches instead of centimetres (I’m in Canada) and “we use the metric system here.” 15 years later and I’m still resentful.

        1. PK

          It’s funny how that stuff sticks with you. I had a bad interaction with a 7th grade math teacher that still baffles me.

          Teacher: Excuse me?
          Me: I didn’t say anything
          Teacher: I don’t like your tone.
          Me: I don’t understand.
          Another student: That’s his voice
          Teacher: *calls my name*
          Me: Yes?
          Teacher: Excuse me (more annoyed)
          Me: Yes maam?
          Teacher: GET OUT

          To this day, I have zero idea what started the interaction and it still baffles me. I was listening to her lecture, wasn’t talking to anyone and doing exactly what I was supposed to. It was like nothing happened the next day.

              1. Serafina

                Teachers are a terribly put-upon profession who have to deal with a lot of BS including student disrespect…yet there are some (far too many) who swing the pendulum way WAY WAAAAY in the opposite direction to hyper-defensive, hyper-critical, paranoid obsessively searching for slights by students and/or fellow teachers and/or parents. A good teacher can leave a mark on a child’s life, but a bad teacher can leave one hell of a scar.

          1. LawLady

            Ugh, in the first grade we were doing a spelling test and I used the spelling “theatre”. My teacher marked it wrong and WOULD NOT BELIEVE that there is an -re spelling. I brought in the dictionary the next day, but I’m still disgruntled at getting marked off for it.

            1. Broke Law Student

              4th grade. We had a math quiz that had the question “which of the following could you measure?” I wrote that you can measure a line segment but not a line, and got the answer wrong. How would you measure a line?? Do you have an infinite ruler?? Glad to know I’m not the only one who remembers these things *cough* years later…

            2. Anxa

              I remember distinctly getting a 10 point reduction on a paper in elementary school due to poor proofreading. We were warned ahead of time that proofreading and spelling and grammar were going to be tested.

              I had spelled cancelled as canceled with a “-10” next to it and a frowny face.

            3. SpaceySteph

              Hah, I just posted a “brought a dictionary in the next day” story, too. Dictionary lovers, unite!

          2. SpaceySteph

            Also teacher but not plagiarism related, in 10th grade I had a teacher who marked off on my paper for the word “debacle” which he mixed up with meaning of the word “debauchery.” So the next day I brought a dictionary to school to show him the difference. He then wrote me up for being disrespectful.

            Also there was the time that I was in Geometry class and finished my test early so the teacher told me to read quietly. I guess she meant read ahead in the Geometry text book (snore, why would I ever do that?) but I pulled out the fiction novel I was reading for pleasure and I got detention for doing that. And then I swapped that detention for 2 lunch periods tutoring in the math lab. Not sure who got the last laugh on that one.

          3. Feo Takahari

            Closed-book exam on The Call of the Wild, but we were supposed to use direct quotes with page number citations (!) The question asked who was ultimately responsible for Spitz’s death. I used quotes to argue that no character was responsible for Spitz’s death under the laws of the wild as laid out in the book. The teacher marked me down because Buck killed Spitz, so therefore Buck was responsible.

        2. Retail HR Guy

          Mine was second grade. “Bob read three-fifths of the pages in his book, while Sally read three-fourths of the pages in her book. Who read more?” I wrote down that it depended on how many pages were in each of their respective books. The teacher marked it wrong.

          Luckily I’m not bitter about it and let it go a long time ago. (DAMN YOU MRS. KAY! YOU KNOW I WAS RIGHT!)

          1. Former Border's Refugee

            Plus are we measuring the quantity of reading by pages read, or words read? What’s the font size? Are pictures a factor? DO PICTURES COUNT AS A THOUSAND WORDS? These are important questions and I am on your side. Dammit Mrs. Kay, YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER.

          2. Venus Supreme

            In 1st Grade we had a brand-new substitute teacher randomly try to make us tell time. None of us were taught this previously. I was the lucky student she called on to tell time on an analog clock. Of course I didn’t know, and she called me stupid and that I wouldn’t get into college.

            She’s probably dead now.

            I can tell time now with my little laminated college degree tucked into my wallet.

          3. Snorks

            I was helping my son with his math homework and the question was something like ‘The crossing guard sometimes gives 3 lollies to kids who crossed the street correctly. If 15 kids crossed in the morning and 17 in the afternoon how many lollies did she give out?’
            The first thing my son asked me was ‘How do we know how many crossed correctly, and did they all get lollies, it says she only sometimes gives them out?’
            He definitely takes after me! I was so proud :)

          4. Salyan

            I am so glad I was homeschooled! My best story involves a couple of times in math where I could NOT get the right answer – it was so bad that my mom finally gave me the answer key so I could try to work it out backward. Instead, I ended up proving the answer key was wrong. There is no satisfaction like proving the ‘teacher’ wrong…

        1. WorkingMom

          In grade school (don’t recall which grade) we had to write a short story. Apparently my story of a frontier family had already been published. (I mean we’re talking a 4 page story, with plenty of pictures.) It wasn’t exactly a riveting, fresh tale. Somehow, the family name I chose was the same family name in that book, that I had never seen or read. I have no idea how that happened – it wasn’t some crazy weird made up name, but not Smith, lol. I don’t know, I just remember being flabbergasted that I had “made up” a story and character that existed in a real, published book. Pure luck. I couldn’t recreate that luck if I tried!

          Another time, I remember being too lazy to write out a paper, back in the days before computers. My older sister offered to write while I dictated to her. Should have realized this was a bad idea… of course the teacher accused me of turning in someone else’s work, because it was clearly not my handwriting. When I tried to explain it was my words but my older sister physically wrote it – you can imagine the look on my teacher’s face. I don’t recall how this was cleared up, maybe a call to Mom and Dad? I don’t remember anything coming of it, so it must have been cleared up. But man was I terrified!!

        2. Mookie

          Unless you’re plagiarizing the dictionary??

          Wouldn’t that be a great way of getting out of completing school assignments? “Sorry, teach, I have too much integrity to use words other people might have, so I’m going to semaphore you my essay at a later date and when it’s less windy out, cool?”

      2. Lemon Zinger

        LOL! The characters in On the Beach ARE disillusioned! That’s why the story is so sad! How ridiculous that she accused you of “copying” the nonexistent book jacket.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale

      In grad school, I got an email from a doctoral student saying that he’d “heard” that I was using his dissertation topic in my personal statements for my own PhD applications, and that it was plagiarism, I needed to stop, etc. At that stage, I hadn’t even written a personal statement. I’d had some conversations about topics WITH HIM about topics and said that I thought his topic was cool. Being accused was horrible. Being accused without any grounds was worse. It was such an ego play and so damn nasty. I ended up applying to a couple of PhD programs and not getting into any, and while it was mostly because I wasn’t a great candidate, something always stuck to make me think he had sabotaged me.

      Anyway, I have no idea why people do this type of thing, and then when they’re caught, they don’t freaking apologize.

      1. Gaia

        The worst part for me was that the school was so small and rumors flew for months that I had plagiarized. I could have been expelled – and what college is going to accept a transfer student expelled for plagiarism!? I remember I had a class with her immediately following the meeting and I just sat there fuming the whole time. Especially when she came up to me smiling like a fool asking how my day was going.

        1. Mimmy

          Sheesh, she sounds like a piece of work! She must be tenured because otherwise I don’t see how she’s still there.

          If it were me, I wouldn’t have taken any other classes with her again. (unless you don’t have a choice, for which I am sorry!)

        2. Michelle

          Sounds like she knew you came straight from the Dean’s office and just wanted to jab the wound. Gosh, she sounds like a nasty person.

      2. LawPancake

        I had an assignment in undergrad with a partner who plagiarized her ENTIRE half of the assignment. Luckily, it was incredibly obvious where the line between her “work” ended and mine started but we were confronted by the professor right before our oral presentation which completely threw me off since I thought I was going to fail. I think I ended up getting a B on the project since he eventually decided to grade us separately but would probably have done better had I not totally bombed the presentation. Ugh, I’m still mad at that girl.

        1. Tandar

          I had a group project where one member plagiarized her entire portion. The topic of our paper? Academic dishonesty.

          1. Serafina

            HAH! The tragedy is that I’ve heard multiple tales in academia and even the professional world of plagiarism and cheating on topics such as academic dishonesty, ethics, and professional responsibilities.

        2. Laura

          I know late comment, but similar thing.
          It was basically two parts that we divided between us. He pretty much quoted everything in the paper. He, also, didn’t show up to class most of the time. We had to review our partner prior to the presentation. I mentioned that he kept standing me up for meetings, etc. During the presentation, the professor asked me one question where I had a data point on my note cards. I answered it fairly easily. Professor moved onto my partner and asked him 7-10 questions. He kept answering “It wasn’t in my research” I kept thinking it was in mine, so how could you have missed it, but I left him to hang. The professor ran into me during exam week. He told me that I didn’t have to worry as he graded us independently. I got an A-, which was fine with me. I do still wonder what he got.

    5. jack of all trades

      My daughter’s high school uses a program that runs the papers against a database to check for plagiarism. My daughter had a paper that came up as 85% plagiarized. She had used the same paper twice. Which was okay but it did give the teacher the opportunity to show the class exactly how the system works.

      1. Mimmy

        I think that’s becoming pretty common now – the school where I just finished a graduate certificate also uses such a database, called SafeAssign.

        1. Lance

          I’ve been out of school for a few years, but I distinctly remember this sort of thing being brought up, percentages and all; including the fact that it could draw up false positives for people reusing some of their own papers/paragraphs.

          1. no gifts

            Actually at my university, re-using your own work without citing it (and getting the teacher’s permission if you’re an undergrad) absolutely would constitute plagiarism.

            1. Jadelyn

              Yeah, but if it’s just a filter they run it through, all you have to do is go through and change a certain amount of key phrases and it passes just fine. I’ve done that a few times. Took me half an hour to do a lazy rewrite, versus hours of research and writing to start from scratch, so I considered it time very well spent!

      2. FCJ

        Those databases don’t work very well. The one my school uses just looks for similar or identical text, so things that are in fact cited correctly show up as “plagiarism.” Also, they can only check things online or within the database itself. If someone copies a paper that isn’t in the database or a book that doesn’t have a digital version, it won’t catch it. So you can’t just go by the percentage, you have to actually look closely at the paper.

        1. starsaphire

          I suppose it depends on which database you use? The school I formerly worked at used TurnItIn, which was extremely accurate, and brought up digital copies of every conflict (even stuff that was archived on the Web that supposedly couldn’t be accessed any more).

          I caught one person out that way — she was copying from blogs that had been taken down, and thought that was clever enough.

          1. Tuckerman

            My problem with TurnItIn is that if you quote something (and cite the source properly) it still counts it as plagiarism. Also, if you mention the name of the article (“In her 2010 article, ‘Teapots of the Future,’ Jolie questions whether teapots will even be a necessity”), it counts as plagiarism. Hopefully the professor looks over the paper and sees it is pretty clear these instances don’t constitute plagiarism.

            1. smthing

              You can tweak the setting on TurnItIn to exclude quotes. You’re right though, the professor should always check. I’ve never known one that simply took the percentages at face value.

            2. SpaceySteph

              Eh, TurnItIn reports “similarity” not plagiarism directly. It definitely does require the teacher to look at the similarities and decide if they are cited quotes or common phrasing or actual plagiarism. At the collegiate level, something which is 30% similar due is probably relying a little too heavily on quotes and cliches which is not plagiarism but is a problem of its own.

      3. Alton

        I had a professor who decided to save time by having us upload our own papers to a plagiarism checker and include a print-out of the report when we turned our stuff in. It was interesting. I think one of mine had a rating of 10% based on the number of times I referred to the characters’ names, especially in a particular order. It was a Shakespeare class, so you can only imagine how many sources there are about A Midsummer Night’s Dream that contain the words “Hermia and Lysander.”

      4. vpc

        I had something similar with a peer-reviewed professional article in a very well known (and therefore very competitive) journal in my field – the editor’s feedback on why they rejected it initially was that it was above the threshold for content overlap with a website. We were able to write back with an explanation — that the definitions (it was a theoretical paper) had been published on a website, under my name, and the paper we were submitting was explaining how those definitions were developed and validated. Which we couldn’t do, without repeating the content of the definitions. Therefore the paper as a whole added to the body of literature about the topic. They accepted that point of view and the paper was published.

      5. smthing

        I’ve never known a teacher or professor who simply takes the % value spat out by the program as a definitive judgement. We always had to warn students not to panic if they got a high number and didn’t plagiarize. We never accepted a number blindly and looked the specifics of the paper. We also had to warn them that we had caught students who, despite getting low percentages from the software, had clearly plagiarized material. Students are often amazed that teachers have judgement and experience to work with.

    6. Meg

      One of my friends was accused of plagiarism in her graduate school seminary program because her writing was too clean and polished. The profession pointed to no materials that had been plagiarized and made the accusation based solely on the high quality of my friend’s writing. What the professor did not know was that my friend had been a professional writer and editor for approximately 5 years before going back to school to become a pastor.

      1. Christopher Tracy

        Something similar happened to me in high school. I was on the newspaper and wrote a music review, and when I got my paper back (it was also a class, so we got grades for all of our assignments), it just said “SEE ME” at the top in red ink. I stayed after class and talked to the adviser, who asked me if I had copied from somewhere or used something as “inspiration” for my review. She didn’t flat out accuse me of plagiarism, but she said she was taken aback at how well-written it was – she’d never seen anything that good on a first pass from a sophomore before. I told her I’d been writing since I was six – I had no need to plagiarize anything. She gave me my 100% right there on the spot, and from that point forward, never questioned me again (and she gave me an award at the end of the year for being the best writer on the staff).

      2. Photoshop Til I Drop

        I had a middle school teacher accuse me of plagiarism when I completed a poetry assignment by writing satire of a Robert Frost poem. I even titled the poem “With Apologies to Robert Frost”. She insisted to my mother that there was no way a 12-year-old understood (or even knew of) satire. My mom (an English professor) basically laughed in her face.

        1. Anxa

          12 year olds don’t know about satire? Sure they can be a little heavy handed, but I’m pretty sure middle school students are pretty into parody and satire.

          And this was a writing teacher? That’s absolutely horrifying.

        2. Fire

          Wait…. so…. the teacher gave an assignment to write a satire….. and then penalized you for writing a satire??

          1. Photoshop Til I Drop

            The assignment was to write a poem in general. I decided to do satire. I should have been more clear.

      3. Nervous Accountant

        Something similar happened to me. I tend to (or used to rather) write very well and clean and polished, but sounded like an idiot in person. My English professor didnt’ believe that my writing was really mine. It wasn’t a big deal, just a discussion in her office so I never really was outraged at it. I explained that I’m not good at being put on teh spot/sudden essays, but I write very well when I have time to think things over.

        1. charisma

          Sounds like me, I am very similar to this. I can bumble my words, but I am great at writing out my thoughts.

      4. legalchef

        This happened to me in my freshman writing class. I was accused of plagiarism on the final paper because it was better than the other papers I had turned in previously throughout the class. Except… wasn’t that what the class was about, improving your writing? Yeah.

    7. Nervous Accountant

      This may sound crazy and say more about me than anything else but I never knew plagiarism was so serious! I had a professor talk to me when I handed in a paper. Her reasoning was that I wrote very well on paper but sounded like an idiot (not her words but that’s the jist of it) so it was suspect.

    8. Anon for this

      I had a middle school teacher take me aside and ask if I’d had my mother help me with a book report because it was “too good” for me to have done it myself. She chronically underestimated all of my classmates – I was giving a presentation on a physics topic and she stopped me half-way through saying “Nobody else understands what you’re talking about.” I am by NO means some physics prodigy, and was using simple language.

        1. Anon for this

          Ha! Maybe. It was a bummer, though – I was embarrassed at the time but now that I’m an adult, I’m more sad that she was so dismissive of the intelligence of a bunch of kids who it was her job to educate.

  3. Gaia

    Parents, when your child turns 18 you need to turn over their identity documents – especially if they are going away to school. Good Lord, if you can’t trust them with these at least have solace that they are replaceable if lost. But you can’t get a job without them! Nor can you get legal ID without them. And in some cases you cannot register to vote without them.

    You are literally keeping your offspring from behaving like adults. Stop.

      1. Tomato Frog

        Well, that’s a bit much. I know lovely, productive, intelligent people who are prone to losing things. I wouldn’t say it’s the acid test for competence or whether you were raised right.

        1. NotAnotherManager!

          Seriously. One of the smartest people I know accidentally threw away her social security card once. Hell, I threw my brand new cell phone in the trash once when I was working late and was over-focused on a work-related deadline (back in the 90s when it was a financial hardship to replace it and the carrier wouldn’t let me out of the contract).

          I’ve also got a kid who struggles mightily with executive function skills due to a couple of medical conditions. He’s not incompetent, but I’m going to feel more comfortable keeping a copy of his documents until he really needs them. I have managed to obtain and manage official documents for my entire family for the last 15 years, including a birth certificate amendment and a state health department that lost our paperwork, so I think I’m probably qualified for the job.

        2. Anxa

          I can’t tell you how much lower my self-esteem is as someone who struggles with personal responsibility in the form of not losing things. I like to think I make mature decisions like avoiding carrying a lot of cash or gift cards, not buying smartphones or other small, easy to lose items, etc. And I’m definitely much better than I was before (but at a cost of holding on to a lot of stress and probably risking OCD or similar issues in an attempt to stay organized).

          To be honest, my whole family struggles with issues like this, but wow would the implication that my mom shouldn’t be trusted with something like after all she managed to for me insult me.

    1. Kix

      Amen. When I left for college at age 18 (when dinosaurs roamed the Earth), my mother handed over a microfiche copy of my birth certificate and my passport and told me not to lose them. Of course, the passport expired and I’ve since renewed it several times, but I still have that microfiche copy of my birth certificate. Managed to hang onto it through at least two dozen relocations in my lifetime thus far.

    2. NotASalesperson

      My mom kept mine for a couple of reasons I agree with:
      – I have had a passport for most of my life and that tends to suffice for most employment needs (and I keep it up to date);
      – I moved abroad shortly after college, so my mom’s place was the safest place to keep my US identification documentation.

      Now that I’m 26 I should probably get them from her at some point…

      1. Gaia

        A passport is great for many things, but really there is no reason to not hand over all identity documents. They belong to the adult person. If the adult person chooses to leave them somewhere that is fine. What isn’t fine is a parent assuming their adult child should not have complete control over their own identity documents.

      2. Anon367

        I’m with you. My mom has one of those fireproof safes. She would mail me anything I need asap, but my passport and card suffice for jobs. I’d rather my documents were safe there since I don’t need them on a frequent basis. I’ve used my social security card to get my learners permit and that’s it. You just need your old passport to renew, and that hasn’t come up yet for me.

    3. IowaGirl

      I’m really surprised by all the comments along this line.

      When I went to college, I still considered my parents’ house “home” and all vital documents stayed there. It didn’t even occur to me to start keeping my birth certificate in a dorm room with me! That just sounds like a good way to lose it.

      (my parents didn’t deny them to me if I needed them, *that would be unconscionable*, but important documents were always returned to their house until I was more permanently settled after college)

  4. HELP! So mortified...

    Removed because I try to keep comments here on-topic (otherwise the comment threads would get even more unwieldy than they already are). You can email to me or post it on the Friday open thread though!

  5. Been there

    OP#1- I can completely empathize. A few years ago I was having a tough time at work and then I got sick (and was hospitalized) and was off work for awhile. The person who took over for me also wasn’t doing her best and I think her performance got lumped into my own. And then I was intermittently sick again. My annual review was a nightmare. I ended up transferring to a different location. I hated leaving my coworkers I was very close to, but I came to see that moving was a good thing.
    So my advice to to buff up your resume. If you happen to not need it after talking with your manager, great. But do it anyway.

    1. Jeanne

      It does sound like a combination of issues that will continue to cause her problems at that work. I hate to say it yet I think you are right. She may need to move on.

    2. OP#1

      Yes thank you. Also yes I mislabeled myself as OP#2 instead of #1. Thank you for correcting!! (Wait: Does that mean I plagiarized?)

  6. Engineer Girl

    #1 – You did plagiarize, and it sounds like there were numerous serious errors. If there were only a few then the boss may have been more forgiving. But when there are that many errors you can’t just chalk it up to an oncoming illness. This wasn’t a mere mistake – it was essentially theft of another’s ideas and work. The boss probably doesn’t view this as a mistake as much as a character issue. Which means there is no trust.
    Another issue is that it sounds like the boss won’t let you forget it. Are there other reasons for it? Did the company get into trouble because of the plagiarism? Someone’s reputation? Maybe they’re not telling you the whole thing.
    Alison gave the best advise. Talk it over with your boss. That will give you a hint if this is recoverable. It’s possible that it isn’t, at least with this boss. You may have to start looking for another job. If that’s the case, work out with your boss what will be said in references.

    1. LeRainDrop

      +1 I’m afraid that plagiarism is not something particularly easy to move past since it reveals that your manager’s trust in you had been misplaced. This is still a pretty recent incident, since you say earlier this year, so I would prepare for a troublesome year-end review. Agree you should talk it over with your boss now to get a better sense of how this may turn out for you.

    2. Engineer Girl

      BTW, I have to take issue with one comment:

      the project was stressful, high profile, impossible turnaround (which we met), and understaffed.

      Technically, you did not meet the project deadline, because you produced a defective product. It didn’t help that it was high profile, which magnified the error. This is a common mistake by less experienced workers. You didn’t make the deadline if you did not properly complete the project. The only projects that count are ones that don’t have to be reworked.

      1. Willis

        This so much. I was on the other side of a really similar situation this year, and don’t really trust that person’s work anymore. We caught some of the plagiarized writing before delivering it to our client, but there were a couple instances that were in the submitted version and had to awkwardly change later. So – it’s not just the OP’s integrity on the line, but also the integrity of the organization as a whole.

        It sounds like the plagiarism happened a couple times (the original time and then again when she was sick?). This would be pretty serious to me, and I’d have a hard time trusting future work from the OP, especially during stressful times. Alison’s advice is good – it’d be better to address this head on with your boss if possible, and get a sense of whether it’s time to move on.

        1. OP#1

          I had been one of their top performers & they heaped awards & praise on me. They trusted my work. Then this happened. Then I had my work poured over with a fine tooth comb. Multiple people were assigned (unknown to me at the time) to test & QA every line of everything I did. I passed with flying colors (even sometimes uncovering errors in their work) & reports back to management were that i was trustworthy & that I had been thrown under the bus. I felt vindicated and seriously saddened. One of my coworkers (and someone assigned to test my work) actually left not long after the incident bc between what happened to me & an incident she faced, she just didn’t like the management anymore & quit. I was not in the position to be able to quit. I still am not sure if I want to work for an organization where people are allowed/encouraged to be treated that way.

      2. OP#1

        engineer girl, I have thought a lot about this point actually. I am an experienced worker, but was assigned to a topic that I have NO experience in and raised concern multiple times over the course of 2-3 weeks that I did not understand the approach being taken in the project and that I had major concerns about what I did understand. Every time I was shut down & essentially told to shut up and go back to work because tight deadline (!!!) & there isnt anyone else to do this work & (dammit) get yourself together & do it perfectly because this is a high profile high stress deliverable & we dont have time for your questions. So I got the message & stopped asking questions or raising concerns. then I started to get sick. But I knew there was no time for that, so I crammed some meds & worked from home in my PJs on reading and writing up this deliverable. all while trying to balance the competing needs & timelines of my other work.

        Clearly the approach didn’t work. In retrospect, I would have just taken time off to avoid the stress (which made me much sicker) & left my teammates scrambling to cover my workload. It would have been less team oriented in the short term, but would have saved them rework & me this whole debacle. it honestly just never occurred to me to check myself out of the downward spiral because we were all being asked to work weekends & pull long days & I was so caught up in it & felt like I was being told to shut up & get back to work.

    3. MK

      To be frank, I am confused about what happened there. Did the OP intentionally present others’ work as her own? Or is it that she was allowed to use it as long as she attributed the work correctly and she failed to do so? We’re the errors conly about that, or were they on top of the plagiarism?

      1. Engineer Girl

        If you fail to cite another’s work then you are presenting it as your own. That’s theft.
        It could also become copyright violation depending on the amount of material used and how it was used.

        1. MK

          I am not disputing that. What I am not clear on is whether the OP was actually meant to present only her own work or whether it was ok to use others’ work as long as it was properly attributed. In the first case it’s a pretty clear case of intentional plagiarism and I understand why her boss wouldn’t let this go, ever. In the second, if the omission was deliberate, it’s the same thing, but if it was a matter of forgetting to cite properly because if the time pressure, it might be something the OP could bounce back with hard and careful work.

          1. Jennie

            In my industry there really aren’t different kinds of plagerism – not attributing work correctly is the same amount of stealing as copying and not citing work. Perhaps as an undergraduate student there might be more nuance but I’d be pretty surprised if a boss in a paid work setting felt that the kind of plagerism mattered

            1. MK

              That seems pretty narrow-minded to me. If someone is supposed to only offer original work and presents someone else’s, that’s dishonesty. If someone is allowed to use others’ work properly attributed and doesn’t, there could be many things at play. Were they unaware that they should cite the work? Or unaware of the proper way to cite it? That’s probably someone who is unqualified or incompetent. Did they know what to do and how to do it, but they forgot/rushed the job/didn’t pay enough attention to the details? That’s carelessness.

              Possibly the response to all these cases is not fire the person, because they didn’t do their job well. But I can’t agree it doesn’t matter at all how the plagiarism came about.

              1. Jennie

                I don’t think it’s narrow minded to uphold academic standards in a place where it matters – ie if you are doing research and writing you already know plagerising is wrong – it’s a part of the training and expectations of the job and it’s not really a grey area where giving a person multiple chances works. That would be similar to allowing someone who is known to steal from the cash register to keep working at the cash register

                1. Mike C.

                  I think it’s perfectly fine to question those standards, especially when they come with loaded moral judgements on the character of the person in question.

                2. MK

                  It makes sense that someone who stole from the register shouldn’t be allowed to work at it, or even at the store at all. It even makes sense that someone who forgot the register open and someone else stole from it shouldn’t be allowed to work at the register either. What doesn’t make sense is to say that stealing from the register and forgetting it open are basically the same thing.

                3. fposte

                  @MK–I think this is more like shoplifting. Most jurisdictions don’t differentiate between somebody who absent-mindedly walked out the door with an unpaid item and somebody who deliberately shoplifted, because the first is such a common excuse for the second and it’s impossible to know what somebody was actually thinking. The OP’s job can’t tell if she was the first or the second.

                  And I totally agree that people should be taught very clearly what plagiarism is and what obligatory citations are, but it’s not going to solve the problem that people who do it on purpose will often look and sound just like people who did it accidentally. I agree that the two are morally different–it’s just that it’s very tough to tell from the outside what the situation is.

                4. Myrin

                  @fposte, I totally see what you’re saying but I think I’m actually with MK on this one. I say that because plagiarised texts of that degree are usually part of a longer work, not just one page or something. So while the shopowners or police don’t have a way of telling whether the person they just caught accidentally forgot to pay or did so intentionally, someone reviewing a long body of text can see if this is the sole instance of a citation error or not. I talked about almost missing to properly source something in another comment – had I not caught it, my professor still would have seen that I had cited numerous quotes per page correctly and thus concluded that it wasn’t actually malicious. (Which is indeed something professors at my uni actually do, btw, this isn’t a situation I’m making up.)

              2. SarahTheEntwife

                I agree. It might still be unacceptably negligent, but if someone is just not citing things properly, that seems like an issue of needing better training, or that they’re not good enough with detail-oriented work to be writing this sort of material but might otherwise be a perfectly good and trustworthy employee. I’d only wonder about their honesty if they were *intentionally* presenting other people’s work as their own.

                1. Jadelyn

                  It sounds like a lot of this comes down to what the OP meant by “didn’t cite properly”. Because “didn’t cite properly” can mean quite a range of things, from using the wrong citing format, citing the right author but wrong work, citing only some but not all of the authors of a piece cited, including citations in end-notes or bibliography but not citing direct quotes or references in the text, etc. Without knowing more about what did or didn’t get done, versus the expectations of what should have been done, it’s hard to say just how justified the boss’s continued mistrust is.

            2. OP#2

              That’s interesting. What happens in your industry if someone does this? Do they just dig a hole & live in it forevermore? Really asking. Because now that I’ve been there, I don’t understand what people do. I’m far enough along in my career that I don’t think I can just walk away from the entire industry. But being accused of plagiarism has made me seriously rethink my career & my life. If this was academia, my career there would be OVER. But I’m in the corporate world now. If one manager’s approach & accusations threatens to bankrupt your job, how do you handle that & what’s a person do next? (Spoiler: ask a manager for help)

        2. Mike C.

          I’m really getting tired of this ever-expanding definition of plagiarism.

          Yeah, it’s an ethical problem if you are clearly copying someone’s work and trying to pass it off as your own. This is a completely different and much greater sin from not properly following the specific rules for citation. Don’t get me started on the ridiculous concept of “self-plagiarism”.

          This idea that “all trust must be lost” and the related moral condemnations really go over the top to me.

          1. Allie

            I think intent matters and accidental plagiarism is different from intentional plagiarism. There’s a difference between the person who tries to pass off someone’s work as their own and someone who messes up footnotes, either through inadvertence or lack of training.

            1. Jen

              From a moral standpoint, intent absolutely matters. I think what people here are saying is that from a corporate standpoint, if the plagiarism/failure to properly cite put the company at risk, it’s Serious.

              If OP’s work contained a citation in the wrong format, that’s one thing. But it it contained an idea that belonged to someone else and was either grossly mis attributed or even not cited, it may be something that opens the company up to a lawsuit (depends entirely on the project, of course!). So, the ability of the boss to move past may or may not be related to the perceived ethics of the OP. If the OP screwed up and put the company at risk, Boss may not want to take that risk again.

              1. Jen

                I’ll give an example. Yore a consultant. You find a very relevant graph of data online and pop it into a slideshow. You don’t cite it.

                Client assumes the graphic was produced by you, the consulting firm it hired, for this project, and uses the graphic on external materials citing your firm as the source. Now the original creator of the material sees it, and it turns out they are a competitor. Enter $hitstorm.

                Or, someone down the line asks for the source data, which of course you don’t have because you didn’t create it (but didn’t note that on the presentations…)

                In this example, it could have all been avoided by a simple “source: Chocolate Teapots Inc.” text box under the graphic.

                1. Charlotte Collins

                  This. A few years ago, some of my company’s work was found in a document being produced by another company (not a direct competitor, but one that provides training on government benefits similar to the kind that we are contracted with the government to provide). It went to Legal.

                  One thing that confuses people just out of college is the idea of the Corporate Author. I happen to know who wrote the original work mentioned above, because I did the research on when and where we had published the information. However, if someone internally had used his exact wording when creating a new document, it wouldn’t be a big deal, because we are all writing as the voice of our company (or, rather, our division of the company) and you are allowed to reuse your own work.

                2. Zoe Karbousina

                  Ah, yes. Hello, stuff I am dealing with at work RIGHT NOW. “She hasn’t cited any images. THAT ONE STILL HAS A WATERMARK.”

                3. Charlotte Collins

                  Or you find a picture of Skittles on the internet and use it without citation or permission. And the photographer ends up issuing a statement about how it was used without permission. Oh, and by the way, he fits into the group that you’re trying to use Skittles (!) to demonize.

                4. Clever Name

                  Yep. We’ve actually discovered that other consultants our plagiarizing some of our reports (because we’re that good, I guess :) ). Ethically, especially if you’re making money off something, you really need to appropriately cite the source.

                5. OP#2

                  Zoe– when dealing with this at work, do you respond to your writer & say “go back & fix this?” Or do you withhold that info/conversation bc you are on deadline & then bring it up at a later date as a performance issue? Actually asking, not snarkily.

              2. Allie

                True. As a boss though I feel like sloppiness could be trained out of someone but deceit would be a lot harder to ever trust someone again. The consequences are sill bad, but the ability to train out the error would be different.

              3. smthing

                Improper citation can create the appearance of intentional plagiarism. Wikipedia is rife with this. Someone inserts a block of text from a source and does not indicate through quotation marks or block text that is is a quote and not their own writing. Even if they put in a citation indicator like (*) which leads to the source, the reader assumes that prose is by the “plagiarizing” author, condensing ideas from the work cited.

              4. OP#2

                Never heard of the corporate author. Fair point about risk. But then wouldn’t you expect the interactions with managers not to end with “thank you thank you thank you OP for handling this so professionally”? They would be communicating instead that they don’t know if it is a risk they could take again. It’s just a dynamic within the company towards people who commit errors that isn’t straightforward.

          2. Christopher Tracy

            I’m really getting tired of this ever-expanding definition of plagiarism.

            I’ve been writing for 23 years, and not properly citing sources has always been considered plagiarism by every writing instructor I’ve ever had.

            But I agree with you about self-plagiarism (really – this is a thing?).

            1. Photoshop Til I Drop

              Yes, re-using your own work without citing can be a huge deal. That said, often it has more to do with who has first rights when publishing the work than who has author’s rights.

          3. Ask a Manager Post author

            I don’t think this is a matter of ever-expanding definitions of plagiarism. Typically when plagiarism is alleged, it’s not that someone just didn’t follow the specific rules for citation to a T; it’s that they didn’t cite the material as borrowed at all — in other words, they presented it as their own. I would assume that’s the case here, not that the OP cited it but got the citation format wrong.

            1. Christopher Tracy

              That’s how I read it – that she quoted the source material and just didn’t put a citation in at all for it. That’s always been considered plagiarism.

            2. J

              In addition, plagiarism can also include presenting *your own words* without proper citation as well. Self-plagiarism is when you lift language/neglect to cite Document A when you draft Document B, even if you wrote them both.

            3. Mike C.

              Engineering Girl specifically said the following,“If you fail to cite another’s work then you are presenting it as your own. That’s theft.”

              I presume that an incorrect citation counts as a lack of citation for EG, but she of course is free to correct me.

              As for the letter, the OP says,“I clearly had cited incorrectly, and the errors were pervasive.” Incorrect citations mean “there’s something there but it wasn’t right” to me.

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                In my experience, people regularly frame no citation as all as “I failed to cite properly.” (I’ve heard that from loads of people who ripped off my work and presented it as their own, with zero citation indicating I wrote it. When I call them on it, I hear “sorry, I failed to cite properly.”)

                Hopefully the OP can clarify for us which it was.

                1. AD

                  I work in higher ed, and I agree with Alison. “I failed to cite properly” is generally a bogus reasoning given for essentially using someone else’s text whole-cloth.
                  I’ve rarely seen anyone dinged for using MLA/APA citing/referencing ineffectively or incompletely – that rarely happens, and if it does happen that’s not plagiarism – it’s a poor grasp of citing norms. Different thing.

                2. Engineer Girl

                  OK, I have had my work plagiarized. Every time people didn’t cite at all they used the term “cited incorrectly”.
                  People that use a different citation system will mention that. “But I used A citation.”
                  I find “I didn’t cite correctly” weasel words for not citing at all.

                3. Rusty Shackelford

                  When I call them on it, I hear “sorry, I failed to cite properly.

                  I didn’t shoplift these items, I just failed to pay properly.

                4. oranges & lemons

                  Interesting. I also interpreted the letter to mean that she had cited, but incorrectly. I think it was because the phrasing suggests that the LW made multiple mistakes that she was blindsided by (“the errors were pervasive”; “there were serious citation errors”). So I assumed that it was something more serious than formatting errors, like misattributing a number of quotations or attaching the citations to the wrong passages. I just find it hard to believe that someone with previous experience in academia would have had no idea that citations were required at all.

                5. OP#2

                  Interesting. That’s not a failure to cite properly… That’s a failure to cite. Which means that either you didn’t attribute it at all. Actually, I did do this, but I had taken the passage from another work document & thought it was something “we” wrote; I didn’t realize it was verbatim text from a primary source that should have been cited. I didn’t feel it appropriate to say while I was being scrutinized “well yes that’s plagiarism but not mine” & then throw a teammate under the bus. That would have gotten me in more trouble.
                  If you cite incorrectly, I would read it (& I meant) I cited, but improperly or the citation was there but misattributed.

                6. Candi

                  There’s a forum thread on Cracked just for reporting article stealing and other copyright violations. Often the replies Cracked gets back after lodging an official protest -either citing the email they got, or even the thieves posting on their sites or the thread (!) itself, is, verbatim, “I failed to cite properly.” Uh, no.* Ditto for stories stolen from Not Always Right and other NAX sites, with not even a courtesy link.

                  It is an extremely suspect phrase.

                  *Copying a whole article, including pictures put on there by Cracked staff, and slapping another person’s name on it as the author, is NOT ‘failure to cite’.

              2. Engineer Girl

                I presume that an incorrect citation counts as a lack of citation for EG, but she of course is free to correct me.

                Consider yourself corrected.
                I specifically used the term “failure to cite” Vs the term “cite incorrectly”.

            4. OP#2

              I hesitate to jump in as the OP bc this is SUCH a loaded topic. Improperly cited means using text & not adding ” “. All passages had footnote citations but in 2 cases, should have also had an additional source noted. I did a bad job. I know the importance of plagiarism & have worked & studied in academia for many years; I don’t need to learn more about what constitutes as plagiarism bc more knowledge wouldn’t have prevented this. More time on the assignment may have prevented this. Having someone who understands the content write the lit review would have been even better bc they would have been more equipped to write their own thoughts, rather than simply parrot the thoughts of others.

                1. Ask a Manager Post author

                  Thanks for clarifying! Okay, that’s what I figured. I would recommend not continuing to say “failure to properly cite” because it was really “failure to note it was someone else’s work” — and the first way sounds like you’re not really taking responsibility for that.

          4. Purest Green

            I was flabbergasted when I learned about self-plagiarism. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense in particular for scientific papers where it needs to be clear exactly where certain data came from especially if you’re building on results or theories made from previous research.

            1. Vin Packer

              It does make sense–citations are important for keeping track of information and progress, for sure.

              I wish there were different terms for citation error and plagiarism, though. They’re different things, and conflating the two just seems to confuse people further a lot of the time.

            2. Mike C.

              It makes sense in that area, I really object to it in places where work can easily be reused but a professor doesn’t like it because you haven’t spent an arbitrary amount of time/effort/gumption on their specific assignment. Then they assign all the moral issues attached to actual plagiarism even though you did all the work.

              It’s kind of like who you can have people on a sex offender list for rape, child abuse or public urination.

              1. Purest Green

                I really object to it in places where work can easily be reused but a professor doesn’t like it because you haven’t spent an arbitrary amount of time/effort/gumption on their specific assignment.

                I agree with this sentiment. And loosely I understand and agree with the moral condemnation of plagiarism in certain situations (namely passing off another’s work as your own), but I think a lot of discussion about plagiarism verges too closely to the ownership of ideas and I have more of an Eastern perspective about that.

              2. Oryx

                Final semester of college. Two completely unrelated classes each required a final paper. Let’s say it was a Famous Tea Pot Makers and Brick Building. As it happened, during my junior year I’d written this fantastic paper on Mr. Famous Tea Pot Maker X being a secret Brick Builder.

                So, then I am in that final semester and too lazy to write anything new, so I take that paper and make it a little longer for class one and make it a littler shorter for class two and boom. Got As on both (or, well, all three counting the original).

                It’s probably a good thing those plagiarism website catcher things weren’t around back then.

              3. Rana

                When I was a professor, I wouldn’t have called re-using a paper plagiarism, but I would have dinged the student for doing it if I caught them at it. Assignments aren’t random; they’re meant to give students practice engaging with the specific materials of the course and writing to the expected standards of that particular course. Getting credit in two classes for one class’s worth of work is both dishonest and cheats you out of the chance to get additional practice and evaluation of your research and writing skills.

            3. Photoshop Til I Drop

              It also affects first publishing rights, which can get messy in this era of quoting and linking back to online-only articles.

          5. Vin Packer

            Citation is at the center of my job, and I couldn’t agree with this more.

            Citing is complicated and involved; an error is an error but not a reason to go scorched earth on a person and not the same as purposely lifting others work and presenting it as your own. Plus, it’s cultural; not all countries cite the way we do in the US. The theatrical moral judgments are a bit much.

            (Interestingly, I find that the most rigid about this stuff are often lay people; kind of like how linguists are much more temperate about grammar conventions than non-specialist self-described grammar nerds.)

            1. Vin Packer

              (I will say though, that it sounds like this might be more than just citation error in the letter itself.)

              1. Charlotte Collins

                As a former writing instructor, I am much more sympathetic to people who made an honest citation error (it can be hard and confusing, and keeping track is difficult). However, I really don’t have any patience for file paper or whole-scale intellectual theft. (As much as I love the 16th and 17th century traditions of taking the first line of a poem and writing a whole new poem – from back when people had a looser idea of plagiarism and authors often never saw money for their work…)

                On the other hand, my mother used to work in international publishing, and she did have some stories about having to explain to people in some part of the world that you can’t just take books you like, translate them into your language, and publish them without getting the rights to do so… On the other hand, these were the same places whose authors she loved working with, because writing/literature was seen as a shared experience/process, so they never argued with their editors the way that some Western writers would.

                1. Vin Packer

                  Right! I mean, you can’t take, for example, China’s rules about citation and just go applying them in the US, but….there are definitely upsides to it for China, you know?

                  I hear ya on the first-year students, too. Frankly, the well-cited papers that I *knew* but couldn’t prove had come from some cheating frat’s paper-mill were a way worse to me than the students who struggled with remembering in-text citations.

          6. Temperance

            That’s always been the definition from my education. Yes, the person using it unethically is probably a less moral person, but it’s still plagiarism, and anyone writing professionally should know better.

          7. Elsajeni

            I think it’s not so much an “ever-expanding definition” as a case of definitions that make sense in one context being applied to contexts where they don’t fit as well — often something like, the definition of “plagiarism” that applies to college papers (and includes cases like “you apparently meant well but didn’t properly follow citation rules,” “you copied paragraphs from your own previous work,” etc.) gets applied to non-academic contexts where it doesn’t really make sense, because that’s the version of “plagiarism” people are most familiar with. I read an interesting post about this on Language Log a while back — here’s the link:
            http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=10456

          8. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

            This idea that “all trust must be lost” and the related moral condemnations really go over the top to me.

            I agree. I’m surprised by the vehemence around this. It seems like we (culturally? or maybe just the comment culture here?) feel more strongly about plagiarism than we do about other egregious situations we’ve heard about here (the person who was carrying huge personal balance on her corporate credit card and hiding it from her boss comes to mind). I wonder why that is?

            1. Christopher Tracy

              I’m passionate about plagiarism because I’m a writer and it would piss me off if someone took my work and then didn’t credit me for it. It’s just a lousy thing to do to someone.

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                Me too, and it happens to me all the damn time. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of articles on the internet that are word for word stolen from my work. It’s infuriating.

                That said, I’m not seeing an unusually high level of moral condemnation here, so I’m curious about what Mike and Victoria are referring to!

              2. Candi

                It happens in writing and art. Stealing artwork online and selling prints, or like happened to a contributer to rinmarugames. The person stole an anime avatar creator game and turned it into a phone app! No permission, no attribution.

                It’s basically saying, “I plan to profit in some fashion off all your hard work, and don’t give enough of a rat’s patoot to ask or pay you for it.” It’s rude.

          9. smthing

            Self-plagiarism exists and is not ridiculous, it’s just much more context dependent than plagiarizing someone else. If I ask you for new, original, work and you recycle something old of yours, that’s self plagiarism. If I say that I’m fine with you using prior materials, then we’re all good (unless someone else holds the rights to that work, of course, but copyright is separate, if overlapping, issue.)

            Schools generally require students to produce original work for each class because we want them to practice research and writing.

          10. OP#2

            I appreciate this perspective as the OP. Thank you. I had no intention of passing that work or those thoughts off as my own. I didn’t have those unique thoughts. I never want those thoughts & conclusions to be mine. But I did do a crap job of taking a complicated topic, writing a lit review summarizing the current state, organizing a ton of citations that often conflicted, and adding ” ” where I had pulled text. I still trust myself, the job keeps giving me more work & leadership opportunities, but I feel like if you accuse someone of serious plagiarism than “all trust must be lost” which isn’t consistent with follow up actions. So how do you get over that piece?

    4. Jaguar

      I’m really out of my depth when it comes to attribution (I read a lot of academically cited works but haven’t written any in probably 15 years) and I’m finding it really hard to understand what happened (or possibly happened) from the letter writer’s explanation and the moral implications. Would anyone be able to offer a seriously dumbed-down version of what’s at play here?

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I think the idea that it’s about citations that were done incorrectly is confusing the issue. The majority of the time when someone says they didn’t cite properly, it means they didn’t cite at all — that they presented someone else’s work as their own.

    5. Kaybee

      Having worked in several places with The Corporate Author, as Charlotte Collins mentioned, I do understand how citations could be very confusing to the new and uninitiated. Using work that’s already written is not only encouraged, it’s required to keep things moving in a timely manner. And since we do have an organizational “voice”, anything new has to be edited/approved by a long chain of superiors, who would rather keep this task to a minimum. This results in a pretty complex approach to citing work. There is some for which it’s understood there’s no need to cite, some for which we would only need to cite the organization, and some for which we would cite the specific author of the work. To make it more complicated, different types of documents with different audiences would be treated differently. It would be pretty easy for a writer who is new to the organization to consistently make unintentional mistakes, and it’s something that experience and training would fix with time. I don’t know if this is the LW’s situation, but I thought it worth pointing out that there are valid situations in which citing work can be confusing.

  7. Engineer Girl

    #3 – So I’m curious. Are you the only person asked to work these awful hours? What about the others in the office? Why were you chosen?
    My gut-o-meter is going off because you are 60. It could be that you are being “encouraged” to retire? Or is this equal pain for all?

    1. Jeanne

      It says the boss would ask “some of us” to work those hours. It’s hard since we don’t know the nature of the business. Maybe they can rotate who works those hours. I would not function well at 4:15am. That’s an obscene hour to start a day shift.

      1. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed

        for federal government, night differential is paid between 8pm and 6am, so OP would be getting premium pay for 1.75 hours if she worked with us.

        1. Charlotte Collins

          If the OP is in a union, there might be a differential for those hours, too. Even if she isn’t in a union, she should look into it. The company policy might be that shifts outside a certain time period get some sort of incentive.

          1. Laura

            Depends. My father was a union employee and standard day shift for years was 5am-3:30pm 13 days on/1 day off. He went to bed at 11:30 and got up at 3:50.
            As an accountant, we used to have an officer in Texas that got in at 6am so she would be available if we had questions when we in the Eastern time arrived at 7:30.

            1. Charlotte Collins

              Oh, yes, the shifts definitely depend upon the industry. Of course, my father worked third shift for years, and it definitely meant a little more money for the family.

    2. Cat steals keyboard

      Sounds like op also lives quite far from work hence already having a super early start. If this is known to the employer it could look like deliberately trying to push them out.

      1. SystemsLady

        If this is from one side of the sound near Seattle to the other or…basically anything California metro, as the mention of east coast brings to mind for me, OP may very well be one of many who works there and chooses to live with the commute.

        I can’t believe how many people I’ve met who commute 3+ hours daily in those areas with no objections, especially in that specific Seattle case (military spouses being one thing, people who have no Navy or Air Force connection at all being entirely another!).

        1. Mike C.

          You don’t need that much time to commute if you’re starting that early. There’s a major company in the Seattle area where first shift starts 5 or 5:30, and traffic is awesome.

          1. mirinotginger

            Hey, I work for a major company in Seattle and start at 5:30. It’s great, easy to find parking, no traffic, done by 2. If only my alarm didn’t have to go off so early…

  8. Amber

    #3 To put things in another perspective…when I was in the army and going to boot camp, all the soldiers would have to get up at 3:30 am. It is very reasonable to not want to get up before the sun is up, let alone at that ridiculous hour. I feel for you.

    1. Engineer Girl

      Yup. Your whole body aches at that hour. Especially after the mike-mikes have been shaking your bunk all night long. And reveille played over the loudspeaker…
      (I was doing some archeology work on a base)

    2. Elizabeth West

      That’s insane and one reason I never wanted to go into the military (plus my eyesight has been shit since I was eight). I can’t even stand getting up at 6:00 am in autumn and winter when it’s still dark. It feels like the middle of the night.

      1. Rana

        Tell me about it. My daughter’s just starting preschool, and having to get up early enough to get her fed and drive her to it is horrid. I know that millions of people do this every day, but it still sucks. ::shakes fist at industrial clock time::

  9. Christopher Tracy

    #3 – it sounds like you’re being pushed out, especially since you mention you and your boss don’t exactly get along already. A 4:15 start time when you already have a long commute is unreasonable (and can be dangerous). Good luck on your job search – I hope you find something soon because this doesn’t sound like it’s going to end well.

    1. Foxtrot

      I don’t think the LW is getting pushed out so much as it’s really inconvenient for everyone to have business that runs on both coasts. Those on the east coast can easily stay until 8 or 9 at night to have teleconferences with California. It’s just as dangerous to drive then if you’ve been working 12-13 hour days consistently. And it’s not really the business’s responsibility to factor in your commute time to the hours of operation. It sounds like a crappy situation for sure, but not one aimed at the LW. It also sounds like others are working these hours too.

      1. Christopher Tracy

        Good point – I forgot she’s a West Coaster. Still, what her boss is asking is unreasonable. I live in the Midwest on eastern time and my company does business all over the country. If they suddenly said we had to stay until 8 to be available for our West Coast clients, I’d have to find a new job. Once in a blue moon if you have an urgent meeting or conference? Fine. But all the time? Nope. (And 4:15 is way worse than 8pm, I know. I’m still unconscious then and would be barely functional.)

        OP, if you like your job, would you be able to work from home and shorten your hours of you started that early? I’m unclear whether the boss wants her to start at the new time and still end at the old one or if an adjustment will also be made to the end time.

      2. NW Mossy

        My org recently opened a call center in the Eastern time zone (we’re in the Northwest) precisely because it’s been hard to get reps that are willing and able to cover the early part of the East Coast day. We’re increasingly scattering folks across the country as well, as long-serving service folks relocate for personal reasons and take the jobs with them. It really helps with time zone issues, and it’s also beneficial in situations where one site is down (due to a snowstorm, for example) and others in unaffected areas can jump in.

  10. Mark Roth

    #5

    You won’t believe the incredible skills you’ll get from this story….

    Read on in just 97 clicks!

  11. Marzipan

    #2, if you have any say on what’s included in the application information for these jobs, you might (if you don’t already) want to include a note to the effect that ‘should your application be successful, your original birth certificate and Social Security card will be required at short notice. We strongly recommend you have these documents available before applying’. That way, applicants with over-controlling parents have a bit more time to wrangle their documents, and you can legitimately disengage from the drama around them, since you gave fair warning they’d be needed promptly.

    1. Jeni

      That’s a good idea. That kind of note was included in my formal offer letter at a big engineering firm. I took it as just a reminder to find the stuff and bring it on the first day. But it is probably helpful to include when you’re also hiring interns and entry level staff.

    2. Juli G.

      Unfortunately, the government frowns on this. You don’t have to have those documents for an I-9; you just have to have 1 document that proves identity and 1 that proves that the government authorizes you to legally work (or one that does both). There is a list of acceptable documents and suggesting specific documents are required can result in being hit with a fine (the reasoning is this can be seen as discriminatory).

      You could say “make sure you have a document from List A OR List B and C” but it doesn’t help much in my experience because people get confused, especially ones that are new to the workforce.

      I really sympathize with OP – been there, done that.

      1. Emilia Bedelia

        That’s literally what was given to me before I started my student job- the list of acceptable documents that’s provided by the government. I think this is a good idea

      2. Sophie Winston

        The way I dealt with this, when also working with college students, was to provide a copy of the form and say/write:
        “There are a variety of documents you can provide to satisfy this requirement listed on the back of the form. US citizens usually provide their passport OR drivers license AND birth certificate OR drivers license AND SS card. International students usually provide their (I forget the form #). If you are uncertain what documents to bring, please contact HR or the international students office as they are the experts on these forms.”

        I gave the same spiel to every student no matter the ethnicity or nationality they presented.

        1. Gaia

          Even that could get you hit with a fine as it could be interpreted as recommending those documents over others.

          1. Sophie Winston

            IANAL, but the legal advice I got at the time was that we could not suggest what they should provide, but making a neutral, factual statement about what was commonly provided, accompanied by the full list of less common but equally acceptable items, was allowable.

            Being neutral is, of course, key. Saying something is common is not the same as saying it’s preferred, unless your tone says otherwise.

        2. Manders

          This is what has me scratching my head–I’ve never been in a situation where I had to produce the original copy of my birth certificate or my social security card for work. I’ve always used my driver’s license and passport. Plus, the way it’s described sounds like HR doesn’t just want to see those documents, they want to keep them on file or take them away from the student, since there’s a line about “sending the original to HR.”

          If I were a parent I might be hesitant to send those particular documents if it sounded like the school wanted to take them away from my kid. HR may need to be clearer about why it needs these particular documents and what they’re going to do with them.

          1. Manders

            Edit: Karo explained above that you don’t need these other forms of ID if you have a passport. It didn’t occur to me that a lot of OP’s students might not have passports.

          2. TL -

            If you don’t have a passport, HR needs to see the original of your ss card or birth certificate (and make a copy) to employ you.

            And lots of people don’t have a passport.

      3. ExceptionToTheRule

        I send the I-9 document requirements to everyone when I set up their onboarding after a couple of instances of what the OP describes. The individuals involved were college students, but this wasn’t for a work study job.

      4. Marzipan

        I’m not in the US, and not familiar with what documentation is and isn’t required, so I’m not suggesting that specific wording necessarily, so much as the principle of informing people early on that they will need whatever it is they will need, so they can sort it out and not get stuck without it at short notice.

      5. Stephanie

        My state university requires the social security card regardless of what documents you use for the i-9. So you can satisfy the i-9 requirement with your passport, but still be required to produce the social security card – at least for some state governments.

    3. PK

      At my current job, I was given a sheet with the government requirements for identification at the end of the first interview. I was specifically told that if I was chosen, I needed to be ready with those documents. It is local government but they provide that sheet to every interviewee whether they get the job or not to avoid issues and delays.

  12. arkangel

    #2 I had that problem way back when I was 18. My father wouldn’t fork over my Social Security card because he didn’t want me applying for jobs without his approval. I had to get around it by memorizing the number and getting a replacement card.

      1. alice

        Getting a replacement card isn’t illegal. You just explain the situation (usually by saying you can’t find it) and you get another one.

        1. Lindsay J

          I think he means he hopes that withholding the adult child’s documents from them is illegal, not getting a replacement card.

      2. MK

        It is in my country, but I think most people (especially at 18) would hesitate to press charges against their parents.

      3. A. Nonymous

        There are recent cases where children have sued parents for refusing to document them here in the United States, but it’s not TECHNICALLY illegal here. If it goes that far (to court) the parents are already unreasonable and controlling so it’s going to be a drawn out process.

        There are ways around it, provided that parents have documented the birth (many of the people that withhold documentation don’t do that)

        1. Mike C.

          I’ve always wondered what happens to those kids where the parents live “totally off the grid” and never sign them up for Social Security or document the birth. That has to be a complete cluster.

            1. Ruthie

              Just did a ctrl+F to make sure someone commented with this link, thanks for sharing! In some cases even, this is a form of “identity abuse” and can be used to control adult children.

            1. Lemon Zinger

              That poor girl– my heart breaks for her, but it’s a relief to know that she’s safe, happy, and making progress toward getting the documents she needs.

          1. Charlotte Collins

            When I was in college, I knew a girl who didn’t get her Social Security Number until she had moved out of her house. (This was back when people didn’t need them until they started working – I didn’t get one until I was 16.) She waited because when her brothers got theirs, her parents continued to claim them as dependents after they were 18, even though they weren’t paying to support them at all. By not having access to her SSN, she figured it would be harder for her parents to claim her illegally and easier for her to state that no one could claim her as a dependent without the possibility of her getting into any tax trouble.

  13. Stellaaaaa

    OP1: You’ve wrapped your story in a lot of emotion that kinda distorts the facts. In my experience, people who plagiarize either do it deliberately and hope they won’t get caught, or they’re unclear about what constitutes plagiarism, in which case their qualification for their position legitimately comes into question. I’m not trying to pile on you here. It does sound like you were scrambling to pull something together at the 11th hour. However, you completely brushed past any acknowledgment of intention, which is the actual point at hand. Did you know you plagiarized? Or is the job not for you? I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt until/unless you tell us more, but I’d advise you to retool your narrative a bit. There’s really no such thing as someone who takes academic integrity seriously and yet had no inkling that they were fudging some citations.

    1. Daisy

      I don’t think plagiarizing accidentally would be that difficult if you were rushed, stressed and not paying enough attention. You paste in a sentence or paragraph you’re citing, intend to put in the footnotes later, then edit in a rush, the quotation marks or indentation get lost so it’s not clearly a quotation anymore so the footnote doesn’t get done, boom! You’ve plagiarized. That wouldn’t be intention, just sloppiness.

        1. AcademiaNut

          I could see something like quoting and attributing text correctly, but neglecting to correctly attribute plots and images taken from various sources. Just different enough from standard English or History class quotations to be neglected by someone new to the job (particularly in the age of reposting and forwarding stuff), but still a pretty major professional screwup.

          Or something like neglecting to cite your own work (or the employer’s internal work). In research it’s common to cite yourself, but students don’t generally have prior publications that they can use as references.

          1. Stellaaaaa

            Then, unfortunately it’s a question of whether OP is a good fit for the role. The position seems to demand someone who doesn’t make those mistakes. Again, barring more information, someone who makes a point of stating her commitment to publishing integrity doesn’t get to make these kinds of mistakes. Especially not if she’s going to keep bringing up illnesses and coworkers’ issues. None of that is relevant to the plagiarism.

            I’m going to end this here, with the thought that the OP isn’t asking the right questions in her email.

    2. Some Sort of Management Consultant

      The whole story is rather confusing.

      OP, if someone else had produced your work and you were that person’s colleague, would you consider it plagiarism?

      1. Myrin

        Yeah, even after reading the letter multiple times, I still can’t quite figure out what the situation actually was.

        I clearly had cited incorrectly, and the errors were pervasive.
        Are the “errors” here the incorrect citations or mistakes made on top of those? If they are the citations, I don’t understand how that works? Like, how can an incorrect citation result in a pervasive error? Granted, I’m in the literary field in academia where plagiarism doesn’t have any real-life consequences other than for the plagiarist themselves but I just can’t wrap my head around what that means. I’m imagining something like OP mis-attributing a quote and that almost destroying the whole project or something and I wonder how that works.

        There were serious citation errors and I did a bad job on a written project
        Same thing. Are the serious citation errors part of the written project you did a bad job on?

        I should have taken off earlier in the plagiarism case because I had a viral illness
        You know, I can actually see someone plagiarising because of an illness. I had something similar to it happen once! I wrote a paper and had this great quote already copied and then I was in a real flow and was like “just pop it in there and write the footnote down later” and I did so and after furiously writing two pages, I had totally forgotten about that one quote. I caught it later – the quotation marks were already there and I was wondering where the respective footnote was -, but had I been ill and not concentrating and under stress, I might not have seen it in time. However, that is hardly what could be called “pervasive” or “serious”, especially with no other mistakes like that in sight. So I’m really wondering why this is written as if the illness was somehow cause for what seems to have been a huge mistake. (Again, no idea how a huge mistake could ever arise from plagiarism in the first place.) Same with I’m still a plagiarist guilty of trying to pass someone’s work off as my own instead of someone who was coming down with an illness on a tough project who made a serious error. Do you mean “serious error in judgment”? If so, you still decided to plagiarise. Or are these, again, two different occasions and it’s just that the plagiarism thing seems to be stuck in everyone’s mind?

        This is not meant to bash the OP but rather to show why I find everything about this confusing and unclear. I feel like I must be imagining something completely different from what this project actually looked like, that’s really the only explanation.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I am guessing, but I think “citation errors” in this context is often used to mean “I used someone else’s work and didn’t cite it as being someone else’s work.” So it could have been lots of text taken from somewhere else and presented as the OP’s own.

        2. MegaMoose, Esq.

          I found this letter confusing as well. I agree with Allison’s interpretation that “citation error” probably means “near or total failure to provide citations” – I’m guessing that it happened out of sloppiness brought on by the illness and difficult deadline and therefore the OP doesn’t view it as real plagiarism because she wasn’t consciously intending to try and pass someone else’s work off as her own. But I feel like I’m making some assumptions there and wouldn’t want to be unfair to the OP.

  14. Cat steals keyboard

    OP #1, I’m sorry you’re going through this but I’m wondering if you fully understand exactly what can be included in the definition of plagiarism? Serious citation errors = plagiarism. And I think it’s really important for you to try to separate the facts of what happened from the reasons why. If I crash my car because I’m sick, the fact I’m sick doesn’t mean I didn’t crash my car, or that the impact of the crash is any different. The reasons for this should be taken into account when judging where to go with this but they don’t change the fact that this is plagiarism and I think that’s an important distinction to make. So it’s not that you’re being judged and labelled no matter what. It’s that the reasons don’t negate what actually happened.

    All other things aside, I think it would be a good idea in the course of any future work to take a look at the systems you are using to keep track of references and whether they are working for you. Some people need training or coaching to help with that. It sounds like you don’t have an effective system in place and so you’re cutting corners when under stress.

    1. The Grammarian

      I always told students to attribute everything that they got from an outside source, including paraphrased ideas from other sources.

      This article at the Purdue Online Writing Lab has some good strategies for anyone (not just students) who has to write documents that incorporate quotations, paraphrases, images, and so on from outside sources: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/589/03/

      1. J

        Gah. Self-plagiarism is also a thing, which I find mind-boggling and infuriating. So, you have to remember to attribute everything from an outside source, even when the outside source is yourself.

        1. TL -

          Well, if I’m reading a paper for work, and they reference a conclusion they’re building off of, if I’m interested in working off their data or if I’m not sure I believe it, I need to be able to find what they’re citing, every if it’s their own work. (Especially if it’s their own work, actually.)

          1. Charlotte Collins

            Yes, I think that the real issue is that authors need to cite their own research. This is especially important in science publications, but it is important in all. (Especially if the work is coauthored.)

            1. NotMyRealName

              The truly annoying thing is that people get in trouble for self-plagiarizing in the materials & methods sections. How many truly original ways can you write a procedure that you use all the time?

  15. Cat steals keyboard

    #5 I know Alison has said this until she is blue in the face but you do not need a gimmicky resume. This will just irritate!

  16. Bluesboy

    #3
    I’m sure I’m missing something, but can’t work out what. At the moment you get up at 3.30am (Ouch!) in order to get to work.

    With the new timetable you would be starting at 4.15am, but probably working from home. So why would you need to get up earlier than you get up now? Maybe I’m being unrealistic timewise, but 45 minutes, assuming no particular need for elegance or make-up if you aren’t seeing clients or colleagues is enough time for breakfast and a shower (and very definitely a coffee at that time!), clothes laid out the night before and you’re done.

    Don’t get my wrong, I sympathise with anyone getting up at that time, I’m just missing why you need to get up earlier and am curious as to what I’ve missed. If you actually would be working from home it seems to me to work better for you – you can get up at roughly the same time, but as you start earlier will presumably finish earlier, plus saving on the commute. What have I missed?

    Obviously if you wouldn’t be working from home it’s a completely different situation.

    1. Dot Warner

      That’s a good point – if OP3 is allowed to work from home, they’d be getting up at roughly the same time. Also, OP3, is your commute long because of distance or traffic? If it’s traffic, there likely won’t be anyone on the road at 3 AM – bars close around 2 (at least where I live), night shift workers will still be at work, day/evening shift workers will still be asleep – which means that your commute may be substantially shorter.

    2. hbc

      I had the same thought. If working from home those days is an option, that’s a win: wake up the same time or later and skip that horrid commute.

      The employee who lives down the street from the office and usually rolls out of bed at 5:40 is going to be hurt a lot more by this change than the person who is already up 45 minutes before the new start time.

    3. Marzipan

      This was rather my thought, too. Heck, I’d probably get up later, and work in my pyjamas, assuming no-one was going to be able to see me. I can understand not wanting to work that early; and I do rather think that if the company wants people operating in different timezones they should probably consider hiring people in different timezones, but getting up at the same time/later, finishing earlier (presumably) and skipping what must have been an hour-and-a-half commute each way actually sounds rather better, to me.

    4. Emma

      Yes; I was thinking that in OP’s position, I’d consider accepting the early shift on the condition that I could always work from home. When I’m working from home I usually only take half an hour to get up (especially since I don’t need to look at all smart and can throw on whatever’s clean), so that would mean a slightly later wake-up time, and an extra 5 hours per day of spare time thanks to not needing to navigate that godawful commute.

        1. Rana

          I think some people do it so they have sort of a mental switch from home mode to work mode. Me, I work in whatever’s comfy.

    5. Mookie

      It may be that she’s fine to commute during that period before 6am but that she’s not prepared or awake enough to start an hour and forty-five minutes earlier.

      1. Daffydill

        If she’a not awake enough to work from home at that time, she shouldn’t be driving during that time!

        1. Purest Green

          Yeah, I’m of two minds on this. On the one hand, what you said. On the other, she might be alert enough to drive, but interacting with other people and functioning for her job requires a different sort of mental workload that her brain hasn’t geared up for at that hour.

        2. EddieSherbert

          I kind of assumed she took the train or bus (that’d be most likely in my area if it takes over an hour), which you don’t need to be very alert for – just enough to get the right stops!

          1. Daffydill

            Ah, I hadn’t thought of public transportation, that is a good point. My parents had very long commutes and drove, so my mind sort of defaults to long commute = drive, short commute = public transportation. But then again, I consider a short commute to be an hour, which is what mine is on the subway. My parents were more like 90 minutes, and they drove.

  17. babblemouth aka One Of The Greatest Minds Of The 21st Century

    #3
    I sympathize, I can’t function before 6am!

    Since this shift would be aimed at supporting East Coast clients, it would all be done by phone/email. could you ask your manager if working from home on those days would be possible? You wouldn’t have to get up any earlier this way.

    1. Koko

      To think, one of the greatest minds of the 21st century can’t function before 6 am. All those employers requiring early work are missing out!

  18. A nony cat

    #2, Despite being a fully functioning adult, my parents still hang onto my essential documents, like social security card and birth certificate, in their with other essential family records (e.g. wills…). Of course, they will get these documents to me if needed and I have the access information, but I do need a heads up of at least a few days. The reason we have decided it’s better to keep these with them is (a) I move somewhat frequently and (b) this way, everyone in the family knows where *all* essential documents are. (ummm and (c), I’ve been known to forget where I put the pen that I’m currently holding. Know your weaknesses). BUT, anyone’s parent’s who straight up refuse to supply their children with their own identity documents are…very misguided.

    But, this may just be ignorance on my part since I’ve never had a work-study job, but I don’t remember needing originals of my ssn card or birth certificate to get a regular job. Is this a new/special requirement? I’ve held multiple jobs and have don’t think that I been required to provide the originals of these, although my memory is hazy on the subject. I think I just told them the my SSN along with a drivers license or passport or something?

    1. Cookie

      You need one document to prove identity and another to prove work authorization. A passport does both so if you have one, that’s all you need.

    2. Natalie

      It’s definitely not that new, I’ve had to do it since my first job in the 90s. But if you’ve used your passport every time you wouldn’t necessarily have noticed the other acceptable documents on the list.

    3. jack of all trades

      You have to fill out an I9 form that verifies that you are legally allowed to work in the US. It’s been required since November 1986.

    4. SJ

      Re: your first paragraph, it’s the same with my family. I think my brother has all his essential documents with him because he lives out in Wisconsin, but I still live very close to my parents, so we’ve always just kept all our important documentation stuff together in a safety deposit box at our bank to make it easier. My mother’s retired so she doesn’t mind driving down the road to get stuff out for me if I need it (but like you said, there’s a lag time of a few days). I’m 28.

      1. Judy

        For my current company, I filled out the paperwork and took the passport and paperwork down to HR. They told me to go make a copy of my passport. They never even looked at it or had it in their hands, just the copy. They saw that I had a blue book in my hand, but didn’t watch me copy it in the copy room or anything.

        At a previous company, HR was at another site, and they just asked me to email the filled out form and the scanned copy of the documents.

    5. Willis

      Lol – I just had a conversation with my dad about how he has never been responsible for holding on to his own social security card or birth certificate. Apparently my grandmother must’ve just passed them along to my mom for safekeeping once they got married.

  19. Erin

    #2 Can you tell them to report it to someone?
    The institution issuing these documents?
    At some point you have a right to have your own documents, and if taking someone’s mail could be reported, then maybe there is a similar possibility for personal documents necessary for employment.

    1. Mookie

      I hate to a be a Is This Legal? drag but, well, is this legal? Holding another adult’s government-issued papers hostage?

      1. A. Nonymous

        In the United States, yep, it’s legal. Though that may be changing soon. HOPEFULLY the parents actually got their children birth certificates and SSN when they were born, then you can go through a fairly painful process of getting the documents yourself, but Identification Abuse of adult children does happen.

  20. Hannah

    OP 1: I know you said you’re trying to own your shit, but you might need more practice. The wording of this letter was so passive. It should say “I was caught plagiarizing” not “I was accused of plagiarizing.” You framed everything like it is something that happened to you, rather than something that you did. I found it really grating. I have to wonder if that is part of the problem your boss is having. I would suggest that for your annual review, if this is discussed, you make sure to take full responsibility for the plagiarizing, all circumstances aside. Hopefully some of the other comments here are helpful for you to understand the nature of your mistake and to get the perspective your boss probably has.

    1. Mike C.

      Oh come on now. You’re seriously chastising the OP for not sufficiently “owning their shit”?

      This is why I hate plagiarism conversations – there’s always people demanding penance for moral absolution.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I don’t think Hannah is demanding penance for moral absolution; she’s pointing out that the language the OP is using makes it sound like she doesn’t fully take responsibility for what happened, which is useful feedback for the OP.

        1. Kelly L.

          It reads to me like the LW doesn’t quite even remember writing it. Which is weird, and there are a few reasons it might be written that way.

          -LW could, as some have said, be softening it in her letter and not fully owning up to it.
          -Illness or meds could have caused LW to write the materials in some sort of brain fog, and she might actually not remember writing it.
          -Super outside possibility, but she might not remember writing it if she didn’t. There’s one example upthread of someone being falsely accused of plagiarism, possibly because a professor had them mixed up with someone else, and we also had a letter a few weeks ago where two co-workers sabotaged a LW’s portion of a project by deleting it. Weird stuff doesn’t happen often, but it happens.

        2. Allie

          I picked up on this as well, particularly as the LW kept talking about being sick. The emphasis on that suggests LW, whether LW means to or not, that it is some kind of mitigating factor for plagiarism. But from the boss’s perspective that can be extremely frustrating to hear that excuse. If LW wants boss to move on, repeating “but I was sick” or similar doesn’t help because, the boss may be thinking “but what will happen the next time you get sick.”

          1. Mike C.

            I just took the whole being sick thing as a completely unrelated issue that OP feels makes her look bad or otherwise gets in the way of her proving herself to be a reformed employee.

            1. Allie

              It’s part of the LW’s summation near the end of her letter though: “instead of someone who was coming down with an illness on a tough project who made a serious error.”

              That’s why I think it’s a problem.

      2. cbackson

        As someone who was on a college honor council and also taught classes to undergrads to help them understand what constitutes plagiarism, (a) yes, there is no issue about which people are more sanctimonious than this and (b) it is incredibly common for people not to understand that failure to properly cite is considered plagiarism in the academic context. The latter is why we have classes on it.

        There’s a reason that we have the concept of mens rea in the law, although folks here seem to think intent is largely irrelevant. There’s a spectrum from intentionally passing off another’s work as one’s own to largely accidental failure to appropriately attribute (like accidentally sending a working draft rather than a properly cited final), just like legally there’s a spectrum from full-on malintent to unavoidable accident. What the OP describes sounds like recklessness to me – it’s not without fault, but the error is a failure to exercise due care in managing the drafting and citation process, rather than a full-on intent to steal. In my view, there’s a meaningful difference, even if there’s still culpability – and thus, assuming her co-workers understand what happens, a greater likelihood of rehabilitating her reputation.

        1. Engineer Girl

          I think they did consider intent, which is why she was not fired.
          That said, the company still is in serious trouble if the paper was published. So intent doesn’t matter to the outside world. The company may have to lawyer up to avoid getting sued. At a minimum it’s a hit to the company reputation.
          In either case, the employee can’t be trusted to do her job. Either there is an ethics issue or a competence one. Maybe training can help, but there will always be a lingering distrust of her work.

  21. Cog from academia

    #2: The birth certificate is not specifically required for the I-9. There’s an official list of documents that may be used. You need either one from column A (document that proves both identity and work eligibility, such as a passport) or else a combination of one document for identity (e.g. driver’s license) and one for work eligibility (e.g. SS card). There are a bunch of other possibilities, but driver’s license & SS card is the combination I see most frequently used. And hopefully these kids going off to college are at least allowed to have their driver’s license in hand! (I recognize that a minority of them may not have one at all.).
    I would recommend to these students to at least take a look at the official list of allowable documents so they can assess which ones they might have or most easily be able to get hold of. And if the OP has the influence to put some information out earlier in the cycle, that list would be a good thing. I believe that the employer also is legally not allowed to require specific documents from the list, but must accept any combination that meets the requirements.

    1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

      I think, especially if these are work study students, the university should be better prepared to assist the students.

      Way back in the day I was Pell grant and work study. I also came from an unstable home background and left home when I was still in high school. My mother was determined to road block me from going to college and (I actually filled out the financial aid forms myself and forged her signature. ) She would have never given me those docs.

      There are a million reasons an 18 year old wouldn’t have access to a birth certificate and social security card and it’s highly more likely in the students needing help the most that either the parents won’t cooperate, don’t have the skills to cooperate, or haven’t kept track of the docs themselves.

      Seems like a big gap of “young people need help to get a start in life” that a university would be in the position to assist.

      1. Marzipan

        I think that’s why an early-in-the-process “you are going to need X and Y documents; have them to hand” would be helpful – perhaps combined with a statement along the lines of “if you are having difficulty obtaining these documents, the Student Advice Centre [or whatever relevant equivalent] may be able to assist you”. I agree that the reasons for individual students not having the relevant documents in their possession may be complex and varied, and that, as people often relatively inexperienced in life, students may need a helping hand to navigate this – but I suspect that the people hiring students into part-time work are probably not equipped to offer that help. Early signposting would help everyone – the students know what they will need and can access help to get it, and the people hiring don’t become entangled in complex family issues.

      2. LabHeather

        I think this is a good point. I once met a girl who had resigned herself to never travelling because there was no father on her birth certificate and her mother has mistyped her name at the time, making it quite a hassle to get a passport. She claimed that trying to stick her hand into that wasp nest was just far too much effort. I hope she reconsiders one day, or that there will be a different way to prove your identity.

        As someone who has been making her own decisions in full ever since I came of age, I find it really difficult to stomach that parents can still hold such a massive influence/hindrance over their children, even after they are legal adults!

        1. GigglyPuff

          I’m curious why either of these would be a big deal to not getting a passport? I could see as a minor it being a problem if she needed both parents permission (but seems like if there’s no father listed on the birth certificate, then that would be an exception). But getting your name changed on your birth certificate, while a hassle seems like it would need to be done anyways to make sure all federal documents actually match the name you are using.

          1. LabHeather

            Oh, sorry. I meant that the mother misspelt her own name on the birth certificate, not the daughter’s name.

            I am not sure how the paper trail works in this instance myself. I’m from Norway. I don’t even think I have a birth certificate. At one point we went to the police office (both parents and I), where they agreed that I could have a passport. Between that and my driver’s license, I’ve never had a use for any other types of ID.

            But she was British. I have no idea how the laws work here in that regard.

            1. NotAnotherManager!

              Well, crap, if that’s an issue now I’ve got to more aggressively pursue correction of one of my kids’ birth certificates where I misspelled my own name to make sure that doesn’t come back to bite us. (In my defense, I was in labor for three days and dog tired when they showed up with the paperwork. My husband thinks it’s hilarious.)

              1. docu drama, sadly

                Please do follow up on correcting the birth certificate … and when you order certified copies, do yourself a favor and order several. In many states, the price for 2nd and subsequent copies drops substantially, and it’s a lot easier to get copies of newer documents than ones that might get retired in future to fiche.

                There’s also the issue that at some point in time, municipalities go from the detailed-looking birth certificates to something that’s like a “restatement” and is supposed to be fully acceptable … except for when it’s not because workers who are using them as verification may not be familiar with why the document “looks funny.”

      3. Chocolate lover

        Good point, but as I understand it, the requirements to prove authorization to work come from the government, I’m not sure what the universities could do about it?

        1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

          Working is an important part of paying for college, and work study is a part of financial aid. If the problem is as pervasive as the OP suggests (the OP being one of many points of hire on a uni campus), having someone in the financial aid office (maybe? idk what office but that one sounds good to me), who is charged with guiding the students through obtaining their docs would fall under core mission, to me.

          I’d suggest high school guidance counselors to help before college but I think we have to throw our hands up in the air about how much our poorly funded school systems can help people do jack squat.

          1. Chocolate lover

            That’s a good idea. I was originally thinking you meant accommodating the lack of documents at first, which isn’t up to them.

            Our campus has a specific student employment office, so that may be an option for students to get some guidance.

          2. Vin Packer

            Definitely. And while it’s great that people can be on their parents’ health insurance until 26, we also need to acknowledge that some of us are real and true independent adults right from the second we’re 18 (and really, younger, but I guess we have to pick an age somewhere). There has to be a better way for a legal adult to decouple their finances from their parents’ on a FAFSA.

        2. Laura (Needs To Change Her Name)

          Our career development office will drive students to the social security office and help with the process to get the social security card reissued. What seem like small barriers to adults (don’t have a car, haven’t done this before) can be huge barriers to new adults already going through a major life change. Pretty minimal practical support (a ride or personalized public transit instructions, handing someone a dorm and helping them fill it out) can make a huge difference. This isn’t coddling, it’s helping them learn to be independent by giving them the tools and knowledge and confidence to do something they haven’t done before.

          1. Chocolate lover

            Many schools don’t allow staff to drive students places, for various liability reasons, I can’t imagine anyone at my university doing that. I would happily give a student explicit directions on public transportation (I don’t drive, so driving is moot for me.)

          2. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

            YAY!

            Thanks for sharing this. I’m over here getting stressed out to flashbacks of what it was like for me at that age and feeling bad for everybody.

          3. Cassie

            I highly doubt our staff would drive students to the social security office – it’s simply impractical, given the large number of international students that we have. But they do give you directions and let you know what buses you can take to get there.

      4. Meg Murry

        For the OP – I agree that if you wanted to help, you could contact HR or Financial Aid and ask about if there are any programs in place to provide the “young people need help to get a start in life” assistance like Wakeen mentions. For instance, at a local school near me, they have an official way to provide students with a short to medium term loan (or I think it might technically be considered a gift that the students are encouraged to pay back more as a way of paying it forward, but are not 100% required to pay back) in order to help them get out of a financial jam to be successful. They don’t advertise it too heavily, because they don’t have unlimited funds and want to save it for students that truly have no other options, but the financial aid office, Dean of Students, counseling center, the program for first generation students and others know the process to get the student to the right place. In the end, it is actually in the college’s best interest to help the student out rather than have them potentially drop out or fail out (impacting their graduation rates and that student’s ability to pay back any student loans to the college) when it’s a matter of a couple hundred dollars or less making the difference. For instance, last year they used funds to help students pay for one-time prescriptions, emergency plane tickets to visit a sick family member, replacement textbooks when a student’s backpack was stolen, etc. OP’s example of the student who couldn’t afford to order a replacement birth certificate is the perfect example of this – the birth certificate probably would cost on the order of $100 or less, but for lack of that $100 the student will potentially be out hundreds to thousands of dollars in potential financial aid income.

        Also, a lot of people are coming from a place of assuming the parents are being controlling or helicopter parents and that is why they aren’t providing the students with the documents. I suspect there is also a certain element of disorganization or flakiness coming into play in some of the cases, where the parent doesn’t know where the certified copy of the birth certificate or social security card actually is, or the student doesn’t get in touch with the parent to ask in a timely manner. I’m usually pretty organized about this kind of thing, but we went around in circles not able to find one of my son’s official birth certificates (it wasn’t where it belonged) and I finally gave up and ordered a replacement – and of course, the next day we realized that the last time we had it was when we registered him for Kindergarten, and sure enough, it was tucked in the folder with the school paperwork, not in the file where we usually keep birth certificates, Social Security cards, etc.

        Plus, unfortunately, some people are just flakes – and it’s not just students. When I worked at a college and was filling out all the new hire paperwork, there were 2 other new hires there (one an adjunct faculty member and the other a tenure track hire) that did not have the required paperwork for the I-9, despite the list of documents having been included in the offer paperwork. One person mentioned that they were “pretty sure they had that paperwork back in their apartment in [previous city] but that it was currently being sublet so they would have to see if the subletters could FedEx them the documents” while the other admitted he had no clue and was better off ordering new ones. The poor HR woman looked frustrated, but also like she had dealt with this 1,000 times before.

        1. NotAnotherManager!

          My mother, who is pretty organized and saves nearly everything, could not hang onto a copy of my birth certificate to save her soul. I don’t know why — she had everyone else’s, but mine was missing when we went to do passport applications and missing again when I went to college. She was beside herself because she couldn’t keep a hand on that one — plus I was the only member of the family born in a different state, and mine didn’t look like the others and was a different process to obtain certified copies of. (I also do not think that she took my jokes about being kidnapped/illegally adopted very kindly.)

          I think I have three copies of mine now because of all the reissues we had to order over the years, a few of which finally turned up in a move. (I also have one that is wrong because the issuing state entered my info wrong and had to correct it and send me an updated copy.)

      5. the_scientist

        This is such a great comment and I want to give it a standing ovation! My parents are supportive, generally, but I was completely on my own when it came to applying for and paying for university. I had to navigate applying for school and applying for financial aid with no guidance from my parents- I told them what forms/numbers I needed from them and they handed them over and signed on where I told them. I also got no support or assistance in choosing schools or courses. Which is fine, I figured it out on my own….but I still wish I had that support.

        You also need to consider that the students that receive aid are potentially, as you said, going to be the ones with parents who are unwilling or unable to provide assistance themselves, so it’s even more important that the schools help students in this manner. If the school has a financial aid office (likely), they should have advisors who are able to help students navigate this complicated process. Honestly, those financial aid forms are challenging to fill out….I’ve also done a FAFSA and it legit took me like a week to complete (and I was 24 at the time).

      6. NotAnotherManager!

        Someone who can successfully navigate the college appliation and financial aid process should be able to obtain identity documents with little to no guidance. Universities could print a one-page form explaining the basic steps for how to figure out the steps to obtain their specific identity documents, I guess, but most governments put all this information online now.

        If a student has a driver’s license, they should be able to get a birth certificate via mail or, in some states the internet. All they have to do is google “birth certificate” and the name of the state in which they were born to get one.

        Social Security cards are harder, in part because you need to have the birth certificate in addition to the DL, but, again, the SSA posts the information on how to get the cards on their website.

        1. Natalie

          I don’t know, I think a lot of students’ parents fill out the FAFSA for them, and plenty of students get help with their applications for whatever reason. And a college application is usually written in plain language rather than government-ese.

          1. NotAnotherManager!

            Right, but the original comment was talking about people who did not have parental support and had to fill out FAFSA by themselves. I figure if you can do FAFSA and a college app, the Department of Vital Statistics (or Health or whatever your state calls it) is probably a cakewalk.

            I’ve also requested birth certificates from four different states now, and I found the request process/FAQ by googling “[state] birth certificate”. They are typically one-page request forms that aren’t difficult to fill out — mostly what’s your name, what are your parents’ names, where in our lovely state/commonwealth were you born, what’s your birthday, please prove that you are eligible to request the document by checking self/spouse/parent and photocopying your ID for us, and send a check or money order for the fee. These are questions that I hope a college student could answer. :)

        2. Lemon Zinger

          I work in higher education doing admissions/financial aid work. Many, many parents apply to college on behalf of their students. Even more fill out the FAFSA entirely on their own, without the student’s involvement. There is nothing I abhor more than these parents who refuse to treat their children like adults.

        3. docu drama, sadly

          A note here, because I just went through the process of getting a new copy of my Social Security card — and to get a middle name inserted, as well.

          If you go in person, you just need to show a driver’s license. There was no need for a birth certificate.

          As a side note, the worker told me that you don’t need a paper trail or ID for the middle name/s if you are requesting a modification. That really surprised me. I thought it was maybe down to my needing to re-add a middle name I’d dropped so that my SSN and passport name fields would match, but she said nope, SS doesn’t consider the middle name/s to be part of your identity (or words to that effect).

    2. Catherine

      I think it would be helpful if information on documentation was included in the financial aid package letter. In bold.

  22. Rebecca

    #3 – I work on the East Coast; my biggest client is on the West Coast, and I know they’ll be in the office at 11 or 11:30 AM my time, maybe earlier, and they know I go home at 1:30 PM their time. It’s never been a problem. We East Coasters just adjust our communication timing for later in our day to accommodate. We rarely speak on the phone, and 99% of communication is done via email.

    The OP is already getting up 2 1/2 hours prior to start, so a new 4:15 AM start would mean this person would have to be up at 1:45 AM? I guess if you were able to leave at Noon, that would be OK, but still, no idea why they would expect people on the East Coast to expect someone to be available at 7:15 AM their time. Maybe I don’t have a good understanding of the industry, but this seems odd to me.

    1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

      West Coast teapot suppliers staff CS for East Coast timing. Their teams assigned to the east coast are usually available starting at 8 or 8:30, so 5 or 5:30am west coast time. Hundreds and hundreds of suppliers. You don’t find one that isn’t available for east coast business, phones opened & emails answered, at the very least by 9am eastern time.

      So it’s a thing. I wonder at the 7:15 am east coast start. Maybe an extra special that industry thing .

      1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

        p.s. and we are staffed for west coast customers. Our people who work until 8PM *hate* the late shift, but it’s gotta be done.

  23. Mookie

    If she isn’t, I might just apply on your own and not reach out to her (since any recommendation she makes to the hiring manager will be impacted by the fact that she’ll almost certainly need to mention what happened previously, and I think that will hurt more than help).

    Alison, wouldn’t a hiring manager at some point, after reading the LW’s resumé, recognize that she and the former boss once worked together? Might they not, in the course of formally or informally checking references and verifying information, just reach out to the physically nearest reference, the one they share an employer with, out of convenience? I kind of think pre-emptively starting that discussion with the former boss before applying, if possible, might save the LW a lot of time if the boss discourages her or informs her that they’ll be giving an honest and thorough reference if asked.

    Since the relationship ended cordially and the former boss gave the LW some helpful and solicited advice, it sounds like she’d be able to tell the LW whether or not it’s worth the effort to apply if the LW’s mistakes were egregious enough to make her ineligible for this role in this particular company.

  24. Yetanotherjennifer

    OP #5: Emplouers don’t need the history document but it is very helpful for remembering job details not included in my resume. It’s not something I show to employers, I just keep a running list of jobs and accomplishments in a word document. It’s successfully seen me through 2 career changes and several resume updates. I also keep a list of employer information that is required in most applications: title, company, manager, dates, salary, etc. once you get past the 3rd employer it’s tough to remember all that.

  25. Allie

    While I know these are both plagiarism, I think my judgment of LW1 would depend on whether LW sourced figures correctly, or whether there were large blocks of text copied in without quotes or source acknowledgements, or somewhere in between. I think attribution errors are a lot more explainable than wholesale copying. If LW isn’t used to this kind of project, source attribution requires a lot of records and concentration, and if you mess it up in an early draft, it can be very tough to fix. But if the LW copied passages without attribution, that suggests a much bigger problem.

    This may be harsh, but, to some extent, you can’t use getting sick as an excuse, because submitting low quality work like this creates even more work for others. If you’re sick to the point that you are counter productive, you shouldn’t be working, and if you have to be working, you shouldn’t be working on something crucial. Sick or not, poor quality work reflects badly on you and your organization.

    1. Faster

      I’m not really sure if the OP is using being sick as an excuse for bad work or if the manager is using the fact that OP is sick to talk OP down.

      I’ve had employers where an employee can be amazing but the second they get sick and miss a day you hear things that they are a slacker or a liar. It gets even worse when you are sick and miss time after getting in trouble. I once got written up and got the flu the next week – it was all over the office that I was being immature about it with a lot of questions on my commitment – all because I just happened to get sick at a bad time.

      1. Allie

        The LW mentions being sick a couple times, but the second to last line of the letter mentions it as part of the plagiarism episode. I get it, people get sick and it can affect work (I get migraines which make it hard for me to read). But you have to own your mistakes and know when you aren’t producing good quality work and correct for that.

    2. Venus Supreme

      Yeah, I’m still really unclear as to what the plagiarism exactly is. We had an incident in one of my classes when I studied abroad- a 3rd-year college student presented a report on Big Ben in front of the class and a few students actually found the Wikipedia page she copied from and started reciting her “report” along with her during class. Upon further investigation she straight up copied and pasted all of her research from Wikipedia, SparkNotes, etc for all of her classes. Unfortunately no further action was taken against her, although I wish there was.

      So, in this case, I would have little mercy on a plagiarist like her. But we don’t know for sure what OP has done, and we’re left to our own assumptions. (And I agree that OP’s word-choice was very passive)

  26. Faster

    #2: My mom is one of those parents.

    Even when I was in college ALL of my ID was kept in her safe. I couldn’t even drive my car because I’d have to check my license out with her and then give it to her when I got home.

    She always freaked on us for wanting our own IDs, she always cited that we’d just lose them and it’d be super complicated to replace. The one time that I had snuck my license out of the safe so I could go to the hospital (and kept it out for days) I ended up losing it and was nearly beat when she went looking for it…

    Her real motivation was control, you really have someone by the gonads when you have all of their documentation needed to function within society. When I got a waitressing job she withheld my documents so I couldn’t start working.

    I remember the first day of college, I told her up and down I needed my birth certificate for the financial assistance office. She was convinced I did not need it and told me to just go without it and they’d make do. I wasted my appointment and my aid got delayed for weeks – she even called and interrogated them on why they needed to see the original. When I finally got it, she picked me up from school that day and made me give it back immediately.

    So this is certainly a stressful situation for the kids applying to your positions. It might help to give a bit of a warning that they need to provide X, Y, and Z immediately after the job offer or it will be revoked. Even though they don’t need it at the interview, they can at least start asking their parents for their ID sooner rather than later.

    1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

      oh god bless. I’m so sorry you went through that. My situation was similar (my mother refused to allow me to get a license) with one difference. 37 years ago, a birth certificate wasn’t necessary for college. All I had to have was social security number, which I’d memorized.

      By the time I needed my birth certificate, I was out of college and working and could order it on my own.

      I feel so hard for young people in the spot where they have to have those docs way earlier, I’m feeling trapped for them.

      I’m glad you got through it!

      1. Mockingjay

        You too? My over-cautious, ultra-conservative parents refused to let me get a drivers license as well. Because I was a – Girl.

        [Never mind that my older brother was a chronic troublemaker and I was the honors student whom they relied on to watch the younger siblings and take care of the house. He got his license at 16. I was nearly 20 before I got mine, only because I needed to drive to work so I could earn tuition money!. On the infrequent occasions when I was grudgingly permitted to use Mom’s car, she would go out and inspect it when I got home.]

        Present day: Both the Mockingjay offspring were taught to drive and were given access to their SSN, birth certificates, and Passports, and any other info they need for work and school at 16. They could keep the items themselves, put them in our home safe, or put them in a safe deposit box – their choice, their responsibility. They haven’t lost any items yet.

  27. Trout 'Waver

    #5, Read and follow the advice on this site. Great stuff.

    A resume is a marketing tool to get a phone interview. Hiring managers read them in large batches so they typically spend little time on each individual resume. Knowing that, make your resume easy to scan and lead with your most important info: most likely a record of accomplishment in similar roles.

  28. aNoN

    I had the hardest time getting my documents from my parents because they believed my social security card, birth certificate, and immunization records were theirs, even after I turned 18. When I left home I “stole” them and my mom was pissed but I was an adult by then!! The issues my parents had was possessiveness and distrust of me. They’re dumb. I hope these students can get their documents in some way. I feel their pain.

  29. A. Nonymous

    #2 reminds me of The Girl Who Doesn’t Exist. ( I can’t figure out how to link in comments)

    I know this is a job forum, but it’s scary how common Identification Abuse is. If you or anyone you know is dealing with this, there are resources that you can use depending on your state/region in the USA. You will need your birth record, but that should be available on file in the county you were born in if you were home birthed and at the hospital you were born in if not. If the hospital is gone, check the health network it belonged to.

    If that doesn’t work, check out family law offices in your area and see if they can help direct you.

    1. Myrin

      Re: linking in comments: You put “a href=URLyouwanttolinkto” in angle brackets (but without quotation marks), then the text you want other readers to see/to click on, and then close that with /a, again in brackets.

      1. A. Nonymous

        Thank you! I noticed after I spammed this comment (sorry) that when you link it goes into moderation (UNDERSTANDABLE). I feel pretty passionate about this because I’ve seen it put very bright people in extremely difficult positions.

    2. AK

      In my state (most states, I think) all birth certificates are filed with the county or the state. If you were born in a hospital they generally get the paperwork started/done for you, but it is the government that issues the actual document. Many hospitals (especially in the past) gave out souvenir/memento birth certificates (often with cute little baby footprints) and when I was working at a position where we needed to examine documents for the government, I learned those are *not* official. For a Birth Certificate to be valid, it had to be issued by a state or county *and* have a raised seal indicating a certified copy. The hospital certificates usually even say “this is not an official birth record,” but that never stopped anyone from arguing with us.

      My mother recently needed to get an official state-issued copy of her marriage certificate from the county where she and my Dad were married fifty-some years ago – she’d been using the church issued certificate all along, and the state where she lives now would no longer accept it.

      1. Anonymous for this one

        I’m from NY State and I was issued with something like this which is basically a certificate that you have a birth certificate. This seemed to be enough for (a) border patrol on trips to Canada when I was a wee one (thus proving that my parents weren’t trafficking me internationally before passports were required for Canada/US travel) and (b) getting my first passport (and maybe my first drivers license too?). I don’t think I’ve ever seen my *real* birth certificate, although it’s possible my parents have. I haven’t needed to show a birth certificate since turning 18.

        (hope I got the code for the link right. if I did, thanks Myrin; if not, sorry)

  30. CanadianKat

    OP3 – I don’t know if that exists in the US, but where I am, drastically changing the conditions of your work can qualify as constructive dismissal. So if you resign because you are not willing to accept the new conditions, this counts as a termination, rather than a resignation. As a result, you would be entitled to pay in lieu of notice (a.k.a. severance pay / termination pay) and would be able to list “terminated” when claiming unemployment benefits.

    1. MegaMoose, Esq.

      Pay in lieu of notice isn’t generally a thing in the US, and although it is possible to claim a constructive dismissal for unemployment purposes, I suspect that most or all states have a much higher bar than moving one’s shift back a couple of hours. Plus there’s no general right to severance or termination pay unless it was previously agreed upon as part of your regular compensation.

    2. DCGirl

      It’s called constructive discharge in the US, and the criteria is that the employer’s conduct has to create a hostile work environment (differential treatment based on a prohibited characteristic) or the conduct is otherwise so egregious that a reasonable person would be compelled to resign. Shift work isn’t particularly egregious — millions of people do it every day.

      Also, it’s not a slam dunk that the OP would be able to collect unemployment should he/she quit under these circumstances. The unemployment commission generally favors people who are jobless through no fault of their own. I had a friend who quit a job when her employer moved 20 miles away from its previous location and her commute became longer. She did not receive unemployment .

      1. Rusty Shackelford

        But what if it’s for a profession that doesn’t typically embrace shift work, and therefore the employee had no reason to be prepared for it? What if, for example, you were a kindergarten teacher?

  31. Anon for this one

    #2- Ugh, this makes me so sad and angry. I had a dear friend whose mom was like this, and wouldn’t even allow her to get a license, bank account, job, etc. She also made my friend drop out of college and then isolated her and convinced her that the police were after them, etc.

    Obviously, this was an extreme case, but I do wonder are there resources out there for adult children trying to get out of situations like this? Maybe something that would walk them through what they need to do to get their own copies of stuff? That might be helpful to have on hand.

  32. J

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen my birth certificate, but I did go to college with my Social Security card.

    That said, I don’t *love* the number of times when a Social Security number is demanded. I get it for jobs, but I’ve seen the security and lack thereof, in a lot of HR offices. It doesn’t inspire confidence that this information is protected. (It’s not likely that my information, specifically, will be stolen when it’s being kept with a boatload of other identity information in the same unsecure fashion.) I’m thinking of stacks of credit card applications outside the campus bookstore the first week of school, and similar nonsense. I don’t even have my SS# on my driver’s license.

    I worry that my daughter will present her SS# in one of those instances and it will open her up to identity theft. All the same, I suppose you can’t protect your kids from everything. Some things they have to learn as it comes along.

    1. Elizabeth West

      For jobs after you’ve been hired, and/or for a background check–but not at the application stage. I applied to a couple of county jobs here and it drove me crazy–they required a SSN but they still use a PAPER application, that sits around God knows where after you turn it in. Rawr.

  33. Anon for this one

    Okay, in 2009, I posted something on a message board about the fact that my company had had layoffs, one of our owners was in rehab, and the fact that hiring and raises were frozen.

    I didn’t identify myself or my company but someone at work figured out it was me, my company audited my whole computer and posts on that board made from my home computer, and called me to the carpet. I held onto my job by my fingernails, lost a promotion, and NEVER lived it down. I stayed at that company for 3 more years and while the executives called it water under the bridge, my immediate boss mentioned it all the time, including the day I quit.

    My advice is to find a new job. People don’t forget this kind of stuff, even if it was unintentional.

  34. Barbara in Swampeast

    #2 Another reason parents will hang on to the social security cards is for taxes. If they use someone else to do their taxes, they have to show the social security cards of everyone they claim on their taxes. Parents are allowed to claim their children up to the age of 24 as long as they are full-time students, unmarried, and do NOT provide over half of their own support. Keeping the card also means that the student can’t go to a tax service to have their taxes done without the parent knowing.

    1. OP # 2 (I-9)

      Wasn’t aware of that. But couldn’t a student just order a birth certificate on their own. Than turn around and order a replacement social security card. I think they can state it’s lost if Mom & Dad refuse to give it up.

      1. Barbara in Swampeast

        Yes it should be a tax preparer’s policy when working with someone they don’t know. With so much tax refund fraud, the IRS will eventually get around to investigating preparers who file a lot of fraudulent returns (they need more investigators first).

      2. Yetanotherjennifer

        The IRS doesn’t care about the card but the tax preparer needs to see the actual document before filing the return. I volunteer at a community tax service and I’ve sent countless people home for their card. We are filing taxes on behalf of the taxpayer and we need to be able to verify their identity and that the information is accurate.

        1. fposte

          I’ve never had a tax preparer ask to see my card, actually. I have no problem with those that do, but wow, I don’t buy it as an acceptable reason to keep an adult’s Social Security card from them no matter whose taxes they’re on.

      3. CMT

        But if you’re going to a VITA site (and maybe for paid preparers, too?) they won’t do it unless they see everyone’s card.

        1. Laura

          I was coming here to say that as a VITA preparer.
          I have a friend from college who got married because her father wouldn’t let her file her own taxes even though he wasn’t supporting her.
          College kids should be able to get the documents, but yeah, some families are messed up enough that it’s not simply helicopter parents.

    2. Observer

      If that’s what the parents think, they are stupid and mis-informed. You don’t need the card, you just need the number.

      1. Moonsaults

        And the number is on your W-2 form…I fill out my brother’s taxes every year for him. He hands me his documents and it’s all there.

        So at most a tax professional would want to ask for the ID of the individual just to confirm identity in general not the SSN, that’s readily available and knowing that Jane Diggity who’s ID matches their W2s is standing right there in front of you should be enough.

      2. Evan Þ

        Wrong. I’m a VITA volunteer tax preparer, and it’s policy handed down from the IRS that, unless it’s in our system from doing the same person’s taxes last year, we need to see the actual card.

        1. Observer

          You don’t need to have someone do your taxes for you. And, since you can get the forms on line, you don’t even need to worry that your parents will intercept the mail.

  35. Jubilance

    Am I the only one who had their identity documents before college? I started working at 16, at a fast food place. So my parents gave me my documents for my I-9 for that job, and from that point on I was responsible for them. Parents trying to control this kind of thing for their kid seems so overprotective to me – your kid is ready for college but not ready to keep up with their birth certificate?

    1. Natalie

      Nope, I did too and for the same reason. I presume my parents each kept another official copy of my birth certificate for their own purposes, but I had all of my own stuff and still do.

    2. Amber Rose

      Nope. I got my first job at 13 and was entrusted with them then.

      My mom never actually gave me my birth certificate, but only because she didn’t have it. Turns out she never bothered to get one when I was born. So I ordered my own with her help.

      Funny story: that process took 9 months and is how I discovered that my name was flagged on some kind of government watch list.

    3. Kristine

      I’m reading through this thread and now think I’m weird for not having them! I didn’t have my social security card until I got married because I had to hand it over to change my name. And I still don’t have my birth certificate. My mom got me a passport when I turned 18 and it was good for 10 years so I never needed them.

      1. EddieSherbert

        Yeah, same.
        I know where my other important documents are (in a safe with all the family’s important docs)… but honestly, I’ve moved 7x in the last 5 years and I am terrified of losing something in transit. I’d rather have them all in one spot that isn’t going to change anytime soon.

    4. Temperance

      I don’t think it’s overprotectiveness so much as the fact that some people are control freaks and will do whatever they can to keep themselves in an advantageous position. My mother hid all of my documents because we didn’t “need” them, we weren’t trustworthy, etc. I actually think that she destroyed my first DL, which mysteriously went missing out of my purse at one point, never to return. (This is not an extreme logic jump, because soon after it went missing, she started mentioning out of nowhere that it was “illegal” to drive without a physical license, waiting for me to admit that mine was missing.)

    5. Meg Murry

      I didn’t personally have mine in my possesion, but my parents showed me which drawer in the filing cabinet they were kept in, and I took them with me to my first jobs for my I-9.

      I also went on an international cruise trip in high school as part of an extracurricular (back when you didn’t need a passport to travel to certain countries on a cruise ship but a birth certificate was enough). In order to make sure everyone had their documentation in order, the adviser started talking to us all about the need for our birth certificates (and that they had to be an official copy with the raised seal, not just a photocopy) months in advance – I’m pretty sure she made all of us and our parents show up to a conference with her 2-3 months in advance to check the documentation so that if someone didn’t have their birth certificate/passport ready she could follow up to make sure they got it.

      1. Anja

        That was my household too. My parents had them because they were the ones with a filing system. But I always knew where they were. And when I moved and established my own filing system I took them.

    6. Photoshop Til I Drop

      My parents kept mine in a safe for which I wasn’t allowed to know the combination (I still don’t–when they pass away, I have no idea how I’m going to settle their estate without getting in there). However, they took them out for me anytime I asked, and they handed them over as soon as I moved out. When living with them, though, the rule was that sensitive paperwork belongs in that safe.

    7. Potato

      I’m 30 and my mum still won’t give me my birth certificate. I wrestled my passport and SIN card away from her a few years ago.

    8. MegaMoose, Esq.

      I think my parents hung onto my birth certificate and SS card until I went to college, but I got a passport when I was 15 for a study-abroad program and hung onto it myself after that. I’m pretty sure I took my SS card to college with me, but I think I had to have them send me the official copy of my birth certificate at some point for some reason.

      And I have totally almost lost my SS card a bunch of times, but that’s on my head, not anyone else’s.

    9. CMT

      I don’t have my Social Security card because it got lost in a move, and I don’t begrudge my parents for that because it happens. (I’ve also never needed it. I have a passport and my birth certificate.) I think there are many reasons 18 year-olds may not have access to these documents that are nefarious or the result of bad parenting.

  36. Nervous Accountant

    OP #3, I have to applaud you for that. Waking up at 3 AM for a 6 AM shift isn’t easy at any age.
    I’ve had a 5 hour round trip commute for a minimum wage job, and wake up at 2 AM for a 530 AM shift that I would only be notified about at 9 PM. Sucked.

    Hoping you find a better deal ASAP!

  37. overcaffeinatedandqueer

    Ugh on identity documents. When I was in high school, I didn’t get my license, and when I worked, I would “check out” any documents just long enough to fill out forms.

    When I was in college, I was allowed to carry my license, which sufficed for my needs. But, when I wanted to study abroad, I had to have my mom approve and hand over my passport; and then give it back as soon as the plane landed.

    Fast forwards to 23. I was in law school, an hour from home. Any documents would be still temporarily given for work and such.

    But, I had met my same-sex partner and wanted to get married. Asked for my documents. Mom refused, saying I had been pickpocketed the year before and so they were not safe with me. We had a big fight and she still didn’t give them.

    Meanwhile, I’m freaking out because I don’t know what docs I need to get a marriage license, and I think maybe it’s one that’s being withheld. But, I was learning the law then, and so I said, “I know it’s illegal to withhold these. Give me my papers and tax information or I’ll file charges.” She was against me getting married and s I think that this was about stopping that.

    My mom is important in my hometown and cares about her reputation and so she caved. However, my parents had been doing my taxes for years (I legitimately am really awful at math), and so they tried to stick me with an $850 tax bill for their mistake on a previous year’s form.

    Sorry for the rant. But some people withhold these things because they just want control and consequences when they don’t have the control any more.

  38. Sue Wilson

    #2: I’m always really interested in where controlling parents tend to control their children. My mother always called college campus police when I wouldn’t call her back in what she deemed was an acceptable period of time, like 3 hours (after calling repeatedly; I was usually asleep and my phone was on silent, because I wanted to sleep), but she gave me my social security card when I was 15 and fully expected that I, a very absent-minded person, keep up with it, or if not, figure out how to get a new one. I ordered the new birth certificate when my mother couldn’t find the original (it was in storage in another state).

  39. OP # 2 (I-9)

    OP # 2
    Morning! Just started reading some of the comments. Alison I appreciate the link you attached. I’ve shared it with my co-workers. After this semester, I’m thinking about posting it.

    I make a point of sending an e-mail to the work studies & student wage employees with “page 9 of the I-9” form listing documents required. I also explain in the body of the e-mail that copies are not acceptable. That I will not process the paperwork or schedule the appointment to do so unless they have the documents. I’ll ask them to confirm that they have read the attachment & that they have the documents that are required. The students arrive for the appointment, then not have them. I’ve also gotten in the habit of including the web link to get birth certificates & replacement social security cards in the e-mail.

    One young woman got quite rude with me because I wouldn’t except a piece of paper with the social security number written on it that her mother had given her. Some of it is an issue of helicoptering parenting & students not taking the time to read the full e-mail or follow directions. It’s becoming an appointment of frustration.

    1. Natalie

      You’ll probably just have to accept a certain amount of this frustration because you’re dealing with a lot of employees, and in particular a lot of people who haven’t held a job before. There’s no magic combination of words that will make them all listen to you the first time, unfortunately.

    2. fposte

      It won’t solve the situation, but it could help to make it clear that this is a U.S. government requirement and that your university would be fined by the feds if workers don’t have the correct paperwork.

      BTW, your university is more generous than mine–no I-9, no work start here.

    3. Meg Murry

      OP, do you work in an office specifically affliated with the office of work study, HR or Financial Aid? Or are you in a department that just happens to hire a lot of student workers? I’m kind of surprised that something like an I-9 is handled by an individual department, not out of HR.

      It was a long time ago, but I’m pretty sure I had to go do my I-9 paperwork with HR or at the work-study office when I was a student, and they were the ones who held the line on what paperwork was required, rather than making individual offices be the “bad guys”. It also meant that once I had an I-9 filled out once (or maybe once a year?) I was good for the whole year, no matter what department/office I got a work-study job at.

      Is there anyone at HR that you can refer a student to when they start to get rude with you, so they can hear from that person that this is a government requirement being enforced university-wide, not just you trying to make their life difficult? Or can you kick this back to financial aid/work study and suggest they help students get the I-9 paperwork in place when they *start* applying for jobs, not once they get one?

      I totally get that this is a frustrating appointment for you, but I’m guessing some of these students are first semester freshmen still trying to figure out what’s going on and have only been at school for a couple of weeks. They are brand new to the world of having to figure out everything on their own, and they will make mistakes and have misunderstandings.

      1. Kelly L.

        My department does its own I-9s instead of HR. I think it’s an outsourcing thing–they’d be way too slammed if they had to process all the student worker paperwork on top of the “regular” employee paperwork they already do, so they offload the student stuff onto us.

      2. OP # 2 (I-9)

        I work with an office that hires approximately 50 FWS (Federal Work Studies) and Student Wage Employees. All student hiring we do within the department. The work studies carry their I-9 forms to the Financial Aid Office, the student wage goes to Human Resources. You are right, this time around it’s more new hires than normal. Financial Aid requires their I-9’s before they can issue a work study contract.

        Mom & Dad just need to give them the documents in my opinion. If the student loses them, it’s the student’s responsibility to get replacements. I think Mom and Dad do too much for them and the students suffer when it comes to self sufficiency and following directions.

    4. Emily, admin extraordinaire

      I had a similar amount of frustration when I worked in HR and handled I-9s for all new employees, because I worked for a movie theater chain and a large percentage of our workforce were young kids in their first jobs. We had to send quite a few people home because, despite our emails with the list of required documents, and our phone calls when we told them they got the job indicating they needed to bring them, SO MANY either didn’t have them at all or brought copies. We also had quite a few immigrants who tried to give us fake SS cards, so I had to be trained to spot those as well. It was just part of the job, because of the population I worked with. Similar thing for the OP– no matter how much you try to get them the right information, you’re going to be dealing with this problem. Sorry.

      1. OP # 2 (I-9)

        Emily,
        I haven’t dealt with fake documents, at least not to my knowledge. As you’ve stated it’s going be an ongoing problem because of the age group.

  40. Anon Guy

    “I’m already getting up at 3:30 a.m. in order to commute to be on time for a job that starts at 6 a.m.”
    If this is the case, and you work at home for the 4:15 a.m. shift, this sounds like a GOOD thing. You can get up at 4 a.m. instead of 3:30, work your shift, and then not have a commute back home. It sounds like this new shift will save you four hours a day, or am I missing something?

    1. Jennifer

      I’m assuming OP must have a long commute and to get there at 4 ish she’d have to leave at midnight or something super crazy. Might as well just literally live and sleep at the job.

  41. all aboard the anon train

    #2: My parents were those parents, but in my dad’s case his job meant he dealt with A LOT of identity theft cases, so I can understand where he was coming from.

    That said, I always provided a copy of my SSN and birth certificate and no employer ever gave me trouble for it. Even as an adult, I still bring a photocopy and no one has asked for the original. But I also have my license and passport as backup.

    1. crazy8s

      by law, I am attesting that I have seen the original document. I am not signing my name to that unless I have done so.

    2. Natalie

      I doubt much identity theft comes from stealing original documents. It seems like insecure databases are our largest risk.

    3. Emily, admin extraordinaire

      People who are accepting copies are breaking the law, and could be fined. When I signed I9s, I was attesting that I had seen the originals. I’m not going to lie on an official government document because you brought in a copy. You’ve been lucky so far, but one day, you’re going to have to produce the originals, so I’m glad you bring your passport as backup (that’s all you really need).

      1. zora.dee

        tangent, but this just happened at my new job and I’m super irritated, but I guess it’s not my problem.

        I am the admin for a satellite office and just got hired on permanently. They told me to fill out the new hire paperwork and scan it to them, but when I asked them how they wanted to handle the I-9 (because usually I fill it out for new hires in our office), said to leave the employer section blank and email it to them along with a scan of my ID documents. I wanted so badly to say “YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG!” but decided it’s not my circus, so I just did what they said. But I don’t get HR people who can’t read the instructions on the I9 form.

    4. Meg Murry

      The reason you haven’t had an issue is that the passport is one of the items on “List A” for the I-9, so you don’t actually need the SSN or birth certificate.

      Without your passport, you would need your license and *either* your birth certificate or SSN card.

  42. crazy8s

    #2 YES this is happening in our workplace too!!!! We hire interns and parents will NOT give their kids the original documents. This is new to me, but apparently not as weird as I thought. One parent wanted to send the documents directly to me and have me return them. I refused to do that and she was most upset.

    I asked one of the kids about this, and he said his parents were worried about identity theft and felt that a dorm room or apartment was not safe enough to keep these documents. They also told him they were worried he would lose them.

    We have a lot of kids that did not get internships this summer because of this.

  43. Maya Elena

    For #2 – a good reason, if you’re an American citizen, to get your passport! You’ll practically never need your birth certificate again after that.

  44. Maggie

    For #2, I don’t know enough about this, but is it possible that the family is technically undocumented and that’s why there’s a struggle for original documents? I was surprised nobody has mentioned it, but I wonder if that’s at play at all.

    If not, that’s very bizarre that a parent would actively refuse to send over essential documents..

    1. Natalie

      The student wouldn’t be eligible for workstudy if they’re undocumented, since it’s part of the federal student aid program and only available to citizens. So that’s unlikely in this case.

    2. bearing

      I think that some parents literally think the document belongs to *them.* They’ve been using the SS# to claim their child as a dependent… they’re the ones who were handed the birth certificate and told to keep it safe lo these many years ago… I think they think it’s theirs to keep.

  45. burnout

    “My mom won’t give me my social security card/birth certificate.”

    THAT coming out of the mouth of anyone over age 18 is ridiculous.

    Be an adult. Get your own documents.

    1. Temperance

      I’m guessing you don’t have experience dealing with a parent like this. My mother had hidden our identity documents, and controlled our movements in such a way that requesting copies would have been nearly impossible. I was lucky that I snooped around a lot and was able to find mine.

    2. Jennifer

      It may or may not be easy to replace one’s documents in other places either. I had to order another copy of my birth certificate, but luckily I could get someone to drive me to the county I was born in (and it was about an hour away) to do that.

      1. Elsajeni

        Yes, and it’s especially difficult if your parents are holding ALL your documents — you can’t get a replacement for an identifying document without providing some other forms of ID. (Often a driver’s license is enough, which helps, but if your parents are controlling enough to also prevent you getting a driver’s license or, as someone described upthread, hide your license and make you “check it out” from them every time you leave the house, you may be really out of luck.)

  46. Biff

    My parents held onto my birth certificate, I ultimately had to order a copy. The reason? They didn’t want me to get a passport like my sister had. Because, I have no idea. I am going to try to get it again this year, I think. An original is needed in some cases. I say this so that people understand they need to not discount that the parents are quite literally trying to prevent their kids from moving on.

    1. Temperance

      My mother had hidden my identity documents, including my driver’s license (which I think she destroyed). She liked the control. It wasn’t about me not moving on, it was about controlling every aspect of my life.

    2. Judy

      I’m pretty sure that the “original” birth certificate is the one in the book with the county/state. All anyone gets is a certified copy. You can’t have your original because it stays in the public record.

  47. Ellen N.

    To the original poster about I9s. It sounds like you are specifying which documents you will accept, Social Security Card and Birth Certificate. Per the instructions on the I9 which I’ve pasted below; employers are prohibited from specifying which documents may be used.

    Employers cannot specify which document(s) employees may present from the Lists of Acceptable Documents, found on the last page of Form I-9, to establish identity and employment authorization. Employees must present one selection from List A OR
    a combination of one selection from List B and one selection from List C. List A contains documents that show both identity and employment authorization. Some List A documents are combination documents. The employee must present combination documents together to be considered a List A document. For example, a foreign passport and a Form I-94 containing an endorsement of the alien’s nonimmigrant status must be presented together to be considered a List A document. List B contains documents that show identity only, and List C contains documents that show employment authorization only. If an employee presents a List A document, he or she should not present a List B and List C document, and vice versa. If an employer participates in E-Verify, the List B document must include a photograph.

    1. OP # 2 (I-9)

      I’m not specifying which documents they require. They are told either a document in column A or the combined documents listed in column B & C. They are not following directions and some parents are holding the passports also. We do the E-verify. I give them the web links for the replacement documents, because are the ones the parents are less apt to give up.

  48. Lucky

    Re: #2, if I may slightly hijack this thread to educate the HR folks here, a Native American tribal document qualifies as an employment authorization document for Form I-9, with a state driver’s license or state ID for proof of identity.

    No, I don’t need to come back with my social security card. Seriously, it says it right there on the form. Yes, my tribal ID card is a “Native American tribal document” – it’s got my name and tribal number and a magnetic strip and everything.

    1. zora.dee

      ugh, i said this above, but what is with HR people who can’t READ THE INSTRUCTION PAGE??! I was an HR admin in college, and I learned how to read the document and follow the instructions, it’s not difficult.

      I’m sorry people are dumb.

  49. Hillary

    FYI for those (like me) who never want to go through the hassle of replacing documents again – most states will issue multiple copies of certified birth certificates. My mom got so frustrated getting a copy of my birth certificate for my first passport at 15 (she ended up driving two hours to the county we were born in) that she ordered two copies of mine and two copies of my younger brother’s. We each got one copy and the other went in the family safe deposit box. I only wish it worked with social security cards.

    1. docu drama, sadly

      We ordered three certified copies of our kids’ birth certificates the year each one was born. We still know where two of the sets are ;) (one in our SD box, one in the possession of each kiddo).

      After learning that laminating a SS card renders it unacceptable, we ordered duplicates for them (they were elementary age at this point). We hung onto the laminated ones but they have the properly unprotected cards.

      Each person can make up to 10 requests in his/her lifetime for a SS card, so it might not be a bad idea to burn up 2 rather than 1 of those requests during the person’s childhood, because getting a replacement can be inconvenient and time-consuming if you’re not lucky enough to have a federal building nearby.

  50. Lemon Zinger

    HOO BOY do I have stories that relate to #2.

    When I got my first job in high school, my mom couldn’t believe that they asked for my social security card and birth certificate. She refused to give them to me. I begged her for them, saying that I wouldn’t be hired unless I provided them. She proceeded to march into the office (!) and speak to my would-be boss, who (thankfully) took my side and said “I really want to hire your daughter, but you have to understand this is what we require.”

    When I went away to college, she wouldn’t give them to me, though I needed them for work-study. More begging. She finally mailed them to me and instructed me to mail them back immediately, which I did.

    Junior year: While preparing to study abroad, Mom confiscates all of my documents, driver’s license, etc. because “you only need your passport over there.” Thankfully she allowed me to keep my checking account card so I wouldn’t have to rely on cash.

    By the time graduation rolled around, I demanded my ORIGINAL social security card and birth certificate. She pretended to have misplaced them, but I found them and told her only once I’d locked them away. My mom isn’t crazy, but she can be very controlling and anal about some things.

    1. Pink Teapot

      Once you’re an adult, no one else is supposed to have a copy of your social security card, drivers license, or passport. If someone, even a family member, is refusing to give them to you, it’s theft. And I believe it’s a federal offense in the case of social security cards and passports. You can report them stolen. Or you could just look up the applicable laws and show them to the person holding the documents.

      Fwiw, birth certificates are a different story (at least in most US counties) because they’re part of the public record. Anyone can order a copy of anyone’s birth certificate, marriage certificate, divorce decree or death certificate. You just have to contact the relevant county courthouse, fill out a request form, and pay a document processing fee.

      1. Natalie

        Although you cannot get a *certified* copy of just anyone’s birth certificate, you generally have to be a party to the certificate, trustee, etc.

        1. Pink Teapot

          Yeah, certified copies are usually reserved for the individual and members of their immediate family.

  51. Phoenix Feather

    LW#2: You have a push back on those parents on a silver platter – FERPA. Citing FERPA to helicopter parents is honestly one of my favorite parts of working in higher education. Once a student has reached their majority, they are the custodian of their educational records. This means when hiring students to work on-campus, you must still protect that information. Financial aid (which includes federal work study) is dependent on their enrollment in the University and therefore falls under the purview of FERPA. It’s a great tool at shutting down that interference and can be done in a very polite way.

    The next time a parent asks why you won’t accept a copy of the Social Security card, simply tell them that you are not authorized to speak with them regarding this issue as the student has reached majority and is an adult. You can easily adopt a “I’m so sorry; my hands are tied” approach at first and get harder as some parents will push on. A few parents will even discover the FERPA waiver that the student can complete and submit to each and every department the parent wishes to speak with, but by the time they do that, the student will have likely missed the deadline to submit I-9 documents.

  52. Pink Teapot

    #2 – That happened to me, but I didn’t know it was a widespread issue. When I turned 18, I went through the process of ordering replacement documents so I could work.

    I would look at it as a red flag about the person’s family situation and bear in mind that they might be dealing with other family issues as well.

  53. crazy8s

    I honestly am incredibly surprised at the number of posters with stories of not being able to get their identity documents from their parents, or other employers who have encountered this issue. I thought it was some crazy thing going on in our little corner of the world here. I am at a loss–this is so outside my realm of experience I don’t even know what to say. Parents are deluding themselves if they think they are protecting their kids from identity theft–their kids are far more vulnerable to that from people hacking into various databases than from getting documents stolen.

    1. Lemon Zinger

      It happens so often. I work in higher ed, and I frequently encounter parents who refuse to provide information their students NEED, like what the FAFSA asks for. They’re dooming their children and they don’t care. It’s horrific.

  54. De Minimis

    At my job I’m involved with hiring student workers–many do seem to have problems getting their birth certificate or other documentation together. I think it’s just that many are away from home the first time and don’t realize what they need.

    I actually lost my social security card a while back [I probably have it, just don’t know where it is] so I use my birth certificate for I-9 paperwork. My passport has long since expired [was only used once.]

  55. Brogrammer

    The plagiarism letter is vague enough that we all bring our own experience to it, and I think that’s why there’s such a wide variety of responses.

    When I think of “incorrect citations,” I think of the first term paper I handed in as a college freshman. I was acting in complete good faith but I hadn’t put any in-text citations because when I was in high school my teachers only required a bibliography. Not a single teacher (even AP English and History!) had mentioned in-text citations as a thing that was important to know. My professor gave me a failing grade and told me I was lucky he didn’t report me to Student Judicial Affairs for plagiarism. I was mortified. It was definitely a learning experience and I never made that mistake again.

    That said, I’m pretty sure that’s not what happened to LW1, because that’s a “first term paper of your freshman year” mistake.

    1. De Minimis

      I was in the same boat, just had poor preparation in high school. I ended up just stopping attendance of one of my English courses as a freshman because I was so embarrassed about accidentally plagiarizing and took an F [it was too late to drop the course.]

      I eventually did better but it was a hard experience. Embarrassing too because the professor spoke with my freshman comp prof because she was so concerned about the freshman class and their plagiarism.

  56. Chaordic One

    During my years in HR at Dysfunctional Teapots, Ltd. I never ran into a case where a parent wouldn’t provide a new employee with their Social Security Card or Certified Birth Certificate. However it was very common for them to be misplaced and for new employees not to be able to find them. In those cases I would type up a letter in the employee’s name requesting a copy of their certified birth certificate, have them sign it, and the letter would request that the copy be sent directly to Dysfunctional Teapots, Ltd. Similarly, I sent a number of employees to the Social Security Office to either get a Social Security Card, if they were hired from another country, or to get a copy if they were U.S. citizens and had lost their original one. Dysfunctional Teapots always paid for them.

    We never had a problem with not getting the documents, but I guess we were lucky about that. After I made copies of the documents for our records and plugged the information into the online I-9 form, and after they cleared, I gave the original documents to the person they belonged to. It was a PITA, and I always had to check a little box asking why the information was not provided within 10 days from the date of hire (I think that was the time period.) I typed in something like “was waiting for documents”. It was further complicated by the fact that we had a lot of seasonal employees and we had to rerun the information every time they got rehired, and also by the fact that a lot of the hiring was done at branch offices, but I had to do the I-9 information from the headquarters. I had to constantly nag and explain how to fill out the forms to a rotating cast of different managers at the branch offices. There were also a lot of problems with transmitting documents safely.

    Never email personal info like social security numbers or dates of birth or drivers’ license numbers or passport numbers because email can be easily hacked and your identity easily stolen.

  57. Dust Bunny

    I have to wonder why someone who has worked in academia and takes academic honesty “so, so seriously” would produce something in the first place that “I clearly had cited incorrectly, and the errors were pervasive”. Pervasive? Really? I have written exactly one paper, ever, with citation errors that could even faintly be called pervasive–my history professor ripped me a new one and now I do “works consulted” that include things I didn’t even need to cite.

    Don’t do slapdash work if you don’t want to get called on it.

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