we’re not allowed to bring coffee to work, my coworker is faking his expertise, and more

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

1. My coworker is faking his expertise for the promotion he’s applying for

Our director of IT gave notice this week. Two internal people have expressed interest in the job. We are a small company, and the director of IT is the only IT professional on staff. We are a financial institution, so IT security is super important.

John and Mary both expressed interest in the job. John is well liked and already in a comparable level job. Mary is not well liked (some for good reason, a lot just because HR doesn’t like her) and is in a lower level position that reports to me.

John and Mary both have degrees in IT. Mary has used hers in the workforce prior to working here. John got his while working here and has not used it. I don’t think it’s likely that John will get the job based on that, but three years ago John “designed” our company intranet. He took full credit for it and used it as a school project … except that we had an intern at the time who was paid to do the actual work while John just said “put our logo there, add links to these things.” When the intern left, he left instructions for John to make small updates so the page has been maintained. I also know that John, while getting his degree, paid people to do at least some of his projects.

I feel like since John is a good talker, he may be able to talk his way into this position and use his intranet project as proof that he is qualified. I feel like I have to say something, but folks may think I’m only saying it to make Mary look better since she’s my direct report. I’m sure there is a record of the intern on our payroll but am not sure it will detail what he did. Our entire senior management team has turned over since then, so no one here was here when the bulk of the project took place.

You don’t need to worry about providing that kind of evidence to prove what you’re saying. In a reasonably healthy workplace, and assuming you’re in reasonably good standing, all you have to do is explain what you know and how you know it. Talk to whoever the hiring manager is for the position and be straightforward about what you’ve said here.

It’s highly, highly unlikely that anyone would think you’re making up a lie about John just because Mary reports to you. Think about what you’re saying there — you’d have to have an astonishing lack of integrity to do that, and people who work with you presumably don’t think you’re someone who would flagrantly lie about a colleague, right?

2. We’re not allowed to bring coffee to work

So I’m a huge coffee drinker. I usually have a cup in the morning, fill up my thermos, and take it to work with me. This hasn’t been a problem for the last three years, but today I was told we’re not allowed to have coffee or non-herbal tea on the premises.

It’s an open secret that the local church owns pretty much everything here — including the corporation I work for. While technically the company isn’t affiliated with the church, the members of said church aren’t allowed to drink coffee and I’m pretty sure this rule (combined with a bunch of other oddly church-aligned rules) are to keep non-members from seeking jobs in the company.

Is this legal? I mean, I can imagine banning alcohol, but if my coffee is in my thermos and isn’t bothering anyone, can they tell me what I can and can’t drink?

Yep, it’s legal. Companies can ban pretty much any substance they want from their premises. They could ban all cruciferous vegetables or all red foods or animal products or, yes, coffee and tea. (Although if you needed the item for medical or religious reasons, they’d generally need to accommodate that.)

But you can certainly ask what the rationale is for the change, and that should be an interesting answer.

3. Our meetings never end on time

Something that has always been a little frustrating about my office but has started getting worse: 90% of our meetings go over the scheduled time, sometimes significantly (30 minutes or more). If I actually have another meeting OR there aren’t higher-level people there, I’ll excuse myself at the stated end time, but often those are the people who are causing the meeting to run long. There’s no one person at fault, but there are several who contribute in a variety of ways: key players show up to meetings 5-10 minutes late, meeting leaders don’t have a clear agenda, someone derails the meeting to talk about a completely different topic “as long as we’re all in the room,” people plan agendas that are too long to get through with the people there (we have some lengthy opinion-havers), or the meeting has a vague agenda like “group brainstorming.”

What can someone who isn’t at the top-level or leading the meetings do about this increasingly time-sucking work culture?

If you’re very junior, probably nothing. That’s the meeting culture of your office.

But if you’re not totally junior and you have a bit of standing, you could certainly speak up. You could try talking to the facilitators who are the most common offenders and say something like, “Hey, I’ve noticed these regularly go over the allotted time — do you think we can try something different so we start and end on time, which might mean managing tangents differently?”

But senior people showing up 5-10 minutes late is often just the way things go — their schedules are often packed and they may be correctly judging that finishing whatever they’re doing as the meeting starts is legitimately a higher priority than being on time, as frustrating as that can be for the people left waiting.

4. I’m being converted to volunteer status due to a payroll error

I’m a student employee in a university office in Illinois that works with nonprofit organizations in the surrounding community. The division has both paid student workers and volunteers; I am paid hourly. I was hired a month ago and was told via email by payroll that since I had previously held a job on campus, I did not need to submit any paperwork to their office. Yesterday I submitted my first time sheet; I was told via email by the payroll person that my status in the pay/benefits management system had changed and that I still needed to be onboarded in the system. She also said that until that occurs, all work done must be classified as volunteer work.

I find it outrageous that I am not getting paid for work that has already been completed due to an error that was not my own. I have already sent an email to my boss (who likes me and is extremely reasonable) expressing my dismay and saying that I will not be completing any more work until the situation is resolved and I know that I will be paid. I am planning on being in the payroll office first thing Monday morning, and I was wondering if you had any advice about how to handle the conversation – I know I legally need to be paid for all hours worked and am at a loss for why the employee thinks that she can do this.

Have you heard back from your boss yet? There’s a good chance that when your boss hears about this, she’ll handle it for you.

But if for some reason that doesn’t happen or doesn’t happen swiftly, the words to use are: “Our agreement was that I would be paid $X/hour. I did the work with that understanding and we’re legally required to adhere to it. Illinois requires wages to paid no later than 13 days after the end of the pay period in which the wages were earned. What do you need from me to ensure that happens?”

If the payroll person says anything other than “yes, we will of course get you paid,” go over her head — someone there will know that this is illegal (and also ridiculous), even if she doesn’t.

5. How can I get my boss to give me time to get settled in the morning?

I start work at 9 a.m. and I arrive at work every day 15-20 minutes early so I can unwind before my day starts, but this is impossible! As soon as I walk through the door, my boss starts talking to me about the day’s workload. I still have my coat on and my purse and lunch bag are still in my hand, seriously.

How do I tell her I don’t want to talk about work until 9 a.m. without sounding like a jerk?

You probably can’t. If you arrive at work, people will often assume you are available to work. And she’s obviously already been there a while and is in work mode.

You can try saying, “I often get in a little early so that I can get situated before the work day begins — can you pretend you don’t see me and know that I’ll come see you once it’s 9 and I’m officially working?” … but that may or may not work. If it doesn’t, I’d plan to do your unwinding somewhere other than your office.

{ 752 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous Educator*

    #1, I’m confused as to how Mary being your direct report would mean you aren’t credible. I mean, if you’re saying good things about Mary to get her the job, you’re actually acting against your own short-term self-interest, because you’ll then be losing a good employee and then having to hire her replacement. If anything, I would think it would make you more credible.

    1. Dot Warner*

      This! Plus, as Mary’s manager, you see more of her work than anybody else, and so you’re in the best position to say whether she’s qualified.

      1. OP#1*

        Actually, I would say I am highly unqualified to make judgments on Mary’s IT related skills. She reports to me as part of a teapot production team that has no IT pieces at all-I can only talk to her skills in that area because my knowledge of IT is right up there with the manager on the “IT Crowd” (whose name I cannot recall) but basically I am IT useless.

        1. TootsNYC*

          And so especially if you say that, it will be clear that you are only focused on what’s best for that position.

    2. Cambridge Comma*

      Exactly! And also, she nedn’t push for Mary to get the job. She can also suggest that they try to get some external candidates.

      1. Daisy*

        Yes, surely there are externals- I can’t believe that they would only look at internal candidates, neither of whom currently work in IT, for their sole IT person.

        1. OP#1*

          Yes, there are externals and I am pretty sure they are the only ones being seriously considered at this point. Prior to the letter being published, I did go to my boss and say something. I wasn’t sure if the letter would be published or how much time I would have to address the situation so I just tried to channel Alison’s level headedness and went for it. I went to visit my boss and just said I felt weird about this but felt that I had to say something to her. I only brought up the intranet project and not the faked homework because the intranet project took place in front of me, where as the homework was just something that was mentioned in passing a few times. My boss said that she didn’t think either internal candidate was being considered (she is likely on the hiring committee). Then we got on a different topic altogether and it hasn’t come up since, so I don’t feel like I was looked badly upon by saying something.

    3. Artemesia*

      This. I think you need to be very frank with the hiring manager about John’s experience and Mary’s and your assessment of their skills. The company should test their skills as is usually done with software developers but if they can’t do it, it is even more important to focus on the hands on work they have done. ‘I know John has his masters but he has virtually no experience with X and Y — his roll out of the Fasbinder project involved hiring people to do the development work; he didn’t do the actual hands on work. Mary has done A B and C which uses the skills we are looking for and while I would hate to lose her I think she is the stronger candidate.’

      1. Liane*

        IT security, as the OP mentioned is very important, especially in their industry, finances. Where it’s not just the company at risk, but **Other People’s Money** not to mention *Federal Law Violations** both of which are too serious for “let ’em hang himself.”

      2. Shazbot*

        That only works if he’s in a role where he’s actually expected to do the work himself. If he has any underlings he’s just going to get them to do it and then take the credit. Once someone like that pulls that stunt off once they’ll do it again and again.

      3. Stone Satellite*

        Security is also the sort of field where, as an outsider to the department where the work is done (and sometimes even inside), it’s not necessarily clear that something is wrong until it’s really, really wrong and you are being threatened with legal action.
        And since the company has just the one IT position, they probably don’t have an interview process technically rigorous enough to rely on the hanging occurring at that point.

    4. Important Moi*

      People get degrees in subject areas and are not always in a position to use such degree immediately.

      I think the issue is that John did not actually do the work – an intern did and set up a maintenance routine. John also paid people to do at least some of his projects. The speaks of a lack of ethics, which I think is required for security-type positions.

      If you have any say so, could you that a “test” of sorts be included in the evaluation of the job candidates? Warning – I am not an IT person, this may not be a realistic option.

      Finally, people like John are the bane of my existence. I have always been unable to “talk a good game.”

      1. The Strand*

        A test is a great idea. Or ask the candidates *in person* (don’t give John time to farm it out) how they see the project(s) evolving, and what they see as the greatest priority.

  2. Stellaaaaa*

    OP2: Is decaf coffee allowed? Because if it is, how would they know if yours isn’t? Could you hide or remove the tag from a caffeinated teabag? This is such a silly rule – how will they know that your travel cup doesn’t contain a smoothie or juice or literally anything else? – that I wouldn’t feel the need to stick with it if I could find a way around it.

    1. DragoCucina*

      If it’s coffee the aroma is going separate from a smoothie or fruit juice. I don’t drink coffee and the scent hits me from the next door office. The decaf question is valid. If the bosses are willing to discuss it.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Yup, if it’s hot coffee, the scent will give it away. Or management may go around sniffing everyone’s travel mugs to make sure employees are compliant with this new insane rule.

        Seriously, I would quit over this if my company ever instituted a rule like this.

        1. Stellaaaaa*

          I wouldn’t quit, but I would start looking for something new, since this seems like a sign that more oppressive rules might start to creep in.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            I would quit because I need my morning coffee to function. Without it, my brain would be a mushy mess and I’d end up being fired anyway for low productivity.

            1. Stellaaaaa*

              I drink my coffee at home but it’s still one of the consistent pleasures in my daily routine. I genuinely enjoy drinking my coffee.

              tbh if I worked at this joint I’d switch to the types of (caffeinated) tea that didn’t have labeled tags while I was in the office. But tbh tbh tbh I wouldn’t work for a church-owned business in the first place.

              1. Cambridge Comma*

                Maybe it’s an English thing but I think I would be able to tell by smell whether someone is drinking black tea rather than green or herbal, tags or no.

                1. Tomato Frog*

                  Green has caffeine, too! As does all actual tea, i.e. infusions made from the tea plant.

                  I can tell when tea is tea if I stick my nose in it, but generally not not from afar. Even if black teas are recognizable, there is a wide range of teas that are less pungent. But alas I do not think the OP is looking for a reason to explore the wide world of tea.

                2. Tomato Frog*

                  And I just saw below that caffeine may not be the issue so much as black tea. Sorry for unnecessary proselytizing.

              2. K.*

                I only drink one cup of coffee a day, either at home in the morning or on the move if I’m running late (like today) and I look forward to it. I love my morning coffee.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  Same here. Unless I’m really sleepy in the afternoon for some reason–my tea won’t cut it then. Sometimes I drink green tea, but mostly I have Earl Grey with breakfast (at work) and in the afternoon–or cocoa if it’s really cold out. We get free cocoa mix at work.

              3. Rebecca in Dallas*

                Right? I really only drink it at home, too (to avoid the dreaded coffee breath) but I think my entire office would quit if they instituted a no-coffee rule!

            2. Shazbot*

              Screw the coffee, if I wanted a church to dictate what I could and couldn’t bring to work, I’d work at a church.

              1. EddieSherbert*

                I think this is a pretty good point… (minus “screw the coffee,” that makes no sense ;) )

              2. Reverend(ish)*

                *sips coffee*
                *grabs clergy gear and rocks it like its 1517*
                *grabs giant hydro flask of coffee*
                *praises Flying Spaghetti Monster, Odin, and Atirat for the magic drink that brings life*
                *walks into church office and sees rest of staff similarly clutching coffee/tea*
                *shares this story*
                Supervising minister: “I haven’t had enough coffee for this yet. No coffee? Blasphemy.”

                That’s my long winded way of saying most churches wouldn’t work with that church. In honor of today, I’d submit 95 theses as to why coffee and tea are divine.

            3. Charlie*

              I definitely agree that coffee, in any amount desired, should be allowed at work…but “I need my morning coffee to function” is kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Given that the caffeine from that morning coffee doesn’t even kick in fully until 11 or so, it’s my observation that it’s kind of a psychological cue – hey brain, morning starts now – rather than an actual physical need for the stimulant .

              1. Natalie*

                I’ve actually noticed this myself, and I’ll get a slight lift from decaf just because it has the smell and taste I associate with caffeine. But that, IMO, makes this rule all the harder for an employee to follow, because decaf wouldn’t be allowed either.

              2. Marisol*

                11 am? Caffeine kicks in within 20 minutes or so, and reaches maximum potency in the bloodstream at around 45 minutes. Many factors affect the rate of absorption of course, but generally speaking, the effects are felt pretty soon after consumption.

                1. fposte*

                  It’s apparently an “it depends”–in addition to situational variation, there are genetic influences on how fast you metabolize caffeine. Slow metabolizers react much more slowly and take much longer to come down from the effects; interestingly, they also have a higher likelihood of caffeine-related health problems.

              3. JB (not in Houston)*

                That’s a pretty broad generalization there. It depends on how much caffeine is consumed, the person’s metabolism, and what time they drink it. So the “doesn’t fully kick in until 11 or so” is just not a true statement.

                But it is true that drinking caffeine first thing in the morning interferes with your body’s production of cortisol, a hormone that helps us feel awake. Cortisol levels are highest first thing in the morning, so that’s exactly when we should *not* be drinking caffeine. Doing so over time trains our body to produce less of cortisol and to rely more on caffeine to wake up.

                Unfortunately, the OP is now banned from drinking coffee at the times she would most benefit from caffeine, unless she goes to work later in the day.

        2. Lady Bug*

          I’d probably quit too. And move, I don’t think I would fit into this neighborhood. OP if you can start looking for another job if you can.

        3. Triceratops*

          Hot coffee is a great point — maybe cold-brew or another type of iced would be sneakable? (Aside from the fact that this is an utterly ridiculous rule to have to deal with.)

      2. Dot Warner*

        Decaf still contains trace amounts of caffeine, so depending on how serious the bosses are about the no caffeine rule, that still might not cut it.

        1. Gadfly*

          If it is UT, the problem isn’t technically caffeine (although that is a common folk belief, that is not officially the issue.) They didn’t ban Coke and Pepsi.

          1. OP #2*

            Yep, it’s Utah. Funny thing is, the restaurants in the building serve coke. But no coffee allowed.

            1. SignalLost*

              I just want to point out because it amuses me that I found more coffee shops in Salt Lake City (per the phone book) back in 2008 than I did in Newark, New Jersey the same year, and Newark has a much larger population. (This search did not correct for the fact that Dunkin Donuts is so pervasive on the East Coast – I literally just looked under “Coffee Shops” in both phone books.) I still find this riotously funny, even though I know SLC is about half non-Mormon. I am easily amused!

            2. JennyFair*

              My experience, living in a very Mormon area outside Utah, is that it isn’t the caffeine that is the issue, it’s real coffee and real tea. I know several Mormons who drink extra-caffeinated hot cocoa, so if that might help, just know it’s an option :)

            1. Liane*

              We have Mormon friends and they told us something similar. As far as sodas, these friends stuck to non-caffeinated ones. But, although very observant themselves, they didn’t demand their guests comply. Our friends told all guests they were welcome to bring whatever drink/s they wanted, just if it was alcohol, to not overindulge.

            2. Applesauced*

              “I don’t drink coffee, sir, I don’t drink hot liquids of any kind. That’s the devil’s temperature. ” – Kenneth the page

            3. Elizabeth West*

              My friend is Mormon (or LDS or something; I forget exactly) and can’t have tea, which I forgot when I invited her over for a tea party! But luckily I had some hibiscus teabags (technically an herbal tisane), which were fine. The hotness wasn’t the issue; I guess either the plant itself or the caffeine was.

              1. aeldest*

                Mormon and LDS are (barring a few lesser-attended offshoots) the same thing. It’s kind of a point of internal contention whether or not herbal teas are okay–they’re not technically banned, but there definitely are a lot of LDS church members are also strict about “avoiding the appearance of evil.”

                1. Jennifer is a Thneed*

                  Yeah, a lot of Jewish dietary law *interpretations* are similar: avoid even the appearance of breaking the rules, either so nobody thinks you’re a bad person, or so you don’t influence others to be bad. (Which one, precisely, depends on who is speaking.)
                  Me, I think it indicates a little too much community involvement and judgie-ness. What’s that phrase? “Holier-than-thou”? Yeah.

            4. STX*

              My understanding is that the original ban was “No hot beverages.” Some church leaders, either implicitly or explicitly, taught that all caffeinated beverages violated the spirit or the letter of the prohibition. It was only [in 2012 that the church official explicitly clarified that cold caffeinated beverages themselves are not prohibited, although they may not be healthy.](http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/01/mormon-caffeine-policy-cl_n_1848098.html)

              (Contrary to the implications in that article, the belief that cold caffeinated beverages were prohibited was 100% accepted by the Mormon community in Northern California in the late 90s-early 2000s, although I can’t speak to any other community. It was not seen as a “personal decision.”)

              1. Artemesia*

                I have worked for Mormon managers and it was definitely caffeine and not ‘hot beverages’ for them. They had all sorts of weird off brand sodas at all of our events.

                1. Venereal Utah*

                  IIRC, the Word of Wisdom said no hot drinks. But given that was written in the late 1800s, when coffee and tea were popular hot drinks, both of which contain caffeine, for decades, many Mormons took it as “No caffeine”. A rare few found decaf or non-caffeinated versions okay, but that is/was pretty rare on the “appearance of evil” end. Cold caffeinated beverages were a long-time no-no for a while.

                  See http://www.somemormonstuff.com/mormons-and-caffeinated-soft-drinks/ for more.

            5. BananaPants*

              I have a Mormon coworker who drinks Coke and Pepsi all the time, but won’t touch coffee or tea. I read this AAM and asked him about it, and he said that the church leadership released a statement some years ago saying that caffeinated soft drinks were not prohibited. He said that being outside the “Mormon corridor” means people are more flexible on the issue.

              1. Kimberlee, Esq*

                Yep, totally. I’m from eastern Idaho originally and Mormons there are very much no tea, no coffee, no caffeinated soda. Outside of the corridor, its more personal/familial interpretation. Same with clothing; Mormons outside of ID/UT tend to be less strictly observant of clothing rules, but it always varies person-to-person (just like any religion).

                1. Reverend(ish)*

                  Yep. A Mormon friend of mine in divinity school drank tea and socialized with everyone at coffee hour. Granted, his tea was a ginger turmeric to help with inflammation and digestion, so not sure if he got a medical exception. Granted, this was in TN, which is normally conservative religiously but compared to Utah? Eh.

    2. Jen*

      I understand that the rule feels silly to people in other faiths, but for people in my community who are practicing LDS it’s an important part of living their faith. It might help people to understand if it’s compared to keeping kosher or similar – not something I personally care about but something I very much respect inside business and homes with people who practice that part of their faith.

      1. A Signer*

        I didn’t know that preventing other people from drinking coffee or tea is a part of the LDS faith.

        1. Anna the Accounting Grad*

          Exactly. There’s a line between following dietary laws and inflicting those laws on other people.

          1. Katym*

            Its not technically, but many places do make it hard. If the business is in Utah (I assume it is) OP might ask how they will handle outsiders who have meetings in the office. Many law firms that are super religious still offer coffee because doing business without it is awkward to people who are coming from other states.

        2. Jen*

          Regardless, they have the right to make this happen at their business. It’s similar to how people sometimes show respect for their family by not “sinning” when visiting in the religious peoples home even if they “sin” at home. In the case my family I might choose not to cuss or have pre-marital sex under their roof because it’s painful for my family to contemplate how I’m “sinning” even though I disagree with them. I could choose to do what I want in their home as a guest, but I also know it would make me unwelcome and uninvited – which isn’t much different than following work rules I disagree with in order not to get fired.

          1. MadGrad*

            On the flipside, visiting someone is a much more freely-made choice, and a temporary one at that. It is one thing to be told not to have premarital sex in my mother’s house over the holidays (not her style, thankfully), and entirely another to be told this by my landlord. The consequences are higher, the term longer and the ability to back out much, much lower. I would therefore make the argument that while a business CAN make any decision they want or feel compelled to, making decisions such as this that will make their employees feel unwelcomed and uncomfortable without a practical reason is… if not unethical, at least very unkind.

            1. Manders*

              Yeah, this is an important consideration. It’s legal, but it’s also going to make employees with different religious beliefs feel unwelcome, especially since I don’t know of any religious institution that has a taboo against *anyone around you* drinking a hot beverage. It’s just singling out the people who don’t belong to this church for no particular reason.

              If I were in OP’s position I’d be job hunting. Not because I couldn’t find some other way to get coffee in me before work starts, but because a boss who’s this strict about forcing non-religious employees to follow a religion’s rules is not someone I’d feel comfortable working for. What if he found out an employee wasn’t straight, or was transgender, or didn’t believe in god at all, or donated to a non church-approved charity, or was living with a significant other and not married? Would that person be able to trust that they’d be treated fairly, especially if they’re in an area without certain protections against discrimination?

              1. OP #2*

                Actually, I’m pretty openly gay at work. Salt Lake (which a lot of people have guessed anyway) has specific laws protecting me from discrimination.

                Definitely going to start job hunting, though.

                1. Alejandra*

                  Maybe look at it on the flip. It can save thousands of £££ on Starbucks (or your choice coffee venue) each year!

          2. Dot Warner*

            I agree that they have the right to make whatever rules they want. I think what a lot of people are getting hung up on here is that if the employer bans certain food(s) because they keep kosher or halal or have an allergy, it’s to avoid cross-contamination – which isn’t an issue if the OP is bringing in coffee in a sealed thermos that stays on her desk.

          3. AcademiaNut*

            Ethically, I think it’s important to make any rules like this clear *before* visiting/hiring/signing a lease, so the people involved can make an informed decision before they commit.

            So if you invite your son and his girlfriend over, and expect them to sleep in separate rooms to prevent sin in your home, you let them know before they book plane tickets, so they can decide if they want to follow the house rules, stay together in a hotel, or stay home. If you’re renting a room and expect your tenant to cook vegetarian because you can’t stand the smell of meat, you tell them this before they sign a lease and you collect the deposit. If you’re hiring employees, and are banning coffee in the workplace, or only allow kosher food on the premises, to keep the workplace pure, you tell them this when you make the job offer, rather than springing it on them after they’ve started working for you.

            1. Atlas Nodded*

              I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect that working conditions will never change. Businesses change ownership and management, people change their religious affiliation or beliefs, and this can impact on the workplace. Things change, and adapting to change is part of working.

              If you don’t like the changes, you can choose to leave. But expecting that the workplace will never implement new policies or procedures that were not explained in advance of your being hired is unrealistic and unreasonable.

              1. Colette*

                If a rule that is outside of the norm (like this one) exists, it should be mentioned when hiring people. But I agree that it’s not possible to predict the future, and it sounds like this is a new rule. I wouldn’t recommend a business owner implement this rule since it will impact morale for a lot of people, but that appears to be a risk they’re willing to take.

              2. Marisol*

                I think it is indeed reasonable to expect the changes to be reasonable. My company could relocate my desk or put me in a different department or change the dress code. But changing what I am allowed to consume is not reasonable and could never be anticipated.

              3. Isabel C.*

                Sure, but it’s sort of like prohibiting working from home because of “culture” or instituting Mandatory Fun Days or anything else we talk about here: (hypothetical company owner/manager) you can do that, absolutely. And then a lot of people who have a choice about where to work…aren’t going to choose to work for you. If “culture” or religious restrictions or whatever is more important than having a wide selection of employees, then shine on, you crazy diamond.

          4. Anon for this*

            I get you here, but my employer isn’t my parent. I think it’s understandable to be bothered by someone else pushing their religious practices on you.

          5. Mike C.*

            No, actually they don’t have the right to force their employees to follow their faith.

            I don’t get this “respect” that everyone is supposed to have when someone forces their religious beliefs on to those who aren’t practicing members. It’s actually the opposite – it’s incredibly disrespectful.

            1. Apollo Warbucks*

              Having a religion is a lot like a penis, it’s fine to have one, you can even be proud of it but you shouldn’t wave it about in public and you certainly shouldn’t try and ram it down someones throat.

            2. AW*

              Except the OP isn’t being asked to follow their faith, they’re being told not to drink coffee on the premises. Not drinking coffee is not an explicitly religious act. This is not the same thing as being asked to pray, attend a sermon, participate in a ceremony, etc.

              1. Amy the Rev*

                I’m HUGE into separation of church and state. It’s incredibly important, and necessary. But like free speech, it refers to what the government can/cannot do.

                If the issue is needing the caffeine, then I suggest bringing caffeine pills and keeping them in your desk. Yeah, its definitely a weird rule, and its pretty heavy handed to expect non-LDS folks to comply with it, but it’s not the same as forcing someone to follow a religion, just as if PETA were to prohibit employees from bringing meat into the office, it would be a little ridiculous, but it wouldn’t be the same as forcing folks to become vegetarians or to actively participate in animal-rights protests.

                It is asking employees to respect the theology-based dietery requirements of the owners, and I think you can choose not to respect those beliefs without being a bad person, but as many issues as I have with the LDS church and other more fundamentalist/evangelical denominations, this issue feels pretty clear-cut to me.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  PETA does indeed prohibit animal products in their office. It’s not ridiculous; it’s because they are actively working to stop the consumption of animal products. (It would also be pretty odd to work there in most roles if you didn’t support those goals.) It’s no sillier than the American Lung Association not letting employees smoke in or right outside their building.

                2. Maxwell Edison*

                  Caffeine pills wouldn’t work for me. I can (and do) sip coffee all day long and feel great, but the one time I took a No-Doz, I was shaking all over and thought I might have to go to the ER.

                3. Amy the Rev*

                  To Alison- I agree that I wouldn’t see it as ridiculous bc it’s in keeping with what the values/mission of the organization is..Peta was probably a bad example but I’m trying to come up with a non-religious but-still-philosophical parallel….either way I’m in agreement that what they’re doing doesn’t count as religious discrimination, unless there were a way to prove it was to keep non-LDS folks out

                4. Amy the Rev*

                  And Maxwell- I had the same problem with no-doz! What I ended up doing was cutting the pills in half and taking them with either a glass of milk or some food. Me + caffeine on an empty stomach (or really me + any caffeine stronger than black tea) = heart palpitations and feeling like I’m going to die

                5. Mike C.*

                  I suggest not telling people who use stimulants for medical reasons how and in what form such stimulants should be taken. That’s not up to the business to decide.

                6. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  @Mike, and as I’ve said throughout this post, if someone had a medical reason that qualified under the ADA, the business would indeed have to accommodate that.

                7. INTP*

                  Part of PETA’s mission is the prevention of cruelty to animals, and people know this when they sign up to work there. It’s reasonable to expect all employees to be on board with the basic goals of the organization, at least while they are at work.

                  The OP presumably works at a company whose goal is not promoting the LDS religion, but some other purpose, that happens to be owned by the church as a financial investment. This would be more comparable to any other for-profit company requiring employees to adhere to the tenets of a certain religion because a major shareholder believes in it. Asking people to adhere to the mission of the organization that they signed on to work for is a different thing than asking people to adhere to the beliefs of financial stakeholders just because. This question would obviously have gotten a very different response if the OP worked for the LDS church itself or some sort of LDS-promoting organization.

              2. Kate*

                But the company/church is *making* coffee drinking (or not drinking) into a religious act. They are forcing OP to obey one of the tenets of their religion.

            3. Purest Green*

              Yeah, I’m not obliged to respect things just because other people believe them. It’s well and good for other people to have those beliefs, but leave me out of it.

            4. Elizabeth West*

              The church owns the business, so yeah, they can do this. There’s a college here run by a church and their employee requirements are incredibly draconian and personal. It’s really because they want to hire members, but legally I don’t think they can say, “You’re not X so you can’t work here.” Instead they say “We prefer to hire members, but you can work here if you don’t do Y, Z, S, L, and P.”

              It’s up to OP now whether she wants to abide by this or look for another job.

              1. Nanani*

                Actually OP says they DON’T own that particular business, they just influence it.

                I think it’s sketchy as all hell and maybe some organisations that are about separation of church and state + worker’s rights might like to hear from you, even if they can’t do anything right away in that state.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  From the letter: “The local church owns pretty much everything here — including the corporation I work for. ”

                  Separation of church and state would only come into play if the government were involved, not a private business.

              2. OP #2*

                Sorry for the confusion – the church does not technically own the business I work for; churches can’t own for-profit corps. But church leaders sit on the board, and it’s kind of an open secret that the church really does own everything around here, even indirectly.

                1. ThursdaysGeek*

                  Um, I actually worked for a farm up here in WA, and the ownership of the farm was the LDS church. So churches can own for-profit businesses, but there is a certain separation between the church part of the church and the business part of the church. (And they had a coffee machine in the kitchenette for those of us who were non-LDS.)

          6. Jerry Blank*

            It’s painful for my parents to think about the fact that I’m gay, but that’s because their thinking is wrong. I do not feel compelled to hide my sexuality at their house, so I’m not sure that your analogy is apt. Assuming it is, I think this line of thinking is a dangerous and puts too much power in the hands of employers.

        3. Bwmn*

          In respect to “keeping a religious environment” – it’s not that much different than an establishment that opted to adhere to kashrut or halal laws. While what people do in their bodies and homes is their own business, keeping the spaces adherent to tenants of faith can impact a mixed community.

          If a workplace was keeping a kosher kitchen – while I could bring my non-kosher food with me to work, they might want me to not keep my food in the refrigerator and I definitely would not be allowed to use to microwave or any “kitchen” silverware/plates. It wouldn’t be about preventing me from eating my desired food, but about keeping the kitchen kosher.

          1. Shazbot*

            Such a place would have to provide a non-kosher refrigerator or risk a discrimination lawsuit. Just sayin.

              1. Kate*

                This is just out of curiosity, by the way:

                I have a medical condition which requires me to eat during the day, would that enable me to start a discrimination lawsuit? Especially since I make all my meals at home and can’t afford to eat out on a daily basis, which would mean I would have to hunt down a building to eat in that was outside food and beverage friendly, something not generally possible, in my experience.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Using a kosher kitchen wouldn’t prevent you from eating during the day; it would just mean you couldn’t keep non-kosher food there, which still leaves a huge amount of options.

                  But if for some reason your condition required you to eat, like, bacon during the day, then … Speaking just in terms of what the law requires: If the condition is covered as a disability under the ADA, they would have to enter an interactive process with you to find an accommodation.

                2. CanadianKat*

                  It may or may not be a “huge amount of options.” That depends on how observant they are. If they’re super observant, any home-cooked meal a non-kosher-keeping person may bring would not be kosher, because your kitchen isn’t kosher. Especially during Passover. So unless you’re prepared to “kosherize” your entire kitchen and never bring into it any non-kosher items, your only options would be raw fruit/veggies directly from the store, or canned/packaged food with the appropriate kosher symbol on it.

                3. Gene*

                  As an ordained member of the United Church of Bacon, part of our (non)belief system is to Praise Bacon in All Its Forms through consumption of bacon regularly. If my workplace decided to go Kosher, would there have to be an accommodation for my beliefs, even though it would directly contradict their beliefs?

            1. fposte*

              It’s true that would be asking for it, but you pretty much risk a discrimination lawsuit just by existing, and Hobby Lobby really confuses the legal picture now. (My guess is that they’d have to demonstrate that providing separate equipment for non-kosher food was an insuperable burden.)

              And, of course, if the employer were a religious institution (including a religious-based school), they’re legally exempted.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Wait, but there’s no religious requirement for a non-kosher kitchen, so having a kosher kitchen isn’t discriminating against anyone or providing a hostile workplace. Will you say more about what you’re envisioning here?

                1. Jessie*

                  “no religious requirement for a non-kosher kitchen…” : It’s not about whether there is a religious requirement to have a non-kosher kitchen, but about whether keeping only a kosher kitchen is in effect requiring employees to keep kosher while at work – i.e., requiring employees to practice an aspect of the Jewish faith. Before Hobby Lobby, I’d actually have said this might not be okay legally because a business other than a church cannot force its employees to practice particular tenets of a particular religion. But then Hobby Lobby happened, so, hey, a business run by someone who has a particular faith can have that faith imputed to the business sometimes, so, now I would say… maybe okay legally. Not smart, but maybe okay.

                2. fposte*

                  I’m Monday morning spitballing, but if you’re a business owner keeping strict kosher year-round and won’t let anything in a workplace kitchen that wasn’t prepared in a kosher kitchen or certified kosher, that’s quite a burden on gentile employees; I don’t know if they’d win, but I bet somebody’d take that case if the business was big enough.

                  Admittedly I think that’s likeliest to happen in urban areas where people would have plenty of nearby food options, but that wasn’t the case for the earlier letter-writer; if her boss had insisted on certified kosher all year round or you can’t really get lunch, that would have been tough.

                3. Jessie*

                  (Meant to add – my comment assumes kind of an extreme, that non-kosher food can’t feasibly be stored elsewhere. Obviously, if employees can just have whatever they have and there are places to put it during the workday other than the kosher fridge, likely even beforeHobby Lobby, that’d have been fine.)

                4. Amy the Rev*

                  In the response to Jessie, it’s not requiring folks to practice an aspect of the Jewish faith, it’s asking them to avoid bringing traif food into the office. A vegan probably only brings Kosher food into the office, but it doesn’t mean they’re doing it to Be Kosher. There’s a difference between forcing folks to pray, or to participate in a religious ritual or sacrament, and asking them to to (probably go a little out of their way) to avoid bringing certain food into the office, and I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say that asking them ‘please don’t bring any traif food or non-kosher meat’ is the same as forcing them to participate in Judaism.

                5. fposte*

                  @AmytheRev–people eating vegan meet some kosher standards, but not necessarily all of them–the food wouldn’t be passed if it wasn’t prepared in a kosher kitchen, and wine would be an issue unless it was passed kosher wine; bread products could be funky as well, since they may require that breads be pat Israel.

                6. fposte*

                  @myself–to clarify, obviously there are plenty of Jews who would think that veganism (especially if there were no wine involved) would be kosher enough, since there’s plenty of individual variation. I’m just saying it’s not an auto-pass.

                7. Amy the Rev*

                  @fposte, thanks for the info! I have only an elemental knowledge of kosher/vegan intersection, bc I had a friend who kept vegan when at college to avoid non-kosher stuff (she ate meat when she was at home bc they had a kosher butcher, etc.) Love learning about the practices of different religions!!

                8. Bwmn*

                  For just about anyone who’s nonpracticing – including vegans and vegetarians – if you were told that non-traif food only in the workplace, it would be a huge obstacle that truly could only be handled by bringing in kosher prepackaged foods (i.e. frozen meals).

                  It would be a massive obstacle, and one where I can’t imagine assorted loopholes (non-kosher fridges/microwaves/you can eat at your desk with your own utensils) are accommodated. I just bring this up in the sense that creating a religious “space” for those who are kashrut observant would impact those who don’t practice.

                9. fposte*

                  @Bwmn–yeah, that’s why I’m thinking that such a requirement actually could be legally problematic without alternative food accommodation, because it really would be burdensome. I’m not sure how often this would occur in actuality, especially in workplaces large enough to meet the Title VII threshold, but I wonder about a place like B&H Photo, for instance, which has a high percentage of Hasidic employees and already got sued for discriminating against women and for discriminating against Hispanic employees (note: I’m not finding the outcome of these suits, so I’m not saying they did actually discriminate).

                10. Jessie*

                  “Yeah, that’s why I’m thinking that such a requirement actually could be legally problematic without alternative food accommodation” – exactly. That’s why I feel it is actually akin to being asked to participate in a religious ritual/tenet. It’s not just “don’t bring pork to the office.” Keeping kosher, real actual kosher, is not easy. It’s a Whole Big Thing.

      2. Stellaaaaa*

        It’s silly to impose religious-based rules when the company isn’t explicitly owned by the church or by a religious person who made the rules clear at the time of hire. LDS people can live their faith however they choose, but that says nothing of how other people live their faiths or secular beliefs. A Jewish person gains nothing spiritually by following LDS rules about coffee.

        I had a boss who kept kosher but did not require that the employees keep kosher. If he had, I would have thought it was ridiculous.

        1. Karo*

          From what I understand, there are some holy days where you can’t have anything non-kosher in a place you own (there was a thread on it awhile ago, hopefully someone else who remembers it better or who actually knows the religion well can chime in). If we’re drawing parallels between LDS’ ban on coffee and keeping kosher for Judaism, there’s a precedent for keeping it out of a place owned by a religious person. I know that’s not exactly the case with the OP, since she says it’s not owned by a religious person, but it’s something to consider if you’re arguing that someone who kept Kosher wouldn’t do that.

          1. TL -*

            In that case, the boss wanted non kosher food out of the kitchen during Passover, but the employees could still bring it and eat it at their desk.

            1. AvonLady Barksdale*

              Right. Food that wasn’t Kosher for Passover couldn’t be in the fridge. For one week. I think that’s a bit different than banning personal food or drink products at one’s desk, out of containers that touch nothing else.

              1. Natalie*

                Also, the ban in question was actually required for the boss to conform with their religious rules. If this workplace is in fact LDS, there’s no religious requirement that they ban coffee and tea for everyone.

            2. Bwmn*

              I actually think that example is actually more in line with this tea/coffee ban. In that letter, if that kitchen isn’t kept kosher all year round (which it sounds like its not) and if the religious traditions around “purifying” the kitchen aren’t done – then banning non-kosher for Passover food during that one week is really just a personal preference of the boss, as the kitchen is really only meeting the boss’s very personal standard of kashrut.

              In Israel where there are plenty of offices that have a mix of observant and non-observant staff, a number of offices will shut down during the entire period of Passover to avoid what it means. From office to office this can get very involved. Now my mom is very similar to the boss from that letter – she observes in a way that makes her feel happy – but it’s not adhering to the tenants of the faith as much as it is enjoying the spirit of the holiday.

              Banning all coffee/tea may not exactly be written in stone somewhere as the way to observe – but this is clearly about embracing a tenant of the faith.

              1. fposte*

                Right, and the EEOC has been clear that “most [people of this faith] don’t do that!” isn’t grounds for considering a religious claim invalid.

      3. Dot Warner*

        I understand that avoiding caffeine is a Big Deal for people who are LDS, but I’m genuinely confused as to how someone else drinking coffee out of their own mug affects you. Sure, if they were using your kitchen to prepare it or your cup to drink it, you’d have a right to be offended, but I don’t get why the company is so upset about OP bringing in coffee that she made or purchased offsite in her own thermos. (Maybe they’d have a case if the thermos had a company logo on it, but even that’s a bit of a stretch.) Not trying to start a fight here, just curious.

        To put it another way, if my boss kept kosher I wouldn’t bring bacon into her fridge, but I wouldn’t see an issue with getting a non-kosher takeout meal and eating it at my desk.

        1. Gadfly*

          It isn’t caffeine. It is that the Word of Wisdom specifically forbids coffee. Although the ban on hot drink doesn’t affect cocoa or cider, herbal tea is hit or miss, green tea or green coffee is okay if one the bishop’s MLM plans of the moment is selling it, etc.

          It can vary from ward to ward how it is interpreted, and I’ve seen innumerable variations on it. Is Mt. Dew banned or not? Oops, the Church owns stock in Coke now Coke is okay. Etc. Down to the green tea and green coffee beans sales.

          1. Dot Warner*

            Wow, I learned something new today! I’d been under the impression that LDS were opposed to caffeine generally because it’s a mind-altering substance.

            1. JessaB*

              I know that some adherents that I worked with in Florida were totally NO caffeine at all, no Coke or Pepsi or anything, but they never complained if I drank something as long as I didn’t push it in their faces.

          2. Catherine*

            Yup. I was raised Mormon and as an adult (and no longer Mormon) I got scolded by my bishop father for drinking green tea, as he was drinking Dr. Pepper.
            If you really want to get sneaky, say it’s Postum. I think the smell is similar.

              1. aeldest*

                Iced versions of banned drinks (coffee, tea) are still banned. “Hot drinks” like cider, hot cocoa, etc are okay. It’s mostly about the caffeine but not completely because caffeinated soft drinks aren’t officially disallowed (though many individual members frown upon it)

                1. Jenbug*

                  That is such a strange and arbitrary line to draw. Hot beverages that are not caffeinated are okay and cold beverages that are caffeinated are okay but not hot caffeinated beverages.

            1. aeldest*

              Although aren’t caffeinated drinks completely banned for missionaries? Or was that just my parents trying really hard to be accommodating?

              I know for sure energy drinks like Monster/Red Bull were super frowned upon even by people who drank Dr. Pepper/Coke/etc.

              Also, OT but I’m weirdly happy about how many exmos are popping up in the comments here :)

        2. Katym*

          For non religious reasons coffee impacts me greatly (especially when I was pregnant). The smell makes me physically ill. I don’t think thats likely to be the issue here, but it can have an impact on those around you.

      4. DragoCucina*

        A good point. Is cross contamination a concern? Bringing a ham into a kosher kitchen is going to have repercussions for an institution that is owned by a Jewish organization.

        During Lent my parish school isn’t serving corned beef sandwiches for lunch on Fridays. But, the Protestant teacher (we had a few when I worked there) isn’t forbidden from bringing a bologna sandwich.

        1. CATS*

          I mentioned this below, but there’s no obligation on non Jews to keep kosher, so as long as that ham stays out of the kitchen, it really should be fine. I don’t have a smicha or anything, but all the Jewish places I’ve worked at with kosher kitchens just won’t let you utilize them for treif (or usually just plain old all fleshig, since it is harder to keep a dual kitchen in a communal space, everyone would be milchig-ing it up).

        2. Dot Warner*

          Exactly. I don’t eat meat on Fridays, but if the rest of the crew wants to go to Buffalo Wild Wings on Friday, I’m not going to yank it out of their hands; I just don’t go with them.

      5. Alienor*

        Yes, but someone drinking coffee in the office (especially coffee they brought themselves in their own container) doesn’t affect the non-coffee drinkers or how they choose to live their faith. I’m a vegetarian and if someone at the next table in a restaurant is eating a steak, it doesn’t mean I’m somehow also eating steak by proxy. They do their thing and I do mine.

          1. Gadfly*

            I come from generations of LDS. I have small towns all over the state named after ancestors. I left UT only early this year.

            Officially, no it doesn’t. It is a (pretty common) way to force people out for not being LDS without violation of religious discrimination laws. It is a way to scream victim when people object.

            1. Saturnalia*

              Congrats on leaving Utah! That’s my big 2017 goal :)

              Also, each of your comments about how Lds culture affects the way business is run here… spot on.

          2. Mike C.*

            No, they don’t have the right to force employees to follow their own religion. Quit saying this.

              1. Marisol*

                I understand that this employer’s policy does not meet the legal criteria for discrimination. However, I disagree that the employer is not forcing their employees to practice their religion. If abstaining from hot beverages and/or caffeine is part of a religious tradition, then forcing someone to observe that practice is forcing them to practice that particular tenet of the religion. The fact that the employer is not forcing them to practice *other* aspects of the religion, such as going to church or temple on their off-hours, is irrelevant. For forty hours a week, the employer is forcing their employee to engage in a religious practice. This seems so irrefutably obvious to me.

                1. Marisol*

                  I know it’s not legally actionable. I guess I may have been unclear by mentioning discrimination specifically. I’m not making any argument that the OP has cause for any legal action. I’m basically saying that I think what the employer is doing is objectionable. Legal, yes. Appropriate? No.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              THEY’RE NOT DOING THAT.
              You aren’t required to go to their church, but if they don’t want the coffee in a space that’s owned and run by the church, then you can’t bring in the coffee. They’re not saying you can’t have coffee EVER. Just not in their space.

              I wouldn’t want to work there myself because I’m sick unto death of religious stuff, but they are allowed to restrict it.

                1. Searching*

                  This is where the letter confuses me. OP writes “It’s an open secret that the local church owns pretty much everything here — including the corporation I work for” but then the next sentence states “While technically the company isn’t affiliated with the church.”

                  The way I interpret those 2 sentences is that the church doesn’t legally own the company, they heavily influence the company’s policies and business dealings (and they probably do so through connections forged in church activities). And in Utah, that would not be an unusual situation at all.

                  But I hope OP will clarify this issue.

                2. OP #2*

                  Bingo. Sorry for the confusion. The church doesn’t technically own the corporation, but it’s very heavily influenced by them. It’d be pretty easy to guess the business with this, but it’s named after a Mormon leader and planted right next to Mormon HQ.

        1. EleanoraUK*

          I wonder if the OP can keep her flask of coffee in her car and take regular coffee breaks to drink some off the premises. It’s not going to help productivity, but perhaps it offsets the no caffeine-related lack of productivity they’d otherwise see…

          1. eplawyer*

            That was my thought. Take coffee breaks like people take smoke breaks. Leave the premises for coffee. When productivity drops, they might get a clue.

            Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. If someone drinking coffee is not contaminating the rest of the office the same way that non-kosher food would then the office needs to not micromanage manage people.

          2. Q*

            I was thinking something like this as well. As a coffee drinker I would have to find a work around. As a manager, I’d rather have someone bring a thermos with coffee and then be at her desk working all morning. If she (or I) have to leave to go to the car or a coffee shop, that is 15-20 minutes or work lost. We actually just had a department start providing free coffee to their teams so they could stay and work instead of leaving and going out to get coffee.

      6. Violet Fox*

        The difference is that non-Jews are not expected to keep kosher. Hell, a lot of Jews don’t keep kosher either.

        Coffee and tea are such a normal part of the work place in the modern world that banning them for most people is nothing short of cruel and capricious.

        1. fposte*

          In some situations, non-Jews are expected to keep kosher or stay out of the kitchen–there are lots of references in comments to the post a year or so ago where a gentile employee worked for a boss who kept the kitchen kosher for Passover, for instance. I don’t think it’s as different as you’re suggesting.

      7. Artemesia*

        Mormon’s are not required to bully people who don’t keep their dietary rules. This is pretty clearly a rule designed to push out non-Mormons.

        1. Emma*

          Wait, so being told you can’t have two particular kinds of drink on company property is bullying? That strikes me as kind of extreme.

          1. Barista*

            If bullying is too strong a word, it’s certainly a micro-aggression. It would all really depend on the reason for the ban on these particular kinds of drink.

            1. Honeybee*

              It’s not a micro-aggression, either. While I wouldn’t like it myself, the reason is (what we may view as extreme) adherence to a religious tenet. It’s not a small degradation of a minority group member, which is what a micro-aggression is.

          2. Faith*

            Having a cup of coffee mid morning is the only thing that keeps me from getting a raging headache. So to me this particular ban would essentially be equivalent to somebody bashing me on the head with a baseball bat.

          3. INTP*

            If there is no reason for it other than to inconvenience people who do consume those beverages, then it’s certainly bullying.

          4. Mreasy*

            Something like 95% of Americans drink coffee. The OP’s assessment that this is likely a change to the rules to help them push out non-LDS employees is right on. Sure, they have the right to do it, but that doesn’t make it reasonable.

            1. Judy*

              Google tells me it’s more like 65% of adults in the US who say they “generally have at least one cup a day.”

              1. fposte*

                Yeah, I saw 56%–probably depends on the survey. I was also intrigued to see how much that varied by region.

                1. Myrin*

                  This has prompted me to look up statistics for my own country and apparently about 85% of people here are regular coffee drinkers! Though there does seem to be a noticeable decrease – about 95% of people over 50 drink at least a cup a day whereas one third of people under 30 don’t drink any coffee at all (I’m one of them). Truly interesting!

                2. fposte*

                  Ask and ye shall receive! Consumerist just posted something to add fuel to the coffee-drinking flames–apparently millennials are drinking much more coffee than the older generations and starting younger. So I suppose we could turn this into a generational war too, but let’s not.

                3. Chomps*

                  re: millennials drinking more coffee: I bet that’s because of starbucks and the expansion of coffee houses as third places

                4. fposte*

                  @chomps–oh, absolutely, and that affects the regional patterns somewhat as well. But it’s also going to affect people’s view of the importance of coffee in their lives.

                5. Myrin*

                  @fposte: That’s fascinating since that seems to be the exact opposite (generation-wise) of how it’s happening here. I have no idea why that might be (granted, we don’t reeeeally have Starbuck’s here but we do have cafés and coffee shops and I can’t imagine that is the sole factor) – something to ponder, I guess.

            1. Emma*

              See, I don’t get this. They’re not forcing you to never drink coffee, just banning it from their premises. AFAIK, there is no religion that mandates regular coffee drinking, so they’re not banning you from a religious practice.

              If they use this to determine the non-LDS employees and then discriminate? That would be religious discrimination. A simple ban on a beverage is not.

              1. Temperance*

                It’s forcing non-Mormons to comply with the Word of Wisdom. I think mandating that non-believers comply with a religious mandate is a form of discrimination.

                1. Elle*

                  But since this business is not technically owned by the LDS church, would this analogy still apply?

                2. Annie Moose*

                  Presumably the Jewish business in Alison’s analogy isn’t owned by a synagogue, just by someone who is themselves Jewish, so yes, it would apply.

                3. MegaMoose, Esq*

                  For the purposes of this discussion, it doesn’t matter if the business is technically owned by the church or not. Legally (in the US), it is only religious discrimination to require an individual to comply with a religious mandate if following that mandate conflicts with that individual’s religious beliefs.

                  I think people may be conflating the establishment and free-exercise clauses a bit here. Only government employers are required not to promote a specific religion. Private employers generally may, so long as by doing so they don’t violate the individual religious beliefs of their employees.

                  The tricky question is whether, as the OP suspects, this is a way to keep non-believers from working at the employer without actively refusing to hire them. It’s possible that there’s something to this, but I really think you’d need more than a ban on coffee to support a claim like that.

              2. So Very Anonymous*

                But it sounds like that kind of discrimination is what the OP is concerned about — her concern is that the ban is, as she puts it, a way “to keep non-members from seeking jobs in the company.”

                1. So Very Anonymous*

                  Yeah, that’s what makes this tricky. I can see that it isn’t discrimination in itself, but I can also see how it would feel like a way to make the place an undesirable place for people not of that faith to work.

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  It is tricky, but it does conform with the law, so I guess they can do it.

                  My company is not religious but tobacco is not allowed anywhere on campus. So even non-church companies can ban stuff. It’s private property.

                3. Anna*

                  Okay, that answered my question. I realize the comment was a bit of a throw-away by the OP but I did wonder if they were enacting those rules to make it less appealing for non-LDS to work there, if that wouldn’t fall into a form of discrimination. I know that in some cases in the past by using a required dress code of “clean shaven, short hair” to exclude people of religions that forbade shaving or cutting hair, it was determined to be discriminatory.

                4. MegaMoose, Esq*

                  @Anna: I’m not sure, but I think that the “clean shaven, short hair” cases are about allowing religious exemptions, not overturning the rule entirely.

          5. Boop*

            I think you have to consider the types of drinks they are being told they cannot have – coffee and tea, two of the most ubiquitous “work” drinks in the US. In my work place we are not allowed to have alcohol, which is a totally reasonable restriction (especially given that it’s a public organization). But prohibiting two such common and generally accepted beverages, especially when the consumption of those beverages causes no harm to other parties, is pretty draconian and could definitely be interpreted as bullying.

            1. Emma*

              I don’t know. Do you think the same thing of businesses that banned alcohol and tobacco before the modern understanding of how bad they could be? Or are those somehow different? Some companies ban sodas. Is that okay? A ton of people drink those.

              I’m really seeing a lot of “I don’t like this, thus it’s bullying and discrimination.” I definitely agree this could be used in a discriminatory manner, but I don’t think just the ban alone is, and I certainly don’t think it’s bullying. It’d be bullying if they got aggressive about it and especially if they started extending it past the workplace, but not everything we dislike is bullying.

              1. Temperance*

                Okay, so there’s really no fair comparison between alcohol and coffee. You generally can’t be drunk at work. It’s a safety and liability issue. Same with smoking – secondhand and thirdhand smoke have negative health consequences beyond the person choosing to do them.

                1. Emma*

                  My point is, we know that now. Before it was known how bad these things were? That’s what I’m asking about. I mean, the modern idea that smoking should be banned in most places is something that only spread in my lifetime, and I’m just over 30.

                  And, again, what about places that ban sodas?

                2. Chomps*

                  @Emma I guess I’m not sure why you think we didn’t know these things? Even smoking has immediate negative health consequences aside from the long-term risk of cancer. And alcohol has many immediate negative consequences. People have always known that.

                3. fposte*

                  @Chomps–I think you’re misreading Emma, who I think is making a pretty decent point. Smoking used to be absolutely standard and allowed everywhere, and it really wasn’t acknowledged or considered that it might be bad for other people (even before you got to situations where it would, you know, start fires). Smoking bans meant that an activity central to the life of a number of people–a number had only a few years before been the majority among people in the workplace–was no longer allowed there. And it still shocks people here that there are places that ban smokers, not just smoking onsite.

                  Caffeine isn’t on the decline the way smoking was, and it’s not as class-associated and education-correlated as smoking was when the bans started to come in, so it doesn’t have the same cultural weight against it. But those aren’t reasons that differentiate why one is okay and the other isn’t.

                4. calonkat*

                  Replying to Chomps:

                  People really DIDN’T know that. I mean, some people did, but the tobacco industry spent years promoting tobacco as safe. My grandmother was advised to smoke by her doctor for her asthma!!!! (in the 1920’s or 30’s, before anyone gets too upset.)

                  Look up old cigarette ads with pictures of doctors promoting certain brands as healthier. It was a different time indeed.

                5. Chomps*

                  True with regards to smoking. Although to be fair, some people did know it was bad, but kept that info secret. And others had other issues (e.g. it triggered asthma/allergies) and didn’t consume.

                  However, I was more focused on the idea that people didn’t think alcohol was bad for you. which seems weird to me.

                  However, I focused on that detail and not on her overall point, so I won’t continue this line of thought. :-)

                6. SignalLost*

                  @Emma: The first recorded instance I have seen of information (on posters put up in London) explaining how bad smoking is are from the late 1600s. It’s not new information by any stretch of the imagination, though certainly the change to smoke-free establishments is new, and imo reflects more the decrease in smoking by age group than any other factor. When CVS stopped selling tobacco products because they’re all about that healthy lifestyle, you’ll note they didn’t also stop selling candy bars.

                  And personally, while I recognise Alison’s point that legally this isn’t even remotely discrimination, and your point that not everything we hate is bullying, to me banning the most ubiquitous work drinks certainly does make me think the OP is right, that this is an effort to only hire LDS who will comply with that rule. That isn’t legally discriminatory at this point, but it’s certainly unwelcome from the standpoint of maintaining a diverse workforce and potentially a) pushing out established employees who don’t like this change and b) giving big hints that more restrictive changes may be coming down the pike.

                7. DragoCucina*

                  A drink doesn’t equal drunk at work. Many cultures don’t look askance at a glass of wine with lunch. When I worked in Belgium the norm was almost everyone had a Friday mid-afternoon glass of port with the big boss. We had one American who objected to alcohol consumption on religious grounds and never attended.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              You’re not entitled to have them, though. I’ve worked places that didn’t provide them and where you couldn’t bring any drinks in because you might spill them on stuff.

          6. Anon for this*

            If they’re going to bother me for drinking coffee, what happens when they find out I’m agnostic? Or that I’m not straight? Until very recently, I could be completely legally fired for that last one.

            1. Emma*

              Um, as a lesbian pagan, let me just say that I don’t consider either of those things remotely similar to a ban on a drink. If they then used the ban to insist on only LDS employees, then it’d be comparable, but just having a ban on something on their property is not.

              I mean, I get people like their coffee (you will pry my Mtn Dew from my cold, dead hands), but this is getting a bit ridiculous.

              I wonder – without the religious component, would everyone here care so much? Would people be calling it bullying and discrimination for an animal-rights organization to suddenly insist on veganism in the workplace, or for a health company to decide no more sodas?

              With religion in the workplace, there needs to be a balance. Asking you to actively participate in their religion crosses the line. Asking you to avoid something on their property doesn’t. Using any of that to discriminate crosses the line.

              And also, frankly, if you don’t like it, you can leave. I wonder what people think the alternative should be – every business just going along with the morality and restrictions/lack thereof of the majority? Majority of whom – their workers? Their customers? The entire United States? I’m obviously not talking actually illegal stuff here, but at some point we do have to allow both for variation and for individual conscience.

              1. Jayn*

                I think a food ban makes more sense if it is somehow related to the work or mission of the organization. However since this sounds like a religious ban being enforced on a non-religious place of employment, and of drinks that are not only extremely common but that many people consider a necessity for productivity…well it winds up coming across more as mean than a religious observance. (I’ve been watching too much Voyager, I’m imagining Janeway trying to find a work around…)

                1. KellyK*

                  Ha! Janeway would not tolerate that for a minute. She’d probably get something replicated that fulfilled the rules, but still had plenty of caffeine.

                2. SusanIvanova*

                  Or Picard – and then it turns into a 2001 crossover:

                  “Tea, Earl Grey, hot.”
                  “I’m sorry, Captain, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

                3. KellyK*

                  Awesome….it could also be a Babylon 5 cross-over.
                  Ivanova – “I need coffee. I’ve always had trouble getting up when it’s dark outside.”
                  “We’re in space. It’s always dark. Sorry, no coffee.”
                  And then Ivanova threatens to throw them out an airlock…

              2. Amber T*

                I guess my question is – what is the purpose of the corporation OP works for? Insisting on veganism at an animal rights organization “makes sense” (you can argue it’s fair or not fair) because veganism is in line with the purpose of the company. If OP works for a holistic health food corporation, sure, banning coffee “makes sense” (again, arguably fair or not fair). But I’m taking a wild guess that OP doesn’t work for that type of organization, and OP stated the corporation itself is not officially religious-affiliated, I don’t think banning coffee (and tea, and whatever other drink) makes sense.

                Respect regarding beliefs is a two way street. I’ll respect someone’s belief in their personal space (as in, their office) or in a shared space (communal kitchen), but my belief of not following their restriction should also be respected (as in, coffee/tea/non kosher/whatever at my desk should be fine).

                And yes, you can argue that the corporation’s property is its “personal space.” But the people decided these rules are a group of individuals whose beliefs are different than their workers. So if it’s true that they’re using a ban on coffee/tea as a way to push out non-believers, yes that’s bullying. No, it’s not illegal but it’s wrong.

              3. Jess*

                I understand Allison’s distinction between legal religious coercion and something that might be fairly be considered an imposition on religious practice, but I think that people are bothered by this because of the religious component. It’s not that the employer is saying “no cigarettes” or “no tree nuts” for some health- or productivity-related reason. They’re saying “no coffee, because we want all of you to follow the rules for our religion and its adherents.”

                No coffee would be a big problem for me, I can’t deny it, but as a lesbian I would be really, really bothered by any requirement that I adhere to LDS-specific religious restrictions while at work. I have beef with the LDS. I consider the coffee ban to be a very LDS-specific form of religious observance, one that would be much more present and visceral for me than a weekly church service, and one that would convey some very specific messages (maybe unintentional ones) about my employer’s attitude towards people who are not LDS and do not agree with LDS teachings. I would be very leery of coming out to an employer who thought this level of interference was appropriate.

                Again, I get that the law doesn’t draw the line that way, but it would bother me in ways that relate to my conscience and my personal feelings about a particular set of religious beliefs.

                Also, as a lesbian, I think “If you don’t like it, you can leave” is a terrible argument to make about anyone’s workplace. And I do think that employers have an ethical obligation, wherever possible, to refrain from imposing their beliefs on their employees. I think the potential for coercion is extremely high.

              4. Temperance*

                Apples and oranges. Animal rights orgs are very often vegan, so it makes sense and even furthers their mission. A supposedly secular business shouldn’t be forcing the Word of Wisdom on nonbelievers.

              5. Rusty Shackelford*

                I wonder – without the religious component, would everyone here care so much? Would people be calling it bullying and discrimination for an animal-rights organization to suddenly insist on veganism in the workplace, or for a health company to decide no more sodas?

                Well, for comparison, there was a post last week about a manager who won’t let people bring hot “unhealthy” take-out into the office…

                1. fposte*

                  There’ve been a lot of interesting related posts–the OP who wanted to ban energy drinks, the office where something (candy or snacks?) was banned because of the clients, etc.

              6. Leeloo*

                Please. This sounds like a normal office job. There is literally no reason to ban coffee or tea unless you are trying to force out non-LDS people. No one here is arguing that it’s illegal, only that it’s a douchey thing to do. What if your job required women to wear a hijab? It’s technically no worse than a uniform (just as this is *only* asking people to stop drinking a beverage) but I think it would send just as clear a signal.

                1. Honeybee*

                  Well, there is a reason: it sounds like the owners believe that their faith requires them not only to not drink coffee themselves but to not allow coffee or tea into a workplace that they own. It does not automatically mean you are trying to force out non-LDS people; there are plenty of non-LDS people who do not drink coffee or tea.

                  Requiring a woman to wear a hijab is a completely different and not-directly-comparable situation.

                2. Jess*

                  Is it that different, though? Women who adopt hijab cover their hair because of an interpretation of a religious rule about modesty. If your employer can forbid you to drink coffee on their premises, why can’t they forbid you to uncover your hair? They’re not forcing you to engage in a religious ritual, only forcing you to observe a constraint for reasons related to their religious beliefs. The fact that you don’t adhere to the religion or normally follow the constraint is, as Allison said, not grounds for a claim that your own religious beliefs and practices are being infringed on. Nor, I think, does it matter that hijab signifies religious observance to people in ways that coffee (to non-Mormons) doesn’t.

                3. Rusty Shackelford*

                  @ Honeybee

                  Well, there is a reason: it sounds like the owners believe that their faith requires them not only to not drink coffee themselves but to not allow coffee or tea into a workplace that they own.

                  Except, elsewhere, people who seem to know what they’re talking about say this is not the case.

                4. fposte*

                  @Jess–well, plenty of workplaces do restrict the dress of their employees; definitely some of them involve modesty as a reason, sometimes religious modesty. Here’s where the majority religion gets a bit of a pass, I think, because it just looks like “culture.”

                5. Jess*

                  I think Leeloo is actually giving the coffee ban a “pass” for the opposite reason. Hijab is hypervisible, such that women who wear hijab are understood to be Doing Religion. So much so that we forget that headscarves and head coverings are very common in many cultures and religious traditions.

                  The prohibition on coffee is not something most people ever think about, and coffee isn’t something most people associate with religious rules or concerns. It’s not part of any religious tradition outside of LDS, really, so giving up coffee isn’t seen as Doing Religion. It would be like having a religious prohibition on fruit. So for many people commenting here, it’s easy to see “You have to abstain from coffee while in this office” as annoying but secular, whereas “You have to wear a headscarf while in this office, because we your employers believe women must cover their hair” seems much closer to forcing someone to Do Religion as a condition of their jobs.

                  And you know, I can definitely see a conservative Christian woman feeling very offended about having to wear a headscarf that she associates with a different faith tradition, and arguing that it violates her religious beliefs to have to wear a headscarf. I can see her thinking of hijab as a religious symbol, not a neutral “head covering.”

                  But I don’t think they are that different. The coffee ban is a religious rule, and a form of religious observance – and as other commenters have indicated, it’s something that LDS members associate with culture and faith. And personally, I think that component of the coffee ban is important, and something that non-LDS employees are entitled to consider.

                6. fposte*

                  @Jess–heh, I thought you did a great job of comparing in the first two paragraphs and then it turned out you were setting it up to knock it down! Though it could be we’re meaning different things by giving something a pass, because LeeLoo is clearly strongly opposed to the coffee ban, whereas I use “giving a pass” as in “getting out of being scrutinized.”

                  I totally agree that employees are free to consider the religious implications of this and have their own takes on it whether it’s a conscious intent of the ban or not. I’m mostly talking about whether the law would follow them there.

              7. Jerry Blank*

                “I wonder – without the religious component, would everyone here care so much?”

                Of course not, because historical context is relevant. In a society post-Hobby Lobby, where Catholic churches are running hospitals and denying access to reproductive care, and where people can still be fired for being gay or trans in some areas, people are rightly going to be wary of this. It seems small, but it’s part of a larger issue. You may choose not to see it that way, but hopefully you can empathize with those of us who do.

                Also, I hope you understand how long it can take to find another job, so it’s not a matter of just leaving.

                1. Emma*

                  Context is relevant, sure, but there is actually a difference between a small thing and a large thing. There’s also a difference between asking someone not to do something, and asking them to actively do something (say, not bringing in peanuts vs. forcing everyone to eat peanuts).

                  Slippery slopes rarely are. I don’t buy the argument that just because a small thing is religious, it’s the same as a large thing that’s religious. Or that a thing that doesn’t cause anyone actual physical harm is the same as something that does.

                  There are a lot of bizarre false equivalencies all over this comment section. No, wanting coffee is not the same as being gay, or nonreligious. A coffee ban is nothing like the birth control thing. Literally the only common denominator is religion, and that’s too broad to be useful.

              8. Umvue*

                “I wonder – without the religious component, would everyone here care so much?”

                I think that’s part of it but not all – the other huge part is that many people who drink coffee are fairly dependent on it to do the stuff their employer pays them to do (and to keep smiling while doing it). There’s a reason many workplaces offer it for free! I’m not saying it’s like a heroin addiction (IME it takes about a week to kick the habit), and I’m not saying there aren’t other solutions (as many have noted); I’m just saying that an employer making work more difficult is annoying. Like if they sold the convenient parking spaces and you had to walk ten blocks every morning and evening, or they decided that some essential tool in your workflow was too expensive and they were going to drop the license and replace it with buggy freeware. The suspicion that they’re doing it to keep out the heathens is icing on the annoyancecake.

            2. Z*

              Actually, depending on what state you live in and what kind of work you do, it is absolutely still completely legal to fire you for not being straight.

            3. Temperance*

              Actually, you can still be fired and denied housing in many parts of the US for not being straight.

          7. Mike C.*

            Forcing someone to follow the rules of a religion they don’t personally believe in is bullying, yes.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              This isn’t forcing someone to follow their religion; it’s prohibiting a substance from their premises.

              I can’t bring a BLT into my sister’s house because the house is kosher. That’s not her bullying me or forcing me to follow her religion; it’s her laying down rules about the property she owns.

              1. Jessie*

                I don’t agree with Mike C that banning coffee is bullying, but Alison, I just wanted to point out there is an important legal distinction between a guest going to visit a home and an employee going to work. One is the ownership issue – the owner of the house owns the property, her rules. The owner of business – that’s more complex. Many businesses are legal entitites in their own right, as opposed to sole proprietorships. Before Hobby Lobby, it was generally understood that a business can’t practice religion – it’s a business. (One of the reasons Citizens United is so controversial, and why it split the Court, is because it held that a business – a thing, as opposed to a person – could have free speech rights.) How much a business itself has rights is not entirely settled. But an owner of a house? That’s clear. So, basically, businesses can make all sorts of rules – like no coffee in the building – but it is not as clear cut as when a homeowner does it.

                Just nitpicking legal stuff as I procrastinate. I’ll get back to my actual work now.

              2. Retail HR Guy*

                But the better analogy would be you not being allowed to bring a BLT into the rental property that your sister owns and doesn’t live in.

                At some point it crosses the line from “I’m practicing my religion my own way” into “I’m using all the power I have to make sure others behave according to my religion”.

              3. Jess*

                I understand the legal distinction you’re making about food bans vs. morning prayer meetings or whatever, but I think it’s inaccurate to call it just a “substance.” It’s a substance that your sister’s understanding of her religion prohibits.

                If an employer says, “No peanuts because we have an employee who goes into anaphylactic shock,” that’s asking employees to observe a health restriction. If an employer says, “No peanuts because our religion as we understand it prohibits them and we want to make all of you follow that religious rule, even though we know you are not members of our faith,” that’s asking employees to observe a religious restriction.

                The religious reason for the prohibition is relevant to the employee forced to follow the rule, just as it’s important to your sister. The coffee ban doesn’t only hold religious significance for Mormons.

      8. mockingbird2081*

        I am devote LDS and I run an office. I would never put this ban on others. It doesn’t hurt me to have them drinking coffee and I wouldn’t feel like I had a right to tell them not to. As long as my people are working hard and contributing to the team they can drink whatever they want…ok not alcohol. That is their choice. I do support that businesses can do what they want with their staff but I wouldn’t make this an issue in mine. And in the future they really need to make sure people know about this rule when interviewing.

      9. HannahS*

        Well, Jewish-owned businesses usually don’t make all their reports keep kosher. They might insist on having a separate, kosher-only microwave or something.

        1. Temperance*

          I work at a Jewish-owned firm. We have access to kosher catering services if we need it and my office is very flexible with holiday requirements/allowing folks to observe (like leaving work early to get home before sundown on Fridays).

          It seems like my office is more focused on making sure that people who are observant are able to be observant at work, with little difficulty.

        2. Bwmn*

          The majority of Jewish-owned businesses in the US – you’re probably correct. But if you start looking at Orthodox owned businesses, and then especially Orthodox small family run businesses – things start getting different. Similarly when you start looking at employment practices in Israel that expect to respond to the needs of a more observant employee base – things are also different.

          Saying no coffee in the office is no different than saying “no non-kosher food in the fridge” – what you do outside the office, so be it, but there is a request to not do something inside the office for a faith based reason.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            I’m starting to feel like this coffee ban is closer to requiring modest dress than requiring kosher (or, at least, non-treif) food. Let’s think about US only (because, frankly, that’s all I know!)– if a company asks that the fridge and kitchen be free of treif, they usually allow the proverbial ham-and-cheese at one’s desk. Just don’t put it in the fridge. I have no problem with that. Heck, I don’t even have a problem with people being asked to leave their ham at home, but I recognize that I’m unusual there. But if I worked for an Orthodox-owned company and one day, after several months or years of working there, I was told I could only wear long skirts, long sleeves, and high-enough necklines, I’d be pretty upset. Because my style of dress, as a non-Orthodox person, does not make them any less Orthodox. And I’m not talking about bans on cleavage or micro-skirts or denim in the workplace, I’m talking about, “You must wear long sleeves and crew necks if you want to work here.” Without it being stated upfront. Here’s where I start to see the lines being crossed– the coffee is provided by the employee and isn’t even offered to anyone else, so the rule feels unreasonable to me.

            1. Bwmn*

              But isn’t it also the case that an employer CAN impose a new dress code midway through our employment? I mean, if tomorrow I showed up and my place of employment said that we were going from business casual to business suits every day – they would have as much right to do that as to say “modest dress”.

              Both would indicate a sign that I might not want to work somewhere anymore – but to my understanding both are allowed. I 100% get that it wouldn’t be appealing to everyone – but then if my job announced that it was relocating to rural Wyoming that also wouldn’t be appealing to me.

      10. blushingflwr*

        If I worked in an office that had a significant number of observant, kosher-keeping Jews, I might expect that this would influence the set-up of the kitchen (separate fridges or microwaves) or that folks might be asked to only use communal kitchen spaces for pareve food. I might expect that bacon-wrapped scallops would not be on the menu at company events. But I wouldn’t expect to be told that I couldn’t heat a ham and cheese sandwich at my own desk.

        1. GreatLakesGal*

          If I am a business owner in a predominantly Orthodox community ( let’s say, Monsey) and my customers and vendors are predominantly religious, I certainly would take issue with an employee snacking on shrimp throughout the day, even if they kept the shrimp at their desk and out of the kitchen.

      11. paul*

        That’s fine, but if the rules start getting shoved down our throats we get to call them out as being insensible.

      12. Stranger than fiction*

        I don’t know of any companies owned by Jews that make their employees keep kosher.

    3. Engineer Woman*

      OP#2: do you have lunch out? Then, you could have more coffee then – they can’t ban coffee drinking when not on office premises. Or could you leave the office (i.e. go for a walk) during part of lunchtime so that you can then consume more coffee? I would first ask, as Alison suggests, what the reasons are for this “sudden” ban. Maybe there is a way out. Maybe not and you won’t be able to drink coffee throughout the day but before work and during lunch…

      1. Cambridge Comma*

        I also wondered whether she could keep her travel mug in her car, and pop out for a coffee break.

      2. Self Graded*

        I think they actually *could* ban coffee off-site… it just wouldn’t be practical to enforce. But I would worry about being seen in a coffee shop or in the car with a mug if the rule is “no coffee during working hours” rather than “no coffee on site.” Or if the rule BECOMES that once that workaround is noticed — if the intent is actually to subtly discourage non-LDS workers, there’s an incentive to make it as strict as possible.

      3. OP #2*

        I don’t have lunch out, and my breaks are only fifteen minutes. I wouldn’t have much of a chance to leave and grab coffee either way.

        Though apparently this is a rule they’ve had for a while, they’ve just never enforced it before now.

    4. INTP*

      If this is the church I suspect, caffeine may not be the problem, as there is some rule about hot brewed beverages and the members often consume other caffeinated beverages like hot chocolate or soda. I’d definitely ask before assuming decaf is fine.

    5. The Strand*

      I read once that offices all over Brigham Young University have minifridges stocked with caffeinated sodas, because you can’t buy them in vending machines. I thought it was an exaggeration, asked a friend of mine who worked in Mormon country, and she said her institution was exactly the same.

      Your job is trying to be far more controlling than just limiting what you can get in a vending machine. I would look for a new job, or start visiting a local coffee joint during your breaks… Because these people sound like the type who would sniff or taste your drink “just to check”.

    6. Nye*

      The response to this question from the commentariat has been really interesting. This is pretty clearly legal religious discrimination (against non-LDS adherents). I think Allison’s advice is good given that it’s legal. But I don’t understand people bending over backwards to justify this as anything other than legal discrimination, just because it’s religiously motivated. Given that commenters here are generally quite sympathetic to folks facing real or potential discrimination, I find it a surprising response.

      1. fposte*

        I don’t think it’s as clear as you do that it’s legally religious discrimination–it’s not treating employees differently because of their religion, and it’s not even refusing to hire people who drink coffee at home–it’s just keeping the workplace free of it. The question would be how crucial coffee is and how much burden this is for non-LDS employees to follow this practice. Given that a lot of non-LDS folks don’t drink coffee either and a lot of coffee drinkers don’t even have a cup every day, I don’t think it’s much of a burden.

        1. Nye*

          Sorry, I don’t think I phrased that well. I mean to say that it’s a form of discrimination that is totally legal. I don’t argue with the employer’s right to ban whatever they want to. But, in this case, it’s pretty clearly motivated by a desire to screen out employees of a different faith by enforcing an unnecessary rule that makes their lives a little more uncomfortable and telegraphs that they’re not really welcome. It’s actually a pretty clever way to say, “We only want to hire people who share our faith”, without actually running afoul of the law. I was just surpassed by the early rush of comments defending the employer in the basis of it being a religious belief thing.

          1. Nye*

            Ugh, yes, just reread my original comment and realize I did a terrible job of articulating what I was trying to say. Maybe I need more coffee?

        2. SusanIvanova*

          This is reminding me of last night’s Last Week Tonight – “oh, we aren’t *actively* segregating our schools, we’re just encouraging their parents to live elsewhere”.

      2. LabTech*

        Yea, I agree completely. As a Muslim, I could never imagine telling people not to eat pork or insisting women wear hijabs, whether at my own home or (especially) at work, even if I did own the place. Even if it technically follows the letter of the law, it’s imposing religious restrictions on employees who don’t necessarily identify with that religion, which I see as plain wrong – even more so when dealing with work, something people generally don’t have the option of not attending. And as a coffee-lover myself, I’d say it would make for a very difficult transition to not be able to have coffee while in the office to adhere to the tenants of a faith I don’t follow.

    7. Marillenbaum*

      Or, you can tell them it’s Postum–it’s a coffee substitute that has no caffeine (my mom switched to it when she converted to Mormonism because she missed the taste of coffee). It smells the same and looks the same.

    8. Mal*

      Try Yerba Mate tea when you’re at work and need a quick caffiene boost. With Lemon and honey, it doesn’t taste that bad.

      Or keep a MIO Caffeine flavor you might like on hand. If you need a quick boost, you can add the caffeinated syrup to a bottle of water. Plus, you’ll be the only person who knows what it is.

  3. quix*


    I would have thought imposing religious dietary restrictions in a workplace could run into some problems. But then again, I’m not a lawyer.

        1. Anna the Accounting Grad*

          Me too, and I never did acquire a taste for coffee (though tea, of the caffeinated variety, is another story).

        1. Lil Lamb*

          If this isn’t a commandment to Pastafarianism it is an oversight that should be corrected immediately. Free coffee for all and good will toward man

        2. SusanIvanova*

          Their sacred litany: “It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the beans of Java that thoughts acquire speed, the hands acquire shakes, the shakes become a warning. It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion.”

      1. KellyK*

        Or if they have a medical requirement to drink coffee. (Not terribly likely, but I can certainly picture a doctor saying, “Why don’t you try having a cup of coffee every day before we up your thyroid meds again?”)

        1. Crazy Canuck*

          I use caffeine as part of my treatment for ADD. According to my doctor, it works best when taken in small amounts throughout the day, so I’m not sure if Allisons advice below would qualify as a reasonable accommodation.

      2. Crazy Canuck*

        I’m pretty sure I could make an argument from the Satanic Bible that could be used to create a religious exception argument. However, given the public attitude towards Satanists, that’s kinda like dumping napalm on the bridge before you set it on fire.

      1. CATS*

        But the office kitchen staying kosher doesn’t mean people can’t eat their own food from their own containers, just that they can’t use the kitchen to heat or portion their own foods.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Depending on the level of observance, it could mean that non-kosher food couldn’t be in the kitchen at all.

          But sure, it’s not a perfect parallel. My point is that businesses can make rules of this nature around food if they choose to. I’m not saying they should; I’m only taking about what’s legal.

          1. CATS*

            Wow, that would be super difficult, especially if they started making rules based on hechsher and whatnot. I’ve never run into any real bans, just “don’t touch the kitchen with XYZ.”

            1. Stellaaaaa*

              It’s something that’s generally only enforced by business owners who have no intentions of hiring outside of their religious community. OP2 is probably correct in her suspicion that the church that owns her company is trying to push out the employees who aren’t LDS.

          2. EleanoraUK*

            Could you not argue that the OP is being discriminated against for not being a part of a certain group?

          3. Observer*

            But, and I’m talking as someone who is “strictly kosher”, there are very, very few situations where banning non-kosher food altogether makes any sense. So, I could see “don’t bring your ham sandwich into the kitchen”, but I can’t see “don’t bring your ham sandwich into the building.”

            Among the very few situations are working in a kitchen, teaching children (where you don’t want a situation where the teacher is eating the non-kosher food around the kids), or Passover.

              1. mskyle*

                Yeah, this has been my (admittedly limited) experience as well – like, when my choir (which has a lot of Jewish members but is not specifically Jewish) was rehearsing with another (explicitly Jewish) choir that keeps kosher, we were specifically asked to only bring kosher snacks to their rehearsal space, whereas at our own rehearsals we just label which snacks are kosher and which aren’t.

                When someone tells me their space (office/home/school) keeps kosher, I assume that I should not bring a ham sandwich unless explicitly told otherwise.

                I’m a pork-and-coffee-loving atheist myself, and how I would react to this coffee decision would depend a lot on how I felt about the job and the organization as a whole – if my current job, which I like a lot, were to ban coffee I would probably just chug a mug or two on my way in and maybe go out for the occasional lunchtime cup. If my previous job, which was frustrating for a lot of reasons, instituted the same rule, I would have started job-searching even sooner!

              2. HannahS*

                I think the idea is that anything that’s been touched by treif food becomes treif. So, in a house, the people who live there should expect be able to eat off of any surface, i.e. if you set your ham sandwich down on the coffee table, they can’t eat off the coffee table. But at a workplace, an Orthodox coworker shouldn’t expect to be able to eat off *your* desk, so the fact that your desk has become un-kosher isn’t a problem. If all the Orthodox employees keep the kitchen kosher, then there isn’t a problem with the rest of the building being un-kosher, because they’ll restrict their eating to one place.

              3. Observer*

                That’s different. Yes, it’s fairly typical, though totally not universal, to not allow non-kosher food into the house. But, it’s a very different scenario. I know people who don’t allow non-kosher food into the house who would never think of telling their employees that they can’t bring their own choice of drink, kept in their own thermos no less(!), into the office over all.

            1. MegaMoose, Esq*

              Plus, it doesn’t really matter if the rule makes sense or not: employers can make all sorts of absurd rules for their employees without it being discrimination. The employer doesn’t have to prove that the practice is genuinely required by their religion or not. The question is whether following the rule genuinely violates the employee’s religious beliefs.

              1. Observer*

                Oh, I agree that the rule is almost certainly legal. I have no idea if this rule is in any truly mandated (or seen to be mandated) by the religion of the owners or not. But, it’s totally not similar to the issue with Kosher vs non-Kosher food in the workplace.

      2. Apollo Warbucks*

        Didn’t you have a letter form someone who’s boss wanted the office kitchen kept kosha over a Jewish holiday?

    1. Anon for this*

      I was raised LDS and got 2 degrees from BYU. I don’t go to church regularly anymore since I came out as a lesbian, but I was quite faithful and devout for a long time. In my experience, it’s pretty weird for LDS folks to try to prevent other people from drinking coffee. We always kept coffee and tea in the house growing up for when non-Mormon family and friends would visit, and I knew a lot of others who did the same thing. My department at BYU actually kept coffee and tea around for visiting scholars who weren’t LDS. So I do kind of suspect the OP might correct about there being people in the company trying to keep non-LDS folks from wanting to work there.

      1. Meghan*

        My experience with people who had converted to LDS is, unfortunately, not at all like this. (Though I found very generally that there was a big difference between people who grew up LDS and people who converted later in life.) Coffee and tea were totally verboten in their homes, including bringing a cup from Dunkin’ with you. So not only was it not offered, but bringing our own caused a huge problem. As a coffee fiend and someone who doesn’t like having my choices dictated by other people’s religious beliefs, I would be looking for a new job.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yes, I agree–it’s not actionable in this case. But it’s annoying enough to me personally that I might consider it a deal breaker. Unless I suddenly became pregnant or had some kind of health issue and my doctor told me to give up coffee and tea and I could use this to help me do so. In that case, it might not be a problem.

          To be fair, however, I’ve been in non-religious workplaces that have other stuff I consider a deal breaker too. So it’s a matter of perspective, really.

        2. Anna*

          I think people who convert, no matter what religion, tend to get very excited about their new worldview and tend to take things a bit more by the book. Mainly because they don’t know the culture of the religion very well at first and are trying very hard to Do It Right.

    2. Meg*

      As Alison notes, it is not a legal problem. They can ban coffee and tea. I think its a dumb decision, but there is nothing legally stopping them.

    3. Crazy Canuck*

      In Canada, I’m pretty sure this wouldn’t fly. Under the Canadian Human Rights act, one of the eleven prohibited grounds of discrimination is disability. As the Canadian courts have ruled that addiction can be a disability, an employee could probably argue that they have the legal right to have a caffeine addiction accommodated. I would make a much stronger argument, in that I have ADD and I use caffeine, as recommended by my doctor, as part of my treatment plan. Unless they can show a valid business reason for the ban, (which is how smoking bans have stuck, due to the obvious health costs) I’m fairly certain that the courts wouldn’t uphold it.

      That said, I use all the above speculation to leverage a good reference and start job hunting yesterday if my boss tried a stunt this stupid. Coffee is life, coffee is love.

      1. North Dakota Jones*

        I don’t know though, because there are other ways to get caffiene than from coffee and tea. Those are certainly two of the most common delivery methods, but you can get it liquid shots, in pills, etc.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          And if coffee (and not caffeine) is the issue, well, that’s why God gave us Mountain Dew.

          1. Crazy Canuck*

            Ironically, in Canada regular Mountain Dew has no caffeine, though the newer flavors of Dew on the market now do.

            However, after talking with a legal-type person about this during a smoke break, the big difference is that the Canadian Courts do not have an equivalent to the Hobby Lobby decision, so a companies ability to promote religion or religious values is much diminished. Canada also generally has stronger employee protections in most provinces that America does, though that varies on a case by case basis. He is fairly sure a workplace coffee ban wouldn’t hold up, but he wasn’t convinced enough to take the case without asking for a retainer first.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              Ironically, in Canada regular Mountain Dew has no caffeine, though the newer flavors of Dew on the market now do.

              This is not irony. It is a cruel joke.

            2. Clumsy Ninja*

              “Ironically, in Canada regular Mountain Dew has no caffeine, though the newer flavors of Dew on the market now do.”

              This is not Mt Dew!

      2. Isabel C.*

        Heh, yeah. I was going to say–I can’t speak to the legal bit, but Alison tends to know her stuff. But I’d say start sending out resumes, and once you get a new job, post a review on Glassdoor mentioning this, because it is bullshit.

  4. Nic M*

    I would quit any job that banned coffee at work. There’s no job I’m too good for if it came down to it but there’s no way I’d work where that was a banned substance.

    1. Not Your Honey*

      Same. And not only because it would piss me off not to be able to drink coffee (it would), but that’s just a preposterous rule that would make me lose all respect for those in charge.

      1. Jen*

        Gently, if you’re choosing to work for a business owned by practicing Mormons you do have an obligation to respect their beliefs as required by the business. It’s a matter of their faith and I understand not respecting it personally, but it really isn’t something that you can place on other people at work

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          The problem here is that this wasn’t presented to the OP upfront as a condition of employment, but rather was just sprung on her and her colleagues. If it had been, the OP could have made the decision before taking the job whether she wanted to work at a place that would ban coffee and tea. For some people, myself included, this would be a deal breaker.

          1. Jen*

            Agreed, I wouldn’t work there either. I’m just saying that losing respect for Mormons because they exercise their right to religious freedom at the business they own is a bit misplaced – everyone should feel free to exercise their own beliefs and quitting is a great way to do that in this context

            1. Gadfly*

              I think it is fair to decide that if your religion requires treating others badly that I can lose respect for it. I can acknowledge and accept the legal rights while still thinking those who are following it are jerky or worse for doing so.

              And being a cult like group which goes out of its way to force others to join/obey or leave qualifies. And that is the behavior shown here.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Eh. I’d argue that if they believe coffee is morally objectionable, it’s not outrageous for them to say they won’t allow it on their premises. It seems so to people who don’t hold that belief, but I’d argue it’s not all that different from an animal rights charity not allowing meat products in their office, or even from the many companies that don’t allow alcohol in their offices.

                I don’t think they’re jerks for wanting to run their business in accordance with their moral code.

                1. Gadfly*

                  If asking people not to bring coffee was were it stops, that is one thing. But it won’t stop there. This is standard. It is commonplace. I have seen it multiple times. This is the warning shot. If this is Utah, anyone non-LDS from there probably recognises it. The first to go are the obvious ones (and coffee in UT is an act of rebellion as big or bigger than drinking alcohol.) And it will tighten up from there with people being pushed out, non-LDS people being written up more harshly, only LDS people being promoted, etc. And under right to work laws and sympathetic judges it is hard to prove anything.

                  I know I sound paranoid. And all I can say is ask non-members who have lived there. A surprising number have the same story. Nice people, easy to live with, friendly, until the day when they are told to close ranks and at that time everyone else is out of luck. And many will say it to your face that is what they are doing. And that they don’t see anything wrong with it.

                  I will bet dollars to donuts the OP comes back, if they do a follow up and this is UT, with stories of basically all known non LDS people forced out or let go.

                2. Arcady*

                  I agree that a company isn’t jerky for running their business according to their moral code. What I’d want to know, as an employee of this company, is what changed, after three years, to make coffee-drinking part of their moral code?

                  I mean, if it’s been okay for three years to drink coffee, something had to have happened to cause the change. And I’d ask that question. Because the answer, or lack thereof, could be interesting.

                3. Bartlett for President*

                  I got the impression from the letter that the organization was presented as non-religious. Yes, there is an over-aching theme of the church having authority in the community, but that’s not really the same as an animal rights organization.

                  If you work for a self-described animal rights organization, then you have an idea of what you’re signing up for. If you work for a company that describes itself as non-religious, and religious mandates/rules are sprung on you, that’s completely different.

                4. Mike C.*

                  Having had to deal with this my whole life, they are complete jerks for doing this. Do you really think that this is where it ends?

                5. Gov Worker*

                  It’s switching the rules in the middle of the game that is a problem. Three years of coffee is OK, then the banhammer? No way would I have accepted a job knowing I could not consume coffee on the premises.

              2. Emma*

                Simply banning coffee and tea isn’t the problem, though, and it’s not treating others badly anymore than banning alcohol, say, is. Or soft drinks, which one place I worked at did.

                If that’s then used to push religious discrimination, yeah, that’s illegal, but it’s the discrimination that’s illegal, not the banning of coffee.

                FWIW, I do think that suddenly making this a policy and not having it known upfront is jerkish, in the same way that springing any kind of potential dealbreaker on a person is jerkish.

                1. Emma*

                  Meant to add: the reason I think that it’s important to draw this distinction is that there can be many reasons for such bans. The soda ban at the one workplace I mentioned wasn’t for religious reasons – the boss just thought having sodas about was unprofessional. Also, well, you can have moral or religious restrictions in a workplace that don’t lead to discrimination, unless you want to make the case that being asked to abstain from something for a short window of time automatically violates your own religion/moral principles.

                  If they insisted that you follow their principles outside the workplace, I’d consider that unreasonable unless a) they were an explicitly religious/moral institution, and b) you knowingly signed up for that. And even then I’d be uncomfortable, because I think people have the right to be lax or even hypocrites.

                2. Liane*

                  “If that’s then used to push religious discrimination, yeah, that’s illegal…”
                  Yes, & this is what Alison meant by seeing what the company’s answer to the direct question would be.

                  And you’re also right, in your “addendum” that there can be other reasons. College Kids work at a big grocery chain and my daughter told me that they banned even water at the registers because someone working in the attached gas station spilled their drink & the whole register in the little kiosk had to be replaced.

                3. Emma*

                  The water ban I do think is problematic, if the workplace doesn’t allow workers to go get water as needed, since people do need hydration.

                4. the gold digger*

                  people do need hydration.

                  My uncle is 81 years old and owns and runs a commercial riding stables. He will lead a one or two hour ride in the mountains and customers will have water bottles with them. He never carries one. The customers are shocked that he will be two hours without water. His answer is, “I haven’t dehydrated to death yet.” :)

                  (I don’t have a problem with not allowing water at expensive machinery that can be destroyed by water. I won’t even use a water glass next to my computer at home because the cats have a tendency to knock things over as they run through the house – I use a water bottle that stays capped when I am not drinking. I would have a problem with their being no water fountains on premises.)

            2. Manders*

              I’m not sure banning *other people* from drinking coffee around them is a tenant of Mormon faith though. I live in Seattle and know plenty of Mormons who visit and live here. If someone sipping hot coffee or tea near them was a violation of their faith, they’d never be able to leave the house.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                My friend I mentioned earlier whom I had the tea party with cannot drink it but she didn’t mind that I did. Of course, we were in my house, not hers. But if we were in her house, I would have just drunk whatever she gave me. :)

                1. Manders*

                  Yeah, that’s the part that’s confusing about this new workplace rule for me. I’ve definitely drunk hot, caffeinated beverages near my Mormon friends. And I know one who works in tech–if he couldn’t be around hot coffee at work, I don’t think he’d be able to work here.

                  I wouldn’t stroll into their house with a thermos of coffee without asking first, but I’m not aware of any rule that says that I would be making a building contaminated or impure in anyone’s eyes if I did bring coffee in.

          2. Atlas Nodded*

            Eh, things change. It’s not reasonable to expect that workplaces will never implement new policies. The OP is free to quit if this is a deal-breaker.

            1. Fortitude Jones*

              Isn’t that true of every single letter here though? The letter writer can just quit, sure, but being essentially forced to do so over something that has no bearing on her employer or her ability to do her job isn’t at all reasonable.

              1. Atlas Nodded*

                I was responding specifically to a comment that said the company ought to have told the OP about the restriction before they started working there. I do not think the restriction is a good thing in the least, but I find it ridiculous to argue that the conditions of one’s employment ought never to be changed. That was all.

            2. Mike C.*

              I think it’s silly to make such a generalized statement in response to a very specific and loaded rule.

              1. Atlas Nodded*

                I have no idea what this comment has to do with mine, so I shall assume you misplaced it. Better luck next time!

        2. Meg*

          I disagree, you can quit as the two people above you indicated. You have no obligation to “respect their beliefs.” Its a dumb business decision even if it is their decision to make. Plenty of businesses owned by Mormons allow coffee/tea drinking…hello, Marriott Hotels…

        3. Mike C.*

          There’s a huge line between respecting the beliefs of others and having to live those beliefs personally. I’m really getting tired of hearing constant reminders that employees have to “be respectful” when the lack of respect is coming from the employer.

          1. Erin*

            Hm, yeah I think this is well put. In this case, the employees can be respectful by say, keeping the coffee in a thermos and thus drinking it discreetly. :)

            Coffee is so ingrained into 98% of work cultures that this just seems so wildly out of the norm to me. I don’t think it’s comparable to alcohol – at all. For very obvious reasons. To me this falls under the category of, yes it’s technically legal/allowed, but we need to let common sense dictate this one.

            1. fposte*

              But it’s not 98% of people drinking coffee every day. Looks like it’s barely a majority who do, in fact. From what I can see there’s considerable regional variation as well, with much higher use around major conurbations.

          2. paul*

            Yep. Allison’s response was on point; it’s legal. I mean, in the end that’s right. It is legal.

            But people talking about “respecting other’s beliefs”…just hell no. If your beliefs require you to not imbibe certain substances fine, whatever, but trying to enforce them on everyone else is tacky and rude and disrespectful.

        4. Ms. Anne Thrope*

          I’d really like to see the day when non-belief is respected just as much as belief. Why does the Mormon business NOT have to respect my beliefs, but I have to respect theirs? The freedom FROM religion needs to be codified a lot more strongly in this country. I’m sick of various religious groups trying to force their practices on me.

          Also, I want to see an end to this nonsense that a corporate entity can have a religion. A corporation is nothing more than paperwork filed with the state. There’s no way it should have the same ‘human’ rights as I, an actual human, do.

          1. Retail HR Guy*

            Amen, sister.

            It’s always, “It’s their RELIGION, so you have to respect it!” No. No I don’t. My atheism deserves just as much deference as your religion, and that means I am free to disrespect your silly beliefs and behaviors.

            I won’t be rude or intolerant about it in the workplace, but if your superstitions cause you to do things like use your power to deprive others of coffee then I have every right to judge you for it.

        5. Observer*

          This is not about respecting their beliefs, though. Coffee in your thermos does not affect Mr. LDS, and more than someone’s ham sandwich affects me, unless they insist on eating it at my desk. (I keep kosher, and pork products are THE paradigm of non-kosher.)

          1. DragoCucina*

            Cross contamination is a real thing though (look at the peanut wars on AAM). I may be eating a ham sandwich at my desk. Can I guarantee that it won’t get on the papers I’m going to give you later? I’ve found worse on papers co-workers have given me. I think out of respect for “you” I’d enjoy my ham sandwich at home. IMO the employers are being unreasonable, but it’s their sandbox.

            1. Observer*

              That’s a different issue. I’d much rather not get papers with ANY of your food on it, thank you vevy much!

              If getting food or beverages on papers or other items that are shared is a realistic scenario, then that becomes a possible problem. But, honestly, I don’t see any reason to believe that the OP and other co-workers are such slobs that they are likely to spill their drinks on the one copy of a document that they have to share with others.

        6. Rusty Shackelford*

          Gently, if you’re choosing to work for a business owned by practicing Mormons you do have an obligation to respect their beliefs as required by the business

          Obey. Not necessarily respect. ;-)

        7. Retail HR Guy*

          “Gently, if you’re choosing to work for a business owned by practicing Mormons you do have an obligation to respect their beliefs…”

          But if you’re choosing to run a business with non-Mormon employees you don’t have an obligation to respect their beliefs?

        8. BananaPants*

          The LDS prohibition against coffee and tea doesn’t extend to non-members of that faith; a Mormon’s religious tenets aren’t being violated if the person sitting next to them on a plane orders a coffee to drink during a flight. I can understand a church-owned business having a blanket ban, but this seems like a tacit statement by the business owners that those who don’t share their faith aren’t welcome to work there. While I don’t think it’s discrimination and it’s not illegal, it does seem poised to eventually push out or discourage non-LDS employees.

    2. Amber*

      I’m in the minority but I’d like it, coffee is the worst smell in the world. I have to cover my nose when walking into the office kitchen to avoid the stench of coffee. Ugh!

      1. Gaia*

        Agreed! I work in an office full of extreme coffee drinkers (most drink 5+ cups a day and our office specifically budgets for high end coffee to keep them happy). These reactions seem…extreme…to me.

        1. Temperance*

          My AM coffee is the best part of my day. I’m not a morning person, and I look forward to that ritual.

        2. Ms. Anne Thrope*

          For some people who have become accustomed to it, there are withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches. And for plenty of others, sluggishness. I would actually go so far as to bring in a doctor’s note if I had that problem and see what happens. They can’t legally require me to stop taking my Allegra because it violates their ‘sincerely held beliefs’ can they? Because they’d be essentially condemning me to having the flu constantly.

          1. fposte*

            Right, but the withdrawal symptoms go away fairly quickly, and you could take caffeine pills if you were really concerned that out of work and lunchtime consumption were going to drop you into withdrawal levels. A doctor’s note about nic fits wouldn’t get a smoker off the hook either.

        3. Epsilon Delta*

          I love coffee, and the smell of coffee that I brew at home or in a cafe. But yes, there is something really overpowering and unpleasant about the smell of Office Coffee. That stuff is in a whole different category.

        4. Alienor*

          I don’t think it’s so much the beverage itself as the idea of being forced to abide by someone else’s religious beliefs that really rubs people the wrong way. I’ve been a coffee drinker since I was 14, but I would be fine not drinking it at work if there were a logical reason not to–for example, if I worked in a lab, or a historical document archive, or some other place where you just can’t have food and drinks around. But if someone tells me “Our religion forbids coffee, so you can’t drink it either?” NOPE.

    3. Ellie H.*

      I’ve left two jobs where a huge part of the reason was that they required me to wear closed-toe shoes. I cannot stand closed-toe shoes, I feel uncomfortable the entire time. With coffee I would just switch to drinking it or more of it before work though, I guess get up early for it if I had to. Really too bad though :(

        1. Ellie H.*

          Yes, 1st place was a Peet’s so definitely made sense. 2nd place was an after-school program. It was Austin TX and they weren’t super strict about the rule. I’m exaggerating a lot that that was part of the reason I left that job (I moved away) but it was definitely my least favorite thing about it. Totally reasonable as a rule in both places, I just hate it!

      1. ThatGirl*

        I just have to ask — do you live in a climate where it ever gets cold? Personally I really prefer being barefoot to wearing socks and/or shoes, but that’s not feasible at least six months of the year due to temperature, rain, snow, etc. and I can’t imagine not having to wear closed-toe shoes a good deal of the time. Sorry, I know that’s a bit off-topic.

        1. Ellie H*

          No, I do – I’m from Boston originally and live in Boston now, I just lived in Texas for a year. Despite the stereotypical image of the Bostonian in a parka, shorts, drinking an iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts, I get cold very easily so this is not totally me. For whatever reason I’ve always had a really hard time regulating my body temperature and my feet tend to get SO hot and overheat me and I hate the claustrophobic feeling of closed-up shoes. Flats are kind of OK as long as most of the top is open, but I can’t stand wearing boots indoors or sneakers except at the gym. I definitely wear boots outside but I typically change into flats at work if I can, and I’ll walk around in socks indoors where it’s not completely inappropriate. I also tend to wear Birkenstocks and socks a lot despite its extreme lameness . . . I am wearing them right now with Halloween socks! Basically I just wish we lived as in Japan where you immediately change into indoor shoes indoors.

    4. Dot Warner*

      I can’t do my job well if I’m undercaffeinated, so if my employer banned coffee I’d probably have to quit before I got fired for performance issues! :D

    5. NJ Anon*

      I’d just drink coffee and let them fire me. I can imagine filling out the paperwork for unemployment: “reason for job loss? Drinking coffee.”

      1. Mirax*

        I bet they’d find a way to call that “insubordination” or something on the paperwork. I mean, hypothetical-you did technically violate a stated rule.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq*

          I don’t think they’d have to find a way to call it insubordination – not following a rule after being clearly informed that it’s a rule is the definition of insubordination. It really doesn’t matter if you think the rule is arbitrary.

      1. NW Mossy*

        In thinking about how I would react if my employer rolled out this rule, it occurs to me that what I’d miss most is the ritual. I like having that consistent “get coffee, sip while catching up on overnight emails” entry point into my workday. While I could just as easily have a different ritual (and did in my early working years before I learned to love coffee), I’d miss its current form.

        Also, I’d be up a creek without a paddle if I couldn’t have a hot beverage in the morning, because I’m always cold and it helps me get back up to temperature after my bus commute. Coffee’s my preference because it’s essentially calorie-free and I prefer it to tea, so I’d be scrambling for alternatives if this was my workplace.

      2. Lia*

        I worked for a non-coffee drinker (well, he did drink it on occasion but not very often) who decided that we could really stand to get rid of the coffeemaker and the office nearly rioted. I think it wasn’t so much the caffeine but that it is seen as a workplace benefit — and telling everyone that they’d no longer subsidize it would be like saying “oh, and by the way, starting tomorrow you all have to bring in your own office supplies, chair, and toilet paper”. Yes, I know there are plenty of jobs out there where workers DO have to supply their own things, but coffee is a comfort to many and taking a few minutes for it is definitely cultural in many industries.

        1. fposte*

          I think it’s also the fact that it’s a change that rubs people the wrong way, which is reasonable to me–it’s a change of the terms. The state cracked down on providing coffee at my university (even though we actually collected money for it in my department), and it was really salt in the wounds of people who were already pretty salty.

    6. Gaia*

      This is so interesting to me. As someone who doesn’t drink coffee (not for religious reasons – I am a Super Taster and so the taste is way too strong for me), these seem like such extreme reactions to me. I understand coffee is very important to some, I just cannot imagine quitting a job over not being able to drink my beverage of choice.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, as a non-coffee drinker, it’s super weird to read the reactions here — not to the concept of an employer banning a commonly-consumed substance (which are the reactions I’d expect) but to the intense statements about coffee in particular. I support people exercising their right to leave a job over any condition they find unacceptable, but some of the statements about how normalized addiction and dependence are … are pretty unnerving.

        1. Lil Lamb*

          Caffeine addiction is real, and there are withdrawal symptoms if a person goes cold turkey. But this period is typically much shorter than other addictive substances

          1. EddieSherbert*

            As a recovering coffee-aholic ( it took me four years to go from drinking straight espresso like it was water to a few coffees per week), it’s definitely a weirdly normalized addiction!

            But I’d still be weirdly thrown by this ban – not enough to quit, but enough to be suspicious of my workplace/their motives and maybe start looking around…

            1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

              To comment on the normalization, I think it’s because 1. caffeine addiction, by and large, isn’t physically detrimental long term (drinking a full pot a day might be bad, but being “addicted” meaning you need to drink, say, 6-12oz/day to not feel a little ill, is not inherently bad for you; there are medical studies that actually tout the benefits of this); and 2. it does not negatively affect those around you – you aren’t ability impaired while driving, you aren’t inhaling someone else’s smoke or vapor that is dangerous long term, etc.

              Not to say any sort of addiction is “healthy,” but in this case, it’s really not *harmful*.

                1. Isabel C.*

                  Word. I don’t even drink the stuff, and it’s like…pretty much everyone has a habit or two, maybe settle down.

              1. EddieSherbert*

                Agreed; For most the part, it’s fairly normal and unharmful. Just for non-coffee drinks, I can absolutely see how it comes across weirdly.

                As for me personally, I was way past the point of “a full pot a day,” where I would be double-brew five shots of espresso and drinking it like a regular cup of coffee.. and having multiple cups a day (so, like, actually bad for you!).

        2. Mike C.*

          It’s easy to say when you don’t use prescription and over the counter stimulants to control ADD. I’m sorry you think that’s “dependence” but I like being able to hold down a job, have a functional marriage and so on. If it takes a “normalized addiction” to do it then so be it.

          1. Mike C.*

            Combine that with some moralizing jackass who’s doing it for extremist religious reasons (because the vast majority of Mormons aren’t going to care what others drink) and you’re surprised that there’s a harsh reaction? You’re unnerved that people object so strongly?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Nope, that’s in fact not at all what I said. As I wrote in the comment, I’m talking about people’s statements about their dependence on coffee, totally aside from what this employer is doing.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I was responding to “I’m sorry you think that’s ‘dependence’ but I like being able to hold down a job, have a functional marriage and so on.” That’s not what I was referring to with my comment.

            1. Kate*

              Actually, I believe one of the requirements in the DSM for something to qualify as an “addiction” is that it has a serious negative effect on your life. Otherwise anyone with a really serious hobby would be “addicted”.

          2. Myrin*

            I’m surprised by your harsh reaction and comments, Mike – there’s really no need to go off on Alison like that! As I understood her comment, she was talking about how people say very frankly that they’re addicted to coffee, in a way that doesn’t sound like just hyperbole but actual, real addiction, and that that was a bit worrying because you (general you) probably wouldn’t talk in such a handwavey fashion about other serious addictions.

            1. Mike C.*

              When you have ADD, you get to deal with loads of people who don’t believe that the disorder exists, who continually accuse you of being addicted to the medications you need to have a normal life and all the assorted “weakness” crap that goes along with it.

              So when Alison makes comments like that, she trivializes the role that stimulants play for folks like us. I know she’s not doing it on purpose, but it’s incredibly frustrating that a very real problem is cast aside like that.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Nothing of the sort happened here. I’ve been clear throughout the post that someone who needed it for medical reasons is a different circumstance.

              2. Myrin*

                That’s what I gathered from your other comment and it’s also exactly why I was so surprised by it – because as far as I can see, no one before you had actually brought up medical situations where stimulant are actually needed (I was also confused because you seemed and seem to be talking about regular medication such as pills when the conversation was about coffee specifically), so it seemed like a bit of an “apropos of nothing” reaction.

                1. fposte*

                  I think, based on other posts, that Mike also is very strongly opposed to anything that feels like religious interference, so add that to some very personal relevance and I think this is a hot issue for him (if you’ll pardon the unintended pun).

                  (Is that a bunny at a desk in your avatar? How have I not noticed that before?)

          3. Violet Fox*

            It’s also a major help keeping my SAD in check, and keeping my a functional person during the time of year where there is just not sunlight. No one really talks about SAD much around here, but we are some of the highest per-capita coffee drinkers in the world.

            Hell right now I’m getting over a cold and drinking a ton of tea because very hot drinks keep me from coughing. I honestly can’t stand herbal tea. This employeer would basically mean needing a doctor’s note to have a cup of tea when one has a cough, rather then just reaching for the kettle, and this to me is completely and totally ludicrous.

        3. Lady Bug*

          As one of the people who said I’d leave, and a total coffee devotee, the reason I say that is not because of the ban on coffee itself, but because its a clear sign that I am a really bad cultural fit for that office. The bosses value their religion highly, which is great for them. I don’t, which I would just assume would have a negative effect on my career. So I’d move on before it had the chance to. I could be completely wrong, but I wouldn’t take that chance. But I’d also never live anywhere where religion flows over heavily into the workplace because I know I don’t fit in there.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Oh yeah, I think that’s totally reasonable. I’m just unnerved by all the “I couldn’t function without coffee” statements and how much we’ve normalized coffee dependence.

            1. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed*

              I was probably a little flippant when I said I had an addiction. I just really, really enjoy my coffee. Not caffeine, coffee. I seek out perfect beans and roasts and make it so lovingly – it’s one of my real pleasures in life. I love the taste and experience of drinking it. I’d rather have no coffee than bad coffee. But it would really trouble me to not be able to bring mine into work – it’s a lovely part of my day.

              1. fposte*

                It’s got a fascinating cultural place, I gotta say; there’s some research about the importance of the coffee break in U.S. workplaces where there were social and professional benefits conferred (the Swedish fika is still huge, from the sound of it), and it seems like we largely don’t do the break part any more but have imbued it all into the coffee itself. Though walking to get coffee is a bit of a break in places that do that.

              2. Aurion*

                This is where I fall too (for tea, not coffee). I can go through 5-6 cups of tea a day, but with oolong, that’s the same leaves steeped 5-6 times. That’s, what, 56 mg of caffeine (tops!) spread out over the day? It’s about the ritual and the flavour for me. Caffeine is a very distant tertiary benefit. (High doses of caffeine does weird things to me, so even when I’m tired and running short on sleep–like today–I don’t drink heavy doses of caffeine.)

                At this point I think it’s the sips of hot beverage that wakes me up as much as the caffeine, really.

              3. Anna*

                Exactly. The whole thing is that I like the taste and I like making it and I like drinking it out of my Thermos and I enjoy all of it. None of which I would get by simply taking a shot (which grosses me out, actually) or taking a pill (dull, bland, boring, blah). So I could get the physical effect of caffeine through other means, but I would not get the mental benefit. And guess what. That’s just as important.

              4. Tuckerman*

                It’s also one of those cultural comforts. I think it’s pretty common for people to bond over some sort of caffeinated beverage, all around the world. So drinking coffee or tea at work is bringing a bit of comfort to a place that’s not always very comfortable.

            2. Gaara*

              One question I have is how much of that is the result of our work culture? Like, I do like coffee; it tastes good and provides a nice little boost of energy. But I also need to do too many things, and focus and get stuff done, and sometimes without enough sleep. And I don’t think I could do that without caffeine.

              A weekend isn’t enough time to get past withdrawal symptoms. And then come Monday, oh, right, I’m really tired and really need to function again.

            3. fposte*

              Yeah, I’m there too; I realized that once when I had guests staying with me who were coffee drinkers and I didn’t have coffee-making equipment. I was fond of them so I went and got them coffee, but honestly if it’s entirely about the addiction, my espresso powder in hot water or milk should have dealt with it, and it really didn’t.

              I think it’s a bit of a gratification disguised as a necessity. Which I don’t condemn, as I do that to a lot of my gratifications too, but I think the popularity of this one means people aren’t aware how much this is a habit and not a requirement.

              1. Ellie H*

                Can you say a little more about what you mean by “gratification” (if you’re interested in continuing discussion, obviously this is an aside at this point). I’m definitely someone who needs coffee before embarking upon the activity of the day, I care about how it tastes when I have a choice, but it’s literally just about the caffeine – instant coffee is A-OK and I keep a couple of those Starbucks VIA packets in my suitcase to dump in water if somewhere doesn’t have coffee when I want it while traveling (which taste pretty good anyway). I would admit that I think coffee is so ubiquitous that the one or two times I’ve stayed with someone who didn’t have it available at all, it was surprising to me.

                1. fposte*

                  I think for some people it’s straight out caffeine the way you describe (I had a colleague who traveled with instant coffee and ate the granules if she couldn’t get coffee), but for a lot of people it’s more what Katie and her amazing wrists say–it’s caffeine, sure, but it’s also about that nice cup of warm coffee that tastes good and is an enjoyable step off into the day. I’m not meaning it as an either/or but as a both/and. That’s why people still really enjoy decaf–then throw in the caffeine and it’s pretty darn hard to resist.

                2. Ellie H*

                  Yeah, makes sense – I would definitely do that too with instant coffee in the absence of other options :) I think it’s the kind of thing where if there’s a little bit of a choice, you’d probably always prefer something that tastes a little better, but at some point any port in a storm.

            4. KellyK*

              As a former coffee addict (literally, the withdrawal was miserable), I agree. I think it’s a natural result of a super-busy culture, though. Needing coffee to get through the day is unremarkable, but someone who actually gets 9 hours of sleep a night, or limits their activities to prioritize getting enough rest, is likely to be viewed as lazy.

            5. Leeloo*

              Who is ‘we’? You do know what the Boston Tea Party was about, right? Two million pounds of tea were drunk a year in America before the Revolution. Humans like caffeine. Coffee is a central part of socializing work and even religion in Ethiopia, where coffee was first cultivated. It’s not ‘just a beverage….’


              When I worked in Japan we had literal tea breaks, as in someone would ring a bell or there would be an announcement on the loudspeaker and hot water would be brought around.

                1. Leeloo*

                  Yet you continue to make weirdly patronizing comments about people’s coffee and tea consumption?

            6. Businesslady*

              I don’t even drink that much coffee (typically a cup a day, unless I’m really sleep-deprived) but I definitely get a withdrawal headache if I don’t have it–which is a little unnerving when I think about it in the context of addiction.

          2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

            Same here. I actually went off coffee for a few years (admittedly, for tea, both caffeinated and herbal, which is apparently also verboten here, but I digress). I went back to it because I genuinely like the taste of it and, like others have mentioned, enjoy the ritual. Like you, this would signal to me a bad cultural fit, though knowing I went off it once I know I would survive if I went off it again until I could find another position. Would I be happy about it? Nope. Would I complain about it? Yup. Would I be open about why I was leaving? You bet.

            1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

              Actually, come to think of it, to the OP – in the interim, try Nuun Energy tablets, which you can get at EMS, REI, Dick’s, etc. (Or online – Amazon has good prices.) (The Energy ones are the ones in the black/neon containers.) One tablet, dissovled into 8-12oz of water, will give you the equivalent of a 60z cup of coffee in caffeine (I think, or close to that.) There are a lot of good electrolytes in these as well, and they are low cal/low sugar. I pop one in a glass of water before an early morning workout, because working out on a stomach full of coffee/warm beverage raises my body temperature just a little too much and makes me sweat more and therefore dehydrate faster. These actually ASSIST with hydration, which is a bonus. I’m a big fan of them, and have recommended them as a fix to friends looking to kick afternoon soda habits (you could just as easily dissolve a tablet into sparkling water, if you wanted to).

          3. Elizabeth West*

            This is pretty much how I feel. And I do live in Billy Bob Bibleville, which is one reason I’m so hot to get out of here. It’s not a fit for me. It’s fine for those who are into it, though. Have at it.

            Most employers here aren’t as strict even in their own practice or are really up front about it. Sometimes, like in this case, the situation can change so it’s no longer tenable, for a variety of reasons.

          4. JB in NC*

            This is exactly how I feel. I have no intention of ever working for an employer that brings their religious beliefs into the workplace. I don’t care if it’s Mormons, or Jewish people, or Catholics (which is what I was raised as), or anything. I don’t want to even know if they are religious or not. I don’t want people to tell me to ‘have a blessed day’. You can do whatever you want to, but don’t involve me.

        4. Bob Barker*

          I don’t think it has anything to do with dependence, but with the fact that coffee (or similar) is part of the day’s structure. We’re having a meet-greet with a bunch of new employees? Serve them coffee. Seminar this afternoon? Box o’ Joe and a plate of cookies. Need a confidential chat with a coworker? Coffee offsite. With smoking much rarer and no longer allowed inside, coffee is the excuse for taking breaks, the locus for a lot of networking and socialization — it’s a huge default in many daily/business lives. Take that out, and the day becomes completely discombobulated. Or all the Starbuckses will turn into Orange Juice Huts or something.

          I don’t think it’s the same as a kosher kitchen at work, but more like your workplace suddenly deciding that you’re not allowed to wear cotton and polyester at the same time at work. On the one hand, they’re completely allowed, I guess. On the other, everyone who has to wear a bra will suddenly find their lives turned upside-down.

        5. Natalie*

          I know a lot of people have mentioned caffeine, specifically, which is probably because caffeine addition is fairly harmless and normalized, but I think it’s worth noting that the ban is not about caffeine or coffee, specifically. If they’re following the typical LDS rules than it’s a ban on all hot beverages no matter what they are. That seems strangely intrusive to me (and as someone who drinks decaf in the afternoon because it’s hot and my office is freezing, it would be intolerable to me personally).

          1. fposte*

            Does anybody know if that would include hot water with nothing in it at all? I’m just curious–I drink that sometimes, but maybe water doesn’t count as a beverage.

            1. not really a lurker anymore*

              I was wondering about broth. Which is similar to your water question.

              I’m a tea drinker myself. I love the way coffee smells, hate the way it tastes.

              1. fposte*

                Thanks. Don’t know why I’m so intent on figuring out what I could do at this place I’ll never work.

            2. SpEd Teacher in Utah*

              Hi, devout LDS here. The ban is specifically on coffee and tea (brewed from tea leaves) – that’s it. Some people take it more seriously than others and say “everything hot” or “everything caffeinated.” Other people are more lax and are ok with green tea or iced tea/coffee.
              As for me, I enjoy a nice cup of hot chocolate on a cold day and hot water with honey and lemon for a sore throat. I also am a big fan of diet dr. pepper. :) There are some places owned by the church that are strict on their rules, but I am a card-carrying member and I’ve never gotten kicked out for drinking hot water with honey and lemon or caffeinated sodas.

        6. Ellie H*

          I don’t really find it unnerving or strange to feel so strongly about coffee-drinking in general, but I do think it seems extreme that people are talking about changing jobs rather than finding a way to work around it like by getting up early, and that being able to drink coffee *at the office* is so crucial.

          I do tend to have a pet peeve with the idea that coffee dependence is something to be alarmed by – I’m generally pretty into the typical super crunchy health food stuff so I encounter that perspective maybe more than the average person. Coffee is not bad for you at all unless you are very extreme with it (like drinking four pots a day), which most people don’t. Yes you develop a dependency on it but there is absolutely nothing inherently unhealthy about it – I find the knee jerk assumption that we should be suspicious of anything habit-forming to be a little bit of an overreaction. The dependence on like 2-3 cups a day like the average person (me included) isn’t really a huge problem. I find that enough of the world drinks coffee that it’s not too difficult to get it when you need it. But you can encounter problems when your significant other has different coffee practices . . .

          I would have to think pretty seriously if my job somehow, for some reason, required me to never, ever drink coffee or any caffeinated beverage. But if I just couldn’t drink coffee at work, I would simply get up earlier in order to drink it beforehand – annoying but not too challenging.

          1. fposte*

            I think I’m where you are, Ellie–I’m not alarmed by regular coffee drinking (and I personally love the scent) and I don’t consider it a problematic addiction, but I also don’t think it’s inhumane not to allow it in an office.

          2. paul*

            I think it’s more how intrusive and weird it is; assuming there’s not a safety reason for it, why on earth are they banning coffee and non herbal tea at work? And what comes next? If it *is* for religious reasons, what other parts of their religion are they going to try to mandate at the office?

            1. Renee*

              Yeah, this is where I am with it too. I really like coffee, but it’s not about that. It’s about the employer being really petty about a small thing due to religion and about being dictated to about something completely unrelated to the work I do. I’m on a fat restricted diet, so I don’t even eat butter, but I’d still side eye a business that told me I couldn’t have butter on the food I take to work. I get that it appears to be legal, but it’s still obnoxious (and truth be told, I’m not entirely sure it is legal, if the motivation and effect is to weed out anyone not of the preferred religious belief — my experience is also that LDS don’t usually care if non-LDS consume hot beverages so the motivation is really suspect to me).

          3. Ask a Manager* Post author

            My take is more that “I truly need to consume Optional Product X in order to be able to function during the day” would be alarming to me, no matter what X is.

            1. fposte*

              I’ve had that mindset but for me it’s now more complicated than that; probably garnering a decent daily medication list had something to do with that change :-/. I actually think we’re a little disproportionately substance-focused in the culture right now, in that we’re not likely to bat an eye at somebody who needs to take a shower in the morning or a walk over the lunch break to feel functional. Or if we’re going with substances, a sugary or carby pick-me-up is a pretty common thing that only the orthorexic deplore, and that too raises a physiological expectation and not just a habit. We’ve got all kinds of brain receptors and we do lots of things to tweak our relationship with them, so I’m not sure I can condemn caffeine just because it does that.

              I do think coffee people get more dog-with-a-bone about coffee than I can truly support–if it’s not that big a deal to have it, it’s not that big a deal not to have it–and it gets a cultural protection that I find a little weird. But I’ve had caffeine-dependent periods in my life and my issue with it was the side effects, not the concept.

              1. Marty Gentillon*

                One other thought here, a lot of this “I can’t function without coffee” is probably related to, “I am not a morning person.” When you aren’t a morning person, but have to work in the mornings, you typically build a series of rituals to compensate. It is never good to expose anyone to your bad morning mood unmediated.

        7. BananaPants*

          I have a one-to-two-cup-a-day habit, but if my (hypothetically) Mormon-owned employer banned coffee, I’d just have my coffee at home or during my commute rather than at work. Not something worth quitting over, but a sign to me that I should start job searching. It’s not very welcoming to people outside that faith community to ban coffee and tea, so that would be a sign that I wasn’t welcome to them as an employee.

        8. TG*

          Caffeine definitely can affect a person’s mood if they’re sensitive to it. I don’t get caffeine withdrawal headaches like my daughter does, but I can be very grouchy.

        9. Renee*

          Eh, my muscle relaxant that I take every morning is arguably “optional.” My chronic pain isn’t harmful, nor does not treating it affect me in any way health wise. I am both dependent and addicted to the medication (I’d have to taper off or deal with physical withdrawal symptoms). It simply makes me more functional and more effective at my job. I could function without it, but not as well.

          Based on our artificial sleep/wake cycles and the type of work most of us do, I’d argue that caffeine dependence is not all that different. There’s also some ritual and pleasure involved in drinking coffee that I don’t get out of taking my pill every morning. I think you’re applying an unfair characterization to dependence on coffee. It’s harmless and it helps people function and focus on work. Telling people they can’t have it just because you don’t is petty. It’s not surprising to me that there’s a strong reaction to being told you can’t have it at work and I find it neither cavalier nor unnerving.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I certainly hope I didn’t come across as telling people they can’t have it because I don’t. I don’t think that (!).

            I haven’t opined on whether the rule is reasonable or not, actually — just commented on its legality.

            1. Violet Fox*

              Honestly it did come off a bit that way, and a bit cavalier to how important both coffee and the ritual of hot drinks in general are to a lot of people. The whole addiction talk and all of that…

              1. Isabel C.*

                Yep. Certainly a little in the “More Organic Than Thou” range, which bugged me, and I am not a coffee person.

          2. Renee*

            I was referring to the employer as to the petty reference. But the discussion of being cavalier about coffee dependence came across as weirdly judgmental.

      2. Emma*

        Same. I mean, I do have an extreme dependence on my soda, and I did end up leaving a job that banned sodas (not entirely because of that, but it didn’t help), but it never once occurred to me that it was unfair of the owners, let alone bullying or (by itself) discrimination.

      3. LBK*

        As a coffee devotee ever since my first sip of Starbucks at the age of 12, I have to agree. I’d probably just start getting up a little earlier so I could drink it at home before work – that seems way less stressful than going through the miserable process of finding a new job.

      4. Hrovitnir*

        For me, I have a violent reaction to the idea of a religious group enforcing their beliefs onto people under their power, regardless of the rule or legality. I am entirely not-OK with a situation where religious organisations can own businesses – and note, most of the businesses – and enforce their belief system on their employees. It’s the principal of the matter and it’s no small thing when you have little to no alternatives.

        If you worked for a church, fine, but otherwise it’s just a small demonstration of a kind of power I do not want any religious group to have. (Where it will directly affect people like having non-kosher food touch an area where kosher food is prepared you can work something out, but people drinking coffee around you doesn’t taint you with coffee or anything.)

        1. Emma*

          So, I want to work on Christmas. It’s not a holiday for me. Should I be able to force my workplace to stay open?

          1. Boo*

            I don’t think that’s the same thing though, since opening at Xmas directly impacts the business – it will cost them money for very little return, so it makes financial sense to shut the office. Someone drinking coffee they’ve prepared in their own home using their own cutlery/supplies/thermos etc does not impact the business or the employees who do not drink coffee as part of their faith.

      5. Isabel C.*

        I don’t drink it either–but a job that restricts what I can eat or drink, when it doesn’t have any effect on the job (I can understand not wanting beverages around delicate equipment, for example), or any provable direct effect on my co-workers, is obnoxious and not okay. I’d feel the same way about banning sugary drinks/animal products/etc.

    7. Callie*

      When I taught public school, we had a superintendent once who briefly tried to say that teachers could only have water in their classrooms. No soda, no coffee, etc, because we were supposed to be setting a good example for the students. One of the assistant superintendents said, “Great! So, all of us at the district office will be adhering to this rule as well, correct?” and several other admins chimed in in agreement (not really agreement, more like sarcastic agreement) that all the district office staff and administration should follow the rule too, to be fair. The initiative went away without so much as a whisper after that. :)

  5. Bee Eye LL*

    #5 The same things happens when you take lunch at your desk. If you are there then you are “available” whether you are or not.

    1. Alienor*

      +1 Especially in an open office. When I still had a cubicle I could eat at my desk relatively unmolested, but after we went to an open plan, it became impossible. It’s like picking up a fork activates a magnet that draws people over to ask questions.

      1. Cece*

        I briefly worked at a small disfunctional company where eating at your desk meant you were “on lunch” and not to be disturbed (despite there being ample space on site to eat elsewhere). I got snapped at in my first few days because I hadn’t learned that having a salad in front you, while still carrying on obviously working, meant that you shouldn’t be disturbed, which I learned meant only sometimes, depending on the person. I’d eat my lunch away from my desk because I feel strongly about boundaries and not over-working. I was not a good fit for that organisation.

      2. Bee Eye LL*

        I eat at my desk about once a week, usually just because I don’t want to go out and our breakroom is always full or busy. I have to deal with people standing over me asking “what you eating” every single time. Some folks are just weird. I’m kind of used to it now. I do sometimes eat wild game meats and that’s fun to explain.

        “What you eating?”
        “Grilled venison.”
        “Where’d you get that?”
        “I shot a deer this weekend.”

        1. Stone Satellite*

          Can I suggest “snuck up behind a deer and strangled it with my bare hands” for dramatic embellishment?

    2. jesicka309*

      Ack I meant to reply to this downthread. I have similar issues with lunch, but I use it to my advantage. I get caught up doing work stuff during ‘lunch’ often, but I’ll also take time to do my own thing (eg. read the news while I drink my coffee in the morning) when I have down time. Sometimes flexible ‘working lunch’ swing the flexibility your way too.

  6. Onnellinen*

    #5 – if this is the reality of your current boss, is there more you can do to get yourself ready before you leave the night before? I also like to take a few minutes to get settled and make my to-do list for the day, but when things are crazy busy or I have a meeting all morning, sometimes I’ll make my to-do list at the end of the previous day instead – I still have a clear idea of what I need to get done, and I can jump right into it if needed!

    One tweak I would suggest to Alison’s suggested language is to say “I’ll come see you at 9, when I’m ready to go” – to make it sound like it’s really to their benefit that you are getting settled before getting started, rather than watching the clock really closely. Of course, that might vary with the culture of your office.

    1. Green*

      Yeah, I don’t think you can get 15-20 minutes of reorganization time out of it, but you can certainly say, “Oh! Do you mind giving me a moment to take off my coat and put away my lunch, so I can grab my notepad and focus on what you’re saying?” “Oh, do you mind if I take a moment to set my things down and run to the restroom? I’m just coming, but will stop by your office shortly.”

      1. bohtie*

        This was going to be my response. “Hold that thought, I’ll come over and talk to you about it as soon as I’ve set my stuff down” (my boss and I have a pretty casual relationship so most people would probably word it more formally than than but the sentiment is basically the same)

  7. MillersSpring*

    Could you try saying, “Hold on while I get situated”? I think I’d be headed to the restroom each morning.

  8. Talvi*

    #5 – This is exactly the reason why, in one of my previous jobs, I did not come in until exactly at 8. I would wait outside the building until 7:57 or 7:58, and then enter (it only took me about 30 seconds to drop off my bag and be right off doing my morning rounds). My boss and I worked out of the same room, so it’s not like I could retreat to my office until 8, but I am very much Not A Morning Person and could not handle 15 minutes of chatter before I was actually supposed to start work.

    1. jesicka309*

      Ugh I hate this too! My house burned down in June, and my work has been very understanding & encouraging about letting me use printers/internet to get insurance and our rental sorted. Without them I’d be screwed, and I’ve done my best to limit my ‘personal dealing with life crisis crap’ to outside work hours however…
      If I stay back half an hour to print some insurance forms & fill them out, everyone treats it like I’m still working & available to talk shop, when really I’m trying to get what I need & haul ass out of there! Or if I come in early to do it, all the earlybirds assume I’m open for business & available to ask questions! It’s almost easier to do it during work hours as everyone is too distracted by their own work to bother me, as icky as it feels.

      And too right about the lunch thing. I like to read AAM & the news while I’m eating, which makes it looks like I’m working through lunch, so I do get distracted & asked questions. However, I do also use this to my advantage – I’m happy to stop eating & deal with work stuff, but I’m also happy to read the news when I have down time. Swings both ways!

      1. Bad Candidate*

        My dad’s house burned down a few years ago. It sucks. I’m sorry you’re dealing with that.

    2. Charlie*

      I can understand needing a few minutes to transition and check your email, but is it not generally expected that once someone’s in their office, it’s work time? Morning person or not, I don’t think it’s particularly appropriate to expect 15 minutes for yourself when you arrive at work.

      1. Talvi*

        I meant before work. I don’t see a problem expecting to get those 15 minutes to myself if work doesn’t start until 8:00 and I arrive at 7:45 (especially considering I was hourly). I should not be expected to be ready to go before 8 if work does not start until 8.

  9. CATS*

    Wow, the coffee thing and response really surprises me! Can I start making people wear colanders on their head in my office building because it is owned by people who worship the flying spaghetti monster? Is there a line here, especially if the business isn’t explicitly mormon/seventh day adventist?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You can require employees to do anything that isn’t explicitly illegal to require, as long as you make exceptions where needed for medical/religious accommodations. If you said that the colanders were a religious observance, presumably people could then respond that engaging in your religious ritual was a violation of their own religious ritual (similar to how I, a Jew, would not take communion, for example) and you’d need to exempt them as a religious accommodation.

      But in the OP’s case, people are being asked to abstain from a food item on company premises, not participate in someone else’s religious ritual. As long as no one requires coffee for religious or medical reasons, the company can indeed require this.

      1. Gadfly*

        Even when it is combined with other similar things intended to force out non-members of the management’s faith? Doesn’t it at some point become a matter of hostile work environment against those not of that religion?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I suppose at some point in some particular set of circumstances it could, but you’d need to look at the specific facts of the individual case.

        2. NW Mossy*

          It’s not at all uncommon for a hostile work environment (in the legal rather than colloquial sense) to arise out of multiple factors coming into play at once. It wouldn’t surprise me to find that it’s actually more common than a situation where a hostile environment is created by a single act.

        3. smthing*

          As Alison said, it would really depend on the other things. It becomes discriminatory if the requirements are unrelated to the job duties AND it has the effect of excluding a protected class. In this case, the coffee ban does not have the effect of preventing non-Mormons from being hired or working there. Making the job less desirable to non-Mormons is not the same as work requirement that effectively bans non-Mormons.

          1. DragoCucina*

            Yes. Those of us who don’t care for coffee or hot beverages in general could work there with no conflict with the ban. If I needed an iced tea I could wait for lunch.

        1. fposte*

          Smoking is protective against ulcerative colitis, too. You really can’t pull out a narrow small benefit as a reason why a ban isn’t acceptable.

      2. AmberRachel*

        Then it’s simple. The LW needs to state she requires coffee for religious reasons. She belongs to the Church of Flying Spaghetti Monster, and as such, they are required to drink at least one cup of coffee in accordance with their faith.

        1. Lucy Looks*

          Thankfully for my coffee-hating self, the FSM makes no such demand. I checked the Gospel just now!

      3. Michaela*

        Thirty-second hypothetical: if I use tea as part of my management protocol for a mental illness (seriously, the ritual of steeping tea is part of how I stave off minor anxiety attacks), or am trying to deal with a sore throat and slurping lemon-and-honey tea, would this employer have to permit that as an exception?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Speaking just in terms of what the law requires: If you the mental illness is covered as a disability under the ADA, they would have to enter an interactive process with you to find an accommodation. It wouldn’t necessarily need to be the accommodation you proposed though.

          The sore throat would not be covered under the ADA.

          1. smthing*

            A temporary sore throat could also be reasonably accommodated by having you stay home until tea is no longer required.

    2. Emma*

      There’s a difference between asking people to not do something, and asking people to actively participate in something. There’s a big difference between asking everyone to not drink alcohol on the premises, say, or not bring Ouija boards onto the property, even if my reasons are religious, and forcing everyone to drink Communion wine or hold a seance. I’d be crossing the line if I insisted you must always abstain, even in your personal life, but not if I just insisted you had to leave that stuff at home while at work.

      And, of course, if it really is a dealbreaker for you to not have your stuff, your boss doesn’t own you. And for what it’s worth, there are a lot of places I’ll never work because some of their restrictions would be dealbreakers for me, but I don’t think they’re wrong for having their restrictions. (I may think their restrictions are themselves silly or even wrong, but that’s different than whether I think they have the right to them.)

      That said, if you’re a Pastafarian church, I’m pretty sure you’re allowed to require your workers to adhere to your religious garb requirements.

      On the “how explicit does it have to be?” question – I’ve always sort of wondered that about some Christian businesses, actually. (Specifying Christian only because those are the ones I encounter in my area.) At what point do religious discrimination laws kick in? Churches are the obvious exception, but, like, there’s a restaurant chain near my house that’s as explicitly Christian as you can get without actually sticking Jesus posters on the walls – but other than playing Christian music and having Bible quotes on the menus, they don’t tell you they’re Christian. It’s not on their website or in any ads or signage. I’m guessing they can’t discriminate on the basis of religion with their employees, since they’re a restaurant and not a religious institution, but I am not actually sure.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Employers are only allowed to discriminate on the basis of religion if their “purpose and character are primarily religious.” So a church, yes, but a restaurant, no.

      2. Marisol*

        I do not think there is a difference between asking someone to *do* something for religious reasons, and asking someone to *refrain from doing* something for religious reasons. In either case, adherence to a religious tenet is the motivation. It is a distinction without a difference.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I think there is a difference, because if you ask them to do something they don’t ever do, then… they’re doing something they don’t ever do. If you ask them to refrain from doing something during business hours, and/or while inside the building they’re paying for, they’re not forcing you to stop EVER doing the thing. They’re just saying “not here, not now.” So unless the thing is something you’d otherwise do 24/7, they’re not imposing an equivalent disruption.

          I’m not sure I’m making myself clear.

          If you never do X, and I say “you must do X if you want to work here,” then you are no longer a person who never does X.

          If you occasionally do X, and I say “you cannot do X in the office,” then you are still a person who does X. You just don’t do it during this particular part of the day.

          (Now, if forbidding you from doing X in the office is a way to make sure they only hire non-Xers, it could still be pretty sleazy.)

          1. fposte*

            It’s hard for me to think of an example that isn’t health related, but I know what you mean and I had the same thought. People aren’t hooked up to 24/7 coffee pumps–it’s a thing they do for a few minutes a day. The workplace is just saying those few minutes have to be on your time and place.

            1. Marisol*

              Most people who drink coffee at work do so every morning that they are in the office, and frequently in the afternoons as well, and they usually drink it slowly over a longer span of time than a few minutes, so I think you’re underestimating the impact of this ban…but in any case I don’t think the frequency is relevant, or at the very least, it is not what offends me. What bothers me is that in the mind of the religious adherent, abstaining from coffee is a way to participate in their faith. Thus, extending that abstinence to others is extending a religious practice to others. And this feels like a gross boundary violation to me. I’m not saying it’s not a legal thing to do. I’m just saying it’s rotten.

                1. Marisol*

                  Good point. It is exactly the same thing. What makes one objectionable and the other ok is the degree to which it aligns with the values and expectations of society at large.

                  Most Americans celebrate Christmas, whether they are Christians or not (here’s a Pew study confirming that: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/12/21/5-facts-about-christmas-in-america/) and for this reason, it is not unreasonable to expect that day off from work. (Note that I am not specifically advocating celebrating that holiday; I am not a Christian; I don’t care how people worship.)

                  Similarly, most people do not object to the consumption of hot beverages and/or caffeine in the workplace. In fact, I would hazard a guess that even more people are ok with the practice of tolerating others’ consumption of hot caffeinated beverages than celebrate Christmas, although I doubt there are any studies on the subject.

                  A workplace coffee ban is just so far outside the norm that I don’t think it’s reasonable. Are there non-Christians who object to having the Christmas holiday off? If so, then then this would elicit further debate, but…I dunno, it’s one day off, versus one’s entire work tenure not able to enjoy something most people think is normal…I’d have to think a bit harder to tease out the particulars and I’ve got to start the drive home now…but yes, I agree with your logic. I guess for me it boils down to pragmatism.

                2. Marisol*

                  Good point. It is exactly the same thing. What makes one objectionable and the other ok is the degree to which it aligns with the values and expectations of society at large.

                  Most Americans celebrate Christmas, whether they are Christians or not (there’s a Pew study confirming that but I can’t get my response though with the link, so google if interested) and for this reason, it is not unreasonable to expect that day off from work. (Note that I am not specifically advocating celebrating that holiday; I am not a Christian; I don’t care how people worship.)

                  Similarly, most people do not object to the consumption of hot beverages and/or caffeine in the workplace. In fact, I would hazard a guess that even more people are ok with the practice of tolerating others’ consumption of hot caffeinated beverages than celebrate Christmas, although I doubt there are any studies on the subject.

                  A workplace coffee ban is just so far outside the norm that I don’t think it’s reasonable. Are there non-Christians who object to having the Christmas holiday off? If so, then then this would elicit further debate, but…I dunno, it’s one day off, versus one’s entire work tenure not able to enjoy something most people think is normal…I’d have to think a bit harder to tease out the particulars and I’ve got to start the drive home now…

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                But removing the ability to slowly enjoy your coffee over the course of the day isn’t a hardship. It’s inconvenient and unpleasant for some, but there are millions of people whose jobs don’t allow this luxury, and somehow they manage to persevere.

                1. Marisol*

                  Oy. I don’t know if it constitutes a “hardship;” I mean it’s definitely a first-world problem so I guess I would agree with you there. I think most places that prohibit coffee drinking at work have a legitimate (i.e., practical) reason for it. I’m thinking, a store cashier that can’t have a drink near the cash register in case it spills, as someone above mentioned. But for an office where drinking coffee at one’s desk has no practical consequence whatsoever? It’s just plain unreasonable. And mean!! Something that has no valid reason should not be implemented. The LDS bosses have no valid reason for imposing their religious practices on others. Therefore, the ban should not be implemented. Yes, I’m begging the question, and no, I don’t think I can articulate my objections much better than that.

            2. Marisol*

              And additionally, it’s a policy the OP did not consent to when she started working there. If this were disclosed from the beginning, it would be different imo.

    3. INTP*

      I think some people are assuming that the Mormons must have a valid religious reason for this ban, like the office with the kosher-for-Passover rule. But in this case Mormons are allowed to be around those beverages, the rule is just to make the workplace unappealing to others.

      1. Emma*

        Eh, that’s not it for me. I do think that sometimes people are more strict about some observances than their doctrines explicitly require – same as some people on a health kick don’t want unhealthy food anywhere in their workplace.

        If they use the ban to discriminate, then it’d be a problem for me, but the simple fact of a ban I don’t think rises to that level.

      2. AmberRachel*

        What bothers me is that someone can use religion as an excuse to ban something. I don’t care if the reason is “valid” or not, if you’re using your religion to stop someone from doing something, that is wrong. This country is supposed to have freedom of religion, which also means, I do not have to follow your religion. Where does this stop? Suppose my employer does not allow me to eat lunch because it’s against his religion? Suppose my employer does not allow me to take blood transfusions because it’s against his religion? I was raised a Jehovah’s Witnesses and they do not accept blood transfusions. They would force their kids not to take transfusions, brainwashing them into believing they were doing the right thing. I don’t care what you do with your own body, but when you want to force others to do or not do certain things, that is stepping on other people’s rights.

        1. Mander*

          That’s where I sincerely don’t understand why it is legal for an employer to impose rules on my behavior because it doesn’t comply with their religion, when I am not a member of that faith.

          If I work for a church or a religious organization or something, that I understand. But I honestly don’t get how an organization that does not have a religious purpose can impose religious rules on its employees.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            For the same reason that they can impose dress codes. Because they’re the boss and they make the rules unless the law states otherwise.

          2. Lissa*

            See, this is where I get tripped up, because an office could impose “no coffee” for a non-religious reason and be legally fine, so it makes sense to me the rules don’t change just because a religion is involved, especially since it doesn’t seem to be explicit.

            However, I would personally be way more uncomfortable with a place that did it because of religion, because I then see more rules starting to creep in and it’s not an environment I’d feel good about, so it would matter to me personally. But, I can see why it would not matter legally…

        2. Emilia Bedelia*

          But they’re also not forcing people to work there. You might feel that they shouldn’t do those things, but as it stands they have a legal right to set rules for their property.

          Regarding blood transfusions and lunch, there may be some OSHA requirements about allowing employees to receive medical care and allowing them time to eat (there may be other laws about medical treatment too?). The difference is, at some point, we all decided that not dying in an emergency and eating food at work are things that deserve to be legally protected. When you ask, “where does this stop?”, that’s the answer. You can make a philosophical slippery slope argument, but there are legal boundaries, and the point of these boundaries is to make a distinction between drinking coffee and receiving emergency medical care and put a wall on that slippery slope, so to speak.

        3. SarahTheEntwife*

          It’s much more difficult to restrict employees from doing things when they’re not at work. As long as you’re not receiving blood transfusions *in the office*, a Jehovah’s Witness employer can’t really object to it. They could possibly bar you from talking about it, though, especially if it was an explicitly religious business rather than just a boss who happened to be a JW.

  10. MillersSpring*

    OP3: Try pointing out the time when only a few minutes remain. For example, “We only have 15 minutes left, so I want to make sure we discuss X.” Or, “We only have 10 minutes, so let’s try to find some finalists among these ideas we’ve brainstormed.” Or, “We only have 5 minutes, so I’d like to make sure I know my action items.”

    You also could try one or multiple ending signals: putting down your pen, closing your notebook, closing your laptop, standing up, leaning against the wall or door jamb, stretching, whispering to your neighbor that you need to leave in a couple of minutes, etc.

    You also could suggest at the end of a meeting that they allot more time for the next one. You also could ask meeting organizers both in advance and at the start of meetings whether they have an agenda. Respond to any lack of agenda with “I’ve found they help to keep meetings from running long.”

    Another tactic is to share at some point that you “have a hard stop” at the end time.

    1. OP3*

      Thanks for these suggestions! I think the first one may work well for many of the problem meetings (though there are some where I may just have to let it go, as Alison points out)

      1. Meg Murry*

        I think a combo of the first and last suggestions are probably best. As in, let the meeting organizer know from the beginning that you have to leave at 10:55 because you have another 11:00 meeting, and then do the “only 15 minutes left, let’s make sure we cover X” at the end.

      2. Charlie*

        Eeeeeeengh. If you’re very junior, I don’t think you’ve got the standing to chivvy the meeting along. Unless you’re of roughly coequal status to the meeting organizer, it could come off as taking their ball and running with it, and the optics of someone low on the totem pole doing that could be an issue. It wouldn’t offend me if I were your superior and you did it in a meeting, but I would be a little surprised, and I know people who’d be very taken aback bordering on irritated.

    2. TootsNYC*

      heck, you can say it at the beginning: “I have another meeting right after this, so I want to be sure we get to Issue Important To Me before then.”

      Just start saying things like that lightly, and it might focus people better.

    3. Chinook*

      “Try pointing out the time when only a few minutes remain. For example, “We only have 15 minutes left, so I want to make sure we discuss X.””

      I found this works extremely well. I chair a couple of volunteer meetings where we can get quite chatty (and I am equally guilty.) My secretary read through her national guidelines when she started and learned that, according to Robert’s Rules, if we go over the planned end time, we need a motion to extend the meeting time. The first time we did this, we wrapped up the last items in 5 minutes (when normally those items would have taken 30). It basically lit a fire for us to keep on topic.

      Now, everyone is so cognizant of the time that a) w do our socializing before we start, b) tighten up our agenda items and c) even general members are making comments about the time. By being required to ask for more time, it caused us to need it less.

  11. Gadfly*

    #2, you are in Utah, aren’t you? Now the only question is if you are one of my former coworkers or not (there was talk of this when I left…)

    1. OP #2*

      Yep! And maybe, the corp I work for goes through employees like wild. It’s in the service industry.

        1. OP #2*

          Definitely not. The culture is very much “if you’re not Mormon, you’re not welcome here”. It’s difficult to get a job unless you have Mormon family or friends already working for the corp who can vouch for you. I got lucky.

  12. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I want to ask that people make a particular point of being careful not to bash other people’s religions in the comments on this post, since I’m seeing some stuff that’s making me wary about where this might go. Thank you.

    1. Gadfly*

      Sorry, as this is exactly what I grew up under, being told that my experiences are lies (which I am jumping the gun on, I acknowledge, but I know the steps to this dance) is a problem for me. It is the faith I grew up under, and I hope I am also allowed to state that how it was practiced around me was harmful. And that is as true as anyone finding beauty in it.

      I was forced out of jobs by similar methods. I wittnessed it in practice. It is not something hidden. At least if this is part of the local culture if this is Utah or close to it. It is made very clear that if you are not a member of the Church you will hit a ceiling you cannot pass. Not without finding a business owned by a non member. And even then there is management. And the difficulties of a non LDS company, because if your competitors can mention their Temple Recommends you will lose bids. I could tell so many stories…

        1. Stellaaaaa*

          I think experiential stuff like, “I’ve been there and the coffee ban always leads to X, Y, and Z so start looking for something new before you’re fired for breaking the gradually more oppressive rules that are sure to follow” is incredibly helpful to the OP. If you spotted a red flag in a letter, wouldn’t you bring it up? Sometimes it’s beneficial to move an answer slightly beyond the specific question that is being asked.

          There’s also a lot to be said for being an “outsider” who’s employed by a community that is usually very insular. I work in the Hasidic community and while my particular employer never laid any religious rules on me, I’m aware that I can’t make my career there or even stay there beyond 3 or 4 years. It’s not the easiest thing to move on from a small business that has strong religious affiliations, and if you have your eye on a job at a “mainstream” company, it’s not helpful to have stuck around so long with a community that has a history of iffy business and government dealings in some regions. It’s not much different from how an interviewer might vote “no” on a candidate who spent 10 years at a company that had a bad reputation for any other reason. At some point, people will wonder why you had no problem working for an employer that treated people badly or didn’t pay taxes or any other thing along those lines.

          It’s not about passing judgment on those communities or even verifying all of the negative stuff, but it’s also not the obligation of current/former employees to protect other religions from public misconceptions at the expense of our own livelihoods.

          1. MK*

            I would say that an interviewer who rejected a candidate for working for a company with a bad reputation is being a particularly idiotic jerk, unless we are talking about having moral qualms about the stated mission of the company or a candidate who was herself involved in wrongdoing or colluded in it. Most people need their jobs to survive and cannot afford to quit in a moral huff. Also, most employees can have no way of knowing if the company pays its taxes or not.

            1. TootsNYC*

              well, I can imagine thinking that a long-term employee there must have approved of crummy business practices. Or been led to think those practices are acceptable or “best practices” when they aren’t.

              or just to have not gotten much experience in negotiating or closing a sale the way other people do it, without the advantages of Religion Recommends ratings, etc.

            2. Stellaaaaa*

              The common practices of inclusive religious communities tend to be common knowledge in the given locale. Where I’m from, Hasidic Jews are known for pulling the Duggar “Our house is a tax-exempt religious center!” trick, as well as failing to have their marriages legalized outside of the faith; the husbands work to support the households and the women receive welfare as single mothers of many (often 10+) children. They buy up all of the homes in a neighborhood and then don’t pay taxes. This is becoming a huge, huge problem because a lot of these towns were not financially solvent to begin with. I’m not making it up or exaggerating it…it’s all over the news in my state and legislators are finally trying to manage it. So when I tell people that I work for a Hasidic-owned business, they immediately think of how they know someone who was pushed out of her neighborhood by this community, or how the struggling public school system isn’t getting the tax funding it needs even though there’s a glut of high (cash) income homeowners in the area. They shouldn’t judge me for it, but they do, and I can understand how they’d think that I’m cool with what the community is doing.

          2. fposte*

            I think “When I was there, the coffee ban led to other things” is significantly different from “The coffee ban always….” You don’t know what the coffee ban always does, so saying that is getting into a troubling and unreliable area.

            1. Stellaaaaa*

              Alison’s original comment here went up early in the morning when Gadfly was the only person who had left anti-LDS comments at that time. I think that when someone specifically says, “yeah it’s weird, but in the world of LDS, company efforts to push out non-LDS people always start with a ban on coffee.” Gadfly was speaking about the specific norms of the religion she/he used to practice, as well as prior employment experience that justifies those logical ends. Gadfly was not talking about all coffee bans in all workplaces. This is about the LDS manner of seemingly always starting the weeding process by banning coffee, and that is incredibly useful information for OP2 to have.

                1. Stellaaaaa*

                  I don’t agree. Gadfly does not agree. The person who wrote to Alison does not agree. We’re talking about people who are following a prescribed and church-driven path toward pushing non-LDS folk out of workplaces that are within the purview of the church in question.

        2. INTP*

          I disagree, I think it’s very helpful to the OP in this case. We share our expertise in regional, cultural, industry-based, etc. norms all the time, and it’s not always going to be 100% flattering. I think having someone who has lived and worked within that culture and area confirming “Yes, in the context of a workplace, a ban on certain substances means this and it’s a common practice” is quite helpful.

          The rest of us speculating about what we think it might mean, though, is less helpful. But in Gadfly’s case I think it’s relevant information.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m not telling you your experience are lies. I’m asking people not to bash other people’s religion here. It’s not relevant to the OP’s question and it’s not respectful of other commenters here. It’s not up for debate :)

        If that won’t work for you, I’d ask that you skip this post. Thank you.

        1. Anon for this*

          OK. Since I don’t know what is and isn’t considered bashing, and what I have to say isn’t 100% positive, I’m out for now.

        2. Jerry Blank*

          I wouldn’t say that’s bashing, I’d say it’s relevant contextually. I think those of us who have grown up in strict religious communities are chaffing a little at the idea of having that sort of paternalism extended to our work lives and threatening our livelihoods, and there seems to be an unwillingness to acknowledge that aspect of the question. It doesn’t mean we think the rule isn’t legal or that we’re bashing the LDS church.
          The fact is that the new rule could be an attempt to create a hostel environment, or it might not be. Both sides of the coin should be up for discussion, even if it makes people uncomfortable. Hopefully uses the discussion as an excuse to insult people of faith, because the issue is the specific action of the employer and not their personal beliefs.

      2. Gaia*

        And just to counter this, my SO was raised as non LDS in Utah (SLC and small towns) and experienced non of this. In fact, SO found success in business there and only eventually left to pursue other interests that were not possible in Utah.

        While I’ve heard many stories like yours, I’ve also heard many like my SO. I don’t think your experience is as universal as you are painting it.

        1. GreatLakesGal*

          I agree, Gaia. I have a relative who moved to Utah complete with ubiquitous travel mug of coffee, piercings, tattoos, neon hair and tank tops; the antithesis of the stereotypical sweet Mormon girl.

          She never had problems getting or keeping a service industry job.

          I’m sure her experience is not universal; but the “all” and “every” language isn’t helpful.

    2. Onymouse*

      I’m not a participant in this thread, and I’m late anyways, but I do wonder – a little while back, it seemed that every couple of days, there was a letter which incites a chorus of people recommending that LW read the Gift of Fear and listen to their instincts, even when the original letter don’t have enough detail to make such a judgment. What’s so different between that and what people are saying now (that coffee bans can be a slippery slope, etc) ?

  13. Greg M.*

    ugh, I hate crap like the coffee ban. if it isn’t disruptive or harmful to others then you should mind your own business for what people consume.

    You will pry my diet pepsi from my cold dead hands.

  14. NW Cat Lady*

    #5 – If you are non-exempt, your boss needs to pay you for the extra time. You could try inserting that into the conversation: “….I’ll come see you once it’s 9 and I’m officially working. If you need me to start now, I’ll need to clock in/put it on my timesheet.”

  15. Have You Tried Turning It Off and On?*

    #1 – a degree in IT doesn’t necessarily mean anything either. I know people with no real qualifications that know a tonne of applicable knowledge learned through experience and self-teaching (that I actually defer to on a regular basis when I’m stumped), and I know people with IT degrees that don’t have the first clue of actual real-world maintenance and logistics.

    I know someone with a slightly higher qualification than me (currently not employed in the IT industry) who talks a lot and says very few things that are actually correct.

    If you vouch for Mary, and John’s work ethic (or IT skill) really isn’t up to scratch hopefully the people interviewing will see that (and hopefully one of those people is the IT Manager).

    1. Have You Tried Turning It Off and On?*

      Also in addition to my comment, I should point out the “unqualified” people I’m thinking of have successfully been involved with high-level IT in medium-large organisations for several years.

    2. Violet Fox*

      If a “degree in IT” is required (not even sure what that means, informatics? computer science? something else?) then neither myself nor the rest of the sysadmin staff I work with is qualified for our jobs, even though we all do a good job. Then again I am the new guy there and I hit a decade at my current workplace in August.

      1. OP#1*

        I don’t believe any specific degree is required for the position, just that both John and Mary have degrees in that area and both think that those degrees should have some baring on them getting the job. The main reason I brought up the degrees is because it is relevant that John faked his way through his.

          1. OP#1*

            I am not really sure what exactly the degrees are-perhaps info security or computer science or something-I don’t really know what degree names are associated with “computer things” and I definitely don’t know what degrees they each have-just that they both separately mentioned to me that they have such degrees and it should help them with the position.

            1. Violet Fox*

              What they actually have and what these things mean in practice might also help you evaluate the two candidates better. It could even be that the candidate you don’t want has something that is really very non-relevant to the job, or and ITT-tech type of certificate and the other has something closer to a computer science degree. Might be able to give you an out to say “Well I think Mary is better qualified because she studied this and has this sort of experience, etc” while not having to address the cheating with the other at all.

  16. Milton Waddams*

    1: A very reliable way to side-step this issue is to clearly identify necessary IT skills, and then to test for them. A well-designed technical skills test will catch the fast talkers. (I think people worry about these tests because they also tend to catch Peter Principled managers.)

    Usually the big problem is that nobody in hiring wants to admit that they don’t understand enough about how IT works to form meaningful tests, which makes it easy for management faddism to sneak in, as suddenly everyone decides that they need an “Internet of Things Samurai to Manage Our Agile Blockchain” rather than risk trying to hire someone with specific skills to perform a specific task when they don’t know the task and don’t understand the skills.

    Fortunately, if senior management has made the effort to keep the environment a safe place for people to admit the gaps in their own knowledge, those CYA tactics can be easily discouraged.

    2: This might be a good thing in disguise — a lot of folks don’t realize they’ve started to move beyond enjoyment and into dependence until they are forced into an environment where they can’t drink it, and find how dependent they are on it to “feel normal”.

      1. Isabel C.*

        Thiiiis. If I want a chaplain, I’ll go to church; if I want a life coach, I’ll hire one. I am just fine with my bad habits, thank you very much, and a lot less fine with passive-aggressive preaching from whatever source.

    1. Violet Fox*

      It is not an employers job to police a legally available thing, and something that so many work places provide as a normal office perk.

      Really it is not an employers job to police caffeine consumption.

    2. Elfie*

      “Internet of Things Samurai to Manage Our Agile Blockchain” – I lol’ed. I’m now picturing our next job advert!

      1. Susan C.*

        Now I’m wondering if Alison would consider a post on reverse-enigneered job ad mad-libs – maybe over the holidays?

    3. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed*

      “This might be a good thing in disguise — a lot of folks don’t realize they’ve started to move beyond enjoyment and into dependence until they are forced into an environment where they can’t drink it, and find how dependent they are on it to “feel normal”.”

      NOooooooo. That’s not my management’s job. I’m dependent on caffeine and I am 100% ok with that.

      1. N.J.*

        I completely agree with you, I would personally nope the heck out of an employer that and caffeine or coffee. The thing is though, many comments here are very surprised about this ban. Religious motivation or not, employers have been imposing what feel like arbitrary lifestyle and work-related norms on us as workers for awhile now. The ban on smoking at many businesses (though mitigated by the very real need to protect bystanders from second-hand smoke), dress code requirements, the restrictions related to gum chewing, use of personal electronic devices at work etc. are all bans that I have seen at employers and are all based on the personal beliefs of the company ownership or on perceived business needs and are all restrictive or over-stepping if viewed from certain perspectives. Doesn’t mean those bans are right or that this coffee ban is right, it just means we all need to know that we can’t assume any particular rights (unless protected by law). Employers have a lot more leeway than we realize to ban items, some for valid reasons some for reasons decidedly less so.

    4. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      Holy crap, no. I kicked a fairly severe caffeine habit, and it was miserable. The only reason I was able to do it was because I wanted to. At no point was anyone else involved and even if they had been, they wouldn’t have been able to help. Blindly abolishing something from the workplace is not going to make anyone realize “Aha! I have seen the light and the error of my ways!” It is only going to cause them to find a way to get their fix elsewhere. Change comes from within.

      1. Allison*


        If anything, if my company tries to impose a lifestyle change on me, it makes me less likely to want to do it, not more. I’m a relatively healthy person, and I try to make healthy choices whenever possible, but when people I work with are like “okay everyone, we’re ALL gonna eat salads and hit the gym every day! Yogurt! Smoothies! Kaaaaaaale!” it makes me want to eat mac & cheese with one hand and flip them the bird with the other. I am an adult, and I go to work to do a job, it’s not my employer’s place (or my coworkers’ place) to manage my diet, exercise, or caffeine habits.

        1. Susan C.*

          I keep wondering about this kale thing . I love kale. Always have – I like to make it the way my Grandma used to, which involves boiling it with copious amounts of potatoes, lard, and salt/broth. Not sure how the diet crowd ever got behind that. /snark

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I won’t eat it because back in the dinosaur days when I was in music school, I worked summers in Golden Corral, when it was just a steakhouse and long before it was a buffet. We did have a salad bar. On said salad bar, we would put pieces of curly kale in between the crocks to hide the stainless steel and make it look pretty.

            We used the same kale over and over (rinsed it each night) until it got really gross and nasty, and then it went in the bin. Whenever people say the word kale now, I think of that and it totally puts me off. Urk! :P

            1. SusanIvanova*

              Oh, me too! Except it was a Bonanza steakhouse. I was so glad to be opening prep instead of closing – they washed it, I just set it out. And at least we threw it out before it got nasty. I saw someone add it to their salad once and that was just gross – even if we hadn’t been reusing it, it wasn’t the sort you can buy now, it was extra-thick and tough.

          1. Allison*

            I hate a spoonful of quinoa, the texture is weird, but a little dark quinoa mixed into brown rice is a great way to add protein to a healthy meal and it’s a staple in my work lunches. But have fun making me eat kale. No thank you.

          2. SusanIvanova*

            Quinoa only grows in specific places that can’t grow much of anything else, and the high demand is making it so that people who live there aren’t able to afford their own staple crop. So until they grow it in Denver or whatever suitable US climate they can find, I’ll pass.

      2. Yetanotherjennifer*

        Yes! I went from 32 + oz of Dr Pepper a day to zero and no other sources of caffeine and it was horrible. Headaches, grumpiness and fatigue. I feel the better for it, but it was my choice all the way.

        1. Jayn*

          DH tried to do that with his Coke habit but unfortunately he doesn’t get headaches–he gets migraines. He did swap to drinking tea at work though, so this sort of ban would wind up undoing that change.

    5. Maxwell Edison*

      #2: Ugh, this reminds me of when I was pregnant; I whittled my coffee consumption down to one cup a day (my rationale being that without it I would be very unhappy, and happy mom = happy baby). Whenever I waddled into the break room to get my one cup, one of my coworkers would give me the nastiest judging-you look, even though it was none of her business how much coffee I drank.

      1. BananaPants*

        When I was pregnant with our first, I immediately cut my one-cup-a-day coffee habit cold turkey. I had a miserable week of headaches (which I suffered through rather than taking Tylenol). Then the nausea started and I was afraid to start drinking it again, even when I really could have used a little pick-me-up. My doctor told me there was no reason to stop drinking 1-2 cups a day but it still freaked me out.

        The second time around at my first prenatal appointment my OBGYN was like, “You weren’t crazy enough to quit coffee again, right?” Hell no, I was exhausted, working full time, and chasing a 2 year old and needed my precious coffee to function well.

    6. a different Vicki*

      Would you want me to get an explicit prescription from my doctor for the caffeinated tea that I use as part of my healthcare regimen, even though tea isn’t a prescription drug and my health insurance won’t pay for it even if my doctor tells them it’s needed?

      For that matter, maybe a bunch of your coworkers are physiologically dependent on caffeine but could function as well without it, if and when they stopped using it long enough. That doesn’t make it your, or your employer’s, business to force them to quit, especially since no employer wants half the staff calling in sick at the same time because of withdrawal headaches.

    7. OP #2*

      I know I’m dependent on coffee. I don’t care. I don’t see dependence as inherently evil. I’m dependent on my anti-depression medication. Coffee doesn’t negatively impact me or my work, neither do my meds. It helps me focus better at work. The pros far outweigh the cons.

  17. Cat steals keyboard*

    #1 has confused me because even if he did do the intranet work himself, designing an intranet doesn’t give someone relevant experience for IT security…

      1. OP#1*

        You are correct-thankfully. I had moment of being scarred that because John is well liked and a good talker, that he would get the job but that is definitely not happening.

        1. AW*

          Oh good! I was hoping that it would turn out to be a non-issue and not a case where management actually thought that IT skills in one area translates to IT skills in *all* areas.

  18. Cat steals keyboard*

    #3 Stop waiting for those senior people. They aren’t late because they expect you to wait (I hope). They’re probably late because the meeting can get started without them.

    Have someone be in charge of agendas and keep a slot for any other business for those ‘while we are all here’ moments.

    1. slick ric flair*

      I’ve seen it a lot where the senior person comes in and restarts the meeting, or you have to wait because that will happen anyways. If you’re junior or that’s the culture, it would be very difficult to push back.

      I once worked for an organization with the worst meeting culture ever. We would do an all-day meeting every 2 or 3 months with multiple topics, and each would get sidetracked and dragged deep, deep into the details that weren’t relevant to the medium picture (not even the big picture!). I tried to get people back on point or moving along, but it just wasn’t going to happen – this was “how things are done” there, and some people just need to hear themselves talk or just get caught up in the small details.

  19. Blossom*

    #1 – devil’s advocate for John – is it really “cheating” to delegate? It sounds like he designed the system and oversaw its construction. The notes left by the intern may have been intended as a timesaver (and it’s always generally practice to document), rather than a sign that John would never be able to figure it out on his own. Did he have enough time, among his other job duties, to devote to building each page by hand? Did he even pretend to?
    Either way, I agree with Milton Waddams that a good recruitment process will make everything clear. If there’s no IT expertise in your organisation, please consider advocating for an external person (a consultant, for example) to participate in the interview and testing process, and also make an effort to use recruitment agencies that specialise in IT and also understand what a small organisation like yours needs – I’m guessing a good all-rounder with a focus on keeping the basics up and running, and an understanding of the business itself.

    1. Susan C.*

      Yeah, no, I think considering that this position will under normal circumstances not have anyone to delegate *to* it’s probably safe to say that the person in it should have a slightly larger repertoire.

      1. Blossom*

        Hmm… I’m still going to play devil’s advocate. We don’t know that he couldn’t have built the intranet by himself, if it was part of his job and there was nobody to delegate to. While appreciating that we should take letter-writers at their word, it doesn’t seem clear how close the OP was to this project and how well-placed they are to judge John’s IT skills. It’s difficult to judge technical skillsets and projects from the outside; I work in a semi-technical role and I know my colleagues find it really hard to work out which bits of my job are really complex, versus those which might be time-consuming but, once set up, could be quite easily farmed out to a temp or more junior worker.
        Obviously John may be totally incompetent for all I know. I just don’t think there’s enough evidence for that in the letter. A good recruitment process will get to the bottom of this, and establish whether he has the necessary skills (which may or may not include intranet maintenance; this could end up being a very small part of the role which could even be contracted out, who knows). If the OP’s company are shoddy enough to hire someone as IT Director based on a project they did three years ago and a recent degree, they are digging their own grave.

        1. Susan C.*

          Agreed on the second paragraph!

          But in terms of likelihood, unless John has been moonlighting as freelance IT-professional the entire time, I’d be really surprised if he had those skills. Even assuming him innocent of academic fraud, a comp sci (or similar) degree is just not worth a whole lot without practical experience. (I say that as holder of an MS in a CS sub-discipline who wouldn’t be able to hack it in a purely technical role)

        2. Fortitude Jones*

          But the OP isn’t being advised to tell the hiring manager that John could never do the things he claims to have done, like build the company intranet. She’s being advised to tell the hiring manager that he didn’t build it, which is factual – the intern did. That way the hiring manager can then take whatever steps she needs to in the interview process to determine whether or not John can actually back up his technical claims. No one is saying this is the OP’s job to suss out, but it is her obligation to tell the hiring manager what she knows of his work so that person can make an informed choice about this position.

          1. Blossom*

            Is it her *obligation*, though? Even the OP says she doesn’t know if he will even bring up the intranet project, or if the hiring panel will give it much weight. I mean, sure, she can certainly feel free to raise it with the powers that be as an “FYI”, but I’m a bit uncomfortable with the assumption that John has taken credit for someone else’s work and that he is intending on misrepresenting the project in order to get the IT Director job. I’d say what is more plausible is:
            “So John, you’re currently Teapot Design Director; tell us why you’re considering this change of role?”
            “Well, I’ve been wanting to transition to IT for a while, which is why I’ve recently completed a Computer Science degree. One thing I’ve done to get a bit more insight into our IT needs at this organisation is to design the lovely intranet we all use today, which I’m responsible for maintaining. That has taught me X, Y and Z about IT and how we use it, and I want to deepen that knowledge and oversee more projects like that one to help drive the organisation forward”
            “Great! Can you tell us more about your role in the intranet project?”
            “Well, I identified a gap in our previous system, and proposed the new intranet as a solution. Our then CEO Fergus assigned it to me as a stretch project, and I was accountable to him. I gathered and analysed business requirements, designed the technical specification, and put together a project plan. Fergus also lent me 12 hours a week of an intern’s time (Sally) to work exclusively on the project; it was great to have this extra resource, especially as Sally had some experience with IT already, so I learnt quite a lot from her, and I made sure to ask her to document all this in order to futureproof the system once she left. Having Sally’s time meant that we were able to complete the project within 3 months, in time for the new financial year”.
            “Thanks, John! Now, as you know, the IT Director is currently a team of one and there are no plans to change that any time soon. With that in mind, we want to learn more about your hands-on technical skills. We’ve prepared a test; here are the instructions, you’ll have 45 minutes…”

            Now, all this is assuming the best of the situation – both John’s work experience and character, and the diligence of the hiring committee. As I say, he may be incompetent, and the organisation might be terrible at hiring. I just don’t think the OP should see this as her responsibility, or assume that the intern was the only one doing the “real” work.

            1. Fortitude Jones*

              Yes, it’s her obligation if she, as apart of the management structure of the company, is doing her job to ensure the company hires employees for roles that align with their goals. She has context that the hiring manager presumably doesn’t from the letter – she needs to let the manager know that context so they can get someone in the role who will succeed in it.

            2. Jerry Vandesic*

              “We’ve prepared a test; here are the instructions, you’ll have 45 minutes…”

              The challenge might be that there isn’t anyone on staff that could create or grade the test.

              1. Blossom*

                Oh definitely – that’s why I recommend getting external expertise in. It would be madness to hire for the only IT role in the organisation without it.

    2. Cambridge Comma*

      You can’t delegate your classwork though, so it does sound like he obtained his degree fraudulently.

      1. INTP*

        If it’s a graduate business degree, then the coding itself might not have been a part of his classwork. It might be completely fine to come up with an idea, design a product, write the business plan, and then hire someone to do the actual coding. (People with MBAs can chime in on whether I’m right here?) I wouldn’t imply to management or hiring decision-makers that he cheated on his classwork without truly knowing that he did.

        1. ouinne*

          When I had to do coding in my statistics/data analytics classes for my MBA it would most definitely have been cheating to have outsourced it.

          Your work in your classes is designed to be based on what you are being taught, so it should be within your capacity as part of the curriculum.

    3. The Grammarian*

      I like the idea of bringing in a nonpartisan consultant to help with testing and evaluation. Seems like it would make the process more efficient and would help to make it more fair.

    4. INTP*

      I thought the same thing – designing a system and coding it by hand are two different things and claiming credit for the former doesn’t necessarily imply that you did the latter. I’m not familiar with business school projects, but I would also think there that hiring someone to do the coding for your idea wouldn’t necessarily be cheating, if the point is the product itself and how to make money with it.

      I assume though, that the OP is familiar with the position being hired for and knows that it requires the kind of hands-on skills that he did not perform himself for his projects, and just didn’t specifically explain that. In that case, it’s okay to speak up. If it’s not a hands-on role, though, I would stay out of it.

    1. Gaara*

      Yeah, there are lots of ways to get caffeine that don’t violate the policy or LDS requirements. Caffeine pills. Sugar-free Red Bull. Five Hour Energy Shots. Or even, reduce your caffeine consumption so that you only need your cup or two of coffee in the morning at home before work. None of these would make it any less galling to me as the employee, however, who loves a good cup of coffee during the day and suddenly can’t have it.

      1. greenlily*

        My secret weapon is Jolt chewing gum (http://www.joltgum.com/) made by the good people whose soda product got me through college. :) The gum tastes exactly like regular mint gum, and no one has to know that you’re getting your buzz on. And in case your office doesn’t allow chewing gum, they also make mints.

        (although I guess you’d also want to have non-caffeinated gum/mints on hand, just in case someone asks you to share…)

        1. halpful*

          what got me through uni was caffeinated candy. :) …according to the internet, it was “Bawls Caffeinated Mints”. Since I’m pretty sensitive to caffeine, a drink would be too much, and caffeine pills would be waaay too much, but those candies were just right. :)

          Sadly, Canada seems to have banned them – they were only in stores for a year or two. I could probably still order them online, though…

      2. Jenbug*

        It’s not as much about the caffeine as it is the making and drinking of tea for me. I could never work somewhere that wouldn’t let me drink tea. It’s pretty much the only thing I drink.

        1. Yetanotherjennifer*

          I don’t drink coffee but I love a cup of hot cocoa and half of that habit is the act of holding a warm mug of something sweet. When I try and kick the habit each spring, what I really miss is the comfort in the coziness of it all.

      3. Renee*

        I just like coffee. I would happily drink decaf coffee if regular were not available to me at work (and I sometimes do just because I don’t want the caffeine). It’s not about the caffeine (or dependence) at all.

  20. Darren*

    There is a bit of a question here about #1. Does the role actually require much hands-on technical knowledge?

    The role is described as “Director of IT” I don’t know a lot of high-level IT people that actually do actual technical work (such as coding). Usually at that level they are focusing on strategy, hiring to fill any technical gaps, project managing (often of consultants who are shoring up deficiencies).

    John’s comparable job level might actually give him more relevant experience for this position than someone that has spent a few years working in IT at a technical level.

    Neither of them would have the skills necessary to work on IT security hands-on (it’s a full time changing field that usually requires a fair amount of investment of time on and off the job to keep up to speed on) but John sounds like he is already quite capable of managing employees or consultants to get tasks done to necessary requirements.

    Of course if the nature of the job is strictly technical then it might be more suited to Mary but the title doesn’t imply that.

    1. Blossom*

      At this org, the role has no direct reports, so the Director would need to be very hands-on. Agree in general, though.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        It cracks me up when small orgs give their roles high-level-sounding titles. A friend of mine was telling me how she’s “basically the COO”…of a two-person operation. At least she has the good sense to know that that doesn’t actually qualify her for a traditional COO role.

    2. OP#1*

      OP here-the job has no direct reports so the IT person is responsible for everything: fixing phones and email problems, software upgrades, firewalls, maintaining servers etc. I’m sure there is a lot more that I don’t know about because I work in Teapot production and just don’t know a ton about the IT side of things.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      As someone who was the sole (untrained) IT person in a small financial institution, it’s very hands-on. If it’s anything like my place was, the IT person will be doing everything from routine stuff like adding/deleting users and making password changes on the core system and network, to fixing the phone systems, to implementing application updates and installing patches, to rebuilding/replacing desktop computers and fixing printer issues. The only thing we outsourced were the things that really required expertise, like replacing the servers and doing the more complicated network maintenance.

      I’d actually argue that unless OP’s company has someone who can do all that stuff (assuming that’s what this role entails) and jump right into it without a huge learning curve, they should look for external candidates. Maybe someone who currently works for a financial institution in a similar role that has the same core banking platform or at least the same kind of network.

    4. Brogrammer*

      While this doesn’t apply in OP’s case, since the role will be hands-on, I’m in a supervisory role after having a more hands-on role in my company. While I don’t do as much hands-on work as I used to, I need to be able to do the work if needed. I also need a solid understanding of what the work entails. Otherwise, how can I be sure I’m hiring the right people and putting the right members of my team on certain projects?

  21. Myka House*

    Arriving to work early – This often happens to me. When you are approached with all you things still in hand. Listen for about 30 seconds then simply look down at all your things and say “Let me get settled in and then I’ll come see you.” If they say anything else, just say “I need to put my things away before my start time.”

    1. Gaia*

      Man, I try to be so careful about this with my team. We all sit very close to eachother and they all tend to arrive 10-15 minutes early. Outside of a quick “good morning” I make a specific effort to not discuss work with them until their start time. They are hourly and deserve to be paid for time discussing work, and everyone needs time to settle in. I can’t imagine not doing this.

  22. Anon 4 this*

    #4 – please tell your boss. This sounds a lot like what happened me this year. HR’s servers went down and they lost everyone’s paperwork. So students who had worked for me for years were told they needed to fill it all out again before they could be paid. And while we made a lot of jokes about forced plundering, what we really did was pad the following timesheets until they had been paid for all the time they worked. Not perfect, but everyone got paid, just a little late.

    1. Anon 4 this*

      Wow. “Volunteering” got autocorrected to “plundering,” which is pretty much the opposite

      1. Alucius*

        Wait, if the plundering is going to be forced as part of the job description, can I write off my Klingon bat’leth as a business expense?

    2. OP 4*

      Thank you! My boss is going to talk to her this morning and I will probably go by there too to fill out whatever paperwork she needs me to fill out.

  23. Aim Away from Face*

    So glad that I live in a place where a religion isn’t trying to police what food and drink I bring to work.

    1. ChocolatePorridge*

      Same, I feel enormously lucky right now to be living in the UK, where this kind of thing is almost unheard of for the maojrity of us. As an atheist I’ve never had that even come up in twelve years of working and studying. I’m pretty shocked that religion and the workplace are so inextricably entwined in some areas of the US.

      1. Charlotte, not NC*

        Yes, for all the posturing about separation of church and state, they’re very deeply linked–to our detriment.

        1. Annie Moose*

          Uh, a workplace is not a government. Your boss restricting what foods you can bring in on religious principles has nothing at all to do with the separation of church and state. (unless your employer is a government, in which case, yeah, it’d be problematic)

      2. LBK*

        This is far from a common or universal experience in the US. I think this particular letter is drawing out people who have examples of it, but I’ve lived in the US my whole life and the only place I’ve heard of religion being imposed on a business like this is on AAM. Although it probably varies regionally – I’m from the northeast, which tends to be less religious than the south or midwest.

        1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

          I’d say it’s even far from a common or universal experience in Utah. I’ve worked for numerous companies here, many owned by LDS folks or even by the LDS church itself, and none of them have ever banned coffee on the premises. They don’t always provide coffee (although some did!), but I’ve seen people bringing cups and thermoses in. I don’t doubt this is happening, but it’s not universal. I really hate to say it, but Not All Mormons. Really.

          1. OP #2*

            Lots of places in Utah are different. I’d say you’re less likely to see this in bigger cities, but in places like Tooele or other Mormon-heavy areas you’ll most definitely see some social isolation for being non-Mormon.

      3. fposte*

        I think it was a UK letter-writer whose boss banned all hot food, period. It was for health proselytizing rather than religious, but I don’t think that made her feel any better about not having a decent lunch.

  24. Xarcady*

    #5. This used to happen to me all the time. Or I’d come in early to get some work done in peace and quiet, before the office was full of people, and my boss, the owner, would have been there for an hour and want to jump right in to the day’s business.

    You have to take control of your time. “I came in early today to work on X. Can I get back to you at 9?” Or, if you haven’t even had time to take your coat off, “Let me put all this stuff away, and then I’ll come to your office. I need to grab some paper to take notes.” Or something like that. Depending on your boss, you could try, “Hey, I just walked in! Let me take my coat off first, so I can be ready to get to work, once you’ve told me what you need.”

    And say this stuff as you are walking towards your desk. Don’t stand there in front of your boss, as if waiting for instructions.

    Then hang up your coat, go to your desk, turn on the computer, sip your coffee, gather your thoughts, and *then* go see your boss.

    Expect some pushback. But if you are willing to put up with a couple of week’s worth of uncomfortableness, you might be able to retrain your boss.

  25. Murphy*

    OP#5: I agree that you probably can’t ask for 15-20 minutes, if you’re already in the office, but you can probably ask her to give you a few minutes to get settled, particularly if you still have your coat on and stuff when she’s asking you questions. I think in that case it would be reasonable to give you a few minutes.

    1. Charlie*

      Personally I think 15-20 minutes is unreasonable. I think your “me time” needs to be at home, or outside the office before you come in.

      1. Daisy Steiner*

        I don’t think the OP is asking for ‘me time’; I think she wants to opportunity to put down her things, take her coat off, turn on her computer, check for any urgent emails, maybe make a hot drink and get her brain into ‘work mode’.

      2. N.J.*

        It’s actually very common and very reasonable, with caveat that it depends on job function, office etc. I think the following analogy might be helpful: before I can drive my car, I have to unlock it, sit down, put on my seatbelt, check my mirrors, put the key in the ignition, turn the car on and put the car from park into drive. You could also argue that putting on sunglasses, cleaning bugs off of the windshield, turning on the heat or air etc. are an essential part of this pre-driving prep, as they relate to ensuring a basic level of comfort for the task at hand. If “drive” is the parallel to work here, we all have things that qualify as putting on our seatbelt on (required items to start the day) and things that qualify as turning on the air(comfort items to start the day). It is reasonable to assume that preparations, whether they are a core function of preparation, required or preferred, will take a little bit of time.

      3. zora*

        It really depends on the workplace, I had a boss who got mad at us for coming in too *close* to 9:00am. (8:55am was too close). She wanted us completely settled and actually doing work precisely at 9:00 on the dot. She expected us to have “me time” at our desks before 9.

  26. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed*

    So, we had an issue at work several years ago that reminds me a bit of #2. I work in a community that tends to curse a fair amount. It varies by particular office, but generally you can expect to encounter some foul language.

    Anyway, a team had a new hire who announced during a team meeting on his first day that he was really concerned about the amount of cursing he’d overheard, and he expected it to stop or he would be filing an EO complaint on the basis of religious discrimination because it was against his religion.

    It caught everyone off guard. They cleaned up their language very, very quickly, but I know the way he went about it didn’t endear him to anyone. Everyone was on eggshells with him from that point on.

    1. Susan C.*


      I’m struggling to put in words how little sense this makes to me – I’m very, very aware of how certain kinds of language can be really uncomfortable to certain groups (women, minorities…) even if it’s “not meant like that” and I’m all for putting a lid on that, but a blanket ban on all rough language? I guess I can see how a religious person might be offended by or uncomfortable with others taking the lord’s name in vain, but in which shape or form is hissing “This b***** report is f****** killing me” at my laptop religious discrimination?

      If you think he would’ve had a case, could you please elaborate? I’m honestly curious!

      1. Murphy*

        I’m wondering if it involved taking the Lord’s name in vain? That’s the only religious objection I can think of.

        1. Murphy*

          My reading comprehension failed, because I totally read your comment, but somehow missed where you mentioned that :-P

          But yeah, I was wondering how other types of swearing could be religious discrimination as well. If that person raised the notion of an EO complaint that quickly, I bet they’ve gone down that road before.

      2. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed*

        It was just run-of-the mill cursing. I have no idea if it would have been a valid EO case, but people are pretty risk averse when it comes to such things so I’m thinking it was easier to just stop cursing that risk being on the wrong side of a complaint. Regardless, I think he would have handled it much better to just say “hey guys, can we cut out the cursing? It makes me really uncomfortable.” People don’t respond well to legal threats.

    2. FD*

      This is such a strange approach to take! You can’t use the EEOC to make other people follow your religious beliefs; this would only work if the managers told him that he had to swear or be fired.

      1. fposte*

        Reminds me about the letter-writer here whose name was King whose colleague wouldn’t use it because it was against her religion.

    3. Annie Moose*

      …huh. I don’t swear (no religious swearing for religious reasons, no/not much other swearing mostly because I don’t want to), but there’s nothing about my religion that obligates me to force other people not to swear.

      (that being said, in my experience, other people often drastically cut down on their swearing when a non-sweary person is around even without being asked anyway. Which is nice of them, although I personally don’t care that much.)

      1. Amadeo*

        This is what I’ve run into too. Some coworkers at workplace-before-last began to censor themselves automatically and apologized to me more than once for their language because I just didn’t swear. I never asked them not to or made any other indication that I didn’t appreciate it, they just kind of started doing it on their own.

      2. Jerry Blank*

        I do this as a favor for a religious coworker, not because he’s threatening to file a complaint. Frankly, if my boss were LDS and asked as a favor that I keep coffee off of the premises, I’d consider it. It’s about compassion and working together; a blanket ban doesn’t really foster cooperation and can make people resentful.

    4. Temperance*

      Wow. Baby Ears needs to grow up and learn how to use his words to ask for things he wants. I would have complied with his threat, and then more or less avoided him as much as possible afterward. What a jerk.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        Yeah, totally agree. Always ask first and assume your coworkers are reasonable adults. To go for the jugular with legal threat on the first day is so disproportionate that I wouldn’t want anything to do with that person.

    5. MegaMoose, Esq*

      I’m definitely not a fan of the employee’s approach, but sine people are asking about the religious side of it, I do know that some types of evangelicals (my in-laws, for example) have very VERY strong feelings about swearing, even stuff that isn’t technically blasphemous. The closest I’ve ever gotten to saying something to my father-in-law that I’d really regret is when he said that saying the f-word is akin to sexual assault.

      1. AmberRachel*

        Yeah, I was raised a Jehovah’s witness and swearing of any kind is forbidden. I could totally see a JW making this request, sort of a rightness “I made the office clean up their language for Jehovah.” They would consider it doing a righteous deed, the fact that they’re pushing their religion’s rules onto others wouldn’t even occur to them.

        1. Elizabeth West*


          I’d have a problem in this sort of setting. I try not to do it at work, and I’ve been working on my sailor mouth, but sometimes it slips. There was a meme on Facebook the other day that was so totally me:

          other people: gosh darn it
          me: god f*cking f*ck @ss sh!t d@mn c0ck waffles

          1. halpful*

            I’d have a huge problem in this setting. I didn’t start swearing until the end of highschool, and never learnt how to not-swear. Now that I know I have adhd, it makes a lot more sense: An intention to not-do something is quickly forgotten unless I’m repeating it out loud. Plus, I’ve not got full control of what comes out of my mouth (and temporary full control burns spoons like crazy). I suspect the only way I’d learn not to swear is to have someone follow me around for a week or three pointing out every swear word (and not counting the reaction-swears, like “oh shit I swore – fuck – damnit – aarrtgghfhf…”). And I’d have to not-swear everywhere, not just at work.

            Actually, that does describe the way some friends got rid of an irritating tic I’d picked up once. :)

        2. MegaMoose, Esq*

          Yeah, that was an unpleasant one. We generally get along though carefully observed off-limit topics, but the swearing thing sort of came out of nowhere and escalated way more than I’d expected. I think part of why I got caught is that they don’t seem to have an issue with your middle-of-the-road defecation-based swearing, but the sexual-based stuff is in another category. I guess? I’m honestly still not 100% on the rules and I’m sure not going to ask!

          As a side note if you’re following politics, this is the same mentality that gave rise to the whole “you can’t complain about a certain candidate’s past statements if you’re a Beyonce fan or have ever read 50 Shades of Gray”.

          1. fposte*

            Where it would hit my crazy button is the assumption is that somebody who hasn’t been sexually assaulted (I presume) gets to make that equivalency. But it’s true that the differentiation between thoughts and deeds that is obvious to me isn’t to everybody. (The BBC’s News Quiz was hearkening back fondly to Jimmy Carter getting into trouble for confessing having had lustful thoughts a few times.)

  27. Trout 'Waver*

    OP#3: Two things.

    1. My quality of life at work has improved significantly since I stopped going to agendaless meetings. “I’m sorry, but I don’t go to meetings without agendas” has been a satisfactory excuse to everyone who’s asked. I’m hoping it catches on throughout the department. I’ve learned from some pretty good leadership teachers that every meeting needs a purpose, a desired outcome, and an agenda.

    2. If the senior level people aren’t there, start without them. Start with details and status updates (if necessary) and save the big picture stuff for when the senior level people get there. In my experience, the senior level people don’t care what the details are, they just want to make sure that someone is taking ownership of the details. This is another thing that I haven’t gotten any pushback on. I’ve never had someone director level or higher complain that I started without them. On the contrary, they usually seem pleased that I started without them.

    Of course, your company’s culture may be different, so proceed with caution.

    1. Murphy*

      We have an agenda at most of our meetings, but people here don’t care about leaving times for the other items. I was told once that the first item on a 3 item agenda should take only 10 minutes and it took up an hour and 15 minutes of a 90 minute meeting.

    2. Saturnalia*

      Somewhat in the same vein, I’ve instituted a personal policy of not waiting past minute 7 of a meeting for a key participant to arrive. Key participant meaning that the meeting has no point without their presence. It hasn’t made any sweeping changes but definitely makes me feel better! Losing 7 minutes beats losing 20. Yes we have meeting problems where I work, and it is worst at the top and trickles down through senior management.

  28. Allison*

    #2, sure they have the right to impose whatever rules they want (to a degree) but that doesn’t mean they should. Caffeine is such a normal part of the average person’s workday (I’m trying to cut back, but I doubt I’ll ever phase it out entirely), it’s not reasonable to prohibit it.

    My guess is that companies that impose religious-based diet rules like this are doing it to ensure that the people who do follow that religion are a) actually following the rules of their faith and b) aren’t tempted to stray. If someone can’t drink coffee for religious reasons, the smell might be just a little too tantalizing. If someone’s a vegetarian for religious reasons, having delicious meat within arm’s reach, or even smelling someone’s BBQ and seeing them enjoy it might be too much for them.

    Or they’re trying to weed out non-believers, or trying to convert others to their way of life, if not the religion itself.

    OP, I wonder if it’s still possible for you to have coffee before you leave, or on your way to work. Is there a place where you can get coffee at lunch? Maybe there are other ways, besides coffee, you could use to get a caffeine fix. Either way, I wouldn’t plan on staying at that company much longer.

    1. The Strand*

      It’s ridiculous to have that expectation (speaking about the company – not you!). Lots of people fast on Ramadan, but no one has ever asked me to not eat at work because they’re fasting, or not eat a hamburger in front of them during Lent. I did work with a Jehovah’s Witness who didn’t want *anyone* to say “bless you” when someone sneezed – or have any holiday decorations – and that’s inappropriate, though it’s fine to ask “don’t say that to me, please”.

      I think there’s something to be said for not being rude to your friends or colleagues, of course, but taking the logic (just being around something tempts you to indulge) to the extreme, men and women shouldn’t work together, let they be tempted to stray from their partners. And on and on.

      This is just a really controlling, sick workplace that OP should get out of.

      1. Allison*

        You’d be surprised about the lent thing. In high school someone noticed I was having leftover steak for lunch, and freaked out, saying “OH NO, YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO EAT MEAT ON FRIDAYS!” I ran out of the room crying, thinking I was in serious trouble and going to hell if it was that big a deal.

        Either she thought I was Catholic (despite never seeing me at church or CCD) or she assumed all Christians adhered to that rule. She later apologized and said she didn’t know that rule didn’t apply to me.

        1. BananaPants*

          I had a coworker who’s a devout Catholic call me out in a group for eating pepperoni pizza on a Friday during Lent. He just assumed that everyone who he didn’t think to be Muslim, Hindu, or Jewish *had* to be Christian – and a practicing Catholic, at that.

          In our area the majority of Christians are Catholic, but not all are. I told him I was one of those heretic Lutherans, so I got to eat whatever I liked during Lent. He turned bright red, realized that assuming makes an ass of you and me, and never spoke of it again.

        2. DragoCucina*

          When I lived in Italy I was arranging a women’s retreat for our women’s group. The nun showing me around the retreat center started talking about making a nice roast beef for lunch. I pointed out that it would be Friday in Lent. She said, “Oh, you Americans are so strict.” I had to pick my little convert jaw off the floor.

    2. halpful*

      “If someone’s a vegetarian for religious reasons, having delicious meat within arm’s reach, or even smelling someone’s BBQ and seeing them enjoy it might be too much for them.”

      Or it might make them a bit nauseous. :) I was surprised to discover that after I’d been vegetarian for a few months, meat didn’t smell good any more. Sometimes it was really unappetizing. I didn’t start wanting meat until after I was eating it regularly again.

      I wonder if that still would have happened if it wasn’t 100% my choice to stop eating meat…

  29. INTP*

    #1: if your company uses Outlook calendars to schedule meetings, can you just add a half hour or more of time to yours for any meeting you can’t back out of? Hopefully that will reduce the number of back-to-back meetings, at least.

    #2: if you really need caffeine, bring Yerba mate in your thermos. It’s higher in caffeine than black tea, but the smell and color make it clearly not regular tea, so you can pass it off as herbal unless someone around you is familiar with mate. I have no idea if it’s allowed but it’s not part of the tea or coffee plants so it’s fair to try.

  30. Pari*

    #1. I think you’ll look a little petty if you start talking about how unqualified this faking co worker is. I would definitley be skeptical of someone who said a coworker faked his way into his degree or suggesting that he really ddidnt do the work on a project he led. Unless you have firsthand knowledge of this I would’ve really skeptical.
    If you’re concerned about his skills it’s much more responsible to focus on making hiring process suggestions.

    1. Liane*

      “Unless you have firsthand knowledge of this I would’ve really skeptical.”

      The OP stated clearly in her question that she knew about the work intranet incident **Firsthand.** That should be sufficient for the hiring manager to pick someone else. As for the college incidents, it depends on how she found out. For example, if Jon had told OP, “I paid someone to do X and Y school projects for me. That works even better here because I am not the one paying!”

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The OP is part of the management team; she has standing and obligation to share what she knows about candidates. It would be really odd for them to suspect her of lying.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          No, that’s not firsthand. The rest of it sounds like it’s firsthand though. Regardless, she’s not obligated to limit her input only to what she knows firsthand, as long as she’s clear about how she knows and the limits of that knowledge.

      1. Pari*

        How do you actually raise it as a concern when he hasn’t made that claim yet? Should the op say? “I don’t know if he’s going to bring it up but if John claims he designed our intranet it was actually an intern that did all the work. And that degree he has, he didn’t do the actual work for it. I have knowledge that he paid people for school projects.” That’s going to sound incredibly gossipy.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          You say, “Hey, I know John has expressed interest in the IT director position, and I have some concerns about his ability to do the job.” And then she explains what she explained in the letter. It’s really not gossipy at all; it’s a very, very normal relaying of work-related information. I would be shocked if a manager who knew this didn’t reveal it if he was a serious candidate for the job.

        2. Jessie*

          It’ll sound gossipy if OP says it the way you’ve written it, but there is no need to say it that way. OP has information that would help the hiring team evaluate candidates, and she is in managerial position so should really act in the employer’s best interests. OP can say to the hiring manager something like “I have a few concerns about John’s ability and expertise for the role, and I wanted to share with you in case you felt the concerns are worth considering. His experience with the intranet in particular I am concerned about. Although I am aware John is in general considered to have designed our intranet, in fact the intern we hired developed the intranet, and so John does not have actual experience here with coding and IT development. Because the Director position is so hands-on, I am hoping we can find someone who has hand-son development and coding experience. Perhaps he has shown his expertise in other areas or with other experiences that I am not aware of, of course. But I wanted to bring this to your attention.” And however OP knows about the school issue, she can bring that up too.

          It’s not a court of law. Managers are allowed – and really, *should* – pass along their experiences and impressions of internal candidates.

    3. Joseph*

      I think the difference here is that OP is *not* a peer of John. This isn’t OP trying to badmouth John to get ahead or claim credit herself or anything of the sort.
      You would be right to be skeptical if OP had something to gain, but she really doesn’t have any particular motive for making things up here.

  31. Sherry*

    Maybe you announce at the start of the meeting, “I have another thing at 2:30 p.m., so even if we haven’t wrapped up, I’m afraid I’ll have to leave this meeting at that time,” or something to that effect. That might work better if you actually have another meeting scheduled, rather than simply needing to be at your desk to get work done.

  32. blushingflwr*

    Is it only hot coffee that’s banned? My understanding of the LDS rules are that the ban is specifically against hot beverages but that caffeine is okay, so I’m wondering if maybe iced coffee would be acceptable.

    1. Gaara*

      And even if iced coffee isn’t allowed because it was brewed hot — what about cold brew coffee? Then it was never heated, at all. I would actually specifically ask about that, if I were OP #2.

        1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

          The Word of Wisdom refers to hot beverages, which has been interpreted by the General Authorities as coffee and tea. When it was written (1830’s) hot was by far the most prevalent way of serving said beverages, and so the ban is on all drinks made from those substances. Iced coffee, iced tea, green tea, etc., are all banned, and if you consume them, you wouldn’t be able to go to the temple (which is the holiest and most restrictive form of worship in the church). Addictive/illegal drugs are also banned under the interpretation of the Word of Wisdom, although not mentioned in the original version.

          Caffeine is a gray area. It won’t keep you out of the temple and is not explicitly banned by the Word of Wisdom, but it’s not available at church-owned schools, and many super-observant Mormons avoid it entirely. Many others drink a ton of it. For instance, a member of the First Presidency, the highest governing body in the church, referred to drinking a copious amount of an unnamed diet cola in his talk in the last General Conference. I try to avoid it except to treat my not-quite-migraine headaches, which I get about twice a month, because it’s still an addictive substance, I’m not a fan of diet soda so it’s a ton of empty calories, and because if I drink it too often, it won’t help with the headaches.

          So, if the OP were to bring a 6-pack of Coke Zero, he’d be totally in the clear. Caffeinated mints are also a good option.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Interesting; thanks for sharing.

            The no-temple thing is kind of like the Catholic practice where we weren’t allowed to eat before we had Communion. I suppose it was considered rude to have the Host swimming around in your stomach with your waffles and bacon.

            Which is probably why coffee and doughnuts after Mass became a thing….

  33. Joseph*

    OP#3: This isn’t a very satisfying answer, but often the best thing you can do is just to mentally adjust yourself. If you see meetings commonly run 30 minutes over, you assume that the meeting will actually end at 2:30 not 2:00, plan your schedule around that, and going in expecting it to run till 2:30. So when you see Senior Exec walk in ten minutes late, you don’t think of it as “man, this was supposed to be a 30-minute meeting and he’s wasted a third of the time”, you think of it as part of your 30-minutes of float room.

  34. Erin*

    #2 – I’m having a hard time imagining how this is enforced, if you keep it in a thermos. Which is presumably not clear/see-through, right? How would they know what you’re drinking? Are they literally going to look inside it? That seems like a huge overreach.

    I’d try something like, “Oh, I’m actually drinking water out of here. I’ve found if I drink it out of my thermos I can trick my brain into thinking it’s coffee. Weird I know, but it seems to be working!”

    If they question the drinking of water at work, offer to get a doctor’s note. I had to do this one for a retail job. Virtually no doctor will say no, I’m not giving you a note to say you need to be able to hydrate at work – they’ll give it to you.

    If they actually inspect the contest of the thermos – wow. I’m not sure what to say. It’s more expensive, but could you switch to Red Bull? :)

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I wonder if coffee drinkers don’t realize how strong coffee smells, the same way smokers tend not to notice how they smell of smoke. Because I could tell from a fairly long way away that you were drinking coffee.

    2. aeldest*

      Coffee has a pretty strong smell, they wouldn’t have to see inside the thermos to know. I hate the smell of coffee (and I know a number of LDS people are also extra-sensitive to it) and while I obviously just put up with it, I can tell from a few yards away if someone’s drinking coffee.

    3. Erin*

      Good points on the smell. That’s not something I myself would be sensitive to or pick up on, but I forget others can. Red Bull or caffeine pills it is! Good luck, OP.

  35. Meg Murry*

    My question for OP#2: Is this a new rule? Or is this one of the “it’s always been in the employee handbook but hasn’t really been enforced” rules? Or did it just get verbally told to you?

    I’d suggest that if it’s a rule that was always there but not enforced, or if it was a recent addition to the employee policies to be on the lookout for other hidden rules that haven’t been enforced up to this point. In the past, I’ve worked at other companies that started using previously unenforced rules to either fire someone “for cause” (not following rules) or to make certain employee’s lives miserable. It was never a good situation to be in, and I think OP needs to decide whether this is only the start of a campaign on this type of rule and it’s the final straw that it’s time to look for something else, or whether this is an annoyance s/he can learn to live with for an otherwise good job.

  36. Oh no, not again*

    Coffee drinker, tell them that drinking coffee is part of your sincerely held religious beliefs, that it’s an important and vital ritual to your faith. You, brewing your coffee at home and keeping it in your own thermos, is a reasonable accommodation.

    1. Jillociraptor*

      If you’ve ever been to a fellowship hall after Lutheran church services you know this is barely a joke!

      1. BananaPants*

        Heck yes. We might not have danish during coffee hour in the fellowship hall (or as we call it, “the gathering place”) but the coffee percolator will be on, come hell or high water.

  37. The Mighty Thor*

    #2 I wonder, could “I need caffeine or I suffer withdrawal symptoms” count as a medical reason?

  38. Not Karen*

    #3: I hope you realize that this is not uncommon.

    #4: I hope you realize how great it is that you stood up for yourself in refusing to work any more until you get paid.

    1. OP 4*

      Thanks! I didn’t want to dig myself further into a hole if it turned out to be a huge battle to get them to pay me. I commented an update below, but it turned out to be a pretty easy fix on their end so I should be good to go (and will get paid for the previous hours).

  39. steph*

    I don’t really understand the first letter. Whether or not John literally designed the intranet site is beside the point. He hired staff and managed their work to complete the intranet site and then maintain it. If anything, that is one example of why he is suited to be a “Director” of IT. He’s proven that he can manage people towards achieving and organisational goal. He’s kind of proven that he has enough knowledge to do this.

    1. Jessie*

      OP mentioned in the comments that the Director position at issue is a one-person department, so needs to be very hands-on and technically adept. Being able to delegate and supervise won’t cut it.

      1. steph*

        Oh, so the title doesn’t quite fit the job I guess. That makes more sense. Although, I would think the hiring process would find this out soon enough.

  40. PK*

    So, in the case of the coffee drinker, would it be unreasonable to take a few sick days to deal with the forced withdrawal symptoms? Just curious. I’m sure the coffee drinker will find ways around it without actually quitting caffeine.

    1. KellyK*

      Probably not, because they can drink coffee before and after work. Caffeine withdrawal usually happens when you go cold turkey.

  41. Lady Blerd*

    OP5: As in introvert I reserve my energy for the moment I step into the office until I leave. Until I cross the door, I don’t want to be with anyone, even close office buddies. Otherwise, you will have to accept that once on the premises, the clock starts figuratively so I suggest, as others havem only coming in at the last minute. If there’s a coffee shop nearby and getting one is part of your routine, maybe do your decompression there.

  42. Brett*

    #2 If you assume that the rule is to discourage non-LDS from working at that company, what is the next approach after asking rationale?

    Should an LDS co-worker get involved to approach management about the unfairness of the rule (even if legal)? Or maybe contact an appropriate bishop (local leader) about the practice? I feel like there might be many (but not all) LDS bishops who would disagree with this isolating practice and encourage the owners to scrap the rule.

    1. KellyK*

      It depends on what they say the rationale is and whether that makes sense or seems shady. If LW #2 gets the impression that it’s designed to push out non-members, then it’s time to start job searching in earnest, even if lack of coffee isn’t a deal-breaker for them in and of itself.

      I don’t think it would be appropriate at all to bring religious leaders into a workplace issue when the workplace isn’t a church or specifically religious business. An employee of the same religion might be able to ask more detailed questions about the reasoning behind the rule, and they might be in a better position to suggest alternatives if they understand where the rule is coming from. But, religiously going over the boss’s head seems wildly inappropriate.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq*

        I agree. And in terms of legal remedies, I suspect that even with a lot more facts than we have here, it wouldn’t be worth the time, money, and energy unless you really, really wanted to make a point.

      2. KellyK*

        I missed that the employer is owned by the church, but I think that unless the workplace itself has an explicitly religious mission, trying to get assistance from a bishop rather than the chain of command *at work* would be seriously overstepping and inappropriate. Even if it is an explicitly religious organization, that might still be seriously overstepping.

        1. Brett*

          I don’t think the OP meant that the business is directly owned by the church. If this is LDS (and I think it is), some people refer to businesses as owned “by the church” when it is owned by a member of the church.

          (That said, there are the Deseret Industries stores and Home Storage Center factories that are companies directly owned by the LDS church.)

      3. Brett*

        I actually meant that an LDS co-worker could contact the bishop, not the OP.

        But thinking over your comments, I think that you are right than even an LDS co-worker would be out of place contacting the bishop. There is an actively encouraged culture of church members supporting businesses owned by other church members, but that alone does not give enough stake for the bishop to intervene.
        I think, at best, a co-worker of the same religion could suggest to the owners that the rule is going to discourage/push out non-members and that pushing out non-members is not an ethically great idea even if legal.

    2. caryatis*

      I don’t know about going to the bishop, but getting some LDS co-workers to push back might be a good idea. Maybe with some choice quotes about the church’s support for freedom of conscience. Jeez, what a hateful place to work.

  43. Brogrammer*

    When I first clicked into the post, I was surprised to see so many responses so early on a Monday morning. But then I noticed that one of the questions is about religion and coffee, two of the things that people hold most sacred.

  44. OP 4*

    I met up with the payroll person and my boss this morning to figure out what was going on – it turns out that I had gotten booted out of the system after I left my previous job. They were able to put me back in the system with a retroactive start date so I’d get paid for the hours I’ve already worked. It was way less of a hassle than I was expecting – thanks Alison for publishing my letter!!

    1. Observer*

      I’m sure that you will never know about it if it happens, but I sincerely hope that the person who told you that you wouldn’t be paid for hours worked and would need to continue to work for free, gets a stern talking to. It’s not just obnoxious, it’s opening the university to significant risk.

    2. Phoenix*

      OP 4, are you at my college? I also am a student employee of an Illinois university office that works with community nonprofits and has both paid and volunteer workers…

    3. sstabeler*

      I’m not sure that should be the end of it- the HR person really needs to be told that they can’t make an employee’s hours volunteering retroactively. This is, in fact, more important than it looks- volunteers CAN’T legally do the same work for an organisation as paid workers ( the idea is to discourage organisations from using volunteers to displace paid workers) and if employees were being treated as if they were volunteers, it could, in fact, cause an investigation into if the actual volunteers should really be employees.(I use employees here to denote paid employees as opposed to volunteers)

      That, and if it is policy to treat employees as volunteers until they are onboarded, that’s a shitty policy, because it’s far too open to abuse.(if nothing else, having a new employee getting paid be contingent on something outside their control cannot be legal.) To use an extreme example, what if an employee who is a member of the KKK (say) deliberately changed the system so all black employees showed as being volunteers? I know it’s unlikely, but it’s the kind of reason why a policy of making hours worked prior to onboarding volunteer hours is stupid.

      1. De Minimis*

        The university here [we hire student workers through them] does not allow employees to begin work until they are onboarded. Sounds like this school should adopt the same policy.

        We also have the same rule that if an employee has as break in service [even one semester] they have to re-do onboarding though there’s usually less to do since they already have an employee ID#. Most of the onboarding is just filling out the tax/payroll paperwork.

  45. Christine*

    5. How can I get my boss to give me time to get settled in the morning?

    Ask her to give you a few minutes to get set-up and you’ll get back to her. Than take your time and get back to her at 9:00 a.m. If she questions what took you so long, say you had to get your computer up and running and go to the bathroom. Can you walk into your office without her being aware you are in the building? You may train her to expect it, also are you hourly? If so, She’s putting you into OT.

    I feel for you. My boss got me when I walked in the door with my hands full also with a note, wanting some documents of my computer etc. I just asked her to give me a few minutes to let me put things up. Today I walked in the door at 8:00 a.m. I used to come in at 7:40 – 7:45 to get a decent parking spot. She really pushed me to use the door that would cause me to walk past her office coming & going. I use the one closer to the parking lot. My boss is a bit unhinged, one day walked up to me in the hallway about something, at 7:40 snapping at me. I waited a few hours, went back to her, and informed her that I didn’t appreciate her jumping on in the hallway before 8:00 a.m. That I wasn’t on the clock (she’s bad about trying to get me to work OT without pay) and that I need a few minutes to mentally prepare for work. I have other coworkers with supervisors like that, one of them started hiding her car and walking in the door at 7:55. I was rude, but it’s the only time mine listens and upper management is aware of the issue and I need to look at the source. That I can take only so much. But she was fine after that, but she heads down the hallway at 7:55 looking for me.

    Is your boss just not thinking? Or trying to get extra minutes out of you? Or once in sight, you’re working? Which is she? You may have to state you need a few minutes to get your coffee & organized and you’ll get back to her at 9:00 a.m.

  46. Lapin*

    Hmm. Banning, for example, use of languages other than English without a legitimate business reason can be race/national origin discrimination because it targets employees based on race and/or national origin and prevents them from speaking their preferred language at work, impermissibly altering the “terms and conditions” of their employment under Title VII.

    Under the same reasoning, couldn’t banning non-Mormon-approved beverages from the workplace, because it targets employees based on religion (i.e. non-Mormonism) and prevents them from drinking their preferred beverage at work, impermissibly alter the terms and conditions of their employment under Title VII?

    1. MegaMoose, Esq*

      Not really, because non-Mormonism isn’t a religion. I think this argument conflates the establishment clause with the free-exercise clause. The latter applies to private and government employers, but the former only applies to government employers. A private employer may generally require their employees to adhere to all sorts of faith-based requirements up to the point where that requirement interferes with the sincerely held religious belief of the employee. And I don’t think you’d get much traction at all saying that your religion requires that you actively NOT follow any requirements of any other religion. You would need to argue that part of your religious practice (which to be clear, can be your interpretation rather than that of the majority of other members of your faith) requires you to drink coffee, or dress immodestly, or eat shellfish, or have visible tattoos, etc.

      1. Lapin*

        But this isn’t about either the establishment or free exercise — it’s about the statutory language of Title VII. Action that’s taken because an employee doesn’t share the employer’s religion, specifically to drive those employees out, is literally “because of … religion.”

        If the employee were asking for a religious accommodation, then it might matter whether “non-Mormonism” is a religion or whether someone’s religion required them NOT to follow the tenants of someone else’s religion. But that’s not what’s going on here — while Title VII requires religious accommodation, that doesn’t mean that’s the only kind of religious discrimination claim an employee can bring. Discrimination under “because of trait X” analysis are just as actionable for religion as they are for national origin, sex, or any other protected category, whether or not an accommodation is involved.

        1. fposte*

          The OP feels that’s the reason, but there’s no evidence of that provided, and it’s a pretty weak tool to drive them out if so, given that plenty of people don’t drink coffee during the day.

        2. MegaMoose, Esq*

          I was mostly trying to use language people recognize, but technically you’re correct (the best kind of correct!). The point I’m trying to make is that there’s no law that I am aware of that says an employer can’t enforce religiously motivated restrictions on employees ever. And as fposte notes, proving that the restrictions only exist for the purpose of driving employees out would be very difficult.

        3. Annie Moose*

          As has been said further up in the thread, the coffee ban by itself probably does not rise to the level of religious discrimination. If there’s a coffee ban as well as other things related to pushing out nonbelievers, that might be enough. But simply saying “you can’t drink coffee at work” probably isn’t enough.

      2. Crazy Canuck*

        This is interesting, thanks for sharing it. I think this is one of the bigger differences between America and Canada, in regards to religious discrimination laws, is that the Canadian courts specifically have recognized that freedom of religion also includes freedom from religion, and that in the burden of proof is on the employer, not the employee, when the courts rule on what qualifies as reasonable accommodation. In Canada, one can legally argue that my atheism requires me to not follow the requirements of any other religion, and it is the employer’s legal duty to reasonably accommodate my sincerely held religious belief.

  47. feminazgul*

    Talk of the law, addictions, rules, etc. all aside: This is bullshit because it’s taking away one of the few nice and often “guaranteed” pleasures at work. We already have to labor under a shitload of oppressive nonsense, and you take away the fucking -coffee-? I don’t even drink coffee and this is so outrageously offense because of the principle, not the coffee/hot drink specificity thing. It’s one of the limited small few workplace pleasures. I’d start looking for a new job too, because these things always somehow seem to escalate.

    1. Christine*

      I put it in the same category as employers having insurance that doesn’t allow birth control.

  48. RedinSC*

    Meetings LW, my company was like this. It was soo annoying. We all (the executive staff) read Death By Meetings by Patrick Lencioni, It was really helpful and we all agreed to try some of the techniques in the book. It helped. Maybe take a look and recommend to your supervisor saying what Ask A Manager suggested. It might help?

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