my coworker is constantly out and I have to cover for him — including canceling my own vacations

A reader writes:

The situation at my work has gotten to the point where it so unbearable that I have thought about quitting without having another job lined up. This is my first job after college, and my second-ever job. I have worked here for 17 months. I work in a department that only has two people, myself and my colleague “Alex.” Alex has worked here for almost four years. Due to a mental health issue, there is an accommodation where he can call in sick or leave work at any time and cannot be penalized or for it. He has access to FMLA time as well as sick days and vacation days, resulting in him having a total of 18 weeks of time off to use over a 12-month period. He has been open about the reason for needing so much time off and told me why without me asking.

I can’t handle my job any more because Alex is hardly ever here. I am stuck doing all the work myself because Alex will often leave in the middle of the day or not show up for days at a time. In the entire 17 months that I have worked here, I have never taken a day off, excluding one sick day when I had food poisoning. Even if my time off gets approved, it gets rescinded later on because of Alex being off. I have also had to work every weekend day that our office is open because Alex is never available to work and can’t be relied upon.

My manager and his manager both say that they can’t do anything about Alex taking time off because of the ADA accommodation and that because they have to pay for those sick and vacation days, the company cannot afford to hire and pay another person for our department. I don’t want to seem insensitive to Alex’s mental illness but I am at my wit’s end. I am being crushed under the workload and I can’t even get a day off to relax and recharge. The person who I replaced had 10 years with the company and took an entry-level job somewhere else because she couldn’t handle working with Alex any longer and the company wanted her to postpone her honeymoon. No one from the company applied for transfer into my position so the company had to look externally. Thinking of work now makes me sick and I am seriously considering quitting without having another job lined up. I really respect the advice you give on your blog and I would appreciate hearing what you think I should do.

Your company is handling this horribly. First of all, the ADA does not require accommodations that have this kind of impact on other employees, so they’re just plain wrong about that. Second, if for some reason that were the case, which it’s not, the solution can’t be to never let you have any time off and to make you cancel pre-scheduled vacations. They either find the money for someone else to cover or they borrow someone from another department or they make do with no coverage. And yet the one thing that’s decidedly not an option — to put all the burden on you — is the thing they’ve decided to do. They suck.

Right now your managers don’t have to deal with the situation because they’ve shifted all of the hardship of it over to you. Let’s see what happens if you try transferring it back to them, where it belongs. Sit down with your manager and say something like this: “I’ve been extremely accommodating of the scheduling constraints that we have, taking on significant work of Alex’s when he leaves and never taking time off myself. In the 17 months I’ve been here, I’ve taken one sick day and no other time off. I’ve tried to take vacation time, but it’s been rescinded even after it was approved and after I’d made plans for it, because Alex ended up needing to be off during that time. I’ve also worked every weekend day that our office is open for 17 months. I’m not able to sustain this any longer. I need to be able to take time away to recharge, and I need to be able to use the vacation time that’s part of my compensation package here. I’d like to plan out some time off now and get your commitment that it won’t be rescinded later, regardless of Alex’s scheduling. I also need to pull back on my weekend availability. I’m happy to do my fair share of our weekend coverage, but I can’t continue doing all of it.”

Then see what happens. Based on the fact that they asked your predecessor to postpone her honeymoon (!), I’m not hopeful about the outcome here, but it’s worth a shot. It’s actually possible that no one has pushed back this assertively, and if that’s the case, there’s a chance it could get them to budge, especially if they value you.

If you don’t get any traction here, then go to talk with HR next. Explain the situation, and explain that you’re not being allowed to use a key part of your compensation package (use those words), and see what they say.

If that doesn’t change anything either, then yeah, at that point it’s time to look for a new job. Ideally you’d find something else before quitting because it’s usually easier to find another job while you’re still employed, but making a plan to get away from this should be your next step. Your managers are incompetent and addle-brained, and they’re abusing your good will and taking advantage of you. Get out.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 401 comments… read them below }

  1. CS*

    Why isn’t the manager picking up some of the slack, too? In previous places I’ve worked, if someone was out for long periods of time, the manager would take on some of the work and not put it solely on the other person in the department.

    1. Maxwell Edison*

      That all depends on if the manager *can* do the work. Back at ToxicJob, there was no way my manager could have done any of my work (she didn’t even have an account on the content management system we used every day).

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Right. My first manager at Evil Law Firm called herself “helping out” when our workload fell behind, and she inevitably ended up screwing things up. Then the rest of us had to scramble to clean up her mess on top of our already heavy workload. Manager hadn’t done work on the front lines in our department in close to 8 years, and we were in an industry that had almost weekly procedure changes, so she wasn’t much use.

      2. Mona*

        Exactly. I laughed at “Why isn’t the manager picking up some of the slack, too?” In some places the manager is “above” the work the peons do and won’t get involved with lower level work.

    2. Merida May*

      Probably because the OP is being so accommodating, and I don’t mean that as a slight. It strikes me that the OP, though understandably overwhelmed, is doing a good enough job that their manager doesn’t feel like it’s necessary to step in. Kind of reminds me of when people say “Oh, I’d totally pitch in but you’re just so GOOD at X, I wouldn’t want to come in and mess with your flow.”

      1. Solidus Pilcrow*

        I was thinking this, too. Management isn’t feeling any pain and, therefore, doesn’t think anything’s wrong because OP is taking up the slack. Missing targets and deadlines may be the only way to get their attention.

    3. not so super-visor*

      And this is why I make all of the folks in our department write out a step-by-step process on how they run their reports and special projects. I do it because I used to have a manager who would say, “What if you get hit by a bus tomorrow? We’ll have no idea how to pick-up any of your work.” I usually phrase it as “What if you win the lottery tomorrow? I don’t want to interrupt you on a beach in Aruba to ask how to process the ABC report.”

      1. sssssssssss*

        I used to say the same thing to my co-worker, also an administrative assistant. “If should get hit by a bus, here is where to find this and this and that.”

        It’s smart.

      2. catsAreCool*

        “I don’t want to interrupt you on a beach in Aruba to ask how to process the ABC report.” That’s a great way to put it!

      3. Bootdog7*

        We like to call it “Getting hit by the Lotterybus”.

        We all want to get hit by that particular bus…

    4. Canuck*

      This isn’t always possible though. I manage a team of nurses, and I can’t cover for them because I’m not an RN.

    5. Anna*

      I think this is solving a different problem. I mean, it would be great if the manager pitched in, but even if they did, it wouldn’t address at all the way they’ve mishandled the accommodation part of the ADA law and that they need to clarify what the accommodation should be and can be.

    6. Contrarian Annie*

      Probably, like in a previous workplace of mine, the manager is good (or not!) at ‘managing’, but hasn’t gone up through the technical ranks so couldn’t take on those tasks – not having the knowledge.

  2. Lemon Zinger*

    Great advice from Alison. I just want to say: OP, I am so, so sorry. This is a terrible workplace and you have done MORE than enough. Start the job search!

    1. Jerry Vandesic*

      I agree completely. Start looking for a new job immediately. Limit your availability to go above and beyond. Leave work on time. If something doesn’t get done, it doesn’t get done. If you get any grief, ignore it. Once you have a new job in hand, don’t look back.

        1. Contrarian Annie*

          Not necessarily an option if the work affects the whole department e.g. if it doesn’t get done there will be consequences for the whole dept. …

        2. Mona*

          If you’ve got “that” kind of boss, you’re the one who gets screwed for not doing the work by not being subordinate.

      1. Newlywed*

        Ditto. Since this is your first job out of college, I want to make sure you understand that THIS ISN’T NORMAL. My first job out of college I worked for an insane boss who would demand work at all hours of the night and call people back from vacations, and led me to believe that this is how businesses are run. There’s no reason for you to stay at this job if you can find another one (preferably while you’re still employed). Start interviewing now and trust your gut if you get a weird feeling about any of the places you apply to, then give your two weeks notice when you have something lined up. It gets better! :)

        1. I'm Not Phyllis*

          Seconding this. It’s easy to forget when you’re working all.the.time that it isn’t normal. And it ISN’T normal.

    1. Sarah*

      Continually hiring naive people with very little work experience who don’t know to stand up for their rights, then replacing them with the next naive employee when they eventually realize they’re being taken advantage of, would be my guess.

      1. Captain Radish*


        That sounds a lot like a couple places I’ve worked in the past. I am so so happy my current workplace is concerned with keeping me happy.

      2. LBK*

        Or not being remotely upfront about what the job will entail during the interview process (to take some of the blame off the employee for not knowing any better). I really doubt they’re advertising that perspective employees should expect to be doing 2 people’s jobs.

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          They don’t disclose that they asked the previous holder of the job to cancel her honeymoon, either.

            1. Anna*

              That is one of those things that tends to come out. Probably in a “When I said I had made travel arrangements for my vacation Manager Person said he understands, but that’s nothing like when Ex Employee had to cancel their honeymoon” sort of way.

            2. TootsNYC*

              Gossip, probably. You can bet that if my manager told me they wanted me to postpone my honeymoon, I’d crab about it to all my colleagues. And they’d be so shocked, they’d be sure to tell the person who got my job. Maybe not at first, but the minute it looked like the new person was being shafted, my colleagues would bring him up to date.

        2. Fortitude Jones*

          Pretty much this. This is how I ended up working at a terrible law firm – they totally misrepresented themselves and the work during my interview (and okay, I was desperate for a job, so that didn’t help either).

      3. Koko*

        This is a variant on the college slumlord business model. Rent to people who have never rented before, don’t do any property maintenance, and at the end of the year when they move out in disgust, keep their security deposit, don’t use it to make any repairs or improvements, and less than 24 hours later have a brand-spankin’ new freshman in there in their place.

      4. Rachel*

        Sounds like a restaurant an ex of mine briefly worked at. When he applied, they asked him if there were any days of the week he would not be able to work, he said no. At a normal workplace, that meant he was flexible as far as which days he could work each week. At this place…they scheduled him to work seven days per week. After a few weeks of this, he asked if he could take one Saturday off for a preplanned weekend trip. His manager refused and told him that since he said there were no days of the week he would not be able to work, that meant he literally had to come to work every day of the week, period – that’s why they had hired him. Needless to say, he quit on the spot. (This was in 1998 or so. Nowadays that would be all over Glassdoor.)

      5. GreyjoyGardens*

        They either hire the naive, OR they hire toxic people who no sane workplace would touch with a ten-foot pole and who can’t get a job anywhere else. The naive tend to leave after a year or so, but the toxics stay and turn the whole workplace into a cesspool.

  3. TotesMaGoats*

    I feel absolutely awful for you! I hope you get relief soon either in the form of your company getting their stuff together or you finding a new job.

    Fully, 100% agree with Alison’s advice. Do what she says. How they respond will tell you a lot about your future at the company and whether or not you want one.

    Addle-brained might be too nice of a description.

    1. JuniperGreen*

      Agreed, I’m so sorry this company is burning you out. They’re using you; you’re their excuse not to manage whatever is going on with Alex.

      Alison’s advice is spot on. Calmly lay out your desired outcome and let them figure out how to get you there – it isn’t your responsibility to make the accommodations for Alex. You’re entitled to a life outside of work!

      1. Dust Bunny*


        Exactly: They’re using the fact that stuff is still getting done as a reason to not do anything to address this.

  4. Murphy*

    I have no advice that Alison didn’t offer, but I’m really sorry you’re going through that OP. That’s beyond ridiculous.

  5. Little Miss Cranky Pants*

    Since this may like an emotional, oogy moment, which many semi-confrontations are, consider setting your *own* agenda for your meeting with management. Lay out all the facts–the missing staffer, the unrealistic workload, the cancelled time off that you are legally entitled to, etc. Having it all laid out on paper ahead of time will both get your brain in gear for the actual problem and let you feel more in control of the conversation. And you are in control here. If you leave, they are phucked. :) Just sayin’.

    Calmly lay out your requests, whatever they might be. They must hire a temp if Alex will be gone more than one day, they must push back deadlines and workloads for you when he’s gone, whatever your requests are. But make them, make them professionally and logically, and see what happens.

    Then decide if you can stay. Good luck!

    1. Merida May*

      Really great advice. This conversation has the potential to get emotional and a little prepwork will help curb some of that.

      1. Natalie*

        It canalso help keep from getting sidetracked from issues that are tangential, but not actually the LW’s problem, such as their budgets.

    2. Emmie*

      You make really good points about laying out the problem. OP may not legally be entitled to vacation unless there is a contract obligating the organization to do so, or some applicable law (like those mandating vacation for public school teachers employed by boards of education, or those limiting driving time for truckers.)

      1. Moonsaults*

        It depends on the employers benefits package. If they offer paid vacation time they have allow everyone eligible the opportunity to take the time off. They’re treading a dangerous line here because they’re too lazy and cheap to provide proper coverage for a single person within the organization. An employment attorney in the area the OP is at may give a free consultation to see if they’re breaking any laws by doing it.

        1. LCL*

          They don’t have to allow everybody the opportunity to take time off. It is unethical not to, and a lousy and mean thing to do, but there isn’t any law stopping them from doing what they are doing. Unless there is contract language somewhere saying that.

          1. LQ*

            They may need to pay out that leave (if it is vacation not a pto bucket) when the OP quits (depending on the state) and some states have protections against how many days in a row you can work. But so much depends on the state.

      2. TootsNYC*

        Some states will say that if a company states something as a policy, they are required to hold to it. So there may be no state requirement of vacation, but a company must follow its own published policies. Or, in NYState, they have to follow any policy that they have consistently established, even if they haven’t written it down.

    3. Joseph*

      +100. Pre-planning the conversation is a fantastic idea on many levels.
      Most notably, I would strongly recommend you get the actual facts and numbers as to how much this affects you. It’s a sad truth that many managers don’t really keep track of employees’ vacations or working weekend days or things like that. So they might be thinking “oh, OP just has to work a Saturday occasionally and might have to reschedule next Friday off” when it’s really “OP is working Saturdays twice per month and never taking a single vacation day”.

  6. Dan*


    OP, I do suggest you look for another job (if they’re that dense, it’s unlikely to change). From a practical standpoint, it will look better for you if you can stick it out long enough to get a full two years in. (Especially as a first job, that’s often the break point to be considered experienced enough to get into the next tier of jobs experience wise.)

    1. Karanda Baywood*

      Yes, and call in sick whenever you have an interview scheduled.

      Just because there’s no one else there to do the work doesn’t mean you can’t call in.

      1. Contrarian Annie*

        DO THIS!!! I was in a similar position, and (effectively) CANCELLED THE INTERVIEW because someone else was unexpectedly out that day and the company Needed Me.

    2. Beck*

      I would disagree only in that they should start looking now and not worry about getting two full years in. They could always explain the truth to future employers and they would definitely understand – “Because of an unrealistic work load I wasn’t able to take a single day off, plus I worked weekends, for the entirety of my time at the job. It was simply unsustainable and I had to leave before I burnt out completely.”

      1. Chriama*

        Agreed. And they should have lots of amazing accomplishments. You know how people say you have 3 years of experience vs. 1 year of experience 3 times? This OP has 1.25-1.5 years of experience for every year in this job because that’s how much work they’re doing. Start looking now, because by the time you get hired it will be practically 2 years anyway.

    3. TootsNYC*

      I agree–you are totally in the “time to look for a new job” territory anyway, when you’re so early in your career.

      So look anyway, no matter what they do.

  7. missj928*

    A couple things:

    1. I’m presuming that he has used all his vacation time and his paid sick leave at this point. Under FMLA, the company is not required to pay for the employee’s absence. If they are paying him under FMLA, it’s the company’s choosing.

    2. The ADA only covers reasonable accommodations (ones that do not cause undue hardships on the company). His leave is obviously causing a huge hardship as it is affecting other employees in a huge way.

    I agree with Alison’s advice. I’d maybe even consult an attorney if talking to HR doesn’t work and see what your options may be.

    1. Newby*

      Yep. ADA does not require companies to give employees unlimited amounts of paid leave. That would be insane! It sounds like they are trying to be nice and accommodating to one employee and have not realized that that means that they are being horrible and extremely inflexible to the letter writer and LW’s predecessor.

      1. the*

        18 weeks is just over 1/3 of the year, if my math is correct. I can’t think of any company that is able to give that type of PTO to an employee, no matter how senior they are (sabbatical-type arrangements being an exception).

        While I (sort of) think it’s great that the company is willing to accommodate a worker with a chronic illness, the way they are handling this is all wrong and completely unsustainable. Best of luck, and I hope you get some well-deserved vacation soon!

          1. princesspeach*

            In my job we gain annual leave and sick leave per paycheck. The longer you’ve been here and the higher up you are the more you get. You can’t carry over more 6.5 weeks of leave each year. My boss typically has to take off around 2 months worth of leave each year so he doesn’t lose it. So depending on how long Alex has been there and their leave set up he could have some time built up but not if he’s taking an excess amount of time off. I know this year I’m going into the end of the year with over 100 hours of annual leave time. If you have more than 6.5 weeks of leave and for whatever reason you can’t get it all taken that time goes into a catastrophe leave bank, that’s available to any employee for a major life event, there is a lot of paperwork to fill out for that. But my boss benefited from it a few years back when he cut off part of his thumb. They try to do that to keep them from having to take unpaid FMLA.

        1. Kyrielle*

          They aren’t – they’re giving PTO plus FMLA. So six weeks of PTO (vacation plus sick – generous for the US at four years with the company, but not by much), and the mandatory 12 of FMLA.

          As an aside, they’re _also_ being unusually genersous there. The law allows for the employer to apply FMLA to whatever absences it does apply for – but also to drain PTO simultaneously. When I had my children, I didn’t get 17 weeks off (5 weeks banked time and 12 weeks FMLA) – I got 12, and 5 of it was paid (due to the banked time). I couldn’t choose to “not spend” FMLA until I ran down the banked time, or “save” the banked time and take the 12 FMLA weeks unpaid.

          1. K-VonSchmidt*

            Absolutely, our FMLA policy is that the first two weeks can pull from their banked vacation. So their FMLA is 2 weeks vacation (FMLA)+10 weeks (straight) FMLA. This has cut down on the abuse immensely.

        2. SystemsLady*

          And I thought being guaranteed work from home and not traveling half the year (not ADA required, but a condition of keeping me during a temporary life thing) was approaching excessively kind and unfair to the other employees. I’ve got quite a few more co-workers and there’s plenty of desk work to go around so that’s not the case, but I’m reminded all the more now.

      2. Adonday Veeah*

        Unfortunately, the company HAS been accommodating it, so it is extremely difficult for them to now claim a hardship should this ever go to court. The company has handled every part of this poorly, and it’s gonna bite them in the heinie one way or another.

        1. JessaB*

          Not necessarily. The fact that management is stupidly unaware of how badly they’re treating the OP doesn’t mean it won’t fly in court if the company starts to A: pull back on things and B: insist on better documentation that shows exactly WHAT accommodations the other worker needs. It’s not out of line to revisit documentation and make sure that it’s reasonable. I wonder if the other employee’s doctor has any clue how this is being managed.

          Management is allowed to ask for re-certification and every bit of FMLA documentation/ADA documentation I’ve ever had to provide regarding intermittent absences has had the doctor have to provide on the form – how often do you think the employee will need to be out (IE once a month, two days a week for two hours for therapy, whatever. But there was a part of the form where that was asked.) Obviously there might be more absences, but the idea is to give the company a legitimate concept of what the employee is going to need so they can plan.

    2. Amy G. Golly*

      Excellent point! If the company is choosing to pay for the FMLA time out of the goodness of their hearts, that’s certainly admirable. (If still completely incompetent…)

      More likely, I’d say it’s one of two scenarios: 1. they don’t understand the actual requirements of the ADA and FMLA, and are paying because they think they have to or 2. they are not paying for the FMLA time, and misrepresenting their inability to hire more help.

      Good luck, OP!

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, most workplaces require that sick and vacation leave run concurrently with FMLA just to avoid this kind of scenario.

        But honestly, even Alex’s being out 12 weeks a year in the setup described would lead to them asking too much of the OP.

    3. Sunflower*

      It sounds to me like manager has completely misinterpreted FMLA and ADA accommodations. I would find it very hard to believe that a company that would be so accommodating as to give 18 weeks of PTO would also work another employee this ragged. It sounds like manager thinks this is all required by law.

      1. Tequila Mockingbird*

        Is it also possible that Alex has threatened to sue if he doesn’t get as much time off as he wants?

        Lots of companies kowtow to disabled employees out of fear of litigation, not necessarily because they don’t understand the law.

        1. NCKat*

          Really? I an disabled and this has never the case for me, and most employers I know would not excessively accommodate a disabled employee’s needs because they fear litigation. Do you have facts to back this up?

          1. Charlotte Collins*

            I’d say that based on how poorly this is managed, they might be afraid of litigation. I’ve seen something similar myself with people who misunderstood the ADA. (With widespread dysfunction in other ways, so this wasn’t the only issue.) However, I’ve seen more people *not* be accommodated for disabilities than the reverse.

            1. NCKat*

              Jobs Accommodation Network is a good resource. There’s no excuse for an employer to fear accommodation due to ignorance of the law.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I agree with Charlotte and NCKat. I’ve seen companies misunderstand the ADA and FMLA, but usually they misunderstand by failing to comply with those statutes. I cannot remember a single time that an employer’s misunderstanding resulted in overly generous compensation/ accommodation. With respect to fearing litigation, I have a feeling they don’t—they probably have just been getting away with exploiting OP, and they can use “fear of litigation” as a bargaining chip to make it sound like they don’t have control over OP’s situation.

        2. Jessie*

          Yeah. I have done a fair amount of employment law and “overly accommodating to disabled employees out of fear” has just not been what I’ve seen.

          Now, “totally misunderstanding the law and not applying it correctly” I have seen over and over and over…. and over…..

            1. Jessie*

              I don’t have an HR or manager I need to explain to; I’m an outside-counsel attorney who is the one who comes in to try to explain to a company what the law requires. If I give them that link, am I out of a job? ;-)

          1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

            My old job was like this, not necessarily regarding ADA but for everything else.

            They were so afraid of being sued that horrible employees stayed on for-ev-er.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Yeah, this means they weren’t super competent. My experience is that employers blame “fear of litigation” when they want to get out of taking responsibility for their horrible employees. They’d rather let everyone suffer than exercise baseline management skills.

            2. NotAnotherManager!*

              YES. I inherited an employee that basically showed up when they felt like it and racked up days of leave-without-pay every year. The higher-ups in their department kept waffling between their skills being vital to the department and fear of being sued for age-based discrimination because the leave was related to care for a family member, and HR tolerated it right up until they wanted to fire someone similarly situated and couldn’t because of the disparate treatment problem it would create. The random no-show employee was offered several options, including FMLA, a flexible part-time schedule, or a consultant engagements. They declined, and I still couldn’t fire them until they didn’t show up for nearly two weeks (without calling) after a huff about some perceived slight. We were finally able to class it as job abandonment and move on, and the department heads STILL sometimes ask if we can hire Problem Employee back. NO. No, we can NOT.

        3. Nanani*

          Right, because marginalized people call ALL the shots with their scary…. existence

          (that was sarcasm.)

    4. TCO*

      It’s not entirely clear from OP’s letter whether those 12 weeks of FMLA are being paid, or if it’s just Alex’s normal vacation/sick time. I believe employers can actually require employees to use their PTO and FMLA concurrently–they’re only obligated to provide 12 weeks total. While I think it’s compassionate to go beyond what the law requires, it’s clearly being mishandled here.

      I also wonder whether Alex is getting his fair share of the workload done when he actually is in the office. If his health is so poor right now that he’s maxing out 18 weeks of leave on an ongoing annual basis, is he forcing himself to come in on other days when he’s not feeling his best, just to stay within those limits and keep his job? Is that impacting his productivity? I have no judgment for Alex or his condition, but I wonder if OP is bearing an unfair workload even when Alex is there.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Probably. When somebody is out that much, it’s almost impossible to keep projects current. If he’s leaving in the middle of the day, I doubt he’s running at capacity even when he’s there.

      2. Jayn*

        How much do you want to bet that the times he’s out are times when the workload is heavier/more stressful? Particularly those days he leaves early.

        1. TCO*

          Well, that might suggest Alex is faking/exaggerating his illness, and that’s not a fair assumption for us to make about a stranger’s health.

          1. Temperance*

            I actually don’t agree with your assumption here. I’m taking this comment as “this person does not have the stamina/ability to handle any kind of stress, so when things get rough, he gets to bail, making it much worse on LW”. That’s how I see it, anyway.

            1. Jayn*

              That was more my intent. I didn’t mean to imply he was exaggerating and CERTAINLY not that he’s faking.

          2. Solidus Pilcrow*

            Just my opinion, but I read Jayn’s comment as most illnesses, be they mental or physical, are made worse by stress. Alex may have gotten himself into a death spiral of took time off, work builds up, causes stress, causes worsening symptoms, takes time off, even more work builds up, causes even more stress…. and on and on.

            1. Gadfly*

              Which could also be why OP doesn’t get days off–maybe Alex can’t handle covering for OP/too stressful?

            2. SystemsLady*

              +1 I could totally see this happening, and I’m glad OP doesn’t have the inclination to involve Alex more than is necessary because of it.

      3. Solidus Pilcrow*

        “It’s not entirely clear from OP’s letter whether those 12 weeks of FMLA are being paid, or if it’s just Alex’s normal vacation/sick time.”

        I’m betting it’s PTO combined with FMLA + however they count sick time. If you subtract 12 weeks of FMLA, that’s still 6 weeks vacation. 6 weeks is an very generous PTO package in the US, and you usually have to be fairly high-level in the organization/have many years of service to get it. I’m getting the impression that Alex is middle management at best.

        1. Jesmlet*

          Aren’t these supposed to run concurrently though? So you get paid for the PTO and then are unpaid for the remainder of the 12 weeks? Or maybe I’ve misunderstood how that works…?

          1. Natalie*

            An employer is certainly allowed to run them concurrently, but there’s no requirement that they do so.

    5. BRR*

      1) Great point. I didn’t even think of that. I wonder if the company has to pay out time when employees leave.

      2) This my first thought. It doesn’t sound reasonable at all to me. But I can see how management

      I wouldn’t suggest talking to an attorney. I can’t think of anything an attorney could do.

    6. Lance*

      Point number 2 here is the key point for me. ADA accommodations are to assist someone with a job; to help them be capable of the job if there would otherwise be obstacles in the way due to their disability. They’re not a cop-out to not do the job this much of the time, because at that point, it could, potentially, be called into question whether this person can do the job even with accommodations. More so if those accommodations are making a co-worker’s life this much harder.

      Not trying to be too harsh or anything; honestly, Alex could be a very good worker while he is there, for all I know. But this is just ridiculous.

      1. Kristin D.*

        Good point. A leave of absence can be a reasonable accommodation, but only if such a leave will allow an employee to sufficiently rehabilitate so that he or she can perform the job (with or without other accommodations). It is not required to be allowed infinitely. If the employee needs 18 weeks of leave every year, including significant intermittent leave without notice, I’d say that’s not a reasonable accommodation.

    7. LBK*

      I wonder how the OP might potentially approach correcting the company’s understanding of ADA/FMLA requirements. I suspect that the conversation isn’t going to get anywhere because the manager will continually circle back to “I totally understand how much this sucks but the ADA requires us to do X, so our hands are tied.” I think the OP’s chance of correcting the situation is literally 0% unless they can breach that barrier.

      I don’t quite know how to go about that without coming off as a know-it-all, though. Maybe something like “I really appreciate that the company has such dedication to making sure we’re following the laws and accommodating people with disabilities appropriately – it’s reassuring to know that I’d be taken seriously if I were to ever have a situation like this. I was curious about what my obligations are as a coworker of someone protected by the ADA since I want to make sure I’m respecting Alex’s needs as well, so I did some research and I think we might actually be over-accommodating him.”

      The ADA website actually has some pretty good plain-English summaries of their definitions and restrictions, so you could probably print those for reference.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I don’t think the OP should address the company’s understanding of the legal requirements at all.

        That’s not really our OP’s problem; the OP’s problem is that the company is not living up to its contractual obligation to provide the vacation that was promised.

        That’s where the focus needs to be. At the most, I’d suggest the OP say: “I don’t think the ADA works that way–the requirement is ‘reasonable accommodation.’ And that’s the company’s obligation, not mine. And even if it were my responsibility to solve this problem for the company, it is not reasonable to deny my vacation or to require me to work weekends at this pace.”

        The OP needs to keep the focus on his/her own situation, and steadfastly maintain: “it is not my problem to figure out how the company can accommodate this person. I need my promised compensation and a reasonable workload.”

        1. LBK*

          Unless there’s follow up comments from the OP that I missed indicating she has an employment contract or is located somewhere with stricter employment laws, the company has absolutely no legal obligation to let her take her vacation days.

          I disagree that it’s not the OP’s problem to get her employer to interpret the ADA correctly – that is literally her entire problem, that her employer is letting Alex run amok because they believe they’re legally required to do so. I agree that the OP shouldn’t *have* to explain the law to her employer, but that’s different than whether it’s in her best interest to do so if she actually wants to get anywhere with this conversation. 90% of the conversations we talk about here on AAM are things you shouldn’t *have* to discuss, but that you probably should discuss if you want things to change.

          1. TootsNYC*

            They may have a legal obligation to either let her take them or pay them out, depending on her state, even if the state doesn’t specifically require all companies to offer vacation.

            If I’m not mistaken (and IANAL), in NYState, if you have a company policy in writing, you are legally required to follow it as if it were state law. Even if state law doesn’t require it. For example: right to work (really, right to fire). You can fire someone without any notice. But if your company policy says, “we give you warnings,” you must follow that procedure. Now, lots of companies add “but we might not, and we don’t have to” disclaimers for that, but for vacation, I don’t usually see those disclaimers.

            Or, if you consistently do something so frequently that everyone at your company assumes it’s a policy, you may find yourself legally required to follow it as if it were written down.

            1. LBK*

              I find it really hard to believe that any company policy would offer carte blanche for employees to take all vacation allotted to them. It seems like a no-brainer to include a manager discretion clause.

              1. TootsNYC*

                The manager discretion clause is normally there, but that’s as to timing, not “whether at all.”

            2. Candi*

              That’s not right to work. That’s at will.

              Right to work means ‘you don’t have to be part of a union to work here’. Good unions/union sections benefit in the long run because people see how great they are, bad union/union sections have fits and try to push those not paying dues/full dues out. (Anecdata, unfortunately.)

        2. LBK*

          And that’s the company’s obligation, not mine.

          This is the part of your approach that doesn’t make sense to me – from the company’s perspective, their legal obligation is to let Alex take off time whenever he wants, so that’s the obligation they’re fulfilling. So if the OP says “Look, I need to take time off and it’s your problem to figure out how to accommodate Alex at the same time,” that will sound insane to the company because they’ll hear it as “I’m asking you to break the law so I can take a vacation day”.

          Until management understands that they can give the OP’s time off requests priority over Alex’s and still comply with the law, it’s only going to reflect badly on her to throw the problem back in their face, because as far as they’re aware there is no other solution besides making the OP work whenever Alex decides to call in sick.

          1. Nico m*


            The problem is that the conpany is too cheap to hire temps or another staff member to do the work.

            If the company wants to keep Alex on – whether through ignorance or charity – then they need to damn well pay for it, not Alex’s colleagues.

            1. LBK*

              But the OP has already gone that route and got shut down. There’s no point in trying to bring it up again.

              It’s all well and good to make these absolute statements about what the company should or shouldn’t do, but I genuinely believe they’re useless for the OP. The spirit of the advice on this site trends towards pragmatic answers, not ideal answers, so I’m trying to come up with what I think will give the OP the greatest possible chance at getting what she wants. Again, I don’t think she should have to explain the law to her employer, but as far as I can tell her only other option is to quit.

              Unless the OP is vital to the survival of the organization and therefore has a lot of political capital, leveling an ultimatum of “You need to fix this immediately and it’s not my problem to figure out how” is going to go over horribly. As far as I can tell, the core of the issue is that even though management recognizes how terrible Alex is, they don’t think they can do anything about it. If the OP can get them to realize that’s not true, I think that’s her best chance for getting Alex canned or at least held accountable. All other doors seem to be closed.

            2. LBK*

              (Sorry for all the double comments but I keep thinking of things right after I post.)

              The problem is that the conpany is too cheap to hire temps or another staff member to do the work.

              Hiring another person would just be a band-aid anyway, because you’d still have Alex there taking advantage of the company. The core problem isn’t that they won’t hire a third person, it’s that they won’t get rid of Alex – if they actually started holding him accountable, there’d be no need to have anyone else work there.

    8. K-VonSchmidt*

      We have a similar issue. The employee has a condition covered under ADA and has exhausted all FMLA and PTO. They are salary non-exempt. HR has consulted legal and must now enter what they call an “interactive process”. They cannot be terminated as their condition is covered under ADA, so they are protected. This “process” involves following up multiple times for up to a year or until their doctor says they have no “return date” at which point we can say, that doesn’t work for us.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Just to be clear, the ADA doesn’t prevent you from firing an employee with an ADA-covered condition. If you can show they can’t perform the essential functions of the job (which may include attendance), you can let them go.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Yeah, that’s… not how the ADA works. I’m wondering if HR is getting accurate information from Legal here.

      2. Retail HR Guy*

        That’s overly cautious, and I’m saying that as someone that works at a place that is already pretty damn cautious about ADA compliance. Unless it is a position that causes very little hardship to leave unfilled, over a year of leave above and beyond FMLA and PTO is rarely going to be considered reasonable. And you don’t have to wait for the doctor to say “no return date.” The courts have repeatedly concluded that a doctor repeatedly extending the leave is in effect asking for indefinite leave, which is never reasonable.

        1. K-VonSchmidt*

          I do agree, and HR stated, they are being overly cautious to head off any possibility of legal issues. We have not crossed the bridge of “doctor repeatedly extending the leave” just yet.

  8. bopper*

    Also, what would happen if you tell them that you ARE going to be taking off, Alex or no, and they need to fill in if he won’t be there? What are they going to do, fire you and then have nobody?

      1. Purest Green*

        Seriously. OP can ask who is going to cross-train for that position for times they’re both out simultaneously, which is a legitimate possibility even if OP weren’t dealing with an Alex.

    1. Natalie*

      Solid point. I would still be looking for another job as fast as possible, but in the meantime, just drop the end of this rope. You’re going to need the breathing space for job searching anyway.

      1. JessaB*

        I wonder if the OP has actually laid out on a calendar exactly how much coverage they’re doing? I’m wondering if management is not seeing (willingly or not) exactly what they’re having the OP do?

    2. svb*

      Honestly, this is the approach I would take in the most diplomatic way possible. I would have been much tougher in establishing my boundaries from the beginning and, because of that, I never can quite comprehend how people get strong armed into a position like OP is in. My employer is not my owner.

    3. Contrarian Annie*

      I expect “you” would then be put on a performance improvement plan or similar, and have to declare that on any future applications – ruling “you” out of getting out of there in the near future…

      1. Contrarian Annie*

        (Where I come from, vacation etc are by the permission of, rather than notification to, the employer. So declaring that you are taking off regardless is insubordination / being AWOL or such like.)

  9. Lily Rowan*

    Oh man, that sounds terrible. And like a situation that would make it feel impossible to do an effective job search! (Burned out, no time off, etc.)

    Good luck, OP.

  10. Chriama*

    One more thing – what if OP started fighting fire with fire and calling in sick? Not all the time, of course. But as a conscientious employee you might not be able to just… stop working weekends and stuff. So you could try to practice taking a harder line about being unavailable (if you feel under the weather, don’t tough it out and go in, if they try to rescind your vacation, tell them you already bought flight tickets/paid for a hotel/whatever and you can’t get your money back) when they try to throw Alex’s emergencies on to you, that forces this to become their problem. Also, FMLA doesn’t guarantee paid leave so I’m looking askance at someone taking 18 weeks/year (that’s longer than most US maternity leaves!) and costing the company so much money that they can’t hire temporary help. Someone who works ~40% full time would cost about as much as they’re saving when not paying Alex, right?

    1. TCO*

      Agreed–OP, you deserve some time off! Call in sick once in a while. A sick day for exhaustion or your own mental wellness is a totally legitimate use of a sick day, and doesn’t require you to hang around little kids hoping to catch the flu just to get a day off.

      1. Chriama*

        Another thing is that it can be really hard to job search when you’re exhausted and burned out. So you might choose to take some judicious sick days to work on your search – one day here to fix your resume, one day there to apply for jobs, a few “doctor’s appointments” to interview, a weeklong vacation to attend some job fairs or a professional conference… This is better than quitting without anything lined up.

        1. JanetInSC*

          Came here to say the same thing. OP, take a sick day, or two. Don’t let yourself be abused. And start your job search. Good luck!

    2. Lily in NYC*

      Yes, I think OP should schedule dental surgery. Whether she needs it or not! This is just awful (the situation, not your post). And OP if you see this PLEASE update us if you decide to speak with your boss.

      1. sometimeswhy*

        I have–no kidding–actually scheduled and undergone surgery to get time off of a horrible job. It was decades ago but it was the only way I could get an uninterrupted week off.

        1. Panda Bandit*

          I attended the wedding of someone I didn’t like just to get a day away from my horrible job. I like the surgery idea.

        2. Lab Monkey*

          I did it last month. The surgery was in a grey area (medically necessary but not urgent), so when the surgeon offered a spot I jumped at it.

    3. Certified G and Bonified Stud*

      I did call in sick once at this job, before I started texting, and had the boss guilty me with “well you know Berthas out today already”. I went in. Boss feigned feeling bad about me coming in. After that I started texting.

      1. Chriama*

        Lol that’s why I only ever email in sick at my current job. My boss is actually pretty great, but the guilt of a last minute call-out like that is pretty rough.

  11. Mrs. Picky Pincher*

    Man, I’m really sorry. This totally sucks. I think AAM hits the nail on the head here, though. It’s not Alex’s fault that he’s on FMLA; so I wouldn’t put the onus of your misery on your coworker’s absence. The real issue is how your company is handling these absences: they’re making you handle it.

    While I agree that you should aggressively take this up with management (don’t let them push you aside), it sounds like another job is a better option. It’s tricky, though, because it sounds like you can hardly get any time off, which would be necessary to go to interviews and the like. I’d say to definitely start looking for other positions since it can take a few months to find a job. I would only advocate leaving your job without a new one lined up in the case that you have a big enough emergency fund to fall back on.

  12. Sunflower*

    No nononoononono I am in shock your company is allowing this to go on. It sounds like your manager is not aware at ALL of what is required of him pertaining to FMLA and ADA accommodations.

    Why on earth does your company think they have to pay Alex for all this time off? I believe companies aren’t actually required to give anyone any PTO of any sort if they don’t want to. FMLA does not have to be paid. They could tell Alex he isn’t going to be paid for any time he does not work. There is absolutely nothing preventing them from saying that.

    If you have an HR dept, I would actually consider consulting them first. I would find it very very hard to believe that they are tots cool with paying someone 18 WEEKS OF PTO.

    This is insane to me from all perspectives.

    1. Contrarian Annie*

      Boss has paranoid ideas about what legal comeback there may be from employees with a disability etc (from past experience or HR depts. or whatever); or, boss is in cahoots or overly identifies with the FMLA employee in some way. ? Is it the immediate boss or the “company” making these decisions?

      1. Candi*

        Considering I’ve had at least two managers who claimed company/state when it was them being glassbowls on multiple issues…

  13. 2 Cents*

    The evil side of me says when you know he’s going to be out, you’re sudden struck ill with a stomach virus for a few days (hard to prove you’re not — no one wants the details!) and see how they handle it — or don’t.

    Nice side of me says you should plan to talk to your manager and dust off that resume simultaneously. You’ve been there 18 months in an entry-level job (and by the time you leave, it could be almost two years). For many workplaces, that’s a long enough span at your first job.

    1. Christine*

      I agree with you. Call in sick and give them a taste of what it will feel if the OP is gone? I would do that first before talking with the manager about your hours. That why you can say this job is running me down, etc. Because if you have the “talk” then call in sick. I’m also wondering if the OP is getting OT or are they saying he’s exempt. If they are saying he’s exempt, than OP should contact the labor board to verify it. Do it before leaving, that way you have access to your files, etc. But be sure to have your timesheets available to you at home, a hard copy, flash drive, etc. I do not know what the cutoff is; but even if someone is exempt (current law) they still get OT if they would over a certain amount of hours. I’m wanting to say it’s over 50 hours in one week. Not sure. Someone will have to answer that question. Also wonder about the size of the employer, because ADA “is reasonable accommodation” not loading all of the reasonability on one person. The size of the employer pays a role in this; is it 25 employees or less?

      1. Chriama*

        I think if your hours worked compared to your salary take you under minimum wage then they have to pay you OT even if you’re exempt. For example, if you make 48k (4k/month) but are working 100-hour weeks, your effective hourly rate might be under minimum wage. It’s tough though because minimum wage can be under $10 in a lot of places.

        1. Jessie*

          No, this is not true, under federal law at any rate. Being exempt means being *exempt from FLSA*, and FLSA covers both OT and minimum wage. If a position is exempt, then under federal law it does not matter how much you work; they never ever have to pay you overtime. Even if your salary, calculated on an hourly basis, is below minimum wage.

          1. Chriama*

            Wow, really? That’s crazy! So as long as you’re making 47k they can own you 24/7 with no additional compensation?

            1. LBK*

              There’s additional requirements aside from the salary test – your job also has to encompass certain responsibilities in order to be considered exempt. But yes, if you meet those other requirements for the company to exempt you from the FLSA, you’re not legally entitled to anything more than your salary regardless of hours worked. Of course, this goes both ways – you’re not entitled to overtime, but you also don’t lose money if you don’t work a full 40 hours in a week.

      2. Natalie*

        “even if someone is exempt (current law) they still get OT if they would over a certain amount of hours. I’m wanting to say it’s over 50 hours in one week.”

        That’s not the case on a federal level, it would depend on the state. However, if the LW has been improperly classified (which is depressingly common) they would be able to pursue backpay for any unpaid OT.

      3. Gadfly*

        I think calling in for a couple of days and then saying “I was thinking about everything while recuperating, and realized I just can’t continue like this…” works on a couple of levels. It provides a stop point to something that has been a gradual slippery slope issue. They may not even realize that they have gone this far past reasonable if they are just dealing with things as they happen. It just slides into getting by and calcifies rather than ever being an actual decision. Having a couple days for you to breathe and them to reflect (and maybe panic) could be good. And you could use the time to think through what you are willing to do and update your resume and browse listings.

        1. Chriama*

          I like this idea. Call out sick, don’t answer any calls or emails, and come back and say “these 17 months of 6-7 day weeks with no time off have really taken their toll on me. I simply won’t be able to handle all of Alex’s work in addition to my own going forward, and if I don’t get time off to recharge I’m going to end up calling in sick because my body can’t handle it. What can we do to fix this situation?” That sends a much more tangible message to the bosses.

    2. Candi*

      If you need to, LW, justify it to yourself as a mental health day. [Snarky remark about the company’s /manager’s handling of this situation.] Stress and overwork can make you sick physically and mentally anyway.

  14. Jamie M.*

    Thank you to Alison for answering my letter and to all the readers who have made comments so far. I appreciate all of them.

    1. Mike C.*

      Hey, one thing I wanted to point out:

      My manager and his manager both say that they can’t do anything about Alex taking time off because of the ADA accommodation and that because they have to pay for those sick and vacation days, the company cannot afford to hire and pay another person for our department.

      This is absolute BS coming from your management. Part of the costs of hiring an employee are paying out for their benefits. It shouldn’t matter if someone is taking vacation or not because the cost of that is already baked into the cost of hiring that person in the first place.

      1. Gadfly*

        But I think what they are saying is they are not saving money when he takes the paid time off, so they can’t use those non-existent savings to hire a third person.

    2. Captain Radish*

      I’ve been overly relied upon myself (although not to the degree you have) and can empathize somewhat. I would agree with many of the people here and say it’s not likely to change and to try and find somewhere else. However, I would also agree that you shouldn’t just quit outright.

      The cynical side of me is saying that they aren’t hiring anyone else BECAUSE you are useful. That side of me is saying they are taking advantage of you and will replace you in a second if/when you get burned out. I may ask around if Alex is related to/ in a relationship with someone because what he’s doing is not really covered by ADA and any HR person who has half a brain will know they are being FAR TOO accommodating.

    3. Michelle*

      So sorry this is happening to you!

      I’m not a lawyer but it seems like Alex’s health issues are so extreme he should maybe apply for disability.

      1. Temperance*

        He has a pretty sweet deal right now – he can work intermittently, take off as much time as he wants, and get paid.

        1. Katniss*

          I don’t think there’s any reason to disparage Alex here. The problem here is how the company is treating the OP, not Alex and his illness.

          1. Michelle*

            I’m not disparaging Alex. Some people have severe health issues that affect their ability to work. My observation is that his illness is pulling him away from work so often that it’s possible he could qualify for disability and be able to focus on improving those issues if that’s possible. OP’s company could hire someone that could be present in the office and lighten OP’s workload and s/he could take vacation or a few days off when s/he wants and.or needs to.

          2. Temperance*

            I realize that it came off as flippant, but I don’t see it as disparaging. That’s his current situation. The company is giving him 18 weeks paid time off per year, he can leave whenever he wants/needs to, and he can take time off without giving notice.

    4. HR Empress*

      It sounds like the company is misunderstanding how to apply FMLA. FMLA protects his time off for 12 weeks (intermittent time off included). They should run the vacation and sick time CONCURRENTLY with FMLA (theses are policies that PAY employees and don’t PROVIDE time off). At least by making him use the time concurrently, you reduce the annual benefit of time away to 12 weeks. Also, once he has exhausted his sick and vacation time, FMLA is UNPAID! Unless the company has some more restrictive policy (most don’t but check your state). In other words, the company should stop over paying and consider what money they have to get help in the department. Your company needs to monitor this employee and ensure that they follow FMLA and ADA for him but, like Allison said, they have an obligation to you as well and to a certain degree, giving the work to someone else is not a reasonable accommodation.

      1. JessaB*

        And as long as they don’t change the payment retroactively, they can decide going forward to NOT pay FMLA after the normal PTO is paid out.

  15. KathyR*

    ADA reasonable accommodation will only work if it doesn’t cause an undue hardship on the company. How is this situation not a undue hardship?! If you only have one person to cover everything when you consistently need two and you can’t keep employees because of it, your company is facing undue hardship.

      1. Temperance*

        Actually, they are. They have an employee in what is apparently a critical position who can’t handle any responsibility or be relied on.

        1. Christine*

          The OP is the one suffering. As long is one individual is doing two people’s jobs, and is meeting the deliverables (with their tongue hanging out ten feet behind them) . . . they’ll leave it as is. I would be afraid that the individual / Alex will quit or go on disability and then they’ll be slow hiring a replacement since the OP has been handling the load without any pushback.

          1. Temperance*

            It might honestly be easier for her with him out of the picture. That being said, he has a pretty sweet setup – he can leave work whenever he wants to, no questions asked, no taking work home, no real responsibility/accountability. And it sounds like he’s getting paid for all of it, which … wow.

            1. Dynamic Beige*

              That was my thought. Alex can call out at will with no repercussions and gets all of his salary? Sweet for him. There’s no incentive for him to find a job that he’s capable of performing on a daily basis because he wouldn’t get such treatment elsewhere.

              I’m with everyone else, OP, call out sick this Monday and see what happens. Book travel home or a beach vacation for Xmas and stick to your guns. What are they going to do, fire you? Then they’d have no one they could rely on to do the work.

              1. Gadfly*

                And being fired under those circumstances I suspect could be challenged for unemployment. Quitting under these circumstances maybe even.

              2. Glen*

                Yeah, having a severe mental illness that makes you near-unemployable rules ass! Why, it must be a dream come true!

                Can we keep the focus in the crappy employer, and not shit-talk the sick person, please? I somehow doubt you’d be talking like this if the guy had a more visible health problem.

      2. Captain Radish*

        Ask accounting how much they spend on the days that Alex is not doing any work. There’s hardship there.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The ADA does not require you to do this to an employee. It is indeed undue hardship if the accommodation results in a coworker having to work round the clock.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Also, ADA requires that you give someone the accommodations they need in order to do the job. It does not require that you give them unlimited time off which results in them not doing the job.

      1. fposte*

        Time off can be considered a reasonable accommodation even if you don’t have FMLA or PTO, and it sounds like Alex is getting FMLA and PTO, which he’s already entitled to. The problem here really isn’t the interpretation of “reasonable accommodation,” because even taking it down to 12 weeks for only FMLA would leave the OP with the same problem. It’s how the unit deals with the fact that they’ve got the workload for two FTE and only 1.75 FTE in practice and they’re expecting the OP to be 1.25 to make things work.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          But this much time off? That sounds more like disability than accommodation. At what point is an employer allowed to say “even with accommodation, you cannot do this job?”

          1. fposte*

            There basically isn’t that point under the FMLA, only the ADA. An employer certainly has the right to say “You have to use your PTO during your FMLA leave,” but they don’t have the right to say “We can’t keep you in this job if you use all of your federally allowed FMLA leave.”

            I’ll follow up with a DOL post responding to a specific situation–the questioner has said that they have an employee who needs weekly dialysis but they need staffing for essential functions during that time, and the DOL’s answer is basically too bad, suck it up and grant them leave, that’s the law.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              But ADA is what I was talking about, not FMLA. It’s not about using all of your leave, it’s about your ability to do the job when given accommodations. It sounds like Alex is way beyond that point.

              1. fposte*

                Okay, so they push him back to twelve weeks out a year only, the FMLA max, rather than allowing him to take his time off sequentially. I don’t think that solves the OP’s problem–it just makes it last slightly less long.

                Under FMLA they can’t legally keep him from taking twelve weeks off a year. As long as that’s true, the problem is how they’re handling the leave.

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  Yes, they’re definitely handling it badly. My issue is, where is the tipping point from accommodation to straight-up disability? It sounds like the LW is doing 1.25 jobs and Alex is doing .75 of a job (and that’s assuming Alex is at 100% productivity while in the office). At what point can the employer say “even with accommodations, this job is too much for you,” and move on?

  16. AndersonDarling*

    This is more fantasizing than advice, but I’d go to a psychologist and explain your mental state. You could be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and then you can have an ADA accommodation as well.

      1. Chinook*

        As someone who discovered that side effects to extreme stress can include hallucinations (in my case, imaginary bunnies hiding behind imaginary rocks getting ready to jump up, shout “ogaboga!” and run away, so nothing terrifying), I can tell you that it can be hard to prove the real physical effects of stress. While I normally would be against encouraging someone to fake a mental illness, I am with AndersonDarling on thinking this might be a good way to get some of that time of you desperately need while, at the same time, ensuring that the company take a hard look at how they implement FMLA and ADA requirements.

  17. 27540*

    ADA rulings can be interesting. If the company is large enough, it would be hard to say that accommodating Alex is an undue hardship on the company since they could afford to hire a replacement, but choose not to do so.

    1. Newby*

      I’m pretty sure that the accommodations are supposed to allow the person to still do their job, not just have them be paid without actually fulfilling the role, which is what seems to be going on here.

        1. Natalie*

          Although I don’t think it would need to be paid time off, so if the company is indeed paying him, that’s something they’re taking on voluntarily.

          Ultimately it’s not something the OP should mention when she brings this to her bosses. The details and logic behind Alex’s accommodation is a red herring – the company has to accommodate him, not the OP personally.

        2. Stellaaaaa*

          There comes a point when someone is being paid for a job they’re not doing. Just because Alex has a disability doesn’t mean that he’s not being a jerk.

              1. Michelle*

                Yes, I understand that. I’ve know people who will use their illness in a guilt-trip kind of way to get as much sympathy and flexibility as possible. Alex may not be doing this, but I have a suspicious mind and that was just a thought.

          1. Djuna*

            He may not realize that, though. I went through something similar early in my career, where I was seriously not well and kept trying to go back to work because I felt terrible about missing time and others having to cover for me. A very sensible doctor explained that this was making everything worse – it’s sort of a spiral.

            I quit my job after that conversation and the only regret I have now is that I didn’t do it sooner.
            I wonder if Alex has anyone to give him that kind of advice? The company being so accommodating may be leading (indirectly!) to one or two days work from him followed by a half-day and exit, where he (and they, and certainly the OP) would be better served by one protracted absence followed by a full return.

            I’m sorry, OP, this situation sucks and your employer should also be invested in making sure you don’t burn out from all this time doing the work of two people.

        3. ADA Woman*

          But it does not have to be virtually unlimited time off for an unrestricted period of time. This employer, if covered bty the ADA, is totally misunderstanding the requirements. The disabled person must be able to do the essential functions of the job with accommodations. Reasonable accommodations are just that, reasonable, and do not require an employer to suffer undue hardship to implement. Yes, undue hardship is a high bar but it is unquestionably met here as business operations, including impact on other employees, are extremely impacted.

          The sick employee must know somebody to get all of this. I have had a RA agreement in place for five years and had to fight tooth and nail for even marginal accomodations. RA agreements are negotiated between the requesting employee and the employer’s decision maker, who is typically the supervisor. For a physical condition. I read the EEOC regs myself so that I could advocate on my own behalf. ADA is being totally misrepresented by this employer, and the sick employee is unable to work full time and the law does not require she be accomodated with a full time position when the work is mostly performed by someone else. Nope.

      1. BRR*

        Googling around a little I found the accommodation should not cause an undue hardship defined as an “action requiring significant difficulty or expense.” I would argue that if one employee’s absence is wreaking this much havoc on a schedule it’s an undue hardship. I know there’s also the phrase essential job functions floating around in the ADA too. If the role requires the employee to be there at certain times, which we don’t know, they’re not able to perform an essential job function.

        But I imagine after granting an accommodation it’s potentially a huge liability to then fire the person for the same situation.

        Not a lawyer nor do I play one on TV.

        1. Turtle Candle*

          In fact, as I read it, they’re outright claiming it’s causing undue expense–because they say his absence is why they can’t afford to hire sufficient staff for coverage.

          1. Gadfly*

            Except that is where the FMLA part of things comes into play where they have to allow the 12 weeks (unpaid. As has been said elsewhere they are well passed legal requirements if they are doing 18 paid weeks.)

            1. JessaB*

              Except that in this case I have a feeling that the employee’s doctor would be very shocked at the amount of time and way the time is being taken is shaking out. In order to take FMLA you need certain medical certifications, and intermittent FMLA forms have a line asking the doctor how often this leave might happen. It is absolutely not unreasonable if a doctor says for instance 2 days a month that the office respond with “here are the days/times the employee took off, Is this within treatment plans.” I seriously believe that if a recertification was asked for the doctor would be shocked.


      2. Gadfly*

        I think some of the problem is there are two things going on–The FMLA and the ADA. ADA requires reasonable accommodation. FMLA gives you 12 weeks (unpaid) a year of time off without losing your job. It isn’t just one or the other, it is trying to figure out how not to violate either one or the hybrid situation they have created as they have different requirements and standards.

        I think they looked at the mess, decided it was too hard to figure out, and now won’t look at it unless it hurts them more to ignore it than it does to sort it out.

        1. fposte*

          Yup. This might be too much to be a reasonable accommodation under the ADA, but for the twelve weeks of the FMLA, he’s bulletproof, and they’ve just panicked and thrown up their hands.

          1. JessaB*

            He may not be bulletproof for the FMLA if they ask for recertification they are allowed to show his schedule to the physician. I posted a link above (it’s being moderated right now) about what to do if you think someone is abusing FMLA. He’s only bulletproof if the doctor actually says that yes the way he is taking FMLA is reasonable for his condition. FMLA can be abused and if the employee is, he’s certainly not bulletproof over it.

            1. fposte*

              Yes, that’s a fair point–if the doctor won’t certify the level of absence then he’s not entitled to it. Thanks for bringing that up.

    2. Christine*

      I work for the state. When someone goes out on FMLA we can bring someone in for 20 hours a week as an emergency hire for 3 months. But if someone is out on Intermittent FMLA, they will not allow you to bring in an emergency hire. It’s assumed that the individual on I- FMLA will do everything to be in the office & not abuse it.

      1. Gadfly*

        It is even technically required, I think, in FMLA itself. But then we have the problem of figuring out intentions…

        1. fposte*

          They “must attempt to schedule their leave so as not to disrupt the employer’s operations,” but obviously that’s not always possible.

    3. TootsNYC*

      Or, that their company is large enough that SOMEbody can be trained to fill in.

      The problem? This is indeed their solution, and their SOMEbody is our OP.

  18. Middle Management Bob*

    It’s not so shocking that his company is doing this, especially if they’re concerned about getting sued by Alex.

    Push back and see how it goes, and start job searching in case it goes badly.

  19. Jen*

    Bananas nuts! I managed a team of 7 and *three* of the seven were all pregnant at the same time. Due days apart! It took a little slight of hand with the budget, some beg/borrow/stealing, and some pushing of deliverables, but we made it work and all 3 ladies are back to work with their little cuties at home.

    Our mat leave included short term disability, which meant for 6-8 weeks we the company were not paying the worker (the short term disability carrier was). So I had ~20 weeks of budget to play with and brought in a consultant to work on a carved out project. I also used it to borrow some other employees for a few small projects during the 3 months the ladies were All out.

    1. Gadfly*

      That is taking cycling together to a whole new level…

      Something similar (though not AS close) happened at my last job–one of the three was an adoption and in the mix too. It was an interesting few months. And an interesting few months afterwards too.

    2. JuniperGreen*

      Well managed!!! That’s quite a feat.

      (Is it bad that I giggled at “pushing of deliverables”? Covering many a maternity leave has me attuned to baby puns.)

    3. RVA Cat*

      Yes but knowing OP’s company that tried to postpone somebody’s honeymoon(!) – I’d say they would handle it so badly they would have BOTH sides of a contentious social issue coming after them.

  20. ChrysantheMumsTheWord*

    I feel for you OP and agree that Allison’s guidance here is spot on.

    One thing that is really bugging me about all of this is the fact that you know about another employee’s ADA protection as well as the other employee’s FMLA leave in more detail than is appropriate. This isn’t your fault but it sounds like your manager and their manager are over-disclosing protected information about Alex in addition to taking advantage of you.

    1. JessaB*

      Not to mention if there are only two people in the department working it’s pretty obvious how often Alex is out. You don’t have to be especially astute to figure that this person MUST have some kind of leave permission. Whether FMLA or ADA or both it’d be kind of obvious since they’re not physically there and you can see that. Otherwise they’d be getting fired for leaving at will etc. Even without evidence it’s a logical guess.

  21. Betty*

    It sounds to me that HR is probably clueless as well. This is being tracked somewhere & no company who knows what’s going on would just let this ride. I really think the next step is to do whatever you need to do to leave this company & stop letting them take advantage of you.

    1. TootsNYC*

      Betty has a good point about HR.

      Either HR is complicit in this dysfunction (time to leave!), or they don’t actually realize what’s going on, and the managers are fumbling along without asking for guidance, etc.

      So I’d be very quick to take this to HR if I didn’t like what I heard from the managers, using Alison’s script.

      1. RVA Cat*

        Also, if the OP isn’t exempt then this has got to be causing lots of OT. Or…are they having him/her work off the clock as well? It would not surprise me.

  22. hayling*

    Wow. This is just not normal. OP, I know it’s hard when you’re new to the working world to calibrate what is reasonable and what’s not. This is so far beyond reason. Don’t let your brain convince you that this is normal.

  23. DCGirl*

    Another way that the company is doing it wrong is by letting him have vacation and sick leave on top of FMLA leave, which it sounds like is happening here since FMLA is normally 12 weeks. FMLA leave is, by definition, unpaid leave with job protection for serious health conditions. Employers can and do offer ways to be paid when a person has to be out (short and long-term disability insurance) but they routinely require employees to exhaust their paid leave (vacation and sick leave) before moving into unpaid status. If they are really giving this guy 18 weeks of paid leave every years, they are the most generous employer in America.

    1. TheCupcakeCounter*

      That is what I was thinking! I was not required to exhaust my sick/vacation when I went on maternity leave but outside of the 6 weeks STD I was not paid for the 12 weeks I was out.

      1. DCGirl*

        I had FMLA to care for my grandmother. I always had to use paid leave to cover the time. FMLA just meant that I didn’t run afoul of the company’s policy on unscheduled absences due to emergencies (and there was a point at which assisted living sent her to the ER every time she sneezed).

    2. Gadfly*

      And that generosity is completely at odds with how they are treating the OP. It doesn’t fit together right…

    3. Retail HR Guy*

      Our company gives 26 weeks of paid leave per year through STD, on top of the usual 2-4 weeks of vacation. (And that’s in retail!)

      1. DCGirl*

        Yes, but only 12 weeks of it would be job protected under FMLA. STD is not a form of leave; it’s how you get paid while you are on leave.

  24. memyselfandi*

    I imagine that as a new employee the OP felt it necessary to fill in for Alex with a cheerful attitude for the first few months. That established an unfortunate pattern and unrealistic expectations on the part of the managers. Yes, OP should look for a new job, but it is challenging to do that when you are so overloaded and unhappy. I agree with some of the comments here that OP should just take some time off, no matter what. Take a few days to recover and a few days to start a job search.

  25. Moonsaults*

    I assume they are petrified of the lawsuit that he’ll file if they don’t move mountains to accommodate him. Which is fantastic, since they are leaving their asses hanging out by overworking you and possibly denying you benefits that your compensation package is supposed to allow.

  26. TheCupcakeCounter*

    My understanding is that FMLA is job protection but it is unpaid so I’m not sure how the budget conversation is legit. Worked this way for me (maternity leave), my mother (caring for her ailing father), and my husband and brother-in-law (car accident). Any pay we received was short-term or long-term disability at a portion of the normal rate and came from an insurance company the employer contracts with.
    Definitely have the conversation with your boss Alison outlines above and be very firm. I would also outline several items that are lower in priority or have a less specific skill/access requirement and have your boss find other (permanent) coverage for them (I had to do this once and I did not make it a conversation simply a “these items need to go somewhere else effective immediately as I can no longer do them”). And really – just don’t do more than you are able just because they aren’t doing what they should. Trust me you won’t get fired and as long as it is working in their minds nothing will change. I learned this the hard way.
    And while I agree that you need to look for another position immediately I think you should put in for some time off as well. Such as in two weeks you will be taking Thur & Fri off and use one day to pamper yourself and the other to do some serious job searching. Also set up a few random half and full days off (for “medical appointments”) on a day Alex is mostly likely to be in if you can pinpoint any trends. I also recommend calling in the next time you get a cold even if you would normally work through it. I don’t normally advocate for such a passive aggressive action but in this instance they need a little panic and pain so be sure to turn off your phone and not check email that day.

    1. TootsNYC*

      And really – just don’t do more than you are able just because they aren’t doing what they should. Trust me you won’t get fired and as long as it is working in their minds nothing will change. I learned this the hard way.

      So totally this.

      You are enabling this bad management by going along with it. Just subtly start doing less. Identify the unimportant things, and hand them back to your manager, saying, “I didn’t have time to get to these, and I need to leave.”

      And leave.

    2. Kyrielle*

      And, if you do get fired for saying you can no longer sustain this schedule, (1) you were already contemplating walking out with no job lined up and (2) I suspect you’d be able to get unemployment (after attending a hearing if they contested) in pretty much every state. Maybe I’m overly optimistic, but … it seems like it ought to be a slam-dunk. (That’s *if* they fire you, and to be clear, I agree – I don’t think they can afford to, and I think they know that.)

  27. Colorado*

    I think you must have eaten something that was bad or caught a bug. Call in sick for a couple days, take some you time, update your resume, create the agenda for the meeting with boss (wait, do that on company time). Their reaction to you calling in sick will help navigate that meeting. Rehearse what you want to say, write it down, speak calmly. Good luck! Send us an update!

  28. Tiny_Tiger*

    This is just… I have no good word for what this is that isn’t a massive expletive. Your coworker and managers are all being a bunch of a**holes. Yes, your coworker might need some accommodations, but doesn’t it seem like he’s taking advantage of the ones that the company is legally obliged to give? If his condition makes him so unreliable that he’s putting this much undue strain on the company and his coworker, then he probably shouldn’t have this job. And your managers… oh, good gods, are they really that delusional to think that you or anyone else will stick around for very long after putting up with this crap? Does anyone know if their actions are against labor laws?

    1. Kyrielle*

      I am much more upset with the employer than Alex. He could be milking it. He could also have a legitimate disability and be experiencing it every time he calls out. Quite a few things (and it would surprise me if most mental illnesses were *not* in the list) can be made worse by stress/anxiety. (It can even look like they’re skiving off because, if work-stress is exacerbating the issue, some of them will ease off when they go home. Remove the stress, remove the symptom. Reintroduce the stress…oops.)

      But Alex’s condition is not, or rather *should not be*, the OP’s problem. It’s the company’s, and they are handling this very poorly. They are being generous with Alex (it sounds like out of ignorance), but horrible to the OP – this is not balanced or okay. They need a solution that doesn’t unduly burden other employees.

      1. Tiny_Tiger*

        The part that made me suspicious of Alex was when the OP had vacation time scheduled and the issue of working weekends. It makes sense for a coworker to know when you’ll be out of the office, so it seems a little overly convenient that Alex suddenly had issues during that time period and also suddenly has issues working during the least desirable times to be in the office, i.e. weekends.

        But yes, you are absolutely right that the responsibility for this is falling very heavily on OP’s managers. They need to manage the situation and they are pretty much doing the opposite.

    2. Candi*

      “Does anyone know if their actions are against labor laws?”

      Not sure at the federal level, but they might want to check state laws/regs.

      For instance, if they’re doing the night/weekend/canceling vacay to LW-Jamie (she commented), then they’re probably not being very observant of meal times and breaks. In my state, that could get them in big trouble: even the worst places I worked allowed them on the legal schedule because of the smackdown that would result. In other states, they’d be in a world of hurt because of a lack of such a law or lack of enforcement.

      On the flip side, my state has no overtime cap (except for the nursing industry), so there wouldn’t be a law broken there.

      (On a side note, I am loving my state’s L&I site for how clearly it lays this stuff out.)

  29. Stellaaaaa*

    Are they scared of Alex suing or something? They’ve clearly gotten terrible advice about how to handle ADA stuff and it seems they they never bothered asking their own questions; they just went along with whatever “accommodations” Alex proposed on his own behalf.

    OP, I’d recommend doing some research into the definition of “reasonable accommodations.” You don’t want to come out swinging with this info, but it’s useful to have a response prepared if you get pushback along the lines of, “He has a disability that needs to be accommodated”; you can say, “the law only requires reasonable accommodation, and only if the company has a staff of X or more people.” It’s possible that your company is small enough for the ADA to not apply anyway, so check up on that. It seems to me that if Alex is sucking up so many resources that the company can’t afford coverage, there might be justified ways to cut his hours or to let him go entirely, but don’t quite me on that.

    Is Alex truly valuable to the company? Does he submit stellar work or bring in business that makes him worth this trouble?

    1. TootsNYC*

      if you get pushback along the lines of, “He has a disability that needs to be accommodated”; you can say, “the law only requires reasonable accommodation, and only if the company has a staff of X or more people.”

      I suggest not saying this. I suggest saying, “Accommodating Alex is the company’s responsibility, not mine. And I cannot continue to accommodate Alex’s disability out of my personal time and giving up part of my compensation package.”

      Because all the rest of it is not really the OP’s business, and it’ll make her look like she’s second-guessing everybody.

      1. Christine*

        Great wording!!! OP let us know how this pans out. Please!!! I wish you the best in this situation and your future job search.

      2. LBK*

        See, again, I just don’t get how this is supposed to be effective. It’s going to come off as insubordinate, because the company believes they have a legal obligation to prioritize Alex’s time off over everything else. Especially if the OP says she “cannot continue to accommodate Alex’s disability” – that’s basically saying “I’m not going to follow the directions that you’ve given me in order to comply with the law, and it’s not my problem if you get in legal trouble as a result.” I really, really do not understand this approach in the given context and I think it will reflect horribly on the OP.

        1. Anna*

          Because they aren’t complying with what the law actually states. The OP isn’t asking them to break the law, she’s asking them to actually comply in a way that is reasonable.

          1. LBK*

            But based on the letter, it sounds like they believe that the law does require them to do what they’re doing. So from their perspective, it’s going to sound like the OP is asking them to break the law. That’s why I think she needs to tackle that misconception first, otherwise she’s not going to get anywhere because they’ll just fall back on “We can’t do anything about it, it’s the ADA”.

            1. Candi*

              She can tell them to consult a lawyer that handles ADA. “Here’s a list, or you can search your own.”

              She needs to say it professionally, but by saying that, she’s presenting the idea that the lawyer will tell them, no, they don’t have to do that, and yes, they can call her ‘bluff’, since it’s not a bluff at all.

    2. designbot*

      I would posit that by virtue of being human, he is worth going to the trouble of helping. That’s what FMLA and ADA are designed around, that anyone may be in a medical situation at some point that requires some extra understanding, and as long as it doesn’t substantially harm the company to do so, they should in fact go to the trouble of working with them.
      This isn’t about Alex, it’s about how they’re treating OP.

      1. Stellaaaaa*

        On this site, we’ve discussed the concept of the “good will bank.” The idea is that we start out with a surplus of unearned good will that we dispense toward others when we meet them, under the assumption that this good will is going to eventually be repaid or earned or traded back and forth. In this instance, Alex has completely used up the good will that the OP had allotted toward him, while Alex has exhibited exactly ZERO good will toward OP. Maybe Alex is truly unable to “soldier through” bad days or to give OP advance notice, but Alex has done nothing to make OP’s job more bearable. If I were placing a burden on my coworkers, I would try to take some work home or work remotely. I would discuss scheduling with my coworkers to make sure that truly important events did not have to be missed or postponed. I would show a modicum of gratitude and general kindness. Alex is a jerk.

        1. designbot*

          But this isn’t about Alex vs. the OP, that’s a false construct that the manager is creating. Alex’s goodwill here comes from his company, from the manager. The goodwill that OP is being asked to extend likewise is being delivered to the company. The company has banked a lot of goodwill with Alex, and zero with OP. The OP has banked massive amounts with the company–we have no idea if Alex has enough goodwill with the company to keep this going or not, but it’s not really our business. That’s his bank account and it’s private, OP should just be concerned with her own account where she needs to make some withdrawals.

          1. Stellaaaaa*

            Yes and no. It’s the company’s problem to solve, but I’m not the sort of person who gives people a pass when they lie and take advantage of others. When you see that someone is suffering so that things can be easier for you, you’re an a$$hole if you’ve been milking the system and not being honest about your situation.

            1. designbot*

              I guess I just feel like it’s making some big assumptions to say that Alex is not being honest. He may very well need every day he takes, and that doesn’t change OP’s situation one bit.

              1. Dot Warner*

                Well, there are two possibilities here:

                1. Alex does not need all the time off.
                2. Alex does need all this time off.

                If it’s #1, he’s defrauding the company, and if it’s #2, he’s not being honest about his inability to the job even with the more than reasonable accommodations he’s been given. We also don’t get any indication that he’s shown any gratitude to the OP for everything she’s done for him, so overall, Alex is not exactly covering himself in glory here.

                1. I'm Not Phyllis*

                  I agree – but I’d argue that this isn’t any of OP’s concern. OP’s concern is that she needs to get her management to manage and be reasonable about what they are asking of her. Whatever they decide to do re: Alex is between him and the management.

              1. JessaB*

                Alex does not have to be dishonest to be taking advantage. Alex doesn’t even have to be consciously taking advantage either. He may not know he’s doing this. But a lot of people even those with mental health issues if told “you can only take x time, you cannot leave early by just leaving and you need to try and make arrangements for work before you leave, etc.” Can then decide whether or not they can do the job in the first place.

                Right now Alex knows that even the slightest issue allows him to leave. This may not even be good for him medically. There may be other avenues available (take 20 minutes in the break room or a quiet room to calm down, then come back, etc)

                Without asking for a recertification of medical need, the office doesn’t even know if this is the best accommodation in the first place. Someone with knowledge about leave and accommodation needs to talk to Alex and figure things out. I wonder if anyone has even shown Alex an actual attendance statement of how much time is actually being taken?

            2. paul*

              Agreed, and it’s a theme I see in comments on this blog a lot. “Well, yeah, person is abusing it but it’s really the manager’s fault for tolerating it.”

              No, no, no. If I come in to work drunk every day and my managers cover for me, then yes, they’re screwing up and deserve censure. But *so do I*. It’s not unreasonable to expect people to be decent human beings.

              1. fposte*

                But having cancer, being sick with Crohn’s, having a child with a serious health problem, etc., aren’t the same as being drunk.

              2. Katniss*

                Nothing in the letter implies that Alex isn’t acting like a decent human being, and being ill is not the same as coming into work drunk.

                1. paul*

                  Whatever his personal issues are, its pretty clear from the letter he simply cannot effectively do the job though. Continuing to hold a job you can’t do–and it looks like he hasn’t been able to for a while–isn’t fair to your employer or your coworkers at all.

                2. Candi*

                  I think the word ‘fair’ is too subjective. I think the word ‘considerate’ would work better.

                  Because that’s the primary issue here: the company’s lack of consideration to the LW-Jamie (she commented), and Alex’s lack of consideration for the company and Jamie. Alex doesn’t sound so ill he can’t think, “How do my frequent absences affect my coworkers, and what can I do about it?” And the company should even more be thinking ‘how do Alex’s absences affect his coworkers and what can we do?” (Like, say, Wakeen Teapots Ltd would do. :P ) Instead, they both seem fine with the status quo, and Jamie bears the brunt.

  30. 123456789101112 do do do*

    You poor thing! A few adjustments to help make your job search easier: from now on, you are not just sick, you are wretching into the toilet and it is absolutely impossible for you to get to work. You are not taking a vacation, you have booked non-refundable tickets and do not have trip insurance and it will be impossible for you to come to work. You cannot work that weekend because you have long-standing plans, and it will be impossible for you to work. Be reasonable, but set a very hard boundary. Practice saying “it’s impossible” with a straight, almost bored face in the mirror. Repeat it ad nauseum. Also, 17 months is a perfectly reasonable length of time for a job and you are welcome to look for new employment.

    1. Gadfly*

      Or you already left on your vacation and so cannot interrupt it if they call you in in the middle of it–even if it is a staycation.

    2. Beancounter Eric*

      Also, become familiar with using “Absolutely Not” as a response when asked to cover.

      But first thing – find a new job – don’t bother trying to modify the current one – your managers are exploitative bastards who don’t deserve you giving more than say, 30 milliseconds notice of your terminating a business relationship with them.

      1. TootsNYC*

        don’t bother trying to modify the current one

        yeah, I don’t know that it’s worth trying to change this, because I don’t think it will work, and I also think the OP is so soured on these people that nothing will make it better.

        However, it would be good practice in standing up for oneself, so that would be the thing I’d encourage: Practice on this! Practice meeting with the boss; practice creating the mental framing of the company’s contract with you, your compensation, etc.; practice taking problems to HR with a proper framing.
        (One thing to say to HR: “I know that the company already lost one good employee because of this lack of preparation on the managers’ part–they asked her to postpone or cancel her honeymoon, and she left; that’s why the job was open for me to apply. No one was interested in an internal transfer–which is very telling. If I get burned out and frustrated, and I leave for a new job, you are going to have a hard time hiring someone, and you will be in this situation all over again. It is worth fixing this, if only for the company’s sake.”

        (They like to hear “for the company’s sake.”)

        1. Fluffer Nutter*

          Yes, this! Practice where there’s no risk. In my 20’s (and more recently) I got pushed around by work because I just didn’t realize that standing up for myself was an option. Now, in some workplace cultures you just can’t but it’s worth a shot for the OP. And wowza does Alex know where the bodies are buried….

        2. Candi*

          (They like to hear “for the company’s sake.”)

          This times 1,000,000. That makes you concerned about ‘the team’ and a ‘team player’, and somenoe that looks out for the company’s ‘best interest’.

  31. DCompliance*

    You said he had a total of 18 weeks off a year where he can call out. But you have not had a day off in 17 months! What does he do when the 18 weeks is over? Doesn’t that leave 32 weeks to take off?

    Either way, it is possible your company is afraid of a lawsuit if they don’t accommodate Alex. I have seen that happen before.

    1. Natalie*

      I don’t think Alex is taking their time off in one 18-week chunk, but rather they have 18 weeks worth of PTO that gets used throughout the year.

      1. DCompliance*

        But that still leaves many hours when he should be in. Not being able to take one day in 17 months sound like Alex is taking more than 18 weeks. I get that it is not consistent, but it still leave 32 inconsistent weeks where he should be in.

        1. Gadfly*

          The problem seems to be that every time the OP does, Alex is sick. because it is unscheduled intermittent leave, it would be hard to schedule around.

      2. Emma*

        And from the sound of it, he doesn’t even give them a lot of notice that he needs the time off, so they can’t plan around it.

        1. Temperance*

          He can just leave whenever he wants, so it looks like he can give literally no notice and just no-show and get away with it. What a nightmare for his counterpart.

  32. Gadfly*

    So, the situation is obviously not sustainable but in trying to think through what it would be reasonable for the OP to suggest/for management to try I am stuck on how does one hire someone to help this sort of situation? Alex is taking intermittent leave, so you can’t just hire a temp to cover as you could for something like surgery or maternity leave. It is unscheduled, so you can’t easily schedule someone from elsewhere. It appears to be an ongoing issue, so it will continue as long as Alex is an employee. If they can’t afford a third team member (perhaps that is what they were trying to say is that some of the time is paid time off, that he is being paid as a full employee and they only can afford two and not a third), what can they do if transferring Alex is not an option? It also isn’t clear if this is a job they can just put someone into without training and have them be any use.

    I can see why leaning on the OP as long a s/he lets them would be tempting because I don’t really see any great answers.

    1. Gadfly*

      Perhaps they could find someone they can share with another department who covers something flexible enough that it can be interrupted when s/he needs to cover for Alex? At a previous job we had someone who did things like all of the filing and covered for people–She had a bunch of busy but needed tasks for when no one was out and then could hold down the fort if needed.

        1. Gadfly*

          It think so too, if it could be made to be equivalent enough to his current position to comply with regulations. The benefit to hiring someone new into such a role would be the potential to make it part time or a lower pay grade (if they only need to do enough to cover for Alex and not do his/her full job they may not need someone with all of the same education or experience.)

          1. Temperance*

            I don’t think there’s any law that they have to offer him the position of his choosing when he’s unable to do his job.

            1. JessaB*

              No, they don’t it just has to be similar. They can’t take a clerical worker and make a janitor out of them but they can switch their department and possibly hours, if it seems that they always need certain times off. I also believe they can’t cut pay, but I’m not sure on that. Basically they can’t switch them into something they know will make them quit cause that’s the same as not bringing them back and FMLA protects that up to 12 weeks. Here’s the issue, PTO or not, FMLA only covers 12 weeks, any absence after that is not job-protective unless there’s a contract that says it is. Some places with disability insurance for longer leaves do have an agreement about coming back off that leave.

              Also I know in one job I was offered the accommodation of job protection beyond FMLA because my treatment was working and would only take a couple more weeks to bring me back at full strength and they thought it was worth it to keep me. But they have no obligation under FMLA to keep him after 12 weeks and ADA also doesn’t necessarily require them to do that because ADA is concerned with being able to do the WORK, and he obviously cannot.

    2. TCO*

      Perhaps they could hire someone else to work weekends, since it seems like those are consistently assigned to OP because Alex isn’t reliable.

      1. designbot*

        +1 to this suggestion.

        Also, the manager could cover some instances himself. Or one or two people from other department(s) could be cross-trained to fill in on OP’s team when necessary–if they do this with a couple people it increases the odds that someone will be available when needed.

    3. Editor*

      When the position opened up the last time, it should have been filled with two people with pro-rated benefits — one who was a three-quarter time employee and one who was half time. This would provide three total employees for the weekend rotation. If both applicants are told they will sometimes be on call for full-time work, that’s fair, and it allows the company more coverage without adding one whole FTE.

      Some employers are way too fixated on hiring people full-time or not at all.

    4. Temperance*

      I don’t think that Alex can do this job. But they have LW, so they’re ignoring the fact that he’s basically useless to the company. He’s like 25% and she’s like 175%. He can’t be depended on for anything.

      1. Dot Warner*

        I agree; the fact that this has been going on so long is a sign that Alex’s issues are not going to improve and this job simply isn’t a good fit for him anymore. Heck, it sounds like the stress of the job is exacerbating his problems.

  33. Rocky*

    Nooooo! I worked somewhere that this happened, only the impact wasn’t quite as dramatic because there were 4 people to “cover” for the one who was on leave about 25% of the time. This was a full-time front-desk position, and she had a chronic illness, so nothing was going to change for anyone. As far as I could tell this was all the result of a director’s utter ignorance of what ADA actually requires.

  34. Anon in NOVA*

    Dumb finances question- I’ve never used the FSA for childcare, because it maxes out at such a small portion. If I use the FSA, do I still get to claim the rest of the costs that weren’t covered when it comes to tax time??

  35. Joseph*

    “The person who I replaced had 10 years with the company and took an entry-level job somewhere else because she couldn’t handle working with Alex any longer and the company wanted her to postpone her honeymoon. ”
    Can I just mention how ridiculous this is? Like, I can’t even imagine the gall it would take to ask an employee to reschedule their honeymoon. Seriously, what in the world.
    And even if you did have the guts to ask such a thing, what outcome are you expecting? I can imagine tons of ways people might react (anger, laughter, stunned silence, immediate resignation, insults, sarcasm, and so on)…but I can’t imagine someone actually agreeing to postpone their honeymoon and doing so.

    1. Gadfly*

      I could imagine it if it was a job I really loved and I was at a high level/performing an essential function and something came up like the only person who could cover for me was in a bad accident or discovered they had stage 4 cancer…

      This does not qualify.

    2. designbot*

      I could imagine someone agreeing, but what I can’t imagine is how that working relationship goes forward after that. Much like the “boss killed my horse” letter recently, at that point the employer has crossed a line that makes your motivation just go down the drain.

    3. ShareDriveUser*

      I worked for a public utility company in California; after 5 1/2 years, I tried to schedule time off for the wedding and honeymoon, a total of 7 working days off. Because of family and religious constraints, we had a narrow window in which to work. Company first approved one 7-day stretch, rescinded that one a week later and approved a second, then rescinded that 3 weeks later and finally said I’d have to reschedule my wedding/honeymoon another 2 months out. I submitted my resignation the next day.

    4. I'm Not Phyllis*

      At my old job, our manager was upset that a coworker’s son had the gall to schedule his wedding on a weekend when the board of directors were in town, and asked her to talk to him about rescheduling. No word of a lie.

    5. zora*

      My last employer actually got my coworker to CANCEL her honeymoon completely. She knows now that that was just a sign of more crazy to come. We both no longer work there, any guesses as to why??????

      1. zora*

        as in, within weeks of when she was supposed to leave, nonrefundable, they just lost all the money they had spent. Those people were awful.

  36. B-Bam*

    It sounds like the company feels trapped in their own policies and agreements with this other employee and doesn’t understand that they can change things such as:
    1) Re-evaluate the ADA accommodations, that’s why it’s called an interactive process. Unfortunately not everyone has a good process setup as the ADA provides minimal guidelines on how to proceed. They may not even have anything in writing on the accommodations which is making more confusion as to what the agreement even is and harder for someone to actually re-evaluate it. I think a clear written agreement that explicitly states that it can be revisited by either party is good for both the employee and employer.
    2) Change their FMLA period – there are different methods on when and how companies can track the leave period. Some options can result in a longer time frame.
    3) Hold the person accountable for work performance while at the job which means not piling all the work onto the OP. Maybe the person is doing a great job while at work but it is highly possible the manager has no idea because so much of the work is being done by the OP.

    OP – I would look for a new job. Find out if your vacation/sick/PTO days are cashed out upon exit or not. If they do then you could use that as a cushion if you just need to get out. And if they don’t, sounds like you need some mental health days anyway.

    1. fposte*

      Not sure what you mean on 2)–whether they’re doing calendar or rolling, the employer has to use the same method across the board, and it’s absolutely not kosher to mess with the method to minimize an employee’s leave.

      I think FMLA is getting a bit of a bad rap on this one and I need to stand up for it. Alex is entitled to his twelve weeks and isn’t allowed to be fired for using it no matter how much the OP has to work, and I think that’s a good thing; it’s not his fault that his employer is really bad at handling this, and I doubt people here really want those with cancer, kidney disease, etc. to be fired for taking needed days off. Employers big enough to be eligible for FMLA should be handling FMLA properly in a way that doesn’t sacrifice employees not taking FMLA.

      1. Gadfly*

        Agreed–The problem is the employer not dealing with the reality of the law and instead trying to have their cake and eat it too by acting as if they don’t have to make changes to do this while also granting the time off as required.

      2. Jessesgirl72*

        If nothing else, those 12 weeks of FMLA have to be granted, but not as PTO. So the company can’t claim they can’t afford to hire someone else because they are paying Alex for the 18 weeks he doesn’t work, when they only have to pay him for the 6 weeks of vacation/sick leave he is given. And I would say not even that, since they aren’t letting the OP take her vacation, but some (not all) companies make their employees use all of their PTO before letting them take FMLA.

      3. B-Bam*

        I’m not against FMLA but the calendar method can be an issue – it resets at the beginning of the year instead of when the employee first takes the leave. Someone could take 12 weeks in the last half of the year and then another twelve as of January 1.

        1. fposte*

          That’s up to the employer–they don’t have to use the calendar year but can use the rolling method instead. They just have to use it across the board, not merely for one employee.

          1. B-Bam*

            Of course – I’m not suggesting that they change it for one employee only but for the whole company. It would require months of prior notice to all employees but they can change it. Same with setting a better ADA process. Companies sometimes feel trapped with old practices that are relevant to their current situation (larger in size, shifting business focus or work practices) and think they can’t change things.

    2. designbot*

      That last point is an important one. Figure out what if anything you can cash out, and maximize your benefit. If you find out you’ll have to lose some vacation or sick time, take that time before you go. You have absolutely earned it, and you need to look out for you because your company sure isn’t going to.

    3. Retail HR Guy*

      The method of measuring the leave year is going to have very little effect on intermittent use of FMLA. The only real difference between them is the ability to “stack” two continuous leaves in separate years into one giant continuous leave.

  37. voyager1*

    I haven’t read all the comments, but I would add something to the the AAM script she gave you about threatening to walk out the door. I say this because, well you are already thinking about doing it anyway.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. Never threaten to leave — that makes the boss immediately think about how to cope with you leaving and weakens your position. You push back as Alison has suggested firmly and clearly — the threat when you say ‘I cannot sustain this overload and need to be able to have my scheduled time off respected’ is implicit. You weaken your position by stating it.

        Never threaten to quit. Just quit or give notice when the moment comes.

        1. TootsNYC*

          In addition to its being a VERY BAD idea, you don’t NEED to threaten to quit.

          Believe me, they all know you can. It’s in the back of their minds all the time.
          and your reputation and your professionalism are the only things that determine whether that back-of-the-mind thought is, “if she’s not happy, she might quit, oh no!” or “if she’s not happy, she can quit, good riddance.”

          And threatening is not going to help that reputation.

        2. I'm Not Phyllis*

          Agreed – simply saying “I cannot sustain this” implies that if it doesn’t change, you’re out the door. No need to state it further (unless you’re actually willing to do it right then).

        3. Chinook*

          “Never threaten to quit. Just quit or give notice when the moment comes.”

          As someone who did this (due to a privacy breach by a colleague), when I said I quote, I absolutely meant it and my boss knew it. Others may have thought it was a threat because I ended up saying, but that was only because some very specific terms were given to me that meant a)working conditions were changing ASAP and b)said colleague was never to go near my desk or work assignments again. Thing is, I wasn’t the one who made this request or saw it as a time to negotiate – these were offered to me by the employer who really wanted me to stay who even promoted me later in the year. But, at the time, I not only had every intention of walking out that door and never coming back, I had to give myself time to think if what they offered to do was enough to stop me from leaving.

  38. Product person*

    Thinking of work now makes me sick and I am seriously considering quitting without having another job lined up.

    This gives you great leverage, OP! I’d sit down with my manager and use AAM’s script to calmly explain things to your boss, making it very clear that either the company meets the new conditions, or you’ll have to leave. Given the situation, is highly unlikely that you’d be fired for standing your ground here, and if you hear “sorry, can’t do anything”, you have your answer and can move forward with your plans to leave this terrible place, hopefully with another job in a more reasonable company already lined up. Good luck.

  39. Milla*

    LW- Your efficiency and great work ethic are harming you right now. Sometimes, you need to drop the ball and let things break before others realize the size and immediacy of the problem.
    So yes, definitely use Alison’s wording, and absolutely insist they schedule you some time off right then, during that meeting. Preferably during the next week. While they “contemplate a solution”.
    Be utterly unavailable during that time.
    Then, when you return, scale back. Aim for “good employee” instead of “siamese superhuman insomniac with four hands” like you have been. Do the amount of work ONE person can accomplish in a sane work week, because that is all you’re being paid for. Be unavailable on some weekends like a normal person. Do not let them guilt you into more. Yes, things will build up, but you will get to them eventually and have a ton of evidence as to why 1) you can’t do this alone anymore and 2) they need to get you help.

    1. TootsNYC*

      “Sometimes, you need to drop the ball and let things break before others realize the size and immediacy of the problem.”

      One of the best pieces of advice I ever got: Make it visible.

      Don’t do Alex’s work. He’s supposed to do that, around the accommodations that the company has allowed.

    2. Temperance*

      I would also say that the ball needs to be something Alex should be handling. That way, it’s clear LW can handle her own shit, just not all his work, too.

  40. The Strand*

    I am so sorry this is happening to you.

    It might not be the worst thing in the world if you ended up, after taking Alison’s advice, quitting and looking for another job. At the point it’s starting to impact your health – mental and physical – sometimes you have to take that step… again, of course you should try what Alison suggested, but your bosses are numbskulls and realistically this may be your next step.

    Needing to quit without something lined up happened to me once, and despite the financial impact, it was the right decision from a health perspective; more recently, a colleague of mine who was being gaslighted by her new boss made the decision to quit, and immediately saw a positive impact on her physical and mental health. You can always get another job, like your predecessor, and an entry level job might even have lighter expectations that enable you to get your perspective and better feelings back faster; but once you lose your health it is a much harder road back.

    Please, whatever you do, put your health first. Add time on your calendar where you’re unavailable, bring anti-stress tools (a squeeze ball; potpourri; quiet music), take minibreaks of five minutes to stretch or walk.

    1. TootsNYC*

      Also, if you get asked why you quit without a job lined up, you can say: “They had adjusted my schedule repeated so that I was working almost every weekend, and they cancelled my vacation after it had been approved, and when I tried to discuss how to change this, they wouldn’t budge. It was hard to job hunt under those conditions, so I decided to simply leave and start looking.”

      Sign up w/ a temp agency if you can, so that you can show you’re still employable and energetic.

      1. The Strand*

        Yes! Prospective employers are going to understand.

        A temp agency is a great solution to keep working, and show motivation and interest.

      2. Snazzy Hat*

        Sign up w/ a temp agency if you can, so that you can show you’re still employable and energetic.

        Yes yes yes! I made it very clear to the agency I’m with that, prior to the get-to-know-you interview, I had applied for over fifty jobs since the start of the year. It helped that I met the recruiter at a job fair, too, so I didn’t hide my eagerness to work or what I required in a work environment.

        Being told it’s okay to not be “a team player” or to not “work well with others” almost made me cry tears of joy, though, so I had to hide some emotions. ;-)

  41. designbot*

    The only thing I’d disagree with in Alison’s advice is how often she brings up Alex. I’d try to make this meeting all about you, and how your employer is not meeting reasonable (and possibly even legal, if vacation or sick time is mandated where you’re at) expectations for how they are treating you. They can make all the accommodations for Alex that they want, what they can’t do is trample all over you. It’s not on you to solve their issues with Alex’s schedule, it’s on the company to solve how to run the department.

    1. TootsNYC*

      yes!! It’s not about Alex. Try to avoid mentioning his name, and definitely never mention his disability, ADA, FMLA, anything. Say, “helping with the workload” and “my schedule is untenable.”

  42. MindoverMoneyChick*

    I have a suggestion that might work if you really are ready to quit. Have the conversation that Allison suggestion but if they won’t budge say something like “sorry I simply won’t be able to pick up his slack anymore, going forward I am available X days a week” And then that’s all you show up – the worst they can do is fire you, but you’ve already decided you could quit. Much, much, more likely they won’t because that creates a bigger headache for them. They will find another way to deal. It may not endear you to them certainly so you should be looking for a new job, but it could give you the breathing room to keep working while you look.
    An example of this working from my old job- a co-worker told me she has decided to quit because of the workload being placed on her. In particular some travel that she was being asked to do. I told her if she was serious about quitting to first go to management and say “I’m sorry I just can’t go on this trip” and then shut up. Don’t give reasons they could try to argue with. Present it as a done deal. She did and they backed down immediately and made other arrangements. She was amazed at how easily it worked out. I wasn’t surprised at all – I knew she was a valued employee, and I knew management well enough to know that they would push all headaches off on employees until they pushed back decisively. There were no negative repercussions for her at all.
    Of course I don’t know your management but I do know that they don’t like to deal with headaches and my guess is firing you would create more headaches for them.

    1. Clever Name*

      This. I think people with extremely good work ethics get into a trap thinking if they push back at all they’ll be fired. So they end up traveling 75% of the time when the job was advertised as “occasional travel” or they end up working every weekend because they always say yes. It is reasonable to tell your employer you aren’t able to do something. I just had to tell work that I injured my back and won’t be able to do fieldwork for a few weeks. They didn’t bat an eyelash.

      1. The Strand*

        Yep. Good jobs reward conscientiousness, either with time off, “gimmes” (pizza parties etc), or more work that you love to do, bad jobs reward it with more work you don’t love to do.

        But they bank on conscientious people not pushing back.

    2. TootsNYC*

      “And then that’s all you show up – the worst they can do is fire you, but you’ve already decided you could quit. Much, much, more likely they won’t because that creates a bigger headache for them. They will find another way to deal. It may not endear you to them certainly so you should be looking for a new job, but it could give you the breathing room to keep working while you look.”

      Absolutely. Just be firm, and leave when it’s time, etc.

  43. Editor*

    Why do employers back themselves into corners this way? When the previous employee left, the job should have been posted as two part-time jobs, one three-quarter time and one half-time, both with pro-rated benefits. Then the applicants could have been told that sometimes they might have to work full-time. The company would have more flexibility, more people to rotate through for weekends, and more trained back-up. In addition, they would not have to pay for a third full-timer in the department.

    This idea doesn’t help the OP, but on the way out the door, maybe the OP can make the suggestion. And if the company is one of those places that doesn’t do part-time and punishes departments with part-timers by cutting part-time positions first, shame on them.

    (Also, if a similar post of mine appears, sorry. I thought it had posted but I could not see it.)

  44. Another Emily*

    I am Alex. Not American so no ADA but my job went from full time to part time because that’s all I can work. I trained a coworker to do a task previously only I could do. He and all my colleagues leave on time. My boss is very supportive. Work gets delayed for a long time because I’m not there full time but no employee bears the brunt of this, as it should be. My bosses are the ones dealing with the extra stress as they are real leaders.

  45. Lissa*

    My sympathies, OP. I have been in similar situations where since I am the “reliable” one I get asked to do things above and beyond what I should have to be doing, then piled with guilt if I am anything other than cheerful and smiley about it. “Well, you should consider yourself lucky you don’t have a disability!” and similar comments. Having somebody treat you unfairly and then act like you should be grateful and happy about it is the worst. Good luck!

  46. Sadiemae*

    Some employers really take advantage of the tendency of young female employees (I’m assuming from the name that the OP is a woman, but maybe not?) to be people-pleasers. I had a boss/company owner like this. He’d give his young female employees (paid hourly – not salaried and no chance for advancement – we’re talking admin assistant type jobs) a lot more work than they could complete in 40 hours, refuse to authorize overtime, then say, “Well, Jane, I understand I’m asking a lot of you, but I think you can handle it. We all need to pull together as a team…” Etc., etc. And usually Jane would work a ton of extra time with no compensation, because “Boss says this absolutely has to get done! He’s counting on me!” Meanwhile Boss was driving around in his BMW, taking tropical vacations, having dinner at the finest restaurants in town, etc. He could have hired more support staff, but why do that when young women will so often work for free because they’ve been socialized never to say no to a request?

    OP really doesn’t need to do Alex’s job at all, and she doesn’t need to address whether Alex is doing his job. She just needs to tell her employers that she’s no longer willing to work a huge amount of overtime or miss the days off that she’s entitled to, and that she’s going to start working regular hours and taking sick/vacation days now. If they come to her in a few weeks and say “But Jobs A and B aren’t getting done!” she can calmly say, “Oh, really? Well, those are Alex’s tasks, I don’t really know what his plan is for completing them…” and return to what she’s doing. Alex’s work isn’t her job, and they know that.

    But I’m with AAM here – time to look for another job, regardless. Good luck, OP!

  47. Eliza Jane*

    Hey! There’s more than one wedding-hating vacation-sucking company out there!

    I was on a project once where delays with the client led to a deliverable slipping, and slipping again. They asked the tech lead for the project, who had literally planned his wedding to the release schedule, to reschedule the wedding. Around 10 weeks before he was scheduled to head back to India for a month for it.

  48. Cbh*

    In all these comments I can’t believe that Alex doesn’t realize the burden his absences cause. I agree management is not handling things properly. It just seems that Alex could be a bit more pro active in coverage/ training/ making manuals for when he is out. Bi don’t doubt there is a legitimate issue for needing leave but it definitely sounds like he is milking the situation.

    Hang in there op/ Jamie.

    Ps can we add this to the list of updates we would like to see?

    1. Chinook*

      “In all these comments I can’t believe that Alex doesn’t realize the burden his absences cause. I agree management is not handling things properly. ”

      I have been in Alex’s shoes (see comments about hiding bunnies). I knew darn well that my sudden/unplanned absences were hurting the group I was in charge of. I have tried my best to give people a heads up that I have an issue, handed off/delegated/looped in where I can, but nothing can replace the fact that there are times when I am unavailable and someone else has to pick up the slack.

      In the OP’s case, this is a management problem, not an Alex problem. Alex has ended up working for an (overly) empathetic employer that allows her to keep working while dealing with things. OP, on the other hand, is working for an employer that doesn’t care that they are about to burn her out with an unrealistic workload. OP definitely needs to follow AAM’s advice and talk to her manager to figure out what they can do to ensure that the OP gets the compensation she agreed to when she started the job (which includes paid vacation time) as well as keeps the OP mentally and physically capable of doing this job in the long term. Frankly, if the OP keeps up the pace she describes, she might well end up needing ADA accommodations as well.

  49. Retail HR Guy*

    A lot of people are focused on Alex, FMLA, and the ADA, when in reality the problem is that the company is writing a check that it can’t cash when it comes to benefits.

    They want to pay for FMLA leave? Great! They want to provide even more time off intermittently than any law would require? Great! These are not bad things, assuming Alex’s needs are legit (and nothing in the letter indicates there’s any reason to suggest they aren’t). My company would also allow this; we have 26 weeks of sick leave per year in addition to 2-4 weeks of vacation (and that’s in retail, an industry not known for great benefits). So such generous benefits packages are neither extremely rare nor ridiculous to have.

    The bad part is that the company didn’t budget for such generous benefits. They want to provide Alex these benefits but then not give his department the additional labor budget to cover him being gone, and not have a plan for how to make sure his coworkers can still get things done in his absence. That has very little to do with Alex and nothing to do with the ADA or FMLA. Just old fashioned bad planning, or else making promises (in the form of generous benefits) that they can’t afford to follow through with.

    1. neverjaunty*

      Excellent point.
      I wonder if their accommodating Alex is less about ‘we don’t have money and want to be nice’ and more about Alex having a buddy higher up.

    2. DCGirl*

      You previously posted that the 26 weeks was how long STD benefits lasted. Short-term disability is NOT a form of leave; it’s how a person gets paid on leave. Your employer is not giving you 26 weeks of leave.

      1. Retail HR Guy*

        I supervise LOA. I know more about our LOA plan than anyone else at our company, so I’m pretty sure I also know more about it than you. I promise you we give 26 weeks of paid leave. Not sure why you’re doubting me on this.

  50. Compassion*

    *Am I the only one that sees that *THE COMPANY* is letting Alex use this kind of leave!?*

    It is *not* Alex’s fault for using it?


    If you had this kind of leave to use, you’d use it, too! Dang.

    1. Stellaaaaa*

      No I wouldn’t. I’m a decent and mature human being who would not participate in a system that afforded me every advantage at the expense of others. I take pride in earning my paycheck the real way and building up a career that can take me beyond my current position at my current employer.

      1. Dot Warner*

        Agreed, and if I were in as bad of shape as Alex seems to be, I’d resign or ask to go part-time and make getting my health back my #1 priority. It’s not good for rest of the team to have someone who can’t do the job, and it wouldn’t be good for my mental health to continue in a job that I know I can’t do.

      2. fposte*

        You wouldn’t take 12 weeks of FMLA if you had a child with cystic fibrosis? You think it would make more sense to quit and take state aid to live on than accept legally mandated leave?

        Maybe Alex is taking off time when he’s not sick; maybe he isn’t. But the structure in place is a failure either way–the OP’s unit can’t demand that one of a two-person staff take the entire burden when the other’s out for a significant percentage of the year. The OP doesn’t want to cover two positions for the foreseeable future, regardless of why Alex is out.

        1. Stellaaaaa*

          Alex doesn’t have an ill child though. I don’t understand where that hypothetical scenario is coming from.

          1. Glen*

            No, but Alex, herself, is sick. Why doubt the veracity of that? Alex is looking after number one, which is perfectly reasonable when you’re seriously ill. It’s not fair to expect someone to quit their job when their employer is willing to accommodate them! The fact that the company is mishandling the accommodation is entirely their problem, not hers, and she can’t be expected to fix it for them – it’s not her job or her responsibility to do so.

    2. bloo*

      You’re *not* the only one that sees that the company is the problem.
      And, like Stella, no I wouldn’t take advantage of this either. Not at the expense of my coworkers.

    3. I'm Not Phyllis*

      I agree that it’s the company’s fault, both for the way they are handling Alex (which isn’t in OP’s control, nor should it be something she’s trying to change) and the way they are handling things with OP.

      Assuming Alex is sick (and OP hasn’t given us any reason to believe otherwise) and the company is allowing this, you can’t blame him. The issue is the way they’re dealing with OP. If they want to continue to give Alex this time off with pay, I would say it’s incredibly generous of them … but it shouldn’t come at OP’s expense.

    4. Temperance*

      I wouldn’t, actually. I had the opportunity to take 2 months off at full pay when I was sick, and I came back after 6 weeks because I was ready and my doctors agreed it was time. It’s a moral issue, IMO. I’m an honest person.

  51. 252life2work*

    This is the first time I’ve commented on this blog. I have to say I love it and appreciate all of the helpful threads and comments.

    The company is at fault for OP’s problems, but I must say I believe Alex (who I do believe likely has legitimate needs) is completely taking advantage of everyone without concern for anyone but himself.

    I almost can’t blame him because of the blindness/incompetence of the company.

    The proof is his inability to work ANY weekends. It’s very convenient to be unable to work EVERY weekend.

    He is milking this company and the OP to death, and it sounds like he does ZERO to pull his weight and make things right with the OP for her carrying him. I wouldn’t doubt he calls in on purpose when OP has vacation scheduled.

    It sounds like an unending trend that has cost the company at least on tenured employee, and soon to be two.

    He needs removed from that job and preferably the company.

    I have no issue with his disability, this is purely about his complete lack of accountability and concern for coworkers and his employers.

  52. Kristin D.*

    If Alex misses much more work, he might fall below the 1,250 hour threshold for eligibility. I wonder if the employer is keeping an eye on that.

  53. Fafaflunkie*

    Truly, this sucks. How can an employer exploit you the way they’re doing is beyond me, Alas, as far as I know, there is no federal law in the US that entitles you, as an employee, to vacation time, paid days off, or vacation pay. However, if you did negotiate such priviledges, you are definitely entitled to them in spite of “Alex” taking time off without notice. That’s something for your employer to take care of, not you.

    Yes, start searching for a job that respects your basic right to have time off. I’ve been here myself with former owner of the place I’ve worked at–working countless hours, not given time off. But at least in Canada, all provinces have labour laws that give all full-time employees a minimum amount of vacation time (here in Ontario it’s two weeks, and you’re also entitled to vacation pay of 4% of gross wages–alas taxed as income, but still they must pay it.)

  54. specialist*

    One of the most valuable things I’ve learned on this site is to focus on the problem and ignore the chaff. Anything Alex is chaff. You need to keep the discussion on what you need for you. You need your vacation. You need a reasonable work schedule. Your message needs to leave out Alex entirely. Your bosses need to get creative on how they fix the problem. If they are convinced they need to deal with Alex, then let them hire a consultant to work out the FLMA/PTO issue. Tell them that you can’t continue working at your current pace. Spell out some things that you need changed. I’d have them pay out your vacation for last year. And I would put them on a time line. I think it would be reasonable to give them a month to come up with and implement other coverage options. I also think you should have one weekend off during that month, entirely without work responsibilities. You would leave at 5 pm on Friday and be unavailable until 8 am the following Monday. If the boss has to cover the weekend, then that is what needs to happen.

    So what do you want for your future? I would suggest working 5 days a week. If you work a weekend, you don’t work two days during the week. Or perhaps you are willing to work 2 weekends a month for the overtime pay. Maybe you stop doing Alex’s work. Maybe you continue–but only after your work is done. You have lots of fabulous wording here. Use it. Just don’t let them dump the Alex problem on you.

    And maybe you should be interviewing for a new job.

    1. Temperance*

      I think the problem here is that Alex isn’t chaff, though. Her managers keep touting his mental issues whenever she tries to give pushback on how terrible they’re treating her, and acting as if his needs are the only thing that matters.

      I agree that it makes sense for her to push the point that she’s exhausted and can’t keep this up, but I don’t see any logical way to do this without mentioning that it’s impossible to handle the workload without a counterpart who can contribute in a meaningful way.

  55. Lady Phoenix*

    So they have all the money for these vacations and stuff, but not enough to hire another person to take the load off the OP?

    Yeah, this is so much BS. I would start cutting back and looking for a new job in the process. Watch as they either get mad at you, beg for you to stay with empty promises, or both.

  56. David St. Hubbins*

    Your manager sucks. While it’s great that they don’t discriminate against someone with mental health problems, you shouldn’t have to suffer for it. They’re making his problem yours.

    And maybe I’m completely wrong here, but I get the feeling Alex is abusing this arrangement.

      1. David St. Hubbins*

        David St Hubbins is a member of the fictitious band Spinal Tap from the movie This is Spinal Tap.

        St Hubbins is the Patron Saint of Quality Footwear (according to the movie)

  57. boop the first*

    I suppose it’s safer to job search when you’re already employed but how is it easier? When do you go to interviews when they’re always during business hours? If you have zero days off, how is it not only easier, but even remotely possible?

    OP, so are you a shift worker? I’m guessing not. I’ve always been a shift worker, and one tactic during times like this is to formally submit a change in availability. I’m guessing this is not a thing you can do, but I’ll just throw it out there anyway.

    You must be a pretty strong worker for them to be willing to lean on you so heavily like this. I’d love to say it gets better after you leave for a new job, but this problem seems to follow the dependable.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      It’s not necessarily easier to *search* but it’s generally easier to *find* a job (i.e., to get hired) if you’re employed. People are more likely to hire you.

    2. Candi*

      She can take some time off on the days off she’s owed, maybe framing them as mental health days. It’s none of their business if she’s interviewing to get out. (To improve her mental health.)

      The problem of being leaned on because of being dependable gets easier once you learn to push the leaner away -or even walk away from them.

      And Glassdoor the heck out of the management when you leave, emphasizing their inability to reallocate the work in any fashion so that one person wasn’t carrying the whole department when 2+ were needed.

  58. Jonathan*

    They are called “reasonable accommodations” for a reason. They are meant to help a person with a disability effectively do their job, but were never intended to place undue burdens on other people. I never heard tell of someone being accommodated to the point that they were able to come and go as they pleased, and show up when and if they felt like it while still retaining their employment. I would definitely give that manager an ultimatum to assist in lightening your workload, get you some reliable help or you’ll have no choice but to move on and find another job.

  59. animaniactoo*

    I would be extremely curious what would happen if you showed up with a doctor’s note and filed for ADA relief due to work-related stress that was creating a health issue…

  60. EJ*

    Soooo what happens when OP is granted FMLA because he has such anxiety [also mental illness] over work to the point where he can’t function any more? Is that what managers want it to come to?!

    1. Contrarian Annie*

      OP will feel guilty / be guilt tripped into not taking the required leave, get worse and burn out and still go into work doing serious damage to their own health, if my experience is anything to go by.

      People seem to assume that someone can “just take FMLA” or whatever with no lasting impact to the company, but it sounds like the OP is the ‘last man/woman standing’ able to carry out the required tasks.

  61. Happy Cynic*

    OP, the writing is on the wall. This company didn’t bend for the now-gone co-worker’s honeymoon, so they’re not going to change for you. You’ve brought it up before, but they have ignored you. Stating it louder will probably only goad them to invent more excuses. Find another job, and then have the talk.

    Do have that talk, though. Standing up for things like this in reasonable ways is good practice, and will serve you well in your career. There are two possible outcomes:

    1. They will not bend. Great – you already have another job! Leave and make sure they know why.

    2. If they do somehow manage to find your arguments reasonable, you can then honestly say: “Look, it’s great that you finally saw reason, but the fact is, I brought this up before and you’ve ignored my legitimate concerns. I just don’t find that I can trust you to follow through. Here is my two weeks’ notice.” Sneaky? Maybe – but they’ve been taking advantage of you for over a year; this workplace is not looking out for you. You have little reason to extend them the same courtesy.

  62. ALICE*

    I would really be curious for an update on this one. If you’re already running for the hills, pushing back isn’t going to cause a problem. The worst they could do is let you go (and then you’d qualify for unemployment which might give you the recharge you need while you find a new job) but I highly doubt they will because they’re relying so heavily on you. So yes, push back. Take the time off you need and have earned and do not feel guilty about it. If you were hit by a bus tomorrow what would they do? They would figure it out, no.

    So… take time off, schedule interviews elsewhere and take a day or a half-day when needed to interview. Lay everything out on the table. You can stand up for yourself and you should. If you don’t they will continue on this way.

    They are clearly not understanding how FMLA works or ADA works and to further, they don’t have to keep Alex on indefinitely if he is unable to perform his job duties. They’ve already gone above and beyond and need to replace Alex, but if they dont then they will be forced to yet again replace you… and I doubt someone coming in will stay and put up with it forever, so the cycle will continue. Their fault.

  63. Ophelia*

    As someone who’s had a non-mental chronic illness requiring chemotherapy and hospitalization and needing to file FMLA on more than one occasion over the last 2 decades, it bothers me that Alex seems to be completely taking advantage of the ignorance (or scaredy cat-assedness) of the organization he works for.

    It bothers me b/c there are people like me who legitimately have needed FMLA and get painted as “cheating the system” b/c of the existence of people like Alex. Whenever I’ve been on FMLA, I’ve tried to get back to work as soon as possible and my doctor allowed me to, stressing myself out in the process, for the reason that I was worried not that I would fired over my medical leave b/c technically I was protected by the govt, but instead for the subsequent retaliation once I returned (either obvious or subtle) either by my direct supervisor or my coworkers for “causing problems” and making more work for other people.

    Not that OP’s organization has investigated this, but for a prolonged period of time, if there was no improvement in his mental health or at least the appearance or some kind of proof that he was trying to get the appropriate help, regardless of his medical status, I would think the employer could come to the decision that Alex was no longer able to keep up with the responsibilities of the job in a reasonable fashion and let him go.

    People like me wish we could be healthy and normal like everyone else but there are a lot of people who are not accommodating or sympathetic. In this case, it looks like the organization has decided to err on the other side of caution.

  64. CBH*

    I’m reading some old archives during a break at work. OP I hope by this point things have gotten better for your work situation and Alex’s health.

    I’m just curious. At what point does a company have the legal right to say this is not working for a person receiving ADA or FLMA? When does the “reasonable accomedations” run out or get to the point that the employer has to consider letting someone go. Is there ever a point where Alex is told maybe you should take time off and get healthy.

    I’m not asking to be stubborn or malicious. I’m assuming Alex truly is sick not taking advantage. The company must have guidelines to rely on as well for a long term game plan.

Comments are closed.