how can my dad get his boss to fire him, letting a possibly high coworker drive, and more

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

1. How can my dad get his boss to fire him?

My dad works for a company in a tech support role as a regular, salaried employee. My sister works for the same company on a contract basis billed via the family business (owned by my mom and dad). Recently, there’s been an intellectual property dispute regarding my sister’s work for the company. Negotiations broke down suddenly, and the company has sued the family business for trademark and copyright issues as well as for fraud. Once this happened, my sister (via the family business) immediately stopped working for the company and got a lawyer involved.

This puts my dad in a difficult position. Obviously, he doesn’t want to work for a company that is suing his family business (and, by extension, him!). The company owner has made it clear that he doesn’t want dad working at the company either. In the past few weeks, the owner has refused to exchange even normal greetings, rescinded dad’s computer credentials (necessary for the job), stopped assigning him work, and cut off his phone access (again, necessary for dad’s tech support job).

Dad wants to quit, but hasn’t done so because he’s going to need to collect unemployment for as long as possible. While Dad is a world-class expert in his field, there are very few companies that hire in his niche. It can take years to find suitable positions in this line of work.

His boss wants him to quit, but is unwilling to fire him because he doesn’t want to pay unemployment. In fact, it’s company practice to never fire anyone – they just make life miserable for the employee until they can’t handle it anymore and leave.

So my dad is still going to work everyday. He’s constantly harassed and miserable. It’s like a game of chicken: who will blink first? Is there anything dad can do to get out of this situation? Are there any provisions in employment law that would allow him to quit and still collect unemployment? Or maybe there’s a way he can convince his boss to fire him?

There’s something called “constructive discharge,” where — in the context of unemployment claims — the idea is that the situation has become so intolerable that any reasonable person would have no choice but to quit (and where you are therefore eligible for unemployment benefits). Your dad’s boss sounds like he might be well on his way to handing your dad a way to do that. Your dad should document everything that’s happening, because if he does quit and claims constructive discharge when he files for unemployment, that documentation will help significantly.

I should stress, though, that this isn’t a guarantee. Whether or not his local unemployment people will see it as constructive discharge is something I can’t predict, but the more outrageous his boss’s behavior, the better his chances get.

But he shouldn’t try to get fired, because the things he’d have to do to achieve that would probably make him ineligible for unemployment. He could, however, try to negotiate severance in exchange for leaving peacefully.

2. Letting a possibly high coworker drive

I am the head of safety for a small manufacturing company of 25 people. Although I say that, my actual power is quite limited and the department is just me.

Recently it was mentioned that a bunch of my coworkers thinks my cube neighbor Wakeen is coming to work high. I am inclined to agree. This wouldn’t normally be a huge problem, but the other day he requested the keys to a company truck from our HR lady to run an errand. She didn’t want to give them to him but was told it wasn’t her call.

And it isn’t, technically. We have no proof. He’s an odd duck completely sober. But I obviously don’t want him driving, especially company vehicles, if he’s abusing some substance. We have a policy that we can require a drug test if we have probable cause to do so but I don’t have the power to enact this. How do I approach my boss about this? Or should I not say anything since I have no proof?

It’s a safety issue, and so you must say something. (And not just because you’re the head of safety, although that adds additional impetus to speak up.)

Don’t say “Wakeen is coming to work high” since you don’t know that. Just say what you do know, which is “Wakeen has displayed concerning behavior lately like X, Y, and Z, and my sense is that he could be under the influence of something — even something legal. I can’t know for sure and I don’t want to make an unfounded accusation, but at least once he’s asked for keys to a company truck while seeming off in this way, so I felt obligated to talk to you about it.”

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Using an example from 10 years ago in my cover letter

I have a cover letter that I use and modify as needed for each application. In my first paragraph (three sentences), I talk about my event planning experience. In the second paragraph (also three sentences), I reference my educational background. I have two master’s – MBA and MTA in event management, which I got with my undergraduate degree in four years by taking extra classes each semester, classes over the summer, etc. I used to mention it because I think it highlights my work ethic, but lately I’ve been rethinking it because I’m 10 years out of school. Is it still appropriate to reference getting my masters with my BBA to highlight my work ethic from 10 years ago? Or should I use another example from my event planning experience?

Nope, you need something more recent. Otherwise employers will wonder if that’s the most recent example you have, which would not be a good thing. (For that matter, at this point in your career, it’s less important to go out of your way to highlight your work ethic than it was right after graduating. At this point, you have more of a track record of work that will speak for itself as far as your drive.)

4. A recruiter reached out to me about the same job I was just rejected for

I interviewed for a position at a new company recently. A few days after the interview, I got the generic “we are looking for a closer fit” rejection on Monday. Today, I got a message on LinkedIn from someone else at the same company. He saw my profile and thought I would be a good fit for the exact same position I had interviewed for and been rejected.

I’m thinking that this may be a good second chance to interview. I’d like to reply to the LinkedIn recruiter. But do I mention the previous interview or go in cold?

Noooo, don’t do that. At some point the recruiter or hiring manager will realize that you were already interviewed and were rejected very recently, and it will look really odd that you didn’t mention that.

This isn’t a second chance at any interview. It’s a recruiter who saw that you might be qualified for the job and doesn’t realize that the company has already explored your candidacy and decided it’s not the right match.

The only thing you could really do would be to say this to the recruiter: “I’d love to be considered for that role, but I actually interviewed for it two weeks ago and was rejected. If you think it makes sense to talk again, I’d be glad to, but I of course understand if that doesn’t make sense.”

5. My younger coworker is overly demanding with me

I work at a car wash. My coworker acts all nice to me, but when there’s a full line of people requesting a full service, he gets demanding to me and only me. I get it’s because of how many cars there are. I’m 21 and he’s 17, and I don’t like being told what to do by kids who aren’t managers or who are younger than me. So far I ignore him, but he constantly does it and I’m getting fed up with it. How should I handle this problem?

I would drop the thing about age because you’re going to work with lots of people who are younger than you over the course of your work life, and you can’t have a hang-up about it. It’s really normal to work with younger people, and even to be managed by them. You don’t want to be the person who’s weird about that, because it will end up making you look like you lack confidence. Being confident enough about your own maturity and skills that you don’t care how old your coworkers are is a much more appealing look.

Beyond that, the question to ask yourself is whether your coworker is ultimately right — is it reasonable for him to ask for your help in that particular moment? If so, that’s the biggest thing to keep in mind — that he’s making a reasonable work-related request, and part of your job is to respond reasonably cheerfully to that. But if he’s being rude in the way he’s asking or if he’s assigning you tasks without the authority to do that, it’s okay for you to push back on that. That could mean saying “Hey, it’s not okay to yell at me” or “Bob asked me to stay at the register so, no, I can’t help you right now” or “I’m busy with this, but check with Jane.” And if it’s an ongoing problem, you can say, “Hey, I’ve noticed that when it gets busy, you start barking orders at me. If you want to ask for my help with something, that’s fine, but please ask — not order me around.”

{ 211 comments… read them below }

    1. TheBeetsMotel*

      Absolutely. Because if you develop a complex about being managed by people younger than you when the difference is 4 years, you’ll have a very hard time of it later in your career when,the gap might be ~20 years. Older employees who can’t take management seriously because they see their boss as a little kid tend to Get reputations for being difficult to work with.

      In this situation, it doesn’t seem like the co-worker has the authority to manage the OP and she would be right to push back against being bossed around by someone at her same level. But age shouldn’t really factor in.

      1. turquoisecow*

        I constantly wondered if the reason I wasn’t taken seriously by my older coworkers was because I was younger than them or if I was a woman. Guessing a combination of both.

      2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        For the last 27 years, my managers have all been younger than me. No big deal. You have to learn to handle it… way back in the early 70s my first manager was an African-American – when that was unusual. We worked well together – I moved on to another group (promotion) at that company, and I even left there for more $$$ after that, but we remained friends for the rest of his life – he passed away in 1996, at a very young age (50). I never would have advanced myself if it hadn’t been for his confidence in me, and his guidance.

        I’ve also had women for managers and directors, off and on, and it has never bothered me – the conflicts and cooperation have been the same , regardless of gender.

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, constructive discharge is definitely a thing, but your dad needs to be really careful not to do anything that would justify being fired for cause (e.g., not showing up a certain number of times, insubordination, etc.). But I think the safest bet is probably negotiating a severance, assuming that the severance would cost the company less than unemployment. And fwiw, the owner sounds like he’s being a real jerk.

    OP#2, please for the love of all that’s holy don’t let your employee drive under the influence, particularly not in a company vehicle. Is it ok for him to be coming in under the influence in general? I only ask because it sounds really odd to me.

    OP#3, you have to update your cover letter. Especially because the longer you work, the less your education tends to matter, aside from being a minimum qualification to apply. I would remove all reference to your education/degrees from your cover letter and instead focus on concrete, specific work experience and the skills you’ve cultivated through that experience. Although it varies by job/industry, generally your education starts to decrease in significance when you’re 5- to 10-years out (unless you’re going into a field that requires specific academic credentialing). I’ve received resumes from folks who include their high school and awards, even 20 years after graduating, and it is not a good look. I understand your situation isn’t that extreme, but I’m using it to illustrate how “off” it looks to a hiring manager to see an overemphasis on one’s degrees. Good luck!

    1. Pivot!*

      Re #3, at this point in your career I’d say it’s not necessarily relevant to even mention your education in your covering letter unless there’s a field-specific reason e.g. you’re in a field that requires a particular kind of training or you’re an academic. Your covering letter is a place to explain why this job appealed and why it’s a good fit. Focus on what you’ve done with your degree.

      1. TheBeetsMotel*

        Off topic – please be a Ross reference! (I own a shirt with a couch on with Pivot printed underneath!)

    2. OP#2*

      The thing about that coworker is, he’s an alcoholic. Even if it weren’t obvious that he’s been coming in hungover/still drunk from the smell and general sweatiness of him, I am frequently regaled with stories of his battle with gout, which he’s told me is the result of alcohol intake. He used to call in sick a lot. It would be really common for him to call in once or twice a week, and a couple times he went home early then just didn’t come back for a week.

      In any other business he’d have been fired an age ago. But it’s clear that he’s going to have to literally kill someone to get fired.

      1. Intervention Needed Here*

        Not something I would normally consider, but call the cops the next time he takes the keys and there is obviously something wrong?

        1. ginger ale for all*

          Why give him the keys in the first place if you are going to turn around and call the police?

          1. Intervention Needed Here*

            I agree. But the tone of this, in terms of being unable/unwilling to get anything done through what I would consider normal means, is disturbing me. If OP does not think in-house resolution will work, perhaps another method needs to be tried.

      2. Observer*

        And you will get fired along with him. You are the SAFETY OFFICER. By definition, it is your job to ensure the safety of your staff and operations. If you do nothing to keep him from driving under the influence, YOU are going to get thrown under the bus for not stopping him, when – not if – something happens.

        Now, I hear that you may not be able to actually do your job. That’s a problem. But you need to try, and you need to document your head off. You need to try, because you MIGHT be able to have some effect. Even if you don’t get him fired, if you can keep him from driving a company vehicle, that would be a really good thing. And, you need to document because if you DO fail, which seems likely, you want to be sure that you are not the one who gets blamed and punished.

        And, please don’t even go near “no proof.” You don’t need proof to take action on something this serious. I’m not a lawyer, and don’t even play one, so I don’t know about firing, but for this? No.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Yes, you have to raise this with your higher-ups and document. He is a major liability if he is driving a company vehicle while impaired, whether due to intoxication or a health issue that mimics it. If it is common knowledge in your office that this is a problem for your coworker, and you do nothing about it, that information is likely going to come out in a litigation and make your company look terrible, if not culpable. No one wants to be sued or the bad press for allowing an employee to injure/kill people by impaired driving.

          Maybe you can’t say definitively that he’s intoxicated. But you (and other coworkers) have enough concern to raise the behavior you have observed as a point of concern and made the assistant very hesitant to turn over the truck keys.

      3. Tequila Mockingbird*

        I don’t understand your hesitancy in saying something to the higher-ups. You don’t need “proof” to inform your bosses that there is an obvious problem with him. Reeking of alcohol? Are you kidding? PUT THEM ON NOTICE, like, yesterday. This could be a matter of life and death if he causes an accident with the company vehicle, not to mention the massive liability that your company will incur.

      4. SadPanda*

        FWIW, diabetics having very high blood sugar can have something called “acetone breath” and be sweaty.

        Sounds like you have a read on your co-worker, but something to keep in mind. Medical conditions can cause weird personality changes, smells, actions, physical reactions, too.

        1. 42*

          Good lord, the guy admits to having gout from alcohol. It walks like a duck.

          EVEN IF THAT WEREN’T THE CASE, the OP is raising the flag, not accusing him of anything. Why on earth keep on coming up with excuses for this guy appearing to drive while appearing impaired? By anything.

          1. SRB*

            FWIW, even diabetics with dangerously high blood sugar should not drive if their condition impairs their ability.

            A woman I knew was killed in an incident while they were stopped at a stoplight. A driver on the highway above didn’t take his medication, had some sort of diabetic emergency while driving that caused him to black out, drive off the overpass and land on top of their stopped vehicle, killing the teacher, her husband, their two infants and the diabetic driver.

            Basically, it doesn’t matter WHY you think his driving is impaired, whether through bad choices on his part or medical circumstances outside his control, you still have a moral imperative to not let him drive.

          2. Sarah*

            Agree–and also, someone having a high blood sugar episode also should not be driving. My husband is a diabetic and I always always always drive if he’s having low/high blood sugar issues at a particular moment.

            1. SRB*

              Seconded. I think my comment ended up in moderation due to the details of a specific incident I mentioned, but the takeaway:

              Even medical conditions are not an “excuse”. It doesn’t matter WHY his driving may be impaired, just that it is. Just because the impairment was arguably outside of his control (e.g. blood sugar) will not stop him from potentially very seriously hurting himself, someone else, or worse.

              1. JessaB*

                Exactly you can be cited/tried for driving under influence of perfectly legal drugs, or if you’re driving whilst exhausted or with other impairments that stem from perfectly legal behaviour. Why you’re impaired is irrelevant to the case except maybe if you’ve never had that happen before (first seizure, first stroke, first time you’ve had blood sugar issues.) But that sort of issue puts you on future notice.

                It’s also why some people lose their licences for medical reasons. If your seizures, blood sugar, whatever are NOT under control and you don’t have warnings to tell you to pull over, then in most states you’re not allowed to drive. I have a friend who is only able to drive because her condition gives her a warning that something bad is going to happen and she can pull over and stop driving.

        2. Observer*

          So what? This person should still not be driving. If someone has impaired vision, they shouldn’t be driving. If their reaction time is seriously impaired, they shouldn’t be driving. Etc.

          The issue is not whether the guy is drunk or high. The issue is that he is almost certainly impaired for some reason, and should not be driving.

          BTW, in terms of the ADA, which this would probably fall under- The law is clear that you don’t have to allow unsafe behavior. Allowing someone to drive while impaired for any reason is unsafe behavior. However, if it were due to illness, I’m guessing that the company would probably be required to have someone drive him, or drive for him, in the kinds of situations the OP describes.

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Then I think I’m confused, OP, about why you can’t deny him keys.

        First, I would absolutely report this issue and run it up the chain (don’t say he’s an alcoholic; just say that he’s exhibiting some signs—and list them—that could be attributed to alcoholism or to other health issues). Second, I would take him out of whatever pool he’s in that requires him to drive. Ideally this won’t significantly limit his other work activities, but if it does, so be it. Third, do you have an EAP program? If so, please refer him, at a minimum, to that program. It seems odd to me that you can’t simply decline to give him the keys without some big outside process. If that’s the case, your employer needs to seriously reconsider their policies/protocols around use of company vehicles.

        Here’s the thing. If he drives and it turns out he was drunk, the risk of very bad things happening is high. Worst case, he could kill or maim someone. Additionally, your job could be on the line if it turns out you thought he was drunk and let him go out. And finally, your company could be on the line in a lawsuit if it turns out that folks knew/suspected he was drunk but let him drive anyway (this is a more remote threat, but not that remote—it was the basis for punitive damages in the Exxon-Valdez lawsuit).

        I’m sorry you have to deal with this; it’s all-around bad.

        1. JessaB*

          I agree, and I’d talk to management about your scope of duties. If you’re safety officer and you can’t stop someone from doing x over safety concerns, then they need to do something about that. There’s no point in having you in the job if you don’t have the authority to DO the job.

        2. Anna*

          Yeah, I don’t get why they can’t deny him keys, either. If anything it would be Wakeen’s justification against OP or HR’s observations and that would at least get some attention on the issue.

    3. about constructive dismissal*

      Could your dad contact whoever administers employment insurance and discuss the situation?
      Here, if we are experiencing these circumstances we can apply for permission to quit (from employment insurance). If granted, we are then eligible for unemployment benefits. (Most people don’t know about this option, but I have worked with people who used it.)
      Also agree with others than additional legal advice would be beneficial in this unique situation.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        I’m no expert but it sounds like a pretty strong case for constructive dismissal, if he can document how he doesn’t even have the tools to do his job any longer and it’s in obvious retaliation to the company’s lawsuit against a member of his family? Maybe whoever is handling the lawsuit for the family/sister can advise what’s best?

  2. periwinkle*

    #4 – Don’t even ask the recruiter if it makes sense to re-submit you – to them, it will make no sense because they’d be doing it for free. Since you already applied directly to the company and were interviewed, the company “owns” your candidacy for that role for a certain amount of time (typically 6 months or 1 year). The recruiter would earn $0 through submitting you for a second look.

    Instead, inform the recruiter that you had already interviewed for that role and would love to discuss similar roles when they become available.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think this is an internal recruiter (the OP said he works at the same company), so that wouldn’t be an issue — but if it were an external recruiter, yes!

      1. periwinkle*

        Oops, reading comprehension problem! I shouldn’t try to read AAM with cats around. In either case it wouldn’t make sense to ask to be re-submitted but makes a lot of sense to ask about similar roles. At my org, we have plenty of people technically in the same position but the actual strengths/skills needed for a specific opening vary, sometimes wildly.

        1. DW*

          I’m the OP for #4. As far as I know, there was only one opening for the position. I replied shortly after receiving the intial message that I had previously applied and interviewed for the position. I didn’t specifically mention the rejection. I did sell myself for similar positions.

          1. Anony*

            Something similar happened with me. I had an internal recruiter contact me a second time for the same position at a different branch. He scheduled the interview on the phone, then emailed me the morning of the interview to cancel saying I’d interviewed with one of the managers already and they would just use her notes from that one as consideration for this opening.

            Translation: he didn’t remember I’d been rejected and was back pedaling. There were three managers interviewing. I could’ve spoken to a different one.

            Turns out that’s indicative of how they treat their employees. I was upset, but man I dodged a bullet.

          2. JessaB*

            It’s also possible that the person they did pick fell through for some reason, but they should still be reminded that they already talked to you and on the original go through they picked someone else. Not that they didn’t like you but maybe someone else appeared to be a better fit.

  3. The IT Manager*

    #2, you’re company isn’t required to let everyone drive unless you know for a fact that they’re under to influence. I understand that the HR lady might not have the rank to prevent him from driving but as head of safety you do. You need to act before your co-worker has an accident.

    1. MK*

      It actually doesn’t sound that the OP has the authority to take any action; she says her title doesn’t translate to much power.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        I wonder if it’s like the “safety” person here. It’s really just an employee with another title who has the additional responsibility to walk the building once a quarter and take note of any trip hazards, nails sticking out, and basic things like that. (and IT checks electrical cords and stuff like that)

    2. Rubyrose*

      Speaking from Wakeen”s coworkers perspective – please please address this situation now, before I might be asked or required to travel with Wakeen with her driving.

    3. hbc*

      Why would head of safety necessarily have the rank to do this? In my experience (and I run a ~25 person manufacturing plant), it’s more about policies, procedures, and infrastructure than about immediate actions. Usually the stuff that they’d immediately intervene in is stuff that *anyone* would/should immediately do too, like if someone is crawling under a metal press without powering off the machine.

      The right action is to take it to the person in charge and/or Wakeen’s supervisor so the immediate issue can be addressed, and then start thinking whether there needs to be a more specific policy about company vehicle usage.

      1. Natalie*

        I’m not sure why a different policy would be needed? “Lack of policy” or “unclear policy doesn’t seem to be an issue here.

        1. hbc*

          Not saying one is needed, that’s why there’s thinking about *whether* one is needed. But if anyone can stumble in and get the keys to the company vehicle, that seems like something that could use a discussion. It doesn’t have to go in an Official Document or anything–just an agreement that, say, Big Boss gives permission to use the vehicle, but Key Holder and Safety Officer can use a temporary veto and go talk with Big Boss about their concern.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I’m unclear why any manager can’t stop the coworker (it sounds like head of safety is probably a managerial position, even if OP doesn’t manage this specific coworker). It just sounds insane that one would have to let any employee under the sun drive absent “proof” of inebriation. If that’s the case, folks are going to have to start doing blood pulls, which sounds much worse than simply refusing to turn over keys.

        1. tigerStripes*

          I don’t understand why any co-worker can’t refuse to hand the keys over to someone who seems to be under the influence.

    4. Construction Safety*

      OSHA has a thing call “Stop Work Authority” which paraphrased, give a worker the federally protected right to stop an unsafe task for further review. The penalties for retaliating against a worker are far greater than any penalties for an unsafe act, even if the original act is subsequently determined to be acceptable.

      OSHA’s general duty clause covers a lot of sins:
      (a) Each employer —
      (1) shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees;

      (2) shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.

      (b) Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct.

  4. Recruit-o-Rama*

    Open letter to corporate recruiters: take a look at your ATS documentation process. Don’t cold call (or email) people who have already been rejected. I can understand how this happens, but try and make some improvements in your process so that it doesn’t.

    OP #4 – just tell the Recruiter that you’ve already interviewed and then move on. The chances that you will be hired are slim to none. I’m sorry this happened to you.

    1. Bad Candidate*

      And make sure they aren’t already employed by your company. I’ve had that happen as well.

    2. AnonAnalyst*

      Open letter to corporate recruiters: take a look at your ATS documentation process. Don’t cold call (or email) people who have already been rejected.

      Yes! There is one company local to me that I will never apply to again. A few years ago, a recruiter from this company reached out to me on LinkedIn about an opportunity she was trying to fill. I spent a total of 9 hours interviewing with various people at the organization across numerous phone interviews in addition to a half day onsite and never heard from them again. A couple months later, another recruiter from the company reached out trying to fill the same position.

      I was pretty annoyed after investing so much time that they couldn’t even send me an automated rejection email, but having the second recruiter then reach out to fill the same position was the icing on the cake. Since then, they have reached out to me about a couple of other roles and I immediately delete those messages without reading them. So for recruiters that do this: in addition to proving that your recruiting process is inefficient, you run the risk of alienating candidates that you might want to hire for other roles in the future.

    3. Faith*

      Also, before you call or email somebody, please double check that this person is not the one who just vacated the position that you are trying to fill. I know would be a great fit for this role. I excelled in this role for 3 years and left only a month ago.

  5. Chocolate Teapot*

    4. I once had the same job proposed to me by 5 different external recruiters, after having been rejected by the hiring company…

    Anyway, there have been a few situations in which there are 2 jobs with the same/similar name. In some cases, it was the same job, others were in a different department. For the example above, I said I was certainly interested, but had been unsucessful for a similar role, at which point the recruiter said “Oh, well it’s the same job, so there’s no point in putting you forward”

    1. voluptuousfire*

      That actually happened to me as well. An external recruiter got me an interview for a temp role and I was rejected for it due to not enough experience in the particular ATS they used (I had 11 months and they wanted a year. Ultimately it was a piddling difference). For 6 weeks after that, I was contacted by an additional dozen external recruiters for the same role. So I was essentially contacted 13 times for the same role.

      What was ironic was that they had changed the requirements slightly but still were using the old, not updated JD to send out to agencies to find their temp. It was a really poor overall process. The temp gig was open again the following year and I still got another 3 calls from external recruiters for the same role.

  6. LilyPearl*

    Alison, not a typo as such, but OP#2’s co-worker seems to have changed from Wakeen in the question, to Fergus in the reply.

    1. VioletFem*

      Alison uses the name Fergus as a stand in for all her examples of a co-worker/employee who is male regardless d what pseudonym the LW used.

  7. michel*

    the situation is only stressful because your dad actually cares about his job and sounds like a very good employee.

    he just needs to change his POV on this situation, he is basically getting paid for just showing up, he can keep this up way longer than his boss as long as he doesn’t stress himself out about it.
    I have been in the exact same situation like your dad before, and i just kept showing up every morning, looking happy relaxed and cheerful. This lasted 8 weeks before they fired me and i got full unemployment benefits. All he has to do is be on time, show up and be polite to his boss. Whatever stupid job they assign him to try and make him miserable he should cheerfully accept and just do it correctly but as relaxed and slow as he feels like. There is no way his boss can keep this up, he is basically employing dead weight and he is only doing this so he can feel like he “won” this situation. In a few weeks reality will start to take over from his ego.

    From the correct POV this is an excellent situation the longer his boss keeps this up, the more time he has looking for another job while still getting paid and being employed. Just chill, work steadily but slow, and one day they will either fire him or he will have found a new job.

    1. bluesboy*

      An interesting comment, which made me think. As long as your Dad looks miserable and unhappy, the boss is going to assume it’s only a matter of time until he resigns. If he shows up looking cheerful – as Michel did – the boss might think “He’s never leaving!” and go ahead with firing him. After all, if he stays too long receiving salary, in the end it will work out more expensive than unemployment!

      I get that it’s not a happy situation to be in, but it might make sense to try and present himself as positively as possible.

    2. KellyK*

      This is an excellent idea if he can’t negotiate severance that he’s happy with. While being paid to do nothing sounds good in theory, trying to kill time all day every day while your boss is rude to you has to be demoralizing. So, I’d definitely try to get out with severance if possible.

      Another bonus to getting severance and getting out is maintaining good relationships with coworkers. Not everyone will know that his boss is trying to push him into quitting by preventing him from doing any work, although some will certainly catch on if they’ve seen this play out before. But, to people who don’t know the full situation, they’ll see weeks and weeks of things that impact their work not getting done, which could color their opinion of him. If he does end up sticking it out and there are coworkers he specifically wants to keep good relationships with, he should probably explain the situation to them, especially if their work is being directly impacted.

      1. Sarahphim*

        It really depends on your personality I believe. To me having to come in while being cheerful and professional with nothing constructive to work on was my personal hell. My boss wasn’t even being rude or trying to push me out – she was just a very controlling micro manager who was rarely in the office so I frequently had nothing to do. All of my attempts of independent projects got me in trouble so I ended up quitting with no job lined up and spent six months unemployed.

        1. animaniactoo*

          If you knew it was part of a personal game you had to play for a little while, it makes it more tolerable. Plus, he can actually create work for himself that’s useful – read up on programs/research/ideas that he’s previously been too busy to really dig into yet. As long as he has internet access he can create his own workload of things that would longterm benefit the company. His computer credentials have been rescinded, but that likely means he doesn’t have access to company servers/info, not that he can’t even log in and use the computer at all. If he can’t even log in and they’re keeping it that way, they’re building a pretty strong case for “constructive dismissal”. In which case, he can still set himself up to bring printouts of articles from home, etc. and find a way to make this time constructive.

        2. JKP*

          I had a job for a few years just after college where they ran out of work, but didn’t want to lose the investment in training they had for our team (7 people, I think?), so they kept paying us to show up and look busy while doing nothing. After about 6 months, one by one they called us into the boss’ office, each of us assuming they were letting us go. Instead, they gave us each a raise if we would stay even though there was no work available yet. When I left for a different job, it had been a full year of no work and I had written a 600 page fiction novel during my 8 hour days which I self-published. Another coworker practiced programming his own projects. And another coworker had mastered sleeping in his chair and moving the mouse every so many minutes so his computer screen didn’t go to screensaver.

          1. Lissa*

            Oh man, I don’t know why but that really strikes me as hilarious. I mean, why not if you can make it work for you, right…

          2. turquoisecow*

            I *should* have worked on my novel, but then I would have had people ask what I was writing, and I was/am very private about that. (also my coworkers were nosy)

          3. Laura*

            Re “fiction novel”, that’s a tautology. If you’re describing it as that on Amazon, just calling it a novel may help your sales. Also, 600 pages is very long for a first novel – hiring a freelance editor will probably improve it considerably. Best of luck!

        3. turquoisecow*

          I worked for a company that declared bankruptcy. They told us our end date – which was about 2-3 months in the future for me, and told us that as long as we kept coming in, we’d get paid, plus get severance – one week’s pay for every year worked. If we left early, we’d miss severance.

          In theory, coming to work and doing nothing for eight hours is great, but after a while, it was boring. Especially when a lot of my coworkers were let go about a month before me and I had hardly anyone to talk to. I brought a book, I played games on my phone, I surfed facebook, I read news articles online, and it was horrible. I didn’t even have anyone yelling at me, and I was under no pressure to be cheerful about the experience. I can’t imagine if I had to. I don’t know how long I would have put up with it. I guess it might have depended on how much I got paid.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        Well, it sounds like he has an empty desk with no phone and no computer, so surely his coworkers must know something is up.

      3. INFJ*

        “While being paid to do nothing sounds good in theory, trying to kill time all day every day while your boss is rude to you has to be demoralizing.”

        Yep. Been there after a work injury and it was extremely demoralizing.

    3. CoffeeLover*

      I came here to say the same thing. I don’t think everyone can pull something like this off, but if you’re good at disassociating (and make sure to document, document, document), then it’s not a terrible way to go about it.

    4. LBK*

      I really like this reframing. As long as they’re not berating him for not getting the work done that they’re preventing him from doing, this is an easy game of chicken to win, because your dad already has the upper hand by far – there’s only so long that the company will keep paying him to do nothing.

      1. LBK*

        (Although as Alison says, I’d make sure he keeps as many records as possible about access being revoked, because if/when the company appeals his unemployment I’m sure they’ll argue that he wasn’t doing any work, so he’ll want some kind of proof that they made it impossible for him to do so.)

    5. Artemesia*

      This. The only way to finesse this is to relax and enjoy the no work benefits. If he literally has nothing to do and is not allowed to read, he can get creative inside his head. I have written whole chapters while walking a track. The key is to relax, drop the resentment and develop a sense of humor. And of course be conducting a job search during this period so perhaps he won’t need unemployment after all.

      Being happy to do nothing will probably result in a quicker firing than being miserable.

    6. OP #1*

      This is a good insight. My dad cares a lot about his job and really wants to do well. Part of being a person of integrity (which is a huge value in my dad’s life, and why the fraud charge in the lawsuit is SO demoralizing for him) means working hard every day and doing your very best.

      I had a long talk with my dad regarding your suggestion this morning. I’m not sure he can pull it off for long – but in the short term, he’s going to try.

      1. TootsNYC*

        He could also try to be productive with something, anything else. Maybe he writes up documentation; maybe he writes the speech he might give to students in his field; maybe he invents some other project and tackles that instead.

  8. eplawyer*

    #1 is why you have to be careful about family working together. It is also an example of making sure work done by contractors is nailed down as to ownership. This is done before bringing in the contractor.

    1. Saraphim*

      I disagree. This isn’t a problem about family working together – it’s an employer assigning blame and acting wildly unprofessional. This could have happened even if they weren’t related but we’re from the same contracting company.

      This would be like if we got pissy and protective over contractor A after we fired contractor B from the same company….

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        Well, the employer isn’t exactly wrongly assigning blame here. The sister works for the company owned by dad. It’s also not because of family working together. It’s more an example of conflict of interests.

        Like why you shouldn’t tutor your boss’s son or let your boss and daughter move in.

        This could have happened even if the contractor wasn’t also the daughter.

        1. LBK*

          Assuming the OP is right that the company’s suit isn’t justified (which is sounds like it probably isn’t if they’re also doing insane stuff like forcing people to quit so they don’t have to pay unemployment), I don’t think they should be assigning blame at all, whether it’s to the OP or to Owner!Dad.

          I think it’s slightly more fraught than Saraphim makes it sound, but I don’t think their familial relationship is necessarily the crux of why the dad is involved – it sounds like it’s more because he’s the owner of the business that the company is having a problem with, and the fact that they’re related just makes it a little more personal. But it sounds like this company would be vindictive enough to dump both of them anyway if it had a problem with one of them, even if they weren’t related.

          As a side note, I’m baffled by companies that don’t want to pay out unemployment considering you have to pay into UI anyway – it’s not like you owe $0 if you never fire a single person. I suppose if they fire a lot of people it would impact their rate, but maybe if you’re firing people that often you should step back and wonder if something else is wrong.

          1. animaniactoo*

            What you have to pay in can go up if enough claims are made from your former employees. Like auto insurance – the rate only stays low if you don’t actually have to use it very often.

            1. LBK*

              I’m aware, as I noted in my comment, although I can’t seem to find any guidance on what the claim-to-rate calculation is (I’m just looking at my own state since it varies for each). The federal rate is flat and you can usually take a deduction against it based on your state rate, though, so I’d think that you’d have to be doing a ton of firing in order to make your effective rate actually increase.

              1. animaniactoo*

                Sorry, I was reading in a hurry and missed the sentence somehow. Yeah, I don’t know how high the bar would have to be either.

          2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            FYI, not all unemployment works that way. Some employers directly reimburse the state when former employees draw unemployment (rather than purchasing unemployment insurance).

            That obviously doesn’t make bad behavior on the part of those employers any more acceptable, though.

            1. LBK*

              Ah, didn’t know that. Although it appears you still have to pay into federal unemployment even if your state doesn’t collect it, so I think my statement that you can never completely get out of paying into unemployment stands.

          3. Jessesgirl72*

            OP doesn’t even know if the suit is justified. She just knows there was a disagreement about some work her sister did, and the company cut off negotiations and is suing. Had the letter been written by the owner’s daughter, I’m sure she’d be just as adamant that the OP’s father and sister is in the wrong. But that part is immaterial and will be settled by a judge.

            This is not Big Bad Corporation- this is a business small enough that the owner is personally involved in both the negotiations over IP, but also who has passwords. It’s likely just as personal for the owner as for OP’s dad- and in his shoes, I’d be mad that my choices were either to pay him a salary that pays his lawyer or pay his unemployment. And sure, unemployment is the cost of business, but for a small business now involved in a lawsuit, it really might be the difference between staying in business or not. The father is showing up to work for a company that he doesn’t want to work for , for reasons of his own- and not even the OP knows how his work has been. Taking away the passwords might have been a way to keep him from accessing or destroying information pertinent to the case. I doubt any of the people involved are demons or saints- they are all humans acting like humans do a lot of times- a little selfish, a little paranoid, and generally just not as well as they could be.

            Which is why this level of intertwining conflict of interest was just a bad idea from the start.

            1. OP #1*

              You’re right that this whole dispute is personal for everyone. Of course I think my dad and sister are in the right and that the lawsuit is ridiculous – but I’m also reasonable enough to know that I’m incredibly biased here. My dad and sister didn’t take the early disagreement very seriously, assuming that it would be cleared up without any trouble, and their lack of attention to the problem when it was small is part of what got them into this mess in the first place. There’s fault on both sides.

              I know enough about the company’s finances (and about the value my dad as brought to the company) to know that the money they would pay in unemployment certainly won’t bankrupt the organization. I also firmly believe that my dad is acting with integrity and not sabotaging the business while continuing to work there – but I understand that his employer doesn’t know my dad’s character as well as I do, and that even people of good moral fiber to wrong things. So it’s not outrageous that the company owner would want to protect himself and his business by limiting the possible damage that my dad could do.

              Let this be a cautionary tale to everyone: conflict of interest is a very real and very powerful thing. It’s a hard lesson to learn. It really, really stinks for my family right now. And to be fair, I’m sure this stinks for the owner of the other company involved as well.

          4. Natalie*

            In some cases, managers may have heard vaguely that unemployment claims cost the company money, but they don’t have the details and think they need to contest every claim. And frankly, some people are probably vindictive.

            1. Jessesgirl72*

              And people generally expect others to act like they’d act in a given situation, so vindictive people expect their wronged employees to be vindictive, with even crazier responses and results because of it.

              1. OP #1*

                This hits the nail on the head. The whole reason why the original IP dispute couldn’t be solved amicably is because the owner of the company is a dishonest, vindictive person. Because he doesn’t act with integrity, he expects that others will do the same. Thus the huge overreaction to a very simple question of a trademark usage.

                The company credits my sister’s marketing work with a 35% increase in sales over the past two years. Through their wildly over-reactive lawsuit and petty behavior towards my dad, they’re torpedoing the best thing they had going for them.

        2. Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys*

          I agree. The fact the contractor is a daughter is probably irrelevant (though makes the scenario more emotional). If the Dad had hired a non-family member to handle the contract, I still see a conflict of interest as the employee is also a vendor to the company.

          But standing on we aren’t going to pay for unemployment so we don’t fire anyone is just weird. It is also going to cost them more in the long run.

    2. Emmie*

      I also recommend running this situation past your current lawyer, the one you hired to respond to other claims. This situation with your father might be relevant.

    3. OP #1*

      You’re exactly right that the work as a contractor should have been nailed down long ago. This is a lesson my family is learning the hard way right now. It’s a horrible, horrible mess.

      There are a lot of potential problems with family working together. In this case, though, I don’t think the family issue is the root problem. It wouldn’t change the fact that my dad is Jim and his employer is suing Jim’s Chocolate Teapots.

      Sure, to be fair – he’s probably taking it little bit more personally because his daughter is involved – but I honestly think we’d have the same issue if it was a different employee performing the contract work.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        Nail down contracts before they start, and if your dad is going to work for the same company where you have contractors, he should do so as a contractor too. :)

        IP is just so messy, even without the added problems.

        It was just beginner mistakes, and I truly hope your dad can get some severance or unemployment out of it (He’s likely going to have to suggest it as a way to end this impasse. But good that he’s DOCUMENTING EVERYTHING) and can move on, with lessons learned.

        1. OP #1*

          I’m not too sure, but I wonder if it would have even been legal for dad to do his current work as a contractor? It’s messy – let me see if I can explain:

          Dad provides tech support to the company for 40/hours a week. He works in the office alongside other employees with the same job description. Company provides equipment, sets schedule, etc.

          Sister provides marketing services to the company – working out of her own office, on her own schedule. I think this qualifies her to work as a contractor – but my dad’s situation is not contract work.

          Maybe I’m confusing “independent contractor” with “contract work.”

          In any case – the whole entire reason why Dad took the job as a regular employee was because of health insurance. The family business only employs immediate family members, so it’s a lot more financially feasible (to the tune of $1500/month) for Dad to have outside employment that provides health insurance rather than to run everything through the family business and do work for others as a contractor.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            No, you’re right, OP. It wouldn’t have been appropriate for dad to be an independent contractor in this context. It sounds like it would have been better for his employer to have a conflict of interest policy; that way, at least there would have been some oversight/process on the owner’s side. I am truly sorry your dad and your family are going through this miserable experience.

            1. JKP*

              But would the dad be an independent contractor? The dad could still be an employee of his own business and not an independent contractor. Kind of like how temp agencies operate when they hire temps out to other businesses, but the temp is not an independent contractor, they are an employee of the temp agency.

              1. Jessesgirl72*

                And that is exactly how it was handled by someone who did this very thing. A lot of companies hire contractors for work that their regular employees also do.

                The company decides what is or isn’t contract work, and it’s not at all unusual in programming or IT to have two people on the same team doing the same work, and have one a contractor and one a full employee. In fact, there are a lot of people who prefer to be contractors for the flexibility and the (generally) higher salary if they have other ways to get the healthcare coverage.

                My husband worked with a guy who ran his own contract business for programmers, who also worked as a contractor for the company that hired several of his contractors.

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Based on her description, it doesn’t sound like dad can be an independent contractor. I understand the point about contracting with dad’s business for services (i.e., not an independent contractor but just a contractor), but I don’t think that’s a reasonable workaround if the primary employer (i.e. not dad’s business) is controlling things like work hours, location of work, and services provided.

                And being a “contract employee” doesn’t actually get around the conflict of interest issue; it just repackages the problem. I think the other recommendation that’s being made is to think of dad’s position as analogous to that of a person who’s assigned out through a labor contractor, but that doesn’t sound appropriate in this context.

  9. Trout 'Waver*

    #3, You should find a more recent work-related example. As you’ve no doubt learned in the past 10 years, work is very different from college.

    Congrats on you achievement! I don’t mean to burst your bubble, but some programs and degrees are much harder and time-consuming than others. Unless your college/degree combo is widely recognized, it may not come off to everyone as you intend.

    1. Artemesia*

      I’d agree with this. The impression getting a masters while completing a BS or BA gives is that they must not be very demanding or difficult programs. The credentials will show on the resume, but they really don’t belong in the cover letter at all especially as an example of work ethic.

      1. Joseph*

        I don’t think getting your Master’s alongside a BS in a different subject at all implies that the programs are easy (assuming that they’re from a legitimate school and not like University of Phoenix or other institution that nobody respects). Maybe the person just has a crazy work ethic, maybe they were very careful to plan out their schedule carefully, maybe they turned their BS into a five year plan so they could cram a 1.5 year Master’s degree program in there too.
        Interestingly, in my industry, it’s actually somewhat common for people to get a PhD in engineering simultaneously with a Master’s in a different department – since the biggest holdup for an engineering doctorate is usually not the class load, but research/publications/etc. I can assure you that the fact the dates overlap *in no way* makes owning a Master’s and doctorate from a top school less impressive.
        That said, it doesn’t change the fact that 10 years out, you shouldn’t include anything from education on your cover letter unless you’re in a field like academia where people will always care about the name on your degree. And definitely not to show a trait like “work ethic”, since that immediately makes someone wonder if people today would still describe you that way.

      2. AnonAnalyst*

        I’m sure some schools are different, but in both universities I attended, the extra coursework one needed to earn the advanced degree was a small subset of the classes a typical masters candidate would complete.

        I think it shows initiative when I see a dual degree on someone’s resume, but the dual degree on its own doesn’t necessarily demonstrate superior work ethic to me for that reason. Examples from the OP’s work experience would be more convincing.

    2. Crazy cat lady*

      No its a well known and respected school. George Washington University. They offer a 5 year program but I had enough AP credits going in plus extra classes each semester and over the summer to get them both domestic in 4 years. So it was all hard work.

  10. Purest Green*

    #5 – I hope you can look at it like this: What if a 25-year-old were hired tomorrow for your role, and you were promoted to supervise her? Wouldn’t you hope she didn’t have the mentality of being told what to do by a younger person? I understand the four-year age difference in your circumstance seems like a big deal. Your coworker is probably still in high school, unable to legally vote or drink, and probably still lives with his parents. But that shouldn’t matter because he’s you’re peer and you’re both there to do the same job.

    1. Artemesia*

      Yes. BUT he shouldn’t be bossing her around either which is what she is indicating. If he is her peer then ordering her around is inappropriate (and it feels like this may be entitled young male who thinks all the female world are his subordinates)

      1. Emilia Bedelia*

        Whoa, there’s no indication that it’s gendered at all. That’s making a pretty big leap.

        We’re also only hearing the OP’s side of the story. “Demanding” is pretty open to interpretation- we have no idea whether this means “hey, we’re pretty backed up, can you do these 2 cars?” or “DO THIS RIGHT NOW!!!” I think the advice to evaluate whether the coworker is making reasonable requests is important. Refusing to listen (“ignoring”? really?) to a coworker just because they’re younger is really not okay. The OP should start on their own ego first.

        1. Purest Green*

          Agreed. Unless I missed it in the letter, we don’t know whether OP is a woman or a man, but even so I wouldn’t assume sexism is at play here.

          (Also I’m kicking myself for the incorrect use of “you’re” up there. UGH!)

      2. Moonsaults*

        I get the feeling the OP is in a “bec” situation with Young Guy, so by “demanding” it could be that he’s directing the flow of the work they’re doing.

        “Hey, this guy was here first. He wants extra attention to his rims.” Or similar things said with the wrong tone can rub a person wrong when they’re thinking “this little 17 yo punk thinks he’s the boss of me!!!”

        I’ve been the younger supervisor and it’s nothing to do with anything more than someone who has a chip on their shoulder. I’ve also been the only woman guiding older men most of my life, I can tell the difference between the sexism and the age issues pretty well now too.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          That may be true, but if the OP says that this person is being demanding, we should maybe take her at her word for that? I know when I was her age, I worked with some younger people who had been at the job for less time than I had but still attempted to tell me how to prioritize my work and do my assigned tasks. It’s just as likely that’s what is happening here as it is that she’s at the BEC stage (which, yes, is also very possible), so I think we should give her the benefit of the doubt. Alison’s advice is good either way.

          1. Emilia Bedelia*

            I think that in cases like this where the OP is asking whether their mindset is reasonable or not, it IS okay to question whether they’re describing things accurately. Imagine a boss writing in to say “My employee is ridiculously flaky. He comes in as much as 2 minutes past 8 regularly.” No one would say “We should take him at his word that the employee is flaky”.
            This is a case where a mindset-check might be in order, so pointing out that the OP should think about whether they’re reacting appropriately (not that the coworker isn’t truly out of line! we don’t have enough details to know for sure) should be acceptable.

          2. Grr*

            Well, the OP gave zero examples of what he/she meant by “demanding,” so we can’t do that; we are left to imagine.

            1. Grr*

              Aaand I hit post too fast. What I mean is, because there were no specific behaviors called out, we are left to our own interpretation of what the OP meant by “demanding”. We cannot take the OP at their word when we don’t have the foggiest clue what they mean by that word.

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                I see where you’re coming from, but my comment was directed at Moonsault’s statement, “I get the feeling the OP is in a “bec” situation with Young Guy, so by “demanding” it could be that he’s directing the flow of the work they’re doing.” We also don’t have anything from which to conclude that OP is in a BEC situation. I guess my point was, *because* we don’t have information on which we can reasonably base conclusions about what’s driving the OP’s irritation, we should stick to advice that would work regardless of it. Alison’s advice works whether the OP is irritated because the person is younger and demanding, because the person is younger period, because the person demanding regardless of age, or because the OP just doesn’t like them.

                1. JB (not in Houston)*

                  I think my concern here comes from the fact that over the years, whenever I’ve seen a person complain about behavior of a younger coworker or manager, I’ve seen some people write off their complaints as them not being able to handle a younger coworker giving them advice or telling them what to do, and they focus on that instead of the complaint. The OP doesn’t like being told what to do by someone younger, and that’s something he needs to address because as Alison said, at some point in his life, he’ll probably have a manager who is younger.

                  But the OP also said this person is demanding “to me and only me.” So the OP is picking up on a different tone or word choice that’s directed at him and not others. And *maybe* that’s all in his head. But I think we owe it to him to address his actual complaint without assuming that he’s imagining how he’s being treated.

      3. Tara*

        Here’s the thing, though. This is a Car Wash. Lots of places like this have someone in charge of shifts who is not a manager or supervisor. I think its important that she clarify with her manager/supervisor that this person is utilizing authority and check to see if they actually have that authority.

    2. TootsNYC*

      It’s also possible that the age thing is a short-hand for “more/less experienced,” either in this company or just in the workforce in general.

    3. Joseph (OP#5)*

      Op#5 here. I’m a male not a female, and the kid is a male. To elaborate, he was hired the EXACT same time as me and both had the same first day. I understand if I have a manager that age telling me what to do. But he’s the one wearing coveralls like me. I don’t make a big deal on it, but he literally goes inside to text while expecting me to do his job when there’s a full line of full services. Managers don’t even stop him. And when I left the task he demanded me to do, the manager comes up and blames it on me. I told the manager, it wasn’t my task. It was his, since he went to text during a full line of cars waiting to be wiped down. The whole elders thing got brought up because he also uses vulgar gestures and words too. If I acted that way to someone older than me, they would get fed up too. He shows he can’t handle busy times, showing he’s frustrated and pissy! I do my best to ignore him because it’s the adult thing to do. I tell him to ask, not demand, and he throws a big fit that makes the workers feel embarrassed. Even the managers know he’s not a good worker!

      1. Joseph (OP#5)*

        And attacking me for working on my ego is irrelevant because that doesn’t need to change. How would you like it if you, as an adult have a teenager son/daughter that’s demanding, “go vacuum right now”?! Or a little kid wanting you to do his job for you? Of course not, no adult wants to hear that come out of a child’s mouth. Some of the things said were, “Go vacuum”, “wipe the windows”, “dry this, dry that”. And when I confront him that he isn’t a manager who can throw tasks on workers. His reply was , “Go fuck yourself dude!” in a serious tone. Managers believe he does a shitty job too. But this kid acts like he can’t handle busy times as I explained. So if he can’t handle busy times, his job skills needs work.

  11. MuseumChick*

    OP 1, I agree with all the other comments and think your dad should take an “all of the above” approach to this. He needs to document EVERYTHING his employer is doing to him, he needs to be polite and do (what is left) of his job well, do nothing to justify firing him, and wait this out or negotiate a severance.

    1. OP #1*

      You’re right: all of the above is the way to go. The trick is doing what’s left of his job well. In a meeting yesterday, his boss made assertions about dad’s performance metrics that aren’t true (and are directly contradicted by reports that were POSTED ON THE WALL in the room the meeting was held in). So frustrating for him. It looks like they are trying to work up to firing him “for cause,” when the documentation directly contradicts that. Dad wisely took copies of his performance metrics home with him so that he’d have the needed documentation if the time comes for an employment hearing.

        1. MuseumChick*

          Agreed! OP, tell your dad to compile anything/everything related to his performance. The performance reviews are the most important but also things like, say, old emails about projects he’s worked on/completed. Print those out and save them.

  12. Natalie*

    # 2, if you have any influence over this, Wakergus should be taking an impairment test rather than urinalysis. The latter will only tell you that he’s done certain drugs at some point in the past few weeks, it won’t determine if he’s come to work high that day.

    1. Grits McGee*

      Plus, it’ll catch things that aren’t going to be covered by a drug test (side effects from legal drugs, neurological issues, etc) that are still going to be a safety issue if he’s driving.

      1. Natalie*

        Right, the OP mentions elsewhere that he is hungover. Speaking from experience (cough, cough), hangovers can affect your ability to drive even if you are officially sober.

    2. anonderella*

      +1 for impairment tests. Wish they were more of a common practice, I don’t think I’ve ever taken one.

    3. LCL*

      I thought impairment tests needed a baseline test? Like what is used for concussion protocol for sports players.
      I am sick with a cold and allergies today, not sure I could pass a test if it involved balance and being able to walk a straight line.

      1. Natalie*

        I’m not actually sure, but I don’t think so. A concussion protocol is trying to determine if something has happened *to you* that is outside of the ordinary. So they need to know what ordinary is.

        Impairment tests are trying to determine if you have the cognitive function and reaction time to safely perform some kind of task. So your baseline is irrelevant – if you can’t meet the bar for performance, you shouldn’t be performing the task. If someone is sick and medicated, as you currently are, they would fail an impairment test and that would be appropriate. They are impaired.

  13. Allie*

    LW1, I would really suggest speaking to an attorney. That situation sounds like a mess and something that could potentially get very nasty.

    LW2, you need a clear vehicle policy apart from this issue. Under the terms of your insurance, you may not be covered for personal errands on a company car. Add to this a potential driving under the influence and this could have some very negative consequences for your company, we’re Wakeen to get in an accident.

    1. OP#2*

      Sorry for the lack of clarity: he was running a work errand. I think he was picking up some parts. It’s pretty common for anyone to just grab a truck and run down to the hardware store if they run out of something. We have a pretty terrible inventory system.

      1. Allie*

        Thank for the clarification. I still do think you should be careful however, because there still might be a clause in your policy about not covering extreme circumstances like an employee driving drunk, especially if the employer had some kind owl edge of it.

      2. Artemesia*

        He is an alcoholic/ (or was that someone else’s comment) and appears high. Somebody better step up and since you know, it should be you. At least put this squarely on the plate of someone senior enough to have authority to do something about it before he kills someone or drives the company into bankruptcy with a catastrophe.

      3. Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys*

        I agree with Allie and a policy can help you. Talk to your insurance rep and they can help by making sure you know what is required for them to cover work related trips. If this guy has the issues suspected, did you verify he had a valid driver’s license? Will your insurance cover him if he does get into an accident drunk or sober? You can also restrict the errands to only certain staff or look for a supplier that delivers so no one has to go pick it up.

    2. Raine*

      I too think #1 should seek legal advice. Not only for the severance or unemployment issue, but — I just have no idea what the implications might be (if any) for the employer’s side of the current lawsuit in the different scenarios where he could tell the court the Dad quit, or took severance, or was fired.

      1. OP #1*

        Yes, the family has a lawyer. He’s very expensive – and it’s hard to justify a big court case (with lots of legal fees) when facing the prospect of unemployment – but so far the lawyer has been so outraged by the company’s antics that he’s working pro bono. Such kindness!

        1. Candi*

          One thing you can do for this (awesome) lawyer -get some of his business cards and pass them out when appropriate. Use word of mouth to bring in clients for him.

          Don’t mention the pro bono service. All anyone needs is That One Guy who demands a service someone else got that they don’t qualify for. (Not Always Right has a few.)

    3. MegaMoose, Esq*

      I also think that LW1’s dad should talk to an attorney. Constructive discharge is tricky and the employer very well may challenge it, at which point dad’s going to want an attorney anyhow. Getting some advice now could make a big difference down the road. In the meantime, absolutely document document document.

  14. Lady Worker*

    Maybe not calling the HR staff an “HR Lady” would help make the conversation a little more tolerable in a place of business.

    1. Casper Lives*

      I’m not sure what you mean. I imagine OP 2 would use the name of the HR worker in bringing the conversation to her boss.

  15. OP#2*

    Thank you Alison for getting to my question so quickly! I feel kind of sick about this whole mess. Thing is, because he’s such an odd guy (feel free to read odd as volatile, he lashes out pretty often), I was cautioned about running into discrimination issues if I brought this up. And though we have a policy stating we can request a drug test with probable cause (which is poorly defined), only my boss has the power to enact it. I can only send someone for drug testing on my own initiative if a customer requests it for site visits.

    1. Cucumberzucchini*

      This person really sounds like they need to be fired. Why are they kept on? Do they have a very specialized skill or personal relationship with higher ups?

      1. OP #2*

        We are a super niche company, and he has a specialized skill set and software knowledge. Replacing him would be ridiculously hard.

        1. Judy*

          If he has such specialized knowledge, shouldn’t someone with more general skills be running out to get parts?

          1. OP #2*

            We have a guy we can ask to go get stuff, but most people get their own unless they’re busy. Might be some room to change that though.

        2. Observer*

          Replacing him on your schedule would be hard. Replacing him when he gets arrested, and while your company is also facing lawsuits and possible prosecution would be even harder. And, given what you have said, that is not some remote and improbable scenario.

          Consider if he “just” had a bad accident that landed him in the hospital and smashed up the truck? You would still need to find someone with his skill set, and you would be doing it on an emergency basis, while also dealing with the cost of replacing / fixing the vehicle or fighting with the insurance, since it’s highly probable that your insurance won’t cover something like this. Consider, also, that Fergus could actually sue the company for allowing him to drive! And, if someone else gets hurt, they WILL sue you – and win!

          In other words: I get it. Replacing him is hard. But cleaning up the mess from the accident he IS going to have is going to be harder, even in a best case scenario.

        3. calonkat*

          Oooh, then maybe there should be someone who is assigned to run errands FOR him! To keep him, and his specialized skills in the office!

        4. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          You know what else would be hard? The lawsuit your employer will get smacked with after he kills someone blowing a stoplight in a company vehicle he was given the keys to because everybody’s wringing their hands about discrimination and his specialized skill set.

        5. Jessesgirl72*

          Replacing him would be even harder when he’s killed someone or himself and the company is being sued because he did it on the clock in the company truck, with probably good testimony that the company knew he was probably impaired by guilt-ridden coworkers.

          I know you aren’t the one making those decisions, OP, but so far your company’s tolerance of his problems has been pretty short-sighted. They might get a little more long-range when they hear that Wafergus is likely driving the company truck while impaired. Then the fear of being sued for that liability might overcome their (spurious) fear of being sued for discrimination or the problem of replacing him.

    2. Artemesia*

      You can’t discriminate against someone who lashes out? Wow. Seems like a great reason to discriminate to me.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        “Odd and volatile” is not a protected class. It’s fine to discriminate against crappy people who do bad things.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes. I assume the OP means “because of his race, religion, or disability, the company is worried about firing him” — but that company needs to talk to a lawyer and learn how discrimination law actually works. It doesn’t stop you from firing people when there are legitimate issues.

    3. animaniactoo*

      The thing is – you don’t actually have to accuse him of being high or drunk or hungover to refuse him the keys. ALL you need to do is say that he appears to be too impaired to drive safely, and it would be better if somebody else runs the errand.

      Because impairment can come from being too tired or too sick or any one of a number of other issues that simply make them physically incapable of operating a 2 ton weapon – which is what a car is if not operated properly – WITHOUT having to prove that he’s done something to cause the impairment.

      Against discrimination issues – can you call other people out on being too tired/sick to drive? I mean… even if you have to set the situation up so he can see it happen to somebody else? (not something I would normally suggest because that’s rife with all kinds of problems and you’d have to be SO SURE it would never get back to him that it was a setup, but if you’re as stuck as you say you are, it might be worth the hail maryness of it.)

      1. Observer*

        Actually, the law is pretty clear on this – discrimination in terms of addiction is NOT around safety and performance, but around things like allowing someone to go to treatment or PAST addiction that is under control.

        There is NO legal basis for a discrimination complaint based on forbidding someone to drive while they are impaired.

        1. animaniactoo*

          Agreed, but you’re looking at legal discrimination, vs having to deal with the PITA of this guy running around the office having a temper tantrum yelling that he’s being discriminated against because he’s the only one who ever gets called out for “impairment” and he’s NOT tyvm how DARE you suggest such a thing! And then having to deal with it when he gets his lawyer involved and you can’t “prove” he was impaired*, so now you’re stuck back where you were to begin with.

          Whatever you can do to minimize the possibility of that reaction is a benefit.

          *Meaning that he’d argue with the results of whatever impairment test you implemented or witness declaration of appearance of impairment you setup.

          1. Observer*

            Given what the OP says, he’s going to argue no matter what, and he’s going to sue no matter what. So, the only thing you gain by trying to set up a situation where you deny someone the keys for impairment is problems, unless it’s a very common problem in the workplace.

            What are you going to do? Not take action till someone else is impaired? You really can’t wait that long. Make up a situation? Unless the staff are professional actors, and will just cause more resentment and provide evidence of bad faith.

            1. animaniactoo*

              I wasn’t suggesting waiting until someone else is impaired… and I did say it’s not something I’d normally advise at all. It takes exactly two people to be in the know and pull it off, and even that may be too many, yes. I was pretty explicit that it would be a hail mary move in a company culture where OP can’t get the owners to act, but also can’t stand watching this guy walk out the door with the keys in his hand either. Because OP could bring ALL of the above arguments to his boss/the guy’s boss/hr, etc. and have them still refuse to act on it when it’s explicitly targeting this guy. I still think s/he should try. But if it doesn’t work, focusing on the impairment side of it will be more likely to net less pushback from the guy, particularly if he sees somebody else getting sidelined for it when they’re just looking tired and red-eyed and moving a bit slow.

              I’m not saying it’s the best plan or even a great one. I’m saying it’s *a* potential plan in a dysfunctional situation.

      2. ArtsNerd*

        Agreed! I’ve realized that some Rx medicines in the past impaired my driving ability–after the fact, but fortunately with no collisions or other incidents.

        The only collisions I’ve ever caused have been from being too tired and/or sick. I’ve gotten a lot better, if I have passengers, asking one of them to drive my car in these cases.

    4. Allie*

      Sometimes it is hard to know if employers are actually addressing discrimination policies and laws or are just being so cautious beyond the bounds of what is actually required they end up keeping toxic employees for no reason.

      1. fposte*

        Yes. I feel like some management backs in a circle–they’re most reluctant to fire the most problematic employees.

        1. Candi*

          It’s ridiculous, and easy to figure out, and well worth shelling out for a consultation with a lawyer.

          But really:

          You can discipline a pregnant woman if they steal.

          You can discipline someone wheelchair bound for having porn on their computer.

          You can discipline someone blind for harassing a customer or coworker.

          If it’s a violation of (reasonable) policy or law, it can be acted on.

          It’s about the behavior, not the disability.

    5. Natalie*

      I know this advice gets thrown around a lot, but have you considered looking for a job somewhere else? Your workplace sounds really poorly managed and maybe not a great place to work.

      1. OP #2*

        It’s not awesome. I’m trying to get all my certifications and a solid year of running things to put on my resume before I go.

    6. Emmie*

      It sounds like your ability to address these things are hampered the same way compliance or audit may be hampered… you don’t have the direct authority to make changes, but you can share info. I second having a conversation with the relevant people and documenting it, but also use this as an example of how your lack of authority to address safety issues impacts the safety of the company and could lead to OSHA violations or liability. People may give pushback on his specialized skills, but imagine if the company started quietly looking for his replacement when he first became a problem? Or, there has to be some value in getting another coworker(s) trained to do his job as a backup because he is out so much. Even if it takes forever to train another, or multiple people are trained to each do a piece of his job. Dealing with an angry and volatile drunk is a nightmare. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this.

    7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      OP, can you elaborate on what basis the employer thinks it would be discrimination? I’m a little confused.

      But I really do like the idea of applying the impairment test that Natalie and animaniactoo have noted. It would get around any concerns related to proving he’s high and would test for what actually matters—adequately operating a vehicle.

  16. azvlr*

    #4 A similar situation happened to me and it’s because of LinkedIn that I have my current job.
    I applied for a job in October, received a call from their Veteran’s Outreach, and then a “thanks, but no thanks” letter. In the months that followed, I updated my profile because of some experience I gained in the interim. This experience meant the difference for me being qualified for the role and not, to be honest.
    I also began contributing to the communities related to my field, which is how my profile got noticed by the internal person.

    Imagine my surprise when a recruiter contacted me in March about the same job urging me to apply. I was not able to navigate through the application because I had already applied, so they had to push some buttons behind the scenes in order to get it go through.

    Although our two situations are not identical, I think it’s definitely worth a shot to reach out to the recruiter with the scripting Alison suggested. If you have additional experience or evidence of experience that did not come to light in the first interview, be prepared to bring it forward if the conversation resumes. Good luck to you!

  17. ilikeaskamanager*

    #1 I like the earlier advice for your dad to remain pleasant and cheerful. Quite honestly, there may be issues with his unemployment no matter how the actual separation occurs. With a resignation, you usually cannot collect (at least for a period of time). If he is fired, he has to prove a wrongful dismissal to get unemployment. The severance is the best bet–but it should be called a layoff if at all possible, or he should get a commitment in writing that they won’t contest his unemployment.

    1. fposte*

      You may be in a particularly strict state. I don’t think most states require it to be wrongful for UI; that’s a pretty high mark. I think my state follows the pretty common practice of the presumption in favor of UI, in fact; the employer has to prove that there was misconduct, not the employee that the dismissal was wrongful.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think ilikeaskamanager might be making an unstated assumption that changes the standard for UI review. It sounds like the unstated assumption is that if you’re fired for cause (as it sounds like the employer is trying to do, here, based on OP#1’s updates), then you would have to prove that that’s an inaccurate description of what went down. In those specific circumstances, that’s an accurate description.

        But on the larger issue of what you have to prove for UI, everyone’s right that usually you don’t have to prove “wrongful dismissal” in order to qualify for benefits.

        1. ilikeaskamanager*

          yes you are right. Thank you for making my comment clearer. I think the OP’s boss will try to dismiss Dad for cause and is hoping the dad will make a misstep.

    2. Jessie the First (or second)*

      Yeah, that wrongful dismissal standard is not really how it works in any state, as far as I know.

      Companies are allowed to fire for any reason whatsoever, outside of a very few narrow categories, and so having a “wrongful dismissal” standard would mean that to collect UI an employee would basically have to win the equivalent of a discrimination lawsuit for UI benefits. That would be insane! And obviously, plenty of people are able to get UI, so that isn’t how it works.
      It’s the opposite, really – you are not eligible if you are fired for some egregious misconduct on your part. But if you are fired just in the normal course of business, and sometimes even for cause, you can get it. (Usually.)

    3. OP #1*

      Thanks for this. Unemployment is really not his first choice. It is capped at under $400/month, which isn’t even enough to pay the COBRA for his health insurance (a very big need for my family). I understand that he’d be taking a gamble with a constructive discharge claim – the best possible solution would be for it to never come to that.

    4. MegaMoose, Esq*

      Obviously it varies by state, but I agree that this sounds like an unusually restrictive system. In my state, you apply for benefits and the unemployment benefits office makes a determination of eligibility. Broadly speaking, you are qualified for benefits if you are unemployed though no fault of your own. That means you are disqualified if you quit voluntarily (constructive discharge being a “non-voluntary” quit) or were fired for misconduct. You can appeal if the office rules that you are ineligible, and your employer can appeal if the office rules you are eligible. Having the employer agree not to contest makes no difference if the office determines you ineligible.

  18. NotNewtoAdminButConfused*

    About the driver who may be impaired. I know that in some areas, if an employer has a party outside the office where there is alcohol and should a drunk employee drive a vehicle and cause an accident, etc., the employer can be found liable. Which is why, at all the Christmas parties I planned, we laid it on thick about not drinking and driving and put up posters for the Red Nose program.

    If an employee clearly looks or smells impaired – alcohol, weed – and gets into a company vehicle and has an accident, the company is very likely to get sued / fined. What does the insurance for the cars say?

    Don’t we all have an societal obligation to keep the roads safe?

    1. tigerStripes*

      I wonder if it would help the OP to talk to the police and ask for suggestions about what to do.

  19. DCGirl*

    #1 It’s important to note that the employer doesn’t decide if the employee gets unemployment benefits; the unemployment commission does. Both the employer and the employee have the right to appeal the decision made by the commission, so if the initial decision goes against your father, there’s a clearly defined process for how to appeal. I would strongly suggest that your father speak to a local attorney.

  20. Erin*

    #1 if I were your father I’d be worried the next step is to cut his hours back gradually. But that’s only if he’s not salary. For example Monday they will tell him only come in on Mon, wed, and fri. Then later in a couple weeks he’ll only come in one or two days and they will be for like 1 hour or 2 at a time.
    So eventually it will make unemployment unavailable, when they do fire him because he isn’t full time. That happened to me once an employer cut my hours from full time to less than 10 hours a week over a month period. I quit as soon as I realized what they were doing and reapplied to my old job and got quickly got in. Once they had me come in for an hour shift. Once taxes were taken out I made $8 for that day.
    But at that point my bosses became hostile and I could my bosses husband make trailer trash jokes about me to her under his breath, and her giggle. It felt really good to turn in my keys and walk away.

    1. OP #1*

      This is a horrible possibility that I hadn’t thought of yet.

      The good news is that his employee has a big “everyone works 80+ hours/week” culture. They pay a LOT of overtime to hourly employees – my dad is one – because of this. When dad went to work for the company, he specifically negotiated an agreement that he’ll work only 40 hours a week, for 4 1o-hour shifts. The company culture is such that I think it’s more likely they would fire him for not accepting overtime than by slowly cutting back his hours.

      Right now, Dad is working for the health insurance. That’s really the big deal here. If hours were ever cut to the point where he lost health insurance benefits, he’d quit. He can make enough money as a freelancer to cover the income he gets from this job, just not the insurance (yay America…. but that’s a different discussion we really shouldn’t get into here).

      1. Natalie*

        You should check your state’s eligibility requirements – he may actually be eligible for partial unemployment because of hours reductions. Specific rules will obviously vary by state.

          1. Payroll Lady*

            OP#1 Remember that is only up to the max for your state, so if you father earns more than the max at the reduced hours, then he won’t receive anything from unemployment. Also, if he hours are cut below 30 a week, and the employer states it will stay that way, then they can cancel his employer-paid benefits and force him on cobra at that point. This is really a tricky web! Besides having a talk with an employment lawyer, I agree with everyone else for your father to document everything! From what I have read, if he shows his documentation to the unemployment office, as an employer,, I would walk away and take the hit to my unemployment account.

  21. Observer*


    The thing I find disturbing here is the idea that it’s ok (or even better) to ignore a situation because you have no proof. Life doesn’t work that way. (Nor does liability.) This comes up so often that it just amazes me

    Allison, would you consider doing a post on how much proof an employer or employee really needs (or doesn’t need) in order to take action on a potentially serious situation?

      1. Observer*

        I know that. But, people seem SOOO confused. And you are good at walking people through that process.

  22. Sunflower*

    #3- Personally, as an event planner with a BS in hospitality, I think a paragraph dedicated to your degrees may make you look rather out of touch with your industry. A lot of people in hospitality don’t even have undergrad degrees let alone masters. Although this may be true in many industries, it’s especially true in hospitality that work experience MUCH outweighs any education.

    I think all the stuff you’re dealing with as an event planner show way more work ethic than your degrees. Handling 100 things at one time, demanding clients, prioritizing when everything is a priority, ish hitting the fan- these are things that reveal way more about you than handling a large work load.

  23. OP #1*

    Thanks, Alison, for taking my question – and thank you as well to everyone for your helpful comments!

    I had a long (very sad!) talk with my dad about this today. He’s really having a horrible time. He’s considering taking a leave of absence while they settle the lawsuit, hoping that this would blow over in that time. Maybe in 90 days the air would clear enough that he could go back to work on peaceful terms.

    What do you all think of this strategy? Would the company learn to live without him in the 90 day leave of absence, and then just fire him when it’s time to return? If they did so, what would unemployment look like then? Are there other possible consequences (good or bad) that we need to consider?

    1. Natalie*

      There’s a quote that goes around the internet a lot and has been attributed to various people: when someone shows you who they are, believe them. Your dad’s company has shown that they handle disputes by becoming vindictive and rather childish. Does he want to continue operating in that environment?

      1. OP #1*

        No, he doesn’t. But like many of us, he’s resigned himself to working a job he dislikes in order to provide for his family. The employer is the only one in his niche market in the area, and moving isn’t an option right now (for a variety of reasons, care for aging parents being high on the list).

        The job pays well. He has no retirement savings (and he’s at an age where he’s old enough to have a daughter writing in to AAM, so draw your own conclusions…). And the family really, really needs health insurance – something this employer provides and freelance work does not.

        1. Natalie*

          I probably didn’t explain myself well enough – I don’t think he can trust them going forward, even with a 90 day cooling off period. They’ve shown who they are, and who they are is an organization that will behave vindictively towards employees they feel have wronged them. That means that even if your dad takes a 90 day leave of absence and they seem okay after that, I don’t think they can be trusted.

          If insurance coverage is a critical item for him, he would be best off doing everything he possibly can to find another job with coverage, rather than trying to salvage this dumpster fire of a company.

          1. TootsNYC*

            Even if he finds a job that’s not really in his field. Or pays less but has insurance (maybe freelancing can make up for it?).

            Also, the ACA *is* still in effect; maybe now’s the time to really look into it, and see if he can use it bridge the gap between this job and the next one. Quick, before it goes away.

    2. Kyrielle*

      They don’t have to pay him *or* their part of his health insurance during that time, unless he has 90 days of FTO banked (and maybe not then). FMLA wouldn’t apply here, so they also don’t have to hold his job open or wait until he gets back to fire him.

      The company has *no* reason to agree to this, and asking for it might or might not give them leverage of some sort. I’d at the very least run it past a lawyer first, to find out if it could cause problems in either the existing lawsuit, or unemployment claims.

      You talk about COBRA costs above. Has he priced out insurance on the exchange? That might be better than the cost of COBRA….

      1. OP #1*

        Ok, here’s the deal: the sister who is a contractor and works for the family business has significant, costly medical needs. The nature of her disability makes contract work for the family business her best option for income – they can provide the flexibility and accommodations she needs.

        Sister is not a dependent on the family’s tax return. Therefore she’s not eligible to be considered a part of the “tax household” for ACA plans. However, she’s young enough (and will be young enough for a few years) to be covered under any health insurance that my dad gets through his employer.

        My mother also works full time for the family business (in a different capacity, not impacted by this whole mess). Her income plus my dad’s income is just over the $80k threshold that keeps them from receiving assistance on the exchange. By the time they bought a full-price health plan and sister bought her own subsidized plan, COBRA is cheaper. Because of sister’s regular and high-priced medical bills, a high-deductible plan doesn’t work out well for them.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      OP, can your dad cast the leave as family leave? You mentioned below that part of why he cannot move is because your grandparents require care.

      I’m not encouraging him to misrepresent the purpose for his leave, but if there’s a reasonable case to be made for taking leave under the FMLA, it would give him greater legal protection (specifically, they wouldn’t be able to revoke/halt his medical insurance). Although FMLA leave is often uncompensated, if he has any leave accrued, he could use it during this period of time. Also, this assumes there are at least 15 employees at his company; if that’s not true, FMLA wouldn’t apply. The trickiest part, however, is that the company can demand documentation, and if your grandparents’ situation is ongoing, it’s harder to justify the “why now?” aspect of leave.

      But if he really wants to take just straight up leave, then I would discourage him from doing so. If the owner is as vindictive as you describe, your dad could be stuck in the situation Natalie and Kyrielle describe, which would leave him even more vulnerable than he is right now.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Thanks for the correction! My brain wasn’t fully turned on this morning (pre-coffee) ;)

      1. OP #1*

        Yes, he might be able to take FMLA leave. The company he works for has well over 50 employees, so he’s eligible.

    4. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      #1 – hey, a long long long long time ago – I almost had to get a restraining order against my employer…. someone from another division of the company was doing an “investigation” – one of my neighbors worked for the same large company, and I didn’t really know the guy, or the terms of his departure from the company – but the “internal investigator” called my wife at least twice – at home – once with a threatening tone, according to my wife….

      Fortunately, my own management intervened when I complained and they got the calls stopped. Years later, I learned that there was a multi-million dollar lawsuit over another employee who was unjustly dismissed at the same time as this; the company wound up paying over $2 million to another employee and we suspect that our neighbor’s situation may have had something to do with that, or was related. But we don’t know.

      All I demanded was = “Leave my family alone” and they did.

  24. Louise*

    #5 – If it’s helpful, this may be a stress response – some people get really demanding when they’re feeling stressed and don’t even realize it (I’m one of them!)

  25. Student*

    #2 – I worked for a grocery store. We sold alcohol. There are laws regarding selling alcohol to minors or people who are already drunk.

    I didn’t need to do a breathalyzer test on a customer in order to refuse to sell them more alcohol. If I had doubts about whether somebody was drunk, I didn’t sell alcohol to them. If I had doubts about the age of a customer or the validity of their age documentation, I didn’t sell alcohol to them. That was the store’s policy, because the added benefit of a sale was not worth the potential legal ramifications of making a mistake.

    You don’t need proof that will stand up in a court of law. It’s a business. You are weighing a set of risks, not prosecuting the employee. Risk 1, he’s not actually stoned and you impede whatever function he needs the company vehicle for and insult him. You can mitigate that by not having the stoner employee do those tasks, though, and rearrange some workload. Risk 2, he’s stoned and he gets into an accident. You’ll have to pay for repair of the vehicle, possibly for repair of other property. You’ll have to deal with the legal ramifications. Your company could face lawsuits, especially if the people at the company suspected he might be stoned but let him drive for the company anyway. You may lose community reputation if it becomes a local news story. If it’s illegal in your jurisdiction, you may also lose the employee himself to jail for some time.

    To me, that’s a no-brainer. Don’t let the stoner employee drive for the company. If you’re worried you might be wrong about him being a stoner, ask yourself this instead – do you think he’s being responsible with your company’s property, representing the company well, and taking safety seriously? Something about his behavior has you questioning this.

  26. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    OP #1 – your Dad is following one of my favorite philosophies =

    “Love your enemies. It drives them NUTS!

    What your Dad is doing is frustrating – I have been in a similar position at one time in my career – if you can eat (doo-doo) and smile – underneath that facade – you’re fuming , but , the good news is, you’re driving a crazy manager crazier.

    There is some satisfaction with that.

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