I’m being compared to a coworker with less work, fired because my manager lied about having a degree, and more

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

1. I’m being compared to a coworker who has a far lighter workload than I do

I work for a team where I am one of two supervisors, both of us overseen by the same manager. I’m feeling as of late that my co-supervisor is becoming the pet, even though I am responsible for much more. I haven’t felt this more than when it came time for performance reviews this year and my manager filled me in that I was not able to accomplish as many major milestones this year as my colleague.

The problem is that I am the support person of our group; I handle all our group accounting and P&Ls, I have two more team members under me than he does, I do the group QA every single week, and I’m responsible for much more of the reporting. I’m also the only person who knows how to write Access queries, so whenever the boss needs an ad hoc report I’m the go-to person. I also end up doing quite a bit of data entry and other tasks that he does not do. My colleague doesn’t have half of this, so he’s free to much more easily look for ways to improve the team. Not to mention, half of the “stuff” he comes up with, he ends up asking me for help on since he doesn’t have the skill set to implement himself. I’m spending 50+ hours a week just on making sure the team stays afloat, keeping reporting going, and everyone is working to their potential. He’s a great guy and he definitely has his share of work, but it is most definitely not equal even though we’re peers.

Now, I’ll give him credit — he did come up with a couple of really fantastic ideas this year. I’m not so much jealous of him, but it’s really challenging to come up with and pilot new projects when I’m in charge of supporting 80% of the team essential functions and helping him with his projects he’s working on.

Any advice? Am I being petty? I want to speak to my manager about it — and kind of already did — but he’s very much a hands off “you get paid to work, not to tell me your feelings” type.

No, you’re not being petty. These are valid concerns.

You should point this stuff out to your manager — not in a “listen to my feelings” way, but framed as “I’d like you to factor this information into your assessment of my performance” way. In fact, say that explicitly.

2. I was fired because my manager lied about having a college degree

I was let go from my job last week. The reason I (and nine of my colleagues) got fired is because the manager who hired us lied about having a college degree. Our industry and professions are regulated and one of the requirements for them is a degree in a certain subject. This manager had worked with the company for over 10 years (from entry-level to middle management). While in management, this person sometimes had a say in hiring decisions. I don’t know how their lie was found out, but they lied about having a degree and had never attended college. They got fired and will never be able to work in this profession again and may face penalties from our regulatory body.

However, even though the 10 of us who were hired by this person did complete college and are members in good standing, we were also fired because that manager hired us. It was out of the blue; our other colleagues got called into last-minute meetings, and a manager came with security to inform us of our termination. We had five minutes to pack up our things, were handed a check for our outstanding pay, and were escorted out to the parking lot by security. All of us have been permanently banned from being hired again by the company.

The company will confirm the dates of our employment only and says we will face legal action if we come back or contact them, directly or indirectly, for any reason besides getting confirmation of our employment dates. They also put out a memo saying if anyone acts as a reference for one of us they will be dismissed from their jobs immediately. Some of the fired people moved across the state to work here. Some are breadwinners for their families. Some (including me) worked there for 5+ years and have never had any other job. Is it common for a manager’s hires to be fired if the manager lied? What should I say when I’m asked why I left my last job in interviews? I’m still reeling from being fired and have no idea what I will do now.

No, this isn’t typical. I’m having trouble wrapping my head around your company’s actions here — and not just firing you all, but the way they’re choosing to handle the logistics around that, as if you’re all radioactive.

When explaining what happened to future prospective employers, just be forthright and concise. For example: “It turned out that the manager of our team didn’t have the college degree he claimed to have, and thus didn’t meet the regulatory requirements for our industry. The company chose to do a clean sweep and let the whole team go since he had hired all of us.”

3. Managing clients’ expectations about my availability

I’ve been in my current position for about four months. So far I really enjoy it. I work closely with clients to help them prepare for fundraising events where they’ll be using our product. The next few months will be our busiest (things are already a bit crazy) and I’m finding that, as I have more clients added, the harder it has been to nicely focus my time each day. Instead, I have a couple of clients who will demand (by calling and emailing all the time) more attention than other clients.

I have a colleague who joined our team after having been a client and he’s mentioned that he didn’t have an understanding that people in my role have multiple clients. (When introduced, our company uses the phrase “dedicated manager” to describe me and my colleague, which we fear leads clients, particularly new ones, to believe that they are my only client.) It’s frustrating because I find that I have two choices many days — either let my to-do list go out the window by 11 a.m. or stick to it and face the prospect of dealing with irritated clients who are expecting me to pick up the phone whenever they call. Any advice on how I can manage my clients’ expectations in terms of my responsiveness?

First, talk to your boss! Explain what’s going on and ask for guidance. You might hear that yes, you are indeed expected to stop what you’re doing whenever a client wants to reach you, but you might hear that it’s totally fine to have people wait a few hours or even a full day or something else.

Then, assuming this isn’t at odds with instructions from your boss, start explaining to clients at the beginning of your work with them that you’ll respond to all requests within (four hours, one day, or whatever makes sense in your context). You could also have an outgoing message on your voicemail that explains the same thing. You can also just tell irritated clients directly: “So that you know what to expect from us, I may not always be able to pick up immediately because I may be working with another client, but if you leave a message telling me what’s going on, I’ll get back to as soon as I can, which usually will be within four hours (or whatever).”

4. Suggesting combining two jobs into one

A little over a year ago, I applied to a mid-level job I was really excited about (Job A) with a company in a different city than where I was living at the time. It was a role that I have been really interested in moving into for several years now, but is somewhat of a niche role, so openings don’t come up very often. Much of my past work experience would be transferable to this role, but I haven’t ever held this exact job before. I had a positive Skype call with the manager and I thought we had a good rapport, but they ultimately decided to promote from within and then hire a much more junior person as Junior Job A instead.

However, they did ask if I was interested in discussing the possibility of another role they had open (Job B), which is what I do now and a role in which I have solid experience. I agreed and had some positive calls, but it eventually fizzled a bit. I have a feeling it was because I would need to relocate, and they probably had decent local candidates. I didn’t strongly pursue it for several reasons, mainly that it would not have been worth moving to a new city at that particular time for the same job I was already doing. It also wasn’t likely that I could eventually transition into Job A with this company if I took Job B (should it be offered to me).

I now see that the same company has two openings: one for a junior-level Job A and one for a mid-level Job B. Would it be crazy of me to apply for both roles and suggest that I would love to be considered for a hybrid role that encompassed the two? As much as I’d love to do Job A, I know that at a junior level, I likely would not be able to make the low salary work — and I’m sure the company knows this too. But I have solid Job B skills to offer, and hey, maybe they’d like to save some money by combining the two roles? I am aware that there might be enough of a workload associated with both roles that they cannot be combined, or that there are many other reasons for separating these roles. But part of me figures that you never know until you try. Would this be way out of line for me to do?

I don’t think it’s terribly out of line, and it probably won’t hurt you too much to suggest it. It may be an absolute no-go for them (if there’s too much work to make it one role, or if the work of one role is too junior and the other too senior to combine them) … but since you’ve already been talking to them, I don’t think it would be an outrageous to ask about it.

I wouldn’t just apply for both though. Instead, contact the person you were talking with there earlier and ask her about it.

Before you do, though, I’d really scrutinize both roles to make sure that one isn’t obviously so much more junior than the other that you’d come across as naive to suggest combining them. Assuming that’s not the case, though, I think you can try floating it, as long as you make it clear that you know there might be reasons it wouldn’t work.

5. Calling in sick the night before

My company has a policy for “unplanned time off” days in which we are allocated paid days off for unexpected circumstances (illness, family emergency, etc.). I was feeling increasingly ill one afternoon during work, and it got progressively worse during the course of the evening after I got home. So, that night, I emailed my manager, saying that I would need to take an unplanned day off the following day due to my sickness. I thought it was better to proactively notify her the night before, rather than tell her the following morning, to prevent it from being a surprise that day.

However, she brought it up during a year-end one-on-one meeting, months after the unplanned day off occurred, implying that it was unprofessional to use the day in advance, and asking how I could have known that night that I would be unable to work the next day. I am not in trouble or anything, but she brought it up in the context of providing constructive professional feedback about how I use my days off.

Should sick days and unplanned days off be decided upon and used only on the day of the work day in question, or, in your view, is it acceptable to decide to use them in advance (such as the night before)? Our company policy doesn’t clearly specify when they must be used, so I am not entirely clear of how to proceed in the future (both at this company and any potential future employers).

Of course you can be sick enough the night before that you know you’re not going to be well enough to go to work the next day.

If this “unplanned time off” bucket contains all of your sick days, then your manager is being unreasonable (and you shouldn’t worry that you’ll need to plan around this with future employers). If you have separate sick days, though, then it’s possible that this particular category of days is for things that are truly last-minute — as in, you don’t know until the day of.

{ 469 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, I’m sorry—this sounds like a crummy situation. I know some workplaces do this, but is there a reason your boss thought it was appropriate to talk about your coworker’s performance to you during your performance evaluation? I know some managers think this will motivate an employee to work harder, but it doesn’t sound like a warranted or helpful/constructive approach in this specific context.

    I don’t know if you already do this, but it might be helpful to also provide your manager with a short memo (like 1 page) on which areas of responsibility are in your portfolio and your estimate of the percentage of time you spend on those responsibilities. Then include things that are not “officially” in your portfolio but are part of your normal workload—including time you spend helping your coworker. Alison has archived columns that talk about strategies for tackling tricky issues like this in your performance review and what items you can prepare in advance to smooth that conversation.

    You’re raising valid concerns, and capturing them in a “non-feelings” format might help your manager realize that you’re not talking about feelings, you’re talking about concrete, measurable issues. It sounds like you’re swamped, so I don’t mean to add to your load, but I think your boss needs to realize that there’s a workload issue, not an achievement/time-management issue, that undermines your ability to reach certain “milestones.”

    1. Feathers McGraw*

      Re sharing the info: I wondered this too. It doesn’t seem great really. And it sounds like your manager doesn’t fully get what you do and hasn’t set milestones that are actually achievable. If your coworker met more of theirs it may be because your manager’s objective-setting was faulty in the first place.

      1. Newby*

        It might be that the roles were supposed to be more similar but over time the support work has been shifted to the OP. If that is the case, they should talk to their manager about redistributing the workload so that the other supervisor has to pick up some of the support work and the OP has time for new projects that will be more in line with the objectives the manager is looking at. The manager might not even know that the support work is being done mostly by the OP.

        1. MacAilbert*

          Or it could be that having a support supervisor and a more “big idea” supervisor just sort of works organically, and management needs to realize that, as the support person, OP just doesn’t do much of the big, impressive stuff directly. That’s how it is where I work. On paper, it looks like the rest of my department does a lot more than I do, but that’s because I spend a lot of time doing our grunt work and helping other departments with theirs, so I never really have time for impressive new displays or whatever.

          1. Gadfly*

            And smart managers treasure the support people, because if you decide to leave because you are undervalued, everyone who is dependent on that grunt work is SOL

    2. Is it Performance Art*

      You might also suggest that someone else get trained on Access. People get intimidated by it, but it’s not very difficult to learn. (Not to mention there are countless online training classes for it.) If there are any other tasks where you’re the only one who knows how to do do them, you might want to suggest that someone else be trained on them too. Sometimes the amount of work a task takes doesn’t really register until someone else starts doing it.

      1. paul*

        I’ve tried Access and it beats my machine into a bloody pile of slow. Incredibly frustrating :(

        1. Elizabeth West*

          We had an Access database at OldExjob and nobody used it because it was such a PITA. I dusted it off and made it work for my purposes, even though I had no real knowledge of it. Any time I ran into something I couldn’t do, I googled the heck out of it. I was so proud of myself the day I figured out how to expand a notes field to unlimited characters. But other bits of it are still confusing to this day. I haven’t even looked at it in ages–we didn’t use it at Exjob because duh, software company and they had their own CRM and accounting databases.

          I would love to catalog my books in it and there’s even an Access template for that, but I’m too lazy to go through all my books, LOL.

          1. calonkat*

            Trying not to derail here, but Elizabeth West, you might check out LibraryThing. There’s an app you can scan barcodes (on books that have them, of course) and it just adds them to your list.

          2. Sarah in Boston*

            Or if you have a Mac, look at either Delicious Library or my current go-to Bookpedia.

            1. Director of Things*

              I gave up on Access this past year – have you tried Airtable? It’s my new obsession. It’s not as robust as Access, but it’s free/online/intuitive.

    3. Arty*

      Hi all,
      I work in France and although I’ve been reading the posts for a while I’m still baffled about the stories of how you’re are fired in the US. I thought the Wall street crash image of boxes under arms were contextual and specific to the situation. It’s not! o-O Wow, harsh!

      1. Rat in the Sugar*

        That doesn’t necessarily happen that way here! At my old college jobs in restaurants, someone who was fired usually had it happen quietly in the manager’s office, had their hand shook and then simply walked out. At my current office job, even my colleague who got fired for using her payroll access inappropriately simply walked out on the elevator with no to-do. I saw her leave and actually thought she was just going to lunch until my boss let me know. There are companies who do the walk of shame, sure, but plenty of others will wait until the end of the day and let the employee clean up in privacy.

        …Or, are you just talking about the fact that if you’re fired, you leave with all your stuff that same day? That’s extremely normal here; since it’s very uncommon for us to have employment contracts except in certain specific industries, there no reason to keep an employee around after you’ve told them they’re not wanted anymore.

    4. M-C*

      #1 it really sounds to me like it’s not a coincidence that there seems to be a basic gender issue here. Shoving off support work on the supposedly equal position held by the woman is absolutely the way that the guy gets promoted.

      OP I absolutely don’t mean that this imbalance is your responsibility here, although it’s definitely your problem . Yes, you should try to correct your boss’ misimpression now by pointing out workload discrepancies. But you should also try to see it from his point of view, don’t just make a case that you take on any work shoved onto you by any passing coworker, Wonder Boy included. This time, make a case that you took the initiative to develop your skills such that you are now in high demand, including from WB which you greatly helped specifically in projects x, y & z.

      And ask for guidance in how much you can push back in refusing to participate in not directly relevant projects. Offer to give a presentation on the basics of Access, write up a cheat sheet of online references people can consult instead of you, anything that will help make visible to your boss and others your internal expert status.

      For the long term, I ‘d recommend some good reading such as the classic “nice girls don’t get the corner office” because it sounds like you’re falling into some classic traps without realizing they’re there. Not your fault, we don’t learn that stuff in school, but now is the time to correct course if you want to spare yourself some heartache..

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        The gendered thing was my first thought, too, because that’s the kind of thing that so commonly happens–support roles shifted to the woman, leaving more visible, interesting tasks to the man. But I don’t think we can tell from the letter if the OP is a woman. Given that, I don’t think we can fairly jump to the gendered thing (and Alison has asked us not to assume that’s what’s happening when there’s no context for it). Am I missing something in the letter?

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yeah, that was my concern—I couldn’t tell if OP was a woman, so I wasn’t sure if there’s an actual gender dynamic issue contributing to the imbalance. But to a certain extent, focusing on OP’s gender doesn’t help us get to a resolution on how to illustrate to OP’s boss that the boss is failing to take into account the full scope of OP’s responsibilities.

          1. Chaordic One*

            I’ve often seen these kinds of things happen to gay men working in support roles. I guess that they are often perceived as being like women, although that’s terribly unfair, sexist and homophobic. I certainly don’t condone it, I’m just saying I’ve seen it happen.

      2. Katie*

        I’m seconding this book. I don’t think what’s going on here is explicitly because of gender, but maybe OP is used to taking on the emotional labor of the less important tasks. The people who contribute ideas that help the bottom line are the ones who get promoted, not the ones who do the most work.

        > I also end up doing quite a bit of data entry and other tasks that he does not do.

        Well…why? It sounds like he’s the same level, not a superior. If these things could conceivably be in his job description, then the work needs to be distributed more equitably.

        > Not to mention, half of the “stuff” he comes up with, he ends up asking me for help on since he doesn’t have the skill set to implement himself.

        If you don’t have time to do this, don’t do this. Make him learn to do it. Otherwise you’re enabling the continuance of this pattern of behavior. And he’ll continue being the guy with the ideas while you’ll be the support person.

        This situation just reminds me of the LW last week who asked if it was okay to bring baked goods on the first day. It’s an undeniably nice gesture to do that, but it has the potential to get you labeled “team mom” before you show your skills at the actual job. It is likewise great to be a fountain of knowledge about a computer program that none of your coworkers understand….but not if it’s going to pigeonhole you into doing menial tasks that don’t advance your career.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The OP is a man, not a woman. One of the many reasons I ask people here not to speculate on gender when we don’t know (and especially when it won’t change the advice).

    5. Christine*

      When I was in the military we had to prepare a brag sheet to submit to our supervisors before our evaluation time. So much happens during a year, that they forget some of the goals you’ve met, items that you took initiate on, etc. It serves as a memory prompter and as a tool to use for evaluation purposes.

      I recommend that you do something like that, a break down of your responsibilities and the percentage of your workload that is spent on them either weekly or monthly. How ever you feel serves your purpose? Than make an appointment with your manager to discuss your past evaluation and maybe a shift in your workload if they are wanting you to be more of an initiator versus running the show. Can you shift some responsibilities that are within the skill set of your coworker? Would you be comfortable asking? Sometimes a responsibility that takes 2 – 3 hours a week, that is tossed to another individual makes a huge different in your work performance.

      Many times employers will have one individual in the department that they feel is the go to person, that individual needs little coaching, gets the work done with no follow up required. They forget that others in the department may be versed in additional skills in case you are ever out in an emergency. It’s also a disservice to your coworker that they are not increasing their skill set and level of responsibility. Than the go-to person starts feeling overwhelmed, and resentful at the amount of work load.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        Seconding this recommendation! I kept a work journal at my old job, where I would write down things I accomplished, praise received, milestones hit, etc. so that I could bring it all up at my performance review.

  2. Feathers McGraw*

    #2 This sounded so unfair from the title that I really hoped I was about to read the plot of a Suits and that it wouldn’t turn out to be a real human being who had lost their job in this way. I am so sorry.

    I actually think doing this is a stupid move on their part – as well as a sucky, heartless, callous one – as it suggests they don’t believe this was a one-off and don’t have faith in their other staff and policies. Better to fervently insist it was a one-off and not fire a bunch of people. And IANAL but someone somewhere is probably wondering why you were instantly fired instead of waiting until they could put a compromise agreement together (not sure if you call it that over there).

    I’m sorry you’ve lost your job over something that wasn’t anything to do with you. I hope you find a new one asap.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      It sounds like the company took the whole CYA thing a little too far for fear of how the regulatory body will respond to the manager’s issue. I mean, they’re already going to get dinged for not doing their due diligence when conducting the manager’s background check all those years ago (if they even did one at all) – the company probably just wanted to show the regulators that everyone connected to the situation was no longer involved with them in the event the lying manager also dropped the ball in some way when she was eventually put in charge of hiring. It sucks for the OP and her coworkers though. Especially the blacklisting of the direct reports from ever being able to apply to any job at this company again.

      1. Mike C.*

        Yeah. What I don’t really understand is that in regulatory environments, it would be really easy to say that certified/trained/approved/etc managers looked over the hires, and kept those they didn’t find any issues with.

        Though now that I think about it, the fact that the degree was required leads me to believe that for certification there must be a procedure for showing that this requirement was met – likely asking for a copy of the diploma and contacting the school to confirm. Since this is a really common and easy thing to do, the fact that it was missed is kind of a big deal. Either their process sucks (not sure how that could happen) or someone didn’t follow it to begin with.

        None of this justifies firing the whole team, but I could see it as a panic move by some really inexperienced managers. Even then, none of those possibilities justifies the whole legal action/confirm employment only/no references crap.

        The last episode can be really toxic. The last place my wife worked for would actually enforce this (employees tattled on each other over this) and folks would get fired on the spot. Absolutely terrible.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, I keep getting stuck on your first paragraph. Like others have said, upper management probably thought something along the lines of “Hmm, [OP’s manager] behaved in an unethical way that shows a lack of judgment – maybe that shone through in how he hired as well!”. But really, there is nothing stopping them from finding out for themselves whether OP and her colleagues are good workers or not. I’m still stumped.

            1. ginger ale for all*

              They now have to hire a whole new department and check those credentials of the new hires so I don’t think that was a factor.

            2. ThursdaysGeek*

              They’re going to have to check the credentials of the replacements they hire, however. How does it even work when you lay off an entire group? I guess there’s a bunch of work that just won’t get done.

              1. Noobtastic*

                The meanie in me is crowing about these fools.

                While they are in the process of hiring an entire new team (when it was completely unnecessary!), none of that work is getting done, or it is getting done poorly, by temps who have not had the opportunity to train properly with the ones being moved out. If they had said, “We’re sorry, but we have to let you all go in two weeks, so start training your replacements now,” they would have covered themselves much better.

                This nuclear option they took, however, affects their own bottom line in a negative way, and although it boggles my mind, it also makes me want to cackle in schadenfreudic glee.

                Meanwhile, I’ll bet that the gossip is being spread all over the industry, and I hope that the people who were slammed to the pavement and stomped on will not only get new jobs quickly, but better ones, with people who treat them with respect, and maybe even give them a bit of an edge in the hiring, out of sheer sympathy.

                Of course, it’s possible, depending on the make-up of the company, that they had enough redundancy that they can nuke a whole team like that, and still function just fine, but I doubt it. I, personally, have never worked at a company where that would be the case. There was always at least *some* specialization.

                1. sstabeler*

                  It’s not necessarily mutually exclusive that there was some specialization and yet they can cover for a nuked team. The people covering might not be as good, but as long as the work gets done to a reasonable standard, they might figure it’s good enough until the new team is recruited.

        2. JessaB*

          Yes but then the response is to put the team on a week off with pay and vet each person, firing ONLY the ones that do not match up to requirements or who have been actually seen doing bad work. Unless this is something like the CIA or another place where strict security requirements exist (in which case WOW someone didn’t find out no degree?) Don’t fire the down lines, fire the UP lines. Immediately ditch the persons responsible for checking this stuff.

          Really even in a spy shop you wouldn’t fire everyone right away. Way to turn people into enemy agents by costing them their livelihoods.

          But really – HR person responsible for certifying security processes? Person who hired the manager? Yeh those two people probably need to go yesterday, because they missed a BIG GIANT DEAL of a disqualifier and either the person in the roll was so good they fooled em, or they’re totally not doing their jobs.

          But even if you decide the whole downline is compromised, you give em some kind of awesome severance, etc. You do not contest unemployment after the severance (if they can’t find work since then,) and you by gods make sure you give them amazing references, real ones, if they did great work.

          I’d be the sort, if that happened to me, to put in a call to the regulators stating A: missed quals on my boss, B: fired ME because they missed quals on my boss, and C: made it very difficult to find work because they’re pretty much made it sure that to cover their rears they’re not going to treat me like a regular ex employee when giving references, and D: you oughta go in and audit like crazy because normal people who make mistakes of this nature go OOPS someone messed up, let’s make sure we’re all on track and don’t DO this again. So what the heck else have they skated on for such a huge overreaction

          1. Mike C.*


            Look OP, you have every right to screw over an employer like this. If you need a “professional reason”, you should report because there is clearly a massive problem with internal enforcement of the procedures that allow for certification to begin with.

          2. The Strand*

            I agree. Outline what they did to the regulators. You have nothing to lose. You may gain a sense of fairness and self esteem back after bring treated viciously for something not your fault. And you may help future employees get treated better.

          3. Noobtastic*

            “Don’t fire the down lines, fire the UP lines. Immediately ditch the persons responsible for checking this stuff.”

            Yep! That is the sensible thing to do.

            But, I have a hunch that in this case, the people nuking the subordinates are the very up-line who ought to be fired for making the bad hire, in the first place. I think they’re nuking in order to protect themselves, by “clearing up the evidence,” and making sure there are no “witnesses to the crime,” as if that is actually going to work.

            If this were a crime show, I’d be laughing my head off. But it’s not a work of fiction, and real people are paying the price, so it’s really maddening.

            I can only hope that these people are suffering from their foolishness, in the form of losing real profits from crippling their own company, by taking out an entire team, without even training replacements.

            You don’t just yank a random cog out of a machine, because it has a broken tooth. If the entire cog is rotten, you may have to, but for one single tooth? No.

            This really boggles me.

            1. sstabeler*

              I sort of hope this is like the letter we had a couple of years ago where someone who eats spicy food normally had their food stolen, the thief couldn’t handle the spice, the employee was fired by HR, it turned out when the actual owner got back that HR had been sleeping with the food thief and dismissed the employee to cover up the theft, and HR and the food thief both got canned, with the original employee being rehired.

              In short, I hope this is just the HR person trying to cover their ass, and it gets revealed, the HR person gets canned, and the fired downline gets either rehired, or help finding a new job & very good severence.

        3. Michele*

          I work in a highly regulated field. Training is a major thing the regulators look at, so the company might have been thinking that if the manager wasn’t qualified, then anyone he trained wasn’t qualified. If that was the case, the most efficient, humane thing to do would have been to have someone who was qualified review the training documents and determine if there were any gaps. Then they could have set up training to cover those gaps. Firing everyone doesn’t make sense unless they are shutting down the entire department because hiring new people and getting them trained is expensive and will take forever.

          The whole company sounds like a nightmare, though. Who fires employees because HR didn’t check their boss’s credentials?

      2. Jessesgirl72*

        It’s possible they discovered it, not the regulatory board, and they are doing this to try to hide it from their clients and the board, both.

        1. Antilles*

          If so, this is an incredibly stupid way to handle it. Because you know what happens now? You have 10 ex-employees who can send some anonymous information to tip off the regulatory board AND who have zero incentive not to (what are you going to do, fire me and refuse to give a reference?).

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            Yes! Not to mention that all those 10 are likely to tell their friends and family, who’ll be horrified, and tell people *they* know etc etc etc

          2. AnonAnalyst*

            Also, if I’m looking at this from the outside, it looks a lot more suspicious that a whole team was suddenly let go than just one person. I would think the sudden firing of an entire team would invite more scrutiny, so if it was done to keep it off the radar, it seems like an odd way of handling it.

        2. Fortitude Jones*

          I’m sure they did discover it, and the company axing the manager and her team was a way to show the regulatory board that they took this issue very seriously. I just don’t think the regulatory board would have advocated taking such drastic measures with people who had no hand in hiring the manager.

          1. JessaB*

            And if I were the regulator I’d be flabbergasted at this response (see my book of a response above.) This is NOT the way to fix this.

          2. Anna*

            I know if I were on the regulatory board, my next logical question would be, “Yes, but did you fire the person who did no verification on Manager when he was hired?”

      3. Tally don't dilly-dally*

        I don’t know, I wonder if I was some inspector in a regulating body and if I heard a whole team at said company get fired… I’d wonder if they we’re fired to stop me from talking to them. What are they trying to hide?

        Honestly, I’ve only been involved with regulatory boards in the healthcare industry (I.E. State comes in to review hospital/nursing home) so I might not be a great foil for checking that.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Thing is, the regulatory board could still reach out to the fired employees as part of their investigation – at least they would be able to in my industry. Firing the whole team certainly is a red flag that something was amiss at this company.

        2. Observer*

          I’m betting that that’s EXACTLY why they fired everyone. The whole thing is so over the top, that I bet something really toxic happened, and they are trying to cover it up by keeping the fired people from talking to anyone. Not just to GIVE information, but to GET information.

          1. Anna*

            It’s such a weird response, though. It’s like they pondered how to bring the least attention to the situation and then did the opposite. And then insult to injury they won’t even provide references for a group of people whose work is probably decent and reference-worthy. AND on top of that, threatening their other employees. It’s so…asinine!

          2. The Southern Gothic*

            If this is a regulated industry and there is a possibility of investigators asking questions, releasing the whole department would shut down any information going to the investigation. The company doing their best to distance itself from this group of ex-employees also implies that there was some serious wrongdoing by the lying manager and the ex-employees may have been unknowingly breaking rules under this manager.
            I’m with the other person who said that these ex-employees have nothing to loose by banding together and seeking legal advice about how they were treated. It’s bad enough that the company decided the punish them all for the laying manager’s actions. They don’t deserve to be treated like they never existed by their former employer.

        3. paul*

          FERC would have a field day on this, as would the Texas Railroad Comission if something similar happened (though I’m unaware of them requiring anyone to have a specific degree). I’m basing this off my father’s experience working with them…

    2. Jeanne*

      IANAL either. But in this case I think it would be worth it to consult one. A lawyer may be able to negotiate severance or a better reference or who knows. There’s something really messed up about this. There are lots of reasons for contact. How are you supposed to get COBRA? What about transferring your 401K? They are being unreasonable and you need a lawyer.

      1. Chriama*

        I agree. Or at least negotiate what will be said as a reference because that’s really inappropriate. They have no evidence that these employees acted in bad faith and they’re causing real harm by stating the employees can’t contact them or receive references for their time there. I’m wondering if this sort of implied slander could be argued with. Maybe even bring the regulatory agency into talks with the employer to get some sort of backing (though I’m not sure if the agency wouldn’t have just approved of this behaviour instead).

        1. Natalie*

          I’m not sure there’s any avenue a lawyer could pursue with a reference. They aren’t required to give one, and policies of just confirming dates of employment, title, etc. are extremely common (even if they generally aren’t followed).

          The company is acting terribly stupidly here, but assuming this is the US the LW probably doesn’t have much of a legal avenue as we don’t (legally) require businesses to have much duty towards their employees at all.

          1. JessaB*

            I think it matters the industry and all. If they are giving a specific type of reference for one set of employees and a different one for others, and have not changed their entire reference system to match, there could be something in there.

            Let’s say we’re talking about fancy specialty chocolate teapots used in very specific places (like embassies, the White House, Buckingham Palace, etc.) that have to not only be perfectly constructed but made in a facility that can certify they are not poisoned or something.

            Now there are a bunch of places that have this system in place and they all kind of know each other because of regulations. If they’re used to hearing oh Sue was a marvelous employee she kept all the reports properly and was great with the labcoats who tested the batches, and suddenly they get a series of references that go June was working here from x to x. And then they ask the hard question and get “and is ineligible for re-hire.” Do you think June is ever going to get another job in the industry, if dates of hire is not the standard reference wording.

          2. Mike C.*

            There are state and municipal laws that may be of help, and there’s still any 401(k) money, COBRA coverage and so on. Sometimes you need someone in your corner who knows how to mediate situations like these, even if there isn’t an explicit law against it.

          3. Troutwaxer*

            The lawyer is important here because if you want to “force a better severance” on your ex-employer under “threat of going to regulators” without breaking any laws you need a lawyer’s help so you can’t be prosecuted for blackmail…

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It’s not implied slander. I don’t think OP has a legal hook here—being a jerk is not illegal, even if OldJob is being a super massive jerk. OldJob isn’t affirmatively calling people to blackball the OldTeam, so there isn’t a tortious interference claim, either.

          I know folks have also brought up benefits, but we have no information on that, so speculation is not helpful to OP.

          1. Jeanne*

            It can be useful to consult a lawyer and find out your rights even if in the end they can’t help you. You don’t need to know if you have a claim to do the consult.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I’m a lawyer. I understand there can be value in consulting a lawyer. But I don’t think it’s helpful to encourage OP to seek a lawyer for the purpose of filing a lawsuit when the information in the letter gives us no basis to believe there’s a viable claim.

              There’s just been a more frequent trend, recently, to encourage OPs to speak to a lawyer about a lawsuit every time something outrageous happens [Aside: I think the other conversations about speaking to a lawyer re: ensuring you’re not losing anything you’re entitled to with respect to benefits, etc., makes sense]. Oftentimes that’s not helpful advice—it doesn’t address OP’s immediate needs, usually raises false hopes, and encourages someone to pay money for something that may not be worth it.

              1. BookishMiss*

                Thank you for being steadfast on this point, your highness. I mostly lurk, but I’ve noticed this as well.

      2. Sylvia*

        IANAL and I agree. I don’t have any advice, but this is so seriously strange that perhaps a line was crossed somewhere. To the OP, I’m sorry this happened. Wishing you the best of luck in your job search.

      3. CM*

        I’m a lawyer, but not an employment lawyer. I don’t understand why the company would go out of its way to fire and antagonize all these employees who had nothing to do with the manager’s lack of degree. But I don’t think the company did anything illegal. I don’t see how this OP would have a case. Then again, sometimes just getting a letter from a lawyer can cause companies to cough up some money. (Note to OP, saying they’ll pursue legal action if former employees contact them is an empty threat.)

        1. paul*

          The firing per se isn’t illegal, nor are most of the steps they took…unless they’re trying to do this to help hide things from their responsible regulatory body (and I’d love to know which one it is).

          1. FormerLibrarian*

            When my last job was eliminated (corporate restructuring, I still hear unhappy rumbles from people my job supported, even years later) we were told flat out that there would be no references and we could not use any other employee of the enlarged organization as a reference. All HR policy allows them to say is that I worked there from X to Y and that I was not fired for cause.

            This pretty much destroyed what little chance I had of getting another job in the field since all the folks I regularly worked with who weren’t in my original organization were part of the organization we were merged into.

            So now it’s off to accounting, which pays better anyway.

            1. Noobtastic*

              Restructuring, I understand. But why the “no references” thing? I don’t get it?

              What possible harm can it do to the company to give a reference for someone who worked well, and produced, but was let go due to restructuring. If two or more companies merge, redundancy is almost inevitable, to some degree or another. That doesn’t mean that you can’t give references.

              And to actually say that you couldn’t use another employee for a personal reference? It’s madness!

        2. Decimus*

          There is a reason to consult a lawyer here, and that is because it is unclear to me whether the company is now refusing to give references to any employees (definitely legal) or is now specifically refusing to give references for the fired members of OP’s team. The latter may or may not be legal. Assume OP is competing for a job with Jane, who left a different team at Company amicably. If a potential employer calls, is the company going to say “We can only confirm OP worked here betweeen X and Y dates, but Jane? Oh she’s great, let me tell you all about her”? Because that would lead a potential employer to assume OP was fired for cause.

          So it may be worth consulting an attorney to try and negotiate what the company will say.

          1. fposte*

            I think that would be a stretch, though. It’s legal to give disparate references, and until the situation you describe actually happens and damages somebody, there’s nothing to sue for anyway.

            1. JessaB*

              It’s legal to give disparate references, but not if they have disparate effect I’d think and if any or all of those 10 are in protected classes you have a big issue. And it’s not outrageous to ask for an attorney to go in and try and craft a severance package AHEAD of that issue. And honestly the idea is to mediate the employee OUT of trying to sue. Whether they have a case or not, lawyers are known to go in and try to hash something out BEFORE it becomes a headline about a company having to pay $BigBucks in a lawsuit because it DID devolve into something because oh, they made trouble when the employee tried to contact personnel for COBRA.

              Also it benefits the company because a lawyer crafted thing can have a gag order attached if the settlement is reasonable. Won’t help them against the regulators, I’m pretty sure the regs would have a clause that prevents a gag order about talking to them, but it’d keep this fiasco out of the press, because legal or not, it looks horrible.

              Also how do you get your benefits or anything, there are REASONS, legal required reasons to contact a former employer – COBRA, retirement benefits, continuity of other benefits, etc. Stock options, whatever. Someone has to go in and explain that you cannot prohibit contact with the company about LEGALLY required stuff.

              And it might be strictly legal to give any darn reference you want as long as it’s not outright lies (you can’t say Jim stole, if Jim never stole anything,) there’s a line between being legal and making it impossible for someone to get another job. If the industry has a specific reference standard it’s basically saying “never hire this person, who never did anything wrong but be hired by a boss we had to fire. ”

              If I were an employment lawyer (NAL and worked for a securities lawyer,) a letter or two or a call would NOT be out of line if only to say “who is the point person they are permitted to contact for legally required stuff like insurance and things. I want the company to guarantee they won’t injure my client’s employability because they called personnel to ask about COBRA which is a federally required bit of paperwork.”

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                That first sentence isn’t quite right; everyone is in a protected class. What Princess Consuela Banana Hammock says below is right (it’s legal as long as its not handling it in a way that discriminates on an illegal basis).

              2. Hlyssande*

                And who do they contact if the company doesn’t send the W2 on time the following year for taxes, that sort of thing? They have got to be able to have some point of contact for stuff, seriously.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            It’s 1000% legal to refuse to give references to fired members of OP’s team. A company doesn’t have to justify why it doesn’t give references, so long as it’s not applying its policy in a manner that discriminates on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, disability, etc.

          3. Decimus*

            I never said sue – I said talk to a lawyer to negotiate. Oftentimes a lawyer’s letter can get you a better deal because the company wants to avoid a lawsuit, even one they’d win. Agreeing to a fixed statement like that the department was let go due to restructuring is, comparatively, cheap.

            1. Jeanne*

              This is what I’m talking about. Not a lawsuit for millions of dollars. But maybe the lawyer can negotiate the specific things that OP needs, like being allowed to use former colleague as a reference. I still say it doesn’t hurt to have a conversation with a lawyer.

            2. Marty*

              Add in the subtleties in the law, an the fact that president occasionally changes, and nobody can be entirely sure what the outcome of a lawsuit will be. For that reason alone, it helps to bring in a lawyer, and makes sense to negotiate a cheap settlement. Getting disagreeing parties to a negotiated solution is often better than invoking the law, and a huge part of a lawyer’s job.

            3. Zombii*

              >I never said sue – I said talk to a lawyer […] a lawyer’s letter can get you a better deal because the company wants to avoid a lawsuit

              Suing means filing a lawsuit. These are the same thing. Having a lawyer send a letter falsely threatening/implying they’re going to file a lawsuit (despite there being no legal basis to file in this scenario) is unethical, which is why people here tend to get upset about suggesting everyone go to a lawyer for everything.

        3. MH*

          Is it possible this company fired everybody & cut off all contact to try to simply hide their embarrassment? Doesn’t make sense, but the whole situation smacks of irrational reactionary tactics of a child hiding a broken heirloom vase.

      4. Natalie*

        The company is behaving terribly foolishly and I seriously doubt there’s actually any legal action they could pursue if a former employee contacted them. However, unless they self-insure and self-manage their 401K they probably wouldn’t be handling these things anyway – the ex-employees would contact their insurance company and 401k administrator, respectively.

        1. JessaB*

          COBRA information is still legally the purview of the employer, and vis the 401k or other pension, if they dumped these people ad hoc just before they vested (doubt it, it sounds like it’s a young team in terms of years with the company,) but some companies vest at very early times and if that 401k had matching elements and it was a month before they vested in the matching money? There may not be legal action, but a lawyer could still help by doing a lot of things SHORT of legal action.

          1. Natalie*

            My comment is solely how how benefits are typically handled at severance, not about whether or not the LW should contact an attorney.

            To be extra, extra clear: I seriously doubt the no-contact request from their employer means that no one was able to roll over their 401K or sign up for COBRA. On the extraordinarily slim chance that this happened, then the LW should certainly speak to an attorney immediately.

        2. Mike C.*

          You keep saying this, but the only way someone will know for sure if a lawyer will be able to help is to talk to one.

          1. Natalie*

            ?? I haven’t “kept saying anything” – I made two comments about possible legal issues, but each comment is about *competely different things*. And this comment that you replied had exactly zero to say about whether or not the LW should contact an attorney.

            Slow your roll, Mike.

        3. Christine*

          They dropped the ball by not doing a through criminal background check and confirming the degree. The way they are handling it is sad. I really like the suggestion of a letter from a lawyer about insurance, etc. When I got laid off I was guaranteed insurance through the end of the month and they accidently stopped the day of unemployment. I had surgery scheduled, and found out when I showed up. Threatened a lawsuit and I got the insurance within a couple of hours resolved.

          They should have gotten a severance package out of this. I recommend that everyone go to an attorney, see what can be requested in their state, confirm if it’s an “at will” state. If each of them see an attorney, maybe they can some items cleared up. I think the action they took was worse, than just terminating the manager.

        4. Jeanne*

          When I left my one company, all of the setting up COBRA stuff came directly from HR. I don’t remember with the 401K. It is unreasonable to say never contact us for anything. What if OP never gets her W2? She can’t call and ask. Etc.

          1. Natalie*

            She certainly can call and ask. There’s basically no grounds for her company to pursue legal action against her (see discussion downthread), so in the unlikely chance she has some kind of benefits issue she can deal with that when it happens.

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I’m begging all the non-lawyers to please stop the conjecture re: whether this is legal/illegal or worth consulting a lawyer. Based on the content of OP’s letter, nothing that the company has done is unlawful. If there are benefits issues, then OP can consider seeking a lawyer on that piece, but we have no basis to even posit that there were benefits problems because those issues don’t appear in the letter.

        1. Jeanne*

          I disagree. It is not harmful to have a conversation with a lawyer to specifically talk about your rights. Why do you think it is? That’s what they are for.

        2. Marty*

          Also, a lawyer’s job isn’t just dealing with the law, but also helping to negotiate better settlements than the law would offer. This certainly sounds like the kind of situation where the opportunity could use a little help with negotiations.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Jeanne, Marty, I’m a lawyer. I’m well aware of the value of a lawyer and the scope of a lawyer’s job.

    3. Partly Cloudy*

      I want to know what kind of company can fire an entire department of 10 people plus a manager and still get their product out/service provided. Who’s doing the work? Was there really THAT much wiggle room on staffing?

    4. Venus Supreme*

      My best wishes to OP#2. I’m really sorry. This firing reflects more on the company & not you. I hope you find another job ASAP.

    5. The Kurgen*

      OP2–SMH vigorously. I’ve never heard of a situation where the innocent got punished like the guilty. It’s egregious and as some have noted, a bloodlessly callous move.
      I think if the company was so concerned over your hiring, they ought to have re-interviewed the team and gone from there. At least a sane company would have.

      1. starsaphire*

        It sounds as though the company was going for a fruit-of-the-poison-tree approach, and completely forgot they were dealing with human beings.

        Like others upthread, I’m wondering what exactly went down at the company that they needed to do a scorched-earth cleaning to everything Lying Manager had ever touched…

        Personally, I’d be keeping one eye on the industry news and one ear on the rumor mill to figure out what exactly happened. And rekindling connections with alumni and former professors like mad to try to rebuild a network for job leads.

        Best to you, OP; I’m so sorry this happened to you. I hope you find something soon!

        1. Troutwaxer*

          If nothing else, all the fired people can provide references for each other. It’s not the same as having an employer’s reference, but its… something.

          1. Jeanne*

            That might be a good idea. I have to wonder how niche this industry is with the strict requirements and if word will get around.

    6. Artemesia*

      The thing that jumped out at me is that the TEAM did not hire the manager. Management did. And yet having made that mistake they punish down instead of up. Why wasn’t the manager’s boss perp walked out of the place that day with his box of stuff for having hired someone without vetting them? Instead they punish people who had no part in making the mistake. Really nasty stuff here.

      1. Troutwaxer*

        I can’t help but think that there’s something buried here which is worse than merely having an employee who faked his educational records… there’s leverage here if the OP can figure out what the issue is.

    7. TootsNYC*

      I would not only be contacting the regulators (for spite), but I’d also be contacting the local press (for self-protection and damage control).

      Because I’d want the geographic region I was job-hunting in, and the industry as well, to have an awareness of the idea that a bunch of people were fired and are “not eligible for rehire” for an unfair reason.

      So that when I mention it in an interview, i can say, “Oh, I worked at XYZ Company and was one of the people who was walked out of the building when it was discovered that the guy who hired us had lied about having a degree. Not that -we- knew he wasn’t eligible to make a hiring decision, but that’s what the company did.”
      And have the interviewer say, “Oh, yeah, I heard something about that.”

      Normally I say you don’t ever want to bring up any whiff of dramatic stuff like this, bcs then your whole interview becomes about the DRAMA!! instead of being about your skills, and you become “that person with the dramatic story,” and not “that person w/ XYZ experience and the good interview.”

      But that’s actually why I’d want this to become common news in my city and my industry. So that the “drama boil” would be lanced well before I walked in the door.

      1. Anonymous Lawyer*

        I’d be careful about going to the press and becoming known as the whistle blower. A lot of employers who google an applicant and see that are going to go, “Oh, they’re a troublemaker. Next applicant, please.” It’s also a good way to get a defamation suit – even if everything said is true, it still costs money to prove it.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, I’m absolutely gobsmacked at your company’s approach, and I’m so sorry that you and your former team are going through this. I’m particularly incensed that they told you they’d take “legal action” if you contacted them and that they would immediately fire any former coworker who serves as a reference. That just seems bullying and unfair to all of you.

    I think firing all of you was overkill, but I can understand wanting to clean house if someone you trusted had lied and opened the company up to regulatory liability. I wouldn’t do it the way they did, but at least I can understand the logic. But all the subsequent terms they’re imposing just seem malicious and vindictive, as if they think you all knew your manager lied and were complicit in covering up that lie. I’m struggling to understand how their post-firing conduct makes sense.

    1. Gadfly*

      Anyone have any idea as to what that “legal action” they threatened could be? They can’t just sue you for contacting them. Or for indirectly contacting them by filing for unemployment or something (hard to argue you were all fired with cause…) Because it is extra infuriating if they were just making threats to throw their weight around and have no way to back up those threats. I wonder if it is worth talking as a group to a unemployment lawyer to see if there are any protective steps OP2 and their colleagues should be taking…

      1. Marina*

        I wanted to ask this as well! I assume if OP2 showed up on premises they could escort her out, but calling or writing? Is there any possible way to take legal action against someone for making a single, non-harassing phone call?

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Honestly, I can’t think of a cause of action. I think they’re just bullying OP and OP’s coworkers, and banking on the idea that intimidation/fear will be enough to prevent any of them from trying to reach a more sensible resolution.

        1. fposte*

          Yes, it’s a thunderous but vague phrase for a reason. I suspect the closest thing to legal action would be “calling our lawyers to say somebody called our bluff on this one.”

          1. JessaB*

            Or it could be worse. If they’re really that off the rails, they could have their lawyers serve trespass papers, or something but that’d open them up to a hearing about “why you want this person off the premises permanently, and it’s not stalking to call about insurance benefits, etc.”

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Yeah, but you can’t serve someone with trespass for calling you, particularly if they’re calling with an employment-related issue. The employer’s threats make no sense in terms of an “actually want to file a lawsuit or pursue other legal recourse” perspective.

              1. Gadfly*

                That would be why in the OP’s Circumstances I would want to talk to an attorney–if the company is making irrational threats, I would want to know EXACTLY what my rights were and what they could act on.

        2. TootsNYC*

          Though, that might be a reason to sit down w/ the lawyer–just to feel that they’ve had someone knowledgeable “talk them off the ledge” and reassure them about what their options are—and aren’t.

          Sometimes it’s restful to find out that there’s really nothing you can do. Or, that there is, but that the cost of it (mental, emotional, financial, physical) is too high (and I think a lot of lawyers are able to say, “You would have a case, but it’s a totally fine decision to decide to not pursue it” or “You don’t technically have a case, but in my experience, this is very out of the ordinary, and you’re totally justified in judging them harshly. My sympathies”—both of which could be useful to hear.)

          And it can help work through the anger process.

          1. Marty*

            Even if you don’t have a case, a letter form a lawyer can help convince someone to treat you more reasonably. After all, on of the major services that law firms offer its support in negotiations. It isn’t just about the letter of the law.

          2. Mookie*

            Seconding your second paragraph. It’s nice to know you’re out of options and have pursued all of the most rational avenues available to you. Therapeutic, and helps to get past the shock, grief, and anger of something so unexpected.

      3. Annonymouse*

        Would filing for unemployment count as indirect contact?

        Because that’s really a crappy thing to do on top of denying them a chance to find future jobs.

        Typically the whole confirming dates thing is done when the employee has done wrong and these people haven’t. Not letting them file for unemployment also says they’ve done wrong.

        It’s completely unjust to treat these employees as if they are complicit or guilty of the same crime because this person was involved with their hiring.

        1. Observer*

          Actually, if the company has any brains, they would NOT act as though this is “indirect contact”, because that could go radioactive on them very quickly.

          They are clearly trying to cover up something very serious – I suspect more serious that one manager who didn’t have a degree (although I get that that is REALLY serious.) Calling the police or suing someone for applying for UI is a good way to put your actions into the news and under investigation.

          1. JessaB*

            At this point if I were in that group they’d have burned any chance to get me to not go home and put in a call straight to the regulators. Because this is so fishy. And such a bizarre overreaction.

        2. MegaMoose, Esq*

          Leaving aside the fact that this threat to take legal action sounds like BS posturing, the OP should not hesitate to file for unemployment if they want to. The only one contacting the employer would be the state, and the employer would almost certainly get shut right down if they tried to argue that this was a firing for-cause. Employers can fire employees for (almost) any stupid reason they want, but they can’t unilaterally block eligibility for unemployment benefits.

        3. Natalie*

          I can’t imagine there’s anything the company could do to prevent them from filing. Unemployment is between the state and the employee, even though the company pays for it.

          They could potentially challenge it and it sounds like they might drag it out, but if I was the LW I’d fight my company to end on unemployment just on spite!

        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          No. And OP should file for unemployment if OP wants. I’m 99% sure the company is just being assholes and are trying to scare/intimidate the ex-employees into silence over their poor treatment.

        5. Dave*

          I believe in some states, no one can take away the ability for someone to at least file a UI claim.

          If it was me personally, I would go about and file a UI claim, and do whatever else you are legally entitled to like COBRA. It wouldn’t hurt to maybe band together with your former co-workers and chip in and at least give a lawyer a heads up about this – I’m assuming that a well worded letter stating that the former employees will not be in contact unless it is legally required, like for UI or COBRA.

          1. IANAL (I Argue Nightly About Llamas)*

            See username (in law school), but I would guess that the ability to file UI claims can only be waived through a contract. Otherwise, why have UI at all. It doesn’t seem like OP had a contract, so that solves that problem.

            TBH, if the prevailing theory (that the company is covering up something by firing a bunch of people), they’d probably avoid fighting a UI claim for fear of making a small snafu a major and public one.

      4. Colette*

        This is definitely time to consult a lawyer.

        They are threatening mysterious legal action if the OP contacts them for something as innocuous as forgetting her phone charger, and they’re treating their former employees really badly. It’s possible they have a different perspective (I.e. They suspect widespread wrongdoing) but regardless, it’s time to consult a lawyer – and don’t cash the severance cheque or sign anything until the lawyer weighs in.

        1. fposte*

          I don’t think there was a severance check–all they got was the pay they were owed. Agreed if the company does ask them to sign anything they should check with a lawyer, but it sounds like this was a single nuclear strike and the company isn’t going to be in touch.

          1. Anna*

            I think this may be one of those situations where it could be *useful* to talk to a lawyer if for nothing else than perhaps they will soften their stance on references. The lawyer could negotiate that if it’s a case that someone overstepped bounds by firing everyone, and refusing to provide references, AND threatened remaining employees. Sometimes getting a letter from a lawyer is less about something being legal or not and more about giving someone a better bargaining position than before.

            1. Mike C.*

              This is what I keep thinking. And I think it’s important to note here that in this case, the employer brought up the threat of legal action first.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              This is the only context/purpose for which contacting a lawyer could be helpful.

              1. Colette*

                Yes, I don’t think consulting a lawyer would get the OP’s job back, but it might help her understand what the company can and can’t do legally with respect to references as well as what the company’s obligations are in her area.

          2. Colette*

            You’re right, I misread that. I generally am not in favour of running to lawyers in cases where the company is acting in good faith, but this sounds like a situation where it is important for the OP to understand what the company can and cannot do legally.

      5. Jessesgirl72*

        Restraining order and filing for harassment? It would be pretty easy to get one from a judge for a “disgruntled former employee”

        1. Noobtastic*

          Which is why you make any contact in writing.

          It’s awfully hard to interpret “I need X information,” or “I mistakenly left Y personal item behind. Please forward it to me,” as any form of harassment.

          However, if you telephone, it’s a he said/she said situation, and if you show up, it’s trespassing.

      6. Alex "Barney" Barnaby*

        I don’t advocate for wasting other people’s time or one’s own money, but I do think that a talk with a lawyer would be helpful here. The attorney would be able to determine (based on the jurisdiction) which of the post-termination actions are legal (e.g., barring the employee from contacting the company, barring other employees from giving references, etc.). It can also be good for your peace of mind, so you aren’t wondering five years from now whether or not you could have done something.

        Just a thought: your employer can’t take any action against you or your peers who agree to be references for each other. While it might be odd to have only peers as references, certainly, some of you know each other’s work well enough to speak to prospective employers. It’s something to explore and think about, depending on the situation.

        What strikes me as odd is that the subordinates were fired, not the people who hired the person who didn’t have the requisite qualifications. That’s just beyond bizarre and makes me think that there’s some other CYA issue going on here.

        1. Alex "Barney" Barnaby*

          …and as another thought: a good lawyer might be able to find out the extent of the “No references” ban.

          “I can only say that Fergus worked here from June 2011 until February 2017” is different from “Our company has stated that employees who remain here after the other division was dissolved are not allowed to give any sort of references except for employment dates, even if we very much want to. I’m sorry that I’m not able to do more than confirm that Fergus worked here from June 2011 until the department was dissolved in February 2017.”

        2. JessaB*

          They can take action. Even if the company weren’t so weird about this, if the company says you can’t give a reference beyond hire dates for Jane, and you do, that’s absolute cause to fire you. And if they wanted to refuse unemployment it’d be different to Jane applying because they are firing for cause this time. You disobeyed instructions very obviously.

          1. Steve*

            Anywhere in the US they can fire you for giving a reference (or for almost any other reason). Whether or not disobeying an order disqualifies you from unemployment, depends on the state.

          2. Zombii*

            That’s not what fired for cause means. ExJob uses it that way: they list everyone who was fired as being fired for cause, and that’s what they tell anyone who calls to confirm employment. (This is apparently common with toxic companies.) However. When I applied for unemployment, I found out “for cause” has a specific legal definition that usually involves fraud, theft or embezzlement. That’s why it’s serious. It isn’t just insubordination or some stupid shit like that.

            You’re right that they can fire people for giving references against instruction though. ExJob does this too (christ I hate that place).

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Oh, I misread. Please disregard.

            I’m not surprised they didn’t fire the hiring people—it’s easier to blame and step on people down-chain instead of people higher up.

    2. Sherm*

      +1 and then some. I’m steamed on behalf of OP2. What really gets me is the threat to fire any coworker serving as a reference. I suppose the rest could be explained as being hard-assed, but what gives with making it harder for these poor people to find another job? Maybe they are going full-throttle salt-the-earth to the point that they want to practically deny that this team ever existed.

      Assuming this reference ban is real and not erroneous second-hand information, I’d consider consulting with a lawyer if OP2 is looking for a reference from someone at OldCompany. Yeah, I know the company may have the “right” to enact its ban. (Or not? IANAL.) But a good lawyer may still do some decision-swaying.

      1. Gadfly*

        Or at least may be able to prevent the company from doing something shadey it would hate to see in a court document, even if arguably legal.

      2. Mike C.*

        You hit the nail right on the head when you talk about the company going out of their way so the OP and her team have a harder time getting a new job. It’s an incredibly messed up thing to do when many would see it as a dreaded red flag.

        Not to mention they would also have to list themselves as “ineligible to rehire” on job applications. Ugh.

      3. MegaMoose, Esq*

        Unfortunately, the company almost certainly can enforce the no-reference ban. Firing someone for providing a reference to a former employee is BS, but I can’t see how it could implicate any labor or discrimination laws unless the ban was being applied only to people over forty or something like that. And the OP has no legal right to receive a reference whether they deserve one or not.

        I’m honestly not sure the larger situation is one where an attorney could do anything, but assuming the OP could get a free consult with a reputable employment attorney, it wouldn’t hurt to see if there’s anything they could do.

        1. Natalie*

          Worth noting that they *can’t* enforce a n0-reference ban against any former employees! Since multiple people were fired, perhaps some of them are above others in the reporting chain and could serve as a reference, at least.

          1. MegaMoose, Esq*

            Good point. And it might not hurt to have even a non-supervising former coworker as a reference given what a weird situation this is – any new employer should be sympathetic but it might be useful to offer someone who can corroborate.

      4. JKP*

        Also, if I were still an employee at that company and was told that I would be fired if I gave out a reference, I would start my own job search ASAP so I could preserve my own references, before they had the chance to pull the same thing on me. I hope there’s a mass exodus from that company from the remaining employees.

        The OP should keep their eye on if any other remaining employees leave the company who they could use as a reference. The company can’t forbid ex-employees from giving out references. Also, can the employees who were all fired use each other as references?

    3. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

      I think absolutely everything about this story is unfair! I’m even angry about the five minutes to pack their stuff. It’s a way too short time, and on a normal work day I wouldn’t even have with me a large enough bag to carry all the stuff I usually have at workplaces!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I lucked out when I got fire–for some reason I had saved a couple of collapsible boxes in my cube I’d used for something, just in case I needed them again, I guess. Just whipped them out and threw all my stuff in. I had already removed my posters because I wanted to change my decor and home and hang them there.

    4. MK*

      I must say it sounds stupid to me; what they did has made sure that this story will get maximum attention and get repeated for years, as the OP and her co-workers have no choice but to mention it every time they apply for a job. Imagine a hiring manager at another company interviewing for a similar job and probably seeing a bunch of candidates recently fired from company X, and then getting this explanation at the interview. That’s the kind of thing you call all your professional friends to gossip about.

      1. Lablizard*

        Their own own employees are likely to gossip about it, especially if the is a field that has any conferences or meetings for license members. Even if employees are told not to talk, they will generally talk to someone and the story of “Team Carthage” will make the rounds, likely with a lot of colorful embellishments (e.g. “and they fired anyone who ever ate lunch with Fergus!”)

    5. Jessesgirl72*

      Well, to be fair, my husband works for a Fortune 500 company where their standard practice is that only HR can be contacted about a former employee, and anyone who serves as a reference for someone else will be disciplined/fired. It’s not only just in the employee handbook, but they highlight the rule when you’re hired.

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          Not really, because they don’t fully explain it themselves. Just hand waving (paranoia) that someone will say something, while representing the company, that will make them look bad or open them up for litigation.

        2. JessaB*

          It’s not an odd requirement, let’s say you’re manager of Team Who Uses Wakeen’s work. You give Wakeen a glowing reference because every time you call he has every bit of what you need and is always wonderful about it. And let’s say because personnel actions are PRIVATE you do not know that Wakeen was let go because it was discovered he was cooking the books and skimming. You just gave a glowing reference to a thief. Because you didn’t know information you didn’t have a right to know. Personnel on the other hand knows the whole story.

          1. Bagpuss*

            In our organisation we have a rule that only Partners or the Practice Manager (our HR) can provide a reference – if someone else is asked / wants to do so then they need to get approval, or if they are giving a personal rather than professional reference they need to make that explicit, and to make it clear that they are not speaking on behalf of the company.

            Part of it is because here, an employer can be legally liable for giving an inaccurate reference – if you give a reference which is falsely good, you ca be liable to the new employer, if you give one which is bad and inaccurate you can be liable to the worker. Of course, I imagine it might be quite difficult to prove as presumably you’d need to be able to show that the reference was relied on and was the cause of the employee getting (or not getting) the job, but it’s a risk.

            1. Noobtastic*

              As a blanket policy, I’d say it’s fine. It’s when it is selectively applied to one group, and not to the rest of the employees that it becomes downright fishy.

              1. Noobtastic*

                By “fine,” I don’t mean that it is a good policy. I only mean that it is not actively harmful.

                I mean, references are wonderful, but the blanket “no references” policy seems to be something of a trend, meaning more and more hiring managers are having to deal with more and more applicants in a similar situation, and they have to rely on more personal references, or go the Mary Poppins route (“I make it a point never to give references.”) and do without the references, but DO confirm dates and the like, and do a background check.

                Personally, I think a background check, with facts and dates, and a peek into any criminal record (or lack thereof), may actually be better for a hiring manager than a bunch of references that could, very well, be lies. At least with the background check, you know you are dealing with facts.

                Too many times, the glowing reference by a former employer is not all it’s cracked up to be.

                I say this, because as hurtful as this “no references for YOOOOUUUUU” policy is, it is not the end of the world for OP. It does make it a bit harder in a future job search, but is not an insurmountable obstacle.

                Especially if OP is able to keep up personal ties with other people who could give a personal reference, or even a “Yes, I used to work with OP, when we both worked at The Company Which Shall Not Be Named Thank God I’m Gone, Too.”

                Even the “ineligible for rehire” checkbox is not all that bad, if the person you’re interviewing with knows that some companies have all kinds of reasons to mark someone as ineligible. At my last company, EVERYONE who left was ineligible for rehire. They literally refused to rehire anyone who left, for any reason.

                The thing is, the more people know about that sort of thing, the easier it will be. For now, it looks bad. But chin up! The gossip mill, in this case, might very well prove to be your friend, even if all it does is give future interviewers the chance to give you the benefit of the doubt. Because there’s a lot of doubt about this company.

        3. Dave*

          Because people have sued former employers over what was said about (ex-)employees because it has cost them employment in the future. I.e. “we fired X because of poor performance” when there could be a case of bad fit or poor management skills on the part of the employer. Not saying there wasn’t poor performance on the employees part, but sometimes you need both sides of the story to make a decision.

      1. Anonygoose*

        Ugh I once worked for a company like that… it was a hotel reservations call centre, and policy was that HR would only confirm dates of employment and that none of the managers or supervisors could serve as an actual reference. It wound up only being a short stay for me for a variety of reasons, so I had plenty of (more relevant) references to draw from, but I always wondered how that would look to employers if somewhere I’d worked for several years refused to say anything about me other than confirming that I had worked there once.

        1. Thumper*

          I’ve worked at a hotel too and was told the same thing. I thought it was very odd at the time (though not surprising, this particular hotel was extremely strict about employee conduct) but I guess it’s more common than I presumed.

        2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          Yeah, my managers went ‘no reference’ on me after laying me off.

          A year later, the company got its a$$ in some jam and I vaguely recall a phone call, asking for a statement from me, how nice the company was after they laid me off. While they were, in their employment center, more than good, I said the ‘no reference’ policy or practice , whatever the hell it was, made life difficult for me.

          Their response ‘oh that was legal gobbledygook, ha ha ha’ to which I replied =

          “Hey, Perry Mason. Then what the HELL are you calling me about here?”

          As far as getting around the ‘no reference’ problem – you may acquire trusted friends – who also may leave the company, and thus are available to help you.

          This is where joining professional groups and organizations helps — there’s SOMEBODY to help you.

      2. Kj*

        That rules always annoys me. I violate the rule that we can only give dates at my company for interns I work with. They are working for free (non-profit) and literally the only compensation they get is hours and a good reference. My supervisor said to go ahead and do it. I don’t couch myself as a representative of my org when I do this, but as a professional who knows their work. I think it is shitty thing to ban co-workers from vouching for each other/serving as professional references overall.

      3. Mike C.*

        It’s still a really silly rule. I work for a blue chip and employees can serve as references just fine.

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          Oh, it’s a stupid paranoid rule. But it’s not unheard of and may not be specific to this incident for the OP’s former employer.

          1. Noobtastic*

            Yes, and the more companies engage in this paranoid rule, the less bite the “no reference” thing actually has in a job search.

            If everyone is giving references, then a lack of references is a red flag. But if even a quarter of companies in the industry have a “no references” rule, then it’s easy to believe that they’d give a reference, if they could.

            Personel references, however, cannot be blocked by a paranoid rule, and it’s very good to network and join professional groups, and the like. Even if it’s just people with whom you volunteer or attend church, or otherwise socialize, and they aren’t in your industry, at all, they can speak to your character.

      4. Jojo*

        Ugh. I had a boss once that I called trying to find my former supervisor to ask if she’d be a reference for me, and the boss said, “Oh, put me down too, I’d love to be a reference for you,” so I did. Then the job contacts me and asks for another reference because Boss told them she could only provide the dates that I worked there. I was flabbergasted. Why offer? People are weird.

        1. JessaB*

          I think the weirdest thing about this is if the company has to tell you that they’re only giving out dates, then it’s obvious that this is NOT the normal reference procedure. Your boss was a jerk. If you’re not going to give a reference, don’t offer to be one. A company who always just gives dates and stuff, is kinda normal, nobody bothers to worry about a “dates and stuff” reference being a hint that the employee did something wrong if that’s all they ever do.

      5. Bonky*

        That’s interesting: my husband worked for a Fortune 500 with a very similar rule. The only references anybody was allowed to give were the bare minimum: “Jacinta worked here from Nov 11-Feb 15”; anybody doing otherwise would be disciplined. My understanding was that it was to avoid situations where an employee would try to sue over a negative reference, but it seemed an awfully large hammer to crack that particular nut with.

        (All that said, I know a number of other people from that job who went on to great things, so perhaps the lack of a substantive reference wasn’t as big a problem as it still seems to be in my head.)

      6. Hlyssande*

        My giant multinational industrial company does that too for all employment confirmations/references – through The Work Number. Let me tell you, that thing is a PITA to deal with, because if you’re trying to move somewhere and the landlord is a fairly small company, it is NOT FREE FOR THEM TO CHECK. Fortunately I can print off my paystubs, but still.

        And they have the same ‘nobody is allowed to give an actual reference or they will face disciplinary action’ policy, too.

    6. Artemesia*

      If I were on of the people so unjustly fired I would at least be talking to the regulatory agency to let them know that the company had run with an uncertified manager for X months or years yadda yadda. i.e. I would be trying to figure out how to hurt them. Unless there is something we are no hearing here this is particularly unfair behavior and there ought to be some sort of coordinated push back perhaps with the industry or the labor board — just so the news gets out about their failure to vet the manager AND their response.

  4. Milton Waddams*

    #2: The response almost sounds like the degree wasn’t the only lie; perhaps they uncovered corruption or some other PR disaster? Firing an entire department can’t be cheap…

    Of course, it may simply be the whim of the owner; I’ve certainly met company founders who treat sour work relationships like bad breakups.

    Perhaps you can use one of your senior co-workers who was also fired as your reference?

    1. Mike C.*

      Given my experiences in regulated industries, im willing to bet a teriyaki chicken lunch that it’s a small firm with an unreasonable owner.

        1. Troutwaxer*

          I’m just speculating here, but I suspect that there’s also a regulated requirement for checking an employee’s references. This might be standard if the office is doing government work on such-and-such a kind of project. And in not checking the previous manager’s credential a company VIP, possibly the owner, violated some kind of law – and note that if classified work was involved, the penalties could be fairly ugly – thus a very stupid, panicky, and clumsy coverup. This is why I think there might be some leverage here beyond what would be available to most employees in this kind of situation, (particularly if the “regulators” are involved in something like national defense.)

      1. Mike B.*

        The company can’t be that small if it can fire an entire department of ten and continue business as usual. Unreasonable owner, maybe. Hopefully it’s actually an unreasonable senior manager who will be overruled by an apoplectic C-suite once they hear what happened and get a whiff of the industry word of mouth.

        1. Artemesia*

          Every fired person should be on glassdoor immediately, someone should be raising inquiries with the regulatory agency that covers the field and also the labor board of the state or country they are in. In other words, get the word out while CYA. And of course file for unemployment and tell the complete story when applying.

          1. TootsNYC*

            Don’t forget the industry press AND the local press.

            If only because, once other folks in the industry hear of it, they can get all outraged in private, on their own time. And then when our OP and their colleagues show up to apply for jobs, it won’t take over the conversation, and the interviewers will understand why they’re “not eligible for rehire.”

            1. TootsNYC*

              Though, I suppose it’s possible that will backfire and people will assume there must be fire where there’s smoke….

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I was wondering if maybe the manager was involved in something really shady that OP and their colleagues aren’t aware of. Obviously there’s no way to know, but if there was embezzling or insider trading or something else going on, I could almost understand why they felt like the needed to clean house.

      Whatever their reason, I agree with earlier comments that OP should consider retaining a lawyer to protect themselves. Also, OP, you may want to consider volunteering somewhere while you’re job hunting. That could provide you with an additional reference.

      1. synchrojo*

        This was my first thought as well– perhaps manager and some of the other fired team members were involved in something shady, and it was impossible to determine who was and wasn’t involved without that other shady thing coming to light. Still a really awful situation for OP, but I could definitely see a company deciding to clean house.

        1. Alex "Barney" Barnaby*

          Good point – and an additional reason to retain a lawyer. The last thing you want is the company trying to implicate you in any of it.

        2. JessaB*

          Yeh but still if you’re going to clean house that way and you don’t want it bouncing back in your face because “We caught manager but we can’t prove any other involvement,” then you want to clean house in the most positive way you can by presuming that anyone you can’t prove up is INNOCENT. Why on earth would you want to leave vengeful employees who have access to phone numbers for the regulators, and the local and trade news journals? If you don’t want to let a cover up be found out don’t give people reasons to shout from the rooftops about your awful behaviour.

      2. Christine D*

        This. My husband applied for a job and got it, and started working with a team of 6. About a week after starting, he came into work and all 6 team members had been fired. Turns out his boss and some other coworkers had been using company funds for 4 hour lunches at the pub and for visiting strip clubs. Most likely one or two out of the six had nothing to do with it, but since the company couldn’t/didn’t want to dig into the weeds to see exactly who spent very cent, every employee was fired. If my husband had started a few months earlier he likely would have been let go as well but his newness saved him.

    3. Confused Again*


      I felt like there was a chunk missing to that story. Not in the sense that the OP isn’t telling everything but in the sense that there’s something else the OP doesn’t know – like something that (wrongly) implicates the entire department as well. That would sort of justify such an extreme reaction, even though I would think not giving employees a chance to defend themselves is just asking for trouble in the long run.

      Alternatively, as somebody suggested above, they might just be doing a clean sweep before the regulator comes knocking and wants to ask the department some questions. Again, would justify the reaction, although again that point about the long-run.

      1. Dave*

        Yup, the affected employees would be MORE willing to spill anything they know, no matter how small, to the regulators.

    4. Noobtastic*

      “The whim of the owner.”

      Yes, this is possible.

      My father used to work for a medical technology firm. They designed and built new technological devices for doctors, nurses, medical technicians, etc., to use for diagnostics.

      The owner decided to retire, and sold the company to a couple of “suits,” who thought it would be a good investment to purchase an already profitable small business.

      Then, they decided to increase profits, by cutting overhead, by eliminating “unnecessary” departments.

      The first department they cut? Research and Development. Because everyone knows that a medical technology business has no need for either research or development.

      Yeah, they nosedived, pretty quickly.

  5. MollyG*

    #2 I think the OP is missing some information. Since this is so far outside of norm there must be something else going on. A full clean sweep is extreme, but treating you so bad is something else. Perhaps even the company is doing this to appease a regulator? Could they think that perhaps some of you may have known about the lie and bid it? It is likely you will never know.

    1. Not Australian*

      “Could they think that perhaps some of you may have known about the lie and hid it?”

      That was my thinking – that the company sees all that manager’s hires as complicit in something, and maybe the suggestion of the manager’s misdeeds being greater than just the lie about the degree is relevant here. Even so, you’d hope that a reasonable company would hold a proper investigation of some sort, or rotate the employees to other posts; instead it sounds like senior management are feeling really bruised by the deception and have just lashed out at anyone with a connection to the manager who lied. Their reaction is totally over the top unless there is some other factor at play here.

      1. Fiennes*

        I thought this as well. Maybe one person on the team did know or even colluded to hide the manager’s lie? And management flipped out, assumed all of those from that manager were on that person’s “team,” and proceeded from that?

        Not that it helps, since this is still paranoid and unjust–not to mention that the company has just excised an entire department’s worth of skills/contacts/institutional knowledge, and will be bouncing back from that for a long while.

      2. K.*

        Me too. This kind of “burn it down and salt the earth” approach with an entire department is so extreme that I wondered if the company thought the department was colluding with the former manager. Firing an entire department and having to rebuild it is very expensive – they’ve lost a ton of institutional knowledge and have to spend time and money building the department again from scratch. Not to mention that the employees are now personae non grata … it seems like such an over-reaction.

      3. Rat in the Sugar*

        Yeah, that might make sense…maybe? In my line of work (Accounting) I can see the company maybe doing a clean sweep of the department if my boss, the controller, were caught doing something super duper illegal, but then again Accounting is supposed to be specifically set up so that it’s impossible for one employee to do that without at least one other person in the department being in on it, so it kind of makes sense (…kind of…) to clean the other employees out if the boss is caught doing shady stuff, since at least one of would have had to be helping. OP’s boss might have been engaging in some kind of hanky-panky in addition to lying about the degree, causing the company to suspect collusion within the department, though OP says they haven’t heard of anything like that happening. I don’t know, honestly, the whole thing is super weird.

    2. One of the Sarahs*

      But what I don’t get is HOW subordinates would possibly know that the manager had lied about going to college? I mean, especially without asking them! It’s just not any kind of conceivable I can see – it’s not like, in an interview, or during orientation, it’ll just slip into conversation. I am totally a person who wants to find logic in illogical situations, but I can’t see how this would work.

  6. Seal*

    #5 – Your manager is being ridiculous. I’ve had plenty of employees who let me know the night before that they were too ill to come in the next day. Hell, I’ve done it myself. If I’m feeling that awful the night before I’d rather let them know ASAP and sleep in than have to get up just to say I’m sick and won’t be in.

    For that matter, if this was such a big deal, why did your manager wait until your end of the year review to address it? I had a manager do that to me once for a different issue and still resent him for it. After all that time I barely remembered the incident in question and by that point, there was nothing I could do to rectify the situation. It wasn’t like this was a pattern of bad behavior on my part, either; it was a single, relatively minor incident that should have been addressed at the time, but instead my boss chose to sit on it and ambush me at my performance evaluation months after the fact. After that, I never took him or the job seriously again.

    1. Fiennes*

      I keep envisioning someone going, “Well, I’m projectile vomiting & have fever of 102, but hey! Maybe I’ll be 100% fine in the morning!” Just no.

      This is so unreasonable that I wonder whether the boss didn’t have some weird general “feeling” that OP5 skips too much work & seized on this as supposed proof. Specifically, I’m remembering the LW who once got dinged on attendance despite *perfect* attendance, because her manager just “felt” like she wasn’t around.

      To sum up: if the boss dug this deep down to the bottom of the barrel to prove OP5 has issues with time off, OP5 probably doesn’t have real issues with time off.

      1. PB*

        I’ve called in sick the night before while experiencing your first paragraph. Obviously I couldn’t go into work, and no one would want me to. Calling in the night before meant I could get very much needed sleep in this morning.

        This manager is being unreasonable.

        1. Lance*

          Not to mention, it gives the manager all the more time to plan the day out with a missing team member. I… really don’t know how that’s not a good thing to know a night in advance, rather than last-minute in the morning.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, that’s the head-scratcher to me. Why not notify when the decision has been taken? What’s the benefit from waiting until the next morning?

          2. Elizabeth West*

            Yes. I’ve emailed the night before at Exjob and my manager was fine with it. I would check in the morning to make sure she got it and she usually just replied with something like, “Thanks for letting me know. Take care of yourself and rest.”

            Of course, at OldExjob I couldn’t do that because my butt had to be in the chair (front desk) and my backup didn’t come in until 11:30. There was no way to contact my boss so I went in sick and left at noon. My backup, however, would often call in and then I’d be stuck working the rest of the day sick. If I’m able to go home early and rest, I can sometimes fend off an illness, but that would torpedo any attempts to do so. :P

        2. Marillenbaum*

          Truth! I did once have a less-than-reasonable boss on this score, and I found that Boomerang was really helpful. I could write the email explaining I was sick, schedule it to send at 6 AM, and get the sleep I needed.

      2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        Ha. This exact scenario happened to a friend a few weeks ago, except she said, obviously, that she would not be in the office. Her manager said, “Thank you for not bringing that here.”

    2. littleandsmall*

      I’ve done called (or emailed) in the night before and it’s never been an issue. I think in most instances bosses appreciate the heads up and OP #5 manager is an outlier. And personally, even if I miraculously start feeling better and recover sometime after sending the email/leaving a voicemail, I know I’m not going to be any good for work the next day if I didn’t get proper sleep because I was up half the night feeling ill, anyway.

      1. INFJ*

        I don’t think people realize how common this is. Average to bad management is the norm. Good managers are hard to come by.

        At last job, I once called in sick 5 hours before my shift (we were required to call in by 2 hours), and my manager said, “maybe you’ll feel better in 5 hours”; but he was an overall unreasonable manager.

        I was definitely working under the assumption that knowing earlier would be better, but it turned out to be backwards for that manager!

    3. Engineer Woman*

      Agree! Sometimes I’m taking a good dose of Nyquil at night and hoping I can get some sleep. I don’t want to set my alarm for the next morning just to email/call in sick. And if I happened to sleep until 11am? Would I then get in trouble for not informing my manager earlier that workday? Personally, I think late notice is much worse than early notice and as adults most likely have experienced before (maybe there are exceptions of people who never get sick?) – there are times you know for sure the night before that you can’t or shouldn’t go to work the next day (being legitimately ill, of course – not the alcohol induced kind).

      1. Purest Green*

        A couple times when I wasn’t sure if I’d legitimately be well the next morning, I set my email and text to send to the boss at a specific time so I could sleep through if needed. But mostly I think people can judge that the night before, as you say.

      2. Ama*

        Yes — Nyquil is my last resort medicine when I have a cold because it will knock me out when nothing else will but leave me with lingering grogginess the next day (especially if I can’t just sleep through to whenever my body wants to wake up), so if it’s bad enough that I need Nyquil it’s bad enough that I’m not going in to work the next day.

    4. Jeanne*

      Maybe the boss truly has a problem with you calling in the night before. If so, I recommend giving more details. “I’m vomiting every 15 minutes. /I have a fever of 104 and need to call the doctor.” Something more than “I’m sick.” You shouldn’t have to but grossing her out might help.

      Another possibility. They would decide our raises first then write our reviews. No money for a good raise meant writing things we did wrong on our reviews. This could be all your boss could come up with to make you worse. In which case I recommend ignoring the whole thing because it’s worthless.

      1. Sadsack*

        Interesting point. If this was the only negative thing she brought up, then it seems that she felt she needed something, and your sick call was all she had. Could be.

      2. KR*

        I hate managers who are lazy with reviews like this. On a related note, I had a manager who would consistently give me 4/5 on everything because if you have someone 5/5 you had to write a comment to go with it and he didn’t want to do that.

    5. Liane*

      One of the questions OldJob’s automated attedance phone line asked was whether you werecalling for the current day or the next day.

    6. Susan*

      I think this kind of policy is stupid, but unfortunately, not all that uncommon. I’ve had two jobs where management would not allow people to call in sick in advance. One time, a coworker called the manager on a Saturday to say he would not be in on Monday, and the manager said, “What?! You can’t call in sick two days in advance!” He replied that he was in the hospital, about to have an emergency appendectomy, and he was pretty sure he wasn’t going to make it in on Monday. At another job, a coworker called the night before to say he had food poisoning, and the manager said, “See how you feel in the morning and call back then.” We started at 6:30 am, so the manager wanted this poor guy to set his alarm and call again before 6:30 just to confirm that yes, he was still too sick to come to work.

      1. Engineer Woman*

        Exactly this! Having to wake up early just to call in sick isn’t going to help me get well sooner, which I think would be in the best interest of the company so I can return to work as a productive employee as soon as possible.

      2. Antilles*

        We started at 6:30 am, so the manager wanted this poor guy to set his alarm and call again before 6:30 just to confirm that yes, he was still too sick to come to work.
        True story, I once had a manger who told everyone that even if you were sure the night before, you were required to call in the morning of, even if you knew 100% you’d be out the next day and even though we started at 7:00 AM. I once tried to call in the night before because I had the flu so bad I literally couldn’t go more than 15-20 minutes without retching or vomiting. He said nope, I still expect a call in the morning. Early the next morning I was still sick, so I intentionally did my “nope, I’m out” call right in the middle of retching and put it on speaker so he could get the full experience.
        The next day I came in, he actually apologized to me.

        1. Nervous Accountant*

          That’s awesome.

          I am SO ready to do something like that, but thankfully my supervisor is pretty reasonable and doesn’t give me a hard time about coming in late when I’m not feeling well.

        2. ScarletInTheLibrary*

          Yeah, I got dinged at a college job for calling in early. I had bronchitis and had no voice. This job was food service in one of the dorms. I called the manager the night before the breakfast shift to inform her that I could not get anyone to cover that shift and it would be a health risk for me to come in. She understood and said to have someone bring the doctor’s note of when I could come back to work. I had gotten others to cover the rest of my shifts that week, so luckily the hole in coverage was minimal. The director (a different lady) was angry that I didn’t get dressed in my work uniform at 4:30 am and let them make the decision on me being able to call in sick. She called me to bitch me out and could hear how horrible I sounded. The manager vouched for me and director finally laid off of me (because I was pretty weak for two weeks and had no appetite).

      3. Case of the Mondays*

        This same thing happened to my friend. In the hospital Friday night. Supposed to work either Saturday night or Sunday morning. Called out. Boss said, well, you don’t have your diagnosis yet. You might be better by then. Check in tomorrow morning. He said “I might be in surgery tomorrow morning.” He then said have your friend call me then. (Friend being me, who had brought him to the ER). He was also a cop so if he didn’t make it to work, someone would have to stay OT. More notice is better in that field, but nope. Also, a cop really needs to be back at 100% not just released from the hospital exhausted messed up on painkillers. Do you want that person driving?

        1. JessaB*

          Forget that do you really want that person carrying a gun. Forget driving. Cops have to be mentally alert.

      4. Aurion*

        I had a boss that knew I had been driven to the hospital from said workplace and still wouldn’t let me call out in advance. I had coworkers drive me to the hospital from work. A different manager can vouch for how I looked like a ghost. Nope, not good enough to call out in advance.

        That man was a glassbowl in many, many ways.

    7. Allie*

      I get migraines and I usually warn my manager when I get aura. I have trouble reading screens when I have them so it makes sense to pre warn. I get maybe 4 a year tops but it does knock me out for a day.

      1. 'Tis I, LeClerc*

        All my sympathy. I can’t read anything when I get them. Hasn’t happened in years though (touch wood).
        My mom manages to stop migraines before they get bad. She takes 2 aspirin tablets the moment the aura shows up. It usually works.

      2. Janice in Accounting*

        Same issue here–it’s nice to have the warning so I can knock back a pain pill and a Diet Coke, turn off my lights and put my head on my desk (or lay down, if possible). That helps keep the worst of the headache at bay, but I’m still wobbly the rest of the day.

    8. 'Tis I, LeClerc*

      Recently I went home 30 minutes early. My boss was in meetings the whole day, so I left a message with one of my colleagues. The next morning he sent me an email that said “I heard you were sick and went home early again. bla bla bla”
      a) I have been sick for a week but came to work anyway because there was a ton of work to do.
      b) I arrived an hour early, and worked through lunch, so I didn’t actually miss a second of work.
      c) Again!? It’s not like this happens every week. Or even once a year. I take maybe three sick days in a whole year.

      Some bosses are just unreasonable. Don’t let it get to you.

    9. SystemsLady*

      Maybe OP could try an email exactly scheduled to send at 6:30 or whatever (if the system allows for it).

      1. Purest Green*

        Woops, I didn’t see your comment before replying above, but this is a good idea if OP’s boss accepts email or text sick notice.

    10. Dust Bunny*

      No joke. I just did this two weeks ago–I had one of those grotesquely mucus-y colds and it was pretty obvious on Sunday that I was going to be too disgusting to be out in public the next day, and that my coworkers didn’t need to be subjected to my deep-chest cough and constant nose-blowing. I texted my boss (this is normal for us) to let him know I wouldn’t be in the next day. A) He would rather I let him know ASAP and b) I didn’t have to worry about waking up early enough to notify him before work the next day (since I felt like death warmed over).

    11. Natalie*

      “I had a manager do that to me once for a different issue and still resent him for it.”

      This happened in my first ever performance review and I still have an anxiety attack at every performance review because of it. It wasn’t until I found AAM that I learned it’s crap management to bring stuff up for the first time at a year-end review, actually.

      1. JokersandRogues*

        It’s actually a deal-breaker for me. Whether it’s best employee behavior or not, I tell new bosses that if I end up at a review with something negative being brought up that wasn’t brought up at the time it happened (say months), or being brought up repeatedly (exact same incident of me brought up 2 years in a row), then that is a deal-breaker. I won’t discuss it when it happens, I’ll just be out the door as soon as possible.

        Note: I’m not saying the incident was appropriate, I’m just saying that bringing up the same thing 2 years in a row as a justification for no raise is crap. (I had a panic attack at having to tell a client about something that had gone wrong and asked my boss to handle communication. Cause crying to the client seemed like a bad idea.)

      2. Stella*

        This just sent me into a spiral remembering a horrendous performance review I received in which my manager told me that he had been told that I had spoken “disrespectfully” to a colleague…but couldn’t tell me when it had happened, to whom I had spoken, what I had said, or how to improve because he had never observed me speaking disrespectfully ever to anyone but he “still felt [he] had to bring it up.”

        1. Jeanne*

          I’ve had similar crap and I despise it. My one manager would say people were complaining about me. I caught on and started saying I would really like a chance to talk to them, apologize, and make it better. She would then back pedal. I then knew she was making it up.

        2. Not A Morning Person*

          Oh the stories we can tell. I have had a similar type of review. And a coworker had a review in which she was criticized for how she ran a meeting….that she did not attend. And the manager refused to change her review even after being corrected by the people who did attend.

        3. Lab Monkey*

          I had one of those, too! No specific points could be offered, just to not do it. No problem, I wasn’t already!

      3. Anna*

        When I was 18 I was written up for being late, where they kindly produced another write up for being late from two weeks prior they had “forgotten” to give me. I think they were hoping I’d be late again and get written up so they could fire me. Jerks. I don’t think I wrote a response on it at the time because I didn’t know better, but I can’t say for sure.

    12. Anonymous Poster*

      I experienced a somewhat similar situation, where a silly ding popped up on my performance evaluation at the end of the year, but it wasn’t a problem at the time. It was for taking too much initiative in booking unbooked training resources so that I better understood some technical things that I was having trouble understand.

      My manager said the company required her to identify something that needed improvement, and it was this sort of silly/elaborate scenario where my booking something meant maybe someone else would want to book it and it would throw their schedule out of whack because I booked it instead. I’d always note that my priority was last so I’d get bumped, but she said some people felt uncomfortable doing that, so just to be aware. But it was kind of this wink-and-nod thing where she had to identify something, and so that was it.

      Could something like that be the case here? I’m not sure, and in light of Alison’s earlier post this week on small things a manager won’t bring up individually, but add up to a big problem with an employee and something little blows it up, could that also be the case here? It’s hard to say based on this information, but maybe one of these two things are at play?

      Or it could be silly company culture. Goodness knows we see enough of that around here.

      1. Seal*

        In my case it wasn’t. I had been there long enough to realize that while my boss had good intentions and grand ideas, he had no idea how to implement them properly and absolutely no idea how to manage his staff. He often wound up doing end runs around his boss to put his crazy ideas in place, with consistently disastrous results. At one point, to cover his ass after a program he implemented started going off the rails he managed to shift the blame to another department. Despite the fact that they had nothing whatsoever to do with the program’s failure, that department came perilously close to being disbanded. The only thing that saved them was their union, who pointed out that closing a union shop would be a PR disaster (this was in the mid-90s). My boss managed to walk away from that mess scot-free, while the other department’s reputation never really recovered, despite the fact that they never did anything wrong. Naturally, he wound up getting promoted, which is why that place has always been the epitome of bad management for me.

    13. Michele*

      I agree with you on both parts. I had the flu one time and there was no way I was going into work the next day. When I woke up from one of my naps I called in so I wouldn’t have to set an alarm to call in the morning.

      I also hate when they don’t address an issue immediately. If it is a big deal, talk to me at the time so I don’t repeat the behavior. Corrective action should be the ultimate goal. Instead, (at least where I work) things are saved up like grudges to come out during performance evaluations.

    14. Jadelyn*

      I specifically *ask* new hires, when I’m doing orientation and talking about taking sick time, to call the night before if they know they’re coming down with something and won’t be in the next day! Because most of the new hires are front-line customer service and the difference between the night before and the morning of can make it much easier for managers to rearrange schedules to ensure coverage. OP5 was being conscientious, and their manager decided to make it weird.

    15. JAM*

      It’s weird because my mom actually gets penalized at her job if she doesn’t give 12 hours notice of a sick day. Like in January when she had to get her gallbladder immediately removed, they gave her a note in the file for calling from the hospital at 4 am and leaving a message about the surgery and not leaving it by 8 pm the night before. I told her to appeal (because I previously worked for the same employer and it’s not a documented policy, just something her department does) but she didn’t push back.

      1. aebhel*

        That’s nuts. What if you wake up that morning with a stomach bug? Are you just supposed to drag yourself into work and, idk, keep a trashcan by your desk?

  7. Feathers McGraw*

    #5 Two thoughts. Firstly, would she have seen the email that night or not check it before the morning, meaning it wasn’t necessarily advance notice in reality? Which is fine, but that leads me to my second thought: did she realise you were sending it in advance to try to give her advance warning? I wondered if your boss misunderstood and thought you were trying to make it look like you’d emailed on the day-of. Either way it really sounds like she’s insinuating that you weren’t sick and that you lied about why you took it off. It is of course completely arbitrary to think someone’s claim to be sick is more credible on the day. Sorry you got burned for trying to be considerate.

  8. Oscar Madisoy*

    In response to 5. Calling in sick the night before:

    You called in sick the night before because you wanted to do the company a favor and make it easier for them to deal without you for the day.

    It didn’t work out.

    If this should happen again, don’t call in sick until the morning. Let them deal with it then; as you’ve seen, trying to make it easier for them only came back to bite you in the a$$.

    1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

      Where I’ve worked I’ve always had to inform the boss on the exact day. But it’s always been possible to say on the day before, “I’m not feeling well and I think I may need to take sick leave tomorrow. I’ll be in touch if I do.” If this kind of warning was forbidden, it would be really weird and I can’t come up with any benefit with this system. But I do think it’s reasonable to require you to confirm on the day that you indeed are still sick. However it may affect my opinions on this that I live in a country where systems and attitudes about sick leave are quite different from the US. (We have very broad legal rights to paid sick leave, and requiring a doctor’s note always is relatively common. Even if an employer accepts short sick leaves without a doctor’s note, it’s supposed to be used for real needs, and people in general tend to be quite scrupulous about this.)

      As I seem to be commenting here more than once, I should probably make up a better name to use here…

      1. Observer*

        Why is it reasonable? If you know that you will NOT be able to come in, why make someone call in the morning of? As others have mentioned, it’s a real imposition. And, it’s often pretty straightforward. If someone is running a 104f fever, in the hospital, developed a migraine that they know from experience will knock them out, etc. there is absolutely zero benefit to “confirming” something that’s already known.

        1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

          Of course there can be situations where you know 100% certain that you can’t make it the next day. I was thinking more of stuff like colds that can act differently each time and you really can’t know for sure how you’ll feel the next day. And in my previous job, for example, we had a system that the boss can only give one day of sick leave at a time (max 3 in total) and only medical professionals can give more days at once. So I couldn’t just tell him on Thursday that I won’t be coming that week any more. I had to send a new email on Friday. I don’t actually know if this is the law here or just a common practise, but it’s common enough to feel like a normal thing to do.

          1. Observer*

            It’s not only not the law (at least anywhere in the US), it’s also not all that common. And, it’s terrible practice.

            As you can see if you look at the comments, there are so many types of common situations where people know with great certainty that they won’t be able to make it in the next day. Even with something like a cold, someone might not know how many days they will be out, but they can know quite definitely that “There is no way I’m getting into the office any time tomorrow.” Policies that ignore normal events are stupid, at best.

      2. tigerStripes*

        Having to get a doctor’s note just because you have a cold or something minor that will go away on its own seems like an imposition on a sick person and a waste of the doctor’s time.

    2. SystemsLady*

      This was probably less trying to make it easier for them and more feeling so sick you know you won’t want to get up to make the call.

      1. Jade*

        This is what stands out to me. There’s been times when I’ve been so sick that I know I’m not going to get much sleep, and I don’t want to have to disrupt any sleep I am getting to crawl out of bed at 6am and call in, so I have called in the night before. Then again, this was in my retail days where they appreciated as much notice as possible so they could find coverage for me.

    3. doreen*

      Yes, I’m wondering if the issue wasn’t the notification in advance or “how do you know you will be sick the night before” , but something else – for example, the manager has the impression that the OP was trying to count the email as advance notice. Or maybe the manager just doesn’t want to be disturbed at night for an issue she can’t do anything about until the morning.

  9. Naomi*

    Yikes, #2. Firing everyone hired by that manager is extreme, but you can sort of see how someone would think “Now that we know Fergus lied, we can’t trust his judgement as a hiring manager either.” (Though even then, a more reasonable response would have been to review those employees’ performance for red flags, instead of wholesale firing them all.)

    But rushing the fired employees out of the building, blacklisting them from rehire, forbidding them from contacting the company again, and threatening to fire coworkers who give references? That’s so draconian that I have to suspect there’s some other dysfunction going on at that company. And it’s also shortsighted, because on top of the bad press about the manager who was caught in a lie, there are now 10 ex-employees who will spread the word that the company punished them for someone else’s misconduct.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Yup. I’d be really surprised if they have a risk management or PR team at this company because their crisis management strategy for dealing with this is bizarre.

      1. RVA Cat*

        It’s almost like they wanted to have all of them whacked, then realized murder is illegal and this was what they came up with.

        1. Emi.*

          This is cheaper than a hit, with the added bonus that they don’t have to figure out how bitcoin works.

        2. RVA Cat*

          “In 2017, a crack commando unit of a highly regulated industry was wrongfully terminated for a crime they didn’t commit. These men and women promptly escaped the the L.A. underground. Today, they survive as soldiers of fortune….”

        3. JessaB*

          Good grief this sounds like an episode of Justified. Seriously Raylan you cannot shoot every Crowder in Harlan.

    2. Liane*

      On top of probably not having anyone left who has a clue about the status of Department’s projects, what the projects are, or even the Department SOPs. If management is this dysfunctional and oblivious, I doubt they were keeping track of what anyone was working on. Granted, there are probably some employees or managers who have experience in that area, but most likely they haven’t used it in a long while &/or not at this company.

      What a messed up situation.

    3. FormerLibrarian*

      Which makes me wonder, if they rushed everyone out of the building, what if one employee realized that they’d left their expensive sweater behind? Were they supposed to call the police and charge the company with theft? When I was walked out, I was at least allowed to make an appointment with my manager to come in the next week to clear out my office since they wouldn’t even let me empty my half-drunk cup of coffee! (Yes, it was nasty after four days. If I hadn’t been fond of that mug I’d have left it behind in the locked office for them to deal with.)

  10. Goreygal*

    Wow. ..in the UK #1’s employers would have 10 different Employment Tribunals against them so fast they’d have whiplash! So sorry OP …what a shock it l must have been.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Yes, I’m in the UK and scenario #2 would be a slam-dunk for unfair dismissal and probably other things as well.
        I know that rules are different over there but given the career-damaging things they are tryuing to do re; referecnes etc. and issues over wat your rights will be for unemploy,ent benefits it sounds as though it would be worth speaking to an employment lawyer to see whether you have any redress. (and while getting a letter from a lawyer would be contacting them indirectly, I think they would struggle to make an argument that that was soethin they could legitimately seek to bar, evne if they have any right at all to any kind of legal action if you disread any of the rest of their demands.

        I hope that you are able to get a better repsonse and that you update here when you do!

        1. Artemesia*

          Being able to abuse workers is one of the cherished freedoms American business leaders are so fond of.

          1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

            … and to make matters worse, Artemesia, they realistically don’t believe that they’re doing anything wrong when they DO abuse a worker.

            I worked for a company that would lose huge lawsuits – some employment related, some business related – and they would send a release around to the employees that they just had some sort of victory.

            If you understand that, and the mindset of some managers, you can handle it.

    1. sstabeler*

      on the other hand, over here they wouldn’t have to worry about not knowing what projects the fired employees were working on- they’d find out because this WOULD make the news, so the clients would almost certainly be finding someone else to supply whatever they get from said company.

  11. Executive from the Dark Side*

    #4 I don’t think it’s outrageous to ask about it, especially if you did your research about why these two roles are separated, but I don’t think you should apply to both. I would suggest you apply to the more senior one (Job B) and then have a carefully prepared conversation with the hiring manager about taking on some/all of Job A.

    Side note: I am probably misreading this as English is not my first language, but your post suggests to me that Job A is the one you REALLY love, whereas Job B is the one that you want because of salary/seniority reasons and noyt necessarily because you are super excited about it. If that’s the case, I would be careful in any conversation about those two roles with the hiring manager for Job B about combining these two roles. As a hiring manager, I would be suspicious about an applicant for Job B that keeps having great ideas about Job A :)

  12. justcourt*

    I wonder if no. 2’s employers are trying to cover up what happened in some way. Maybe it would be better for them if people thought a whole department was corrupt or something rather than for people to know that they failed to properly vet LW’s manager.

    That’s a truly horrible way to treat workers, though.

    1. MK*

      Maybe, but it makes no sense, having been negligent about checking one person’s qualifications harldy compared with having an entire corrupt department; the first is unfortunate, but might happen to anyone, the other is indicative of serious problems within the company.

    2. Gen*

      Honestly I’d call the regulator myself, mostly to check whether my own right to work in the industry in future was affected (if you’ve worked there 5 years and had to retake any official assessments in that time are they still valid etc), but it might actually give the regulator a heads up on this if they weren’t already aware. Like someone else said above- what are they going to do? fire you and refuse to give a reference? Also they threatened legal action if you ever contacted them again so who else could you ask?

      1. Judy*

        If all of these people gained their initial post graduate credential at that company, I’m wondering if their license is valid. For my license, you have to work for a certain number of years under the direction of someone with the credential before you are allowed to sit for the license exam.

        1. blackcat*

          Oh, if that’s the case, I could see the OP having grounds to sue the company for failing to make sure the boss had the right credentials. Basically, getting the supervision necessary for credentialing was a part of the compensation. IANAL, but that sounds like there may be real damages.

          OP, lawyer up!

          1. Aurion*

            Yeah. Newly minted engineers (first example that comes to mind) have to work under a certified professional engineer before they can sit their licensing exam, right?

            If all their work experience is null and void because of negligence by the company to do a thorough background check…this could get messy.

            1. JessaB*

              Yes lots of professions have requirements before getting certain certifications, same with Medical personnel and specialty credentials. I can come up with a huge list of professions this could be a disaster in.

      2. fposte*

        Yeah, I was thinking this too. And part of that impulse comes from the likelihood that they really want to keep the staff away from the regulators, so anything they want that much makes me interested.

    3. mreasy*

      That’s what I suspect – that they failed to check the manager’s credentials, and are trying to pretend the whole thing didn’t happen by eliminating all the manager’s hires from the company so that these employees don’t stand as “evidence” of their failure, and they’re refusing references to prevent any potential future employers of these people from knowing that they’d hired this manager and violated regulations. The legal threats make me think you could potentially get them in serious hot water by reporting them to the proper regulatory agency for their hire of the manager & their retaliation…

      1. Artemesia*

        THIS. This team needs to make sure the profession, the regulators, the labor board and glassdoor for starters know exactly what is up. ANd if their own credential are suspect because of the situation they need to sue the company for the heavy monetary damages that would entail. They are trying to bully everyone into believing they have no power here — I suspect they have some real fear of liability and maybe they do.

        1. JessaB*

          Yes because it’s not just not having the credentials right now. If it takes five years to get them for example, then it’s five years of corresponding salary increases that they’ve lost because they have to start over. Or have some regulatory thing that allows them to still test. Some kind of variance and then they’ll always be known as that person who worked for Sid the Fake anyway. If you lose a block of five years that’s a LOT of money in there. For the rest of your career you’ll be five years back of experience and the pay that gives you. Almost every job that requires a certification also give a rise in pay when you get it. Before then it’s apprentice or journey pay.

        2. Gen*

          From the regulators point of view, if you need qualification X to do the work, and he hasn’t had it in ten years (and possibly his team hasn’t had it)- how much WORK got signed off on that basis that he had something he didn’t?

          Like if it came out that ten years of (for example) safety tests weren’t legal because they weren’t overseen by a qualified person, and they all had to be redone, that’d be a huge issue for the clients/industry and if those cases were then linked to the individual team members name that might also effect their standing in the industry. That’s just an example but something happened like this in our industry recently and as part of the deal with going to the regulator a huge swath of the management team took early retirement because they knew they’d never work again once it came out.

          We don’t know what industry this is in and there might be no reprocussions outside the company, but there could be and it’s worth considering if that will have a personal professional impact

          1. justcourt*

            That’s along the lines of what I was thinking. That the company might have to redo work, give money back to clients, etc.

  13. MommyMD*

    Most of my calls off are about ten hours in advance. I know when I’m sick and if I can’t work the next day. My hospital staffing appreciates the advance notice. Me calling off two hours ahead makes it difficult to replace me. Your boss is too rigid.

    1. Matt*

      I don’t understand the whole motivation behind this policy. Actually I’m doing my employer a favor by calling off as early as I possibly know, so why should I be punished for that? (This kind of reminds me of the resignation policies where all employees giving their notice are immediately terminated …)

    2. blackcat*

      Yeah, in jobs that need coverage, I think the advanced notice is appreciated.

      When I got knocked out with the flu my first year of teaching, my boss called at 4pm to ask how I was doing after I’d been home for the day. When I said I still had a fever, he said he’d go ahead and tell the sub to come back tomorrow. He encouraged me to get a good nights’ sleep. It was far, far easier for him to make sure there was a sub for the next day at 4pm, than to do it in the morning.

      If we called in sick before school, we had to call in by 5:30am. So we mostly called in at night. And I’m still grateful that I didn’t have to find (or pay for) my own sub when sick–that’s standard at some schools.

      1. doreen*

        Some of that depends upon the time, though. If someone tells me at 3pm that they aren’t feeling well and won’t be in the next day, it’s easier for me to arrange coverage. If they are emailing me at 9pm , they might as well have emailed me at 9am because it’s not any easier to find coverage at 9pm.

        1. Newby*

          If you’re sick it is nice to be able to not set an alarm for the morning and just send the e-mail the night before. Then the difference could be between sending it at 9pm or 1oam, which would make a difference.

          1. Michele*

            Exactly. I am a big believer in the recuperative power of sleep, and when I am sick, I sometimes need up to 20 hours of sleep a day. If I can call in at a time when I am awake instead of setting an alarm to call in the morning, that is going to help be get better faster.

        2. blackcat*

          Yeah, it depends on timing. I think my boss’s move in that case was that he wanted to tell the sub before she went home that she’d be needed again tomorrow. But an email at 9pm? Would totally reach my boss at the same time as an email at 5:15am, when he checked in at 5:30am. Because that’s how things run on teacher-time.

          I was always amused when parents emailed me at like 9pm or 10pm and seemed to expect a response before I went to bed (eg, requests that I meet with them the next morning). I got to work by 7am, I had a long commute, and I worked out in the mornings. I was generally asleep around 9pm–otherwise, waking up at 4:30/5 just wasn’t going to work.

          So, yes, it depends. But often advanced notice is really helpful and possibly even expected if someone knows they are going to be sick. I find OP’s boss’ position so odd.

        3. Observer*

          Sure. But does it hurt anything? This way you DO get the info before the start of the day, and someone who is sick doesn’t have to worry about getting up early enough to let someone know.

          1. Doreen*

            It wouldn’t bother me, personally – but my job requires me to monitor my phone/emails at all times and I’m sure some of my peers would get annoyed at getting a non-emergency phone call/email after hours.

        4. JessaB*

          True but it’s easier for the EMPLOYEE. Why should the employee have to get up at 9 am after taking meds that may finally allow them to sleep. It doesn’t change things for you, but it does for them.

  14. Arty*

    Hi all,
    I work in France and although I’ve been reading the posts for a while I’m still baffled about the stories of how you’re are fired in the US. I thought the Wall street crash image of boxes under arms were contextual and specific to the situation. It’s not! o-O Wow, harsh!

    1. Surprised*

      I know right? It seems crazy to me, especially with the paucity of welfare in the US compared to other places. It also surprises me that an industry with strict regulation and certification doesn’t *also* have unions and worker protections.

    2. CMT*

      To be clear, it’s not like that everywhere. There are plenty of reasonable employers in this country, we just hear a lot more (particularly on this blog where people are looking for advice) about the unreasonable ones.

      1. Kj*

        Yes, but I think the larger point is that in other countries, these kinds of things couldn’t happen due to stronger employee protections OR would garner attention from regulators if they did. The US allows employers much more power than many other places. No one is saying all US employers act like this- just that some can act like this with impunity in the US, whereas that would be less likely to happen in, say, Europe.

        1. Taylor Swift*

          These conversations on here really often turn into really boring “Man the U.S. sucks and [wherever else] is so much better! Why does the U.S. have such crappy labor laws???” conversations and I wanted to preempt that by saying that it’s definitely not like that everywhere.

          1. Surprised*

            It’s not so much that “the US sucks”. Apart from anything else, in reality, employers in Europe / the UK do all sorts of shady stuff, by utilising loopholes. It just genuinely surprises me that an industry with high entry standards and certifications, one that presumably requires skilled and highly qualified workers, isn’t protecting those workers. Out of expediency, if nothing else.

    3. Michele*

      Honestly, it is a bit surprising that more people don’t move from the US to other countries because our labor laws suck, our health care sucks, our government sucks…

      1. aebhel*

        It’s not easy to emigrate, and people who can emigrate easily–if they have money or an in-demand skill, for example–often aren’t in nearly as dire straits to begin with.

  15. K. A.*

    #2 – That company has treated you and your team so badly, you should write a Glassdoor review. The company has made it clear they will do nothing for you, so you don’t owe them anything. And be sure to apply for unemployment.

    Also, there’s nothing stopping your fired coworkers from being references for each other since you’re already terminated.

    {{{Jedi hugs}}}

    1. Mike B.*

      Please contact an attorney before doing anything of that nature. This is likely to come out on its own, and you don’t want to have gone on record with a story that might not be helpful (even under an alias).

        1. Mike B.*

          Not specifically to get permission to leave a review. :-). She should contact the lawyer for the obvious reasons, and the lawyer will in all likelihood tell her not to leave the review.

          You should not memorialize any conversation in a public forum about a situation that might result in legal action.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Nothing on the internet is truly anonymous so it would be wise to proceed with caution.

    2. Kyrielle*

      Yeah, I would worry that the review would move the company away from confirming employment dates and toward further action (possibly an outright negative review, possibly legal action – even if it won’t work, companies using lawyers as weapons is also a thing).

      Honestly, I think going to the regulatory board and asking about your standing in the industry and what this means for it (as suggested above somewhere) seems like a brilliant way to give these guys a headache, but if it were me, I’d _still_ also want to talk to an employment lawyer, to get a feel mostly for if they think action X on my part could make things worse.

      1. Mike B.*

        More than that (I think legal action is an empty threat on their part, but who knows): what if part of the review, posted in good faith, repeats information that was actually untrue? What if OP slips into a bit of hyperbole without realizing it? What if this brings her afoul of some agreement she signed and forgot about? They’ll be looking for excuses to discredit people’s testimony if they have to defend themselves in a lawsuit.

        These may not end up being problems, but please let the attorney be the judge of that.

  16. Pomelo*

    #1: You could try digging up your job description, updating it to reflect all the thing you are actually doing, and seeing if you and your boss are on the same page about it. Particularly as you mention you are a supervisor, there might be support tasks you can delegate. Also, I found the comments in this recent thread ‘How can I stop being so helpful to coworkers’ to be super-useful, and possibly relevant in this case.

    1. Newby*

      I was wondering if it might be approprate to bring up the list of support tasks to the boss and suggest redistributing them so that both co-supervisors have about the same amount. It sounds like either the boss does not know the difference in the two jobs or that the official job descriptions are the same but the support work got largely shifted to the OP. The boss might say no, but they would then be aware of how much behind the scenes work the OP is doing and why it is unrealistic to set the same goals for both positions.

      1. Bagpuss*

        I wondered about that. And also about how much of it OP could actually say ‘no’ to.

        I had a situation a while back where I was getting about 90% of certain requests internally because I was (perceived as) more approachable thn the other people who could have dealt with the stuff. I started by remiding people they should use all 3 of us in turn, but that didn’t change anything. It felt petty to say no to people as each individual thing was pretty small (signing off on bills, approving requests etc) but they added up.

        I started to say ‘no’ some of the time (actually what I mostly said was ‘I can’t do that now – try Janet or John” ) and over time did manager to ‘re-train’ people to split the work – basically I stopped making ng it easier for them to ask me than to ask the other people.

        In a simialar way, you could try to delegate some of the things uou are currently oing, such as the data-entry, if that is an option(or even pitch to your manager that your deartmnet needs a new juinor person to do those tasksso that you can focus on the things which he has identified as being your milestones! ).

    2. LQ*

      Delegate was the first thing that came to my mind too. Access queries and data entry scream delegate to me. But even reporting. My boss is the one who is the most responsible to his boss out of all the managers who report to him for reporting. But my boss has managed to delegate more of it than anyone else. (And we are leading a new more delegatable plan that I’m leading with one of the other managers, because my boss delegated it!)

      It might require some up front work but it would absolutely pay off. (I know it has for my boss in quite a few ways, and as someone who reports to him, I’m glad for it too because I get to do interesting work.)

      Even worth considering if there might be another position that would be useful.

  17. Mike B.*

    #2 – I don’t see any mention of severance, which would be an astonishing way to treat employees in good standing (as if the firing and withholding of references weren’t enough). I don’t know if it’s actionable, but the threat of legal action is often enough to frighten companies into treating its former employees humanely. Find an attorney posthaste.

    1. RVA Cat*

      This. It sounds like the employer is effectively blackballing them out of the industry – or possibly *any* job – which we’ve seen come up with things like unenforceable non-competes.

  18. Gazebo Slayer (formerly I'm a Little Teapot)*

    OP2: your letter doesn’t mention your company threatening retaliation if you post about this on Glassdoor, or otherwise go public. So do, if you can. Future prospective employees deserve to know about their unreasonable behavior, and the company deserves a bad reputation.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      See Mike B.’s comment above regarding Glassdoor and a lawyer. If the company is crazy enough to threaten litigation if OP and friends so much as spit in their direction post-firing, I highly doubt they would let negative Glassdoor reviews slide, especially since they’d have a fairly good idea about who posted it.

      1. JKP*

        But if they fired a bunch of employees all at once, how would they knew which specific employee posted the review? They wouldn’t be able to legally mass prosecute the group in the same way they were able to mass fire them.

        But I agree that they should consult a lawyer before doing anything to make sure they preserve their rights.

        1. Mike B.*

          Ten employees is not a big enough bunch that they can count on the employer being unable to figure it out.

          It’s not necessary and might possibly interfere with an attorney’s plans. Why take that risk?

    2. Jeanne*

      I wouldn’t start with Glassdoor. That might be for after some time has passed and the anger has subsided. Don’t want to say anything you will regret.

  19. Oscar Madisoy*

    In response to 2. I was fired because my manager lied about having a college degree:

    “The company will confirm the dates of our employment only and says we will face legal action if we come back or contact them, directly or indirectly, for any reason besides getting confirmation of our employment dates.”

    Can they do that? I guess they can, because anybody can sue for anything, and a threat can be enough if the party being threatened doesn’t have the resources to fight back. I guess what I’m really trying to say is – depending on the nature of the contact, of course – would such a suit hold up in court?

    “They also put out a memo saying if anyone acts as a reference for one of us they will be dismissed from their jobs immediately.”

    I was going to include this in the “can they do that?” paragraph above, but I suppose this company is based in an at-will state where they can fire you for any reason, so I guess the answer in this case would be: yes, they can.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Re: the reference – my company, which is also in a highly regulated industry, having liability concerns and fearing legal action for discrimination, will absolutely fire people for providing references for any former employee if they find out about it. It explicitly states as much on our company intranet – all reference requests must go through HR, and they will only confirm dates of employment, your job title, and whether you’re eligible for rehire. This applies even for former employees who left on good terms.

      1. MsCHX*

        As an HR person I’m always so confused by the comments about “messing up a reference”. This is totally the norm in every single company I’ve ever worked — No one provides an individual reference while still employed. Employment verification goes through HR and it is just dates and job title. We don’t even answer the “eligible for rehire” question.

        1. Natalie*

          Eh, every company I’ve worked for has also had that policy, and every single manager routinely ignored it.

        2. aebhel*

          …how on earth does anyone get professional references, then? If I couldn’t get a reference from a supervisor who was still employed at the places I’ve worked, I would have literally no professional references at all, and that’s, you know, a thing that most employers want.

          1. Woman of a Certain Age*

            Well, if you’re like me, almost all of your professional references (former bosses and supervisors) have all retired or moved on to other jobs.

            I’ve kept in touch with all of my professional references and almost all of them now work at employers that are different from when I worked for them. (The employment situation has been pretty unstable for almost everyone over the past few years.)

            1. aebhel*

              I mean, I suppose that works for some people, but all but one of my previous supervisors (at least the ones even remotely connected to the field I’m currently in) still work at the same jobs. My field doesn’t have a lot of fluctuation, though; it’s still not unusual for librarians to stay in a job for decades. If that kind of policy was standard in this field, almost nobody would be able to get references. It seems like it could be a big problem for a lot of people in other fields as well, especially those who are early in their careers.

    2. rudster*

      “At-will state” isn’t actually a thing. All employment in the US is at-will unless regulated by an employment contract and/or collective bargaining agreement. There are “right-to-work” states – which refers to being able to gain employment in a union shop without joining the union. I think people often conflate the “at-will” and “right-to-work” parts and come up with “at-will state”.

        1. Creag an Tuire*

          I’ve always wondered, does Montana’s statute actually provide people with more job security up there, or can a Montana employer just say “Yeah, Fergus was fired for cause. ‘Cause he was annoying,” and satisfy regulations?

      1. Elizabeth*

        At will employment is very much a thing. Not all states are at will, Montana is not an at will state. Respectfully, your assertions are incorrect.

        Source: Employment lawyer with 15 years experience.

          1. A Plain-Dealing Villain*

            I think you are mistaken about the nature of the changes in Missouri. “At will” has not changed, but what has been passed is “right to work” which is basically union busting (so fewer people will have union protections and will actually be more subject to the “at will” doctrine).

      2. Natalie*

        I’m sorry to pile on, but your understanding of RTW is also incorrect – no one can be compelled to join a union, RTW state or not. That’s been true for 70+ years. What RTW does is ban agency fees, where the non-union employees pay a portion of union dues that (theoretically) reflects whatever bargaining the union does on behalf of all employees.

        1. Amadeo*

          This. As an example, I am close to someone that works as a secretary/admin assistant in a public grade school and our state is not a right-to-work state. They have teacher’s union dues pulled from their check each pay period because they ‘benefit’ from the bargaining the union does on behalf of the teachers. How the union thinks those ‘benefits’ work out for a secretary I really don’t know, but they take the dues anyhow.

          1. Natalie*

            They are likely not full dues, just a percentage. Although government labor law is always a separate beast.

          2. Creag an Tuire*

            Presumably the teachers’ contract covers the secretaries as well, or there is a separate contract bargained by the union which does. It’s very common for the “teachers’ union” to represent other school district personnel. (And there’s no legal way the union could be pulling agency fee dues from her if she wasn’t in their bargaining unit.)

            FYI, she’s not only benefiting from the salary provisions of the contract, she could also call upon the union to represent her if she faces unfair discipline from her management, even though she’s not a full member.

  20. Ferd*

    That sucks. I would suggest making a list of all the work that you did and ask the boss to explain to you how you didn’t do enough. Two years ago a new guy started working here and my boss took every challenging and interesting task I had and gave it to him. No explanation was given. I was stuck with the crappy jobs that a monkey can do. At the end of the year boss told me I didn’t do anything to stand out or whatever. I really wanted to tell him what he can go and do to himself.

    I have nothing against new guy, he handled everything very well, but that was supposed to be MY work.

  21. Old Admin*

    OP#3 “Managing clients’ expectations about my availability” :
    In technology, we have SLAs (Service Level Agreements) that describe things similar to your problem – maximum reaction time after a customer time, time within to escalate, time to resolution etc.

    Maybe you could approach your boss with ideas from an SLA, and draw up a policy, or a Best Practice statement covering your questions.

    Hope this helps.

    1. JessaB*

      Also there’s a different use of the language that may be useful here, dedicated, can also mean each account has ONE point person responsible for answering stuff, delegating whatever. It does not mean that person only has ONE account.

  22. Aloot*

    #2: I’d probably consult a lawyer about the situation. Not so much the firing – especially if you’re in an at-will state – but the permanent blacklisting and the references issue. There may be nothing to actually be done about it, but at least I’d know for certain.

    #5: I was in a similar situation once. I let my boss know on a Thursday evening that I was too sick to work on Saturday morning (Friday off, and Saturday was a *one-person shift* that started at 7 am), because I was coming down with a really bad cold, which was already really bleeding obvious for both the deaf and the blind, and I know that those ALWAYS knock me out for days. (Not in a “work would be a bit too much” way, but in a “I cannot even watch TV because that takes too much out of me” way.) I was essentially told I was full of bs (albeit in a professional language) and to never do it again.

    Guess who was totally knocked out by the bad cold come Saturday morning! And guess who had to scramble at 6 am to find a replacement for me? It wasn’t me, and I never bothered giving any form of heads up ever again.

    (Next time I came into work I brought along a doctor’s note so there was nothing they could do about the absence either.)

    1. Mike B.*

      In all fairness, two days of notice seems a little fishy for an illness that is commonly worked through. Particularly if you were young and appeared to be in good health, assuming those were the case.

      1. Noobtastic*

        But Aloot knows her own body’s history, and how she responds to these illnesses. Some people have perfect health, but those who have health issues KNOW those issues, and know that if X happens, Y will follow, so you might as well plan for it.

        It may be common for most other people to work through a cold, but Aloot, apparently, gets hit much harder than is common.

        And you can’t judge health by appearance.

  23. Temperance*

    LW1: let me guess, are you a woman, and your counterpart is a man?

    Here is what I would do in your situation. I would talk to your boss about your workload, and ask if you can offload some tasks on to Counterpart or one of your reports. By this, I obviously mean the data entry, and the things that won’t get you noticed.

    I would also stop helping your counterpart implement his big ideas. Because frankly, that’s adding to your already insane workload, and just making *him* look better. It’s unfortunately a competition, and he’s winning by making himself into the “ideas guy” and you into the secretary/workhorse.

    1. kab*

      It totally read this similarly, that the OP is a woman and the other supervisor is a man. However, I disagree about this: “I would also stop helping your counterpart implement his big ideas.” As an employee, your goal is to help make the company better. If the ideas are good, which OP says they are, not supporting them can be damaging to OPs career. As a manager, when good ideas are brought forward and implemented to better support my department and organization, it is expected that everyone will be involved in supporting and implementing those ideas. Those that don’t or refuse to, especially for stubborn, contrarian reasons, are not seen in a positive light, to say the least. (And if an employee continues with such behavior, I start compiling my “this is why I’m about to fire you” info.)

      1. Jen RO*

        I agree with your reasoning. Regardless of the genders involved, OP’s job is to make the department productive and refusing to help simply because something was Counterpart’s idea will just make OP look bad.

      2. Newby*

        It depends on whether providing that support is actually a part of their job. They could deprioritize helping their counterpart unless the manager indicates that is actually what the OP should be doing. It seems like the OP is helping so much with projects where other people get the credit that the boss does not know what the OP is working on. If they are asked to work on the project by the coworker, telling them that they are too busy seems like a reasonable response. The boss has made it clear that the OP needs to focus on their own projects.

        1. JessaB*

          The issue is that if helping the other worker is part of the job, then OP has to figure out a way to make this plain to bosses what work they’re doing. It looks like a visibility problem. Either other person is not giving OP proper credit, or OP is not making it clear to people that they’re doing this work. But drill down to what you’re supposed to do, and then figure out how to make it clear what extra you’re doing. Because yes helping the other person makes the company look great, but it does nothing for OP unless management knows.

      3. Temperance*

        True, but her helping *him* means that she’s not getting to shine, and that’s not the best for her. Right now, she’s enabling him to step into the spotlight, at personal cost.

        I am not opposed to supporting your teammates, at all, but I think she also needs to be able to implement some big ideas.

          1. Temperance*

            Even then, I might find it a little lacking. Like the whole “Jane keeps the office in check!” to compliment the receptionist.

            1. Newby*

              It does depend on how it is done. We have some people here that do highly specialized things and so they usually are in a support role for projects lead by other people. When presenting, the lead always makes sure to explicitly give them credit and point out that it would not be possible without their contribution. It isn’t a vague complement but rather a specific reference to their expertise.

    2. LQ*

      I don’t think it has to be a competition at all, but it does seem like the boss turned it into one which is deeply unfortunate because that creates a much worse workplace.

      I’d also say that the things that won’t get you noticed is a good point. They are also things that the boss doesn’t think are important. Don’t spend your time on things that aren’t important to your boss. You got a good idea from this review of what is important, shift away from yourself the tasks that aren’t important and lean in hard to the ones he thinks are important.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The OP is a man, not a woman. One of the many reasons I ask people here not to speculate on gender when we don’t know (and especially when it won’t change the advice).

  24. mcr-red*

    #5 – I too had a boss that never wanted anyone to call off the night before if they were sick. I don’t know why he thought we’d magically be better in the morning. Same boss also required that if you were off sick more than two days in a row, you had to bring in a doctor’s note. All this accomplished was people coming in on the third day, spreading the germs around, and then being off sick the fourth day. Because no one could afford to go to the doctor.

    HOWEVER, this same boss? Never said a word about a coworker who called off sick every.single.Monday. Like clockwork. Run out of sick days, he’d take vacation days. Run out of those? He’d just take unpaid days off.

    1. INFJ*

      Sounds like we used to work for the same person! (Higher likelihood: this is way more common than it should be)

  25. Camellia*

    #5 – my company actually does the opposite, which doesn’t make any sense either. They want 24 hours advance notice for a sick day. If we call in the day of, that is an unplanned absence and we get dinged for it. They are *sort of* okay if you call the night before, but again, really want that 24 hour notice. Who can do that all the time?!?! Especially if you have dependents who may wake up sick in the morning and need you to stay home with them that day.

    They are sick days, employers, part of our benefits package. Why do you insist on making it difficult for us to use them without getting dinged for it????

    1. Jade*

      24 hours notice that you’re going to fall ill? *Facepalm* It’s stupid policies like this that are the reason I insist on seeing handbooks before I accept job offers anymore. There is some wacky stuff out there.

    2. mcr-red*

      We are not allowed to use our sick days to take care of dependents who are sick. We are supposed to use vacation days. Sick days are only for if WE are sick.

      So anytime anyone has a sick kid, they also caught it and are sick.

      1. Observer*

        In many states this is now illegal. If you get sick time, you need to be allowed to use it for immediate family.

        In NYC, for example, if the company is over 15 employees, you need to get at least 3 days, and you must be allowed to use if for immediate family.

        1. fposte*

          Oh, that’s really interesting–I hadn’t heard of that, and that’s a great step. I noticed when checking recently that my employer explicitly allows sick days to be used for dependent care, which is good.

      2. Case of the Mondays*

        I’m hearing more of these policies lately except I’m hearing employers not wanting parents to use vacation days either for sick kids. They expect you to use backup care and still show up to work.

        1. Artemesia*

          Never in my decades of raising children did I have a sitter who was willing to sit a sick kid. If you don’t have grandma in town or your own nanny, you are SOL on that for the most part.

        2. Noobtastic*

          Well, considering how that is practically impossible for almost every member of the workforce, that’s just begging your employees to lie to you, and claim that they are sick, when it’s really their children.

          And when your employees feel they have to lie to you, you are heading down a very dangerous road.

    3. LQ*

      24 hours notice would be awesome. If my body could let me know 24 hours before I’d get sick I’d be thrilled. Last friday I got up and was a little tired but ok. By 10 am a coworker said I looked drunk, I was coughing and felt horrible. I left at 11. By 12 I was in bed with a pretty high fever. There was no 24 hour notice for that. I’m so glad my boss lets me leave that day if I get sick (it’s only happened 2 times, but man was I incredibly glad for it both times!)

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Dear Boss,

      In 22 hours, I am going to eat some bad Sushi and end up with food poisoning, so I won’t be at work tomorrow.


      1. Camellia*

        I know, right? After three unscheduled absences we can be ‘counseled’, which consists of your manager saying, “We really need you to understand that we need you here at work.” Repeatedly.

        The first time this happened I didn’t understand exactly what was happening. He kept saying that, and I was like, “yeeeaaaahh…???”. Finally I asked if he didn’t believe that I was sick? “No, no,” he assured me, he “believed me, but he really needed me to understand that they need me here at work.” Then I asked if he was going to fire me because of this. “No! No!” in a panicky sort of voice. I said okay, then we’re done here. And that was it.


        1. Squeeble*

          Oh my word, I would be full of rage. “We really need you to understand…” UGH. The condescension!

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Boss: “We need you understand that we need you here at work.”
          Employee: “Okay, so if I’m vomiting every hour, on the hour, you need me here?”
          Boss: “Oh, no no, you can stay home”
          Employee: “But if I’m running a fever of 102 and have strep throat, you need me here?”
          Boss: “Well, no…”
          Employee: “Okay, well, I understand that you need me here, but what exactly am I supposed to do if I’m sick?”

    5. JessaB*

      I got yelled at in a company like this for having a full on cannot breathe cannot talk asthma attack 15 mins to leaving for work. How dare I get sick in a way that cannot be predicted. I wheezed my way through haltingly saying “this is Jessa, gasp can’t talk,” and shoved the phone at Mr. B. I still got dinged on my paycheque because this boss was sneaky and any pay above legal minimum wage was tied to behaviour (x more for good quality, x for attendance, etc.) So if you called out with not enough notice you lost like 50 cents an hour. Also no bonus pay if you didn’t give and work out notice for a man that absolutely fired people for giving notice. Oh and since he owed me two cheques he dinged the extra off BOTH and not just the last. I was making something like 12.50 an hour of which only whatever the heck minimum wage was back then was guaranteed. See your yearly supplement of a lousy 25 cents an hour per year was ALSO considered BONUS pay.

      I have no idea if it was legal, but it had to be since he always paid minimum wage

  26. Nervous Accountant*

    Re: #3—this is exactly my job. We all have at least 300+ clients to onboard and manage, and you can’t do that if you don’t set their expectations early on. In my initial call I tell them that I’m their main point of contact and I handle the big stuff (their tax returns & most of the consultations), but they may hear from my support staff (other accountants and admin staff) on various things. Majority of our clients are OK and understand that, but there’s always a few people who are very demanding. I also make allowances for the very very few who only want to speak to me and not my support staff (it sucks but ultimately the goal is to keep the client happy within reason). We’re encouraged to reach out to clients within 24 hours, and its’ been drilled in to us that even if theres no update, tell the client that any way, that there’s no update. The key is to be in constant communication with the client.

    1. Always Anon Jumbo*

      Also I believe your fears about the word dedicated are correct. A word to use instead of dedicated is designated. I write RFPs and we used dedicated for the longest time. Clients did take it as though they thought the person was working solely with them. It took a lot of soothing over when they realized that wasn’t the case. Now, even if we are asked dedicated we say designated. That might be something to bring up to whoever is making those introductions, that the dedicated wording is causing problems and could they say designated instead.

    2. writelhd*

      I work closely in a support role to two people whose job is client handling, and do some of it myself on a more limited basis. I’ve noticed that one of them sets her personal voicemail every day as “Hi, you’ve reached Sally, today is X date and I’m in the office all day. If you can’t get me I’m either on the phone or with a client, so please leave a message…” If she’s on vacation for the week or only in the office for a half day or whatever (because sometimes we have to go into the field, or there are company-wide events, or what have you) she’ll mention that. It’s a two-edged sword to basically confirm that you are in fact there, but the “I may be on the phone or otherwise engaged with another client” does remind people that in fact she does in fact have other clients.

      There is also the basic strategy of responding to requests with “just FYI I got your message, for X reasons I will not be able to get back to you yet/until X timeframe, but please know message is received and I’m working on it” which sometimes make sense. I often am tempted inert something like “I am working on it, please be aware that what you ask is unusual/not simple or fast/will take some time to attend to” when people ask for things that are ridiculously time-consuming or outside of the normal scope of what our role is and they don’t realize it (or they do, but don’t care), because I think assertive boundary setting is better customer service than over-promising and under-delivering or just not responding because you don’t know how to do what they ask and can’t reasonably get to it anyway, though my more experienced colleagues don’t say that very much so maybe I’m wrong to think that’s a good strategy.

      The other thing I’ve learned is that your responsiveness early in the relationship trains the customer in what to expect. If you respond to a client phone call or their twenty bullet point email right away at the beginning, some will expect that throughout. You may be required to do so anyway by the office norms, and of course there’s trying to establish credibility and trust, but at least here we have some flexibility to juggle people in this way, and I have definitely deliberately not responded to something complicated right away even when I technically could have, in order to communicate to the client that complicated things take time and to not set the expectations that I’m always just sitting there waiting for them to engage me.

      1. JessaB*

        The Montgomery Scott rule of handling Starfleet Captains. It basically does not matter if you can do it in twenty seconds. Tell em 3 hours and if you get it done in 20 seconds you look like a miracle worker. Never ever tell em how easy it is.

  27. Michelle*

    “She brought it up in the context of providing constructive professional feedback about how I use my days off.”
    What is it with employers/bosses who think they should have a say in how their employees use their sick, vacation and/or miscellaneous days off? If they are part of your benefits package you should be able to use them how you see fit. It seems the OP was trying to give as much advance notice as possible in case coverage was needed or something needed to be shifted around.

    I really wish Alison would teach a course titled “How To Be A Manager That Doesn’t Suck” and it was a requirement for anyone who manages people.

    1. Michelle*

      Just wanted to add that if an employee is abusing their time off* then I think the boss should have a conversation with them, but if it’s someone calling the night before saying “I’m sick and I will not be in tomorrow” and it’s not a regular thing, then it shouldn’t be brought up at the end of the year in a review.

      *I’m thinking along the line of someone who calls out every holiday, weekend, etc.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The Management Center, a client of mine, does teach that course based on the book I co-authored on management! It’s not called that, but it’s that.

    3. Michele*

      Where I work, people aren’t trained to be managers. It sucks and is unfair to everyone. We should all be taught about things like appropriate disciplinary action, compliance with corporate policies that we might not have encountered if we weren’t managing people, how to recommend employees for promotion, and how to interview people (just to name a few).

  28. LadyPhoenix*

    The evil bitch in me would take the super firing to the press and watch heads roll.

    The smarty in me would consult a lawyer about all the BS that went down, call the super higher ups, and THEN take it to press and glassdoor.

    1. PersephoneUnderground*

      This x1000 – just because US employment laws don’t cover much (employers – you can be as crazy as you want as long as you’re not specific kinds of discriminatory crazy!) doesn’t mean there is no recourse! Court of Public Opinion FTW. I’m thinking of Kay jewelers here, and how I’m never ever buying anything from them again (see Washington Post headlines recently about systemic sexual harrassment lawsuit brought by of hundreds of women). You may need to poke around to find a reporter interested in running with it, but it’s so fishy I bet it wouldn’t be very hard.

  29. Valerie*

    Re: OP#2 — I’m wondering if there’s some industry regulation or liability reason that requires that only someone with the correct degree hire people for the positions that were let go. That is, perhaps only a Teapot PhD is considered (by the government or the insurers) to be qualified to assess the competency of Teapot Makers, and if Teapots Ltd. allows anyone without that PhD to hire a teapot maker, any faulty teapots can result in government fines, loss of insurance coverage, whatever for Teapots Ltd.

    1. Kyrielle*

      But even then, making them ineligible for rehire is STILL wrong and over the top. Unless one of the expectations of any candidate is that they will vet their hiring manager’s credentials carefully, in case the company has not already done so?

      1. Artemesia*

        Exactly Some manager screwed up here big time. I wonder if that person was let go for hiring this unqualified director? The damaged workers have a potential huge lawsuit here if their careers were damaged by being supervised by an unqualified professional.

        1. Kyrielle*

          The manager who hired this manager may have been long gone, though, since he’s been there 10 years.

          It doesn’t sound, from what OP2 said below, like being supervised this way would damage their careers – although the abrupt firing over it sure seems like it could – but I don’t think that rises to the level of having a lawsuit.

  30. paul*

    I’m flabbergasted at the sick call one. Literally *every* manager I’ve had, even crappy ones, would prefer the night before. Even in lousy fast food jobs I had as a teenager. That’s just weird as hell.

  31. Poster Child*

    OP#1, in my experience I notice that some managers value ideas over task completion. It’s hard to say without knowing the nature of your work but in my work I could either spend time on fulfilling requests and running reports or coming up with ideas that are game changers for the business. Make sure that you’re spending time on the items your boss prioritizes. Unfortunately that might mean some things never get done or are delayed or people you support are disappointed. Your boss might be okay with this! If not, then figure out a way to divvy up tasks more equitably (or can you delagate some of them?). But I’ve noticed my leaders often don’t care if minor tasks never get done – they are not priorities.

  32. Isabelle*

    OP #2, did they make you sign anything on the day you were fired?
    Also, are you in touch with the other 9 employees who were fired? You could act as references for each other and you could take legal action as a group. I feel like the company owes you good references and some severance cash at the very least.

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      Unless it’s in your contract, you are never owed severance pay, and you are never owed a reference beyond what the OP said the company laid out- confirmation of employment and dates.

      1. fposte*

        AFAIK, you’re not even owed that. They could theoretically get into trouble if they lie, but it’s not a breach of anything for them to say they don’t share employee info, period, and can’t confirm anybody.

        1. Natalie*

          Yes, I think that’s even come up here before, although I don’t remember the details of why, and the advice was to use pay stubs or taxes to confirm employment.

        2. Creag an Tuire*

          Although someone pointed out above they might be in trouble if “dates only” isn’t a blanket policy, because then it’s slandering Fergus’s team by implication.

          (And if it is a blanket policy, then at least you’re a little better off in terms of your job search, because evidently hearing “my old employer does not provide references as a matter of policy” is common enough to not be weird?)

  33. Observer*

    #2, As others have said, please talk to a lawyer.

    If it were me, and it wouldn’t risk my certification, I would also tip off every regulatory body that I could think of that something fishy is going on. And, I’d also see if I could find an investigative reporter who would be interested in doing a story.

    The idea here is that they managed to allow someone specifically unqualified – unqualified in a way that should have been fairly easy to check – and when they found out they went into over-drive to keep you from finding out what happened. There is no doubt that they are hiding SOMETHING. I’d say, either they are hiding something far worse that the manager did and which was the cause of their panic, or they are hiding retaliation for whistle-blowing under the guise of a department-wide firing.

  34. PersephoneUnderground*

    #1- This is one case where the poster’s gender may be an issue. If she’s actually a woman, the boss’s “don’t talk to me about your feelings” sounds like gendered BS- I wonder if her work concerns are often dismissed as “feelings”? That combined with getting no credit for taking on important support roles and being compared unfavorably to a man who actually does less total work makes me think she should be alert to the possibility of subtle bias here, and be as proactive and assertive as necessary to be taken seriously. She shouldn’t go and call her boss sexist, but she should be aware ingrained sexist thinking may be in play here and not be afraid to push back against it.

    Of course, if the LW is male the “emotional” stuff is still annoying but doesn’t apply directly to the situation.

    1. writelhd*

      I took the “don’t talk to me about your feelings” as the poster’s way of describing his or her perception of the boss’s general approach, not necessarily something the boss (whose gender is also unknown) actually said. Subtle/implicit bias is always a possibility and yeah the gendered dynamics you describe definitely happen, but I don’t think there’s enough context in that letter to be comfortable making that speculation just yet. Only because it adds yet another stress to be worried about implicit bias, then worrying if you’re right or wrong to BE worried about it, and arg that part about it sucks too. Allison’s wording is a useful suggestion to start tackling that either way.

      1. PersephoneUnderground*

        Yes, I do really like Alison’s script as a way of clarifying the issue either way, but it may take a bit extra assertiveness to pull it off if dealing with a manager already inclined to dismiss LW’s concerns. (It does say the boss is a “he” though, so we do know that part.)

  35. OP2*

    Thank-you for the script you provided Alison. I really appreciate it and will pass it along to my other coworkers who were let go also.

    To the readers who commented: Sorry for causing any confusion. I see people mentioning that I should let the regulators know. This wouldn’t do anything because all they do is make sure everyone who claims certain titles is in good standing and has completed all the requirements. They have no say in hiring or firing or any decisions the company and would be laughed out of the room if they tried to intervene or ask the company about it. So I don’t know what that has to do with anything. Again I apologize for any confusion. I’m in an at will state and we don’t have a union or employment contract, and the company hasn’t broken any laws so there is nothing we can do, even if the regulators did have an interest in hiring or firing decisions.

    Thank-you again!

    1. Creag an Tuire*

      You should still contact them if only, as mentioned upthread, to check on the validity of your own credentials. (Given that you now know that you’ve been managed by an uncredentialed person).

      But yeah, they won’t get you your job back. Them finding out about this might tip them off that the company is trying to cover up some other sort of fraud, and at this point you have little reason not to (figuratively) burn the company to the ground.

    2. Kyrielle*

      Yeah, the “regulators” advice isn’t because they’ll get your job back for you – clearly they won’t. That advice is (a) so that you can confirm anything you need to about your standing/status, and (b) because we’re all kind of appalled at what your company did and feel like they should probably get what they have coming…and the way they behaved, they’re almost certainly covering something up. It may or may not turn out to be something the regulators would care about, but it seems worth a try.

    3. OP2*

      I completed my degree, passed the exam set out by the regulators and I pay my dues on time. My standing has nothing to with my boss or where I work. And I appreciate what everyone is saying re: the regulators, but as I said, the only thing they are interested in is making sure that anyone who uses the title “Teapot inspector” or “Teapot assembler” etc. has completed all the requirements. They wouldn’t be interested in, nor could they investigate any fraud at the company. The regulators are aware that my ex-boss lied about his degree but beyond that they have no interest or legal standing to do anything.

      1. Creag an Tuire*

        On your first sentence, there is literally no reason not to double-check, and the consequences to you on being wrong could be catastrophic. You really should call.

        Do you know if the “no references” is a blanket policy for all ex-employees of your company, or just you? Is there anyone who knows or can find out?

        1. Susie*

          If OP says they are in good standing and it doesn’t depend on who or where they work for, we should believe her. She knows best and Alison has asked that we take letter writers at their word.

      2. Kyrielle*

        Good to know. It’s a pity you can’t pull the wrath of the regulators down on them, but honestly you’re probably better served by moving forward than vengeance anyway – I’m impressed by your attitude and approach! This still stinks, but hopefully you’ll be able to move on well from it. :)

      3. Observer*

        Maybe the regulators of your accreditation. But, what about the DOL or the IRS? etc.

        What I’m thinking is that they are hiding something from SOMEONE. Maybe not the accreditation people, but someone else. So the more people you can try “whistleblowing” to, the more likely this will come out in the wash, so to speak.

    4. Jeanne*

      I’m sorry. Your response here makes your company’s actions make less sense. We thought it was serious like a doctor who actually didn’t pass his boards. (Just as an example.) This sounds a lot less serious. I don’t know why your boss’ issue would cause such an overreaction. I’m terribly confused.

  36. Addison*

    #5 – My office does this too! It’s not an “official rule,” I don’t think, and I don’t know if it’s every single manager that enforces it, but my boss in particular is REALLY fussy about that. You can be coughing your lungs out, clearly coming down with something, but if you message/call her any earlier than a couple hours before the shift starts she says “well, let’s see how you’re feeling in the morning.” As if something is going to change.

    What I do requires constant coverage and I’m the only one of me in this position here, so if I’m out, my workload needs to be squared away with someone available that can help. Last week I came down with a nasty chest cold that’s been going around- started feeling weird Tuesday night, went to work and the ick set in the next day, told boss I was getting sick (she actually even offered to send me home). By that afternoon I had written a to-do list for my boss with everything that would need to be covered in case I did get worse, and before I left I offered it to her and explained it. She said “well, you can leave it on your desk, I’ll look at it depending on how you’re feeling in the morning.” Sure nuff, not only was I out Thursday, I wound up being out Friday, too. It was a bloodbath. :\ I still haven’t caught up.

    I get the whole “don’t jump the gun” thing but… argh, it’s so annoying.

  37. Interviewer*

    OP2 – you weren’t fired because your boss didn’t have a degree. They never would have discovered that unless they were doing some serious due diligence on a totally different problem. They used the flimsiest of pretexts to get your entire team shuffled out before anyone could figure out what actually happened. I’m going to guess HR wasn’t involved on the front end, but instead they got to handle cleanup. The company wanted you out before you could start sharing details with the wrong people. Whatever it was, something terrible was going down and this was the boss’s less-than-brilliant solution, and he got total buy-in from the ones who executed it. I bet you have plenty of former co-workers who are freaking out right now that the same thing could happen to them.

    Whatever went down, it’s possible you know something vital. Have you talked to your former boss about what he/she thinks really happened? Think about your team’s work and your involvement. Think about interactions of your boss with upper management, think about your department’s interactions with other teams. Were there lots of complaints? Was your team “in the know” or constantly being shut out? Was there any bad press, either locally or nationally? Are there activists or protests going on for your industry or your company? Is there pending legislation that would affect your revenue? Did *anything* seem shady to you? Maybe you can put some puzzle pieces together. It’s possible that you and your team are in a position to know what’s going on, and you’re no longer in danger of losing a job by talking about it. Think hard about whether you want to take that step, before you approach a regulatory body. Talk to a lawyer for good advice.

    Whatever you choose to do next, I think it would be a great idea to be supportive to the rest of your team. Offer to be references for each other, let others know about job openings that might be a good fit, and help with networking. Maybe you can handle childcare and pet-sitting for each other during interviews and job seeking trips. Check in with them. You’re all still reeling from the shock and likely stressed about the next steps. Having a supportive person who knows exactly what they’re dealing with could make a huge difference.

    Good luck to you and your team.

    1. MuseumChick*

      This is a really interesting perspective. And the more I think about I feel like you are really onto something. The fact that the OP’s boss didn’t have a degree…why would they look into that after 10 years and multiple promotions? It just doesn’t make sense. Now, if the OP’s boss was involved in other sneakiness, it would make sense that an investigation uncovered not only the issue with the degree but other things as well.

      OP, you may know something without even realizing it. It could also be that some, or even most, of your co-workers were involved in something and the hire ups chose to just “burn and salt” the earth in this situation. Thing really carefully, is there anything even slightly odd you can remember?

      Again, I want to encourage you to talk to a lawyer.

      1. Creag an Tuire*

        Although that said, sometimes these things do pop up randomly after multiple promotions; Google “Marilee Jones”.

        Damned if they aren’t acting like they have something else to hide, though.

    2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      That was my first thought too. They wanted to get rid of the department quickly without it being a “layoff”, then found an excuse when they uncovered boss didn’t have a required degree.

      OP you said: “While in management, this person sometimes had a say in hiring decisions.” Does that mean there were others in your department that were not hired by this boss that didn’t get fired? Are there any employees in the company that he helped hire initially in the last 10 years, but they’ve since moved to other departments within the company?

      It will be telling if they end up not replacing any of the fired employees.

    3. Chaordic One*

      Many years ago, when I worked in retail, I had a supervisor who was special-ordering merchandise and then stealing it to resell. I had, unknowingly at the time, typed up the purchase orders for him and on at least one occasion discarded an invoice at his request. (He said that our bookkeeper already had a copy.)

      The supervisor was found out by a stock clerk who wondered about the merchandise that was being received, but that he could never find on the store floor, and who questioned my supervisor’s supervisor about it. I felt terrible about being an accomplice to this, but I honestly didn’t have a clue at the time and at least I was never fired for it.

      The guilty supervisor was fired immediately, but never the store manager didn’t file charges against him. The store was worried about bad publicity and the managers were more afraid of being seen as being seen as lax on inventory control, than about the actual crime.

      I ended up quitting a while later and the poor stock clerk was let go, but it seemed to be the store policy that every employee would be let go after 3 years or so, if they didn’t quit sooner.

  38. Dislike Names*

    for #3, I have worked for many agencies that do, in fact, intentionally lead clients to believe they are the only client you have. and you cannot under any circumstances say that a delay in getting back to them is because of another client. ever. so do ask your boss first before saying anything to a client about other clients!!

    my way of coping was to leave agency life forever because life is too short to be that stressed every day and have to pretend you’re not.

  39. Natalie*

    For LW #2, does their former manager’s malfeasance mean they are completely burned as a possible reference? Obviously they wouldn’t be anyone’s first choice, but I’m wondering if they would be better than nothing if you were in the situation where this was your first job and their are no other managers?

    Similarly, I know we normally don’t think colleague reference are worth much of anything but it seems like they might be helpful here. Again, in a that-or-nothing scenario.


    #2 – Are you able to file for unemployment? I don’t know if it is a help or not, but maybe speak with an employment attorney? It’s sad because these people are innocent and the firing may impact their professional reputations. Would it be even possible for them to get a letter from their former employer explaining the reasoning? Without it, a prospective employer might think they were at fault for being fired, when they technically weren’t? Allison, how would this look on their interviews?

    1. Natalie*

      They should be eligible for unemployment in most states, since they weren’t let go for cause.

  41. JanetM*

    Regarding letter two: Was any action taken against the higher-ups? The person who hired the manager, or HR, or whoever didn’t perform due diligence? And if not, why not?

  42. Cyril Figgis*

    #2 — When interviewing, I would also add something like, “I know this sounds crazy, but…” As an interviewer, when I hear weird stories that are told without acknowledgement of their weirdness, it makes me wonder about two things: 1) Is the candidate making this up or leaving parts out, and 2) Is the candidate too green to recognize the weirdness. Adding the disclaimer doesn’t prove honesty, but it at least shows some awareness of the situation and professional norms.

    I also suggest keeping in contact with some of the people that were fired or have left since then. Perhaps you can use one as a reference to corroborate your story.

    If your industry is heavily regulated, I wonder if the company was already in trouble with regulators and hoped that draconian measures would show they were serious about improving. Obviously, that’s a terrible and ineffective strategy.

    1. MuseumChick*

      I really like this. Acknowledging how bizarre this who thing is.

      Them : “So what happening with your last job?”

      OP: “It was a really strange situation. My boss at the time had been with the company for ten years. Some how it came to light that she didn’t have a degree. I don’t know way, but they choose to let the entire department she was running go.”

  43. Pennalynn Lott*

    #5 – I had a job like this once. I was the front desk admin, and it really put my company in a bind when I called the owners at 7:00am to tell them I was sick and wouldn’t be in, because they needed to call a temp company and get somebody to take my place.

    So I called my boss at 7:00pm one night, to tell him I could feel a sore throat and fever coming on, and that I wanted to give him plenty of time to get a temp. He chewed me out, accused me of faking it, said there’s no way I could know the night before if I’d be sick the next day, etc., etc. Didn’t matter when I told him that I was doing it for his convenience (because a day off for me was a day with no pay), he was still mad as a hornet and accused me of lying.

    So, basically, it was d*mned if I do, d*mned if I don’t. Some people just shouldn’t be managers.

    1. Isben Takes Tea*

      Right, because nobody gets sick overnight. Such a weird mentality! Sorry you had to go through that.

  44. DMD*

    OP 5, I kind of did the same thing once and my boss said the same thing. I, too, was surprised, but just filed it away as a “make note of for future reference” sort of thing. I was starting to feel ill by the end of a work day, and there’s always a particular set of symptoms I tend to get just before getting hit with something like a cold/flu that are distinctive after a bought I had with bronchitis. So, I was having those distinctive symptoms and was almost positive it would be spiraling into full blown “I’m sick” by the morning, if not that night. I told my boss that I was starting to feel ill and might not be in tomorrow, just as a heads up. I wasn’t officially saying I was going to be out tomorrow, just that I might be, since I was feeling like I was coming down with something. I honestly thought I was just being courteous trying to give him a heads up. He said, “You can’t possibly know that you’re going to be sick tomorrow” and sounded somewhat annoyed, so I made a note to myself to never mention that in advance again. I did try to explain my intentions, but it didn’t seem to make an impression, so I just filed his preference away as useful information. Now, I wait til the morning of and call in if I’m not feeling well. I don’t see the logic in it myself, but it’s not a big deal to me either way whether I give my boss a heads up the day before or call in the morning of.

  45. WhoNeedsSleep!*

    @OP1: Something similar happened to my sister. Basically, the manager was trying to force her out by overloading her with unreasonable amounts of work with impossible deadlines then documenting how she was “underperforming” during reviews. If I were you, I’d update my resume and keep an eye for a new position elsewhere, just in case.

  46. ThePet*

    #1, I recently had a similar experience at work, except I was in the situation of the other supervisor. About a year ago, my boss promoted myself and another manager, Fergus, and I started managing one person (new hire) and he managed four. We had very different functions (his is much closer to boss’s function), even though we are in the same department, but we were technically lateral to each other.

    I had long suspected that I was the “pet” of the department, because boss would complain to me about things that the other staff would do .. and I’d point out I did the same things sometimes. So boss would say “Yes, but..” and would name something that made it different (that didn’t make it different at all). Well, after the promotion, she’d start saying these sorts of things about Fergus, except like “You do this, why can’t Fergus just do it?” Well, Fergus’ staff is 300% larger than mine, and his function is significantly busier. Finally at the latest performance review, she even said that her own boss had said that she’s too hard on Fergus, and manages me differently than she does him. I have definitely pointed out at different junctions that Fergus has a LOT more to do than I do, but it seemed to fall on deaf ears, or the typical “yes, but..”

    It’s quite possible coworker knows the situation but feels helpless to it. In my situation, Fergus ended up leaving- I didn’t get the details as to why, but I really believe that this factored in. I felt awful being “favored” but other than defend my coworkers, I guess I don’t know what to do on my end. But I absolutely would not have been offended had Fergus point out how much more work he had than I did.

    1. Chaordic One*

      Do you think that this was your boss’s intention, like the example given by WhoNeedsSleep!, that she wanted to get rid of Fergus by overloading him with work?

      Or was your boss just obtuse?

      1. ThePet*

        I don’t think that my boss’s intention was to overload Fergus with work to get rid of him.. if she wanted to get rid of him, why bother promoting him in the first place?

  47. INFJ*

    Ugh. Reading all the responses to #5 is giving me bad flashbacks to my last job. We had to call *our manager* 2 hours before the shift to call out sick. We ALSO had to call *on site* to let someone know we wouldn’t be in so they could write it on the communal board so everyone would know.

    So when I was sick, I’d have to set an alarm for 2 hours before the shift AND for right at the start of the shift (because nobody was on site 2 hours before).

    And the one time I tried calling my manager any earlier than that, he tried to talk me into coming in. One of the hundreds of reasons I am so thankful to be where I am now.

  48. BTW*

    #5 – Your manager is unreasonable. I had the stomach flu a few weeks ago. Saturday was death day lying in bed, throwing up, the whole bit. I wasn’t eating. Sunday I was better sick wise but my entire body hurt. I was in a lot of pain and still not really able to eat. I messaged my manager pretty early on on Sunday to let her know I probably wouldn’t be in on Monday but would keep her posted. Monday I didn’t go in. I was no longer physically ill or in any physical pain but the previous 2 days had exhausted me and I knew I’d need it to get my energy back. This was all on top of being pregnant so not eating for 2 days took its toll on me as well (I was able to keep Pedialyte down the 2nd day to make sure I was still getting much needed vitamins and nutrients. Not like babies aren’t parasites and won’t leech everything from you anyways in cases like these because oh they certainly will haha!) It was not an issue. I laid in bed and slept most of the day. After the fact I even told her that’s what I did and she completely understood. Your manager is a jerk. I would far prefer an employee calling in the night before so that I wouldn’t be blindsided the day of.

  49. Red In SC*

    Oh, wow, LW#2, I’m not a litigious person, but I suspect that you and your colleagues could in fact sue the company for wrongful termination. That is just insane, and honestly, I’d think about this option.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This isn’t illegal, though. Wrongful termination isn’t just unfair firing, but one that was done for illegal reasons: discrimination based on a protected characteristic (race, sex, disability, etc.) or retaliation for engaging in legally protected conduct (like reporting harassment).

  50. OP5*

    Thanks for such thoughtful comments. Reading about other people’s experiences with this issue makes me feel a little less bad about my experience. For some background, I work in a corporate environment (not retail), and my sick day would not have materially impacted our team’s work.

    To be frank, when this occurred a few months ago, it really hit me hard, and hurt my feelings. My manager’s response to my sick day made me feel as though she thought I was “gaming the system”, and in turn, essentially lying about being sick. I pride myself in being an ethical person, and to have that (indirectly or not) called into question really shook me. Maybe I was being a bit too sensitive, but I started feeling less confident coming in to work, lost a bit of sleep, and felt like my job satisfaction plummeted.

    I thought long and hard about bringing it up to my boss, and explaining the impact that her words had on me. Ultimately, I decided against it. I got a great year-end performance review, a raise, and a bonus, so obviously she thinks I am doing a good job. I decided to just chalk this one up to having a very particular, and a bit peculiar, manager. I am continuing 2017 doing the same great job I have always done, and I don’t think she has thought twice about it (though I certainly have). Going forward, I am simply going to let her know the morning of if I am sick, and let that be that.

    To all you managers out there – trust your employees to be professionals and conduct themselves in an ethical manner, and don’t hire someone to begin with if you think they lack ethics. Also, be mindful of your words and actions – what you think may be harmless “professional feedback” may be interpreted much differently from your subordinate’s perspective.

  51. Dan*

    #5: This one may be puzzling to me because in my industry people calling off often means a call out for overtime if staffing goes below a certain level (I work in IT, sort of), but our managers want as much notice as we can possibly give them!

    The idea that they’d rather know last-minute is sort of puzzling to me because I’m struggling to come up with what problem that solves? Does it encourage people not to plan on using the time? Would they rather someone think to themselves “well I’ve kept down solid food for almost 6 hours now, I can go in I guess”? Are they the sort that gives out sick time but doesn’t really intend for it to be used? I just don’t understand what the problem is they’re trying to solve.

    That said if that’s the norm your boss wants, it’s what they want. There’s no accounting for irrational and pointless quirks.

    But you might want to ask, just so you calibrate with your boss on this one “So, the work culture I’m used to [if you’re new-ish otherwise use “general advice says bosses” or “most people I know of”] would rather have as much notice as possible, so it doesn’t upset their plans, can you share with me your expectations around sick time so I understand how I should conduct myself and how I can meet your expectations?”

    Maybe they have a good reason here, I doubt it but I’ve been surprised before.

    If they push back saying “you should evaluate when you wake up if you can come to work RIGHT THEN” then it wouldn’t be unreasonable to say something like “Sometimes when I have a bad cold I need to sleep as much as possible, would it be alright to leave you a message when I know I’ll be taking a day to rest, and make sure I’m not infecting my coworkers?”

    Playing on the fear of contagion here might make them see reason, even if you can drag yourself to work through willpower and robitussin it doesn’t make it a good idea!

  52. Honeybee*

    Ugh, who complains about MORE notice as opposed to less? Also, there are many unplanned leaves that you might know about the day or night before – like an emergency doctor’s appointment, newly broken limb, a family emergency that will take all next day, etc.

    1. sstabeler*

      with a boss this unreasonable, it’s possible they see it as evidence you are faking the sick day. I’m not saying they are justified, but it can help to see what the boss is thinking. This is also where the requirement to call in the morning is- they see it as “it’s no big deal to make a quick phone call” and it gives them a chance to check you are actually sick. (yes, bosses should usually take your word for it. I am explaining what THEIR logic is for making the demand, not my own opinion)

      It’s fundamentally a case of the employer not trusting employees not to abuse being given the ability to judge for themselves if they are not well enough to come in. Children need their parents to call them in sick because kids HAVE to go to school, like it or not, and the temptation is too great for a kid to fake being sick. (which is one reason why you are able to call in sick yourself in college. You WANT to study at college, so it’s assumed you really are sick.)

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