hiding Easter eggs at work, two coworkers/one bathroom, and more

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

1. Hiding Easter eggs at work

I work on a large campus and my team has their own building (even though we’re 20 people). I thought it would be fun to hide some Easter eggs with some candy the day after Easter, like two in each office and a few around the common areas. Is this overstepping or do you think it would be a fun surprise?

(Before you ask, I know about any food allergies. I’ve brought in baked goods before and had to check!)

Totally depends on your office culture, but I think in most offices this would be fine as long as you don’t make a massive production out of it (which doesn’t sound like what you’re planning).

I called this one wrong, possibly because I was blinded by the mention of candy, so I’m correcting my answer. Don’t do it. As many people have pointed out below, it’s overstepping to pull other people into celebrating a religious holiday.

2. Is it a violation of minimum wage rules for Ivanka Trump to work for free?

I know that the federal government often exempts itself from its own rules, but I was wondering if it is okay for Ivanka Trump to work for free? The news stories state that she will be subject to all the disclosure and clearance stuff that any other federal employee is subject to, but is it a violation of minimum wage laws for her not to draw a salary?

No — the Fair Labor Standards Act contains an exception that allows people to volunteer for government agencies (which is why unpaid internships are legal in government as well).

3. Employee keeps staying late at work despite being told not to

I have an hourly employee who is scheduled to work from 8:30-5:30 p.m. We have found out that she doesn’t always leave at 5:30. She says she stays until about 6 or so because she wants traffic to die down before heading home. We have told her several times that she has to leave at 5:30, but we have evidence that she is here sometimes as late at 9 p.m. She doesn’t have much of a personal life and I know that is part of the reason why she stays here. She also doesn’t have a computer at home, so I’m aware she stays to play games on the computer and do other things as well.

I’ve told her that if I know she is staying after 5:30, I’m obligated to pay her since she is an hourly employee and she can claim overtime. There is also a potential that she will work when she stays late. She has been been told not to and she says she would never do that, but I am pessimistic. Do you have any advice as to how to get this person to go home on time?

How clear and direct have you been with her? If you’re saying “You are required to leave here at 5:30 and it’s a violation of our rules for you to stay longer than that,” and she’s continuing to stay late anyway, that’s a serious problem. That’s insubordination, really.

But if what you’ve said has been softer — like “we really shouldn’t have you staying late” and “can you make an effort to leave by 5:30” — then the answer here is that you need to get much more direct.

Either way, at this point you need to say something like, “Jane, I’m concerned that we’ve talked about this several times and it’s continuing to happen. At this point I consider it a serious disciplinary issue and a violation of my trust, and I need to commit to following our policy on this. Can you commit to me that going forward you won’t continue to stay late?”

And then you need to be prepared to enforce consequences if that doesn’t happen, just like you presumably would if she were repeatedly breaking any other cut-and-dried policy.

4. I saw two coworkers coming out of the same bathroom at the same time

Recently I saw two employees coming of the same toilet at work during working hours. I don’t know how long they were in there and I’m not sure of what they were doing. What can I do? Do I take it to management and report it as they were having sex?

What?! No. Why would you report that they were having sex when you have no idea if that’s the case or not? Who knows why they were in there together — it could have been something sketchy or it could have been perfectly innocent. You have no reason to think it’s anything reportable, so leave it alone.

5. Applying for the same job as a coworker

As a hiring manager, how do you respond when you receive applications from two people currently working for the same company, for the same team even? My colleague and I are both unhappy with our current situation, so we’ve been supporting each other as we apply for jobs elsewhere.

Unfortunately, the job market we’re looking in is small, and we’re running into the problem of being interested in the same job openings. While we’re at peace with whatever happens if we both apply to the same job — any company would be smart to hire one of us, and of course the smartest company would hire us both — but what does it look like to the potential employer? Does it reflect negatively on us as candidates?

Not in the least! It’s a thing that sometimes it happens, and it won’t look strange at all. Employers will generally assume that you don’t know the other is applying and they’ll be discreet about it.

The only way it would really cause weirdness if if you contradicted each other in some way — like if you said you were leaving because your team was being eliminated and your coworker said your team was expanding, that would definitely raise eyebrows and get a closer look — but otherwise this will be a non-issue.

{ 567 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    In order to avoid it taking over the entire comment section, I’m asking that we not debate further whether or not Easter eggs are secular or not. Large numbers of non-Christians don’t consider Easter trappings to be secular, and in fact feel erased by arguments that they are. If you don’t feel that way yourself, that does not negate the fact that others do. Thoughtful people should be sensitive to that, and I’m asking that we leave it there.

    (Posted at 4:10 a.m. EST, which I’m noting so that it’s clear that comments from before that weren’t flagrantly violating this request.)

  2. KarenT*

    It was probably nothing. I went into a stall with a co-worker to help her pin her dress. She was pregnant so the dress was snug and it sort of burst on along one of the seems. Now I wonder if someone thought we were up to something untoward!

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      There are so many non-problematic things that could have been happening. But OP#4, why do you want to report this or take action, anyway? It doesn’t sound like there’s anything to “do,” and I find it a little weird that OP wants to report that the coworkers were having sex right after saying, “I don’t know how long they were in there and I’m not sure of what they were doing.”

      Also, Alison, did you mean to allude to an infamous porn film?

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Oh no, it’s pretty bad. The film is “2 girls, 1 cup”—it’s one of the only contemporary films to be deemed “obscene” in First Amendment litigation. I think there are YouTube videos of people vomiting, etc., upon viewing it for the first time.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Oh! That. I totally forgot about the headline I wrote for this post (it was a few days ago) and just looked at the letter when you said that. It was … semi intentional, but with plausible deniability.

            1. SometimesALurker*

              I think once you say something was semi intentional, you lose your plausible deniability! ;)

          2. DArcy*

            If it makes you feel any better, the infamous video is totally fake. It’s a trailer by MFX, a Brazilian extreme porn film producer that specializes in that particular kink.

            1. Mookie*

              I didn’t know this. Any chance goatse isn’t real? I’d sleep a lot sounder if it were.

              1. Kay J*

                Goatse is indeed real but the guy who it’s a picture of is really into that kind of thing and loves to take pictures of himself… It comforts me to know he is having a great time and doesn’t have a horrible illness, I guess?

                1. Mookie*

                  He does seem pretty jazzed about it and proud. Still, in me it creates an unthinking, physical unease similar to the feeling some people get when looking at dried lotus seed heads.

                2. Grapey*

                  This reply is for Mookie since I ran out of nesting – that uneasy feeling is called trypophobia at least when it comes to lotus seed heads. It’s a fear of patterns of holes, and is both really cool and really unsettling to me.

                3. RVA Cat*

                  And of course that made me Google “dried lotus seed heads”. Not bad in and of themselves, but there’s a horrific Photoshop meme of them as a fake parasitic infestation in somebody’s personal anatomy. (It’s on Snopes – don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

            2. paul*

              I’m not sure if I should be relieved it was fake or slightly worried that there’s a company that *specializes* in making fakes like that

            3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              That does make me feel marginally better. I try really hard to be sex positive/nonjudgmental about that particular kind of kink, but like Myrin, the first time I heard a description of the plot, it triggered my gag reflex.

          3. Myrin*

            For what it’s worth, I’m not at all sensitive but I had to violently hold back vomiting when a friend told me about the film’s “plot” years ago. First and only time I ever experience that, and NOT fun.

            1. LawBee*

              I watched it out of – curiosity, I guess. Terrible, terrible curiosity. I wish I never had, it took forever to get those images out of my head.

      1. CoveredInBees*

        I agree that there are many non-sex reasons they might have been in the bathroom together and bringing an assumption to management will just make LW look like a busybody and possibly untrustworthy.

        Let assume for a minute that they were having sex. I’m not sure I’d report colleagues for having sex if the only impact on the office was seeing them leave the bathroom at the same time. If they’re not slowing down workflow, hogging the bathroom, in a position to exercise favoritism with each other, or making noises that people can hear…eh, no harm no foul. To be clear, sex in the office is a TERRIBLE idea outside of people’s own internal fantasy land. If they can manage an incredibly high level of discretion with no impact on anyone else, I’d butt out.

        1. Justme*

          A co-worker of mine did walk in on people having sex in the bathroom (we work at a University). University Police were called.

          1. Cecilia In A Green Dress*

            My colleague walked in on a sexual encounter also in a university bathroom. He was so shocked he just said “uh, sorry”, and walked out, then hid in his office for 20 minutes (texting me) to give the other parties time to leave the area without seeing him again. It didn’t really occur to him to call security until well after the fact. (And he felt he couldn’t give accurate descriptions in any case.)

        2. Alienor*

          Yeah, I wouldn’t report them or call security either, but I’d sure have a lot to say to them about it, starting with “Ew! Get a room, and not this room!”

    2. Troutwaxer*

      I immediately imagined a big, open-plan office with insufficient enclosed spaces and a little tiny bathroom!

    3. Dizzy Steinway*

      And regardless of whether it might or might not be nothing, it’s best not to invent things about your coworkers. After all, you wouldn’t appreciate it if someone did that to you.

      1. AMG*

        Right-I really don’t understand where the OP is coming from on this. ‘Should I assume the worst and make up a story based on my overactive imagination to get people in trouble and jeopardize their jobs?’ Uh, no. You should not.

    4. AstroDeco*

      Unless your colleagues were adjusting their clothes, smoking a cigarette & drinking a cocktail as they left the bathroom I wouldn’t give it another thought.

      Seriously, there are many legit reasons for the scenario you witnessed.

      1. Dizzy Steinway*

        I’m intrigued as to whether they were in a general bathroom space with sinks and mirrors, or a stall, or a small room with everything in. Not that this changes the advice ultimately but it would provide some context.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I’m picturing a single-room unisex bathroom. Which leaves open everything from an orgy from which OP only saw the first or last 2 people leave, to attempting to be caller #34 at the radio station out of earshot of the rest of the office. Or the various ‘help with a torn seam’ scenarios.

    5. Purple Dragon*

      Another thought – I’m the first aider at my office and I’ve been known to go into cubicles with people to bandage / apply first aid to areas that people don’t want to flash around the office.

      You don’t know what was going on and if you did report that people were having sex and it turns out to be something totally innocuous, you’ve then lost all credibility with your company.

      1. Rebecca*

        Me too, I was going to say that one of my coworkers lives alone, and she had a minor medical procedure to remove a cyst, and needed the packing taken out a bit at time and snipped off. I did this for her, as it was someplace she couldn’t see or reach, so she didn’t have to take time off every day for several days to go to her doctor’s office. When it was time, I pulled the rest of it out – all in the bathroom, with the door locked.

        I would have been pretty miffed if someone would have reported us as having sex in the bathroom. As Ann Landers used to say, MYOB.

          1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

            That’s understating things. The list of people I’d do that for include my parents, my spouse, and my kid. I think that’s about it.

            1. Rebecca*

              I’ve worked with her for nearly 15 years, we are almost exactly the same age, and her husband suddenly died several years ago; they didn’t have children. I don’t have any siblings, but if I did, I’d imagine a sister would be like her. I’m the least squeamish person I know, and I was happy to help her.

              1. Former Employee*

                Rebecca, you are a gem. I wish I had someone like you as a friend, especially as I am the most squeamish person I know!

          2. Elizabeth West*

            Agreed. I live alone and I would actually tell my doctor I couldn’t have surgery for something if it meant I needed a person to help me. I have no one to ask.

        1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          My close female friend (my nonbio sister, I consider her) needed emergency surgery last year, and when she would use the restroom she needed help putting back on the wrap they gave her to keep the stitches from starting to pull. We didn’t work together (she took half-days until she didn’t need the wrap any longer), but if we were out and she needed me, I would go in a bathroom with her, and then help her adjust. It was a very traumatic surgery; I’d hate for someone on top of that to assume we were quacking around.

        2. hayling*

          Wow, that’s really nice of you! I had a cyst packed after it was removed once. Taking it out really hurt!

    6. MK*

      Frankly, I wouldn’t report colleagues having sex even if I had seen them at it. It’s unprofessional and inappropriate, but I would be too embarrassed.

      Unless there was some actual specific problem that it caused, like interference with work, or if I knew that was a regular occurrence.

      1. CoveredInBees*

        Yes! At which point, you report the interference and can reference their bathroom trips but not make sex the focus of the complaint.

        Must be nice to work somewhere with bathrooms that someone would contemplate having sex. I should really leave the non-profit world…

        1. Audiophile*

          Hah! Several bathrooms at my nonprofit don’t even lock. Pretty sure no ones having sex in them.

          1. CoveredInBees*

            Exactly! That would be the infamous “overhead” that no one wants to fund. (not to go too far off topic)

        2. many bells down*

          The single-stall employee bathrooms at my non-profit are quite spacious! You could have 5 or 6 people having sex in there!
          Of course there’s only two of them in the employee area, so you’d really annoy everyone else who had to schlep out to one of the public restrooms.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            “If you’re having sex in there, it had better be with everyone in the office except me. So that I can use the second bathroom as needed.”

      2. Katie*

        Oh, agreed. I hope I never have to encounter that situation, but I’d probably just…turn and leave and avoid looking those coworkers in the eye ever again. (I mean, probably not the best thing, but realistically…yeah.)

        And yeah, agreed, they could have been doing all kinds of things other than sex. Let it go, OP4.

    7. NoMoreMrFixit*

      Could also be they needed a moment to discuss something personal in private. But even if you heard them quacking at each other prior to going in there it’s best to not say anything. There’s no proof of any misbehaviour.

    8. SomeoneLikeAnon*

      I agree that it was probably nothing. Personal scenario: A friend on mine pulled a muscle and was using those lidocaine pads from her doctor on her back. She asked me to help her since she couldn’t obviously reach that part of her back. We weren’t going to do something like that office common area! We used one of the bigger stalls in the bathroom for privacy.

    9. Bonky*

      I’m that pregnant co-worker; just before I went on leave, I went into a stall with a colleague so she could show me her C-section scar (I have to have a C-section, and wanted to collect as much information about what was going to happen to me as I could).

      Before that I’ve been in stalls with colleagues to help mend clothes, just like you. And I can think of many other reasons to do so that are completely innocent.

      OP#4 is…terrifyingly prurient. There are SO MANY reasons two people might be in a stall together that don’t involve genitals. Back off and mind your own business.

    10. Ama*

      I worked in a relatively new-built office with single occupancy bathrooms where the layout of the bathroom was constantly being tweaked. (Should we have hand dryers or paper towels, do we need different trash cans, etc.) These discussions nearly always resulted in two (or more) coworkers going into one of the bathrooms and looking around and measuring — and since everyone had opinions about the bathrooms, it wasn’t always the people who were directly in charge of building maintenance.

    11. The Southern Gothic*

      Last year I had a “skin thing” removed from a place on my back where it was hard to reach.

      I asked a trusted co-worker to help me apply medicine to it and change the bandage.

      Not sexy at all.

      1. Gandalf the Nude*

        Yes, I didn’t end up needing it, but I once asked our receptionist to remain on standby in case I needed help with hard-to-reach-biopsy-site. Very not sexy.

    12. textbookaquarian*

      My mother helped a coworker with her insulin injections for a time. She was newly diagnosed, had a fear of needles and thus struggled with the idea of poking herself. The injections went in the thigh. So they used the handicap stall to give coworker privacy.

    13. k*

      My first thought seeing them would be that they’re were assisting with some wardrobe issue, like hair stuck in a dress zipper, fixing a tear, etc. Either OP has a dirtier mind than me, or has a very different office culture for that to be their first thought.

    14. Lora*

      Can confirm the occasional need to assist with wardrobe malfunctions and change bandages. Also have been summoned to hold a co-worker’s hair while she vomited, help a colleague put on a Tyvek bunny suit because her clothes had chemicals spilled on them, and make sure a blood donor didn’t faint. Yay for workplace bloodmobiles! Also sobbing colleagues who just got terrible news; I really really wish medical personnel would save the bad news for a time when you are prepared to hear it, because the workplace is generally not an awesome place to find out about your cancer diagnosis. A wonderful lady I used to work with got her MS diagnosis at work and she was just devastated – if someone had thought I was doing anything other than hugging her and giving her tissues and fetching her a cup of tea in the bathroom, it would have poured a little salt in the wound.

    15. BTownGirl*

      Agreed! I once had a coworker, bless her forever, spend 20 minutes curling my hair in the bathroom when I had to go straight to a Fancy Event after work. I have no hair skills, so I could care less if anyone heard me ooooh-ing and aaaaahh-ing in there and thought something else was going on!! #WorthIt

    16. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      Yes. I have totally accompanied a peer into the bathroom to help with a wardrobe malfunction that wasn’t appropriate to help with in public (not addressing the wardrobe problem would have been even less appropriate).

  3. KR*

    4) I’ve had coworkers follow me into the bathroom to help me adjust finicky clothing, show me a mess, when they just got a new tattoo and didn’t want to partially remove clothing in the office, ect. I wouldn’t pay them any mind.
    On the person staying late, I agree that you have to be very firm. Does she have a key or a pass card? Can the person locking the building make her leave at the end of the day or can you rescind her key priveldges or program her pass card differently so she can’t get in after hours, something like that? IT may be able to make it so her PC shuts off at 5:45. Also though, she may be avoiding going home because she’s lonely or has some difficulties going on that make her not want to be home. I would approach it like, “I thought I had made it clear we can’t have you staying so late. What’s going on?” And then go with the above measures after she doesn’t listen.

    1. Not Australian*

      This is a great approach, as it avoids any appearance of ‘punishing’ the employee for being a bit different or ‘not having a life’. FWIW I’ve been in the position, some years ago, of spending longer hours in the office than necessary simply because I didn’t have any heating at home. Luckily nobody ever considered it a problem, and it was only temporary, but if I’d ever been asked I would have been happy to explain. In this case the employee may have a good reason for not going home that doesn’t solely revolve around the computer, and it would be humane to at least enquire.

      1. MommyMD*

        I could sleep at my job and no one would even notice. I think wanting to avoid rush hour traffic is valid if she’s a trustworthy employee and understands very clearly she is not to work off the clock. She could even sign an agreement.

          1. Bellatrix*

            You can’t but you don’t need to be paid for time spent playing games or personal internet browsing. An affidavit she’s not working after 5.30 pm would certainly make it harder, though not completely impossible, to then file a wage claim. But I completely understand if the company just doesn’t want to take that risk.

            1. Whats In A Name*

              I think the concern isn’t that they aren’t paying her for playing games but if her email is open and one comes in and she answers it, or looks into something she remembers she forgot earlier in the day….there is just a lot of gray area. And quite frankly I do believe that while she might have reasons for not wanting/being able to go home if your employer doesn’t want you in the office after a certain time and has explicitly said that then you need to find somewhere else to go.

          2. JM60*

            You only need to be paid for the time spent working. So being at work longer than your assigned shift, per se, isn’t a problem. It’s only a problem if that time is spent on work related activities. If the employee is at their desk watching YouTube videos, that’s not a problem when it comes to overtime.

        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          Doesn’t matter, because if an hourly employee is present at work, it’s assumed that they’re working or could work, and overtime automatically applies.

          1. Natalie*

            It’s not remotely as clear cut as that. Sticking around after your shift to socialize, eat, drink, shop, etc is pretty normal and I doubt anyone has ever based a wage claim on it. Hell, didn’t a bunch of warehouse employees just lose a claim related to the time they spent having their bags searched?

            (Which isn’t to say the LW’s employee should just keep on keeping on, as they have actually worked during those off-clock hours even though they were told not to.)

            1. LBK*

              Yeah, it was a case against Amazon, and it was ruled that the time the employees spent going through security wasn’t payable work time.

              1. Anna*

                Which is weird, because there was a case before that stating that time spent putting on equipment for work was to be paid. I don’t really see that much of a difference.

                1. Natalie*

                  SCOTUS has actually heard *multiple* cases on work clothing and exactly when putting it on & taking it off counts as work time. So it seems to be an issue they like to parse incredibly finely. Go figure.

      2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        It’s really neither here nor there. If she wants to wait until traffic dies down, she can go to a coffee shop or a park or a library. And libraries have computers, if that’s a need. Or a bookstore. Or whatever. Why she’s staying isn’t really the employer’s concern.

        1. Whats In A Name*

          Or is there the option to change her hours to 9:00 – 6:00 or some flex hours that allow her to miss the traffic but still stay within the parameters of the workday?

          1. AMPG*

            I was thinking this, as well. Unless she absolutely has to clock in at 8:30 for business reasons, just shift her hours back.

            1. Rabbit*

              Yeah, I once had the Commute From Hell having just been transferred and the way we solved it was that I had a half hour longer lunch break and then left a half hour later. Nobody cared at all and it totally solved my problem with hitting the literal worst bits of rush hour.

          2. KK*

            Unfortunately, we had to change her hours from 9:00-6:00 to 8:30-5:30pm because our new HR Director didn’t want a worker in her job class to be working without a Supervisor present. That is the other concern when she stays past 5:30pm and continues to work=lack of supervision.

          3. Tomatocityworker*

            We can’t change her hours because the new HR Director made us change her schedule to 8:30-5:30pm because she said because of her job classification someone in a Supervisor position had to be present during her shift. I believe she just wants to do what she wants to do because she has been here for over 20 years and that is the old philosophy.

        2. KR*

          Eh, I agree it’s not the employer’s concern but it’s an option if OP wants to be kind and collaborative to her employee.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        I did it once because I had to BitLocker a flash drive–like a dummy, I didn’t start it until 3:00 and the 64 GB drive took until nearly 8:00 to finish. I just clocked out at my regular time, closed my email, and played on the internet until it was done. At one point, I left it and went to McDonald’s for dinner. The cleaning crew was really surprised to see me!

    2. Djuna*

      We had trouble with someone who didn’t only stay late (to play games) but also sometimes came in on his day off (to do the same thing, and to load up on free snacks).

      He got a pass until his first paycheck (he told everyone he was broke, so there was some concern that he needed the free snacks) and then we were all told that we were only insured to be on the premises while on the clock. It was a clever way of not singling him out, while making it clear that the office is for work and that it wasn’t “harmless” (from the company’s perspective) for him to hang out there all the time. He tried coming in on his day off once after that, got a stern talking to, and finally stopped.

      1. MommyMD*

        Yeah, that’s weird and way overstepping boundaries. It’s not just an extra hour to avoid traffic.

    3. Gadfly*

      Generally firecodes have issues about not letting people leave, even without cards. Changing the card so as to not get in is usually easy. So someone can’t leave? I’ve never worked anywhere that did that

      1. Queen of the File*

        I have worked somewhere that did–they didn’t prevent the door from opening but set an alarm that would go off if you opened the door after x o’clock, so everyone had to be out before then.

      2. KR*

        Maybe not locking her in, but making it so that whatever manager is last out the door shoos her out and then she can’t get back in? Or something like Queen of the File where the door triggers an alarm so she must leave by a certain time.

    4. LadyCop*

      After the many years I spent in security, regarding op #1 I think it’s silly to try to apply timers to access…especially if no one else has them. She’s an adult, explain what the rules are. Can’t follow them? Fired. No hand holding, coddling, or momma is shutting down the computer now.

      1. TootsNYC*

        “explain what the rules are”

        The question from OP #4 is reminding me of the newbie who got in trouble for coming in on the weekend, who didn’t realize the was a labor-law aspect to it.

        I had someone offer to work a few extra hours for me for free–when I said, “I’m not legally allowed to do that,” she said, “wow! I didn’t know!”

      2. KR*

        It’s interesting you think it’s silly to apply time restrictions to access. My experience has been quite different. We had RIF cards for the doors at my last position. They were scheduled for specific job categories and who needed to access the building when, so mine worked from 6am – 11pm, 7 days a week, because that’s when I might be at work for any reason, but the office staff who kept more normal hours only had access from 7am – 5pm M-F because they never worked weekends, evenings, or overtime, and so on. The way the cards worked, one could be shut off or the time restrictions changed without the card holder working which worked much better than just giving everyone a key.

    5. SusanIvanova*

      IT could schedule backups at 5:45. It would be better than what my company did – scheduled them for noon, because “you might take your laptop home” and “of course you’ll be at lunch then”. Neither of which was true; as a software engineer who was allowed to set her own hours, noon was an hour after I got in and just when I was coming up to speed.

    6. Poohbear McGriddles*

      Is no one here familiar with the phrase “Y’all come and look at this before I flush it.”?

      Guess you’re not a redneck, then!

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, you know your work environment better than any of us do, but I just wanted to flag that you may have coworkers who don’t see Easter eggs as non-religious, and this is doubly true if you work for a public employer. That said, I’ve worked at places where non-Christians and atheists found stashed eggs to be cute/charming (or were indifferent to it), and other places where they felt it was an overstep. YMMV.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I look at them as similar to Christmas trees — clearly tied to a religious holiday but not the same thing as displaying something like a creche or a cross.

      Then again, I’m a Jew who has enjoyed hunting for Easter eggs the last few years so I may have mellowed too much.

      But yeah, that’s why it’s a know-your-office thing.

      1. Dizzy Steinway*

        Mm, I was raised Jewish (not why I have a Jewish-sounding username though, it’s from a TV show) and got quite sick of people assuming I didn’t want chocolate eggs, because chocolate.

        1. Ann O.*

          I am happy to EAT Easter eggs (especially Cadbury’s Creme Eggs), but I would not be happy to walk into a surprise Easter egg hunt. I get that egg hunts aren’t particularly religious, but they’re still too close for my personal comfort. I’d be okay with a non-denominational egg hunt (like a Spring Egg Hunt), although I still wouldn’t be ecstatic about participating.

          1. Kate, Short for Bob*

            Easter eggs aren’t at all religious though – it’s another co-option of a pagan thing. Also, chocolate.

            1. MommyMD*

              I’m down for a few hidden candy-filled eggs just laying here or there. It didn’t have to be a hunt. I think people these days get their feelings hurt and on the defense pretty easily these days. I’ve acknowledged all kinds of religious and secular holidays and customs and I appreciate being exposed to new things.

              1. AMG*

                Me too. I think it would be cute. But I understand the religious angle. Perhaps if you really know the environment? Or plastic hearts filled with candy at Valentine’s Day, because that’s not considered to be a religious holiday.

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                It’s a little invalidating to refer to people who might not want to get swept into OP’s planned celebration as people who “get their feelings hurt and [are] on the defense pretty easily.”

            2. AnotherAnon*

              I know this was before Alison’s comment, but I just wanted to point out that modern Paganism is a grouping of religions, and the term has been used in reference to religion historically, too – so it’s still religious.

            3. Sylvia*

              Paganism at that time was religious, and Paganism today is a group of religions with more believers than you might expect to run into.

              Not Pagan myself and not trying to be a pedant – just saying. :)

            4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Easter eggs were derived from pagan fertility festivals, and pagans at that time (and now) were/are a religious group.

          2. JS*

            I don’t think you’d be force to participate though, or you shouldn’t, even if you were religious any extra work activity shouldn’t be mandatory. But are you put off by “Easter egg hunt” even if you didn’t have to participate? Or is it just the aspect of force participation into something with religious ties that is off putting? Just curious.

        2. MommyMD*

          I don’t care what religion you are. I will worship at the altar of The Chocolate God.

      2. Artemesia*

        Easter is however the main Christian Holiday – the holiest of holidays as it were. It would be important to be sensitive to this fact if there are other workers who are devoutly something else.

      3. HannahS*

        I’m Jewish, and if I came in and a coworker excitedly told me they’d hidden Easter eggs around the office for us to find, I’d wonder why they’re trying to get me to celebrate or enjoy Easter and be pretty irritated. Especially if they had gone into MY office and hidden them there. Major overstepping. If they just had a bowl of chocolates out by their own desk, or brought in something to share, I’d be fine with it. For me, food related to religious holidays = yes, activities related to religious holidays = keep it out of the workplace.

        1. Creag an Tuire*

          :: innocently :: But what if I called them Hanukkah Eggs and wrote “HannahS’s First Easter” on them in glitter?

          1. amy*

            Maybe do a little research about Christian holidays and murderous attacks on Jews before trying out the levity when someone’s already annoyed.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It’s a reference to a past letter here about an insensitive boss who did that with Christmas. The whole point was how offensive it was.

                1. CoveredInBees*

                  Oh em gee. That is horrifying. Having recently worked for an organization that trains companies on religious issues in the workplace, including hiring, I thought I’d heard some awful stuff. Then again, we try to use more subtle examples in training since they come up more often and are harder to identify.

                  I don’t know if she included an email or if you can still retrieve it, but that poor person would make for one heck of an update letter.

            2. MommyMD*

              Every group and religion has historical blood on their hands. Every single one. I’m not partially religious. When you really delve into it, it’s quite heinous. No religion is absolved.

            3. HannahS*

              I knew that Creag an Tuire was referring to the Hanukkah Balls Incident, but I appreciated your vehemence :)

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I got it and thought the reference was funny :)

            (but I also understand why it would inspire ire if someone thought you were serious)

            1. Creag an Tuire*

              I should probably JokeTag these posts.

              Especially since the only reason that meme exists is because, somewhere in the world, there is at least one person who would read that comment and say “Hanukkah Eggs? By gumption, that’s brilliant! I can’t believe nobody has thought of this not-at-all-offensive-and-creepy idea! To the Piggly Wiggly forthwith.

              (Dear That Person, please stop taking me seriously. I don’t want to get you in trouble with HR again.)

          3. Gaia*

            Every single time someone makes a Hanukkah Balls reference around here I laugh a little harder. It is just so absurd.

        2. amy*


          I live in a place with few Jews, and I’m about 15 years past finding it cute that the local Christians, which isn’t as everyone as they seem to believe, manage to consistently fail to appreciate that there are in fact people with other religions and no religions living alongside them. No, I don’t make a fuss about Christmas cookies, and I’ve been known to help eat them. But does it rub, again, where things are already raw? Yup.

          Here’s what I’d ask before joyfully stashing your eggs around: does your office routinely schedule major events — meetings, reviews, conferences, what have you — without regard for other people’s holidays? When a non-Christian has a major religious holiday, are they required to use a vacation day if they want to take time off and observe it? If the answer to either of those is yes, I’d chill on the egg hunt.

          1. Gaia*

            I’m not sure I’ll ever understand why this is so grating to some. I’m not religious (I refrain from using the term atheism because there is some weird cultism around that label). My parents were not religious and their parents were not religious. While we celebrate Christmas and Easter, we celebrate them as secular holidays and learned about their historical (and, later, Pagan) roots. I’ve been invited to attend events for nearly every holiday for nearly every major religion. It never occurred to me to be outraged that people didn’t consider I didn’t share their religion. Maybe they did and invited me out of a desire to be inclusive, maybe they didn’t and invited me because they thought I’d naturally want to attend.

            1. I woke up like this*

              Gaia, perhaps you don’t understand because you’re not a member of a persecuted religious minority? I know lots of atheist folks claim otherwise, but as an atheist myself, I understand that being not religious is NOT the same as being Jewish or Muslim in the United States. I never have to think about the risks of wearing my religious or cultural garb outside the home, the risk of sending my kid to a school associated with our religion, the risk of congregating at our home of worship. There are so many real physical dangers these days for members of religious minorities, and these kinds of workplace celebrations can emphasize their otherness. It’s not problematic to be inclusive and share traditions; it’s problematic to assume that the dominant culture is the default culture, especially when people outside of dominant culture are actively persecuted.

              1. Elf*

                The thing is (and I say this as an Atheist married to a Jew) that while the manifestations can be different, Atheism IS a persecuted religious minority. Atheists are better at passing, that is true, but they are also more invisible, and the average religious person (of any religion) will react more negatively to a statement of atheistic faith than of religious faith. Compare the statements “God is great.” and “There is no god.” Those are largely equivalent statements, but people take the first in stride, and have massive negative reactions to the second. That easy ability to pass is a double-edged sword, there is also no subtle/indirect way for atheists to signal their status, so any efforts to be acknowledged as atheists are perceived as aggressive (as direct responses to passive aggressions generally are). Atheism also gets erased frequently by people who think that they are being inclusive, and is explicitly excluded from many aspects of public life in the US (see the pledge of allegiance and the dollar bill, both of which were deliberately changed in the late 1950s to be anti-atheistic). Also, while a woman wearing a hijab is certainly in more danger right now, there are definitely parts of the country where being a known atheist is not precisely safe.

                1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

                  An important note is that atheists are hardly a persecuted religious minority everywhere… (or even in most developed (I know there’s a better expression than that but it escapes me at the moment) countries.)

                  In most of Northern Europe, it’s the norm.

                2. I woke up like this*

                  I don’t want to derail and start a conversation about whether or not atheists are a persecuted minority. My response was directed toward a specific argument–“I’m atheist/non-religious, and I don’t understand why these other religious minorities get so upset about religious traditions celebrated in the workplace.”

              2. Gaia*

                Having lived in an area with quite a bit of religious extremism from two different religions and hostility towards atheists – I disagree. I had to actively hide the fact that I didn’t attend religious services. I had to carefully navigate conversations. I had to be careful about what I wore and how I spoke.

            2. Pommette*

              It’s not religious either. My experiences are very similar to yours.

              I think that people who are actually religious, though, and don’t belong to their area’s majority religion, experience things differently.

              You have to deal with constant reminders of the fact that people don’t realize that you don’t share their religion. You also have to deal with people’s assumptions or ignorance about that religion. Even if people are well intentioned and nice about their ignorance, it’s a lot of work. Because your religion isn’t baked into your country’s public life, it’s harder for you to follow it than it would be for an equally religious person from the dominant religion to follow their faith. And on top of all that, you may experience the persecution and suspicion that ‘I woke up like this’ explains. All of those pressures add up!

            3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Gaia, as a member of a religious minority in the United States (and one who grew up in a liberal part of the country), here’s why it bothers me. Literally from the age of 5, I have had people who identify as Christian or as “secular” celebrants of Christmas/Easter bully and ostracize me because of my religious identity. Whether it was telling me, frequently, about my likelihood of going to hell, or making racist comments about my faith community, or more recently, being subjected to direct, physical violence and verbal harassment because of my perceived faith, it has been a constant barrage.

              I don’t know about your public school, but mine devoted copious arts and crafts hours to making Christmas tree ornaments or other decorations for Christmas. Maybe they introduced a Hanukkah option, while the teachers loudly complained to the class that Hanukkah decorations were required because “[Jewish Student’s Mom] complained,” subjecting that poor kid to a bunch of anti-Semitic backlash.

              I had to sit out all of those activities and do school work because my religion doesn’t allow celebration of other faiths’ holidays—even the so-called “secular” elements. That was kind of isolating/ostracizing, but not the worst. The worst was all the horrific things your teachers and peers say to you when they explain why you’re a “freak” or “heathen” who’s oversensitive about Christian holidays and why you should accept that this is a “Christian country,” and it’s not meant to accommodate “foreign” people like you, so suck it up and participate in their celebratory activities. And that doesn’t even count the physical violence that comes when you opt out. It’s exhausting.

              So if all the Christians and “secular” Easter egg-hunt celebrants want to have an egg hunt during work hours—even a passive one—go for it. But if you’re like me, and you’ve been mistreated, bullied, excluded and shamed for being a religious minority, it doesn’t feel great to go to a secular workplace and feel like someone decided to do something because they either didn’t think about your existence or didn’t care about how it might affect you. I’m not going to make a huge deal about it, and I’m not going to give a well-intentioned coworker side-eye, but I’m probably going to be low-level annoyed.

              1. Magic Beans*

                I did not realize so many of us are Jewish but I have had that exact experience. I grew up in the part of the US that is very Christian, very white and is the last to receive real diversity.

              2. Epiphyta*

                Like the Princess, I am a member of a religious minority that does not approve of celebrating others’ religious holidays. If it’s an interfaith event, educational, or as part of social outreach? That’s fine. Otherwise, no.

                My go-to explanation for “No, I am actually not down with the office Christmas party” is taken from Greta Christina: while writing as an atheist, she makes a valid point for religious minorities:

                See, you don’t get have it both ways. You don’t get to have Christmas be a secular holiday, universal to the culture, recognized by government agencies and celebrated by people of all faiths and of no faith at all… and still have it be a religious holiday of the Christian faith. Not if you respect people’s basic right to worship, or not, in their own way. Pick one. If Christmas is a universal secular holiday, quit whining about it being secularized. If it’s a distinct religious holiday, quit trying to ram it down everyone else’s throats.

              3. Bryce*

                The forced inclusion is what’s always bothered me. “We’ve got two hours of Christmas music, but one Hanukkah song makes it magically okay and let’s all thank *spotlight on kid* for introducing it to us. No, we’re not gonna do one of the good ones, just sing Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel.”

            4. Ann O.*

              There are many things in life we don’t understand about why certain things that do not bother us do bother other people. It is not always important that we understand the whys, so much as that we understand that they do and act accordingly.

            5. blushingflower*

              But so you were raised to celebrate Christmas and Easter as secular holidays that included you (I’m guessing that you’re a Gentile). I grew up similarly – not going to church, not being given religious instruction, but celebrating Christmas & Easter as cultural/family holidays. And that is a very different experience from my Jewish friends (even my atheist Jewish friends) who feel very excluded at Christmas (less so at Easter, possibly because they are usually celebrating Passover and possibly because Easter is less of a huge deal in terms of the way it takes over EVERYTHING).

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Normally I’m so cranky on this general issue; I don’t know why I’m not with the specifics on this one. But y’all are right about what you’re saying and I’ve updated the answer in the post.

          1. Sylvia*

            Those mini Cadbury eggs are pretty good.

            /non-Christian who’s normally cranky on this general issue, too

          2. oranges & lemons*

            I wonder if it’s just because Easter egg hunts are so rarely encountered as an adult (at least in my experience).

        4. Mb13*

          As someone who’s Jewish and has experienced some antisemitic questions. Specifically around Easter. Specially about a certain Jesus being killed. If I saw an Easter eggs hidden in my office I would not take it well. And might see it as “hey Jew rembere how you killed Jesus? Well happy Jesus second birthday”.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        Last month we found a candy egg my husband had hidden really well last year. Possibly the year before.

    2. AstroDeco*

      If you think your colleagues would like the distraction, then go for it. Just be low-key when you announce it.
      “To kick off Spring I’ve hidden 20 [plastc] eggs around the office & building. Happy hunting!”

      You might want place the eggs where they can be easily found/semi-visible as one goes through one’s day, like behind some paper by the copier.
      If you really do hide them well, if possible keep track of how many are found so you can let everyone know they’ve all been found.

      I think it’s a cute idea, although I wouldn’t fancy doing an all-out search I would get a kick if I found an egg during my daily tasks. And I think “Easter eggs” is a generic enough thing that no one should get upset by it, however I’ll defer to others to advise you on that.

      Happy hiding!!

      1. Kbug*

        There’s literally the name of the celebration of the resurrection of the Christian messiah in the title. That’s not the slightest bit generic. We once had a “spring egg hunt” which was a little ridiculous, but at least there was some effort put into making it not religious.

        1. Dizzy Steinway*

          See, this is what I don’t get. Easter is a time of mourning for Christians, so anyone wishing people a happy time who’s all chicks and bunnies doesn’t seem that religious to me.

          1. Kbug*

            I can’t explain their traditions, but you can’t name something after a religious holiday then say it isn’t religious. Obviously you can, but it is still inappropriate.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Right, this gets into the debate we have here every December about whether Christmas is secular or not. I’d love to avoid having that debate here again and just all agree that when large numbers of non-Christians don’t consider Christmas or Easter and their trappings to be secular (and in fact feel offended and erased by treating symbols of Christian holidays as universal or secular things), it’s best to respect that and not to argue that they’re secular.

              1. Kbug*

                Maybe it is just a timing thing, but I find it a little odd that you’ve jumped in here, but there’s multiple people in continuation of this and other threads declaring Christmas and Easter decorations secular (and at least one is pretty offensive) and you haven’t asked them to stop saying they’re secular. . I’m assuming that it is just a matter of timing (I think I posted first) but considering that I’m saying they’re not secular symbols and to stop assuming them as such, it just seems a little odd that you chose here to make a statement.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I’m not following why it’s odd (and I was agreeing with you!), but I’m not online 24/7. I don’t want people to expect I will see and respond to everything; I don’t.

                2. Dizzy Steinway*

                  I was going too off-topic, I think. Religious celebrations at work: on-topic. General debates about Easter: not so much.

              2. Kate*

                I don’t want to derail, but as a member of a frequently persecuted and ignored minority religion (Paganism), it really upsets and offends me when non-Pagans declare traditionally Pagan rituals that have been co-opted (culturally appropriated) by Christians to be Christian in origin.

                Not only are they factually not Christian, but when a bunch of Christians pop up and state, yeah, Easter eggs, Christmas trees aren’t Christian, and a bunch of Pagans pop up to state, yeah they are Pagan, ignoring that on the basis of statements by people who aren’t Christian or Pagan seems to be erasing Pagan history and culture to me.

          2. Thlayli*

            Not that it’s relevant to the question but Easter isn’t actually a day of mourning. Good Friday is a day of mourning for Christians because that’s the day Christians believe Jesus died, but Easter is actually a time of celebration because that’s the day Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead.

            Hiding eggs is not actually a religious tradition at all as far as I know. The whole egg symbolism is pagan I believe. And hiding eggs is a uniquely American tradition as far as I know.

            However… given that most Americans apparently believe hiding eggs is a religious tradition then I think it would not be a good idea to do this unless your office already routinely celebrates the religious holidays of all your employees.

            1. mooocow*

              Hiding eggs is definitely not uniquely American. I live in Germany, and it is the default Easter activity here, especially for kids.

              As far as the general topic is concerned – I grew up in a conservative Christian area, am an atheist and am very sceptical towards Christianity (and organized religion in general), but it would never have occurred to me to take issue with someone hiding Easter eggs at work. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, but even in my conservative Christian area of Germany, the hiding of Easter eggs didn’t feel Christian at all. Just another opportunity to have fun and eat chocolate.

              Though I would certainly get annoyed if anyone tried to force me into participating in the activity – the same way I hate any attempts to force me to participate in anything that’s not directly work-related. (Well, come to think of it, I hate people trying to force things on me, period)

              1. Fellow Moomin fan*

                Yup, hiding chocolate eggs for the children to find is very common in the Nordics as well. It’s actually the only Easter tradition we have in my family, I think.

                Easter is indeed a time of sadness (Good Friday) and joy (subsequent resurrection, you know), but this isn’t at all something you notice if you’re not religious: The Easter eggs appear in the shops weeks before Easter. I’ve had at least two so far this spring.

                1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

                  Yes, and all the decorations too. After the Easter holidays the eggs and other Easter candy disappear pretty soon. This is annoying because even if it’s not common here, some of us do observe this thing called Lent and don’t want to start with the candy until the actual Easter sunday, and then keep celebrating in the weeks after it. Same thing with Christmas, actually.

              2. Poohbear McGriddles*

                I was in Germany a few years ago during Easter. Someone at the site where I was working distributed the large Lindt chocolate bunnies on everyone’s desk. And it seemed like the entire city of Hamburg shut down for the four day weekend.
                It’s hard to escape the religious aspect of Easter. After all, it takes divine intervention for rabbits to lay eggs made of candy.

              3. Anja*

                I grew up in Germany and we always had an Easter egg tree. I’m actually thinking I should at some point paint some eggs (or steal the old ones from my parents) so I can bring that tradition back. I have no idea what, if anything, it’s supposed to represent.

                And we did an Easter egg hunt, though I never knew if that came from the German side or the Canadian – or both. We also originally did it with hard boiled eggs. Until the year my brother put his basket under his bed. And found maggots a time later.

            2. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

              I have learned that the egg is an old Christian symbol for resurrection. Because an egg looks like a dead object but then new life comes out of it. The rest of the usual Easter decorations don’t have this kind of Christian connection in their origins as far as I know, and it may well be that some other religions have used eggs as symbols long before Christianity existed. Hiding eggs, on the other hand, sounds very American to me and isn’t a thing in my home country at all.

              However, even though I’m not aware of a Christian symbolism connection with many Easter decorations or traditions, I do understand that they give a signal that a Christian holiday exists and is being noticed. I understand that in a workplace with people from several religions (as an US workplace probably is) it may not be a good move. It would be good in traditionally less diverse countries too to recognize different religions and be OK about it. Including variations of Christianity that are different from the local traditional main church.

              1. Prague*

                The origin, especially for painted eggs, is much older than Christianity. The earliest I’ve been able to trace it back is to Zoroastrian traditions celebrating the Persian new year (No Ruz, or new day), which is celebrated on the first day of spring. Painted eggs are still a thing in Iran. I wouldn’t be surprised if it predated even that.

                Side note: Ever see what looks like a halo or circle on an ancient carving from before Christianity existed? It used to symbolize divine right to rule (along with wings or lotus flowers), so it’s often seen in images of kings. Tangent, I know.

                Additional interesting facts here that go into a bunch of different cultures & egg creation traditions: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/anthropology-in-practice/beyond-ishtar-the-tradition-of-eggs-at-easter/

              2. Artemesia*

                Easter itself is a pagan word and the egg was used for spring rebirth long before Christians co-opted it as a symbol of life.

                But the holiday itself is the high holiest day for Christians.

            3. Koko*

              Hiding eggs is not actually a religious tradition at all as far as I know. The whole egg symbolism is pagan I believe.

              *waves* Hi, it’s your friendly neighborhood pagan. Paganism is my religion, and our traditions are religious traditions.

              1. No, please*

                I believe the bunnies and chicks are also traditionally used for Beltane by some Wiccans. Have you ever (jokingly) suggested a May pole at your office?

              2. Amber T*

                This was once explained to me by my Ukrainian and Christian grandmother, so I don’t know how truly accurate it is, but it’s pretty interesting. The idea of using eggs around Easter came when trying to convert modern day eastern European pagans (she said Ukrainians, but I’m making an assumption here) who use to worship the sun or a sun god. Birds were able to fly, and therefore the closest to this god, so eggs were used a symbol of worship. Ancient Christians have a history of taking local, often pagan traditions, and reworking them so they fit Christianity, and therefore, could gain popularity as a new (or new to region) religion.

                1. No, please*

                  Yes, this is what I found when writing a paper in school. We had to compare and contrast two topics and I chose Catholicism/Wicca. It was so interesting and a fun project.

          3. Akcipitrokulo*

            Just an info thing – it’s not a time of mourning… well, not all of it anyway!

            Good Friday is, for obvious reasons, but Easter Sunday is (meant to be) the most joyous day of the year. Beats the crap out of Christmas day :)

          4. Madeleine Matilda*

            Not to derail the responses to the letter writer, but for Christians, Easter is not a time of mourning. It is a time of great celebration of the resurrection of Christ. Now the chicks and the bunnies, that’s just commercialism taking advantage of a holiday to sell candy.

          5. Erin*

            Good Friday is the time of morning, the day Christ was crucified. Easter is the celebration of his resurrection. So it’s fine to say happy Easter.

          6. Pommette*

            Good Friday is a time of mourning for Christians; Easter is a time of celebration. That said, there are definitely Christians who find standard lay celebrations of Easter (chocolate, eggs, etc.) inappropriate and offensive.

            Easter is special that way: it’s a holiday with (in majority-Christian societies) the potential to simultaneously offend/exclude/make things awkward for people who practice other faiths AND for people who are particularly devout Christians.

          7. TootsNYC*

            Easter is a time of mourning for Christians,

            Actually, it’s not!
            I’m not sure where you’re getting your theology, but:

            It’s a time of great celebration. Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are the times of mourning.
            Easter is the resurrection. It’s the hugest positive celebration of the entire faith.

          8. blushingflower*

            Easter is not a time of mourning (at least not in any church I’ve ever been to). Yes, some Protestant denominations spend a lot of the Easter service talking about the crucifixion, but it’s a celebration of the resurrection, so it really is a joyful holiday.
            (The chicks and the bunnies are mostly about spring [and rebirth, and thereby are vaguely tied to resurrection])

        2. Creag an Tuire*

          The irony being that much of traditional Easter, including the name, is just Christianity appropriating the local spring festivals — we’ve come full circle.

          1. Gen*

            As a pagan living in a country where it’s not classed as a Religion (so we don’t get the same protections to holidays/descrimination as more organised religions) I still had the same conversations with the same manager three years in a row. “Oh we didn’t get you an Easter egg since it’s strictly a Christian holiday!” Also no invite to the Christmas party but have to work on Yule and help decorate.

          2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Bear in mind that the name Easter only exists in a small minority of languages; in the majority, it’s a derivative of Pesach, and far more of traditional Christian celebration draws from Passover traditions than pagan. Celebrations in the US & Canada are unusually influenced by old syncretic traditions.

            1. fposte*

              In fact, celebrations everywhere are usually syncretic; it just looks more cohesive when the ganking goes back a ways.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          “Spring egg hunt” and so forth actually bothers me more — it’s an attempt to pretend it’s not for Easter, when everyone knows it is. It’s like Hooters pretending it’s a family restaurant. Call it what it is, and then decide its appropriateness accordingly!

            1. Gen*

              As usually the only pagan in the office I approve this if it means I get to have all the eggs :p but no, please don’t do that either. I’m very laid back about religious stuff but please don’t try to avoid offending one religion but making jokes about another

              1. Pickles*

                Ugh, I hear you. I had a boss once who kept talking about “keeping the pagans happy” by doing XYZ at the holidays, thinking he was being inclusive. We finally had a climate survey where I complained anonymously – I’m in an area bordering the Bible Belt – and several sources confirmed that the leadership spent more time trying to find out who complained on anything than on fixing it. But I never heard that jerk say it again.

          1. Ann O.*

            I think of it more like holiday parties over the winter time. Do I really think holiday parties are inspired by Hannukah or Diwali? No, I am not fooled. But it breaks the link between the action and the religious connection. So while I have no innate desire for a Spring Egg Hunt, if I am going to be socially pressured into participating in some form of egg hunt, I want the link between the egg hunt and the holiday officially broken.

            Also, egg hunts are apparently a thing in daycares and schools (is this common? I grew up in a super Jewish area–we did NOT have egg hunts at our school). I am currently wrestling with how to handle my child’s school having an Easter Egg Hunt in a way that does not cause my child to feel guilty, isolated, or singled out. Whereas when her daycare had a Spring Egg Hunt, I was okay with it. There really isn’t much actually religious abut dressing up like bunnies and hunting eggs to celebrate spring. But you slap Easter on the name, and it can’t help but be religious because it’s connected to a religious holiday. Other’s mileage may vary.

            1. Czhorat*

              It depends.

              My daughter did the Easter thing at preschool, IIRC. My son went to the JCC, where the springtime holiday craft was a Seder plate.

          2. amy*

            Maybe a day of education about battery farms and exploitation of young women for egg harvesting! All about the value of eggs and the horrible ways in which we grab them from ladies of all species, and how we can do better! EASTER IS A FEMINIST VERB. DIG IT.

            With chocolate at the end, of course. Fair trade chocolate made by well-paid, well-trained chocolatiers. Ah.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Um. “Easter egg” is not a generic term unless you’re referring to the kind that show up in video games, TV and films.

        I don’t want to devolve into an “Easter can be secular!” debate because, for many non-Christians, it is in no way secular—even the parts cooped from pagan fertility celebrations (see: eggs). So although there are certainly non-Christians who aren’t bothered by it, there are also a significant number who would find it to be a well-intentioned but obnoxious introduction of religion to the workplace.

        That doesn’t mean one position is right or more reasonable than the other—it just means that anyone who wants to introduce “low key” religious celebrations/activities should be aware that it could alienate one’s coworkers. Or maybe it wouldn’t. You have to know your coworkers and your employer pretty well to determine which outcome is more likely and whether you’re ok with the fallout if your assessment is wrong.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Ugh, I meant coopted (wasn’t referring to “bunny coops”).

        2. MK*

          While I know a lot of non-Christians who consider Christmas secular, I don’t think I ever met anyone who feels that way about Easter. Probably has to do with the resurection.

          1. FiveWheels*

            I’m an atheist, brought up in a Christian family, and we consider Easter secular. I’m not sure if this is a denominational thing or a geographical thing but I can’t really think of any Christians I know who use the Easter bank holiday for anything other than relaxing.

            1. MK*

              I am guessing it’s cultural. In my country the religious nature of Christmas goes largely unnoticed; only particularly observant people will do anything more than maybe go to the morning service on Christmas Day and most, myself included, don’t even do that. Easter, though, most people will attend at least one service during the week and everyone who is not a declared atheist will go to the midnight service on Saturday, even if only for a few minutes.

              1. FiveWheels*

                I think in general the USA is much more in your face Christian than the UK, despite – or probably because – one branch of Christianity is established.

                People in general don’t seem to stress about religion. The idea of “observing” Easter didn’t even occur to me until a recent thread about religious holidays, and even then “observing” would just consist of going to church once.

                It’s common for people to go off a particular food for Lent but again this is entirely secular – it’s like going off alcohol for January. And far from respecting the abstainers, the unofficial job of non – abstainers is tempting those around them with chocolate.

                I think in the UK just about everyone knows the supposed symbolism of the egg representing re-birth and also the rock covering the tomb, but then you bring chicks and bunnies and chocolate into it and it’s clear that the religious aspect is a cover story for food.

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          Hiding bonus content easter eggs around the office would be an interesting change up.

          “I need the Collier numbers.”
          “I think they’re in a blue plastic egg. Somewhere…”

          1. LQ*

            I do easter eggs in our elearnings sometimes. My coworkers do NOT like it because they think that you have to have all the information, but usually it’s like a “Did you know” with information that is barely tangential but interesting. I stand by that it makes people more likely to try to click the things and learn the stuff.

            “Did you know the first chocolate teapot was created in 1734?”

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I would be 1000% behind this kind of easter egg hunt in the workplace.

      3. AstroDeco*

        I retract my comment, especially the term “generic.” I’m sorry if I caused offence! Really I wasn’t fond of “spring egg hunt” either.
        OP, no “Happy hiding” either, although I appreciate that you wanted do do something to make your colleagues smile. Just remember that Easter eggs & Hanukah balls aren’t the best methods toward that goal.

    3. Clewgarnet*

      I work for company that, last year, had business-wide events for Christmas, Easter, Eid, Holi, and Chinese New Year. They usually take place in the work canteen in the last hour of the working day and extend after work, and tend to involve food, maybe some demonstrations of/chances to try ‘traditional’ dances from the various cultures, music, etc. They’re mostly attended by people from the cultures who actually celebrate but ‘outsiders’ are also welcome.

      Our Easter celebration is usually a cheap Easter egg left on each person’s desk, and a low-key Easter egg hunt with creme eggs left dotted around the place.

      I’m somewhere between an atheist and a pagan, and while I’d probably get a bit grumpy if we only celebrated the Christian holidays, the inclusion of other religions and cultures makes me enjoy the break from everyday office life. Then again, I’m lucky enough to work in a VERY multi-cultural office, which is reflected in the make-up of the social committee. If the office was all-white, it would feel very forced to do what we do.

    4. Zathras*

      For those who object, would it matter at all whether it was presented as a passive vs. active hunt? To me there is a huge difference between “let’s all spend the next 45 minutes hunting for the eggs I hid” vs. just kind of hiding them in places that are nominally out of sight but where someone would easily find them in the course of a normal work day – like inside the coffee tin, or in the printer’s out tray, or whatever. (Although there’s often at least one hyper-competitive person that turns the passive hunt into the active hunt, so maybe that’s not a great distinction.)

      I’m kind of where Alison’s at on this one – normally I’m a stickler for no religion at work and this is not something I would have initiated, but if someone else did I wouldn’t have thought it was a big deal. But there are enough people posting that they would have an issue with it that I defer to them.

      I also think it would be fine in a much smaller team of people you knew well enough to know whether they would be OK with it, but it’s hard to know a 20 person office that well.

      1. Lora*

        I object primarily because if they are real actual hardboiled eggs, there are invariably a couple that don’t get found until they smell, and tearing everything apart months later to find the source of the stench is very much not any fun at all.

        Candy distribution is iffy. I mean, is it Lindt or Hershey’s?

        Marshmallow Peep dioramas are cool, though. Just don’t make a giant mess in the microwave with Peep Wars.

        1. Zathras*

          I was assuming those plastic eggs, since OP mentioned candy. And that a list of hiding spots would be kept so any undiscovered eggs could be removed at the end of the day lest mice find them.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        No, it would make no difference. The issue isn’t the hunt; it’s that you’re introducing a religious-holiday-related-celebration into a workplace where you may have coworkers who do not identify with that religion and would find it obnoxious/frustrating. Whether an activity is passive or active doesn’t really diminish feelings of being invisibilized or excluded.

        1. Zathras*

          Yeah, that makes sense. I think I was coming at it from the standpoint that it’s kind of opt-in in that way. But when I think about it more, you don’t really have a choice about noticing the eggs and they serve as a reminder that you are a minority – and someone raised a good point elsewhere that it’s ALWAYS the minority that has to do the mental gymnastics.

          I’m mentally comparing it to when I (a woman) go to a tech conference with free swag but the smallest available t-shirt is Men’s Large. Here is this free gift that is actually a reminder that you are marginalized! Aren’t we nice!

    5. The Show from Space*

      My workplace is planning an Easter egg hunt, too. My first assumption was that we were inviting daycare kids for an egg hunt in our building, since we’ve done events like that in the past. However, this is going to be an egg hunt for employees as a ‘thank you’. I’m certain I’ll be able to politely decline participating without anyone blinking an eye and it isn’t a hill I want to fight over, let alone die on.

      Beyond the religious issues that I think other comments have correctly pointed out, an egg hunt at work feels out of place to me. I think I would feel the same if my boss proposed playing Red Rover or hide and seek as a way to get us up and active. I can imagine having fun playing that with my friends, even now, but it isn’t something that I want to do with my coworkers.

  5. Marisol*

    For #3, I don’t get why it’s a problem to clock out, yet physically stay on the premises. I often find it easier to do certain personal tasks, such as paying bills, on my work computer because while at my desk in the office I am in “work mode” and I feel resentful if I have to spend a lot of time on the computer on the weekends. So I’d rather bang it out at work. I’ve stayed past 5 occasionally just to get that personal stuff done, and I’ve stayed at my desk during lunch time to work on personal tasks. I am “clocked out” during that time, although I don’t punch a time clock, and no one cares that I do this.

    Although staying on the work premises after having been told not to does constitute insubordination, I think it’s a stupid rule to begin with. Especially if the poor woman doesn’t have a computer. If I were her boss, I would tell her not to do any company work, and trust her if she says she doesn’t. Making a big deal about this seems needlessly rigid.

    1. Dizzy Steinway*

      Well, hang on just a second now. If you feel resentful about spending time on the computer at weekends, that’s not your employer’s problem. They are there to fulfil the needs of their business, not to help you do personal tasks in your preferred way. Plus the OP has pointed out that, as an hourly employee, there are issues (which presumably exist whether or not you believe people mind).

      Given that OP says “I have an employee” it sounds like they could be the owner, perhaps of a small business. The employee who stays late is using lighting etc and potentially costing OP more on their bills (lighting etc) which can add up.

      And you know what? If I had a business I don’t know that I’d be thrilled by people staying there hours after I told them to go home. It’s not rigid to have a problem with that.

      1. Dot Warner*

        If you feel resentful about spending time on the computer at weekends, that’s not your employer’s problem. They are there to fulfil the needs of their business, not to help you do personal tasks in your preferred way.

        Exactly! It sucks that the employee doesn’t have a computer at home, but if she wants to spend 4 hours a day playing games, she needs to buy her own computer. If she can’t afford that, she needs to find another way to entertain herself after work.

        And as Leah pointed out, there might be a liability issue – maybe the business is in a bad neighborhood and it isn’t safe for the employee to be there so late or maybe they work with sensitive information.

      2. Marisol*

        I didn’t say it was my employer’s problem to help me do tasks in my preferred way. I’m saying I think there are understandable reasons for why someone would want to stay at their desk at work without doing work for the company, and that I have done this without it being a problem for the employer, and moreover, that it’s possible to physically be at your desk and yet not be on the clock. While I agree that issues with liability or overhead would be legitimate reasons to prevent an employee from staying late; the OP doesn’t mention those things; her sole objection is to paying overtime.

        Most people have some degree of co-mingling between their personal and professional life and there is nothing wrong with that. We’re not robots. Employees give a substantial amount of time an effort to their employers, and I think begrudging someone the use of their desk and computer for a few hours after work, while procedurally correct, is nonetheless skinflinty.

          1. Marisol*

            So what?

            All I can say is, if I had an employee who wanted to hang out at her desk past closing, and if I trusted that employee and was satisfied with her job performance, and there were no liability or overhead issues with letting her stay late, I would not care if she did so. That’s the kind of boss I would be. You’d be a different kind of boss I guess. Ok, vive la difference.

              1. Marisol*

                I don’t care. We have a difference of opinion. Not hashing this out anymore. Take care.

            1. Annonymouse*

              But trust is an issue here.

              Employee is being asked to comply with a reasonable leave time and rule and choosing to ignore it. This shows that the boss is right to not want them there as they aren’t doing actions to build trust.

              There is a chance (a small one) that this employee will claim for back hours/overtime.

              There is a chance they could be doing something untoward while there.

              It’s different if they phrase it as “Do you mind if I clock out and stay in the office until 6 to avoid traffic?” And the boss agrees to it.

              They are doing it after being told not to and ignoring a reasonable request from their boss.

            2. MK*

              You can be any kind of boss you want, but it’s pretty disingenuous to claim that it’s a “stupid rule” and “needlessly rigid” to not allow an employee to use the office as a pied a terre after hours. The workplace exists for work to be done, not for the employees to hang out because they don’t want to go home. It’s not something you can assume you should be allowed to do; even if you have valid reasons for wanting to do so, you should ask permission beforehand, and certainly you should explain why you want to do it after you are told not to.

              1. Marisol*

                It’s my opinion–why would you say my opinion is “disingenuous”? Do you know what that word means?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          In some cases, that is fine. In others, it isn’t. The manager is making the call that it’s not in this case, and she has an employee who’s ignoring her. (And really, the employee ignoring her instructions on this would make more concerned that she will ignore instructions about not working overtime as well.)

      3. Enya*

        I agree! If the boss doesn’t want anyone there, it doesn’t matter why. Its not the company’s responsibility to make up for her not having a life or not being able to afford a computer. If I were the boss, I wouldn’t want people staying late either. They might slip and fall. They might have a friend come visit who steals or slips and falls. Even if I were sure nothing bad would happen, the company gets to set rules and this is one of the rules. The employee doesn’t get to decide not to follow them. Boss needs to have a Stern talk with her.

    2. Jeanne*

      This may be a big company/small company issue. We had 2 shifts, about 50 people in cubicles, many more than 50 in the building just other areas, flex time. If I stayed late to do a half hour of personal stuff, no one noticed. In a small company it could be really obvious. I was also salaried. I can understand OP’s concern. I wonder why OP wants to stay late a lot.

    3. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      The problem is that she is hourly, not salaried.

      It’s too hard to prove she’s not working, should something arise.

    4. The Wall of Creativity*

      And what if it’s pouring with rain outside and the employee wants to stand in reception for 20 minutes waiting for it to stop? Do you chuck her outside to get soaked?

      1. Perse's Mom*

        If you didn’t check the forecast or did and forgot your umbrella, yeah… you brave the rain. My shift ends at 9. That’s when my building closes. I survive the weather fluctuations, somehow.

      2. Annonymouse*

        rain tends to be a one off thing and we know the employee has a car so unless they are parked blocks away somewhere it rains frequently this isn’t the issue.

        This isn’t “occasionally my employee stays back when it rains” this sounds like its happening daily.

      3. MK*

        But that’s not really the issue here. We are not talking about occasionally hanging for a short time in the office, but of making it a habit to spend hours there after hours.

      4. Stitch*

        I think you can make an analogy in that case to say, if you were at a restaurant and it was pouring rain. It’s bad form to linger well after a meal normally, and if the restaurant is packed with waiting people, you should be moving to the bar or heading out in the rain. But choosing to linger in some situations is okay (as long as you super tip the waiter appropriately). Not okay to do that kind of lingering normally, important to read the room and compensate.

    5. A Person*

      It would thing it one thing to occasionally knock out a couple of personal tasks either while on lunch or after work, I do sometimes, but when it’s at the point where the employee is staying regularly enough and late enough that other people have noticed, I think it’s reasonable to set boundaries. It sets the employer up for any number of obvious and sometimes, not so obvious issues.

    6. Perse's Mom*

      While the OP might see the other arguments for some leeway on this and take them to heart, you’re being unnecessarily aggressive to the OP (repeatedly) for trying to enforce what IS a rule in their office while ignoring the OP’s actual question.

    7. Stitch*

      I can think of a lot of legitimate reasons. The security/liability issue is definitely one (does the security or insurance contract cover this).

      But also the mere using of your computer for 5 extra hours would be a problem. Every place I have worked has allowed personal computer usage, but it usually has to be limited, often with a bandwidth usage restriction (people often get warnings/written up this time of year for streaming sports). If this person is doing 5 hours of personal usage, including gaming, that’s not going to be a limited personal usage – that’s a LOT. From a pure computer usage policy perspective that’s not okay.

      I’ll also add that it’s probably difficult from a management perspective – is this person drawing appropriate work/personal boundaries? Does the gaming continue during work hours? Can she get her work done in 8 hours? No one really can know and it makes her harder to manage. I’m required to overlap a certain amount of my supervisee’s work hours (partially for supervision, partially to have someone there to resolve issues). Someone there from 9 to 9 would be a nightmare for coverage.

      1. Natalie*

        Eh, I think focusing on computer usage is a bit too legalistic. Typically usage is restricted because it causes distraction or because streaming eats bandwidth *during the workday*, not because there’s some inherent problem with those activities. I think the OP will be better off if they focus on their actual area of concern, rather than the kitchen sink approach of throwing every possible reason out there.

        1. Stitch*

          But there could be Internet agreements with their provider too. If our want high speed for gaming, that isn’t on the office. It’s just one of the many reasons this isn’t okay.

          1. Natalie*

            If that was a problem, the LW probably would have mentioned it.

            They have a perfectly good reason to not want their employee sticking around after hours. They don’t need to bolster their case with other potential reasons, they can just address the issue at hand.

        2. TL -*

          You’re probably right but if she’s doing serious gaming, she can significantly shorten the computer’s expected lifespan (which the OP may not be aware of). A few hours of surfing the web/playing solitaire isn’t going to do anything but a few hours of graphics-heavy games/day could burn a computer out much faster than expected.

          1. Buffy Summers*

            Really? I didn’t know that. I don’t play games on my work computer, but I certainly do at home and I didn’t realize it could burn the computer out faster. Glad you posted that – it’s good information to know.

            1. Jeanne*

              There’s a difference between playing some solitaire and “serious gaming”. Some of those role playing games or shoot em up with heavy graphics are issues. You need a better computer if you do a lot of that. If you’re playing a few FB games, don’t worry too much.

            2. TL -*

              Yup. I don’t play games but I do video editing and there’s a lot of cross-over in terms of specs and types of usage and I’ve definitely shortened the life of a few laptops via relatively light video editing.

              But Jeanne is right – it does have to be fairly serious gaming.

          2. Anna*

            Most work computers wouldn’t be able to hack the kinds of graphics load you’re thinking of. At least, my work computer isn’t built for that level of graphical need. I get the feeling the OP is referring mainly to Facebook games and similar.

    8. Natalie*

      In general I agree with you – I’ve done homework on my office computer at two workplaces because the screen set up was better than what I had at home. (My bosses were perfectly fine with this.)

      In this situation, though, the employee has demonstrated that she can not be trusted to be absolutely scrupulous about not working off the clock/unauthorized overtime. That alone would be reason for me to forbid staying late. It’s more about being able to rely on the employee’s word than the extra money or computer usage.

      1. Marisol*

        Not being able to trust your employee to tell the truth is extremely weird to me, but I guess there are all kinds of business models and all kinds of employer/employee relationships.

        1. Natalie*

          You know, I was going to say that she’s already shown she can’t be trusted, but I re-read the letter and I had missed that the LW was saying there was a potential for her not to work OT. When I read it last night I thought the LW had said it had already happened. So I’m more inclined to say it wouldn’t be a big deal to me, as a manager.

          That said, I do currently work in a company where we cannot trust people not help us follow labor law. I am genuinely baffled by it, but I have (for example) an hourly worker who skips lunch multiple days a week, in a state where we are required to give him a lunch break. My department can tell his boss until we’re blue in the face that he needs to stop because it exposes us to liability, but his boss is never going to fire him for being “such a good employee” and we can’t force the issue. In that circumstance, I might physically lock my workers out if that’s what I needed to do to keep from having a big OT bill down the road.

    9. Yorick*

      If the only issue is that she might claim overtime, maybe having a physical/virtual clocking in and out would help. It would show that she stopped working at a certain time, even if she continued to sit at her desk past that.

      But if there are other concerns, she needs to be told directly not to do this and then written up if she does it anyway.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq*

        This wouldn’t necessarily cover them, though – you’re entitled to payment for work not entered on a time-sheet. If they can’t trust her not to work “off the clock” they need to ensure she’s not hanging around after her shift.

      2. Bea*

        Clocking out doesn’t matter. I’ve seen multiple cases of people who come at at an employer after they left to claim unpaid OT. They claimed to have been made to only log 40hrs but were strong-armed into working after the fact. The employer got a huge bill to sum it up. “I knew she was there but didn’t think she was still working” is a “LOL mkay sure” from the labor board.

    10. Director of Things*

      If the office is otherwise still open past 5:30 pm and there is somewhere other than her desk she can go (break room comes to mind), I would think accommodations could be made for that.

    11. seejay*

      I’ve read enough of AAM that working past the scheduled time, when an employee is not salaried, is fraught with peril. Just on the surface, an employee that’s paid hourly is required to be paid overtime by law, whether they clock it or not. So just looking at it from that perspective, you have an employer that doesn’t seem to want to pay overtime (based on the letter, and that’s their right to… they could possibly have set a budget for how much they want to pay their employee and overtime isn’t included). Their employee is now going against that and putting in overtime that they’re required to pay. If they don’t, the employee can get them in trouble. If the employee *doesn’t* clock in the overtime and doesn’t get paid, and says they’re not working, but then later on down the road says they were working overtime and didn’t get paid, the employer can get in legal trouble because they are required by law to have paid it, even if they didn’t authorize the overtime (I read that on AAM).

      So taking out all speculation of why the employee might be hanging around (might be playing games, avoiding home, not have a social life, just wants to work on bills or whatever else)… this opens a bunch of legal problems for the employer because the employee could possibly claim they were working (true or not) and not getting paid for the overtime put in.

      And simply put… employer said outright: They don’t want the employee in the office past a certain time, so it’s not a “stupid rule”. Employer gets to make the rules because they have reasons that you aren’t privy to, employees have to follow them, end of story. This isn’t up for debate about the validity or stupidity of it, the employer isn’t dumb for having it, they have reasons for it and they don’t need to justify it, and it’s profoundly rude of someone who has no idea where the employer is coming from and their reasons to just throw it all away as “stupid” otherwise.

  6. Ayla K*

    For OP#1, this depends so much on office culture, but you know yours best. If you decide to do it, I’d recommend making a quick note of where you hid each egg so you don’t end up with melty chocolate a month later (in case your hiding skills are above average and there’s an extra sneaky egg or two that everyone somehow misses.)

    1. Artemesia*

      Chocolate discovered a month later is not a problem, but go easy on the hardboiled eggs and baby chicks.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Now I have images flashing through my mind of emaciated baby chicks left willy nilly on back bookshelves. o_o

        1. Thlayli*

          They need a heat source to hatch so if you’re hiding fertilised eggs put them near the radiator.

          And don’t forget if it’s a dragon egg it needs to be actually in the fire constantly to hatch.

      2. Ayla K*

        My office is excessively warm, so even chocolate discovered a few days later would be a melted mess. YMMV

  7. anonymouse*

    #1: Before you do this, please be aware that some people might be uncomfortable because for non-Christians, Easter has many more religious connotations than Christmas. I can see a lot of people taking it as a cute or indifferent gesture, but as someone who isn’t Christian, I’m much more uncomfortable with people wishing me a Happy Easter or trying to get me to partake in Easter related events than I am with anything regarding Christmas.

    1. Caro in the UK*

      This is me too. I don’t make a fuss about it, because I realise that for the most part it’s well intentioned. But it does make me feel uncomfortable.

    2. Sylvia*

      Yep. It’s also not because I find Christianity’s existence offensive, which is how I’ve sometimes seen Christians interpret this kind of comment.

      It’s because I think going through the motions of a faith that isn’t mine is kind of an insult to followers of that faith and to my own beliefs. Would you think it was okay for someone to kind of pretend they have your religious beliefs for fun a few times a year? Not really, right?

  8. Oscar Madisoy*

    In response to 3. Employee keeps staying late at work despite being told not to:

    If there is no security concern, and if there is no overtime issue (for instance, if the employee was required to swipe in and out, and the employee swiped out at 5.30pm), and if we presume this isn’t a small office where the employee would be the only person there, is it really that big a deal?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If she has reason not to trust the employee not to work during that time (which she says is the case), then yes — because as she notes, she could end up owing overtime pay even though she didn’t authorize the work.

      1. Marisol*

        If you can’t trust your employee not to work when she says she won’t work, then the problem is that your employee is not trustworthy.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Eh, maybe, maybe not. Lots of highly conscientious employees think they’re doing good by working extra unpaid hours. Seriously, this a thing that happens with otherwise trustworthy people. (But again, if the manager has clearly told her to stop and she hasn’t stopped, there’s a different problem.)

          1. TootsNYC*

            It’s also possible that, not realizing the serious legal position the company may find itself in, she thinks they’re just being nice by telling her not to hang around a little. So, still not good that she’s not following directions, but it doesn’t automatically mean she’s Untrustworthy.

            It’s still problematic, though–because you want people to follow your directions without your having to justify every reason behind them; if you say, “file this here,” will she? Or will she think she knows better? If you say, “precision is more important than speed; the customer can wait a little bit,” will she think she knows better, and rush through something to make a customer happy?

            So my approach would be to lay out the reasons why her staying late is a problem, and then point out that it makes me worry about her compliance in every other area, and that it’s bad for her reputation with me. And that I’m going to be watching carefully to see if she is overriding our instructions or pooh-pooh-ing our procedures/concerns/priorities in other areas.

            1. Christine*

              It’s also a liability or security issue if they are staying after hours. When I worked in Clinical Research we had to have two people in the office. One person couldn’t come in by themselves and work on the weekend, etc. You had to make arrangements for someone to come in with you on the weekends, or stay after hours on the weekend. I used to stay late and or come early when I was taking classes and use my PC at work, but I had permission to do so.

              I would also look to see what they are doing on the computer after hours. The company is liable for whatever the employee is doing while in the building. Or if something happens to them in the parking lot if they are leaving quite late and no one is around?

              I have had people that habitually stay late that would go through other people’s offices, trash and desks. When that’s happened, we would rig up something to scare them to make them aware, that we know they are snooping.

              OP, you might have to stand in front of her desk and tell her to back it up. I would do that a couple of times, than if they revert back to staying late write them up.

    2. Dizzy Steinway*

      Someone posted something on this site a while ago about how a ‘no because…’ doesn’t mean a ‘yes, but for…’

      It’s not unreasonable to not want employees staying hours and hours after they’re meant to go home. This feels a bit like saying: well, I don’t agree with your boundaries, so I’m not keeping to them unless you can prove to me why you should have them.

      Insisting someone should be allowed to stay at work for hours and hours, kind of like they live there, unless someone produces a good-enough reason why not, is setting up that kind of dichotomy.

    3. amy*

      I am actually that employee who gets told to go home. (Or at least I was until the DOL overtime thing happened and I started tracking my hours, and realized how much of my life I was…donating. Thank you, DOL.) I also get really comfortable once I’m in a groove and prefer to just stay and truck through whatever it is till I’m done. I’ve even been the employee who brings a sleeping bag and camps out on the office floor overnight to hit a deadline. But I understand the liability and overtime issues, and if something happens in or to the building while the employee’s there after everyone else has gone home, it just sounds like asking for trouble. I agree — being firm and saying “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here” is appropriate.

      1. Meg Murry*

        I’m also often that employee that stays late at work to take care of personal things, especially on the nights I don’t have to rush to get my kids. Especially when I was first out of college, I didn’t have a computer at home, and even if I did, I wouldn’t have been able to afford high speed internet access. So when it came to things like paying my bills online, sending personal emails or doing my taxes, it was almost always easier to do those kind of things from my work computer – and if I was doing them after hours, it’s not like I was tying up valuable bandwith during prime business hours. My only other option was to go put my name on the list so I could wait almost an hour to get 30 minutes of time on the computers at the library, which were always slow and super buggy, which was such a pain.

        That said, I was almost always salaried, not hourly, when I was doing these things – and when I was hourly I always made it explicitly clear with my boss “hey, I’m going to stop working at my regular time but I need to stay late to take care of some errands on my computer, so don’t be alarmed if you see me here after 5” – and it wasn’t something I did every day.

        I know some companies have gone to using computer sign-ins and sign-outs as a way to clock in and out for the day – if that’s the case, I could see it being a pain for OP to have to go adjust the records all the time, and that might throw up some red flags.

        Personally, I’ve never worked anywhere where it was a big deal for a person to stay late using the computer they were assigned for work for personal use, as long as they weren’t doing anything inappropriate or keeping others from being able to work. However, if OP is the boss and she doesn’t want her employee staying after hours, she needs to be explicit about that.

    4. A Person*

      Even if there isn’t a security issue, it could still end up being a liability issue. Or it could be an issue that the building custodian can’t lock up until everyone is out. And if there isn’t any issue at all, it’s still fair to want the employee out by a reasonable time.

    5. Perse's Mom*

      This would be tremendously distracting in my office. There’s an assumption that if someone is at their desk in the office, they’re available for work related tasks, and it would be very odd to ask Sue to do X if she’s working late only to be told that she’s not working, she’s just… spending extra hours at her desk, not working?

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        This was what I was thinking, particularly since OP thinks she might work when she’s staying late. I could easily see this happening in an office where other employees aren’t hourly or have different work schedules. And since it sounds like she is just hanging out in the office to kill time until traffic dies down or whatever, I can see this employee being happy to help colleagues with work tasks while she’s technically off the clock. Which could cause big problems for OP. Frankly, I don’t blame OP for wanting her to leave the office when her work day is done.

    6. A.*

      Insubordination is a big deal, but is it possible to change the employee’s work hours to 9-6? I’m sure it would depend on what she does there and if other people routinely work later than 5:30, but it would negate her traffic argument so she has no reason to push back when directly told she has to leave on time.

      1. Purest Green*

        This seems like a great solution if you can be flexible with her working hours.

      2. TootsNYC*

        And, if the workload can accommodate that sort of shift, it’s just a nice thing to do for someone who works for you.

    7. Karen K*

      Maybe it’s because I work in a 24/7 situation (hospital), but my first reaction was, well, why not? What’s the problem? It kind of reminded me of the various letters we get from managers complaining that people are 5-10 minutes late every day. AAM’s position on this is that unless it’s a role where being on time is required, let it go.

      I can see others have issues with this for various reasons, and the OP in particular believes that the employee does sometimes do work after hours. Someone has suggested changing her hours so that she leaves at 6 pm. If this would work, I’d try it.

    8. TootsNYC*

      The employee having swiped out has nothing to do with whether she’s working. She could easily swipe out, then continue to do some work–and now the company is on the hook for the risk of getting in trouble for unpaid hours.

      If she were an exempt employee, I might encourage the boss to overlook the extra half hour for traffic.

      But she’s not.

  9. Dizzy Steinway*

    #5 I’m curious as to why you think this would reflect negatively on you both? It sounds like you might think you’re tripping on an unwritten rule – don’t worry, you’re not. People job hunt for all kinds of reasons and it makes sense if people in similar roles are attracted to similar vacancies. Plus you mentioned that the job market you’re looking in is small, so this probably happens a lot. So don’t worry! You’ll only raise eyebrows if you put wildly different things, or trash talk each other, you’re good. Hope you both find something soon.

    1. Amber T*

      Agreed. If anything, whoever is looking at both of your resumes might raise their eyebrows and think something’s wrong with your company/manager/something, but I doubt it would be more than a passing thought really.

  10. Kbug*

    Seems like I’m in the minority here, but if I came in to a bunch of Easter Eggs throughout the building I’d probably be bothered and text my husband something about goyim. I’m not terribly religious, but seriously, your holidays are ALL over the place. I mean, I leave the building and it is a verifiable explosion of pastels and peeps, but I can’t even get matzah from after 2015, and now you need to put it throughout the office, too?

    That said, you know your office culture and what people like, so if you think everyone would enjoy it, I guess go for it. If you want to do something spring-y, might I suggest stopping by your garden center or store for a cut flower for each employee? Daffodils are currently 15cents a piece here.

    1. amy*

      For real. We’ve been trying to get the local school district to pay attention to other people’s holidays, for at least, and I am not making this up, the last four decades, and even after actually making calendars for them, we still get high-stakes testing scheduled for Yom Kippur. Sharpen those number two pencils!

      It’s really the persistent, willful obliviousness I mind more than anything else. If there were roughly equivalent recognition coming back the other way, I could be more tolerant.

        1. amy*

          They did fix the problem once notified. The problem is we have to go in and make a stink about some sort of High Holidays or Passover problem every. single. year. despite. calendars.

          At one point I got so pissed off that I wrote a long ranty letter to the school board — this was about a school-boundary-changing thing that was meant to help the kids with leaving the old school and friends, and start bonding with the new teachers and principal, and of course it was on erev RH — and told them and the principals that they owed my kid an apology, *and they actually wrote letters apologizing to her*. And changed the date of the thing, iirc. I still have the letters.

          Of course we still had to fix the problems again the next year.

      1. Jessie the First (or second)*

        That is beyond obnoxious – wow. To not only have school on major Jewish holidays but…. high stakes testing? My town has Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah off every year, which I appreciate. (I’m not Jewish but I grew up atheist in the US and know what it feels like to be an outlier, when the “default” is Christian.)

        1. amy*

          Jews are something like…I’ve lost track. Almost none of the people here. There are certainly more Muslims. So I don’t hold it against them for having school and low-importance events on those dates. Big things, though…and coaches throwing attitude at kids who miss because of holidays…yeah.

          Probably the biggest shock I got was when I was in the middle of divorcing, and while I’m not really religious, you never know what a kid will go for, so I wanted to protect my daughter’s time in case she was experimenting with this stuff and wanted to be able to observe some of the less-giant holidays. Showed the list to the lawyer and she pitched a fit. Nobody’s heard of these holidays, she says, the judge will think you’re trying to cheat her dad out of visitation. Said there was a Muslim guy who’d just gone through that. She insisted that no normal person had ever heard of these things, people would think I was trying to make things up. Eventually I went to the rabbi and asked him what he though, and, being a sensible man, he said, forget about them, it’s not worth the fight, she’ll observe them when she’s older if she wants.

          I was really shaken by that, though. I mean what if I had been really religious? Too bad for you, your holidays exist only if the Christian judges have heard of them.

      2. Pommette*

        I used to work as a teaching assistant. We always tried not to schedule any bit exams/assignments/etc. on major holidays.

        And yet every year, at the last minute, we would get elaborate messages from the university administration about accommodating students who couldn’t attend classes or exams because religious obligations. And it would always come as if it were a giant surprise. One year Eid fell during the official exam period. Exam time/spaces were outside of instructors’ control, so we couldn’t just do the obvious thing, and *not schedule an exam on a major religious holiday*. Unnecessary mess created!

        No lessons were learned, despite pressure from students and instructors alike.
        Which is to say that I am both sorry and unsurprised to hear about the absurd position your school board has taken. (And neverjaunty has a point, if that is an option).

      3. Case of the Mondays*

        My state’s default parenting plan has all of the christian holidays and then an other box. The forms are available online. It would be so much easier for them to just have a few different forms, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, etc.

    2. Observer*

      That said, you know your office culture and what people like, so if you think everyone would enjoy it, I guess go for it.

      That assumes that there is no one in the place that would be uncomfortable, but would never speak for whatever reason. If that’s the case, the OP would probably not know about it.

      And, please don’t blame anyone who doesn’t speak up. There are so many reasons why people feel that they can’t speak up about this kind of thing.

      1. Kbug*

        Did you read the rest of my comment, where I explain how as a religious minority I would find it extremely annoying, and where I offered other suggestions for the OP to celebrate spring?

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I don’t think Observer is criticizing you, but rather, building on the point you’re making to explain that even if no one complains, it could bother them.

          1. Thlayli*

            What if employee sent out an email with anonymous voting buttons in advance and didn’t do it unless it was unanimously wanted. Could do this for any and all celebrations. With only 20 people in the team there’s a good chance that all 20 might actually want it /not be bothered by it.

            Only problem is when a new person joins they might feel like they would not be anonymous if they voted against.

            1. Gadfly*

              When you have to go to lengths like that for something not business related, don’t do it. Because it means you are REALLY setting yourself up for later when someone does object but now it is tradition.

          2. Kbug*

            Ah if that’s the case pardon me Observer, I read it differently than intended, and thanks PCBH for letting me know.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I agree. I’ve been that employee who said nothing but found a religious celebration problematic (it wasn’t Easter—it was a Saint’s Day, and it included other staff members reading aloud Bible passages referring to the blood of Jesus… but frankly, if Easter were during the workweek I’m sure it would have come up).

        Even assuming your workplace doesn’t actively make non-Christians feel ostracized, it can be hard for someone to speak up. In my experience, folks who want to engage all staff in religious activities at work try to argue with you that their celebration is secular (it is not), or that their other non-Christian friend loves participating (that’s nice—I don’t), or that you’re a First Amendment killjoy who hates religion and wants to take away other people’s fun. And even if they don’t say any of those things to your face, you get to hear folks complaining around you or giving you side-eye. It’s awful.

        I usually try to avoid putting someone in that position to begin with. There are other ways to celebrate spring or introduce candy / scavenger hunts.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, whether it’s annoying behavior or obtrusive religion, it’s a myth that if nobody has complained it didn’t bother anybody.

    3. Lora*

      This is a great idea!! Flowers are always a good choice. Especially daffodils, they are so cheerful for those of us suffering through a long winter.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq*

        I would love some flowers around the office – spring is freaking dreary in my part of the world.

  11. AstroDeco*

    OP3: Talk to your employee as Alison suggested & explain there’s a liability issue whilst she is on your property. You should also outline acceptable personal use of company property whether or not one is on the clock.
    If she doesn’t have a personal computer & wants one though can’t afford it, could you make an arrangement to help her get one?
    This is just brainstorming, I know that probably isn’t viable for one employee.

    Also you should determine if there are other reasons than traffic. If the reason is simply traffic, is there a break-room where she could wait?
    Could there be personal issues at play, whether depression or domestic issues?

    1. Not Australian*

      “If she doesn’t have a personal computer & wants one though can’t afford it, could you make an arrangement to help her get one?”

      This is a great idea. There may be old equipment laying around the office somewhere that could easily be loaned, given, or sold to the employee at a minimal price. [After being ‘sanitised’, of course.] A kind manager could offer this as a means of restoring a reasonable work-life balance – although staring at a computer all evening after having stared at one all day is probably not the wisest course of action!

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        OldJob did this on a semi-regular basis; anytime they had old equipment that was being decommissioned, they offered employees first grab in a lottery scenario. It was a pretty popular move.

  12. BadPlanning*

    I see the answer for OP1 has already edited.

    From a non religious angle, at my job, there’s a strong history of “Do not touch stuff in people’s office especially if person isn’t there.” People ask if they can write on your whiteboard when discussing a problem. If someone needs to leave you something, they often set it on your chair as sort of “Here’s this thing, don’t want it to be a surprise, did not touch your desk.”

    Even if you didn’t have that culture, some people might be disturbed by the hiding aspect, as it indirectly implies a bit of snooping. If you hid something in a drawer, you probably saw something in the drawer. I mean, I’m not hiding my drawer with feminine supplies, but I don’t need to know anyone saw it.

    I would stick to offering treats that people can come and get.

    1. Colette*

      One of the places I used to work did an Easter egg hunt every year, and the eggs were always hidden in public areas (kitchen, hallways, conference rooms). That is essential if you’re going to do this kind of thing – but I agree there are good reasons not to do it at all.

      1. Partly Cloudy*

        My old job had egg hunts a few times too, always in common spaces. We were in a building that technically had other tenants too but our company had 90% of the space, so one year we used the atrium/lobby area of the building in the egg hunt also. One of my co-workers found a half-empty bottle of gut rot vodka hidden in a plant. That was NOT part of the egg hunt.

  13. Siberian*

    OP #4, at my work one of the bathrooms is a large single person unisex bathroom. It’s really funky and we have problems with the occasional oriental cockroach (often called water bugs) coming in through the floor drain. These things are really gross and can be three inches long. I’m the person my teammates summon when they find one in the bathroom because they know I’m willing to step on and dispose of these bugs. It’s a disgusting, crunchy job. So twice I’ve come out of the bathroom with a coworker after taking care of this problem for her. We’re definitely not having sex.

      1. Buffy Summers*

        Wait, what? Is that allowed? Can people complain to management about that? Because that’s really unprofessional and I would want to know what those roaches had been up to if I were their manager.

    1. The Wall of Creativity*

      Exactly the sort of story I’d put together if I were having sex with colleagues in the loos.

      1. Purest Green*

        Relationships between the bug killers and the bug-averse are flush with lust and desire.

          1. anonderella*

            Sounds like something Dale Gribble would say.
            Where’s Rusty Shackleford at this morning?

          1. JeanB*

            If you got rid of a big ol’ cockroach for me, I would definitely say I loved you. I might even ask you to marry me.

    2. TootsNYC*

      There’s also the “There’s a drip, do you think we need to call a plumber, or is it condensation?” conversation.

    3. Siberian*

      Okay I totally jinxed myself. This morning was the first time I was the one who found a cockroach waiting for me when I opened that bathroom door, instead of being summoned by a horrified coworker.

  14. Dizzy Steinway*

    Is it wrong that I want to treat this set of letters like a madlib and have a story where two people are job hunting because their colleagues keep staying late to ‘look for Easter eggs’ in the toilet together which is their code for running a duck club?

    I couldn’t work Ivanka in though.

      1. Lora*

        I’m picturing knockoff gold Faberge eggs, but less classy and made in China. If you have one on your desk, that’s the signal to other employees that you are a member of the club.

  15. Kimberly*

    #3 I can see the problem with an employee staying 3 1/2 to 4 hours late. I have to ask if there is a traffic/transportation/safety issue wouldn’t it be good management to work with the employee over the 30 min window between 5:30 and 6 pm. I’ve had a commute that a 30 min difference in leaving could mean the difference in a 45 min drive turning into an 1.5 hour commute.

    This made me think of a related question. What about forcing people to leave during dangerous weather?

    I had a principal that made me leave the building during nasty storm. The custodians were there and not dismissed early so the building was still opened and normally you could stay until they were done. I tried to get to my cousin’s and my Aunt’s houses but both routes were under water already. I was stuck on 59 and 610 for 4 hours – and for a good 1.5 hours of that rain so hard traffic had to stop because you couldn’t see the end of your hood standing still, high winds, and tornadoes bouncing around. Even after the storm passed it was mostly gridlock because the feeder streets were at least knee high in flood waters.

    1. Anancy*

      I wondered the same thing about the employee wanting to stay to not be stuck in traffic. If that truly is the root reason, is there anyway to work with her on that? I’ve lived places where I can leave at 5:30 or leave at 6:00, and literally get home the same time. And it is vastly more pleasant to be waiting in a building rather than gridlock.
      Now, if that isn’t the main reason, and the main reason is instead the desire to play computer games, or if she is consistently hanging around until 9pm, then never mind the above.

      1. Tau*

        I also wondered about this. Is it possible for her to come in 30 minutes later or take a longer lunch break (if unpaid) in order to leave at 6 instead of 5:30 without working extra time?

        1. Thlayli*

          This. I don’t think staying 30mins to avoid traffic is an unreasonable request. My boss actually agreed to adjust my start and finish times to enable my childminder to meet her train times!

          You could also consider giving her a longer lunch break and allowing her to work till 6pm.

        2. Stitch*

          I work at a place that allows a flexible schedule, but it’s super common for people to work 7-3:30 to avoid traffic. That’s just not possible for places that are open to the public, however, or have to conduct a certain kind of business.

      2. Annonymouse*

        But the employee is regularly staying beyond a reasonable wait for traffic to die down – as late as 9pm.

        This shows there is something else going on and the employer is right to be concerned that she might claim back overtime.

        Can you prove she isn’t working?

        1. Annonymouse*

          Also from the sounds of it OP isn’t really able to extend the hours out (maybe the building its in gets shutdown at 5:45 or security and alarms go on)

        2. Hellanon*

          Yes, as our HR director said, it’s not a problem until it’s a problem, and then it’s a very expensive one.

        3. Teclatrans*

          Well, I know (salaried) folks in the Bay Area with long commutes, and they use Google Maps to wait out the worst of the traffic, and they tend to have to wait a long time — generally until 7:30-9pm.

          But whatever the reason, once your boss has said not to stay past closing, it’s incumbent on the employee to lay out a case for leniency/exception and to recognize the employer’s policy as a policy that applies to her.

        4. TootsNYC*

          She may be staying until 5:30 or 5:45 for the traffic, but then she’s sucked in and settled down, so she just stays without consciously intending to.

          And if her official quitting time was 5:30, it might not be as easy to set sucked in.

  16. Dot Warner*

    Re: #1, I can see why people would be uncomfortable with the egg hunt. What if the OP just brought in a bunch of Easter candy (like Peeps, jelly beans, Cadbury eggs) and left it out in the break room? That would come off more as “I have extra candy and want to share” and less “let’s all do this religious activity.”

    1. Gadfly*

      I see that as more, “This is my thing, everyone is welcome to some” versus a “This is my thing, play along” feeling about the hunt.

    2. Personal Best in Consecutive Days Lived*

      I agree. A bowl of candy is the way to go here. The bowl of candy passively sits on your desk but an Easter egg hunt implies you should participate.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I didn’t want to pile on, but this is exactly what the behaviorist in me was thinking — asking someone to share in some food is more of a value-neutral cultural exchange, but insisting that they jump through hoops to participate in enjoying your traditional fare is closer to insisting that they practice your religion with you. This is the same reason that participation in “secret Santa” exchanges, even when they’re called that, don’t feel to most people like they’re being forced to participate in Christmas. However, if you insisted that everyone in your division sit around the company Xmas tree, and that the presents be handed out from under the tree, that would feel more like an intrusion or invalidation to non-Christians.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Food yes, activities no.

      The evolving shorthand, and I think correct answer.

      1. Allison*

        I like this. Offering free food is almost always awesome, activities often feel like mandatory fun, and when mandatory fun has ties to a specific religious holiday, that can make it worse for some people.

        Although, even free food has its limitations. “Here, have some candy!” is awesome. “Come to the cafe for a lunch of holiday-specific food and festive treats!” can be cool (think corned beef for St. Patrick’s Day, turkey for Thanksgiving, hot dogs for the 4th of July, etc.). But if I got an e-mail saying “We’re all going to meet in the conference room and eat a traditional ___ meal for lunch, in solidarity with those observing ___”, I would not be a happy camper. Especially since I’m a picky eater.

        1. HannahS*

          Totally. Bring me your Christmas cookies, your Diwali desserts, and your Eid eatables. All of them. Yum. But don’t voluntell me to participate.

          1. Tau*

            Reading the comments, I was getting worried I’d misstepped by bringing in German Christmas goodies last year for a Christmas-related holiday that gets celebrated in Germany but not where I currently live (St. Nicholas’ Day). I’m glad to hear that free food is generally considered acceptable! :)

    5. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

      I’ve had Easter candy on my desk since the end of February, because, let’s face it, Easter candy is the best candy. Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs and Reese’s Pieces Eggs and Cadbury Mini Eggs and Whopper Robin’s Eggs. So yum.

      My candy dish has been very popular.

        1. dawbs*

          MMM, starburst jellybeans (which, oddly enough, if you want them year round, you can buy at Menard’s. (Yes, I have made a side-trip to the lumberyard for starburst jellybeans)
          And caramel cadbury eggs.

          I think the themed candy dish is an excellent happy medium. That and baked goods.

          1. Emi.*

            Awwww, I don’t have Menard’s near me anymore. Maybe I’ll ask my mother-in-law to send me some. Thanks for the tip! :)

      1. SpaceySteph*

        Easter candy is the best. As a Jew, I totally cosign the candy bowl. Let the people come to the candy, don’t force the candy on the people.

  17. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

    #3, is this the kind of job where the employee’s hours could be shifted so she’s working 9-6 instead of 8:30-5:30? I didn’t see any mention in the letter of being client-facing/needing to answer phones/etc.

  18. Thlayli*

    I must be the only person who assumed the coworkers were snorting cocaine in the bathroom, not having sex. I wonder why LW assumed sex instead of drugs. Either way if it’s a one off I agree with the advice to do nothing and hope it was an innocent reason. If it happens again I would actually ask them to their face about it, and decide on reporting or not based on their reply. I would personally not like to have to use toilets other people are regularly using for sex so i actually think both sex and drugs are unacceptable in a shared work toilet, but I would give them a chance to explain before reporting.

    1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

      Haha, maybe I’m extremely naive but I would just assume they had been discussing something private and sometimes restrooms are the only available place to do that without anyone barging in or overhearing.

      My mind would definitely not jump to drugs or sex first.

      1. Kelly L.*

        My first innocent guess was repair. As in, it clogged or overflowed or a pipe leaked, the first person couldn’t fix it by themselves, and had to show the problem to the other.

      2. Purest Green*

        Mine either. I’m a bit flummoxed that either of those things would be someone’s first assumption.

      3. Adam V*

        The problem with using the bathrooms for such discussions is that people generally just walk into bathrooms without preamble, so you’d be constantly at risk for interruption.

        My current office keeps a few small offices empty around the building, so that non-managers can have a quiet place to take a call or to have a quick chat, or alternately you could go for a quick walk around the building, which would enable you to quiet down if you saw someone approaching.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Not the only one! My first thought was, “Sex? They were probably doing lines.” Apparently I spent too much time in NYC bars and clubs in my 20s.

      I agree with the rest of your post too.

      1. Erin*

        Yep, I’d assume drugs before sex.

        You definitely can’t report anything you’re not certain of, though. I’d just put it out of your mind.

      2. Emi.*

        Okay, serious question: where in the bathroom do you snort cocaine? Off the floor? The baby-changing table? The edge of the sink? I guess you’re in there because it’s more private, but it seems inconvenient to me.

        1. Statler von Waldorf*

          Usually you snort the cocaine from the top of the toilet tank, while sitting on the toilet backwards. The stall allows for plausible deniability. If there’s a group of people using it, then it’s usually on the counter by the sink.

          I am also in the group that assumed that two people in the bathroom was more likely doing drugs than having sex, and even more likely to be actually using the bathroom for it’s intended purpose.

          1. paul*

            …….OK. I’ve literally eaten insects, but the thought of ingesting *anything* in a bathroom stall on a toilet–in any fashion, including snorting–just about makes my stomach roil

      3. MashaKasha*

        Came here to make the same comment: why sex and not drugs?

        Actually, while we’re in the assumptions business, maybe they were plotting world domination? That would need to be reported! Seriously, I’d do nothing. There’s nothing in the employees manual that says employees cannot be seen coming out of a bathroom together.

    3. LBK*

      Good lord. What kind of offices are you people working in where you’re casually assuming your coworkers are either having sex or doing drugs on company time? Maybe I just work with a particularly innocent crowd…

      1. JustaTech*

        Here’s my biggest reason for assuming it’s innocent (other than that I would never think of drugs or sex before at least a dozen other things): if you’re having sex in a single-occupancy bathroom and want to hide it, then you don’t leave together. First one person, and then 4 minutes later, the other person.

    4. Buffy Summers*

      Would the toilet actually be involved in the sex, though? Cause I can’t imagine anything grosser than having sex either on a toilet, or while touching one in any way.

  19. Sue Wilson*

    #1: I think everyone has covered the religious problem. You should also consider that people might find it an overstep for you to arrange an activity at all without saying something beforehand. Surprises should be kept for people who like surprises, you know?

    #2: I won’t be snarky. I won’t be snarky. I won’t be snarky.

    #3: If your employee is ignoring you, that’s the problem. But I would be incredibly annoyed if my employer, in a building where there wasn’t seating in a lobby area and the office didn’t have to close mind, told me I couldn’t wait in the office. Super annoyed. That said, I’d figure it out, so your employee needs to do so too.

    #4: It would be incredibly jarring for me to see two people coming out of one stall (if that was the case here). I would totally wonder what was going on. And if I had been in the bathroom with them, I would feel very uncomfortable that it wasn’t readily apparent there were two people in one stall. Bathrooms are already vulnerable places, lol. But if you’re not going to ask the two people directly (I would right there. Not as as accusation, but def as a question about the oddity), then you have no information and you need to let it go.

    #5: It might reflect badly on your company, but there’s no reason it should reflect badly on you.

  20. MommyMD*

    As someone who has had terrorism show up on my doorstep first-hand, in an event the whole world heard about, I’m not going to get upset or offended by Easter Eggs or Christmas cookies, or food or refernces to Jewish or Muslim holidays and I think being ultra-sensitive and defensive is part of the problem today. As long as everyone is respectful to each other and things are low key, I’m fine. I just want to live in a peaceful world and an act of kindness, even misplaced, will not ruffle my feathers.

    1. Gadfly*

      I am thoroughly sick of being told it is a kindness. It is up there with the men telling me to smile “just are trying to help” level of sick of it.

      Sure, it may be a cultural standard to be oblivious and pretty self absorbed and think that it is kind to give your own religion more time celebrating in everyone’s face when many others can’t get even basic respect for their own. Sure, they mean well. But intention doesn’t excuse impact. And while I probably just would roll my eyes about someone hiding the eggs, people telling me that I shouldn’t care because they mean well or mean to be kind makes me want to tell people exactly where they should hide the eggs.

      1. Caro in the UK*

        Thank you for saying this.

        @MommyMD, reactions like yours are exactly why many people don’t feel they can say that the celebration of Christian holidays to the the exclusion of any other religion’s holy days makes them feel uncomfortable.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Exactly. Sometimes I want to put together a bingo card for this sort of thing. “No, by speaking up, YOU are the real oppressor!” probably should be in the middle.

      2. Some Sort of Management Consultant*


        The problem is that it’s always almost always the minorities who have to “put up” with thoughtless actions with kind intent.

        The rest of us sorta need to be a little more respectful too. Why should the minorities have to do all the adapting?

        1. Mookie*

          Yep. Very ‘Dear Muslima,’ as though people are being petty and spoiled for no longer wishing to tolerate the dominant culture’s traditions being mandated as compulsory.

      3. Stitch*

        I grew up a certain kind of Christian that grew up in an area where another type of Christianity was incredibly dominant, and even that amount of “kindness” was tough, especially at my public school (separation of church and state is often very lacking in certain areas of the south). You can understand someone meaning well, but there’s a point of the pervasiveness where it becomes overwhelming, to the point that even if it is the culture your family participates in, you don’t want to have it at school (work would feel similar, although maybe less so because stuff like that can be tougher when you’re a kid).

      4. MashaKasha*

        I’m going to go on the offensive here (no pun intended) and say that no other religion proselytizes so eagerly and overwhelmingly as Christianity does. Or, to quote Paul, “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel”. So is there any wonder if people tend to get suspicious by elements of Christian faith being passed around? And I’m saying this as someone who once horrified a colleague by trying to give her a bookmark with nice flowers and also the Lord’s prayer printed on it.

        Also, I’ve never been given other religions’ food and other gifts at work (or outside of it). Somehow it is always the Easter eggs and the Christmas cookies.

        1. AMPG*

          A coworker once brought in apple-honey cake on Rosh Hashanah, which was awesome and much appreciated by the office.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            My English professor did that once when I was in college in Kansas. He was this short little round guy with a funny laugh and everybody thought he was really strange, but I thought he was awesome.

            His wife wrote the theater reviews and he would come with her. You could totally hear him laugh in the audience. “Oh, Dr. T is here.”

        2. Rachael*

          I agree with this. I grew up Christian and then became atheist in my early twenties, therefore I celebrate Christian holidays with Santa & Easter bunnies because that is the way I grew up. I have grown to be suspicious anytime a Christian extends “kindness” towards me once they learn I am atheist. Especially if they learn I grew up Christian. It is ingrained in the religion to bring back the “prodigal son” or to “save souls” and sometimes even the smallest “kindness” is actually an attempt to “spread the gospel”. I have had many a coworker or “friend” stop being kind to me once they realized I’m not converting. So, of course, I love Christian holidays and participate freely…..however, it does become uncomfortable once it is apparent that someone is using “kindness” to show God’s love.

          I can see how someone being handed an Easter egg might make them uncomfortable. I think it all depends on the culture of the office. I’ve actually been the one to hide eggs in the office. However, I hid them on the desks of those who celebrated Easter (with bunnies and eggs). I asked the coworker who was Hindi and the coworker who was Christian (but did not celebrate with Bunnies and eggs) before I hid and asked if they just wanted the chocolate put on their desks without the eggs and they both said yes.

          It all depends on office culture and how well you know your coworkers.

    2. Gadfly*

      And, yes, when you are bleeding from a bad wound, minor ones aren’t a priority. But just because there are worse wounds, doesn’t mean that the minor ones are kind or helpful. They just aren’t as bad. That you don’t care, okay, fine. Others do. And calling everyone ultra sensitive and defensive for it means you’ve already lost being able to be respectful to each other. You being desensitized doesn’t mean everyone else is too sensitive.

    3. FiveWheels*

      I grew up with near daily terrorism including direct threats against my family and I really can’t see how that relates to Easter.

        1. fposte*

          I read it as “I’ve been in a place that’s been bombed for religious reasons and I’m still okay with religious pluralism.”

        2. Teclatrans*

          I read it as saying that religious intolerance is the core evil, so we should all just chill out about what other people do religiously and thereby quash the foundation of religiously motivated violence from all sides. At least, I think that was the gist? I find that analysis to be problematic, but Alison has asked that the religious discussion be dropped, so I will abstain from further comment.

    4. LQ*

      I think that the OP is trying to be respectful and kind by asking if it is appropriate to others. Others are saying, no they don’t think it is. This is respectful and kind and I really appreciate the OP asking before they assumed, and people having a respectful and kind discussion. I personally would greatly perfer to not frustrate or annoy or even harm people by doing something that bothers them, so if I can do less harm in the world by not overlooking people, by not saying things that erase, harm, or insult others I would very much like to do that. And I like the opportunity in these comments to learn about those things that I can do that make the world a better place by being kinder to the people around me.

    5. HannahS*

      The fact that you’re not bothered by it doesn’t change the fact that lots of other people are. You’re deliberately ignoring that people are NOT being respectful and low-key. That’s the whole point of the discussion. And I can assure you, plenty of the religious minorities in question–Jews and Muslims, in particular–have seen terrorism, have been been victims of vicious anti-semitism and Islamophobia, are afraid of attending their own religious institutions and existing in public spaces, and are STILL pissed off about being told to have a Merry Christmas.

    6. Student*

      I go to work in order to work (and post on AAM >.>). I do not go to work in order to play children’s religious games. I don’t think a co-worker offering to host children’s religious games in the office is business appropriate or kind.

      It’s a distraction, it’s a religious celebration at a place of business where others may not follow that religion, and it’s not even vaguely age-appropriate. The OP wants to do something silly at work for her own amusement. It wouldn’t be a kindness if this co-worker offered to tell the story of Easter in the lobby, nor would it be an act of kindness if this co-worker decided to dress as the Easter Bunny and tried to take pictures with everyone passing through the lobby, nor would it be a kindness if the OP invited everyone to do an egg-roll on the business’s front lawn, nor would it be a kindness for the OP to have an egg-coloring party in the office kitchen. It’s self-entertainment with a vague religious patina to make it harder to directly criticize what’s actually going on.

      If OP wants to do egg hunts, I hope she has fun, but do it outside of work with your social friends! Don’t try to co-opt your colleagues into it.

      1. PollyQ*

        I’m glad I’m not the only one who found the activity an odd one for adults, regardless of the workplace/religion question. IME, Easter Egg hunts are for *little* children, like 7-8 years old max. It’d be like playing Duck Duck Goose at work.

        1. dawbs*

          I think egg hunts, like a lot of other ‘kid’ activities, are as adult as you make them.

          My sisters and I all firmly fall into the ‘middle age’ category now, but if we’re together on easter, there’s still a hunt (a separate one for the kids, one for us)–the one that involves the grown ups usually involves knocking each other over tug-of-war over the ‘best’ eggs, and there’s an entire rigmarole of jockeying for position for the start. and possibly some ‘cheating’.

          I’m sure this will get me some raised eyebrows, because it isn’t exactly the height of maturity, but, it’s tremendously entertaining. It is one of the highlights of Easter. (and my sisters won’t be home this year; I’m hoping to mail their significant others eggs filled w/ ‘adult’ stuff (mini bottle of smirnoff, I mean you. But also, normal ‘grown up toys’) to hide.

          It *is* a kid thing (I’ve done egg hunts w/ my kid this year, she likes setting them up for me, because it’s fun to be on that side of them too) and it is easily one of the more entertaining ‘games’ we can do at the moment.
          I don’t think it’s a ‘kid only’ type of game.

          1. tigerStripes*

            I think that’s fine outside of work, but at work, I can get a bit annoyed when people are trying to get people to play some game – I’m working, and I’m busy!

  21. Hazel*

    Just to add another angle to the Easter Egg thing–as a Jew, I wouldn’t be offended if someone said “I’ve hidden chocolate/eggs around the office!” and participation was optional, but you have to be really careful because Easter is almost always on Passover. That means that I can’t eat or accept any treats (almost all candy is not Kosher for Passover unless it’s specially marked). So it’s fine as long as it’s optional, but definitely don’t gift your co-workers baskets of treats, however well-intentioned!

    1. Manders*

      Oh man, I’m also Jewish and I… totally forgot this. My friends and family have so many different interpretations of what Kosher for Passover means that I’m not sure any one food item would be guaranteed safe for everyone unless you’re sticking with a very narrow range of non-treat items.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        Fresh fruit is usually ok, though depending on how it’s stored you can get into cross-contamination issues.

        1. Manders*

          Haha yes! I was trying to think of every variant I’ve ever heard while I was walking to work, and I realized that no one actually wants to read that whole list.

          In my opinion, offering someone food is always a kind thing to do, as long as you’re not pressuring them to eat it or tricking them into consuming something they can’t eat. You really cannot tell from looking at someone what their food restrictions might be, so you should offer and ask rather than trying to guess.

          1. JustaTech*

            Oh oh, I do! I once alleviated a really boring afternoon reading a list of dietary laws. I thought it was fascinating (as a person who doesn’t follow religious laws).

    2. Anna*

      The best way to spread the treat love is to just buy discounted Easter candy, put it in a communal space, and send out an email inviting whoever wants to free candy.

      It’s not necessarily the candy that’s the problem; it’s the eggs, and the hiding, and the whole package that is no good.

  22. Channel Z*

    Hypothetical: Let’s say OP4 had additional evidence the employees were having sex, like they were in there for a while, grunting sounds could be heard through the door, knowing looks later. It wouldn’t be absolute proof, but would that be enough for reporting? Or is there nothing that could be done?

      1. Channel Z*

        Curious what reaction would be. OP is clearly upset by the idea that was happening. I wondered what others would say: none of anyone’s business what they do in bathroom, or like you said it is just stirring up trouble. (Note: doing drugs in bathroom is different though, that could be safety issue)

        1. Observer*

          Well, it’s clear that the OP is not telling us the whole story. I’d love some clarification as to why she jumped to the conclusion that’s what they were doing, and why she thought it’s appropriate to report her conclusions as fact.

          I mean, even with additional evidence, and assuming that it’s something that needs to be reported, she should report only the objective facts, not the probable conclusion. With the information she has, it’s a wild leap. Why contemplate that?

          1. Tuckerman*

            Sometimes it may be religion/culture. My sisters belong to a religion where there are rules about men and women being alone together. So if they witnessed a man and a woman coming out of a bathroom, I think it might be jarring and they might assume the most scandalous explanation. Because the rules about being alone together are explained as a way to keep them from yielding to temptation, my guess is that would be the first thing that jumps to their minds.

            1. Observer*

              I don’t buy it for one second. My religion has such rules, and that’s a large part of the explanation. But no one in their right mind assumes that the mere fact that two people were in a room together means that that’s what they were doing.

      2. Tomato Frog*

        I don’t see why you would assume Channel Z is trying to stir up trouble. We often raise hypotheticals in the comments, when the answer in practice bypasses the issue in theory.

        1. Czhorat*

          I didn’t mean that raising the quesiton was stirring up trouble; I meant that reporting what was – at the very worst – consensual activity between adults doesn’t seem to do the person reporting any good. All it does is cause trouble.

          1. Mazzy*

            In the offfice when other people are on the clock? Really? You really don’t see an issue with it if that is indeed what happened?

            1. Czhorat*

              If it were non-consensual it would bother me. If one had a position of authority over the other of which they could be taking advantage it would bother me.

              Barring that? Not my issue.

              1. Isben Takes Tea*

                Well, I’m willing to argue that other people having sex in my presence would constitute sexual harassment. Even if it wasn’t done at me or with the knowledge I was there, it still creates an explicitly sexual environment. As was thoroughly discussed in the Duck Club incident, there’s also sanitary considerations.

                Now, as Channel Z describes, you don’t know what’s going on, so my first priority would be to get the facts. If I couldn’t do that, but still felt sure enough that it was a looming possibility, yes, I’d bring it to my manager. But that wouldn’t be “stirring up trouble,” that would be “ladling the trouble someone else stirred up them to eat.”

      3. Buffy Summers*

        If you were the manager of the two and they actually were having sex, wouldn’t you want to know that? Having sex in the office is unprofessional at the very least.
        I completely agree with others that OP is jumping to a very weird conclusion. This certainly doesn’t rise to the level of bringing a manager in at all or even spending time speculating on it.
        I’m just very surprised by all the people saying it’s no one’s business and it shouldn’t be reported even if the coworkers were having sex in there. As a manager, if I found that my employees were having sex at the office, there would be some serious consequences. I would question their professionalism and their judgment. Plus, if one or both of them is married that could cause another whole set of problems should an angry and jealous spouse show up at the office one day. I guess I’m just wondering what your take would be as their manager if they were indeed having sex.

        1. fposte*

          I’d definitely care if they were my reports. Random co-workers, not so much, though they’d be read the riot act if they did it in my space. Is it something I feel obliges me to hunt down their manager? I think that’s an “it depends” for me.

        2. Ann O.*

          Unless there was reason to believe it affected their work, no, I wouldn’t want to know. It’s unprofessional, but I don’t think all unprofessional things are necessarily problems.

      4. tigerStripes*

        If people are having sex while they’re supposed to be working AND preventing others from using the bathroom (or causing them to have to walk a ways to get to an unoccupied bathroom), that seems, at the least, annoying.

    1. fposte*

      You can report it whenever you want. You can report that you saw one person coming out of a bathroom. “Reporting” doesn’t mean anybody would care or any action would be taken.

      Personally I probably wouldn’t bother unless 1) they bogarted the bathroom and/or 2) they were in the bathroom instead of getting work I needed done and/or 3) there was a workplace ethical problem with them having a relationship.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Agree on 1–Forcing people who need a bathroom to go elsewhere in the building to accommodate your trysts is a great way to build hatred. Same with locking yourselves into the copy or printer room.

        (Cue “We are discreet, so no one notices that one of us goes into the copy room at 2:00 every day, then a minute later the other does, then the door is locked, then there is rhythmic banging while we discreetly ignore anyone knocking on the door demanding their printout…”)

    2. Bwmn*

      Ultimately, I think that this is a key point that when you “report” something in a workplace – it’s good to have some kind of thoughts as to why you’re doing it.

      As a young person, I worked for a teen summer program where a lot of staff was drinking at night when technically they shouldn’t be. The overall dynamic really bothered me, and I “reported” it – but nothing was done and as I got older it became really clear why. This was ultimately a short-term program (less than two months) and while it may not have been ideal to have a lot of the young adult staff drinking at night – firing a significant portion of the staff with a few weeks before the program ended would have been wildly disruptive. Also, as a program that relied on a lot of temporary young adult staff, even though these rules were on the book – there was likely also a lot of tacit understanding that this would happen.

      While I get that coworkers having sex in a bathroom at work may very easily bother someone’s sense of professionalism and propriety – what is the aim of reporting this? Is this part of a problematic relationship (supervisor/employee or intern) or is this just about “having sex at the office isn’t professional”. Because what’s being asked by reporting this, is potentially investigating what two people were doing in the privacy of a bathroom stall. And while the overall professionalism issue of having sex at work, the reality of forcing an examination into what people are doing in the toilet would likely far outweigh the professional point.

  23. Channel Z*

    OP3: I wonder if there is some confusion on the employee’s part. If there are other people working late, who are salaried or who have different hours/working arrangements, she may be (incorrectly) assuming that she can do the same. Perhaps that could be clarified with her why it doesn’t work in her case. Waiting for traffic to die down is a good reason to stay an extra hour, this would apply when accomodating public transport schedules too. I second the idea that she could take a longer lunch and leave later, while keeping her total working hours the same.

    1. Teclatrans*

      Ooh, good point.

      Many years ago I was non-exempt at a public University, and I had to be specially told not to stay late or work during my breaks. I didn’t entirely understand it, but I took the edict very seriously. I get it now — AAM has clarified so much does me over the years — but someone explaining exempt vs. non-exempt, the repercussions to the business when extra work is done (and that donating that time isn’t really possible), and the ways that exempt norms differed would have been a real kindness.

  24. Always Anon*

    #3: The LW should be sure that the work expectations of their employee are reasonable within the normal work hours. I once worked in an office where the expectations for work accomplished exceeded the normal 40-hour week, but we were not allowed to stay late (and were hourly non-exempt). When I pushed back at management and asked for prioritization of the workload as it couldn’t be done in the time frame provided, I was told to just “get it all done.” That drove me to try to sneak in working extra hours to meet deadlines. There were other issues in that job and it was a pretty toxic environment.

    But if the workload is reasonable, then the LW should be very direct with the employee about not staying late. If the behavior continues anyway, then it should be handled as any other insubordination would.

    1. Kj*

      Yeah, I’m curious about this as well. My work at my old job could not get done in the standard workweek, yet it was unacceptable by ethical/legal standards not to do it. So we all worked unpaid overtime. Legal? No, but the work needed doing. Add that this was a non-profit and you have a bunch of employees conditioned to do this sort of thing. Someone needs to ask if the standards are reasonable and make sure the employee is able to meet expectations within the give work week.

  25. Sibley*

    #4 – I once spent about 5 minutes in a bathroom stall at work, during work hours, with one of my coworkers (same sex). We both had wardrobe malfunctions that required a second person to fix, unless we wanted to basically strip naked. Going into the bathroom stall provided us some privacy from anyone else coming into the bathroom.

    Also, you jumped to the most scandalous conclusion, apparently without considering more innocent and perfectly understandable explanations. Please think about how that reflects on you.

  26. nnn*

    If you do choose to hide eggs, just do it in common areas, not in people’s offices. And make sure you write down where you hid them and collect them at the end of the day so you don’t attract vermin!

    Also, you could de-Easterize the whole activity by hiding candy that isn’t Easter eggs at a non-Easter time of the year.

  27. eplawyer*

    Regarding #1 and leaving all religious aspects aside, why would you be doing an “hunt” through the office anyway? To me, Easter Egg Hunts are for kids. You work in an office of grownups who want to come to work, get their work done, etc. To me this is like the “team building” exercises that are “talk about your feelings” or “plan a group party.” As Alison always says, you do team building by doing a project together or putting on a presentation for the whole company. Not games.

    I know I would be annoyed if I came to work on Monday after Easter expecting to get the TIPS reports out and I was interrupted by people rummaging around to find the hidden eggs and chocolate.

    1. Lablizard*

      I feel the same. If you want to give people candy (Easter or otherwise), put it in plain sight

  28. Cameron*

    When I read the first question I was like “what? why would anyone take issue with something like that?”. Then I read the amended reply and the comments below and…wow.
    Is this a US thing? Are religious sensitivities /that/ delicate there? Like the notion of some confectionary (which after all these years of commercialism have all but lost their symbolism unless you take pains to point it out) would actually offend people? Would people get upset at the sight of chickens or rabbits around this time too?

    1. Observer*

      Wow. Did you read Alison’s request up top?

      Did you actually READ what the non-Christian people on the various threads prior actually said?

      1. Tamz*

        The question is a valid and interesting one about differences in work culture between the US and other countries. To a non-US reader, it seems almost hyper-sensitive not to celebrate, and it’s fascinating to read the varying perspectives shared here (and a big thanks to all those who’ve shared their insights!)

      2. Cameron*

        I wasn’t debating whether or not eggs are religious, I’m asking why it’s such a big deal in the first place.

        1. Observer*

          Please. For one thing you DID say that the celebration is not religious. Worse, you are jut utterly dismissive.

          This despite Alison explicitly pointing out that people really have significant issues and it’s inappropriate to tell them that they shouldn’t. And despite some extremely clear explanations of WHY this is an issue.

          So, even to ask, as you are now claiming, why it’s a big deal is rude – it was covered fairly well before you posted.

    2. FiveWheels*

      I’m not sure where you’re from but I think religion is definitely much more contentious and visible in day to day life in the USA than the UK.

      I often hear for example that it would be very difficult for an atheist to get elected in the USA, but with a few exceptions I can’t think of any politicians whose religion, or lack thereof, is obvious.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        In polls, people do in fact say that they would not vote for an atheist for president. It’s presently barely over 50%, and for all of the last century was below that mark. In 2012, 18% wouldn’t vote for a Mormon. (Per Gallup.)

        And the overt appearance of candidates at church services is very much a part of modern political campaigns. Likewise discussion of personal faith, at the high level races. It’s been part of every presidential campaign in recent years.

        1. Purest Green*

          Absolutely. The fact that Obama’s 2009 inaugural speech was the first to acknowledge non-believers should give you an inkling of what we’re dealing with here, Cameron.

      2. Czhorat*

        Really? All Presidential candidates in my memory have very publicly attended churches. Obama’s church was even a major political issue during the 2008 campaign. For the few candidates who have not been mainstream Protestants religion has absolutely been an issue, with Romney’s Mormon faith coming up and, if one goes back farther, Kennedy’s Catholicism.

        1. Brightwanderer*

          Pretty sure FiveWheels was referring to British politicians in the second half of that sentence – contrasting them to the US. I remember something a while back where David Cameron was talking about being Christian and I was vaguely weirded out that he thought this was in any way relevant to mention – a feeling shared by many of my acquaintances. The idea that our Prime Minister “should” be Christian (or any other religion) is pretty alien.

          1. Student*

            So how many non-Christian Prime ministers have you had, then?

            A quick Google search suggests all your Prime Ministers have been not just Christian, but Protestant while in office. Two changed religions out of office – one converted to Catholicism after his term, and one was born Jewish, but converted to Christianity to enable a British political career.

            So, you talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk.

            1. FiveWheels*

              Accidentally lost my reply, so I’ll be brief…

              Both the UK and USA don’t have a directly proportionate representation of religious groups in important elected office (House of Commons vs Congress were the easiest stats to find). At a glance, the USA seemed more skewed but I could well be wrong on that, with a closer look at stats.

              But, while proclaiming one’s religion seems the norm for USA politicians, it is completely out of the ordinary here. And for a bit percentage of British people of any religion, identifying as that religion doesn’t mean you actually believe – it’s social.

              There’s a joke, I don’t remember the precise wording, but it’s along the lines of “what do you call a group of rich white atheists?” “Church of England bishops. ”

              My perception is that religion is in general a much smaller part of public life in the UK than USA, and people who are forward in promoting their religion are not exactly socially acceptable. So perhaps,”Easter” in the UK means “awesome! Public holiday! My one super religious friend might go to church but I’ll be drinking beer in the park!” Whereas in the USA “Easter” might mean something more like “Argh, people are going to be shoving their religion on my face all day again!”

              If you don’t think religion is massively more important in ordinary day to day life in the USA than UK, show any scene from a high school sports TV show or movie where the coach prays with the players to some Brits.

              I’ve seen this trope enough times that there must be SOME basis in reality, but as a Brit I don’t even understand how it could even happen and makes me want to call social services.

    3. neverjaunty*

      Since that was all covered by the amended reply and many comments, is there a reason you’re asking again, other than to announce you’ve already made up your mind?

    4. Temperance*

      I wouldn’t use the word “delicate”. I work in an environment with people of many different faiths, and I have no religious affiliation. It would be weird and tone-deaf to host an Easter-themed activity here.

      As a non-Christian, I get annoyed with having Christian religious holidays rubbed in my face, with the assumption that I must also be a Christian. I would hate to have that happen at work, too.

    5. Caro in the UK*

      The candy isn’t the problem. What it represents could be (note that I say could, not does, because not every non-Christian will be upset by it).

      Your question about whether religious sensitivities are that ‘delicate’ in the US comes across as somewhat passive aggressive and appears to intentionally misread the situation. This isn’t about non-Christians throwing a fit about one isolated incident of Christian celebration in the workplace. This is about the systematic ignorance and judgement of non-Christian and non-religious people in the US (and the wider Western world). Christian holidays are routinely celebrated in every sphere of public life. Non-Christians are often pushed to participate, either overtly or by implication, and are judged negatively when they choose not to. The are often judged again if they wish to to celebrate their own holy days, either by having time away from work, or by celebrating it at work.

      Each isolated incident of this behaviour may seem trivial to many, but the pattern of being repeatedly told, overtly or subtly, that your beliefs are less important than Christian ones is exhausting and frustrating. It is not ‘delicate’ to find it so.

      1. fposte*

        “Delicate” seems pejorative to me, though; it’s like saying that Arab cultures are “delicate” for not wanting to see the bottom of your feet or Indian cultures are “delicate” for not wanting you to use your left hand to pass food. Instead I’d say tat there are different cultures in the U.S and different traditions, and one tradition is to consider what it’s like for people not in a mainstream culture to constantly have theirs sidelined.

        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          Especially when Easter is *everywhere* in the public sphere (in the US). Like, out of all of life there is ONE place where maybe you can’t go all-in and celebrate and that turns this into “it sucks”?

      2. Jessie the First (or second)*

        Honest question here – have you read any of the very thoughtful posts by the commenters here in which they talk about why religious-themed activities in the workplace don’t feel kind/fun/harmless?

        Because in the context of the interesting and thoughtful and open discussion about it all, your comment is weirdly aggressive. Just…. ignoring all the discussion and dismissing everyone’s detailed responses as “delicate.” Why would that be the road you choose to travel?

        1. Hanna*

          According to my father, that’s different and totally acceptable because of…umm…errr…reasons.

          Yeah, reasons, that’s the ticket.

        2. Allison*

          Ha! Seriously. Everyone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas is a big baby for not wanting to be immersed in it all the time, but Christians get to have a tantrum because it looks like maybe their coffee won’t come in red cups, in a coffee shop that is otherwise completely decked out in Christmas stuff, playing Christmas music, and selling stuff packaged as Christmas presents.

          1. Sylvia*

            Not to be all #notallChristians, but that’s really a specific, pretty small group of people, too! They’re not just mad about non-Christians (like me), they’re offended by other Christians who don’t care about disposable cups.

            It’s the strangest thing.

            1. Allison*

              Guess it seemed like a bigger group, because of all the outraged comments. Maybe news outlets made it sound like a bigger thing than it was.

              1. Sylvia*

                Yeah. :(

                When a majority group’s really big, the tiny percentage of them who do strange things is… big enough to be pretty loud.

              2. Falling Diphthong*

                It’s like trolls on the internet–a small loud rude minority get the attention, while the mass of reasonable people who are not upset don’t make for clickbait. (A genuine problem with modern life and our perception of other people’s views that I wish someone knew how to solve.)

                (It’s interesting to have this discussion at Easter, as the people up in arms for their red cups usually seem unclear on what the major holy day of their religion actually is.)

          2. Creag an Tuire*

            But don’t you know that, when Mary bore into Bethlehem upon an ass, she stopped off for a Caramel Light Frappuccino® Blended Coffee on the way? There are traditions at stake

      3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Even if folks were “delicate” about this subject, why does that suck? Who is being hurt?

      4. anonderella*

        I agree that delicate isn’t the right word.
        By breaking down the “norms” that oppressed minority beliefs and values, we’re scraping/hacking off centuries of our own country’s disinclusivity (made up a werd!), not to mention that which we’ve inherited from other well-formed cultures in the formation of what would become the US’ dominant culture today.

        I know you didn’t mean to be insensitive, Cameron/Forgot my name!, but I don’t see how you could be surprised at the angry conflict that often results when old societal needs and new societal needs collide.

        Also, fposte, I really like how you summed up here : “Instead I’d say tat there are different cultures in the U.S and different traditions, and one tradition is to consider what it’s like for people not in a mainstream culture to constantly have theirs sidelined.”
        I’d add on that this is a reflex we’re still, painfully, gaining. The ability to participate in a “global society” aids us in forming and fixing those opinions that lead to harmful disinclusion (that’s really not a word? huh.). I fear it will take more exposure to conflict and of course time before our existing and upcoming generations are able to form a coherent, mindful populace that can induce world-wide change in a gentle fashion : )

        1. anonderella*

          no idea why, guys, but I was *really* fighting the word “exclusion”, and its variants here.

    6. Manders*

      I wouldn’t use the word “delicate,” but there’s a really contentious history of arguments about whether religion should be part of public life in the US. A lot of Europeans would be shocked to find that, say, most American schoolchildren start the day with a pledge to the flag stating that our nation is “under God” and that there’s a long history of legal battles about whether children can be punished for refusing to say that phrase.

      The candy isn’t inherently a problem. It wouldn’t personally upset me. But some people would take it as a symbol that the office is endorsing a certain religion or ignoring other religious traditions, and it’s worth considering whether an activity that’s supposed to be fun for everyone would end up making someone feel awful.

      (Again, I personally would be fine with it. If I had a bunch of Easter candy laying around, I’d probably leave it in a bowl in the break room instead of making it into an office activity; I think that’s a fine way to offer food without getting into the religious symbolism behind the holiday.)

    7. Creag an Tuire*

      So what if they are? Is this going to be the Easter-grass-covered hill you die on after people have told you very politely that they’d rather you didn’t?

    8. Student*

      I’m always confused by comments like this. You do realize that by dismissing the religious aspect of a religious holiday, you’re saying “Oh, to heck with that Easter celebration commemorating the major defining event of Christian faith. It’s all just an excuse to eat chocolate, nobody means the biblical part to be taken seriously.” That’s a terrible dismissive attitude towards an important religious celebration.

      That’s kind of the key here, though – either you treat the religious aspect seriously, and then have to acknowledge that other people you interact with at the office are not necessarily members of your religion and respect their beliefs as much as you expect them to respect yours; OR you treat a religious holiday like the religion is some inside joke and the event is really just another kind of office birthday party. Which is it? Is religion a serious thing to be treated with respect, or is it a trivial meaningless thing to be ignored?

  29. Lablizard*

    OP3: When I read your letter, especially the bit about staying until 9pm, my first thought went to this worker not wanting to go home rather than possibly wanting to claim overtime later. If she generally is out the door by 6, maybe consider adjusting her hours with a later start or longer lunch (or both). If it is usually much later than 6, I would sit her down, explain why she can’t stay late, and ask her if there is something going on that makes work preferable to home (obviously phrase it more elegantly than that)

    Back in the day I ran into a similar situation with an employee. She confided that she was staying late because she was living in a shelter, it was pretty miserable, and she waited for everyone to leave so she could use the office shower. We made an agreement for her to have access to the bathroom and break room, but not the work areas, after she clocked out. It isn’t something any employer is required to do, but it felt like the right thing to me, so I advocated for her to have this accommodation.

    1. Czhorat*

      Yes, it’s either that the employee has nowhere to go or has someplace they don’t WANT to go.

      Either way it’s a sad situation. I understand insubordination and all that, but as a manager you also have to ask if THIS is the issue you want to escalate through progressive discipline.

      1. Lablizard*

        Personally, if the employee otherwise follows directions and is good at her job, but is insubordinate in order to do something most people don’t enjoy (i.e. staying at the office without pay and sometimes for 12+hours), something else is going on. If they are otherwise a diligent and conscientious employee, it is worth at least asking before reprimanding

  30. Gaara*

    #3 you’re not required to pay the employee for their time not spent working. If they clock out at 5:30 and wait around and play computer games you don’t have to pay for that time.

    That said, they should of course follow your policy and order instructions! That’s important!

  31. Delta Delta*

    #1 – Seems like OP1’s heart is in the right place – wanting to share something with co-workers. But it also seems like a better way to go would be to put out some candy in a common or accessible area and let everyone know there’s candy to share. Even for those of us who celebrate/celebrated Easter, egg hunts aren’t necessarily fun. (anybody see the new Bob’s Burgers about the egg hunt? hilarious and spot-on to my own life growing up.)

    #4 – I once helped a co-worker who fell and skinned her knee and hand. We went into the bathroom together so I could help her get the debris and pebbles out of her hand. Maybe it was something like that.

  32. Trout 'Waver*

    OP#5, We have two direct competitors in our local area that both pay entry level people more for less demanding work. Every time they post an opening, we have 5-10 people apply. I can’t blame them. Usually if there’s a reason one person is applying, it applies to everyone in a similar role. So multiple people from the same place isn’t even that unusual. Look at it this way: if you’re honest about why you’re leaving, you’re going to look a lot more credible when other people report the same thing.

    Also, this may be obvious to most, but network with the other job-seekers at your current place. If one of you gets a job elsewhere, that person will be an invaluable contact for referrals. Let’s say your coworker gets this job. If the employer has another opening they might just straight up ask her if she knew any good candidates from her previous company before posting the job openly.

  33. Hanna*

    For #2:

    How does this work for CEOs and other private industry figures who don’t take a salary or only take $1? It’s obvious why they do it (taxes and capital gains and whatnot), but is that technically legal?

    1. Natalie*

      Generally that’s base salary, with the executive eligible for significant bonuses, stock grants, etc. They may be structuring the payment in such a way that it meets the compensation test – for example, the performance bonus earned for calendar year 2015 will be paid out throughout 2016 in bi-weekly increments, or something.

      That, and I imagine it’s fairly far down on the Department of Labor’s enforcement queue.

    2. MegaMoose, Esq*

      Business owners/directors/executives are generally exempt from minimum-wage laws. If you think about it, it makes sense – a business owner might even be *losing money* by running a company. They can do that, but their employees can not. In any case, the $1 salary people are usually taking home ENORMOUS amounts of deferred compensation (i.e. stocks and bonuses). Wikipedia notes Larry Ellison (Oracle) as having a $1 salary in 2010-11 and $77 million in deferred compensation, for example.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq*

        Oh yeah, and professionals are generally exempt from minimum wage laws as well. It’s common for attorneys and doctors both to provide “pro bono” services – that’s just a fancy word for volunteering to work without pay.

      2. Natalie*

        For most professionals exempt from minimum wage (including executives) there’s still a minimum salary threshold though. I’m assuming that either deferred compensation counts, or that DOL doesn’t care.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq*

          I think it has to do with whether you’re “the boss” or an employee. Owners of a business don’t have to pay themselves a salary at all, and often don’t while they’re still getting off the ground. Alternatively, if you are a partner at a law firm, you could literally do nothing all day but pro bono work and it would be perfectly legal. Actually, I think that “of counsel” attorneys do the same thing – I’m not sure where you draw the line.

          1. Natalie*

            The attorney thing is different because their job class is exempt, regardless of how much they make (attorneys, doctors, and teachers). It’s just those three, though – all other exemptions have a salary threshold and a duties test.

            These $1 salary CEOs are almost always working for publicly traded companies, so they’re not the owner in any meaningful way.

            1. MegaMoose, Esq*

              I’m not disagreeing with you, I was just being imprecise and don’t want to look up the statutes. I was talking about two different things in the comment you just responded to: business owners, who are exempt because they’re business owners, and professionals like attorneys, who are exempt because the law exempts certain professional classes. As far as I can tell, the famous $1 salary execs either count as business owners by owning at least 20% equity (like Zuckerburg or Elon Musk) or, as you pointed out, aren’t complaining to the DOL about their salaries.

  34. CoveredInBees*

    Religious issues aside (since they have been well-discussed above), is it appropriate to have an egg hunt in an office generally? My impression of them is that kids stop participating around age 7 or 8 unless they’re helping out a younger child.I don’t observe Easter, so I’m going on hearsay. Unless you work in a field directly relating to young children, it feels inappropriate from that perspective.

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      It’s like trick or treating. In general, people do stop at a certain age (NOT 7 or 8- that is way too young for a cut off) but there are always those who continue through young adulthood.

      1. Allison*

        I’ve often thought it would be fun to have an “adult” egg hunt, with scratch tickets and nips of booze in the eggs in addition to candy. Not at work, though!

        1. Marillenbaum*

          Definitely did this in college: an Easter egg hunt where the eggs were filled with Jello shots. It was an interesting time.

    2. MWKate*

      It really is a kids activity.

      However, there are a lot of rather juvenile things I would do for free candy. In this context though – just put a bowl of candy out and let people help themselves as they like.

    3. another person*

      We had really intense Easter egg hunts in undergrad—one of my friends sprained their ankles.

      And as a family, we did Easter egg hunts up until the youngest was 8ish, which meant many of us were young teenagers–there were just rules about which eggs you were allowed to find. As a teenager, (and really even as a middle schooler hunting Easter eggs with toddlers…) I knew any egg that was lying on the ground was not for me, but the orange ones hiding in an orange tree that you had to climb a couple feet to get to–those ones were… (my family was pretty good at hiding eggs).

  35. Erin*

    #1 – Do you mean just hiding them and letting them stumble across them on their own, or would you be telling them that there are eggs if they want to look for them?

    I get trying to add a little fun into the office but this feels a little bit weird to me either way. If you let them them on their own they might wonder why they’re there or if they were meant for someone else. Or they might not find them at all because they won’t be looking. If you tell them there are eggs to find then they might feel obligated to participate in this egg hunt, and I don’t think you should make employees feel like they have to engage in an activity like this.

    Also, personally, I’m one of those people who is Done with holidays once they’re technically over, so the fact that this would be the day after Easter would also be a turn off for me.

  36. Karyn*

    I used to bring in leftover Hanukkah food from my annual party (and I always had tons, because I always made enough for a small army). It included stuff that would be considered “traditional” Jewish food – kugel, latkes, brisket, and Challah – but I always just put it out and said, “Leftovers ahoy!” Likewise, I don’t think anyone would care if you brought in innocuous chocolate and left little bags of it on people’s desks, but that’s different than eggs and/or an egg hunt.

    RE: bathroom buddies – besides the wardrobe malfunction, I can tell you that there was one time in my retail job when a client made me cry (actually called me a Shyster because I was wearing my Star and he apparently thought one of our store promotions wasn’t generous enough), and one of my coworkers came into the bathroom with me to comfort me. I don’t often cry or even get upset at rude customers, because it’s part and parcel of retail, but that one REALLY upset me and she wanted to make sure I was okay.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I like the distinction between “Look, food in the common area” (“Yay! Food!”) and hiding spring-loaded kugel in the file drawers in the spirit of the holiday.

        1. neverjaunty*

          I look forward to their mashup of “Anarchy in the U.K.” and the Dayenu song.

        2. Karyn*

          Absolutely dying, and now I know what prank to play on my friends for April Fools next year…

    2. J.B.*

      I’m sorry about your story. And yes, if you want to do something fun, you could do a little bit of chocolate on the desks. And feel free to put a bunny or something in your area.

    3. anon for this*

      I just want to thank you for your post because until now, I did not know that shyster had religious connotations. I thought it was synonymous for con-man. I don’t think I’ve used it often but I certainly will never use it again.

      1. Karyn*

        At the risk of going O/T (and I suggest we leave it here to avoid a long thread of nothingness), you’re quite welcome. I understand that a lot of people don’t know the connotations, and it is used as a synonym for con-man, and itself isn’t exactly anti-Semitic (it was actually an insult to lawyers, believe it or not). But because it bears such a resemblance to the ACTUALLY anti-Semitic word “Shylock” and because, well, a lot of lawyers are Jews, it came to take on an anti-Semitic aura. Occasionally I’ll hear my Jewish friends use it, which STILL makes me cringe, but I think it’s out of a sense of “taking back ownership” of the word, if that makes sense.

        Anyway, don’t beat yourself up too much. Long as you weren’t actually intending to be an ass, like that customer was, I’m sure there was no real harm done.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, it’s one of those words that gained its slur through mistaken use, kind of like “sloe-eyed.” Which bugs me, but I don’t feel a desperate need to use a word that has those associations.

        2. StevieIsWondering*

          Another one being the verb “gyp”, derived from the stereotype that the Roma people, formerly called Gypsy, steal and swindle.

      2. arn*

        I was just thinking the same thing and feeling like an idiot! I legitimately thought that it was just a word for a con-man (sort of had some idea in my head that it had some sort of Yiddish origin) but had no idea it had anti-Semitic connotations. Thank God it sounds archaic enough that I don’t think I’ve used it that often…

  37. The Cosmic Avenger*

    And Alison, I have to say that I really love that you use strikeout when making updates. Untracked edits can and do often lead to more arguing and less certainty about the wording when there’s an online discussion forum, so thank you for making these updates transparent in this way.

  38. Alucius*

    For letter #1, as a practicing Christian I would have to say that I’d find an office Easter egg hunt somewhat problematic as well. Easter is the most sacred day of my calendar and turning it into “oh hey, fun, let’s look for candy!” kind of trivializes something that is deeply important to my faith.

    I think your heart is in the right place and I wouldn’t be super put out or anything, but I don’t think its the best idea.

    1. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

      I’m with you here. I don’t want Easter to be secular. I don’t do Easter baskets or anything commercial because….yeah. It’s the backbone of my faith, this holiday.

      I’ll be happy to invite all friends, including non-Christians, to my post-church lunch/dinner, but ultimately it’s a day (8 days, really) devoted to faith. I certainly neither expect nor want to have an Easter Egg hunt at work, though I’ll bring some rhubarb crumble Monday morning.

  39. Allison*

    #3, when I had a job where we were hourly and scheduled to work 8:30-5:30, we could work overtime but only with manager approval, and I’m sure you had to ask your manager even if you just wanted to hang out for whatever reason. This was because we entered our time manually, and there’d need to be an agreement that the OT was okay (or, the employee would need to agree not to enter OT).

    In offices where hours were more flexible, and lots of people were exempt, there’s been less of an issue with people just hanging around because they don’t want to leave yet. And I can understand that! I’ve hung around late simply because I’m going somewhere after work and didn’t want to be too early! But either I knew the office enough to know it wouldn’t be a big deal, or I’d ask, because I’d rather not have an irritated cleaning staff shooing me out the door.

    But, OP, you have an issue with your employee staying late, and you need her to leave at 5:30. She doesn’t have to go home, but she can’t stay there! If you’ve already told her this very clearly, maybe you need to tell her why she can’t stay late. Is it a liability issue, or something else? Right now, it might sound like an arbitrary rule which may be why she’s not following it. Could she hang out in the lobby and read a book until 6? Is there a nearby cafe she can hang out in?

  40. OrganizedChaos*

    My company holds a company wide egg hunt for a little over 100 adult ppl every year. We have over $500 in cash, mystery gift card prizes and vacation day passes along with candy in 4,400 eggs. We also state its voluntary and optional to participate. Some don’t but even those who are not “fans” of the holiday can be seen with bums in the air trying to score cash and prizes. Since I organize and “hide” the eggs it provides me with 2.7 seconds (the amount of time the eggs are collected) of hilarity. It is the only time un the year that I like to waste time in my HR job.

    1. Gandalf the Nude*

      Whoa. That seems even more problematic to me. Candy is one thing, but offering a monetary incentive to employees to participate in a religious event seems really gross.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Yeah, this would make me really, really uncomfortable, because by not participating I’m making it pretty obvious that I’m not Christian. And I love me some Cadbury Creme Eggs, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs, and a bunch of other stuff that is tangentially related to Easter, but I eat it like I eat a normal piece of candy, without the practices or rituals of hiding and finding that many Christians enjoy.

      1. Emi.*

        FWIW, I would not see you sitting out an egg hunt and assume you were non-Christian. I would just assume that you weren’t into egg hunts, which I understand is pretty common among grownups.

      2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Yes — not participating would highlight your religious practices… and deny you the opportunity to take home $500 and/or vacation days. Yikes.

      3. Mephyle*

        I don’t think it would highlight non-participators as non-Christian, at least it shouldn’t – they might be like Alucius (a nearby upthread comment) for whom Easter is a sacred holiday.

    3. LBK*

      I have to wonder if this isn’t on shaky grounds with the EEOC, since you’re effectively giving people rewards based on their religion…and either way, giving out sizable rewards including vacation time effectively by random distribution seems like a great way to drive good employees who should actually be earning those rewards by merit out the door.

      1. OrganizedChaos*

        How would one go about checking with the EEOC about this? Also, generally the only people that do not participate are either managers or people who are off that day. Our company is very inclusive and have these types of things monthly (scav hunts, theme days, etc.) where the above mentioned prizes are also given away. Is this only an issue because eggs are involved? No defense here, just wondering about this as I had not thought of it that way.

        1. Gandalf the Nude*

          It’s problematic because the eggs are emblematic of a religious celebration. It’s a tradition tied to Easter, whether you take the name out of it or not. It’s possible that you have high participation because no one is bothered by it/everyone observes, but it’s also possible that there are people bothered by it who have decided for one reason or other that it’s not the hill they want to die on. We’ve had many discussions in many comment sections about the costs of being the naysayer to an activity everyone else finds fun. Maybe take a look at the folks who take off that day and see if there are repeat customers when your event is based around a Christian holiday. And you also can’t discount the possibility that down the line someone will be hired who objects. You might think, “If they don’t dig it, then they wouldn’t be a good culture fit,” but then you run into issues of whether your company culture isn’t exclusionary to people of different backgrounds.

          All that to say, the egg hunt on its own probably wouldn’t be actionable, but if it’s part of a wider pattern of erasing non-Christians, you’ve got a problem. Maybe make your April event about Spring or Earth Day instead.

          1. LBK*

            I think it’s also tough to gauge how strongly people feel about it when you’re giving out a substantial amount of cash and a highly coveted benefit (vacation time). Assuming I didn’t have such strict beliefs that I absolutely couldn’t participate (like Jehovah’s Witnesses, who I believe have pretty strong stances on partaking in any celebrations outside of the ones prescribed by their faith) I’d probably put up with a religious event I didn’t love for those kinds of prizes.

            All I can think of is the episode of The Office where everyone gets more excited to participate in the Santa swap after Michael contributes an iPod.

  41. A Nemo*

    Isn’t it limited to specific federal agencies that are allowed to accept volunteer labor? The Parks Department is one that comes to mind that can have volunteers. Maybe the Smithsonian and other museums too.

    One of the first rules you learn in any federal fiscal law or finance course is “no volunteer services” is the general rule unless there is legislation authorizing otherwise. This includes employees working uncompensated time or free items/services from vendors as both are potential liabilities to the government that may have to be paid out at a later date.

    1. LQ*

      Nonprofits can have volunteers and the parks department is a government agency and the smithsonian and most museums are nonprofits.

    2. Natalie*

      Employees are a different issue entirely – it’s pretty typical for non-profits of all kinds to not allow their employees to volunteer separately.

    3. Jessesgirl72*

      If there is, it doesn’t seem to apply at all to the executive branch.

      The White House uses all kinds of unpaid labor for everything from the gardens to all the decorating done for Holidays. It’s an “honor” that people COMPETE for, to work long hours for weeks straight to make Christmas decorations and then decorate all of the White House. (and the volunteers have to HIDE IN CLOSETS, ETC if the President comes through the area they are working in! They covered that on one of the “behind the scenes” specials, and the volunteers giggled like idiots about having to hide in a closet for like half an hour until they were given the all clear…. common people apparently being offensive to Presidents, even the last one….)

    4. MegaMoose, Esq*

      As best I know, government entities and non-profits are allowed to use volunteers pretty much across the board. I used to work for our state judicial branch and they’d have unpaid interns from time to time. I assume it’s enshrined in law somewhere or other.

    5. Worker Bee*

      I don’t have an answer for you but I know what you’re talking about. How does the Anti-Deficiency Act not apply? I’m wondering if the distinction is that the volunteer has some kind of designated volunteer status rather than the status of a federal employee. I know that nonessential personnel that were furloughed during the last federal shutdown were not allowed to work, even if they agreed to volunteer their time.

  42. Aloot*

    #1: I wouldn’t do it as an *Easter* thing, with typical secular Easter-related things like eggs, since not only do you chance offending or alienating non-Christian coworkers, but there are also some *Christian* denominations who would take offense as well (mixing pagan into what is a very big and important Christian-specific holiday). Religion and religious holidays can be a minefield at times.

    Of course, you know your office best and you should have a feel of how people would react, but what if you just brought it in with a few days or a week earlier/later to offset the “this is for Easter!”? You get to spoil your coworkers a little, while still avoiding it being overly religion-based.

    Though if you do this, I’d stay away from eggs and rabbits and probably the color yellow too to avoid associations, and instead bring donuts or other baked goods like cinnamon rolls. Sure, people are still going to know that this is basically for Easter, but it’s in a more sensitive way.

    #4: I don’t get why you feel like you have to do *anything*? There are sooo many reasons why they could’ve been in there that has nothing to do with sex, and if you report it and it turns into an investigation? It’s probably going to make for a tense workplace for a while, especially if they know you were the one who reported it. (I know at least that personally I would think much less of a coworker who immediately jumped to “OMG sex!!!” when seeing something like that, especially since it was a one time thing.)

  43. Koko*

    With regard to #5, when I was in a similar situation the way my colleague and I supported each other was by serving as a reference for each other so that we each had a reference from our current workplace to go with past supervisors.

    As an employer, does it change the equation if two applicants are serving as each other’s references? Would it even be worth doing in the applicants’ case, or would you pretty much disregard what they had to say about each other due to potential conflicts of interest?

  44. Lynne879*

    #3: I understand someone that wants to avoid traffic, but I definitely agree that someone shouldn’t at their workplace after hours if they’ve been explicitly told not to. I agree with Alison’s advice on being firm, but maybe you could also recommend to your employee a place for her to go after work? Like maybe a library or a coffee shop? Finding an alternative place for her to go after work hours might make it easier for her to adjust to not stay after 5:30pm.

    For me personally, I sometimes stay in the town I work at to avoid traffic & I sometimes walk around the nearby mall or read at Barnes & Noble until traffic dies down.

    1. Lynne879*

      I forgot to add that finding an alternative place may or may not be possible depending on the area you live in.

      1. LawBee*

        True. But that’s not really the OP’s problem. It doesn’t sound like the employee *needs* a place to be as much as it does that she’s just hanging out. The OP presumably has a car or access to public transportation. Traffic sucks, but that’s no reason to stay to 9pm playing on the computer.

    2. Whats In A Name*

      This is what I did when I wanted to avoid traffic in the evenings when I had to cut through the city to get home; I broke my errands up into manageable chunks and would grocery shop or do other things near the office before I hit the Parkway. Freed up my weekends AND shaved about 45 minutes off my time in the car.

    3. blushingflower*

      Yeah, I’m salaried, but I’ve been known to stay late just because I don’t feel like going home (I want to BE home but don’t want to deal with the commute). I’m not usually working, just procrastinating.

      I’m also wondering if it’s possible to shift this employee’s start time so that she can stay a little later and miss rush hour without running into overtime.

  45. Bend & Snap*

    #4 i’m kind of mystified by this. It seems a good time to adopt an “eyes on your own paper” kind of mentality.

    If you CAUGHT them doing something–like actually caught them, like Duck Club–or saw someone stealing, etc. of course that’s something to report.

    But this is more than a little Gladys Kravitz when there’s nothing overtly untoward happening.

    1. Chickaletta*

      Yes. It’s also damaging gossip, especially since the OP doesn’t know for sure what was happening. Imagine if I wasn’t doing anything wrong, but someone reported me to HR for having sex when I wasn’t, it would be horrifying, embarrassing, and I’d be really upset. People in HR, probably my manager, and who knows who else would all wonder if I was having sex in the bathroom, and how could I prove I wasn’t? It would be my word against someone else’s. I’d be so, so upset at whoever reported a false claim like that. I think the OP really should slow down and put herself in the other person’s shoes for a minute and think about the consequences of what she’s about to set in motion.

  46. Heather*

    I am an hourly worker and it never even occurred to me that time I may spend at the office doing personal things would be a problem. I often either stay late just hanging out and killing time if I have something to do to in the city and don’t have time to go home in between (I live in the burbs and have a long commute). I have also come in on the weekend to make use of my work computer’s software for personal use. In my case, I don’t think my employer cares if I do these things (certainly lots of other people do these things–I’m not the only one).

    If you haven’t made it perfectly clear that the employee is not only not supposed to be WORKING, but actually prohibited from being on premises, it’s possible that it wouldn’t have occurred to the worker that this would be a problem.

    1. JoJo*

      There are a lot of reasons they don’t want you hanging around. You might not be covered by the company’s insurance, they could be liable if someone broke in while you were there, the security guard can’t leave with you still there, assuming that you’re not sitting in the dark, the energy bill will be higher, etc.

  47. Channel Z*

    OP1: I do think having surprise Easter eggs is overstepping, because it is assuming everyone celebrates Easter. The idea of a bit of fun is in the right place, though. One way ExJob dealt with religious holiday conflicts was to have the annual holiday party in January, after the major holiday season. This was great, because at that stage people are generally sick of Christmas parties, and it perked up January. Maybe have a surprise chocolate treasure hunt on a random day, now that would really be a surprise!

  48. Sourd'oh*

    Re: #2 Ms Trump doesn’t need to be a volunteer. The President’s staff and cabinet are not covered by the FLSA, so its minimum wage/maximum hours requirements don’t apply to her. Just as Congress wrote it not to apply to themselves or their employees, except the Library of Congress.

  49. Noah*

    My problem with the Easter egg thing isn’t (just) the religious part. It’s that this person thinks it’s okay to come in my office and hide ANYTHING. Unless you’re the janitor, my assistant, the mail guy or somebody dropping something off as part of your job, stay out of my office when I’m not there. This is a HUGE overstep.

  50. Jaybeetee*

    Why would you even assume they were having sex, and why on earth would you report that they were if you have no idea what they were up to? Like, whaaat?

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I know–there’s nothing in this letter that specifies any reason why the OP thought that was the activity in question. I had to read it several times and I still have no idea what in the hell.

      There’s no mention of gender–was it a man and a woman coming out of a single-use bathroom? If so, or even if it were two people of the same sex, were there sounds that implied such activity? Are these particular people rumored to get it on in various places in the office? What. Is. Happening. Here.

  51. Critter*

    LOL at “blinded by the mention of candy” you kill me. Sometimes you seem so serious and then you’ll say something that cracks me up. You are an enigma ;)

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