3 updates from letter-writers

Here are updates from three people who had their letters answered here recently.

1. My boss got drunk and was angry that I couldn’t drive him back to the office

My boss’s boss did have the full story, my boss had told him everything exactly as it happened. They have worked together for decades. When my boss had told me to drive, I explained to him why I don’t drive or have a license and showed him my medic alert bracelet. He knew why I was refusing to drive. I took your advice and spoke to HR the Monday after you published my letter. Unfortunately things did not go as I hoped.

HR acknowledged I was right not to drive us back to the office, both because I don’t have a license and because I didn’t have permission to drive a company vehicle from someone who was authorized to give it. My boss and his boss were told they were wrong to expect me to have driven the car. However, they were not disciplined and nothing happened beyond the one sentence “you were wrong” speech. I was told off the record that my boss is needed for two different projects in the works and the company would lose money if he were let go or if he quit so HR wasn’t going to do anything further. My boss was also lauded for recognizing he was too drunk to drive and calling a cab. Nothing was said to him about getting so drunk at a business lunch that he was falling down. The company allowed him to expense the cab fares.

HR agreed that I should transfer to a different team or department because I was uncomfortable working under him after I had reported him. The only two open positions they had here were on teams managed by people he is known to be friends with (their families have married into each other and they play golf together all the time) and I did not want to work under his friends either. The only other position HR could find was in a different state. I have lived in this city my entire life and every relative I have lives in this area, and I didn’t want to move either.

The agreement HR and I came to was that I would leave my job and HR would give me an excellent reference and state that I was laid off through no fault of my own after a project went in a different direction. I’m not happy about being unemployed but there was no way I was going to work under one of my boss’s good friends, or move to another state. My last day was exactly one week after my letter was published. The lease on my apartment was up on that Sunday and I was supposed to sign a new lease on the day that ended up being my last day. I ended up moving back in with my parents and thankfully I didn’t have to pay any penalty for not renewing because there is a waiting list for that building.

Even though I lost my job, I am glad I spoke up and I don’t regret anything. I couldn’t have done it without you and the people who commented. I just want to move forward with my job search.

(At least one person commented about how I should learn to drive just in case. I am prohibited from driving by law and would face serious consequences if I was ever caught doing so. I have had my condition since I was born and have always gotten along fine without being able to drive. It is not possible, legally or morally, for me to drive under any circumstances)

2. Can I ask for child care costs to be covered as as contractor? (#2 at the link)

Quick update for you: my contract ended this month and was renegotiated for another two years. I was given a pay bump and a title change (yay!), and my board also offered to pay a premium for hours that I worked on-site rather than at home.

We discussed the creation of a childcare stipend, but they were reluctant to offer one because it would look like a employee perk, and I’m not an employee. This solution actually works better for me because the rate premium is not a finite pool of funds the way a stipend would be (great for me), and it allows me to work on-site more often and with more flexibility (great for them). It was a great solution and I feel really positive about moving forward with them for another two years.

Thanks for your response, and for your great advice over the years – I felt like I was channeling your AAM advice during the negotiation.

3. My boss asks for my input, won’t take it, and then turns out to be wrong

Just wanted to say that thanks to that advice and all the excellent job search advice on AAM, I have secured a new position working for a non-profit involved in assisting women running for public office. I’m very excited about this opportunity and I was also able to negotiate them into my desired salary range.

One more detail, since I know you like hearing about salary negotiation success stories. I read just about everything I could find about salary negotiations and the one that really struck me was the article you shared about a study saying that the vast majority of women do not bother negotiating salary. I figured if there was any organization that would appreciate a woman negotiating for salary, it would be this one.

When speaking with my wise and knowledgeable mother beforehand, I said they’d offered me $x and I was thinking of asking for $x plus $5k. She suggested I ask instead for $x plus $4k because numbers ending in nine are more palatable to consumers. She had a very good point, but after reading your website and especially the aforementioned article, I thought, nah, I’m not going to lowball myself. So I asked for the x plus 5k, expecting that they might come up a couple thousand from their original offer. My new supervisor spoke with the owner of the company and got back to me within an hour to say they could do the x plus 5k I’d asked for. I was thrilled!

{ 164 comments… read them below }

  1. Annie*

    Ugh, I feel really bad for Letter Writer #1 that he lost his job over something that was not his fault at all – he was the responsible one in the situation, not the boss or grand-boss. Ugh. I hope you find something better with more sane managers!

    1. H.C.*

      Ditto; I hoped that LW1 got some sort of severance package too, but that doesn’t seem to be case.

    2. Caledonia*

      Yeah it sucks. Faced with no good options I think OP took the best worst one. I hope life is better now OP1!

    3. flibbertyG*

      Agree, this was a disappointing update. The only silver lining is that the company must have been very dysfunctional to have had so many bad actors in a row (the boss, the bosses boss, all the other bosses that OP felt wouldn’t be impartial, and the HR department doesn’t sound like they did a good job handling it either). Hopefully OP will end up in a more functional workplace soon.

      1. RVA Cat*

        Also the fact there are people who have worked together for decades and married into each other’s families – this place is their little fiefdom and while it sucks that the OP lost their job, the smallfolk always suffer in such places anyway.

    4. Alex*

      Me too. It’s so frustrating when someone like LW #1 does absolutely everything right and still ends up losing his job.

      Even though they wouldn’t be obligated to, they should have offered more than just a good reference since they made a conscious choice to force out an employee who did nothing wrong in favor of one who did. But the fact they would choose not to discipline an out of control employee shows this wasn’t a great place to work.

      I really hope everything works out for him and he lands somewhere with a bit more integrity.

    5. Case of the Mondays*

      It sounds like no one was forcing #1 out. #1 wasn’t comfortable working for the boss or boss’ friends after the incident. It sounds like #1 could have stayed there while job hunting. It’s possible that the “you were wrong” could have actually made the boss rethink his actions, especially now that he was sober. The point of the advice to go to HR originally was to get the cab money back. I never expected them to reassign the LW.

      1. fposte*

        I’m inclined to agree, and when I go back to the original letter it’s about talking to HR about the situation, not never having to work for the boss again. I wonder if more things happened or just the way it was handled made the OP really determined not to work for him any more?

        1. TootsNYC*

          yeah, I wondered about this as well, about what happened to make the OP think they had to get all the way away from the boss, and not just say, “OK, good, I got the company to say I was right, and I got the cab money back, so it’s all over.”

          And sure, the OP might decide to look for a new job, but I’m wondering why it was so very urgent to get away from the boss right away. And to not even be willing to work for someone who knows him (bcs you can be golfing buddies with someone and still think he was wrong to treat his subordinate that way).

          That seemed like an overreaction on the OP’s part. Of course I don’t have details, but it just seemed extreme based on my memory of the original situation, and based on the idea that HR backed the OP up.

          1. Sunshine*

            This is a boss who gets falling down drunk at lunchtime. Tries to force his employee to break multiple laws. Penalises employee for refusing to do so. I think OP *under-reacted*.

      2. Liet-Kynes*

        I’ve known enough charismatic, functional alcoholics to be very, very skeptical that the boss would rethink his actions for longer than it takes to open the next bottle.

      3. Aunt Margie at Work*

        Nobody (except the Boss) thought that HR would do anything other than step into the situation to support OP. That didn’t happen.

        I think the private conversation where HR rep said that boss was too valuable to lose was one of those things Alison points out as a subtle hint. OP was right to see it as a suggestion to move on – as was the offer to ship OP out of state. Not only is the boss connected at every level in the company, the company itself was going to back him. Retaliation by the boss, though not inevitable, would be tolerated.

        1. Koko*

          Yes, IANAL but HR told her they wouldn’t protect her from retaliation and their best offer was transferring her to another team where one can assume she would continue to not be protected from retaliation. I’d think that could potentially be constructive discharge.

          1. fposte*

            I’m reading “HR wasn’t going to do anything further” as being about the exchange that already happened–are you reading it as a refusal to protect the OP from any future retaliation?

            1. Kate*

              They actually praised OP’s boss for calling a cab after trying to force OP to drive illegally and never punished the boss for that, I really don’t think, especially after HR has told OP how valuable Boss is, that they are going to do anything to protect OP from Boss. Do you?

          2. Detective Amy Santiago*

            I read that the same way fposte did – not that they wouldn’t protect LW from retaliation, but that they weren’t going to take any sort of punitive action against boss because it would cost the company lost revenue.

            The way I read this update, HR did everything they could to make LW comfortable and it was LW’s choice to leave. I think that leaving and negotiating a good reference was absolutely the right call under the circumstances and I hope that LW is able to find a better position soon.

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, I can understand the OP thinking that it would be really hard to avoid subsequent blowback from this, but I didn’t hear this as HR hanging her out to dry.

          3. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It actually doesn’t say that. If you’re talking about the “HR wasn’t going to do anything further,” that’s about disciplining the boss for the parking lot incident.

            1. The OG Anonsie*

              I agree with that. Considering the whole package of information, though: The LW is concerned about future issues, HR tells them that this manager has enough leverage/value that all they are able to do is reprimand them without any solid ramifications, HR offers to move them but warns of connections to that same manager, HR also offers that they can resign with a protected reference and little notice.

              To me, that indicates HR knows that they can’t prevent or solidly protect the LW due to factors larger than them within the company, and to protect themselves from that liability they give the LW other outs. That situation is nonsense from the standpoint of how a functional organization should be run, but it’s not exactly unusual in reality.

              1. fposte*

                I’m not seeing anything about HR warning her about relationships either, though. That’s just the OP stating this as why she didn’t want to transfer to the teams with an open position.

              2. Aunt Margie at Work*

                That’s what I felt. That HR was indicating that if there were future incidents, the result would be the same. It was up to OP to decide what to do, but it might not be pleasant.

              3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                HR didn’t warn her of connections to the same manager; that was the concern of the OP.

                I’d read it this way: HR agreed the OP was in the right, told the two managers they were in the wrong, the cab money situation was dealt with, and HR offered a transfer to a different team. The only two open positions were ones that the OP felt uncomfortable taking and so she decided she’d leave.

        2. The OG Anonsie*

          Yeah, HR told the LW here that they were unable to do anything stronger than say “that’s a bad idea” and that any other supervisors they could shift them under would also be strongly connected to the previous manager. If they didn’t believe this was seriously relevant to what might happen between the company (via their bosses) and the LW, I don’t think they would have mentioned it or given the LW such a protective deal to exit. I think the LW was probably wise to recognize how south everything had the potential to go and make a more comfortable arrangement, however frustrating and unfair.

          Without giving too much detail, I was once in a similar situation where I had blown the whistle shortly before I planned to give notice. HR offered me an arrangement that allowed me a quicker and easier out than their usual policy allowed, as well as a plan for continued positive references that wouldn’t involve the management I had reported. This type of thing both works better for the employee, who doesn’t have to keep working in stressful or hostile circumstances, and the company, which then doesn’t have the liability of retaliation that they suspect may happen. If the LW didn’t have any reason to be worried, I doubt HR would have offered them such an arrangement.

      4. Sunshine*

        A boss and grandboss who think it’s ok to penalise an employee for refusing to break the law have demonstrated extremely unprofessional behaviour. I wouldn’t trust them not to retaliate against LW.

    6. Artemesia*

      I just think this was outrageous. At the least there should have been a huge severance — like 3 mos pay at least or else the OP should have been protected and let work there until a new job was obtained. ‘You are right but we are not going to protect you’ is horrendous. I am sorry the OP didn’t choose to continue to work until she had a new position. Sometimes karma is just not on our side. Awful outcome but not unfortunately surprising.

      1. JBinNC*

        But she didn’t get fired – she quit. Why should she have received severance? Nowhere in the letter does it say anything about her boss or grandboss retaliating against her. It was her decision to leave.

        1. Mookie*

          Neither retaliated because the LW went to HR, but both bosses told / ordered the LW to pay for their cab fare.

        2. Sunshine*

          A boss who gets falling down drunk at lunchtime, thinks it’s ok to penalise an employee for refusing to break the law and is extremely valuable to the company? That boss was going to retaliate.

          1. RVA Cat*

            This. It smacks of how athletes get away with stuff that would send normal folks to jail.

        3. Vicki*

          Nooo. It’s phrased as a layoff and it was a mutual decision with HR. That’s not the same as “I quit”. That’s “We don’t see any way to make this work, so …”

    7. Helen*

      Me too. I’m extra surprised because it was a fortune 500 company, and not a small business or mom and pop shop. I would have thought that the managers and department of a Fortune 500 company would have had their heads screwed on straighter.

      1. BananaPants*

        Having worked for 14 years at a F500 company, I can assure you that in some respects we can be just as dysfunctional as a mom & pop.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I can vouch for that at the F100 level. Just because it’s a big company does not mean it’s healthy.

    8. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I feel for LW#1, although I do think HR did everything they could do under the circumstances. It sounds like OP decided that a transfer would not make sense given the level of uncomfortability they felt re: their drunk boss and grandboss.

      And I also feel like apologizing to OP about the comments about OP learning how to drive. I know I didn’t make them, but they still make me feel horrible (OP’s response to that argument is eloquent and on-point).

      1. Blurgle*

        It’s a pervasively cruel belief that everyone is permitted to and therefore must drive.

        1. One of the Sarahs*

          It’s cruel, because there are 1000 reasons people *can’t* drive, from medical to economic – but it’s also stupid, because millions and millions of people in major cities all over the world choose not to drive, and are just fine. Whenever I read one of the “ZOMG but you *HAVE* to drive!!!11!!” comments, I assume it’s from someone who just doesn’t understand life outside their own bubble, and I really feel for the people with epilepsy etc etc who have to be around them.

          1. stanleycupcakes*

            I have epilepsy myself– I used to be able to drive but one too many seizures (which hospitals and doctors in my state are mandated to report) resulted in the indefinite suspension of my license. I miss driving terribly, and I definitely hate having to rely on friends and family for rides just so I can get around.

            It’s one of the reasons I had to move to a city– the public transit, although it frequently catches fire, is still a godsend. Had I stayed back where I grew up I would have had to rely on the County’s Fare Free transportation.

            But I got a great job here with absolutely doting co-workers who found me unconscious in a scraped-up heap on the sidewalk outside and a boss who sat with me in the ER all evening while I recovered. Everyone should have a work family like that.

      2. LiveAndLetDie*

        Agreed. I remember some of the original comment threads about “OP should learn how to drive just in case” and thought they were unnecessary and dismissive of OP’s medical situation. OP’s response is diplomatic and wonderful. OP, I’m sorry you had to see all those comments.

        1. Blurgle*

          The dismissiveness is part and parcel of the “disabled people either exaggerate or malinger” mindset.

    9. Amy*

      I know I agree! It stinks!!! It’s hard to say without knowing the deal but I would probably have worked for the other team and kept my head down while job searching like crazy. That’s just what I would do to keep an income. Good luck to you Op #1! You can do it! You’re a valuable and smart, responsible person.

    10. Engineer Woman*

      Sending best wishes to OP#1 for good future employment. Thanks for the update, although I think most of us readers, if not all, were hoping for a stronger response from HR. What your boss and grand-boss did was horrible.

  2. Collie*

    #3, well done! I considered negotiating for a recently-offered position but decided against it (it’s a public library job and I know someone who has worked for the city before who had little luck negotiating; the pay is public and I didn’t see any variation for people who had been in the same positions for the same amount of time regardless of apparent gender; etc.) and I sometimes wonder if I should’ve tried anyway. The process for on-boarding has been different for this job in a lot of ways, but the salary was 25% more than what I’m currently making with better benefits so in this case, knowing I’d very likely look like a fool trying to negotiate a salary for a public servant position (and in a field that is over-saturated with candidates as it is!), I decided to let it be. I expect the prestige of this employer will help me out significantly in the future, though, so I have no doubt there will be other opportunities and your story heartens me!

    1. Narm*

      I just got a new job in a public library, and I most definitely negotiated. I was going up in pay even if I hadn’t negotiated, but after negotiating, my salary went up by another 15%. It was definitely worth it, and I knew I was worth it as well.

      1. Collie*

        Was this in an urban or suburban environment? I’m in a fairly big city, so that factored in as well.

        The offer was kind of strange — I was asked to pick a start date when it was verbally offered as if I would absolutely be joining (which I was for a bunch of reasons, but they wouldn’t necessarily know that) and there didn’t seem to be any kind of “in” to talk about negotiation. I spoke with an admin person for the original offer and was asked to return paper work accepting the position within a few days via email. All correspondence since that original offer has been through email, too.

        Plus, nearly everyone in the field I talked to said negotiating a public librarian salary was impossible (as in, you could try, but it wasn’t going to happen). I’m really interested in your success with it!

        1. Narm*

          It’s a public township library, just outside a large city. (Large population for the township size – also wealthy population compared to other libraries of a similar size). Most of the staff have their MLIS, and there’s two, I believe with PhDs as well.

          It was offered during my 2nd interview, and brought up as a “this is what we’re starting the salary as”, and I said something like “I really want to accept the offer, but my only reservation is the pay” and named what I could work for. When the salary was agreed, we discussed right there when I would start and a few of the benefits. Paperwork came later.

          With my previous job (that I left for this one), I also negotiated up, although not nearly as drastically. Job before that was with a county-wide library system, and during the interview itself, was told that this is the set salary schedule that we follow, no negotiations will be accepted. (That was for an hourly librarian, not a salary position).

          So, in 2 out of 3 jobs, I was able to negotiate the pay in a public library. It really does depend on location, though. My whole view on it is that I’m worth it. Librarians are generally paid really crappy compared to other professional degrees, so I don’t feel bad at all trying to get more money.

        2. Christy*

          My wife negotiated her public librarian salary! For one of the biggest counties in the country, library-wise. It can definitely be done.

        3. Collie*

          Neat! I’m thrilled to hear success stories; I’ll have to be a little bolder in the future. Thanks to you both (and congrats!).

          1. SnarkyLibrarian*

            Narm that is (two!) impressive success stories! I started out in a county library system and HR handled the offer and paperwork. I tried to negotiate the pretty low starting salary and their attitude was “You want this job or not? Your qualifications and experience don’t matter, this is the starting salary for this pay grade.” Good for you on standing firm and negotiating!

    2. Librarianne*

      In my (union) system, the pay is the pay and there is no negotiation. Which I like, because it’s one of the ways you can reduce the pay gap between men and women and white folks and minorities. You get paid what you get paid, you get a step increase if your evaluations are good, you max out the position’s salary after 10 years in the position. And we have one of the more equitable salary structures because of these things, along with a tuition reimbursement program that makes higher education possible for lots of people for whom it otherwise wouldn’t be.

  3. Papyrus*

    LW # 1 – I’m glad that you stood up for yourself and went to HR and didn’t have to pay for the cab fare, but I’m sorry for everything else that happened. It’s one thing to wave off this incident because the bosses are needed for projects, but to praise them for not driving drunk? Yeah, what a hero. Hope you find a much better, saner, place.

    1. Woah*

      That’s what’s so astonishing to me- they still trust his judgment after getting falling down drunk and pressuring and employee to drive illegally, even after she revealed a disability? I can count like six potential legal issues right there!

      1. Annie*

        Exactly. The boss sounds like he might have a drinking problem if he is getting drunk during lunch on a workday. Does the company not care to address that at all??

        1. Malibu Stacey*

          I bet he has previous DWI-related offenses – my brother does and my parents acted like he was a hero when he stopped driving when he drank too much.

          1. PM Jesper Berg*

            That’s seriously assuming facts not in evidence. People may overindulge but consistently know enough not to drive afterwards. Nor is every single person who’s ever been intoxicated a hard-core alcoholic.

            Stroll by the pubs in the City of London, or the soju bars in Seoul, or even dive bars on Capitol Hill. They’re packed to the gills — yes, on weekdays, well before close of business. Some (to put it mildly) of the patrons are drinking excessively but nonetheless presumably performing their jobs well, and indeed the drinking may even be part of the company or industry culture. If the company “doesn’t care to address this,” that’s a legitimate call. Sure, some employees may dislike the “work hard, play hard” culture; fair enough, and that’s why companies shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all. Teetotalers and soju-drinking salarymen both have their place.

            At the end of the day, OP’s company acknowledged that her boss was in the wrong concerning the chauffering incident. No one drove drunk; no one was stiffed for a cab fare they shouldn’t have paid; and OP was offered several opportunities to work under a different boss. I think the company has handled the situation adequately.

            1. Sunshine*

              Yep, that’s the ‘functional’ alcoholic type. I don’t think everyone who overindulges is an alcoholic. But this guy definitely sounds like one. He got drunk at midday, at a company lunch, and made it other people’s problem. He abdicated responsibility for his drunkenness.

              And I wouldn’t class his behaviour as ‘performing his job well’. Pressuring an employee with a medical condition to drive illegally is not ‘performing well’. It is disgraceful and should be a fireable offense.

        2. So Very Anonymous*

          I’m betting that no, they don’t care. I know of a situation where a high-level director regularly disappeared for half the day and when (if) he returned to work, he was plastered – then proceeded to drive home. But he was in a protected class which made it both difficult and politically dangerous to fire him, and politically advantageous to employ him. He has since received a promotion. (If I had ever witnessed this, I would have called the police, but unfortunately I only have second-hand information.)

          1. Brogrammer*

            “We can’t fire him, he’s a member of a protected class” is an excuse made by weak leaders who don’t want to take action against problem employees. Drunk drivers are not a protected class.

            1. Jessie the First (or second)*

              Absolutely. And it’s an excuse weak managers make when they fundamentally misunderstand the concept of protected class, too – because everyone is in a protected class. (We all *have* a gender – it’s not just women who are protected by anti-discrimination laws! We all *have* a nationality, a race, etc.)

            2. MacAilbert*

              I’ve seen that with the union at my job. “We can’t discipline this notoriously toxic individual, she’s been union for over 30 years!” You can. She’ll fight like hell because she’s the stubborn, never-can-be-wrong type, but even the union can’t stop you from getting written up for open insubordinance. Hell, the union has routinely showed they couldn’t care less about our workplace, so why even be afraid of them?

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Eh. You can talk to the head union rep. “Here is what is going on, blah, blah, blah. Do you think that this individual represents your union workers in a manner that is fair to the union? What responsibilities does the individual have in order to be represented and defended by a union rep? Can she do x? Can she do y or z? Are these actions going to be defended by the union?”
                [Where x, y and z are examples of toxic behaviors of this employee.]

                It depends on the union and it depends on the rep. It can happen where the rep says, “No, the union will not back her in this situation.”

                1. JanetM*

                  Indeed. Before my husband retired, he was shop steward at a grocery store. He flat-out told his members that if they screwed up in such a way as to merit discipline, it was his job as steward to make sure that all policies and procedures were followed, that the situation was documented correctly, and that nobody got railroaded, but not his job to protect them from the consequences of their screw-up. Especially if he had warned them that they were heading for trouble (e.g., “Hey, I’ve noticed that you’re away from your cash register a lot, and that you’re frequently on your cell phone when you are at the register. You do know they have cameras over the checkstands to look for that sort of thing, right?”).

            3. PM Jesper Berg*

              Of course drunk drivers aren’t a protected class. OP’s boss *didn’t* drive drunk, though. That’s how the whole incident started: he recognized he was in no condition to drive.

              While obviously an employee from the CEO down is well-advised not to get drunk at company events, nor do I think that the mere fact of getting drunk should inherently be grounds for firing. (Obviously things are different for some positions such as pilots, machinery operators, etc.)

              1. Sunshine*

                Pressuring an employee to drive illegally *should* be grounds for firing though.

          2. anon in cascadia*

            Someone in a essential personnel role was found passed out on the job during a winter holiday break, complete with empty vodka bottle in the trash next to him.
            His ‘protected class’ was alcoholic hurriedly seeking treatment, which meant he was off-limits for firing once his union (and presumably his lawyer) stepped in.

            1. Paxton*

              We have the same problem. An alcoholic who admitted he was one on the way to a drug test he knew he’d fail. He’s become untouchable now that he’s disabled.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I’m confused. Everyone is in a protected class. One’s membership in a protected class has nothing to do with whether that person can come to work drunk.

        3. Liet-Kynes*

          Probably not. If he’s a high-functioning alcoholic, and it sounds like he is, he’s probably enough of a rainmaker that they tiptoe around everything.

      2. Bye Academia*

        This was my thought too. This HR department seems terrible. Protecting the boss when there are potential ADA violations and retaliation for reporting an incident? Yikes.

        I fully understand why the LW wants to move on and not pursue this further, especially when they have negotiated a good reference. Also IANAL so I don’t know the actual merits of the case, just that it appears really shady.

        I hope you find a new job soon, LW, and in a much better environment.

        1. paul*

          HRs don’t always have the power to hire/fire people or require a course of action. They can *suggest* one, but they don’t always have the ultimate say.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I don’t think they’re horrible—it sounds like they don’t have the power to discipline the boss. And I don’t think there’s a retaliation issue at play, nor are there any concrete legal issues after HR addressed the boss and grandboss’s inappropriate behavior.

          I’m a little surprised the company covered his cab fare, though. I mean, certainly OP shouldn’t pay it, but this is a level of enabling that just blows my mind.

          1. Sunshine*

            “I don’t think there’s a retaliation issue at play.”

            I honestly cannot imagine a scenario where the boss would not retaliate. He thought it was ok to pressure an employee with a medical condition to drive illegally, and to force her to pay for his cab when she (rightly) refused. That’s exactly the sort of person who is going to retaliate, and feel 100% justified in doing so.

            1. paul*

              yeah but she’d been offered transfers out from his group; I can get why she didn’t feel like that was enough but it is a very reasonable first course of action for the company to take.

              1. Sunshine*

                I don’t think HR were terrible – I think that like OP they had no good options. I just think it’s pretty much inevitable that a person like OP’s boss was going to find a way to retaliate.

      3. Anon Anon*

        That doesn’t surprise me sadly. I know far too many people who are deemed to be too “valuable” get away with things that they shouldn’t be able to get away with. It’s just part of the game sadly.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          And often the only “valuable” things about them are that they’re well paid and in positions of power. “Fergus is too ‘valuable’ to discipline or get rid of because he’s an executive. Yeah, I know, he’s awful at being an executive, but he’s an EXECUTIVE!” While anyone at the bottom of the tree would be fired without question for far less.

          Goes well with the tens of millions of dollars in golden parachutes for the ones who do manage to get canned for running their companies into the ground or sexually harassing subordinates.

        2. Tuxedo Cat*

          I agree… It’s such a ridiculous thought that some people are too valuable that they can’t be disciplined or removed. If they quit, died, or were in a coma, companies would still survive or have to figure out how to survive.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I mean, this man is a walking lawsuit. But it sounds like HR has no power to address the issue, and the higher ups don’t want to or don’t care.

      5. INFJ*

        Right! They’re concerned about losing money because of the projects he’s on, but he’s a walking liability!

  4. Sue Wilson*

    #1: I totally understand why you left, but frankly, I would have let them untwist themselves out of a possible ADA/retaliation mess while I looked for a job, and tried to negotiate a severance/reference if it got bad.

    1. flibbertyG*

      Agree, I would have thought there would be a legal angle here that the HR department would have been able to navigate better. At least keep OP on as an employee while they look for other jobs, or offer generous severance, or something.

      1. fposte*

        As long as the OP is protected from retaliation and didn’t end up being out cab fare, though, it’s not likely to be a legal issue. And it sounded like the timing was OP’s choice, since she didn’t want to work for any of the bosses that she would have had to work for.

        1. flibbertyG*

          True, but the reason s/he didn’t want to work for them was because s/he feared retaliation. I agree that OP made their choice and there’s not a legal angle at this point, but it sounds like a bum deal.

          1. Jessesgirl72*

            She didn’t experience retaliation though- she only feared it. They also offered her a position out of state that she turned down.

            I think HR did the best they could for her, under the circumstances that the boss was too important/protected to fire. (In their eyes)

            1. Mainly lurking*

              I don’t think OP1’s HR did ‘the best they could’, I think they did the bare minimum they could get away with and were relieved that OP’s voluntary departure meant they weren’t required to do more. (Not that I blame OP for leaving under those circumstances – clearly HR didn’t have her back, and for all we know may renege on the promise of a good reference).

              1. flibbertyG*

                Yeah I guess this is my point, above. I feel like the HR could have explained what they would do to protect OP from retaliation, offered to keep them on while they searched for another job, or offered generous severance. Considering that OP did nothing wrong, these seem pretty reasonable options. But instead they did the minimum required.

        2. Student*

          OP was not protected from retaliation. HR even agreed retaliation was likely a problem, and that there was no open position for OP that would be reasonably safe from retaliation. They openly, nakedly picked profit over compliance with the law.

          The company wasn’t even willing to TRY telling the OP’s chain of command that this was disability discrimination, it needed to stop, and retaliation would also be illegal. Not even willing to bother with the conversation.

          1. fposte*

            I’m seeing nothing about HR agreeing retaliation was a problem–they agreed that the OP should move because she was uncomfortable, which is very different.

            I can understand why the OP didn’t want to work for this guy or his friends, but ensuring that isn’t what “protection from retaliation” automatically means, and that’s more than a lot of companies could do.

            1. Jessesgirl72*

              Plus the job out-of-state.

              I can understand why she didn’t want to relocate, but they did offer her the position, and her reasons for not taking it wasn’t at all related to retaliation, or even fear of it.

              1. Sunshine*

                Imagine a scenario where your choices are moving away from your friends, family and home, or continuing to work for a man (or one of his friends) who think it’s ok to pressure a non driver with a medical condition to drive illegally.

                The offer to move out of state is effectively penalising OP for complying with the law. It’s bizarre.

          2. Stranger than fiction*

            Sounds like the conversation would have been toothless and in vain though.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I don’t think there’s a legal angle here, at all. OP’s drunk boss behaved extremely poorly, but HR also immediately offered to move OP to protect them. There was no overt retaliation or other conduct rising to the level of a legally actionable claim. It’s not a great outcome, but it doesn’t sound like an illegal one.

  5. Sadsack*

    LW1, I’m glad that you are ok with how things ultimately turned out due to your handling of such a difficult situation. I can’t help still feeling angry on your behalf at the original ordeal and the company’s handling of things afterward. What a let down on their part! It’s probably just as well that you are out of there.

  6. PizzaDog*

    Praise for knowing he was too drunk and calling a cab? Did they miss the part where he a) got drunk at a lunch meeting and b) tried getting someone without a license to drive him back to work and b.5) telling them off about it when they refused? Come off it. What an unsatisfying end to this; I’m sorry you had to leave that place this way, OP1.

  7. Worker Bee (Germany)*

    LW 3 glad to hear you found something new. But I still wonder how your original situation turned out after writing to Alison? Did you come to terms with your bosses way of thinking through problems (= ignoring your opinions) Did you start job hunting right away because you couldn’t come to terms? Did he retire? So many open questions :) would love to hear from you again

    1. OP3*

      Interesting question, WB, and timely. I actually met OldBoss for dinner last night and he talked about how he’s going to drop down to three days a week, four hours each day (if possible) to keep his finger in the company but that the new guy taking over is doing okay and may or may not be able to keep the company going. And that is really not either of our problems anymore, which is a nice feeling.

      In answer to your other questions, I had been job hunting for many reasons, this being one of them, and I did come to terms with the fact that Boss will do what he wants to do and that the new guy will be even worse about these kinds of things. It was definitely time for a change and OldBoss even said last night that it was good I moved on, which I took as code meaning “this company probably won’t be around too much longer and even if they were they probably wouldn’t have a lot of hours they’d need you for so you’d be getting a massive pay cut”.

      And I’ve been at NewJob exactly one month and it’s going great!

  8. neeko*

    OP, thank you for reiterating that you cannot drive. Full stop. Some of the commenters on the original thread seemed bizarrely unwilling to believe that. Good luck to you.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I went back later that day and there were loads of new comments added after you said it should stop going on and on about it.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          If I’m remembering correctly, those were people arguing with the original person, not additional people saying she should learn to drive.

    1. LQ*

      It is a good reminder to always take the reader at face value. We get 1-5 paragraphs about their entire life. We should trust that they, not us, are the experts on it.

    2. Malibu Stacey*

      And it’s not like it’s a reasonable solution to the issue, anyway. People don’t learn to drive in case they need to drive their drunk boss’s behind around.

      It’d be like writing in and saying, “My boss texted me last night saying she had a fight with her husband and wanted to crash at my place, but I live at home and can’t have people over that my parents don’t know.” and getting the response, “You really need to move out on your own!” While that may or not be true, it’s not really the point.

  9. Student*

    #1 – if you are in the USA, you should look into disability law and retaliation. You can probably get a lawyer to give you a consultation pro bono, and maybe to take the whole case on contingency (free unless you wi, then lawyer gets part of settlement/payout). You have little to lose, a lot to gain, and this is literally exactly what disability law is supposed to protect you from.

    These guys deserve to get screwed over for treating a disabled person like this. I wish I could go sue them on your behalf! I am so angry this crap still happens in 2017.

    1. flibbertyG*

      But OP choose to quit, unfortunately. HR did accommodate them (did not make her pay back the money / presumably would have protected her from being fired for this / offered her the opportunity to transfer). OP preferred not to try those options and resign.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, it wouldn’t hurt to talk to a lawyer/EEOC, but the remedies offered seemed pretty appropriate to the situation.

      2. flibbertyG*

        Having said that, I do think HR could have offered some BETTER accommodations since OP did nothing wrong and the boss was the bad actor. But they offered enough accommodations to presumably satisfy the law.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think you’re misreading the situation. HR offered her various accommodations, and the OP chose on her own to quit. It’s very unlikely there’s a legal case here.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I don’t think there’s a legal hook, here. HR attempted to accommodate OP, and OP made the decision to leave. This is not what disability law protects. Had HR allowed OP to be charged for the cab fare or further abused by drunk boss, then there would be a problem. But that’s not how this situation resolved.

    4. Insurance*

      Theres not a single reason why this person would be eligible for disability. They were working with a health condition and able to do the duties of their occupation. They quit for a moral high ground reason and the premise of there could be retaliation.

      1. Sunshine*

        I’d like to think everyone would take the moral high ground over a boss who gets drunk at lunchtime and bullies his staff.

  10. Noah*

    re this statement by #1: “The lease on my apartment was up on that Sunday and I was supposed to sign a new lease on the day that ended up being my last day. I ended up moving back in with my parents and thankfully I didn’t have to pay any penalty for not renewing because there is a waiting list for that building.”

    It sounds like OP hadn’t signed a new lease, so I hope she wouldn’t have paid any penalty even if her landlord tried to demand one.

    1. Helen*

      Some places have a policy where if you don’t give warning that you are not going to renew a certain number of days before the lease is up, you have to pay a penalty. For instance I have to notify my landlord 30 days before the lease is up if I am choosing not to renew. OP mentioned there was a waiting list for their building so the landlord would have had no trouble filling her place.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yup, this. It’s common for there to be a mandatory notice provision. If a lease lapses, in many states any period past the lease termination date reverts to a month-to-month, or in some jurisdictions if a lease is at least one-year long, renews for the number of years set forth in the original lease. So the penalty could have been a real problem, and I’m glad it was not for OP.

      2. Just Another Techie*

        Right. But in every lease I’ve ever had or known about in my state, you sit down with your landlord to sign the next year’s lease well in advance of when the current lease runs out. So if you have an 1 year lease that ends on Aug 1, with a requirement of 60 days notice if you won’t renew, most landlords will start asking you to sign the new lease around May. Some will even start bugging you as early as April.

    2. No, please*

      Usually leases require a 30 day notice. So the penalty would just be a months rent, in my experience. I’m glad OP was able to avoid that. Good luck, OP!

    3. LabTech*

      Not saying I agree with it, but in some municipalities the tenant is required to provide prior notice of a certain amount of time before they move out.

    4. JamieS*

      My guess is it would be a penalty for not giving proper notice not a general penalty for not renewing which strikes me as illegal (I’m not a legal expert).

  11. AdAgencyChick*

    I’m sad for OP1. I think she had more options than she realizes.

    OP1, hopefully this never happens to you again, but for anyone else in a similar situation, I think it’s good to know that just because HR is not going to punish the offender, that doesn’t mean you can’t try and carve out a better place for yourself without having there be a punishment or a firing. You can say to HR, “This is a really uncomfortable situation. How will you help me make sure my boss doesn’t retaliate against me for bringing this issue to your attention?” Or, if you had preferred to take a job under one of the boss’s friends, “Fergus and Valentina are really tight. How can we make sure Valentina doesn’t hold the fact that I raised this issue with Fergus against me?”

    This is not to say that the relationship between OP and her boss (had she chosen to stay under old boss) wouldn’t be strained at first. (I think — I hope — it would not have been as bad to work under another boss, even a friend. One would hope the friend could see that OP’s boss’s actions were indefensible, and would want to treat OP decently while remaining friends with the boss, or not.) But I would hope that HR, if not willing to impose serious consequences on the bad actor, would at least realize it’s in the company’s best interests to prevent the effects on the OP from going any further.

    In any case, it would have given OP some time with a paycheck to start a job search.

    1. fposte*

      I think this is really good insight, AdAgencyChick; obviously there’s a lot that goes on face to face that doesn’t translate to here, but I think it’s worth talking about ways people in a similar situation could make it work, even if it didn’t look like it could for the OP.

    2. Just Another Techie*

      Yes. And in that case, if Valentina starts retaliating against the worker, the worker has a strong position for a legal case, or at minimum, making a constructive discharge claim for unemployment. When the worker choses to quit before any retaliation happens, she’s not eligible for UI.

  12. LKW*

    LW#1 I’m sorry that things worked out the way they did. Your discomfort is understandable but just because someone is a friend, doesn’t mean they’re going to retaliate. You may not know the managers well enough to make that call and I certainly can’t tell you they wouldn’t do it. Still, I know that in my company and in my life, there are people that I am friends with that I would gladly work with, and there are people with whom I am friends that I would never ever in a million years want to work with. Ever. If I had a friend that was fall down drunk at work and got mad at a person for not driving, I’d be sure to tell them they were wrong. Totally not acceptable, especially in the workplace. Doesn’t mean I’d end the friendship, although I’d be likely to if that nonsense continued.

  13. Critter*

    Why do I picture Don Draper in the first letter? Ugh. I’m really sorry all of that happened to you, and I hope things improve for you. Kudos for sticking up for yourself!

  14. LSP*

    Well done #3! I have always worked in public organizations, so the room to negotiate it small. In my last job, they offered me the mid-range, and I was able to push them up a bit.

    In my current job, I happened to know someone with the same title I’d be getting, but within a different department. She has an advanced degree and is about 15 years older, with 15 years more experience, so that gave me an idea of what I should ask for (which was already 20% above my previous salary). When I asked that, the response I received was about how their benefits aren’t as good as the ones I already had, etc. So I raised my ask by $10k — and they offered me $5k over THAT! It was awesome!

  15. Liane*

    #1: Yes, this sucks OP & I hope you get another better job soon.

    I recall all those “Learn to drive because–emerrrrrgencies!” comments. IMO telling someone that is Just Wrong.

    1. fposte*

      To be fair, I think there weren’t very many comments actually saying that; they just spawned a really long subthread so it took up a lot of mental space.

      1. MacAilbert*

        On the other hand, people tell me that all the time, but nobody has ever convincingly told me what the emergency would be, or how someone who hasn’t driven in years and only drove a few times is likely of any use.

        1. Student*

          I think this kind of advice’s applicability depends on your actual local and personal habits/adventures. If you live in a big city and you don’t leave that city environment, then yes, I understand never learning to drive. If you have a medical condition that makes driving illegal or not feasible, then I understand.

          Most places in the US don’t have that level of public transit, though. I’ve never lived somewhere that one could depend on public transit for all your needs reliably. I know they exist, and I’ve visited them. But most places, you either learn to drive or you live your life highly dependent on one or two other people to drive for you. When a lot of your life is highly dependent on one other person, then it’s good to have a solid backup plan – like learning to drive yourself – n case that one person can no longer meet your needs (dies, long-term medical issue, turns into a jerk, leaves you).

          1. MacAilbert*

            That’s not my situation, though. I live in a dense city where cars are more hindrance than help, and it is pretty common for people not to have cars without needing to rely on other people to shuttle them around. I take public transportation everywhere. People sometimes still tell me it’s very important I learn how to drive because emergencies, and I’m not buying it. I can’t envision the emergency where I’d need to drive as opposed to hiring a ride share, and driving lessons are at least $150 an hour. I’m not spending multiple grand on a skill that I’m not going to use.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          We should all learn to fly fighter jets. What if we were in a situation where we could only escape by fighter jet? It’s only practical.

          1. sorbus*

            Of course, we also all need to be equally prepared to escape via nuclear submarine, unicycle, or irate camel.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              My mother said I needed to learn to swim because my WHOLE social life would revolve around swimming. I hated swimming, I was lousy at it. So here I am mid-age and not ONE single person in my life goes swimming.

              It’s always good to file sweeping generalities in the heading of False.

    2. PM Jesper Berg*

      “IMO telling someone [to learn to drive] is Just Wrong.”

      On the contrary, in general it is very good advice. How do you know that you one day won’t be offered the chance to, say, lead an important consulting project for a client in a rural area that has poor public transportation? Or for that matter, for a client in one of the many US cities (especially outside the East Coast) that has poor public transportation? Yes, there are workarounds like taxis and Ubers, but in some places these are still unwieldy or inconvenient.

      Or for that matter, suppose a Very Important Person needs an impromptu ride to the airport/train station after speaking at a conference, and as a graduate student or junior employee that gives you an opportunity for 30 minutes of undivided face time with Very Important Person? (I’m speaking from personal experience on this one.)

      Of course, this advice should not apply where someone has a medical reason, like epilepsy, that precludes driving. But that does not mean it is poor advice in general.

      1. Brogrammer*

        It’s not really useful to tell somebody something that they already know. People who reach adulthood without being able to drive are well aware of how it impacts their lives.

        1. PM Jesper Berg*

          A few years ago, I was involved with a non-profit organization that had bimonthly organizing committee meetings. Someone on our organizing committee was a non-driver (by choice, not for medical reasons, so far as I know). After every meeting, she would bum a ride with another person on the organizing committee, who finally bluntly told her, “no, I can’t shuttle you home every two weeks, and by making these constant requests, you’re imposing.” And the imposee had a point. Student (above) observes that non-drivers often depend on a handful of people to chauffeur them around. The non-drivers often *don’t* realize they’re imposing on these people.

          1. MacAilbert*

            That’s true if you are relying on other people, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect the non-driver to pay for a ride share in these situations.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think you’re misconstruing what Liane wrote (or arguing against a point she did not make).

        She’s not saying “it’s bad advice” in all contexts. She noted that it was poor advice in the specific context of OP’s original letter, which 100% had to do with someone having epilepsy and whether they should still learn to drive “just in case.” It was an offensive and problematic digression, and I’m glad that OP addressed and dismissed it in the update.

        1. Lison*

          The OP said they can’t drive because of a medical condition. If that condition had been being blind would people be telling them you should learn to drive because it might be useful in x situation? I think not, because people realise it is never safe for a blind person to drive a car on public roads. The OP deserves the same consideration. They know what they can and can’t do and are respecting public safety. They were also treated badly and I wish them the best in the future.

          1. PM Jesper Berg*

            You must have skipped the last sentence of my post: “Of course, this advice should not apply where someone has a medical reason, like epilepsy, that precludes driving.”

      3. MacAilbert*

        Issue there is, I don’t drive in my day to day life. Even if I had a license, I wouldn’t. I live in a place where the public transportation is reliable (despite the constant statements to the contrary one hears around here) and parking is so difficult to find and expensive that having a car is more an annoyance than an asset. I’ve gone more than 10 years since my 16th birthday without driving. So, if I go and get my license now, I’m going to continue that pattern of not using the skill. That means when it comes time to drive Very Important Person, I wouldn’t actually be a skilled or safe driver, I’d be clueless because it’s been so long, and I used the skill for such a short period of time when I was picking it up. That’s not going to give me face to face time to make a good impression, it’s going to scare the crap out of them. I remember being in a car with my dad after he hadn’t driven in a decade. It… wasn’t fun. Furthermore, urban geography is my field, so conferences aren’t really held in places where some form of transit, at the very least ride share, isn’t easily available.

        1. MacAilbert*

          As an addendum, learning to drive is expensive. In my city, you’re looking at about $150 per hour for an instructor. I really, really can’t afford to spend at least a couple grand developing a skill that isn’t really all that likely to ever be of particular utility to my life.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Telling a person to get a skill they will ONLY use in emergencies is not great advice.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            What about learning CPR?

            I think the advice that people should learn to drive “in case of an emergency” is unnecessary, but sweeping generalizations are seldom a good idea.

        3. Tuxedo Cat*

          I know people who haven’t driven in years, have a license for some reason still, and don’t remember how to drive. I’m glad they don’t drive.

          The other thing is with driving is that I believe most people, particularly if they’re working and don’t live in NYC, who don’t have a license know that it would be useful but have reasons for not having one. I feel like it’s unnecessary to tell someone that it’s useful.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        We are supposed to tailor our responses to the OP’s exact setting. It looks to me like some people were not reading closely to see what OP’s setting actually is.

      5. Sunshine*

        It’s bad advice because for me, I don’t earn enough to buy a car or pay for lessons. I am well aware of the advantages I’d get from driving. That doesn’t magically increase my income or make cars cheaper. Your ‘advice’ just reminds me that i’m on a low salary, and a failure in the eyes of others.

        (FYI I rely on my partner for ‘driving around’, pay half the car insurance and contribute to our household in other ways. I also use public transport and taxis. Saying that every non driver is a mooch is a bit unkind).

  16. Insurance*

    LW #1 shot themselves in the foot. No one forced them to do any of the actions they took so I see this as LW making a poor decision and trying to justify it.

    LW #3: great job on salary negotiation!

    1. CM*

      I disagree about #1. She clearly did not feel comfortable working for her boss or his friends after this incident. She read between the lines of HR’s message to her and realized that nothing was going to change or prevent anything similar from happening in the future. So she did what she felt was best for her, which was to leave the company and start a job search. Sure, she COULD have made any number of other choices, but there’s no evidence that she made a poor decision given the circumstances. I think all the comments saying “She should have stayed while job searching / taken one of the other positions / filed a lawsuit” are projecting. It sounds like what OP#1 chose to do was reasonable for her.

  17. Sydney*

    LW1 the really astonishing thing to me about HR’s reaction to just slapping your boss on the wrist is that he spent half the work day drunk. Don’t they have a no drug and alchohol policy at that company.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I hope someone is checking Boss’ work for accuracy. It looks like that needs to happen.

  18. Sunshine*

    “My boss was also lauded for recognizing he was too drunk to drive.”

    Oh for goodness sake.

  19. Emmylou*

    I appreciate these updates! Feel terrible for LW1 though — I can see why you decided to leave but I wish it hadn’t come to that.

    I always love the updates — I was reading the archives recently and found myself super-curious about the person whose company was making them go to a “jamboree” with mandatory fun on election night. That person, if you are out there, even though it was months ago, I really want to know what happened ;-)

  20. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #3 – one of the greatest degrees of satisfaction I get comes when I make a recommendation, it’s suggested/incorporated, and leads to success.

    But when that DOESN’T happen – I can sit back, chuckle, laugh, etc., when rejecting one of my caveats/suggestions directly leads to failure. You hate to see failure but the formula is = You suggested something that would win => idea rejected => project fails. The company loses, the rejector loses, and you don’t win – but there is some consolation in you NOT joining them as losers.

    Enjoy what you can with this. If you can do that, you’ll be all right.

Comments are closed.