my coworker carries a taser to work, interviewer timed my answers to questions, and more

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

1. Interviewer gave me one minute to answer each question

I interviewed for a position with an organization (actually, I had two interviews with this organization) where I was asked a set of 5-10 timed questions. I had one minute to answer each question before the interviewers would move on to the next one.

Do you feel timed questions like this are valuable for the interviewer? I felt like it was very off-putting for me as the interviewee. I didn’t find one minute long enough to gather my thoughts to make a coherent answer, and I didn’t appreciate not being able to finish my answer because I went over the one-minute mark. I’m assuming the panel used the timed question approach to see how well candidates can think under pressure and a time constraint, but by default, I think that interviews already do that. How do you feel about timed questions? Is this something candidates will come across more and more?

I think it’s bizarrely rigid, as well as lazy and ineffective interviewing. As an interviewer, you learn a lot about candidates from how they communicate, and asking people to speak in rigid one-minute slices is going to deprive you of a lot of information you’d otherwise get — like how people speak when they’re not under a weird time pressure, and what the other half of their answer would have been if you’d allowed them to give it, and whether they ramble on and on without paying attention to conversation cues and context. (Really, this is a terrible idea for that reason alone — under this system, you’ll never know if someone is a rambler until you hire them.)

It’s also going to turn off your best candidates, who see interviews as a two-way conversation, not … whatever this is.

2. My coworker carries a taser to work

I work at a public health facility in a very bad urban neighborhood. There is no nearby parking and no escort service for employees or really any security staff. There is a “zero tolerance” policy for weapons. A new employee (a coworker) told me that she has purchased a taser that she carries on her person for protection when walking to/from her vehicle before and after work. Also, tasers are illegal in my state for non-law-enforcement.

I understand her safety concerns (they are legitimate) but my personal ethics cause me to disagree with her decision to carry and company policy and state law are also in conflict with her actions. I’ve already tried to address it with her directly, apprising her of the state law and the policies and she did not listen. What should I do? Report her to management? Keep my mouth shut?

If they’re illegal in your state and against your company policy and you’re personally uncomfortable with it, you’re on really solid ground in letting your management know what’s going on and letting them take care of it.

This would be murkier if tasers were legal in your state for non-law-enforcement, or if you personally didn’t care one way or the other, but given the facts you’ve laid out, you don’t have any obligation to cover for her when she’s doing something that’s clearly illegal and in violation of your employer’s policy.

That said, maybe you and your coworkers could also advocate for some changes that would make employees feel like they weren’t the only ones looking out for their personal safety. The two things you mentioned — security staff and escorts — could be good starts.

3. Conference travel jealousy

I’ve been leading a small project for about five years, with one other person working with me. I’m not a manager and have no official role in terms of providing feedback or supervision, but I do manage the project and provide training and guidance for this person. She has been here for about two years, and does good work.

From time to time, the opportunity to travel to conferences and trainings has come up. I like traveling and appreciate the opportunity for professional development, so I always take up any offers. Over the past year, I made sure to give her the first refusal since she hasn’t gotten to go to any conferences or trainings yet. She’s always had a conflict, usually a wedding (although once she said she didn’t feel up for it), so I’ve gone instead. These trips are considered a perk, not an obligation, so it’s not counted against her. Recently an opportunity to travel to a conference in a beautiful vacation destination (think tropical) has come up and I was explicitly asked to go to assist. I agreed, but now sense jealousy coming from her about it and feel like I’m being selfish. It might just be internal guilt, but I guess I’m ultimately asking whether that guilt is well founded or not. I was also wondering whether I should suggest that her previous refusals may have resulted in her getting passed over for this opportunity, or to just let it go.

You don’t have any reason to feel guilty. You’ve offered her chances at going in the past so it’s not like you’ve been hoarding all these opportunities for yourself, and in this case you were specifically asked to be the person to assist. This is just how work travel works — sometimes the destinations are great ones, and not everyone gets to go.

I don’t think you should suggest that she was passed over because she declined trips in the past unless you know for sure that it’s the case. Even then, though, I don’t think I’d say it now — it feels like a recipe for making her resentful and it doesn’t really change anything about this one. Instead, the next time an opportunity to travel comes up, you could say, “I got the sense you might have wanted to go on that Tahiti trip a few months ago. For what it’s worth, I think going on some of these may make it more likely that you’re offered more interesting destinations like that in the future.” But again, only say it if you know it to be true.

4. What should I do if I get sick during my 90-day probational period without PTO?

I recently started a new position where there is a 90-day probationary period upon hire. During that period, one accrues sick and vacation time but cannot use it until after the 90-day period is complete.

I’ve been feeling under the weather the past few days — nothing earth shattering, just some nausea. But it made me wonder (and worry!) about what I would/should do in the event of having a severe enough illness to merit staying home from work. If I were to wake up one morning with a stomach bug that necessitated me staying home, what course of action would you recommend taking? Would it be best for me to call or email my own manager, or HR? Should I offer to do as much work as possible remotely to show that I am not taking a day off willy-nilly, or would that suggest that I’m well enough to work?

Normally, to get a sense of these things, I would simply ask HR, but I feel like asking in this case would make it seem like I’m looking for an excuse/way to get away with being out sick.

If you need to stay home sick during that 90-day period, contact your manager, not HR (just like you’d normally alert your manager rather than HR about an absence). Generally how this works is that while they might not let you use PTO, they’ll let you take the time unpaid. The rule isn’t “you can’t get sick in your first 90 days” (at least not in reasonably functional companies); rather its just that the paid time off isn’t available to use if you do.

When you contact your manager, you’d explain you’re sick and need to stay home and then you’d say, “I know that I don’t have any PTO to use in my first 90 days, so I’m not sure exactly how this should work. I can of course take the time unpaid if needed. Would you let me know how I should handle this?”

And if it’s in your first month or two, it’s not a bad idea to add, “I’m sorry this is happening so soon after I started!” That’s not because you really have anything to apologize for (you don’t), but because when your manager doesn’t know you and your work ethic yet, it’s wise to reassure her that you’re not cavalier about taking unplanned time off.

5. Can I ask the person I’m providing a reference for to send me details on their work?

I’m new-ish to supervision and oversee about a dozen young adult interns that rotate through each year. They are with us for about 10-11 months, and as one of their supervisors I get a lot of reference requests.

Since there are a lot of these engaging young adults to begin with, and sometimes the reference requests come in a few years after they’ve been with us, it can be hard to remember the projects they managed without doing a big dig through my archives. Something I don’t always have time to do before I’m contacted. It was easier when I only had to think back a year or so, but now that I’ve been in this position for going on five years, it’s gotten a bit more difficult. Added onto this is that they’re away in the field for a lot of their time.

When I’m contacted to be a reference, is it okay to ask the person contacting me to remind me about some of their specific projects? I’ve thought of framing it as “I’d love to be a reference for you. Is there a project in particular that you worked on while you were here that you’d like me to try to highlight?” Also, can I ask these former interns anything else that might help me give a recruiter a more valuable reference? Perhaps how they feel their work here may have prepared them for the job they’re applying to now?

I really enjoy providing references for them and am in a good position to know their work, but I want to make sure I’m doing the best service to them as well as respecting my own work schedule.

You can absolutely do that, and really it’s to their benefit that you do! I might be more explicit in how you’re framing it though. For example: “I’d love to be a reference for you. I want to be able to talk about your work with as many specifics as possible because that will make a stronger reference, so to help me prepare, could you send me a few bullets about the things from your work here that you’d like me to highlight, like a particular project or achievement?” You could even add, “Because we have a lot of interns, that will help me make sure that I’m pulling out the details that you care about most.”

{ 495 comments… read them below }

  1. Gazebo Slayer*

    I had to go home early my *second day* of a job with what I thought was food poisoning but turned out to probably be the first symptoms of an ulcer. And I ended up staying in that job longer than any other.

    (It was an unusually tolerant and loosey-goosey workplace, though, and I’ve worked other places that would not have been as understanding.)

    1. Not Australian*

      I caught something – still not sure what it was – from sitting directly under a ventilator at my new job; worked a week, and was then out sick for two weeks. It wasn’t ideal, but apparently they were used to people getting sick immediately after starting work there…

    2. seejay*

      I sliced open my ankle (to the bone of all things) the day before I started at a brand new job. I made a few unwise decisions on how to handle it, thinking it was something that could just scab over and went to work for my first day with it wrapped in a bandage. Halfway through the day, my new boss told me to go to a clinic and get it stitched and I was out for another two days after that since I couldn’t get it stitched and had to keep off it until it actually healed well enough to stop bleeding.

      That wasn’t one of my best and brightest moments, but accidents happen.

    3. hermit crab*

      Our team has accrued enough first-week accidents/injuries/illnesses over the years that it’s kind of become a company joke. Stuff happens!

      1. Allison*

        I can see it. Job hunting is stressful, and starting a new job can be a stressful transition even if it’s a positive change, and stress can muck up your immune system and make you clumsy and stupid.

        1. RKB*

          I always get some weird illness right after my exams are done so I totally believe this.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I was sick for a day during my first week at a new job. I was extremely apologetic about having to be out and they understood. Plus a whole bunch of people were out around that time so something may have been going around the office. OP, If you need to be out during your 90-day period you should definitely check with your supervisor about it. They likely have dealt with this before and can give you some options about what to do about dealing with PTO or taking the day unpaid or whatever.

      3. RVA Cat*

        It becoming a company joke reminds me of the particular injury that was “an Easy Company tradition” in Band of Brothers….

    4. Emelle*

      10 days into my first teaching job. I don’t think I have ever been so sick. (Little kids are walking germ factories. I have run a fever 5 times in my life and two of them were at this job.) My director looked at me like I was out if my mind when I told her I needed to go home.
      But restaurants and day care facilities are not exactly known for their worker positive sick time.

      1. AllTheFiles*

        I’m surprised they would think that way. Many of the people I know who teach in particular, tell everyone that they were home sick the majority of their first year on the job. They just expect it since you have to build up immunity to all the little kid germs – kind of like when kids first go to daycare and bring home everything under the sun.

        1. Lala*

          I was definitely sick the majority of my first year teaching (and every first year in a new school), but because sick time was accrued, I had no PTO to take. I had to show up sick most of the time. Only once in my entire teaching career did my principal tell me to go home.

    5. babblemouth*

      My colleague got appendicitis on day 3. Life happens. Any remotely reasonable employer gets it.

    6. Gem*

      A coworker of mine smashed his ankle so badly playing football (soccer) on the 3rd day of the job that he needed surgery, time off for physio, work from home (we were on the 5th floor with a dodgy at best lift).

      Shit happens!

    7. Ama*

      I started a new job right before Thanksgiving, and over Christmas came down with mono — I missed the entire first week of January (I would have missed more except that particular employer closed down for the week between Christmas and New Year’s). They really couldn’t have been nicer about it.

      In retrospect, it was probably better to have a serious illness early before they had started depending on me for certain tasks, because by three years later I could expect to hear grumbling from certain coworkers every time I was out more than one day.

    8. ThatGirl*

      Yeah, my husband had to call in sick with a stomach bug the sixth day (second Monday) of his new job back when we were first married. He felt bad, but he was throwing up every few hours and there was just no way. Thankfully his new boss understood and it was a 24-hour bug.

    9. mamabear*

      When I started my current job nine years ago, I ended up being diagnosed with mono on the second day. I stayed home for a week and even after I returned to work, I was in rough shape for a long time. Whoops. I blame it entirely on the stress I endured in my previous job.

    10. KellyK*

      I was in the middle of a (very early) miscarriage at my first day of a new job. Because I’d gotten pregnant through a fertility clinic an hour’s drive away, I had to have my blood work done *there* and only in the morning, since that’s when they do monitoring.

      Not only did I have to explain why I was missing part of my first day for a medical appointment, but I wasn’t really comfortable sharing the details with my new boss and coworkers, so it was tough to leave out the specifics, still convey that it was serious, and not make it sound like I was dying.

      But, my employer was totally fine about it. Good employers and reasonable people understand that you can’t magically make your immune system stronger or become invulnerable to accidents during a probation period. Some might want you to “tough it out” for minor things that they wouldn’t mind after you’ve been there longer, but people understand that life happens.

    11. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

      My second day on my new position and my 3 year old son smashed his face at the playground and shattered his front tooth. Because it was a tooth, we had a very limited amount of time to get in to his dentist. The sitter called within a minute of it happening, I grabbed my purse and ran out the door shouting at my manager that it was an emergency and I’d call him in a few minutes. Called the dentist on the way to pick my son up, then called my manager while driving from the sitter’s to the dentist. We got lucky that the stars aligned for it to be treated so quickly and my manager thought it was hysterical. Not that my son was hurt, but just the way it happened. Luckily he had kids of his own and understood childhood emergencies.

      1. librarylady*

        I’m glad that happened with a supervisor with young children. Most of my sick time is used for my kid – and, she has an uncanny way of getting sick/needing me to stay home when it was my night or weekend-day to work…or when I didn’t have enough vacation time saved to take off when my Dad was in town, so it *really looked* like I was faking… like Hand Foot and Mouth is SO easy to fake!! :( When your sup doesn’t have kids, it’s so much harder!!!

    12. TheBard*

      I broke my ankle slipping on some ice on my second day of work at an old job. I was out for the next three days. They were very understanding, and that was a completely insane, totally dysfunctional workplace. So if even that $hitshow was understanding, I would have to think pretty much everywhere would be. What can you do? It’s not like you *try* to break your ankle or get sick. Though I was probably helped by being in a boot and on crutches when I got back, so there was no question I really had a broken ankle.

      1. OP4*

        Hi all, OP4 here. I struggle with anxiety, so it has been really really helpful to see that this has happened to people and that generally employers are understanding.

        Thanks for easing my mind!

  2. Science!*

    #5 when I ask former advisors for reference letters, I always send along my CV and either a current abstract for a paper/conference or even the specific aims page of my grant so the letter writer knows what my background is (aside from what they already know of my research) and what I’m currently working on.

    I would definitely ask for a current update of the askee and something about what the letter is for (you could talk about specific skills or projects that might apply).

    1. Mookie*

      Exactly so. Keeping your references abreast to professional successes and development + a helpful précis of your work with / successes under them is doubly helpful: it saves them unnecessary time (and helps boost their memory) and will result in a more thorough reference. This is especially true for written references that can be read alongside resumés and CVs and help to bolster or flesh out some relevant details. It’s always better for applicants to use every opportunity (CV, letter, references) to highlight different strengths; I know many people who do this strategically and request that references mention projects the applicants might not have space to otherwise address but in passing.

    2. CM*

      I had a professor ask me for additional information for a reference, and learned from that. For all academic references after that, I would send a copy of my resume and a bullet point summary of the work I had done with that professor. I would always get back either a “Thanks for sending this” or “What a great idea, I will tell my other students to do this too.” So I think you will be doing your student (and maybe even your colleagues) a favor by asking.

    3. Karen D*

      I am the last person at my org who worked with interns under our old program, so I get all those requests, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE people like you, especially when the request includes the relevant details from your time here (“I was assigned to the Spout Team and mostly worked with Brunhilde…” )

      I have most of the records from the other intern mentor/managers so I can usually pull something together, but it’s very hard if I have nothing to go on. The internship program has been over for years, so the requests come few and far between, but the last one was a doozy. She requested the reference like this: “Hi I was an intern there and I need a reference.” That was IT. My records are searchable by name but not indexed (basically, it’s a pile of emails) and the name in her email header didn’t turn up in a search. It took a few emails back and forth before I could find her, and I could almost hear the eye-rolling in every reply.

      1. CEMgr*

        You’re extraordinarily kind to give a reference at all when the requester behaves like that.

        1. Karen D*

          I didn’t.

          To be fair to her, she had apparently attached a document with her name and rough dates of her internship – but it was in a funky format and the attachment was quarantined. Once I figured out who she was and was able to do some basic research, I found out she had ghosted during her internship. She claimed our records were wrong, that she’d gotten credit for the internship, but the emails in the archive were clear: She was supposed to be with us for 15 weeks but stopped showing up around week 11, and even before that had frequent missed deadlines and sloppy, incomplete work (We paid our interns and they did substantive work, in addition to enrichment activities and coaching by their assigned mentors. It was a great program while it lasted.).

          I told her all I could do was verify that she’d been accepted into our very competitive internship program for that semester. (I honestly didn’t want to do that much, because that just underscored to me the fact that we had 74 applicants for four slots that semester.) She never responded.

  3. BuildMeUp*

    #2 is a tough one for me – I understand the OP’s concerns, especially with it being illegal, but it sounds like their coworker has a very real fear of getting mugged (or worse) on the way to and from work. If it were me, I’m not sure I would say anything.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I don’t really understand why you would – it’s not like they’re carrying a gun, right?

      1. tink*

        Because if you know about it and it’s against the law AND work policy, you could potentially get in trouble for not reporting it?

        1. Doe-Eyed*

          If it’s against work policy to speed in company vehicles do you report your coworker if you see them doing 60 in a 55?

          1. neverjaunty*

            If going 60 in a 55 zone were a crime rather than a civil infraction and you could get in trouble for not reporting them? Wouldn’t you?

            1. Sadsack*

              But is it really plausible that someone would say that they know that Jeff saw Joe speeding? It may be plausible that some how it could come out that OP had seen the coworker with a taser, but I am not sure I’d say anything if I were in OP’s position.

              1. The Cosmic Avenger*

                I think it’s actually come up in a previous letter that a driver did something illegal while the OP was a passenger, and fleet cars often have tracking dongles for insurance purposes.

                1. Volunteer Coordinator in NOVA*

                  At a previous job, we had trackers our company vehicles/trucks and if you were caught going over a certain speed, you’d get a letter the first time. After the first letter, they would always warn people that they could technically not allow you to drive and it did happen once or twice. Obviously that’s not someone seeing you speeding and reporting it but after my first infraction, I never forgot that someone could see my speeding and it did help me be more aware. We were a large non-profit so every once in awhile we could get a call from someone saying that our trucks were going to fast or not careful enough.

            2. BananaPants*

              Realistically speaking, carrying a Taser in a state where they’re banned for civilian use is a misdemeanor. No one’s going to jail over it.

          2. tink*

            I’m not sure where OP is, but in NY possession of a taser is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison. If the coworker is caught with their taser, it’s easy for them to say “but OP didn’t say anything when I told them about it!!!” and then OP is on the hook for knowing they had a prohibited weapon AND not letting anyone know.

        2. Roscoe*

          I always here this argument, but I’ve never been someplace where this would be the case. Like, the only time I could imagine you being implicated is if was something like embezzling money that you knew about.

        3. Jennifer*

          Yes, this is my concern. There is no explicit company policy stating that I have an obligation to report, but as a licensed nurse, the entirety of the safety of the units rests on me and my license in the absence of management (and since I work 2nd shift, that’s most of every day.) If someone gets hurt and it’s found out that I knew about a weapon long before and did nothing…. My concern is how it could impact my employment and professional license, in addition to the potential for one of my patients or colleagues getting harmed.

          1. Observer*

            But what are the odds of that? Do you have any reason to think that this person would pull the taser out at work? If you do, then you have a bigger problem anyway.

          2. Anne (with an "e")*

            Is the taser on the employee ‘s person during their shift? Or is it/can it be locked up in a drawer or a locker of some sort? If the taser is on their person, then I completely understand the OP’s concerns. A patient could grab it maybe? However, if it is locked away, then I wouldn’t report it to anyone. I would just make absolutely certain that the taser is not on the employee’s person during their shift.

          3. specialist*

            Have this conversation with your malpractice insurer. I seriously don’t think this will be a problem with your license.
            Look, we work in bad areas. Healthcare is also the workplace with the highest rate of on the job violence. I can tell you from personal experience that we don’t get a pass on violence because we are in healthcare–I’ve personally had to restrain violent people on more occasions than I can remember. It is very common for healthcare workers to be carrying items for personal protection. Not all of them are legal. That is just the way it is. One of my training programs was in one of the worst areas in the US. Many of my colleagues carried guns on their person while working. The chair of surgery had been shot to death in his office at one point. You have a much higher risk of something happening to her than you do of her mistakenly zapping one of the other employees or a patient.
            If you want to do something, give her a list of things that are acceptable to carry and tell her not to talk to you about it anymore.

          4. Orlando*

            You are single-handedly responsible for the safety of an entire freaking unit, which includes real living breathing people. You are not responsible for assessing the risk of whether your coworker can handle this illegal taser or not. Please report this, for the love of sacred cephalopods.

            I am now going to retire from commenting on this topic, because the feelings it raises in me are too strong.

        4. Observer*

          I have no idea what company policy is, so I can’t speak to that. But I’m pretty sure that the OP doesn’t have a legal requirement to report this.

        5. Gov Worker*

          Where does this happen​? No, you could not potentially get in trouble and should MYOB, unless you are going to personally escort co-worker and see to her safety.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            It happens at a lot of places—I’ve certainly worked in places where I could lose my job for not reporting a violation like the one that OP has described. That may not be your experience, but it’s not right to say it never happens, suggest that OP is responsible for her coworker’s off-site safety, and call anyone who feels differently a snitch.

            1. tink*

              I have also worked in places where I’d lose my job for not reporting a violation like this, which is why I mentioned the possibility. It may make someone a “snitch” or whatever, but if there’s a chance that OP could also be dinged for knowing and not reporting, then I completely understand why they’d be torn between “This is a bad neighborhood and I understand” and “This is against company AND state policy, and if it’s used and I’m found to know about it, I could also be on the hook.”

          2. GraceW*

            But then the OP gets to feel self-righteous. What if the co-worker has been assaulted in the past? Does the OP plan to check all other colleagues for knives, takers, MACE or other methods of self-defense?

          3. MacAilbert*

            OP is a nurse working with mental health patients. They absolutely will throw you in front of an ethics board over something like this if they find out you knew about it.

        6. Stranger than fiction*

          Yes, I wonder if pepper spray is a legal and allowed at work option?

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I’m not sure I follow the reasoning. Is the underlying thought that a Taser is non-fatal? Or that guns are in a separate category altogether?

        1. Kimberly*

          Tasers are less lethal but can still cause death. An underlying medical condition or simply spectacularly bad timing of the shock can disrupt the electrical signals to the heart resulting in death. Like any other weapon, it can be taken from you and used against you.

          My question would be could the LW be held responsible for having prior knowledge if something goes bad. If the answer is yes (and that will depend on the company and the jurisdiction), best to tell if just to CYA. I also agree that the workers need to demand better security if the danger is real and not just perceived. I worked in a school in a “bad neighborhood” and was frequently chastised for “taking chances” (staying late coming in early). The thing was I was actually statistically in less danger than my coworkers that regularly went shopping at the Houston Galleria. I mean if you were a crook who are you going to rob. The teacher hauling bags of TE’s from 10 yo Honda or the woman with dressed to the nines with a designer handbag in the parking lot of the most expensive mall in town.

        1. Adam K*

          I agree – the OP has ethical concerns, but I believe the coworker’s safety concerns (which the OP recognizes as legitimate) trump those.

        2. Get out the calendar*

          I really don’t understand why OP #2 would even bother to get involved other than to sabotage the new coworker’s personal safety.

          Your new coworker has attempted to protect herself since you both work in a very dangerous area… And you want to get her in trouble for it? Honestly let’s hope nothing happens to OP#2 but if she’s ever accosted on her way home, she will be wishing she had some protection.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I think that’s an unfair read on OP’s motivations, and a bit inflammatory. I think OP would certainly suffer social (or other) consequences for reporting it, but if knowing about the Taser and non-reporting jeopardizes her employment or worse, then I can understand why she would be feeling so torn.

          2. Tuxedo Cat*

            Without knowing anything about the new coworker, I’d worry she might use it on someone innocent like a coworker or a patient who taps her just to say hi or walks a little to close to her for whatever reasons.

            Is it secure at work so only she has access to it?

          3. Lissa*

            In regard to your last sentence, sadly having a taser (or other personal protection) isn’t typically going to increase actual safety, just the perception of it If OP isn’t trained in such things, having one just increases the risk of it being taken by the mugger/criminal and having it used against them…

            1. mccoma*

              lowered by 6 is generally a reference to the pallbearers (people carrying the casket) at a funeral. There are generally 6 of them.

          1. Statler von Waldorf*

            Traditionaly a funeral has six pallbearers who lower the casket into the grave.

        3. BananaPants*

          Yup. I don’t get OP2’s desire to do this. I don’t care WHAT policy my employer has; if they aren’t taking steps to ensure my safety when entering and leaving the workplace, I’ll take matters into my own hands and take steps to protect myself.

          Until a few years ago Massachusetts had a law against civilians carrying pepper spray unless they had a pistol permit. There were an awful lot of people who bought and carried pepper spray branded as “dog spray” or “bear spray” to get around that law.

          1. Doe-Eyed*

            I also wonder if the coworker KNOWS it’s illegal. If she moved from a state where it wasn’t, it might not even occur to her that a taser is not legal. We had this problem on a trip we went to in high school (of all times) – we travelled to a state where mace was banned and a LOT of us got yelled at by local authorities because we didn’t know.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              It sounds like OP told her it was illegal and against policy.

            2. MacAilbert*

              Where did you go to high school? At the one I went to, any student with mace would be, at the very least, given a citation by the campus’s police officer and suspended.

              1. Doe-Eyed*

                We were in a very rural area, and it was nearly 20 years ago. We also had a couple of kids every year get lectured by the resource officer when they forgot to take their hunting rifles out of their trucks after going out hunting over the weekend. Most kids routinely carried utility knives in and around school (including myself) because we had an agriculture program and used them in class.

          2. Jadelyn*

            That’s where I’m coming down on this, too. If my employer is putting me in a dangerous situation or potentially dangerous situation (for example, by not providing security for people leaving the building late at night), I’m going to prioritize my safety over their policies. I prefer knives to tasers – a 2″ linerlock clipped into the pocket of my jeans can go unremarked or be passed off as just a pocketknife that I keep for utility reasons – but it’s the same principle. If you won’t protect me, you have no right to prevent me from protecting myself.

            1. tigerStripes*

              I also think the co-worker is in a no-win situation, and she needs to protect herself somehow. I’d want to encourage her to use a legal weapon, but I completely understand why she’d want to have something like a taser.

          3. Tuckerman*

            Yup. Mental health workers are at risk for violence when doing home visits. The agency may take steps to identify instances when workers need help (e.g., giving them panic buttons or requiring them to check in) but a lot can happen between the time an alert is sounded and when police arrive.
            It wouldn’t make sense for these agencies to assign bodyguards or security guards to mental health workers, because it would be way too expensive.

        4. Amber T*

          Ditto. Unless you start thinking coworker might use the taser on you for any reason, I’d let it be.

        5. Happy Lurker*

          MYOB totally. For the OP, get some hornet spray and hope you never need it. Hornet spray shoots up to 10 feet…

        6. Czhorat*

          We’ve said on the past weapons discussion that this is a terribly selfish philosophy. It means that you’re OK with potentially killing someone innocent to protect your life, which you value higher than anyone else’s.

          1. Traffic_Spiral*

            Assuming you only use it on people attacking you, odds are pretty low that you’re killing someone innocent – plus it’s pretty rare to die from a taser attack. You want to risk your life for pacifism, go right ahead, but you’re pretty stuck up demanding that other people put themselves at risk for your delusions.

            1. Czhorat*

              “Delusions” is a very loaded word, and – – this case – not accurate. Statistically, owning a personal weapon increases rather than decreases risk in that accidental discharge is more likely than saving oneself from an attacker. Humans tend to evaluate risks emotionally rather than logically, weighing the perceived safety in defending oneself higher than the actual increased safety in removing weapons from the environment.

              I’d be uncomfortable working in an environment in which people carried weapons, and am glad to not currently do so.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I have really mixed feelings about this, but I think it would depend on whether I thought the coworkers’ weapon could be used against her or other coworkers on the premises.

      I think I’ve shared this story before, but I used to work in a federal building, where it’s 1000% illegal (like, it’s a federal crime) for a non-LEO to carry any weapon, including pepper spray/mace, etc. When we had an active shooter drill, during the debrief with the U.S. Marshals, a colleague asked if she was allowed to bring her gun from her glove compartment into the building. Independent of the fact that it was a crime, the Marshals were strongly opposed because of the high likelihood that that gun could be used against her and others. And they told her to stop leaving it in her car, because the parking lot was also federal property.

      Which is all to say that I think it’s important not to jeopardize the safety of others by bringing her Taser to work (especially if it’s illegal!). I don’t want to encourage OP to narc, but I have this persistent feeling in the back of my head that something will happen on site. But I also would really emphasize the other safety suggestions Alison raised. It’s not right for folks to have to jeopardize their personal safety because there’s inadequate security at the workplace.

        1. Zathras*

          It sounds like the question was asked during the debrief, which would happen after the drill was over so you can talk about what went well, what happened that was unexpected, what should have been done differently, etc.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Thankfully we knew it was a drill, and Zathras is right that this was during the debrief (it also later came out that sometimes the coworker’s gun was left in her purse, which really freaked people out—and this was a room where at least 50% of the employees were non-LEOs with guns/gun licenses at home).

          But yes, that was essentially her question—that if it had been a real occurrence, could she bring her gun so she could shoot the shooter?

      1. Liet-Kynes*

        “Independent of the fact that it was a crime, the Marshals were strongly opposed because of the high likelihood that that gun could be used against her and others.”

        And adding to the reasons why that’s an awful idea, it also increases the likelihood that first responders will mistake you for the shooter and ventilate you, that you’ll accidentally drill Judy from Accounting because your aim sucks when you’re panicking, and that you’ll escalate the situation even above where it’s at when you decide to charge in. The “good guy with a gun” proponents always neglect to consider those eventualities.

        1. Czhorat*

          Pretty much.

          Carrying a weapon is not showing a choice about your personal safety; it is exposing everyone else in your environment to the dangers associated with the choice to carry a weapon. The employer is well within their rights to make this choice for their employees.

          I’d not want to work where weapons are being carried.

      2. SarahG*

        This is also of concern to me. While staff have offices, there are patients in and out of them all day long and while the doors can close and lock, staff personal belongings cannot always be guaranteed to stay secure. There are no staff lockers and there is no separate staff-only area for people to secure their belongings so these offices, which are heavily in use, are where my colleague’s bag with the taser would be stored while she’s on shift.

      3. Orlando*

        I agree with most of what you said, especially the last part about making other safety suggestions. To add a bit to your first point, I think the responsibility of the choice is unfair in itself. The OP shouldn’t have to make the decision if the coworker can use a taser responsibly, or if an accident might happen regardless, etc. It’s too much to ask of her.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I agree that it’s not fair. On one hand, it sounds like it’s illegal for the coworker to even have the Taser, which concerns me (but I’d be less inclined to report if this didn’t violate law as well as the employer’s policy). So this puts OP in this awful position of trying to weigh the risk to her coworker vs. risk to the public vs. individual risk for not reporting that someone was violating the law and the zero-tolerance policy. This is a miserable situation for OP and her coworker, and it feels really lose-lose to me.

          1. Orlando*

            The OP also mentioned that she’s the person solely responsible for safety in the absence of management. This must put an enormous amount of pressure on her.

    3. paul*

      IIRC there’s only a handful of states that ban tasers for non-LEOs:
      Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, and Massachusetts. There hasn’t really been a huge rash of assaults committed with them (I tried finding stats and came up blank after about 15 minutes–I honestly don’t care to spend too much more time than that).

      I’m also curious what ethical concerns you have with someone having a defensive, typically non lethal weapon, and why you feel like you get to make that determination for others. I’m too beat up to want to get into a fistfight, so I’m going to use any mechanical advantage I can if I’m attacked.

      Policy wise you can certainly tell your employer; but it sounds like your coworker has legitimate concerns for her safety and is taking steps to address it. I feel for her, a lot more than I do a company or agency that’ll put you in a crappy part of down and do nothing to try to provide safety for its employees.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think that’s unfair: She doesn’t feel like she gets to make that determination for others; it’s against her state law and her company policy.

        1. Captain Carrot*

          But by reporting the coworker, OP is de facto making a decision that the coworker should face consequences, since it’s illegal. So reporting *would* be making that determination on OP’s part, I think.

          I have an honest question, and I hope I don’t come off as purposefully contrarian, but a little while back in that marijuana letter, you stated very strongly that illegal is not the same as bad or immoral (which I totally agree with), and that someone breaking a law doesn’t automatically mean they should be reported. Does that not hold here? Personally, I have way more sympathy for a woman who breaks the law to protect herself against possible danger than a manager who breaks the law in order to offer his subordinates intoxicating substances while at a hotel.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I do indeed agree that someone breaking a law doesn’t automatically mean they should be reported. But in this case, the OP states she’s uncomfortable with it and has tried to talk to her coworker about it without success. If she’s uncomfortable with it and the law and company policy prohibit it, she’s on pretty solid ground in speaking up about it. If she weren’t uncomfortable with it, or if it was just the fact of a policy violation itself that concerned her, I’d tell her that she didn’t have any obligation to report it. She still doesn’t have any obligation, but in this case she seems to want to and it’s okay for her to do that.

            I can’t agree that reporting it would be making the determination that the coworker faces consequences. The coworker is making that determination herself by knowingly violating the law and the policy (and apparently openly telling coworkers about it). The OP isn’t at fault if the coworker experiences the natural consequences of that (just like she wouldn’t be at fault for the consequences if she reported any other legal or policy violation that worried her).

            1. Captain Carrot*

              Ah, I think I see the distinction you’re making with respect to obligation that I missed, though I’m still not sure I agree with your conclusion. But in any case, thank you for clarifying, I appreciate it.

                1. SarahG*

                  I agree. But I also think that more people should practice the “keep your mouth shut” job skill. Particularly if you are doing/plan to do something illegal and/or against company policy.

            2. TL -*

              I agree that this is very similar to the pot letter, but
              your advice is really different, so I’m interested in hearing the reasoning behind it.

              1. MsCHX*

                That’s EXACTLY what I thought. Weed is illegal in many states still. But that was “no big deal”.

                1. Heather*

                  To me, the difference is the potential for harm to her coworkers. Pot smoked on the weekend isn’t a risk to anyone. A taser could be stolen from her purse or wherever she’s keeping it and used on someone.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Yes. This sounds like an obvious distinction to me, but it’s interesting to read responses that do not see this as categorically distinct.

                2. TL -*

                  To me, it’s reading as “I don’t approve ethically of any weapons equally, so if you don’t like it, report, and if the person gets in trouble, tough, they broke the law,” which was exactly the stance the reporting employee had in the pot letter and you were very, very against that stance.

                  A taser is not a gun. It doesn’t pose the same safety risks and bystander harm that a gun does; it does add significantly to the employee’s feelings of mental security, and the OP is not at undue risk of harm from it. Which is very, very similar to your arguments against reporting pot (it’s not the same as a harder drug, people use it for all kinds of reasons, and the reporting employee was not at undue risk of harm from it.)

                  So – it’s okay to break the law for some drugs, for any reason, and you don’t deserve to get reported but it’s not okay to break the law for some weapons, for any reason, and you get what’s coming to you?

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  @TL – I haven’t said “you get what’s coming to you,” which has a sort of aggressive/hostile feel to it. I said that if you break the law or a company policy, someone who reports you is not responsible for the consequences you might face for doing that. I also don’t think all weapons are equal (?) and in fact don’t think I’ve ever shared a stance on weapons here at all.

                  I understand your viewpoint here, and the viewpoint of people who are saying that the coworker is doing something to protect herself and the OP should leave it alone. I just come down differently on it.

                  Really, though, you could take my answer to the OP and substitute in anything else that was illegal and happening at work:

                  “If (prostitution on company grounds/smoking pot at work/organizing a gambling ring in the parking lot) is illegal in your state and against your company policy and you’re personally uncomfortable with it, you’re on really solid ground in letting your management know what’s going on and letting them take care of it.

                  This would be murkier if X were legal in your state for non-law-enforcement, or if you personally didn’t care one way or the other, but given the facts you’ve laid out, you don’t have any obligation to cover for her when she’s doing something that’s clearly illegal and in violation of your employer’s policy.”

                  It works for pretty much anything you substitute in, in my opinion.

                  What I wrote in the pot letter wasn’t “OMG, don’t report it no matter what.” I wrote this: “Taking a photo, alerting the hotel, and cutting the trip short and taking a bus back to your city is a pretty extreme reaction, unless there’s more to the story that we don’t know.”

                4. Zathras*

                  A taser is not a gun, but it is still a weapon, and so there are considerations that don’t apply with other prohibited objects. Consider the outcome of someone stealing a coworker’s pot stash and using it, vs. someone stealing a coworker’s taser and using it. I’m honestly not sure whether I would report the taser coworker, but it’s not really an equivalent situation to the pot letter in a lot of ways.

                  My decision whether or not to report would also be influenced by what I expected the consequences would be. I might choose differently if I thought my coworker would be arrested and fired, than if they would just get a strict warning from management to not bring the taser anymore.

                5. Candi*

                  In the marijuana letter, updates in the comments made it somewhat clearer that there was a very strong possibility sexual harassment might have been involved, and the company was awful about handling such. (The timeline given was not as tight as some commentators apparently thought it was.) Although the possibility was mentioned a couple times by commentators, along with a few posts that the hotel actually calling the cops meant there was something that was a really big deal, way out of normal, going on, it got swept away in the marijuana debate. (I may be stuck not being able to comment on articles in real time most days, but it does have its advantages on the more controversial subjects. And when I first read the letter, my instincts screamed Something Big had happened and hadn’t been mentioned; maybe the LW didn’t even know what when writing in.)

                  The big issue, to me, with tasers, guns, knives, or any other weapon, is people hardly ever get the mental training needed to properly use the things. The training to get to the point where everything clicks, emotions are reasonably controlled, motions are automatic. That mental state is important, even more important then training with the weapon. It’s why military, emergency medical personnel, fireys, police, and other professions train and train and train, to get that state down.

                  Without it, in an emergency you might be like me, where I go into a locked-down emotional state primarily logical state where options are processed and selected snap snap snap. (And then I collapse into tears when it’s over.) Or you might freeze. Or realize what you have to do, but your mental response time is slow. Or panic completely.

                  You need to know how to use your weapon, mentally and physically, or it’s not the attacker who’s most likely to get hurt.

            3. Jessesgirl72*

              There are many people who are uncomfortable with the idea of their coworkers smoking pot, and its against their “personal ethics” too.

            4. Gaia*

              Jessegirl, I would say if they are uncomfortable with their coworker smoking pot *at work* the law is against it and company policy is against it than they would be on equal grounds to report it if they felt they should. But what coworker does *at home* is different.

              1. fposte*

                That was on a work trip and it impacted a co-worker, so opinions were all over the map and many, including me, did treat it in a way that would make it pretty analogous to this situation.

            5. MCMonkeyBean*

              But it sounds like OP isn’t actually uncomfortable with the taser, just with the fact that the coworker is technically doing something illegal. If that’s all that has them uncomfortable then to me that seems less like reporting and more like tattling.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I think OP is primarily concerned about what happens if it comes out that she knew about this and didn’t report. So I don’t think it’s really about tattling or a failure to mind one’s own business. I think she’s worried about what happens if she looks the other way and then things *happen* later.

                1. Peter the Bubblehead*

                  On the opposite end, what happens if the OP reports this and the co-worker is ordered to get rid of the taser, and the very next week the co-worker gets mugged or even murdered leaving work? Does the OP start feeling guilty or responsible for what happened? Is there in fact any actual degree of responsibility?

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  I don’t think OP has any responsibility for her coworker being mugged or injured (I can’t speak to guilt—I would certainly feel guilty even if I knew, logically, that it was not my fault). But it’s pretty problematic to blame her for any potential future harm to her coworker.

                3. Lissa*

                  Following that potential scenario, what if the coworker is mugged, has the assailanto take the taser and harm her with it? What if there’s a workpalce incident where the taser is used against someone? All these are potentially but unlikely scenarios, and have nothing to do with actual blame of the letter writer.

            6. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

              I’m fairly certain the LW in the pot letter wasn’t comfortable with the pot smoking and it was illegal also. I’m still not seeing a distinction here. The LW wouldn’t be wrong for reporting something illegal, just like the LW in the pot letter wasn’t wrong for reporting something illegal. But that’s certainly not the stance you took in that letter, where you were firm on the side of not reporting.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                To me, there’s a pretty big distinction between “aware that her manager is smoking pot” and “ordered to come to his hotel room, where he tries to get her to relax and smoke pot and see where things go.” Analogous to the distinction between knowing that your coworker has a taser, and being asked by your coworker to hide the taser in your locker and then smuggle it out to them.

                Technically it all falls under “if you don’t want your coworkers to report your rule breaking, don’t tell them about it.” Which is fair. If there were a question of dangerous or unstable people being able to grab the taser–contra the myth that if you have a weapon you are magically the only one who can use it–I would feel strongly about reporting. If it’s similar to having potent hairspray in her purse for self defense and the purse is locked in a locker the entire time it’s at work, reporting is murkier.

              2. TL -*

                Yeah, and there was, IIRC, a stance against having to experience the “natural consequences” of getting caught with pot and some language implying the reporting employee was to blame for others experiencing these natural consequences.

              3. Brogrammer*

                I’m fairly sure the issue with the pot letter was that the employee in that letter involved the police. This LW is not considering going to the police, just management. If the employee in the pot letter had reported her boss to the company after the trip was over, the response to that letter would have been very different.

                1. Jessesgirl72*

                  She didn’t involve the police- she involved hotel management, who involved the police.

                2. CMart*

                  The employee in the pot letter reported it to the hotel staff, who then contacted the police. The same thing could possibly happen in this situation, though I think it’s less likely.

                  I’m with the people who are having a hard time seeing the reasoning behind the difference in attitudes between the two letters.

                  Pot letter: “You didn’t like what was going on and since it’s illegal I guess it was technically your right to report it, however [Alison, a large chunk of the commenters] think the person who reported overreacted and shouldn’t have.”

                  This letter: “You don’t like what’s going on and since it’s illegal it is within your right to report it, and [a large chunk of the commenters, Alison by virtue of lack of disapproval] think it’s more than okay for you to feel this way”

                3. Tuxedo Cat*

                  The issue I had with that letter, IIRC, was that the employee left the hotel/conference in the middle of the night. It just didn’t register with me that she was in such danger to take such extreme cases.

                  The difference to me with pot and a taser is that taser are pretty directly dangerous and harmful. There are issues surrounding pot where it is harmful, but tasers, in normal usage, have actually killed or seriously injured people.

                4. Kate*

                  I think the actual reaction of the woman in the pot letter got very muddled in the comment section, and that’s one of the reasons people are having trouble seeing the distinction between that and this letter. As Alison mentioned above, the woman in that letter took a photo of the pot smoking, alerted the hotel, then cut her business trip short and took a bus home. And somewhere along the way that got turned into “Sally called the cops.”

                  In that case, at least in my opinion, there was nothing wrong with her alerting the hotel staff. Just as I might call the front desk if the person in the next room was being excessively noisy, I wouldn’t expect the hotel to call the police to file a noise complaint. So the involvement of the police is really on the hotel. But taking a photo and then leaving a business trip seem extreme. It might be akin to this OP demanding the coworker be fired for carrying the taser.

                  In both cases, I think notifying management of these violations seems like an acceptable course of action (which is all that is being recommended here), but the actions of the employee in the pot letter extended beyond that.

              4. Perse's Mom*

                And I don’t see how anyone CAN’T see the distinction.

                Pot is something one person smokes (and is generally smoked outside of the worksite). It only affects the person doing the smoking.

                The other is a *weapon* being brought into the workplace. If a different person had written in and said a coworker was carrying a gun or even a switchblade or combat knife or something, that would be a letter without distinction from this one.

                Pot smoked in a hotel is categorically different from a weapon being brought into the workplace.

                1. tigerStripes*

                  How about the people who end up staying in that hotel room and the people who clean it? Maybe it’s just me, but I really don’t want that stuff in my body, and I’d be upset if I ended up in a hotel room that reeked of pot.

                2. Michelle*

                  BUT the person smoking the pot was on work trip and offered pot to their coworkers. Pot is not legal everywhere.

                3. Traffic_Spiral*

                  But you’re also ignoring another distinction – the purpose and need for the contraband item. The pot was for fun, the taser is for safety. Making someone not smoke pot is ruining their fun (minus some medical cases) refusing to let her have a taser while putting her at risk is impeding her safety.

          2. paul*

            I read the letter as wanting to report it because it violated their ethical concerns and they felt like this would give them more weight.

            Regardless, yes, the coworker has to own the consequences of their choice if the OP chooses to report. They’re making a choice to carry a taser in contravention of policy. I do think this is a little different since she’s not actually pressuring OP to carry a taser while, IIRC, in the letter you reference, the manager did ask his employee to try pot. I think it’s a dumb law and a bad policy, but they are the law and the policy. Just like I think that the employee who narced on the manager there shouldn’t have faced disciplinary action over calling the cops.

            I’ll also say I value self protection a lot more than I value getting intoxicated (and goodness knows I like my bourbon). One of them involves possibly keeping myself alive and whole, the other basically lets me blow off some steam.

            1. JamieS*

              I read the letter and Alison’s response the same way. OP mentioned ethical concerns, as opposed to safety, while acknowledging the coworker had good reason to carry a taser. Alison’s response stated the issue would be murkier if the OP didn’t care about the coworker breaking the law and/or company policy implying to me the problem and answer both hinge on the OP’s personal ethics.

            2. Captain Carrot*

              I definitely agree that it’s not OP’s job to protect the coworker from consequences, and if OP reports then I don’t think she should be blamed for what befalls her coworker. I just don’t really agree that the illegality should help her case of “should I or shouldn’t I report”, if that makes sense? Like, if it’s weighing on her that much then sure, report it, but the fact that tasers are illegal and against policy in this case are outweighed for me by the safety concerns that OP confirms are valid.

              1. Mookie*

                Also, it isn’t just the colleague’s own safety that’s at stake here. There is a stark difference between knowing no one is armed at work versus not being in a position to assume any such thing; people act accordingly based on what they believe to be true. The colleague is violating an implicit social contract — and legal requirement — and that carries risks that are morally on her and only her.

                1. TL -*

                  There is no implicit social contract that no one in your vicinity is armed/prepared to defend themselves.

                2. KellyK*

                  TL, there is an *explicit* one when those things are both illegal and against company policy. We’re not talking about someone with a concealed carry permit here.

                3. fposte*

                  Now you’re making me curious whether our workplace ban against arms would be considered to extend to tasers, pepper spray, etc. I will check that today.

                4. the gold digger*

                  The colleague is violating an implicit social contract — and legal requirement

                  Unfortunately, this social contract works only when everyone, even the bad guys, follows it. Murder is illegal. Yet it still happens.

                5. TL -*

                  @KellyK there is an explicit one, like you said. There is not an implicit one (a generally understood but unspoken social contract.) At least not in the USA – other countries have different norms.

                6. Antilles*

                  @fposte: It really depends on your particular company’s policy. I’ve read a bunch of them for various companies and it’s all over the map. Some company policies are super generic “items with a significant probability of harming others”, which can include the obvious firearms, tazers, etc but also more dual-purpose items like knives or hammers. Other companies specifically name banned items and just have a little catch-all “or other items as defined by management”.

                7. BananaPants*

                  To be blunt, in the US the odds are good that there are people around you in public and even in some workplaces who are armed or carrying defensive items such as tasers/stun guns/pepper spray. This is regardless of local or state laws and employer policies to the contrary.

            3. Leenie*

              To me, the difference between this letter and that particular pot letter is the behavior of the parties and who is getting involved. In the pot letter, it would have been defensible in my mind to report to management of the company, either during the conference or upon return, that your colleagues were smoking pot and urging you to do the same. That went weird when the object of the letter told the hotel about the pot and then hopped on a Greyhound like she was fleeing El Chapo. If the LW suggested she was going to report the taser to the third party that manages their office building and then leave work without a word, I would also take issue with that.

              Also, the pot was on company business in general, but not on company property or really company time.

              1. Leenie*

                Incidentally, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t report either the pot or the taser. I’m just saying that the circumstances surrounding these letters aren’t all that similar to me.

              2. Sarah*

                I agree — if the question asker here was asking “Should I go straight to the police and try to have my coworker arrested?” I would say definitely not. But, a report to management is a different thing.

        2. neverjaunty*

          AAM, I caution you that you are going to get nowhere with this. Many, many people are going to read about a person carrying a gun-like object for self-defense purposes and their knees will jerk so hard that, if collectively harnessed, the resulting kinetic energy would end our dependence on fossil fuels.

          1. fposte*

            You’re responding to Paul–I can’t tell if you’re agreeing with his comment or agreeing with Alison’s view that the co-worker is on solid ground for speaking up.

            (I don’t disagree with your underlying point that weapons of any kind are often rejected intensely, though I don’t think that’s necessarily knee-jerk so much as philosophical.)

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              It’s relevant that your black belt in karate, or three month practical self-defense class, can’t be taken and used against you or others; a weapon can.

              TV routinely shows the “proper” way to use a distance weapon being to walk up to within easy arm’s reach of the target, deliver a monologue, then hit them in the head. There’s a reason law enforcement are less than excited about the idea of lots of civilians pulling out weapons–see PCBH’s example with the marshals above. Whether it’s a problem of lousy aim, of believing that tasers render people unconscious for a lengthy period after which they wake up (they are not unconscious; some have bounced back up and grabbed a gun off the deputy trying to subdue them), or of believing that if you announce “look a weapon” then everyone will follow the script of doing as you say.

              (And I don’t have a strong feeling on carry/don’t, report/don’t, for the example in this letter. But putting weapons in a separate category just reflects that they are a separate category.)

              1. Annony For This One2*

                Tasers barely keep you down. My dad had one (as a police officer) and as an ignorant young teenager I tased myself in the leg, to see what it felt like.
                As an ignorant older teenager it was great fun with my friends at a get together, once.
                As a law abiding 20 something year old I grew out of that phase.
                As a much older adult, I am horrified at how stupid a teenager I was.

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  I needed to look up the details for something I was writing, and was shocked at how far the actual effect of tazing is from what’s shown on TV.

                  People learn wacky workplace norms from TV, and I suspect a lot of them learn “how tazers work” from the same place. Which could make them more dangerous if something is unfolding, not less.

    4. BananaPants*

      I wouldn’t. OP2 has decided that she wants to get her coworker in trouble (probably fired) for carrying a defensive, usually-not-lethal device in an unsafe neighborhood with no access to other security measures.

      If OP is uncomfortable with the Taser, she needs to advocate to the company to have appropriate security measures in place for ALL staff. Until then, she needs to consider that her coworker is simply trying to look out for her own safety since their employer won’t.

      1. BananaPants*

        And frankly, if I found myself in a similar situation as OP2 and her coworkers, I would also be carrying a defensive item (probably a Pepper Blaster rather than a Taser) – I just wouldn’t be foolish enough to tell my new colleagues about it.

        If the neighborhood is really that bad, I’d guess that more employees carry defensive items and just aren’t talking about them.

        1. Jesca*

          I found myself taking night classes at a large community college in a bad area. While I attended, there were nunerous attacks in the parking lot mostly due tonthe fact that the college didnt feel the need to light their massive parking lots or have a degree of security presence to drive off offenders. I carried what is conaidered illegal weapons every time I went. Three actually. One hidden as a key chain (which is what made it illegal), pepper spray, and a longer range whip type device in my car. I think, as a woman, we all can probably relate a story or two of close calls in our lives. I think when we live inna society that continually refuses to recognize how prevelant assault is, we unfortunately are only left to our own devices to be “wise” in our self preservation. I dont agree that we should have to. I advocate against heavily the idea a women ever “puts herself in that position and should have protected herself” but at the same time, I in no way fault someone on going to great lengths to avoid it. Unless I felt this particular woman was unhinged, I would forget I heard it.

          1. fposte*

            I don’t think this is just about women. Mugging victims are as or more likely to be men.

                1. Jadelyn*

                  You really don’t think a woman walking alone at night has more to worry about than a man walking alone at night? Really?

                2. fposte*

                  @Jadelyn–I think statistics are pretty clear that women aren’t disproportionately victims in that situation. Are you seeing something different?

                3. fposte*

                  @Case–but does the greater chance of sexual assault close the probability gap between men’s greater risk of being robbery/assault victims, especially in the situation the OP presents?

                  If we’re having a conversation about rape being more traumatic, I wouldn’t argue with that; I’m just talking about the likelihood of victimization in the situation the OP describes and saying that I don’t think it’s a gender-specific issue.

                4. Jessie the First (or second)*

                  Fposte, your comments are often thoughtful and so I’m surprised to see you deciding to wade in to argue against…. What, exactly – that women walking alone at night shouldn’t worry about assault and rape? Because muggings are more common and men get mugged more?

                  Sexual assault and rape is what the comment was about. Why do you need to jump in with a “oh, who cares about rape, men get mugged” comment? That seems to miss the point of the comment by a clear mile.

                5. fposte*

                  @Jessie–Yeah, I’m definitely not meaning to say “Oh, so what about rape–who cares!” I think violence against women is abhorrent, but I also think facts about that violence are worth knowing and that discussing variability of risk doesn’t undercut the abhorrence or problem of violence against women. I’m where TL says–I think that what women internalize about risk is often not true, and that that’s relevant in this case. And that’s worth knowing, right? That there are situations that you’re maybe not as at risk as you thought?

                  The OP didn’t gender the risk, and I don’t know how her co-worker is thinking of it, but to me this was initially the same question regardless of the gender of her co-worker. Then the discussion started focusing on the particular dilemma of a woman in this situation. And I don’t know that statistics bear out the idea that she *is* more at risk in this situation because of her gender–she’s not at more risk of mugging than a man, and the randomness of stranger rape suggests she’s at no more risk of sexual violence there than when she gets out of her car at the other end of the commute–or when she steps into the clinic. Now, maybe I’m wrong about some important statistics or have missed other ones, but I’m not seeing evidence that makes this particular risk a gendered one.

                  I’m not arguing that the co-worker isn’t at risk in any way–I don’t know the neighborhood or its stats. I’m not arguing for or against the taser. I’m arguing that the question about the co-worker’s choice doesn’t really work for me as a gender issue, and also that both men’s and women’s fears don’t correlate well to actual risks.

          2. Salamander*

            Yeah. I agree with this. In life, when I run into people who are against women carrying these kinds of things, it’s usually people who are privileged enough not to have to be afraid of these things in their daily lives. They live/work in very safe places, or by virtue of gender, they don’t have to think about these things much at all.

            I used to be a teaching assistant for a criminology class. At the start of the class, I would have the men and women divide up and assign each a blackboard. I’d have the men write down all the things they do to protect themselves from crime, and have the women do the same. Invariably, the men would come up with a list of ten things (I lock my car doors!) and women would fill up three blackboards. It’s an eye opener for everyone.

            1. fposte*

              Again, being male doesn’t make you safer from mugging; it’s a cultural practice of thinking about safety, not actual mugging risk, that makes it more of a conversation for women. You might argue it’s not that men are privileged but that they’re risk-ignorant.

              1. Salamander*

                Men have the privilege of being sexually assaulted less than women.

                While mugging is a terrible crime, and I agree that men should do what they need to protect themselves from mugging, I would personally be able to put a mugging behind me more quickly than a sexual assault. I have faced both threats, and rarely think about the guy who cut my purse strap years twenty later. Do I think about the guy who cornered me in a hallway on a weekly basis, even though that was several years ago? Yeah, I do.

              2. Ramblin' Ma'am*

                Yes, I think about this all the time. Except for rapes and other sexual assaults, crime victims are disproportionately male. Yet most of the men I know don’t seem scared of walking home late at night, walking through a dark parking lot, etc. I suppose being comfortable and “feeling” safe could be seen as its own kind of privilege.

              3. Salamander*

                I am going to have to recuse myself from the rest of this conversation and respectfully ask Allison to keep the comments I have in moderation and not release them. This hits close to home for me, and I have strong opinions on privilege that I don’t think really apply to this.

                Yes, guys are mugged more than women. According to RAINN and pretty much every governmental statistics source I’ve used, women are assaulted more than men. The fear of this and the trauma surrounding these crimes are big issues for people who face them.

                1. TL -*

                  Every statistic I’ve looked at says men are more likely to be the victims of violent crime from a stranger. (with the exception of rape.)
                  Women are more likely to be victims of violent crimes from people they know; eg, domestic violence.
                  What society teaches women to be afraid of doesn’t line up with what the statistic show; that doesn’t invalidate someone being afraid of walking in high crime-rate areas, ect…, just that we, as women, are taught to be afraid of the world simply because we’re women. I think both fposte and I have issues with that teaching.

                2. Criminologist*

                  I’m a criminologist and I’ve never seen a statistic showing that women are more likely to be assaulted than men, unless you mean sexual assault. Even then, given what we know about situational characteristics of sexual assault, carrying a taser in a bad neighborhood isn’t going to help against the vast majority of incidents.

                3. Salamander*

                  Yes, I mean sexual assault. See any UCR data set for any year, which, as you know, is the federal standard data.

                4. fposte*

                  TL sums up my thinking really well. I don’t think gender has a good effect on our risk assessment here.

                5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  The overwhelming majority (like 90%+) of women are sexually assaulted by acquaintances in places other than the streets of a dangerous neighborhood. This doesn’t mean women don’t bear unique risks when they’re in public places, or that there are no rapes* that are straight-up stranger assaults, but I do think it’s fair to try to untangle rape from other violent crimes because of the significant differences by gender and by location. And of course there are different risks that are more common/prevalent for folks who are being sexually trafficked, as well, which has really skewed impacts by race, class, and LGBT status.

                  I don’t say this lightly or to minimize women’s experiences or concerns regarding violent crimes. But every crime statistic I’ve seen suggests that the majority of violent crimes that are not rape/DV are disproportionately committed against men, and rape/DV crimes most frequently occur within homes (not on the streets).

                  * I’m using the term rape because “sexual assault” has a really broad definition in most places, and I don’t think folks are talking about groping or other forms of assault.

              4. A person*

                Pretty sure assault is the main concern not mugging in the example above.

                Men worry about mugging because that’s statistically a risk to them.

                Women worry about assault of all kinds because that’s statistically a risk to them.

                1. LBK*

                  I would generally assume an “attack in a parking lot” would be a mugging, but I suppose it’s not clear from Jesca’s comment what kind of attack she’s referring to.

                2. Kah2218*

                  OK maybe I can help here. Typically when women are discussing assaults and self defense, they are not talking about just muggings … I kinda feel odd having the explain this adults? But I suppose I can understand as everyone has very different life experiences. I always just assumed that everyone was aware of this? My bad on that assumption!

                3. LBK*

                  Well, for context, the last letter on here that was about safety concerns re: parking lot assaults was specifically about muggings, so I’m sure that’s also influencing my interpretation. Easy with the condescension.

                4. A person*

                  Thanks for pointing that out Kah. Apparently I have that blindness as well. Probably because I’ve only ever been assaulted and threatened with physical/sexual harm but never mugged or threatened for money. So when I think self defense, I immediately jump to assault because of my history.

                5. Observer*

                  @LBK That’s not a good assumption. Mugging is far from the only type of assault that happens in parking lots.

                6. Ramblin' Ma'am*

                  “What society teaches women to be afraid of doesn’t line up with what the statistic show; that doesn’t invalidate someone being afraid of walking in high crime-rate areas, ect…, just that we, as women, are taught to be afraid of the world simply because we’re women. I think both fposte and I have issues with that teaching.”

                  Thank you, TL–I feel the same way and you stated it very well.

                7. fposte*

                  @Kah2218–armed robbery is absolutely what I’d be talking about and the women I know would be talking about, so I don’t think your “typically” is true.

                  Yes, I’m concerned about sexual assault, but I’m less at risk for that than I am of getting attacked for my money, so I worry more about the latter.

                8. LBK*

                  I think it comes down to how much you factor the emotional element into your worrying; do you worry more about something that’s less common but more traumatic, and is that worrying founded/logical? I think there’s value in realigning your emotions to more accurately match the statistics, for your own psychological health if nothing else.

                9. CEMgr*

                  I’d like to see some actual numbers. I find it plausible that there are more muggings of men for money per capita – but suspect that it’s because muggings disproportionately occur at night, especially in isolated areas, against people who are by themselves, and of all the people walking alone in isolated areas at night, 80-90%+ are men. Women have already taken themselves out of the risk pool by self-limiting their freedom of movement. If the statistics were to be run to actually reflect a hazard rate (e.g. per person-hours of exposure in public, as 1 example), we’d see a very different picture.

                  If men followed the practice of many women and avoided ever being alone at night or in isolated areas, their rate of being mugged would plummet to more closely resemble that of women.

                  And I’ve been mugged by someone who demanded money by fear….it was somewhat scary but nothing resembling the fear engendered by the possibility of serious sexual assault. It’s rational to fear possible crimes according to the effect they would be likely to have on one’s life – among other factors such as likelihood of occurrence.

                  The discipline of Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) can help here: The Efforts to avoid a potential threat should be proportionate to Harm x Likelihood x Ease of threat reduction.

              5. LBK*

                Right – this is one area where men actually generally believe they’re more privileged than they really are.

                1. Jaguar*

                  I don’t know if privilege is the right framework to understand it. There’s the amount someone should worry about it, the amount men do worry about it, and the amount women do worry about it. Privilege seems like it glosses over all of that. Do women worry too much about it? Do men worry too little? Do both worry too much? Do both worry too little?

                2. paul*

                  It’s fascinating but tends to get me hot under the collar; my own mother has told me I’m a man and can’t understand what it’s like to afraid for my safety.

                  She frigging *knows* I’ve been assaulted, a few times, including with a knife. But because I’m not a woman I don’t know what it’s like to be concerned for my safety.

                3. Jaguar*

                  Yeah. I’m male and I’ve been mugged twice (once in a bad neighborhood, once in one of the highest pedestrian traffic areas in my city mid-day) – although I’ve come away from both uninjured. I still act cavalier about my personal safety out in public and am probably negligent about it in that regard. But the insistence that I’m privileged despite my lived experience with mugging and the statistical reality that men are at a higher risk of mugging and assault from strangers versus women’s hypothetical assault is really hard to take seriously.

                  But more importantly, the result of this disconnect where men are told not to view themselves as potential victims and that women are is that men get to walk around without anxiety and women clutch their purses against themselves when they come near a strange man at night. That constant fear seems harrowing to me, and I wonder if it’s really justified or if it’s a result of the thundering message from society that women are victims waiting to happen. It’s not clear from the letter, but we have the example of a woman feeling she has to risk her job and break the law to feel safe (or safe-ish) and the letter writer who doesn’t feel that way. I can’t say who is right but I don’t envy the co-worker’s state of mind.

                4. fposte*

                  @Jaguar–it’s really an interesting and distressing kind of mess, I think. Our campus is reasonably decent at making it clear male students are at a higher risk of stranger assault on the street than female students, so don’t assume you’re immune. But you have the combination of our species’ general badness at risk assessment and the messages to women of what we’re supposed to be scared of most in all situations, even where that’s not the biggest risk or the place you’re at most risk of it.

                  We are so much better at getting the message about the problem of violence against women than we used to be, but more granular examination of the actual risk doesn’t seem to have come with it.

                5. Jaguar*

                  But is “men should be afraid too” really the correct message? A lot of things factor into that, like crime rates in the areas you find yourself and things like that, but fear eats away at people in pretty profound ways and it seems like a terrible thing to make people fearful unnecessarily, to say nothing of the fact that if it does happen, you don’t want to be gripped by fear either.

                6. eee*

                  to add to what Jaguar said, I think that based on statistics, women are overly frightened/cautious/risk aware, and men are underly frightened/cautious/risk aware about any kind of stranger physical assault, partially because of this (I have no idea whether it’s true or not) narrative that a man “just” has to worry about getting mugged, while a woman has to worry that her mugger will also rape/sexually assault her. This leads to women avoiding both behaviors that are very risky (like cutting through a dark alley, alone, on a bad street at night), and not very risky (like walking around an urban neighborhood with a low crime rate, alone, at night). Men are more likely to not perceive any risk, do the very risky behavior, and thus are more likely to reap negative consequences. Women tend to be raised in a culture of fear and awareness–from a young age the “threat” of stranger in the bushes-rape or other sexual assault is mentioned often. It’s something you always have a slight awareness of, a little voice in your head that’s there when you’re making plans for the night, when you’re picking out your outfit for the night, when you’re having fun, and when you’re walking home afterwards. Although it happens, and is so horrible, I really wish I could go back in time and erase any messages to little-girl through adult me about stranger rape. It’s so so rare, and I would rather have gone through my life with an appropriate amount of risk awareness.

              6. Kah2218*

                What an interesting sociological experiment! Assault obviously has very different connotations depending on experience.

              7. Tuckerman*

                I doubt the employee’s primary concern is about being mugged, though it might be a good idea for the OP to ask the employee to detail her concerns. When I’m walking down the street at night, I’m not thinking, “I hope nobody takes my stuff.” I’m thinking, “I hope nobody takes me.”

                1. fposte*

                  I don’t know, that starts getting perilously close to “He shot me, but at least my virtue is still intact.” I’m scared that somebody’s going to pull a gun on me or hit me in the back of the head, which is the kind of mugging I’m most familiar with and which often sends people to the hospital.

                2. Observer*

                  @fposte, I don’t think it’s that. I think it’s a couple of things. One is that women feel like they are at risk for more types of assault than guys, thus they are more at risk. I don’t know if the statistics bear that out, but it’s not unreasonable. If a guy has a 50% chance of getting mugged and a 2% chance of getting raped on the street, and a woman has a 30% chance of getting mugged and a 25% chance of her getting raped on the street, she has a higher chance of getting assaulted in some form or fashion than a guy, even though her risk of a mugging is significantly lower. AND rape tends tends to be more traumatizing, given the same level of violence (eg bash on the head is a bash on the head in either case, but if both get a bash on the head, the rape is going to be more traumatizing.) And to top it off, rape victims get uniquely bad treatment for crime victims. Everything from the way police handle this in many jurisdictions, to the victim blaming that goes on – these are all things that just make that a whole separate nightmare.

                  The other thing is that women tend to be more aware of their vulnerability, and it’s not just an incorrect message that comes from our culture. The differences in body mass and brute strength do lead to the reality is that generally women are more likely to get hurt in certain situations that a man. Of course, that’s not universally true – there are LOTS of factors that go into the real risk level, but it is a real issue that does play into this.

            2. TL -*

              Agreeing with fposte! Men are much more likely to be victims of all violent crimes except domestic violence/rape (and the rape stats aren’t solid), especially if it’s stranger on stranger violence.
              We as a society tell women over and over that they have to be more afraid because it’s more dangerous to exist as a women but it’s not actually true.
              I do think it’s important to point out that you do not have to exist in a state of heightened fear just because you are a woman and society tells you to.

              1. CMart*

                I honestly think it’s the magnitude of violent crime that scares me, personally.

                I’ve been mugged at gunpoint. It was scary. I am still very wary about being mugged in certain areas. However what made the encounter very frightening for me was not that some dude stuck a gun in my side and demanded my valuables. It was the unknown of what *else* he could do to me, beyond bruising my arm with his grip and my ribs with the gun (or object he was pretending was a gun). By and large the men I know are also wary of muggings, but the “what else” is not a concern that follows.

                1. Salamander*

                  Yeah. This discussion is getting very odd to me.

                  I mean, in the interests of disclosure, I have a graduate degree in criminology and worked in criminal justice for fifteen years. There’s this academic idea of false equivalency in crimes among people who don’t get their hands dirty with these things…that getting a wallet stolen is equivalent to a couple of guys slugging it out in a bar (an assault in most jurisdictions) and that both are equal to a rape. All check a box on data and all get counted equally in statistics. I see that in this thread.

                  Being on the ground floor of these things, I can tell you…they aren’t the same. And there seems to be this implied idea that women are at no more risk to awful things happening to them than men, so we oughta just quit complaining and walk the street alone at night like the guy in the next cubicle. It’s frankly pretty befuddling to me. Data does not capture the full range of human suffering and experience.

                2. TL -*

                  But again, the statistics don’t back this – women are more likely to have sexual assault occur from somebody they know (& often trust) than by a random stranger. Men are more likely to be victims of murder and physical assault, both large and small, *from strangers* than women are. Those can easily result from mugging.
                  It’s not that you shouldn’t be afraid or anything like that; it’s that what we’re taught to fear doesn’t line up with what we should actually be wary of, for either gender.

                3. fposte*

                  @Salamander–I don’t think anybody’s saying that we have to shut up and walk the street alone, but we’re also not talking about getting your wallet snatched in a bar, so I think that’s a false equivalency as well. Everybody’s at risk in a bad neighborhood late at night walking to their car; it’s not just women. It’s not a lot of comfort to the guys I know who got beat up and robbed that they weren’t women, you know? Their experience matters too.

                4. TL -*

                  @Salamander – That stats I saw were broken up as such: Assault, theft, murder, domestic violence, and rape (and I think more? Those are the ones that I remembered), and the only ones that really disproportionately affected women were domestic violence and rape, both of which are less likely to be parking lot stranger danger. (and the murders might have been broken down to DV-related and not?)

                  This isn’t saying, “don’t be scared; don’t be worried” but “we need to look at how we as a society teach women to be scared and why.”

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I’m with TL/fposte on this one.

                Sexual assault is awful and underreported and catastrophic in a way that is distinct from most other violent crimes. But it is also rarely committed between strangers or on the street. That doesn’t mean that there’s zero risk or that we should brush aside the active fear that women experience regarding their physical safety. But I also think it’s important to contextualize that fear so that our resources/policies are responsive to how this prevalence plays out (and where it plays out).

                1. fposte*

                  I don’t know any statistics on this, but I would also think that rape by a stranger is less neighborhood-dependent than many other crimes, so that again we may underestimate risk in some places and overestimate in others. (I did just find a juicy Bureau of Justice Statistics report on violent victimization committed by strangers, but I probably won’t have time to unpack it today.)

                2. Lissa*

                  +2000. Also, carrying a taser is unfortunately often *not* likely to reduce one’s risk of being assaulted, unless one is lucky and/or has the physical training to make sure the attacker (who often is at a physical advantage, as well as being prepared) doesn’t take it from you and make the situation potentially even worse. I am saying this because a lot of comments and “protect myself” arguments seem to be framing it like carrying a taser is going to definitely/probably ensure protection.

            3. Jesca*

              I loved these exercises when I was in college taking humanity classes. It definitely changed a lot of peoples’ view points.
              Even if the nunbers didnt back it up, what does it say about the signals our society puts off that women feel the need to go to this much protection? What does it say about our institutions that don’t recognize the dangers and actively seek prevention?

        2. Anon for This*

          Right there with you. My husband typically buys me a new non-lethal self-defense item each year. I’m a woman and travel alone for work, including some pretty sketchy areas. Our written personnel policy prohibits weapons. However, nobody ever asks or presses the issue, and I’d rather be alive and in violation, than cooperate with policy and be dead. So… none of my colleagues know (or need to!) what’s in my bag.

        3. A person*

          I went with a pepper blaster after the fifth or sixth time being threatened by a random person… in a low crime neighborhood.

          My husband was horrified to learn that the midwest city that “wasn’t that bad” was the location of several incidents to me alone of being threatened. Woman walking alone = target in my experience. Add the bad neighborhood and your risk increases. I wouldn’t say anything but I’ve been in too many situations where I was unsafe and wouldn’t feel good about telling someone they have carry nothing and hope for the best.

          1. BananaPants*

            I started carrying a pepper blaster in certain situations after I was threatened by men in a car while out walking our dog one evening in our relatively low crime, suburban neighborhood. It was a real wake up call.

            Until recently it was illegal in Massachusetts for a civilian to carry pepper spray without a handgun permit. MANY people just bought pepper spray in another state and carried it illegally, or bought the exact same product marketed as “bear spray” and carried it for self-defense purposes.

        4. Elemeno P.*

          Same. I used public transit in a bad area and often had to travel at night, so I carried a small non-lethal weapon in my purse that was illegal in my state. I don’t have to carry that anymore because I live in a safe area, but I would have been pretty mad if I trusted someone to know about my self-defense method and they reported me.

      2. Salamander*

        I agree. The employer isn’t stepping up to the plate here, so it unfortunately falls to the employee to protect herself. I’ve worked in places like this, in really bad places. I know women who have been raped in those places. This is something that I thought about every day on my walk to and from work for more than a decade.

        I personally would not want to be in the position of reporting her. What if you do, the taser goes away, and something really bad happens to her on her walk to work? That’s a much, much more likely scenario than there being some kind of workplace invasion that would place the LW at some risk.

        LW, would you feel guilt if this happens or just shrug your shoulders and move on? I personally would rather run a one in a million chance of being tased than a one in a thousand risk of my co-worker getting raped. Or is this all about the perceived risk to *you* and not her? I would encourage you to leave this alone.

      3. Fiennes*

        I for one wouldn’t report unless and until I had already banded together with coworkers to get better official security measures in place. That would be my first approach to solving the issue – making the taser unnecessary – because the coworker’s actions, though against company policy, are grounded in legitimate concerns. So to me it makes sense to work on those concerns first.

    5. WhirlwindMonk*

      Yeah, #2 is firmly in “Mind Your Own Business” territory for me. It’d be one thing if they were in a generally safe area. It’d also be different if OP #2 were concerned that this person was a safety risk to others in the office. But they specifically say the person’s safety concerns are legitimate, and that it’s their “personal ethics” that make them oppose it. As this board would be more than happy to tell anyone with religious moral objections to other coworker’s activities, your morals are not theirs, you don’t get to force them on them. And your company is not doing enough to keep their employees safe. I say leave it alone.

      1. Katniss*

        Agreed 100%. I’m biased here because I carry a knife (which I have training to use) for safety, which is illegal in my city. But the only thing that is legal in my city is mace, which doesn’t feel like nearly enough. I’m sure people have ethical objections to that but that’s none of their business as there’s zero chance I’m going to harm them or affect them in any way by carrying my knife.

        1. Ethics'n'Stuff*

          So I’m going to strongly agree with your right to carry *some* form of defensive equipment, and disagree on two other points (feel free to engage with one or both, but I’m sensing this has been an emotive issue on this board-rightly so! And I don’t want to seem like I’m trolling or just being pedantic. I just think there are a couple of fairly important things to note here).

          1) There is very good reason for knife-carrying to be illegal, and to at least think that it’s unethical, besides. In someone with a lesser skill level, a knife can be easily turned against someone. But even if you have the skills of a fictional Steven Seagal character, the presence of a knife escalates a situation from potentially non-lethal to more-than-likely lethal, for either you or the other person (now you might say here you’re entitled to defend yourself- I agree. But I also don’t think the average muggers’ crimes are sufficiently egregious for a street execution).

          Case in point: My last day of university, just before my martial-arts-trained father showed up to take me and some stuff home, I heard a suspicious noise in one of the bedrooms. My instinct was to grab a bloody great big kitchen knife before investigating (let’s ignore the lack of a self preservation impulse in 21 year old me for a sec). Now, details aside, it turned out to be a genuinely harmless misunderstanding due to a drunk and confused neighbour- but if my dad hadn’t arrived, and gone in ahead with a blunt object, I would have wound up in an unknown situation with a deadly weapon, no good for anyone concerned.

          2) More briefly, on the ethical objections point: there are plenty of things which people have valid (i.e. can rightly claim it is “their business”) ethical concerns with which don’t directly harm or affect them. The prospect of an individual harming someone else, or let’s say a pet, or doing something corrupt or just plain skeezy- just because it doesn’t affect someone doesn’t mean it’s not their business.

          Besides, I’m super skeptical of the claim, or supposition, that you know your carrying a knife will never affect anyone you work with. There’s an awful lot of unfortunate (even non-malicious) stuff which can happen, to the point where I certainly wouldn’t feel comfy in an office with someone carrying a deadly weapon (even if it’s just because I don’t know they are well-trained/responsible/loving and slow to anger).

          1. Katniss*

            I mean, I have no intention to use my weapon in the case of a mugging: if I were mugged, I’d hand over my money/possessions and call the police. That situation is not worth escalating.

            I carry my knife specifically for a situation, which hopefully will never occur, in which I’m about to be sexually assaulted. In which case I am fine escalating to a lethal level and have no moral problem potentially maiming or injuring an attempted rapist.

          2. OhNo*

            I wouldn’t necessarily classify a knife encounter as “more-than-likely fatal”. Unless you are caught in a major artery or organ, or sustain an overwhelming number of injuries, the chances of surviving a knife attack are better than you’d expect.

            That said, I 100% agree with you that pulling a knife escalates a situation in a really dangerous way. Even if you aren’t intending (or likely) to take someone’s life, there’s an implied threat involved in pulling a knife that inherently ramps the situation up to eleven.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I feel the same, but obviously the OP doesn’t. As others have pointed out, the coworker could injure or kill another coworker or even the OP if they’re careless. While I feel like this isn’t even much of a workplace issue if the taser is kept locked up in the office, it’s possible that it isn’t, or that the OP encounters the coworker in question most days, in dark and uncertain conditions.

        So while I agree that it doesn’t seem like something worth reporting, I don’t think the OP is wrong to report it if it concerns her that much. The coworker should be well aware that they’re taking a risk by carrying an illegal weapon, and then sharing that information on top of that. The employer’s security (or lack thereof) around the work site is a closely related but completely independent issue. Just because you object to a law, you do not get a pass on consequences if you break it.

        1. WhirlwindMonk*

          >the coworker could injure or kill another coworker or even the OP if they’re careless

          Not going to lie, as someone who works in an industrial building, where there are forklifts and cranes capable of lifting 10 tons moving around at all time, drills in use that could crack your skull by weight alone, sparks flying as sawblades cut through steel, and a hundred other things far more dangerous than a taser, that argument doesn’t carry a lot of weight with me. As I said, if you have real reason to suspect that the person can’t be trusted with the equipment, say something, same as I would if I saw someone joyriding in a forklift. If not? Trust them to be an adult and use it safely and properly, just like I trust the guys on the shop floor not to bean me with a power drill just because they’re having a bad day.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            This is not a good comparison. Your workplace presumably has safety measures in place, no? And training for the people operating the equipment? You don’t need any of that to own a taser, and this workplace isn’t going to have safety measures to protect against harm by tasers because people are not supposed to be taking tasers to the office. Regardless of whether the OP should report it, your comparison isn’t really helpful.

            1. WhirlwindMonk*

              What safety measures do you think there are? What could there be? Honestly speaking, our safety measures are “Don’t act like an idiot.” You can’t put tethers on hammers and drills, or fencing around saws, or whatever or no work would ever get done. The vast majority of safety is “Use the common sense of a reasonable adult.”

              And if the taser is kept in a bag all day, I don’t see how it could accidentally harm a coworker. If the person is brandishing in or dumping it out on the floor or something stupid? That’s reason to believe they can’t handle it responsibly and reason to report it. Until them, trust that they’re an adult.

          2. Zathras*

            I think the difference here is that the people operating the forklifts, drills, etc. have presumably had some training on how to use them safely. In the case of an illegally carried item that’s less likely. There is also a work-related reason for those tools to be present.

            That said, I’m still not sure I would say anything, unless the person had a history of assaulting other coworkers in fits of rage, or otherwise pinged my radar as someone I didn’t trust. There are a lot of normal objects even in a regular office that could be used to hurt someone, so I’m not sure the presence of a taser really has an impact on the safety of the people around it.

            I do question the judgement of this coworker though, who apparently thought it was a good idea to share around at their new job that they were breaking the law and violating a workplace policy. That piece of information about them would inform my impression of them going forward.

          3. Latetothpartu*

            I had a job once at which pocket knives were forbidden (this was at a time and in a place when most men of a certain age I knew carried them), and yet there were random box cutters and razors all over the manufacturing plant. For that reason, and a few others, the rule was mostly (albeit discreetly) ignored.

            Emphasis on “discreetly”. I also once worked at a place where someone refused to stop bringing a hand-gun to work at a factory at the corner of Third-Ring Suburb and Nowheresville, a gun I doubt anyone would have known about had he not blabbed about it to the entire company. I don’t understand the desire some people have to broadcast their business. It’s one thing to make a specific political or moral statement, knowing there may be consequences – or to protest that there are consequences for certain statements. It’s another to just offer up information willy-nilly to casual acquaintances, which is what most co-workers are.

        2. paul*

          Killing with a taser is *incredibly* unlikely. Unless the coworker is foolish enough to try an office demonstration, it’s also unlikely they’ll injure a coworker.

          Part of the big reason I decided against tasers is their limitations; they’ve got a range of about 15′ if you’re talking one of the models with terminals that can be fired, or you’ve got to be making direct contact with one.

        3. Purplesaurus*

          or that the OP encounters the coworker in question most days, in dark and uncertain conditions.

          I’m torn on this issues so I’m not arguing either side, but I do question whether the fear is actually of the weapon or of the coworker. If OP is afraid of her coworker acting against her in some way with this weapon, then there’s a clear reason to report such concerns. The weapon is incidental to me, since the coworker would be dangerous generally.

          1. Zathras*

            I do question whether the fear is actually of the weapon or of the coworker.

            While I was typing you posted what I was trying to say, much more effectively!

      3. Asst. 29*

        I can see both sides so I’m torn. Where I live its legal to carry a concealed weapon in my office with a permit, which I have as well as training, but it is against company policy. I also work in an office by myself, open to the public without security, and have been threatened a couple of times. While there are people in the building it is entirely possible for me to go all day without seeing any of my colleagues, so, on occasion, I have carried into my office (working late mainly). God forbid something actually happened, I’d lose my job, which I accept, but I went with my safety first. Also, none of my colleagues know I carry though I do know I’m not the only one who does this.

      4. Bend & Snap*

        I totally agree with this. If it were a gun I’d be reporting it up down and sideways. I put tasers more in the pepper spray category although I know they’re more dangerous.

        But if the area is so unsafe that the coworker feels the need to carry a taser, I agree with exploring other options with management to ensure employee safety. And in the LW’s shoes, I would not rat out my coworker.

        I used to work in an unsecured building next to a homeless men’s shelter in Boston (near the steaming tea kettle for Boston folks). The general area was safe but that block was scary as hell after dark. I ended up quitting because there was a huge mental toll from worrying about my safety when my employer didn’t GAF.

    6. Case of the Mondays*

      My opinion on this is clouded by the fact that I think a taser is the best personal safety device. A gun has lethal consequences if used incorrectly. In only rare circumstances does a taser have such a result. It is very difficult to accidentally discharge a taser. Mace and other pepper sprays contaminate a whole area and unless you have been trained to fight through contamination, you are likely to incapacitate yourself more than the person you are trying to spray. Mace that is accidentally discharged may require the entire building to be evacuated. As my friend who accidentally discharged hers on her first day of work, luckily it was work issued, can attest to. A knife or kubotan requires the threat to get too close to you before you can use it. A coworker carrying a taser, regardless of its legality, is a low risk issue. I think the LW should stay out of it.

      1. Alton*

        It’s relatively low-risk for the reasons you state, but not risk-free by any means. People have been killed by tasers. They can absolutely be lethal. I agree that if you’re going to carry something for self-defense, a taser can be safer than a gun or pepper spray, but carrying and using one is still a responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Flip side, tasers on TV knock the person completely unconscious for a good period. In real life, no one loses consciousness. Some people are groggy for a bit, and some people are able to break down and reassemble a rifle immediately after the current stops. Or tackle the person with the taser.

    7. Michael Carmichael*

      I understand being conflicted about witnessing someone carrying an illegal weapon, but this particular situation seems a little different to me. I think it’s unlikely the company has the resources to greatly improve employees’ safety if they haven’t done so already (public health not being a field awash in funds IME). Others have said that her safety device should be legal, which I don’t disagree with on principle, but my experience is that the ones that are legal are also ineffective and more likely to backfire (sprays in particular).

      I’m not quite sure what the concern is about the co-worker having this at work, other than strictly the illegality. Is it that someone will go through her belongings and start tasing the office workers? That she will go berserk and tase someone at work? I’m not saying these situations are impossible, but they seem unlikely.

      I would have to weigh the possibility of these scenarios happening against how I would feel if, assuming the co-worker kept her job following the disclosure of her illegal weapon, she were to be subsequently attacked on her way to or from work. I’d guess though that the co-worker will more likely lose her job, so possibly this consideration is moot.

      I think the co-worker should have kept her mouth shut about it – while this would generally be a ‘minding my own business’ situation for me, she has made it the co-worker’s business by alerting her to its presence, and if the OP does decide to report, the co-worker should have to bear the responsibility not only of doing the illegal thing, but of having told people, which in my mind is probably the worse of the two actions in this case.

    8. Jaguar*

      At the very least, if you are going to say something, at least let the coworker who took you into her confidence when she told you about this know that you feel you have to report her. There’s little worse than putting your trust in someone and that person immediately breaking it.

    9. Gov Worker*

      There is no need to be a narc. This woman has every right to protect herself. If she did get mugged and no longer had her taser, how would you feel?

      Look, I’m extremely law abiding, but sometimes​ the law can put us at risk. We must look out for ourselves.

    10. The OG Anonsie*

      Before the LW does ANYTHING, they need to make sure they are actually correct here. What I mean is that tasers, the kind the shoot wired barbs, are often illegal but stun guns, which need to be touched to someone to shock them, are not. Many people refer to both of these things as “tasers” even though they are in wildly different categories as far as the law and actual safety of use are concerned.

      I think it’s likely that the coworker actually bought a stun gun, since she wouldn’t have been able to just jaunt out and buy a taser easily (even online) buy you can get a stun gun at many sporting goods stores. Hell, Amazon has hundreds for around $10. I got mine off Amazon, it was $12 and it’s a flashlight that can also essentially be a cattle prod. It’s totally legal to own where I live even though tasers are not.

      Work policy wise, I think typically by “weapons” they are not thinking of something like mace or a flashlight stun gun– things that a lot of people carry on their commute and aren’t considered the same kind of hazardous as a taser. I obviously see how a stun gun is right on a safety line, there, but I wouldn’t consider or encourage someone to report someone for having one… Particularly if I, as the LW does, knows there is an actual need for such an item to be had at work.

    11. Wintermute*

      I would lean towards “they’re an adult it’s their own choice” for one reason alone– do I really want their injury, psychological trauma or even death on my hands?

      There’s a reason more states are considering “disarm and assume responsibility” laws that say businesses that bar guns take 100% liability for any damages incurred if their employees can’t fight back against an attacker, because you bear a moral responsibility for the consequences if you tie someone’s hands.

  4. Kheldarson*

    OP4: your boss may let you make up the time too! When I started at my current position, I ended up with bout after bout of norovirus. My supervisor was real understanding and let me fudge my time a bit to get my hours in. I worked my butt off to get all those hours in and show that their faith in me wasn’t misplaced.

    1. paul*

      That’s always worth asking; sometimes it can’t really work (like you call out Thursday, and are still bleh Friday and Saturday) but we’ve let hourly people work through lunches and/or come in early if they’d rather do that than take PTO or miss pay (if they haven’t hit the 90 day mark). It’s not great–it makes for long days–but it may be better than missing 8 hours in a paycheck.

    2. Librarian*

      I also got norovirus immediately after starting a new job. Was out 3 days of my second week and only dragged myself in the last two because it was my second week. Would have stayed home and rested longer if I had been here longer. My boss was super great about it and it made me feel like switching jobs was the right choice and not like I had made a huge mistake.

  5. Ramona Flowers*

    #5 It’s fine and normal to ask and you don’t need to frame it so carefully. Your aim here is to get the information needed to write a reference, and they should be happy to help you do that.

    It’s also okay for their internship to teach them that it’s helpful to provide clear details to a referee.

    1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      Agreed – in my experience this is totally normal and the OP shouldn’t feel bad at all about asking. I can’t imagine a job seeker would be put off by it – they want the best reference they can get, after all. And this reminds me that I need to touch base with my references and send them an updated resume, so thanks for the timely reminder!

      1. OP #5*

        Thanks for normalizing it and letting me know others ask questions as well. I was feeling a bit guilty about not knowing their projects off the top of my head years after the fact and worrying about giving an incorrect reference if I mixed them up.
        I also work with some people who have fantastic memories and was feeling a bit inadequate.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

          No problem! Term-limited internships are pretty common in the legal industry, and so I think it’s quite normal to expect that someone who works with a lot of different people over the years would need a reminder of what you worked on. Something to jar the memory, as it were.

    2. Cassandra*

      I write/am phoned up for a lot of recs for students and new graduates of the programs I teach in. I always ask for:

      – the job ad/description
      – a current resume
      – a refresher on what courses they took from me, projects they did, etc
      – “Anything you’d like me to talk up?”

      The applicants always understand that I ask this because I’m on their side and want to be the most effective recommender I can be. In return, I use the information they provide to write a tailored, non-boilerplate rec.

  6. Ramona Flowers*

    #1 That has a really gimmicky, gameshow-esque feel to it. I’d take it as very important information about the employer, namely as a giant red flag. I’m sorry you had that experience!

    1. Breanne*

      Thank you! It was very off-putting and made me feel uncomfortable for the remainder of the interview!

    2. AJ*

      I’d be very tempted to end each answer on a cliffhanger.

      “blah blah … so then President Trump walked in…”
      “blah blah … having sourced the code we were able to open the vault and…”


  7. Steph*

    OP2 – Just a thought in addressing the staff safety issue at your workplace: I also work at a public health facility, a community outreach centre about 15 minutes from the massive hospital precinct.
    We were able to arrange for a car from the hospital security to come to our centre in the evenings to escort drive people to their cars after work. Would something like that be possible to petition for at your workplace?

  8. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, that interview approach sounds frustrating/obnoxious and not helpful for most professions. I have nothing to add but commiseration—I’m sorry.

    1. CM*

      I can see it working as sort of a “lightning round” where the questions are basically quick yes/no type questions and the interviewers don’t want a long speech about it. But if the one-minute answers are the entire interview, that’s obviously not good.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Seriously. If I were OP and they asked me to come in for yet another interview, I would definitely decline and tell them why. Or it’d be something to ask them: “What’s the methodology behind asking questions this way?” or something like that.

      2. Breanne*

        In fact, I think “lightning round” may have been the term they used. Unfortunately, they weren’t yes/no questions. But, this timed question thing was only a portion of the interview; they did ask question where I was allowed to answer without a time limit

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think sometimes employers do this to probe your Id and see how you’re going to respond “unfiltered.” Unless you’re in PR or a press secretary (or other jobs where you have to respond quickly and with limited prep), this seems like a kind of foolish indicator of someone’s capability. Especially since so many people don’t process/think on the fly this way.

  9. Cambridge Comma*

    #5, could you make it one of the interns final tasks to write up a summary of what they’ve done, which you can then keep on file in case you need it? It would also mean that you would be reading it at a time when you can still recall their work so could be more sure of whether it’s accurate.

    1. Lioness*

      My supervisor for work-study had all students do this. So that if years later they require a reference, the students had a record of what they did.

      The LW doesn’t have to be responsible necessarily for keeping track. It was up for the student who needed a recommendation to be able to keep track of what they did.

    2. Emmie*

      What a great idea! It also helps determine whether you could / should hire them if the intern reapplies. You may wish to add your own assessment if permissible by the company.

  10. Patches*

    #2. There’s no way I’d rat my co-worker out. Don’t be a tattle tale. But DO rouse all your co-workers to talk to your employer about safety concerns and finding some workable solutions.

    1. AJ*

      +1 In my opinion, there is a big difference between “I’m genuinely concerned for my/coworkers safety because I think something could go wrong” and “I don’t like that she is breaking the rules and I want to report her”

    2. paul*

      The only caveat I’d have is if there’s a duty to report in the employee handbook which is worth looking at.

      But yeah…these are non lethal, and if they’re they’re frankly pretty limited as far as what they can do. You either have to be right up and in arm’s reach or you get one shot (and have to hope both ends of the terminal actually get on/into the person you’re trying to zap).

        1. paul*

          Less than lethal if you’d like; don’t get tased if you’ve got heart problems. As far as somewhat effective means of self protection go, they’re fairly low risk for the person they’re used against (and, to be frank, if I’m in a situation where I *do* have to protect myself that’s kind of low on my priority list)

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            You can not have heart problems and still be tased to death. Tasers are only non-lethal if used correctly, which is why LEOs are given hours of training. I think people—not you, paul—sometimes mistakenly believe that a Taser cannot kill a person in sound health, which makes it more likely for lethal accidents to occur.

            1. paul*

              I found about 300 cases over a 6 year period; given how often they’re used, that’s a pretty low figure.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                It’s important to keep in mind that most civilians are not using Tasers when taking that into account. They’re overwhelmingly used by LEOs who, again, are highly trained and also have access to other forms of force.

                1. Mookie*

                  And that’s in the US only. And death itself is not the end-all be-all when determining whether a weapon is too dangerous to be yielded under normal circumstances. Other injuries proliferate when tasers are used improperly.

          2. hbc*

            “Don’t get tased”? That’s really not advice that anyone can follow. We have no idea how well trained or how jumpy the holder of the taser is. If someone notices that she dropped something in the parking lot and goes chasing after her going “Hey, wait a minute!,” they probably don’t know that they’re risking their bodily health.

              1. fposte*

                It’s a public health facility in a poor neighborhood, though. Those are usually hugely (I was going to say “criminally”) underfunded. I think its attitude is “We have enough money to give kids shots and nothing more.”

                1. TL -*

                  Yeah, that could very well be a factor, but I think if they have no money to help with security concerns, then their employee policies should reflect that rather than their current one, which is, “well, let’s just assume nothing bad would happen to you.”

                2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                  As a person who works in a social services agency, located in an area that some of you might say is in a “bad neighborhood,” that bans weapons on our premises: the choice was made with a great deal of research and reflection, explicitly because our team understands that carrying weapons makes us less safe, not more safe.

                  (That being said, we also have well-lit parking on our property, and security guards who I’m sure would walk you to the car if you felt unsafe.)

                  (And I have to admit that I give a little bit of side-eye to the idea of a “bad neighborhood.” I’m not passing any judgment on the OP’s concerns — she obviously knows better than an internet stranger how safe her neighborhood is! — but humans do tend to do a pretty bad job of estimating risk, and our prejudices play into it. The neighborhood my building is low-income and has a majority POC population. Some homeless people stay here, especially around the transit stops (which are heated in the winter). It’s run-down. There is trash on the sidewalk. I’m sure most of my community would assume that it’s more dangerous than the hip area across the river. They would be wrong — the crime rate, including violent crimes, is higher in that zip code than my office’s zip code.)

                3. Observer*

                  That’s not an excuse, though. Underfunding a chronic problem, but you can’t not provide basic necessities. We all recognize that it’s not reasonable to expect staff to provide their own desks and supplies. Why is basic security different?

                4. fposte*

                  @Observer–I’d say there are two reasons. First, because security is an ongoing cost that involves personnel and even real estate, whereas you can still work at a beat-up desk from the Carter administration, and second, and because taxpayers don’t want to pay more to ensure the safety of those providing public health services.

                5. Jennifer*

                  The neighborhood I work in contains a major Level 1 Trauma center, 2 “wet” homeless shelters, 2 methadone clinics, a homeless persons walk in health center, a detox, and a crisis stabilisation unit for the severely mentally ill. Gun shots are routinely heard, drug deals occur out in the open literally all day every day, the homeless and drug addicted sleep in doorways and on the sidewalk. When I say it’s a bad neighborhood, that’s exactly what I mean. The company will not provide security. It has been attempted multiple times. The company won’t even ensure that we have sufficient clean linens to put on patient beds and we often have to wash linens in house a few pieces at a time (because more than 3 blankets in the washer at a time makes it break down) even though we have a paid linen service. The staff have a sort of ad hoc buddy system for getting to their cars at night but it’s entirely dependent upon who is available/still on premises when you are ready to leave work. And since we all are on shifts and cannot leave until our relief cones in, there’s no guarantee that you’ll have someone to walk with.

                6. fposte*

                  @Jennifer–yes, that’s the kind of neighborhood I was thinking of. I can’t tell–are you the OP or are you chiming in as somebody with similar experience?

                7. paul*

                  Sometimes “bad neighborhood” means it’s got poor folk and/or POC and looks run down but is relatively safe (where I live).

                  Sometimes it means an area that can get scary after dark (where I work–it didn’t used to be this way but violent crime here has gone *way* up in the last couple of years). We’re statistically more violent than average city, and I work in one of the zip codes with a higher than average level of both property and violent crime in the city. It didn’t used to be this way here, and I don’t know why violent crime in this zip code has gone u so much the last few years :/

                8. fposte*

                  @Jennifer–sorry, looks like you make clear upthread that you’re the OP and I missed it.

                9. Observer*

                  @fposte, you can work with a beat up desk, but supplies and electricity and phone service, and heat and and and are all ongoing costs.

                  It’s not true that taxpayers don’t want to pay for security. Many don’t want to pay for “overhead” of any sort, true, but that doesn’t mean you don’t supply the basics regardless. And security is not just about the people providing service, but the recipients.

                  Lastly, even government funded facilities, including health care facilities, can and do raise outside funds for a variety of reasons.

                  Bluntly put – if someone is claiming that they can’t provide security because security is not an allowable expense, they are probably not telling the truth.

              2. Mookie*

                If you’re referring to the company banning weapons on its property, you can say the same thing about the bulk of the world, that an individual’s fear of being the victim of a crime does not entitle everyone to wield whatever weapons they wish under any conditions they choose. There are simpler solutions here, and they’ve been outlined by Alison and the commentariat: group exits and escorts, better security, co-workers carpooling people to their cars.

                1. TL -*

                  No, I’m talking about the lack of security measures by the company.
                  My employer doesn’t allow weapons (I presume; I’ve never checked) but there are reasonable safety measures in place.

                2. fposte*

                  @TL–I think if we were talking an actual company I’d be more in agreement. But I know too many outreach nonprofits/public service locations where that’s not the rule to consider this place out of step.

                  I do think the ideas about group walking are worth exploring, though.

                3. TL -*

                  @fposte – yeah, I just fall on the side of “if you’re not going to provide security you should turn a blind eye to what employees do to feel safe [within reasonable means]” rather than no security, no weapons, no methods of personal protection.

                  I could buy into a no-gun policy with no security, but I can’t get behind a no-taser, no-Mace, no-nothing policy.

                4. fposte*

                  @TL–to be honest, I don’t have a call on this one–I’m just interested in the issues around it.

                5. Observer*

                  Except that the OP has made it clear that the company is not going to do any of those things.

          3. Mookie*

            The mere use of a taser does not signify that said use was justified or proportionate. “Don’t get tased” is not reasonable or kind advice.

            1. paul*

              It also doesn’t signify that it *wasn’t* justified. There’s posters here acting like the person with the taser is more likely to misuse it than use it only if it’s appropriate and we just don’t have information (OP may though; if the person they’re nervous about is generally angry and shouty and tends to bullying yeah I’d be concerned with them having any weapon).

              1. Mookie*

                Indeed, there’s no way to predict how and under what circumstances someone will use an illegal weapon they are concealing, and no way of knowing if that weapon will fall into other people’s hands, how it will be used or mis-used or abused. Hence, laws in the LW’s state and regulations defined by the LW’s employer that lift the burden of deciding all that from our colleagues and from internet commentariat altogether. And thank heaven for that. (It’s small comfort for others, of course, because tasers and stun devices are dangerous, deadly, and often used to abuse and torture people.)

                1. paul*

                  If you’re going to claim that people are likely to use a taser to torture people, *particularly* private citizens, you’re going to need to show me *something* to back that up or I’m going to dismiss it.

                  I’m personally glad to have options for self protection beyond hope and prayer.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  paul, LMGTFY:

                  [Trigger warning: These stories are awful and accompanied, in some cases, by graphic photography]

                  In the United States:
                  * The Adrian Jones Case (this is the least graphic article I could find)
                  * Suspects punished children with Taser
                  * Lawsuit claims systemic misuse of tasers by police
                  * The Graham Dyer case
                  * Former Utah deputy charged with Taser abuse
                  * Woman accused of using Taser on her 17 y/o son
                  * Taser victim’s plea: “Just go ahead and kill me
                  * Her pink Taser
                  * “Bad Guy” list warns prostitutes [re: pimps using tasers to torture sex workers]

                  * U.N.: Tasers are a form of torture
                  * Men sentenced for “Taser torture”
                  * Luton gang jailed for [armed] kidnapping
                  * Man tortures children in Cambodia
                  * Man jailed for subjecting housemate to “terrifying” torture and Tasering ordeal
                  * [Man] jailed over instigating Taser torture

        2. Zip Silver*

          Even then, what does it matter? If I get mugged, I doubt I’ll care much about the life of the mugger.

          1. Cambridge Comma*

            There’s always a chance the weapon could end up being used against the victim.

            1. annnnon*

              Or anyone else standing nearby. If it is an actual taser, who’s to say how good the person is at aiming the darts?

              All of which is beside the point that Zip Silver has a shocking lack of care for human life.

              1. paul*

                It’s not a “shocking lack of care” to not care about the well being of someone who is attacking you. I’ll value my own well being over someone assaulting me.

                1. Amadeo*


                  If someone is pointing a gun at me, or holding me at knife point, if I have to break their neck with any of my martial arts training in the process of getting away, or shoot them myself (I don’t currently carry), I’m going to do it. I mean, I’d prefer to just break a leg or an arm and convince them they’ve made a poor life choice while getting away, but having a weapon pointed at me tells me they definitely don’t give a rip about my life and I stand a decent chance of getting shot in the back while running off.

                  That’s not a ‘shocking lack of care’ for life. That’s self-preservation.

                1. TL -*

                  Accepting risk to herself by fighting back is well with her rights.
                  The means by which she chooses to do so may not be, but “the attacker could use your self-defense to hurt you” is not an unreasonable risk to accept.

                2. paul*

                  particularly with something like a taser; to a mostly healthy person they’re fairly low risk as far as your odds of dying. Yeah it hurts like hell, but if someone wants to beat you up and you weren’t physically able to stop them you’re already looking at that happening.

    3. MK*

      Reporting something that is actually illegal and against company policy and that the OP considers wrong is not tattling.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah. I don’t want to nitpick language, but “tattling” seems like the wrong verb to describe this scenario.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Agreed. I doubt I would report my coworker if I were in that situation, but I wouldn’t think anyone who did was “tattling.” It’s illegal and against company policy, and the OP has spoken to the person about it so she knows they know they’re not supposed to carry it.

        2. Adam K*

          I think it’s appropriate – the OP’s main issue seems to be that the coworker is breaking the rules, except in this case the rule she’s breaking is for her own personal safety. Safety issues the OP recognizes as legitimate and unaddressed by the company, but she has Ethical Issues with the rule being broken, one the coworker does not share. Otherwise the taser is kept locked up. No one is being harmed either personally or professionally, so I’d consider this “tattling” (which is a word I usually hate to use).

          1. PizzaDog*

            She’s not breaking the rules, she’s breaking the law. That’s the issue that the OP is having.

            1. Adam K*

              Right, she’s breaking a law in order to protect herself from recognized threats, in a way that doesn’t affect the OP. I am okay with this and think the OP should butt out.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I don’t think that OP’s primary concern is the rule breaking—I think you have to impute a level of bad intent to get to the conclusion you’re drawing. And to be fair, there are a lot of situations where someone’s rule breaking, by itself, does merit reporting.

        3. Tuxedo Cat*

          I’m not sure what I would do, but I don’t think this is a petty situation which “tattling” suggests.

      2. Myrin*

        Agreed. Maybe it’s because I’m from a culture that views weaponry very differently from the US, but I don’t even really understand how this is a dilemma in any way. (Especially since the coworker actually told OP about it. Like, if you’re going to violate the law and your company’s policies, at least try to be stealthy about it.)

        1. Twitcher*

          Yeah, I’m reading this and feeling all kinds of WTF? at the idea that this is even a question. Guess it’s that cultural difference again, but if a co-worker was carrying a weapon to work I would absolutely report it immediately. It would not be a question.

          1. BananaPants*

            A multitool or Swiss army knife could be used as a weapon. Unless such items are illegal in your location, would you report a coworker for having one in their bag or on their person?

        2. Kvothe*

          Ok I’m glad I’m not the only one going WTF??? how is this even a dilemma? But cultural differences really do seem to affect the course of action here, where I’m from tasers are also illegal (except for law enforcement) and in general carrying a weapon would send people screaming (unless you were in the woods hunting)

          But yeah where I’m from I would report it to management in a heartbeat (because this is not a thing that is done)

          1. Purplesaurus*

            Way off topic but I’m dying for the third book to come out! (Re: your username)

        3. WPH*

          This. If coworker wanted to break the law she should have kept her mouth shut. Now that she has involved OP in her lawbreaking she’s subject to OP’s ethics. It’s illegal at the job and in the state. I would have been told someone about this. She’s already proven she has bad judgement (breaking the law, informing others of breaking the law) how do we even know she’s trained to use a Taser? And if she felt so unsafe at this job she should not have taken the job.

          1. Lefty*

            In OP’s situation, I’d also be worried about any sort of complicity (implied or otherwise) if this coworker DOES use the taser at some point… I imagine that OP and the coworker could walk together at some point- if there was an incident and OP is questioned by authorities, they would have to admit to knowing the coworker carried it.

            If an incident were to happen AT work and the coworker used it, OP’s employer may find that she knew about the taser; that may be cause for OP to be fired.

          2. k*

            That would be my motivation for saying something. The fact that OP knows about it could be held against them if the employer ever found out. It’s a total CYA situation.

            Most likely what I would do is go to the coworker and say “Hey, you put me in a hard situation telling me that you were doing something illegal and against company policy. Would you please switch to an alternative means of self defense, or we could talk to management together about safety concerns? I want you to feel safe and comfortable at work, but I’m not comfortable with knowing about this.” At the very least, coworker can lie and tell OP they won’t bring the taser anymore, which can give OP some peace of mind and plausible deniability.

            1. Liane*

              Most sensible comment as of time stamp for this reply. (I am about 2/3 of the way through them.)

            2. Risha*

              +1. I, personally, would not report them. But if the OP feels that strongly about it (and that’s fine!), then warn the coworker first that you intend to do so if she doesn’t stop.

        4. Lora*

          It’s not only a cultural thing, near as I can tell; certainly culture is part of it, but not all of it. The crime rate in the US is, in some cities and some neighborhoods in those cities, in the top 20 for violent crime and murder. St Louis is right up there with the cities along the Mexican border that are notorious for gang killings and murder sprees where supposedly young women are killed for sport by rich tourists, flanked in its ranking by Brazilian favelas where the police are afraid to go and cocaine cartels rule the day. New Orleans and Detroit are 34th and 36th most dangerous in the world, right up there with Kingston, Jamaica and Ciudad Juarez. That level of daily risk is unfathomable to folks who live in Europe, China, Japan, Singapore, etc. Even factoring in safer cities and areas without much crime, the US ranks depressingly low in terms of safety.

          Most cities aren’t too bad if you stick to safe neighborhoods, but there are really bad neighborhoods where children are shot in gang drive-bys so often it’s barely two lines on Page 6 – it’s not even news, it’s just Tuesday. When someone in the US says they are in a bad neighborhood, it’s not unreasonable to assume they legitimately fear being killed.

          1. MashaKasha*

            Yes, when I read “a very bad urban neighborhood”, I imagined something along the lines of “a place where nobody, including the people who live in the area, goes outside after dark, unless they are tired of living”. Then I read about how there’s no nearby parking, no security (WHAT), no escorts… and on top of it, carrying a taser is illegal. How is that acceptable? This is the area that needs a public health facility the most. But I don’t understand how they even get people to work for them when their employees are being made to feel like they have to put their lives on the line every day just to get from their cars to work and back.

            Honestly, my first reaction was “why did the new employee tell OP, now OP has to either report or get in trouble”. But after dwelling on it for about five minutes, I think I’d risk getting in trouble and not say anything to anyone.

            1. Lora*

              Yeah, I would be trying to figure out a buddy system where everyone at the end of a shift maybe walks together to the nearest-parked car, gets in, and then the driver drives everyone else to their cars? Can they carpool so a big group of people always arrives and leaves together? Even if the organization can’t pay for security, they can at least facilitate carpooling.

              The no security thing is bad bad bad. Aren’t they worried people will break into the clinic to steal? Seriously, I work in pharma and people stealing perfectly legal prescription drugs – even things like antibiotics, cancer drugs and psych meds, not painkillers – is a huge thing. We used to only barcode painkillers and such, now it’s everything. Someone steals a box of generic doxorubicin, it’s worth hundreds of thousands on the gray market, and even hospitals will buy gray/black market meds if they can’t get any otherwise.

          2. Mike C.*

            young women are killed for sport by rich tourists

            I have a difficult time believing that this is even true.

            1. Lora*

              It was one of the explanations proffered for why the corrupt police couldn’t catch the killers of a great many women who were tortured, raped and murdered, all about the same age, bodies dumped in the same area. Don’t want to look up gory details on my work computer, but google femicide or feminicide and Mexico and you’ll find all sorts of hypotheses about whether it was random killers, series killers attracted to the area because they know they won’t be caught, organized crime trafficking in sex slaves a la Twin Peaks, etc. They did arrest and convict some gangsters a couple of years ago but the murders continue.

          3. Not My Usual Username*

            I agree. People who live in safe places just don’t get it. If you lived where we did, you would arm yourself with pepper spray, a taser, a knife, a gun, *something* to save your life!

            In my city a man just stabbed two people to death and badly injured a third because they were defending two girls he was ranting at. He did this on a train with other people, a very public place.

            A lot of Europeans and others say “if you banned guns like we have, they couldn’t be used against you.” What the heck are we supposed to do, ban kitchen knives???

            I ride the train every single week. If someone on that train had had a taser, those two men, one of whom was an Army veteran, might still be alive!

            1. Statler von Waldorf*

              Yup, this. I’ve tried in the past, and you can’t explain this to people. They either get it or they don’t.

      3. Academic Addie*

        I agree. I’m utterly flummoxed about how carrying an illegal weapon in a medical office is being considered OK. And I’m from the US and have worked in some very bad areas!

        1. Tuxedo Cat*

          Me too. I lived and worked in some of the most dangerous cities in the US, in dangerous areas.

    4. Newby*

      If the coworker having a taser is making the OP feel unsafe and uncomfortable, it isn’t tattling.

      1. Not My Usual Username*

        OP didn’t say they felt unsafe, they said it went against their “ethics” and that made them feel uncomfortable.

      2. Adam K*

        The OP’s concern is “her personal ethics” with breaking the rules. The coworker’s concern is feeling unsafe and uncomfortable (and the OP agrees that she’s right to feel this way). I’d put this squarely in the territory of tattling, with the consequence of making the coworker less safe if the OP does so.

  11. Engineer Woman*

    #3: considering you’ve given coworker first-refusal over the past year, you need not feel guilty about accepting this upcoming trip for which you were specifically asked to go and help out on.
    Not all trips are to good destinations, not everyone gets to go, and I know of many people who would prefer never to travel.

    As Alison pointed out – don’t suggest her past declinations led to her not being invited this time unless you know this to be true. It seems there’s a fair bit of travel for your jobs so you can offer her the opportunity again in the future should it come up. Personally, I wouldn’t say anything to coworker and ignore any hints that you’re being selfish. Your concern for your coworker (in even bringing this up to AAM) seemingly shows you’re not.

    1. CM*

      I agree with not saying anything to the coworker. And it seems like the coworker has not explicitly said anything to OP#3. If the coworker does express jealousy, I think OP#3 could gently remind the coworker about some of the less fun trips and say something like, “Not all work travel is glamorous, but once in a while I get lucky!”

    2. a Gen X manager*

      #3 It seems like OP hasn’t actually mentioned that OP was asked to attend this particular conference. If I was the jealous co-worker, knowing this would go a long way to not feeling excluded. The co-worker seems to have developed a strong sense of entitlement and expectation for first-refusal and that’s not good for anyone in the situation, but having this extra information would almost certainly reduce the angst.

      1. Antilles*

        You might be right that the co-worker would feel better knowing it was a specific-to-OP invitation. However, even if the situation was different and it was an open invitation, OP still would have no reason to feel guilty. OP has consistently provided the co-worker with right of first refusal on these opportunities, when there’s absolutely no requirement to do that. In fact, you could argue that co-worker always getting the right to first refusal is actually out of line with traditional norms:
        1.) Fairness would demand OP and co-worker should rotate back and forth on who gets the first dibs. By this measure, OP is long overdue for getting first choice.
        2.) Traditional office hierarchy would have the project lead (OP) consistently getting first dibs. In many offices, senior people get the chance to go to conferences in Florida, while the junior people are the ones making presentations in Fargo.

      2. Trix*

        I’m not sure we have enough information to say the coworker feels entitled, but I agree with you that it doesn’t sound like the coworker knows the OP was specifically requested, and knowing that would make a big difference.

  12. LadyCop*

    #2 Are we actually talking about a Taser? Or a stun gun? Taser makes a civilian model, but the two are often called the same thing when they are not.

    I’m wondering if that changes the situation, as I’m not sure where carrying a stun gun would be illegal per se.

    But leave it to people who live in safe bubbles to be afraid that they jump up and bite people on their own…

    1. Jessie the First (or second)*

      Stun guns are in fact illegal in some states, yes. Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, D.C., Hawaii, and probably others but I got tired of Googling it all. It was easy enough to find state laws barring civilian use of stun guns. Let’s assume that the OP knows what it is her coworker carries and understands its illegality.

      1. The OG Anonsie*

        I’m not going to assume she’s wrong, but since this is something most people don’t actually know the finite details of (the difference between them and how they are considered under the law) I think it would be a really really bad idea to just assume she’s fully appraised and not caution her to make sure.

  13. Hmm*

    First off, I’m not sure if calling the OP a tattletale or a narc is really appropriate. I’d agree with pushing for an escort service or making teams for leaving the building if it is that dangerous.

    Another possibility- is your coworker unused to working in the “type” of area in which you are located? Sometimes fresh social service grads are convinced the agency is trying to kill them, when it really is just par for the course for our type of work. Since you said it is dangerous it is probably not likely her calculus is very far off, but if you and your other coworkers have traveled back and forth safely without arming yourselves it very well could be.

    1. Greg M.*

      one thing that can make a lot difference too is lighting. How good is the lighting in the parking area?

    2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      Tattletale and narc are such weirdly childish names – I genuinely don’t understand what people mean when they toss them around in adult circumstances.

      1. Liane*

        And Alison has told many an LW to not think of bringing up a legit workplace issue in a reasonable manner as “I’d be tattling if I said something to Boss.”
        And Safety of Employees/Clients is a legit workplace issue, both the No Security Measures At All and the Coworker Is Worried Enough to Carry a Taser issues.

    3. a Gen X manager*

      I agree, Hmm.
      As long as the employee handbook doesn’t require OP to report this, I would suggest that OP and co-workers work to address the safety concerns and then perhaps the co-worker wouldn’t feel the need to carry the taser? Fixing the problem, rather than reporting the (albeit illegal) symptom, would be the most useful action here.

      1. Lefty*

        An employee handbook is guidance only, it cannot be expected to cover all potential situations… something may not be explicitly prohibited or required, but can still be significant enough to warrant managerial action.

        If I was OP’s manager and found that she knew an illegal and policy-prohibited weapon was regularly carried on site by a coworker and but she did not disclose it, I would consider what that meant for her as my employee. I’m not certain that it would lead to termination, but it would absolutely factor into my opinion of her professional discretion.

      2. MacAilbert*

        I’d be more worried about medical ethics here. OP is a licensed nurse. Regardless of the employee handbook, this is something that you could lose your license over in my state.

    4. Erin*

      If this is Free clinic I’d be surprised if they have enough staff to leave all at the same time, think staggered shifts. So person A works 6am-2pm person B works 10am- 6pm person C works 1pm-9pm. Or funding for 24/7 security. People who work at those kinds of clinics in bad neighborhoods wearing scrubs are targets because they have key codes etc. for things like painkillers and needles.
      If you’re coworker isn’t acting irresponsibly with the tazer, I would just fake ignorance about the subject. Try to address the unsafe parking situation with management. I don’t think going to management about your co worker will solve the reason why she carries a stun gun.
      Trust with management is a 2 way street. If they can’t trust you with your own self defense they need to provide adequate security.

    5. Kj*

      Frankly, as someone who works in social services, I’m not sure the ‘this is standard practice for the company to do’ is good enough when it comes to lax security. It may be standard practice, but I’ve been put at risk many times by workplaces with no support and been injured because of it. I’ve quit workplaces because of it. The coworker should not have to get used to being put at risk. That is not an acceptable trade off. The company needs to change their policies and protect their staff. The OP said the neighborhood is dangerous and we need to believe her and not assume coworker is being paranoid.

      I wonder if the coworker could carry pepper spray or similar if they are legal in that area. Or could the company get panic buttons or offer self defense trainings? My current job offers a safety course yearly and though it is not very effective, I’m glad they think about it and offer well lighted parking and security escorts when needed.

      1. Hmm*

        I also did not state that coworker was paranoid, please don’t try to put words in my mouth. OP states that Coworkers concerns about the area are legitimate, but not if arming one’s self is a proportional response. New coworker may have spotted a problem that long term employees have grown to overlook. It is also possible that the coworker has an overinflated sense of the danger due to being new to the area or to the profession.

        For what its worth, in the social service sectors I’ve worked in I wouldn’t want to run the risk, as clients have broken into staff personal possessions before. I wouldn’t want to be the person who armed the client who, during an episode, broke into the staff room, but of course that may not be a concern for OP.

  14. BMO*

    #2 reminded me of a site visit I did in a bad area with some coworkers. Coworker A used to work at that office. Long story short, two people were shot during her time there (non employees, patients if I recall). There are now sheriff deputies stationed at that location.

    Please please please advocate for security staff!!! Also, this internet stranger wouldn’t say anything about new co-worker.

  15. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    #3 It’s the luck of the draw when it comes to work travel. The OP was specifically asked to go and it’s not her trip to pass along so she needs to go. In 2001, I worked on a conference that was big enough to include staff at my lower peon level and it was in Australia. Then 9/11 happened and it was cancelled.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. The letter says she was specifically asked to go, which would tell me that she shouldn’t be offering it to the other person, unless she couldn’t go for some reason.

  16. GermanGirl*

    #4 in my country it is common practice that your probationary period is extended for the days that you miss, i.e. you miss a total of x days during your probationary period -> your probationary period is now 90+x days.

    Maybe that’s a compromise you can suggest if your manager or HR don’t have any good ideas how to handle it.

  17. Lady Phoenix*

    #2 I would first talk to coworker. Tell her that her weapon is highly illegal and could get her in huge trouble. Then talk to management about providing better security options: escorts, security servaliance, and allowing people to carry items like pepper spray, etc.

    Quite frankly, your company sucks if they know they are in a high crime area but don’t give their employees the safety & security to make their way to the premises.

  18. Ariel Before The Mermaid Was Cool*

    I’m curious to know what kind of Taser #2’s coworker has.

    When I was 18, my dad gave me a handheld “Taser” to carry on my college campus. It structurally looked more like a personal fun device than a weapon, and I let some friends try it on each other once, and they said at full power, fully charged, it was about as painful as a bee sting. It did make a heck of a racket though, so the fear factor may have been useful if I had ever needed to use it.

    I wonder if the coworker has a similar device or an actual LEO style Taser with the prongs and a high voltage. For me, the former would be kind of an “eh” thing and I wouldn’t be bothered further, but I’d probably feel similarly to OP if it were the latter.

    Alison, would it change your opinion at all if it was a small ineffective device being revered to as a Taser as opposed to an actual LEO Taser?

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I think this is a very important distinction.

      And whatever else OP2 decides to do, I think that advocating for better safety procedures for the staff is a very good idea.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      That was not a taser, that was a stun gun. A taser has darts that fire, and usually stun guns are weaker than tasers. (Incidentally, TASER is actually a copyrighted brand that became synonymous with the product, and the company changed their name to Axon, but still sells TASERs.)

      Of course, we don’t know if the OP understands that distinction, but i hope it will help discussions here if we all understand the specifics.

      I don’t think the type of device matters; it’s apparently illegal, and unless the OP wants to get shocked to test it out, they won’t know if it’s like yours, or potentially lethal.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        But if the OP doesn’t know the difference, the stun gun might not BE illegal, only the taser.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Aren’t we supposed to assume that the OP does know what she’s talking about?

          1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

            I’m usually all for cheerfully enforcing site rules, but in this case it’s a pretty obscure piece of information and it seems like bringing it up could be helpful. But then, maybe there’s not a meaningful distinction and I’m projecting since I didn’t know the difference myself!

          2. Jessesgirl72*

            When it comes to points of law, especially, Alison herself tells OPs they are mistaken all the time, or might be mistaken.

            It wouldn’t matter to HR- a weapon is a weapon- but the OP might feel differently if she knew what the coworker is carrying is not illegal. So I’m not saying, in an accusatory way, that she’s wrong- but that she should probably consider this possibility that there are some not-so-subtle differences here that most people (me included) don’t know or think about, before she reports the coworker.

          3. The OG Anonsie*

            Sure. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t caution her to make sure she’s got the correct information about something that is a very commonly misunderstood subject.

  19. The Cosmic Avenger*

    The only way I could see the interview technique in letter #1 NOT being a bit of horrible advice given out by fly-by-night consultants and advice columnists is if the job or industry requires a lot of high-pressure, near-instant decision making. If that’s the nature of the job, then yeah, that interview technique makes sense, because all it’s doing is measuring performance under high pressure with minimal preparation. You can rehearse some common answers, but really, you probably only have time to really rehearse and research in-depth answers for 2 or 3 questions; the rest are ones you’d normally have time to ponder and work out as you answer.

    Just putting that out there to say that if that isn’t the case with this job/industry, that is a horrible technique and a huge red flag. Run, don’t walk, away from this company.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      That’s a good point, and I like this framing. If it’s a deliberate stress test, that’s fine; if it isn’t, take the stairs, not the elevator, cause this building’s on fire.

    2. Captain Poultry*

      The LW seemed to frame this as an interview and as though this was the entire interview style; however, it did reminded me of a skills test I used for candidates when I was hiring for crisis settings in health care. The candidate had 5 minutes to study a scenario then 60 seconds each to present a case history to: doctor, 911 dispatcher, and a colleague on their team. I did occasionally receive feedback that the format was off-putting and unfair.

  20. Name (Required)*

    OP2 – Yes you are totally within your rights to report your colleague for (if I read the original post correctly, carrying a taser to and from the carpark – in your words) It doesn’t seem like she is carrying it on the job just in between the carpark and work. If she was carrying it at work, I would be asking for more info but it seems that’s not the case (and she is maybe stashing it in a locker once she runs the danger gauntlet??)

    See here’s the thing. You can report her and totally be ethically in the right. She might or will lose her job. It won’t improve the workplace safety concerns at your place of employment, but you can go home and sleep safe at night in the full knowledge that an at risk colleague was fired for breaking the law and your policies while the real problem (the lack of safety for employees) remains unaddressed.

    The horrible thing about ethics is that they are multi-faceted. Report your colleague for carrying a taser? Ethical in your location. But my question is, if you are prepared to stand up and be counted and report a fellow employee for carrying an illegal weapon (?) in your location, why aren’t you prepared to stand up and put your job on the line for the sake of your fellow employees (if you are, I apologise sincerely, what I have seen above is unclear).

    Bottom line, If you are happy to put someone else’s job on the line without knowing if they’ve been previously raped or beaten etc while telling us that they have legitimate safety concerns in your neighbourhood but aren’t prepared to put your own job on the line to ensure a safe workplace then I would respectfully ask you to re-examine what ethics mean to you.

    If your ethics mean, yes colleague could be mugged, raped, murdered but she was illegally carrying a taser so I’m in the clear ethically but won’t raise the security problems, then this is a huge problem. There is a lot of context missing here so I am not trying to judge anyone in this situation.

    Having said that, I would not report this person unless I had spent a good year trying to get the security improved first, having it improved and then ensuring your colleague had adequate access to counselling services if she still could not put the taser down.

    1. Not My Usual Username*

      Yes, I agree completely. It makes me sad and confused that some commenters feel that “the law” which is a weird and often flexible thing, (window puppet shows are illegal in New York City) and “ethical concerns” are more important than a coworker’s legitimate (as OP admits her/himself) fear for her safety.

      “Ethical concerns” and “the law” vs “another human being’s personal safety” and “high chances of getting mugged, raped, killed”

      I know which I think is more important.

      1. No Longer Lurking*

        I have to disagree with both of you, for this reason.

        You seem to be framing this as the OP caring more about the law than another person’s safety, however you are failing to concede that the OP works in the same place, therefore any safety issues are also shared by her! So this is not a case of the OP being in some sort of fancy head office, untouched by the concerns of the employees who work in this neighbourhood.

        You may or may not agree with her position (I for one think it’s a difficult situation) but I don’t think it’s fair to tell the OP that she needs to “re-examine what ethics mean to her”.

        FWIW, in the OP’s situation, I would probably tell the co-worker that if she couldn’t tell me that she would stop bringing in the taser, I would have to report it. Then if the co-worker says she’ll stop, then the issue goes away.

  21. Cheese Sticks and Pretzels*

    I had a similar interview for a project manager. It a 10 min timed panel interview where they asked a bunch of off the wall situational questions that had nothing to do with the position or the skills needed for it.
    10 minutes of my life I will never get back…

  22. Mirax*

    I think OP2’s coworker is sort of in violation of the social contract here. Yes, the company absolutely should be providing escorts/etc as better security measures for its employees. But that doesn’t give coworker the right to bring a weapon onto premises where they’re explicitly forbidden. If my employer tells me we have a zero tolerance workplace, then I should be able to rely on that–and frankly, I wouldn’t feel comfortable continuing to work in a place where I knew people were violating that policy.

  23. MsCHX*

    Wait, what? I’d agree that if tasers were legal it would be a non starter. But who cares about OPs personal feelings about it? That shouldn’t factor in at all. Illegality, yes. You not liking that they are breaking a rule, no.

    And I wholeheartedly disagree, as an HRM, that HR would think that a new hire asking a policy question is looking for a way to get time off work.


  24. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    #2 – Hoo boy.

    Here’s where I come down on this: the coworker fearing for her safety is completely valid in that fear, from what the OP says. Her desire to carry some kind of self-defense apparatus is completely valid, and she should do so.

    BUT, and this is very important, the device she carries needs to be legal.

    I’m not seeing how this could be controversial! If the law and company policy weren’t both firmly against the coworker, it’d be a different discussion, but I’m really not seeing how ‘I’m afraid for my safety, therefore I’m going to ignore the laws about what weapons I can carry’ is a valid discussion. Friends of mine work in or commute through some pretty scary areas; they made a point of researching the laws to determine what they were legally permitted to carry as self-defense items before they laid out money on anything.

    Bottom line: coworker’s desire to proactively defend herself doesn’t justify doing so in an illegal fashion. If she’s in the US, there are plenty of legal non-lethal weapons she can carry. She needs to have those, not something that’s banned.

    1. a Gen X manager*

      +1 totally agree, Countess.

      I’d argue that there is a big difference between illegal and against company policy.

    2. AMD*

      Yeah… At the point where she feels like her safety is threatened by her job circumstances + the law, the next step is “change job circumstances” not “break the law.”

    3. CatCat*

      She also may be better off with a more lethal weapon. She should look into her state’s laws on carrying firearms and how she can do so legally and whether an employer can ban them (it may make a difference if the employer is public sector or private sector.)

      1. voyager1*

        I agree, the weapon the OP is describing is illegal then this a nonstarter. If the tazer was an RPG would we be still having this conversation? If it is illegal it is illegal. Period.

        The employees need to talk to those employer and work something out, maybe a security guard or escort service.

        And FYI, I own a few firearms, so I am not some antigunner. But making the “I am scared” argument just plays into the gun lobby/NRA and their fear mongering.

        1. voyager1*

          Sorry my post was meant to agree with the original comment. I do NOT agree with the more lethal comment of CatCat. That is terrible advice, self defense is not about taking a perps life just because you can.

          1. CatCat*

            What the hell… I never said that. The law often affords more protection for carrying firearms than less than lethal weapons weapons.

              1. CatCat*

                At any rate, I will bow out of this entire post I am deeply offended and can only see red from you implying that suggesting that the coworker look into lawfully carrying firearms, a more lethal weapon than a taser that may have stronger protections than less than lethal weapons. I think it’s a complete joke that people carrying less than lethal weapons may be at greater risk of violating the law than someone carrying a gun, but that is a fact in many places.

                I never said you should go around killing people in the name of self defense just because you can.

                1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  If it’s worth anything, I understood what you were getting at — firearms are subject to a lot more liberties than other weapons with less (though still >0) killing power. Less about the ability to kill and more about the legality of carrying.

            1. LBK*

              I think this might have just been a phrasing misunderstanding with your comment, I read it the same way voyager1 did originally until this clarification. I thought you were saying she would be better off during an attack with a more lethal weapon, not that she’d be better off legally because there’s more protections around the right to carry guns.

  25. Any Moose*

    #2 My personal safety is important. Not only would I not say anything, I’d ask her to escort me to my car or ask where I can get one, especially if the employer did not provide any security.

  26. Fact & Fiction*

    #5: One tactic that could be helpful going forward–if you get asked to do these often enough to make it worth it and really do enjoy providing the references–is to keep a spreadsheet where you jot down a few notes about specific qualities, projects, accomplishments, or issues for each intern that can jog your memory later when you go to write the references.

    Nothing so long that it becomes burdensome–and obviously if you have so large a number that it’s automatically too much trouble–but I use this method with the project trackers I keep for my projects and it really helps me later if I have to answer questions about certain things when my memory has faded without my spending a ton of time rereading emails, etc.

  27. Still Discovering*

    It isn’t great to miss a day early after starting a job but it isn’t like you planned on getting sick. My bigger concern would be if an employee didn’t seem to realize it isn’t great or if I had reason to distrust them (but then, the issue is really why don’t I trust them). People get sick, often at the least convenient times. No one likes it but we all move on.

  28. AlwhoisthatAl*

    #2 “she has purchased a taser that she carries on her person for protection “. This word “protection” is used a lot in the taser/knife/gun carrying debate. It’s quite simple, none of those items offer any sort of protection at all. What they do is enable you to attack/threaten the person who is threatening you and in order for that to happen the other person needs to know you have that weapon which means you’re actually being mugged when that happens.
    To be protected while travelling in that neighbourhood you need things like an escort service, security staff, alarms, an agreement with a cab firm etc, something to stop the attack happening in the first place.
    What would happen if the classic Hollywood style mugger attacked her. Would she pull out her taser and go all Bruce Willis on them, bearing in mind that the mugger has much more experience in these violent scenarios ? The likelihood is simply that the mugger will escalate the violence.

    1. Myrin*

      Yes, I think this is an extremely important point that is all too often overlooked/ignored.

      Admittedly, I don’t have too in-depth knowledge about this issue because it’s not a concern where I live but I’ve read statistics and test results suggesting that weapons used for self-defence aren’t actually that likely to help you should the need arise (I watched a fantastic video about this years ago and have been trying in vain to find it again ever since). That doesn’t mean they never do, of course, but I don’t think some people’s “She only got robbed because she didn’t have [weapon]!” philosophy really holds true. I rememember reading that unless you’re trained in combat or law enforcement in a way where you explicitly learn not only how to use a weapon correctly but to also keep your cool in a high stress situation, you’re probably not going to be able to hold your own when attacking an attacker.

    2. Michael Carmichael*

      Or, the mugger/assailant might be some opportunistic teenaged kid who has doesn’t have lots of bad-guy experience and yanking a taser out of her purse could cause him to run away. Crimes of opportunity like these don’t always feature hardened Hollywood criminal types who will necessarily immediately disarm you and use your weapon against you. Although I think that if you have a weapon, you do have to make peace with the fact that there is a chance it will be used on you, but I’d still be more comfortable with that than having nothing at all.

      1. Michael Carmichael*

        I should specify here that I mean specifically having a stun gun/taser that might get used on me, I would never be comfortable carrying a gun.

    3. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

      FWIW, given the facts the LW outlined, odds are actually against your scenario occurring. Most muggings in “bad” neighborhoods are crimes of opportunity. They tend to be committed by drug addicts or similarly desperate and inept criminals who aren’t looking to get into a fight. Pull a taser and *odds are* a tweaker will run away. Muggers with “experience,” as you described, won’t target people walking around a bad neighborhood, they’ll go rob rich people. E.g. purse snatchings and the like.

    4. Anon for this one*

      One can purchase a Kevlar vest with stab plates for additional protection. I’ve considered one for really volatile domestic violence cases. A veteran friend took the Kevlar out of his old vest and lined his briefcase with it. In a shoot out, he can hold his briefcase up for protection.

      Also, quick pysch trick. Most shooters will try to shoot around anything you hold up to protect yourself even if they can logically just shoot through it. Even a file folder might protect you because of this. On the flip side, if you are the one with the self defense weapon, remember you can shoot through most things.

  29. Allison*

    #2 I don’t blame her for feeling unsafe and wanting something for protection. There’s a chance that, should something happen to her, people may incredulously ask her why she wasn’t carrying anything to protect herself with when she *knew* something like that could happen to her in that neighborhood. I’ve heard from a few people in various social circles that it’s on you to protect yourself, and if you don’t take precautions, you’re partially to blame if you get attacked.

    (of course, I think that’s BS, attackers choose to attack and having a weapon won’t prevent that, but I digress)

    That said, it’s not a good idea for her to have something illegal. I’m not sure if there’s amnesty for using an illegal weapon for self-defense. Could she carry pepper spray instead? Is that legal, and permitted in your office?

    You may want to tell her “Look, I get why you felt the need to get that, working around here is scary. However, since it’s illegal and against the rules, you shouldn’t have told me, and now I’m obligated to report it to management. If you stop bringing it in and they can’t find it on you, we can chalk it up to a misunderstanding. I don’t want you to get fired, but I don’t want to get in trouble for failing to report.”

    #4, managers understand when new employees get sick! At least, reasonable managers do. Are you able to take your laptop home, and work from home if you’re sick? Could you borrow against future PTO accruals. If nothing else, you should be able to take some unpaid days off.

    1. Purplesaurus*

      Oh, I like the idea of giving her a heads up and an opportunity to stop violating law/policy.

    2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      I’m not sure if you’re in the US given the use of the word “amnesty” but self-defense is generally a defense against assault and battery (or worse) charges in the US. I’ve never heard of self-defense being allowed to defend against possession of an illegal weapon charges, however – I would imagine prosecutorial discretion comes into play quite a bit (i.e. decision whether to charge someone at all). The most common possession cases I’m aware of are felony in possession laws, and those can be enforced pretty harshly.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yeah, there’s no way that would count. It’d be a giant loophole — after all, anyone could claim that any weapon they were carrying was purchased with the intent of self-defense.

      2. Tammy*

        Random weird quirk of law: Here in California, being in possession of a valid protective order for domestic violence is an affirmative defense to the charge of carrying a concealed firearm without a permit. (Cal. Penal Code § 25600). I have no idea whether similar exceptions, or others, exist in other places.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

          Huh! That is fascinating. I can see how the domestic violence aspect would lead the legislature to carve out an exception. There was a really contentious case recently in my state supreme court that held that trying to get away from an abusive spouse didn’t fit into the statutory defenses for driving under the influence – I’m hoping there’s some lobbying going on to tweak that (at least in cases such as this one where no one was hurt and the person was in genuine fear for their life).

  30. Moonlight Elantra*

    #4. Oof, been there. A few years back, we had a new person in my department start on a Monday. On Thursday, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her doctor wanted her to have surgery the next week and then start radiation shortly after that. All of this would require a bunch of time off. She offered to resign to let us open the position again, but my grandboss told us to give her whatever time off she needed to recover, which was great. I’ve had my issues with this place in the past but I’ll never forget that they go to bat for their employees in a big way when it counts.

  31. Gaia*

    I’m really interested in the comments that compare this to the weed question. I see the two as vastly different because one is occurring at work while the other is happening outside of work. In this case if the weapon was illegal, against company policy and my coworker was still carrying it after I talked to her – I’d mention it to management. If coworker then faces consequences that is on her, not me. But the reality is TASERs are not always non-lethal and I’m not going to know a potentially lethal weapon is onsite in violation of law and policy and sit back and not say something. That would be in violation of my own ethics.

    The same isn’t true if I found out a coworker was smoking pot (importantly: outside of work. If they’re doing it at work, I look at it differently) in violation of state law and company policy. This puts no one at work at risk and therefore, in my spectrum of ethical conundrums is a non factor to the company.

    1. Gaia*

      To add even more complexity, if it was legal but in violation of policy I’d probably say nothing.

    2. Jessesgirl72*

      The pot letter everyone was referring to was not occurring outside of work. It was on a business trip, and the offenders invited a coworker to join them, causing all the problems that followed.

      1. Gaia*

        I’m actually not referring to the letter specifically, but more “I don’t like that my coworker smokes pot so I’m going to report that to my boss”

    3. TL -*

      I’m firmly on the “a work trip with my boss is still at work” camp. I think more than a few people agreed.
      I’m also in the “my boss potentially transporting weed across state lines while traveling with me on a work trip is still work” camp.

      1. Brogrammer*

        Yeah, the distinction between at work/not at work is important.

        As far as comparing this letter to the cannabis letter, I think most readers agreed that the boss was wrong to transport cannabis to a state where it was illegal, but the employee made a bad situation worse by involving police. This LW isn’t debating calling the police, she’s debating reporting the coworker to management. Even if the taser coworker gets fired, I doubt very much that management will involve the police.

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          The person in that letter didn’t call the police- she only reported it to hotel management, who called the police.

          I am actually pretty certain that if the OP reports this to the hospital management, they, too, will call the police. They will feel they have to, to confront her.

          1. fposte*

            I’d be more inclined to agree if I thought this was a hospital, but I don’t think it’s anything that big. I would therefore bet the other way–that they’d say “Jane, we’ve heard you’re doing it, and if you are, knock it off” and then let it go.

      2. Gaia*

        I’m actually not referring to the letter specifically, but more “I don’t like that my coworker smokes pot so I’m going to report that to my boss” issue.

    4. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      I see the two as exactly the same issue. Coworker is doing something that other coworker personally disagrees with that is illegal and and against company policy. Yes, the pot smoking *was* during work because it was during a work trip. I’m pretty sure that if we compared comments, a lot of the MYOB from the pot post are pro-reporting on this one and vice-versa. It’s interesting. I would report neither.

      1. TL -*

        I would have probably have reported the pot (because it was offered to me by my boss, which would make me hugely uncomfortable.) If the pot had not been offered by boss, I would’ve not reported.
        I would not report the taser as the situation stands; the OP is not being pressured to join in and the company is not making its employees feel secure. (I would report if the taser-carrying employee was whipping out the taser and waving it around, talking constantly about tasering someone, things like that.)

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          I probably would have reported the pot to HR, because it was a Manager. I wouldn’t have reported it to the hotel staff and/or the police, though. If it had just been a coworker, instead of the boss, I’m not sure what I’d have done- I guess I’d have had to judge on whether or not I thought the boss was offering it as a way of impairing my ability to consent to other not-advisable-with-boss things.

          And I wouldn’t report the taser owner either. I’d suggest she keep its existence to herself, though.

          1. TL -*

            Yeah, I would’ve reported to HR but can’t fault someone for reporting to hotel. Wouldn’t have reported a coworker unless it got real pressure-y. (but would seriously wonder about their judgment.)

      2. Gaia*

        Of note, I’m not discussing the letter. I’m discussing the idea that non-work related pot smoking being reported.

    5. Detective Amy Santiago*

      The weed thing did happen at a work event and was a superior/subordinate situation.

      1. Gaia*

        I’m not actually referencing the letter. I’m discussing the idea of completely unrelated to work pot smoking being reported.

  32. a Gen X manager*

    OP2 I keep wondering WHY the co-worker told OP about the weapon? Was she asking for help in addressing the safety concerns? Rule-breaking is typically done stealthfully, so what was her motivation? It’s not as though the co-worker is taking long lunches or something, this is so serious (and the fact that it is illegal, not just company policy, really escalates the dilemma), that it seems like a cry for help. I also suspect that if OP or someone else (she’s likely told others, right?) reports it the co-worker could very well quit (if not fired first) and would almost certainly be eligible for unemployment.

    1. WS*

      I was wondering about this too. I guess it’s possible that the coworker didn’t know it was illegal when they mentioned it? But then I’d be concerned that the coworker didn’t stop bringing it once they knew (I understand the safety concerns, but now that OP and possibly others know about it I think that complicates the situation). The coworker has to know that this won’t end well for them if it reaches management, and I think that may be inevitable if more people than OP know.

      1. a Gen X manager*

        Unemployment is surprisingly easy to get (at least in my state?). Anything the employer is doing that is deemed an unreasonable requirement or any level of a safety issue will default to the employee.

        We recently terminated an employee for frequently coming to work late (customer facing position that required timely arrivals) and for processing errors (not related to a training issue). We had numerous documents, signed warnings, signed performance review and she was granted unemployment because she told the U/E office that she did “the best that she could” – including TRYING to get to work on time. We have had four situations like this over eight years where an employee willfully disregards written / thoroughly trained and supported procedures to ensure accuracy and not allowing enough time to arrive on time in the mornings and all four have received unemployment. This last example had about a ream of paper of documentation and it wasn’t enough.

  33. WS*

    #2, I can’t tell if your only objection is on ethical grounds or if you have a safety concern with the taser being in your office during the day. If it’s only an ethical concern I’d speak up one more time and say, “Hey, I understand why you feel the need to carry the taser but it is illegal and against company policy. If you keep bringing it in/talking about it/whatever, I’m going to have to say something to management but I’d rather not have to do that.” and then escalate the situation later as needed.

    If you have safety concerns about the taser being in the office I think that’s a different matter. You could try talking to the coworker again (asking how they secure it during the day, etc.) but you don’t have to and I think you’d be fine going straight to management instead. For what it’s worth, though, if you know there are legitimate safety concerns I think it would be a better use of your time and energy to get management to address *that* rather than one coworker with a taser. But Alison is right in that you have the grounds to speak to management about your coworker regardless.

  34. Intrepid*

    #5 – I was on the intern end of this, where I was one of two six-month trainees in a longstanding program. My supervisor always asked that we just send him the job description and our application materials (cover letter, resume, and any writing sample) so he could see how we were framing ourselves for each particular opening. Maybe something like that would work for you?

  35. Ellen*

    OP5: I recently had a former manager — someone I worked with one-on-one for four years — make this request when I asked to use him as a reference, and I welcomed it! We hadn’t worked together in a few years, and he wanted to be sure he was a) highlighting the things I wanted highlighted for the position I had applied for, and b) up-to-date on projects I’d taken on since we’d worked together, to provide context.

  36. Annonosaurus*

    #2 I think the larger issue here is that your company allows their employees to feel so unsafe that they feel their only option is to bring weapons to work. I also work in a bad neighborhood, but my company provides gated parking and security escorts. Personally I wouldn’t say anything about your coworker, but you should definitely advocate for some security enhancements from your company.

    1. Get out the calendar*

      I think OP#2 is of the mindset “If I am not armed, she doesn’t get to be!”
      I cannot fathom how you’d be “morally opposed” to a woman protecting herself. Also even if something is illegal, it does not give you the right to play police and call them out.

      1. fposte*

        Of course you have the right to report something illegal. Why on earth would you think people don’t have that right?

        That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the best choice in any situation, at least to me, but it’s still the right of the person to make that call.

        1. Get out the calendar*

          Because it is not our duty as coworker to police people’s behavior and whether they are in line with the legal limits. Has she seen the taser? Does she know what level of weapon it is and how it is classified? Do you go calling 911 every time someone is smoking a joint or drinking underage?

          I could understand if the person was unhinged and threatened to use it but she’s literally saying “I don’t feel safe and I am protecting myself from harm” so people think calling the police/HR on this person is the wisest choice?

          1. LBK*

            There’s a difference between feeling obligated to do something and having the right to do something; I don’t think fposte is saying that you should report something every time you see a violation, just that it’s certainly within your rights to do so. Whether the law makes sense or not, being reported is still a risk you take when you decide to break it. You can’t just disregard that consequence because you disagree with it and pin the blame solely on the person who reported it; you can argue about whether they should, but the easiest way to avoid being reported for breaking the law is to not break the law (and again, I understand that there are plenty of stupid laws, but they are laws).

            1. fposte*

              Exactly. Having the right to do it doesn’t mean I have the duty to do it–those two are very different things.

          2. Elizabeth*

            Because it is not our duty as coworker to police people’s behavior and whether they are in line with the legal limits.

            In some professions, it is. Given that this is a public health facility, there may be a licensure requirement to report known criminal activity (possession of & carrying an illegal weapon, in this case). If I’m aware of illegal activities on premesis and I don’t report them, I can and probably would be fired for not meeting my responsibilities.

            I genuinely feel for the co-worker who is carrying. She is still breaking the law and made a colleague complicit.

            1. Get out the calendar*

              Understood. I suppose I was not seeing it from that perspective. I would still prefer to talk to OP about it and elevate the safety issue to management. Calling HR about the new coworker’s behavior will likely result in no good.

              Also will note – I was robbed at gunpoint at work years ago. I take personal safety very seriously. I would much rather break the law and take that risk than go without options in favor of corporate policy. I suspect many of the commenters do not relate to such experiences, nor have they experienced an extreme level of anxiety and fear that comes with working in unsafe areas.

    2. KR*

      This is what I’m thinking. Whether it’s a security person that escorts people to their car or a shuttle that drops people off at their car, or a gated lot that employees can park in (and a shuttle goes to that lot perhaps at the end of the day)?

  37. linzava*

    To OP #2,
    A lot of people use the terms stun guns (which are a hand held charge device) and tasers (which shoot projectile barbs and shoot an electrical charge once the barbs are inbeded in the skin) interchangeably.

    Tasers are very illegal, but stun guns are only illegal sometimes. I would verify what your co-worker has and if it is actually illegal first. I highly doubt a law abiding citizen would be able to purchase a taser at all.
    Personally, if my co-worker carried a stun gun, it wouldn’t bother me, but if they carried a taser, I’d be extremely uncomfortable around them.

    1. LavaLamp*

      This. You physically can’t buy certain things like a legit taser without a badge number and all that info. A stun gun is considered different and uf I were in your situation I’d do a couple of things. I’d figure out which type of device it is, and I’d try to figure what my objections are and go from there. There are some people I’d trust with a loaded bazooka and some whom I’m not sure should handle a stapler for example.

    2. paul*

      Most states allow tasers, either with few or no restrictions. It’s only like 5 that ban them, and a few require background checks or concealed carry licenses.

      Now, Axon makes some models that they’ll only sell to cops but stuff like the Taser Pulse is available readily in my part of the country. 15′ range but you only get one shot and you have to hope both terminals connect…

  38. ForTheLoveOfPete*

    #2 Mind your own business. This is…wow. I am unsure how another person carrying a taser offends your personal ethics – is it because you view them like guns in that they could potentially (though unlikely) kill? Is it because it was created for that purpose? Because plenty of things can be used as a deadly weapon, but I would imagine you don’t take issue with all of them. If that is the case, what is your preference for those people to stay safe…just take their chances?

    My personal ethics are wildly opposed to the idea of tattling on a coworker for trying to protect themselves in a way that doesn’t impact you. You did not say this person is unhinged and you agreed the company has done nothing about valid safety concerns. If you’re so concerned, neigh, opposed to this person protecting themselves then go fix the issue that is causing them to need protection because I can guarantee others are doing the same.

    The idea of telling on them to a company that clearly won’t fix the issue, or they would have already, means that tattling is only a self-serving response. I would implore you to come from a place of contribution instead of trying to get someone in trouble, especially knowing that it won’t stop the core issue (for you) which is coworkers bringing in self defense tools. Also, if others (many of whom probably also have tools but were smart enough not to mention them) find out you tattled, you are going to trash your reputation.

    1. Myrin*

      Such harsh and unkind language aimed at letter writers is explicitly against commenting rules – you seem to be taking this letter super personally, which is not the OP’s fault. Also, there is a whole thread above about how “tattling” is not a word that applies in this situation at all.

      1. LCL*

        This doesn’t seem harsh and unkind, except for the use of the word tattling which is usually applied to kids.

        I think it is reasonable to ask OP how carrying a self defense weapon goes against their ethics, since OP clearly says this. From my perspective (left coast US) this is really off the wall. OP is allowed to believe whatever they want of course, but if one believes something so far outside the norm and cites it as a reason for their actions, a little bit of explanation would help us all.

        Yeah, my big objection would be that it was illegal. But if someone, a WOMAN someone, feels especially unsafe for the reasons cited, I would look the other way if she is otherwise rational. Look, there is no other way for me to say it, and this is a thread highjack, but the ability to arm and protect yourself is a feminist issue, to me. I used to carry (legally) when I was riding my bike to work at night. If someone told me I shouldn’t do that because it wasn’t ethical, I wouldn’t discuss it with them any further. I was also discreet enough to never tell anyone what I was doing.

  39. CatCat*

    I admit that my opposition to punishing adults for carrying less than lethal weapons for their personal protection colors my view in asking these questions.

    OP2, do you think your colleague should be potentially fired and arrested for this?

    1. Get out the calendar*

      That is likely the response that OP 2 is fearing, hence writing in. I wonder if she has mentioned to the coworker that they are against policy. That might be a helpful hint rather than “turning her in”

  40. Life on an island*

    LW2–nobody likes a snitch. From your description, your coworker has good reason to fear for her safety, and the employer has don nothing except increase her risk.She’s taking proactive steps to reduce her risk of assault. How is snitching to the boss going to help her? It won’t; she’ll probably be out of a job.

    If she’s not tasing you, threatening to tase the admin when you run out of copy paper, etc., mind your own business.

    1. Hmm*

      Oh my goodness! Are you really going to suggest OP could be a “snitch?” Did AAM suddenly turn into the third grade?

      Alison, can we please have a blanket statement on this post about not calling OP a snitch, tattle tale, narc, etc? I can’t believe people think this is acceptable.

      1. Life on an island*

        ok, but these are real words used in courtrooms every day to describe a non-victim person who tells authorities about rule breakers for no reason other than their own love of rules. It’s not third grade; its how people speak.
        That said, I am all for a new word, any ideas?

        1. Observer*

          There are a LOT of “real” words used in a LOT of contexts, including courtrooms. That doesn’t make it appropriate.

  41. TotesMaGoats*

    #4-I had an employee come down with mono on her 4th day. Worked with her for 3 weeks until she could return. Fantastic employee. She kept me updated on her progress and provided the documentation we needed when asked. We ended up just moving her start date forward and adding those 3 days she worked to her first pay check instead of doing LWOP. We also had paper time sheets. So….

  42. CBH*

    OP#3 you did nothing wrong and have nothing to feel guilty about. You were specifically asked to go on this trip. Your trainee has had many opportunities to travel over the year. Not all destinations are great, but some are. It sounds like your trainee got used to be asked to go and was upset that this trip, to an amazing location, she wasn’t even considered. Does the trainee realize that you have asked her first dibs every time this year? Does trainee realize that this is a trip you are required to go on? I agree with comments above, that when you speak with trainee don’t speculate when/ how/ ways to plan for work travel – when the opportunities arise for her, she is welcome to take them.

    I don’t mean to trivialize this or minimalize trainee’s importance to the team. It sounds like in addition to your needing to be on this trip, it is also a perk, reward, well deserved for your hard work and seniority. Trainee seems a little upset that you are going on a trip that essentially in your downtime can enjoy the fun aspects of this location. Just a thought.

  43. KR*

    OP, as an alternative for your taser packing coworker could you suggest bear spray? While it isn’t as potent or useful as pepper spray (and if pepper spray is legal in your state I would encourage that) but it can have a similar effect and combined with running away and yelling, may be helpful if she ever gets attacked.

  44. Mike-O*

    #4 This isn’t quite accurate for ALL industries believe it or not, though what Alison says is totally reasonable.

    My partner works as a flight attendant for a major airline and after their seven week training they are on a 90-day period where they can not call in sick. If they do they are they are put on probation or some kind of naughty list that you don’t want to be on.

    That all said, it’s quite unique situation since flight attendants work with different crews every day and have a manager at their base but not on the plane so it’s really, really hard to manage people’s schedules. I know Alison presses the “we are all adults,” message, but you do have to raise an eyebrow when it seems all the senior flight attendants seem to “get sick,” on beautiful summer weekends but never during dreary winter ones.

    1. Greg*

      That may be the case, but as a passenger I would really prefer it if airlines weren’t incentivizing their employees to drag themselves into work so they can spend two hours cooped up with me in a tightly enclosed metal tube, transmitting whatever viruses are circulating around their respiratory system to me.

  45. Chatterby*

    A good middle ground would be to approach the taser-toter and tell her that you are uncomfortable with the illegality of the weapon and would feel obligated to report her if she continues to carry it. Then approach management and state that because of the dangerous area, lack of close parking, and absence of security, some of the staff feel extremely unsafe and have obtained weapons to feel in control of their personal safety. Do not name names, but say the dangers are a growing concern of yours, which you’d like to address and correct by implicating [additional security/ escorts or a buddy system to reach cars/ obtaining closer parking].

    1. JulieBulie*

      If OP says “some of the staff” have weapons, management will want names. If OP refuses to give names, then depending on company policy, OP may get in trouble for failure to inform.

  46. Luke*

    On the subject of the taser: note that if she uses it against someone on company property -including the parking lot- the firm can be sued as the taser-toter is an employee , at which point the OPs actions with regards to company policy and the law will be heavily scrutinized.

    While self defense is a legal rebuttal for criminal court, in most states it has no bearing on civil litigation. While it may be terribly unjust to be sued civilly by the individual or family members of someone who victimized you in an assault or robbery, it is legally permissible in most places in America. Allowing the employee to carry a taser illegally is a legal risk for the firm , the employee and the OP.

    A better solution is to initiate a serious plan for improving security on the site. Hiring a security patrol, educating staff in how to react to threats and ways to minimize risk such as having two employees leave together after hours are much better ways to manage the employee’s valid concerns then toting a weapon.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Oh interesting. I wasn’t reading it as public = government, but rather “public health” as in, a clinic that works on issues of public health.

        1. fposte*

          Oh, you could be right; if so, obviously the challenge is less (but the reward might be even smaller).

      2. Brett*

        There is a separate risk, though, of state civil rights charges against the co-worker for use of force as a public employee against a client with a disability.
        (The feds would be unlikely to get involved, but most states have state level civil rights protections as strong or stronger than federal protections.)

    1. voyager1*

      This is hands down the best answer I have seen on here, including besting my own :)

  47. Jadelyn*

    OP#4 – My org actually advances up to 40 hours of sick time to new employees if they need it, specifically to cover that kind of situation. Then, your regular sick time accrual will eventually get you back to having a positive balance. If someone leaves the company while they’re in the negative, the negative sick time is deducted from their final check (I believe this is usually the case) or written off (in some cases).

    Did your employer give you a policy handbook or anything like that on your first day, or do you have a company intranet with personnel policies? Check there and see what it says!

  48. Language Lover*

    #3 You may be feeling a sense of jealousy. It’s okay for her to feel that as long as it doesn’t interfere with her work or your work together. But just because she’s jealous doesn’t necessarily mean she doesn’t understand why you were asked and she wasn’t. What you may actually sense is her inner frustration that she hadn’t taken previous business trips and she’s now realizing that it may have cost her an opportunity she does actually want. Hindsight is 20/20.

    I wouldn’t necessarily say anything unless she starts making comments. But if you wanted to drop a hint, when you talk about this trip, you could mention that it made all those trips to NotAsAppealingTown #1 and NotAsAppealingLocation #2 worth it.

    #4 I came down with two vicious colds, each of which caused me to stay home or go home early, within a few months of starting my current job. I think a few more years passed before I got sick again. New jobs are stressful. Coming down with something is normal. A healthy organization will deal.

  49. PizzaDog*

    I think the situation in LW2 could open the door for a more serious discussion with HR and her employers. It doesn’t have to be “narcing” or “snitching” or whatever other childish term anyone wants to call it – it’s as simple as saying “we’re unsafe, this is what’s happening, and here’s how I propose that we fix it” without being specific as to who is carrying.

  50. Business Cat*

    I’m still within our 6-month probationary period at my current job (university, admin specialist position, non-academic). Within the first month of my arrival, I had a flare-up of a chronic condition and had to miss two days in a row. Just a few weeks later, the same thing happened again. I was mortified and very concerned that I could be let go. Fortunately my manager had the foresight to approach me about seeking accommodations from HR, and it’s a good thing I did! This chronic condition has really been taking a toll on me and I have had to take much more time off than expected for doctor appointments and testing, and the accommodation has given me great peace of mind. All that to say, things happen, and as long as you are working for reasonable people, display excellent work ethics, and clearly communicate with your manager about what is going on with you, generally you don’t have anything to stress about. They know things happen all the time that are totally out of your control, but what they’ll be watching for is for how you will respond. Behave with maturity and professionalism and you’re golden.

  51. MommaTRex*

    #4 – I couldn’t believe it when I got strep throat within two weeks of starting a new job. I was worried about how it would be perceived, but I couldn’t go in and spread it around more; that would be worse! I had to take some unpaid days, but otherwise, it was all fine – – and I’m still at the same employer some 20+ years later.

    Hmmmmm…I just had some hindsight…I often get sick, or some horrible rash, etc., just AFTER getting through some really stressful time or a particularly difficult, time-consuming project. Before my “new” job, I had a horrible, stressful experience at OLDjob. Maybe that was a contributing factor…

  52. fposte*

    The fact that the safety question is from somebody working in public health makes me think about the increasing danger to health care workers from patients; my provider has just put up stern notices that basically tell people they can’t hit the staff, for instance, which just horrifies me. OP, has that been a problem where you are and is there a possibility she brought the taser in for protection at the workplace and not just the walk away from it?

    1. paul*

      One of my friends left the mental health field because of that sort of thing.

      She’s a 5’2″, maybe 125 soaking wet, and they were expecting her to use things like basket holds on patients that outmassed her 2-3x over, or just take a beating.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I think it’s really bad in residential care, too. And of course people generally get paid crap there to boot.

  53. SebbyGrrl*

    Alison this prompts a question I’ve been tempted to submit.

    I am in CA. Was an hourly employee.

    Due to health issues I often had no PTO left (PTO was for everything, no separate sick days).

    When I talked with my supervisor she said state regulations were such that I was not allowed to take days off without pay/using PTO which I had none of.

    She denied this was a company policy, it was not discussed in Employee Handbook. And HR sucked, I wanted to stay off their radar.

    Can you tell me if this IS a state policy/EE code?

    1. Judy (since 2010)*

      Not a CA law expert, or any law expert, but if you met the criteria for FMLA, it seems like you should have been able to take that, even if it was an intermittent need.

    2. Observer*

      I’m not a labor expert by any means, but I’m fairly sure your supervisor is wrong.

      Check the state DOL. Links in the next post.

    3. paul*

      That is utter crap. Pure and utter crap.

      There is no state law disallowing unpaid days off.

      1. paul*

        To clarify, not questioning you, I’m saying your supervisor was full of it.

        There *may* be company policies that you have to use up PTO before taking unpaid leave; those are fairly common and are legal in at least most states. There’s no state laws that say you cannot take unpaid time off.

  54. Sparkly Librarian*

    Wow, I just realized I’ve been operating under a big misconception about the new hire probation. I went to work sick a lot during mine (not to mention missing out on doctor’s appointments) because I just assumed that if you called out sick during the 90 days when you can’t use sick leave, you’d just be fired.

    Note to self when onboarding new hires: make that part explicit even if this isn’t their first job…

  55. Life on an island*

    On being sick during the probationary period: I started my first big, real, job years ago and was thrilled. However, my pug had a chronic condition and was getting sicker by the day. Someone pulled strings to get her a specialist appointment at the university vet center–the second day of my new job.

    I approached the supervisor, explained my pug was sick, etc., and I needed to take the next day off. They were so great. The response was that I should go home immediately and tend to my sick pug, of course I could take time off for a sick pug, why would you even ask?, and if you need the whole week, take it. A pug is more important than a rigid schedule, etc.

    I worked there six years and rarely complained about anything because they cared about my pug. Talk about fostering loyalty!

  56. Observer*

    OP #2, I didn’t read every single post, so it could be that my first point was mentioned, but I didn’t see it.

    Please consider that if you do turn your coworker in, you will almost certainly face repercussions from the rest of the staff. I’d be willing to be that the vast majority will be far more sympathetic to her point of view than to yours. And even many people who don’t agree with her decision would look at you differently – at minimum they will consider that you are less trustworthy than they had thought.

    Your ethical concerns really have no place here. She’s not harming anyone, and she’s not involving you in her behavior. I have strong ethical concerns with recreational drug use (yes, I disagree with Allison on this.) But, I would not consider that a sufficient reason to excuse my going to the authorities if I knew someone was using safely (not driving or operating machinery afterwards, etc.) That’s where this stands.

    The only valid questions are what are your legal obligations? You are almost certainly not legally obligated to inform. And, I’d be surprised if you could lose your license over that. But, the way to deal with that question is not to act on “maybe” but ask someone with the expertise to give you a definitive answer. Perhaps your state’s licensing board has some information, or has a place you can submit questions. Or you could ask your lawyer or, as someone else suggested, your malpractice insurance carrier.

  57. GuitarLady*

    #5 – When I was a Senate intern over a decade ago, during our last couple of days we were asked to write up a summary of what we had worked on during our time there and some basic info about ourselves. These were then put in the “intern file” and easily referenced anytime one of us needed a reference. I imagine they were indexed by year and name and probably purged after a certain number of years. While this sort of system might require more set up on your part, it could also be a possible solution to your issue! Especially since an intern might not be able to write up much of a summary of their internship 3 or 4 years later.

  58. Cap Hiller*

    OP#5: It’s common in my industry, if someone needs an actual LOR, to ask the person to draft it and then the supervisor edits it as he or she feels appropriate.

    For more informal contacts (“can you put in a good word for me?” Type), some people will ask if there’s anything specific to focus on.

  59. Brett*

    I don’t think I saw this mentioned yet, but since OP and co-worker work for a public health agency, the local police department will almost certainly schedule a unit to be in the parking lot any time they are entering or exiting the building.
    I worked for a large law enforcement agency (covering around 400k people), and we did this for a large number of health facilities, public and private. It was somewhere around 300-500 scheduled escorts a week. This included for people leaving early or staying late. (It went way beyond just criminal safety too. During bad weather we actually provided rides to health workers so they would not be driving in dangerous conditions.)

    If OP’s co-worker feels unsafe, rather than carrying a taser, the agency should make arrangements with the local law enforcement agency to have a scheduled escort.

  60. Amazed*

    With regard to #2, tell somebody.

    On the one hand, this is part of the problem with a workplace banning weapons; the ban can easily extend far beyond the workplace itself. If one chooses to carry when they leave, the weapon is their responsibility until they come home; they can’t pick and choose. If they wish to carry it anywhere, they’ll have to carry it everywhere, even to places where even they don’t think it’s necessary. (If you think it’s out of place for someone to have a weapon at IHOP, for example, this is part of why.) Consequently, this one ban affects every place the carrier goes; if even one place they need to go bans the weapon, they can’t carry it at all, and hence the ban has extended everywhere, unless the banning authority allows them a way to temporarily surrender or otherwise secure the weapon, which it sounds like this business does not. And she’s made it crystal clear that between her personal safety and compliance with state law, compliance loses.

    But on the other hand, it’s still company policy, and if you know someone is violating it this seriously, that can easily come back to you if it comes out. So either way it’s going to be in your best interest to tell someone.

    Now, can you push back on it? Can she? These are reasons why the policy might need to go, but there are also likely concrete reasons why the policy is there to begin with.

    Ultimately she may need to choose between having a taser while she walks to work, or having to find work elsewhere.

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