how to disinvite an intern from our trivia team, I was told to take a week off unpaid due to someone else’s health, and more

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

1. How to disinvite an intern from our trivia team

I work for a large company in a small town. Like “literally everyone in town works for this company” large. It’s the summer and now there are tons of interns about. Last summer I had an awesome trivia team and it’s started up again this summer. Last year, we kind of cobbled together a team and we turned out to be pretty good! There were four of us, but we brought friends every now and then, no big deal. I was hanging out with another set of friends and there was a guy, Cosmo, who said he was into trivia, so I invited him.

Big mistake.

Cosmo doesn’t actually know much trivia. He makes fun of us when we make bad puns or spout some extra trivia knowledge (calling us dorks/geeks/nerds, we all have a STEM background so this is just strange to me…). He doesn’t speak English well enough to understand the host on the mic, so we end up repeating the question to him several times and then he always says “oh, I don’t know [that category]”. He will contribute nothing and then if we win, he’ll still take a cut of the prize. All of these things on their own have happened with guests we bring, we’re usually pretty laid back about it but all of these things together have been a headache!

Another intern, Wanda, organizes the group and has agreed with me several times that she doesn’t appreciate Cosmo being there, bringing us down (mood wise but also the score), and then taking our prize money. Wanda has stopped responding to his messages, but there’s one trivia night in town, he knows where we’ll be even if we don’t confirm it. This is a small town, everyone knows each other, everyone works with each other, how are we supposed to tell Cosmo to take a hike?

Can you be straightforward with him about the problems? For example: “When we’ve invited you in the past, you’ve made fun of us, called us names, and taken a cut of the winnings after not contributing any trivia answers. So for now we’re going to keep the team to just the four of us.”

2. I was told to take a week off unpaid due to someone else’s health

I’d love to hear what you and your readers think of an HR incident that happened to me a few years back. For over a decade now, I’ve worked in payroll in HR departments across the Canadian federal government. This occurred in 2010, when I was a senior compensation advisor.

Against all odds, I came down with a case of acute viral parotitis, also known as the mumps. I had virtually no pain at all (besides the embarrassment of looking like a greedy hamster) and felt completely normal, but I was considered contagious for about a week following the first signs of symptoms.

I stayed home for the week as recommended by my doctor and with my manager’s approval. But then I was out of sick leave to use and could not afford to take unpaid time off. I was, after all, feeling perfectly fine and, as per my doctor, not likely to be contagious anymore.

However, I had a slightly junior colleague of mine who happened to be expecting and going through a particularly difficult pregnancy (she was later on put on bed rest at five months along, unrelated to this incident). She asked our manager that I not be allowed back to work yet since parotitis is extremely dangerous to pregnancy, let alone challenging ones. I of course agreed, as I would never willingly put anyone’s health or pregnancy in jeopardy.

The issue is that my manager asked that I take another full week off, unpaid. As someone who lived paycheck to paycheck, I could not afford this at all. In hindsight, I should’ve taken this to Labour Relations in hopes of finding a compromise of some sort, but I didn’t (my manager at the time was a rather intimidating woman). I ended up losing a week’s wages, which impacted my personal life in a number of horrible ways for months following the incident.

How do you figure a situation like this should be handled, particularly in an office that, for very legitimate security reasons, does not allow working from home?

Ooof, this is tough.

It’s easy to say that if you were cleared by your doctor to return to work, then you should have been allowed to return to work, and that if your coworker had concerns about being around you, at that point the burden should be on her to be the one to stay home. But in reality, it’s a lot easier to say to the person who’s been sick “let’s have you stay out one more week to be sure since we have a pregnant person here” than to say to the pregnant person “if you’re worried, too bad, handle that on your own.”

But your employer could have solved the whole thing by covering your pay that second week, and they should have. As it was, they helped out your coworker at real financial cost to you.

3. Spending weeks off the grid in the middle of a job search

I’m job searching, and have submitted several applications that I’m hoping to hear back about. I’m also planning a three-week backpacking trip in the wilderness in a few months and will be 100% off the grid.

For work, I will of course use an auto-away message, but I hesitate to do that on my personal email. The people in my life who need to know already know, so I don’t want to look overly braggy, and I also don’t want to advertise that my apartment will be unoccupied for such a long period of time.

But will this hurt me if an employer tries to contact me for an interview? If I don’t reply for 2.5 weeks but then respond with a sincere apology and sincere interest in the position, is it possible that they would have moved too far along in the process to consider interviewing me at that point? And if a company is moving that quickly, would an auto-reply saying that I’ll be away for three weeks help slow them down, or would they continue to move on without me anyway (rendering the auto-away useless in its intention)?

If you’d be willing to set up the auto-reply, that’s the best solution. Some employers won’t be willing or able to wait, but some might be, especially if you’re a very strong candidate. But if you don’t want to do that for security reasons, then yeah, responding to any emails with an explanation once you’re back is your best bet. A lot of employers will be too far along in their process at that point for it to matter, but others might not be.

Basically, going off the grid for three weeks in the middle of a job search means there’s some risk that you could lose out on some of the positions you’ve applied for, and there’s no way to guard against that 100%, so it’s just a possibility you have to be okay with.

However, if you can, I’d stop applying for things a couple of weeks before you leave so that you’re not sending applications out there and then immediately going dark when people might be trying to respond to your latest round.

4. How to screen for candidates who can put up with internal bureaucracy

I was recently promoted at work, and now have to hire a replacement for my previous role. Based on my experience and the experience of my colleagues, I’ve seen that people who are willing to put up with internal bureaucracy (lots of internal meetings, BS memos, etc.) and are comfortable with a top-down approach perform better than people who expect more autonomy. What is the best way to screen for this quality in interviews?

First, be transparent about this aspect of your culture, so that people who know they aren’t a fit for it can self-select out. Give a few examples of what you mean, so that they can clear picture the sort of thing you’re describing. If you use shorthand, there’s a risk that people will picture something different, so clear examples help.

As for interview questions, ask people to tell you about a time or two when internal bureaucracy was slowing down a project or process they were involved in, and how they handled it. Also ask them to tell you about a time when their boss wanted them to do something differently than how they would have chosen to approach it, and how they handled that. With these questions, be prepared to ask follow-ups to really dig in to how they operated in those circumstances (for example, “What was the hardest part of that?” or “that sounds tough — how did you respond to X?”). The idea here is to explore how they’ve done in situations in their past that are similar to what they’d encounter in your organization, and to listen to how they talk about it too. (Do they sound matter-of-fact, frustrated, jaded, etc.?)

5. My former job keeps paying me

I resigned from my job, but they keep depositing a check in my direct deposit. I can’t get in contact with anyone! Can I get in trouble?

They can make you return the money once they realize it’s been happening. Keep trying to reach them. (And if you’ve only been emailing, start calling instead.)

And for now, put the money aside and don’t touch it, since it’s very likely that at some point they will reclaim it (which legally they can do).

{ 543 comments… read them below }

  1. neverjaunty*

    OP #1, back up a couple of steps and think about the flip side of the problem here: in an everyone-knows-everyone community, Cosmo is choosing to be an unhelpful jerk and drive others away. He is the one making the giant faux pas here. You all kicking him off your team is the natural consequence of his actions.

    To quote a wise AAM commenter: Allow the teachable moment to unfold.

    Also, since you’re all STEM types, recommend you Google “Geek Social Fallacies”.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Seriously! OP#1, breaking up with a trivia team member can be tough. But I’ve done it—you just have to be ok with an uncomfortable/awkward conversation in which you’re honest about what’s going on.

      Someone who doesn’t contribute, insults all of you, and then takes a cut of the winnings is not a team player or a fun person to hang out with. I’ve been on teams with people who do not contribute very much but are so much fun that we don’t really care about splitting with them because we enjoy their company. But you shouldn’t have to destroy your own trivia enjoyment for Cosmo.

    2. Paul*

      does the bar have good bouncers? set up a great game of “let’s you and him fight” and watch the fireworks.

      /no don’t do that, it’s bad.

      Seriously, tell him he’s being a jackass and kick him out. If he throws a fit talk to the bar keep. if he throws a fit at work let your manager know what’s up. If it’s a worthwhile place, one intern complaining that a group isn’t friendly with him vs. a group of employees saying intern’s been a jerk…no contest.

    3. KHB*

      Is Cosmo really being that much of a jerk, though? Let’s break it down:

      He’s not contributing any trivia knowledge. That’s not necessarily his fault, and it’s certainly not any kind of character flaw. I mean, I’m “into trivia” in that I know a fair few obscure facts about history and geography and the like, but when I’ve gone to pub trivia nights that are 90% sports and pop culture, I’m useless. That would go doubly so if the quiz were held in a foreign language and focused on the sports and pop culture of a foreign country.

      He calls the other members of the team geeks and nerds when they know things. This sounds like tone deafness at worst – in all the STEM circles I’ve run in, calling someone a geek or a nerd is either a compliment or the kind of lighthearted teasing that’s all in good fun. (But maybe there’s something about the circumstances or Cosmo’s delivery that makes it clear that he doesn’t mean it that way?)

      He takes a cut of the prize when they win. Of course he does – he was a member of the winning team, so why wouldn’t he? Unless you normally distribute the prize money proportionally by the number of questions each person answered?

      None of this means that OP1 et al. are wrong to want him off the team, but I’d encourage them to find a way of saying it that’s less “You’re a jerk and we don’t like you” and more “It’s not you, it’s us.” I don’t have any genius suggestions for phrasing, but maybe someone else will.

      1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        He’s mocking members of a team he chose to join. He is a jerk. It isn’t them who is a problem, it is him. There is nothing wrong with saying, “Your attitude and behavior are a bad fit for our team. You need to find another one if you want to play.” Why try and soften it by blaming the rest of the team?

        1. Sleeping or maybe dead*

          God, I have a STEM background and I am a “weird one” at that, but calling each other “nerd” or “dork” was never fine. You can call yourself, or maybe a very very close friend, but that’s it.
          Never understood why people who were once mocked thought it was ok to mock anyone else, and in the same manner. Do they feel superior to their past selves? It is so f****ed up.

          1. KHB*

            “You can call yourself, or maybe a very very close friend, but that’s it.”

            I think you might have put your finger on where Cosmo’s going wrong here. The regular members of the team are all friends already, so they can get away with certain kinds of banter among themselves. They see Cosmo as an outsider, socially, so they don’t give him the same kind of leeway as they give each other. But Cosmo doesn’t directly see the significance of the relationships that existed before he came along, so he’s not picking up on the fact that he can’t get away with the same kind of behavior as he’s seeing in front of him.

            All that’s to say that I still don’t think Cosmo’s being deliberately unkind, and the team really should make an effort not to be deliberately unkind in return.

            1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

              It isn’t unkind to tell someone to find another team. It is kind of like getting fired. Kindness has nothing to do with it. It is a matter of whether you work well with others and are good at your tasks. Cosmo is failing on both points. He should be told to find another team. Who knows, there might be one where he is a great fit.

              1. KHB*

                I said above that they’re well within their rights to want to kick him off the team, so I’m not sure why you think I’m disagreeing with you on that point.

                1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

                  I was more making a point that it isn’t unkind to do so, so the OP shouldn’t hesitate on that point. But I am probably not caffeinated enough to be as clear as I would like to be

              2. Turquoise Cow*

                It is kind of unkind. It’s rejecting the person from your social group. It may be justified, but it is not at all kind to say to someone, “we do not want you in our social group.”

                Firing is impersonal and business related (most often). This is a social group and the decision is purely a personal one, based on personalities.

                1. CMart*

                  I think it’s a semantics difference, personally. It certainly is not kind to ask someone not to be a part of your social group. But “not kind” =/= “unkind”. It’s not mean. It’s just not nice, you know? Unkindness ascribes a certain sense of malice, I think.

                2. neverjaunty*

                  Yes, actually, it can be very kind, when the alternative is that person being present and barely tolerated.

                  And it is REALLY unkind to expect others to put up with being mocked and having their free time made unfun because ‘we mustn’t be unkind to Cosmo’.

                3. Kate*

                  That’s not true on the facts of the letter- maybe these people would tolerate Cosmo at a happy hour, they just don’t want him on their trivia team.

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                Right? We’re supposed to take the OPs at their word. She said he makes fun of them. From the wording and tone of her letter, it doesn’t sound like he’s just a little awkward. It sounds like he’s being kind of a jerk.

                There’s nothing deliberately unkind about them telling him they don’t want him on their team. And if he’s really as clueless as KHB seems to think he is, it would be a kindness to tell him why.

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Yeah, I’m not getting the “it’s unkind to exclude someone who mocks others and fails to contribute socially or substantively” argument, either.

            2. LBK*

              But you’re not entitled to be a part of a friend group or an activity that group does together. I don’t see how there’s anything unkind about not wanting to hang out with someone who isn’t fun to hang out with. That’s just kind of how social interaction works.

              I have to wonder if you’ve been in a situation where you felt like the Cosmo (eg getting boxed out from a group you wanted to be part of) and if there’s some projection going on here.

            3. GeoffreyB*

              Where are you getting the idea that Cosmo *is* seeing the same kind of behaviour in the rest of the group? That sort of thing certainly can happen, but I don’t see anything in the OP to suggest it’s what’s happening here; it seems like speculation beyond the facts as given.

          2. RVA Cat*

            This. It’s kind of like the ridiculous and offensive argument about how That Horrible Word appearing in rap lyric somehow makes it less horrible.

            1. RVA Cat*

              Okay that was escalating way too much…. It doesn’t even compare to the B-word really.

          3. Emi.*

            I also have a STEM background, and I don’t think “nerd” and “dork” are that terrible (let alone comparable to the N-word!). Maybe it’s a regional thing? Anyway, I don’t think it’s so cut-and-dry that you can conclude that Cosmo’s a horrible jerk for it—as opposed to merely tone-deaf–without at least once saying “Hey, cut that out, it hurts my feelings.”

            1. aebhel*

              I don’t think they’re that terrible, either, but the rule with joking insults is that you assume people won’t be okay with it until given some indication otherwise, not the reverse.

            2. Breda*

              I don’t think they’re bad either – I call myself & my friends nerds all the time, because it’s true. (We work in SFF publishing!) The difference is that you don’t go to a trivia game and then make fun of your teammates for knowing stuff. The whole point of going to trivia is to CELEBRATE people knowing stuff. He’s ruining that for them.

              1. Tedious Cat*

                You especially don’t go, make fun of your teammates for knowing stuff, then help yourself to the money they won for knowing stuff!

              2. KellyK*

                Exactly! With an established friend group, you can probably get away with “You’re such a geek!” at trivia night as an actual complement, especially if your tone and body language make it clear that you’re viewing it as a good thing. But it sounds pretty negative from what the OP described. I wonder if he’s trying to engage in friendly teasing, and because he’s not close with the group, it’s falling flat. Or if he’s self-conscious about not contributing. But those are his problems to deal with, not the team’s.

            3. Elizabeth H.*

              I don’t think the words are the issue, you can tease somebody with or without using specific words. I don’t personally feel like the default use of those words is insulting unless mitigated by a friendly social context, to me they’re pretty neutral (I mean, think how silly it would sound to actually try to insult somebody solely by calling him or her a nerd or a dork, just with those words – you really need more context to use them insultingly). It seems like it’s his overall tone and demeanor that’s the issue.

            4. Kate*

              I agree, but it seems like the problem is that the insults that might not be that bad on their own are coming from the *same* person who is interrupting conversation constantly to ask that the question be repeated, who is also the *same* person who is taking a cut of the winnings when he didn’t contribute. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts?

      2. AdAgencyChick*

        I agree with some of this. I’ve played on many pub quiz teams, and I am often the team lightweight.* Yet my teammates always push me into taking some of the pot when we win. I’ve never played with anyone who has agreed with me when I’ve said, “Guys, I only gave us one unique answer, keep the $5, OK?”

        I strongly suspect OP’s team wouldn’t mind sharing the money if the intern weren’t annoying in other ways. Again, in my experience friends call each other nerds or geeks when someone nails a really obscure question, but it’s not a constant barrage of teasing. If the intern is spending the whole night either teasing people or asking to have the question repeated, I wouldn’t want to spend a whole evening with him either.

        * Despite being strong enough at trivia in general to have been on more than one game show. Pub quizzes are always heavy on movies, scripted TV, and current music, which I suck at, and rarely ask about literature, classical music, and reality TV, which I rock at.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          In my experience friends call each other nerds or geeks when someone nails a really obscure question, but it’s not a constant barrage of teasing.

          I think this is important, and OP gets at it with her wise observation that other rotating guests have done all of them, occasionally, at some level. It’s the density of every time, all the time, that’s too much. And returning the awkward to sender, or letting the teaching moment unfold, is about all people can do in response… after they’ve given up on the more instinctive ‘awkwardness happening, must smooth.’

          I think one thing that happens with socially awkward people is they hit on something–when someone does something smart, call them ‘nerd’!, and people laugh, I figured it out!!!–and it becomes a hammer and everything is a nail. So behavior that would work well if you kept it at a 2 with casual friends and a 4 with intimates, with further fine gradations depending on exact group makeup and mood, is really really grating on both close and casual friends when you always have it dialed up to 10.

      3. Antilles*

        I’ve played on various weekly trivia teams for six years and would absolutely kick this guy off. The whole point of trivia is to have fun with friends. And the way OP describes his behavior sounds like he’s totally wrecking the atmosphere – insulting his teammates, not enjoying the puns or at least giving courtesy laughs, not appreciating the extra knowledge and chatting, asking for questions to be repeated multiple times*, etc.
        The part that makes him a jerk is the insults – it’d be one thing if he didn’t have any trivia knowledge and just joked around, but he sounds like he’s actively sucking the energy from the table with his insults.
        *This might not be politically correct since it’s a language issue, but the cold truth is that repeating questions multiple times prevents the usual discussions/banter and absolutely kills the mood.

        1. Chinook*

          “*This might not be politically correct since it’s a language issue, but the cold truth is that repeating questions multiple times prevents the usual discussions/banter and absolutely kills the mood.”

          As both a former ESL teacher and a colleague of many people who speak ESL and come from various cultures (so I have a high tolerance for needing to reword something) as well as having been the person who didn’t speak the local language, the intern’s behavior seems to have crossed the line. If you know you are going to cause extra work for your teammates by needing questions repeated/explained, then you don’t get to taunt them about being nerdy/geeky because you don’t know where the line is that keeps it from going from “done in fun” to “you’re a jerk” because you are showing explicitly that you don’t understand the nuances of the language and culture.

          And, if his grasp of English is good enough to participate in trivia night, then it should also be good enough to know that, if he doesn’t understand the question (probably because he doesn’t know the key words in it), then he probably doesn’t know the answer. At the very least, he lacks the self awareness that would make him a good trivia night teammate.

          1. Anon for This*

            I think that’s important. If he were asking for clarification occasionally or fun in other ways and not insulting the other people on the team, I’m willing to bet he’d be getting much more leeway. People are generally more forgiving if you’ve given them a reason to be more forgiving. If you’re a jerk AND distracting, chances are good you’re not going to get that sort of investment.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            The ESL thing doesn’t bother me, actually. I think the problem is that he’s obnoxious/annoying. As Antilles notes, the purpose of trivia is to have fun with friends. Ideally those friends are also kind of good at trivia (if that matters to you), but if they’re not, then they should have other redeeming, non-trivia-related qualities that make them fun to hang out with. Cosmo sounds like he’s not great at trivia, but he’s also not fun to hang out with. The language barrier may contribute to that, but I suspect that if he were not being awkward and offending people, it would not matter as much.

          3. Man*

            The “mocking” and not understanding of puns could definitely be because of ESL. English is not my first language and I have lived in the US for nearly half of my life so I know this first-hand. When you learn English in a foreign country, very often you learn “translations” of words – not the actual meaning and potential connotations. For example, there definitely is variation in the meaning and acceptable use for the words “stupid” “dumb” “silly” and “foolish” – in a foreign language there may only be one or two words that all these translate into. So it is very likely that a foreigner might come off as harsh by calling someone stupid when they meant it in a sense of “silly”. Not saying it is the case with this guy, only that it could be.

            1. bluesboy*

              Very true. I once jokingly insulted someone only to see them go completely white. I had to backtrack really fast and explain that the word I had used was really not that offensive in my language…it was ok as it was just the two of us and she responded visibly. But if I had said it over the phone or in a mail and hadn’t seen her reaction then it would have worked out badly. It’s really easy to do!

      4. Roscoe*

        I agree here. The calling team members names is the only thing that would make him a jerk, and even that is debatable. Its really not reading a room or not having the relationship to do that. I call my friends nerds all the time for stupid stuff like that, and people laugh and have fun. Maybe he just thinks they have that kind of relationship, whereas the other people don’t. Is it malicious name calling or trying to be funny but failing name calling?

        1. Anna*

          The word dork is a term of endearment for me and my husband. But it’s not something I call anyone I don’t know well.

      5. Liane*

        As the OP said, the problem is that Cosmo does ALL of these things repeatedly, and I am guessing he sees no need to apologize. I did High Q, Brain Bowl, and College Bowl in high school and college and I would not have wanted this jerk on the team.
        The sooner you all tell him he is no longer on the team and his choices are to find another team, find another hobby, or have a drink or 2 and watch, the better.

      6. Margaret (OP#1)*

        Hi! I think commenters below have also answered along these same lines, but a lot of the stuff he does isn’t really a deal breaker. We’ve had other friends join us who don’t know trivia and/or don’t speak English very well, but the general rule is: if you contribute to us having a good time, we waive the requirement of contibuting to trivia (this doesn’t go the other way however…)

        1. Emi.*

          This is a good system! In that case, I’d focus more on how he’s spoiling the fun than on how he’s not contributing (although I guess that’s more personal, so it might be harder to say).

        2. KHB*

          So my question would be, does Cosmo know (1) that this rule exists, and (2) that he’s making things less fun for the rest of you? If not, then some care is required with how you break this to him. (Which I think you realize, since you wrote to ask for advice on how to break it to him.)

          Maybe one way to do it would be to focus on the gaps in his knowledge in certain areas – which, from what you say, he’s well aware that he has. So, something like “I hope you’ve enjoyed coming out with us to [Trivia Night] for the past few weeks. But since their quizzes tend to focus on things like [topic], [topic], and [topic], which are not really your strong suits, we’re going to need to keep the team to just the four of us from now on. I hope you understand.”

          Then, if you want to, you could also have a separate conversation about norms in hanging out with coworkers outside of work – things like how to some people, being called a geek or a nerd is no big deal, but other people are really bothered by it, so maybe don’t throw those kind of names around unless you’re 100% sure that people are going to be okay with it.

          1. LBK*

            I’m assuming this isn’t a formal rule but rather just the general way that social interaction works…I don’t think someone needs to be explicitly told “We only want to hang out with nice, fun people, so you should be more like that if you want to continue being a part of the team.” That seems pretty ridiculous and kind of condescending.

            1. KHB*

              So let me ask you, if you think this is something that everyone should know a priori without being told, why do you think Cosmo is behaving the way he is?

              1. paul*

                Bluntly: why do they have an obligation to babysit someone through fairly normal social interaction situations, particularly at an event they’re doing solely for their own recreation?

                We’ve kicked people out of GURPs games for acting like that, and I’m A-OK with it. We’re all there to have a good time, not spend weeks or months rehabilitating someone’s social skills.

              2. LBK*

                Why does anyone act like a jerk? Are you saying you’ve never known a jerky person and/or think all jerks just haven’t been told that they should be nice?

              3. aebhel*

                He either doesn’t realize that he’s being off-putting, or he doesn’t care. Either way, it’s not the OP’s job to give him coaching on how to not be a draining, abrasive jerk before they decide not to hang out with him on their own free time. Sometimes people just don’t click with a particular group; it’s not the end of the world.

                1. LBK*

                  Right, I think this is what it comes down to. Sometimes people just aren’t meant to be friends, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s no reason to force it.

              4. Natalie*

                Does it matter?

                They don’t want to spend time with him because of his behavior. The reason for the unpleasant behavior isn’t relevant.

              5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I mean, this is a basic role of human socialization and interaction. It is not OP’s responsibility to teach that to Cosmo, unless there’s an additional cultural barrier that suggests that Cosmo would not know that one should not behave like a jerk.

            1. Natalie*

              Right? That kind of social/emotional work with another person is… well, work. It’s something I might do with my partner, or my sibling or something where the relationship has so much import to me that the work is worth it. But for a co-worker trivia team? No thanks.

          2. Kate*

            Does Cosmo know this rule exists…? In what social context does it not exist? Is Cosmo the same guy who is mad at Cambridge/Oxford for not teaching him to be polite to the receptionist?

            And seriously, these interns just want to have fun at trivia night with their friends. I don’t think it’s fair to put the responsibility on them to teach Cosmo basic social skills.

        3. Green Goose*

          How many people are allowed on each team? The places I’ve gone usually have a limit, so maybe the next time have the team filled up so he would have to join another team? In a social situation, I’d recommend being more direct but since he works with you, it might be better to just phase him out in a subtle way.

          If he brings it up the day of, you could say something like, “oh, we’re actually full this week, but maybe you could ask around the office and see if you can organize your own team.”

      7. George Willard*

        “This sounds like tone deafness at worst”

        Whoa, I definitely disagree, and I think this is a case where we should be taking a letter writer at their word. There’s playful joshing among friends, and then there’s negging people you barely know. It hurt the people who were present, and there’s no requirement that adults be friends with someone who is unpleasant to them.

        1. Myrin*

          100% agreed!

          Also, I mean, the OP and her group don’t want him there. It sounds like the thought alone that he’ll be there is enough to ruin people’s fun. That is reason enough to ask him to not come to play with them anymore – she doesn’t need to write a comprehensive essay on Why Cosmo Sucks or Is Cosmo Really A Jerk or Has Cosmo Ticked Every Box Of ‘Annoying Trivia Member’ Yet So That We Are Allowed To Kick Him Out.

            1. KHB*

              It’s irrelevant to whether they’re allowed to kick him off the team. They’re allowed to kick him off the team, as I said explicitly in my first comment, so I’m a little bit perplexed by how many people think I’m saying otherwise.

              It’s not irrelevant to how they should kick him off the team.

              1. LBK*

                I guess I’m just not clear on what difference you think that should make; I haven’t seen anyone advocating for flat out saying they think he’s a jerk. All the suggested language is softened to basically say it’s just not a match. What’s sticking for me is that I can’t tell if your suggestion about saying “it’s not you, it’s us” is just another example of softening language to ease the conversation or if you genuinely believe the OP and her friends are the ones causing the issue here and that Cosmo isn’t doing anything wrong.

                1. KHB*

                  I thought neverjaunty’s comment – the first one in this thread, and the one I initially replied to – was advocating the view that Cosmo is just a jerk and therefore not entitled to any courtesy or consideration. And then Paul said “tell him he’s being a jackass and kick him out.” That kind of “flat out saying they think he’s a jerk” mindset is really all I’m pushing back against.

                  What I meant by “it’s not you, it’s us,” is that this is a bad situation that’s not necessarily the result of anyone doing anything wrong, but nevertheless it needs to end. That’s what I’ve usually seen “it’s not you, it’s me” used to mean, but maybe I should have been clearer. Apologies for the confusion.

                2. LBK*

                  Ah, I do see that I missed paul’s comment, but I think that’s an outlier. Most people (including Alison) advocate for a softer dismissal.

                  What I meant by “it’s not you, it’s us,” is that this is a bad situation that’s not necessarily the result of anyone doing anything wrong, but nevertheless it needs to end.

                  But I disagree that no one has done anything wrong. We can argue about his motivations and whether that matters, but Cosmo is behaving inappropriately, knowingly or not. And FWIW, “it’s not me, it’s you” is usually a lie that’s used to soften the blow, at least from my experience.

                3. LBK*

                  As for neverjaunty’s original comment at the start of the thread, I don’t read that as saying Cosmo isn’t entitled to kindness, rather just reframing the situation to take some of the awkwardness off the OP’s shoulders. It’s pretty common in this kind of scenario that the person on the receiving end of jerky behavior feels like they’re the one making things uncomfortable if they react to it, so it can help to point out that the person causing the problem in the first place is the one making things uncomfortable, and take having appropriate reactions to that behavior isn’t compounding the problem.

                4. neverjaunty*

                  and therefore not entitled to any courtesy or consideration

                  Please don’t invent things out of whole cloth and stuff them into other people’s mouths.

                5. KHB*

                  Please don’t invent things out of whole cloth and stuff them into other people’s mouths.

                  Does that also go for all the other people here who seem to think I’m saying that the OP is obligated to put up with Cosmo on her quiz team in perpetuity?

                  Since you’re here, though, the phrase that really leaped out at me from your comment is that Cosmo “is choosing to be an unhelpful jerk.” (Emphasis mine.) I really disagree with that.

                6. Anna*

                  Most behaviors are a choice, KHB. It’s unlikely Cosmo doesn’t know how NOT to be a jerk. It’s more likely his personality is kind of crappy. Because those people do exist.

                7. paul*

                  I said it, and I’ll stand by it based on what’s in the letter. I think it’s fine to call people out for being jerks when they’re being jerks–particularly repeatedly. Telling someone they’re behaving badly and not welcome in a social situation is A-OK in my book.

                  It can be awkward for the person saying it if they’re non-confrontational, but I am so over putting up with repeated crappy behavior in group settings, or weasel wording my out of it when telling someone why they’re not welcome at my house/group.

        2. Tedious Cat*

          +1. Frankly, Cosmo needs to find out now while he’s still an intern that his coworkers are not obligated to put up with his behavior in their off-hours.

        3. Roscoe*

          True, but you don’t know what HIS intention is. He may think he is just playfully joshing, its just not being received that way. But if no one tells him its not being received well, and he isn’t good at reading social cues, he may just not get it. It doesn’t make him a jerk

          1. LBK*

            Well, I think that’s an age-old question, isn’t it? Do you get a pass on jerky behavior if you’re not doing it on purpose, and if so, to what extent? I don’t think it ultimately changes anything here unless you believe that Cosmo could correct his behavior if his attention were called to it, but I also don’t know that the OP really has any obligation to go through those steps first. This isn’t a firing where the manager has some sort of duty to try to coach him through it before he’s terminated.

            Friendships form and dissolve naturally. If you don’t like hanging out with someone, you’re not under any obligation to try to fix them so that they’re more fun to hang out with beyond how much you feel like doing so. It seems like the OP doesn’t feel like doing that in this case, so I don’t see why she should.

            1. Roscoe*

              I think the situation should be handled different if your jerky behavior is malicious vs. unintentional. The end result may be the same, in this case him no longer playing trivia, but the path to that result should.

              Does the OP owe him anything? No. However being that this is a work relationship, I think things should be handled a certain way.

                1. LBK*

                  Yeah, I haven’t really seen any suggestions to the contrary. Most people discussing him being a jerk are doing so internally, not saying that’s how you should frame his disinvitation.

            2. Myrin*

              Yeah, I agree. I also believe it comes down to the overall package in the end. If Cosmo were an otherwise likeable, friendly, and fun guy but exhibited any one of the annoying behaviours OP lists, she (or others in her group) might be inclined to talk to him about it or coach him out of it or bring it up in some other way. But it sounds like the sheer multitude of annoying things he brings to the table is just such that it makes him an unpleasant person to be around, full stop, and he would basically have to change his whole personality and the way he behaves in everything for him to fit into their group.

          2. George Willard*

            Splitting hairs over whether someone “is” a jerk or is just “acting like” a jerk just isn’t always necessary.

      8. Falling Diphthong*

        I think these examples all come down to context, and being aware of it. Most behavior is okay in some contexts, and not good in others. Teasing people is often fine, but if you notice no one else is delivering reflexive insults for every correct answer, your style and frequency is out of line in this group and it’s going to be grating. Providing company rather than expertise is fine if they’re down a player and need four and you helpfully fill in… but notice that you’re not contributing anything practical and check in regularly thereafter. (“Okay, we’ve established I’m not good at this, so if you want someone else this week I can come and cheer…”)

        Or as Never Jaunty suggests, google ‘geek social fallacies.’

        1. paul*

          Yep. Frequency matters in…jeez, 99% of behavior probably. Lots of things that are fine/funny once in a while become very annoying or harmful if they happen a lot.

          It’s the difference between a candy bar once ina while and eating a candy bar multiple times a day.

      9. bopper*

        KHB: I think you are falling for the Geek Social Fallacies..
        Geek Social Fallacy #1: Ostracizers Are Evil
        Geek Social Fallacy #2: Friends Accept Me As I Am
        Geek Social Fallacy #3: Friendship Before All
        Geek Social Fallacy #4: Friendship Is Transitive
        Geek Social Fallacy #5: Friends Do Everything Together

      10. Rainy, PI*

        Except of course that it *is* him.

        Being kicked off will be the natural consequences of his actions in mocking people–and saying “it’s not you, it’s us” to someone who doesn’t share your cultural background doesn’t actually convey the message that the person is being a jerk like it would if, for example, I said it to another North American.

      11. logicbutton*

        What about Alison’s suggestion: “When we’ve invited you in the past, you’ve made fun of us, called us names, and taken a cut of the winnings after not contributing any trivia answers. So for now we’re going to keep the team to just the four of us.”? There’s no value judgment; all they’re saying is that those specific behaviors are ones that don’t go over well with that particular team.

    4. Jaguar*

      Rationalizing who the jerk really is doesn’t matter if the community thinks you’re being a jerk to Cosmo. Logical purity counts for very little when you’re ruining your reputation.

      OP, I would recommend setting clear boundaries for Cosmo. It might be tough to do (you’re essentially going into battle mode), but the idea is to make it clear to him that his behaviour is irritating everyone, which carries the implied conclusion that if he continues to do it, he’ll get kicked out. Start with the name-calling first. You have to actually tell him some form of, “Hey, Cosmo, could you stop it with that? I know you don’t mean it wrong [even if you don’t know that, give him the benefit of the doubt], but it’s still getting on people’s [or just “my,” if you want] nerves.” Essentially, you’re building up a firing-for-cause list.

      1. LBK*

        I don’t see anything to indicate that there’s concern about the community viewing them as jerks for kicking out Cosmo, am I missing something? Or are you just inferring that’s a possibility as a result of the company/town being so tight-knit?

        1. Jaguar*

          Yeah, I’m assuming the LW stressed the small community aspect because it was important context for how they wanted to deal with Cosmo. Rationalizing a decision to tell someone to F-off works (generally speaking) in a major city where you can just move on afterwards. In a small town, you have to continually interact with that person, that person has friends that will take their side, people will judge your actions regardless of your rationalizations, etc.

          1. Natalie*

            Rationalizing a decision to tell someone to F-off works

            This really isn’t a fair summation of what people are suggesting. Uninviting someone from a social activity is not an inherently mean “eff you and the horse you rode in on” action. It can be done that way, but it doesn’t have to be, and no one here has suggested the LW be rude about it.

            1. LBK*

              I didn’t think Jaguar meant it that way, I just read it as a colloquially hyperbolic summary of the action.

              1. Natalie*

                Perhaps, but combined with their initial comment it gives me the impression of “anything direct/firm is mean”. Perhaps that is incorrect, hopefully they can clarify!

                1. LBK*

                  I gather that to just be Jaguar’s manner of speaking based on previous comments – but moreover, I think his point is that while you may indeed not intend or actually carry it out in a mean way, there is a consideration here about perception of the situation by others. I think that’s a valid concern here that does have me second-guessing my previous confidence about proceeding in such a straightforward manner.

                2. Jaguar*

                  Yeah, LBK’s reading is correct. I was just boiling down that part. I’m actually in favour of being direct and firm with people, generally speaking, and consider it actually kinder (and more importantly, more honest) to do so. Like in this case, dropping hints about Cosmo’s “nerd” comments is far less effective and doesn’t leaves Cosmo second-guessing, where as saying, “You’re getting pretty irritating with those comments, dude” is far better both for solving the problem and for Cosmo.

                3. Jaguar*

                  That said, in response to your first comment, I do think uninviting someone is equivalent to “F-off.” You can dress it up and be nice about it, but I don’t see how it’s materially different.

          2. snuck*

            I live in a *very* small community.

            This sort of stuff is problematic…. because you don’t have as many people to socialise with you have to sort of just get along with everyone, at least on the surface.

            That said…. people in town generally know who the boors and the wasps and the lovely honey bees are…. and will accept any repercussions that come with behaviours. “Oh everyone knows Cosmo is a bit of a downer and annoying” could be the outcome from this… and another group might let him cruise their social table for a while. If Cosmo runs out of friends entirely then there’s some value in him learning that… but there’s also value in maintaining a polite, friendly, open disposition with him – how you treat people is seen, and how you’ll be remembered, and treated in town. It’s not like the city where if someone is a bit of a jerk and someone goes off at them about it you can all just pick a new watering hole and they won’t show up. In towns with only one pub (or one quiz night) it means you will see each other, repeatedly. Grocery shopping with the teachers in the aisles at school report time… you know what I mean?

            So yeah. I’d go with the ‘mates’ approach – friendly, polite, less about his personal attributes, more about what you want as a group (to get SERIOUS about trivia hahahahah) and bump him off onto another group if you can.

    5. snuck*

      “Sorry Cosmo, the table is full!” (invite a full table for a few weeks so he can’t fit in)
      “Hey Cosmo, this is supposed to be fun, you aren’t being fun man… don’t call me a geek/nerd/whatever!” (everyone do it every time. After just one night of this you can then cheerily follow up the following week with “Sorry Cosmo, not this table tonight! Join another group – all us GEEKS don’t want to spoil your mojo” and turn away from him)
      “Look Cosmo, we need to talk. I get it, you like hanging with us… but we’re pretty serious trivia nerds and we’re kinda killing it here – it’s a bit like a sports team thing for us. Either you are in, and make a solid contribution, or we’ll need to find someone else. Sorry dude, but that’s how we came together. There’s other social teams – maybe join Felicity’s group over there – they seem to be here mostly for the chat and beer…”
      “Hey Cosmo, can we chat? This is kinda awkward because you are a nice guy, but there’s been some grumbling on the team – it’s a pretty serious trivia team and we’re struggling to keep doing well. We’ve chatted about you stepping back for a while and letting us get back into our stride, we really appreciate your cooperation on this” (note the lack of request…. ) and when he says he won’t be a bother just smile and say “Well, you’ll find we’re heads down tails up, sorry but it’s just not going to be very social for a while” and make sure there’s no chair for him at your table (move it far far away).

    1. Margaret (OP#1)*

      There always seem to be GoT references (which I don’t get) so I thought I’d throw in something I’d recognize!

  2. KarenT*

    #2 I agree with Alison that in that scenario the best course of actio is that the employer pay for the extra time off, but the federal government (fellow Canadian here, hello) is far more bureaucratic than reasonable.

      1. Canadian fed*

        I can. There are special leave codes for just this type of event. Managers can also advance sick leave to people who need more than they have banked (not always possible, but can be done in exceptional circumstances).

        The key is that the manager needs to actually, you know, use discretion and make a decision.

        1. Anonyna*

          Agreed. Canadian fed here too, and the manager *could* have allowed LW to perhaps use vacation time to cover this period, if the manager felt it was appropriate. There could have been other factors at play here that we aren’t privy to that made the manager decide leave without pay was the way to go. Or maybe the manager was being unreasonable and difficult, who knows?

          1. Monodon monoceros*

            Could have been a new/clueless manager as well. At my last job, it was really a crapshoot whether you would get help in situations like this, because some managers were experienced and/or good at exploring ways to find a solution, and some mangers were not. Sometimes the clueless managers could be “clued in” but it was then really up to the employee to come up with the solution and then hope the manager was open to the fix.

          2. Humble Schoolmarm*

            Could short-term disability have been used here? I think it could in my province, but I’m not sure if it’s available federally.

            1. StudentPilot*

              There’s no short term disability with the Canadian government sick leave, unfortunately. Since the leave is bankable, the plan only allows for long term disability, which starts….I think after 3 months, but I’m not entirely certain.

          3. OP#2*

            OP here. I was completely out of sick AND vacation leave (a lot of which I’d taken as sick leave) due to chronic migraines. IIRC, manager had previously advanced me some sick leave and didn’t want to “have” to do it again.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I agree; the employer should have paid for the second week. But mumps is also serious business, particularly
      for pregnant women. I can understand why your employer would want to assist your coworker in minimizing her risks of exposure, just because the consequences are so dire (even if they seem remote). I’m a bit torn because the other option may have been to give her the week off, paid, but I don’t know if that would have interfered with time she felt she needed to save for pregnancy-related care.

      Ugh, shouldn’t there be policies that cover potential public health threats? (I’m thinking of things like the nurse who contracted Ebola, or folks who were exposed and had to be quarantined for 21 days.) I guess I had hoped Canada handled those situations better than the States :(

      1. LittleRedRidingHu?*

        I competely agree with that situations like this should be the employers responsibility. I live in Germany and my daughter was working in a creche (Kindergarten) when she fell pregnant. Turns out that despite all her vaccininations up to date, she’s not immune to rubella…and a Kindergarten ist breeding ground for such illnesses. So her employer immediately put her on an so called “Beschäftigungsverbot” (working ban), so she needs to stay at home until the baby is born and her wages are paid by the health insurance. I am so thankful we have this system in place.

          1. Had Matter's Pea Tarty*

            I have to say, I love how you wrote ‘ist’ for is. And funnily enough, the first time I heard the word ‘kindergarten’ was an American cartoon; I think they use it more than crèche or nursery school.

            1. Myrin*

              Well, a crèche isn’t the same as a Kindergarten in Germany – a crèche (Krippe) is for very small children (even babies), a Kindergarten is for children age three and upwards. /totally inconsequential tangent but I thought you’d be interested

              1. Attractive Nuisance*

                In the US we only use crèche to describe a sculpted nativity scene! Nursery school used to be used to describe “school” for 3 or 4-year-olds, but we usually say “preschool” now. Whereas Kindergarten is part of the public school system and is the first year — before First Grade — that kids are in public school. Private or religious school typically is the same (with, i’m sure, many exceptions.)

              1. In the provinces*

                The German word “Kindergarten” is best translated into American English as “pre-school.” The American word “Kindergarten” is best translated into German as “Vorschule,” which means, literally, “pre-school.”

                1. Myrin*

                  And the “Vorschule” is actually the last year of Kindergarten! I don’t blame people for being confused.
                  (Also, thanks to this comment I now finally understand why I quite often see someone American refer to Kindergarten and then in the next sentence call it “school” and I’m just like “Huh? Kindergarten isn’t school, that’s the whole point!”. I get it now!)

                2. nonegiven*

                  I didn’t have Kindergarten available at my school, I started with 1st grade. A few years later my mom paid for my sister to go to Kindergarten at a private, well, we moved, so 2 private Kindergartens in different towns. By the time my son needed to start school, in the same town, he had half day Kindergarten in the public school. They had half go in the morning and half in the afternoon. I think they have all day Kindergarten, now.

        1. Some sort of Management Consultant*

          I’m Swedish and we also have some sort of “contagion sick pay” (smittbärarpenning) that would probably have come into play in the LW’s situation.

        2. Tricia*

          And had the employee needed to be off for more than 2 weeks, she could have received EI Sick benefits here in Canada. The issue was that EI doesn’t cover short term illnesses (2 weeks) or at least in 2010 it didn’t. Now there’s only a 1 week waiting period so it’s possible she may have been able to receive benefits should it happen in 2017.

        3. kms1025*

          Did anyone else chuckle at the phrase “fell pregnant”? I promise I am not trying to be unkind. Just made me grin :)

            1. Sylvia*

              I’ve heard it in TV shows from the UK. I’m American and I’ve wondered if we’re the odd ones who don’t use it. :)

            2. LittleRedRidingHu?*

              Nope, I’m half british, half German. So efficient in being an oddball in 2 languages. :)

            3. Natalie*

              I believe it is British English, so it would also be more commonly used in Commonwealth countries and Europe, which tend to break towards British English (as far as I understand) vs American English. It isn’t used in American English, although we do sometimes use “fall” in a similar way – fall silent, fall victim (to), fall ill.

              1. Purplesaurus*

                I think because I’m used to hearing “fall” used in that mostly victimized context, it makes the phrase “fell pregnant” seem funny to my American ear.

              2. nonegiven*

                I’ve never heard ‘fall’ pregnant from someone from the USA. Became pregnant, gotten pregnant, knocked up, never fell.

                1. Katie Sewell*

                  Ah, but we fall in love here.
                  I’ve just heard “caught feelings for [someone]” as an alternate description, which I think is pretty apt sometimes.

          1. Ramblin' Ma'am*

            I’ve seen that phrase in a lot of British novels. Maybe it’s common in Canada also.

      2. InkyPinky*

        There are policies but the OP may have also bumped into vaccination and public health-related policies. Mumps is highly contagious and largely preventable. At my employer (a large public hospital, also in Canada), it’s on you to get vaccinated. I don’t know if that came up, but the employer might have decided that the OP should have been vaccinated and thus it was their ‘fault’ that the situation happened. (Not necessarily fair, but I could see that unfolding.) Everyone is supposed to be vaccinated but it’s not mandatory. BUT if there’s an outbreak on your unit, you can’t come in to work and that’s on you. So I could see that factoring in here too.

        1. InkyPinky*

          And it wasn’t clear about the doctor’s stance. It sounded more iffy than a full-on ‘yes, go back to work.’ But on the whole, the employer could have been more helpful to the OP.

          OP, I’m wondering if you pushed back or explained to your employer what a hardship it would be?

          1. Chinook*

            And, if it was an iffy “go back to work” and the OP had run out of sick leave, I can totally see her wanting to go back. My question is, what would she have done if the doctor had told her to stay home because she was still contagious? It would have ended up with the same result but no one to blame.

            Also, I thought federal employees were covered by a union (PSAC?). OP, is there a reason you didn’t go to your union rep about this?

            As well, I impressed at the number of Canadian fed. employees offering you help despite you being part of payroll department (which is causing so many headaches). My first thought when you mentioned this problem was that it was a good thing it didn’t happen in the last year because your pay cheque would be messed up good if you tried to go on any type of leave.

        2. Rainy, PI*

          The mumps epidemic in the midwest in 2006(ish?) hit hard amongst the vaccinated–the figure I saw at the time said that about 2 in 3 people who got the mumps during that outbreak had had their full series of vaccinations.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          We actually don’t know if the OP was unvaccinated. There have been several mumps epidemics in Canada in which approximately 40% of those who contracted mumps had been properly vaccinated.

        4. Typhon Worker Bee*

          The OP says “Against all odds, I came down with a case of acute viral parotitis, also known as the mumps”. I took “against all the odds” to mean “despite being vaccinated”, but I might be wrong.

          1. nonegiven*

            When I was young, my cousin came down with mumps. It was before the vaccine was common. My sister and I brought her a glass of water and we each drank after her. We did it on purpose because she was out of school for 2 weeks. My sister got it. I didn’t. My mother got it on one side and then the other side. I never got mumps, I had to fetch and carry for my mother and sister.

        5. Chomps*

          Echoing what others have said above. It turns out that vaccines we thought were effective for life actually become less effective over time. In addition to the outbreak of measles in the Midwest, the increase in adults getting whooping cough is a result of the whooping cough vaccine become less effective over time.

          1. nonegiven*

            I think MMR, they decided if you had the vaccine too early you needed it again. Tetanus you need every 10 years. My doctor gives me pneumonia vaccine every 5 years even though the health department says you only need it once. I had shingles I in my 30s, I managed to get the vaccine out of my insurance company by writing a good letter with scientific papers cited that should have covered everyone over 50. Who knows how many times we’ll end up needing that one.

      3. blackcat*

        Also about the mumps: the vaccine is particularly ineffective. Among vaccinated individuals, immunity is only something like 80-85%. So if you’ve been vaccinated for both mumps and measles, and you’re exposed to both, you’re more likely to end up with mumps. And because pregnant people’s immune systems are compromised (don’t want that immune system attacking a fetus!), it’s probably even more likely that a previously vaccinated pregnant person comes down with mumps upon exposure.

        I got mumps two years ago, during an outbreak at my university. Of the 50 or so people who got mumps, all had been vaccinated, so this means probably hundreds were exposed. The disease does tend to be really mild in people who have been previously vaccinated. I didn’t realize that that was why my face was puffy until I got the email from the university of “if you have these symptoms, stay home and don’t use public transit.” But by the time I realized what was going on, I only had 1 or 2 more days of being contagious left. I had been taking the bus every day. Whoops.

        (Good news: having had mumps recently means that a potential future fetus I might carry will be more protected than it otherwise would have been.)

          1. blackcat*

            Yes! Particularly in populations (*cough millennials like me*) who are totally ignorant of the symptoms of things like mumps. I never had it! I never knew anyone who got it when I was growing up! So I just kept going along my merry way, having no idea I could be infecting people.

            It’s still weird to me that people just a couple of years younger than me all got vaccinated against chicken pox. And I may or may not be able to recognize chicken pox spots in someone–I was only 4 when I had it.

            1. Borne*

              The chicken pox vaccine is resulting in more cases of shingles, in younger adults, even children.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Isn’t that because shingles is always a secondary risk of having been exposed to chicken pox? Honestly, having had chicken pox as a child, I would take the risk of shingles (which is fairly low if inoculated, but increases with age and other stress/environmental factors) over the risk of contracting chicken pox as an adult.

                1. Borne*

                  Chicken pox is a very mild disease for children. Prior children being vaccinated, adults exposure to children having chicken pox gave them a natural booster staving off shingles.

                  Historically the elderly became susceptible to shingles due to having much less contact with children, at their age.

                  Nowadays more adults are getting shingles and at younger ages. This is being noticed by many, for example a pharmacist mentioning hearing of a lot more shingles cases than in the past.

                2. nonegiven*

                  I had chicken pox when I was 7, over Christmas vacation. I had shingles at 37. At least at 7 I could stay in bed and not have to do anything to run a household when I couldn’t wear clothes.

                  The highest incidence of shingles is in those 50-59. The vaccine is safe and effective in that age group and the incidence of shingles would be cut in half if routinely vaccinated at that age. Insurance companies apparently don’t care unless presented case by case.

              2. veggiewolf*

                This. My son is 24 and he’s now had shingles twice: once at 20, and then again a year later.

                The shingles vaccine can reduce recurrence of shingles by something like 70% (according to my pharmacist), but my son can’t find a doc who will administer it. He’s “too young”.

            2. Rainy, PI*

              I got a single mumps vaccine at the age of 11–it was never boosted, and in fact I’ve only had one vaccine since, because I have really severe vaccine reactions. I’ve been exposed twice that I know of–and one of those, my roommate had mumps and it had been so long since there’d been a case of mumps in that area, the campus clinic had no idea what it was. The other, I was a grad student and teaching during the midwestern (US) outbreak in 2006 or so, and half my students were out with mumps before anybody figured out what it was.

        1. Just Another Techie*

          I had all the usual childhood vaccinations, including MMR. When I was trying to conceive, my doctor did a blood test to check my immunity: no immunity to mumps or rubella. So I got the vaccine, and put all attempts at getting pregnant on hold until it had been long enough to re-test. Still no immunity! I had to get the dang vaccine three times before it took! So yeah, I sympathize a lot with LW, and think they should have gotten some pay, since it was likely not their fault, but I also agree with the decision to keep them home.

          1. AshleyH*

            I found out at my first prenatal appointment I have no immunity to mumps or rubella even though I was fully vaccinated and chicken pox even though I had it (albeit super mildly) as a baby. My doctor just said “stay away from people who have it” since you can’t get the vaccines while pregnant so…here’s hoping the herd immunity works!

    2. Paul*

      I suspect “far more buraeucratic than reasonable” is a near universal description.

      Yes, I did spend all afternoon pulling numbers for a gov’t grant.

    3. Sandy*

      I’m with the Canadian Feds, and I am of two minds on this.

      On one hand, with a normal employer,

    4. Sandy*

      Ugh my comment posted before it was supposed to.

      I am currently with the Canadian Feds, and I am of two minds on this.

      On one hand, with a normal employer, it might be expected that there be some gesture to try and compensate you for that time.

      On the other, the GoC is not a normal employer. Given that GoC employees get 15 days of paid sick leave a year, and it can be rolled over nearly indefinitely, your manager likely had an expectation that it was your responsibility to have some time in the bank, especially after ten years of service.

      Whether or not that is actually a reasonable expectation, the point should have been moot. I believe all of the collective agreements for the Government of Canada make a provision for almost 200 hours (25 days) to be advanced to you base don your manager’s discretion.

      It’s usually to the effect of something like this: “35.04 When an employee has insufficient or no credits to cover the granting of sick leave with pay under the provisions of clause 35.02, sick leave with pay may, at the discretion of the Employer, be granted to the employee for a period of up to one hundred and eighty-seven decimal five (187.5) hours, subject to the deduction of such advanced leave from any sick leave credits subsequently earned.” (that’s from the Program and Administrative Services (PA) group collective agreement)

      1. IRtheLaw*

        Agree 100%. As a US fed, I know it would be impossible to get my agency to pay me for leave outside of what I have accumulated. But I also wonder about anyone who is a “senior” anything and has zero sick leave to spare. Unless you have a condition requiring ongoing treatment and/or intermittent absences, or have just come off a major illness (or childbirth) – which I imagine LW would have mentioned – I have no idea how you run your sick leave all the way down unless it’s an overuse of the mental health day. I’ve been a fed for a little over two years, and have over a month’s worth of sick leave.

        1. StudentPilot*

          Well, in the Canadian government, ‘senior’ doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a higher level position. Additionally, our sick leave is accumulated by years of service sort of – each year we get 15 days, and any unused days are rolled over. I’ve been in the government for 8 years so I’ve got a ridiculous amount now, but someone in their first or second year, regardless of what position they have, wouldn’t have much.

          The way I’m reading the letter is that – as of this year, the OP has been in compensation for 10 years, so in 2010 when the incident occurred, she had only been in the government for 3 years, so she may not have had much leave banked.

          1. Tricia*

            Having dealt with a lot of new employees, I’d say that most people in year 1-2 of their employment actually bank much of their sick leave. Leave during training is frowned upon and most people who join the government aren’t used to the liberal leave policies so don’t take advantage of them.

          2. IRtheLaw*

            By my calculation, LW would have had a minimum of 3 years in federal service, which works out to 45 days of sick leave, or 9 weeks. That means they were using an average of 3 weeks per year, which still seems like a lot to me, chronic condition notwithstanding.

            As I said, I only have about 2 years in federal service and have over a month of leave banked. We accumulate at 4 hours every 2 weeks, which works out to 13 days per year.

        2. aebhel*

          Eh, I mean, I have a similarly generous sick leave policy at my job (state, not federal), and I’ve been at my current place of employment for 4 years, and I still only have a couple of weeks worth of sick time because I went out on maternity leave about a year into my job and that ate up everything I had banked, and then some. If OP has had to be out even intermittently for more than a couple of days at a time, plus a paid week off for the original illness, I could see this happening. I don’t think we need to assume that she was irresponsible with her sick time.

        3. Katie the Fed*

          I’m sorry, but this is incorrect. There are tools at our disposal for cases like this, like putting someone on paid administrative leave. It’s workable.

          It’s also unfair to assume that everyone should have leave banked. I dealt with the triple whammy of a dad who suffered a stroke, a major accident for myself, and now pregnancy. You don’t know other people’s circumstances.

          1. LCL*

            Yes, I think the manager at the time couldn’t be bothered to find out how to apply the leave policies in a way that fit the letter and intent of the rules and didn’t result in any loss of pay for OP.

          2. IRtheLaw*

            I mean, in theory yes, but it largely depends on your agency. Some are much better funded and able/willing to find solutions than others. But it’s never as easy as “Well they should just pay you for your leave!”

            And I’m also assuming that if there were a particular reason LW had zero leave time, they would have mentioned. It’s a pretty big thing to leave out, because I think it speaks very directly to their manager’s willingness to work with them in a case like this. It sounds like LW was not a good advocate for themselves in any sense.

        4. nonegiven*

          As you get older, you try to be careful taking sick leave, you have more things that can go sideways and often do.

          If the doctor says she isn’t contagious and the pregnant person’s doctor thinks she can’t risk it, then the pregnant person needs to be the one taking off. In Canada she has maternity leave for later, right? She can take her sick leave on doctor’s advice.

      2. Canadian fed*

        There’s also this clause from the PA agreement that would apply: “52.01 At its discretion, the Employer may grant: a) leave with pay when circumstances not directly attributable to the employee prevent his or her reporting for duty; such leave shall not be unreasonably withheld; b) leave with or without pay for purposes other than those specified in this Agreement.”

        It can be coded as “other leave” and I think the employee being instructed to stay home despite a clean bill of health would qualify. I imagine a similar clause is present in all collective agreements.

        1. Another Canadian fed*

          Yes, that’s exactly what I came here to post. I’ve been in multiple occupational groups, and they all have clauses allowing sick leave at the employer’s discretion.

        2. DArcy*

          The employee did not have a clean bill of health. The employee was past the period of *maximum infection risk*, but was still infected and potentially infectious.

          1. Daisygrrl*

            We don’t know at what point the LW was diagnosed, nor exactly what the doctor said and when (ex: if symptoms started on a Friday afternoon, diagnosed Monday, then that’s 9 days away, and getting to the tail end of the contagious period). I think we should take the LW at her word, which is that she was told to stay home for 1 week and then could return to work.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              On the other hand, the doctor said she was not *likely* to be contagious, not that she was definitely past the period when she could be. So even taking the LW at her word doesn’t mean that DArcy was wrong when she said that OP was *potentially* infectious.

      3. AdAgencyChick*

        I don’t think OP had been working for them for 10 years at that point — she says she has ten years of experience working for them now, but the incident happened in 2010.

      4. Mike C.*

        I think it’s kind of weird to be immediately dismissing the main reason people might not have a lot of time banked. Especially when you start to consider the health of family members as well.

        1. Chinook*

          Having lived in Ottawa, the best way to get a federal government job is to a) be English/French bilingual (preferably Quebecois French, at least in Ottawa) and b) start with a temp agency that is used by the government. Getting in to the system is really hard but, once you are in, it can be a really stable career path.

          Though, if you google “Phoenix Pay Roll Canada” you may end up rethinking applying.

          1. StudentPilot*

            I changed departments a year ago….I’m still waiting for my pay files to be transferred, and to receive my correct pay. :/

    5. always in email jail*

      I work for a state government agency, and we sign an understanding that if there’s an outbreak of certain vaccine-preventable diseases that you have not demonstrated immunity to (through a blood test or vaccination record), and you do not want a vaccine, that you may be asked to stay home during those outbreaks for your own health and the health of others. Part of signing is acknowledging that you will have to use leave or take the time off without pay.

      1. Tricia*

        Also work for the CDN Feds and I have to say that since we get 15 days of sick a year (that can be rolled over) and the doctor said she “not likely contagious any more” not that she wasn’t absolutely not contagious, it’s her responsibility to cover the sick leave. There is a provision that allows managers to advance sick leave credits. If her manager decided not to, there’s a good chance that there was a pattern of sick leave absences already which made it unlikely that the OP would be able to earn back the sick leave advance without needing to continue to use more sick leave. The one benefit to working for the feds is the liberal leave policies (3 weeks sick, 3 weeks of annual to start with more earned with seniority, family related leave, personal and volunteer leave); I have little sympathy for people who run out of leave in these cases (baring a long term illness but then there’s EI and disability).

        1. Kelly*

          Three weeks of sick leave when you have a chronic but not long term illness isn’t as much sick leave as people thing. It’s fine to say that it’s enough when you’re healthy but as someone who works with a chronic illness that does cause me to need two days off a month sometimes etc…it adds up fast.

          1. IRtheLaw*

            Yeah, but I imagine if the LW had a chronic or long term illness that had caused them to run their sick leave down, they would have mentioned. Instead, it was just “against all odds” that they contracted the mumps, which to me makes me think they are a generally healthy person.

          2. nonegiven*

            My husband had intestinal trouble that lost him a week of sick leave. He won’t take me to have my eyes dilated because he has only a week of sick leave left. I’ll probably have to spend the night with my sister when my yearly exam is due, yet, I’ll have to drive him when his is due.

    6. Jaybeetee*

      I’m with the Canadian Feds as well, and I’m a bit surprised to see a scenario where no paid leave of any kind was available. I have several family members in the Fed as well, and the running joke is that you can take something like three months of paid leave, using various leave codes, before you start running into LWOP. (I don’t know if that’s literally true, but it was a family joke). You start with two weeks of sick and three weeks of vacation, but you also get a couple of personal days, a “volunteer” day, long-term disability, leave with income averaging, and a host of others I can’t think of right now. A decent HR person would have found a way to get her the time off paid.

      On a side note, my mother’s (a fed employee) downstairs neighbour (also a middle-aged fed employee with lots of seniority – therefore lots of leave) a few years back was a basket case who constantly complained that my mother made too much noise – complaints like her watching TV late at night, her cats running around, etc. She started complaining that she was missing work due to lack of sleep, and at one point this culminated in a written threat to sue for “lost wages” due to missing work due to lack of sleep due to “all the noise” my mother was making. Among the various crazy things about this, one was that she had written figures in the thousands of dollars for missed work, approximately halfway into the fiscal year. That is, this lady would have had to burn through *all* her (substantial, by her level and seniority) sick leave, *all* her (also substantial) vacation leave, *all* other types of paid leave, then taken so much LWOP that she was somehow thousands of dollars in the hole. About halfway into the fiscal year – she would have had to basically never go to work. Yeah, that didn’t go anywhere (the story ended a couple months later, when she literally skipped out on rent and moved in the middle of the night – apparently the landlord wasn’t even upset, he was so relieved to be rid of her).

  3. namelesscommentater*

    2. I would push back on requests like this. A doctor cleared you as not contagious, in the same way that immune
    compromised persons cannot expect unreasonable measures to be taken before they remove themselves from the situation, this was highly unfair to you.

    5. Document attempts to contact them – it will help you, and keep an eye out for your W4 from them when teh time comes to make sure it is accurate and you are not paying taxes on returned money. I would also check if some is vacation payout. I had an unexpected direct deposit after resigning that I thought was them messing up but in actuality was my accrued vacation and sick time that just happened to be my normal paycheck ammount. It was the same HR that didn’t pay me for six weeks, so the fact it wasn’t a mess-up was quite refreshing!

    1. DArcy*

      That’s not how mumps works, namelesscommentater. The period of *maximum* infectiousness is roughly five to eight days and that’s what the recommended one week isolation period is based on, but the infection remains active for some time after that. The coworker’s request is perfectly reasonable: “Because my pregnancy makes me exceptionally vulnerable, I’d like to request that the sick worker stay out of the office until the infection has fully run its course, not just dropped below the maximum danger period.”

      1. Paul*

        I mean, if a licensed medical practitioner that was handling his infection said he was good to go, that’s enough for me. They knew more about his illness than us internet commentators.

        1. Bex*

          It depends on how much information the doctor had though. If the OP told the doctor that a women in the office had a high risk pregnancy, then the doctor’s recommendation might have been different.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            The current advice regarding the quarantine period for mumps is 5-8 days (with most agencies advising 5 days). I don’t think that recommendation changes based on someone else’s medical condition.

            But even if that did make a difference, if you’re immune-compromised beyond the standard, CDC/WHO/Canadian-equivalent guidelines for the mumps quarantine period, then the immune-compromised person should take leave for those extra days, not the person who has complied with public health advice and been cleared by a physician .

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              That’s the issue I have with this whole situation. The person who was no longer considered “sick” by her doctor had to take unpaid medical leave. The person who did actually have a health-related condition didn’t have to.

              1. InkyPinky*

                Well, it’s not clear how non-contagious the person was, and it didn’t state that the doctor had fully cleared the OP. Being pregnant is also a fairly routine ‘condition’, and part of the normal course of life for many women. So it’s not the same as having an immuno-compromised long-term condition, and there is sometimes less onus on a pregnant woman to continually rearrange her life for the pregnancy.

                The employer could have been worried about running afoul of pregnancy protection laws too.

                Or maybe that coworker was on a really important project that couldn’t be put on hold and the OP wasn’t in the same position or something.

                1. Natalie*

                  It’s not entirely clear, but I got the impression that the problem was that this was a high-risk pregnancy, not a routine pregnancy. In that situation, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect the person with the medical condition (i.e. the high-risk-ness) to be the person rearranging their life.

                  That said, if they had just paid the LW for the week I doubt the LW would have cared that much, so that’s the bigger issue.

          2. Thegs*

            Yeah, this. When I got my smallpox vaccine, I was “non-contagious”, but I was also told to avoid pregnant women, babies, and the immunocompromised for a month after getting the vaccine. Non-contagious doesn’t always mean you cannot infect others.

            1. DArcy*

              Non-contagious in that context is, “The risk of transmission to a healthy adult is relatively low.” It doesn’t actually mean you have a totally clean bill of health.

        2. MommyMD*

          I’m a physician and would never clear a patient with mumps to be non contagious after a week. If the LW did not keep up with current vaccine recommendations, the onus is on him. Nevertheless, once he contacted his serious contagious illness, it’s on him to stay home until the threat has passed. Workplace was absolutely correct.

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            If you’re a physician, you’re presumably aware that mumps can be contagious even in vaccinated communities.

                1. Mike C.*

                  She brought up the suggestion several times without evidence, it comes across as an accusation.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            You don’t know that OP was not vaccinated. Their statement that “against all odds” they contracted mumps indicates that either they were vaccinated or living/working in a heavily vaccinated community. Would your advice be different if OP had been vaccinated and acquired mumps, anyway?

            1. Jeanne*

              Please read it again. MommyMD said IF not vaccinated and then nevertheless, showing the advice would be the same either way.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I did read it. She posted several comments last night accusing OP of being unvaccinated, and we simply do not know if OP is vaccinated or unvaccinated. The “nevertheless” presumes that 5 days is too short for clearance, but that’s the prevailing advice from lead public health agencies. So I’m pushing back on two issues: (1) Should the advice change if someone is vaccinated?, and (2) How should an employer resolve tension regarding health issues when someone has complied with prevailing public health protocols and has been cleared to return to work?

            2. Gaia*

              Correct. Vaccines are not 100% effective which is why it is so important that everyone who can be vaccinated is vaccinated to increase herd immunity. I took the “against all odds” to mean that the OP was vaccinated but contracted anyway (possibly because herd immunity is decreasing due to lower vaccination rates, possibly just really bad luck).

          3. Rookie Manager*

            I caught mumps despite having all the recommend vaccinations*. I was working with a group of children who did not all have their vaccinations because of stupid scare stories and turns out I really needed that herd immunity. It was horrible and being personally blamed for it would not have helped. As a doctor it would be helpful if you didn’t make such sweeping statements.
            *I’ve since begged for, and received, top up vaccinations for other ‘childhood illnesses’ so I don’t go through a similar thing again.

              1. blackcat*

                My university, too. And they are super strict about students being vaccinated upon arrival (both undergrads and grads like me)

                They were quite insistent on giving me the chicken pox vaccine, since I had not had it as a child. Well, I *had the chicken pox* before the vaccine was being widely used. I remember having the chicken pox! But they insisted that, since that wasn’t documented in my medical records (I wasn’t that sick, so my mom just kept me at home and let it run its course), that it didn’t “count.” I finally got my lawyer mom to write up an affidavit attesting that I did indeed have the chicken box in 1992.

                (University health rules are designed around undergrad populations, and it would be reasonable to expect the undergrads–who were born in the mid-late 90s at the time–would have been vaccinated. Not so for those of us from the 80s!)

                1. Rainy, PI*

                  I had to get my titres checked at the campus health clinic because my parents’ quack had the medical records of all underage patients destroyed when they turn 21 and I had literally no record of having received any vaccines whatsoever, and have developed vaccine reactions to the point where it’s dangerous for me to get jabs, so I couldn’t just be re-vaccinated. I hadn’t been vaccinated for any of the stuff they checked for in over 15 years and the bloodwork showed that I still had perfect immunity.

            1. sssssssssss*

              Some studies have shown that despite being fully vaccinated for mumps, measles and rubella as per the current schedule, the mumps part wanes considerably leading to outbreaks in university aged populations. They’re not quite sure why that is. Based on that, I plan to pay for a MMR booster before my kids attend college/university. I got booster myself for the MMR when my son got his shot at 6 because I had started volunteering with Scouts and wanted to cover my bases.

              I also got another whooping cough shot a couple of years ago as I found out that the vaccine had been tweaked and again, since volunteering with kids, I decided it was in my and their best interest to be up to date.

              1. blackcat*

                I do not know why it is not standard to give adults the whooping cough booster, given that it is standard to give the tetanus booster through adulthood. Whooping cough is terrible (my brother nearly died from it when he was too young to get the vaccine), and immunity wanes significantly.

                It is, however, now standard to vaccinate 3rd trimester pregnant people against whooping cough, as some immunity is passed to the fetus.

                My philosophy is like yours: I want ALL THE VACCINES. Give me EVERYTHING that is safe and even possibly a good idea. Because immunity wanes, and there are crazy people who refused to vaccinate out there!

                1. Kathleen Adams*

                  I understood that it *IS* standard to give the whooping cough booster at the same time you get the tetanus booster. (The two diseases are apparently very closely related.) That’s at least what I was told by my doctor’s office when I checked to make sure I had been vaccinated against whooping cough before meeting my new baby nephew – that when I got my tetanus booster, I got a whooping cough booster in the same injection.

                2. blackcat*

                  There are two tetanus boosters, one with whooping cough included and one without. Many insurance companies won’t cover the one with whooping cough for non-pregnant adults, though it is given to children and teens without extra cost (thanks, Obamacare).

                  I looked into this when a friend had a baby. My insurance absolutely would not pay for a TDaP–the vaccine with whooping cough. It would have been $300 out of pocket at the doctor (worth it if I was going to be living with a baby, not really for a friend’s baby). But my local health department happily gave it to me for $20.

                3. Natalie*

                  @ blackcat, from what I could find, pertussis is included in the list of adult vaccines insurance companies have to cover, although they can require you to see an in-network provider. I’m not sure if this covers employer-provided insurance, though, maybe that’s why you had problems?


                4. Karen K*

                  I was vaccinated against both whooping cough and tetanus when I went in to the local urgent care to get a minor wound stitched up.

                5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  @blackcat, when my insurer didn’t want to cover the TDaP booster (pre-ACA), I went to the County Department of Public Health and was able to obtain a booster for $15 (which would have been the cost of my copay). I’m not saying that to negate your experience—just noting that in some areas there are relatively affordable ways to access the vaccine even when your insurer is being a jerk.

                6. blackcat*

                  @PCBH, yep, that’s what I ultimately did, too. $20 from the health department. They seemed happy to have someone show up and say “Vaccines! I want vaccines!” This was in an area with relatively low vaccination rates.
                  And now I have remembered that this experience was also pre-ACA (not pre-ACA being passed, but before it went into effect, which is why I was confused).

                7. Chomps*

                  I actually think it is standard to give adults the whooping cough booster now. The last time I got a tetanus shot it was the TDaP. Tetanus, something I don’t know, and Pertussis (aka whooping cough). The old shot was just the first two or just tetanus, I’m not sure which.

                8. zaracat*

                  In Australia, the main reason whopping cough was dropped from the adult vaccination recommendations (ADT instead of triple antigen) was that it has a higher rate of adverse reactions than the other components and the risk of contracting the disease was believed to be low. Serological testing has since showed that whooping cough due to waning immunity was much more common in adults than was previously believed. There is now a specific adult formulation of the vaccine, which can be given either as a single catch-up or as a combined vaccine. Not sure what the situation is in USA/Canada

              2. Borne*

                The reason the mumps vaccine wanes so quickly it that is the most ineffective vaccine created.

                The manufacturer committed fraud to get the mumps vaccine approved. A couple of their senior scientists are currently involved in a court case accusing the manufacturer of the fraud. They have the documentation etc. to prove the fraud.

                The reason the measles, mumps & rubella vaccines were created were for commercial reasons, i.e. money. Parents and patients weren’t begging for a vaccine to prevent these diseases.

                They admitted, for example that the reason the measles vaccine was created is that it could be done. Similar to a climber climbing Mount Everest because it is there. It was not necessary to create a measles vaccine, just as it is not necessary for anyone to climb Mount Everest.

                Both mumps & rubella are mild diseases, often so mild that one doesn’t even know one had it. Many people have tested positive for mumps & rubella even though they (or their parents) can’t recall them having had the illness. As the mumps vaccine is so ineffective and wanes so quickly it it is actually making boys from puberty onwards more susceptible to mumps when it can be worse for them than if they had it as young children – giving them proper life time immunity.

          4. Mike C.*

            That’s great and all, but the OP isn’t your patient. Unless you want to go so far as to accuse their doctor of malpractice you need to accept that the OP was acting under professional medical advice and it would be a little crazy if said advice didn’t take into account the fact that pregnant and immunocompromised people exist.

            Furthermore, the OP said that this happened years ago. Have you taken into account that maybe the OP was being given the best advice for the time and place but as conditions have changed or knowledge has been gained that the advice has improved over time?

            1. paul*

              yeah, the amount of people second guessing a damned doctor who saw the patient is blowing my mind. Holy crap.

      2. namelesscommentater*

        I think a physician’s advice trumps people’s feelings (and it’s unclear if the coworker wanted OP to stay at home, or if her physician recommended she not be exposed to OP). Either way, the risk of contagion had obviously diminished to acceptable levels for the workplace.

        The coworker should be the one to remove themselves from the office. It’s absolutely ridiculous for OP to be expected to stay at home when they had an explicit medical okay from a doctor.

        1. Devil Fish*

          Yeah, I have an autoimmune disorder so I can’t be around shit like that. Which means if someone has an illness that’s potentially dangerous to me, it’s my responsibility to stay home and take the financial hit and/or use my sick/vacation time to cover it.

          1. InkyPinky*

            It wasn’t clear that the medical ok was explicit. I read that as a ‘should be fine’ not ‘is definitely fine and there are no issues’, but maybe it was the OP’s wording. But nothing about an actual doctor’s note certifying/clearing the OP.

            1. paul*

              I don’t think I’ve *ever* gotten a statement from a doctor that didn’t have some wiggle room, so that doesn’t really stand out for me, at all.

              1. InkyPinky*

                But in this case it’s a contagious disease that’s reportable to public health, so there’s significantly less wiggle room about it. I would find it very odd if a doctor left that much wiggle room.

      3. Freakonomics fan*

        #2: I disagree with AAM’s comment to the effect “this is a tough one.” This isn’t tough at all: LW should not take a week off without pay, and –if anyone must — the pregnant coworker should be the one to take the week off without pay. Now, I agree that we can be sympathetic to pregnant coworker, but that doesn’t make the call tough. The coworker ultimately chose to become pregnant (or, at best, chose not to use protection when she could have done and has chosen to proceed with the pregnancy), so she should internalize the costs of her own decision.

            1. Pontoon Pirate*

              Mookie’s been here a while. I think they were just making a facetious reference to “Freakonomics fan’s” Nom de Internet.

        1. N.J.*

          Are you really suggesting that it somehow is the pregnant coworker’s moral duty to shoulder the cost of a week out because she dares to be a breeder? Making a moral judgement about who should take the time off because the medical condition the coworker is subject to (pregnancy) is the function of personal choice is problematic at best and offensive at worst. It doesn’t matter what the coworker’s condition is. The coworker could have an inherited autoimmune disorder, could be undergoing chemotherapy for cancer etc. etc. While I wholeheartedly agree that after that first week it was the coworker’s responsibility to stay home to avoid our OP with mumps, your particular logic as to why is deeply troubling and deeply offensive. I’m not pregnant, never have been, but as a woman I would caution you that your reasoning is what contributes to the idea that women can’t function in the workplace or don’t deserve to be there, as some sort of penance for our biology. As well, the odd parenthetical aside that moralizes about whether or not the coworker got pregnant on purpose or had a birth control malfunction or played Russian roulette with her fertility by not using protection is neither germane to any of this comment thread nor is it constructive. It’s the exact opposite and gets lumped in with my earlier comment of deeply troubling and deeply offensive. I understand that you may have meant this comment in a different tone, but what I’m getting from what you wrote is the above.

          1. Rookie Manager*

            Exactly! I started typing a reply earlier but couldn’t articulate myself properly. N.J. you have said exactly what I was thinking. Thank you.

          2. Zona the Great*

            I do understand your reaction but you truly don’t see any other tone than an ugly one? I mean, I think the solution could be a meeting in the middle but I didn’t see F.F.’s comment to be wildly shocking. Just unpopular.

            1. N.J.*

              Freakonomics commented on why someone would be pregnant and basically said because the coworker is pregnant everything is on her, because it is a condition she chose. A constructive comment could have highlighted any of the below topics:

              -our current cultural tendency to put pregnancy on a pedestal and revere the idea of maternity and how that may have structured the OP’s situation
              –a discussion theme on the onus of taking time off to prevent illness is on the shoulders of the party that is worried about getting exposed
              –personal anecdotes that may be related to a similar type of situation

              I also allowed for the fact that freakonomics might have meant this comment in another way but told this commenter what their written commentary was demonstrating as a view. It’s deeply troublesome and I stand by that comment. I did not use name calling, ad hominem attacks, foul language or all caps so I believe I provided the comment in a constructive, if openly disapproving manner. I fail to see how detailing the extremely problematic nature of the tone, content and messaging of freakonomics’ comment is so far out of left field or unnecessarily reading an ugly tone into the comment.

              1. Renegade Grad Student*

                “a discussion theme on the onus of taking time off to prevent illness is on the shoulders of the party that is worried about getting exposed”

                Er, that’s exactly what “internalizing costs” means (to economists, anyway). This thread *is* ultimately about who should bear the costs of pregnancy. It’s true that in some case, we externalize those costs, such as with FMLA. But in this case the person bearing the costs is the coworker who came down with mumps. It seems to me that there are three solutions:
                – Externalize the costs generally — have the company and its shareholders bear them. That’s probably the ideal solution (and also one that OP mentioned when s/he talked about “if anyone has to lose vacation time). But LW said that the employer was not open to this approach (refusing to let anyone work from home, etc.)
                – Externalize the costs more narrowly, such as having other employees contribute vacation days. That’s problematic for reasons that have often been discussed on AAM (employees will take the view that “my vacation days are mine” which would be well-justified)
                – Externalize the costs on the employee who had mumps. I think it’s completely wrong that someone who was living paycheck to paycheck had to suffer from this situation
                – Externalize the costs on the pregnant employee. Well, it *is* true that choosing to become a parent entails making some sacrifices

                And speaking as an economist, we don’t deal in “personal anecdotes” – we tend to prefer data!!!

                1. N.J.*

                  This discussion thread deals with personal anecdotes. Speaking about internalizing/externalizing costs and the particular intricacies of those decisions in this situation is interesting and helpful. Freakonomics chose to specifically make a moral judgement about whether the costs of pregnancy should be internalized or externalized based on some pretty deep seated issues with pregnancy as a condition and the fact that many people choose to become pregnant. My suggestion of a discussion theme was an attempt to put this commenter’s problematic viewpoint in some sort of constructive framework. Based on their personal opinion of pregnancy, it seems that Freakonomics’ might be a proponent of internalizing costs. You have chosen to construct your viewpoint based on a perceived value of data in the decision making process to internalize/externaluze costs. Commenter handle aside, Freakonomics didn’t make an economics driven argument, a personal experience based argument, a data based argument etc. They made a comment based on a disturbing moral calculus. Yes, pregnancy and parenthood, I would imagine, involve a ton of sacrifice. And?? So do many other hralgh concerns, diseases and medical conditions, chosen or unchosen. You seem to be suggesting that Freakonomics’ comment was based in some sort of logical framework common to economics. I do t see it that way, but your points about internalization/externalizations of costs are interesting and one of several valid frameworks for examine the whole situation.

                2. N.J.*

                  I also want to point out that the use of “Er” at the beginning of your comment and the several exclamation points at the end of your last statement related to speaking as an economist seem to be honed in on the value proposition that an economic framework is the preferred or most correct framework for analyzing this situation and directly discount my suggestion of personal anecdotes as a more constructive commenting approach than moralizing about pregnancy. This is an advice blog which is based to a large extent on people sharing their personal experiences (anecdotes) and how those have shaped their interactions in the working works, so I’m surprised that someone would think they have no value.

                  I assume that you were trying to place the original comment from Freakonomics in a more geraluzed framework of economic decision making or picked up on general themes from ecomnomics that are helpful here, but why the discounting of my suggestion and the assumption that Freakonomics was approaching this from the same standpoint as you?

                3. Renegade Grad Student*

                  @NJ, so when it comes to pregnancy, you don’t like data and prefer personal anecdotes. Maybe you think the same way about teaaching creationism in schools, or climate change denial, or opting out of vaccinations (“we don’t need no stinkin’ data, my beliefs are all that matters”)?

                  As the saying goes, “the plural of anecdote isn’t data.” We look for data because that’s what the scientific method, which has proven its value for advancing human knowledge and decision-making since the Renaissance, demands! We look for data because we don’t want to end up roasting the planet or teaching kids that Adam and Eve walked with the dinosaurs!!! (Exclamation points deliberately added this time, since they seem to the Mark of an Economist.)

                  So yeah, when it comes to making policy judgments, I absolutely devalue telling war stories ’round the virtual campfire vis-a-vis real data. Now, I don’t disagree that values ultimately inform what we do with data. If you’re a nihilist, I suppose “screw the planet” is an appropriate response to climate change data. But yes, most economists probably favor internalizing externalities.

            2. N.J.*

              I will add a further comment. Freakonomics’ tone is shocking because of his or her moralizing and the concrete message that the particular condition the coworker has is of her own making and therefore places all burden upon her. I agree with you that pregnancy is treated as somehow special and therefore opinions against it msybedeemed categorically unpopular. It gets placed in this weird haloed box of motherhood and it can make it difficult to distinguish between a well formed critical opinion that is being shot down because everyone is gaga over babies and and an opinion that is malinformed, rooted in societal trends of deep and inexplicable mysogyny (one the one hand motherhood is revered, on the other a pregnant person is somehow viewed as deficient and incapable of functioning or belonging in the workplace, which is where manly men do manly things (sarcasm obviously)). Getting to the point, freakonomics’ comment was problematic due to all the things I described in my previous comments and this one.

              1. Merci Dee*

                I never thought about it until your comment about motherhood being beatified on one hand and reviled on the other, but you’re right. It’s like the ultimate expression of the madonna/whore complex. A woman is put on a pedestal in one moment for being a good girl and following her instincts into motherhood … But the next moment, people mutter under their breath about how she can’t do this or that or the other because she went and got herself knocked up. And the evidence that she’s engaging in that filthy sex stuff is impossible to hide.

                In general, another fine example of being damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.

                1. aebhel*

                  I don’t even know that it’s just a madonna/whore thing (although there are definitely shades of that); I think some people take the concept of personal responsibility to an absurd and impractical length, so that if there’s anything you could have done to prevent a thing, then it’s all on you and you have no right to ask for any accommodations at all.

                  (Mind, I think in this case the accommodations should not have included OP staying out on sick leave and taking a financial hit, but that doesn’t mean that the pregnant coworker shouldn’t have been accommodated. Just that management should have figured out a better solution.)

                2. Chinook*

                  And here I thought I respect and protect pregnant women because they are literally helping to further propagate the species and ensure our survival. Turns out I am just expressing a Madonna/whore complex? Silly me.

                3. aebhel*

                  @Chinook, if you ‘respect and protect’ pregnant women to the point that you forget to treat them like equals or human beings rather than deified baby machines, then yes, you’re propagating a madonna/whore complex.

                  If you just, like, offer to carry heavy things or give up your seat on the subway, you’re fine. Does that help?

                4. Emi.*

                  I agree with aebhel–and in particular, it’s the dark underbelly of “my body, my choice.” It’s not insane that some people go “Oh, okay, your choice then.” (I think they’re wrong, but they’re not coming out of nowhere.)

              1. N.J.*

                The thread nesting is making it impossible for me to tell if your reply is to one of my comments or not??

                1. LBK*

                  No, I was replying to Zona’s seeming assertion that because FF’s comment was made in a straightforward tone rather than a nasty one, that meant the accompanying sentiment couldn’t also be nasty.

              2. N.J.*

                Thanks LBK, I wasn’t sure who the comment was for and wanted to make sure I responded ifmeant for me.

          3. CityMouse*

            I had a coworker with a preemie who I shared some space Witt and in was extra cautious when I got sick with strep because unwanted to avoid exposing him so he would not miss out on time with his kid. He had already used a lot of leave when she was born and my experience with parents us that sick leave can be wiped out by.the combination of maternity time and then normal kid illnesses.

          4. Mom of Two*

            There was a letter a while ago in which the boss was taking chemo and kept expecting staff members with every little sneeze and throat tickle to take time off so she could keep coming in to work. It wasn’t reasonable of her to expect that. This is no different. Allowing pregnancy to turn the issue into a moral battlefield is useless.

            The pregnant woman was concerned for her health above and beyond a physician’s recommendation for normal public disease management, thus the financial and practical onus should have been on her to manage her own care.

            1. AMPG*

              I agree. When I was pregnant I thought I might have been exposed to TB by someone visiting our office (this turned out not to be the case, luckily). I obviously used my own sick leave for the extra testing my OB recommended and would have used it if I had to avoid this person at the office while they were in town. I think that’s pretty logical.

          5. BigJlittlej*

            Yep. This is the same logic that people use to argue that people who have children shouldn’t get any leave – that it was their choice to have a child so why should the employer/taxpayers/society subsidize it? This attitude is highly problematic for many reasons, not the least of which is that it leads to the marginalization of women in the workplace.

        2. Coming Up Milhouse*

          Except forcing the pregnant worker to take a week off would be considered discriminatory.

          1. kms1025*

            I don’t read this as she was being forced. If her objections, in spite of doctors clearance, were so deeply rooted…she (the pregnant co-worker) had the choice to stay home. The person who had been cleared for work never should have been forced to stay home.

            1. LBK*

              Not sure about Canada, but in the US the EEOC prevents you from compelling a pregnant employee to take leave as long as they’re still able to perform their job duties. I don’t know if that covers forcing someone to take leave due to pregnancy-related immunosensitivity, but I’d imagine it probably would.

              1. aebhel*

                I don’t think that’s really the same thing; the employer wouldn’t be forcing the pregnant employee to stay home, but allowing them the option of staying home if they didn’t feel comfortable working with a coworker who might be contagious, despite having been cleared by a doctor (if OP hadn’t been cleared, I’d feel differently). Ideally, there would be some way to arrange so that OP and the pregnant person were not in the same space, but that’s not always going to be possible.

                I had a similar situation with my first pregnancy; a coworker had shingles, and my boss gave me the option of staying home if I didn’t feel comfortable working in close proximity. Ultimately, I decided not to (and was fine), but it would not have been my coworker’s responsibility to stay home after the doctor cleared her to return to work.

                1. LBK*

                  Right, the manager could’ve given her the option to do so, but if she said “No, I don’t want to stay home for a week,” I think she wins that argument, legally speaking.

                2. aebhel*

                  She wins the argument, but I don’t think there’s a provision for forcing someone else to stay home for a week, either. IANAL, though.

                3. LBK*

                  If the employee is non-exempt, you can definitely compel them to stay home and take the time unpaid. It’s dicier if they’re exempt, since you can’t dock someone’s salary for illness – I can’t find great guidance about how that situation would work.

                4. Steve*

                  @LBK if you do force an exempt employee to stay home, can you deduct from their vacation time against their will? Given that vacation time is not required to be offered?

                5. LBK*

                  @Steve – Yes, if they have paid time off available you can compel an exempt employee to stay home and dock their PTO (I know that, for instance, some offices do this on days the office is closed, even for scheduled closures like holidays). But I’m not sure what happens when they run out of PTO – I believe you’d be able to dock them an entire week if they don’t work at all, but it would have to coincide with your company’s defined work week.

          2. Starbuck*

            Forcing her? She was the one who forced OP to stay home! She could have chosen to take the week off (and I think she should have). It’s wildly unreasonable to expect the OP to personally shoulder a cost of her being medically sensitive.

          3. krysb*

            Who would have been forcing her? She would have had the option. If she’s afraid that the doctor-released sick person would make her sick, she has the option to stay home or go to work.

        3. Gaia*

          First of all, we do not know that she “chose to be pregnant, or chose not to use protection or has chosen to proceed with the pregnancy” All of those may be outside of the choices the coworker is able to make for a variety of reasons.

          Sometimes when someone has a medical condition that makes them more vulnerable (as a high risk pregnancy does) we, as a society, have to take actions to help protect them because their own actions cannot do so on their own. We do this every day in a myriad of ways. That is what makes this so difficult. It isn’t really 100% either party’s fault or responsibility.

          FWIW, this is coming from someone who has never and will never have kids and who regularly resents the preferential treatment parents sometimes get in workplaces.

          1. Here we go again*

            “Sometimes when someone has a medical condition that makes them more vulnerable (as a high risk pregnancy does) we, as a society, have to take actions to help protect them because their own actions cannot do so on their own.”

            I strongly disagree. Your own health is 100% your responsibility. Pregnant or not, there are no guarantees of your health and safety at any time. You can pick up any number of diseases just by going to the grocery store or going to get the mail. Yes, there are things people around you should do **as recommended by a medical professional**, but anything above and beyond that falls on the person who has the medical concern.

            1. Gaia*

              Of course it is your own responsibility but we also protect others. This is done in countless ways every day and pregnancy is no different.

            2. N.J.*

              This logic could be used though, please correct me if I’m wrong, to deny a lot of the legal accommodations we have in place for individuals with medical issues or even disabilities. For example-you are physically handicapped and need closer parking or a ramp to enter the building? Too bad, your health (and by extension abilities) are on you to accommodate. Also for example–you develop a chronic illness that has flare ups that need to be managed with time off and doctor’s appointments? No FMLA for you, your health is your own responsibility. Injured on the job? Too bad, no short term/long term disability for you?

              I get that you are only talking about a person’s direct heath and exposure to contagion, and whether it is logical to accommodate the coworker with the high risk pregnancy beyond the initial contagion period, but the logical conclusion of your argument is that we as a society, and by extension companies, are not responsible for accommodating a person’s health needs. That just isn’t true, neither in a practical nor a moral nor a legal sense. The company does have some duty to accommodate the pregnant coworker, probably in a certsin number of legal contexts even, just as they would need to accommodate an employee with, for instance, a peanut allergy who can’t be exposed to the tiniest amount of nut.

              1. Here we go again*

                Well, let me rephrase my original comment because I can see where your conclusion comes from. We as a society do have an obligation… We as individuals do not. The employer has a responsibility to accommodate the pregnant coworker by allowing her to stay home or work from home or whatever to make her feel safe. The no-longer contagious employee does not.

                1. N.J.*

                  I’ll agree with that to a large extent. Yes, the collective responsibility is very different from the individual one. Though the situation like the OP’s comes up when the collective responsibility is in conflict with how that impacts individual responsibility and it does make it difficult to move forward. I would support an employer doing something like paying the OP or the pregnant coworker to stay home for the extra week, because that fulfills the collective duty while compensating for the individual impact.

                2. Emi.*

                  Are you saying that the employer has to act for the collective, but not any individual employees? What if it’s a small business and the employer is an individual? I don’t understand how you can posit a collective responsibility without individual responsibilities for members of the collective.

                3. Here we go again*

                  I don’t think the employer trying to accommodate one individual should trump another individual’s needs or rights.

                  I don’t think the pregnant person’s need for an accommodation should be a higher priority than the person who needs to come back to work after recovering from an illness. I think since these two INDIVIDUAL people and scenarios are at odds with each other, the person who needs the accommodation should be making the sacrifice.

                  Ideally, the employer should take the financial hit and pay someone to stay home, but if that truly wasn’t an option, I think the burden falls on the person needing the accommodation.

        4. aebhel*

          Ugh, can we not?

          I actually agree with you that the person who is immunocompromised should take the hit, but there’s no need to be snide about how pregnant people CHOSE to be pregnant so suck it up, etc., etc. The advice would be the same if a person was immunocompromised for another reason that was outside their control. People end up with health issues for a variety of reasons both within their control and not, and that shouldn’t affect how those health conditions are handled.

    2. Steve*

      This manager was in a tough situation, but they really should have tried to come up with a solution that doesn’t involve LW missing out on a week’s pay when their doctor has cleared them to work. Off the top off my head, either LW or Future Mama could be cleared to work from home for a week, or they could alternate telework days, or LW could have their workstation temporarily relocated to another floor, or they could be advanced a bit of extra sick time (to be made up later), or they could be sent off for training for a week. In a GoC enviroment, all those are options and if LW brings them up and the manager refuses to make an effort, it would be a resonable time to get the shop steward involved.

      1. Chinook*

        “In a GoC enviroment, all those are options and if LW brings them up and the manager refuses to make an effort, it would be a resonable time to get the shop steward involved.”

        Exactly. So, in hindsight, the OP should have talked to Labour Relations and advocated on her behalf to find a way for her to take paid time off. The GoC has a very generous benefits package and is unionized, so there is no reason that this shouldn’t have happened except that a)the manager didn’t know/didn’t care/thought the OP had more sick time banked (which is not an unreasonable assumption considering the employer) and b)the OP took her manager at her word and didn’t advocate for herself when the decision harmed her.

        For the OP, my advice would be to see this as an expensive lesson learned about your rights as a government employee.

    3. kms1025*

      Wouldn’t she have been eligible for unemployment since they, in effect, laid her off for the week???

      1. ThatGirl*

        I don’t know how Canada’s unemployment system works, but in the US, you have to serve a “waiting week” that you don’t get paid for so filing a claim for one week off wouldn’t be worth it.

      2. StudentPilot*

        She wasn’t laid off though – she still had her job, they asked her to take unpaid leave for a week, it’s not quite the same thing.

        1. CAA*

          In the U.S, it actually is the same thing. If your employer requires you to take unpaid leave, you’re eligible for unemployment. However, as ThatGirl says, most, if not all, states have a waiting period, so it’s not worth filing if you’re only out for a week.

          1. StudentPilot*

            That may be, but this didn’t happen in the US, it happened in Canada, and within the GoC framework – she wasn’t laid off.

  4. Borne*

    Regarding #2, Mumps is only a concern in early pregnancy:
    “A natural mumps infection during pregnancy does not cause birth defects or premature birth. However, if the mother has mumps during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, the risk of miscarriage is increased. Mumps is rare in babies less than 12 months of age, because they gain temporary immunity from their mother.”

    1. JamieS*

      OP said the pregnant coworker was put on bed rest at 5 months after this occurred so she could have been 12 weeks or less along at the time. Also while I’ve never been pregnant nor do I have a medical degree I’m fairly confident most reasonable people will be risk averse when it comes to difficult pregnancies.

      1. namelesscommentater*

        This is concerning mumps during pregnancy, not in early infancy so I’m confused at how that’s relevant to this situation?

        It’s not that I think mumps is NBD, particularly when pregnant. But as soon as OP was cleared to go back to work the person with the medical condition making the workplace unsafe was the coworker, so she should have been the one removed from the situation rather than the medically cleared OP.

        1. PrimaryCareDoc*

          There’s also a helluva difference between mumps infection and herpes simplex infection.

    2. Blue Anne*

      While it may not have been a risk to the baby if the mother got mumps while she was pregnant, I wouldn’t want to deal with mumps while going through an already difficult pregnancy and trying to be at work.

      1. anan*

        Yeah, but at that point, the coworker’s desire not to be inconvenienced is a pretty poor reason to compel the OP, who has been medically cleared, to take unpaid leave.

  5. Biff*

    I have to disagree on #3. The week off with no pay is horrible, no doubt about it, but I think the onus is on the sick person to stay out of the office when they have this kind of serious infection. Not because of the known factors “Jane is pregnant” or “Carl is on chemo and compromised” but because the whole idea behind herd immunity starts to crater the minute you have one infected individual. It means something went wrong. Now suddenly people who DON’T know they need to be careful (Macy doesn’t know she’s pregnant, or Jaun doesn’t know he is one of the people who will have serious side effects from mumps) are at risk. Clients or people who will be at the office briefly and not know that “Fergus has mumps, beware!” are at risk. Likewise, just being out and about puts people at risk.

    Serious infections need to stay home/be in a healthcare setting.

    1. namelesscommentater*

      That’s exactly what she did – for the amount of time her doctor recommended. The unpaid week was additional and not recommended by a physician from the sound of it.

    2. DArcy*

      This is especially important for mumps because it’s not just a serious infection, it’s a serious infection that is aggressively contagious.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          To be fair, the contagiousness period is 14 days after the onset of symptoms. So the pregnant coworker wasn’t pulling the extra week out of nowhere. That said, both the CDC and Canada’s provincial and territorial departments of public health have issued control protocols that only require a 5-day isolation period (down from 9 days) after the onset of symptoms because that’s the “maximum contagiousness” period, as DArcy notes upthread.

    3. Managing to get by*

      If her physician cleared her to return to work but the pregnant woman was still worried, the pregnant woman should have been the one to stay home.

    4. New Bee*

      I wonder if the office’s logic was, “Well if OP comes back and someone else (besides pregnant coworker) catches mumps, we’ll be right back where we started.” I can see why they’d rather take 5 days from the OP than potentially get into a cycle if it ended up spreading (like how the flu goes around).* All the more reason why they should’ve paid OP to stay home.

      *I’m not implying it’s likely for mumps to spread like the flu, but I can see why people might think so.

      1. You're Not My Supervisor*

        I didn’t even think of this, this is a really good point. I was on the side of “pregnant coworker should stay home if Dr’s advice was followed but she’s still concerned,” but from the perspective of the employer this makes the most sense to me.

        Still, not fair to OP.

      2. AMPG*

        I hadn’t thought of it from that angle, and in that case I would definitely expect the employer to cover the leave, since they were making a business-related decision in forcing their employee to stay home.

      3. sstabeler*

        it’s actually largely irrelevant, as the problem isn’t that the employer forced her to stay home, but that they forced her to stay home WITHOUT PAY.

        Basically, the issue is that allowing an employer to arbitarily compel unpaid leave gives too much power to an unethical employer to screw with their employees.

        Say, for instance, there was a dispute between an employee and their manager (it’s irrelevant if the dispute itself was justified or not) and the manager- instead of following disciplinary procedures- told the employee to take a week’s unpaid leave. (and remember that the situation in the OP is functionally much the same- the manager, instead of trying to work out a fair solution, is expecting the OP to bear the cost of the problem.)

  6. Sami*

    OP#3: Do you have a trusted friend or family member you’d be willing to let monitor your email account? So if, for example, a company wants to schedule an interview, they (after giving them your schedule after your trip) could accept an interview slot or set up a time for a phone screen.

    1. Undine*

      Another suggestion could be to set up an email account just for job applications, and put an away message on only that email.

      1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

        OP5 has probably already sent applications using their current email. Someone from those jobs could still be trying to contact them.

        1. Liane*

          I think there are now emails (Gmail possibly?) which can also be set up to get your email from other addresses. Those may have a way to set up an autoreply for just one address.

          1. Alli525*

            I think autoforwarding wouldn’t work well with auto-replies, though – Employer would email Primary Email, which forwards it to Second Email, but Second Email would then be auto-replying to Primary Email, not to Employer.

      2. OrphanBrown*

        Oh that’s brilliant! I’d think a separate phone number too then. Does google voice or another provider allow you to offer a custom voicemail that would explain your bring away that only employers would hear?

      3. Emmie*

        Remember to use your city and state only on your resume – especially if you so an OOO auto reply. ;)

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I agree and think this is the best option.

        I guess the second option could be, “I will have [limited/intermittent] access to email through [date]. Responses may be delayed during that time period.” OP doesn’t have to explain why they put the message up. For example, I always put up an “away” message when traveling for work because I’m going to respond, but it’s not going to be as quick as when I’m at my desk.

        1. C*

          Would it be an option to get to somewhere with Internet once a week during the trip? Preferably during business hours so you could return phone calls & have a chance of hitting people at their desk?

          If you sent an email or left a message, you could say that you will not be able to messages again until date. But please schedule interviews anytime on a list of dates.

      5. mskyle*

        I would do this from now on, and if there are already applications out there with the regular email address you might be able to do some kind of selective out-of-office whitelist – only send the OOO message to people who *aren’t* already in your contacts, for example (obviously your email service may be a limiting factor here, but you could probably do something clever with IFTTT if you’re up for it).

    2. Nye*

      If you bring your phone on the hike, you may be able to get reception every once in a while (particularly at resupply stops). Not ideal if you really want to get away from it all, but it would at least let you reply within a week or so.

      Obviously this won’t be true everywhere, but even with a garbage cell provider I got reception at least weekly on the PCT. Those with Verizon or AT&T had surprisingly decent coverage in all but the most remote areas.

    3. Koko*

      Also, could OP #3 address the planned trip in their cover letter if they wanted to send an application just before going on vacation? “P.S. I will be unreachable from July 31-August 20 due to remote travel and regret that I won’t be available to interview during that time.” Some employers move slow enough that 3-4 weeks from application to interview is plausible.

  7. Fake Eleanor*

    OP #1: As someone who has played (and hosted) trivia nights for years, Alison’s advice is spot on. But the fundamental issue is: You don’t have to let Cosmo play on your team. Even if he shows up at the same bar. Even if he asks. Even if you have room for him.
    If the place you play caps team sizes, you might make it even easier to stick to your “no” if you fill up to the team limit, even if it’s just for a few weeks while Cosmo figures out that you’re serious. But you don’t have to do that. And if he’s not on your team but tries to horn in anyway, because he’s that socially inept, at that point you should be able to escalate to the quizmaster or the venue and have them ask him to move or leave.

    1. Jeanne*

      I also don’t know why they feel obligated to give him a share of the prize money. Be honest. “You are not on our team and you won’t get any money” then follow through.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I don’t know Canada’s system well enough, but the answer is almost certainly no. OP was employed throughout that period, even if they were asked not to come in (it sounds like OP was “asked” not to come in and agreed, although it’s entirely possible the ask was actually a directive).

      1. Chinook*

        Canadian EI allows for you to go on short-term sick leave but there is a min. 1 week (maybe longer) waiting period. As well, you can’t access it if you maxed out your time in the last year by using it for maternity leave, parental leave or unemployment.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Thank you for clarifying, Chinook! :) (I thought the waiting period was 2 weeks, but I’m glad I was wrong.)

    2. Devil Fish*

      I wondered that too (and if they did, their employer was a bag of ducks for not mentioning it). Also I didn’t try to google 7 year old information for Canadian employment/medical law, but I did wonder.

    3. Librarian of the North*

      If they could get the doctor to have them on medical leave for that time then yes. But I think there’s a mandatory wait time you don’t get paid for of a week (that’s true of my maternity leave anyway) and it could take weeks to process.

    4. Bea*

      A quick Google search makes me think that this is not possible. Unemployment means you’re unable to work because you’ve been laid off and you’re actively waiting for employment to be offered back to you or you are working at finding another job.

      This is actually what short term disability insurance is for but not unemployment insurance.

      1. oviraptor*

        I can only speak for MN as I don’t know if this is the same for all states. If your hours are reduced, you can file for unemployment benefits for the difference in hours. Your rate of pay is approximately 50% or so. And 15% is also deducted for taxes. But this is for the missing hours only. Of course your claim still needs to be approved first.

        1. Natalie*

          IIRC our unemployment benefit doesn’t kick in until the second week, though, so OP wouldn’t have qualified regardless.

      2. StudentPilot*

        She wouldn’t be able to claim unemployment because she wasn’t unemployed – she was on unpaid leave.

        Unfortunately, the Canadian Government doesn’t have short term disability, only long term disability, because our sick leave is bankable(with no limited to how much we can have banked). Whatever isn’t used at the end of the fiscal year is rolled over to the next, so people are cautioned to bank about 3-months worth of sick leave because that’s what they need before they can apply for long term disability.

        I should note that we get 15 sick days a year (as well as 15 vacation days – bankable, to a limit, 5 family days – not bankable, 1 personal day, and 1 volunteer day)

        1. Chinook*

          “I should note that we get 15 sick days a year (as well as 15 vacation days – bankable, to a limit, 5 family days – not bankable, 1 personal day, and 1 volunteer day)”

          And this fact is why I, a contractor with only 10 days paid vacation (which I have to bank in my own bank account), am surprised that the OP had no other leave to pull from to cover that time even if she had been there only 3 years. That would mean that she had been maxing out all 30 days of leave every year (so 90 days of leave in 3 years) which can happen but is usually rare when you are early in your career unless you are very unlucky.

    5. oviraptor*

      In MN (not sure if it applies equally to all states) the first week of unemployment you are ineligible to claim benefits. But from the second week on you are able to file for benefits. So unfortunately, if she were in MN (I do not know the process for Canada) she wouldn’t be able to be paid for the first week.

    6. "Computer Science"*

      There’s a sickness benefit through the employment insurance program, but there’s a mandatory waiting period before payments can begin. A week off in 2010 would have been within that buffering time.

      It sounds like the job is out of scope for the union, so the letter writer wouldn’t have support there. I’m not familiar with any other official avenues of financial support.

      1. StudentPilot*

        The OP would have been part of a union as a Canadian government employee, unless she were casual or there from an agency.

        My first thought on reading the letter was that going to a union rep would be a solution, they could help the OP determine if a grievance should be filed.

    7. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      I have no idea how the Canadian Federal government does it, but in the US, governmental entities can and do exempt their own employees from some aspects of labor law, or have special rules that apply only to public employees. Leaving aside everything everyone else has said, that could be a factor here too.

      1. LaurenB*

        Haha, turns out Canadian government employees are exempt from having to be paid at all! There are definitely different standards at play.

        1. Chinook*

          Eh…only under the current payroll computer system. :) Technically, the only ones exempt from any labour laws are the Canadian military (in all its forms) and the RCMP.

  8. Ramona Flowers*

    #2 I think an ideal solution would have been to find a way for one of you to work from home without causing security issues, for example by focusing on personal development.

    I also think that either you had or hadn’t been cleared by a doctor and could safely go out in public without putting any passing pregnant women in danger of contracting a notifiable disease. I sympathise with any anxiety on your colleague’s part, but I don’t think you should have been forced to take unpaid leave because of it.

    1. Sualah*

      That would have been perfect. I’m allowed to work from home, but my home setup isn’t as good as the office, so if I can schedule it that way, I try to do personal development type things at home–not my core job duties, but things that are still needed and that I don’t always have the time to do.

  9. GermanGirl*

    OP3 another technical solution is to set up rules for your auto-reply like “auto-reply only to email-addresses that end with or or …”
    Some email providers allow pretty specific rules.

    If that doesn’t work, I like the suggestion of setting up a new email account just for applications and configuring an auto reply there.

    1. SKA*

      This option for sure! Even if it means setting up a temporary email account on a service that allows that functionality.

  10. Ramona Flowers*

    #4 In addition to Alison’s suggestions, I imagine it might help to back up and think about the qualities that make someone more or less able to put up with internal bureaucracy, so you can be on the lookout for those qualities from the start and build that into your expectations of answers to other questions. For example, you want someone patient.

    Also, I imagine you want someone who follows processes diligently (so I’d be ruthless about cutting anyone who doesn’t precisely follow any of the application instructions) but who is also willing to rethink priorities and change focus. So you don’t want a completist, and you want flexibility and openness to change, but also a willingness to adhere to the status quo just because it’s the status quo – which means you’re looking for someone who values being part of an organisation and being loyal to its processes rather than feeling aggrieved if they don’t get ahead through personal investment, and who is happy to change direction but not gung ho about how they do that.

    For example, maybe try to find out how they derive satisfaction from their everyday work. If the answer is that someone likes to own projects or get everything squared away, they’re probably not your ideal candidate.

    Disclaimer: I don’t hire, so this may be bad advice.

    1. Fish Microwaver*

      Ha, probably just as well. It’s a bit much to ask for employees who are rigidly bureaucratic but are then flexible as the needs of the organization dictate. You run the risk of things falling through the cracks due to lack of ownership and mediocrity because no one is invested in their work. Employees are likely to feel that they can’t win. My current job has turned out a bit like this.

      1. Koko*

        Yep. You can create a culture that values bureaucracy but has figured out ways to remain flexible, and then find employees who appreciate having standardized procedures but still want to take ownership of their projects and propose new ways of doing things where appropriate. Because your culture remained flexible, you can still hire for people who crave autonomy despite being in a large bureaucratic organization.

        If the culture is bureaucratic and unflexible, though, you’re just not going to be the right environment for people who crave autonomy, and relatedly, IO research into things like lean management and agile management indicates you won’t be as effective an organization pretty much no matter who you hire. If you can’t change the culture it means that hiring is just going to be one of many no-win situations you deal with in a dysfunctional org.

  11. Wakeen's Duck Club*

    OP 1: Since he’s interning, use this as an opportunity to make him familiar with the expectations of the professional world.

    OP 5: While you wait to hear from them, put the money in a high-interest savings account, if you have one. That way, you’ll at least earn interest on the money while you have it. That interest will probably just amount to about two cups of ramen per month, but it’s better than nothing.

      1. Linda C.*

        Sad to say, I wouldn’t move the money from the account it was deposited into. Direct deposit overpayments are removed the same way they arrive. We found this out the hard way when we pointed out a small (under $50 shortfall) error with a paycheck, and instead of just issuing an additional check for the shortfall, the company pulled the entire deposit and reissued it. At the time we had very little buffer, so several overdraft charges later I was sorry we had brought it up.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

          I’m with Linda C. on this one. Also, do high-interest savings accounts even exist anymore? I had one as part of a promo, but it went away after five years and had really strict deposit rules.

          1. Emi.*

            My sister has some kind of savings account that pays her so much interest they send her a 1098. And my FCU has high(er)-interest options if you have a bigger share.

          2. ThatGirl*

            My “high interest” savings account is currently earning 1.10% APY.

            (When I opened it 15 years ago it was a lot higher)

            1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

              Yeah, that sounds like our savings accounts. If we’ve been good with saving, we get a shiny dime! >.<

          3. Falling Diphthong*

            Usually the tradeoff for high interest is low flexibility; money that might vanish at any moment is definitely not flexible.

        2. Just Me*

          I think this depends on State law. This happened to me in California and I’m pretty sure that they could only take money directly from my account if I was an active employee. But, since I had left the company and they forgot to take me off payroll, they had to send a letter asking me to write a check.

          Definitely document everything and make sure they adjust your W-2 if you return any money. I had a terrible time getting in touch with HR directly so I finally contacted a former coworker who was able to get through to them using the internal systems. It was a mess!

          1. Connie-Lynne*

            This is true — CA state law says if they overpay you after your employment stops, they can’t auto-withdraw it and in many cases you are entitled to keep it.

        3. Natalie*

          I don’t think the originator can reverse an ACH payment indefinitely. I’m not sure this is set by law, but at least by practice it seems like you only get 5-10 days to reverse a deposit, and after that you are on your own to recover the money.

    1. Blue Anne*


      My ex-husband’s aunt used to work for a bank. One day, an old lady came in and said she wanted to withdraw about 80k from her bank account. She said it should have had about 300k in it. It had practically nothing.

      They tracked it down and it turned out someone at the bank had made a HUGE mistake and transferred the entire sum to a different customer with a very similar account number. They called him up and he said “You’ll want that 300k back, right? No problem – let me just transfer it back out of the money market account.” He apparently made a couple grand on that mistake.

  12. persimmon*

    #5, while you are waiting for them to figure it out, put the money in a high-yield savings account if you have one. I did this the second time my incompetent university gave me an extra $10,000 and took a month or two to be willing to take it back, so at least I got $15 out of it.

  13. Simone R*

    OP 3- I’ve had friends do big post college trips while still looking for jobs. Some made the decision that their trip was so important to them it was worth it missing out on a potntial job opportunity which released them from the mental stress. Others had parents or a friend check their email occasionally and either send an away email or manage to get into contact with them (or in the case of one person with med school-fill out some important forms!). I think both of those options are good, you’ll have to pick what works for you.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Again, this is a case for a separate email – that combined with this will you’re set.

      Maybe be really clear about what people should do and not do e.g. no following up on your behalf!

      1. Simone R*

        That’s true but it may not work for the applications that have already been sent with the original email, potentially a substantial number of them.

  14. Confused*

    Okay, I feel like I’m misunderstanding something: Are mumps contagious to everyone, or just people who aren’t vaccinated? I understand in this case the OP’s coworker is pregnant, but if she wasn’t, exactly who would be at risk if the OP started working when her doctor cleared her?

    I just feel bad that the OP lost a week’s pay for what I thought was a disease that people didn’t get anymore.

    1. Simone R*

      Yes! The MMR vaccine really lowers your chances of getting it, but sustained contact with someone with mumps can cause you to get the disease. Decreases in vaccination rates can cause outbreaks in part due to a decrease in ‘herd immunity’ and spread to people who have been vaccinated, where as normally the vaccine + rate of vaccination makes occurances rare.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      You can get mumps even if you’re vaccinated (depending on whether you received the one- or two-course vaccine, the risk of infection goes down by 48–90%). Vaccinations don’t 100% eliminate the risk of contracting an illness, but when they operate on herd immunity (as Simone R notes), they can dramatically decrease the risks of an epidemic.

      The protocol for administering the MMR vaccine changed after 1994, so there’s a gap in herd immunity for many adults born during the 1970ish–94 period, and there are regional gaps in places where the anti-vaxxer effort has taken hold (because if not enough people have been vaccinated, herd immunity doesn’t work). The MMR vaccine is still important/effective, but the medical community recommends quarantine for mumps because it’s wildly contagious, even among vaccinated populations.

      There has been an increase in the incidence of mumps in the United States and Canada, although overall the numbers are pretty low compared to historical data regarding pre-vaccine incidence.

      1. Borne*

        Actually, even those who are regarded as fully vaccinated can get mumps.

        I just watched a regarding a fully vaccinated (both shots) 35 year old man who got mumps. We have seen numerous outbreaks of mumps in fully vaccinated high school and college students. It is actually best if children get mumps when young and have life long immunity. Older boys might have issues if they get mumps.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yes, that’s why I sid 48-90% effective ;) The overall effectiveness, I think, is 80-85%… which means a fair number of fully vaccinated people are still contracting mumps.

      2. Ghost Town*

        I was born in that gap. While I was fully vaccinated for someone born in the early-mid-1980s, when I was pregnant, I found out that the initial MMR didn’t “take” all the way, so I had to get a booster shot after giving birth.
        I wouldn’t have known about this chink in my vaccine armor if I hadn’t been pregnant and I imagine that there are others in my age group who would need a booster but don’t know.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          I think more primary care doctors are catching on and recommending boosters. I got one a few years back.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Same—I had the two-course vaccine as a child, but the only reason I received an MMR booster was because I worked abroad (in a developing country) after college. I had no idea that I needed a tetanus and polio booster as an adult, for that matter!

    3. CityMouse*

      My nephew was fully vaccinated but still got whooping cough when he was 4. I think the doctor said that sometimes a new strain can pop up, especially in unvaccinated groups but that his case was much milder because of his vaccine.

      1. Borne*

        Being vaccinated doesn’t necessarily mean it will be mild. Unvaccinated folks can also have a mild case.
        A mother noticeed that her unvaccinated children had very mild cases of mumps whereas her fully vaccinated husband had a very bad case and was in bed for two weeks.

    4. blackcat*

      Mumps is one of the most contagious diseases we know of (definitely no physical contact needed for transmission, lives on surfaces and in air for hours), and the vaccine is not particularly effective. This goes extra for pregnant people because their immune system is naturally suppressed (so their body doesn’t go attacking the fetus).

      I got the mumps during an outbreak, despite childhood vaccination. As with most vaccinated folks who get mumps, it was very mild for me. I didn’t realize it until I got a “Mumps outbreak alert!” email (I am young enough to have never heard of the symptoms of mumps. After I got the email I called my mom and she was like “Yep, sounds like mumps to me.”). I had been shedding that virus all over public transit for a week!

      1. Competent Commenter*

        Just wanted to clarify–you commented that the mumps vaccine is not particularly effective but as the CDC states, “Before the U.S. mumps vaccination program started in 1967, mumps was a universal disease of childhood. Since the pre-vaccine era, there has been a more than 99% decrease in mumps cases in the United States.”

        1. blackcat*

          It’s done great things for society! And it’s important! But the mumps vaccine is one of the least effective vaccines that is standard–lots of people aren’t actually immune after getting the vaccine compared to other diseases (whooping cough, measles, etc).

          If anything, the low efficacy of the vaccine means it’s even more important for everyone to be vaccinated. Herd immunity matters even more when you have ~20% of the population that isn’t going to be immune whatever you do. If you have a vaccine that is protects 95% of people (I think that’s roughly the rate for measles), then one ill person can only infect 1 of every 20 people they contact, as opposed to 1 of every 5 for mumps.

          (Someone else can answer the question of why the mumps vaccine isn’t very effective compared to other vaccines. I don’t know, other than it’s just not possible to make a really good vaccine.)

          1. Borne*

            Yes, it is the least effective vaccine. A couple of the manufacturer’s senior scientists have taken the manufacturer to court for fraud. The manufacturer fraudulently made it out to be effective.

          2. AMPG*

            John Oliver just did a whole segment on vaccines, and apparently a 95% vaccination rate is required to achieve herd immunity to mumps, which is higher than most other diseases. He noted that France had its vaccination rate drop to 89% and had over 15,000 cases of mumps the next year (up from a 3-digit case number just a couple of years earlier).

            1. Borne*

              That’s funny! John Oliver is a comedian. As far as I know he is not an expert in infectious diseases.

              1. AMPG*

                Have you ever watched his show? Don’t dismiss him out of hand. He does a HUGE amount of research on whatever topic he covers, and goes pretty deep on topics a lot of people don’t know much about.

              2. Observer*

                That’s doesn’t make him stupid or ignorant. He does what could be considered long form journalism (ie pieces that are more extensive than a short article) and does a LOT of research on his topics. I don’t always agree with him, but he did an excellent job on this one.

            2. Observer*

              That segment was about measles, which is also wildly contagious and more deadly than mumps.

              They are both nasty, in different ways. And I’m very, very glad that vaccines are as effective as they are. And very, very sad about the people who are risking the welfare of their children and everyone around them by not vaccinating.

      2. Librarianne*

        This is another argument for having the sick coworker take the additional week off rather than the pregnant coworker. By having the sick person stay home for another week, you don’t run the risk of them contaminating the office with their respiratory secretions, thus protecting everyone. If just the pregnant coworker stays home, the sick coworker could have infected other folks in the office or made it so that even after a week, if everything wasn’t properly sanitized, it’s STILL not safe for the pregnant woman to return.

  15. AcademiaNut*

    For #3 it’s worth checking your email program’s auto reply options – it may be possible to set up auto reply only for emails sent from certain address domains, or containing subject keywords like “Job Application” or “Interview Request”. It won’t guarantee you won’t miss anything, but could decrease the chances of missing something.

    I just finished setting up my work email to automatically forward critical emails based on subject/sender when I’m on vacation and only using my personal email.

  16. Daffodil*

    OP #5 – In the US, banks can take money back out of your account without your permission or knowledge under some circumstances, and this may be one of them. I’d leave the accidental paychecks where they are while you get in touch with your former employer, but if the other money in the account is a large amount, or all you own, it might be smart to move it to another account. Possibly even an account at a different bank. That way if they somehow mess up trying to reclaim the paychecks you don’t end up losing money that is actually yours. It also simplifies things greatly if any other weird complications happen.

    After all the letters we’ve seen about people not getting paid, this one is a pleasant change!

    1. Bea*

      When you sign up for automatic deposits, there’s a line in there that states that they can deduct from your account to correct errors. It’s a standard blurb on the form you fill out because it’s way too risky to offer the service without that stipulation.

      So I caution the OP from moving the money out of their account, since that’s the one that they will withdraw from and if they overdraw the account, they may not care.

      1. Freakonomics fan*

        OP should send a first-class letter to the former employer, delivery confirmation and return receipt requested, discontinuing the use of direct deposit. That should make it impossible for the employer to withdraw from the account and should, ideally, end the problem.

        1. Admin of Sys*

          not a laywer, but pretty sure that’s not how that works. “ec. 53a-119. Larceny defined
          (4) Acquiring property lost, mislaid or delivered by mistake. A person who comes into control of property of another that he knows to have been lost, mislaid, or delivered under a mistake as to the nature or amount of the property or the identity of the recipient is guilty of larceny if, with purpose to deprive the owner thereof, he fails to take reasonable measures to restore the property to a person entitled to it.”

          Regardless of how determinedly the recipient tries to contact the company, if the company wants the money back, the ex-employee is legally obligated to return it.

          1. Electric Hedgehog*

            yeah, but presumably if the authorization for direct deposit is rescinded, the company will at least have to ask for a check or transfer rather than withdrawing it from the account suddenly which can cause all sorts of financial havoc.

        2. Lefty*

          I wonder if doing this might be a way for OP to get the company to stop making the deposits too… since she has been unable to reach them, this might be good documentation that she was making attempts.

      2. Purplesaurus*

        I think Daffodil means money in the account that isn’t part of these additional deposits, and I agree it might be wise to move only that amount into a separate account just so it’s very clear which funds are and are not hers.

  17. Bea*

    #3 is interesting since we have recent letters about how long to wait to hear from an applicant when you extend an interview offer. It really does depend on what kind of job you’re actively looking into. Some have long windows they have to collect resumes in and then once that closes, they can extend interview invites, in that case 3 weeks off the grid wouldn’t necessarily matter. Others they want to hire someone quickly to fill a position that’s either vacant right now or someone is leaving in X amount of days, you will need to start prior to them leaving because they’re training their replacement, etc.

    I had this issue when I was applying for jobs to relocate at the end of last year. I had to find people who were willing to even wait a few days for me to arrange travel time to do the interview, some businesses are very set in “I need to interview you this week or next week, then we’re making a decision.”

    You also assume they will always email you, what about the ones who call you and leave messages? Then you don’t return their call because you can’t check those? So I absolutely agree with Alison that you should stop sending out applications a couple weeks prior to yoru departure date.

  18. Hey Blinkin*

    #3 Can you include a statement like “Due to travel plans I will not have access to phone/email from X-Y date” in your application email? That way you have front cover for anyone trying to reach you.

    1. BioPharma*

      Thank you! Was wondering about this myself. I understand that it may be too late for the OP, but is this a good solution for the future, or is there potential risk of this “looking bad” to the employer?

  19. MommyMD*

    Your employer was correct in having you stay home while you had any chance of infecting anyone else with this potential serious virus. This is why we have vaccinations. Your disease could easily kill a newborn or a fetus. That you felt fine has no bearing. I’ve seen firsthand the tragic consequences of infectious disease. Follow vaccination guidelines, not just for yourself, but for the good of society.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      But OP did follow vaccination guidelines. In a situation where they’ve been cleared by their physician, what should be their next logical step? I understand that mumps is still contagious beyond the 5-8 day quarantine period, but how can individuals guess how long they should be out if they’ve received contradictory medical advice?

      I’m usually very pro-minimizing-the-risk-of-infection to others and agree that how OP felt (in terms of symptoms) doesn’t matter—the contagiousness of OP’s mumps is what matters.

      1. DArcy*

        They didn’t receive contradictory medical advice, though. To directly cite the letter, they said their doctor told them they were “not likely to be contagious anymore”, not that they were clear of infection.

        1. Nephron*

          The “not likely to be contagious anymore” could be the normal overly exact way that many scientists and doctors speak. Often physicians will say not likely, or almost certain when they mean this is almost 100% certain, but you cannot ever truly be 100% certain as there is always error and uncertainty.

          There is a great statement in the vaccine conversation that English and science are 2 different languages. Science often very specifically limits itself even if there is zero chance of the alternative being true because you do not make statements that are less than 100% accurate and that can leave the English speakers thinking there is uncertainty because you are speaking science and not English.

          1. nonegiven*

            I still say the pregnant woman should have taken leave if the mumps woman had been cleared to go back to work.

        2. paul*

          I mean, have you ever tried to get an iron clad statement on something like recovery from a medical professional? I’ve never managed to. It’s always “well, probably” or “this is a normal time frame for XYZ”; it’s like trying to nail jello to a wall.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          That is what doctors tell you when they clear you to return when you contract a communicable disease. It’s rare to have to wait until you’re “cleared of infection” to return because that’s not the standard and because doctors/scientists don’t feel comfortable making totalistic statements—you’re usually allowed to return once the “contagiousness” period wanes (doesn’t mean you’re not contagious or “clear of infection,” just means the odds of communicability are very low). OP indicates they were medically cleared to return but were asked to refrain from coming to work, anyway.

          Look, what do you want non-medical/public-health people to do? Who are they supposed to trust when they try to determine whether they’re allowed to go back?

    2. Bagpuss*

      Isn’t that what OP did? She didn’t seek to return to work until she was cleared by her doctor, and we don’t know whether or not she had been immunised or not.

      1. Roscoe*

        Kind of. I guess this is how I see it. If I had the flu, and most of my symptoms were gone, and my doctor cleared me to return to work, I can’t say I’d be upset if my friend with a newborn baby didn’t want me visiting for another week or so, because just because I’m probably not contagious to people with a normal immune system, the baby doesn’t have that. There could be serious repercussions there.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yes, but in addition to the losing a week of pay aspect, your friend is not bringing their newborn to work and then telling you to stay home. They’re in their own home, isolated, asking external visitors not to come over when their baby has no antibodies and there’s a non-zero risk of infection. By that analogy, then the resolution would be for the immunocompromised person (the pregnant coworker) to stay home.

    3. Tuckerman*

      “This is why we have vaccinations…Follow vaccination guidelines…”
      It sounds like you’re assuming the LW was not vaccinated. How are you coming to this conclusion? The news has reported may mumps outbreaks in vaccinated individuals.

    4. Mike C.*

      This is the second time you’ve suggested that the OP wasn’t vaccinated properly, why do you keep suggesting this?

  20. MommyMD*

    You can go to your bank and stop the direct deposit. It is not your money and they will want it back. I would close my account if I had to.

    1. LBK*

      Yeah, I’m pretty sure you can de-authorize a direct deposit in the same way that you have to authorize it in the first place. I’d at least go to the bank and ask.

    2. Mike C.*

      Closing a bank account because a former employer is being dumb seems really, really extreme. I’m not going to go through the trouble of redoing all of my bills and automatic payments because of someone else’s incompetence.

    3. Joshua*

      I would not close an account if you know that there is a good chance of a withdrawal in the future, like if you wrote a check or in this case a business “pulling back” a direct deposit. Many banks have the authority to reopen an account in order to pay outstanding payments (or accept incoming deposits) and then you’ll be left with an account in the negative that you think is closed.

    4. Natalie*

      I’m actually not sure if you can. An ACH that is being pushed from someone else’s account doesn’t go through your bank for approval first.

      However, you might be able to have your bank reject the transaction and send the money back. I would keep very careful records of that if you do.

  21. anon law student*

    On the off chance that OP5 is in England or Wales…
    I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice (I’m a law student), but the Theft Act 1968 (section 5 (4) provides that when someone gets property by mistake, not returning it constitutes theft for the purposes of the Act.

    1. Obelia*

      That’s only if they refuse to return it. It doesn’t sound like OP #5 is in that position – they are actively trying to contact the employer. But yes, they need to keep trying, though they won’t be prosecuted just for not succeeding.

      I’ve been the person who has to contact the employee who’s been overpaid, on a number of occasions. I’m in the UK too, and not only is reclaiming that money permissible, in some cases it’s a requirement (particularly if you are a state-funded organisation).

      1. Obelia*

        Sorry, for accuracy I should have said that’s only if they choose not to return it.
        MommyMD is right, if they were aware of the overpayment and chose to spend it, even if the company wasn’t aware, then they would be at risk.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      Unlikely, seeing as they mentioned checks and direct deposit.

      I am not a lawyer either, but I strongly suspect that you meant section 24 of the Theft Act, with the caveat about reasonable steps – while the employer can make use of the exemption in section 14 of the Employment Rights Act 1996.

    3. Bagpuss*

      Not if OP informs their old employer that they’ve been paid in error. At that point the dishonesty required for the offence is disproved.
      They still have to return the money (and in England and Wales, the employer has up to 6 years to pursue it).

  22. MommyMD*

    Remember, if you spend even a dime of that money, no excuse will hold up legally. Close your account if you have to and pay it back. Send a certified letter to the former employer. Do something more than call.

      1. Anonygoose*

        I agree – MommyMD, you seem to see things very black and white, when this situation (and the mumps/pregnancy situation) are both various shades of grey. The OP should just not spend them money, and keep trying to contact their employer to return it – and perhaps speak to the bank and see if they can stop the payments. Closing a bank account is all kinds of inconvenient, and is a really extreme reaction for the OP.

  23. CognitiveGradStudent*

    I think we’re all overlooking he beautiful visual imagery that is the phrase “greedy hampster” to describe a mumps patient. Well done OP.

  24. Stellaaaaa*

    OP2: I’m an American who was vaccinated against mumps over 30 years ago so I have little context for the specifics, but my thinking is that if the pregnant coworker stayed home for the week while you came in, you’re still “contaminating” a workplace that she’ll be returning to. There might also be a longer-term carrier effect wherein contagions pass between unknowing employees who don’t show symptoms due to vaccination or past exposure. It could be that it was less about “which one of you should be in the office” and more about “let’s prevent mumps from entering the building.” In a bigger office, it’s fairly likely that the pregnant coworker wasn’t the only one potentially at risk.

    1. Freakonomics fan*

      So then the obvious solution is to have OP stay at home, get paid, and have the pregnant coworker’s sick days docked (or her pay tolled).

      1. Shona*

        An action with zero legal way to carry out hardly seems like the obvious solution. Send one employee home and dock another employee’s sick pay? Really? Whose sick pay will they dock to cover the lawsuit?

        1. Vegan Atheist Weirdo*

          You might have meant to put this reply on a different comment of Freakonomics fan’s. Saying it here, where nothing indicating any kind of opinion on pregnancy was stated, actually gives your comment the appearance of being irrationally defensive about pregnancy.

          I didn’t get a sense of “anti-pregnancy” or offense from Freakonomics’s previous comment (maybe a bit of Vulcan logic or a shortage of sympathy, though). I think portraying them as “offended” by pregnancy is a pretty harsh, intentionally derogatory way of saying you disagree with their views on the pregnant co-worker’s level of responsibility as indicated above. You don’t have to agree with their interpretation, but this comment reads as you being the one who is offended, by their viewpoint.

          1. tigerStripes*

            I also thought Freakonomics was harsh on pregnancy. Seems like s/he thinks that it it somehow the pregnant woman’s responsibility to pay for sick people to stay away from her.

        2. nonegiven*

          My doctor says I’m cleared to return to work, then I’m fucking coming to work, especially if I have no sick time left.

          If you have a problem with that, then you need to take time off.

      2. Zona the Great*

        I think the obvious solution is a compromise where maybe pregnant employee stays home to work or goes to another office for half the week and OP does for other half of week and office pays for an extra cleaning that week.

      3. CityMouse*

        For me the obvious solution is to precharge the OP’s sick leave. At my workplace we allow people to donate annual leave to people who have approved issues (like the guy who got diagnosed with cancer after 4 months and did not have enough leave), I think that also could have been an option, if possible.

      4. Sylvia*

        Why reduce her sick days or pay? This sounds like punishing her for being pregnant.

        I think the most that could be done for the pregnant employee is to allow her to stay home, using her own time off, if the OP has been cleared to return to work and she is still concerned about it despite doctors saying it is safe.

        But I actually don’t know enough about mumps to know if that’s currently the case, or if OP’s just gotten the okay to be out and about in public (but would still be a concern for a pregnant woman, immunocompromised person, etc.).

      5. aebhel*

        I disagree. Clearly the obvious solution here is to burn down the building. Cleanse it with fire!

      6. tigerStripes*

        Freakonomics fan, why would you want the pregnant coworker’s sick days docked? Is it her fault that a coworker got mumps, which can be very dangerous to a fetus? I do think it would have been better if the company had done something for the OP, who clearly went through a rough time, but I don’t think the pregnant woman did anything wrong by being concerned about her baby.

        1. Freakonomics fan*

          Obviously (or not, perhaps), I was being a trifle sarcastic. So sue me, I’m half British. The true “obvious” optimal solution here is for the employer to exercise a degree of common sense and let one of these parties work from home or take additional paid sick leave. Unless they’re working in national security, that would be called “appropriate flexibility” and “good judgment”. Nonetheless, LW indicated that the employer was unwilling to do this, and the second-best choice is for the pregnant co-worker to internalize the costs of choosing to be a parent. If you choose to become a parent, you do choose to give up some things (pub crawls, sleeping late, etc.) that non-parents enjoy. That’s not “issues with pregnancy”, it’s reality. And forcing those costs on the mumps sufferer who has complied with her doctor’s instructions and is living paycheck-to-paycheck is completely unacceptable. LW was correct to say she should have complained to her union.

    2. Borne*

      If you were vaccinated so long ago any immunity that you had has probably disappeared. There is actually currently a court case involving the manufacturer of the mumps vaccines being accused of fraud by a couple of their senior scientists. The manufacturer made the the vaccine seem much more effective than it is.

    3. Jeanne*

      Well, there are risks in just going in public. I think for the employer to take action it is likely these two workers had normal daily interactions, not just worked in the same building.

    4. Canadian*

      I want to clarify that most Canadians who are able to be vaccinated and aren’t restricted by illness or age are smart enough to get vaccinated. Some people are a little less bright, but there are, for lack of a better world, “people” like that in almost every country. The mumps vaccine, I believe, is given with the reubella vaccine in Canada.

      1. Kvothe*

        Yup measles, mumps and reubella and most people get them at school through public health along with pretty much every other vaccine you’re supposed to get after you become school age, from what I remember of my own school years if your parents were opting out I think they had to send in a note that showed you either had the vaccine or that you had an alternate arrangement to get the vaccine (like one kid who was really afraid of needles would get the vaccine through a public health office so their parent could be with them)

      2. blackcat*

        I would assume Canadians get the same MMR vaccine for less $$. Because that’s how American vs Canadian healthcare works ;)

      3. Stellaaaaa*

        Good to know! I’d done a bit of googling but it’s a hard thing to get a feel for. In the US, vaccinations aren’t legally enforced, but schools usually require them so looking up laws wouldn’t be helpful on that count.

  25. Gerta*

    OP #3 – have you considered adding information about your availability to your applications? That would be one easy way to tell potential employers without needing to set up an automatic response. When I was hunting for my first job out of university, the form actually had a space concerning other information / availability for interviews or similar. I told them I had to rule out 2 weeks because of jury service. This ended up becoming a friendly topic of conversation in the interview. And I got the job.

    1. Loz*

      Exactly. It’s really that easy isn’t it?
      Also consider contacting any in-progress applications with the same message if you’ve not heard back.

      1. Anna the Accounting Grad*

        Actually, in a lot of cases the only way it’s “really that easy” is if whatever hiring software the employer uses allows for a cover letter. Few to none that I’ve seen have anywhere else to add that kind of information — and some even make it hard (or worse) to add even a cover letter.

        It might be wise to mention your week away-from-keyboard in your cover letter, but do set up an auto-reply anyway.

  26. Esperanza*

    #2 -I recently went through a pregnancy, and one of my coworkers came in with some type of fever / flu illness. She told me she had to come in because she had used up all of her sick days. Another coworker caught it, and then he kept coming to work because he “doesn’t like to take sick days.” I was pissed.

    So who should pay for someone else’s poor management of their sick bank? Some people genuinely get sick so often that they have little choice, while others take off for minor illness and then run out before a big illness… but then how do you decide who gets extra PTO? People who need it more, or who catch something the rest of us really don’t want, just get extra leave?

    I definitely don’t want people to come in with serious illness. I would much rather we be unfair than infected. But it’s hard to implement something that allows some employees more PTO than others

    1. CityMouse*

      I think this is a good point. OP was less contagious but still would have had some viral shedding after a week. Had another employee caught it, you end up with a prolonged risk. I think there was a rational basis to extend quarantine.

    2. Overeducated*

      Maybe this is a case for unlimited sick time, used as needed. I started a new job last fall and accrued one sick day a month; it wasn’t my poor management of my sick bank that made me come in when I was still sick with your standard winter viruses, it was the incredibly small size of that bank. I was very aware of how few days I had and the need to ration them between myself and the kid when she was too sick for day care (meaning the kid would get sick, I would stay home with her for a day, and then I would catch the virus from her but have to get back to work).

      And I really don’t want to hear “but why should people who CHOOSE to have kids get to stay home more?” unless you are just fine with those people with kids bringing sickness into the office. You can’t have it both ways – either some people take more time off, or they stay home on the days they absolutely have to, i.e. when they have to care for a sick kid, and come in when they’re sick themselves.

    3. Awesome*

      Well, if we’re going by good health practices instead of capitalist stupidity….

      Change the fundamental principle of it from a pre-assigned amount of sick days, to everyone gets what you need as you need it, and don’t let miserly employers keep putting people’s health at risk. People are human; humans get sick; you all get sick leave as you need it, decided by a doctor not an untrained manager – but you are required to stay home when you have anything contagious.

      And make it illegal for employers to try and compel people to work while they’re sick. It would actually save employers money over the whole group/economy, because there would be less spreading of diseases, and improve productivity because people would recover not just faster, but also more completely.

      1. Lora*

        YES. I cannot possibly agree with you more.

        The way I’ve seen many of my employers manage the unlimited sick days is, they buy an insurance policy against sick days, so your paycheck is actually coming from the insurance payout rather than hours billed. They had one low-cost policy that paid for the first couple of weeks. For more than a couple of weeks, they had a short-term disability policy that paid something like 60% of your pay until several months had passed, and you could buy (for a very reasonable sliding-scale cost) additional insurance that would come out of your paycheck pre-tax (mine was something like $3/month) to make up the remaining 40%. And long-term disability insurance kicked in after 6 months but that was a bunch of HR paperwork to set up.

        There was like, one person ever who abused it, and she got fired for not meeting goals. The company had 50,000 people, so one person really wasn’t that many.

    4. finderskeepers*

      Not judging but some people (have to) use sick days when they have a dr appt, not when they are too ill to come to work

  27. Myrin*

    #2, leaving your actual situation aside, I think it’s really cool that you’re sending an a question about a situation long gone! I often have moments of WWAHD? (What Would Alison Have Done?) regarding situations I was in a long time ago and would sometimes like to bring it up in the work open thread but then I feel kind of silly because it’s usually all hypothetical by now but maybe I shouldn’t feel that way. In any case, I love that you wondered about this seven years later and wrote in about it!

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I’m with you. There are many times when I start thinking about past situations and how it could have gone better had I know what I should/shouldn’t do. I say bring them up in the open thread; I’m sure we can all learn something from it and you might gather some knowledge for future situations.

  28. Vicki*

    #2 – If you are part of a union (as many government employees are), this situation would have been a great opportunity to contact your union delegate/steward. Your employer was in a challenging situation, but a little pressure from your union might have resulted in you not having to go without pay.

    I am sorry. It sounds like it was a very challenging time in your life.

  29. Roscoe*

    #1 Have you actually given the intern the chance to correct his behavior. I mean he is annoying, which I get. However, if all of you just talk about him behind his back, but have never told him what he is doing is off putting, he may not even realize it. Why not just say “look, these behaviors are annoying people. If you don’t stop that, you are no longer invited” That way he has the chance to change. Also, some of what you are describing, such as taking some of the prize money without contributing, is normal. Trust me, I’ve had some friends (and their sig others) who have come out and haven’t done anything, but I wouldn’t dream of saying “you get none of the prize”

    #2 I can see how this sucks for you, and I can also see why the office did what they did. Could you have worked from home or something like that? Making you take a week off unpaid is unfair, but if the choices are that or exposing an unborn baby to a disease that could have serious repercussions, I get why that decision was made.

    1. LBK*

      We kind of talked about this above, but I guess I don’t see why the OP would bother bringing this up to him if she doesn’t have any other interest in trying to continue the friendship. It’s not like there’s a relationship of some kind that she has a desire to salvage and therefore owes it to herself to at least try to fix it before she moves on; I guess the only arguable vested interest she has is because they’re coworkers, but I think you’ve previously made it pretty clear that you don’t think what people do outside of work should impact how they are at work, and I’d think that would apply to them continuing to maintain a professional relationship in the office even if there’s trivia team drama going on outside of work.

      As for the prize money, I think it’s relevant insofar as there is some kind of financial (opportunity) cost to maintaining the friendship. If he were just annoying it might be easier to give him a pass and just more or less ignore him when you’re hanging out, but I’d be pretty pissed if on top of being annoying he were also cutting into my winnings.

  30. AdAgencyChick*

    OP5, this happened to my husband. His old company didn’t notice for a couple of months, despite his trying to contact them. But when they did notice, of course they wanted the whole amount back immediately!

    I really don’t think the onus *should* be on you to make them realize their mistake, but unfortunately you are the one who will have to deal with paying them back once they figure it out, so it’s in your best interests to resolve this as quickly as possible. Alison’s advice for that is good. (If you hate the phone as much as I do, my sympathies.)

    1. Steve*

      If OP never spends the money and just lets it accumulate in their account, it won’t be a challenge to give the money back when the employer eventually and inevitably requests it. Not only does OP know it is coming sooner or later (just like taxes in April) but the money for the “expense” is being helpfully provided by former employer.

      Of course it will be tedious and/or difficult to keep track of. Maybe the bank has a way to set up a separate account, to which the money can be moved as it arrives, and it can be linked as overdraft protection?

    2. Ennigaldi*

      This happened to my husband, too (blame disorganized university payroll offices). He contacted them and it took them another couple of pay periods to stop his direct deposits. They sent us a letter asking for it to be paid back in full, but he successfully argued that since it was their error, and he pointed it out to them in good faith as soon as he discovered it, they should eat the cost. Good thing since we were both unemployed at that point!

  31. Bella*

    “You contracted mumps so you need to take an extra week off unpaid” is the same mentality as “you’re the one who is pregnant so take time off unpaid if there’s a risk to your health”. Neither the LW nor her coworker deserved to live a week without income because of circumstances that were out of their control. There should have been a compromise here, preferably of the “employer pays the person who takes time off” variety.

    1. Observer*

      True. But, in this case it sounds like the co-worker was asking for extra protection – ir the OP wasn’t actually contagious, but the coworker didn’t want them in the office anyway. If I’m misreading and the OP’s doctor didn’t actually state that they were out of the contagious stage, that’s different.

      1. sstabeler*

        not really- the time off should be paid, regardless of if the OP is contagious or not. The fundamental issue is that if a business decides it’s workers shouldn’t have the choice to come into work, then those workers should not lose pay because of that. (if workers CHOOSE not to come in, that’s different)

  32. kms1025*

    OP#3 – how crazy would it be to have your personal email autoforward to a very trusted friend or relative? For some this wouldn’t work, but maybe you have a person you trust enough to be on the watch for job related emails and could reply (with verbiage previously supplied by you) to only those. Or, set your auto reply to something vagueish, like “in the middle of a big project requiring my total focus…will reply as soon as this finishes”

    1. SarahTheEntwife*

      “Or, set your auto reply to something vagueish, like “in the middle of a big project requiring my total focus…will reply as soon as this finishes””

      To me that would sound weirder if I were looking at job applications than an actual out-of-office message. You want to work for me but you’re so focused on your current job you can’t take 10 minutes to read my email offering you an interview and reply to it?

      1. Angelinha*

        I agree. I also think it feels strange to have someone else monitor your email for three weeks and pretend to be you to employers. (Plus, then what happens if your friend responds for you and then gets questions s/he can’t answer?)

        I had this happen once as a hiring manager. I got a strong resume with a cover letter that made it clear the applicant would be out of the country without access to email or phone for the next month (by the time I received it from HR). I hired someone else in that time but she wound up applying for – and getting – another position at our org a couple months later.

  33. Allison*

    #1) The key here is that he’s being a jerk, and making something that can and should be fun way less fun for everyone. If it was just a matter of him not knowing much, that may be okay as long as he’s good company, and isn’t taking a spot on the team away from someone who does know more and would also be fun to be around (where I live, team sizes are often limited in an attempt to keep things fair). However, since he’s dead weight *and* obnoxious, you’re 100% in the right to tell him he can’t be on the team anymore.

    That said, has no one talked to him about this? I think the issue is too far gone to be fixed with a warning, but I’m curious if anyone had taken him aside after the first couple trivia nights and said “dude, we don’t mind people hanging out when they don’t know much, but you can’t make fun of us and call us nerds like that, it’s really rude. If you’re a jerk next time, we won’t include you in this again.”

    2) It may be unlikely that she gets the virus, but since the effects can be so devastating, it’s totally reasonable of them not to want to take any chances. But they should pay you for that week, since it’s not your decision.

  34. Abigael*

    I’m going to share an unpopular opinion for #1. I don’t think you need to keep him on your trivia team. However, as someone who works daily with international students and colleagues (higher ed), I wonder if there may be a more graceful way to kick him off the team and give him the benefit of the doubt, because perhaps there are some language/cultural ignorance issues coming into play here. I don’t know all the details about this coworker, but if English is his second language, perhaps he does not realize that words like “nerd” are rude. He might think they are playful, teasing words…perhaps he’s heard them used in that context on TV or online. Likewise, it’s not surprising that he’s bad at trivia if US culture is not his first culture AND he can’t understand the questions due to the language barrier. He may have joined the team in order to learn more about American culture and also make friends and connections in the company.

    I think it’s okay to tell him that your trivia team has decided to be more exclusive and keep it to the original members, but I just encourage a gentler and more understanding tone with the idea that maybe his rudeness and annoying attitude are more due to cultural/social ignorance than actual ill intent. Just a thought.

      1. Tedious Cat*

        That seems pretty infantilizing towards ESL speakers. OP has already said that other ESL speakers have attended without managing to alienate the whole team.

        1. Abigael*

          I would push back on this, as I don’t think it’s initializing. I would argue that a lot has to do with the ESL speaker’s English level, country of origin, and the amount of time he or she has been in the United States. Someone who has a lower English level,comes from a culture that is very different from the US, and has only been here for a few months is going to have much more difficulty picking up on social cues than an ESL speaker who is from a more similar culture and or more exposure to American culture.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            Thank you, Abigael. That’s what I meant. Not all ESL speakers are on the same level. We have several in my company and they’re all at different levels. Some have been here for many years, others just a few months. Some had a lot of exposure to American culture and some haven’t.

          2. nonegiven*

            My sister had to compete to appear on the high school knowledge team TV show. Run tryouts and kick the guy out.

    1. Lizabeth*

      This…I remember telling someone for whom English was a second language that “Shut your pie hole” was not a good thing to say to someone and that they might get a fist in the face for it depending on who they said it to…

    2. nonegiven*

      >He may have joined the team in order to learn more about American culture

      Then he needs to stay in the audience

  35. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

    #5 – Check online to see if you can cancel your direct deposit, assuming you have the ability to view your pay stub information online. If it were me, I’d change it (it may not let you cancel it, but it will almost certainly allow you to change it) to a savings account and send a certified letter to your old employer detailing your actions. That way it’s not mingled in with the money that’s actually yours and you have proof of your attempts to contact them.

    You would not believe how easy this happens to salaried employees due to no one informing the payroll department of employees leaving the company. Hourly isn’t as big of an issue because no one is clocking in/reporting hours but salary is so often on autopay. I much prefer a system where everyone submits a time sheet each week.

  36. AndersonDarling*

    #4 I’d mix up Alison’s interview question a bit and ask, “Can you tell me about a time when internal bureaucracy slowed down a project or a time where you thought there should have been more bureaucracy?” If you haven’t worked in this kind of environment, you probably wouldn’t have a great example. But if a candidate can identify places in their current workplace that could use some checks and balances, more sign offs, and more memos, then you found a budding Hermes Conrad Grade 36 Bureaucrat. Hire them.

    1. Admin of Sys*

      Agreed! Though maybe not use the term ‘bureaucracy’ since it has so many negative connotations? I was an iso pre-auditor and honestly, having processes in place and check-ins was /really useful/. I would feel like the above questions would imply the corporate culture was against the bureaucracy in question. So maybe ask about the internal bureaucracy slowing down a project, to see how bitter they sound; but for the positive question, I’d phrase it more like “a time when a project could have used more controls and more interactions with management, or been more process driven?”

      1. aebhel*

        Same. ‘Bureaucracy’ has negative connotations; I would use ‘processes’ or ‘procedures’. Ask people how much independence they like in their role, how they’ve dealt with processes that make their job difficult AND how having processes might have helped in a scenario.

  37. Trout 'Waver*

    In regards to OP#3, I’d say go ahead and apply for jobs right up to the day you leave. You’re not going to miss out on any opportunities you would have otherwise had a shot at. 3-week delays with no contact by potential employers and hiring processes that take months are exceedingly common. Alison has posted several times that multiple week delays are to be expected by candidates.

    As long as you’re up front about it in your cover letter, potential employers can read that and decide if 3 weeks of no contact is a deal breaker or not. Obviously don’t apply to jobs if they indicate in the posting that they need to make a decision during the time you’ll be unreachable.

  38. paul*

    On the auto pay thing: I don’t know that I’d switch to exclusively to calling. If any legal crap comes up, wouldn’t a paper trail of emails be a good thing to be able to show?

    1. Communicating on all fronts*

      Calling may get you results faster, though. You coild also document those calls via emails (“per our conversation/the voicemail I left you/whatever, I’ve bee paid in error [etcetcetc]…”), making it abundantly clear that you’d been working for a resolution. Honestly, I’d also reference all of my emails in any voicemails I left, especially if I were moving up the chain.

  39. Interviewer*

    OP5 – Speaking as someone who handles payroll for a living, you’re not calling the right people. Go higher than your old supervisor. Go straight to corporate, the payroll department, somewhere other than the contact(s) you’ve already tried. If necessary, go in person with copies of your statements to show the deposits and amounts. If you have access to check paystubs online, or if you received paystubs in the mail, bring those, take screenshots, etc. Above all, be prepared to write a check immediately for that money, and get consensus on what your W-2 totals will reflect. Make sure everyone understands that it’s all paid back, and you no longer owe them anything.

    It’s not your money, and yes, you can get in trouble. Please resolve it today, before you’re tempted to spend a penny of it, and long before you begin to feel entitled to it.

    1. Here we go again*

      “Please resolve it today, before you’re tempted to spend a penny of it, and long before you begin to feel entitled to it.”

      Why are you assuming that the OP will be tempted to spend it or feel entitled to it? This seems a little presumptuous when there is nothing that indicates that the OP has any intention of spending it.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        That’s how people can get in trouble in situations like this. I don’t want to put words in Interviewer’s mouth, but I read it as a general warning that they would give to anyone in a similar situation and not a specific warning based on anything OP#5 wrote.

  40. AwkwardKaterpillar*

    OP #5, if you want to avoid keeping this extra money and possibly having it come back to bite you, you can just call your bank and ask them to return it. Direct deposit is done via ACH and your bank can return credits basically at any point (rules say they have to within 2 days of your notification).

    Once the funds start coming back, someone in payroll is likely going to look into it to determine why they aren’t balancing. So even if no one is returning your calls, the message is going to get to them via the returned funds.

    And of course document all of these returned deposits.

    1. Here we go again*

      I don’t think it’s that simple because OP needs to ensure that the old job knows about all of this so her tax documents are correct. Just returning it doesn’t solve the bigger issues.

      1. AwkwardKaterpillar*

        Right, which is why she will want to keep copies of the returns. However, if no one is responding to her communications – returning the deposits is another way to get their attention and it removes the temptation to spend any of the money.

        1. Here we go again*

          Why is everyone assuming that OP will be tempted to spend the money? I feel like people are passing some kind of moral judgment on the OP that isn’t warranted. I recognize that probably isn’t the intent, but it is coming off that way to me.

          There are people out there who would have no temptation towards it recognizing it is not their money. There are also people (like me) who save almost any and all unexpected money that comes to them so they would hold onto that money for decades even if it comes back to haunt them later.

          1. TootsNYC*

            This happened to a bunch of us when I was younger–we all got laid off at once. Some people didn’t closely track their expenditures and ended up spending a little of it.

            There was also at least one person who thought that if they spent it, they wouldn’t have to give it back, or that they could sort of use it as a loan–but of course, the company was able to take it back without even notifying them.

            1. zora*

              I would have been super tempted to use it as a loan when I was younger, spend some of it on things I needed telling myself I’ll put it back with my next paycheck. And I might have even done it. I don’t think it’s judgmental to mention it as a hypothetical, in my case I’m just bad at keeping track of money unless I really work at it, it’s not a huge moral failing.

          2. MommyMD*

            It does not seem like OP has done much to stop the erroneous deposits and the longer it continues the more complicated it becomes. A couple of phone calls doesn’t cut it. The company will come after it and meanwhile it affects tax income and generally looks bad the longer it goes on.

            1. Here we go again*

              I don’t see anything indicating the level to which the OP has tried to return the money. Saying that the OP hasn’t “done much” is a leap based on the minimal information given in the letter.

          3. Marisol*

            I would think it’s more of an inertia thing than a malfeasance thing. Once the monies become comingled in the bank account, the idea that it’s not legally your money becomes less concrete, especially after a certain amount of time passes.

            1. Natalie*

              Plus it’s just harder to keep track of. Every time you look at your checking account balance, you have to mentally subtract exactly $1,234.56 from the balance to know what’s yours? Much cleaner to just quarantine it in it’s own account.

            2. LBK*

              Agreed. I can see many people (probably myself included) being very strict about it at first, but then as a month, two months, six months go by, you start to feel like there’s no point in not using money that no one seems to be concerned about taking back. I think this is less of a judgment of the OP and more of people projecting their own likelihood of being tempted.

          4. Observer*

            No one is passing moral judgement. But for most people who look at their bank balance before spending, it’s easy to make a mistake if that money is sitting there. And, as a practical matter, you need to leave it sitting there, because the employer can claw it back at any time without warning, and if the money is not there it creates it’s own set of problems.

            Get rid of it, and that can’t happen.

    2. Trout 'Waver*

      I’m not a big fan of involving the bank because it makes it more complicated complicated for OP#5. I’m not an accountant, but I wouldn’t expect the party that screwed up to suddenly rectify their mistake with a new complication.

      1. AwkwardKaterpillar*

        Either way, the money is going to go back to the employer. It’s a lot easier to return a credit than to issue a reversal for the initial erroneous entry.

        Regardless of whether it’s expected that the part that didn’t do anything wrong to rectify the error, there is money sitting in her account that isn’t hers. If I were in that position, I would want to have it removed from my account – and then keep track of any records to deal with tax or legal issues in the future.

        I work in a bank – it’s not difficult (for most banks) to simply return the credit. There aren’t even any documents (legally) required to return a credit.

  41. Shadow*

    2. If they told you to stay home they should have ensured you were paid. Or they should have arranged for you to telecommute. That was pretty shitty of them to ask you to take a week off unpaid when you were ready and willing to work

  42. LCL*

    #2, I acknowledge that what I am posting has the benefit of 20-20 hindsight which is always perfect.
    When your manager asked you to stay home for a week, you should have spoke up and said “I can’t afford unpaid leave. Can I use my vacation?” Or, you should have asked for a temporary assignment. Actually manager should have found a temporary assignment for you or expecting coworker.

    It sounds like your manager was not very good at knowing about personnel issues and handled it poorly. Her mind went immediately to asking you to stay home, the easiest solution, instead of looking for options. And, as other posters have pointed out, there is a clause in Canadian law to pay you under the circumstances! Have you talked to the labor board to ask what you have to do to get that back pay?

  43. em2mb*

    OP5, this is likely to screw up your taxes. This happened to me my first year out of college when I kept getting automated payments of a graduate school stipend. It took me two tax years to get the whole thing sorted out. Keep excellent records, and don’t make your normal projections about how to spend that tax refund until you know for sure how it’s going to impact you financially.

  44. kindnessisitsownreward*

    The mumps question is an interesting one. If a doctor has cleared someone to return to work, does the workplace have a right to bar the person from returning to work based on a risk of being contagious? (I realize that in this particular instance, we aren’t sure if the doctor did a true “you are clear to return to work” or something like “it’s probably OK to return to work.”)

    In this instance, I think her workplace should have requested a doctor’s note for clearance to return to work. If the doctor gives the note, then I think it’s on the other employees to decide whether they feel personally safe around the person. If on the other hand the doctor won’t provide a note, then the person needs to stay out of work until the doctor does provide the note.

    1. mf*

      Agreed. If the doctor explicitly cleared the sick person to return to work because they were no longer contagious, I think it should’ve been on the pregnant woman to stay home.

      That being said, unless this is a really small office, certainly they could’ve just quarantined the sick person? Or split the difference by asking one person take the first part of the week off and the second person the last half of the week? It seems like the solution they came to is overly harsh for one party.

  45. saffytaffy*

    OP #4 Maybe you can also be on the lookout for synonyms and antonyms of beaurocracy that an interviewee might use- they’re likely going to want to use neutral language. At X job we would always talk about “timeline challenges” and “bottlenecks in the hierarchy”. If I were interviewing now, I might say that red tape doesn’t bother me, I don’t worry if teams have several layers of hierarchy, or I might say I’m used to organizational setbacks when running a big project.

  46. TootsNYC*

    On the Bad Trivia Intern (#1)

    You don’t HAVE to tell Cosmo why you don’t want him on your team. You don’t even have to say you don’t want him.

    It’s sometimes easier to speak to the positive–what you DO want–which is to have your team be just you four again.

    So: “Cosmo, we’re going to play with just us four from now on. We’re missing that. Good luck finding another team.”

    This might mean you have to go a few weeks without friends joining in. But then, when someone does join, and Cosmo says, “Hey, I thought it was going to be just you four!” then just say, in puzzled tones, “But Susie is my friend/Jane’s cousin.”

  47. TootsNYC*

    #5: pay still being direct-deposited

    Talk to your bank.

    When this happened to me years ago, my bank told me I couldn’t initiate a reverse transfer of funds (giving the money back to them); check to see if this is still the case. But I could put a stop on letting them continue to deposit. (They only did 1 paycheck so it wasn’t worth it)

    And yes, don’t touch that money–because once the payor realized the error, they were able to get th emoney back out of my account with no notice. They didn’t need my permission, and they didn’t give me a heads-up.

    I hadn’t touched the money, so it was fine, but I had colleagues in the same situation (it was a layoff) who hadn’t been paying attention and ended up in the red.

    1. Shadow*

      The biggest problem is the deposited amount is net and the owed amount will probably be gross

      1. Natalie*

        No, the OP wouldn’t have to pay back the gross, they’re only on the hook for money they actually received. The difference is tax withholding which has been deposited with the IRS/state/local taxing authority, and has to be reclaimed from that agency.

        1. Shadow*

          It depends. I’ve seen employers try to collect undue contributions to retirement accounts and benefit premiums

          1. LBK*

            From my experience working with 401(k)s I’m fairly certain the retirement contributions would be up to the company to recoup as the plan administrator, assuming you haven’t withdrawn your account from their plan yet.

          2. Natalie*

            Well, sure, a retirement account is money the OP has received, so it’s not ludicrous to expect them to send it back to the employer if it was erroneous. But that’s only going to apply to funds the employee now has control over, not amounts paid on their behalf to other companies/agencies. If I buy you something and you don’t want it, I don’t get to force you to pay me back.

          3. aebhel*

            I actually did have to deal with a situation where my boss left without actually having herself removed from the health insurance, and we had to recoup the premiums from the insurer. We didn’t go after her for the amount of the premiums, though. That would have been nuts.

            1. TootsNYC*

              exactly! The company will certainly get those contributions back from 401(k) or health insurance or whatever. But they’ll get them from those plans, which are the entities they paid them to.

              Not from the OP directly.

        2. aebhel*


          That would amount to charging the OP money for the company’s mistake. Not a lawyer, but I can’t imagine any legal way that OP could be held responsible for money they didn’t actually receive (that said, I would check very carefully to make sure that only the amounts deposited are returned; I don’t think there would be any way for the company to pull more out of the account than they put in, but their incompetence up to this point is worrying).

  48. SSS*

    For the trivia playing, it seems pretty straightforward to simply tell Cosmos that they don’t feel that the team is meshing well with him, but he is welcome to start another team to play if he does want to continue attending.

  49. Marisol*

    #5, if I were in your position and I couldn’t get a hold of anyone to fix the error after trying for several days, I’d write the company a check for the full amount that they gave you, and mail it to them with a letter explaining their error, and I’d send it certified and return receipt. That will create a paper trail which could help you if the situation escalates and you have to defend yourself. I would then make sure my w4 is updated correctly and does not include the checks which were sent by mistake as income.

    1. Steve*

      It would be better, if possible, for the company to resolve it in their payroll department. That way it’s much more likely that the W-2 gets issued properly.

    2. Natalie*

      One thing to note with regard to US taxes, at least – if the overpayment isn’t returned within the same tax year, it is income for tax purposes. Why you received the income isn’t material to the IRS. The tax situation is significantly more complicated if the money is repaid in a subsequent year (and will probably result in paying more taxes overall). So if the LW is going to send the money back they should do it this year.

  50. mle*

    OP#5 – my husband just went through a similar situation earlier this year, except his paychecks were being deposited into a coworker’s account. The coworker changed his direct deposit information with HR in December because he was going to close that particular account. The HR person was forever confusing my husband with the coworker, so in the end the coworker was getting paid twice and hubby not at all. The coworker ended up quitting abruptly and moving before hubby realized what was going on. Hubby had a cushion in his checking account and didn’t notice the lack of missing funds for a while. His coworker, before he quit, tried to alert payroll of what was going on, but they basically refused to listen. It was all resolved fairly quickly in the end. But we did wonder if his former coworker spent any of the money or closed the account. Just don’t touch the money.

  51. Steve*

    OP#2 and anyone else reading this who doesn’t have emergency funds saved up – please consider this your wake-up call. Losing a week’s pay is never going to be easy, but, you really should get into a place where missing less than 2% (1/52nd) of your pay (or alternatively, having an expense that large) is going to have drastic repercussions that last months or a year later.

    1. LBK*

      I don’t know that “less than 2%” of your salary is really a fair way to look at it when most people’s significant expenses are incurred monthly (rent/mortgage, utilities, car payments/insurance, etc). So you’re really losing 25% of the income you were anticipating having to pay this month’s expenses; if you’re already living on a tight paycheck-to-paycheck budget, that would be a huge blow, not to mention having a tight monthly budget also means it will take you a long time to build up your savings.

  52. OP#2*

    OP#2 here – sorry for the delay in responding to your kind comments!

    I should have specified a few things:

    – Everybody involved (including myself, the pregnant coworker, our manager, the rest of our team, their own children) were fully vaccinated.
    – My manager was admittedly not the kindest I’ve had but did have decades of experience.
    – I was completely out of paid sick leave due to chronic migraines. My manager had in the past advanced me sick leave and didn’t want to do it again (sigh).
    – I was also completely out of personal leave, volunteer leave, and vacation leave, almost all of which were used as sick leave due to the same chronic illness (which has been remedied since – yay!)
    – Public Servants in the Canadian federal government do not have Short Term Disability Leave. Only Long Term.
    – Working from home was impossible due to my working with the personnel files of undercover law enforcement and foreign service officers.

    I believe pregnant coworker did have paid sick leave left, and I think if this happened to me NOW, I’d suggest she be the one to stay home. She was absent from work a lot already, due to her difficult pregnancy. Or, I would’ve gotten my okay from the doctor in writing, and maybe tried to relocate to a different floor of the building, where sensitive files would still be available to me in an appropriately secure location. Or get my union involved.

    And finally: please don’t lecture people about not having savings. You don’t know their circumstances. It’s a luxury to be able to save at all, please remember that.

    Thanks everyone! xoxo

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