I was in a car accident and everyone is livid with me for not being on top of my work

A reader writes:

While driving to my temp job recently (all I could get after losing my job earlier this year in a mass layoff), I was hit and pushed for about half a mile by a large commercial vehicle at highway speed. Multiple lawsuits — civil and criminal — are pending against him.

After calling 911, I texted both my boss and a recruiter (whose client I’d been supposed to interview with for a two-year contract later that day) to explain what had happened, and that I’d be out of pocket for the rest of the day. Recruiter’s immediate response: “When can you reschedule?”

While the paramedics were cutting me out of my car, removing glass shards from my underwear, etc. and through the next few days in the ER, multiple legal appointments, etc., I received multiple, double and triple calls from business and social contacts about non-life and death stuff. (“Hope you’re okay, but when can you do that report?”)

I wound up setting a vacation message on my email and changing my voicemail to explain I’d been in a very bad accident and needed to deal with my injuries, and to please just call once and be patient, I’d get back to you.

I was allowed a whopping day and a half off of work during the accident.

I am in a tremendous amount of pain and looking at a very lengthy physical recovery, possibly surgery. Not to mention the panic attacks I’m having from this incident as well as from being a survivor of a fatal car accident as a little kid. I am moving slower, I am not at work as much (I’m hourly), and not as sharp or creative as I usually am. I do not feel physically up to being in the office, but have no choice.

Everyone is livid with me.

Every time I return a phone call, someone is screaming at me for not having picked up when they called and taking too long to call back.

I have had a couple tense conversations at work about having called out with such little notice, not being able to stay late, and choosing surgery and physical therapy over (Insert MLM herbal crap here). Someone even suggested I manifested the accident by not being spiritual. It is becoming obvious that I walked into a much bigger mess than was disclosed in the interview; some things I’m hearing internally suggest that this company may hire temps to use as scapegoats for serious employee/lack of employee errors.

The recruiter and his boss wound up calling/emailing/texting me repeatedly over the next few days. His boss mistook my email’s vacation message for a personal/aggressive response to him. I wound up turning down the interview (citing need to pay attention to medical issue and the hounding during such a horrible time), and the recruiter’s boss sent me a very hateful message accusing me of intentionally and maliciously stringing everyone along and then badmouthed me to the company and throughout our local business community.

If I’m so important that it’s the end of the world if someone can’t reach me for a few hours, why the hell are companies only considering me for temp roles?

I’m baffled because while my speech was left clear, my physical injuries are very obvious. I feel like I need to defend myself somehow. I have thought of posting screenshots of the nasty texts and emails to LinkedIn, possibly with pictures of damage to my car. But at the end of the day, I don’t understand what right people have to be mad at me. There’s enough in the public record that people believe my story and acknowledge that accident wasn’t my fault, but they’re all furious that I’m not myself three seconds after such an ordeal.

How do I repair my professional reputation after this? I have a degree from a school most mistake for an Ivy and 10 years in a very rigorous/prestigious environment (think investment banking) before having kids, and hate to see it all lost totally over an irresponsible driver. I’m pretty sure I’m going to get fired for this, so how to explain two job losses in a year to another potential employer?

Thank you for not suggesting therapy — there isn’t a mental health professional in this town who will work with someone non-religious.

Where on earth are you living where people are so horrible in a situation that normally would be spurring sympathy, not anger and hostility?

What you’re describing is not normal, not even a little bit.

Unless you somehow downplayed the accident to the point that people completely missed that you were seriously injured and now need to recover, there’s no excuse for any of this. Did you by chance say the words “It’s just a little scratch and I’m fine”? If not … the people around you are assholes.

(One caveat here: Does everyone who seems livid with you actually know the situation? Your boss and the recruiter know, but are some of those angry calls from people who may not realize what happened? I know you changed your voicemail message to explain the situation, but not everyone pays attention to those. So it’s possible that some of those people genuinely don’t realize what happened.)

As for what to do … You could try to approach your manager as if he must have misunderstood and that surely he wouldn’t be acting like this if he did grasp the situation, and try correcting the record. But he’s behaved so badly already that I’m not sure you’ll get through to him. Not everyone is reachable by reason and logic and normal human compassion. But you can try! You could say something like this: “I’m not sure if I’ve communicated the severity of my injuries. My doctors have made it clear that my injuries are serious. I may need to have surgery. I am not at full speed right now; I’m asking for your understanding that I’ll need ____ from you while I’m getting back on track (insert whatever you need — some extra time responding to people, time for doctor’s appointments, or so forth). I’m getting the sense that you expect me to be back to normal already, and it’s just not medically possible right now. Given that, can we talk about a realistic plan for the next few weeks?”

You could also say a version of that to the recruiter and his boss, minus the “what I need from you” part.

It’s possible that you have been less clear than you think, and that this will help clarify. It’s also possible that you’ve already been perfectly clear.

If you actually get fired for this, what you will tell prospective employers in the future is this: “I had a serious car accident and need to focus on recovering from the injuries. I’m fine now.” And you will go on to find an employer who doesn’t treat people like this.

I’m sorry you’re working with such jerks, and good luck in your recovery.

{ 514 comments… read them below }

  1. Murphy*


    I’m so sorry OP. That sounds horrific, and I wish you a speedy recovery. And some relief from the asshats you’re working with.

    1. Snark*

      I made it until “Someone even suggested I manifested the accident by not being spiritual” before I just blurted “Oh my god, f*ck all these people!”

      These people are the closest thing to scenery-chewing Disney villains as we get in this sadly real world. They are insane, they are a collective moral and ethical shambles, and I would rage-quit this job just on general principle. I’d dumpster-dive before working for this group of clowns.

      1. Rainbow Hair Chick*

        I am unbelievably sorry this happened to you! Please know you are in my thoughts and I am sending you positive vibes through the universe for a quick recovery and a new job. I hope you can get away from these people quickly! They are horrible people and you don’t deserve any of this!

      2. Snark*

        Also, to answer your question: “How do I repair my professional reputation after this? I’m pretty sure I’m going to get fired for this, so how to explain two job losses in a year to another potential employer?”

        Your professional reputation will be fine. The explanation is, “While I was a temp, I was severely injured in a car accident. The company I was temping for had some expectations that I would be back to normal and recover faster than I was able to, and I wasn’t able to work with them on the schedule they had in mind. Unfortunately, some folks came away with the impression that I’d strung them along or hadn’t satisfied my obligations, but I wasn’t physically able to work. I really wish I’d left on better terms, it was a dreadful misunderstanding in a very difficult time.”

        1. blackcat*

          Or just explain it as “While I was a temp, I was severely injured in a car accident. As a temp, I was not eligible for the leave I needed to fully recover. Since I was unable to return to work at my full immediately, they let me go.”

            1. Creag an Tuire*

              It sounds like OP’s already hearing that this company has a reputation for being unreasonable assholes, so hopefully a reasonable employer won’t care about about their “blackballing”.

          1. Amber T*

            Yeah, I like this better. I think mentioning wrong impression implies poor communication and makes the former employer look less idiotic, while potentially raising questions on OP’s ability to communicate. And even if OP possibly gave the impression that their injuries weren’t as bad as they are, I would think an employer’s appropriate response would be “what can you do” and work from there, versus the awful yelling. OP, this is NOT NORMAL and UNACCEPTABLE, and I wish you best of luck on your recovery and getting the hell outta dodge.

          2. TootsNYC*

            I’m w/ this.

            In an interview, it is NEVER in your best interests to bring up the drama from your old job.

            If only because it takes the focus off of your skills, abilities, and accomplishments, and puts it on the drama.

            Believe me, the idea that they let you go because of the timeline will be enough to throw a little shade.
            And if YOU don’t get all drama-y, then if they reach out to that employer and hear, “We thought she was faking it,” or “she was unreliable,” you will look like the more credible person.

            Drama doesn’t help you credibility.

            It’s not about hiding their sins or protecting them.
            It’s about keeping the focus where you want it to be (on your suitability as an employee), and portraying yourself as someone who can stay effective even amid drama.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Truly, OP, “I was laid off in the big Llama Ltd consolidation; after that I had a temp job but was badly injured in a car accident and couldn’t recover in the small time-off available to temps” is not a red flag of an answer. This toxic office is getting into your head, but truly, this is not normal.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, this isn’t two quits or two firings; even if you’re terminated for this, it’s a situation where if you’d had FMLA you’d have taken it.

          2. The Southern Gothic*

            Never give these idiots any time in your future interviews. If a prospective employer needs to know where you worked, tell them it was a temp position and leave it at that. If they push to contact the temp agency, let them. The nutjob agency will most likely convey everything the prospective employer needs to know about why you’re not there anymore.

        1. agatha31*

          I had the same damn reaction. The person who said that has now manifested thousands of headaches by not being “normal, sensible, rational, decent human being” enough.

      3. Hills to Die on*

        This is really terrible if them; it is NOT about you, OP. You will move on from this, and definitely for the better! Please give us an update once you have recovered from your accident. Much love and healing to you.

      4. Jonno*

        I’m having a really hard time believing people exist that behave this way. Not that I don’t believe the OP; quite the contrary and it sounds terrible. I mean that it just sounds crazy-from-an-alternative-universe that some people can be so callous!

        I hope you get far away from those people, OP. You CAN find a work environment where people are fair, conscientious and supportive in times of crisis. Sheesh!

    2. Spooky*

      You know, I usually don’t go this route, but OP: Name and Shame. Seriously. This is so awful that I really think you need to call this company out. You just can’t treat people the way they’ve treated you. It’s terrible.

      Sending lots of good thoughts for your quick recovery!

        1. Jesca*

          There has to be higher people in that company he can talk to. I mean really, what does he have to lose?

        2. MashaKasha*

          Also, glassdoor the hell out of them if they let you go for this. This workplace sounds so mind-bogglingly terrible. As does most of the rest of this town, in fact (recruiter, the mental health professionals).

          1. Snark*

            I love that glassdoor is a verb. It gives me this mental image of a really smug person dressing down OP for not answering her phone, then strutting away and walking straight into a glass door. PUNG! All with a little forehead-print on the glass.

          2. Geoffrey B*

            Honestly, glassdoor the hell out of them whether or not they let you go, if you can protect your identity. Firing or no firing, they’ve already earned it.

            1. Wintermute*

              Protecting your identity doesn’t matter so much in a case like this. NO person with a shred of common sense or empathy will look at this and go “oh yeah, I can see why this guy was fired”. Only the pointiest of pointy-haired bosses will react with anything but abject horror. Most rational people will react to this story like a guy in a zombie moving seeing his girlfriend eating his best friend’s brains (“NOOOO! oh no! that can’t have happened! nooo! no this can’t be real! oh no!”)

              1. Geoffrey B*

                Sorry, I wasn’t clear there – my “if you can protect your identity” was meant to be re. if the OP isn’t fired. I agree that if they are fired, it doesn’t matter so much.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          This, especially if you have loving but busybody-type relatives. Also Glassdoor, with the full names of all offenders. And if there’s any particularly outrageous email/post/whatever you can screenshot – I’m not very current on blogs of the “lol people behaving badly” variety but there’s probably a place you could send this. I like to imagine this going viral and the company (and recruiting agency!) being buried under an avalanche of bad publicity and nasty messages.

    3. Chinook*

      OP – the people who are responding to you like this our @$$H0!!$, pure and simple. This is not a normal response, even from a temp agency.

      I know of what I speak. While on my way to day 4 of a 5 day job, I had kidney stones with pain so bad that the bus driver stopped the bus and one of the passengers got off with me while I waited for DH to pick me up and drive me 4 blocks to the hospital. This happened in a part of Canada not know for its warmth towards Anglophones and yet all I got was kindness. When I got to the ER and they recognized the problem, the nurse went from practically ignoring my attempts at explaining symptoms in French to running for a doctor. I was in a bed with drugs within 10 minutes (when I showed up to the same hospital with chest pains, it took 4 hours to see a doctor, which shows you the urgency). Once I was clear headed enough, I did like you and called both my agency and the client to explain I wouldn’t be able to unlock the office doors that morning and arrange for DH to return the key that day. Both said not to worry and get better (though I was unpaid for that day).

      It took a month and one surgery for the stones to pass. The agency rep called me weekly to see if I was ready for work and took my groggy word that I wasn’t. When I was, they offered my halftime work so I could get my strength back and, when I was ready, found me fulltime work. This cost them nothing but kindness (since I was only paid for hours worked) but is an example of how your agency should have handled it.

      I repeat, OP, that the people around you are @$$H0!!$ and are probably never going to change. You didn’t deserve that treatment. I wish you all the luck in finding a better agency.

      1. Former Employee*

        Chinook: I’m sorry you had to go through this awful medical situation. I know someone who had similar and it was a nightmare until they finally had the surgery. At least everyone from medical staff to employment related types took it seriously/at face value.

  2. ThatGirl*

    That is all just so terrible it seems like a cartoon villain. I absolutely believe the OP, for the record, I’m not doubting her story. I’m just saying it’s utterly ridiculously despicable. I’m so sorry, OP.

    Also, I totally understand if you don’t want or feel like you need therapy, but if you’re in the US, there really should be non-religious therapists around you or someone who’s willing to work with a non-religious person.

    1. JoanLynne*

      I’ve had experience with small towns in the bible belt that truly don’t have much in the way of non-religious counselors. They’ll take non-religious clients, but the focus will definitely be on “healing through Christ” and not CBT or other secular strategies.

      1. CMDRBNA*

        Yup. I’m currently trying to find a rehabilitation center in a small town for a volunteer project, but I’m trying to avoid any that are overtly based on religion, and thus far I haven’t found a single one that isn’t.

        1. Chinook*

          “but I’m trying to avoid any that are overtly based on religion, and thus far I haven’t found a single one that isn’t.”

          While I can’t guarantee this will work, try looking for Catholic agencies. They have a long history of working with non-Catholics and are usually not as overt in solving everything with Christ and don’t believe in pre-destination but free will (which means they believe in the ability to choose what will happen to you). They are also used to working with a more multicultural faith group, so there is more room for individual differences in beliefs and practices (outside of Catholic tenents). It is not ideal for non-Christian who wants something non-religious, but it may be the best of the bad choices available.

          1. GreenDoor*

            Came here to offer the same advice. (But seriously, where is OP living that disclosing one’s faith views is a pre-requisite to getting therapy??). If you go to a Catholic facility, you will see religious icons and whatnot on the walls, yes. Your therapist may even be a member of a religious order. But meshing Catholic dogma with the therapy is not part of the deal. There’s no prayer or ritual folded into a therapy session at all. We are not a fire-and-brimstone people so your health issues will not be blamed on your “sin.” None of that!

            My step-father is a therapist for Catholic organizations in Wisconsin. The therapy and counseling is based on best practices in psychiatry, period. You might start with Catholic Charities, an umbrella organization – open to anyone – who can steer you to therapists that cater to your needs.

            1. Sarah*

              I went to a therapist in college through Catholic Charities and I can confirm that other that the crucifix on the wall, it was a bland room with a lovely therapist and not a single mention of God, Jesus, or religion in general.

            2. Georgine*

              “Catholic Charities, an umbrella organization–open to anyone–who can steer you to therapists that cater to your needs.” Yeah, except if you’re gay. When given no choice but to include gay parents, Catholic Charities chose to shut down their adoption programs in Illinois and Massachusetts instead. In DC, they stopped offering health insurance to spouses altogether rather than having to offer it to married same-sex couples. There are many great people working there and they do many great things and that’s kind of the point: they do these things while systemically excluding LGBT people. I wouldn’t describe them as “open to anyone.”

              1. Else*

                Yeah. You also can’t trust them when it comes to anything having to do with women’s reproductive issues or feelings about same. They will nearly always prioritize fertility and putative offspring over the actual health and well-being of women. Not always true, but most commonly.

        2. Robotio*

          Have you tried a community mental health center? Or perhaps even a local psychiatry office? I have lived in towns that were less than 2k and found a variety of non secular based therapy options.

    2. LizB*

      There should be non-religious therapists around, but even in the US, there are areas where there just aren’t. There are a few online chat therapy services that are well-regarded, though; maybe the OP would be more comfortable with one of those?

      1. Observer*

        Eh, even decent religious therapists should be willing to work with non-religious clients. In fact, every religious therapist I know says “It’s not my job to help you be religious unless you WANT to be religious.” (That comes up a lot when it’s parents who want their kids in therapy.)

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yeah, but in many parts of the country this just isn’t the case. It’s remarkable how manipulative some are willing to be in the name of salvation.

        2. caryatis*

          I would never go to a religious therapist. Even if they think they’re not pushing you towards religious values, they would be.

          1. Shiara*

            This has absolutely not been my experience.

            That’s a perfectly reasonable decision to make for yourself, but your second sentence is nowhere near universally true.

            1. MJH*

              Yep, I told my therapist I didn’t want to talk about religion or religious topics and we did not. She was a wonderful therapist and I’d go back in a heartbeat.

            2. calonkat*

              The problem is that it’s impossible to tell from the “outside” and as someone relying on temp wages/no benefits, the poster may not have the funds to try multiple counselors (if there ARE multiple counselors) on the chance they get lucky.

              My experience in small midwestern towns matches Princess Consuela Banana Hammock for almost every aspect of life. Auto repair is the only thing off the top of my head that I never got at least “have a blessed day”. And everyone knows if you don’t attend church!

          2. Jaybeetee*

            I’ve had therapy through a religious organization in the past (they had sliding-scale fees, I was broke), and IME, they did not push religion in the slightest. It was never even mentioned. OP ought to do her research on counselling organizations in the area, but just because they’re affiliated with a church, doesn’t mean they’ll push the dogma in therapy. (Of course, even if that’s not the actual goal, more savvy religious organizations probably realize that offering services without attached dogma is a good way to attract people into the fold anyway who would be otherwise put off by having dogma pushed on them).

          3. PM Jesper Berg*

            “I would never go to a religious therapist. Even if they think they’re not pushing you towards religious values, they would be.”

            Aren’t you being incredibly judgmental here, in the way you think religious people themselves are?

            1. anonak*

              I don’t know that caryatis is referring to therapists who are religious in their personal lives. They might refer to therapists who promote their practices as ‘faith based’ or ‘healing through religion’. I personally would be comfortable with many of the former and probably none of the latter.

            2. DArcy*

              There’s nothing judgement about saying, “I don’t think a therapist who explicitly advertises their services as based on religious ideology is going to be able to ‘turn it off’ and provide purely secular services to a client. They’d avoid actively preaching, but it’s not realistic to expect them to be able to completely decouple from their entire worldview.”

              1. SarahTheEntwife*

                Definitely. If it’s the only game in town it’s understandable that someone would have to resort to it anyway, but aside from my discomfort with going to a Christian therapist I’d just feel weird going “hi, I need therapy, but absolutely not the kind of therapy you specialize in; can you do something else?”.

            3. Anon for This*


              I am growing very, very weary of this (let’s be honest, conservative) tendency to try and frame being intolerant of intolerance as some sort of hypocrisy.

            4. Gadget Hackwrench*

              It really depends on what your definition of “religious values” is. If you only want them not to talk about the religion overtly, or ask you to rely on god, etc, then yes, they can refrain.

              But one’s religion permeates one’s world view and it’s incredibly easy to think that for example placing heavy value on things like self sacrifice, humbleness, forgiveness isn’t a religious influence, which simply isn’t true. These things are valuable only if you believe that suffering has a value, that it makes you a better person, or that by withstanding it you are performing a good act in the furtherance of your god or fellow people which is a VERY religious idea.

              Non-religious people need therapists who are able to operate within their view that pain and suffering straight up sucks and has no redeeming value whatsoever, which can be VERY difficult for people of faiths that see virtue in suffering.

          4. Biff*

            Happened to me. My therapists just could NOT get it through their heads that all religions AREN’T fundamentally the same, and one of their great virtues (forgiveness) was entirely antithetical to my world view. What I needed help with was setting boundaries for shitty, shitty people in my life. What I got was a song and dance about how forgiveness was better than cutting them out, pretty much every time. I spent entirely too much time in my 20s trying to set good boundaries without being authoritative. Spoiler Alert: did not work.

          5. TootsNYC*

            I specifically sought out a religious therapist (the guy I went to through the Lutheran Social Services agency was a retired pastor), and I had to almost fight to get him to bring up how faith and theology worked with my thought patterns, and could support my efforts. I don’t think he ever at any one time brought up faith or religion.

            It was almost funny.

            But yes, I would not be at all surprised if the therapists near the OP were all faith-based, and were all individuals who would bring up religion over and over.

          6. Observer*

            Do what you feel comfortable. But please don’t malign good professionals just because you don’t like religion. This is totally NOT true.

            1. Tobias Funke*

              It is not “maligning good professionals”to state that an atheist and a faith based counselor are not a good fit.

              1. Observer*

                Caryatis claimed that every “religious therapist” would absolutely push religion. Very different from what you are claiming, and simply false.

            2. Pomona Sprout*

              If this was diracted at caryatis, I agree 100%.

              (I say “if,” because the sheer volume of replies here often makes it easy to get lost in the threading.)

          7. Tobias Funke*

            I would second this and even amend it to “even if THEY think they are not pushing you towards religious values” because some of my friends are religious and when we staff our cases I am often horrified at the overt Christianity that her clients did not come to therapy to get. I have pointed it out and she says she does not agree.

          8. Gadfly*

            That’s my experience. It isn’t always overt–it often is just a worldview issue that is obvious if you are used to watching for it. Just removing the religious words doesn’t mean the perspective has changed.

        3. Mephyle*

          Even decent religious therapists should be willing to work with non-religious clients.
          It’s not that they’re unwilling to work with non-religious clients (if what I surmise about OP’s regional religious culture is correct). It’s that their therapy would be heavily faith-based. Actually, it’s not improbable that any therapist would be delighted to work with a non-religious client, because it’s one more opportunity to ‘witness’ to someone who is ‘lost’ and ‘bring them into the fold’.

          1. Observer*

            Well, the OP says that they just won’t work with non-religious people.

            Secondly, it’s simply not the case that religious therapists necessarily do faith based therapy. And well trained ethical therapists don’t “witness” to their patients. Not religious therapists, not secular therapists. Now, there are plenty of therapists who are lacking either in training or ethics who DO “witness”, but this is not unique to religious therapists, but a long short. Fortunately, at least in the major centers, it’s becoming a lot less common across the board.

      2. Midge*

        Online therapists are now a thing, as well. That might be a good option for the OP if she can’t find any regular therapists locally.

    3. Emi.*

      Tele-therapy? Getting a new job and moving to some place with better therapists? Burning this office to the ground, “Office Space”-style?

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Manifest the office burning. If the OP can manifest the car accident, then she should use those X-Men powers for the good of everyone in the community. This workplace is to rotten to exist. Let.It.Burn.

        1. Matilda Jefferies*

          Seriously. SERIOUSLY.

          OP, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I hope your physical injuries heal soon, I hope you can find an appropriate and ethical therapist, and I hope you can GTFO of your place of employment as soon as possible. What a bunch of assholes.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yes—this situation is batshit crazy. OP, I suspect your professional reputation is not damaged (unless you’re in a small/isolated market, which sounds like it may be true based on your comment re: counseling services… but even then I suspect the hit won’t carry outside your current geography). These people are at best ignorant and at worst hellacious and unhinged.

      Don’t post images to LinkedIn—it will seem odd to normal employers and won’t change the behavior of the cruel/crazy ones. To the extent that you can, try to take as big of an emotional step back as possible. The more professional you can be, even in the face of the insensitive and cruel treatment you’re receiving, the easier it will be when you’re back on the market. Don’t take their bad behavior personally if you can; they are behaving like garbage people, and garbage behavior/opinions are not worth your brainspace. Basically, don’t let crazy people make you crazy. (I know this last one is a tall order in light of what you’ve been through and are still going through. And it may not be a realistic suggestion. But when I went through medical trauma, it helped me cabin my already limited capacity for anxiety/stress.)

      I’m wishing you support and peace throughout this awful time. I’m so so sorry :(

      1. Jadelyn*

        I wouldn’t recommend posting pictures to LI – but I would suggest, as soon as the OP can get away from these unbelievable asshats, posting an extremely thorough and honest review of the company on Glassdoor. OP can’t save themselves anymore, but maybe they can warn off someone else before they get caught up in it.

        1. MoreNowAgain*

          Please, please Glassdoor the heck out of this. I take reviews regarding topics like this very seriously and take them into account when selecting potential employers.

    5. Jadelyn*

      That’s not necessarily the case re non-religious therapists – I’ve lived in places where the only therapists I could find were all super explicit about their practice being faith-based. They might be willing to work with a non-religious person, but they’d never set aside their biases and their own religious beliefs in order to work with that person in a way that actually helps them. My girlfriend in one of those places tried to see a well-recommended local therapist that actually *didn’t* seem explicitly religious at first, and in their first appointment he listened to her talking about her issues (severe bipolar and depression), then told her that the problem was her bisexuality and pagan beliefs, and if she would dump me and start going to church she’d be fine.

      So as much as we’d all like to think that no matter where you are there has to be *someone*, it’s really not true in some places, sadly.

      1. Amber T*

        Ok, I’m not anti religious at all – how your faith affects your life and your actions is up to you. But that is *disgusting* that a medically trained professional (I’m assuming this person is a psychologist or psychiatrist) who, theoretically, should have studied bipolar disorder and depression, would blame them on sexuality and beliefs. They have no right having a license to practice medicine.

        (To be clear, it would be different if the advice was self-exploration. Probably still wrong, but slightly less egregious. A nurse recommended church to my mother while she was going through breast cancer treatment, but it was more “finding peace and calm will help your recovery,” and it was on top of real, medical treatment. On another note, mental illnesses are just as real as physical illnesses, so the idea that just “going to church” will “fix” your mental illness is as ridiculous as thinking God will heal your broken arm if you just ask nicely. Sorry, end rant.)

        1. Jadelyn*

          Yeah…I suggested she file a complaint with the state licensing board, because that’s absolutely unacceptable for a supposed professional, but she didn’t want to. I think she just wanted to completely forget about that guy. She did eventually get some help through her GP, but not until she was able to move to a more urban area did she get therapeutic help in addition to medical solutions.

        2. Courtney*

          I’d be shocked if this person was medically trained. In my area at least it’s very common for people who do counseling through the church to not have any legitimate training on mental illness. It’s usually just like they’ve gone to some training sponsored by their religion and are certified in that. Now I know some who are the exception to that, but they usually don’t directly work out of a specific church.

          My mom dragged me to our church’s counselor as a teen because I was depressed and self harming (and being abused, but she didn’t know that yet.) It was very clear that the counselor was in over her head. Fortunately she just didn’t tell me to go to church more and I’d be all better though, that’s freaking awful.

          1. Jadelyn*

            This was a licensed psychologist (pretty sure not a psychiatrist, but it was a few years ago now so I could be wrong) working out of a university medical clinic, unfortunately.

            But, like you, I had some awkward sessions with a church lay minister as a teen. She was utterly unhelpful, which isn’t really her fault since my problem wasn’t adolescent angst so much as severe untreated depression and ADHD, but it did mean I was extremely wary of therapists in general for a few years after that.

          2. Not a Morning Person*

            There are absolutely differences between counselors. There are designated licenses for some practicing counselors such as a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) and a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). Those licenses require some type of degree and practice under another licensed professional before gaining the license to practice. Maybe some of the counselors affiliated with religious organizations or churches have that designation, but in many places, you can call yourself a counselor and not be a licensed professional. I am aware of community services where counselors use a church space as an office, but they are not affiliated with the church. The church just provides the space so the service is available. I am sure that in smaller and more rural communities that it can be the case that the only counseling available is religious, but that is not universal. I hope the OP can find an appropriate, licensed professional for support. They are invaluable!

        3. nonegiven*

          If a nurse had said that to me, I’d have said, you think my BP is high, NOW? Send me to church … if you want to kill me.

        4. Dr Pepper*

          My last psychiatrist told me that my bipolar disorder would improve if I lost weight and refused to prescribe me any medications until I had successfully given up soda for a month. She then dismissed my (diagnosed! decades old!) eating disorder as “totally normal behavior” and told me to calorie count regardless of my (documented! decades old!) issues around it. (For clarification purposes, if I try to count calories I wind up on 600 calories a day and on the treadmill for up to 4 hours a day. After a week or more of that I will binge eat for 2-3 days and then go into a serious downward spiral that usually ends with suicidal idealization – but no, that’s totally normal behavior for women….)

          I now have a new psychiatrist who is extremely professional and would never dream of pulling that nonsense. It took me months to convince myself that no, I really did need medication and that I’d need to find a psych to do that. She’s 40 miles away from my small town because my last psych was literally the only psych in town who was accepting new patients.

          My last therapist told me that if I “opened my heart to the infinite love of Christ” he would heal me and my issues would all “melt away like snow in July”. I’d been seeing her for four months at that point and those comments were in response to my finally opening up about intimacy issues that started after a sexual assault. I was also encouraged to forgive my attacker as it would “lift the weight of hatred” from my shoulders.

          My current therapist is better but it took me a really long time to open up with her.

          I think that some people who have never encountered a bad mental health professional have a tendency to disbelieve that they exist and can do serious harm, but they really can knock you for a massive loop. A bad therapist or psych can, in my experience, do lasting damage and sometimes are worse than no help at all.

    6. Iris Eyes*

      There are counseling services that can be done remotely. I think there’s even an app for that, so if that’s something that the op wants to pursue or thinks would be beneficial in her healing know that there are options beyond your local therapists.

      Please take care of yourself and know that they are being wildly unreasonable and anyone with half a brain will see that. I hope that your settlement from the trucking company will be enough that you can take your time to heal and job search for somewhere you will get some respect and the people are decent.

      1. blackcat*

        Remote therapy is rarely covered by health insurance, and OP may not be in a position to pay out of pocket until a settlement comes through.

        1. Competent Commenter*

          Actually my employer’s health insurance program (Optum) not only offers but kind of pushes tele-therapy. It’s real big on the website.

    7. M-C*

      Why even bring up that you believe the OP, ThatGirl? It’s just suggesting that it’d be reasonable not to. OF COURSE you believe her, as should everyone. A few religious nuts on a rampage, while they’re locally painful to her, do not make her story less reliable on the whole.

      1. Labgirl*

        I think ThatGirl may have just been being very clear that although the situation was so outrageous that she was comparing it to a cartoon, that didn’t mean she thought that it was unreal LIKE a cartoon. That’s how I interpreted it.

      2. Breda*

        Eh, I can see how using the phrase “seems like a cartoon villain” might make people think she was doubting the story (or make her worry that it would), even though that’s obviously not how she meant it.

        FWIW, I had to go back and look for where ThatGirl might have implied that she was doubting the story, because I took that phrase as completely innocuous on first read.

      3. Courtney*

        If ThatGirl had posted the cartoon villain comment without the disclaimer that she totally believes OP, she’s just saying how awful it is, no doubt someone would’ve interpreted that as her saying the story is too unbelievable and cartoonish to be real. So she puts the disclaimer and then instead someone asks why she felt the need to put the disclaimer if she’s not doubting the story. It’s kind of a lose-lose situation.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Yes – I wanted to make it clear that I totally do believe this situation, even though it seems so “scenery-chewing Disney villain” as someone else put it. That’s all. Sheez. :)

        2. MoreNowAgain*


          Either way I’m gonna go with ‘pick your battles’ on this one. It’s the same as calling each other out for grammatical errors. Petty and doesn’t change the point being made.

      4. ThatGirl*

        I do believe her. As others pointed out to you, I was just trying to make that clear since I’d just said how outrageous/ridiculous the whole thing is.

      5. MoreNowAgain*

        Because we are dealing with the written word and things can get lost in translation that would otherwise be clarified through tone and body language. I can see how this could be misinterpreted had they not clarified.

        On a side note – I don’t think it’s unreasonable for a reader to question the validity of a situation/letter. I certainly don’t doubt that this occured, but I would never vilify someone for thinking otherwise or tell them they should be thinking or acting differently.

        1. Courtney*

          It is one of the site rules though to not question validity of any letters. I don’t say that to be snarky or anything (tone is definitely hard on the internet!), but it’s something Alison has discussed in the past and wants people to steer clear of. I believe the thinking behind it is basically that if the situation is real, implying that it isn’t is not so nice for the letter writer, especially if they want to participate in the comments. And if the situation isn’t real, well someone out there has probably dealt with something similar or will in the future, and maybe it can help them.

          1. ThatGirl*

            Yes, and so I wanted to make it clear that I wasn’t questioning the validity … I did not expect that to get misconstrued! :)

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Just to clarify, it’s not actually one of the site rules. But I’ve asked people not to derail on that kind of speculation because it does become derailing, can be unkind to the letter writer, and is sort of besides the point as long as the answer is useful to someone.

            1. Wintermute*

              Well said, though the “useful answer” to someone breaks down at the very extremes of human behavior. There’s something to be said for entertainment value, though. I doubt that the infamous “Duck Club” or “Black magic is an occupational hazard” made a ton of people go “oh wow I’ve been handling that situation wrong the entire time, I am going to apply that to work tomorrow and see if it changes some things I’ve been unhappy about!” but they’re still immensely important and entertaining letters in the AAM canon.

              Plus they serve as marketing for the blog. sensible and useful answers may be shared to people you think may benefit. But a truly bizarre post you send to EVERYONE

              Though, even if the situations are not exactly the same the answer can be useful to someone, while someone acting this sociopathically unempathetic is not going to be common to anyone’s working career we’ve all had those bosses that have trouble with the idea that employees are people, not office furniture. Its a very Victorian attitude about “the help”, that employees should be subservient, obsequious, silent and their needs and desires should be as subordinate to the business as they are. So while most of us may never encounter this exact situation there’s still a lot of useful information about how to handle any situation where a manager is having a failure of their basic humanity, in a little way or a big way.

    8. Temperance*

      I’m an atheist in the northeast, and I was unknowingly referred to a Certified Christian Counselor. I was livid, btw, because even though she didn’t necessarily proselytize, she assumed that I was also a Christian without asking. So yeah, I wouldn’t ever recommend a non-religious person get treatment from someone who uses faith in their profession.

      1. Biff*

        Admittedly, if I were a Certified Christian Counselor, I wouldn’t expect anyone atheist to walk through my door. Sounds like it was mistakes all around.

        1. Geoffrey B*

          In a region where the only counselors are religious, though, that would be an unwise assumption.

    9. Liane*

      So sorry for everything that’s happened. As for all those asses, regardless of religion —I have the same Christian Charity as Jesus had for the moneychangers.

    10. RVA Cat*

      This whole community sounds such cruel and utterly bonkers that I wonder if, long-term, the OP should take whatever she gets from the lawsuit to MOVE THE EFF AWAY FROM THE CRAZY.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Yeah, if this is representative of the community as a whole, and there are truly no non-faith-based options for counseling (which is a red flag to me even if OP doesn’t want counseling), I would GET THE HELL out of there.

        (And I don’t have the energy to reply to everyone, yes, I know there may be small towns or isolated communities where counseling options are few. If there are truly non non-religious options or options where religion is not pushed on you (e.g. a counselor who works for a secular organization and doesn’t mention their beliefs to clients) then that well and truly sucks and is yet another reason to leave.)

      2. Hills to Die on*

        Yeah, it would not be the worst thing in the world to move far the eff away from these nut bags.

    11. RfR fan*

      If it would help, consider checking out the Secular Therapy Project for a nonreligious therapist in your area. If there are none, there are also ways through them to set up remote internet therapy with someone. Thid whole project really wants to help people in these towns.

    12. Huh*

      In some states, you can get therapy through phone/Skype. That is not a thing I would have guessed existed, either.

      1. StubbornWombat*

        Yep! That’s how I see mine – she moved offices and so instead of me driving an hour, we Skype. It works great.

    13. mcr-red*

      Yeah, I was kinda like, “Where the hell do you live?” because I live in the smallest of small towns, in hicksville, and I couldn’t tell you if my first therapist was religious or not, it never came up.

    14. PsychDoc*

      It may not be ideal, but therapy can be done online nowadays. The sessions can be via video or phone, so maybe OP can find someone they like to work through the (very reasonable!) trauma response. Best of luck to OP! I think it’s fair to assume that we are all rooting for your effective recovery.

  3. Myrin*

    OP, it seems like you are surrounded loony tunes. I’m so angry on your behalf right now, ack! I wish you all the best in this horrible mess that was in no way your fault and I hope you find a life in your future where people will actually feel the same way!

    1. K.*

      I had to blink a few times and take a few deep breaths to calm down, so angry am I at the way this person is being treated. I’m furious. OP, this is not normal, you are being treated terribly, and I’m so sorry and wish you nothing but good things in your recovery and job search.

  4. Detective Amy Santiago*

    OP, if anyone in this situation is going to need to repair their professional reputation, it’s everyone except you. You have done nothing wrong and these people are being completely unreasonable.

    I hope you recover well and find a job that is actually deserving of you.

    1. Koko*

      Agreed, it broke my heart when I got to that paragraph and saw her question wasn’t “how do I survive/get out of/respond to this horrible situation?” but “how do I repair my reputation?” OP, you have not done anything that should damage your reputation in any reasonable person’s mind.

    2. RVA Cat*

      This. I do wonder about the boss’s reputation, and how much the people he is bad-mouthing you to know this reflects more on him than you.

  5. The IT Manager*

    I agree so hard with Alison’s first two paragraphs.

    In my optimistic hope in the goodness of humanity, I hope many of these people are unaware that you were in a serious accident. (There’s zero positive explanation for your boss or the recruiter.) They sound kind of ridiculously demanding even if you weren’t injured, though.

    That said, I also agree with Alison, but I was in a serious car accident and had to stop working to deal with my recovery is a perfect excuse to get out of that hell.

  6. Rien Diem*

    Wow, I have no words. They are crazy to have such unreal expectations of your performance after an accident of that magnitude. And telling you that the accident happened because you’re not ‘spiritual’? Insult added to injury. I would run like hell from that place, OP.

    If you get fired for this, it is not on you at all. It’s on them. Good luck on the recovery.

  7. Anonymous Poster*

    That stinks so much.

    A pastor I know regularly does counseling for people that aren’t religious. He’s the pastor of a rather conservative denomination. I obviously don’t know your area, but want to push back a little because this may still be an option.

    Going into conversations like this with the whole, “This must be a wild misunderstanding” mindset will help a lot. Of course you need time, you’ve been in a serious car accident! These sorts of response expectations aren’t normal, and hopefully it is just a wild misunderstanding. It gives you a good mindset for these conversations so they should hopefully go easier, and help the other party save face, while all doing what in the end you need.

    Best of luck. I hope your recovery goes swift and uneventful.

    1. Anonymous Poster*

      My phrasing sucks. Pastors can do counseling, and many will do it for non-religious people pretty secularly as a service to the community. Most have training at a masters-ish level for this, as it’s considered part of their regular duties. Going to one may be an option, but I also completely understand if you’d be leery of that.

      Sorry about my poor phrasing, and again, I hope you’re back on your feet soon.

      1. yasmara*

        That’s a big nope for me. A pastor is inherently religious & represents a church. If she can’t even find secular therapists who aren’t religious, why would she want to go to a religious representative?

      2. Temperance*

        Actually, just FYI, these pastors are NOT trained therapists. They’re pastors with training in religious counsel. It’s absolutely not the same thing, and I think it’s very unwise to ever, ever, ever recommend this to a non-religious person.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          For what it’s worth, I know at least one Christian minister with a separate counseling degree, so it’s not impossible.

          But I wholeheartedly agree that the OP should not start calling churches hoping to find a minister who would be OK!

          1. ThatGirl*

            It’s not impossible, but generally that would be a pastor who also wants to be able to offer congregants some licensed counseling, not a full-time therapist.

      3. Anonymous Poster*

        Like I said, I completely understand being leery. I also understand wanting to steer clear of it because it is a religious leader providing counsel.

        I know of PCUSA pastors that provide counseling services in some areas as professional therapists, and their beliefs are very liberal, as far as Christianity in the USA goes. But as always, the poster knows their area much better than I do and their circumstances. The point is that there may be more options that aren’t typical out there, and that if necessary, I wouldn’t discount at least looking into them.

        I also like the idea of tele-therapy if such is needed, though of course it isn’t an ideal solution.

        1. Snark*

          It’s not leeriness! Post-traumatic issues are not “I need someone to help me with this problem,” they’re acute mental health symptoms. Pastors are more like mental health massage therapists, and while that’s fine if you’ve got a knotted-up back, OP is dealing with something more like a herniated disc, and needs to go to the mental health equivalent of an orthopedic surgeon.

      4. Snark*

        No, they’re not trained and qualified mental health professionals. They get training in religious counsel, and there’s some overlap, but they don’t provide mental health therapy like CBT or EMDR, and they’re not fully trained to deal with trauma, PTSD, or anxiety. They can’t prescribe, either.

        Even if they do treat non-religious people and aren’t overtly proselytizing, they’re still not equal to the task of working with someone dealing with post-traumatic symptoms.

      5. SpecialK9*

        I think you’re generalizing a lot. My aunt’s pastors have been a roadworker, former biker, and pastor’s kid. (Those were 3 different people, not 1, sadly.) I’d be impressed by college degree, much less masters and counseling degree. Protestants can basically open their own churches willy-nilly, if they can get people to follow them. (Though obv denominations have rules internally.)

    2. bK*

      I would ask for a referral for therapy from a hospital or medical provided. There has to be a social worker or psychologist in a nearby area to OP.

    3. chomps*

      Pastors usually aren’t actually trained therapists who can treat mental illness though. they’d need to be a Psychologist, Licensed Clinical Social worker, or something similar.

  8. Jesmlet*

    Just want to express my sympathy OP, these people objectively suck. If only moving was a legitimate suggestion…

    As for how to repair your professional reputation, most reasonable employers will understand this situation, and if they don’t, you would be miserable working for them anyway. Mass layoffs are understandable (assuming you’ll get a good reference from them) and the second one can be explained by the medical situation – for most companies, that should be good enough.

    I’m occasionally the passive-aggressive type and I would totally send the worst photos out to the office, thanking everyone for their sympathy and support, just as an F you. If they’re good people, they’ll feel bad, if not, then F them. Don’t actually do this though.

  9. Namast'ay in Bed*

    Oh my god. I am so sorry OP. Even my lousy Oldjob gave me time off after a relatively minor accident. (Car totalled, I was fine albeit shook up.) This sucks and you don’t deserve it. I’m sorry and I wish you the best.

    1. SystemsLady*

      My boss would *tell* me to stay home at least the first day, even if I secured transportation and wasn’t physically injured.

      Some people are just plain inhuman I guess.

  10. Interviewer*

    Part of my job is to administer medical leave for employees. I have never, not once, told anyone they have to come back to work after experiencing something that awful. I actually encourage people not to return too fast, that it can really make things worse if they’re not well and dragging themselves back to work. So I’m having a hard time understanding why anyone would behave this way, ever.

    I hope you can leave this awful place soon.

    1. Shadow*

      The difference is she is likely not entitled to any leave at all through policy or law as is the case with most temps. And, some companies/managers are really cavalier with temps as one of the big reasons some companies use temps is the lack of obligation. Many temp companies literally say “if for any reason it’s not working out just call and we’ll send another temp.”

      For me though the real problem is not the co-workers, it’s the manager who has failed to plan. Failed to plan or act on a contingency plan. To me the co workers nastiness is just a symptom of a supervisor problem.

      1. Competent Commenter*

        Not disagreeing with you, but I was allowed to hire a six-month half-time temp to help me get out of a huge work backlog. Within a month, my temp and his wife developed life-threatening infections. The wife was already dealing with an acute health issue as well. My temp was out for a month; his wife didn’t come home for three months. I desperately needed help, and as it turned out the union rules meant that I didn’t even get to extend my temp’s time by the month he was out. But I never, ever told him to rush back, or pressured him. Every time he checked in I told him that his health issues were more important than anything I had waiting for him at work (I was actually concerned that they were both going to die). He told me later I was one of the nicest people he’d ever worked with. But seriously…this is how humans should treat each other. How hard is it to tell someone who’s in the hospital that their health should take priority? Sheesh!

    2. TootsNYC*

      I think another difference with temp workers is that many times you only hire them during crunch times.

      I hire freelancers for our deadline periods, and it can be a real problem if someone is suddenly out, or unavailable.

      Before NYC made it a law that temp workers get sick time, I would have probably had to cancel someone if this had happened–my deadline is not going to wait for them to get back. And I don’t have budget to pay two people to do the work of 1.5 people; I have money for 1, and work for 1 (though I would really try my hardest to find a way to keep them for whatever hours we could cobble together from both sides).

      HOWEVER: I would be handling this with kindness, and would be trying to preserve as much of that booking as I could.

      1. Story Nurse*

        I’m an editor and work with a cadre of about 50 freelance writers, some of whom work on deadlines as short as three or four days. In my ten years at this job I’ve had several of my regular writers contact me to say that medical or life emergencies have gotten in the way of them completing their assignments. I wish them the best, I reassign their assignments, and I tell them to contact me when they’re ready to start working for me again.

        And to be clear, these are some diligent writers. They’ve completed work for me from hospital beds or while cradling newborns who arrived unexpectedly early. No one asks for an extension or reassignment who doesn’t have to.

        I cannot comprehend blaming a temp or freelancer for circumstances beyond their control, demanding that they resume work immediately, or doing ANYTHING other than saying “so sorry to hear that, take all the time you need”. The OP’s employer is being remarkably unkind as well as wasting a lot of people’s time and energy.

  11. Tuxedo Cat*

    Best of luck in your recovery, seriously. I don’t know what else to say, except everyone who is treating you so poorly is wrong.

  12. Kalamet*

    Oh my goodness. You work with loons.

    I’m… I’m trying to come up with something more helpful, but… seriously, wtf? Also this: “there isn’t a mental health professional in this town who will work with someone non-religious”. This whole situation sounds so awful. :(

    I’m hoping that Alison is right, and this is a *huge* communication issue. Because if these people all know the situation and are acting like this… well, that office is made of bees. In fact, it is impossible to tell where the office ends and the bees begin. The only advice I can articulate is get healthy then get out.

    Many internet hugs, and I wish you well in your recovery. So sorry you are dealing with this.

    1. Bagpuss*

      on behalf of bees everywhere, I object to that assertion! Wasps, maybe!
      OP, I wish you well with your recovery. Your employer and recruiter suck.

      1. 42*

        I have a way OT question for Bagpuss, but first I want to send OP best wishes for a peaceful recovery, in every way. I was aghast reading your note.

        OT to Bagpuss: Many years ago (circa 2002, 2003-ish), I frequented a discussion forum where there was a poster named Bagpuss. She was from the UK. I haven’t seen that handle used before or since. You wouldn’t happen to be that Bagpuss, would you??

        1. Jemima Bond*

          Bagpuss is the name of a popular children’s tv programme shown in Britain in the eighties so it’s a common pop culture ref amongst people in their thirties/forties. I know two different people who use it on discussion forums, both British. So whilst your two bagpusses could be one and the same, it could easily be coincidence, like if they used the username Grover or CookieMonster etc.

          1. 42*

            Right, the Bagpuss I am talking about did mention the origin of her username back in the day (and had an avatar of the cat). I was just so surprised to see this, I had to try to find out if it’s her!

  13. Emilia*

    “Someone even suggested I manifested the accident by not being spiritual.”

    …what the what now?

      1. Anonymous Poster*

        I had an uncle that told my aunt that the reason their infant died was because she didn’t pray hard enough.

        Note the past tense, “had”. He was loonier than North Korea’s propaganda team.

      2. Oranges*

        It helps me to frame it as they’re empathy devoid and afraid because we’re walking a thin razor wire of order with chaos to either side every day of our lives and there’s nothing you can do about it.

        They’re grasping at anything that makes them feel better because the huge beautiful world is too much for them and they don’t know if they’ll survive it (spoiler, they won’t).

        They’re gonna miss out on so much because of their fear. I’m afraid of the world but I’m trying my best to meet it with open arms and be okay with anything that happens.

      3. Snark*

        Yeah, someone who has Many Thoughts about my atheism once said, “Well, I mean, there’s a reason you wear glasses and hearing aids. Your spiritual choices are basically asking for it.”

        I was literally restrained from going over the table at them, and they are no longer in my life.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Do they…do they really think that not a single religious person out there wears glasses or hearing aids?

          Although re your second paragraph I’m just picturing that bit from Lilo & Stitch where he’s holding her back from beating up the snotty girl in the dance class, right up until she says something about Lilo’s parents (iirc), and then is like “you know what? go for it.” and takes pictures while Lilo pummels the little shit.

          1. Apostrophina*

            My experience wasn’t nearly this bad, but in my Christian elementary school classes, every time heaven came up, it was “Everything will be perfect! [Teacher who had polio] won’t need crutches, and Apostrophina won’t need her glasses!” Every. Time.

          2. Nikki*

            Religious person who wears hearing aids and glasses right here. That’s craziness that someone even said that.

        2. Temperance*

          My favorite comeback against those fools is to point out that their GOD, the one they love so much, killed a man’s entire family just to test his faith, so your hearing aids are NBD.

          1. MashaKasha*

            But in the end he gave the man new wives and replacement kids and a thousand she-asses. So it’s all good. That part always blew my mind. “so all of your children died in a horrible accident, but no worries, here’s a fresh batch of new ones, it’s the same thing, right?”

            This whole thread is a huge confirmation that I made the right decision leaving church and faith 8 years ago.

            1. SpecialK9*

              My old roommate had a Christian theology matters. She said that ‘happy ending’ was apparently tacked on way after. Still a monstrous story.

            2. Us, Too*

              Well, maybe the first batch of offspring were losers or jerks so replacements with good ones was welcome?

            3. Jaydee*

              I think that also shows how differently women and children were considered/treated at the time. Like, essentially property and pretty much fungible. So replacing them (with interest) was legitimately a Good and Benevolent Thing.

              I have nothing against any particular religion or against religion in general. But I think it’s important to recognize the cultural context surrounding and influencing religious beliefs.

              1. nonegiven*

                >I have nothing against any particular religion or against religion in general.

                Oh, I do. All of them. With prejudice.

        3. oranges & lemons*

          You can just hear the confirmation bias wheels turning there. Wears glasses + not religious = punishment for your sins! Wears glasses + religious = it’s just God’s way.

      4. Xarcady*

        A total stranger went up to my then 5-year-old nephew once–he has been physically disabled from birth and uses a power wheelchair. We were sitting in a hospital lobby waiting for his father to be released after heart surgery.

        Woman comes stomping over, thrusts her face in Nephew’s face and brays, “You need to pray to Jesus! Pray to Jesus to heal you! You can walk again. Just pray to Jesus! Cleanse your sins and you will walk!”

        While I was sitting there stunned and trying to figure out what to say to Shut Her Up, Nephew calmly looks her in the eye and says, “It’s selfish to pray for something for yourself. But I’ll pray for *you* if you want me to.”

        Shut her right up.

        So, yeah, I can see, especially in the Bible Belt, that some would take a serious accident as a sign of something.

        1. 5 Leaf Clover*

          HAHAHAHA oh what a little genius. I love it. Relatedly, I love the irony of the LW being treated with so little compassion in a community that is too religious for her even to find a secular therapist.

          1. Snark*

            The thing about very religious, homogeneous communities, in my observation, is that they don’t provide enough social friction to check some people’s natural tendency to be crappy to outgroups.

            1. MashaKasha*

              Back in my religious day, we as a group read the Purpose Driven Life in our church (as I’m sure a lot of people in OP’s town did). It’s been 15 years or so, but I will never forget one chapter early in this book that said “you must learn to get along with people. but not all people. Only the evangelical Christians that have been properly saved. Because these are the people you will be spending eternity with. The rest are not your concern, you don’t have to get along with those.”

              Because I have a functioning brain and a profession that requires me to use logic, and also because I try to be a decent human being, that idea enraged me even back then, and still does now. But how many people read that drivel, took it seriously, and were told by their pastors that they had to take it seriously?

              1. nonymous*

                If it’s been 15 years, any leaders/parishioners who read and followed to that tenet has led 1 or 2 successive generations of followers by now. blearch.

              2. Gazebo Slayer*

                I’m beginning to subscribe to sort of a flip side of that: people who believe in crap like the Purpose Driven Life and Prosperity Gospel, people like OP’s boss and coworkers and recruiting company, are garbage and not worth caring about – like so many of the other “screw you, I’ve got mine” scum infesting and destroying the United States.

              3. Hills to Die on*

                Sick, sick, sick. Praying for them that they get some semblance of love and spirituality. Shame on them.

        2. SpecialK9*

          You must be so proud of your nephew.

          I’m proud of you for not punching her. But only because you’d get arrested. Because somebody needs to punch her.

          1. Xarcady*

            Dear Nephew is now 18, and has only improved his verbal Ninja skills. Went off to freshman year at college last week. Word from his parents is that he is holding his own, and has already told a professor off for not being willing to move the classroom to accommodate his wheelchair.

      5. Agnodike*

        +1. I got told I caused my cancer through negativity and eating too many processed foods. And that the only way to “beat it” was to “think positively and detox.” Spoiler alert: I instead used Western medicine, to great success.

        1. Snark*

          A friend of mine dealt with cancer and got variations on this ALL THE TIME. Her standard retort was, “Go ask Steve Jobs how it worked for him. OH WAIT YOU CAN’T.”

          1. Agnodike*

            Yeah, my usual answer to “try this natural health thing” was “anything that didn’t cure Steve McQueen sure isn’t going to cure me.”

          2. bluephone*

            And I’m pretty sure even Steve Jobs used Western medicine for his cancer!
            Unless essential oils and meditating now includes “liver transplant” as well.

            1. Blue Anne*

              I believe he did eventually, but not until it was too late. He started with alternative medicine.

        2. Blue Anne*

          My dad and his friend went through serious cancer battles at the same time. Dad used Western medicine, friend used raw vegan diets and tea. Dad is dead, friend is not.

          It has really just made me hate that guy and anti-science people generally.

          1. Agnodike*

            Sorry to hear that; that really, really sucks. One of the toughest things about cancer has been how unpredictable survival can be – you can do all the “right” things and die, or you can be a smug hippie and live to misinform other people about evidence-based treatments. Fairness is a human concept and the universe wasn’t built by humans. Hope your family is coping OK. :(

            1. Blue Anne*

              Yeah. It’s annoying because, as someone who does completely believe that my dad was right to pursue modern medicine, I know that this is a possible outcome because probabilities, different reactions, unpredictability of cancer spread, etc. And, of course, I’m also glad on a rational level that Smug Hippie didn’t die. (Not least because he has two daughters my age.) So I hope he has terrible survivor’s guilt, but I also feel bad for hoping that.

              We’re okayish. It was a dozen years ago. Screw cancer.

        3. irritable vowel*

          One of my mother’s oldest friends got breast cancer and was told this by some quack doctor she went to see. She didn’t get a second opinion until it was too late. Her children successfully sued the doctor for malpractice after she died.

          1. Nerdling*

            A doctor where I live did that, and the widower ultimately wound up murdering him (he was preying on immigrants facing a language barrier).

      6. Disabled Christian*

        I am religious and it drives me up the wall when people say these kinds of things, especially in my own religion because even within that context it is absolutely not part of our doctrine. It is explicitly not part of our doctrine.

        What sin do you think I committed in utero that caused me to be born with a spinal lesion leading to lifelong motor problems?
        What exercise or diet regimen do you think can cause a muscle that I was born without to spontaneously appear and function the way it is supposed to?

        It is utter crap.

    1. LadyL*

      Y’all are going to think I’m getting kickbacks because this is like the 4th time I’ve mentioned this book in like two weeks buuut…read Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Bright Sided”. It’s about positivity culture in America, and how dangerous and pervasive it is. This is absolutely a thing some people believe, Ehrenreich got interested in the topic after being diagnosed with breast cancer and being shocked by the number of people out there who believed that if only she wasn’t so negative about her cancer she would get better. If you aren’t “positive” and “spiritual,” you bring forth negative things from the universe apparently, like cancer and car accidents I guess. It’s related to “The Secret” which was a very trendy book a few years ago.

      I’m sorry, I sound obsessed with this, I swear I’m not nuts, I just see this cultural trend popping up in so many places, and the book really opened my eyes to how common it is and how many situations this thinking pops up in.

      But OP, your workplace is legitimately evil, those people are awful. Best wishes for speedy recovery!

      1. PB*

        Thanks for the recommendation! It looks like my library has a copy of this available, so I’ll check it out soon. This sounds like an interesting read.

      2. Jadelyn*

        I just downloaded a free sample to my Nook – I found Nickle and Dimed really enlightening in an awful sort of way, so I’ll give this a look and see. Thanks for the rec!

        1. peachie*

          Ah, I was wondering where I recognized that name from! I had a similar reaction to ‘Nickle and Dimed.’

      3. Kately*

        Seconding this, she’s a great read – I really enjoyed “Nickel and Dimed” (or well, perhaps enjoyed isn’t the right word here) on the working class and how expensive it is to be poor in America.

      4. Merci Dee*

        I believe in being as positive as possible in life, but . . . you know . . . being rational about it. If I spill a cup of tea in the morning, I can brood about it and let it ruin my day, or I can clean up the mess and forget about it in five minutes. That kind of thing. I firmly believe that letting the small stuff go is a good start to keeping unnecessary stress out of your life, and that you can choose how to react to the small things that happen to all of us every day.


        No amount of positive thinking will prevent cancer, and no amount of negative thinking will cause you to get into a car wreck. I know that some people really believe this, because it’s comforting to think that they somehow have “control” of the things that happen in their lives. But life finds ways of showing us that the control we think we have over the things around us is just an illusion (the horrific hurricane this week and its tragic aftermath is a good example of this). It’s always seemed to me, personally, that feeling like you can control the uncontrollable — whether it’s unexpected health events, others people’s actions, or the weather — is a crazily self-centered way to view the world. Not to offend, but nobody’s =that= important that they can control so much of life’s chaos that goes on around us every day.

        1. LadyL*

          Oh absolutely. My dad always told me when I played softball that if I went into the batter’s box visualizing myself hitting a home run and believing that I could do it, I was way more likely to make a connection with the ball than if I went in there thinking about how terrible I am at sports. And I believe that’s absolutely true. But there’s definitely a line between “you’re more *likely* to hit the ball” and “you *will* hit the ball if you believe hard enough.” And a big gulf between “work hard, practice a lot, *and* believe in yourself” and “just believe in yourself, that’s all you need”.

          Positivity is like sprinkles: you don’t need them on the cupcake, but it might taste better with them. But you also can’t just eat sprinkles and claim it’s a cake. In the baseball metaphor, the cake and frosting is hard work and determination, and positivity goes on top for extra omph, but if you don’t have the cake part you’re doomed.

          1. peachie*

            That makes total sense. For me, I don’t believe that positivity as you described it has an ~effect on the universe~, but that, in certain circumstances, it can affect you in ways that make it easier to do whatever it is you’re trying to do–reducing anxiety, providing a distraction, etc.

        2. Lindsay J*

          Yeah, one of the comments about the Houston subreddit about Harvey was something along the lines of, “You know, my mom and her friends believe that it turned away from us towards Lousiana because they prayed real hard. So I guess we better hope that they don’t pray just as hard or harder than we do or else we are going to get into a Hurricane Ping-Pong match with them.”

          Like, a lot of things if you’re praying selfishly, you’re praying against someone else. If you’re praying to win the big sports match, you’re thinking that god is going to favor you and your prayers over the people on the other team. If you’re praying for the storm to go somewhere else, you’re praying for someone else’s town to be destroyed instead of yours. And even for things that aren’t zero sum, why would god listen to your prayers about cancer and not the prayers of some parents whose child is dying?

          I totally agree on the small things, too. I made a conscious decision awhile ago that I wasn’t going to complain or vent to others about small annoyances – someone cutting me off in traffic, someone stealing a parking spot I was waiting for, etc. Previously, I would complain to my coworkers or my boyfriend about them, post about it on Facebook, etc. I decided I could be as annoyed as I wanted for as long as I wanted, but that I wasn’t going to share, no matter what. And I found that when I wasn’t holding on to the event in my head to tell people about it later, my annoyance was gone much more quickly and I am much happier in general about my commute, etc. Before I would be annoyed my whole way home, talk about it and get more worked up over it because someone was agreeing with me about how terrible it is, and only then start to get over it. Now I’m over it pretty much immediately. I’m also working on trying to assume that people aren’t acting out of bad intentions – maybe that person had to speed around me and cut me off because they’re on their way to an important meeting and got delayed by an emergency, maybe that person cut across 3 lanes because their GPS told them they needed to get to the exit at the last minute, and I think that is helping as well.

          1. LavaLamp*

            This reminds me of a quote I read recently in a book. I do not know who to attribuite it to, but here it is:

            ‘If the Gods listened to the payers of men, all humankind would quickly perish, since they constantly pray for many evils to befall one another”

            I’m seriously sorry OP. I wish I could offer to be you for a day. I have no filter on pain medication and would happily tell these people to remove their heads from their backsides.

            1. Hills to Die on*

              Inflation would be through the roof because we would also all win the lottery at once.

          2. nonymous*

            >. I’m also working on trying to assume that people aren’t acting out of bad intention

            I figure the small % that might be acting out of selfishness, obliviousness or bad intentions don’t care about me, so why should I let their actions take value in my life?

          3. Gazebo Slayer*

            The US political scene in the last couple of years has solidified my confidence that actually, many people really just ARE evil. I’ve always been overly inclined to assume bad intentions – but I’m more and more convinced that this impulse isn’t necessarily wrong.

        3. Hills to Die on*

          Right. I believe in the power of prayer, positivity, law of attraction, etc. but I wear glasses, I gain weight when I eat junk, and sometime bad things happen even when I’m in a great mood. You better believe that if I get sick, I am using every western, eastern, and medically prescribed tool at my disposal.

          sometimes bad things happen, and your attitude didn’t do a damn thing to get it there.

      5. Gee Gee*

        I have a copy of this in my purse right now! It’s both fascinating and infuriating. I’ve unofficially subtitled it “The Pessimist’s Handbook”.

      6. Violet Fox*

        Thirding this, or so. That book is a really great read, and a great comfort for those of us that are not exactly positive when bad things happen.

      7. Former Employee*

        Per your earlier rec, I ordered a copy the other day. As I t the time, I’m a big fan of her “Nickel and Dimed”.

        For anyone who is interested in people dealing with terminal cancer, there are writings by the late Marjorie Williams. Some are online. A collection of her work is in a book edited by her husband called “The Woman At The Washington Zoo”. One of the best things I’ve ever read is her “Hit By Lightning: A Cancer Memoir”. One of the most moving is her “The Halloween of My Dreams”.

      8. Tobias Funke*

        Thank you for the recommendation! As a clinician I see my colleagues recommend the secret and garbage like that and then don’t understand why their clients give themselves such a hard time. Maybe because you told them they manifested their PTSD?

    2. Oranges*

      It’s the “Just World” bullcrap. Any religion/philosophy that prescribes to it. Just, run.

      It makes the believer happy since a)nothing bad can happen to them because they’re “good people” and b) absolves them from having to think about the less lucky because “they had it coming”.

      This is why I don’t like Scientology, Prosperity Gospel, and others that I can’t think of off the top of my head. It’s a way to make not caring what happens to other people and victim blaming easier.

      1. Lindsay J*

        I am getting so f@$(*#% pissed off at the online comments I’ve been seeing saying that Houston (or Texas as a whole) deserved the hurricane because we voted for Trump, or because we’re all stupid rednecks, or because people stayed rather than evacuating.

        First of all, the majority of Houston didn’t vote for Trump. But even if we did that wouldn’t make us deserving of having a storm destroy the city. There are plenty of well educated people in Houston – some of the best hospitals in the country are there – but even if there weren’t, that doesn’t mean that we deserve to have our city destroyed by a storm. People stayed because we were not told to evacuate – and comparing the current death toll to Rita and the chaos that evacuation caused, officials seem to have made the right choice – but even if people stayed against recommendations they don’t deserve to die.

        Good people die all the time. Plenty of people who experience terrible loss did not “have it coming”. In fact, almost nobody has it coming, because even crappy people don’t deserve tragedy and death.

        This also annoys me about the stupid “Please God, take the Kardashians and give us back Freddy Mercury” or whatever memes that go around on Facebook. Just because someone is the star of a form of entertainment that you’re not a fan of doesn’t mean that they deserve to die or that someone else is more deserving of life because you do like the form of entertainment they provide.

        Sorry for the rant, the whole just world/karmic retribution thing has just been hitting a bit to close to home the last few days, and when you’re in the thick of it knowing that it’s just a shitty coping mechanism doesn’t help much. (And additionally, even if people think that in their own stupid private thoughts, the number of people who have come into a space where people are coping with losing their homes to tell them they deserve it is astounding to me. Like, I’m not much of a celebrity follower so I wasn’t really affected when like Heath Ledger died. But I also didn’t go into spaces where fans were mourning and tell them they were stupid for being sad. And I definitely didn’t even think that he deserved to die, never mind go and say that to people who were already upset. Like how callous can you be?)

        1. Merci Dee*

          I told my boss yesterday that so much of the jerk-tastic comments going around about Harvey’s destruction reminded me of similar comments made in the wake of Katrina. Comments like, New Orleans deserved all of that because of the “immoral” lifestyles of the people that lived there, etc. I wanted to smack someone every time I heard that garbage. But I think that others in the threat are correct. When we look at it as someone “deserving” the terrible treatment that they get, then it 1) allows us to feel smug as we look down on them from our positions of (relative) safety, and 2) absolves us of the responsibility to get involved and help, because it would be thwarting the will of divine retribution of they were assisted out of the hole they obviously dug for themselves. Which works, right up until =we= are the ones in the hole, and no one will help us out of it because they figure we probably did something to deserve it.

          One of the things that’s constantly been on my mind lately with all the flooding and the destruction from the hurricane is . . . oh, my stars. So many people were bused or just fled from New Orleans to Houston in the wake of Katrina, just trying to find a place they could pick up the pieces and start again. And just about the time they’re settled and really moving forward again, here comes another hurricane to send all that upside-down. Neither New Orleans or Houston deserved what they got, and my heart just goes out to the people who are looking at being displaced for long stretches of time, if not permanently. But I especially feel for the ones who are going through all of this a second time in a little over 10 years.

          The physical concept of “home”, and having a refuge to go to at the end of the day, has always been very important to me. Losing my home once would have wrecked me. I can’t imagine having to do it twice.

        2. Alexa*

          I remember after Superstorm Sandy seeing super-conservative memes about how NY deserved everything it got for being a blue state and voting for Obama. I was disgusted. It was the straw that made me “un-friend” my cousin.

          And then I heard on the radio this morning that, like you said, the “other side” is now saying the same kind of thing to Texas. It is so messed up. It is hard for me to believe that this many people’s lives are being upended and destroyed by a storm, and people try to make it into a political point. It’s insane to me.

        3. Oranges*

          I was puzzled at first and then went, oh, you’re talking about how much this “Just World” BS angers you. However I think the tribal/culture war anger is different than the “Just World” anger/denial however they do overlap.

          There is a lot of anger over the culture war going on right now. We’re trying to redefine what being an American means in our society eg. “Real American” aka white, male, hetro and christian. I think that the definition of “Real American” is expanding again to mean “maybe-white, male, likely-hetro and probably christian”. Someday we could even have maybe-not-male in there. But the “Real Americans” have always looked on the out-group (anyone not white/male/christian/hetro) as here 9in America) on their sufferance and now they’re realizing they don’t have the power to oust them if they wanted or define what exactly who the in-group (aka “Real Americans”) contains and are flipping out over it.

          1. Becky*

            My definition of a “Real American” is, and has always been, someone who is a citizen of the US. Period. I don’t understand how any other definition could be used.

        4. MoreNowAgain*

          First I want to state that I agree with the overall sentiment of your comment. While I do not live in Texas, a large portion of my family is in Houston and I also have a hard time not taking the comments I see personally. Some people are just truly off the mark!

          That being said, one thing I do – hesitantly – have to point out is that the majority of Texans that voted did indeed vote for Trump. From my understanding, Trump received ~4,685,000 compared to the collective ~4,284,100 across the other top three candidates.

          I truly am not trying to be snarky – I am *only* pointing this out because factual inaccuracies distract from the primary intention and point, especially in regards to readily available statistics. I truly do agree with what you are saying, and I’d hate for it to be devalued as a result. (I swear, not trying to nit pick)

    3. PB*

      I was so mad for OP when I read this! Even if you believe this, for whatever reason, what would possess you to say something so horrible to an accident victim? And other people get mad at her for using surgery instead of MLM nonsense?

      OP, I really wish I had advice. I don’t. I’m just so very sorry this happened to you, and wish you all the best in your recovery.

    4. writelhd*

      I feel like that comment in particular is the major clue-in that the OP is dealing with a completely non-normal, not-rational situation that may not respond to normal, rational actions. Which isn’t his or her fault AT ALL, and just sucks.

    5. blackcat*

      Prosperity gospel is totally a thing. The basic principle is that everyone gets what they deserve. So if you are rich, it is because you are a good person and god wants you to be rich. If you are poor and/or have cancer/get in an accident, it is because you are a horrible person and god is punishing you.

      Many people believe that crap. Many more (including most Christians) think it is utter BS. I have no idea how one reads the new testament and comes out believing in prosperity gospel.

      1. Annabelle*

        Oddly enough, my Catholic high school taught a unit about how harmful prosperity gospel is. At one point they’d hired a teacher with some pretty extreme beliefs and she told a student that his Crohn’s diesease was the result of his parents cohabitating before marriage, so it was basically damage control.

        1. blackcat*

          It’s my understanding that the Catholic church (particularly the current pope) is REALLY anti-prosperity gospel. Seems to be more common in evangelical circles, and, apparently, OP’s workplace.

          1. Annabelle*

            They definitely are. Most Catholic teachings that I remember are pretty much directly in opposition to it. The diocese my old school is in hires lots of fundamentalist-leaning teachers though, probably because it’s located in the Bible Belt.

        2. Lindsay J*

          Seriously. Most of what I took from my CCD classes was pretty much the opposite of prosperity gospel. That if you did happen to have money you should use it to help the less fortunate. Jesus disguised himself as a begger and hung out with the tax collectors and the lepers, etc. And he called upon his disciples to give up all their worldly possessions in order to follow him. And said “Blessed are the poor as they will become the keepers of Heaven” or something like that. It does not at all sound to me like Jesus felt that the poor were poor because they did something to deserve it, so it annoys me when people twist it and use religion to excuse their shitty behaviors.

          1. Annabelle*

            I’m assuming that’s why they felt the need to address it in an entire unit. The Catholic schools in my area tend hire teachers from evangelical/fundamentalist backgrounds. It’s created issues before, but that was the most notable one. I also just think the “bad things only happen to bad people” rhetoric of prosperity gospel is really cruel, religion aside.

      2. MashaKasha*

        One doesn’t read it. One gets the daily reading guide from their church and reads only the 10-15 verses that are designated for this day, with the explanation of how they need to feel about those. Or they don’t read at all, because who has that kind of time?

        1. blackcat*

          And they certainly wouldn’t want to hear anything from me, an atheist scientist who happened to take some college classes on the new testament.

          (Side note: The course was fascinating! It’s so interesting to see how scholars identify what was written when/where/by whom based on tiny differences in word choice/spelling/etc.)

      3. Candi*

        I had someone block me (another user on an FB group) when I posted four points comparing Positivity Religion/Gospel => one version of Reincarnation belief => Bible verses on the topic, which disagreed/contradicted both. No regrets. >:)

        (The reincarnation belief as in “If you’re awesome in this life, you’ll be born into a higher echelon in the next, and the reverse if you’re a jerk.” So treating lower social stratas like crap is totally justified. /snark You’re just punishing them for being bad in their last incarnation!)

        One thing I’ve noticed over and over with these types is they have never read the Bible. They subsist on cherry-picked verses spoonfed out of context.

        Context is kind of important in the Bible. Not just the verses in relation to each other, but the entire historical background it exists against. Assyrian, Babylonian, Medes and Persians, Phoenician, Canaanite, obviously the Romans and Egyptians, and all the others that existed in the eastern part of the Mediterranean basin during the time the Bible covers.

        Quite bluntly, I don’t believe God listens to prayers asking for others to be harmed. I also don’t believe he rules the world. Humanity rules itself, for better or worse. I also don’t believe predistination is a thing for most people. Only three people in the Bible, Samson, Samuel, and Jesus, were destined from birth to serve -and Samson still used a heavy dose of free will to screw himself up spectacularly. Everyone else mentioned was a youth to older adult when they began to serve, from Abraham to Judge Deborah (yes, really) to Saul. David was anointed at twelve, and Solomon a young man when he came to the throne.

        Most of us are free to live our lives as we will*. But that’s scary. And some aren’t strong enough to face that fear and put our trust in whatever we choose to trust, while preparing for the worst, hoping for the best, and finding that most of the time, it comes out in the middle.

        *within the limits our current circumstances allow :P

        1. Candi*

          *Predestination. I know how to spell, I swear.

          I’ve read three Bible translations all the way through: New World Translation (5 times, Dead Sea Scroll text included in the translated materials), New International Version (3, got it for Christmas one year), King James (1, didn’t like the text for the same reason I don’t like Shakespeare in the original English dialect). I’ve read bits of the American Standard and a few others.

    6. Jaybeetee*

      I’ve heard of this sort of thing in very religious communities. Basically, if something bad happens to you, it’s divine punishment/you’re not right with God. I’ve heard of pretty monstrous instances of women being blamed for miscarriages, etc., because if God took their baby away they must have done something to *not deserve the baby*. Given OP’s other comment about no secular counselors in the area, I’m guessing she lives in an area like that.

    7. Red 5*

      I have a friend who was told something like “you manifested your cancer by not thinking positively enough and you drew to much negative energy into your organ and poisoned it.” I still wish I had been there to smack them and say they manifested their new head injury.

      People can be terrible.

  14. Tathren*

    OP, this sort of response is not at all usual! I was in a very minor car accident this past January- I totaled my car but luckily ended up with only a minor hand injury. I called the office and left a message for my boss after it happened. I got one phone call back after my boss got in asking if I was alright and if I needed a ride to the hospital or the body shop where my car I was towed. When I finally got into the office about four hours after the accident happened my boss gave me the day off and was horrified when I offered to take work home with me.

    Being screamed at and berated for not being on top of your game after a near-fatal accident is so far outside normal. I’m absolutely appalled that people are reacting to your accident the way they are, and I sincerely hope that you’re able to find a job with a company that cares about your well-being. (And I wish you a speedy recovery, and some peace from everyone who seems to be making your life harder right now!)

  15. Nervous Accountant*

    Oh my god what city/town/comapny is this? And therapists who dont’w ork with non-religious people? What in the god heck what?

    1. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Unfortunately, there are places here in the US like this. I live and work in a so-called City of Sin (yes, I have had conversations with people who have referred to it that way without any irony or humor) and I am SO glad I do.

      1. Allypopx*

        YEP SAME. I’m so, so sorry OP. I know you aren’t in a situation where moving is a viable option, or at least it doesn’t sound like it, but if worst case your area makes in impossible for you to find work in your field I hope you can find work that lets you save enough to leave and move somewhere more aligned with your beliefs and motivations. Your experience and degree WILL matter, and you AREN’T losing it all over this, even if it ends up being setback. You still have those things and will 100% be able to find a less looney tunes employer in the future.

    2. Jadelyn*

      Oh, they may work with non-religious people, but they will zero in on your very non-religiousness (or lack of participation in their specific religion and denomination of choice, if you are religious but not their religion) as the True Source of your problems and rather than working with normal therapeutic methods and tools, they’ll try to convince you that having faith – their faith, of course – is the only thing that will save you.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Me too! (Though GoFundMe or YouCaring or something could be more appropriate for this – Kickstarter is more for businesses/artistic projects than charitable stuff.

  16. Amber Rose*

    Oh OP. I wish I could be as shocked and outraged as I expect everyone else will be, but following the first time I was in a car accident, when I called in to report that hey, I was just in a car wreck, the only response I got was “will you be in tomorrow?” And following the one where I broke my elbow, my boss was dismayed to see my sling because “how are we supposed to get work done now?”

    So I understand how, in the midst of some truly life altering, crushing bullshit, this starts to seem like it’ll never end, and everyone sucks. So trust me when I tell you: These people who are mad at you? They’re THE WORST. Literally, not figuratively. The cream of the crap. The bottom percent. You don’t need to repair your professional reputation. Most employers are not this legitimately horrible. And the ones who aren’t, are going to recognize how truly awful your current employer is being.

    Best of luck to you, LW. I know therapy isn’t a thing for you, but there are online support groups where you might be able to find some love and advice. Try to surround yourself with people who don’t suck.

    1. Amber Rose*

      Also it’s still too early to call out winner, but I feel comfortable calling this a strong contender in the “worst boss of 2017” race.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        This should be a strong finalist, at the very least (and I hope there aren’t any who are worse). Those people are wastes of perfectly good carbon atoms that could be forming useful things like manure.

      2. Yellow Bird Blue*

        In this case it should be the worst worksplace of 2017, or the worst community of 2017.

    2. CMDRBNA*

      People. Are. Insane.

      I have had coworkers who had major crises in the middle of big projects, and our first response was always are they okay/what can we do? and then an INTERNAL conversation WITHOUT that person as to how to move forward while they dealt with whatever they needed to deal with.

      That some people think that you being injured is just an inconvenience to them, that is truly insane. Seriously, their lack of empathy sounds borderline sociopathic.

      1. Sans*

        I’ve been leading a high-profile project this year. And this summer, I’ve had two, sudden, deaths in the family. My business has been nothing but supportive. Never said a word about the projects, just told me to take care of myself and my family.

        That’s what human beings do. You are working with cretins.

      2. SystemsLady*

        Even the most toxic project I’ve ever worked on was forgiving when a key figure’s cancer came back and he needed to take a long break and do chemo.

        (I can’t guarantee they would’ve been in the latter phases, but I guess the bright side is it looks like the treatment was successful)

    3. StubbornWombat*

      In HS I had a car accident bad enough I was admitted to the hospital (someone ran a red light and T-boned me). At the time I was working fast food so my mom called in to the restaurant and said I would be missing shifts for the foreseeable future until I was recovered, and the manager gave her hassle about needing to speak to me (impossible, as I was sedated to the gills) and was very upset that I’d be missing shifts. No empathy there.

      I really wish I’d quit then instead of sticking it out part-time another year – I fell off a ladder and wrecked my knee the next year after a manager ordered me to do something unsafe and because I was part time and a student they weaseled out of paying me worker’s comp. I was lucky that my parents’ insurance covered the year of PT it took to recover, and the knee is still borked. You are better off being away from that environment.

      OP, these people are jerks and the sooner they’re out of your life the better. The more they try to smear you the worse it’s going to look for them. Here’s hoping you can get in a better environment soon, and may they all run an obstacle course filled with Legos. Or have raccoons break into their cars.

    4. Science!*

      When I was in college I worked at a movie theater one summer. My manager went on a rant about people calling out sick, and waiting too long to call out. Annoying to be sure, but the example she used was of someone getting in a car accident and not calling out until after they were in the hospital. She said that when SHE was in an accident, SHE called work while laying in her car and waiting for the ambulance. So everyone can and should be just like HER. I was not about to argue with my manager, but I thought that was pretty mean.

  17. Mike C.*

    This is the sort of behavior that inspires me to bring back those over the top punishments from the ancient world. Things like “the boats” or “death by nine degrees” would be too good for people like these. But since we can’t do that, here’s what we can do –

    1. Take care of yourself first. Never ever let anyone convince you otherwise. If the phone keeps ringing, turn it off.

    1b. Ignore anyone trying to peddle snakeoil in pill, herbal or verbal forms. Listen to your doctors, they actually care about you. And manefesting the accident because you weren’t religious enough? What cruel piece of sh!t could say such a thing with a straight face?

    2. If you’re up to it, document what you’re going through and publish it somewhere. Glassdoor is a good choice but there are others.

    3. Long term I think you may need to take what you get from the lawsuits, and move elsewhere. If you can’t even find a therapist who works with someone who isn’t religious (WTF?!) then I think this whole area may be toxic for you. If it’s any comforts, I’ve never had movers ask me what church I attended.

    Best of luck, this is not normal in the slightest.

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Seconding all of this, especially documentation (and the over-the-top punishments, but probably can’t get away with those). If you can get a friend to help you, ask them to compile it all for you. (I don’t normally say this, but there were ever a time for sharing the company’s name, or even talking to a reporter, this would be it.)

      If there’s someone above your boss, is there any way you can go to them?

      This post is making me cry. I can’t fathom the cruelty of people who behave this way. OP, I am so sorry and sending you all the good thoughts and sympathy and purrs from a cute cat who is sleeping on the chair next to me.

      You have nothing to apologise for, nothing to make up for. These so-called people – and I use the term loosely – are revolting in every sense of the word. Put yourself first, take care of yourself, because you are important and amazing and deserve only the best!

  18. Clairels*

    “I have had a couple tense conversations at work about having called out with such little notice.”


    “How to explain two job losses in a year to another potential employer?”


    Repeat as needed.

    1. Squeeble*

      I know, right? What did they want OP to do, send a note out a week before that says “Just FYI, I’m going to be in a horrific car accident next Tuesday and will be pretty badly incapacitated by it for a while.”

      1. Jessica*

        “Your request for time off next week is denied. Please try to schedule your horrific car accidents during your personal time so that they don’t interfere with business needs.”

    2. Kelly White*

      I was in a car accident, on my way to work, just outside my work building, and my supervisor had to fight for it not to be counted as an unexcused absence; so I wouldn’t get written up for it.

      1. Clairels*

        I would think the pile of flaming wreckage sitting out the building would count as fairly strong evidence in your favour. :)

      2. (Different) Rebecca*

        1) That was good of your supervisor. 2) I hope whoever wrote that policy steps on Legos at frequent but random intervals. Infrequently enough that they think they’re crazy for thinking there’s a pattern, but often enough that they’re constantly on edge thinking about the next Lego.

        1. SarahKay*

          Oddly enough, I was thinking along similar lines, but mine was to wish them tiny stones in their shoes. Every day!

        2. Blue Anne*

          Also, may their snacks get stuck in vending machines, and may they never find the cool side of the pillow.

  19. K.k*

    Normally I would say stop worrying about getting fired because you need to quit! But it sounds like the job market is tough where you are, so I understand that that isn’t a realistic options. I wish it was because it sounds like a truly toxic workplace, and the last thing you need while trying to recover from this accident. I don’t have much practical advise, just wanted to add another voice assuring you that you did nothing wrong here and just seem to be surrounded by cruel, unreasonable idiots. Best of luck on your recovery, and on finding a new a better job.

  20. Aeryn Sun*

    It’s not normal, and yet when I broke my ankle and had surgery I had issues getting extensions for work at college. I had to complete a lot of things after my surgery, while in a lot of pain / on painkillers. Lots of people don’t have sympathy for these sorts of situations, sad to say.

    1. K*

      Professors can be weird about this kind of thing. I got a concussion in college just before midterms, and asked to take them after the upcoming break so I had time to recover. One professor actually touched my head to feel the bump (which hurt!) before giving me the accommodation.

        1. Jess*

          I was just about to post the same thing! Get burned enough times with fake stories of hardship and it’s bound to make you a bit wary and unsympathetic. Unfortunately, the people hurt the most as a result are those with real hardships who are forced to jump through hoops at the exact same time they’re dealing with their injury/illness/family death/disability/etc.

        2. KellyK*

          I don’t think that’s fair, though. Even if people are scamming the system, it’s still a professor’s job to make accommodations for students that are sick, injured, or have attacks of life, without being a jerk about it. It might be totally reasonable to ask for an obituary the second or third time the *same person* claims a death in the family that just so happens to fall before a big assignment. There’s no planet on which it’s reasonable to try to physically verify an injury yourself, especially hurting the person in the process! What reasonable person thinks, “My student is claiming a painful injury! I must *poke at it* to make sure it’s legit.”?

          1. nonymous*

            I know right? I’ve taught undergrad and my policy is to just say “sure – when you bring me the documentation, we’ll reschedule”. If the student is really having a health emergency, waiting until they have capacity to deal with documentation will work out b/c the documentation exists – it’s not going to be less valid in two weeks. And if they’re lying, there’s no documentation. Easy-peasy for everyone involved.

            Self-certification is a different story.

            1. Aeryn Sun*

              Yeah, exactly. Since it was such a specific injury getting a doctor’s note was super easy – they had forms ready and everything. Some professors were accommodating, others not so much.

        3. Aeryn Sun*

          I had multiple doctor’s notes indicating that it was broken and when I had surgery (which I needed for the college to let me complete some of the classes the next semester), they didn’t care.

      1. A Professor*

        Part of this is also university policy. We have very specific rules about what accommodations we can and cannot make, and it means sometimes you can’t give extensions or ignore absences even when you want to. The more corporatized the academy becomes, the less room there is for flexibility and empathy.

      2. Aeryn Sun*

        Yeah, I broke my ankle literally the day before finals. I reached out to all of my professors to explain the situation (that I needed surgery and therefore wouldn’t be there for finals) and while some people were accomodating others were not. I finished a final project, pretty much half-assing it, and then the professor joked around about my situation because my dad drove to school to hand it in. Like sorry I’m recovering from surgery two days ago??

        1. sam*

          Meanwhile, many years ago, back before cellphones were ubiquitous, I had one because my mother was dying and my dad needed to be able to get in touch with me. And it went off in the middle of one of my law school classes one day. I grabbed it and ran out of class.

          It turned out to not be an emergency, but I obviously profusely apologized to the professor afterwards and explained why I kept it turned on. He was completely forgiving and understanding about the situation. And then the morning of graduation, he made a point of having brunch with me and my parents (my mom was in a wheelchair at that point, and passed away four weeks later), and he relayed the entire story to them, including the fact that the thing that actually saved me was that I had a silly, embarrassing ringtone. To this day, 18 years later, my dad still remembers him as the really decent professor who spent all that time with us.

          (It’s kind of funny when we see him pop up in the background of political stuff these days, since he’s married to Liz Warren)

    2. many bells down*

      My professors were mostly understanding when I told them I’d need to reschedule some exams because I was having cancer surgery. Except for one, who just assumed I’d fail his class and he didn’t care. His face when I came back, took the exam and got 98% was priceless.

  21. MuseumChick*


    I have no words. OP, first, I hope that your recovery is swift, that the asshat who caused the accident if found guilty in both the criminal and civil case, and that you see a generous payout from the civil case.

    I know we are not supposed to diagnose people on this site but here is my non-medical professional opinion: You are working with people that suffer from a condition known as Head-in-Ass Syndrome.

    Once you have recovered, and getting the legal issues out of the way I strongly encourage you to move away from whatever area you are living in right now.

    1. Mononymous*

      I think that condition is also known as recto-cranial inversion.

      OP, I echo the hopes for a swift recovery for you and justice for the asshat who put you in this situation.

      1. Liane*

        I prefer has a second anus on their face.

        OP, I wish you a speedy recovery.

        Everyone else in your letter, deserves the same Christian Charity Jesus gave the moneychangers.

    2. Kyrielle*

      OP, this, and also, check with your lawyer re the civil case. Make sure they know what the impact has been on your job situation, and your concern about professional reputation.

      Because while the behavior your boss/recruiter/coworkers/etc. is showing is ludicrous, impact to your job may also affect the payout. (It may not. Just take it to your lawyer, if you haven’t, and let them figure out if it’s relevant.)

  22. ArtK*

    “Thank you for not suggesting therapy — there isn’t a mental health professional in this town who will work with someone non-religious.” Sorry, those are not professionals. They’re ministers at best.

    I’m truly sorry you’re going through this. I hope you can find some solutions to your issues. I’d seriously consider making major changes in my life if the people around me and where I live were this awful.

    1. Observer*

      I was coming to say the same thing – these people are NOT professionals! I’ve worked with a number of religious therapists and one of the first things they will tell you in a discussion of their work is that religion is only relevant in that it helps understand the client, unless the client WANTS help with their religious observance.

      1. Jessica*

        It doesn’t sound like turning away is the issue, but rather proselytizing in place of actual therapy.

        1. Observer*

          Well, actually the OP does say that they won’t work with a non-religious person which sounds like actually turning a patient away. but, even proselytizing is incredibly unprofessional. I know that these folks exist, but they are NOT living up to the tenets of their profession.

  23. Yellow Bird Blue*

    How utterly horrible!

    OP, I feel like punching these people on your behalf. What on Earth is wrong with them?? And do I unterstand your situation correctly that you were in office one and a half days after your accident? Because if so… there are no words. No words. Except that I hope you get well soon and can move on to a greener pastures.

    I feel like I need to defend myself somehow. I have thought of posting screenshots of the nasty texts and emails to LinkedIn, possibly with pictures of damage to my car.
    I can understand your impulse to do something about your reputation, although I’m at a loss of what could actually be done. I would assume that most people can relate to your situation and will not fault you for any time off or for being less productive. It seems you’re surrounded by the horrible outliers.

  24. Lora*

    Holy heck. Yeah, for interviews just tell them you were in a terrible car accident and had to have surgery and needed to take time to recover. That’s totally understandable.

    You work with terrible monster-beasts. Definitely once you’re settled elsewhere, post on Glassdoor – both the company and the recruiter people.

  25. Some sort of Management Consultant*




    Wait, what?!

    I… don’t know what to say. Where do you live, OP? It sounds like some nightmarish mashup of a Stephen King novel, a Kafka novel and the Stepford wives.

    I’m so so sorry you’re going through this on top of your accident.

    Take care of yourself!!!

    1. Some sort of Management Consultant*

      These people are seriously and literally some of the worst people I have ever heard of.

      OP, you are SO not in the wrong here, in any way.

  26. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    Oh, LW. I totally feel for you. When my dad died (unexpectedly and suddenly) my AUNT suggested it was my fault. When I returned to work and made a mistake, I had a coworker tell me that the death of my father was no excuse to not be on top of things. So. People are assholes.

    I also grew up in a small town where I was outright ostracized for not being religious. It’s a terribly real thing.

    All that being said, I agree for having one, FINAL, conversation to make it crystal clear what’s happened to you. Sometimes people need it spelled out. When another coworker gave me a hard time for being off so much in December, I looked him square in the eyes and said, “Have a close family member drop dead. You’ll get extra time off too.” Being that blunt may not work for you. Regardless – do not feel like you’ve done anything wrong. Focus on you and your family and getting better. You survived. You’re lucky. Don’t let the weasels take that from you.

    1. Purplesaurus*

      I wasn’t looking to hate so many people I don’t even know, but here I am with OP’s letter and now this.

    2. Stone Cold Bitch*

      I would sit them down and show them the photos in person. Images are usually harder to downplay.

      Sometimes blunt is the only thing that works.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I re-read the letter today and have decided that LW really needs to focus on this one element: She needed to be CUT OUT OF HER CAR. She wasn’t even able to open the door of her car and walk away, she had to be CUT OUT OF HER CAR. That’s not a minor accident, friends. That’s a scary-as-hell accident. If she says this to her horrible boss one time (or one more time) and he doesn’t immediately apologize for being such a [insert vulgar word here], she should quit immediately. Best of luck, LW.

    3. AlexandrinaVictoria*

      I’m so sorry that happened to you! After my father died unexpectedly last year, I came in to work wearing a black shirt. (I wear a lot of black.) A coworker muttered “I guess she’s going to play this for all it’s worth.” People are shitty sometimes.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Every day I become a little more misanthropic.

      I’m so sorry you experienced this.

  27. OlympiasEpiriot*

    If I had ever seen a situation that can be described by Captain Awkward’s “House Full Of Bees” phrase, THIS is it!

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        Thank you, but I noticed that Kalamet actually brought up this image about 15 minutes before I did. (Great minds…alike…et cetera…)

    1. fposte*

      I believe the actual coiner of that is the wonderful Marie; she posted some great stuff there and here.

      1. N.J.*

        Nope, Captain Awkward has used this exact bee phrase for a long time. Marie could possibly have gotten it from there?

        1. Anlyn*

          There was a site who used the phrase “eat a bowl of bees” when talking about horrible people (as in, “[horrible person] should eat a bowl of bees”). I don’t know if they got it from CA and tweaked it, or made it up themselves, but it’s a great phrase.

  28. Emi.*

    I … don’t think this is going to damage your reputation. If I asked Fergus’s opinion on Jane and he said “Jane is the worst; she canceled an interview after she was in a car accident!” all I’m going to think is that Fergus is batshit and I hope Jane is okay. It could hurt your reputation if he said things like “She canceled for no reason” but it sounds like all these loons are so loony it won’t occur to them to cover up the real reason.

    1. MashaKasha*

      Also the benefits of a small town (because no way can this be a big city… please tell me it’s not) is that news travel fast. Even if Fergus says “Jane canceled for no reason”, people will know that it was the Jane that was in a horrific accident.

  29. Aurion*

    I was very nearly in a fatal car accident yesterday, so this is timely. But because my coworkers aren’t glassbowls, when they saw me shaking in the kitchen (I didn’t get a scratch, just scared years off of my life) they asked me what was wrong. Because they are decent people.

    Unlike Alison, I can’t give your coworkers the benefit of the doubt about a possible miscommunication. For the love of everything, you said you were in a bad accident and I assume people with eyes can see that you’re not at 100% when you are at work.

    This workplace (and possibly your city, if you’re surrounded by therapists who would only take religious patients) need to be write off as a dumpster fire. Take care of yourself and get out when you can.

    1. Squeeble*

      Yeah, I have a hard time believing these folks don’t understand the gravity of OP’s situation. Most people will be way more accommodating for way less serious accidents.

      1. Jadelyn*

        When my clutch went out on my car – not even an accident! Just car trouble! – and was going to be in the shop for a week, my coworkers were falling over each other to ask if I needed rides to and from work, rides to and from the shop to pick up my car, help running errands, anything like that. For most people it doesn’t have to be a near-death experience for them to give a crap about it – these people are the literal worst.

        1. SarahKay*

          I needed a small surgery on my head, done as an outpatient. My co-workers made sure I got a lift home from the hospital and the only questions I got the following day when I was back at work (entirely my choice, I felt fine) were “Are you sure you should be back? Are you okay? Can I cover anything for you?”
          My coworkers are lovely people.
          OP’s coworkers are horrible, horrible people and I wish her luck getting away.

          1. Aurion*

            I know right?! I was super anxious about driving home yesterday, and I looked the part (and again, I didn’t even get a scratch on me). One of my coworkers lightly suggested that maybe he should drive behind me, and joking tone aside I think he was at least partly serious. (I declined, because his car being behind mine wouldn’t help if I drove myself into a ditch, and he lived in the opposite direction, but it was nice of him to say it.)

            Seriously, OP’s coworkers and boss and recruiter are all dumpster fire humans.

      2. sam*

        Seriously – about six weeks ago, I fell down a flight of stairs in the subway and hit my head (go me!), and got taken to the hospital. I ended up being fine (other than some bumps and bruises and the damage to my wallet thanks to our high-deductible health plan where the ambulance ride and the ER visit is going to eat through my deductible – ugh), but everyone at my office was falling over themselves to make sure I was OK.

        My boss was all “take whatever time you need!” and shocked that I even came into the office (quite frankly, the ER doc said it might be better because there were people at the office who could keep an eye on me, and I was less likely to accidentally fall asleep there, unlike my empty apartment – she didn’t want me going to sleep for at least a few hours with the head bump). Plus, he and our shared assistant had, by the time I even came in, contacted HR to see if I qualified for workers’ comp because I had been on the way to work when this happened – I wouldn’t have even thought of that.

        I mean, even when my dad had to have some emergency surgery (relatively minor arterial stent procedures), and I was trying to figure out what to do, my then-boss could see me trying to figure out how to sort out what work was going on so I could leave and he just looked at me and said “pack up your bag and just go RIGHT NOW, don’t worry about anything here”.

        My job is completely crazy at times, and I work long (lawyer) hours, but I still manage to work with people who, at the end of the day, know how to properly prioritize personal/family emergencies over the office. If they can do it, anyone can.

        1. Aurion*

          My job can be kind of nuts too, but I walked straight out of work one day when the finger I’d injured the night before kept turning steadily more purple and painful. (I later found out I had broken it, which explained things.) I was gone for three or four hours, unplanned, last second, and what did my boss say when I came back to the office and was filling out the paperwork to deduct the time from my sick time?

          “Don’t worry about it, it was an emergency.”

          There are better places out there, OP.

  30. WellRed*

    I think telling people you’ve been in an accident would suffice with non-loons, especially with obvious injuries, but I wonder if, as Alison says, they realize the extent of it (they should). But, you say, “it’s in the public record.” Not sure what you specifically mean by that, but don’t assume people with their heads stuck this far up their collective asses pay attention to anything outside their orbit.

    1. Mockingjay*

      OP, if you do get fired, please consider just leaving that job off your resume. “Shortly after I was laid off from Job A, I was involved in a car accident. I am completely recovered now.” No need to mention Toxic Job B or the temp agency.

      I’d also look into another temp agency, if available.

      Best wishes for a speedy recovery!

  31. Akcipitrokulo*

    Your boss is dreadful. The recruiter and his boss are dreadful.

    You have done beyond what is reasonable to try to accommodate these nasty people. No advice beyond what Alison said, just sincere best wishes for a good recovery and a job that appreciates you.

  32. 5 Leaf Clover*

    LW, this is horrible! You have all my sympathy. I wonder if a Miss Manners approach to people behaving so horribly would work here. She often suggests rephrasing what the person has said with a tone of shocked disbelief – as in, “I’m sorry, are you suggesting that I should have returned your call while waiting for the paramedics?” “I must be misunderstanding – are you saying I should be 100% available while dealing with a painful surgery?” I love this approach because it (hopefully) makes the person realize what it is they’re really saying. And I agree with AAM – if these ****ers fire you, you have no need to disclose that to future employers. Whatever approach you decide to take, I wish you healing and I wish you out from this horrible situation very soon!

    1. 2 Cents*

      Is it wrong my first inclination would be to say to prospective new employers, “I was let go because I suffered a near-fatal car crash and wasn’t available for meetings for a week. *pause* Yes, I was a temp.” (or something like that)

      1. nonymous*

        I think that’s legitimate. My guess is that there are some industries/workplaces where losing a body for a week or more would seriously affect their functionality. Heck, when I worked retail and a coworker had knee surgery, the rest of staff was expected to take over her hours which we got paid for (and coworker didn’t get paid). And in a temp situation it’s unlikely that the position would be held over a lengthy absence, although a good org would prioritize them for rehire if a new temp vacancy came up.

        While I agree that OP’s coworkers & employer need a serious lesson in how to be decent human beings, even if everyone was wonderful and kind about this horrible car accident, she might still find herself saying “I was in a horrible car accident requiring extensive medical treatment and Company let me out of the contract”. Any future employer who doesn’t understand that isn’t worth working for.

    2. the_scientist*

      I like this approach a lot because it really calls the other person’s bluff. They either have to admit that they’re an asswipe, or they back down because they realize they’ve been caught out. HOWEVER, totally understand if this letter writer doesn’t have the physical or emotional energy to engage at this level with objectively unreasonable people.

      Letter writer, please make sure you are taking care of yourself. Do you have a supportive team of friends and/or family around you? Are there people who can accompany you to appointments, prepare meals, clean your house, walk your pets, etc? Please know that you are not the person being unreasonable in this situation. It’s not your fault that your body can’t magically, instantaneously recover from serious injury and it’s completely normal that you’d need time to recover after a serious, traumatic accident.

      Even though it sounds like therapy is not possible in your current location, I would urge you to look out for your mental health both now and in the weeks and months to come. There are reasonably affordable online therapy services available nowadays that might be a useful alternative. I hope your doctors are 110% on your side and you are able to share any PTSD or anxiety issues that might arise as a result of your accident with them without fear of judgement. And I hope you’re in good hands for your physical and legal care as well!

    3. Xarcady*

      I would have been so tempted to answer the recruiter and the boss with, “Well, gee, I didn’t think it would make a good first impression to bleed all over their office, so I decided to go to the hospital. But I’ll remember for next time that it’s better to interview than to keep my bodily fluids to myself.”

    4. Nox*

      After reading that expose about Amazon’s workolace culture, I get the idea they would tell her “yes”

    5. bohtie*

      this is such a great tactic for offensive behavior in general – sometimes you don’t even have to reframe it, just pretend you don’t understand what they mean until they’re forced to explicitly say the offensive thing. The more deadpan, the better.

  33. TotesMaGoats*

    I have to hope that Alison is correct and your colleagues don’t understand the magnitude of the accident. Otherwise, you work with absolutely horrible people. If I had gotten a text that a team member was in an accident, I would probably assume it was your garden variety accident unless told otherwise. I would also then ask and give whatever support needed but I’m also not a jerk like your colleagues.

    You could consider posting the pics on LI as a “thank you” post to your lawyers and maybe the first responders that helped you. That way it’s not passive aggressive-y to your employer but they would, hopefully, see it.

    And take care of yourself.

    1. CMDRBNA*

      I love this approach because it forces the people being unreasonable to own what they’re asking for.

  34. AndersonDarling*

    Are we at the point where the OP can just say, “That is a terrible thing to say!” when people are freaking out about nonsense? I’d be at my limit and start throwing personal verbal attacks and all.
    This job is done. The OP may still be physically working there, but I think the exit door was virtually opened and the OP has already stepped through.
    I wish you the best OP. Rest assured that the next job will be better!

    1. K.*

      I would. Or perhaps “Why would you say that to me?” and then just stand there, waiting for an answer. (There’s no answer that won’t make the terrible-thing-sayer sound less terrible.)

  35. Manders*

    Holy crap! I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with this, OP, both the trauma of the accident and the awfulness of this workplace.

    I would strongly suggest documenting EVERYTHING and making sure your lawyer has a copy of it. If you’re fired from this job due to your injuries (which seems like it may be likely at this point), your lawyer is going need all the information about that, as any potential earnings you lose due to the accident will be a part of the compensation you’re asking for.

    You may also want to speak with an employment lawyer (not the same type of lawyer as your PI lawyer) about what’s going on, because the stuff about trying to prevent you from going to medical appointments and not letting you take time off sounds like suspicious in a way you need a legal expert to check up on.

    1. Decimus*

      I want to concur here – document as best you can and talk to your attorney. Lost earnings ARE recoverable damages.

    2. Legal q*

      For the ADA experts out there, does recovery from an accident such as this trigger an obligation to provide reasonable accommodations?

    3. TootsNYC*

      Our OP is a temp worker, and many of the protections that full-timers have, do not apply to temps.

      1. nonymous*

        As a temp worker that doesn’t have workplace protections/benefits in place, I’d argue that lost wages should absolutely be added to to civil claim. There is clear evidence that OP’s injuries cost her the job.

  36. ms. wolverine*

    OP, I’m so sorry about all of this. I wish you a speedy recovery, and I absolutely cannot believe these jerks you are working with.

    I’m not sure where you’re located, but is looking for work in a nearby city an option? This toxic company combined with mental health professionals who won’t work with non-religious people makes me wonder if there might be a location with a better cultural fit for you that’s commutable from your home. That’s really upsetting that mental health professionals won’t work with non-religiou patients. This seems like a violation of whatever hypocratic/best practices oath mental health professionals should abide by.

    And yes, at interviews in the future, just explain that you were in a serious car accident and needed time to recover. That is a concept that most normal, compassionate people and employers will understand and not hold against you.

    1. Allypopx*

      Even if it is an option I can see a longer commute being a hard commitment for someone after a major accident.

      Baby steps, OP. Don’t worry about your future job prospects right now, because I assure you this isn’t going to ruin your reputation. Try to navigate the present first. I hope you have good legal support. As someone else said, document everything. Save those voicemails.

    2. Not a Morning Person*

      It is upsetting that mental health professionals would not work with non-religious patients, but that also tells me that they are NOT mental health professionals. They may be counselors, but they are most likely not licensed to provide mental health care.

  37. Observer*

    OP, can you move to a different area? I’m not kidding – what you describe is insanity across the board.

    In the meantime, please see if you can get therapy through distance services. Dealing with the emotional fallout of such an event is hard enough under the best of circumstances. You sure are NOT in anything close to that. And, with the additional history, it must be making it worse.

    I also agree with the others that you don’t have to worry about your reputation. Just make sure that you have good records of what happened, so that if you ever need to prove it, you’ll have it. eg If you get fired again you should be eligible for Unemployment. If your boss tries to fight it because you got fired “for cause” Proving that the “cause” was your accident would be helpful to you.

  38. Chatterby*

    Holy cow.

    I would definitely inform the recruiter’s boss’s boss about the unprofessional behavior of both subordinates. Include visual aids of your injuries, car, and forward the hateful e-mail. Request a formal apology to both you and the company you intended to interview with.

    Also realize that this is a temp position, so the rules and behavior are much different than how you might be treated at a normal job. Some places treat their perma-temps like regular workers and part of their team, especially if they’ve been there a year or so. A lot of others treat temps as completely interchangeable and purposefully create a layer of distance and try to impersonalize them as much as possible. If you haven’t been there long, it can be even worse–I once knew a a temp who was let go because she requested a day off during her first month because she had to wait for an emergency furnace repair man (in the middle of winter).

    You may need to reach out to the temp agency you work for, since they are your ‘actual’ employers, and request they intercede or act as intermediary on your behalf, perhaps sending a “Jane has been in a car severe accident. She is currently working towards recovery. Thank you for being accommodating of her medical need and understanding as she tries to get back to full speed and .” -type email to your on-site boss.
    But it is up to you whether that will help or hinder.

    The lovely thing about being a temp is that it’s fairly expected for those contracts to end. So, few will bat an eye if they see you had a contract for XX months.

    Everyone in this town sounds fairly awful, so you may need to escape this mess by looking for a position in the next town over or more.

  39. Yet Even Another Alison*

    I am speechless and so very sorry OP. I am sending you good vibes and happy thoughts. Some people are assholes – again, I am so very sorry. I wish for you the speediest recovery in the history of the human race (and another employer!)

  40. gladfe*

    I’m so sorry you’re going through this! I agree with everybody else that this is not a normal reaction from your employer.
    I’m not a lawyer, but I have friends that have dealt kind of with similar legal cases. At some point, you might need to document your financial damages. If you do get fired, it might end up being helpful to be able to show it was related to the accident. Keep (at your home) records of all this stuff your employer is saying in response to the accident, including copies of all the emails or voicemails.

  41. Anon to me*

    Not to defend your employer or co-workers (because they suck), but I could see why they might believe, at first, it wasn’t that serious an accident if you could call immediately following the accident. So perhaps they truly don’t understand the extent of your injuries? I think one last stab about explaining your injuries might be worthwhile.

    But, your employer sucks. Your reputation isn’t at risk with normal companies, only crazy ones, which hopefully you will never need to work for.

    1. Ennigaldi*

      I used to be a part-time receptionist, and once had to take several weeks off when my dad was in the hospital – he had to have emergency surgery and it was all very last-minute. My employer was super understanding, but the clients less so. When one woman rolled her eyes as I took a whole two minutes to check her in and grumbled, “you must be NEW here,” I put on my best Midwestern smile and said cheerfully “Sorry, I’ve been out for a little while to take care of my father, who had brain surgery!” She backed right off. Sometimes you have to remind people that you’re a human too.

    2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      Yeah. This is not to diminish at all how absolutely inappropriate any of their behavior is, but yeah, if you call your boss or recruiter while you’re still in the smoldering wreckage of your vehicle, the implication is that the situation is inconvenient, but not dangerous. I know it was the considerate thing to do (and probably totally made sense, if you were conscious in your car and knew help was coming but literally couldn’t move other than to use your phone!), and it absolutely shouldn’t be held against you in the way that it is.

      But if a temp called me to tell me they were in a car accident, I would of course make sure they were ok and let them know that whatever meeting they were headed to will be rescheduled, but I would not assume that their injuries were grievous unless I was explicitly told so. I would, however, assume those injuries were grievous if I’d been wondering where the heck OP had been for the last several hours and then they notified me from the hospital that they’d been in a crash.

      Again, this is not to diminish the fact that these people are being inhumanely shitty to you, OP, and in an ongoing way. This is just to maybe help understand where this attitude started so many others can head it off (because, inshallah, this will never happen to OP specifically again!)

      1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

        When I was in a bad wreck (I was t-boned and my Grand Jeep Cherokee was totaled- passenger side came all the way over to where I was sitting), I called my mom as soon as the car stopped moving and I came back to. I had no idea how the bad wreck was even though my car was suddenly half the size. Not saying that LW didn’t know how bad it was when she called, just saying that shock makes you do things that may not seem normal under less severe circumstances.

    3. Bea*

      Meh that assumption is on the employer and cow-workers, they saw the OP was not okay after all and treated her like crap.

      I texted my boss at 2AM from the ER twice when I was having medical problems a few years ago to say that I was not going to be in. He never assumed that it was “no big deal” because I had the idea to call him. He knows my work ethic means that I always think about work even when I’m in critical condition, it’s the highest thing on my priorities list. He was a real crank with issues about not believing people when they were telling him stories like “I am in the ER, my abdomen feels like I’m gonna be here for awhile.” but when it was me, he realized that people aren’t just making excuses. Even when he judged or thought someone was lying, he didn’t treat them the way the OP was! So no, they’re dreadful disgusting creatures who suck, no excuses ever.

  42. Zip Zap*

    OP, I hope you feel better soon! All of what you described is really awful and you don’t deserve any of it.

    It sounds like you’re in contact with lawyers. Could you mention this to one of them? It could be related to your case. They might be interested in the impact on your work situation. Take screenshots of everything relevant and send them to your legal team as needed. Maybe they could bring an employment lawyer into the picture to help you out. Maybe they know of other options. Like short term disability paid for by the driver’s insurance company? Or organizations that can help people in situations like this?

    Here’s something to consider from a legal perspective. They are placing demands on you that you can’t meet while recovering from the accident. You could qualify for some kind of disability benefits based on that. There might also be some discrimination or harassment issues; it sounds like they’re treating you extremely badly. I’m not a lawyer. Just suggesting things to ask your lawyers about, and to try and document with screenshots.

    If it’s any consolation, you’re not alone. This kind of situation happens. So a legal team and any other relevant resources should, hopefully, be familiar with it.

    You have my sympathies. I hope you can get out of there and make a full recovery from everything!

  43. DCGirl*

    OP, if something similar hadn’t happened to me, I might not have believed your story either. Sadly, there are people that soulless in the world. I hope you have a speedy recovery and better job prospects ahead.

    TLDR: When my father-in-law died, I called my manager that morning and told her I would be taking one of my three days of bereavement leave to help my husband with arrangements. I also said that I would be in the next day to complete mandatory training because we didn’t not expect the funeral to happen that quickly. My manager was aware that FIL had been in hospice care and that the end was near. It was a busy time of year for us, and she was not happy that I might have to be out on short notice.

    After helping my husband with arrangements, I drove to the mall to look for a suitable dress for the funeral, which was scheduled for the coming weekend. On the way home, I was sideswiped by an 18 wheeler that didn’t see me when it changed lanes. The truck was pushing me into the Jersey walls on the side of the road while I had a giant truck wheel gouging a hole in my driver’s die door as I prayed, “Please don’t let me die today, too. My husband won’t be able to take it.”

    I called my manager from the ER to let her know I would not be in the next day after all so that she could notify HR to let someone from the waiting list take the training. That’s when I was told that I had two unplanned absences in one day and corrective action would be taken. The ER doctor overheard this and wrote me out till after the funeral.

    When I came back, I left a copy of the accident report, the doctor’s note, and the funeral program on my manager’s desk before she got in, then sent a picture of the hole in my car door to everyone on my team. HR had to intercede to get the corrective action reversed and pretty much told her she was being a complete and utter asshat.

    That incident was one of the main reasons I left that job.

    1. Clairels*

      This sounds awful. “Corrective action?” I’ll tell you who needs the corrective action in this situation, but it isn’t you.

    2. CMDRBNA*

      Wow. I’m so glad HR had your back.

      I once got a call from our CFO over a two-dollar expense on a business trip that they refused to cover, asking me to come in and write a check for the two bucks – the day after I had massive, hours-long facial surgery. I emailed them a picture of my face and asked how they wanted me to get to work, since I couldn’t stand up or look down without blood pouring out of my nose.

        1. CMDRBNA*

          Gum. Yup, gum.

          They had weirdly convoluted rules for what they would and wouldn’t reimburse for during travel – like, you could get reimbursed for candy, but not mints or gum, because “they weren’t food.” Once I got a smoothie at a place that sold ice cream and was told I wouldn’t be reimbursed for it because it “wasn’t food,” it was ice cream, and how dare I have ice cream for lunch?

          Basically, our CFO was horrible, and the organization had had a massive embezzlement scandal that resulted in these really convoluted rules about what they would and wouldn’t reimburse for, BUT she also would email people nastygrams about what type of food/how much they had eaten (I am 99% sure she had an eating disorder).

          So, tl;dr, she managed not to notice that nearly 150K had been stolen from the organization but by golly, no one was buying gum on her watch!

  44. Infinity Anon*

    The only thing I can think of is to make sure that your “out of office” e-mail response is clearly automated so that no one takes it personally. Generally I see it in the header of the email (“automated reply: out of office until XX/XX”).

    1. Matilda Jefferies*

      Out of office until forever. Screw you all and goodbye.

      (NB do not actually say this.)

  45. Kimberly*

    I live Houston and know even here, friends have had a hard time finding a therapist that doesn’t default to everyone is christian mode. I’ve also lived in small town Texas where any bad thing that happened was a punishment from god. Seriously I’ve heard adults tell kids that tripped and skinned their knee it was god punishing them because they had smarted off to their parents a week ago.

    I haven’t used them but have heard good things about the Secular Therapy Project. https://www.seculartherapy.org

    1. Lindsay J*

      OT: Just wanted to say that I hope you and your family and friends are doing alright and that you’re in a part of town that didn’t see too much damage.

    2. Elizabeth*

      I live in eastern Kansas, and it hasn’t been that long that it just wasn’t possible to find a therapist if you either weren’t explicitly a conservative Christian or had a drug or alcohol addiction. The latter, the community mental health center would help with, but if you needed counseling for non-addiction issues, you were out of luck. Thankfully, the situation improved over the last 2 to 3 years, and I was able to find a licensed therapist who was very clear that unless the client brings up religious beliefs, he doesn’t include them in his practice.

    3. nonegiven*

      Oh, Houston, I hope you are safe. My niece is trying to get home. My cousin lives there, too. People keep saying why didn’t they evacuate? I’m sorry, can you imagine 6.5m people on the roads? Roads that are still closed. It would take months to evacuate Houston.

  46. Mimmy*

    A gross misunderstanding of the seriousness of OP’s accident is the only explanation I can come up with. Please correct me if I’m mistaken – you have been back to work since the accident, right? I obviously don’t know the outward manifestations of your injuries, but it seems like they think you’re exaggerating. I’m not saying that you are, but sometimes people have blinders on about these things. Regardless, they are treating you terribly.

    I wish you a speedy recovery and that you find a job in a much healthier environment.

  47. blackcat*

    OP, your company sucks.

    When I got in a *totally minor* wreck at my last job, my boss made it clear it was totally my choice to come in or not. My coworkers offered to cover for me, drove me to pick up a rental car, and made sure I was doing okay. I WASN’T EVEN BRUISED. But my boss and coworkers were empathetic, kind people. Yours are assholes.


    I’m so sorry, OP. Do you have copies of police reports and could get a note from you physician explaining the extent of your injuries? In the case you’re fired, you could maybe make a case for unemployment. Plus also save related emails and document comments made.

  49. SarahKay*

    OP, this is…so unbelievably appalling! Your current boss is awful. Your recruiter and his boss are awful. The person who told you that you “manifested the accident by not being spiritual” is awful.
    I’m so sorry you had to go through all this, and please be absolutely sure that they are the ones who are wrong, and they are the ones who are behaving badly and should worry about their reputations.
    Good luck getting a new permanent job, hopefully with normal nice people. And when you do, then Glass door – for both your current company and for the recruiters if that’s an option.
    Sending you sympathy and best wishes!

  50. This Daydreamer*

    I really hope you can leave that horrible place for something fantastic. What the actual fluffernutter is wrong with these people?!

  51. FormerLW*

    My dear LW, I am so sorry for what you are going through. I agree with the advice to escalate this to the top of the food chain, with copies of photos and correspondence, a timeline of events, and possibly medical documentation. I’d also recommend a letter from your attorney, not to make threats, but to possibly back up your version of the events and their severity. I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but there has to be *some* type of letter he or she can send to the head honchos to document what the recruiter and others have said and done to you.

    1. PB*

      I know. This letter, and a lot of the comments, make me want to cry. I can’t believe the level of cruelty and lack of empathy so many here have experienced.

      1. Lisa (no, the other one)*

        Actually, I’m hearing Geoffrey from The Fresh Prince after Will and Carlton made him think he’d won the lottery!

  52. kittymommy*

    Honestly, your co-workers and business associates suck. If their giving you nasty texts and emails because you can’t hop to it due to a hoorific car accident, they suck at life and they’re not doing it right. I’m really sorry this is happening to you.

  53. tanky*

    Nowhere near a car accident, but I was so ill I almost passed out on the subway when I was contracting. I was forcing myself to go in, because no show, no pay. I got to my stop for work and just walked to the other side of the platform and barely made it home. I got snarky comments like, “will you be showing up today?” after I had made them aware (and my agency) that I was sick. They canceled my contract shortly thereafter. The placement agency said they would never place a designer with them again because of how poorly they treated me. My agency was appalled.

  54. TheBeetsMotel*

    Not that this makes it okay AT ALL, but everyone’s reactions smack of an office run so poorly that even one person being out causes a massive upheaval.

    Is there a very high turnover? A lot of rage- or stress-quitting? Its possible that, if so, people are viewing your accident through the lens of “here we go; about to lose another one!”

    Which is an awful way to be, and these folks should be ashamed. But perhaps a creepily-run office is leading people into this way of thinking.

  55. WillowSunstar*

    My personal experience from a decade of temping, from my 20’s to my 30’s, says that temps generally are treated like disposable objects. One mistake and you are out the door. I once saw someone let go for taking a week of sick leave.

    I would just not put this job on your resume if you are fired. Just tell people you were job-searching the whole time. Find someone, anyone from a previous job who will be a good reference. Wait until you can get a decent permanent job, but temp in the meantime, knowing the jobs are not permanent.

    They will dangle the temp-to-perm stuff in your face but then, like Charlie Brown, pull it away repeatedly. Do not believe the temp agencies if they say a job is temp-to-perm. It is just a lure to get you in the door.

    I was hired permanently finally after a job that was a lon-term temp assignment they kept renewing. However, a permanent position was never promised in the beginning.

    1. Jadelyn*

      I’ve had similar experiences – I spent about 4 years temping while I was trying to make the transition from retail to white-collar work, and so many places are absolutely awful with their temps.

      And yes, they LIE about temp-to-perm roles. I wound up being converted to perm at my current place from being an agency temp, although it was never promised that way in the beginning. That was a couple years ago, and recently we needed some temp help on my team, so I reached out to the agency I used to work for to see if they had anyone.

      When we interviewed the guy they sent over, he asked us about the long-term potential for the role, which confused us since we’d been very clear with the agency that this was a 3-month position and was not going to be extended beyond that. We asked what he meant, and he told us the agency had explicitly told him this was a temp-to-perm role.

      1. WillowSunstar*

        Ugh. I believe it. There should be a legal requirement that they can’t lie. However, I think it might be hard to prove, since all they have to do is claim the temp “wasn’t a good fit” personality-wise, even if they did their work perfectly. Heaven forbid one is shy and not very trusting from years of being treated like a disposable object.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yes, all of this. It’s inexcusable that temps are usually paid LESS per hour than regular employees – we should be paid more to compensate for the lack of benefits and job security.

      And sadly, when you’ve been a temp for years, employers don’t want to take a chance on you as a perm employee. You’re written off as disposable and a second-class citizen forever. I’ve been temping for years and basically given up hope of anything else.

  56. Bess*

    So sorry, LW. This is horrifying.

    It’s a small detail in the letter, but that “scapegoat” idea is important. I’ve seen this dynamic in one or two workplaces (in one place it was the file clerk who was nearing retirement) and it seems that all reason and logic leave the building as one employee becomes a lightning rod for all the workplace tension people can’t release otherwise. I haven’t seen it quite this dramatically and egregiously, but if LW/every temp is the scapegoat of the office, I could see this being part of it. Psychology is weird.

  57. Rookie Manager*

    OP I am so sorry about what happened to you and what is continuing to happen to you. You have not done anythinh wrong and any decent person/organisation will not be influenced by the horrible behaviour around you.

    I was in a really bad accident many years ago and was unable to study or work for a couple of years. While it took a LONG time for the legal case to settle, as soon as the driver admitted liabilty I was able to receive an interim payment. In total I had around half a dozen interim payments of different amounts before the case settled. They paid for therapies, a car, living expenses, a short holiday, setting up home again… It may be worth asking your lawyer about this as then you could quit this temp job and concentrate oln getting well.

    Good luck in your recovery.

  58. Taco enthusiast*

    What MLM is it? I have heard so much positive thinking/loa/spirituality jargon used as part of the sales pitch for some of these companies. It alarms me that you feel YOU need to change OP. If possible look as this as a perfect leeway to move to a more diverse area if possible. In other words, GET OUT!

  59. H.C.*

    So sorry about about all that have happened, OP—but I can attest to AAM’s caveat of “Does everyone who seems livid with you actually know the situation? Your boss and the recruiter know, but are some of those angry calls from people who may not realize what happened?”

    I was in a car accident too and call off the day with my manager that morning of, who only gave a nonchalant “OK.” It was only after I posted my totaled car pics on social media (& co-worker friends shared the news around the office) that my manager call back apologizing for her curt behavior and that I can take all the time I need to recover (I only really needed that day to handle insurance, standard medical checkup & rental car stuff – fortunately was not injured much in that wreck.)

    So yeah, my takeaway is to go beyond “will be late/can’t make it in because I was in a car accident” since people may underestimate the severity of the incident. Still, that in no way excuses the horrible behavior you are enduring – esp. from your boss & recruiter who know how serious your injuries are.

  60. Vaca*

    Is this hell? Are you posting from hell? Yikes! If you have ten years of something like IB and are willing to move there are plenty of people that will hire you. Allison, is it appropriate to post the names and contact numbers of a couple of recruiters who could be worth talking to?

  61. The Other Dawn*

    I really want to believe, and have to think, that the employer, recruiter and coworkers truly don’t know the extent of the accident. Because nothing else explains their disgusting behavior and I’m floored that people would act like this knowing how bad the accident was and how injured OP is. If they do know, this is FUBAR.

  62. Fronzel Neekburm*

    Well, you did have time to write in to an advice column so you had time to stay on top of things, really. (KIDDING! NOT REMOTELY SERIOUS.)

    Seriously, though, these people sound terrible, but one part stuck out to me that they apparently have a reputation for abusing temps. So, even if they try to blackball you, you might want to point out that you were a temp, which may get any potential problems out of the way.

    Either way, I hope you recover quickly and happily, and you avoid any future interactions with these heartless, heartless people.

  63. NW Mossy*

    I’m a manager, and bosses like this are an unbelievable disservice to their employers. These are the kinds of bad bosses people run from and spend years trying to recover from in their future employment relationships. They ruin organizations and actively harm people. It’s appalling.

    OP, while I wish desperately that there was something I could do to help you more directly, I’ll instead make the commitment that neither I nor anyone who ever reports to me will ever get a pass on behaving like this towards another person. I will set the expectation of professional compassion and if anyone is ever enough of a jerk to violate that expectation, they can expect major negative consequences for their standing in their job.

    1. YaYaYa*

      Thank you. This is a perfect example of the incredible value of the AAM community – responding to the needs of individual writers, seeing the individual as representatives of a larger whole, and so, so often finding some way to take beneficial action in their own way and place.

  64. Shooshis*

    I must live under a rock because I’ve never experienced the type of religious talk discussed at length above. But I second most comments that I would walk out of this employer and never look back. Also, fire the recruiter and leave accurate Glassdoor reviews on all parties sites. Positive thoughts to you OP it sounds like you’ve been through hell.

    1. Not a Morning Person*

      Me, either. And I’ve lived most of my life in areas considered the Bible Belt. I’ve never even overheard that kind of talk as part of a religious community. I do believe it happens, I’ve just been fortunate enough to not be exposed to it. It’s a gross interpretation of Christianity.

  65. Beancounter Eric*

    Unbelievable….just unbelievable.

    A couple of thoughts – since therapists there aren’t an option, become your own therapist – whether you go paper or electronic, start writing. Don’t worry about style, don’t worry about other people reading it – just vent. Write about the good, and the bad, the incredibly idiotic people you work for/with, the bizarre locale you live in – just write. Once in a while, take some time to look back at what you have written.

    Second, and this repeats multiple parties above, you probably need to find some other place to live. If you can, start developing a plan to do so.

    Finally, and perhaps most important, your sense of humor is your friend – don’t shut it out.

    Very best of luck!

  66. Jean Lamb*

    OP, if you are having financial problems till any settlements come in, your pictures and police report would make your GoFundMe request stand out like nobody’s business. When you can, talk to your temp agency, and start thinking about moving. I live in a small community and worked for a company with a Die For the Emperor culture (I went back to work three days after an attempted ablation attempt for atrial fibrillation, which I characterize as playing Pong with your heart. That month’s financial statement was not my finest hour). But I kept my mouth shut, as this is a small town and I needed the paycheck (have since taken early retirement). So I know where you’re coming from.

    In short–RUN!

    1. RVA Cat*

      I honestly wonder if these sort of communities are a legacy of the old Company Towns (as in “I owe my soul to the company store”).

  67. animaniactoo*

    OP, in your shoes, I would not have been able to save myself from responding to being shouted at with “I’m SO terribly sorry that I did not pre-schedule my horrible accident where I had to be CUT OUT OF MY CAR for a more convenient time for you. I’m sorry I’m not superhuman and able to shake off the constant incredible pain which can only be handled by a level of drugs which would make it impossible for me to return your call at all.”

    With extreme sarcasm in my tone. And then a stop for a much calmer “Now I can do my best to help you now that I have time, or you can continue to scream at me some more for something I have NO control over and wish to God I wasn’t dealing with until I have no time left to help you. Which would you prefer?”

    And I’d probably be out a job, but I’d also probably be fine with that and figuring out if I could collect disability, etc. just not to have to deal with these people.

    Real advice – check online for support groups. You may not be able to see a mental health professional in person, but you can get some help and support in groups that are not located in your town.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Oh yes, I’d likely have been unable to restrain myself from responding to this with a massive rage explosion that would have gotten me fired. OP, you are amazing just for not doing that.

  68. Bunny*

    Oh goodness, this is NOT normal. I was involved in a scooter accident a number of years ago which landed me in the ER – I had a concussion, bruised ribs, road rash from skidding along the road face-down, and was in generally rough shape for a while. As soon as I got home from the ER, my boss called me, saying he heard I was “under the weather” and asked if I knew where some materials he needed were, and I told him “uh, I have a concussion, I can barely remember what day it is” – and that was that, my boss said he was so sorry for bothering me and hoped I’d be feeling better soon. I was told to stay home from work for two weeks, then put on limited hours for another two before I went back to normal hours, and while my boss and my supervisor said the place was falling apart without me, there were no angry emails, no nasty voicemails, or anything like what you dealt with – instead, everyone took turns with my job duties to try and keep things going in my absence. Heck, I even came back to a bouquet of flowers and a “glad you’re back!” card when I came back to the office.

    Seriously, you need to find someplace else to work, stat.

  69. horrified*

    “Someone even suggested I manifested the accident by not being spiritual”

    I would feel like punching this person in the face…and then suggesting they manifested it by not being too spiritual. Would probably get me in trouble though.
    OP be well, heal quickly, and know you have a bunch of us pulling for you.

      1. Anlyn*

        Actually works pretty well keeping “not” in. Creates a parallel.

        I do not recommend punching people. Usually.

  70. Marmite*

    I wonder if some people haven’t appreciated how serious the accident was because you were able to reset your voicemail, set up e-mail autoreply, and answer some phone calls around the time of the accident. Clearly it was serious and you know that but from the outside, especially if you haven’t got really visible injuries (like a limb in plaster or something), then other people may not realise that as you weren’t ever completely out of action from their point of view. Particularly possible if you haven’t told people what happened other than through your voicemail/autoreply.

    My boss sent me an e-mail once that essentially said “I’ll reply to this e-mail properly later, I’m waiting for an ambulance to take me to the hospital.” which left me totally confused as to how serious her condition was. On the one hand ambulance = serious on the other hand replying to non-urgent e-mails while waiting for said ambulance seems like not so serious.

    That said even if this is the case the people you work with still sound ridiculously demanding and rude.

    1. Observer*

      This really confuses me. Your Boss let you know that he’s waiting for an ambulance means that the problem is not serious? How does that compute? Even if it’s weird how he’s handling it, “Waiting for an ambulance to go to the hospital” ALWAYS over-rides other possible indicators of non-urgency.

      In this case there are pictures, publicity, criminal and civil cases AND visible injury. What more does the boss need to understand that this is a serious incident? And what kind of magic should the OP have done to both let the office know even SOONER (ie before the accident had even happened! while not somehow “signalling” that the issue wasn’t serious by letting them know?

      1. Marmite*

        I didn’t mention OPs boss, it sounds like OP has explained to boss what happened. I was referring to co-workers who may not have heard from OP (or her boss) what happened. I didn’t see a reference to any publicity of the accident in the letter.

        I also didn’t say anything about letting the office know sooner, I was merely pointing out that some of OPs coworkers currently may not know the extent of her injuries/seriousness of the accident. Not that that excuses being livid with her, that seems like it would be an overreaction even if she had been out with the flu or something else relatively minor.

    2. Kelly L.*

      Well, but the ambulance isn’t going to get there any faster than it’s going to get there, so surely your boss has a minute to dash off that email, which is shorter than the comment I just posted here in under a minute.

      1. Marmite*

        To me ambulances are for life-threatening emergencies, which don’t really go with replying to e-mails hence my confusion.

        It later turned out boss had a badly sprained ankle so totally makes sense that she would be able to reply to e-mails while waiting for the ambulance.

        1. Observer*

          It’s quite possible to have a life threatening emergency while being able to send out a quick email or text. The OP provides a perfect example – she was stuck in a car from which she needed to be cut out. Her hends were free, though, and she wasn’t going anywhere till they were done. Sending that text would have taken minimal effort and about 30 seconds.

        2. sam*

          yeah – ambulances can be called/used for all sorts of things that aren’t life threatening – I mentioned above that I fell down a flight of stairs (in public!) and hit my head last month – someone else saw what happened and called 911 and an ambulance came in response. While I was able to walk around afterwards, because I hit my head and didn’t want to take any chances with a head injury, I rode in the ambulance to the hospital across town to get checked out. I didn’t get strapped to the gurney or anything – climbed in under my own steam, but still. Ambulance.

          While I was sitting and waiting for them to arrive, I absolutely emailed my office and told them what was happening, and that i wouldn’t be in on time.

        3. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Ambulances are not for only life-threatening emergencies. They are also for when someone cannot easily get to a hospital, can’t get there on their own, or, such as with a sprained ankle, don’t know how to most comfortably transport an injured person. Or in many cases you don’t know if it’s life-threatening until you are checked out by a medical professional, so you should call for an ambulance just in case. If unsure, call for an ambulance.

  71. ArtsNerd*

    Sweet feminist deity. OP, I’m so so sorry you’re going through this. In addition to what other commenters said above, reasonable people will not see this incident reflecting on you negatively at all, and I don’t think you should worry about your reputation.

    That said, I understand feeling like you need to respond to the horrible, abusing things your recruiter and employer are doing. IF (and only if) you find it helpful and/or therapeutic, I recommend doing some the things online reputation management companies suggest, namely:

    •Start a blog. Use your real name and discuss your horrible accident and the recovery process.

    •LinkedIn profile: do NOT post photos or the horrible messages you’re receiving. What you can do is make a note about your accident recovery in the summary: “Thanks to everyone who has reached out with support during my recovery process from last month’s car accident. I really look forward to jumping back into the full-time job hunt as soon as I’m able.”

    •Similarly, if you leave this job, I don’t see anything wrong with putting “Medical Leave” with a bland comment about your accident as your next ‘place of employment.’

    What I’m suggesting here is about making it clear to even the most casual googler of your name that you are dealing with serious medical issues, and that anyone who would imply otherwise is an ass.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      On second thought: confer with your lawyer before you start a blog. I don’t want you to jeopardize any compensation you’re entitled to. (Very entitled to.) Don’t see why LinkedIn shouldn’t have a note, though.

      Re: therapy. I’m sorry. And I have a lot of anger and distress about the state of – and access to – mental healthcare in the US. I’m hoping that initiatives like teletherapy (link below) can help mitigate some of that damage, and expand where they’re needed.


  72. Erin*

    How bizarre and baffling. I hope this gets picked up by another outlet and your work gets outed, like with the organization that made everyone cook a huge dinner for the owners, or whatever that crap was.

  73. no one, who are you?*

    Oh, OP, I can empathize with this so hard. Two months after I got my first full-time job I was involved in a car accident that was fatal to someone else involved. My experience with work after that was similar to yours. No one understood that I needed more time to recover than my bosses wanted me to have.

    Best of luck to you. I hope you’re able to get whatever help you need, starting with a fabulous new job.

  74. Not really a waitress*

    Do you work where I do? I was on two days strict bed rest after an ER trip for a health issue I have. (let’s just say there was bleeding involved) I was doped up on pain pills. I had already sent my info to my boss. I still got several calls and had to walk someone through something on the computer… which I was not the only person qualified to do so, but since I was the only person not busy…. When I asked for that PTO back since I was technically working… they blew me off. They have made it clear is what is their time is their time and what is my time is also their time.

    I would say walk away. They don’t care, they never will. Focus on healing in the way that is best for you and on moving forward. If in an interview if they ask why you left, say you were in a terrible car accident and felt it best to focus on your recovery so you could return to the workforce full strength.

  75. Phoenix Programmer*

    I feel you and had a very similar experience. I got into a horrific car accident the very first day of an internal transfer. I called my boss as soon as I got home before going too the hospital. I too was immediately asked when I could come in and was dinged in my performance review for taking three unscheduled days off in a week. Yes they literally counted each day I was off for the accident as a separate incident of call out. I never regained my reputation with this group but I don’t care and they don’t matter.

    It may seem hard now but they do not own your reputation and you will find something better. I am in a much better place with higher pay just two years later.

    Best of luck op.

  76. Student*

    I know relocation is painful and expensive, especially given you’ve just gone through a major physical trauma. But I think it would do you a tremendous amount of personal and professional good. Not every person fits in every part of the world. Different parts of a country can have substantially different cultures. When you find someplace you fit, after not fitting in for a long time, it really is like living on a different planet.

  77. A*

    First off, this sounds like a horrible situation all around so my sympathies to the OP. One part that made me hesitate though:
    “Thank you for not suggesting therapy — there isn’t a mental health professional in this town who will work with someone non-religious.”
    Whoa. I’m hoping the OP was just worked up at this point and perhaps exaggerated. I’ve lived in many different places, including the heart of the Bible belt in the US, and countries that make the Bible belt look almost non-denominational. As someone who utilizes CBT therapy on an ongoing basis, I have never once been unable to locate a qualified mental health professional as a result of my lack of religious alignment.
    If this is not an exaggeration I would recommend the OP expand their options by reaching out to local organizations and contacts for referrals. This could possibly be a symptom of ‘birds of a feather flock together’ if the professionals they’ve been “rejected” by all came from a few sources or were all within one community.
    If, against all odds, the OP cannot locate a single mental health professional willing to work with them due to religious reasons – one option would be to look into online therapy. Not ideal, but it exists nonetheless.
    I guess this statement just makes me wonder if there’s more going on. If everyone in her professional life is mad at her – and no doctors will work with her – are those truly the only causes?

  78. Customer Service - Event Manager*

    OK OP, unlike the majority of commenters here, I have been in a similar situation and no longer find it abnormal. Here’s what I did:

    1) Rehearsed my line, (“I have been off work due to a major injury that is still not fully healed. I am working to the best of my ability. Please be patient and clearly communicate priorities so that we can get through this workload together.”)

    2) Take as much time as you need. I didn’t and it set me up for a longer recovery. You can find another job, forget about that for now.

    3) Do not expect your coworkers to be emphatic at all. They have shown their real priorities. Keep your distance from them and do whatever it takes to focus on work. Leave the office during your breaks, go out for lunch, avoid happy hours, etc. You will just end up bitter and resentful as they parade around you in your misery. I lost a number of “work wives” during my convalescence, but it showed me their true colours at least. Turns out caring about real people is harder than spouting liberal talking points all day.

    1. MoreNowAgain*

      Good points. However, the vast majority of comments don’t mention if the writer has or has not experienced a similar situation. I think it’s for the best that we all stay away from assumptions – both towards the OP & each other.

  79. LSP*

    OP – If I were you, I would disconnect from the recruiter, your boss and everyone else who is giving you such a hard time as soon as possible, and perhaps look into getting on disability if that’s possible.

    I had a similar (though not quite as extreme) car accident a little less than a year ago. I was concussed for a month, so could not work. I worked from home for another month after that. Then I’ve had two operations on my shoulder and physical therapy 3-5 days a week since November. A week after it happened, I went into my office to get my laptop, thinking I’d be back at work within a couple of days. (I’m an idiot, obviously.)

    My employer has been amazing. I have never felt guilted into working when I couldn’t, or for taking the time for PT or my medical procedures. My employer behaved how employers should behave in these situations, which is the exact opposite of how these asshats you’ve been dealing with are acting.

    I am so sorry you’ve had to deal with this. Stay strong, and don’t for a minute think this is normal.

  80. Jake*

    This is by far the most bizarre “mean” letter I’ve ever seen. I mean, duck club and stuff like that I said definitely more bizarre, but this one is just so mean

  81. Former Computer Professional*

    Towards the end of a three year off-and-on serious health crisis, I spent 10 days in the hospital after having a severe reaction to a medication. I was in isolation (no entry to the room without mask, gown, and gloves) and for the first 5 days it was very touch and go.

    On day three of this hospital stay, my manager called me. After a brief “How are you doing?” he interrupted my response of “They still don’t know what’s wrong” to tell me what project work needed to get done the second I was back in the office.

    My doctor (whose office was in the same hospital) came into my room after a nurse heard me sobbing hysterically. She was livid, and all but begged me to quit my job, saying she’d sign the forms for me to go on disability.

    I wish I’d listened to her, as he only got worse from there.

  82. Rhodoferax*

    “Where on earth are you living where people are so horrible in a situation that normally would be spurring sympathy, not anger and hostility?”

    This is what we Europeans think America is like.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      As an American – yes, this is indeed the kind of money-worshiping, humanity-denying, callous attitude that large swaths of our political, business, and religious culture espouse.

      From our highest political offices to our braying TV “news” personalities.
      From our money-grubbing megachurch pastors to our slash-and-burn business “experts.”
      From billionaire CEOs who complain that the minimum wage is too high to local small business owners who boast about how much better they are than the big guys while illegally underpaying or sexually harassing their staff.
      From internet commentators/”provocateurs” who’ve made a lucrative career out of being monsters to our dimwitted cousins who love racist email forwards.

      As I noted above, I’ve come to realize that a significant portion of our population is simply evil. Beyond reason, beyond understanding, probably forever beyond redemption. Utterly unworthy of concession, compromise, or consideration.

      1. Candi*

        I’m surprised. You’ve been commenting on this site a long time. You’ve interacted with the many awesome managers and company officials that frequent the comments section. Jamie (Hello Kitty), Katie the Fed, Wakeens Teapots Ltd., fposte, and so many more. And Alison herself. They try so hard to be professional, to be the good managers that all should strive to be. They’ve been working long enough that there are many they’ve educated out there, spreading the influence even farther. And yet, you seem so mired in toxicity.

        There’s dark-hearted people out there who need a severe scouring of the recesses of their mind -but letting them poison us means we lose, even if they don’t win. Giving into the toxicity, the poison, allowing ourselves to be mired in their morass of slime, means we lose.

        Sometimes all we can do is not lose. Until things change, and we can win.

  83. DJ*

    It sounds like you’re being hit from all sides. I feel for your situation and your employer is totally out of line.
    When you are ready to seek new work remember you were laid off in your first job and a temp in your second!! Not fired for bad work.
    Also get legal advise about whether your situation is covered by relevant disability discrimination laws

  84. DJ*

    I’ve had 2 completely opposite experiences of workplace reactions due to my cancer. The first was the one I worked for at the time of diagnosis and they were terrific. The mananger chatted with me about possible adjustments and staff always asked how I was going and even had opinions on which wig I should get.
    A following manager with a following employer decided I had “chemo” brain due to me needing to ask the usual newbie questions. Not only decided that but told many others impacting my reputation. Also yelled and screamed at me frequently with many pointed comments re brain injury. Countless talks using all the correct communication tecnhnquies advising how counter productive screaming was (jangles my nerves) asking they stop. But I had to apply consequences ie don’t say that then either moving away or snapping back then advising I would continue doing this until they learnt not to scream ans make such comments. Since the manager left I have made repeated requests to address the damage to reputation caused. But no action taken. HR doesn’t get involved so it’s go up the chain to managers who know your manager better than you.

  85. Anon for this*

    OP, it sounds like you’re in a pretty small place and obviously work for appalling subhuman creeps.

    A few years ago, my company had appalling management and very high turnover. It got so bad that people going for interviews didn’t even get asked why they wanted to leave their current job, it was just “oh, you’re working for XXX” and an understanding nod.

    I bet your company’s got that kind of reputation too. A simple explanation should be fine, like “I worked for AppallingCompany and was in a serious car crash and got laid off because it was a temp position so I didn’t have leave entitlement for the recovery time.”

    Good luck with everything!

  86. Chaordic One*

    One more comment on the religious therapists. I can’t imagine where you live, but if there truly are no non-religious therapists there, I would consider getting a referral from one of the more liberal and inclusive Christian churches. I have run into and have been favorably impressed by ministers from some of the more liberal churches who have degrees in things like “psychology” and “social work” and who do actually provide sound and practical counseling to people in need.

    Unfortunately, I’ve also run into a large number of ministers who may be well-meaning, but with their educations limited to “divinity,” “religious studies” or perhaps “history” or “liberal arts,” they really were not very good at providing spiritual counseling and their advice was to pray, which didn’t hurt, but also didn’t go far enough.

  87. Jason*

    I worked for a company that acted like this before. For example one person got their hand crushed on the job (leading to broken fingers and several fractures), they made her finish her shift before going to hospital and as she left they told her she better be there for her next shift…. opening in the morning (she just finished at 9pm and had to open at 6am).

    They also would change the schedule without telling anyone which happened to me several times and actually was the final straw for me. Every week when the scheduled was posted I would take a picture of it on my phone as I did on this occasion. I had my normal days off and went to a festival quite far away from our workplace, had quite a few drinks and enjoyed the event. Anyway at about 5pm I got a call from the manager asking why I wasn’t in work, I explained that I was not scheduled to work that day, of course he said I was. Anyway I told him that I couldn’t drive as I had been drinking and I had no way of getting from this event (in the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere (it was a sleep in a tent kinda event)) to work anyway. His response? “Suck it up and get in your car and drive to work.”. Eh…. no…. I told him that I would not do so. He then told me that I am risking my last week of work with them (I was leaving anyway), I explained last week or not I will not drink drive, I was not on the scheduled and I have picture of the scheduled to prove it and days off are days off, people can’t be expected to keep their life on hold because they never know if they are working or not. His response? “How dare you accuse me of being a liar! DON’T BOTHER COMING BACK TO WORK”. And that was that……..

  88. Gazebo Slayer*

    I wonder if the only way OP’s horrible manager, horrible coworkers, and horrible temp agency would learn this behavior is not OK is if they were in the same situation themselves and had an epiphany.

    Sometimes the only way people learn to have compassion when awful things happen to others is by having the same awful things happen to them.

    1. Jason*

      I think it’s a culture of trying to out do each other when it comes to being the “most dedicated” and that most likely it’s so toxic that they would be quite happy to throw each other under the bus to gain standing with others in the company. I know my boss at the time dealt with that kind of culture from upper management, I watched him come in on days off, sometimes he would try to come in in disguise to watch us work and see how quickly we engaged him etc. His child was severely hurt one day and ended up in hospital, he didn’t call anyone to take over he just said “to make it in business you need to make sacrifices”. Thing is he was just a manager of a retail store that was part of a nation wide chain….. the regional manager was the same and the one time I met the guy above him he was the same as well.

      This is the kind of culture that breeds stupid statements like “I worked for 3 weeks straight without sleep and with 2 broken legs but you can’t skip your wife’s funeral to cover for a sick coworker?”, obviously a bit of an over statement there but you know what I mean.

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        Wow. I hope sacrificing the love of his child was worth it. Showing up in a disguise is bizarre enough, but ignoring your child who’s in the hospital is vile.

        Making sacrifices means working the occasional weekend or not buying something you really want because the money is needed elsewhere. Not that kind of nonsense. Wow.

  89. KS*

    Mass email to every last one of these vultures: “You are all truly insane. Goodbye and good luck.”

  90. Wintermute*

    How horrible! This is so out of the norm that I half-seriously wonder if there’s a gas leak in your building or mercury in the water pipes or something– this is SO WILDLY OUTSIDE THE NORM and multiple people appear to have contracted the same serious malfunction of their empathy at the same time.

    You would be well within your rights to walk away, never look back, post a scathing review to glass door and tell everyone you know exactly what kind of business they’re running. And frankly in a case like this it wouldn’t look like sour grapes: “they hounded me and sent hostile e-mails and voicemails while I was in the hospital” is right up there with “they stopped paying me a month ago” on the list of acceptable reasons to quit without a job lined up.

  91. Kate*

    I’m sorry you have to deal with such horrible people! By the way, in my country when you get injured trying to get to work, it counts as workplace injury, so the workplace would deal with medical bills, helps you loads with recovery, etc. Isn’t there something similar in US or in your state? It’s worth checking out.
    I wouldn’t worry whether you get fired or not. You can say to prospective employers what Alison said, it’s perfectly understandable. Actually, if you are in a position to take a few weeks/couple of months off, then I’d just go ahead and resign and focus on recovering. After recovered, find a good company where there are people with more compassion than a teaspoon! There are good employers out there. Good luck and don’t let those people get to you! Your priority right now isn’t pleasing them, but in my opinion, you have an obligation to yourself to see yourself fully recover. Take care and find better people to work with!!!

    1. Candi*

      Unfortunately, in the US it depends on state, sometimes on county and/or city (or parish if you’re in Louisiana), and company policy.

      I think this is something that needs to be handled at the federal level, since it is something that concerns everyone in every state and territory (Puerto Rico, American Samoa, US Virgin Islands). But ultimately, the members of Congress answer not to the country, but to the district that elects them. Every region has often conflicting needs and wants, and no solution is one size fits all. This is fine when it is something that needs to be divvied up by region (natural disaster prep comes to mind), but awful when it’s something that effects everyone.

      Regulations have the force of law unless a court strikes them down or amends them. The problems involve conflict with existing law, conflict with the Constitution and state constitutions, and whether people even bother to follow them. (And whether they are reasonable, which is a whole can of worms with multiple shades of gray.)

      Throw in laws are often reactive rather than proactive, and it’s a mess. (My theory is laws are often reactive because most of us understand how to be a good neighbor, gold and platinum.)

  92. Jemima Bond*

    This probably makes me a bad person but one of the things I like about this blog is that if I’m feeling glum about my job I can comfort myself that it could be a lot worse, reading accounts like this. At least my boss doesn’t want a piece of my liver, at least no colleague has ever bitten me, at least I would not be shouted at for not getting work done after I’d been in a car crash…

  93. Gadget Hackwrench*

    I actually lost my first job this way. Not right away, but they cited me calling in suddenly when I slammed my finger in the door and wound up in the ER with the bone sticking out of my hand, as a lack of dedication to the company, even though I came back to work the next day AMA. Then they cited my diminished productivity, while my dominant hand was in a brace, and I couldn’t take the narcotic painkillers I was prescribed because I was trying to stay cogent enough to work.

    Some companies are trash. Get out. Never look back.

    1. MashaKasha*

      OMG what. I slammed a finger on my dominant hand in the door and had to go to a Dr to have the fingernail removed. No bones were broken. And *that* was bad. I was in college and no matter how I tried, I could not take notes. Was in pain for days. “Diminished productivity” smh. Some companies do not deserve to stay in business.

  94. MashaKasha*

    I’m reminded of a manager I had at OldJob. We once ran into some kind of a disaster with a project that was still in dev, but needed to be finished asap, and the primary developer for the project had just left on his honeymoon. The manager had all of us together in a conference room, working 12-hour days, trying to figure out the project and get it finished, but he made it very clear that we were not allowed to get in contact with Primary Dev with any work questions or updates, because Primary Dev deserved to have an uninterrupted honeymoon.

    He also stayed right there in that room with us, putting in 12-hour days, where most managers would’ve gone home and said “you guys can leave after 8 but make sure you’re on schedule with your work”.

    He was an extremely religious, conservative man who never missed a church service.

    Just wanted to give him a shout-out. I really enjoyed working for him.

  95. CM*

    OP. Sorry, I didn’t read all the comments above. But is there some compelling reason to maintain an ongoing relationship with the temp boss and the recruiter who are both horrible people and are failing to treat you like a human being? As a temp, I’m assuming you’re not getting health benefits or sick pay. If you don’t absolutely need them in the future, then tell them both to go **** off (OK, tell them that you need time to recover and won’t be able to continue working with them, and will not be able to respond to any communications from them in the near future as you focus on your recovery). Once you have recovered, look for a new job with decent people. As others have noted above, there should be no impact on your professional reputation from this unless the recruiter/boss are actively out to get you, which you have little control over. It’s totally reasonable to explain that you were laid off in a mass layoff, then started a temporary job but were in a severe accident and needed time to recover before returning to work. Very unlucky, but reasonable and not at all a reflection on who you are or your professional capabilities.

  96. Indie*

    So sorry to hear about your traumatic accident OP. I hope that driver faces serious consequences.

    This really reminded me of when my dad died suddenly and I from my boss I got literally ‘Sympathies! But …work is getting done soon right?” in the same breath. It taught* me to be super careful about not working for leaders who are themselves drowning because they have no space for compassion. They hear about your serious, unavoidable, human problems and they just think “I was already going under and if I care about your burden I will DEFINITELY go under”. As a result of being phoned hassled, even in the day of the funeral, I quit, and now I temp. *So no I didn’t really learn that lesson!

    (To some) Temps are:
    A) Not real people. You don’t need to know their name, tell them where the bathroom is etc.
    B) There to fill in for the real people (who may/may not be allowed to have real human lives/ problems). So, Sally had a baby and now the temp we hired to cover her is sick???!! This will explore the head of a certain type of boss.

    Upside of being a temp:
    A) You get an unphotoshopped close up of workplaces before actually committing to them. This depressingly narrows options, but it’s more timesaving in the long run.
    B) Temps can always temp somewhere else. For a different recruiter as well as for a different company if the problem is with them too. Use that flexibility to your advantage. Let go of the permanent workers fear of being consistently impressive (aside from your own standards). You’re outta here soon and this bridge is getting to be burned.

    You can also put on your resume ‘temping between X date and y date to gain experience of z for a variety of companies and expand industry wide knowledge’. On your references only put a more recent (and trustworthy) recruiter.

    Oh and cuckoo recruiters usually have cuckoo clients.

  97. Chriama*

    One thing I’d like to do, but would probably never have the courage to do, is just repeat the situation back to them in a confused tone of voice. “I was in a crash that broke x bones and caused damage to y that I’m going to have to go to surgery for. I’m in an intense amount of pain and trying to do my best to keep on top of this work, so I’m confused at the anger I’m hearing in your voice. Do you believe I’m lying about the extent of my injuries? Or is there another reason you’re yelling at me instead of showing empathy for what I’m going through?”

    It’s not stated eloquently enough, and I suspect they would just double down on the angry bluster anyways. But I feel like taking emotion out of it and just being very matter-of-fact and mild mannered but still really graphic would throw them for a loop.

  98. Anonaconda*

    OP please update when things have gotten bettter, eeyikes! I just wanted to say that if you can’t find a decent local therapist, there’s a program called Talkspace where you can do sessions with a therapist over the phone or Skype. Not ideal, but better than nothing.

  99. Candi*

    LW, you have my deepest sympathies. Best wishes to you, and I hope you are able to move to a more loving, forgiving community as soon as possible.

    And as others said above, document and talk to your lawyer. Quantifiable costs such as wage loss are part of what the lawsuit can reclaim.

  100. Dr. Sheila Addison*

    I apologize if this has been addressed already in the previous 500+ comments, but I wanted to say this to the LW:’

    “Thank you for not suggesting therapy — there isn’t a mental health professional in this town who will work with someone non-religious.”

    As a mental health professional, this horrifies me, but I also have heard it before from people in some highly religious states in the US. I wonder if you know about the Secular Therapy Project: https://www.seculartherapy.org/ They may be able to connect you with a secular therapist licensed in your state or area.

    Another option might be telehealth – therapy via videoconferencing. If you live in a smaller town/city, but there is a much more urban city in your state, a therapist there who does telehealth may be able to help. Finding therapists across state lines is not recommended because licensure is by state, and we can have issues if we practice in places where we aren’t licensed (note: some therapists work and are licensed in more than one state!) TherapistLocator.net is the official directory for members of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the national org I’m part of. It is against our code of ethics to discriminate against a client on the basis of religion (including having none.) Universities may also have Professional Counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy, Clinical Social Work, or Psychology (clinical psych or counseling psych) programs that have 1) faculty in practice, and/or 2) a list of graduates, and/or 3) a student clinic, any of which might be a source of a professional offering telehealth.

    If mental health support would help you, I hope one of these suggestions might be a way for you to get it.

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