update: I got caught lying about a sick day

Here’s an update from the letter-writer last month who got caught lying about being sick in order to watch the eclipse:

Thanks for publishing my letter. I appreciate your response and the comments everyone left.

The probationary period is standard in the industry, going back to when my father first started decades ago. It is mentioned if your schooling is related to it and made clear to anyone who is in the running for a job. It is also mentioned in most job postings. I knew about it since I began considering working in the same industry before I started college.

I did send a letter of apology to my old boss and the company for my actions. I also apologized to my father for the embarrassment I caused him over this. I am still job hunting and working hard to find another job.

The work has a customer support portion. Because of that there are set hours (start and end time) that were weekday only, so working on a weekend or working from home to make up the time was not an option. Work can only be done at the office during our business hours, for everyone including management. Also, even if I did have vacation time available there were other people who booked the day off already and there was no more room for anyone else to have time off.

My actions and the results were my responsibility. I was wrong, not my boss or my company as some of the comments suggested. I was the only one who did wrong here.

I have taken this lesson to heart and will never repeat it. My biggest regret (besides the embarrassment I caused to my father) was that one of my coworkers had to cancel her afternoon off and wasn’t even able to watch the eclipse from the roof like everyone else because she was doing my work that had a legally mandated deadline.

Thanks again for responding with kindness instead of judgement. I appreciate the advice of you and your readers and will take it to heart in the future.

{ 134 comments… read them below }

  1. Artemesia*

    Everyone screws up sometime; owning it is the first step towards learning from it. Good luck on the search.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Amen. OP has shown a lot of maturity in owning this mistake, and I think it will serve them really well going forward. It’s honestly much more mature than I was at that point in my career, particularly when it comes to owning my screw-ups.

      This was a tough lesson to learn, but as previously noted, it helps that it’s early in OP’s career (easier to grow and move on). I’m sorry this happened, but I’m proud of OP for handling this in the most responsible/dignified manner possible.

    2. Nacho*

      Agreed. I remember my first job out of school, when I figured I could just skip my scheduled breaks and go home a half an hour early. That didn’t go over great once I was caught, and probably contributed to the fact that I was let go a month into my 3 month contract.

    3. Specialk9*

      This right here is why I’m basically like, yeah, all good.

      “My actions and the results were my responsibility. I was wrong, not my boss or my company as some of the comments suggested. I was the only one who did wrong here.”

      You get it. Lesson fully learned. No excuses or blame shifting.

      As a manager, this would actually impress me. Might not get the job back, but certainly would change my impression of that person.

  2. Matilda Jefferies*

    Honestly, I wish *I* were this good at owning up to my mistakes and moving on. Good for you, OP – you have clearly taken the lesson to heart. Good luck with your job search!

    1. Mookie*

      Yep. AAM commenters and advice-seekers skew high on ethical and moral behavior, I find. People who comment here are pretty aspirational for me, because the bulk have common sense and common decency and the courage to exercise both, on behalf of themselves and others. I’m in awe of the OP’s grace and humility here. Being able to learn this lesson the first time ’round is a wonderful thing.

  3. Amber Rose*

    You’ll recover. There’s no use in regrets now, what’s done is done, and you can promise yourself you’ll never do it again and go on to other things and be just fine. :)

    There is absolutely nobody who hasn’t done something wrong in their lives. Just remember that if you feel yourself getting upset. Everyone has screwed up once or twice, and you are far from having made the worst mistake ever.

    1. Artemesia*

      It is also not a work mistake exactly. You are not the guy who lost the Important Account because you fouled up something; you are a guy who fudged a sick leave day. If word got around you could own this and share your chagrin and your commitment to going forth and sinning no more.

  4. Myrin*

    You seem like a mature and responsible person who made a stupid mistake and it seems like you have learned from it quite thoroughly. I really admire your tone in this letter and wish you all the best in your job search!

  5. Chriama*

    I’m impressed with your capacity for self reflection. Sometimes getting called out is how we grow, so I hope you’re able to find a new job soon and demonstrate (to yourself) how much you’ve matured from this incident.

  6. grasshopper*

    It is nice to see genuine understanding and contrition, particularly for the effect that actions had on others.

  7. Phoenix Programmer*

    I didn’t notice this in the first thread and it would not have made a difference in this case but don’t discount asking g for an u paid day off!

    1. fposte*

      It sounds like there might still have been a coverage issue in this case, but you’re right that that’s worth remembering and people sometimes don’t.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Yeah, I understand that we’re not re-litigating the original letter and it’s clear that OP is willing to take full responsibility – and I admire that! – but I still think a system in which someone can’t take a single day off for (almost) any reason for five months is whack. How could a anyone with family responsibilities do this, for example?

        Maybe the silver lining is that OP will wind up in a job that has slightly more reasonable expectations – they exist, I have always had them in my 20-year career!

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, even if it wouldn’t have meant the OP would have been able to take this particular day off, I think that’s needlessly inhospitable.

          1. fposte*

            Oops, I forgot that they were allowed to take sick days; I think a no vacation days policy isn’t the end of the world.

            1. Turtle Candle*

              Part of it, too, is that sometimes even if you can take vacation days off, you can’t get them for a particular high-value day. Given the legally mandated deadline mentioned, it’s very possible that this is a job where someone had to be working that day–even if the LW and everyone else all had plenty of vacation days available, it’s quite likely that someone would have gotten their vacation denied, simply because coverage is a thing in many, many industries.

              1. Lil Fidget*

                I guess, I’m just saying to OP – if you chafed at these restrictions, maybe this was a good “probation period” for YOU to discover that you would prefer to work somewhere with better work-life balance. There were many folks on the first post who were of the perspective that the ability to take a long weekend for a special event is worth A LOT to them, and that’s a totally reasonable way to feel too. I just wouldn’t want you to beat yourself up too much for not being the kind of “live to work” person that never wants a day off.

                1. Turtle Candle*

                  Sure. But there are a lot of industries where some people are going to be told ‘no, you can’t take that day off’ if a lot of other people want the same day off, because the workplace can’t close down for a day. I’m not even thinking just of things like medicine or emergency services–I work for a company that hosts a cloud data solution that is frequently under attack from hackers. For the people in charge of data security, if all of them take the day off and are unavailable to deal with immediate boots-on-the-floor security issues, it could potentially result in releasing the financial and medical information for tens or hundreds of thousands of people. This isn’t a problem most of the time, because peoples’ vacation desires are spread throughout the year, and in fact my workplace is very flexible and not at all live-to-work–but even if an eclipse is a once-in-a-lifetime event, we still can’t have all those people take the same day off.

                  (They did get to go outside for twenty or so minutes at the closest point to totality, but taking the whole day off? No, no way everyone in the department could have done that.)

                  So yeah, if you want to work at a place with better work-life balance, that’s fine. But there are real reasons that some workplaces can’t let everyone off for the day–even for a once-in-a-lifetime event, and I don’t think that even means it’s a live-to-work environment. It’s just an environment that handles high priority information and can’t go unstaffed.

                2. Lil Fidget*

                  True. But I can say for myself, given my outlook on life (I’m a work-to-live person) I would prioritize a field where that wasn’t often the case. Of course there will always be SOME days that you just can’t have off, but my field/company really minimizes the necessity of that – it’s a once-a-year-at-most situation. And that’s worth the loss of some other perks to me. To another person, it might not be important.

            2. The OG Anonsie*

              Other side of this is that it depends on what time of year you start a job and what else is going on. I worked somewhere that had a vacation probation thing like this, only I started mid November. It meant I wasn’t able to go home to see my family that year, and since we’re scattered that’s the only time I can actually see people. Missing that one holiday meant there were two full years where I didn’t get see my family at all, which sucked.

              It’s not something you turn down an otherwise desirable job for, but it sucks and there’s usually no reason for it. There were lots of people working right up to any given holiday because they didn’t care about going away then, so there wasn’t a reason why I specifically needed to be there other than the policy.

              1. Colette*

                My first job after university had a “no vacation in the first six months” policy, and I was still able to take time off for convocation. There’s often some flexibility if you ask (instead of tell/demand), are otherwise a good worker, and have a good reason.

        2. stitchinthyme*

          At my previous company, there was no PTO allowed during the first 6 months of employment, period. Vacation and sick time still accrued and was available starting after 6 months, but if you got sick before that, you had to take the time unpaid. My boss there didn’t like anyone taking sick time, ever, but he was smart enough to know that if he wanted to attract decent people, he had to offer it. He had small ways of strongly discouraging people from taking any sick time, though. (Yes, it was a pretty toxic place to work in general. And no, I didn’t let him browbeat me into not using sick time when I needed to.)

        3. Ego Chamber*

          “but I still think a system in which someone can’t take a single day off for (almost) any reason for five months is whack.”

          Is this not normal? Whenever I’ve worked customer service jobs, this is standard.

          If there’s paid time off—which in my experience has been rare—they make you wait until you’ve accrued vacation time before you can take any time off, with an exception for medical reasons. (I’ve never been given the option of unpaid time if the company gives paid vacation, even if the max paid you can take is 5 days/year—and if you get 5 days off you’re accruing those days at a rate of around 1.5 hours per pay period, so it would be ~6 pay periods (3 months) before you have enough PTO to take off one day. I’ve never had vacation that front-loads, that’s a privilege generally reserved for management).

          If there’s unpaid time off, it’s been standard to not request any time until the probationary period is up (this has been stated as 90 days in the new hire paperwork every job I’ve had), again with exceptions for medical reasons. Worse is when the company has actually advertised that they have UNLIMITED VACATION DAYS* (asterisk because because oh by the way it’s unpaid vacation that doesn’t make listing it as a benefit horribly disingenuous or anything right).

          Worse than that is when the company doesn’t offer any time off, paid or otherwise, and they actually expect people to work without taking vacation time at all and then they’re either confused about the high turnover or they use the high turnover as an excuse for not giving benefits like vacation.

          Tl;dr: If you’re looking for a job with reasonable expectations, look for one that doesn’t involve customer service. Or if you’re looking for something reasonable in customer service, make sure you’re management.

          1. Specialk9*

            “Is this not normal? Whenever I’ve worked customer service jobs, this is standard.”

            Nope, not normal, at least not for mid range to senior jobs. I get an offer letter with yearly vacation and sick days. Obviously you wouldn’t start a job and immediately go on vacation unless pre-scheduled and cleared before starting… But it’s yours, you get to use it.

            I have picked up that customer service jobs are largely not very kind or respectful to workers. But I’m also aware that there is a big range to these things.

            1. Bea*

              Customer service is something that requires coverage at all times, we can’t just all be out of the office because of whimsy and to catch the eclipse. To say that those jobs don’t respect or aren’t kind to their workers is very out of touch.

              I am very high on the ladder and wasn’t eligible for paid vacation until 180 days.

          2. Dr Wizard, PhD*

            I’m not in the US, but in my government job the understanding was that it’s your annual leave, it rolls over once a year giving you a bank of X days, and if you want to use it go nuts (with management sign-off).

            That being said, I wouldn’t have gotten away with my three-week vacation after three months if I was in the private sector.

        4. Where's the Le-Toose?*

          but I still think a system in which someone can’t take a single day off for (almost) any reason for five months is whack.

          It really depends on your job. I work for a state agency and we get slammed, all hands on deck, in January, February, May, June, beginning of July, the last two weeks of August, and the first two weeks of September. From January to mid-September, we do probably close to 12 months worth of work. But because of that, we have a lot of flexibility to take time off in the fall. Want to spend October and November in Rome? Have at it! You want to drive across country for 7 weeks? Permission granted! As long as you have the time, taking more than 2 weeks is never a problem.

          But if you want February 22nd off? Doesn’t matter if you’re new or if you’ve been working here 25 years, the answer will always be no unless (1) it’s a valid sick day; (2) you have a family emergency; or (3) you have a medical accommodation. A extra day off to go to Vegas, see an eclipse, pub crawl, lawn dart competition, etc, will all get a no.

  8. Mike C.*

    Folks, we still need to keep this in perspective – it was a lie about a sick day, not embezzlement, sexual harassment or injuring a coworkers.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No one is implying he lied to cover up a murder and is now making amends to the family. He can still be recognized for owning up to it and taking responsibility.

      1. Mike C.*

        That’s not my point. The fact he’s doing what he’s doing is great, the tone of many comments I’m seeing are treating his mistake as much larger than it actually is.

        1. Chriama*

          I think you’re responding to comments you anticipate rather than what people have actually said so far. OP has shown contrition and maturity and pretty everyone has just said “good job for owning it, good luck in the job search.”

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yeah, this is better said than my response below — it feels like trying to re-litigate the original question as opposed to responding to anything actually being said here.

          2. HR Caligula*

            “responding to comments you anticipate rather than what people have actually said”

            Perfect! This is a frequent phenom and you have gifted us with the best way to process and phrase it.

            Thank you!

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          We’ll have to agree to disagree. I know you were pretty vociferous in the comments on the original post about the idea that it wasn’t that big of a deal, but I think it’s a fairly big deal. Not career-ruining, and not OMG The Worst Thing Ever (and I don’t see anyone here treating it that way either), but certainly a big enough deal to fire him over.

          1. Jen S. 2.0*

            Agree. Firing-level offenses aren’t always a big deal to someone else, and nor do they have to be. That doesn’t make them not — rightly — a sufficiently big deal to the person whose opinion matters in the situation, and everyone doesn’t have to agree about where the bar is. You could make that argument about many letters here, and every situation is different as well. Plenty of people also would have chuckled and patted the dress-code interns on the head. Plenty of people with unique skill sets get a lot of leeway to do things that would get the receptionist fired. I personally once saw a temp get fired for skimming online job announcements at his temp job (something that is commonly considered acceptable). Plenty of workplaces just aren’t that strict.

            But OP’s workplace was that strict. OP’s boss decided that, in the environment she’s dealing with, a new employee who would lie about a sick day, after being told no, on a day he had critical work due (which I’m not sure we knew in the original letter) wasn’t worth keeping (and, not for nothing, who also wasn’t savvy enough to cover his tracks). It’s fine if that’s not a big deal to you, but it’s their prerogative to have it be a big deal to them and their needs.

            OP, I agree with others also that this was a critical lesson to learn early in your career, and it’s good to see that you’re doing your best to learn it.

            1. Jen S. 2.0*

              P.S. Not looking down on receptionists or admins; they’re critical cogs and important roles. Just noting that the receptionist is usually easier to replace than the rocket scientist who built the database and brings in the money and wins the awards and knows where the bodies are buried, so you tend to overlook it when she’s 20 minutes late to a meeting … whereas a receptionist cannot consistently be 20 minutes late to work.

              1. Candi*

                Be careful. If the receptionist is any good and has been there any length of time, she probably helped bury those bodies. :P

            2. Ego Chamber*

              “after being told no, on a day he had critical work due (which I’m not sure we knew in the original letter)”

              I may have not read the original letter that closely, but I don’t remember that being in it. It kind of changes my mind completely, because the basis I think is reasonable for giving a day off (even if coverage is kind of going to be an issue) is “Are your core tasks, and anything you have due on deadline, complete and/or ready to go without expecting someone else to finish it for you?”

              I think the comments would have been far less charitable, and the firing more understandable, if knowledge of the crucial, government-mandated deadline had been in play.

        3. Myrin*

          I agree with Chriama, unless you’re talking about the comments on the original post, not the ones right here?

          I feel like I actually need to write citations down because I’m seriously not getting what you mean. As I’m writing this comment, the people who talked about his mistake at all (and not just about how impressed they’re with his answer) did so the following way:

          – “Everyone screws up sometime” (Artemesia)
          – “this mistake; screw-ups” (PCBH)
          – “it” (Hills)
          – “mistakes” (Matilda)
          – “done something wrong; screwed up” (Amber Rose)
          – “stupid mistake” (myself)
          – “that action” (grasshopper)
          – “this case” (fposte)
          – “A lie; an integrity issue; serious or damaging to one’s career” (Alli525)

          The only comment that even remotely treats this whole thing as a “larger” issue is Alli’s, which was only written as an answer to your first comment (and as such explained more sternly why lying even about something mundane can be a big deal when she might not have said something about it at all otherwise) and immediately afterwards praises OP for his behaviour ever since. I’m not at all seeing the “many comments” you refer to, unless I’m misunderstanding something crucial.

        4. finderskeepers*

          agreed. Everyone lies for sick days. OP just used it on an obvious day (like a baseball home opener) and got busted. There’s no there there here

              1. Emi.*

                I don’t lie about sick days either. I actually haven’t lied about anything since, like, my time-out days.

            1. SarahTheEntwife*

              I don’t, though honestly that’s probably mostly because my workplace has generous vacation time and a compassionate attitude toward sick leave, and is even fine with calling out for general run-down-ness so long as it’s not shift where there’s nobody else to cover for you. It would feel odd being considered virtuous for not doing something I’ve never had to be tempted to do.

          1. Observer*

            Now, THIS comment concerns me a lot more than what the OP did. What he did was stupid and wrong, but he realized it. YOU, on the other hand, seem to think that lying is a normal and acceptable thing to do on a routine basis. THAT is a huge problem for me.

              1. Engineer Girl*

                People may lie to themselves about certain things. It does not necessarily follow that everyone lies about sick days.

          2. Blue Anne*

            Um, no, not everyone lies for sick days. Don’t justify it to yourself by thinking that, finderskeepers, because it’s not true.

          3. Ego Chamber*

            “agreed. Everyone lies for sick days.”

            If your intent is to start dissecting what “counts” as a sick day so as to catch people in their own “lies,” can we skip that for once? It happens every time someone writes in about wanting to take a sick day, or having taken a sick day, and I’m… kind of sick of it. puts on sunglasses* cue: CSI Miami Theme

          4. Candi*

            Dude, I haven’t lied about sick days since high school. (I don’t get fevers much, and I don’t do nausea much, so it was easy.)

            Part of growing up, going to college classes my dad was paying for, and being part of a work environment, was knowing that calling out absent when you didn’t have to be absent was something you just don’t do. (Mental exhaustion can definitely be a have to be absent thing.)

        5. JoJo*

          I think the problem is that another coworker had to cancel her scheduled time off to finish his urgent project.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Yes, this is the problem, and why the firing was completely valid.

            Arguments can be made about whether or not small lies show a lack of integrity severe enough to justify firing, but not realizing someone else would have their time off rescinded is naive at best, and not planning ahead for a project with a deadline OP was in charge of completing shows a lack of reliability that goes beyond taking spontaneous fake sick days.

          2. BPT*

            Yeah, if I was the coworker who had specifically taken the afternoon off (presumably to watch the eclipse) and had to cancel because a new employee decided that his ability to watch the eclipse (unapproved) was more important than mine and I had to do his work, I would be PISSED. Like that’s not time you can ever get back. That’s not an experience you can ever get back.

            OP is owning it which is great, and if anything, commenters are being super nice about it (for that exact reason the OP is taking ownership and isn’t making excuses).

            1. Floundering Mander*

              This. My opinion changed a bit after learning this bit of information. Pretty much everyone I know had the opportunity to at least go look at the totality or part of the eclipse for a few minutes, even my cousin who is a nurse and was on duty at the hospital. Chances are this guy would have been able to go see at least a bit of it. But his actions causing another employee to have to give up their booked and presumably approved in advance time to watch it makes this more egregious.

              I mean, the OP still did the right thing in apologizing. But it makes it more obvious that it was a firing offense, to me.

    2. Alli525*

      A lie about a sick day is an integrity issue, which could not be more serious or damaging to one’s career. OP has done well in graciously admitting fault, taking good advice, and seemingly understanding the issue and why he was wrong — all three are worthy of praise.

      1. Torrance*

        Is lying about a sick day really that egregious? I mean, it was only a few days ago people were discussing taking unnecessary sick days in order to interview.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Ordinarily, no. But in this case, the OP’s position had certain restrictions in place. Not only did he lie to get around these restrictions, he was careless enough that he got caught in the lie. So it’s not as cut-and-dried as it might be in different circumstances. For instance, if I took a sick day and then someone saw me at a festival on social media, I would probably get “spoken to” in some way, but because I’m not in a probationary period, I probably wouldn’t get fired. However, it would be a blow to my credibility.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            I actually agree with some original commentors and the OP in their response that, even if this policy is unfair (and I think it is) – OP did accept the job knowing the terms, and they did choose to lie about their actions, so that’s why the firing was merited.

            1. Decima Dewey*

              If the OP was working on a project with a legally mandated deadline in the near future, it’s unlikely that the day off would have been approved even if there hadn’t been a “no vacation days for X months” policy in place.

          2. Tuxedo Cat*

            I think the fact another coworker had to finish his work that a strict deadline was another factor that went into the decision.

            I’m glad that the letter writer sees where they went wrong.

        2. Lil Fidget*

          I think Alison has said a “mental health day” using sick leave can be acceptable if you’re careful not to cause work-related issues and plan it carefully. The OP clearly didn’t do that here, and I assume this would have been an in-demand day for coverage (which makes it worse).

          1. myswtghst*

            This is kind of how I see it. It’s one thing to “fib” about being sick when you aren’t physically ill but mentally aren’t going to be much use to anyone at work, especially when you can do it on a day that won’t cause a major impact for your coworkers. And as others have mentioned, if you’re interviewing, you can pick and choose days where the impact will be minimal.

            But an instance where you knowingly agreed to a probationary period, decided your wants were more important, told an obvious lie, got caught in that lie, and negatively (and probably knowingly) impacted a coworker is going to be a lot more serious.

            (For the record, I don’t say any of this to come down on the OP – I too am impressed by the maturity and self-awareness the OP has shown in their update.)

      2. Kathleen Adams*

        Yes, sure people do – but there are important differences. For one thing, an interview usually takes just part of a day (if it didn’t, I for one would take a vacation day, not a sick day). And for another, even to schedule an interview, you should take into consideration things like phone coverage and getting the work done for your current employer. Unless you’re in some sort of abusive work situation, your current employer should not be hurt by the fact that you’re slipping out in order to go interview somewhere else.

        I’ve definitely taken “mental health days,” for example, but when I do so, I make sure everything that should get done does indeed get done. The OP did not do this.

        1. finderskeepers*

          For a half day interview, you still need an excuse . Easier to just say sick/dr appt than risk getting vetoed at the last second (because vacation day!)

          1. Kathleen Adams*

            Oh sure. But even so, I wouldn’t schedule an interview if it interfered with, say, a deadline or if my department would be left shorthanded that day (again, unless my job situation was abusive or otherwise desperate). My rule of thumb is that I don’t jeopardize my actual employer or job for a theoretical employer or job.

    3. Engineer Girl*

      It’s important to recognize that OPs actions harmed another. That person missed the eclipse because OP was watching it.
      I think it’s great that OP took responsibility for their actions and also apologized to their ex-boss and father.
      But OP also needs to apologize to the person they harmed.
      I also hope OP recognizes that unethical actions have unintended consequences – such as harm to another. I hope that the thought of harming another will act as a check the next time they are tempted.

        1. Turtle Candle*

          It’s in the update. One of the LW’s coworkers, who had to cover their work to meet a legally-mandated deadline, had to miss the eclipse entirely.

          1. Annonymouse*

            And had time off rescinded because of OP.

            I hope it got returned to them through payroll/HR/ whoever is in charge of sorting out leave.

        2. Engineer Girl*

          It wasn’t in the original letter, but in the update above. OP stated that a coworker missed going up to the roof to see the eclipse because the coworker had to cover for them.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          I don’t see the OP apologizing to the coworker. Feeling bad about it really isn’t enough. The next steps are apology and if possible, restitution. In this case, you can’t undo it. But a heartfelt apology is still needed. Consdation of others in the future would be even better.

          1. The OG Anonsie*

            I mean, he did get fired as soon as he went into work the next day. I’m guessing they had him collect his things and exit pretty quickly without going around talking to people. It also sounds like he wasn’t aware of her having to cover for him until after the fact, so I’m not sure when in the firing process this was illuminated for him in the first place.

            Apologies are important but in this case I don’t think it was a crucial point of neglect. If he’d had the chance then it would have been great, but I think the situation is such that he did not and the value of the apology was snuffed out quite a bit by the firing anyway. Something like finding a way to contact her after the fact to say sorry would be a boundary cross at this point IMO, one that some people would appreciate but enough people would feel uncomfortable about receiving that I would not recommend that he does it. Given the situation, being embarrassed is about the extent of what he can do.

            1. Engineer Girl*

              OP was able to contact former boss. Why not also relay apologies to coworker? Boss can decide if it is appropriate.
              I’m bothered that the coworker harm wasn’t covered in the original letter. Especially since OP was trying to minimize things already.
              Coworker had to cancel a previously scheduled vacation day because of OPs actions. That in itself is grounds for firing.

              1. Observer*

                The coworker had her afternoon off, not a full day.

                And the OP *explicitly* states that this is one of his major regrets. I’m not sure why you are trying to magnify what went wrong here.

              2. Lissa*

                It’s possible that OP wasn’t aware that that had happened until the update – from the tone of both letters I don’t think he would’ve left it out intentionally.

          2. KR*

            Gentle note too that just because OP didn’t explicitly say in their update that they apologized to someone doesn’t mean they didn’t apologize.

            1. Engineer Girl*

              They mentioned their boss and father explicitly. Why leave off the coworker if they had apologized?

              1. SarahTheEntwife*

                The first two apologies were both recommended in the letter and comments for the original question, so the writer is following up on that advice.

                1. tigerlily*

                  Plus, does the OP need to spell out each and every step for us to get a picture of their update. The boss and the father were mentioned in the original letter AND were advised to receive apologies. It made sense for OP to mention them. But OP says he apologized to his boss, his father, his company – does he really need to spell out that fourth apology he made for us to see he’s remorseful?

          3. tigerlily*

            The coworker isn’t here, so why would you see them apologize to her?

            This is something I see a lot in comments here where an OP makes a mistake or does something that has negative consequences for someone else. The OPs don’t explicitly apologize for their actions in the letters and commentators will respond that the OPs have never apologized and aren’t sorry and aren’t acting remorseful. You’re not the person who was wronged, so why do you need to see an apology?

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Can we not relitigate this? The discussion in the original post was vociferous, and no one is saying anything (in this thread) along the lines of what you’re describing.

  9. Temperance*

    LW, I might add one piece of advice in addition to what everyone else has said here. I think the person who you should have apologized to, in addition to your boss, is your colleague who had to miss the eclipse to cover your workload.

  10. lbiz*

    I just really like reading updates like this one from people who know they made a mistake and take all the (constructive or not) criticism and lessons given by the commenters. It’s nice to know that some people are capable of learning and growing! Thanks for writing back, OP, and thanks Alison for publishing.

  11. Emmie*

    You are a very insightful person, OP. We’ve all done things we feel are stupid. It is a real gift to learn this early in your career. Best of luck in your job search. I am sure you’ll make the most of your next opportunity, and really rise to the ocassion.

  12. Jake*

    Well, looks like lesson learned. That’s the best result we can expect out of this situation. It stinks how much of an impact a single mistake can make on your life/livelihood, but I suppose that’s just the nature of the professional world.

  13. Rusty Shackelford*

    The probationary period is standard in the industry, going back to when my father first started decades ago. It is mentioned if your schooling is related to it and made clear to anyone who is in the running for a job. It is also mentioned in most job postings.

    This has really piqued my curiosity. Are there are lot of industries that are this standardized?

    1. Lil Fidget*

      The previous post indicated that it’s depressingly common. I don’t think the fact that it’s long-standing in this case means it doesn’t suck (and I assume a rule like this would keep some people – like caregivers – out of the field entirely) but I don’t think the crappy practice excuses OP of their responsibilities. Sounds like OP doesn’t either.

    2. Bex*

      My understanding is that it’s very common in industries where it can be difficult to fire someone. For example, if there is a union contract or a collective bargaining agreement in place.

    3. Yams*

      In some countries, like Mexico!, it’s actually written into law and most employers have a three month probationary period. It sucks because as the poster said, you don’t receive any benefits during that time. It was really one of the worst parts of the recent labor reforms.

    4. Judy (since 2010)*

      In my experience, many companies have different vacation rules during the first year of employment. Especially if the vacation for the year is given on January 1, with a use-or-lose policy.

      For example, I’ve seen this at two F50 companies: If you hire in on June 1, and will get 2 weeks of vacation, you receive 2.5 days on July 1, and 2.5 more days on Oct 1. You would then get the 2 weeks for the next year on Jan 1.

      I’ve also known companies that have 30, 60 or 90 days wait on health insurance and 401k participation.

      1. Jake*

        Yeah, that 60 day wait at my last employer was brutal. I’ll never work for another employer that waits to let me use the health insurance.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          I thought this was standard? The shortest wait I’ve had for health insurance coverage was 30 days (so you start paying for coverage with your first check, ostensibly 1 month in advance, right? except when you leave coverage is terminated immediately but they still take premiums out of your last check too, so you’re always paying for more days than you’re allowed to use).

          Ps–I have a chronic illness/autoimmune disorder, so that waiting period is always scary.

          1. Jake*

            My current employer started my coverage on my first day of employment.

            My 60 day wait was scary because my wife had just been diagnosed with cancer, and was on my insurance. This meant I had to use COBRA (at over $1200 per month) to keep insurance because had she come back positive after her second surgery (which occurred a week before my last day at my job) we would’ve been looking at tens of thousands of dollars in treatment that absolutely couldn’t have waited.

    5. Candi*

      I’m in Washington, and only the seasonal job didn’t have a 90 day probation. They were all low-level jobs, food court cleaning/housekeeping, retail, fast food, daycare, and running a merry-go-round (that job required you to be at least 18, able to lift twenty pounds, and have a pulse). In every case, it seemed company policy was the issue, rather then any law, regulation, or union agreement. It got a lot harder to fire someone after that 90 days (even when the management wasn’t playing favorites/ineffective).

      And yes, WA’s at will. (And has a few nice employee-oriented laws.)

  14. Elizabeth West*

    Urgh, the poor colleague. I would have been really upset if I had missed it. Though there will be another one across the eastern portion of the U.S. April 8, 2024, which isn’t that far off, so hopefully the colleague can take PTO for that one, especially if they have to travel.

    OP, you seem to have taken your mistake to heart and that is encouraging. Sometimes we have to screw up royally before we learn a lesson (boy, could I tell you stories LOL). It hurts, but it’s really good to face that feeling because that’s what keeps you from doing it again. Good luck with the job hunt.

  15. TootsNYC*

    OP, you wrote: “My biggest regret (besides the embarrassment I caused to my father) was that one of my coworkers had to cancel her afternoon off and wasn’t even able to watch the eclipse from the roof like everyone else because she was doing my work that had a legally mandated deadline.”

    I’ve been in your shoes–suddenly realizing that something I’d done wrong, but that I thought of as “all about me” had a HUGE negative impact on someone else. (In my case, I yelled at a colleague, and then during the HR-orchestrated apology session, he said that he’d been too embarrassed to even come on our floor! Boy, did I feel even MORE like a shit.)

    It really is an important lesson, and very humbling.

    Hopefully other people will see this part of your story, and your learning experience, and maybe they’ll think more about how their actions affect others.

    (I tried to use my lesson to teach my children that the biggest reason to not be late is because it’s really unfair and disruptive to the teacher.)

    1. Bryce*

      I was going to focus on this as well. It’s a useful lesson to learn, because it can help understand WHY the rules are in place. When we’re on the receiving end of those sorts of things, it can be easy to focus on our difficulties with them.

  16. Undine*

    I would not apologize to the coworker in your situation. If you were still working together, of course. But as it is, if I were the coworker, I would be super upset, but want to move on. I’d be glad you weren’t there any more, and I wouldn’t want to hear from you. Whatever your intent, at this point, an apology would remind me of something I didn’t want to think about and it would feel like it was more for you than it was for me. Obviously some people feel differently.

    1. Ego Chamber*

      I think it depends on how difficult it would be to contact the coworker.

      If there’s any connection they have that could be used for this (already friends on Facebook and haven’t been blocked, have friends on common so they might organically be at the same place at the same time, etc), then it’s fine. If OP only knows how to contact them by sending an email to their work email address or a letter c/o The Company, then they should just drop it and move on, because going to that much trouble will look self-serving—and even if it is, it shouldn’t look that way.

      I’m not suggesting OP stalk the coworker or anything, but if there’s a chance they’re going to see each other again in the future, it’s better to end this on an apology than to be remembered as “that asshole who made me miss the eclipse by ditching work.” (Especially if the next meeting happens to be at an interview.)

      1. KR*

        Yeah, I think so too. The coworker missed an eclipse, but OP didn’t cause lasting bodily harm or deeply hurt their feelings I’m assuming so I don’t think this is a situation where OP has to worry about further upsetting the coworker.

        1. Annonymouse*

          I’m not so sure about that.

          I’d be pretty pissed about being called in last minute on time off that I’d been approved for to cover for someone “sick”.

          There’s no time for me to change my plans or adjust on the fly and let people know I’m not coming.

          Also there’s the mental shift to spend the afternoon working and actually miss the eclipse when I fully expected to watch it at home/with friends and family.

          And then finding out the person that was sick decided to watch the eclipse when they weren’t supposed to and meant I had to skip it to do their work?

          Yeah, I’d be deserving of an apology in that case.

          1. KR*

            I think you misread my comment. One of the above commenters r recommended OP not apologize because it might further upset the coworker, which is a valid idea in situations where you traumatized the person or caused significant harm to them. The person I replied to was saying they thought an apology was better than no apology, and I said “I think so too.” And talked about how OP didn’t cause significant bodily harm or traumatize the person so upsetting the coworker shouldn’t be a reason not to apologize.

          2. tigerlily*

            I would only want an apology if we still were going to see each other. As KR mentioned (although to make a different point), it’s not like the coworker got hurt or was traumatized or anything else super egregious. She missed the eclipse. There will be another one. It’s not that huge a deal. Yeah, I would be majorly pissed, but the OP getting fired for it would have soothed that better than any apology from the OP after the fact could.

  17. Safetykats*

    I agree this was a good lesson to learn – about following rules, about the importance of being trustworthy, and about how to (and not to) schedule time off. I’ve personally never been told that I couldn’t take time off that I’ve properly (and timely) requested. I have, however, rescheduled vacations without being asked when it became clear that it would be a big hardship for me to be gone.

    I’ve also had one boss – and he was a good boss, I worked for him in three different jobs – whose personal hot button was truthfulness. If he caught you in a lie, you could probably just start looking for another job. And while I’ve always expected some level of low-grade prevarication from at least some employees, it’s actually a big problem to have employees you can’t trust.

    For the OP – there is another total eclipse crossing over the US (if that’s where you are) in April of 2024. So make your plans early!

  18. Kelli Too*

    Oddly enough, my spouse just brought this topic up in the opposite context: “Hey, remember your first job out of school, when they wouldn’t let you take a day off for the first year, and we had to sell our tickets to see Your Favorite Band Who Broke Up? Do you regret being a good little worker?”

    I do regret it. That job treated me horribly, and I wish I’d gone to the concert. It’s been almost 20 years, and I’m still mad about it.

    So, LW, I hope you find something soon, and I would have gone to see the eclipse too.

    1. fposte*

      I think the difference here is that your going to see the band wouldn’t have meant your co-worker, who got authorized time off, didn’t get to see it. In this case, the OP’s dodge meant that somebody who had planned ahead for this didn’t get to see the event that the OP did by cheating.

      It’s one thing to say “The job wasn’t worth the diligence”; it’s another thing to say “My co-worker didn’t deserve to enjoy what I did.” To the OP’s credit, she’s very much not saying that.

      1. MicroManagered*

        your going to see the band wouldn’t have meant your co-worker, who got authorized time off, didn’t get to see it.

        That you know of. That’s a risk any time someone calls off sick–whether they’re really sick or not.

  19. Candi*

    Good on you, LW. Some people go decades without learning what you have, all that you have. Good luck in the job search.

  20. Jane k*

    Best of luck to the OP.

    I think you might have been able to get away with it if you worked there a big longer and built some track record and a good reputation with them. Like after a few years, if you are someone who doesn’t use that many sick days a year, your boss might overlook a day here and there but don’t go around bragging or publishing on social media what you really did on your day off.

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