will my mental health get in the way of a promotion, bad resume advice, and more

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

1. Will my mental health get in the way of a promotion?

I am a college student working part-time at a retail job that I absolutely love. I have goals and plans to move up in the company that my direct supervisors and my district manager are aware of and are very supportive of. Recently, a manager has been guiding me towards a small promotion as a lead cashier. It may not seem like much, but would bring me more responsibilities and would make me more likely to be moved into a management role later on. I am extremely eager for this job.

The thing is, I suffer from depression and anxiety. I go to counseling and take medication, and I am able to function well and exceed expectations most of the time and often more than double sales goals, but recently my mental health has taken a turn. I’m doing my best to still perform well at my job, but today was unbearable and I asked a coworker to take my shift.

My boyfriend is worried that I have jeopardized my chances at this promotion and that they will not give me the lead cashier position because my mental health makes me “unstable and unreliable, and unable to do work.” His thinking is that they will be more likely to promote people who never have people take their shifts, call in, or request off. I don’t agree with him but now I am worried. Do you think it is likely for them to give someone else the position because they do not have mental health issues? Is it even legal for them to not give me a promotion based on my mental health? And how should I address my issues to my employers so I don’t come across flaky and make it clear that my job still is extremely important to me? (I told the person who took my shift that personal things had come up, but when I called my manager to let her know she would be showing up instead of me, I did let her know that I was just having a bad mental health day and couldn’t see myself performing my best. She is open about her own mental health problems, but she is leaving our store soon and I now wonder if whoever replaces her will understand as well, or if the manager who is doing the hiring for the promotion won’t understand.)

Your boyfriend thinks that you’ll look unstable and unreliable based on getting someone else to cover your shift once? It’s really, really normal to switch shifts with people at part-time retail jobs, as is needing to call in sick or ask for specific days off. So do not listen to your boyfriend on that front.

But in general, when you call in sick or let a manager know you’ve switched shifts, I’d keep it vague — you’re “under the weather” or “feeling ill.” Don’t specify that it’s for mental health reasons. Not because there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s more info that you don’t need to provide (just like you don’t need to specify “diarrhea” or “sharp shooting pain in my side”) … and because the reality is that yes, there can still be stigma around mental health issues, even among people who seem to get it, and there’s no reason to introduce worries in their head that it cause issues in the future. That’s of course unfair; if you call in with a headache, you wouldn’t normally worry that your boss will fear you might have headaches in the future — but this is still a thing when it comes to mental health.

As for the legalities … if your condition is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, it’s illegal for them to consider it in promotion decisions (as long as you can do the job with reasonable accommodations and without undue hardship to them). But the reality is that there’s a ton of bias — both conscious and unconscious — around this stuff, so you’re better off keeping the info you share minimal.

2. Is it okay to hire people from my full-time job to work at my part-time job?

I work full-time for a public organization, overseeing about 50 staff members in a large department. There is a fair amount of movement between positions and there’s no guarantee that I will supervise the same people from year to year. I also work part-time for another public organization and regularly advertise for new positions on a professional listserv. Recently, people who work for my full-time organization have started to apply for positions in the part-time organization that I hire for and would supervise.

My initial feeling is that it would be a conflict of interest to hire a person who also works for my full-time organization, as I’d potentially be in the position of supervising them for two different companies. I can imagine all sorts of issues with that. Even for those staff members who I do not directly supervise at my full-time job, there is a real possibility that I would have to give them feedback on their full-time work as it often directly affects the work of the staff members that I support. I’ve reached out to my supervisor at the full-time job to confirm that she would also see this as a conflict of interest, also I haven’t heard back yet. So, I’d like to keep it as separate as possible and not hire anyone for the part-time job who also works in my department at my full-time job.

However, is this okay and ethical? It seems unfair to take someone out of consideration for a position simply because I may have a conflict of interest in hiring them. Do I need to convey this to potential candidates somehow? What if they are the best candidate and the only disqualifying factor is that they work for my department at the full-time job?

Ugh, yeah, I’d be wary of conflicts of interest too. For example, if you become aware of problematic behavior from someone at one job, you’ll have the question of whether and how it’ll impact your assessment of them at the other job. Or if they don’t like how you handle something at the part-time job, is it going to impact things at the full-time job? (And how will your full-time job feel about that?) You also risk politics from the one job coming into the other. It could go perfectly smoothly, of course, but you’d be introducing the potential for problems and messiness that you wouldn’t otherwise have.

That said, I don’t think this is such an absolute no that you can’t evaluate the whole situation and decide to proceed with hiring one of them anyway; it’s not like hiring your boyfriend or your daughter or other definite no’s. If you know someone to do good work and they have a track record of professional maturity, it’s not crazy to decide the risk of problems is low enough that you’ll move forward with them.

But I can also see being pretty uncomfortable about doing that with people who you work with closely at your full-time job. So one middle-ground option would be to decide that you don’t want to hire people from your department there, but that you won’t do a blanket ban on the whole organization. If you went that route, you’d simply explain to anyone in your department who’s interested that you don’t feel you can hire from your current department because of the potential for conflicts of interest.

If you decide to do that, that’s not unethical; people aren’t entitled to any particular job, and it’s very normal to remove otherwise good candidates from consideration because of connections that could cause problems (for example, that they’re dating or related to someone in the same department or who would have authority over them). I’d just make sure that the part-time employer is aware that that’s what you’ve decided to do, so that they’re not surprised by it later on (especially since these are public organizations).

3. Is this good resume advice?

I have been reading advice about resumes lately that goes against what has seemed “standard” until now, and instead suggests people start using complete sentences, include explanations for job changes or gaps within the resume, write a friendly “summary” at the top. Is this really a Thing now, or is this from the land of “video resumes are the future!”? My brain is honestly so fried now from all of the different tweaks I see suggested, I’m having trouble even bothering to revise my resume anymore … (which may be why I’m still not working!)

Do not use complete sentences on your resume. Resumes should be easy to skim, space is at a premium (so you want to be concise), and they should use bullet points, not prose. More on that here and here.

Nor should you include reasons for leaving or for gaps, unless there’s a very specific situation that where it makes sense — but not as a general rule. That’s not the convention for resumes, and it looks a little out of touch when people include that info for all their jobs. Not like “I won’t hire you” out of touch, but it doesn’t strengthen your resume.

But summaries are indeed a real thing now. They’re by no means a requirement, but they’re pretty common these days. The majority of them aren’t useful because they tend to be so generic that you could imagine every other candidate with similar qualifications having the same summary … but the good ones talk about what differentiates you and makes you awesome (meaning concrete achievements, not “good communication skills”).

4. My company adjusts salaries for cost of living downward but never upward

I have been an employee with my company for five years, and in my current role for four of those years. We are allowed to work remotely, and I recently relocated from the D.C. area to California. When I originally moved, I let them know that I would temporarily be in San Diego, and they ran numbers and reduced my salary based on OPM’s pay tables. This was annoying, but I knew the move was temporary and assumed that we would recalculate once I landed somewhere more permanent. After three months, I relocated again to Los Angeles, a considerably more expensive metro area (more expensive than even D.C.!). When I inquired about the COLA adjustment to reflect my new location, I was informed they never raise salaries for COLA, just decrease them. So I could move from LA, to a less expensive metro area, take another pay cut, then move to San Francisco and have to suffer at the lower salary.

This doesn’t seem fair to me — if you are going to allow employees to go remote, and make adjustments to salary, shouldn’t they be prepared to make those adjustments regardless of how that shakes out for them?

Yes. This isn’t how this is supposed to work. You work for jerks.

5. My ex-roommate left documents in violation of HIPAA

My roommate moved out a month ago. She was in the medical profession and, well, she left a lot of stuff behind. Today, I started looking through a folder that she left, and it’s bad. There are dozens — literally dozens — of patient charts with full names, medical histories, and medication lists. She also left documents with her full Social Security number, date of birth, everything needed to steal her identity. I figured shredding the latter would be sufficient, but I don’t know what to do about the former. It seems like a massive HIPAA violation, and she’s still practicing. I have two major questions. 1) What do I do with these documents? I don’t want them in my home, I don’t want to be responsible for them, but I have no idea what the procedure is for disposing of them. 2) Do I report her to the licensing board? This seems really, really bad, and I feel like the hospital should know, as well as the board. I’ve tried contacting her to no avail.

Do you have a way to contact her old employer? If so, I’d do that, explain what you found, and ask what they want you to do with the materials. I don’t know that you need to report her to the licensing board — you certainly could if you wanted to, but I think that’s really up to you, based on whether you feel strongly enough to put in the time to do that.

I don’t think you’re being negligent if you decide not to; she’s the negligent one, and anything you do to clean up her mess is more than you’re obligated to do. (Although I do think you at least need to shred those materials unless her former employer directs you to do something differently.)

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 292 comments… read them below }

  1. Noel*

    OP1, about your potential promotion to lead cashier, you say, “It may not seem like much.” That your manager is considering promoting you to lead cashier is actually super impressive. :) You must be awesome at your job if she’s considering this. A lot of people suffer from anxiety and depression and, as someone who works in retail, I’d say you shouldn’t worry that you won’t get the promotion now. You seem like a thoughtful and hardworking person who would excel at that job.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      +1. And you didn’t no call no show – you arranged to have your shift covered. That’s not being unreliable.

    2. M-C*

      OP#1, I wouldn’t necessarily worry about your job much, although I’d take Alison’s advice to stay vague no matter what the cause of your illness is. But what I’d worry about is your boyfriend. He’s trying to undermine your confidence and insinuate you won’t get promoted because you took one day off? Either he’s totally disconnected from reality, or he’s exhibiting some worrying controlling behavior. Either way, you may feel less anxiety and depression if you weren’t subjected to that influence..

      1. AB*

        Huge second regarding the boyfriend…reading that made my spidey senses tingle. I recommend poking around the Captain Awkward website to get some perspective regarding healthy boundaries.

        1. AB*

          And also reading “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker. (Actually that’s a book everyone should read IMO)

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think everyone should read The Gift of Fear, but I think it’s a big jump to think her boyfriend is a danger to her based on what she wrote. I’d ask that we stay focused on the question in the letter rather than derailing on this. Thank you!

            1. LizzyBee*

              Everyone should read The Gift of Fear anyway! (Sorry for the off topic post, but it’s essential reading for females, IMO)

        2. E.Maree*

          Captain Awkward also has the amazing post “How to tighten up your game at work when you’re depressed”, which is a great resource for anyone who has mental health issues. I wish I’d known about it sooner!

          1. Bwmn*

            I think this article is particularly great – but one thing I would add about what’s being said about dress/presentation is that if you’re someone who when they’re in a really good mood does heavier or full make up, straightens your hair, and otherwise puts a lot of effort into how you look, and when you’re depressed/anxious doesn’t – the difference is far more noticeable. Being physically clean and washed and wearing clean and pressed clothing will always be important – but making sure that you’re moods aren’t being wildly telegraphed by how much make-up you have on is helpful.

            I used to work with a woman who committed to a pretty involved make-up routine that also involved wearing her contacts and straightening her hair. When she was ill or otherwise not feeling well, she wore her glasses, no make-up, and her hair curly/undone – and it became associated with she must be “ill/angry/in a bad mood”.

            So if you’re someone (particularly a woman….) who when they’re depressed just does not have the energy for a more full look – I highly recommend a professional look that’s a bit more simple and uniform. This is not to say that on their own glasses or no make up on a woman is inherently unprofessional -but rather if you know that you are at risk of having a “not depressed” and “depressed” look for work, trying to mellow that out will serve you well.

        3. MashaKasha*

          Huge third, from someone who’s still discovering and dealing with hangups left over from long-ago exes. These comments don’t sound like much when they say them, but they turned out to really undermine my confidence long-term in ways I hadn’t suspected. Don’t think I’ll be tolerating any of that stuff if I’m ever in a serious relationship again.

        4. Anon for this*

          Having been in an abusive and controlling relationship, the boyfriend’s comments did not blip my radar in the least. That’s a huuuuge jump.

      2. BRR*

        I think it’s likely that if the lw is in college the boyfriend is as well and just hasn’t learned about these things yet.

            1. HRish Dude*

              That’s how I read it. He’s seen people get punished for taking days off (and so have I – it’s not a huge stretch. People work for jerks).

        1. RVA Cat*

          That or Boyfriend thinks these things about mental illness himself and uses them to undermine OP1. Some dudes seek out women they see as vulnerable, even if in their own minds it’s “rescuing the damsel” (barf).

          1. saffytaffy*

            Or Boyfriend thinks these things about mental illness while having a mental illness himself and projecting his own unrealistic self-expectations. Some dudes reveal their own insecurities when they give unrealistic advice.

            1. Specialk9*

              Those are interesting alternate theories! Thanks for sharing. I someone’s get into a rut based on my own baggage.

      3. rageismycaffeine*

        Was basically going to post this same thing. He doesn’t sound terribly understanding or supportive of your mental health issues. As someone with depression and anxiety myself I immediately got super defensive when I read that that was his response!

      4. Turquoise Cow*

        It could be that he’s attempting to be supportive by warning her of what *might* happen *if* this becomes a pattern of behavior. I’ve had authority figures do this – I take one day off sick and I get a lecture about how it’s important to always prioritize work/school and not take too much time off – even though it was literally the only day off I’d taken, like, ever.

        An unfamiliarity with how to deal with mental illness doesn’t necessarily mean that he doesn’t have her best interests in mind, although I don’t think this is a good method for dealing with anyone at all. The OP could say something along the lines of “I know what you’re saying, and I understand your concern. However, missing one shift (and arranging for someone to cover it instead of just calling in or not showing!) is something everyone does and is not going to get me fired or not considering for promotions. Also, telling me worst-case scenarios is not helping. I appreciate your support, but this is not the best way.” If you don’t give feedback, how will he learn the best way to support you?

        1. Chinook*

          “An unfamiliarity with how to deal with mental illness doesn’t necessarily mean that he doesn’t have her best interests in mind, although I don’t think this is a good method for dealing with anyone at all.”

          Turquoise Cow, I agree.

          I battle a mental illness and there are times when I know DH over reacts to the “what if” scenarios specifically because a) he cares about me and b) everyone else he deals with who have mental illnesses are at the extreme end (goes with being a cop). So, if I am having a bad day and need some comfort from him, I have to also be explicit about what type of support I want as well as keep him in the loop with my treatments. Over time, he is learning what the milder symptoms of the illness are and they aren’t a sign of it worsening permanently and is learning to react accordingly.

          To outsiders, his reaction may look controlling, but those who know him know it is because, for him, worse case scenario”what ifs” are a reality he sees every day. Our job, as loved ones, is to show him that the 1% of the world he sees on their worst day is not the reality most of us live in.

      5. Specialk9*

        Yeah, I was concerned that he’s actively undermining you.
        You’re not a leper, you just have some really common conditions that need to be managed, but they’re very much normal and ok. You don’t need shame and anxiety heaped on your head by someone who should be telling you what we’re saying, as strangers – you’re ok, lots of us deal with this and still succeed, how can we help problem solve?

        (As an aside, my intense anxiety that needed psych meds and lots of active care just… melted down to a very manageable level once I left my controlling and undermining relationship. That’s not a universal, clearly, but I’m hearing echoes here.)

        The less likely but still possible option is that he is utterly clueless about business. He’s not someone whose business advice you should listen to. Either way, it’s tough to have the person you most bounce situations off of giving you such bad advice.

    3. Julie Noted*


      OP1, you are conscientious and eager, and you exceed expectations most of the time. As a manager, you are exactly the sort of person I look to promote. Knowing that you have a health condition that occasionally requires you to take time off doesn’t change that.

    1. High Score!*

      OP5, for the love of all that’s good in the universe, please report this person to both her old employer and the medical board. She has kept people’s very private information in an unsafe place which could seriously damage their credit and reputations. Very serious stuff. Those records should never have the hospital.

        1. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian*

          Privacy or Compliance. Here at our lab, the contact point is our Compliance officer.

          Agreed that those documents should never ever have left the hospital! That hospital needs to tighten up their practices or they’re going to be audited hard.

          We’re a small lab that doesn’t see patients directly (just their specimens), and we run a tight HIPAA-ship to make sure we’re doing our utmost to protect them.

          1. Bambambam*

            Aargh…I know I’m being the worst devils advocate but here goes: I think it depends on how much you like/trust previous housemate. My dad was a social worker for 30+ years, and when he passed away this year, I found case files for people who he had been dealing with in his career before retiring (he was in his 80s and almost 10 years retired). There are maybe 3 (probably 2) options you can work with right now:

            1) report her. please bear in mind, age may factor in to this. I’m in the UK so whilst privacy laws are similar, not sure about medical law. However my
            Mum was a medical professional too: sometimes older records/those of the deceased may be helpful for learning? Still annoying/a bit weird but not necessarily always illegal

            2) destroy these documents yourself. Personal reccomendation, burn in a metal fire bin, then when cooled empty in to a bag, soak in bleach, then if possible burn again or toss. Should be unreadable. I’ve never done this but have heard from reliable sources this works.

            3) there are companies who dispose of sensitive waste. Said dad who died had a few bits he missed on retirement and it seemed easier than the burn/bleach/burn system to get a professional in. They have licences. If friend asks for docs, you still did and accemptable thing in destroying them. If this incurs a cost, warn and then bill her/him/them.

            I don’t know the legalities as such; obviously this site work on the level of caution. however…you can take notes home to clarify, rethink, study. If she’s forgetful is that a crime, or we’re you not close enough to reach out and say, hey this is here and you need to get it right now?

            1. Gurl*

              Honestly, if OP likes the former roommate she could discretely dispose of the documents, but this seems very serious so if she reported it the roommate would likely lose her job. I work with protected information, not health information, and people have accidentally brought home work papers (which are not technically allowed to leave the building), and when they brought them back it was considered a “well… whatever, don’t do it again”; but other people have been fired for it. That can blacklist you from government work forever, apparently. I don’t know if health information is similarly serious. OP’s gonna have to make a judgment call here.

            2. Mango*

              Completely tangential, but what exactly would be the purpose of soaking a pile of ashes in bleach and then trying to set them on fire again? That sounds pointless at best.

              1. Starbuck*

                Yes, assuming they are not contaminated in some way? Burning paper generally renders it completely unreadable, no further work required.

                1. Candi*

                  Forensic science can often restore visibility to the least promising of materials. Burned paper is nothing as long as the pieces are big enough.

                  Plus, you’d be surprised what’s visible readily to the naked eye in burned paper.

                  The combination of breaking up the ashes and soaking in bleach is to make any form of visual/chemical retrieval impossible. The missed step is to let the ashes dry, and make bloody sure burning round two is in a well-ventilated place.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, asking someone to cover your shift once should not derail your eligibility or perceptions of your performance with respect to a promotion. I think your gut on this is right, although I agree with Alison that I would not mention/emphasize your mental health when switching shifts, taking a day off, etc., because of widespread societal stigmas and misperceptions.

    I know this is beyond the scope of your question, but I’m giving your boyfriend some serious side-eye. I find it really concerning that he’s described your one-time request to switch shifts as an indication that you are (1) defined by your mental health diagnoses, and (2) that those diagnoses make you “unstable and unreliable, and unable to do work.” Not only is that statement stigmatizing and inaccurate, it sounds like it also ramped up your anxiety (creating a self-fulfilling prophecy?). Does your boyfriend truly believe that all people who manage mental health issues are “unstable, unreliable and unable”?

    I think this is worth probing, if you’re up for it. At best, he’s harboring some of those problematic social misperceptions regarding mental health, and as someone who’s important to you and involved in your life, he may need to do some self-education. At worst, he’s speaking to you in an emotionally abusive way that’s intended to make you feel incapable or unworthy, despite your strong performance to date and self-knowledge that you are high-functioning. Frankly, you sound like a badass—it is not easy to keep one’s life together, perform strongly, and actively manage one’s mental health. Don’t let your boyfriend diminish your accomplishments or undermine your sense of self.

    1. Amy*

      Agreed! Even if he doesn’t believe it, he needs to stop presenting it as something most people believe. Some people do think that way (enough that I don’t like disclosing), but plenty of people don’t. It’s worth considering, but not something you should base your life around. What did he want you to do, go into work when you were too sick to perform or function well? Managing mental health issues is hard enough without also managing loved ones’ weird attitudes about how we should Just Try Harder.

    2. Gingerblue*

      Yes to all of this- the boyfriend’s behavior stood out to me too. OP1, is he generally supportive, or is this kind of comment typical of him? I can’t tell from your letter if “unstable and unreliable, and unable to do work” was your boyfriend’s comment on how he himself perceives you or whether it was his imagination of how your manager would perceive you, but it was a lousy thing to say to you either way. Whatever fueled this–his own anxiety which he’s dumping onto you? A desire to keep you anxious and defensive? Problematic beliefs about mental health?–it’s not okay.

      You sound awesome, by the way.

    3. nom de plume*

      +1 Don’t believe a word of his logic. There are many very highly functioning people with depression and anxiety.
      OP, I lost one of those rare “golden handcuffs” jobs because my then-fiancé emotionally conditioned me to believe that I was too sickly to work. That was the start of a very nasty downward spiral to physical abuse. I’m not insinuating he will necessarily do the same, but do be careful.

    4. Kathlynn*

      My brother is very similar with the boyfriend, and probably worse. He doesn’t believe in reasonable accommodation. Like, he doesn’t care that it’s the law. While he has no problem with people calling in sick, he thinks that anyone who is unable to do part of their job, even if they don’t usually do that task, should just be fired, since “they are unable to do their job”. Like my boss started purposefully assigning me tasks that( or because) I was temporarily unable to do (them). He had little problem with that, in spite of the fact that these either caused me to almost collapse or made my asthma flare up severely worse for over a week. He really thought I should just have been fired for refusing to risk my health and do the tasks. Same with the people who are off on medical leave for stress or mental health reasons.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Wow, I’m sorry you experienced that. The irony is that people like that will just make the problems worse!

        I was off with stress recently (triggered by a one-off difficult thing, not ongoing issues) and my boss told me not to pressure myself to come back before I was ready. On my return I said it really helped that he was so kind about it. He said: “Right, because making you more ill would have really helped.” Sadly some people just do not get this.

      2. Floundering Mander*

        So does your brother think that if, say, you’re a cashier at a store and you break your arm and are unable to punch buttons on the cash register for a few weeks you should just be fired, instead of working in another department where you don’t have to use your arm so much?

        1. Meringue*

          Ha, I had an old boss who couldn’t understand why a guy who dislocated shoulder should just run the register all day instead of opening and unloading boxes. The rest of us volunteered to give up our register shifts so he could have the easiest job. She just was baffled that he physically couldn’t use one of his arms, and mad that he *wouldn’t* use both arms.

      3. RVA Cat*

        Wow your brother sounds like a jerk. If nothing else, age is going to catch up with him, probably before he is ready to retire.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          I love to see insensitive jerks devoid of compassion get smacked in the face by reality. They promptly start whining that they didn’t really meeeeaaan it. Or that they’re special and deserving unlike everyone else.

    5. Ramona Flowers*

      I’m neither a lawyer nor American but I believe what matters is your ability to perform the essential functions of the job. That does not mean being an improbable robot who never ever gets sick.

      I would be circumspect about what you share – even if there’s no stigma, your employers don’t need to know intimate details of your mental health beyond needing to know how to support you at work and by that I mean reasonable accommodations where relevant, not the various kinds of support you’d get from friends or a partner or a therapist, in case that’s not clear.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        All that said, I think some conclusions are being jumped to. We don’t know that OP’s boyfriend told them they were unstable – they might have simply said employers may see it this way.

        1. Jesca*

          I agree with this. Boyfriend may very well know that people like this do exist who stigmatize call-offs in general. And really, it is not so far outside of the scope of reality in jobs like retail. I don’t think he was off the mark, or controlling, or looking down on his girlfriend. I think he was actually quite concerned that other people will view it this way. I have definitely worked retail part time off and on, and yes, in many places, calling off and switching shifts last minute even once can land a stern talking to. It is an unfortunate mindset in many in that industry.

          I remember taking on a part time retail job one time while looking to go back to work. They tried to fire a teenager because she was out for a week in the hospital with what the doctors thought at the time was MERSA!!!

          I once missed a shift last minute because I had to rush my son to the ER. He had a severe medical emergency. Still got a talking to about reliability. The whole idea, they said, was that since it was retail, the hours shift and I should basically plan my emergencies. I laughed because it is so ridiculous!

            1. Jesca*

              They really are! This is also the reason why you see a lot of blue collar workers and unskilled laborers who transition into office jobs struggling with not coming in sick or not taking vacation days. It is because they worked for psychos.

            2. Erin*

              I’m a retail manager (only for 2 more weeks then off the greener pastures finally!) and I try not to be a dick. Life happens and people work to live. The biggest problems I have are when staff flakes off because they forgot they’re supposed to work that day. I’ve even gone as far as scheduling my staff for the same shifts every weekend to end confusion. Like one person will always work noon-five every Saturday and if they have need a day off for a planned event they can swap shifts. If they’re sick I’ll make it work without them. Usually I’ll ask my staff if they want to stay late or come in early instead of bothering someone on their day off. But it’s not my circus anymore.

    6. Engineer Girl*

      I have to agree. Terms like “unstable and unreliable” are for pervasive patterns of behavior. This was a single incident! Once!
      The boyfriend problems I see:
      * Black and white thinking – treating a single minor incident as a complete failure. This person is unreasonable and illogical. Worse – this type of absolute thinking can make depression worse.
      * No support – if he sees a problem he should be helping you to correct it, not condemning you. Other than being a Negative Norbert, what is he doing to stand by you in this situation?

      This boyfriend is holding you back and keeping you from getting healthy. It sounds like you are hard working with hopes and dreams. You deserve someone that can support you in them.

    7. JamieS*

      Obligatory disclaimer: I’m going to say something that I know many, including you, will probably disagree with but I think it’s important to say even though it’s a bit OT from OP’s specific question.

      I don’t think we should instantly demonize the boyfriend based on the OP’s letter. Even Alison acknowledges there’s a negative stigma around mental health issues, it’s not right but it exists, so it’s not unreasonable for someone to be concerned about a loved one sharing mental health issues with an employer. Especially when explaining why they’re calling out. Saying “I don’t think you should tell your boss you’re calling out due to your depression since it’s not uncommon for people to view people with mental health problems as unreliable.” is vastly different from “you’re unreliable and will not succeed in your professional life if you occasionally call out due to depression or anxiety.”

      Yes OP should be aware if her boyfriend does have those negative viewpoints and respond appropriately. However I don’t think it’s helpful to the OP for us to influence her that he definitely does have those beliefs based on the extremely limited information we’ve been given.

      1. Mad Baggins*

        I agree. I think the problematic sentence is “My boyfriend is worried that I have jeopardized my chances at this promotion and that they will not give me the lead cashier position because my mental health makes me ‘unstable and unreliable, and unable to do work.'” The OP makes it sound like this is what the boyfriend believes, when grammatically everything after “is worried that…” could just as easily be the boyfriend stating what the company might think: “I’m worried they won’t give you the position because your mental health makes you ‘unstable’. Of course that’s not true, but they might think that.”

        I think it’s great that readers here are so attentive and quick to pick up on potential problems and encourage OP, but I think we should also not judge the boyfriend too harshly based on the very little information we have.

        1. eplawyer*

          My concern with the boyfriend is not whether he thinks it or was just repeating others, it’s that he should know she has anxiety and his words added to her anxiety. He is making a bad situation worse rather than helping make it better.

          OP1, I urge you to discuss your boyfriend’s alleged help with your therapist. Also talk to your doctor. It is highly possible you need to switch up your meds.

          You have clear goals and are working towards them. That is the sign o f a reliable, capable, more than competent person.

          1. Chameleon*

            Not everyone is born with a good sense of how to deal with a loved one with a mental health issue. Maybe his words did add to her anxiety–that doesn’t mean he did so maliciously or on purpose. I think people are assuming some nefarious behavior from the boyfriend when it could very easily simply be inexperience, especially since OP1 and her boyfriend sound fairly young. Certainly in college I said some things to some people that make me cringe when I remember them now.

            1. Jesmlet*

              Exactly. If they haven’t been together for very long, it’s possible that he just hasn’t fully turned on the “significant other to someone with anxiety” filter. There’s a different way of approaching and communicating with people with severe anxiety and if you don’t have a lot of experience with that, it can take some practice being more careful with your words. Everyone has specific things that set them off, regardless of the existence of a mental health diagnosis or not, and it takes some time to pick up on that stuff and integrate it into their style of communication and interactions.

            2. Chinook*

              “Not everyone is born with a good sense of how to deal with a loved one with a mental health issue. Maybe his words did add to her anxiety–that doesn’t mean he did so maliciously or on purpose.”

              Yup. What she said. Learning to live with a loved one with mental illness is like learning to live with a Type 1 diabetic – the obvious stuff to avoid is easy (no sugar) but the subtleties of living with the illness (always having some candy with you in case you miss a meal) can take some time to become part of how you live. Looking back, the love one will feel foolish for their dumb mistakes but, in the midst of it, they may think they are doing the right thing when it actually give the opposite of desired results.

              OP, if the boyfriend is usually understanding and supportive, see the attitude that everyone is pointing out as a yellow flag that means you need to let him know about how what he said effected you. My guess is, if he is a good guy, he will tell you that he didn’t mean it as a criticism but as a warning about what others may see.

        2. Antilles*

          This was my thought as well. Let’s view this from a different perspective: Imagine you’re a college student, barely out of your teens who *doesn’t* have personal experience with mental illness (either yourself or family). You also have limited working experience and zero management experience because again, college student. Now imagine you seriously care about your girlfriend.
          1.) You would absolutely think that there’s major issues with letting people know you have mental illness, because in this scenario, your main source of ‘information’ is the media, whose ‘reporting’ on the topic generally is rife with misinformation, mistaken assumptions, and an underlying current of fear.
          2.) You don’t actually know how companies react to information like this, but your parents have (rightly) emphasized the importance of keeping your commitments, showing up to your shifts, etc.
          If you view it in this lens, it’s absolutely possible for the boyfriend’s concern to be 100% genuine and reasonable. I mean, he’s still *wrong*, but it doesn’t automatically mean “controlling”.

      2. SusanIvanova*

        The one that stuck out for me was “His thinking is that they will be more likely to promote people who never have people take their shifts, call in, or request off.”

        Those people do not exist. Even robots break down.

          1. Antilles*

            To me, he actually sounds like someone who HAS worked retail (or the kindred spirit, restaurant work), because it’s sadly common for these places to operate under the unofficial policy of “If you can’t show up for your shift today, don’t bother showing up for your shifts tomorrow.”

            1. LBK*

              I agree – retail is an area where accommodating frequent absences can be a genuine hardship, since an essential part of your job is actually being in the building. It’s not as flexible as other industries in that regard, so I do think the boyfriend has a legitimate point about making sure the OP doesn’t seem like she’s going to be out a lot if she wants to get promoted. It’s even harder to accommodate your absence if you have more responsibilities (eg more or less anyone can cover for a cashier, but if you’re a lead you might be responsible for counting down cash drawers at the end of people’s shifts, and if you call out there’s a more limited number of people who can do that to cover you).

            2. Jesca*

              Exactly. This is damn common in these industries it is painful. When I have worked some part time jobs here and there in retail, I saw this all the time. No one promoted to management ever called out, changed shifts last minute, and mostly chose their job over everything else. Why? Because that was the expectation. I am not saying all places are like this, but from what I have personally witnessed, enough are. I am still friends with “fulltimers” I had met doing these short stints, and even the stories they post on facebook are crazy! I don’t think the boyfriend was being out of line pointing this out. He was just stating his own experiences within these types of industries and is worried for her.

              1. Zip Zap*

                Yeah. It is common for places to operate like that. It depends on the store and the location. Generally, if you’re in an area where they can easily replace you, they’ll let you go and hire someone else if you call in or switch shifts more than once. But it also depends on the owners and how they run their business. There are obvious advantages to letting people take sick days. Employee retention is good for business, and so is having healthy workers.

              2. Chameleon*

                I remember clearly my AM taking quick 5 minute breaks from the floor to *go vomit in the breakroom* because calling out sick when she was physically able to stand was unthinkable.

                1. NEW YEAR, NEW ME*

                  Even with injuries, I’ve seen co-workers come in wearing ankle guards and knee guards. One guy got a gash upon hitting his head and he went and got stitched up and returned to work the next day.

            3. Samata*

              Oh yes, I had a stern talking to once in my restaurant gig in college for having too many shifts covered and too many switches. It was just a bad time of year but the attitude was clearly “if you don’t like the shifts we’re scheduling you, we don’t have to schedule you any shifts at all”….

              Heck, for a long time I also taught fitness classes and for 3 weeks in a row had to get another instructor to cover my Thursday morning class because FT job just happened to schedule meetings those 3 weeks at the same time. I was really close to getting that job taken, too, because even though there was coverage they wanted the same someone all the time.

              1. Future Analyst*

                Same. Was given a talking to in college about getting scheduled for shifts and then having others cover/switching shifts, even though it was so I could get enough hours between my TWO other jobs to cover rent/food. Giving a (literally) poor college student a talking to for getting a 2 hour shift covered when she has the opportunity for 5-8 hours elsewhere is just not very kind.

        1. JamieS*

          You have to put that into the context of OP telling her boss she’s calling out due to mental health though. We can’t expect OPs to always phrase everything exactly perfect. It’s implicit he meant employers might be less likely to promote people who don’t come in/call out due to mental illness.

        2. Browser*

          It’s still the expectation in retail jobs, though. I had a boss who was proud of the fact that she came to work with walking pneumonia and was disdainful of other staff who called in sick. Nevermind that she could sit in her office all day and the rest of us were out on the sales floor for the whole shift.

          I would call in sick for 1 or 2 shifts per *year*, and it was always on my job goal to “improve my absenteeism.”

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Yes, and sadly people even higher up that her tolerate this behavior. Which is why strictly enforced legal sick day requirements are the only solution to this problem.

      3. Zillah*

        I agree. I think that pointing out the potential red flags here makes sense, but jumping to definitive statements about the boyfriend being awful and unsupportive seems like overkill.

        1. MashaKasha*

          I agree that we don’t know. He can be the best and nicest person who let something stupid slip out of his mouth once. Or he can be someone who enjoys tearing down the people in his life. We don’t know. What stands out to me is that he said something to the OP that can do serious damage to the OP’s health and self-esteem. He needs to make sure he doesn’t do this again. He cannot be in OP’s life if he keeps doing this, not because he’s awful and unsupportive, but because that wouldn’t be healthy for the OP. Hopefully it was a one-off occurrence.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Agreed, thank you. It’s entirely possible that he was referring to calling out and saying it’s because of mental health issues — in which case he’s not off-base.

      4. Susan K*

        I agree. It’s possible that the boyfriend really is an unsupportive jerk, but there’s not enough information here to know.

        This is actually the kind of thing my mom would say. My mom 100% believes that all her children are perfect, wonderful, and amazing and deserve all the best in life, but she also has tendency for paranoia. I can totally imagine her saying something like this to me or my siblings, not because she thinks her child is anything less than perfect, but because she’s terrified that someone would use the information to wrong us.

        1. Humble Schoolmarm*

          Well, apparently my mom has a secret family! On the other hand, it’s usually easy as an adult to separate over-protective mom comments from reality. I’m not sure it’s as easy when coming from a romantic partner.

          1. MashaKasha*

            OMG, just remembered that my parents did this once! When my boss (worst I ever had) one day inexplicably put me on probation and I was, of course, beyond upset, and told them about it, their first words were: “Talk to your managers. Tell them you can work long hours. As many hours as they need! We’ll watch the kids.” Nobody needed me to work crazy hours, and the boss got demoted/fired within the next 12 months anyway. My parents certainly meant well, but they had never worked at an office job in this country, and had no idea how things function around here.

            With that said, I agree on the mom vs romantic partner part of your comment as well!

      5. Turquoise Cow*

        I agree (and stated my thoughts in an earlier comment above). It sounds like the boyfriend doesn’t have experience dealing with depression or anxiety. it’s worth it for the OP to say something like, “that just makes me feel more anxious!” and give him options on how to actually make her feel supported. If he doesn’t accept that, then there’s a problem, but not instinctually knowing what to say doesn’t make him a horrible abusive jerk.

      6. Jaguar*

        This, not to mention how insane it is to suggest to a stranger over the Internet that their boyfriend might be harmful to them because of a second-hand quote with almost no context. Like, what the hell?

    8. LittleRedRidingHuh?*

      This! One million times this! I wish I had the words to put it as eloquently as PCBH – my reaction was simply: that boyfriend is a tool.

      OP1, congratulations on doing a fabulous job both in work and health.

    9. Blargh*

      Is it possible that due to her mental illness she engages in self-sabotage? That’s not uncommon for people with anxiety and depression. Speaking from experience, the pressure of success can suddenly overwhelm the individual and they start giving in to behaviors that are more comfortable. Maybe he knows her better than we think, has seen her do this before, and isn’t on the verge of abusing her but rather is encouraging her to remain strong.

      1. Chinook*

        “Maybe he knows her better than we think, has seen her do this before, and isn’t on the verge of abusing her but rather is encouraging her to remain strong.”

        This is a good point. Basically, we don’t have enough info on the boyfriend to tell OP to dump him. She has been given a heads up to see if there are any other signs but she should not start becoming paranoid or depressed about being in an abusive relationship.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, your employer sounds like it’s run by a–#@!$*s. It’s ridiculous to adjust your COLA down based on OPM tables and then refuse to adjust it upward using those same tables. COLA is not about finding ways to screw your employees out of market-rate compensation.

    1. MillersSpring*

      I didn’t even know this was a thing. If you work from home, your employer is obligated to increase your salary if you choose to move yourself to a more expensive city? The department may not have budgeted for such unplanned salary adjustments. This sounds like a sort of retention strategy for someone they really want to keep.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Over here it’s typical to pay people more if they work in London, so if you move from another location you get the ‘London weighting’ added on.

          1. Cambridge Comma*

            A friend of mine gets London weighting for a work from home position and she lives outside London. (I imagine they could cancel the remote arrangement at any time though.)

        1. MillersSpring*

          So if you’ve got a small company in Leeds, and one of your work-from-home employees announces they’re moving to central London, you’re expected to respond with, “Cool for you. Here’s loads more cash.”?

          1. MillersSpring*

            Or is it more like if the EMPLOYER decides they want you to move to central London to serve all of their central London clients? Then they gladly pay you more because it’s their decision…?

          2. Sensual shirtsleeve*

            No. It’s not legally mandatory, unless it’s somehow written into your employment agreement or agreed via a union.

            It always less than the real extra costs too – employers fudge the figures. A 5% increase is nowhere near the difference in living costs for London versus Leeds.

          3. Mary*

            You’d never get paid more or less in the UK because of where you personally choose to live, only because of where the organisation requires you to work. I am really amazed that’s a thing!

            1. FiveWheels*

              Yes, my understanding of London living allowance is some jobs have a higher salary if based in London… But even if you live in Leeds and commute by helicopter, you still get the extra.

              1. Cambridge Comma*

                Yes, commuters also get it, but then they spend a good part of what they save by living outside London on their annual railcard (or helicoptercard, I suppose).

                1. Mary*

                  I had a friend who commuted to London from Leicester on a daily basis. I’m not sure helicopter wouldn’t have been cheaper!

          4. Samata*

            I would think this depends on whether or not it is company’s decision. If I decide to move somewhere more expensive on my salary that’s on me, but if the company decided to move me somewhere more expensive that was on them and the adjusted accordingly.

            I will say I had a 2 hour round trip commute once because moving even 30 minutes closer to work was too much of a financial hardship – but work wasn’t about to give me a raise because I *wanted* to live closer to work. I took the job knowing the circumstances and to be quite honest I get that line of thinking.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Your company isn’t obligated to increase your salary. But if your company has already adopted a policy that adjusts salaries based on cost of living for the specific market in which you live, it should honor that policy and adjust salaries both up and down. It’s not fair to adjust a person’s salary downward and then refuse to reinstate it to the the level prior to downward adjustment when a person transfers to a more expensive locality.

        The federal government generates OPM tables to determine its pay rates, so it provides a “base pay” level and then a series of tables for metro areas where cost of living is much higher than the base pay (there are parts of the country where there’s no base pay adjustment). But in the federal government, transfer to a different office does require an adjustment up/down to your salary to reflect the local pay table. So for example, when I worked for the feds and moved from NYC to LA, my salary was adjusted downward. Had I moved to SF, it would have been adjusted upward.

        1. Doreen*

          But those are based on where you work, not where you live. It’s the transfer to a different office that requires an adjustment , not your choice of where to live. Obviously, you can’t live in NYC and work in LA, but my state government job also has location pay- and if I live halfway between NYC and Albany, my pay goes up or down based on which office I am assigned to even though I haven’t moved.

          #4’s works for jerks- but I don’t understand the reason they adjust the pay at all for remote work.

          1. blackcat*

            Yeah, I would view the analogous thing as moving to Stockton while working in/being based out of SF and having your pay adjusted down to Stockton levels. Then moving closer into the bay area, and still getting Stockton pay.

          2. Natalie*

            #4’s works for jerks- but I don’t understand the reason they adjust the pay at all for remote work.

            They seem to be using it as an excuse to cut pay, which is a pretty good reason for jerks.

        2. Cambridge Comma*

          If they did this, it would be completely understandable to cap the pay at the rate of the office where you first applied, if the moving around was your choice and not the company’s.

          1. finderskeepers*

            Is it ever an employee’s choice? The new location would need an available position and then approve the employee to transfer to that location.

            1. krysb*

              In this specific case, LW4 works remotely, so the location has little-to-nothing to do with the company; from what I can tell, moving was LW4’s personal choice.

        3. BRR*

          I can imagine out how this policy was made but it’s mind blowing that human beings could decide “if you move we can lower your salary but not raise it.” I’m still shocked how employee motivation and turnover is not considered.

      3. sunny-dee*

        Actually, one department at my company told me, explicitly, they would not “allow” me to move to California, New York, or Massachusetts. If I moved to other areas we had offices (DC, North Carolina, Atlanta, Seattle), then they would give me a slight COLA based on the change from my relatively inexpensive area (Texas). But moving to one of those three states would seriously affect their budget, not just for salary but also required benefits.

        It’s totally a jerk move to adjust her salary *down* and not (at least) back to where it was, but it doesn’t seem that odd that they wouldn’t want to adjust it because a remote employee chose to move from a less expensive area to a more expensive area. That’s really on her, not them.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I sincerely don’t understand the company’s reasoning in using OPM for remote jobs at all. It would seem the salary of employees who are (as far as the company knows) in suburban St Paul, downtown San Francisco, and a sailboat off the coast of Thailand would be based on the value of the work alone. OPM should only enter into it if the company needed the employees to physically staff a physical office in one of those locations, and so live locally.

      1. Zip Zap*

        I agree. And if they’re going to use it, and can’t afford market rates for high COL cities, they should have a policy stating that. “Salary is based on COL except where it exceeds the COL in our office’s city by more than xyz.” But adjusting it down for a temporary move and then refusing to raise it at all? They’re just being jerks. OP could push back by saying she can’t afford to live in LA on a San Diego salary and asking them to cover the cost of a move back to San Diego.

    3. Tuxedo Cat*

      It is indeed ridiculous. I wouldn’t be horribly surprised if employees deliberately say they live in one high COLA but live in a much lower COLA.

    4. M*

      OP#4 here. I’m glad I’m not just insane in thinking this is incredibly shady on the part of my company. It’s made worse by the fact that it seems to be selective – managers at a certain level don’t have their salaries adjusted. When my boss moved to Texas, he made a comment about how it was like he got a $15,000 pay raise because the cost of living was so low with his DC salary. There is nothing in the official company guidance that indicates salaries go down but not up, nor does it specify that this rule is just for employees at a certain level. Shady, shady.

      1. Friday*

        If I were you, OP, I’d be looking elsewhere. Your company’s showing that they don’t value you enough to keep you long-term.

      2. Finman*

        I would make the argument that you could request back up to the lower of LA’s COL or your original DC, but not the higher. You chose to work remotely from a new location and thus, the company shouldn’t be required to increase your salary due to your choice.

    1. Alli525*

      But it’s not poaching if they don’t leave the FT job… it’d be doing what OP is doing–working two jobs. They’d probably need to get clearance from the FT job if they choose to do that, or at least inform them, but if OP is doing it and they’re good employees, the company would likely have no issue.

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#5, I wouldn’t shred the medical documents/records—I agree with Alison’s first suggestion, which is to call your ex-roommate’s employer and ask for guidance. I don’t think you need to file a report; I suspect the employer will be pretty alarmed and will make any necessary complaints to the appropriate licensing boards, etc.

    Shredding your roommate’s personal stuff sounds fine to me. If you’re being extremely kind, you could give her a head’s up that she left X kind of documents that she can pick up by [MM/DD], or you’ll shred and dispose of them.

    1. Emma*

      Shedding documents like these is fine if you can’t or absolutely won’t contact the employer – you should contact the employer because they need to review their policies and procedures, but the absolute top priority is that those documents are either secured by the employer or destroyed asap, so it’s better to shred now than to leave them lying around if you’re unlikely to contact the employer any time soon (whether because you don’t know how, you feel bad about potentially getting your ex-roommate in trouble, or just because you hate phone calls or something).

      1. TL -*

        No don’t shred them! They could have really, really important information in them – you need to call the medical center and have them returned. God knows what kinds of hassles those poor patients are going through but the potential for damage to someone is growing every day they’re not returned.

        1. blackcat*

          yes, I was thinking this! These are medical records that may not exist in duplicate.

          Call up the employer and ask what to do.

          1. FiveWheels*

            This. It’s not the OP’s fault that she has the documents, but they could be very important to the innocent patients and it’s good form to return them.

        2. AndersonDarling*

          Yes! Don’t shred them! Call the facility and ask for the Medical Records department or ask to speak with the Health Information Manager and explain what happened. If they are a good organization, then they may have an open deviation because they discovered the documents were missing. The patients may have already been notified that their information was compromised and it will be a great relief to find the documents again.
          The facility will take action against the roommate if they find it necessary, so you don’t need to worry about reporting them to the board.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yes—this is my primary concern. I’ve had my medical records lost, before, and it resulted in a 2-year headache (which still pays dividends every time I switch insurance), and pre-ACA, it resulted in an erroneous determination that I had a pre-existing condition (I did not) to the tune of $110K of non-insurance-covered medical costs.

          Which is all to say, call the employer, call them soon, and make every effort to turn over the records before destroying them.

        1. Elizabeth*

          Yes, it does. In the US, there are federally-mandated timelines for notification to patients of loss or misuse of their information.

        2. Cleopatra Jones*

          Not only what Elizabeth said but if any of those patients have ongoing medical issues, a few more days or weeks, could mean they are not receiving treatment (or an incorrect treatment) for their issue. I imagine to anyone suffering from cancer or something as treatable as diabetes, a few days or weeks could literally be life or death.

      2. Annie Moose*

        Regular shredding isn’t appropriate for disposing of PHI, anyway–too easy to reconstruct. (no, OP probably isn’t bound by HIPAA rules regarding disposal of PHI, but if she’s concerned about a violation of HIPAA, she probably would want to dispose of them properly. I think cross-cut shredding is OK, though.)

    2. JulieBulie*

      I cosign Princess CBH’s entire comment… for whatever my co-sign is worth. (Not to mention my sine and tangent)

    3. The Other Dawn*

      I agree that it would be the right move to call the employer. I work at a bank and if someone called us and said they found customer records, we’d be all over it. There’s so much identity theft, scams, etc. these days.

    4. Doc in a Box*

      I’m a physician, so maybe I have more direct contact with HIPAA than most commenters here. I assume these are printed / photocopied parts of the medical record, as most US hospitals and clinics now have electronic charts and very little is only on paper. That doesn’t lessen the seriousness of a HIPAA violation at all, just means that ex-roommate probably doesn’t have the ONLY copy of someone’s medical chart in some random folder in their bedroom.

      OP5, if I were in your situation, I would contact the employer, ask for their medical records department and let them know about this. It may bump up to risk management. They will probably have to identify and notify all the people whose medical records were exposed.

  5. Amy*

    OP1: Fellow anxiety person here! Alison is on point on this. Missing the occasional day due to mental health issues is fine, the same way that missing the occasional day due to the flu or a migrane or a nasty cold or any other health issue is fine.

    But we are indeed better off keeping it vague. There is still stigma out there. A lot of it is well-meant things like “I’m just not sure X can handle this” or “X is so stressed, I don’t want to pile more on them”, or unconscious things like or “X is a good worker but Y is so reliable (unspoken: and I don’t think X is, because even though their work performance is similar, somewhere in my brain I associate mental illness with lower competence/reliability). We only have one promotion available…let’s give it to Y.” But these kinds of things still negatively affect our careers. And it can be very hard to prove discrimination–people don’t usually say “We’re not promoting you because you have depression” or anything that clear-cut.

    The only time I would consider disclosing my mental illness would be if I needed to file for accommodations in the workplace. Otherwise, I stick to “I’m sick” to explain the occasional outage.

    1. Starkitten*

      I’m another who suffers from depression and can verify that a stigma still exists. Back in my “didn’t know better” days, I had a rough transition to a new team because my depression had flared up. I confided in OldBoss that I was aware of the issues and root cause, and that I was taking the medical steps necessary to resolve it. He claimed to be supportive of my honesty at the time, but for the entire five years I worked there, he used my mental health to define me as a “liability” (despite having no issues or complaints with my work quality) and block me from any promotion or growth opportunities.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        OMG are you me? This exact thing happened to me, minus the promotion or growth opportunities. I had 2 weeks where I had a bad depression run, and I asked for extensions on non-time-sensitive assignments (for the first time, ever!) and divulged to my boss that I was going through a depression flare-up. I did not miss deadlines or meetings during that time, but I was a little “bleh,” personality-wise. My performance picked back up after the 2 weeks.

        A month later, despite my performance remaining strong, my boss took away projects I had led and landed, then claimed she was trying to be “supportive” of my “mental health problems.” I think she sincerely believed she was “helping” me, when in fact it was extremely demoralizing. When I asked if she had performance concerns, she said no, but based on her facial expressions, I could tell she thought I was a ticking time bomb. The stigma is real.

        1. Amy*

          Man, I hate that. Wanting to help/be supportive is appreciated. Treating me badly on the pretext of ‘support’ is not–as if I can’t tell the difference! How patronizing.

          A note to people who actually want to be supportive: The best way to do this is to trust me to know my illness and know my limits. Let me ask for help when and if I need it; don’t try to manage my illness for me. If I don’t manage it and it becomes a performance problem, handle it like you would any recurring performance problem. But most of us are pretty good at managing our stuff; we might get the occasional flare-up and need some time off, but that’s no more of a risk than someone who gets occasional migranes, really.

    2. Grits McGee*

      I’ve found that disclosing mental illness can also open the door to managers wanting to take an active role in your treatment as well. It came from a good place, but my manager wanted to talk to my medical providers about appointments and the specifics of my condition. (I wasn’t asking for ADA accommodations and she wasn’t asking for a letter clearing me for work; this was a request for info about the specifics of a treatment plan.) Luckily my therapist shut her down pretty definitively, but my reputation at work never recovered and I had to leave.

      1. Lehigh*

        Holy overstepping, Batman. I’m sorry that happened to you!

        I agree that disclosing mental illness in the workplace is a very scary thing to do because the reactions are just too unpredictable.

    3. Lindsay*

      I’d also encourage LW1 to avoid phrases like, ” a really bad mental health day” – in many cultures/workplaces, “taking a mental health day” means taking some time to de-stress, and doesn’t have anything to do with clinical mental health issues, so phrasing it that way could convey that the LW is taking a day off to relax. Instead, probably better to frame it as ‘being sick/unwell,’ which is true, avoids triggering people’s weird mental health biases, and also avoids trivializing the situation.

    4. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yes. When I was dealing with depression, my old boss would not let me go home early because I was literally crying at my desk, even though she was completely understanding about my taking a sick day when I had a nasty nauseated headache.

      Be vague. If you need to and you can get away with it, lie.

      1. Amy*

        I’ve been known to say ‘nasty headache’ when reality is more like ‘nasty panic attack’. (Not to a boss–they’ve never asked for details beyond ‘sick’–but to the kind of peer-level coworker or acquaintance who is close enough to ask what’s up but not so close that I want to share my mental health history with them.) I can vouch for its effectiveness! Everyone knows what a bad headache is, most people understand why it might keep you from doing things or make you cancel plans on short notice, no one’s suspicious if you seem fine the next day, and most people don’t find it interesting enough to respond with anything but ‘hope you feel better’.

    5. JanetM*

      I’ve been very lucky; I prefer to be out about my chronic depression, for four reasons (NOTE: my choices are my choices, and I do not and would not impose them on anyone else, making a different choice, for their own reasons), and have not, to the best of my knowledge, suffered negative consequences from being so:

      1. I can afford to be. I’m respected and liked in my organization. Also, from past experience, if I were to lose my job, I could walk into any temp agency in the area and be back at work in less than a week.

      2. Visibility. If Janet, who is reliable and respected, is known to have depression, maybe Jeremiah who has depression won’t be seen as a scary unreliable person. Sort of like “people who know LBGTQ people are somewhat less likely to be bigots than people who don’t realize they know LGBTQ people” (NOTE: I am not comparing being LGBTQ to being depressed; one is a normal, innate characteristic and the other is a brain-chemistry-doesn’t-work-right disorder. If I could cure my depression, I would; I do NOT think LGBTQ people need to be “cured.” But the phenomenon of acceptance seems to be similar).

      3. Visibility in a different way. My being out about depression has, to my certain knowledge, led to people who know me looking at themselves and getting checked out for depression and related conditions, to the overall betterment of their lives.

      4. Simplicity. Honestly, for me, it’s just easier. I’m out about pretty much everything in my life, to one degree or another.

      1. Amy*

        It definitely makes a difference when your career and reputation are already established and where you want them to be! The points about visibility are very well thought out, and make a lot of sense. It’s not something I would recommend for someone still trying to establish themselves–too risky for my taste, though obviously everyone gets to make their own choices about their health–but I appreciate the idea of doing so once other factors make the risk less severe.

  6. [insert witty user name here]*

    OP#4 – firstly, your employers sound like jerks. That sucks.

    However – why is it that you are moving? Because of your decision or because they asked you to? If it’s your choice to move, I don’t think they should have to increase your salary. BUT they absolutely should NOT decrease it, either!

    Really, they should just base it on wherever your “base” location is – either your corporate headquarters or the rest of your team.

    1. Zip Silver*

      Yeah I found it odd that they’re doing any sort of COLA for people working remotely, down or up. I’d be pretty irritated if I got a pay cut after moving to a cheaper area.

      I’d also find it difficult to go back to my company and say “I’ve moved to San Francisco, please adjust my pay up to match”. Unless the company was requiring the move, I wouldn’t see them being on the hook for a pay raise there.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          Most places don’t do this with a salary. They let you transfer at your current rate but you’re guaranteed not to get any pay raises until your salary lines up with local market rate.
          This is different where there is a base rate plus a location based salary adjustment. In a cheap area adjustment would be zero. In an expensive place it may be significant.
          I have noticed that HR will lowball people coming from a lower cost of living to higher cost of living. They’ll offer a 15% pay raise instead of the 20% required to hit market rate. That’s why it is really important to know local market rate.
          True story: someone I knew in Ohio was excited to get a “six figure” job offer. But it was for California. They had a lower standard of living in CA with six figures than in OH with five figures.

    2. Kathlynn*

      I think, if they decide to decrease your salary just because you move, they have the responsibility to at least restore it to the previous level (adjusted for raises) if you chose to move to a more expensive level.
      This company gets big side eyes from me

      1. Emac*

        That was how I read it – not that the OP thought the salary should always be increased when an employee moves to a more expensive area, but that her salary should increase back to what it was before since she moved from the lower COL area to a higher one again. As in, if if started at $60,000/year, then was reduced to $45,000/year after moving to a lower cost of living area, it should go back up to $60,000 when she moved to a higher COL area, but not more than that (unless there were other factors).

        1. M*

          OP#4 here – yes, this is what I thought would be fair. I don’t think it needs to go to NYC or SF levels – but I think an adjustment back to the DC level would be reasonable. I should also note – our entire department is remote. There is absolutely zero point in my being in the physical office location in DC, since none of my coworkers are there.

          1. Someone else*

            Then it makes even less sense for them to do any kind of COLA when anyone on your team moves because none of you are based in the same place.

      2. Emac*

        And really, I would have seriously protested the first decrease anyway, that’s bullsh*t. As [insert witty user name here] says, they should be paying based on market rate for whatever location they’re in or where most of the team is or whatever makes sense. Where employees move to shouldn’t influence the salary at all.

  7. Susan K*

    #4 – Wow, that is such BS! Thanks for making me feel better about where I work. I thought my company was cheap, but even they wouldn’t pull something like this.

    Is there any way you can challenge this? If it was HR that told you they won’t adjust upward, can your manager overrule them? Or is there someone higher up in HR to whom you can appeal? This is clearly ridiculous, so maybe there’s a reasonable human being who can make it right.

    1. But you don't have an accent*

      This is exactly why I didn’t accept the counter offer from my previous company when I wanted to move back to my home state.

      My boss asked if I wanted to go remote, and I told her I wouldn’t want to be at home by myself all day; but the real reason was that I knew they would a) decrease my salary because it was a lower COL area (my old company was in the DC area); and b) they were already not paying nearly enough for the COL of DC so I didn’t want to take a hit and have to find a roommate or live in a bad area because they were cheap, cheap, cheap and didn’t want to pay people what they were worth.

  8. Tertia*

    OP#1: Your boyfriend is blowing this way out of proportion. Even if you do feel the need to give the company a heads-up, it needn’t be anything beyond “I’m going through a bumpy patch with a chronic health condition but my doctor and I think should be back under full control fairly soon.”

    That being said: it sounds like you’re considering the possibility of staying at that company long-term. If that’s the case, you might want to keep an ear out for cues on how they treat employees with chronic conditions to see if it appears safe for you to discreetly disclose if that’s your preference. I’m more comfortable having a few people at my workplace know about my mental illness, but I’m sure that’s very environment and position specific.

  9. Engineer Girl*

    #4 – I’ve seen HR pull the location based pay stunt before. I my companies case, it wa opposite. They took that average pay rate and tried to pay the engineers that rate. The problem was that we were in Silicon Valley and the engineers used for the rate study were in Chicago, St Louis, Wichita, and Seattle.
    The company ended up bleeding engineers. They were getting $50k salary increases when thy left the company – and this was back in the 90s!
    You pay the local market rate or you lose the talent. There should be plenty of opportunities in LA that will pay you the right salary.

  10. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

    #3 – this probably doesn’t apply to you, but just in case you should know that law is an exception to this rule. Lawyers generally use full sentences in their resumes.

    1. Legalchef*

      That’s not necessarily true. I’ve almost never seen a resume with complete sentences when I’ve been hiring. The ones with full sentences seem out of touch. And career services (not the best barometer, I know) definitely instructs people to bullet point.

    2. bridget*

      … what? In my experience, lawyer resumes look very much like other resumes (and I feel like I read a thousand during OCI last month, and a hundred during associate lateral hiring in early spring) The explanatory bullet points under each job are clauses like “drafted various memoranda on topics XYZ.”

      1. Jesmlet*

        A little confused here… standard bullet points are pretty much full sentences, they’re just missing the subject. So from your example, instead of “drafted various memoranda on topics XYZ”, a full sentence would be “I drafted various memoranda on topics XYZ”. Or are we debating bullet points vs paragraphs? Because that’s not the same as saying don’t use full sentences. Or maybe we are just talking about the existence of a subject and then my point is moot

    3. sap*

      lawyer chiming in, switched BigLaw jobs in the last 6months using a resume that didn’t have any full sentences. “use full sentences if you’re a lawyer” isn’t true as a universal rule, and as a person who has read lots of resumes, not using a full sentence is definitely the norm.

    4. Ace*

      Yeah, lawyet here who had been hired and been involved in a lot of hiring decisions, and has gotten feedback on my resume from lots of experienced legal recruiters.
      I’ve never seen or heard that lawyers should use complete sentences, and it would strike me as odd if a candidate did

    5. Jessie the First (or second)*

      Ditto others – lawyer here, and my resume does not have full sentences. I used it get a BigLaw job, a government job, and a small firm job, and never had anyone side-eye me over my use of bullet points.

    6. LeRainDrop*

      Just another attorney here, with years of experience working in BigLaw and reviewing resumes for hiring, chiming in to say that lawyer resumes are not an exception to the rule. I don’t recall ever seeing a lawyer resume with full sentences. Yes, there are detailed bullet points of accomplishments, but not full sentences. I also know that the career services of my top ten law school still holds a session on resume-writing for all 2Ls, and their advice is still to bullet point phrases, not full sentences.

  11. Patchedup*

    OP#5 I wouldn’t shred yet – the hospital or medical facility is going to need to know whose records they are. Notifying the people whose privacy was violated is part of the HIPAA process as laid out by law.

  12. Engineer Girl*

    #3 – I’ve had a summary on my resume for years. It’s a few sentences where I’m asserting my key qualifications followed by some bullet points listing skill specializations. So I’d have things like team leadership and satellite development as qualifications. I’d also have risk management, fixed price embedded software development, and real time test as specializations.
    The job listings below the summary are bullet points with details supporting the summary statement assertions. No full sentences.
    Explanations for job gaps belong in cover letters.

    1. Sam*

      Genuine question: why would it be better to summarize on the resume rather than summarizing/highlighting in the cover letter? I’m working on my resume, so I’m very curious about this. I’ve never seen a summary that added anything that wasn’t already covered in the regular resume/CL content, but maybe that comes down to poor execution.

      1. Koko*

        I use summaries not at the top of the resume, but beneath each job as a way of summing up the whole picture of my impact in that role. Something like:

        Teapots, Teapots, Teapots – Email Marketing Director – 2005-2015
        Transformed an underperforming email program that relied heavily on paid acquisition to a highly-engaged, organically-grown subscriber list.
        – Increased email file by 50% in first year and 558% over ten years
        – Increased active proportion of file from 10% to 50%
        – Increased annual sales value per subscriber from $10.45 to $20.32
        – Increased annual subscriber retention from 50% to 68%
        – Grew department from 1 to 4 full-time staff members
        – Identified and implemented referral partnerships with teapot-adjacent vendors that drove 13% of new sign-ups last quarter

        So the summary is not a specific achievement, but is a qualitative sum of each of the specific achievement bullets below.

        1. Koko*

          (I do this because as someone who has screened a lot of resumes, I recognize that while it might seem obvious to me that A + B = C, someone spending 20 seconds on my resume might not put that together the same way, so I spell out C for them.)

        2. Engineer Girl*

          This is exactly how I do it for each job.

          But because I have experience in several engineering disciplines I put the broader story together at the top. I don’t repeat myself though.

      2. Mary*

        If your employer is looking at a high volume of applications, I wouldn’t rely on them reading both the cover letter and CV. Some people will pick up a CV first, scan it for the key information, and settle in to read the cover letter if they like the CV. Some will pick up a cover letter first to get an overview of who the person is, and if they like it turn to the CV to check the dates, employers and details. So it’s worth having the key 3-4 points that you think will grab their attention on both documents.

      3. Greengirl*

        I work in arts administration. Occasionally we hire for positions that do not have clear track positions (ie an Artistic Director position or a program coordinator for an arts education position). We get resumes from people who have had a lot of very different experiences that all would be pertinent for the job. For instance someone who was a public school teacher but then was a visual artist and also had experience working in a gallery might benefit from “A painter with experience as both a public school teacher and gallery management, with expertise both in public school education and arts administration.” While all that information is on the page of the resume, you have to look at the different things and put that story together yourself.

        I’ve really only ever seen summaries or profiles be useful when you want to tie everything together on a resume that includes a lot of different experiences that might not be obviously related.

      4. Engineer Girl*

        Cover letters tend to separate themselves from resumes.
        The summary is where I make bold claims. The job descriptiona are where I provide proof.
        The summary of skills is part of the resume. It occupies about 1/4 of the front page. But I’m an older engineer with a lot of specific achievements and a pretty broad skill set. I’m considered an expert three different areas so need the space.
        It’s an advertisement. Grab their attention in the first few lines. Then provide specific details of achievements that shows you aren’t lying. That’s especially important for tech women as people tend to downplay your achevenents.

    2. OP #3*

      I should have elaborated on/emphasized the “friendly” element here: the particular advice I was thinking of suggested making it almost conversational, like “I’ve been working with chocolate teapots for awhile, but decided to change paths because I’m really passionate about goat yoga.” I suppose it’s almost like replacing the (currently) standard summary with an attempt at a condensed cover letter?

      1. Koko*

        Oof, yeah, that would come off oddly to me if I were screening the resume. I think that’s one of the big differences between cover letters and resumes. The cover letter can touch on your personality and your story. The resume needs to be purely about presenting your skills and strengths as a candidate. Hearing about a candidate’s passion and desire to change fields doesn’t strengthen their candidacy or my assessment of whether I think they can do the job.

  13. Medical Compliance Officer*

    OP #5, I work in medical compliance and deal with HIPAA violations on a regulations on a regular basis. Please, please, PLEASE contact her former place of employment about these charts! This is a HUGE HIPAA violation that will at minimum require a breach notification to each patient whose PHI was compromised and could potentially result in a fine for the institution depending on the number of patients and whether the breach is found to have occurred willfully (which it probably will be, since PHI should NEVER leave the premises unless being transferred to a medical record storage facility that the healthcare organization has a business associates agreement with). Please also do not destroy the records under any circumstances! HIPAA also requires that healthcare organizations release medical records upon request to everyone from the patient to governmental agencies, and the organization could be in deep trouble if they get audited by a state agency that wants to see those files.

    When you contact them, make sure that you ask to speak to their HIPAA Privacy Officer and notify them that a breach has occurred. They should be able to give you clear instructions on how to return the files.

    And frankly, taking medical records home is such a gross breach of HIPAA and professional ethics that I would 100% encourage you to report them to their licensing board. I am absolutely appalled that they thought taking charts home was appropriate in any way, shape, or form.

    1. DecorativeCacti*

      I don’t think OP has to worry about reporting them. Their employer will most certainly not let this slide because holy WTF?

      1. sap*

        Frankly, a prudent employed would probably fire this person or notify whoever they gave a good rec to…

        but so many medical professional jobs are unlicensed (insurance stuff, appointment) that reporting sounds lien a huge pain to figure out for the writer , and it may not even be an option. former roommmate’s employer is in a much better position to know whether it should be reported and who to report it to; lw doesn’t need to worry about that.

        1. sap*

          oh my gosh, typo heaven. I recently switched back to an old phone while mine is getting a warranty repair and I am so sorry about the keyboard results.

      2. Jerry Vandesic*

        I disagree. This could turn into a major shit storm, and some could land on the OP. The OP seems eager to turn in the ex-roommate into the authorities, so my guess is that the split wasn’t amicable. If there is bad blood here, one possible response from the ex is to accuse the OP of stealing the documents. This could get messy very quickly, with both sides accusing the other.

        1. mockingbird2081*

          I work in healthcare as an administrator and I can’t think of a single way this could come back on the OP. The OP didn’t violate HIPAA even if she was accused of “stealing” she can’t violate HIPAA if she isn’t a healthcare worker and if they aren’t her patients.

        2. OP 5*

          So, some context:
          She’s moved out of state, and left a bunch of docs. I’ve emailed her and texted her about them. So she’s not unaware. I’m not eager to report her, but I am deeply disturbed by her treatment of data – I work with much less sensitive data than this and I would never do something like this. The files were unmarked so I nearly threw them away until I saw an IRS document, and that really scares me.

          I ended up emailing the HIPAA office. The director was very grateful and is mailing me a FedEx envelope to return everything I found.

    2. Mary*

      This! I am in the UK so the actual laws are different, but the general principle is D: D: D:

      The only question I have about whether you should report this to the licensing board is whether you are a medic yourself. If US practice is the same as UK practice, then if you are just a member of the public, you have the option to report breaches of medical ethics or practice by doctors, but you don’t have a duty to do so. In the UK, if a doctor becomes aware of a significant breach of medical ethics or practice by other doctor, they have a duty to report it.

      If you are a medic and the US licensing rules are similar, then you should definitely report it to your flatmate’s former employer and check whether they are going to escalate it to the licensing board, and I would check independently whether you would be required to report this to the board yourself.

      1. Kyrielle*

        I think if OP5 were a medical professional, they’d have a better idea how to handle this, but yeah, I agree with that assessment.

        That said, the employer roommate worked for when these records were left (whether roommate still works there or not) needs to know about this and be able to reclaim and handle these records, and I suspect roommate will end up reported by them anyway. (I can’t imagine any scenario in which that does not happen.)

        1. Mary*

          > I think if OP5 were a medical professional, they’d have a better idea how to handle this

          I agree, although when I worked with junior doctors (who were more likely to have roommates!) they were often still getting their heads around this kind of thing, so that’s why I mentioned it.

    3. Triplestep*

      I think that OP#5 is doing enough by returning the materials as suggested here, and should let the employer decide how to move forward with reporting the ex-roommate and other actions against her.

      We don’t actually know that this is a *former* employer – the roommate moved out, but may not have changed employers. If she still works for this organization, there may be other ramifications as well. OP#5, you’re doing the right thing by returning the records – I would step away after that.

    4. Annie Moose*

      I’m a web dev who works for a state health department and frequently has to work with real health data, and WOWIE did OP #5’s roommate violate just about every rule in the book. If we so much as emailed PHI to each other, we’d get in massive amounts of trouble, let alone having dozens (!!) of patient records sitting around our houses.

      Sometimes all the rules seem like a pain–when you’re trying to track down a bug or do testing with a particular record, it would be so much easier if we could just email the data to each other–but that doesn’t mean we can just violate them for convenience!

      Definitely contact the hospital as soon as possible.

      (obligatory clarifying note: yes, you can email PHI if it’s encrypted, but we aren’t set up for that, so we just make do)

  14. sap*

    #5–lawyer chiming in (not legal advice, but general info about laws). HIPAA doesn’t apply to individuals who aren’t in some sort of business relationship with a healthcare provider where they’ve agreed to provide a healthcare adjacent service (example: HIPAA applies to your doctor, but also do your doctor’s web host because your doctor’s web host probably agreed to protect your doctor’s stuff in HIPAA compliant ways, but it doesn’t apply to your doctor’s personal home landlord unless they had a really weird lease).

    However, most states have a set of laws about how a landlord can dispose of a former tenant’s belongings, and those laws often include a notification period (30 days is common but not universal), storage fee requirements, etc. This sounds like a situation where a prudent former master tenant will be extra judicious about observing any applicable laws, which can often be found by searching for “bailment” laws + your state.

    1. sap*

      I’d also make a note here on further thought-anyone looking to dispose of a former tenant’s stuff should check the bailment laws *even if* it’s already been a month, because some bailment laws can have a clock that is dependant on notifying the ex-tenant that you want to dump their leftovers, not on when the ex-tenant vacated.

    2. sap*

      Sorry, comment number 3 on further thought–if I had a surprise dump of documents from a former tenant, I would look into bailment laws in my state before notifying any non-tenant interested parties. In my experience, people who are justly terminated from positions for incredibly unethical behavior are the type of people who lash out at the morally correct but possibly technically deficient people who exposed their ethical lapses. If I hadn’t complied with the law regarding what to do with that person’s documents, I would potentially be exposed to increased damages from an otherwise nominal damages situation.

    3. sap*

      last one, I swear–bailment law is actually a very bad Google search, on experimentation. Landlord + abandoned property has better, more specific to this type of scenario results. Bailment law is technically right, but will get you a lot of noise about when a buddy borrows your car.

    4. TL -*

      Those medical records belong to the office, not the former roommate. And the ethical thing to do is to call the office and get the records returned. Don’t shred, don’t hold in storage, just call the office and give them back.

      1. sap*

        There’s really no way to know this, given the information we have. We don’t know if roommate is a doctor. If roommate is a doctor, at least in the U.S., lots of doctors have an incredibly complicated relationship with hospitals that are not, in fact, employment relationships, and it’s totally possible that the medical records would not belong to the hospital in any real way. This assumes a lot of stuff we don’t know. All we know is that roommate left some belongings, which include medical records, and said medical records may or may not be roommate’s property.

        1. TL -*

          The patient records do not belong to the roommate, however. They belong to the office they were generated in and most importantly, they belong in the office the patients were from.

        2. Mary*

          “We don’t know if roommate is a doctor”

          OP says “[s]he was in the medical profession” – is there another way to interpret that? I could just about understand “she’s a medical professional” to stretch to cover nursing or allied health professional, but I would definitely read “the medical profession” to mean doctor?

          1. Kyrielle*

            I read “in the medical profession” as “works in some capacity as a provider” – doctor, psychiatrist or psychology, nurse or nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, radiologist, etc. – I don’t see a distinction between that and “she’s a medical professional”. Both to me rule out, say, schedulers and receptionists, whereas “she worked in a medical facility” wouldn’t – but no, I don’t read it as strictly “doctor”.

              1. Elizabeth*

                OP5, please call the compliance office at the hospital where she worked. They will be able to guide you. If you don’t have anything else, just called the hospital’s main number and ask for the HIPAA Privacy Officer.

                I’m the information security officer for my facility. I’ve driven to pick up faxes that were sent to the wrong recipient, and I’ve given other businesses our FedEx account number to send us back something if it wasn’t in reasonable driving distance. I had to testify in a court case involving misuse of access. I have to sign the letter to tell patients we screwed up. I would fall all over myself to give you every bit of assistance I could so that we could get those records back from you.

      2. sap*

        I’d also like to add that if the roommate’s medical records aren’t actually the hospitals property, you’re telling LW that the only ethical thing to do in this situation is to hand over sensitive medical records to an entity those patients didn’t agree to disclose their complete medical histories to. That actually sounds pretty unethical to me.

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          They didn’t agreee for the OP to have access to their medical history either, maybe things are a bit different in the UK with the NHS but it seems to be the best course of action is to return the files to an entity that is set up to Handel them properly and store them securely.

          I’m surprised so many comments are saying to shread the files that’s seems like a really bad idea to me.

        2. blackcat*

          I view it has handing over the documents to the entity that can appropriately handle them.

          I see a few possibilities:
          1) Records were created at that place, duplicates/digital versions exist
          2) Records were created at that place, duplicates/digital versions do not exist
          3) Records were not created at that place

          In the case of 1) roommate should have shredded them, but, at this point, LW should report it since HIPPA requires that breaches be disclosed.
          In the case of 2) Holy smokes, the hospital/office needs those papers! Return immediately!!
          In the more complex case of 3), HIPPA compliance person at the employer can look at them and contact the appropriate medical facilities or people to properly notify of the HIPPA violation. Even if you have now foisted the problem on someone else, you have foisted it on someone with the knowledge/training to properly deal with it.

          LW has no idea which of these scenarios is the actual one. Overall, it seems like the least risky thing to do is hand over the records.

          1. RVA Cat*

            Least risky, indeed.
            Since taking the records was so unethical, worst-case scenario is that Former Roommate took them to commit identify theft and then intentionally left them behind to frame OP5.

        3. TL -*

          Except that hospitals have procedures in place to protect patient privacy and can locate the appropriate medical bodies to contact if it’s not the appropriate place, and the longer these records aren’t returned, the higher the chance of a patient being harmed. That’s unethical.

          If they belong to another office, the best entity to oversee returning the files is a medical office. They are bound by HIPAA and will do their best not to violate medical privacy while also ensuring the files go back to their correct places. The OP isn’t and neither is a storage facility.

          1. DArcy*

            Indeed. The hospital is by far the most likely rightful repository of those records, and even if they aren’t, contacting the hospital’s HIPPA compliance person is the best way to get them to the rightful repository.

            1. Annie Moose*

              Yeah, I completely agree. OP is not the right person to navigate the massive HIPAA violation here. Unless this is the most incompetent hospital known to mankind, they will know the appropriate steps to take and who to report this to, even if it turns out the records didn’t originate from them.

        4. Mary*

          I don’t see how the OP can acquire formal legal or ethical responsibilities to these patients by simply finding the files as a result of someone else’s unethical behaviour? Handing them over to an organisation which will have formal policies and experts who are qualified and authorised to decide what to do with the documents is as much as anyone can reasonably expect of a layperson.

          1. paul*

            Agreed. There’s actually a lot of ins and outs to HIPPA, and it’s true the relationship between a doctor or x-ray clinic or whatever and a hospital can be *incredibly* complex, but a layperson can’t be expected to suss out those sorts of details.

            1. OP 5*


              I tried calling her office, no admin was in/were busy (I’m not sure, I got voicemail). So I emailed HIPAA compliance office of the hospital and got an answer in 10 minutes saying that they would email me a Fedex envelope to return their documents. Yay!

    5. Jessie the First (or second)*

      sap, I’m confused by your reasoning here in this comment thread, I must admit.

      The medical records were generated by a medical office (in comments, it seems the roommate is a physician’s assistant at a hospital, so these are hospital records). So yes, the ethical thing is to contact the office from which the records were generated and inform the privacy officer of the situation.

      HIPAA does not apply to the OP – but general standards of decency apply, and given the aim of the privacy portion of HIPAA is to protect personal health information, the best course of action is to contact the privacy officer, inform them of the HIPAA breach, and ask the privacy officer what he/she’d like OP to do with the records.

      1. Cleopatra Jones*

        I too am lost by sap’s reasoning. The OP explicitly stated that the room mate worked for a hospital, so where else would she get medical records from? The roommate is also a PA which means she can NOT have a solo practice in the US. So the records have to belong to some other higher level medical entity, unless she’s practicing medicine illegally out of her own office. In which case, that makes this scenario a thousand times worse!

        1. sap*

          yeah, now that we know the roommate is a p.a., it’s not the case that the records could be her roommate’s solo practice docs. however, I think #5 may still need to look into the laws that govern left-behind tenant property, as I’m not sure how #5 could be subject to any obligations specific to healthcare documents given what we know, but #5 is likely subject to the general laws of their state of residence.

          1. Cleopatra Jones*

            IANAL but I think that left behind tenant property laws would govern property that the former tenant actually owned. The records belong to the hospital, not former room mate. Also, she’s made a good faith effort to contact former room mate, to no avail. She has done her due diligence, next course of action is to contact the medical facility and find out how to return the records to them.

            If LW had found the former room mate left behind a bunch of stolen merchandise, it wouldn’t make sense to figure out tenant property laws. The correct course of action would be to immediately contact the police. This situation is not at all that different.

          2. Dorothy Lawyer*

            Landlord-tenant attorney here, and I have to disagree with sap in this case. First, I don’t get the idea that OP is actually a landlord, so landlord-tenant laws don’t matter here. Even if landlord-tenant laws do matter here, it depends on state law, AND I don’t think this was tenant’s property anyway – it’s pretty obvious, given the fact pattern, that this was stolen property.
            In the two states in which I practice, there are different laws that govern personal property abandoned by a tenant. In State A, landlord can throw out abandoned personal property after an eviction has occurred and the sheriff has executed on the writ, returning possession of the unit to the landlord, OR if rent has been due for at least 30 days and is unpaid, after sending a certified letter to the tenant saying basically “we think you’ve abandoned the unit, respond to us within 10 days or we’ll retake possession of the unit.” In State B, regardless of the reason for abandonment of the personal property (eviction or just straight abandonment of the rental unit), landlord has to store the property for 30 days (in the unit or elsewhere) and advertise once in a newspaper the name of tenant, address, description of the personal property, and the date on which landlord intends to dispose of it.
            HOWEVER, that is all for property that belongs to TENANT. If, say, Aaron’s Rental or some other company that owns or has a lien on personal property approaches landlord and provides documentation that this other entity has a right to, say, the washer and dryer or television which was abandoned in the unit, then the landlord has to return that property to the rightful owner or lienholder. Similarly, if the police can show that some of the personal property that was abandoned was stolen, then landlord has to return that property to the rightful owner or to the police — it is NOT landlord’s responsibility to store/advertise property that does not belong to tenant.

  15. SchoolStarts!*

    OP1: One sick day will not jeopardize a career or a possible promotion. For goodness sakes, most folks get at least one cold a year.

    Your mental health may make many a day difficult for you but you already seem to be aware of it and working hard, so I feel you will succeed.

    I have a friend who also has mental health issues and she kept working hard at her job despite slowing falling apart inside and at home and finally, she took leave: one month, two months…a year. She quit, telling her boss that she no longer felt she was contributing properly to her team and she stayed home a year to get her s**it together. The first eight months were awful. Her boss was sad she left; he knew full well her daily emotional roller coaster but he’s the type to not truly believe in mental health issues but she knew what she was doing on the job!

    Four weeks ago, he needed to hire more staff…and he called her. She’s back on the job, at the same job she left and she’s doing better again. Because her mental health issues are one thing, her work ethic is another and she is good at what she does.

    If you are good at what you do, the bosses will see that and keep you. Have faith. One sick day, two sick days, five sick days a year is normal and won’t stop your career if bosses like what they see.

  16. Lady Phoenix*

    OP #1: i don’t like your boyfriend. He sounds likr an ass and I would definitely consider him on thin ice now (or on his way out the door with a boot up his bum).

  17. Anonymous for this*

    HIPAA lawyer here–not giving legal advice but noting that: (1) Medical Compliance Officer accurately set forth the HIPAA breach requirements above; (2) in the US, medical records are the property of the Covered Entity (hospital, etc.), not the employee–there have been several criminal cases brought against medical workers who were found to have medical charts stashed at home; (3) while the chances that these are original records is slim, I echo the advice to return the records, as there are right and wrong ways to destroy records under HIPAA to be sure patients’ confidential info is protected. Thanks for being so conscientious about this!

  18. Imaginary Number*

    For OP #4, that seems like a fabulous way to ensure that employees are never willing to relocate.

  19. nosy nelly*

    I’m fascinated by the response to #2…” it’s not like hiring your boyfriend or your daughter or other definite no’s”. I personally agree that this should be a “definite no” but it is pretty common, in American culture at least, to see families hiring and promoting each other, even at pretty high/complex/big-$$ levels. Is this generally seen as a “definite no” by most commenters here?

    1. Doreen*

      I know it’s common in the context of the owner of a privately owned business ( large or small or giant) hiring/promoting relatives and friends, but I’m not so sure it’s common outside of that situation – for example, in publicly traded corporations , or employees ( not the owner) hiring relatives in privately owned businesses.

  20. Elfie*

    Is this resume advice applicable in the UK, too, because my CV uses full sentences, and I’ve applied for many many jobs. I’ve had agencies say to reformat the CV in different ways, but no-one has ever said to not use full sentences. I’m very curious as to whether my CV is just so awesome anyway that people think I’ll get the job (ha, not likely!), or if this is US-specific.

    1. Mary*

      I’m a higher education careers adviser in the UK. Generally speaking, I recommend using notes and bullet points rather than full sentences in CVs for the same reason that Alison suggests. People tend to scan CVs looking for key words and experience, rather than settling down to get absorbed in reading them, and “I have worked in higher education for five years” is longer than “Five years’ experience in higher education” but doesn’t add anything. For me, the latter is more concise and the emphasis is on the important bit (“five years’ experience”) rather than “I have”.

      However, it’s not a fixed rule and it’s not “wrong” to use full sentences, so if that feels more comfortable to you, go for it!

    2. Quirk*

      I tend to use bullet points for “important” parts such as key achievements, with an introductory paragraph describing the job. I am in tech, so there’s a lot of stuff which is necessary to describe but not relevant to the sales pitch e.g. the languages and APIs I used on a particular job. I keep this out of the bullet points. I also summarise my skills at the top in a “category: list of skills” way, never going over one line. Key achievements I sometimes go to two lines.

      I think bullet points are useful for presenting things more punchily, but in roles where the hiring manager is reading only a few CVs it probably makes relatively little difference. If you’ve got to stand out among a hundred CVs it’s all about getting the information across as succinctly as possible.

      1. Elfie*

        Yeah, I summarise my achievements in each position in bullet points, but describe the job itself in complete sentences. I guess it’s more hit-and-miss in the UK than a standard rule, but 20 years into my career I am struggling to fit all my achievements onto no more than 2 sides of A4. Maybe I’ll take a look at the old CV and see what it would look like if I used bullet points instead.

  21. nosy nelly*

    #4, sounds like your bosses think people will game the system by moving to more expensive places. Which is absurd, because even OPM rates don’t really adequately cover the wide range of COL in the US. Sorry to hear they’re such stinkers!

  22. Roscoe*

    #5 Based on how this letter is written, I’m guessing you and her didn’t leave on good terms. If she left her own stuff there, she was most likely not aware of this. The fact that you are thinking about reporting her to the licensing board seems like you are just looking to get her in some kind of trouble. When people move out and others stay, this stuff happens. I’ve found plenty of stuff from old roommates after they left. No need to try to get her fired for a mistake. Either destroy it or mail it back to the hospital

    1. Roscoe*

      And to be clear, I think sending this stuff to the hospital and saying how you got it is fine. But I think going to the licensing board should be left to her employer, not a former roommate

  23. sunshyne84*

    #5 How have you tried contacting her? Have you left a message about what you found or was the number disconnected? Seems strange that she wouldn’t respond even if she left on bad terms.

    1. OP 5*

      I’ve tried contacting her. We’re not in contact on fb for unrelated reasons, but I have texted and emailed the information I have for her. She hasn’t replied.

  24. High Score!*

    OP5, for the love of all that’s good in the universe, please report this person to both her old employer and the medical board. She has kept people’s very private information in an unsafe place which could seriously damage their credit and reputations. Very serious stuff. Those records should never have the hospital.

  25. MissGirl*

    I recently made a career change: new field and industry. Most of the jobs I applied to didn’t allow me to upload a cover letter. A summary enabled me to highlight the skills that made me a match since a lot of my resume wasn’t directly related.

    1. Tuxedo Cat*

      Do you think that the hiring staff would balk at you putting the cover letter as the first page and having the rest be your resume? At one company where I’ve applied to several jobs, that’s how it’s done for some reason. That’s how they ask for it, though.

  26. Helpful*

    Can anyone share their summary or a facsimile? (I figure the people who steal stuff from AAM don’t read this far into the comments.) I have never seen one and would like to have a baseline idea of what makes a good one.

    1. hermit crab*

      I’m not sure if this is what others are referring to as a summary, but I have a blurb at the top of my resume that says, approximately, “Teapot science and policy professional with X years of experience managing Impressive Tangible Thing 1 and supporting Impressive Tangible Thing 2.”

    2. MissGirl*

      Mine was almost a short cover letter. I kept it about four sentences and tried to highlight the skills and experience most applicable to the position.

    3. Mary*

      I’m a careers adviser in the UK. My formula is:

      – Career identity and/or current position
      – Amount of relevant experience in years/months
      – Specific skills, qualifications, achievements or experience which is relevant in another way
      – What you’re looking for right now.

      I always recommend that people stay away from generic descriptions – “friendly, reliable, driven” etc – because it’s meaningless on a CV. Anyone can call themselves friendly on a CV! It should function as a kind of contents page to the kind of experience, skills, achievements etc that the reader is going to find on the rest of your CV.

  27. Elle Woods*

    OP #1 here! Thank you everyone for supportive advice; I’d been torn on if I should tell my employers about my depression, since in school, I always let my professors know if I will be missing class and why, so they don’t think I’m just playing hooky, and I guess I thought I should do the same at work, but I always felt funky about it. From now on I’ll probably just let them know I’m “not feeling well” or tell them that I’m dealing with a health issue. As for my boyfriend, I realize I didn’t paint him in the best light. He is normally extremely supportive, but recent issues from this store (that have now been resolved) had stressed us both out. I will say that he grew up competitively swimming and was taught to push through any problems unless you’re physically and seriously injured, and he has some issue recognizing that life isn’t always like swimming, lol. I know he meant that my managers may see me as unstable, since we just had a horrible boss, who trained every other person and manager in the store, get fired for, frankly, being a terrible boss and person. I know he worries that everyone there was brainwashed by her and that will cause me to fail. As of now none of my managers have said anything regarding my switch or my mental health, and no decisions have been made about the promotion, but they have me training the new girls almost every night, so fingers crossed!

    1. Diane Nguyen*

      Something I would add: If your mental illness does end up hurting your reputation with this employer, please know that it won’t be like that everywhere. In general, it’s pretty easy for retailers to replace cashiers quickly and cheaply — which is why showing up no matter what can feel really important. As you move into different roles and industries, you will likely become harder to replace and get more leeway.

      Keep working hard and managing your illness, and you’ll be in great shape!

    2. Chinook*

      “From now on I’ll probably just let them know I’m “not feeling well” or tell them that I’m dealing with a health issue.”

      Good plan. A decent employer doesn’t need the whys (like AAM says). And I can get why it feels wrong to be so vague because mental illness feels so very different from physical illness because of the lack of physical/disgusting/painful symptoms. Remember that you are not asking permission (which would require reasons), just informing them of a truth – you aren’t coming in and someone is covering for you.

      As well, not working when you feel like you can’t is important because it will affect the quality of your work if you decide to “white knuckle” through the day, which will hurt your reputation more. Personally, I would rather be known as someone who is less than healthy over someone whose work is inconsistent in quality.

      1. Dorothy Lawyer*

        “Personally, I would rather be known as someone who is less than healthy over someone whose work is inconsistent in quality.”

        YES – thank you. I frequently deal with people who brag about never taking a day off, working through colds, the flu, etc. Not only is it a terrible idea to expose your coworkers to that crap, but personally, I do not work well when I’m sick. I make more mistakes than usual, I forget things, and I move much more slowly than usual — that’s a really bad thing in many professions (including my own). My clients would rather hear that I’m out for a day or two and the work I promised them will be a little delayed than to get a terrible work product because I pushed through.

  28. bohtie*

    Hey OP #1! Overly long comment time! I’ve been working really successfully at the same job for a decade despite having severe PTSD and depression for pretty much my entire life. And horrifically bad insomnia. And a still-undiagnosed GI illness of some kind. It’s… fun.

    I agree with Allison’s advice not to overshare, although it is EXTREMELY tempting – some of it is internalized “mental illness is not real illness so I have to explain myself” vibes, and some of it for me is frustration, like “I want to be there doing my job but my brain is getting in the way. Technically, unless I am too depressed to get out of bed, I *could* be there, but I wouldn’t be doing any of y’all any favors.”

    Another thing I just thought of – if you’re switching shifts, my experience has been that the expectation or social pressure to explain yourself is actually even lower than if you’re just calling out sick. You can just say “Hey boss, I switched shifts with Kevin for Tuesday.” That’s a complete sentence.

    It sounds like you’re doing a really good job in taking care of yourself, and I don’t know you but I’m so freaking proud because that is so hard. I’ll toss in that if you are concerned about this stuff, one thing that’s helped me is tracking my symptoms in either a calendar on my phone or an app like Daylio (which correlates your mood to your activities). Depression can really sneak up on you – I’ve been pretty well controlled for a few years now but recently had an incident where I couldn’t leave my house for like three straight days and didn’t even realize it was happening. I just thought I was really tired and then it suddenly occurred to me that, no, tired doesn’t mean you avoid walking like 500 yards to the convenience store because you’re too freaked-out to make small talk with the cashier.

    Other people are calling out your boyfriend, but if what he said was what’s in quotes, that sounds directly out of my salty grandfather’s mouth, so I’m gonna assume he’s probably parroting what other people have said to him given your assumed ages and recalling that many people I knew in college had very, very limited experience with actual employment. (Believe me, you can show up every day and not get promoted – being reliable is important, but “reliable” doesn’t mean never, ever missing a day, and much like college itself, there may be points for attendance, but it’s not likely to get you a good grade if you don’t actually demonstrate the required knowledge.)

    1. CMDRBNA*

      My rule of thumb re: sharing is that I don’t tell my employer when I’m taking sick time relating to my mental illness, just like I wouldn’t tell them if I was going to an OB-GYN or whatever, because taking sick time for illness-related reasons is 100% okay and they don’t need (or want) to know the details.

      If I need some sort of longer-term accommodation related to my illness, I make sure that I have all my documentation in order and present it to HR in a really matter-of-fact way, just like I asked for accommodation after I had foot surgery and couldn’t walk long distances for a few weeks.

      I have been fortunate to thus far work for organizations that are pretty above-board when it comes to sick time and accommodations, and I know that because I do have a mental illness I can’t work for an organization that treats employees with chronic illnesses badly, so I do as much research as possible on workplaces before I accept a job to make sure they’re not just paying lip service to it in an interview, and I left one workplace in less than a year because they misled me about whether or not they’d allow flexible working hours to accommodate therapy appointments (spoiler alert: they lied!).

      I do, however, disclose that I have a mental illness in conversations when people are speaking disparagingly of mental illnesses/people with mental illnesses. Usually it’s just me being like “hey, I also have a mental illness, I volunteer and work with organizations that advocate for people with mental illnesses, people are afraid to get treatment for their mental illnesses/don’t know where to go for resources and are afraid to ask because of comments like the one you are making.”

      I did once call out a coworker in a private email after she (she was a nasty person in general) found something online that an intern had posted referencing his battle with mental illness and email it to a bunch of people with a snarky response about him being crazy. I wrote back to her in private, told her that I had a mental illness and that he was being both responsible in managing his AND brave in advocating for mental illness help, and that her email was contributing to the stigma that prevents people from getting the help they need.

      She apologized but tried to minimize what she had done, which was pretty egregious and unprofessional, and she left our organization (not missed by anyone) not long after that.

      Here’s the thing about disclosing mental illnesses/advocating against mental illness stigma in general: you have to take care of yourself first, and you should not feel obligated to disclose to anyone. However, the stigma around mental illness and getting help for it kills. It kills people. I am the child of two military veterans and grew up on military bases and have seen first-hand the toll that stigmatizing mental illness has taken on my community. The unit my parent was part of lost more soldiers to suicide than to actual war.

      The unwillingness to talk about mental illness also kills people. I lost decades of my life to illness because of the secrecy around my family’s personal history of mental illness. Those are years I will never get back. I’ve been fortunate to have the chance to talk to friends who have children in their teens who are struggling with mental illness and to encourage them to be open, honest, and help their children get the assistance they need. I hope that those children have a different life than I have.

      If disclosing to one person that I have a mental illness gets them thinking about it or prompts them to reach out if they need help, I consider it worth it. But that is a calculation that everyone has to make for themselves.

      1. Elfie*

        Can I just say that I think that your comment is just awesome. I too have a mental illness, and I would like to be the kind of person you are (disclosing to make others aware), but I’m too afraid in the main to do so. I don’t want to have it come back on me (and it has in the past, so I try not to disclose anymore), but when I hear stuff that’s just so casually tossed around, it makes me want to scream. I hope to get to a place where I can be like you.

      2. bohtie*

        I like your comment. I try to be open about my illnesses, in fact I’m probably the most open person I know about this stuff, because I come from a culture in which that sort of thing is absolutely not okay to discuss and it led to me going untreated and causing enormous harm to myself and others until I was well into my 20s. (And also, honestly, because I don’t fit the stereotype – I’m a loud, outgoing, extremely friendly person who also suffers from severe depression and PTSD. It shocks people, which is not enjoyable, but makes me realize how important it is to drive home that this sort of thing can affect everyone.)

        On the other hand, my work once held a seminar on managing work/life balance with mental illness (which was really cool!) and it was FULL of people who spent the entire Q&A arguing with the presenter because, I kid you not, you can’t find depression on a blood test or an X-ray, therefore it isn’t real and shouldn’t be accommodated for. So I definitely have to pick and choose because, oh man, some days I just do not have the spoons to deal with people who think like that. Oye.

        1. Candi*

          Here’s something to blow their biased little minds.

          One, MRIs have totally picked up differences in the minds of people with chemical imbalances and mental miswirings; the changes in brain activity are noticeable.

          I suffered from depression for so long. Then a blood test *ahem* detected hypothyroidism. I’m on supplements, and I can actually feel happy. And laugh at funny things. So, in a spaghetti way, a blood test detected (the cause of) depression.

    2. Bryce*

      My tendency to overshare comes from a different place. It was keeping it to myself and feeling like I had to hide my depression that was doing a lot of additional damage. Rather than feeling the need to share because “it’s not real illness”, it’s so I don’t keep that stuff bottled up and can confront it. I find I can best take a direct approach with myself if I’m also doing it with other people.

      At some point everyone finds a balance between what works for them and what works for interacting with others.

      1. bohtie*

        Sure. I thought my comment was clear, but just in case: I was specifically referring to Alison’s advice about sharing details within the context of an employment situation, specifically when calling out sick. Personally, I’d no sooner say “Sorry I can’t come in because my PTSD has me trapped in my bedroom” than I would say “Sorry, I can’t come in because I’ve been glued to the toilet puking my guts out all morning.” I’m a huge fan of oversharing, but just because I enjoy doing it doesn’t mean it’s always the appropriate course of action, depending on the circumstances.

  29. Kat A.*

    #5 Please turn in those charts. Both the hospital and the patients need that information. Something as simple as a new notation (that may not have been entered into the hospital system yet) of a bad reaction to some medicine could save that patient’s life in the future. Or there could be a new diagnosis. There are all sorts of vital info in charts that must be saved.

    And, if you destroy that data and it later comes out you didn’t turn it in (say, if your ex-roommate tries to put the responsibility on you), you could face some serious consequences. So do the right thing ethically and legally.

    1. Erin*

      Not that I know anything about medical records or hipa but I agree. It seems like people need their personal medical records at their doctors office in case of an emergency or a billing issue. I feel that my medical records are my property and I don’t want people to be careless with my things. Call the office and ask how they want the files handled, whether someone picks them up in person or you fedex them to the office.

  30. CMDRBNA*

    OP#1, your boyfriend’s response is really troubling. You are doing the right thing by making decisions that both protect your mental health and your career, and knowing when to take a day off because you’re not at your best is one of those decisions.

    His calling you “unstable, unreliable and unable to work” because of your depression? Wow. I don’t know your relationship and I know you wrote in for advice about your job, not your relationship, but that is an incredibly unsupportive and untrue thing for him to say.

    I also have severe depression and it has really impacted my career, especially before I got a better handle on managing it, but now I do manage it. Alison is correct in saying that there is still a stigma against people with mental health issues, which I find hugely frustrating. Mental illnesses and disorders are very, very common, and people are so resistant to getting help precisely because of this stigma.

    I would recommend checking out Captain Awkward’s advice column for how to keep on top of your game at work while managing depression. It has some really helpful practical advice. And I want to commend you for doing your best to manage your illness – just like any other chronic illness! – and for recognizing when you need to take some self-care time. I also call in sick or take time off on the days that my depression leaves me unable to do anything but cry, because taking a sick day is no big deal, but spending eight hours crying at my desk would be.

    I wish you all the best in navigating this. It’s tough. I’ve found that channeling my frustration into activism in areas around mental health awareness has really helped me, and it’s also given me some concrete ways to reframe the conversation about mental illness when it does come up with coworkers. I don’t tell everyone that I have one, but I do try to frame it in a matter-of-fact way, like I would if I had any other chronic illness like diabetes or lupus or whatever.

    Best wishes to you, LW!

  31. PersephoneUnderground*

    OP1- There’s lots of good advice here, but I just wanted to echo the wisdom about keeping mental health private. I’m in no way ashamed of my mental health conditions, but I simply don’t disclose to my employer because there’s no need and no positive outcome from that greater than I get from being deliberately private. E.g. I have an “appointment” over lunch, and I take medication that means I can’t have x in group lunches. I never need to specify what the appointment or meds are for- could be for a bad knee for all they know, and they shouldn’t care in a business sense. Especially if the issue is something often misunderstood like anxiety or ADD or depression, there’s a huge potential downside if someone who would be prejudiced gets this information, and little upside or need to disclosing even to someone sympathetic. I haven’t even told my manager who’s teenage son has ADHD that I have the same thing as her son- she doesn’t need to know!

    So, short version my mother told me: NEVER NEVER NEVER disclose a mental health issue to an employer. EVER! (sorry to shout, but that’s the direct quote!) (Unless you need to request formal legal accomodation, in which case it might be fine and you need the protection.)

  32. Kirk Tentaprice*

    OP1 : By all means let your boyfriend know you didn’t like his comments and that you’d like him to be more supportive. See how he responds to this – you’ll discover a lot from that. See what your counsellor thinks, too, and whether involving your boyfriend in counselling would be a good idea.

    It’s a tough gig loving someone who suffers from depression and anxiety. The people on here who suggest ending this relationship are not being as helpful as they think they are.

  33. Former Computer Professional*

    ADA protections only apply if you make your employer aware of your disability. You cannot claim them after the fact.

    If OP #1 should decide to tell their employer about their mental illness and that it might have an effect on performance, the next step is to usually specify what accommodation is required. The company has the right to ask for a doctor to sign a form or write a letter specifying what the employee can and cannot do. Most doctors will be vague about the actual diagnosis, so if OP #1 doesn’t want to get specific, they have that right.

    The employer has to make a reasonable accommodation. “Reasonable” is generally defined as something that does not cause a hardship to the company. For example, saying you might need to call off or switch schedules once or twice a month is probably reasonable. Saying you need to take a week off here or there would cause major staffing issues and would not be reasonable.

  34. BadPlanning*

    OP5 — I really hope you can get connected with someone like the posters here who’ve said, “Call these people, they will definitely want to help you and get things sorted.”

    I say this because when my father was transferred from the hospital to hospice care, I was given a bag of his things (his clothes, etc, from entering the hospital). I’m not sure who packed what, but a couple weeks after my father passed, I unpacked the bag and discovered it was my father’s stuff plus someone else’s. Shoes, pants, shirt.

    So I called the hospital. Finally I was able to convince someone that I had been sent home with someone else’s clothes. No, I had no idea who’s clothes. No, I didn’t remember the room number. Yes, I just discovered it now. No, I can’t bring them today, I live 90 minutes away.

    They told me to drop the clothes off with security. So I did when I could.

    About 2 weeks later, someone called and asked, “Hey, where’d those clothes go?”

    On one hand, lost clothes aren’t the same as medical documents, but they are still someone else’s belongings (and who knows what their actual value is — maybe someone sewed money into the seams).

    I don’t post this to say, don’t try and get this cleared up. I guess I’m just still bitter about trying to do a nice thing and it backfiring.

  35. beanie beans*

    I probably read the same article that OP3 did. It specifically said bullet points are out and full sentences are in, and I felt like I couldn’t take it seriously after reading that. Anyone who has ever sifted through more than 20 resumes would cry if they were all full sentences.

    1. OP #3*

      Right?? My initial response was just that, but I think long-term unemployment starts making you start to consider previously odd ideas as maybe actually being The Key that you’ve been missing all this time. Very helpful to get a reality check from people here ;)

  36. sad but true*

    #1 – As much as I wish the attitudes here were more common, there is still a serious stigma for mental health. I suspect your boyfriend’s concern was meant with good intentions, because he isn’t off-base with how many people think. A lot of people with no experience with mental illness are very unsympathetic. Since depression is chronic, you could set yourself up for unfair treatment the entire time you’re at a job.

    And in terms of your boss having her own issues and being sympathetic – a lot of people in that situation can judge even harder, since they think they know what it’s like. I hope this isn’t your boss, but it’s something to keep in mind.

    Good luck!

  37. Mimmy*

    #3 – I don’t remember who it was, but someone told me that a summary is good on a resume because it gives the person reviewing a quick glimpse of my qualifications. I think it makes sense for resumes given to networking contacts (as opposed to a resume as part of an application for a specific job). If the resume goes right into the details of your professional and educational history, the reviewer won’t know what you’re looking for and what you bring to the table.

    I have a qualifications summary that describes my experience in what I’m interested in and my skills & knowledge. (It is WAY too long though, so it needs serious work)

    1. McWhadden*

      I think summaries are definitely most useful in situations where you won’t be producing a targeted cover letter, like with networking. It give a very brief caption of who you are.

    2. OP #3*

      The advice I’d read emphasized making the Summary more casual/conversational and friendly vs the usual more succinct language, which is the main thing I was curious about. I think having a regular Summary seems to be the norm, although I personally don’t have one because my skills and knowledge are so all over the place that I have yet to figure out what I’d say! I almost want a follow-up: is it weird NOT to have a Summary and leave it to the recipient to interpret as they see fit, or is that a suspect move on it’s own?

  38. JD*

    LW2: Your boyfriend seems kind of rude. How on Earth does exchanging one shift mean you won’t receive a promotion? That is just weird.

  39. McWhadden*

    LW#1: Employers, especially ones dealing with customer service, would kill for an employee like you. You take the job seriously, you love it, you make sure your shifts are covered. It can be difficult to find hard working, engaged employees in any field but especially one working with the public (lots of burnout).

    Congrats on your upcoming promotion! I know “don’t sweat it” can be useless advice when dealing with anxiety (believe me I know from experience) but seriously just keep doing what you are doing and try not to worry. If it feels like absences are becoming more frequent talk to your doctor. But, if not, just keep doing what you are doing.

    Your boyfriend might mean well and might have some anxiety on your behalf but you know what it’s like at the actual workplace. And you know your supervisors are very supportive of you.

    LW#2 I work for a public entity and some states actually have actual conflict of interest laws that might prevent rewarding employees with part-time employment in a second job. Definitely look into the local laws. It’s always more complicated if you work for a public organization.

  40. Erin*

    OP #1 You’ve got this! I’m a retail manager and honestly I only care about a workers dependablity and their ability to do their job.
    If I can manage to hold down a part time retail job during the holidays while enrolled full time in college and a nervous break down anyone can. Everyone has good and bad days. Even the so called “mentally healthy” In my experiences with mental health is that many people have these issues and hold down jobs where life and death situations are made daily, and are extremely successful. Retail isn’t a high stress job like airline pilot or er trauma surgeon. So just remind yourself of that if things get too out of hand. It really helps me when someone is angry because the item isn’t ringing for the correct price or your store ran out of a popular item. It’s a minor inconvenience, not a serious crisis.
    you seem responsible because you found coverage for your shift and let your manager know ahead of time. They’ll be lucky to have you as a head cashier.
    Best of luck!

  41. Indoor Cat*

    OP #5 — For the love of all that is holy, get your former-doctor-roommate FIRED. Holy HELL.

    I deal with a lot of medical issues and have seen doctors all my life. If I knew that my personal information was accidentally left with complete, non-medical strangers, I would sue. At the very, very least I would refuse to attend the practice that leaked the documents. I’d never be able to trust them again.

    Medical information is supremely private. To me, it is more private than my sex life. My gut reaction was literally to blush in empathetic embarrassment for whoever’s documents you saw. And, quite frankly, it really doesn’t matter if you specifically wouldn’t find your medical information in the view of strangers humiliating; there are people who are fine with photographing themselves nude and posting the pictures online. I’m cool with people who have a very different sense of personal privacy than I do.

    What is *not* cool is people dismissing the idea of privacy and consent altogether. It is not cool for someone to send someone else’s naked pictures to strangers, and it is not okay for personal medical details to be left lying around. That’s why HIPPA laws are so strict; violation of privacy can be seriously psychologically damaging to people.

  42. Anon For This*

    If you want to take additional action against her, you can file a complaint with the US Dept of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights, which is the agency that enforces HIPAA. The HIPAA violation will actually be against her employer not her and the employer will decide how to best punish her. You have no liability.

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