food restrictions at a holiday party, sneaking a peek at interview questions, and more

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

1. I can’t eat any of the food at our office Christmas party

This year my division’s Christmas party is lunch at a seafood restaurant and I’m allergic to fish and shellfish. This isn’t a fancy restaurant, it’s a mom n pop place down by the lake and everyone sits at picnic tables out on the lawn (I’m in Australia so it’s summer here). I looked at the menu on their website and it’s pretty limited and they don’t seem like the kind of place that would go out of their way to accommodate special diets or be careful about preparing food so that it’s okay for people with allergies to eat. Even the fries are cooked in the same deep fryer as the fish (I rang and checked) so there is literally nothing on the menu I can eat.

Whilst attendance isn’t strictly mandatory, lunch being held during work time (we’re all salaried employees so we get paid to attend). When I raised my concerns with my supervisor, she strongly implied that it would look really bad if I was the only person in the whole division who doesn’t attend. I think she interpreted my concerns as me just being a snob about the cheap and cheerful venue choice, because her advice was to show up, put on a smile and try to enjoy it. She didn’t really seem to understand how awkward it would be when everyone else is tucking into their lunch and I’m sitting their not eating.

I asked around and none of my colleagues seem to have a problem with the venue – they’re all looking forward to the party. The venue was chosen by the big bosses executive assistant and even if there was time to organise a different venue I doubt she would agree to change it. I don’t want to be a special snowflake and kick up a big fuss and refuse to attend and potentially damage my professional reputation.

I’ve resigned myself to attending the party. My question is, how do I diplomatically handle not being able to eat anything? I’m dreading getting asked lots of questions and having to explain my allergies (no I really can’t eat anything) and it becoming this big awkward issue and the subject of office drama/gossip for months afterwards (no, I’m not secretly hiding an eating disorder; no, I’m not being deliberately difficult, etc.).

That’s frustrating — companies need to do a better job of being thoughtful about people’s dietary restrictions (more on this coming in a post on holiday parties later today, in fact). But since you’re stuck going — and I agree it does sound like you should probably attend this, based on your manager’s not-great reaction — can you bring your own food to eat? Yes, it will be noticeable that you’re eating something different from everyone else, and some people will probably ask why, but at least then you’ll be able to eat with everyone else. And it sounds like a casual enough environment — eating outside on picnic tables — that you could do that, although if you’re unsure you could call and clear it with the restaurant ahead of time.

And in response to any questions, you can say a brisk, cheerful, “Oh, seafood allergies, so I figured I’d play it safe.” That’s very unlikely to be a major issue for people, like alone cause gossip or drama afterwards. At most you’re likely to have to deal with suggestions that you eat things like the fries that you already know you can’t eat — but you can do the brisk, cheerful response with that too (like “nope, I checked — but I’m being well fed by what I brought, so please don’t worry”).

2. Is it cheating if I peek at the interview questions I’ll be asked?

I have access to digital copies of personnel files from a job I previously worked at seasonally, and I’m looking to work there again. I left on a very good note, so I’m very confident that I’ll get an interview.

Some of those files are lists of interview questions for the different departments — indeed, the exact same ones I was asked the last time I applied. Is it cheating if I use that list to prepare for my interview? Furthermore, is it cheating if I share one of the lists with my friend, who is also a former seasonal employee looking to return (albeit in a different department)?

It is indeed cheating! You’re presumably not intended to see the questions and be able to prepare perfect answers for them ahead of time, and it would give you an unfair advantage over other candidates. A good litmus test: Would you feel comfortable telling them that you’d accessed the questions beforehand? Assuming not, there’s a reason for that!

It sounds like you’re in a good position to get re-hired there. Trust in that, and don’t jeopardize it (which this could, if they found out about it).

3. Contact asks for an in with my company but never follows up

A former direct report of mine has been asking for me to put in a good word at the sales job I’m currently at. He is working the same job I had at the old company I worked at, and he hates it. I told him that I’d be happy to, so I told the owner of the company (my direct boss) about him and he said, “Wow, Steve sounds great! Have him send in a resume.” So I tell him to do this, but he doesn’t send his resume over.

Two months later, he asks me if I can put in a good word again because his new job (that I didn’t know about) fell through. If he had told me he’d gotten a new job, I would have been able to say something to the owner to explain why his resume never appeared, but at this point I look pretty bad. Against my better judgement I decide to give him another chance to send his resume. He never does.

Three months later, he has sent me another email asking for help. What is the best way to turn him down, especially considering he claims to still think highly of me?

You can be pretty direct about this! For example: “The last two times you reached out about help with an in here, I asked you to send your resume but you didn’t — which made me look like a little flighty after I’d already talked to the owner about you. What happened?”

Or, if you don’t particularly want to discuss what happened, you can replace that last sentence with: “At this point I don’t think I can raise it again here.”

4. Company-wide thank-you writing

I just wanted to let you know that following your recent article about writing thank-you notes, I asked on Slack at work if anybody wanted to sit and write thank-you notes with me, and this snowballed into the CEO’s advisor and I organising a company-wide optional session. We collected everyone’s thank-you notes up and delivered them at the winter party yesterday afternoon.

It was a really beautiful thing. A few people were moved to tears by the cards they received. I think you’ve started a company tradition!

Thank you for the work you do, you’ve really helped me focus in on what kind of workplace culture I want to be in and how I can help build it.

This is lovely — thank you for sharing it!

Read an update to this letter here.

5. Interviewing with a group of other candidates

I am in the middle of a job search. I have an advanced degree and over 12 years experience in my current field.. I applied for a position and made it through the phone screen and an assessment. I have been invited for an in-person interview and to do a presentation. The presentation part is typical in my field. What is unusual for me is its a group interview — all the candidates will be there and interviewed together. I have not had this type of interview since … high school, when I applied for a bagger position at the local grocery store. In contrast, this is a corporate, mid-level position with a major company that has retail sites pretty much every where.

For some reason, this isn’t settling right with me. Is this a common practice now? Or is this a yellow flag?

Yes! Good companies don’t typically make professional candidates interview in groups, and it’s disrespectful of your time and expertise.

Your mention that they have retail sites might actually explain it. You do sometimes see group interviews in retail — but generally for in-store-sales positions, which isn’t what you’re applying for.

6. Did a recruiter lie to me about a job being filled?

A few weeks ago, I had an interview for a company I’ve been interested in for a long time. It went really well and I felt like the hiring manager and I had a good rapport. Two weeks later, the recruiter emailed to tell me they went with another candidate. I responded to say thank you and to please let me know if anything else comes up they felt I would be suitable for, as I was very interested in their company, and the recruiter said of course they would. Then a few hours later, I see the job has been reposted on LinkedIn! I emailed the recruiter again just to make sure it wasn’t a mistake or a position on a different team but haven’t heard back. I understand that employers can’t always give detailed feedback, but surely straight-up lying is out of order? Is this normal?

No, it’s not normal to flagrantly lie and say that a position has been filled when it really hasn’t been … but that’s not necessarily what happened here. It could have been reposted by someone outside the interviewing process who hasn’t yet been told that the job has been filled. Or “we went with another candidate” could mean “we’re in final talks with another candidate” or “we’re likely to make an offer to someone else, but that’s still in process” or “we picked someone else to keep talking with” or all sorts of other varieties.

{ 450 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, could you eat before folks head out for lunch, and then stick to bread or a salad or tea? I understand this may not be possible if they’re not diligent about separating prep tools/spaces (or if you’re very sensitive). But as someone who has often been unable to eat anything because of food allergies, I’ve found that it’s slightly less awkward if I can at least pretend to be participating in eating.

    1. TL -*

      I’ve been to restaurants where I also can’t eat anything on the menu and small fry places are the worst offenders – I can absolutely believe there’s nothing the OP can eat (and tea won’t be convincing.)

      I’m with Alison – pack your own lunch and just smile and say you have seafood allergies.

      1. Hills to Die on*

        I hope that bringing a packed lunch will call attention to the fact that this was a poor choice of venue, even if it’s a mental note.

        I think that eating a packed lunch is better than eating beforehand so that people see that you’re eating and don’t assume you’re being a snob or you have an eating disorder.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Yeah, I’d go with the packed lunch and a cheery, “Yeah, I’m deathly allergic to fish. And shellfish. And fries cooked in same oil.” It’s only drama if you aren’t eating for deep, mysterious reasons you refuse to reveal.

          1. No Parking or Waiting*

            And to keep anyone from being defensive on behalf of the restaurant owners, be sure to share that you called and talked to the owner or manager who was really helpful and really concerned so she made sure you knew they used the same oil…

            1. Anion*

              Yes. It wouldn’t hurt, IMO, to throw in a “But it all looks delicious, so do enjoy it, don’t worry about me!” as well, so you seem like you’re cheerfully going along instead of grumpily eating your own food and looking on in envy.

        2. Enthusiast*

          I would respectfully disagree that it’s a “poor choice of venue.” There’s no such thing as a venue that’s perfect for 100% of attendees. (Vegetarians won’t eat meat, people who keep kosher can’t eat pork, etc.) This sounds like a fun, unfussy venue for a Christmas party that many people will enjoy.

          LW should (1) call the venue and confirm that they really and truly can’t prepare anything for her. While OP called to specifically ask about French fries, she states, “I looked at the menu on their website and it’s pretty limited and they don’t seem like the kind of place that would go out of their way to accommodate special diets or be careful about preparing food.” I think the classic AAM question here is: has she explicitly asked? All we know for certain is that she’s ask how French fries are prepared, not whether they can accommodate allergies.

          Barring that, she can bring her own food. Most reasonable people aren’t going to care.

          1. Zweisatz*

            You know, if you ask me who’s likely more informed about LW’s options – the person who has been dealing with this condition for years or a random internet stranger – I’mma go with LW.

          2. oranges & lemons*

            For a company event, I think the onus is on the organizers to find something that will work for as broad a range of people as possible, though. A place that serves almost exclusively seafood is certainly going to be exclusionary to some people–vegetarians, people with allergies, people who keep Kosher, people who don’t like seafood, etc. I’ll bet there are others who aren’t thrilled with the venue but are putting up with it because it’s not life threatening.

          3. sugar cookies are the worst*

            There’s no such thing as a venue that’s perfect for 100% of attendees, true, but I think this particular venue doesn’t sound very good for a diverse group. There are multiple common health conditions that ask people to avoid fried food.

            When choosing a venue for a work event, I think it’s best to make sure there is a variety of options. At the very least, salads, sandwiches, customizable foods.

            I’d be extremely disappointed if my work was forcing me to go to a place that only offered fried foods. Especially if I had to bring my own food while everyone else got food provided for them.

          4. MusicWithRocksInIt*

            Seafood is never a good choice for group events. Never. I am sorry – I know some people really like Seafood – but in my experience just as many people don’t like seafood at all – I feel like in a group of ten people you are likely to get at least one person who doesn’t like it at all. It is also a very common allergy. There are so many places that have a variety of foods – and even so many places that have some seafood but lots of non-seafood things. A Seafood only restaurant is not a good idea unless you are certain everyone eats Seafood. Certain. I wish everyone would stop doing this to their coworkers/friends/family that can’t (or really don’t want to) eat seafood. I’m looking at you dad.

            1. TL -*

              My last job had a tradition of going to seafood place every year and it was a good one. It all depends on the group. (They did grilled and fried seafood.)

              But honestly, no one type of food is good for a group and with a large enough group you’re going to get the person who can’t eat there or who can only have 1 side or doesn’t like any of the options or it’ll be too pricey or something. No place will be perfect.

          5. Lady Luck*

            The OP already called the venue to check on their practices. She’s already made the appropriate risk assessment for herself. I have a severe peanut allergy. I’d never eat in a Thai restaurant, no matter what assurances they gave me, and any restaurant worth their salt that serves a large amount of my allergen would tell me they couldn’t safely serve me if I explicitly asked.

            It’s not that hard to accommodate people with food allergies or other dietary restrictions. You don’t need to pick a venue that is free of every allergen under the sun, just free of the allergens of the people in your group (or at least free enough that the cross contamination risk isn’t 99.99% and there’s a safe option on the menu for them). A seafood venue is always a bad choice anyway. They usually offer poor vegetarian options and the fish and shellfish are among the top 9 food allergens.

          6. This Daydreamer*

            The problem with that is that the LW would have to trust the restaurant with her life. That’s not fair to her or the restaurant.

          7. Dove*

            From LW1’s description, it’s a fish and chips shop. She obviously can’t eat the fish. She’s looked at the menu to see if there’s anything else that’s offered which wouldn’t be a cross-contamination risk and, from her comment that the menu is “pretty limited” and that she doesn’t feel like this is the kind of place that would go out of its way to accommodate anyone who can’t safely eat fish, it seems plausible to me that there’s no good options which would be satisfying; they may well not offer any food that doesn’t go into the deep fryer.

            So she took the next reasonable step and called to check if the fries would be safe enough to eat. And it turns out no, they’d be going into the same oil as all the fish. At that point, it isn’t reasonable to go on to ask if they could accommodate someone who has a seafood allergy – they’d be asking why someone who can’t eat the main draw of their menu is coming in at all, and it would be a *massive* undertaking for them to make sure any of the fryers were safe for her one order of fries; they’d have to completely change the oil and scrub down the fryer and all its components, and then make sure that no one used that fryer for fish until her order had been made.

            No one’s arguing that a little mom-and-pop shop needs to be able to serve every diet. I would never expect the excellent fried chicken shack in my in-laws’ area to suddenly start offering vegetarian options that are more substantial than the cartons of macaroni salad, potato salad, and coleslaw that they already offer; it would be a terrible business choice for them to make, and it’s not the main draw for their customer base.

            But however nice a little family-run restaurant might be for an office Christmas party, the onus is still on the company to ensure that there will be options that everyone can eat. The onus isn’t on OP to try and ask if the restaurant is willing to do a massive undertaking in order to accommodate her, and it’s certainly not on the restaurant to anticipate that someone with an allergy to their main draw would come in and want to be fed.

          8. Grok*

            Sorry, but in Australia now, there are heaps of restaurants, if not most that have menus catering to a variety of allergies and dietary requirements such as gluten, nuts, lactose, soy, shellfish / fish, vegan, vegetarian etc. Even Maccas! – The menus here in the majority (90%+) are vastly different and there are warnings /advice against each menu item, such as contains nuts or Vegan dish or gluten free etc.

            Would not have been hard to select a venue more diverse in its offerings, but am going to guess that whoever booked left it until far too late to get a normal restaurant, as it sounds pretty poor given what is available in the general community.

            I will say I’m disappointed the LW is saying “fries” when they are “chips”. LW must some blow in from the USA.

            LW – there is a damn good chance that a good percentage attending have other allergies like gluten etc, and their eating will also be discreet and selective, so don’t worry. Go have fun, don’t get drunk and don’t kiss anybody, and wear underpants.

            1. Aussie Anon*

              I’m also confused by the “mom n pop place” and also shellfish (most Australians would just say seafood).

              OP, I’m guessing you’re new to Australia. Trust me, people won’t judge you for bringing your own food. We’re very laid back when it comes to Christmas parties.

          9. Kara_Lynn*

            “Vegetarians don’t eat meat, people who keep kosher can’t eat pork.”

            Yes, this is true. And yet there are restaurants that will satisfy both groups.

            Seafood is usually the worst possible choice. Vegetarians won’t eat there, people who keep kosher won’t eat there, and many meat eaters don’t like seafood either.

            The real problem is people who like seafood LOVE seafood and often try to force it on others. It’s really a niche food and should be treated that way.

      2. snuck*

        Yup. Another agreeing (I’m an Aussie… if that adds weight?)….
        Just pack your own and go with a smile on your dial.

        We’re not precious about stuff in Australia normally. I get frustrated when someone tells me not to bother, that they’ve got the catering covered, they will keep me safe… and then don’t… but I’ve learnt this is sort of hte norm, and just pack my own. Smiles all around then.

        If you want to join in the junk food extravaganza then consider going 15mins early, in your own car, and grabbing chicken and chips on the way instead so you can still do the whole “fish and chips by the ocean” or whatever experience… just to your own needs.

        Mind you… most chicken places cross contaminate with fish now too…

        1. HannahS*

          Yeah, I was also going to suggest bringing fired chicken and french fries, if the OP really wants to fit in as much as possible. But any food should be fine. I’d also recommend bringing her own paper plate + cutlery and napkins….and I’d actually also recommend not telling the restaurant in advance that she’s bringing her own food. If the server bugs her, tell them she has a serious seafood allergy. Frankly, they’re very unlikely to forbid someone in a large, pre-paid party from eating her own food outside, but if she calls in advance they’re more likely to say no.

    2. all aboard the anon train*

      People are going to be more likely to gossip if the OP eats beforehand rather than bringing a lunch to eat with everyone else.

      I have coworkers who have gluten allergies and whenever we get pizza or sandwiches, they always bring their own food and no one bats an eye (aside from the same two jerks who are all “don’t you like pizza?????” every single time). It raises more questions when people sit at their desks and don’t join in on a team lunch event.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        The eating before is a safeguard in case the restaurant doesn’t allow outside food. I agree that it’s preferable to eat with everyone else. But if OP literally cannot anything there, and if the restaurant is strict about outside food, then better to eat lunch at one’s desk ahead of time than to be ravenous during a group lunch.

        1. snuck*

          I’ve yet to meet a restaurant that didn’t allow outside food for severe food allergies. If the OP is worried she could ring first and explain… but she’s highly unlikely to face a problem about it.

          1. Buu*

            I was going to say if no one in the company will organise for for OP1 they should discreetly ring the restaurant explain they have allergies and clear it with them.

            1. cryptid*

              The kind of venue this is would be like having outside food at the picnic tables outside of a fast food place. I wouldn’t bother to call the place, just bring your own.

              1. Parenthetically*

                Yeah, I wouldn’t worry about this particular restaurant — picnic tables by the ocean isn’t near fancy enough to worry, IMO.

          2. sssssssssss*

            That’s not a given. I was denied to bring in my own food for my allergic son to a breakfast place (lots of dairy there), so we didn’t go and that restaurant lost revenue as mom and dad weren’t allergic, someone else was paying (FIL) and we would have indulged ourselves.

            1. InkyPinky*

              Restaurants have to follow health regulations. Outside food usually isn’t permitted. Getting a citation or shut down will cost them far more money than what they would have made off you.

              1. JHunz*

                This is a state-by-state thing, not uniformly covered. Personal food doesn’t break health codes everywhere as long as it does not enter the kitchen and is not served to other patrons.

              2. ECHM*

                When the friend who was going to make my wedding cake met me at a restaurant for our discussion, staff wouldn’t let her bring the cake in in case I got sick from eating it and sued the restaurant. (Not that I would, but you can never be too careful I guess!)

              3. TL -*

                I have done it, but I always do it discretely and don’t explain or apologize to anybody in the restaurant; I just break out my food and eat.
                (I also sneak food into movie theaters, but I legit can’t eat anything from the snack counter but water, so I feel vindicated.)

            2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

              It depends on how this place is set up. Bringing food inside of a restaurant is a little different then bringing it to an outside eating area with picnic benches. If there is a waitstaff serving food at the picnic benches they are more likely to be strict about this – but if you go up and order your food then sit down then odds are you can bring your own food.

          3. The Cosmic Avenger*

            I have yet to see a restaurant that allowed any outside food other than maybe a birthday cake. But this is in the northeastern US. And really, I don’t blame them, they’re not a picnic venue, and they can’t vouch for the safety of outside food. (I don’t think it’s unreasonable either way, actually. It’s up to the restaurant owner to decide what she thinks is reasonable, to explain it as well as possible, and to make exceptions as they see fit.)

          4. Mephyle*

            OP already called them to ask about the oil for the fries. Their reply shows that they are responsive and honest. It would be reasonable to call them and ask about permission to bring outside food because of allergies.

        2. Chriama*

          I think this is a “ask forgiveness, not permission” situation. She’s here with a large party. If the restaurant kicks her out they risk alienating a big corporate customer. I would assume that *of course* it’s fine for her to bring her own food than to drive the entire company to another venue to accommodate the one person who can’t eat what they brought, and present it like that if anyone tries to kick up a fuss.

      2. JessaB*

        Someone needs to tell those two jerks to freaking stop already. Even if the person who they’re saying it to doesn’t feel like calling them on it, food shaming/commenting/snarking about, whatever needs to stop. It’s not nice, it’s not fun and it’s certainly not required of the “don’t eat pizza” set, to have to keep explaining why, whether for allergies/sensitivity to gluten, a mustard allergy like me (pepperoni in the US has mustard flour in it,) or they literally do not like pizza or are on a low carb diet, to keep hearing this and hearing this. And to think they have to justify their behaviours about food.

        1. all aboard the anon train*

          One of them is pretty high up the chain and the other is also a manager, so there’s really not much anyone can say since we’ve already done the “Coworker has allergies”. They just think they’re being really funny commenting on it because they’re of the “everyone loves pizza!” mindset.

      1. samgarden*

        Bread baskets and baked potatoes are really not a thing here (I think I’ve only seen a bread basket at a restaurant once in my life). Especially at ‘fish n chips by the water’ type places. Salad may be doable, but maybe not? I am vegetarian and went to a seafood restaurant once (not my choice) and there was literally one thing on the menu I could eat! From memory, I think it was broccoli.
        Too hard to navigate- just BYO lunch I reckon :/

      2. Dove*

        It’s a fish and chips shop with outdoor seating. While I’m not Australian, there’s similar enough restaurants where my in-laws live that it seems pretty likely to me that there might not *be* anything on the menu that isn’t going in the deep fryer (except for beverages, which are probably in bottles and cans) and a baked potato might not even be something their kitchen could make; if it’s small enough, the kitchen might only have deep fryers and prep stations, and they probably don’t offer table snacks for customers – this wouldn’t be a sit-down restaurant, this is closer to a food truck with a permanent location.

        1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

          I’m imagining that it’s like a British fish and chip place. In such an environment it may well be that the deep fryer is the only cooking equipment in the place and everything goes in it, even the pies! They probably don’t have any food that isn’t fried from frozen or otherwise prepped in advance, so all the fries are pre-cut and frozen, for instance, not made fresh from raw potatoes.

    3. Kimberly*

      I’ve been in the same situation. One time the preferred caterer refused to take the contract for a staff lunch after being asked to accommodate me (I warned the person not to bother in part because this restaurant has an excellent reputation for ethics and is upfront about their culinary choice).

      As long as you won’t react to airborne particles or by touch, I would eat before, go for short time, be cheerful with a yea it is hard leaving near the ocean and having this allergy, and leave a bit early (so you don’t have to have the but you can eat the cake made in the same kitchen argument over dessert).

      The 2nd step depends on so many factors about the differences between the US and Austrailia and normal jobs and working in a school like I did. You might consider having your doctor help you draw an Emergency Action Plan. EAPs spell out what people should do if you have a serious medical condition. I have one in my wallet (and in the emergency medical section of my phone), at my gym, with my good neighbors, one on my frig and where I volunteer. Before I retired I had one at work.

      So many jerks lie about allergies because they don’t want to do something/eat somewhere – that some people figure everyone is lying. I find having a plan on doctor letterhead cuts down on that nonsense.

      I actually find Mom and Pop places are safer for me – unless the whole theme is around my allergy.

  2. Ramona Flowers*

    #1 “I think she interpreted my concerns as me just being a snob about the cheap and cheerful venue choice”

    Classic AAM question coming at you. Have you clearly and directly told her that’s not the case and you’re allergic to the food?

    If not, it might be worth saying so – her reaction may be different if she knows. Or not, as people can suck about allergies, but it wasn’t clear from your letter.

    1. Decimus*

      Related question – how allergic are you? If you’re going to break out in hives if someone breathes on you, you really should avoid going (health comes first). Otherwise putting in an appearance might be best, hard as it will be on you.

      1. Scotty Smalls*

        Yeah, don’t go if there’s a possibility that Fergus will shell his shrimp and then touch you. (Eww) and you’ll have a reaction.

        1. No Parking or Waiting*

          Oh crap, yeah. That’s a hands-on place. and shaking hands and the dreaded holiday hug after the party as you say your goodbyes.

      2. Lance*

        Yeah, that’s kind of what I was thinking. Depending on the severity of the allergy, being around that much seafood, and the people eating it, could potentially be an issue.

      3. Specialk9*

        Hey, fyi, “but really, I’m not sure you’ve considered this carefully despite the fact that you’ve scrutinized the menu, called the restaurant to research, AND written into an online work etiquette maven… But are you REALLY allergic? Like allergic-allergic? Are you sure? You might not have thought this through enough. Maybe you should just eat the food and pack Benadryl.” Is tremendously hugely unhelpful, and disrespectful to anyone with allergies. If you’re ever tempted to go this route again, with anyone, on any medical thing, DON’T. They are experts on their own bodies and medical issues, trust them to know their limits and don’t try to persuade away their serious health concerns.

        The one thing you CAN do, but only when you are the one cooking /arranging for food, is to ask for specifics on the accommodation they need.

        1. Hills to Die on*

          I thought she was just saying that OP should consider not going at all if her allergies are airbourne as well, or if they are life threatening. She didn’t tell OP to take some Benadryl and deal.

        2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          Woooow, I can understand why you posted this here, as you’re right, but I think you’re totally misreading what Decimus was tryng to say and being way harsh. Decimus isn’t trying to get OP to persuade away a serious health concern; if anything, they’re doing he opposite by emphasizing to OP that if their allergy is severe, they should consider not going at all despite the apparent social cost. I think that’s a reasonable thing to add to this conversation and didn’t deserve to be swatted down as “suggesting they eat the food and pack a Benedryl.” If you’re going to publicly shame someone for med-splaining others, please read the full comment first.

          1. Decimus*

            Well, that escalated quickly…

            Yeah, I definitely was not suggesting the LW just deal. The LW seemed in their letter to suggest they had no choice but going; I just wanted to encourage them that deciding to not go was a real option if their health was at risk. But judging health risks is something people need to decide for themselves.

            1. JessaB*

              This, I know a gal with a shrimp allergy that cannot be in a house where it’s being cooked because even in another room it shares air ducts and the volatile oils in the air will send her into life threatening shock. A seafood place where they do tables of food (I’m thinking like in New England with a Lobster boil, or in Florida with crab claws piled up on a table,) or just everyone has plates, and people are just walking around talking and touching each other shaking hands or stuff, and transferring particles of food all over, would be deadly to her.

              Obviously the OP knows best whether they can hang around this place, they’ve checked the menu and know whether just being at the same table is a danger or not. Also whether their office is a bunch of touchy feely air kiss kind of place at holiday parties.

            2. Specialk9*

              Ah, sorry, I totally misunderstood your comment, my apologies! I’ve seen/heard lots of people try to argue down allergies, and it’s a sore spot because of family deathly allergies. But it seems you were very much not doing that. Apologies!

              1. Bryce*

                I had the same reaction, but halfway through my angerpost last night I reread the comment and realized what they were actually saying. Yeah, it’s something we tend to get defensive about.

        3. Not In US*

          I have to disagree (and I’m deadly allergic to a food, mildly to moderately allergic to a few others and intolerant of some thing else). I have learned to be very explicit with all of this and the degree of difference; however, if the OP wasn’t fully clear I’m not surprised someone may not be getting it. I used to be less clear and ran into problems regularly because so many people have “allergies” that are really preferences and if you deal with that too often then you start to dismiss all allergies – even the real ones as not that important. I was in my late 20’s before I finally started to get explicit and unapologetic (mostly) about my allergies. They are what they are, I’m very blunt about it because otherwise I get very sick. It sounds like OP may be approaching the telling of the organizers in the way I would have in my early 20s – aka not clearly enough and they aren’t getting it.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            “They are what they are, I’m very blunt about it because otherwise I get very sick. It sounds like OP may be approaching the telling of the organizers in the way I would have in my early 20s – aka not clearly enough and they aren’t getting it.”

            I get the same sense.

            I don’t have allergies, but there are other things about my diet or my health that I need to tell people/restaurants from time to time. I’m not shy about it or apologetic (most of the time). It is what it is, it’s a part of me, and it isn’t going to change. I don’t think it’s anything to be embarrassed or shy about; that’s how misunderstandings happen.

          2. Jesca*

            I don’t know how explicit OP has been, but I get what you are saying!

            A few years ago I was managing a group of interns. They all knew each other really because they were in the same degree program at their college. One of them had a very serious peanut allergy. The other interns would sit right beside him and eat it! Granted he wasn’t air-born affected, but was enough that if peanut residue got on the table and then he touched it, it would have required an ambulance and epipen! And I said “hey woah you CANNOT eat that here!” And the guy with allergy said, “No, it is fine” and regaled me with stories of how people have pranked him with peanut butter! And that it was OK cuz he always had an epi pen! I said “No! It is certainly NOT fine”, and made the other interns leave. I told him that is was OK to assert boundaries for your own health!!! So yeah, that was my experience with a younger person not being clear about his needs. I think we can be that way with alot of things when younger. I hoped how serious I took it made him realize it is ok for him to assert boundaries even with his “friends”.

        4. Case of the Mondays*

          I started to have the same response as you specialK9 and then I realized the “how allergic are you” question was to warn her about the possibility of reacting after sitting around all of that seafood. It was more concern, not less.

        5. The Other Dawn*

          I didn’t read it that way at all. I think Decimus is simply saying that there are differing levels of “allergic.” And if it’s very severe, OP should not attend rather than putting her health at risk like that.

        6. Courtney*

          Irony – the fact that this comment is also unhelpful and kind of disrespectful. Because if you’d taken a moment to read the full comment you’re responding to, you would have realized it’s saying the opposite of what you think.

          1. Lance*

            The problem appears to be, Specialk9 is reading Decimus’s comment as sarcasm (which I can see as a potentially easy impression to get, unfortunate though it us), and not taking it for what it is, as genuine advice.

            1. Specialk9*

              No, I missed the part in the middle and just read it (wrongly) as “how allergic are you? Putting in an appearance might be best, hard as it will be on you.” But I missed the “If you’re going to break out in hives if someone breathes on you, you really should avoid going (health comes first).” Which was pretty much the core of Decimus’ point, and reflects badly on my reading comprehension!

              So again, Decimus, totally on me, I was completely wrong.

    2. all aboard the anon train*

      I was coming here to ask this, too! I definitely questioned whether or not OP’s boss understood that the OP had allergies.

      OP, if you did mention having allergies, did you just say “I have allergies” or did you say, “I’m allergic to all seafood and shellfish, so I can’t eat anything on the menu or I’ll be sick/get hives/go into shock/etc.”? A lot of people who don’t have food allergies, or who don’t know anyone with them, don’t realize how allergies vary by person or how severe they can be.

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        It’s always good to say ‘severe’ – I have severe food allergies. I have a seafood allergy too – and people always seem to grasp it better if I say severe. People can be… cynical about food allergies and restrictions these days – and I’ve found that severe gets the idea across that there will be a unpleasant hospital visit at the end of the night if people try to play fast and loose with my allergy. I would cheerfully say “I have a severe seafood allergy – and they cook everything here in the same oil, so nothing is safe for me”. If anyone pushes after that, I make jokes about them driving me to the emergency room – nobody wants that, and it has always shut up the doubters.

        1. Penfold*

          I’ve also resorted to seriously saying that I find anaphylaxis and a trip to the ER really ruins my day, followed by an offer to teach them how to administer epinephrine.

          1. Mike C.*

            I like how you directly force people to consider the consequences of their potential lack of consideration.

          2. Specialk9*

            I was going to suggest the same. Pack your own food to the picnic, in advance brief a coworker on how to administer Epipen, and place it on the table (on a clean napkin). I suspect they’ll get the message for next time.

          3. Mischa*

            I also have a severe shellfish allergy. When people ask, “How bad is it, really?” I ask them if they know where the closest hospital is. That usually gets them to shut up.

            1. Anion*

              I don’t meant to tell you how to feel/think, Mischa, and I trust that you know what these people’s attitude is better than I, but… I have a friend with a gluten allergy, and before she came to stay with me I asked her outright the same question, because I honestly needed to know. I bake a lot; there was the distinct possibility of loose flour particles in my kitchen, frex, so I needed to know just how thorough a cleaning/scrubbing I had to give everything.* Did I need to boil the utensils, tools, etc.? Did I need to put away the crocks of AP and bread flour on the counter, or were they fine as long as I didn’t open them, or was it fine as long as I didn’t actually put flour in her food?

              So some of us ask this question just to help us make sure that you’re taken care of, and that we don’t inadvertently give you something that may have trace amounts of [allergen] in them. If I’m cooking for someone with an allergy, or even cooking food that might be eaten by someone with an allergy, I get pretty militant (and actually, I bought all-new utensils to make challah bread for a kosher friend, just to be safe), but it is easier to know if, as with my friend (or with my own capsicum allergy), trace amounts are okay.

              *I realize this makes it sound kind of like my kitchen was dirty. I promise it was cleaned daily, but when you use a mixer often, flour/sugar/whatever can get everywhere, and there was always the possibility that some was in a crack or behind the deep fryer or on top of a little-used backing dish or something.

          4. JessaB*

            Oh I am very clear when I’m around people in a place where my allergies could be a problem about how to find and use my epi pen and chewable benadryl.

          5. Mints*

            Yeah, when I worked summer camp sometimes other parents would complain about “special snow flake allergies” or “kids these days are allergic to everything” and I’d respond “We have a camper who will literally be hospitalized if she gets too close to peanuts.” It’s not just whining! She’s (not exaggerating) deathly allergic

            1. Kimberly*

              Again – having a letter from a doctor helps short-circuit these. When I get the we didn’t have these allergies when I was a kid response you are all just pretending, I say – yea most of us died and it was put down to kid choked without an autopsy. I’ve had multiple doctors tell me they are shocked I survived my first reaction in the late 60s. Mom was a medical researcher and our next door neighbor was a nurse – that saved my life.

              Now my 1st cousin’s grandson was diagnosed with blood test because he had major risk factors. He never had a reaction because he was protected. By the time he was 6 he tested negative because his immune system corrected itself.

              1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

                I was just discussing this with a friend of mine! People always say that there weren’t this many allergies back in the day – but the childhood mortality rates were also wayyy higher! It’s not that they weren’t there, it’s just that children randomly dying was common enough that no one looked that closely.

                1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

                  Such an important point that gets missed way too often!

                  I live in an area that was historically all about mining, and I hear this kind of thing from people whose parents or grandparents were miners. It may be true that back in “the good old days” nobody wore safety gear and the kids played on the spoil heap, but also every village around here has a disaster story, many of those kids died young, and many more grew up without a grandfather because he died of black lung while their parents were still children.

          6. Totally Minnie*

            I typically respond with something like “Oh, I don’t have time for a night in the hospital this week.” That’s usually enough to get the other person’s attention and signal that food allergies are serious business.

        2. Mine Own Telemachus*

          I have an intolerance, not an allergy, but people still like to play fast and loose with it, so I will often make jokes about having gastrointestinal distress all over their floor if they try to sneak milk into my food. I find provoking extremely unpleasant imagery can really get the point across to even the most stubborn of folks.

      2. SAHM*

        I’m wondering if she should go to her manager and let her know that she’ll be bringing her own lunch, ‘but just in case, here is where I keep my epipen and this is how you administer it to me.’ That way the manager knows the severity of the allergy and maybe will stop thinking of OP as a special snowflake, as well as having someone higher up know how to administer the epipen in case of emergency.

    3. Amy*

      I agree that this is a good thing to do. “I’m very allergic and can’t eat anything on the menu” is a different thing than “I don’t like the venue choice.” Since it sounds like you’re not sure how your manager interpreted your question, I think it’s worth clarifying; most people understand that medical restrictions are different than snobbery. (If your manager is one of the jerks that doesn’t accept allergies as a serious reality, I’m sorry you have to put up with them.)

      I do think you should plan to go, though. It sounds like it would be weird in your company’s culture for you to skip it. Maybe you bring your own food, maybe you stick to a drink, whatever you’re comfortable with. If people ask why you’re not eating, “I’m allergic to seafood and don’t want to take any chances” is entirely reasonable, and not nearly juicy enough to inspire much gossip.

      (Exception to the going thing: If your allergy is severe enough that a coworker who’d been touching seafood touching your arm, or generally being in a space with seafoodiness in the air, could set it off, then you should skip the event entirely. You should explain very explicitly that your allergy is so severe that being around that much seafood is actively dangerous for you, but you shouldn’t jeopardize your health for the sake of company culture.)

    4. Mookie*

      I’d also ring back the restaurant and ask them a more direct question, as well, which is not “what regular menu items will not pose a risk for me, as someone with a fish and shellfish allergy?” but “can you plan to accommodate me [in this fashion, whatever that’s worked for you in the past with other restaurants]?” being sure to mention you’re going to be part of a large corporate party, where the menu tends to be smaller and fixed, and the date of the lunch itself. What you’re asking for is not unusual or unduly inconvenient for restaurants based around a commonly-restricted and/or allergenic ingredient: if they frequently host large company meals, they probably have encountered this before. Giving them a heads-up is usually appreciated. Unless this is a buffet, waitstaff will notice a patron who declines to order anything or does not touch their meal.

      1. ..Kat..*

        As someone with food intolerances (unpleasant reaction) as opposed to food allergies (life threatening – people die from these), I still would not trust a restaurant such as this with my meal. They could easily be like OP’s manager and just not get it.

        If it is risky for you to be around people who touch seafood/shrimp and then touch you, don’t go. If you could be safe in this scenario, consider bringing your own food, and disposable plate/napkins/silverware. Plus, at least two EpiPens.

          1. TootsNYC*

            they are also probably FAR too busy to be properly careful.

            You just don’t dick around with this stuff.

        1. Steph*

          FYI, some intolerances are far more than “unpleasant”. I have family members with severe coeliac disease (an intolerance to gluten) who will need hospitalizing should they ingest bread. I know there’s been a trend lately to “make sure you say it’s an allergy, not “just” an intolerance”, but intolerances can be quite serious (just as allergies can be mild).

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            And allergies don’t have to be life threatening–most people are allergic to poison ivy, for example, and it wouldn’t be okay to rub poison ivy on everyone at the company holiday party because, hey, it’s not like anyone dies from that.

            1. Susanne*

              My sensitivity to shellfish is technically an intolerance rather than an allergy – if I eat more than a bite or two, I will start to vomit immediately (as in, afraid I won’t make it to the bathroom in time). Once I do, I’m fine afterwards, and I suffer no life-threatening issues such as my throat closing up or being unable to breathe. Nonetheless, it’s strong enough that the fact that it’s not life-threatening is immaterial to me!! I hope the OP is able to find a solution, but more importantly I hope she finds her “voice” and is unafraid to clearly and unequivocally state to her coworkers that she has a serious allergy and is simply unable to eat the food there, the end, not up for discussion or further queries.

          2. TL -*

            Intolerance doesn’t actually have a medical definition (as far as I know) but it means your body has trouble digesting the food.
            Allergy: your immune system reacts to the food like it is an invader. It is not necessarily life threatening but could escalate to life threatening with repeated exposure (this is why I have an epipen for a mild peanut allergy; peanut allergies have a tendency to escalate quickly.)
            Celiac’s: An autoimmune disorder where ingesting gluten causes your body to attack itself. It works via a different part of the immune system than allergies and cannot cause anaphylatic shock but can cause sever damage with long-term consequences.

          3. Jennifer Thneed*

            Part of that is how “allergy” is defined, and it’s a fairly new word, coined in the early 20th century. It is, specifically, an immune response, which translates to a histamine response. By this thinking, gut reactions are by definition not allergies.

            But we’re starting to understand that our guts have their own immune systems, and I suspect that our understanding of how “allergies” manifest will be expanded over the next few decades.

        2. Alton*

          Even if they’re sympathetic to the seriousness, people who aren’t used to accommodating an allergy/intolerance don’t always consider non-obvious things that could be an issue, so I think it’s safer not to depend too much on that.

          1. Becca*

            Heck, I worked at a rather upscale steakhouse for a while. They were serious about allergies. We got a question about a nut allergy, and the customer ordered a dessert that didn’t have nuts. The problem? We baked it on cardboard that came with a different dessert that *did* have nuts. Apparently nobody had thought of that before me. (It turned out they weren’t that allergic, and in all honesty if they were they probably wouldn’t order any desserts for fear it came in contact with a nutty dessert, but I’m glad I had the server ask before serving it, just in case!)

            Relatedly: if you’re vegan your server probably won’t think to ask whether your salad dressing is sweetened with honey (though vegans disagree among themselves on that one), and the cook may not either.

            I’ve found that I’m the outlier in thinking about these things, and I’m sure there are things I don’t think about either, because while I have a number of dislikes I don’t have any ethical, religious, or health related restrictions.

            1. Turtle Candle*

              I am sorry to say that for YEARS I thought that oyster sauce was like duck sauce—named for what it originally went on, not what it was made from. It is only pure stupid luck that I didn’t poison someone with a shellfish allergy by accident.

              1. Silberraben*

                My partner is severely allergic to a number of foods so I knew the oyster sauce one.

                But did you know that quinoa contains albumen the same protein in eggs.
                So if you know someone with an egg allergy please do not give them quinoa.

        3. Zweisatz*

          Yupp, I wouldn’t trust the restaurant. Also it gets tiring to always discuss your food and come up with solutions. Sometimes I just want to be able to eat beforehand and drink something when I’m there.

      2. Observer*

        This is a seafood restaurant. If they generally use the same fryers for everything, it’s going to be extremely difficult for them to accommodate something like a fish allergy.

        1. Specialk9*

          The accommodation I’d expect is not hassling the OP for bringing their own food to eat at the picnic table.

          The restaurant where I had my wedding reception was amazing about cleaning every surface beforehand (toddler with life threatening allergies, eek!!), training servers again on allergy protocols and on which kid specifically and which allergies, and allowing the kids in that family to eat home cooked food (that looked similar to the restaurant food). There was no hassle at all, in fact they were so lovely in all ways that we still go on the regular.

          That said, it was a nicer place with dedicated party planning staff and actual trained chefs, in a state with strict allergy rules for restaurants. I wouldn’t expect as much from a fish-and-chips picnic table place. So not hassling for outside food is likely the most to expect.

        2. Kimberly*

          The restaurant is not doing anything wrong. I doubt the LW would be comfortable in any seafood restaurant. I cross the mall food court to stay away from a restaurant that uses peanut oil. I wear thin jackets and long pants to sporting events (even in Texas Heat), on planes*, and other places that either have peanuts as tradition or are very close quarters with people snacking. Unless a restaurant lies about their food – culinary choices are just that. I would rather a restaurant tell me Don’t even step in our door we can’t accommodate you (actual quote) than lie to me.

          The problem here is the LW’s employer not taking a potentially deadly situation seriously. Given the attitude of people lie about allergies to get what they want, I find official paperwork helps. Helped me with an idiot principal for a while (other issues with him), it helped the TSA trying to confiscate my EPI pen and other situations.

          *Most US airlines are actually pretty good at trying to accommodate peanut allergy but they can’t control the guy who is eating a granola bar or chocolate candy that doesn’t have peanuts but does have a may contain traces warning.

      3. copy run start*

        I think the hard part with this one is that the restaurant’s theme is exactly what OP#1 is allergic too. I have a chicken intolerance. I don’t go to KFC or the local chicken dive to eat because there’s nothing else on the menu and everything likely has been contaminated by chicken (which will leave me chained to the toilet for at least 48 hours). If all this place really sells is seafood and sides, there may not be anything in the restaurant to accommodate OP with. It also is a mom and pop shop, so they may not have a spare grill or fryer they can clean and use exclusively to prepare something for OP.

        With a larger restaurant or one with a more variable menu, I think it’s very reasonable to ask for an accommodation. But in this case it doesn’t sound like they’re that interested in being accommodating based on the first conversation. I think pointedly bringing separate food and explaining why is the best bet. OP can order a soda or a side and pass it to someone else.

        1. Antilles*

          This. If it was a place which served all sorts of food and also happened to have seafood on the menu (e.g., chain American restaurants like Chili’s or whatever), they could probably accommodate OP, but a seafood-specific restaurant is highly unlikely to be able to avoid cross-contamination.

          1. K.*

            Yeah, odds are great that this is the case at a casual fish-fry place. They almost certainly use the same fryers, utensils, cooking equipment, etc. for everything. My brother has a seafood allergy and I would never take him to a place like this – it’s not the same as a restaurant that has all kinds of stuff on the menu including seafood. My brother and I can go to a Mexican restaurant and he can get pork tacos and I can get fish tacos, but a fish fry place is, well, full of fish.

      4. kittymommy*

        I was thinking this as well. I have a severe (anaphylaxis pretty quickly) to shellfish and avocado. I alsi eat out A LOT and I have found most restaurants both high and low end very accomadting, even making off menu items and keeping everything, utensils and all separate. I habe had to wait a little longer for my meals sometimes, but nobody has killed ne yet! I have friend with celiac and I think the only time she has had an issue is once in a puzza joint.

      5. Artemesia*

        No way you can trust a place like this. The only safe choices are for the OP to bring her own food if she can be in the vicinity of sea food or to stay home if she will be sensitive to smell and touch as some are with this allergy. There are restaurants that are very aware and careful; I have a sensitivity that is not an allergy but I get sick if I eat the offending thing. I always clarify that it is not a true allergy and that proximity or even use in stock is not a big issue but I can’t eat the actual thing. BUT a seaside seafood fry shack is not going to be a place that would be able to be reliably reassuring about this. And who goes to a seafood shack if they are allergic to sea food? So the OP is in the odd position of being compelled to go to a place that she would otherwise avoid.

    5. MK*

      I think the snob impression has to do with the OP saying “they don’t seem like the kind of place that would go out of their way to accommodate special diets or be careful about preparing food”. Which frankly does have an element of snobbery to it; the OP is basically saying that there wouldn’t be a problem if the restaurant was more fancy.

      1. Bryce*

        From personal experience, if a place is part of a chain they usually have corporate guidelines to take seriously (whether they do or not is another matter). If they’re a shack it varies wildly, best case is if they have someone with allergies on staff or (sadly) if they had some accident in the past and take it more seriously now. I’ve known some great small local places that have bent over backwards to accommodate me and my mother (I’m peanuts/nuts/chocolate, she’s gluten), some that have been understanding but unable to do anything simply due to how they’re set up, and some that haven’t had a clue, put the GF pizza dough on the floury baking sheet and such.

        1. Gen*

          Weirdly we recently went to a massive nationally famous fish & chips chain and they had nothing in place for allergies at all, while the mom & pop style place down the road can cater for pretty much anything. Unless I’m reading incorrectly OP said they already called the place to ask if they kept a separate allergen free fryer and they don’t. I think OPs best option is to call them back and clarify (with dates of the event and their allergies) whether they can bring outside food. In a place where 90% of the food is an allergen it’s often more than just ‘keeping one area clean’. Though since her allergies include shellfish I’d be concerned with skin reactions- OP do you react to these things by touch or just by digestion? I’ve known people who go into anaphylaxis just by sitting at a very greasy wooden fish & chip shop table. If that’s the case don’t go, but maybe mention it (cheerfully if you can) to others when the team sets off “sorry, can’t go, don’t wanna end up in hospital! Have fun!” (Ymmv with something like this, obviously temper your wording for your culture!)

      2. Observer*

        Or maybe the OP is saying that there would be less of a problem if the place didn’t cook everything in the same utensils, and if they had a different attitude.

        1. KRM*

          Okay, but the OP also can’t expect that a small operation will take the time and cost to thoroughly clean out one of their fryers in order to ensure that OP can eat…french fries. And what if they don’t clean it enough because they’re not experienced with cleaning/sterilizing for allergies? OP should bring their own food and just say “severe seafood allergy, this is easier for everyone!” if asked.

          1. HannahS*

            She doesn’t! She called and asked. It literally says in her letter that she knows small operations often can’t accommodate her. I’m not enjoying the implication on this wee subthread that a woman who’s trying to keep herself alive is being snobbish or unreasonable.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              Seriously. If you have severe food restrictions, after a while, you can tell pretty accurately from a phone call to a place or even by looking at their menu how equipped or willing they are to accommodate your restrictions. You’re not always right about it, but I’d say the gut feeling I get from looking at a place’s menu that they can’t or won’t accommodate me is about 98% accurate. That’s not me being a snob–some places just can’t do anything given their menu or setup, and some places make the business decision not to, which is totally their right.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            In that case, there’s nothing snobbish about the OP pointing out that they can’t accommodate her allergy when they literally cannot accommodate her allergy. This is exactly why she’s worried about being taken as snobbish, because stating that she can’t eat anything must be a deliberate ploy on her part to insult local fish restaurants.

          3. Observer*

            The OP never implied that they should. But the bottom line is that what the OP says is not snobbery, but a sober assessment of the reality that they simply cannot expect them to accommodate the allergy and therefore cannot eat ANYTHING, except perhaps a sealed drink, using a straw or plastic cup.

          4. aebhel*

            Uh, exactly. That would mean that it’s not the kind of place that can accommodate her allergies, so it’s not snobbery to say so.

        2. Traveling Teacher*

          Yes, and isn’t it against health codes to do this anyway? I know someone with life-threatening seafood allergies, and the health codes say that you’re not supposed to cook things in the same fryers/oil, but so. many. restaurants. still do that he hasn’t been to a restaurant that serves seafood of any kind in nearly half a century.

          1. A Non E. Mouse*

            Yes, and isn’t it against health codes to do this anyway?

            Oil is rotated as it gets older from one fryer to the next; but if a place is small enough they can just have one or two fryers to begin with and not have a rotation schedule.

            Honestly fries should be the first thing cooked in the oil in their own special vat, then it get filtered/rotated to progressively…er, darker colored operations until it’s cycled out. Fish with a gritty breading on it (like cornmeal) should be the last fryer in the rotation, since the oil will be filthy and have to be thrown out after it’s been in there. So theoretically the place is too small to accommodate, if they cook the fries in the same fryer as the fish.

            I worked at a chain seafood place back in my teenage years (back when you rode dinosaurs to work) and we had a set oil filter/rotate schedule, as did another chain seafood place nearby.

            Also: I wouldn’t have trusted it to accommodate, even though we had non-seafood items on the menu. It was technically feasible to accommodate, but we weren’t *TRAINED* to do so, so the likelihood of cross contamination in the kitchen was high – and that’s not even taking into account the lack of decontamination of common surfaces like the tables, condiment dispensers, etc.

      3. Liane*

        “I think the snob impression has to do with the OP saying they don’t seem like the kind of place that would go out of their way to accommodate special diets or be careful about preparing food.'”

        OP didn’t write that she told her manager that, so how do you know she put it that way to manager? Maybe OP said, “Everyone says Cap’n Allergy’s Galley has the BEST seafood & is so fun! But I am allergic to seafood–I’ll end up in hospital. I so wanted to go, I even rang them to see what I could eat. But there’s nothing, since everything is cooked in the same fryers”?

      4. paul*

        But it sounds true.

        My own allergies aren’t bad enough for this to be an issue but they’re cooking food in the same fryers, and cutting on the same surfaces for everything, and you’re *really* allergic, like shove an epi pen in me NOW type allergic, it makes sense to worry about that and it isn’t snobbery.

      5. Mike C.*

        Not wanting to die or throw up or suffer the numerous other symptoms of a food allergy isn’t snobbery, it’s survival.

      6. Artemesia*

        Yeah snobby. But almost certainly true. A seafood fry shack is not going to have allergy protocols for seafood. No way the OP should bet their life on it. I wouldn’t trust a similar restaurant that doesn’t specialize in seafood for allergy protocols either. Most ‘fancy’ or chain restaurants have allergy protocols; I would not trust any mom and pop on this.

      7. TootsNYC*

        Can we just take the OP at her word?

        And, it may well be less about “high end” vs. “low end” and MUCH more about “volume of food” and “speed of prep” and “space available to deconflict.”

      8. Rainy*

        No, OP is saying there wouldn’t be a problem if the restaurant had a wider menu and/or seemed like they can or will go out of their way to accommodate.

        I have been to restaurants that accommodate my allergies and restaurants that don’t, and they span the spectrum of price. If it’s snobby to have a pretty good idea that your deadly seafood allergy won’t be accommodated at a seafood-only restaurant, well, everyone with a seafood allergy is just intolerably “snobby”.

    6. Observer*

      I can’t speak for the OP obviously, and it’s a reasonable question. But it’s quite likely that “I have allergies and cannot eat anything at the venue” will be interpreted as “I have social allergies” with scare quotes around the word allergies.

      1. Susanne*

        I am allergic to shellfish (though not fish). I think the OP is worrying too much over the barrage of questions. After you say “I’m severely allergic to fish / shellfish there’s simply nothing more to say, other than to repeat that if someone is too stupid to understand. What’s to dread? You haven’t done anything wrong by being allergic to something. How many ways can they ask the question?

        1. Laura in NJ*

          I’m in the same position as Susanne (allergic to shellfish but not regular fish). My last job had a lunch out at Red Lobster and at first I was worried I couldn’t go because of my allergy (I don’t know the exact severity of it and honestly don’t want to risk my health over it). But my co-workers told me that they (Red Lobster) did have shellfish alternatives so I was able to attend and eat without any concerns.

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          Eh, I’ve been at plenty of work functions or social gatherings where it gets kinda awkward because some people decide they want to interrogate me about why I’m bringing my own food. It’s fine for me, but some people get weird or defensive about it. And it can be almost worse when someone is trying to be helpful, but also unintendedly implying that I haven’t really thought through my options, when they start to grill me about different menu options. “Not even the fries? Have you asked the wait staff? What about this baked potato?” etc etc, and you have to shoot down every option and explain why it won’t work. They seem to get more and more dejected, and you feel like the bad guy by shooting down their attempts at helping you find something you can eat. I don’t think the OP should take on the responsibility of making everyone else feel comfortable with her restrictions, but I don’t blame her for worrying about what can often be an awkward situation.

          1. Susanne*

            But no you don’t, JB not in Houston. You don’t *have* to allow them to grill you. You just say no, your food allergy makes it impossible. Stop getting into longer-winded explanations that you can’t have this, that, and that. They’re the ones making it awkward. You aren’t making anything awkward by simply explaining that your allergy makes it impossible for you to eat at this restaurant (or whatever), and expecting them to honor that statement. Phrases such as “there’s really nothing more to discuss” or “there’s really nothing more to say” or “I know my health conditions better than everyone else, thanks” are useful.

            Why would you care if they get dejected? You have a food allergy and that’s that. Their “dejection” is their own emotion to manage, not yours. I don’t know if you are a man or a woman, but I particularly despise how women are socialized to care about everyone else’s emotions. They’re well-meaning – OK, I get it, they’re not being deliberately bad people, but I am NOT going to take their “dejectedness” onto myself to manage.

            1. Observer*

              When it’s your boss or people who you need to have a good working relationship with, it can get difficult, though.

              The OP’s boss is clearly in that camp, btw.

            2. JB (not in Houston)*

              Well, I care because, as Observer says, I want to keep a good working relationship with these people. I *don’t* get into long-winded explanations, I just answer the questions that are asked. These aren’t people accusing me outright of not having an allergy, they just ask me a lot of questions. Some of them are even well-meaning. Believe me, I also don’t want to manage their emotions for them, but if you’ve never been on the receiving end of this kind of questioning, you don’t realize how easily it can turn into *you* being seen as the one making it awkward. I imagine it’s similar to people who have a minority religious, or come for a different culture, or anything else that makes them not go along with whatever else never even has to think about.

              I get where you’re coming from, and I really do appreciate your encouraging people to return the awkward to the sender and not let people grill you about your own health decisions. But if my boss or other coworkers are asking me questions about my food allergies and why I have to bring my own food, it’s not so easy to say “I don’t want to discuss this” and not have it affect how I’m viewed at the workplace, at least if I say something like that immediately after the first question.

        3. Observer*

          If you haven’t been grilled, or told that allergies are not real or anything like that, you are very lucky. But it’s quite possible that the OP told their boss clearly that they have allergy and the boss doesn’t “believe in” allergies, so decided that it’s just being “snobbish.” Or maybe she just doesn’t understand what accommodation so assumes, as many commenters seem to have, that saying “they can’t accommodate me” is based in snobbery rather than sober assessment of fact.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          “On Tuesdays I am gluten intolerant, though I will make an exception for pizza and beer on Thursdays.”

          1. Susanne*

            Why would you care? If someone wants to proclaim they are gluten free on Tues and then they eat pizza on Thurs, they’re the ones who look stupid.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              They’re also the ones who contribute to people hearing “Gluten intolerant” and thinking “Right… lie about the ingredients to Jane so her ‘allergy’ doesn’t derail dinner.”

              I, personally don’t care about why people don’t eat whatever. But it is pretty common for allergy sufferers to have to deal with a scattering of people who are sure they must be exaggerating, and might kill them with this assumption. Or just cover them in hives, which I think is plenty of reason to avoid them, not “hey, it’s not like they died.”

              1. Koko*

                I have a serious wheat allergy and I don’t give a crap about people who want to claim a wheat allergy every other day. I do have a pretty good friend in fact who feels crummy (bloated, headaches) when she eats it, and I support her right as a human to decide if she’s hungry enough or the food is delicious enough for her to feel low-level crummy, or if she doesn’t even like fish to begin with so why eat something that makes her feel bloated and headache-y when it’s not even something she likes enough to be worth it?

                People like my friend who avoid wheat without being strictly allergic to it are not responsible for the Judgy McNoseys of the world who feel they need to personally evaluate the validity of other people’s dietary restrictions.

                1. Amy*

                  100% this! I convinced my wife to try going gluten and dairy free with me last year because I was dealing with some health issues that I thought that might help (it did!). Turns out it made a miraculous improvement in her arthritis in her back and feet. She was finally pain free after a decade of constantly hurting. So not allergic to gluten but definitely reacts to it. Now when she eats it the pain immediately returns to her feet…not worth feeling that way for junk food that she doesn’t really like. But she’s willing to suffer occasionally for the pizza place down the street. It’s not her fault that some people choose not to take it seriously.

                2. Mike C.*


                  You also need to be careful that you aren’t simply making other choices that improve your health – almost every diet provides some benefit over doing nothing because you’re looking much closer at what you’re eating in general.

                3. Amy*

                  @Mike C that was the only change and had immediate impact…also has immediate impact in a negative direction when consumed. I am a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner so I have some background in this.

                4. Alton*

                  I agree! People’s allergies and intolerances can vary, and I think the best thing to do is be respectful about accommodation requests and give people what they need to make informed choices. I think the safest thing to assume is that just because one person can eat something, that doesn’t automatically mean that someone else can.

                5. Jesca*

                  I find it so odd that people care so effing much. I have terrible issues with my digestive system or something haha I don’t know. I have found that i do struggle to digest certain foods. I will not, under any circumstances, eat broccoli. I also reduce dairy and breads as well. It is not just that I bloat, it is that a blow up like Violet in Willy Wonka. It is horribly painful and takes hours for the gas to *ahem* remove itself. I just tell people it doesn’t agree with me, and then leave it at that.

              2. Genny*

                I think another problem with the “social allergies” is that it can reinforce bad information. I don’t drink beer, so it never occurs to me that beer has wheat products in it. As soon as someone mentions it, I immediately remember, but I don’t think of it right away. If I was a waiter and someone made a big deal about needing everything to be gluten free and then ordered a beer, it would reinforce my mistaken idea that beer doesn’t have gluten. There was a time when I didn’t realize that cooking something in the same oil that fish has been cooked in would trigger someone’s allergy (I thought different oil was used because who wants to eat chicken that tastes vaguely of fish). Being specific about allergies, intolerance, and preferences is important because not everyone who’s handling your food knows all the ins and outs of how an allergy in general or how your specific allergy could be triggered.

                To the LW, I think you’re probably way over thinking this. Very, very few people will care about what you’re eating, and no one will gossip about it for months. Plus, seafood allergies are one of the more common ones, so it’s likely no one will bat an eye at you for having one. I get that it can be annoying to explain the same thing to every person who asks, but I doubt this will have long-term ramifications.

              3. Anion*

                I once had a waitress tell me (after I didn’t touch the bell-pepper-filled vegetable medley side dish) that she’d thought I was joking when I asked if there was an alternative to it because I was allergic to peppers. Uh…why would I joke about that? What’s funny about that? “Hey, Barb, I got a real knee-slapper for ya! If I eat bell peppers I get short of breath and puke everywhere! Hilarious, right?! LOLZ!”

            2. Mallory Janis Ian*

              I don’t care so long as they only do it at restaurant meals. My SIL, however, always had me accommodate her with special, gluten-free cooking when I’d have them to my home for dinner. I found it fairly irritating that she was willing to have me work to accommodate her, and then she would go off her gluten-free diet when it was convenient for her, or just on a lark, or whatever. But she one-hundred percent “needed” the accommodation if it was me providing the meal. Ugh!

            3. Artemesia*

              These people often make others choose different venues or contort themselves to accommodate them and then turn around and munch on the forbidden item because it looks so good. Imagine having a dinner party and going to great lengths to accommodate them and then see that it was a game? I once went to great lengths to accommodate one of my son’s vegan girlfriends and when we took them out to lunch next, she ordered a hamburger. I was pretty pissed as vegan is not easy to accommodate. (and not pissed at all at accommodating his genuinely vegan girlfriends) So as office admin, I go to great lengths to accommodate the gluten intolerant person who then ‘can’t resist’ the lovely crackers and cheese or the cake filled with gluten? These jerks make it tough on those with real problems.

              1. Mallory Janis Ian*

                Yes! This sums up what I meant about my SIL. She expects other people to go to great lengths, one hundred percent of the time, to accommodate her gluten intolerance, but then she just blows it off whenever she feels like it. But if I don’t offer the accommodation every single time, she resents that I didn’t.

              2. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

                My aunt is always saying that she has a problem with lactose, so we will go out of our way to make dairy-free alternatives at big family dinners (my mom often makes a vegetable lasagne for these occasions, so we’ve made it with vegan cheese and so on). It’s then really irksome to find her having a big piece of the regular dairy item because it “looks so good” and then have her complain about her digestive issues later.

                This is the kind of thing that is irritating. Her problems are real but if she’s not going to follow her own rules, why make the rest of us go through the extra effort of making something special and using extra expensive ingredients if she’s just going to eat the thing she says she can’t eat anyway?

          2. Kathlynn*

            Just because someone is willing to endure their particular allergy symptoms and consume food with ingredients they are allergic to doesn’t mean they are lying about their allergy. I recently found out I’m allergic to milk, and have unknowingly been so for over 14 years. (btw a milk allergy is different from lactose intolerance). And many of my favourite foods contain dairy products. I’m also a picky eater. And my reactions aren’t life threatening, so it is less dangerous for me to consume dairy then other people. Just makes life a pita until I stop consuming large quantities of dairy products.

            So, rather then get every meal altered, or find myself eating food I don’t like (which would mean I can’t eat it, I have a really bad response when I try to eat food I don’t like), I will have small amounts of cheese or other dairy products when eating out. Though I am aware of people not respecting allergy sufferers, so I don’t mention it. I just don’t order a hot chocolate (especially if they used an expresso machine to make it) or lasagna when eating out. Because I don’t want to be judged by people for having a couple Oz. of sour cream or have my orders impact people with more severe allergies.
            (on the other hand I’m allergic to Tylenol, and will not risk it, since I have a much stronger response to it. Potential life threatening with a high enough dose.)

            1. Kathlynn*

              Forgot to say, that I do tell friends that I am allergic to milk products, and ask them to try to accommodate me if possible. I’m also open with how sever my reaction is. Especially since I used to consume at least a liter of milk or ice-cream almost every day. Until a year ago, when discovered I was allergic to dairy products. Then I started the long and hard process of completely changing my diet to remove as much dairy as possible. (which meant about 50-80% of the food I would make for myself was no longer on the menu, and about 95% of meals at restaurants or fast-food joints)

            2. SpiderLadyCEO*

              Yes. My mom also has a milk allergy, and should generally avoid it, but the reaction isn’t severe, and she likes ice cream a lot.

              So if she can, she avoids it, and when we cook for her we use milk substitutes but around people who aren’t family? She would rather suffer. It’s just not worth explaining. Another good friend is also lactose intolerant, and avoided noses by becoming essentially vegan + eggs/honey.

        2. AKchic*

          “I’m allergic to gluten! Wait, don’t take the breadsticks away! I love the breadsticks here!”
          “And no tomatoes. I’m deathly allergic to tomatoes. Oh, and extra ketchup for my French fries.”

          Stuff like that. Or the fad diets that people will bandwagon and then in order to legitimize them, they claim allergies or physical intolerances in order to get others to cater to them at restaurants or other venues (friends/relatives homes, for example). My stepsister actually tried to tell us she was allergic to negative calories one year. She was dieting for her wedding and was so proud that she’d lost 15lbs on some fad diet and exercising. I have no idea what context she’d heard “negative calories”, but she twisted it to mean she was allergic to them. She admittedly does have learning disabilities, but wow. And her mom actually encouraged it because she wanted her daughter thin. My mom and stepdad had her talk to her doctor and a nutritionist and she lost most of the weight she wanted in a healthier way.

    7. Traffic_Spiral*

      Yeah, I think step 1 is to clearly say “look, I’m allergic to seafood, I can’t eat anything there.” After that’s said, if she won’t accommodate, go, don’t eat, and if asked, tell the truth. “I can’t eat any of it – I’m allergic to seafood and even the non-seafood is cooked in the same oil.” “Yes, I asked the restaurant, and there’s really nothing I can eat.” “Yes, I told [assistant.]” Let it be awkward for her. She’s being a jerk.

      1. Amber O.*

        This ^^. I’ve been in the same boat with a fish allergy, and most people don’t think about it as a serious allergen unless they/someone they love deals with it too- I worked in food service for several years and would often be the only one to insist on special gloves and knives when dealing with fish because I didn’t want any cross-contamination. Be up front about your allergy, make it clear that there is nothing you can eat, and that you tried to find alternatives but couldn’t. You’ve done nothing wrong, so don’t worry about gossip! At that point the assistant will be the one to look like she dropped the ball (as it should), and hopefully the next company outing will have more options because of it.

        1. Kathlynn*

          As someone who used to work with a deep fryer. If you aren’t willing *or* you are unable to eat food due to cross contamination, please make sure you ask about whether or not the food is prepared separately. Please don’t assume it’s handled with out cross contamination.

          I mention this because I served a vegetarian who didn’t want her potato wedges put in the same container as the wings she was also getting (as it was part of a meal, they are generally put into the same container), because she didn’t want the breaded wedges coming into contact with the breaded chicken wings. But she also wouldn’t listen when we tried to warn her that we don’t filter the flour or oil between making chicken and wedges, unless they need it. Because she assumed she knew how we prepared the potato wedges.

          1. sb*

            Eh, as a vegetarian who would care about the same container if I was (for example) getting a meat item for my husband and a veggie item for myself, I have an out-of-sight-out-of-mind philosophy about fryers and stuff. It wigs me out if I can see it — I’ve worked in a restaurant, I do know how it really works most of the time, but let me just continue to not see it, please, if I don’t ask. (Though I won’t order fries at a seafood place because they will taste like fish, bleah.)

            1. Kathlynn*

              If you don’t care, all’s good. This was more of a, just in case reminder/btw not to assume cross contamination doesn’t occur before it’s put before you.

          2. saby*

            ha, I have a vegetarian friend who uses this strategically. If she reaaaaally wants fries she doesn’t ask about the fryer situation so she has plausible deniability, but if she’s craving fries and knows she shouldn’t, she asks. Knowing that they are fried in the same oil as the meat normally kills her craving, and if they are fried separately she counts that as a victory and is allowed to have the fries.

      2. Get that job!*

        #2 Do you want the job or not?

        You have to do what you have to do to get an advantage over others. Look at the question and prepare yourself and get the job!

        1. CA in CA*

          And then when the hiring manager finds out what OP did they’ll likely be removed from the competition. On top of a damaged reputation. Do not follow this advice OP. Not worth it.

        2. Observer*

          Not only will the OP get removed from consideration of THIS job, they will be removed from consideration for ANY job at this company. And, word often spreads. Which means problems at other companies as well.

          In short, it’s a good way to derail your career.

      3. Luna*

        Did LW tell the assistant though? It’s not mentioned in the letter. If not, I definitely recommend letting the assistant know. Even if it’s too late to do anything this year, they should definitely make a note to not do this again. I used to be the admin who planned these events and it’s surprising to me that no one asked about allergies or made sure to choose a place with more variety in the first place.

        1. Luna*

          Following up to add that in this case it sounds like the EA did not ask people about allergies in advance and did a poor job selecting the venue. However, LW should definitely let the EA (not the supervisor) know ahead of time about the allergy and need to bring separate food. Not only to prevent this happening again, but since the LW mentioned concerns about office drama/gossip, as the event organizer the EA is the only person I can see potentially getting annoyed about someone bringing their own food.

          I used to always ask everyone in advance to let me know about any food allergies (we had a buffet so while there were options, it was all pre-selected and pre-made) and there was one staff member who never responded to me, and then showed up and make a stink about how she couldn’t eat from the buffet (the restaurant was able to make her something different at her request). She acted like it was my fault when in reality, she had never told me! It was my first year at that job and I felt bad for her, but it also made me look bad even though it wasn’t my fault.

          Anyway, even though that isn’t what happened in this case, to ensure there is no drama the LW should inform the EA about the allergy and need to bring separate food so that there is no possible room for tension there.

    8. Peppermint Mocha*

      Obviously being upfront with the boss is the best way to handle this, but some people who don’t have to deal with food allergies don’t understand . As a person with a serious shellfish allergy, I’ve seen it many times; people accusing me of being annoying or stuffy or even just getting irritated by me because of how careful I have to be about cross-contamination.

    9. EOA*

      Yeah, that was my thought, as well. She keeps talking about it as “the venue,” but it’s not really about “the venue,” it’s about the fact that she can’t eat the food at said venue. But it sounds like she doesn’t want to make her food allergy an issue, and IMO, she should be direct that she has no issue with the venue, she has an issue with the fact that she could die if she eats the food there.

  3. Engineer Girl*

    #2 – Let’s call it what it really is – violating a position of trust. Another term would be self-dealing. Those are bad things.
    You’re not supposed to use your access of data for personal gain of you or others. It’s only for company use.

    1. Artemesia*

      And these things always leave footprints. Why blow your reputation on something that can so easily come back and bite you.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes. Unless your job was digital security ninja, do not assume your check will go undetected.

      2. CA in CA*

        Exactly. The embarrassment, ruined reputation, and possible reference or job loss are not worth it. Do not look at those questions OP.

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      As well as the ethics of taking the interview questions I’m. It sure if it would work that well perhaps the interview would notice the answers were scripted which might put them off.

    3. Snowglobe*

      Accessing personnel files for any reason other than legitimately doing your job would be unethical; eg, even if you were just going in there to satisfy your curiosity, regardless of whether there is personal gain involved.

      But I really want to know – how does LW#2 have access to personnel files from a job they no longer work at???

      1. Liane*

        “But I really want to know – how does LW#2 have access to personnel files from a job they no longer work at???”
        It wouldn’t be the first time some company’s IT Ninja missed a back door, or forgot to change passwords when someone left, or even had a “policy” that everyone in Dept. X used the same generic password.
        Didn’t we have a question a while ago from someone who had left, or was on leave, not being able to get the company to deactivate her access?

      2. Runner*

        And OP was a seasonal employee. It makes almost no sense. And the company still doesn’t know m, and OP hasn’t said anything, and OP is still accessing the info? Or is it a screenshot of info from a year ago? I don’t know how OP can even be considering this, it seems to be skating not just ethical lines but crossing into actionable territory.

      3. LBK*

        Right? That was the biggest red flag for me. She shouldn’t be accessing those files at all, never mind accessing the specific files with the interview questions. Get out of that system now, and it might even be worth giving them a heads up that you still have access to those files so they can fix the problem (assuming these aren’t offline copies you took when you left – if that’s the case, you need to delete those immediately).

      4. Specialk9*

        Yeah, I thought the key question was more:

        “Dear Alison, should I hack into a poorly secured system (they trusted me and didn’t close the data door properly after I left) and fish around for information that could get me hired again?”

        Answer: Ack, no! Yikes! No!! NOOOOOoooooOOOOOooo!

        Second question “I could maybe get away with cheating, should I? I mean is it even cheating if it’s just refreshing my memory on questions they asked before?”
        Answer: if you weren’t violating trust and hacking into their personnel folders, this would be less extreme of a a no. Still a no. But come on, you knew the answer as soon as you wrote it, right? Just work to remember the questions they asked last time (and let it go if you can’t remember), prepare for common interview questions. They hired you once, that’s a good sign.

      5. NotAnotherManager!*

        I’ll come sit on this couch. What should happen is that OP#2 should disclose that she still has this access and as them to turn it off.

        And, on top of the fact that accessing people’s personnel files absent legitimate, company-business reason to do so is unethical – what’s the list of questions really going to buy you at a place where you’ve worked successfully before? I assume the “right” answers aren’t also written down on the lists.

    4. Blue*

      I’m also not sure what OP would even gain by doing this? If they’ve been through the interview process before are familiar with both the job and working environment, I sincerely doubt peeking at the questions would add much to their preparation. Certainly not enough to justify doing it.

      1. LBK*

        Yeah, I’m not sure I get the point. And moreover, I don’t see how knowing the interview questions is really that big of an advantage at all, any moreso than just reading any interview prep guide would be. Unless they include some items that are more like technical tests, interview questions tend to be pretty generic. It’s not worth the ethical risk for what will probably only give you a de minimis advantage, if any.

      2. Myrin*

        That is actually what I’ve been wondering about most with regards to this question! Surely she can already guess an approximation of most of these questions?

  4. Someone else*

    I’m not familiar with the laws in Australia, but where I live bringing outside food to a restaurant, even if the seating is outdoors, would be a health code violation. Even if the owners said it were ok I wouldn’t do it.

    1. Drama Mama*

      Odd, never heard that one before, and I have a food handler’s permit. What exactly would be the violation? And are patrons of the restaurant held to the code for restaurants? Are you sure someone didn’t just tell you that as a reason to not allow outside food? Smacks of the way I’ve seen some nurses claim “hospital policy” for stuff that was NOT hospital policy, just because they could. (These nurses didn’t know I worked another unit and knew full well what the policies really are and can access the full policies…)

      1. Artemesia*

        Health code violation is often code for the restaurant doesn’t want you to do it. I have seen the same excuse used to not allow doggy bags which is ridiculous. I am dubious that there are such regulations although I am sure restaurants may have such policies themselves.

        I’d bring a discreet packed lunch and if the restaurant does object, well, deal with that. I doubt in this kind of casual setting where a company has paid for many to eat, this will be an issue as if would if you just wandered in and plunked down and ordered a coke and then took out your sandwich.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          Not that ridiculous – I can imagine a situation where someone stores their leftovers poorly, gets sick and blames the proprietor. But that’s getting off topic.

          1. Kathlynn*

            I had some one buy a salad on their way to work one day, bring it back a couple days later and demand a refund since it was no longer edible, but hadn’t expired yet. (I told them they would have to come in the next day, and talk to management. They didn’t.)

          2. Susanne*

            How does that work? I brought a sandwich in my purse, ate it at Joe’s Food Emporium, got sick and now I’m suing Joe’s Food Emporium? Yeah. No. Not going to remotely worry about that kind of possibility.

              1. Kathlynn*

                Yeah, there are also the people who bring in not food safe items then claim they “discovered” the item in their food.

                Also, for example. How is a restaurant going to be able to prove that I got sick from the dairy free whipping cream (btw there really is dairy free coconut whipping cream,) I brought from home or the pancakes I ordered. Especially if I don’t tell them I’m going to be adding it to my food.
                personally I’m not willing to sign any sort of waver, which might be needed, to bring in my own whipping cream. I’ve gotten sick at restaurants too frequently to risk it if I got a really severe case of food poisoning.(I assume I would be required to sign a waver, as one boss I had was asked why we just tossed our old food away, and couldn’t we give it to the less fortunate. And his response was “only if they sign a waiver giving up their right to sue if people get sick”. Which is reasonable since we would be tossing the food out as it’s too old to be considered safe for consumption.)

        2. Christmas Carol*

          I was at a fast food restaurant once that didn’t have any trash receptacles outside the restaurant. When I complained, they told me the “Health Codes” prohibited them. If they had trash cans, they explained, there would be no way to stop me from throwing away wrappers from some other restaurant, and that would be then classified as outside food. I proceeded to pull out of the drive-thru, park my car, enter the restaurant, and dispose of my wrappers in the garbage can in the inside seating area.

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            That’s such BS, but the person telling you could easily have been lied to by their manager.

            They didn’t want to pay for trash pickup that any random person could dump their trash into. They didn’t want to deal with people (or animals) that thought getting into the trash would be fun. Lots of reasons to not have outdoor trashcans. Invoking health codes is dumb and makes me wonder what else they’d be wrong (or lying) about. It’s like people who invoke allergies to avoid eating whatever random thing they don’t like, and thereby make life harder for people with real allergies. (Does anyone here recognize “I’m allergic to crunchy”?)

    2. Cobol*

      Where do you live? I’m not sure what would make something like that a health violation. OP wouldn’t be preparing food in their kitchen. It’s not fundamentally different than bringing in food for a baby, or a cake for a birthday dinner, which are both common in the US.

      1. Blah*

        Really? I’m American, and I’d fully expect any restaurant to refuse to let people in with their own cake.

        1. Anononon*

          Maybe not for a small, maybe three or four person meal, but when people reserve large spaces in restaurants for group birthdays, I see people bringing gifts in their own cakes all of the time.

        2. Merci Dee*

          My family and I have brought small birthday cakes in to restaurants quite frequently for birthdays and the like. We’ve never had a problem with it, and the restaurant has been happy to provide clean bread-sized plates for us to serve. If the restaurant is more up-scale, they may be willing to take the cake and plate it for you, but they’ll usually charge a small “convenience” fee for that service.

        3. Artemesia*

          It is very common; many restaurants allow it; some will have a small charge for plates and forks and service kind of like a corkage fee. Most restaurants don’t have a birthday cake in their cooler. Of course people are ordering a meal and restaurants would rather have the business of a birthday dinner than quibble over the birthday cake.

    3. C*

      Most places have rules against bringing food brought from home into the restaurant kitchen (even to heat up).

      But as long as the OP brings something that can be eaten cold or in a thermos/heat container & is ready to eat, then there should not be any legal issue preventing them from eating their own food.

      And I have always found restaurants to be very accomodating to bringing your own food when you give them the option of letting you eat the food you brought or calling 911 for an allergic reaction.

      (Of course, I would still be unable to attend the party because I go into anaphylaxis with just the smell of shellfish. I might not be full blown since it is outside but not a risk I would be willing to take.)

        1. Ktelzbeth*

          And I’ve gotten around this on occasion by providing them with factory sealed food directly from the grocery for them to heat up, when I’ve had to.

    4. JamieS*

      I’m pretty sure I’ve heard of something like that, or something very similar, but I thought that was if you bring outside food to sell or otherwise distribute to others not food for your personal consumption. Although I guess it’s possible if a restaurant is considered responsible for all food consumed on it’s premises since they can’t verify outside food is safe for consumption.

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This is the case in a lot of states (sometimes it varies by locality instead of state), which was partially why I suggested finding at least one alternative (which, granted, may not exist!). But the picnic table set up indicates to me that it may be easier to BYOF or fly under the radar. OP can always call the restaurant in advance to determine their outside food policy.

      1. Artemesia*

        Don’t ask. The only thing they can possibly say to ‘can I bring my own food to your restaurant’ is no. But odds are good they won’t object to one member of a large paid group having his own sandwich. A classic case where it is better to ask forgiveness than permission.

        1. The Bluebell Cafe*

          Uh, no. As a proprietor of a cafe, I can assure you that we would ALWAYS prefer the patron to ask first. If they just show up and start munching on their own sandwich on our premises we will ask them to leave. If they call ahead, explain the situation and ask, we can work with them to either identify food they can safely eat or agree an alternative such as bringing their own food.

          “Asking forgiveness” in this case, at our establishment, would involve getting kicked out in front of their colleagues and management. Not a great look! It’s always better to sort these things out in advance than risk embarrassment on the day.

          1. Susanne*

            Seriously? Gosh, I’ve brought a banana and muffin into Starbucks and ate them with my coffee. What if I had a granola bar in my purse?

            1. Katniss*

              They probably mistook both those things for food you bought from them. Seems especially rude to me to bring in food the restaurant serves but you didn’t feel like paying for.

              1. Susanne*

                So if I already happened to have a banana in my purse (this sounds like the set-up to a really bad comedy routine) I should be expected to buy another one because Starbucks happens to sell bananas? I can’t eat that little bag of pretzels rattling around in my purse from that plane trip a week ago?

                A family member of mine has a health issue whereby it’s necessary for her to eat quickly upon signs of hunger, so she always carries around protein bars, little packs of nuts, maybe some string cheese, etc. She also happens to have celiac disease so she can’t eat most of the baked goods there. Are you seriously suggesting that if she goes in, orders a coffee or latte, and sits down with her magazine or laptop, it is some violation of etiquette if she pulls out her protein bar? That’s insane.

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  Yes, broadly speaking, because “If it’s okay for people to violate the social norm for a medical condition, then it’s okay for me too because FAIRNESS” is the way to no medical conditions being accommodated.

                  There ARE cafes that operate on “Come in, buy a drink, you can camp out and we’ll trust that you buy food often enough for the business model to work.” There are also cafes that ban laptops and such because people trying to set it up as an office, leaving nowhere for paying customers to sit, is a big problem. The cafe is not providing heat, chairs, tables, a bathroom, and wifi as a free community service for people to eat in comfort after they pack their own lunch in.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            Paid to cater an outdoor corporate gathering, if someone at a picnic table pulled out their own not-fish sandwich, you would haul them bodily out the door? Or, I guess, around to the parking lot in the absence of doors? Unless they had called first, in which case you’d be totally fine?

            I get this attitude if a solo diner shows up planning to use your wifi while the paying customers have nowhere to sit, but that’s not remotely the situation here.

          3. Thursday Next*

            It would also be a less than great look for a restaurant to kick out someone whose company was footing the bill for a large party…just sayin’.

            1. HannahS*

              Yeah, making a scene at a large party by kicking out a woman with an allergy…not good for business.

              1. Liane*

                Neither is it good business to tick off a company’s executives/owners enough that they decide to never use Chez Rude’s services again and maybe tell their friends who are VIPs at other businesses how unresponsive they are to big clients’ legitimate concerns.

            2. Kate 2*

              It’s an even worse look to get shut down for a health code violation if the state OP is in has a law against outside food, as many do.

            3. Teacher*

              It will also be a bad look for the assistant who refused to accommodate LWs allergies so that would be a plus in my mind.

          4. Susanne*

            The “not a great look” wouldn’t be on the person with the food allergies who got kicked out in front of colleagues. The “not a great look” would be on you. If I sponsored a work event and you asked a member of my party who had food allergies to up and leave because they brought their own food because they couldn’t eat yours, I assure you your cafe would be all over the local news the next day.

            As I’m sure you know, people who keep kosher sometimes bring their own pre-packaged meals to events. As an example, I have a friend who is a photographer and he simply can’t eat at the venues he works at (normally a meal for the photographer is included) so he brings in his own meal and no one says boo. Would you also kick him, too, Bluebell Cafe?

            1. Kate 2*

              And in some states bringing in outside food is *illegal*. Is the restaurant really supposed to bear that risk to accommodate one person who wasn’t polite enough to ask first?

          5. Jesmlet*

            You’re seriously saying you’d kick OP out if she brought in her own food without asking first? That’s a lot of ill will you’re creating for no good reason, and depending on how many other employees are there, multiple people you’ll lose as potential customers. I’d rather risk your so-called “embarrassment” than risk being told no and not being able to attend.

            1. Artemesia*

              I have seen restaurant owners do this but only to people who come in with food and buy a drink and haul out their food. Fair enough. But this is a company sponsored event that is bringing in big bucks and one member of the company party who is eating their own food; it would be business suicide to make an issue of that.

              1. HannahS*

                Yes exactly. If a woman buys a small black tea, then sets up camp in a coffee shop for hours and eats her own lunch, it’s a problem for the business because they’re making so little money off of that seat. But kicking a woman with allergies out of a party isn’t harming the bottom line enough to warrant losing the business of not only that company, but probably many of the attendees individually. And it’s a jerk move.

    6. I heart Paul Buchman*

      I’m Australian and while no lawyer I’m confident to state this wouldn’t be a problem here. I have spent a lot of time in food service and it isn’t so unusual for customers to bring in outside food for a variety of reasons (their own bread for sandwiches or milk for their coffee). I would think a small family place would be fine with it (it would help if you purchase drinks though as they have employees to pay regardless).
      My experience of allergies is that people bend over backwards if you contact them ahead of time. I would phone the venue early in the morning and ask to speak with the manager. Explain that you have a diagnosed seafood allergy and will be dining with a group. Tell her that you are happy to provide your own meal (I’d make it simple, a salad is a good idea) and would they be ok with that?
      If they won’t agree/you feel uncomfortable is there a valid excuse to be late for lunch? You can announce this ahead of time – ‘unfortunately I have a meeting I can’t reschedule so I’ll be half an hour late, what a shame’. Turn up after everyone else has been served the meal and just order a drink/or if comfortable a dessert with coffee. (This is a tactic I have used regularly when I’ve been a bit skint and can’t really afford dinner).

      I would be very surprised if an Australian office jumped from a missed lunch to an eating disorder – this kind of food monitoring doesn’t seem the right cultural fit here and may be more of a US/European thing? Coming across as snobbish does sound like an Australian accusation so I would counter that by being complimentary of the venue/the day/the location or whatever during the meal.

    7. Bea*

      Chiming in to say I’m in a state that has a million breweries that don’t have kitchens. You can bring food inside, they even partner with food trucks for that reason.

      No outside food or drink is only related when it’s into the kitchen due to cross contamination. Drinks due to laws about liquor because you never know what’s really in that cup sort of thing. It’s also a rule some have to discourage people just taking up their table space but for a big group event most waive that kind of thing.

    8. Lady Jay*

      I’ve brought outside food into a restaurant before! When I was right out of HS, I worked retail, and would get out of the building for lunch. Usually I’d go eat in my car in an adjacent park, but when winter came, sometimes I’d go to the nearby McDonalds. I’d bring in the lunch I’d packed, and then buy a cappuccino/thing of fries to justify sitting there. No one ever said a thing.

      Also, seafood restaurants are the WORST at having non-seafood stuff. I’ve been to these places with friends who love seafood, and they get all excited, and I get bummed, because even if there are non-seafood items on the menu, they’re terrible. Last time I went, I got a veggie sandwich that was basically iceberg lettuce, two slices of tomato, and mayo on a hoagie. :(

    9. Tap Tap Jazz*

      I’ve never worked in a restaurant with outdoor seating, but I’ve been a server at several indoor restaurants. Nobody cared if people brought in baby/toddler food, and I often took formula into the kitchen to warm it.

      Not sure if that extrapolates to allergy-proof food for adults, though.

  5. Ramona Flowers*

    #2 How come you have access when you don’t work there now? It’s not just cheating at your interview if you a) access their confidential files and b) share them with someone else. That’s a serious breach of trust and confidentiality. Don’t even think about it because that could backfire horribly.

    1. MommyMD*

      I was wondering the same thing about the access. Unauthorized download? Password still working? Hacking in through holes? It sounds shady.

      1. Mookie*

        LW says they have “access” to a “digital copy,” but it isn’t clear whether the access is through a third-party and whether they’re the ones who made the copy and, if so, whether they already violated company rules for having done so.

        1. Specialk9*

          Yeah. Having a personal copy of personnel records would be baaaaaaad news. Really serious data security breach.

  6. Dan*


    It’s cheating… but so what. I’d use that list to prepare, but I wouldn’t have perfect canned answers. I’d just make sure I knew my talking points and ad lib a bit.

    IMHO, any company who uses a process that can be “cheated” is doing it wrong anyway.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      And IMHO, having your files accessed improperly isn’t ‘using a process that can be cheated’. It’s not worth the risk.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      So if it’s unethical, it’s ok because the company wasn’t more aggressive about hiding the information during OP’s seasonal employment?

      1. Specialk9*

        It’s either hacking (if they’re logging into a system they shouldn’t still have access to) or a serious data security breach (if they are keeping sensitive personnel files in their personal records). This is really not ok.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I’m with you. I find Dan’s suggestion really problematic and exceedingly cavalier.

    3. JamieS*

      You can have your talking points prepared without unnecessarily putting yourself at risk for having the offer revoked or possibly fired down the road. Since OP has previously interviewed there and worked for the company I have to presume they already have a decent idea of what to expect so even ignoring the ethical issues there’s really not a huge benefit derived from accessing the files. However it is a pretty big risk. High risk/low reward no thank you.

      1. Liane*

        “Since OP has previously interviewed there and worked for the company I have to presume they already have a decent idea of what to expect so even ignoring the ethical issues there’s really not a huge benefit derived from accessing the files.”
        I was just about to type this.

      2. Coffeelover*

        I think it’s so unlikely OP would get caught that it’s not a serious concern. If they didn’t catch her when she grabbed the files off the system, they won’t catch her now. The only way they would catch her is if she said something about it to someone (that being said, whatever you decide OP, I would absolutely not share them with your friend… Thats how you end up being caught!). Whether or not you want to use the questions is purely an ethical dilemma as there are no likely concequences here. The internet is always going to tell you to do the ethical thing. Personally, I think most people in your situation would look at the questions.

        1. Genny*

          Everyone thinks they won’t get caught until they get caught. People are never as clever about hiding their tracks as they think they are. Is it worth losing the job or getting fired later if the employer finds out?

        2. Specialk9*

          Maybe. You never know when a separate investigation will get someone to stumble over your digital footprints. In this case, digital footprints from when she didn’t work there, and worse when she was interviewing.

          1. Coffeelover*

            Ya they could find out she took the files… but she would be in trouble for taking the files whether she uses them to get ahead or not. She’s already done the thing that would hypothetically get her fired. To prove that she then got the second job because of those interview question would be a stretch and a moot point since taking the files is already a fireable offence. Hence it’s not really applicable to what OP is asking.

        3. Observer*

          I’m sorry you have such a narrow circle of friends. I do know people who would not do this.

          And, as others have said, everyone thinks they won’t get caught – till they do.

          Remember the mess at Yahoo?

          1. Coffeelover*

            Everyone I know in my professional services industry that I’ve gotten close enough to (and everyone they know) admits to taking files with them from previously employers. Usually stuff they made themselves (which still technically belongs to the employer), but also other intellectual property as well. I’ve moved geographies (from north America to Europe) and this is still true. People use these files to help them do future work and get ahead. It’s possible this is because I have a small circle… But I suspect it’s true in other industries as well. I mean… It’s almost like an open secret at this point.

            1. Observer*

              If you don’t know anyone who wouldn’t steal information, then you have an unfortunately narrow set of friends. Nothing to do with the industry.

              1. Coffeelover*

                These aren’t friends… More colleagues and professional contacts. But anyway, I think you’re idealizing too much. This stuff is so common in corporations… Some companies even actively hire people from their competitors hoping to copy previous work. There are times you can’t get away with it (like what happened at Uber) and times you can (like most of the time). You can bet I’m going to take something I spent months building with me when I leave. Anyone who isn’t doing that is doing themselves a disservice. Of course, OPs situation is a bit different since she took files that weren’t hers (and that she probably shouldn’t even have access to),

            2. NotAnotherManager!*

              Taking data from my employer would be a major ethical breach that would have serious repercussions for them and would require disclosure to clients if there was anything related to them removed from where it should be. They would fire me and probably sue me.

              Companies are becoming much more serious about data security and theft and increasingly putting in mechanisms to prevent it that are not visible. This can be anything from trackers to digital rights management tools that lock files.

          2. Coffeelover*

            Also… I said most people not all. There are definitely extremely honest and honorable people out there. I just think this situation takes a level of self-control and honesty that the majority of people don’t have.

    4. Amy*

      So what? Well, 1) it’s unethical and likely to reflect badly on OP2 if they’re caught, and 2) accessing files often leaves some kind of trace, so it’s more than possible that OP2 would be caught. Given that OP2 has worked at this company before, and therefore presumably has already successfully interviewed there in the past, that seems like a lot of risks for probably not a lot of payoff.

      OP2, I hope you ignore this advice. You already have a lot of advantages here. You have a solid history at this company, and you have successful past experience with this interview. Rely on those strengths to get you through; don’t undermine yourself by taking unnecessary risks with your reputation.

    5. Almost Violet Miller*

      Let’s imagine for a moment that OP2 gets the job after having looked through the questions. Fellow commenters have already pointed out the risks of getting caught but also consider the feeling of guilt after getting the job and not being able to tell anyone about how they’d prepared for the interview.
      Also, if they don’t feel confident about the interview, later on, knowing that they’d cheated their way in, how would they feel confident about their knowledge/expertise when on the job?

      1. Mookie*

        That would be my worry, as well. To consider unethical behavior in order to land a job suggests a person isn’t confident enough or capable enough to get it honestly. You can’t really anticipate the precise wording of interview questions or their likely order, but if you know your field well enough and you’re applying for a role you’re qualified for the “cheat” is not worth the risk because you should already know what they’re likely to ask. Re-consider applying if you think you really need to do this.

        1. Mookie*

          Also, the fact that the LW is considering providing a copy of these questions to a friend is just… no. Don’t do that. It’s wildly unethical and if you think you’re actually giving yourself or someone else a leg-up, you’re really not. Any way you cut it, it’s a disaster waiting to happen: either you get a job you’re not competent to fill because the offer was based on an interview you didn’t actually complete fairly, or you and the friend are found out, or BOTH.

          1. Specialk9*

            Oh I missed that part! Oh man that’s just… I’m thinking OP needs some serious ethics and cybersecurity training.

      2. Jesmlet*

        It’s the seasonal work that’s throwing me though. The only type of seasonal work I’m imagining is retail or delivery workers. Is there really a lot of expertise that one needs to prepare to demonstrate or is OP just wanting to get a leg up on the soft skill questions?

        Regardless, the fact that OP is asking this question leads me to believe that future guilt will play no part in the decision making process. Yes, it’s unequivocally cheating to both access the questions yourself and to provide them to a friend. If OP doesn’t know this, they’re not going to be worried about post-cheating guilt.

    6. Zip Silver*

      I agree. Even if it’s cheating, knowing what’s listed on their interview guide and having some talking points ready isn’t exactly outrageous.

      An interesting side note: I realize it’s a tiny sample size, but based on the usernames, it seems like everybody who’s jumped on Dan so far has been women, while Dan and I are in favor of using the question list to get ahead. Interesting, as far as wage gaps, promotions, and that sort of thing goes.

      1. CorruptedbyCoffee*

        You’re right, the women have been more concerned with being ethical! Clearly, we need to elect more women to positions of power.

      2. Drew*

        I’m a man and I find the question dodgy and the advice to “go ahead and study up!” disturbingly cavalier. It will be obvious if the OP has prepared answers for all the questions, and if I were the interviewer, I would go “off script” and ask a couple of pretty incisive questions not part of the usual interviewing tool to see how OP reacted.

        I’m reminded of seeing Dennis Miller on a talk show many years ago. It was very obvious, even to this relatively untrained observer, which questions he had prepared for with canned responses and which questions threw him a bit until he could bring his answers back around to his practiced replies.

      3. Anononon*

        Almost all of them are also very regular commenters, so it makes sense they would be commenting here as well. And, my general feel of this website is that the majority of commenters are women.

      4. Marthooh*

        But you don’t need to know what’s on their list of questions in order to have some talking points ready!

        OP2, did you know Alison has a free guide on how to prepare for an onterview? It has sample questions of the kind you might be asked — just over there, on the right-hand side of the page, near the top.

        And yes cheating is, exactly, outrageous. Ask the interviewer if you don’t believe me.

      5. Jesca*

        Ok since no one else has asked, are you honestly insinuating that wage gaps and “that sort of thing” exist because women are more likely to be ethical? Haha no, my dear sweet man, that is not why.

        1. Jesmlet*

          Not to get too far off track here, but I don’t think it’s entirely implausible that some men get ahead because they’re more likely to do ethically questionable things to do so. No one’s saying that’s a main cause, and anecdotes certainly aren’t sufficient as far as evidence goes but I’ve seen this demonstrated in my career at least a couple times.

          1. Jesca*

            Haha alright. Lets all go back to the 1990s with our assumptions about inequality. I think its absurd to make such generalization like this particularly in the current climate … I think we all know better, and let’s stop this pandering to past “ideas” as to why inequality exists.

            Many people are unethical and it does get them ahead from time to time. That has no bearing on gender equality what so ever.

            1. Jesmlet*

              I’m really have trouble understanding what your specific point of view is given how vague your disagreement with me is. I think everyone bases their assumptions on the experiences they have and hopefully do their best to incorporate other information where possible. Feel free to provide a more detailed follow up if you’d like to enlighten me in this area.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I don’t know if this helps, but here’s how I’m reading the exchange:

                Jesca is saying that the suggestion that women are to blame for the wage gap (because of an implied statement that they behave more ethically) is specious.

                You noted that you’ve seen unethical men get ahead by engaging in the kind of bad behavior Dan has recommended.

                I read Jesca’s follow-up to state that we shouldn’t engage in gendered assumptions about ethical conduct because it ignores the true causes of inequality. What I’m hearing her say is that men and women both engage in unethical conduct that might benefit that person’s career, but no one gender has the market on ethical behavior. And her last sentences indicate that gender equality is systemic and not a product of the self-interested, individual conduct of “corrupt” men and women.

                1. Jesca*

                  Thanks, Princess Consuela! Sometimes it can be difficult to explain something when you assume something is “common knowledge”. And that is me being polite when my gut is saying “purposely obtuse”.

                2. Jesmlet*

                  Yes, this helps. If this is what Jesca means then I understand the point completely. I do agree that systemic issues are far more culpable in furthering inequality, however I have experienced far too many examples of men engaging in this type of behavior to think that there is no correlative relationship there.

                  Obviously I’m not saying that all men are okay with ethically questionable behavior or only men do this, but like every attribute, there’s probably overlapping bell curves here, just like saying women aren’t the only ones to act emotionally, but that they tend to be emotional more often than males. But again, maybe it’s just bias of personal experience, etc. etc.

                3. Nico m*

                  I think yous are all right.

                  Systemic inequality is constructed out of various interlocking sub-inequalities, one of which may be a gender difference in attitudes to risk and ethics.

          1. Specialk9*

            Yeah, but… Someone saying basically ‘we men are unethical and that is why we get ahead’ is screwed up on so many levels. Such as that gender equality is decidedly not the fault of *women* – for having scruples, for having children, etc. – and the solution is not for women to be unethical.

            It was such a WTF comment that snark and condescension are actually appropriate.

            1. Teacher*

              Why would one automatically read that as saying that women need to behave unethically to get ahead? Why not take it as meaning that men need to behave ethically?

      6. Brittasaurus Rex*

        You’re not putting yourself in a positive light. Is your belief that guys cheat to get ahead?

      7. Observer*

        Are you implying that women may be to blame for lower wages because they are “too concerned” with ethics? I really hope not, but that’s what comes across.

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      I see… I see a stolen juice from the break room, and ever-escalating “Wait, I just took advantage of the situation because I didn’t think I would get caught! You can’t refuse to rehire me for something I thought no one would catch!”

    8. Lance*

      Echoing the ‘please don’t’ replies here. And to your last point, OP worked there before; they’re not some complete outsider that dug around to find these questions. By that virtue, they already have a foot in the door; best to get the rest of the way in by their own merits, not because they can garner some sort of insider access.

      Same goes to their friend. If you can’t get the job by your own merits, without using such means, can you really say you deserve it?

    9. Vin Packer*

      I guess I don’t understand why it’s cheating.

      I mean, if by “have access to” the OP means “could access through ~*~internet magic~*~” or “can have a former coworker sneak it to me” or something, then that is shady and not great. But if they just have it for legit reasons and the company wouldn’t be particularly surprised that they have it, I don’t see what the big deal is about using it.

      Is the issue here that people are pretty much assuming it’s the former scenario?

      1. Runner*

        OP hasn’t worked there for a year but still has access to PERSONNEL files, and apparently interview questions for several roles. This generally wouldn’t be accessible to 95 percent of current employees, never mind a former seasonal employee. (Why am I even explaining this?)

        What happens if OP is rehired and the company tries to reactivate her old access, or assign her new access, and discovers she had not only had access to sensitive personnel files this whole time but has been accessing them?

      2. Marthooh*

        That’s what I assume. I doubt the OP would write in if the company already knew they had legit access to the questions. But either way, you can prepare without knowing exactly what the questions will be.

      3. Jesmlet*

        If OP thought it was perfectly OK to have access to the questions, then they’d have emailed the company, not AAM.

      4. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

        I’m with you here. If by “have access” it means that the OP has to do something that is technically illegal/unethical (ala – having a password for personnel file system that should have been cancelled) – don’t do it! There’s a trail so that you could get caught AND it requires an unethical action.

        However – if you have a copy of it for whatever reason (I have some random business docs from old jobs available to me because I took them home with me while working at the job – with permission – and held onto them because I thought they might be useful as reference dosc down the line), then go ahead. You have them available and knowledge is power.

        1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

          Another thought – if this falls into the “already have it” category – how is this any different that using the Glassdoor reviews of the interview process (AGAIN – ONLY IF IT FALLS IN THE ALREADY HAVE IT CATEGORY NOT THE “ADITIONAL UNETHICAL ACTION” CATEGORY)? A lot of them include specific questions.

          1. Jesmlet*

            Did they give it to OP so they could study for the next time they’re interviewing with them? If the answer is no, then it’s not okay for OP to use it in this fashion.

        2. Jessie the First (or second)*

          It is unethical, though: the overarching policy and philosophy with personnel files and HR files is that they are intended to be used for specific purposes, and it is unethical to access them for personal gain outside of that intended purpose.

          Generally, with all HR files, you access the files you need for the task you need it for. You don’t access them just for fun, or because you are curious (“ooooh, it’d be awesome to see what Mary makes! Imma look now”), or for personal gain. You don’t access them *when you don’t even work there anymore.*

          1. LBK*

            Completely agreed – legitimacy of access to the files isn’t the point here. The point is that if she hasn’t been given the files by the people who will be conducting the interview process, it’s safe to assume they don’t intend her to have them prior to the interview taking place, and therefore it’s unethical to use them if they’re obtained any other way.

        3. Specialk9*

          What company is going to agree to hand out PII personnel files for someone to store, unsecurely, at home? Much less a former employee. I just think this is such a reach to trying to be sympathetic to an OP.

          1. LBK*

            Yeah, either these are private company documents that should have been destroyed upon terminating her employment or they’re so generic that there’s no point in using them; if they’re specific enough to the company that they’ll give her an advantage in the interview, she shouldn’t have them anymore.

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        The ethical issue doesn’t have to do with whether a person has access. I’ve had access to personnel information/questions before, but I knew that information was confidential and that using it was outside the scope of my role and my access level.

        It’s improper to use it for the same reason it’s improper to access applicants’ or coworkers’ resumes (even if someone was sloppy with permissions or gave you access for a limited and different purpose) to see how you can improve your own.

    10. Observer*

      IMHO, any company who uses a process that can be “cheated” is doing it wrong anyway.

      That is about the same as saying “anyone who leaves their car door unlocked is doing it wrong anyway, so I can steal it.”

  7. No Catering for Me*

    Regarding #1 – I, too, have a severe food allergy — both tree nuts (almonds, walnuts, etc.) as well as peanuts. My restaurant parallel would be Thai food!

    I am particularly nervous around catered events, when there is either A. no choice in the offerings, or B. waitstaff cannot answer questions. So I have solved this problem by bringing my own meal. I’ve done it at multiple types of events – weddings; luncheons, etc., and to be perfectly honest, no one has even asked about it. Really – not one person has commented, which was surprising.

    So whereas I used to dread such events, now I bring my own meal and all that worry is lifted off my shoulders. It’s wonderful!

    1. AnnaleighUK*

      My flatmate has the exact same problem and she’s very used to either not eating at events or bringing her own food. She’s found that if you nurse a drink for the duration of the event nobody comments on the fact you’re not eating anything, because you’ve ordered something at least, and any comments she gets are brushed away with ‘do you want to have to call 999?’ which normally shuts them up. There’s still the wider issue of people being called ‘fussy’ when they have an allergy, but having seen her go into anaphylactic shock, that’s definitely not being fussy.

    2. K.*

      I’m Epi-Pen-allergic to peanuts and some tree nuts and I don’t eat Thai food, and say so. I make my own Thai-inspired dishes at home without nuts, but Thai restaurants are a no-go. If I were the OP and the restaurant of choice were a Thai place, I’d make it clear that my allergies made it impossible for me to find an option on the menu and pack a meal too.

      If people question my allergy (which doesn’t happen often), I tell them the story of how I was rushed to the ER and nearly died after I ate a cookie that I didn’t think to ask about.

      1. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

        Years ago I worked for a restaurant that had a guest die due to allergies. She had a nut allergy and asked about ingredients. The server stated that there were no nuts in the dish she ordered. There were pine nuts in her dish. She died before medical help got there. Food allergies should be taken seriously and it’s really upsetting to me that #1’s boss isn’t more sensitive to this. Frankly, if it were me I wouldn’t attend. I’d get a doctor’s note outlining my allergies and give that to my boss with my regrets for not going.

        1. oranges & lemons*

          Eek. I would feel so terrible if I were that server. When I worked for a bakery, we had a book with lists of ingredients for everything we made. If anyone had any questions about ingredients or dietary restrictions, the protocol was to bring the book out and show them the list so they could judge for themselves (and to let them know that cross-contamination was a possibility). Even that made me a bit nervous at the time.

        2. Cercis*

          In theory, pine nuts shouldn’t cause a reaction in someone allergic to other tree nuts. Pines aren’t that closely related to other nut trees. Pines are gymnosperms whereas other nut trees are angiosperms. In theory, it should be the same as your chances of being allergic to peanuts and tree nuts (in that it does happen but it doesn’t necessarily follow).

          1. oranges & lemons*

            On the other hand, it is usually difficult to find any kind of nuts or seeds that are not processed in a shared facility with peanuts and/or tree nuts, so it could be dangerous even if the guest wasn’t allergic to pine nuts. Of course none of this should be the server’s call anyway.

            1. Cercis*

              Oh true, just saying that if they asked specifically about “tree nuts” pine nuts aren’t generally considered to be in that category (apparently the FDA does sometimes, but they also include coconut in there so it’s kind of an interesting list, the European Union does not consider pine nuts to be tree nuts). It’s like if someone asked about “tree nuts” and then got sick and died because there was coconut in there. So if the server asked the chef about “tree nuts” and he said “nope”, he wasn’t wrong or lying, he just didn’t go on to say “but it does have pine nuts, which aren’t in the same category, have you ever had them before?”

        3. Anon Accountant*

          This is sad. When I worked in a grocery store our bakery and prepared foods department had a list of ingredients and such so if a customer had allergy concerns they could review the info.

    3. Becky*

      For me restaurants are a complete crapshoot-I’m allergic to latex (went into anaphylactic shock when I was 7 years old) and you can’t tell from the type of food a restaurant serves what gloves they use in food prep. Some US states have banned latex in all food prep, but not mine. I usually have to call ahead to every single restaurant to find out if they use latex or non-latex gloves. And I keep Benadryl and my EpiPen on hand.

    4. Bex*

      I have a very severe peanut allergy as well. I have gotten really good at VERY cheerfully saying that”Oh, I have a life-threatening peanut allergy, and if I die at the party it would just really put on damper on the celebration!” The big smile and chipper voice combined with an outright death threat (albeit my own) seems to always stop pushy colleagues in their tracks, silence the special-snowflake types, and sent servers scurrying to actually talk to the chef.

      1. Anon Accountant*

        I’ve used similar wording to reinforce “yes this really is a potentially fatal allergy and not a made up allergy because I’m on a diet or don’t like something, etc”.

        When you use the words “life-threatening allergy” they take it more seriously.

  8. Dan*


    Next question: why on earth does op have access to files at a company that he no longer works at? That’s some bad IT, and concerns me far more than whatever OP may consider doing with said info.

    1. Alternative person*

      The LW says digital copies so it’s possible they’re part and parcel of the files they acquired over the course of working there.

      I had a bunch of files from a previous job sitting on a memory stick because I had been working offsite and those files were needed to do my job there. More still in the gmail account I had set up to send and receive communications (the business was too cheap to give everyone a business e-mail). I purged most of them in the end – the only stuff I kept was stuff I created because I didn’t put in all that hard work only to have it taken from me (and I don’t use those files in my current work, but they have been useful references when preparing new stuff)- so it doesn’t seem unreasonable to have accumulated a bunch of stuff that ended up just languishing around in digital no-mans land.

      That said, the OP shouldn’t look at the questions and should probably remove the files she does have.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      So you get that this is an IT security issue but you still advised the OP to take the risk of using the information?

    3. Christmas Carol*

      I assumed he meant that his previous interview questions/answers were part of his personnel file, which he had asked for a copy of when he left. He must have been re-interviewed for rehire (not that unusual for seasonal work) at least once, in order to realize that they re-use the questions.

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        This is what I was imagining — that the OP has a copy of their own personnel file which includes the questions that were asked last time. In that case I don’t think it is much different from having a copy of a test you took in a class last year. You might study the questions from last time in order to get an idea of the kinds of things you will be asked, but you would not expect to get the same questions. One of the universities I went to even had files of old exams for various classes in the library that students would use to study. If this is more the case then I don’t think there is a big problem, even telling your friend (“well last year they asked me what my favourite tree is, so think about that. Also be prepared to explain how to do a mail merge.”).

        But if we’re talking about having illicit access to current personnel files and the manager’s lists of questions that they are working on in real time, that is a completely different kettle of fish.

  9. Drew*

    OP#4, that really is a lovely story. How kind of you both to think of that activity and to let Alison know – I’m sure that started off her week just as nicely as you’ve started off mine. (Which I needed more than you could realize…)

    1. Lance*

      Agreed. Even if it’s not a question, or an update to a previous letter, it’s always great to see success stories.

    2. Marillenbaum*

      Same! I really loved this. And whatever is going on with your week, I hope it gets better soon.

  10. Green Goose*

    I really agree with Alison’s advice here. If the guy is clueless about his flakey reference behaviour its a good opportunity for a teachable moment. He needs to know that he’ll lose credibility if he continues to do this with other work connections, and he should also know that it made the LW look flakey as well.

    I used to work in an industry that a lot of recent college grads were interested in, so I would get lots of friends of friends, six degrees of separation people reaching out to me to give them advice about getting into the industry and what to expect and I saw similar behaviour with them. A lot of them never said thank you, or followed up afterwards, it came across as at best oblivious, and at worst entitled.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Had the same issue when I worked in journalism. I think it can sometimes be a kindness to point it out, but that sort of feedback is rarely well-received.

      In the LW’s case it sounds a bit like the former colleague reaches out when he’s unhappy as part of a wider search. And in the process has used up his capital. In future I would maybe hesitate to say anything unless the person actually confirms they’ve sent their resume.

      It’s also possible he doesn’t have his resume ready and was hoping to bypass that altogether! I will admit I speak from experience (although I was self-employed, had a website with work history, cuttings etc and didn’t have a standard one-size-fits-all resume, it was a big timesuck putting one together and not really a thing in my then-field).

      1. Letter Writer#3*

        You’ve hit the nail on the head. “Steve” is a good guy, and was a good employee, but he tends to only reach out when he’s struggling with his job search. I’m actually Facebook friends with him, but he doesn’t really talk to me unless he needs something.

        I wouldn’t have minded helping with his resume if he had asked, if it was an issue of not having one that works.

        I ended up following Alison’s advice and paraphrased what she said. I’m waiting on a response.

        1. Green Goose*

          I’m also curious with his response. That is also slightly frustrating that he only reaches out when he needs something.

        2. Wine not Whine*

          I see that you’ve already responded to him.
          My suggestion would have been to tell him to copy you when he sends his resume, and you would be happy to then endorse it. That way, if he flakes again, you’ve not expended any capital of your own.
          I have the opposite problem: people will send me their resumes instead of submitting them through our portal. I can’t do anything with them. And furthermore, if you can’t follow simple directions at the link I’ve provided to you, I don’t want to endorse you anyway!

        3. Letter Writer#3*

          I know it’s a little late, but I received his response just today by email: “I thought you were my bro. Whatever.”

          I’m no longer even Facebook friends with this guy. Wow. I’m pissed.

          1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

            Yikes, what a jerk. Presumably if you were indeed bros, they would actually follow through on the things they say they will do.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      It would be a kindness to Steve to point out that OP burned professional credibility on his behalf, only to have Steve drop his end. Steve seems naive on this point.

      1. Marthooh*

        And it would be even kinder to point out that Steve has already blemished his own reputation at OP’s company, so passing on another reference would be counterproductive.

  11. Drew*

    OP#1: If you’re thinking about bringing in your own food, you could also call the restaurant back and see if they have a policy against it. Explain that you’re attending a mandatory company lunch and you don’t want to be awkward by not eating when everyone else does, but you’re severely allergic to seafood and you can’t eat off their menu. I suspect they’ll be very understanding (particularly if you brown-bag it rather than bringing in food from another establishment).

    I also like the advice to give a couple of people at work a heads up – your direct supervisor should know, if nothing else, so that she can fend off any comments behind your back with a quick “Oh, OP is allergic to seafood but she didn’t want to miss the party, so I told her of course it would be fine to bring a sandwich. It’s so nice of House Of Cod to let her do that, isn’t it?”

    1. Student*

      I think this is a case where it’s better to beg forgiveness than ask permission.

      If the OP calls attention to it in advance, of course the restaurant is going to do everything they can to get the OP to buy their food instead of bringing outside food. It’s easier on the restaurant to discourage this in private on the phone than it would be in public at a large event, too.

      If the OP doesn’t call attention to it, then the OP will, at worst, have partially eaten their lunch by the time somebody complains. If that happens, the OP gives an empty apology with an explanation about allergies; it’s not like they’ll haul the OP off in handcuffs over it. At best, the OP eats their full lunch and nobody complains about it.

      Bringing food the OP can eat shouldn’t be a huge deal as long as the OP is reasonably low-key about it, and straightforward about the allergy if asked for an explanation.

      1. Simone R*

        Agreed-especially if they’re eating a casual place which is picnic tables outside the restaurant probably won’t notice or it would be a less big deal than at a fancier place.

      2. Susanne*

        I agree. Just pull a sandwich out of your purse or whatever. What are they going to do to you? Nothing. Food safety/handling rules are about bringing outside food into the kitchen to be prepared. (Like the guy who worked in a restaurant and wanted to cook his own food on the restaurant equipment as opposed to just bringing in a sandwich)

      3. Drew*

        I think this is a case where it’s better to beg forgiveness than ask permission.

        Obviously, I disagree. One thing I didn’t factor into my reply is that if the venue says, “Sorry, no outside food,” that gives OP another avenue to push back on the mandatory attendance requirement – “I called the cafe and they said they couldn’t guarantee that their food would be safe for my allergies, and they said I couldn’t bring in outside food, so if I go, I’m going to be stuck watching everyone else eat. I would prefer to skip a lunch I can’t enjoy and which has a non-zero chance of sending me to hospital.”

        As one person posted up-thread, some venues do not allow outside food and will ask you to leave the premises if they see you eating food they didn’t serve you. That’s a FAR worse look at a company event than just not eating (or not showing up at all, on medical advice).

        Ultimately, the problem isn’t with the restaurant per se; it’s with the company that chose that site for a mandatory meeting without considering the ramifications to people who cannot eat there.

        1. Anononon*

          If the OP brings outside food, and the restaurant says no, then OP can just throw out/put away the food. I highly doubt that the restaurant will then still proceed with kicking her out.

          1. Drew*

            And then we’re back to “I guess I’ll just sit here at this company luncheon and watch everyone else eat.” Bollocks to that, I say.

          2. Someone else*

            But why would she want to? It sounds like she’d prefer not to go since she already knows she can’t eat anything safely. The only reason she’s considering going is because the boss made it sound like she’d be frowned upon for not doing so. If she gets a straight up no from the venue, it’s her safe out to not have to deal with any of this anymore.

    2. Susanne*

      If I were to call the restaurant, it would be to TELL them that a member of the XYZ Company Party will be bringing in their own food. Not to ASK whether they could. But frankly it wouldn’t occur to me to do either if I were in that situation and didn’t trust the restaurant to be able to accommodate the person’s allergy. Let them drag my party out of the restaurant in handcuffs. Oh no, they won’t.

  12. Mad Baggins*

    In my office/country usually the restaurant choice/paying/organizing is done by one person, so if I were in this situation, I’d ask the restaurant organizer if the restaurant allows outside food, as I have a serious allergy. Either they call the restaurant and check for me (cool, now I can decide to bring food or eat beforehand) or they realize what a poor decision it was and do something about that. Or they brush it off and you have to call yourself (the position you’re in now). Not sure if that would be appropriate for your workplace but it’s a way to gently raise the issue without directly asking them to pick a different restaurant!

  13. Casca*

    I keep kosher so I can pretty much never eat at work functions. Most places (Sydney) don’t like outside food so I don’t try that very often but there’s no harm in calling ahead and asking.

    I always buy just a drink so that I’m participating, and eat a packed lunch before we leave for the venue. When at the venue, I’m always firm that I’m just having the drink and that I ate beforehand so I’m totally fine and don’t need anything, but thanks. I don’t bother giving the readon unless someone pushes (rare)

    People often just do not remember so don’t get frustrated if you feel like you’re being asked the same thing over and over again!

    1. ..Kat..*

      Unfortunately, buying a drink at the establishment could be a problem. I am picturing a restaurant that fries fish and shrimp in oil. That oil (and the allergen) gets everywhere. Even on the soda machine, cups, etc. Depending on her sensitivity level, this could be a life threatening emergency for OP.

      1. Casca*

        True. I’ve found that most Australian ‘fry’ places have bottled drinks in a fridge, which might help.

    2. saby*

      I live in a large city with a decently sized Jewish population and even larger Muslim population and it’s shocking how many catering companies will make special meals for all manner of dietary restrictions and yet when you ask about kosher and halal options act like they’ve never heard of them before! Our events are in venues where it’s easy to bring food or duck out at lunch to grab some elsewhere, but I feel bad, especially since I’m not allowed to give anyone a discount on the registration fees for our events if they won’t be able to eat much of the food.

      1. Jesca*

        LOL well keeping/preparing kosher food in particular can be very daunting for a non-kosher establishment. It is not just about blessing meat correctly when it is cut – it requires a whole slew of things (right down to the knife you are cutting veggies with, what utensils were washed with, etc.). I don’t blame non-kosher places for not offering kosher, as I know many of friends wouldn’t trust it anyway. It is not as simple as using blessed meat which is what many Muslims require.

        The only was you can really get around this is to order from a kosher catering company.

        1. saby*

          I know. There are some catering companies here that have kosher facilities and will deliver kosher meals on top of our standard lunch order for an extra fee, and we work with them sometimes. I think I got spoiled because I used to work on a university campus and it was all very easy, campus catering had a kosher kitchen and halal options and didn’t charge extra for any dietary accommodation. Halal is definitely easier to accommodate but still not standard.

          It’s not that I expect all caterers to do this but I always ask anyway, and so often it sounds like no one else has ever asked them before which surprises me. I don’t really get a say on who the catering contract goes to (procurement procedures), but I am the client-facing person and therefore the one has to call people who wrote on their registration form that they want a kosher meal and tell them we can’t do it! We only do a few events a year so I’m sure after enough of them I will be desensitized to this eventually and stop feeling so guilty.

          1. Someone else*

            Yeah, I hear you. It’s not surprising for me to get a “no we can’t accommodate kosher or halal; we don’t offer that”. It is surprising to hear a catering company act shocked they were even asked.

        2. Artemesia*

          I would expect companies to buy frozen halal and kosher entrees that could be prepared and plated on disposable plates. This is such a large market that it seems odd that any conference or business catering venue can’t do it.

          I have run very large professional conferences and there are always vegetarians, vegans, and people who keep kosher or halal and I never had any trouble getting meals for them at large hotel caterers and the like.

          1. Observer*

            Well, if you heat those frozen meals in an oven used for non-kosher meat or anything like that, someone who is strictly kosher cannot eat it. It really isn’t that easy.

        3. Leah*

          Just FYI – kosher meat does not need to be blessed during slaughtering, or preparing. It just needs to be under supervision from someone who is approved to do so.

        4. Observer*

          Just for anyone reading this – Kosher has nothing to do with blessing the meat. In terms of the meat, it’s about the kind of meat, how the animal is slaughtered and the processing of the meat to extract most of the blood.

          But the rest is accurate. I totally don’t blame a place for not offering kosher options, and it’s quite possible I wouldn’t trust it anyway.

          What I’ve seen at events where this is an issue (NYC) is having food in sealed containers that the people who keep kosher can eat.

        5. Stone Cold Bitch*

          I have colleagues who are muslim and many of them order the vegetarian/vegan option. I spoke with one colleague about this and he said he actually prefers this, because he’s tried a lot of new things and enjoys it.

  14. MommyMD*

    I don’t want to work with someone who has “access” to my personnel file and is using it for their own gain. If they found you were using this file, would they frown on it? If yes, keep your hands off it.

    1. Lurking Tom*

      Yeah, the “personnel files” piece of this is what is really concerning. With every job I’ve had, personnel files have included addresses, phone numbers, even salary information for the employees. Hopefully this is not the kind of info that this company allows a seasonal worker to keep accessing after they’ve left & hopefully the OP doesn’t have “access to digital copies” because OP downloaded them to a flash drive or something before leaving. Both of those possibilities are seriously icky.

  15. periwinkle*

    OP #5 – It’s a red flag if the company has difficulty differentiating between the retail world and corporate HQ. If you decide to interview anyway, keep your eyes open for similar warning signs about the culture.

    My husband recently started working in a senior non-management IT position at the corporate office of a major retailer. Although the interview process was normal, he has discovered that the company tends to view corporate employees in the same light as the store employees. There’s no telecommuting, no flexible workspaces, and based on his comments, little tolerance for putting outcomes & common sense over sticking to by-the-book process. He likes the people and pay, but doesn’t see himself tolerating it for too long.

  16. Close Bracket*

    At one of my jobs, I RSVP’ed as a no to a team meal bc it was at a bbq joint, and I was a vegetarian. My boos came by to tell me they moved it to a different bbq joint that had vegetarian options to accommodate me! I wish all bosses and meal organizers were that thoughtful.

    In retrospect, I think that is the nicest thing a boss has ever done for me.

    1. the gold digger*

      When a former vegetarian boyfriend and I went to my friends’ for Thanksgiving, she made an entire eggplant lasagna for him (and made sure all the sides were vegetarian). It remains one of the most gracious acts of hospitality I have ever experienced.

  17. Amber*

    #6 I’ve found that many companies will use the same job posting for multiple positions. For example I’m currently interviewing for a Lead Teapot Artist role at Teapots Inc. I’ve had several phone interviews for this role but it’s clear that there are several teams using this one listing to find candidates even though the roles are very different. For example, the team is looking for a Lead Teapot Artist to manage a team of Junior Teapot Artists and another team is looking for a Lead Teapot Artist to direct the vision of a new teapot line. Both positions are using the same job listing and same job title but are in face different roles.

    In your case, it could be they were really interested in you for one of the roles which they filled with someone else but didn’t feel you were a fit for the other so they went ahead and relisted the posting. There is usually more going on behind the scenes and more likely something else is going on rather than you randomly being lied to.

    1. Mabel*

      It’s also in the best interested of the recruiter to get you hired in the job (if it’s an external recruiter) because that’s how they get paid. So it’s unlikely that they would tell you the job was filled if it wasn’t.

  18. Candi*

    1 -raising concerns about allergies is being a snob? That’s a new one to me.

    I hope you don’t wind up having to bring in a doctor’s note to explain ‘No, I really could not eat the food.’

    1. MuseumChick*

      Sadly, it sounds like she has the kind of boss/company where she will need to bring a doctors note and they will then begrudgingly accept she cannot eat the food at this place. They will also continue to be asses about is my guess.

      I worked with a woman a few years ago who had an extreme allergy to onions. I was impressed with how the company handled it. If there a company lunch like this and they were considering say, a Mexican place, the planner would call them and asked about food allergy accommodation. Another person who worked at this company was vegan and the planner also ensured that either 1) There were options on the menu for this person. Or 2) A special plate was made for her ahead of time.

    2. rosiebyanyothername*

      In my allergy experiences I’ve found people just get really really emotional about food! Especially this time of year when there’s lots of special meals and treats around, if you turn down your coworker’s cookies from her Great Aunt Whoever’s recipe people see it as a personal rejection. I just try to be assertive and clear that I appreciate the offer, but I don’t want to risk getting sick. Sometimes I even show people my EpiPen to prove I’m not kidding around (they look pretty scary). My mantra with holiday parties and other food-based events is that I’m attending for the people, not the food–that usually helps people calm down a bit.

      1. Mischa*

        They really do! When I was studying abroad in France the overwhelming amount of people were incredibly nice and accommodating with my shellfish allergy. However, there was one hotel proprieter in a tiny fishing town who refused to believe I couldn’t eat the langoustines (shrimp, basically). He pointed at my head and said, “You’re not allergic! it’s psychological!” I didn’t eat that night.

      2. Tap Tap Jazz*

        Epi-Pens ARE intimidating! Once when I was serving, a family came in, and the mother brought out and unzipped an Epi-Pen CASE for her son. It looked like something Dexter would use…

        (There were three different pens. I thought epinephrine was epinephrine, but she claimed that her son reacted differently to different foods. Still unclear about that, but I was in the weeds and didn’t have time to be curious.)

    3. Big Fat Meanie*

      Unfortunately, some people have decided to lie about allergies when they just don’t want to eat something, which has led to others being skeptical of nearly all people who say “I can’t eat that, I’m allergic to ____.”

      1. Mabel*

        And I never know what to say because I’m not allergic to wheat, and I don’t have celiac, but if I eat any, I can be sick for three days. Where I live, they always ask if it’s an allergy or a preference, and I say that it makes me sick but that they don’t need to do all of the switching out of utensils, cutting boards, toasters, and getting out new jars of mayonnaise, etc. that they do when someone has celiac (to avoid cross-contamination). But I do wish there was a shorthand – maybe “sensitivity”? Anyone else have a way they deal with this without it becoming a big conversation (which is embarrassing)?

        1. Kathlynn*

          If it makes you sick I would call it an allergy. Not all allergies are so severe that any contact with the triggering item will cause a reaction. Like I can have the odd hot chocolate from the powdered mixes (ex/capachino machine that don’t use fresh milk) with no problem. But hot chocolate from an expresso machine will cause a minor reaction (a large cup at work has more than 1/4 cup of milk, and might be closer to 1 cup then half a cup (iirc, and if it was filling the cup accurately when it was broken, and not dispensing the water and powdered portion), and a strong reaction if I have it more then once in a week. And I get a solid reaction between 1-2 cups of chocolate milk.

        2. Stone Cold Bitch*

          That sounds similar to what a family member has. She is allergic to wheat and rye, and if she eats any she gets stomach issues. She is fine with trace amounts.

          She was diagnosed by a specialist.

        3. Jennifer Thneed*

          I just say “I can’t eat that – it makes me sick”. (And I’ve been fortunate that people have heard that literally, and not as me insulting the food.) But I’ve been dealing with avoiding wheat for a long time now and I’m waaay past any worries of how people will take it.

          Basically – and I do this in other areas too – I avoid terms that need interpretation. “I love bread but it makes me sick to my stomach” is pretty straightforward.

          When someone offers me something (eg: cake at work) I say it that looks good and I wish I could eat it but I can’t, and thank you. (And happily nobody turns it into diet commentary, but if they did, I’d shut that ish down fast. I hate diet talk.)

      2. Observer*

        So what? I’ve never understood that excuse. And let’s be clear – THIS IS AN EXCUSE. And a really, rfeally stupid one, at that.

        Some people say they have allergies as (what they consider) a polite way to avoid eating something they don’t want to. So? I don’t see why anyone is pressuring people to eat food they don’t want anyway. But, that’s not even the issue. Everyone above the age of 5 or so should know that just because someone lies about something doesn’t mean that everyone who makes claims about that is lying.

  19. Bobstinacy*

    LW #1 I work in kitchens for a living and if you talk to the restaurant ahead of time you could probably bring your own food.

    Most kitchens do their best to accommodate allergies (trust me, we don’t want to make you sick!) but sometimes cross contamination isn’t preventable and this sounds like one of those situations.

    If you’re severely allergic and just being in the restaurant is dangerous then don’t be a hero. It might not be viewed favourably by some but most people are reasonable enough to understand not hanging out in a seafood joint when you’re allergic to seafood.

  20. Observer*

    #2 If you use the question list and anyone finds out about it, you could torch your reputation – not just with the company but with anyone else.

    It sounds like the company is a bit careless with their files. But the fact that you have access to files that you shouldn’t have does NOT mean that you should act on this information.

    1. Liane*

      Not just ruin your reputation, but lose you the job. People have had job offers rescinded for less than this.

  21. sssssssssss*

    I’m just baffled that the organizer didn’t ask potential attendees to this (almost mandatory) event for food issues before finding a venue. Allergies are not new and now get a lot more attention and respect.

    Heck, in 2000, I had to arrange food all the time for small office meetings and on one such meeting, I had a couple who were halal, one kosher, one vegetarian, one Celiac and one who was vegan “for Lent.” We fed them all…

    In 2017, there are so many diets now (paleo! Keto! vegan! pescatarian! etc.) I cannot imagine planning a large scale event without some serious consultation first. Whoever organized this, they didn’t try hard enough to make sure everyone could be included. This should be raised at a future meeting, even as a health and safety issue.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      There was a chef on Top Chef (with a pig tattoo) who gave up meat for Lent. I remember it because he did really well on the vegan challenge, knowing how to make something filling that worked if you ate like this all day for a week, not just for one meal. (I also internet-knew someone who would give up internet comment threads every year for Lent.)

    2. Antilles*

      Even leaving aside the issue of asking in general, seafood is such a common allergy that I can’t imagine not checking for *that*.
      I could maybe see if it was an oddball allergy that you didn’t know existed or didn’t think about…but ‘fish’ and ‘shellfish’ are both right up near the top on the list of most common allergens. Even if you really wanted to do a seafood restaurant, I can’t imagine not at least giving a thought to “well, let’s make sure they’ve also got burgers or steak or something” (which most seafood restaurants do nowadays).

      1. Susanne*

        Granted, my allergy is only to shellfish and not to fish, and I’m not in any danger from getting sick from simply being around it, but in my experience, fish/seafood restaurants will have a chicken dish or two on the menu, a few salads with protein, etc. I prefer not to go to these restaurants if it’s my choice, but if forced to, I’m able to eat at them just fine. I recognize, of course, the OP’s health concerns may be far greater than mine.

        1. MsSolo*

          Also, and this probably varies a lot by part of the world, but where I’m from the other proteins are usually cooked separately to accommodate kosher/halal/pescetarian diets that have to be careful about contaminating fish with meat proteins. There’s nothing like tucking into a massive battered saveloy!

        2. Else*

          Yeah – they are the absolute worst for having a variety of options. If I was creating a seafood restaurant, I’d have all the fishes, a couple of cuts of good steak, a light chicken dish, and a good vegan entree that I could do most of the prep in advance for to avoid contamination. Vegetarians and vegans can both eat vegan food, but vegans can’t have a lot of vegetarian, so… And – it wouldn’t be either a portabello mushroom or pasta with marinara! Those are the two most common options, fyi.

      2. BadPlanning*

        I was thinking the same thing — that a seafood allergy is a fairly well known allergy. I feel like it’s the most common “oopsie” joke in movies/tv (for better or worse). Character starts swelling up, “What do you mean there’s shrimp in the dip!”

      3. Big Fat Meanie*

        Right, I think I’ve taken for granted that people planning work parties will look for venues that have something for everyone, and/or ask the team if anyone has food allergies or diet restrictions.

      4. LBK*

        And even with allergies aside, seafood is a pretty common thing for people to just not like to eat (I know of two close friends offhand who pretty much don’t eat any of it and another who will eat some but doesn’t like crustaceans). Seems like an odd choice to me – usually for a team outing I’d try to opt for something with a more neutral menu with a variety of options, unless I were on a very small team where I specifically knew everyone’s food preferences.

    3. Susanne*

      I’m surprised that they are going to a place where everything is fried. Many professional people seem to have a desire to stay healthy and avoid / limit fried food. A “regular” seafood restaurant might (I say might) be acceptable to the OP because that’s where you could also get chicken, pasta, salad, etc. prepared in a safe fashion. But a place where everything is fried? Sounds like a really cheap place!!

      1. 2 Cents*

        “Many professional people seem to have a desire to stay healthy and avoid / limit fried food” <–I don't know who you're talking about in this comment, but in my professional office, the dietary choices are as varied as the number of people. This is a pretty blanket statement to be making.

      2. Jessie the First (or second)*

        “Many professional people seem to have a desire to stay healthy and avoid / limit fried food”

        I’m a lawyer, and have worked in law office for years, and this sentence does not resemble anything I have seen.

        Gotta go now – running home for lunch, which includes a whole lot of pasta and then a handful of Swedish Fish candy. For my health.

  22. Foreign Octopus*

    My biggest issue with #1 is not so much that they can’t eat anything at the restaurant (although that does, obviously, suck) but with the fact that attendance might as well be mandatory if their absence is going to be conspicuous and noted.

    Saying that, call the restaurant and explain that you’d like to bring your own food due to allergies.

    Also, your boss, in this case, sucks.

  23. MuseumChick*

    LW1, I agree with the others to bring your own food. If anyone asks you about it, in a neutral ton say something like, “Oh, I have an extremely bad allergy to seafood and shellfish. I checked with the restaurant ahead of time and there is literally nothing on the menu that would be safe for me to eat. Even the fries here are cooked in the same oil as the fish.” (Evil side of me wants you to say this loud enough for the person who picked this place to hear).

    Also, your boss is an ass to not take this more seriously. With how common food allergies are now it truly stunning to be that the person who choose this place didn’t consider that someone might have fish allergy.

  24. Janet*

    #1: can we all just step back for a second and recognize that people DIE from food allergies?

    With this kind of allergy you are playing with fire by going into a seafood restaurant and it is ridiculous to even entertaining eating anything in there. You don’t know if a server has seafood on her finger that contaminates your plate or your glass!

    Do you really want to be the person that was rushed to the hospital from the Christmas lunch? It looks much more weird for people to find out you intentionally put yourself in this situation than intentionally sat out.

    The solution is just far too passive aggressive. Stand up for yourself and say no. Who cares if your manager is worried it’ll look weird? Everyone will get it and NO ONE will say that the person with the seafood allergy should have attended lunch at a seafood restaurant.

    Even if it is ‘too late’ to cancel you must remember you do not have to go. No one is going to handcuff you and drag you to the restaurant.

    1. SallytooShort*

      I agree that allergies are serious and there is no reason to risk anything. But, in reality, it’s just not true that no one will hold it against her. It sucks. It is ridiculous. But the fact is if she’s the only one who doesn’t attend could very well be held against her. And even if it isn’t actively held against her missing on department wide bonding can have a negative impact on your career.

      Obviously, this isn’t more important than health. But it is something that can’t be ignored.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If her allergies are so serious that she could die from simply being around other people eating seafood, then of course she should explain that and not go. But the letter doesn’t indicate that’s the case (and for many people the solution of bringing her own food would work fine).

  25. Employment Lawyer*

    Turn lemons into lemonade:

    “I’m horribly allergic to fish, but I didn’t want to miss the get-together!”

    That coneys reality and earns you points for bring a trooper.

  26. Employment Lawyer*

    2. Is it cheating if I peek at the interview questions I’ll be asked?
    a) yes.
    b) given that you already have the files, there’s nothing to stop you from doing it anyway.
    c) but don’t trust a friend.

    1. Grey*

      “Have access to” might not be the same thing as actually having the files. It could mean your old login and password to the company directory still work. The OP wasn’t clear on that.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Best case, you’re getting interview questions that you…. already should know, having interviewed for the job in the past. (And got it.) Worse case, you pop up on someone’s radar as “IP address blah attempted to access network remotely” and trash your chances of ever being hired.

  27. Buffy*

    On update #4, my unit actually adopted this as well! At our Christmas party, we had a thank you note station where you could send them. It was really nice and now I’m wondering if someone on our staff also reads AskAManager. :)

  28. rosiebyanyothername*

    I’ve been in the same boat as #1 many times with a dairy allergy (pizza parties are kind of hell for me). Bring your own food and use Alison’s language to emphasize this is safety, not you being difficult. Sometimes I even say “well, my doctor doesn’t want me to eat that” if people are really pushy.

      1. Lady Phoenix*

        I agree. If people push, explain that this food can send you to the hospital. That is far more urgent then “my doctor told me”.

      2. MuseumChick*

        Oh I really like this. Especially is someone is being pushy:

        Co-worker: “Why did you bring your own food?”
        LW: “I have a bad seafood/shellfish allergy.”
        Co-worker: “Well have the fries!”
        LW: “No, its not safe for me to eat anything cooked in the same oil as fish”
        Co-worker: “Come on! Eat it!”
        LW: “No, thank you.”
        Co-worker: “Stop being so picky!”
        LW: “To be clear, if I eat that it could kill me.”

        1. Susanne*

          This is a great example of pushing the awkward back onto the person creating it. There’s nothing awkward about simply informing people you have a food allergy. The awkward is from the person who pushes at you to eat foods you cannot. They are the ones who look like the rude fools.

      3. Kathlynn*

        That only works for lethal allergies. My milk allergy has a lot of TMI and internal symptoms that others wouldn’t see, as my only immediate noticeable reaction is becoming sleepy and a decreased ability to focus due to that. And other symptoms that only occur with frequent exposure (like a constant but minor headache).
        I tried “if I eat [item] I’d be asleep within 3 hours” but the people stopped taking me seriously. Luckily that was just a casual discussion.

        1. MuseumChick*

          That’s a good point. I think the same principle still applies though, you just change the last line in the conversation to something like “To be clear, this is a very serious health issue. I’m sure you understand.”

        2. Susanne*

          The problem is the overexplaining. “I’m allergic to milk / milk products / dairy” (whatever your specific thing is) is a complete sentence. You don’t NEED to give anyone an explanation of whether that manifests itself in an upset stomach, sleepiness, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, hives, throat swelling, problems breathing, etc. The only thing that might be relevant is whether you can be around that product or not (e.g., I’m assuming you can be around people drinking milk, but a peanut-allergic person simply can’t be around people eating peanuts) because that speaks to whether or not you can even show up at the place.

          As an example, there is a burger chain called Five Guys. At the entrance, they have these big bins of peanuts in the shell (and signs clearly indicating that’s what they are) and you can eat them as you are waiting. A peanut-allergic person simply could not enter this chain. Full stop. Don’t care how much the company wants to bond over lunch there.

  29. Mitchell Hundred*

    Call me crazy, but I feel like a food allergy would be a perfectly legitimate reason to be a special snowflake, since it’s evidently a way in which you differ from every other person in the office.

  30. Lady Phoenix*

    #2 I would be honest to the company:
    “I noticed that I have access to the interview questions. I wanted to bring this to your attention so you can make the files hidden from people who should not have access to these files.”

  31. MsSolo*

    LW1 – As someone with a severe fish allergy (projectile vomiting! The least socially acceptable form of allergy!) I echo reiterating the nature and consequences of your allergy to the event organiser and explaining you’ve already contacted the restaurant and food contamination is an issue. Ideally, the event organiser should then take it upon themself to ensure you are accommodated. If not, foodwise you have a choice between bringing your own or eating beforehand. Personally, I’d go for the latter and buy a bottled drink there – bringing your own is just so much more stressful (will I get kicked out? will my colleagues think I’m such a snob that I only eat my own food? will I have to keep justifying myself to colleagues and waiters all afternoon?). If you do bring your own, I would definitely tell the restaurant beforehand; it’s common courtesy, and they’re unlikely to say “no” if they can’t provide anything you can eat (alternatively, it might kick their arses into gear and prompt them to find a way to safely accommodate your allergy). Besides, usually at this sort of event the company prepays for the food, so they’re getting paid whether or not you eat something they’ve made.

    1. Susanne*

      “Personally, I’d go for the latter and buy a bottled drink there – bringing your own is just so much more stressful (will I get kicked out? will my colleagues think I’m such a snob that I only eat my own food? will I have to keep justifying myself to colleagues and waiters all afternoon?).”

      If I’ve made it clear to my colleagues that I have such-and-such allergy, why would they think “I’m such a snob I can only eat my own food”? And I don’t need to justify myself to the waiter. The waiter works for me (in this context).

      Aside from Bluebell Cafe upthread, I’d sincerely like to know if anyone else has ever run a restaurant where they seriously kicked out a person who was allergic to something for bringing their own food.

      1. MsSolo*

        I’ve been kicked out of places because I was with someone who brought their own food. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, but in the UK you do not bring food to a place that serves food, full stop. Heck, you don’t even bring it to a bar doesn’t doesn’t serve food – you want to eat your burger at the pub? You stand outside the front and scoff it before going in. And generally, it’s the whole party that gets kicked out, not just the perpetrator, if there’s a sense everyone was colluding on it.

        I’m not saying you wouldn’t find places that were willing to be flexible if you called beforehand and they found they absolutely couldn’t cater for your dietary requirements, and you identified yourself on arrival so the waitstaff new it was you and not someone else who was trying to break the social contract, but just doing it and expecting “but I have an allergy” to let you get away with it when you’re caught is not going to fly.

        LW is in Australia. I don’t know if their social norms tend more towards the US or the UK on this issue. Personally, the stress of worrying if I was going to get caught with my illicit food and have to sit through a big scene justifying my actions would be too much hassle compared with chilling with a nice bottle of fancy water.

        (The snob thing is because LW already feels like they’re judging her for being a snob – if she’s right about that, bringing her own lunch probably isn’t going to help.)

        1. Artemesia*

          Again, big difference between individual or part of a very small group who hauls out their own food and a member of a large corporate party having an event at the restaurant.

      2. Restaurant Owner*

        My full-time job is in the corporate world, and my family has owned and run a restaurant for 37 years.

        If a customer notifies us IN ADVANCE that they have an allergy, we will outline to them the steps we can take to prepare their food in a safe manner. If that isn’t possible, then they are more than welcome to bring their own food. We do not allow customers to bring in their own food without warning, and we have removed customers from the premises for not following our rules. It is posted that no outside food or drink is allowed.

        We ask about allergies when we book large parties, and devise a menu that will satisfy everyone. If the allergy is so deadly that an attendee would feel unsafe consuming our prepared food, then they can bring their own.

        If you sat down at our table and pulled out your own muffin and banana to eat with your coffee, we would politely package your beverage in a to-go cup and ask you to leave. We are not in business to provide you with a place to camp out and eat your own food. Buying a beverage doesn’t give you the right to do anything other than drink your beverage. If you’re eating a muffin and banana, that’s money we’re not making, and other customers will assume they can do the same thing.

        There is a difference between people who are allergic and people who feel entitled. One we will happily accommodate. The other? We don’t need their business. They take time and manpower away from our other customers, who are paying to enjoy the atmosphere and our cooking and cocktails.

  32. DCompliance*

    LW 1: Will the steam from the cooked shellfish trigger your allergies? I just ask because it triggers my dad’s allergies. Perhaps I am being overprotective on your behalf, but better safe than sorry.

    1. Mischa*

      I wondered the same thing — shellfish does the same for me too. Can’t even be around it (which will be interesting on Christmas, because my parents are insisting on having it, but I digress). I am absolutely of the opinion that you should either bring your own food or bow out altogether. Send the awkwardness back to the organizer.

      1. Commenter*

        OMG, I really want to know how things went at your parents’. I really hope they didn’t end up on having shellfish.

  33. Seafood Allergies Scare*

    OP #1 I was in a similar situation. Friend planned a big event at a place that only serves seafood and told me to eat chicken fingers off the kids menu (which I can’t do like you noted about cross contamination.) I have been to upscale sea food restaurants and never had a problem. However, this place was similar to as you described. They did not scrub the tables in between guests. So while I was sitting there not eat I started having trouble breathing and broke out in a rash on by arms. I was sitting with my arm resting on the edge of the table that must of had shellfish residue on it! So please be careful or refuse to go!
    If you do go I would just play it off light and change the subject. I have a family member who is allergic to pretty much everything. But hers is only if consumed unlike my allergy. So she can safely sit there. If she plays it off like its not a big deal and eats before hand its less awkward.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Also, OP #1, if you are not sensitive to contact or airborne*, I would still eat before going. Or be very, very careful that your food comes into contact only with things that haven’t come into contact with the shop’s food. So you’d need to hold it constantly, or have your own plate. I say this because I often use a baggie to hold a sandwich and then set on the baggie but in this case I’d worry I might have moved it around and contaminated both sides on the table, whereas I’m far less likely to accidentally set a paper plate down one way, pick it up, and set it down the other; it has a correct side to be up, whereas a baggie doesn’t.

      But mostly I’d eat ahead.

      * If you are, it’s not worth going, not even with all the political capital it might cost you. Being a “team player” at your job is not a useful benefit if you are in the hospital.

    2. Interviewer*

      This is what I was coming here to say. My daughter’s shellfish allergy has worsened from contact to airborne because of repeated exposures over time, and the last time landed her in the ER. We have epi-pens and antihistamines on hand. Now I worry about fishing trips and restaurants and beach vacations.

      I think I’d politely decline the invitation due to severe allergies, and leave it at that.

      1. Seafood Allergies Scare*

        Oh I could go on and on about that “friend” as well as that night. Let’s just say I don’t see her often anymore.

  34. The Photographer's Husband*

    I agree with Alison’s advice in #2, but am reminded of my father who actually held the exact opposite position.

    =He works for a large auto manufacturer and at one point while I was in-between jobs, I decided to apply for a position at a plant there as a supervisor. He helped me prep for an interview and even gave me a practice one using the actual questions they ask in their interviews (He was high enough in the food chain that he did some hiring and interviews himself). I brought up offhand that it seemed like an unfair advantage that I get to see the questions beforehand, but he showed me where you could find them on the manufacturer’s career portal – they were publically accessible, but no one who didn’t already know they were there and where to find them would have been able to navigate the literal virtual labyrinth of in-text links and web pages you had to sift through in order to access them. He in fact also doubled-down and said that when he interviewed people, he counted it against them if they hadn’t seen and prepared for the questions ahead of time!

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      He in fact also doubled-down and said that when he interviewed people, he counted it against them if they hadn’t seen and prepared for the questions ahead of time!

      Wow. That seems really inappropriate.

  35. nnn*

    #2: Depending on what you mean by “have access to”, they might be able to tell if you’ve accessed the files. Are they on a server where you’d have to log in and/or where they’d be able to check IP addresses that have accessed the files in question?

    Even if you feel inclined to proceed despite the ethical arguments against accessing the files, do give some serious consideration to whether you might be shooting yourself in the foot by leaving a trail

  36. nnn*

    OP #1: Do you have an epi pen? If so, as a longer-term strategic measure, you might consider (if you haven’t done so already) telling people where your epi pen is whenever it’s relevant to the conversation. (Example: “No, I’ve never tried caviar, I’m so allergic to seafood I need an epi pen – I keep it in the outside pocket of my purse, BTW.” Or when Cynthia gets designated the new first aid attendant, send her an email duly informing her where your epi pen is.)

    This won’t solve your immediate xmas party problem, but in the longer term it might make people remember your allergy by making them actually think about being in the situation of having to save your life from anaphylactic shock.

  37. SandrineSmiles (France) - AtWork*

    Honestly, OP, I understand the advice telling you to go and bring your food, but honestly, I wouldn’t even be tempted to go. TMI ahead, be warned.

    I am lactose intolerant myself. Self diagnosed, but after years of being sick everytime I eat cheese, or ice cream, or lactose based items (there seems to be a difference between categories, had to tell really) , there’s a point when you go “Oh crap, this is real” . Even if this isn’t a “life or death” situation, let’s just say that there is no way in heck I am going somewhere where I cannot eat a thing on the menu. Sure, I may not die from poisoning… but from embarrassment. Oh yeah sure let’s go to a place and have to get home via public transportation and risk staining my clothes, not to mention the smell, and the pain.

    So yeah. Nah. I’ll hurt myself at home if I’m REALLY craving some cheese or ice cream. Outside ? Nuh huh, unless I can travel by car right after. Usually when I eat something I shouldn’t, thinking I’d be fine, I end up having mild panic attacks that make it all worse.

    I’m not even trying to be dramatic here: I just think that it’s a shame your job chose a place without anything suitable. I mean I can understand not having much, but… there needs to be *something* for you.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Side note: if it’s lactose intolerance and not milk allergy, lactase pills can help (depending on how severe it is), but also, there are a couple lines of lactose-free ice cream now.

  38. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I feel like the easy answer for #3 is to respond with “Sure, give me your resume and I’ll pass it along.”

  39. Lady Phoenix*

    I remember a “Table Manners” seminar at my college that served the following: seafood and vegan.

    I noticed that seceral people could not have the seafood because… well allergies. And they couldn’t have the vegan dish because you had to sign up for it.

    They also served oysters that tasted rancid.

    While I did learn a lot, I did express my disapointment over not having– I dunno– chicken.

    1. JustaTech*

      I remember a Table Manners class in college (it had some fancy name) where they deliberately served something that is hard to eat neatly. Think Cornish game hens or eggplant towers. But they never served something that so many people are allergic to!

  40. JB (not in Houston)*

    OP#1, I don’t have additional advice on top of what everyone else is suggesting, but I wanted to express my sympathy. I’ve been in your situation so many times. It’s kind of a downer having to bring your own food when everyone else gets a free meal they didn’t have to prepare themselves, and sometimes the game of 20 questions bringing your own food triggers isn’t fun. But fortunately, most people are pretty easygoing about it, and after lunch, it will all be over and you won’t have to worry about it anymore (until maybe next year, that is). *hugs*

  41. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #1 – your fears are legitimate, and the idea of bringing in your own lunch (or asking the restaurant manager for a special meal, another thought) is fine. If you communicate well, you won’t offend or bother anyone.

  42. Machiamellie*

    OP #6 – it’s possible that company uses a service like Bullhorn Reach, where they schedule social media posts to be made in advance to refresh a job posting. The recruiter may have forgotten to turn that off when the position was filled.

  43. boop the first*

    1. I know it shouldn’t matter, especially with outdoor seating, but it’s generally not a good idea to bring outside food to a restaurant that has to abide by strict, and sometimes irrationally overbearing, rules.

    The thing about not wanting to make it awkward, is that you are not causing the awkwardness. Excluding you and then forcing you to sit through it and smile is what. So personally, I would let it be awkward. I would stick out of the crowd as awkwardly as I could and if nearby coworkers asked questions I would answer truthfully. I hate having to cover and downplay lousy policies and decisions to save face for a few comfortable capitalists. If companies don’t like to come off as insensitive jerks then maybe they should stop doing insensitive things.

  44. Lady Phoenix*

    Op1: Depending on the severity, I would eat lunch beforehand and only order a bottled drink. That should cover cross contamination and the “no outside food”.

    If people gripe, you can tell them you have an allaergy and that it could send you to the hospital. It might also pull your boss’s head out of their ass for the next office party.

    If your allergy includes airbourne, talk to your boss again and tell them that you can’t attend this event without the possibility of a ambulance being called.

  45. mf*

    #1–Can you show up for 30 min and then duck out for lunch? Since you can’t eat anything, you could make your rounds, say hi to everyone and wish them a happy holidays, then leave.

    If anyone asks why you aren’t eating and/or why you’re leaving early: “I’m very allergic to fish and shellfish, and unfortunately this restaurant can’t accommodate my allergy. So I’m going to leave soon to pick up food for myself.”

    If they keep pressing the issue: “Well, if I eat here, chances are I’ll end up in the hospital. I feel like that would really kill the festive mood, don’t you?”

  46. Jana*

    #6: I think it’s not completely unlikely that the recruiter wasn’t being honest with you. That doesn’t mean there was some glaring problem with your candidacy. Saying that you’ve gone with another candidate is a reasonably polite way to reject an applicant while trying to avoid a lengthy exchange. Granted, it seems more likely that they’re being honest with you given that you actually met with them, but employers aren’t always at their most considerate when they’re hiring.

  47. Rusty Shackelford*

    #1 and #3 both have something in common, in that the LW is trying to avoid awkardness that they did not create. Both of these are excellent examples of when you should hand the awkardness back to the creator.

    #1: “No, I’m not eating anything. I’m allergic to seafood, and even the fries here are cooked in the same oil as the seafood, so I can’t eat them.” If anyone is gossipped about, it should be the person who made the arrangements, and the person who insisted you come anyway.

    #3: “Well, I recommended you a couple of times already, but you didn’t ever apply. Doesn’t seem very productive to go through that again.”

  48. writelhd*

    I think one of the annoying things about having a food-related health restriction is that hopefully most people understand and get over it when you practice assertive communication skills about it (bringing your own lunch, saying “oh I’m allergic to shellfish/seafood so I’m just not going to eat what’s here, but hey, Abrupt Subject Change!’ when somebody asks about it), but, there’s still those few that who are jerks about it. Or those who feel Really Bothered That there’s nothing here can eat and surely they’re something! Surely have you thought of…oh, well what about…, as well as those who are well-intentioned but forget (because honestly, people probably don’t pay tons of attention to all of their coworkers dietary things), or if it’s the case of something less obvious (like ceoliac desease) the people who just don’t know a lot about what’s in stuff and cross-contamination risks.

    Either way, it’s kind of an example of a social micro-aggression, in the sense that you have to deal with it all the time and all the ways people react that just require emotional work and patient assertiveness on your part to deal with, often when they’re trying to be helpful just as often as when they’re jerks. It sucks, but one way to look at it is it as a chance to practice that great skill of being cheerfully yet firmly assertive.

    1. Anna Badger*

      hello! I’m LW#4. for context, we’re a tech company with a culture of running lots of low-key optional sessions for just about anything people want to run them on – in any given week there will be at least one or two activities (newbies coding hour, leadership study group, learning hours, recordings of talks) and they are genuinely optional.

      I get what you’re saying, but given the environment here I’m comfortable people didn’t feel pressured to attend and won’t be if we run this again next year.

  49. MissDisplaced*

    #1 The only thing I’d suggest is that maybe you could call the place and ask if they could provide a fish-free option such as a salad, hamburger, etc., if possible. Otherwise, yeah, you’ll have to pack if you go or eat ahead of time but hopefully you can at least enjoy a dessert or something. I agree it’s really frustrating. A lot of people have seafood allergies, it’s one of the most common things, and the person arranging should have asked about other options, such at least a Veg option.

    However, from the arranger’s side: it can be hard to find places that will suit everybody too. I don’t know if this was just an oversight, or there weren’t many options available by the time they went to book something.

    1. Observer*

      The OP has made it clear that these options don’t exist – they already called the place and EVERYTHING is cooked in the same dishes and fried in the same oil.

      But, this post is a perfect example of what happens to people with food sensitivities of any sort “Surely you could do x” – even when the person has already explained that no, they can’t do X. it gets very old very quickly.

  50. J.B.*

    OT somewhat #1 related story time! I went to a wedding when quite pregnant, and for hours the only food available were scallops wrapped in bacon. Which I didn’t want to eat because I have a texture aversion anyway + food aversion. And they wouldn’t let the very pregnant lady at other food. Not thrilling but we could (eventually) leave and eat something else.

    HOWEVER the best man had a severe shellfish allergy. And they didn’t let people who had stayed at the food until after pictures and dancing and speeches…at 930 pm. Lots of not planning there.

    So not helpful to OP1 but people do some really headsmackingly dumb things sometimes…

  51. DJ*

    LW with fish allergy. In Aust goods and services need to provide reasonable adjustment for medical things such as food allergies. So the least the restaurant can do is to allow you to bring your own food.
    So do workplaces and it also makes harassment (ie continued asking why you arent eating) illegal.
    It’s worth giving the Aust Human Rights Commission a phone call for advice.

  52. JessicaC*

    #5 — Are you interviewing outside of the US? Or with an international company? Group interviews are common in some other countries, so that could account for the difference.

  53. Free Meerkats*

    Another possible response for #3 is to tell her friend that due to past flakeishness (not a word, I know), she won’t be able to put in a word until her boss has friend’s resume in hand. That tosses the ball neatly back into friend’s hands.

  54. Doctor What*

    OP 1: I’m SO sorry you have to go to this lunch! I would totally pack, like a complete lunch…

    As someone who has allergies to, as my one allergist suggested, “anything with fur”, I know you are still going to get asked the same dumb questions you get asked all the time. …yes, I really can’t eat anything on the menu…etc.

    May you gave the strength to get through it…

  55. Sonya, fellow Aussie*

    Fish and chip shops usually have dim sims. I know you can’t eat the fried or South Melbourne-style ones, but could you eat steamed ones? Our local chippy does all three types. Or a snag in a roll (you could bring your own roll – ridiculous, but doable) – they’re usually boiled or shallow-fried in a frypan.

    They should also have burgers, although if they offer grilled fish as an alternative, then you can’t eat off that grill either, I presume.

  56. Kara_Lynn*

    “we’re all salaried employees so we get paid to attend.”

    No, I don’t see it that way. Because if that’s the case, you’re also being paid to eat your normal lunch during the week.

    Being salaried doesn’t make you an indentured servant for lunchtimes.

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