updates: the interviewer’s gossiping wife, the employee who wore a blanket, and more

Here are updates from four people who had their letters answered here this year.

1. My interviewer’s wife is telling people about my job search

I reached out the interviewer via email this morning. I told him that my co-worker heard these details from his wife, and that as I stated in my interview my boss was unaware I was interviewing elsewhere. I stressed that I really wanted to maintain a good relationship with my workplace when I leave. I tried my best to stay calm, and avoid getting accusatory or angry. This is a small town, and while I can’t see myself ever applying to this company again, I don’t want to alienate professionals in my field. I also felt that there was a good chance whatever I said to him directly funnel to his wife. He sent back a one line email “Sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you.”

This was a really heartbreaking moment for me. I have worked very hard the last few months to polish my resume and cover letter, and I spent a long time preparing for this interview. I have enough experience under my belt that a job rejection doesn’t ruin my day anymore, but it definitely stung. In the interview they had asked if I would be willing to forgo giving notice in order to start earlier. They wanted an applicant who could start immediately to train with their employee that was on notice (the irony in this situation is not lost on me!) I politely refused this request, and explained I REALLY REALLY wanted to leave my current job on the best terms possible. There is no way to know if this cost me the job, but it definitely sucked to NOT get the job and still potentially have my current relationship with my employer threatened. It was a worst of both worlds situation.

I should say his wife didn’t tell my co-worker my name, but she did list my place employment, general age, gender, and some identifying details about me. My workplace is small (4-5 people) and it made it very clear who I was. The wife might not have known that, but there was no reason she should have said anything to my coworker.

2. My employee wears a blanket for sun protection when we go off-site (#3 at the link)

I spoke to her today and here’s an update on the situation. I believe there was some confusion in the comments. My employee walks to and from the vehicle to the building with an umbrella. She covers with a blanket and hat only inside the vehicle when going to and from the meeting. My concern was the blanket looked strange and not professional to others in the vehicle as the people are not always the same. We live in an area where using an umbrella for the sun is unusual and it stands out when she comes from the car to the building and vice versa with an umbrella when it is sunny or not raining. (Apologies for not explaining the situation more clearly). I did speak to her following the lines of what you posted in your script. She says it is not possible for her to travel 30 minutes or less in a vehicle without the blanket and to be out in the sun without the umbrella. She has elected to end her employment with the company rather than go without these things.

3. My coworkers keep asking me out

I’m not sure if this is really an update letter — I think it might be more of a thank you for addressing my question, and addressing it seriously. Reading your response and the commenters’ responses made me feel less like I was completely over-reacting to the situation.

It’s been a while since I sent this in. I was overwhelmed by the response, I’m sorry I wasn’t able to engage with the comments. The news these past couple weeks has brought all this whole thing (and the years of similar behavior before it) back to my mind. It’s honestly been a tough news cycle. I’m upset with myself for not taking things more seriously at the time, and mad at my old coworkers all over again.

By the time my letter ran, I had started my new job and it’s been honestly better than I could have imagined when I took it. I had been working towards this new job for almost two years, and the wait was totally worth it. My coworkers are smart, and hardworking, and service oriented. And it’s been a delight working at my new place. So it all worked out in the end.

Anyway, thank you again for the great work you do here!

Happy holiday season!

4. Writing a resume when my most relevant experience isn’t my most recent (#5 at the link)

First of all, thank you for your advice. I followed your guidance on creating a “Teaching Experience” section on the first page and an “Other Experience” section on the second page. Along with my cover letter explaining my brief career detour and your advice to focus my bullet points on accomplishments, I got an email asking for an interview three days after I submitted my application package!

I have already had two interviews and received a verbal offer earlier this week. In my final interview, the head of school noted how impressive my resume was and how easy it was for him to see how I fit all of the qualities he looks for in new faculty members. He was also impressed that I have experience outside of the classroom because it shows him I’m flexible and willing to take on a variety of tasks throughout the school.

Thanks again for your help, and I’m thrilled to be heading back to the classroom in a few months because of it. To anyone worried about explaining a career change or detour, follow Alison’s resume advice and you’ll be fine!

{ 412 comments… read them below }

  1. LBK*

    I’m a little confused about #1 – I guess I’m not clear what the OP was expecting. An effusive apology and detailed plan for how he was going to handle the situation with his wife? It would’ve been nice to get a little more than a “sorry for the inconvenience” but I don’t quite grasp what’s so gutting about that response, unless you assume it means he’s not going to do anything about it and is going to allow his wife to keep blathering about your job search. The rejection and her saying something about it were already done in the original letter, so it’s not like contacting the manager was going to undo that.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      To me, it sounded like he was blowing her off a bit. If it were me, I’d have wanted him to say that he’s terribly sorry and he will speak to his wife to ensure she doesn’t say another word about the OP, and that her job search will never be mentioned again.

      1. Close Bracket*

        I hope he would say that he is terribly sorry and he won’t include his wife on work matters anymore.

        1. Christmas Carol*

          + 1 This
          The only reason the wife was able to spread the interviewer’s work gossip was because the interview failed to keep his lip zipped. Even if he was unable to contain himself about something an applicant said/did in an interview, the story could have been told without the OP’s identifying information.

          1. AMT*

            Right, why is he telling his wife stuff like this if he knows that there’s a chance she’ll blab about it? Doesn’t everyone have a “take this juicy work gossip to the grave” agreement with their spouse?

            1. LBK*

              I guess to me, absence of specifics about what he plans to say to his wife re: the situation doesn’t indicate he’s not going to do anything about it. It’s ultimately a marital issue and not really the OP’s business to hear about.

              1. etcetera*

                LBK, not really sure when I implied that I found his response overly lacking or uncouth. Yes, I would have liked a nicer email, but I by no means feel entitled to one. The comment about this being “heartbreaking” in my update was not a response to his email, but to the pain caused by the overall situation. I definitely do not want a debrief of his martial problems, but a “won’t happen again” would be nice. It’s a well connected bookclub and I’ve heard the story now through multiple avenues. Again, I don’t feel entitled to this, and his response is what it its, but it would have been nice.

                1. Specialk9*

                  If I had received that rote and brief and utterly unconcerned email, from someone who F-ed up majorly, I’d be seeing white, and then red. What an utterly inadequate response. An actual apology would have been a start, and a grovelling phone call a better option.

                  “It is regrettable if anyone were to have been inconvenienced by the circumstances.” (Sarcastic rephrasing to emphasize its inadequacy to the situation.)

              2. Anonymoose*

                And it’s just SO specific. Almost like the interviewer didn’t like her and was needlessly focused on details about her when he was relaying the details to the wife. I mean, I don’t think my husband has ever come home and told me a work story and told me explicitly what someone looked like. I’m lucky if I get a name, you know?? Both of those people suck. Huge.

          2. MCM*

            If I was the OP, I would almost be tempted to reach out to that company’s Human Resources about this. That wife blabbing her mouth could have cost OP their job if word got back that they were job searching. Some employers would push you out, rather they would prefer to fire you versus you quit on them. It can also cause other issues like not receiving raises, professional development,
            etc. if an employer knew someone was job searching. The interviewer should have apologized. Word will get out that the interviewers do not keep their mouth shut. They’ll loose out on some good applicants on this.

            1. Anion*

              Yeah, I agree here. “Sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused” is a blow-off response; it says nothing at all about how serious this is or how it has/had the potential to cost the OP her employment. I would have expected at least a, “I am so sorry about this, I’ll take steps to make sure it never happens again,” or something. Anything, to show the interviewer considers this a big deal. That reply makes it sound like they don’t GAF, honestly. I’d be pissed.

              1. Big Bank*

                Agree. It’s the equivalent of “I’m sorry you’re upset.” It sounds like a decided lack of ownership for the inconvenience, almost like he’s just sorry the Op feels this way but not sorry for his role in it.

            2. SophieChotek*

              This. While I agree that the marital issues between the interviewer and his wife aren’t anyone’s business, the fact that her actions had some very real consequences and the interview seemed to not notice/care/understand that, rubs me the wrong way.

            3. Anonymoose*

              I’d be tempted too – if I didn’t care about isolating myself from the company further. Because, true, that dude is a total liability on an interview panel.

            4. HR Here*

              Yep, my first response to this was that she should reach out to HR. He might not take it seriously, but if there’s an HR department, they should.

      2. Say what, now?*

        Yes, I’d be looking for assurances that he saw how this was problematic and that he wouldn’t be doing this again to other candidates.

        OP, he may actually be planning to speak with his wife about spreading such details even though he didn’t outright mention it. He may just believe (unlike his wife) in keeping confrontations and such between the two people directly affected.

        1. No Parking or Waiting*

          I agree he doesn’t have to flagellate his wife to a stranger, but he could have taken more responsibility for his own part. He should have apologized for a creating an awkward situation by acting unprofessionally, not “sorry for any inconvenience” like the sign on the dry cleaner who’s closed for a week.

          1. MCM*

            Maybe I am wrong, but I take that response as “not accepting ownership of their actions.” I wouldn’t even want to work with that individual (interviewer) in the future. If you screw up own up to it.

            1. Specialk9*

              That’s the thing, though, the central error was with him, for gossiping about a job seeker to his wife. I mean, it sounds like she is likely a deliberate pot-stirrer, but this is not a marital problem. This is a professional breach – of confidentiality, of professional decorum, or appropriateness. His marriage is irrelevant because his wife is not the main culpable party.

        1. Lin*

          not to give the interviewer any credit (since what they did was obviously super out of line, as was the wife’s behaviour), but maybe the short email was more indicative of him being embarrassed or pissed-off at the wife? Maybe it’s a bit of a stretch, but in any situation if you tell somebody something in confidence, and it gets back to you that the person did not keep their word…i’d be super pissed. and if it was a spouse? doubly embarrassed. just food for thought.

          1. No Parking or Waiting*

            I agree he was incredibly embarrassed, by his actions and his wife’s actions. But grown ups take responsibility. They say they are sorry and they admit where they erred. OP should not have to feel bad that the interviewer is embarrassed; he did it to himself. And blowing off the OP makes an uncomfortable situation worse.

      3. AdAgencyChick*

        Yup. Just “sorry for the inconvenience” is not at ALL an acknowledgement that this is way more than an inconvenience.

        1. Ulf*

          Actually, even worse: not just “the inconvenience “ [that I caused you] but “any inconvenience this may have caused you” [not that I had anything to do with said inconvenience].

          Mistakes were made. But not by ME.

    2. Artemesia*

      The total lack of apology in that note was pretty strong. That note from the hiring manager needed to have been softened and a bit effusive. It reads as ‘sucks to be you and I don’t care.’

      1. Engineer Girl*

        This I my take too. The OP actually has done well by not getting the job offer. Really. You don’t want to work for someone that doesn’t care about others.

        1. No Parking or Waiting*

          Very much this. Plus if your career is conversation now, think of when you work there. I would not feel comfortable knowing that some mistake I made would be discussed over the dinner table then disseminated to book club. Bullet dodged.

      2. Kathleen*

        That’s exactly how it read to me. I mean, I wouldn’t have expected him to trash his own wife, but I would have be been looking for a lot more along the lines of “I realize this is unacceptable.” And there’s none of that – not the least hint – in here.

        1. PB*

          Exactly. If something like this came to my attention, I would be absolutely mortified and probably fall all over myself apologizing. It would likely put my own job at risk (my employer takes applicants’ confidentiality very seriously). The response reads very much like, “sorry not sorry.”

        2. Antilles*

          Bingo. Not only is there no apology, there’s not even the slightest recognition that he was in the wrong.
          This is basically like when someone says/does something horrific, then says “I’m sorry you took offense”. You’re not sorry for your *actions*, you’re just sorry that you got caught/got called out for it.

      3. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        OP, I know you are unhappy, but this may have been for the best. If this employer is so callous when he clearly screwed up, imagine what it would be like to work for him. I think you dodged a bullet.

    3. PieInTheBlueSky*

      Perhaps because it’s a small town? There may be few organizations that have positions like what the OP has. So if her current job is endangered (because of gossip), and interviewer’s company is not an option (because of the unsympathetic response), OP may have to move away to get another job or do something not in her field. At least, the possibility may be worrying for her.

    4. Millennial Lawyer*

      It comes off as abrupt and cold to me, and like OP is being brushed off. The same sentiment could have been expressed a tad warmer (or if not warmer, at least acknowledging OP) to smooth over the situation.

      Better examples I can think of:
      “Thank you for bringing this to my attention – I am sorry if there has been any inconvenience.”
      “I am sorry for the inconvenience – it won’t happen again.”
      “I am sorry for the inconvenience this may have brought you – good luck in your continued search.”

    5. etcetera*

      Hey, OP1 here. I changed my handle from the last post for privacy issues. I guess I was hoping for him to say just a bit more. Other members of my social circle were present at this book club and heard all the information. I am still having to discuss this weeks later, and my boss did find out I was looking (not from my co-worker). This really sucked for me, and yeah I would like to hear that he’ll ask her to stop.

      1. AKchic*

        Wow. This is *still* talk to the point that your boss now knows you’re looking at other employment, which is exactly what you didn’t want happening in the first place.

        Can you escalate this up to the grandboss and express your displeasure both at the breach of confidence and the lackluster response? I mean, c’mon – it’s their reputation on the line. And of course, we all know how gossip and rumors are. Which means your boss probably heard an exaggerated story. Oofta. How bad was the confrontation (or is “confrontation” too strong a word)?

        1. Specialk9*

          “Dear company president, I wanted to alert you that your employees are gossiping widely about job candidates, and it is impacting your company’s reputation and the size of your candidate pool…”

        1. JulieBulie*

          When you make a mistake, it’s appropriate to be embarrassed by your thoughtlessness. And it’s appropriate to say so in your apology. “I realize now that I was careless about your privacy. I am sorry for any inconvenience this has caused you, and I assure you that I will be more discreet with applicants in the future.”

          That took me 25 seconds btw.

          1. LBK*

            It was his wife being careless – I don’t think talking about job candidates with a spouse is a breach of privacy in and of itself.

              1. Specialk9*

                No, that’s silly, the wife was not the one in the interview room, she was not the one we expect to understand that interviews should be kept private. Mr Blowoff Non-apology Blabbermouth owns 100% of the blame for that info getting out. Mrs Blabbermouth gets blame for a separate problem, but it’s not a professional breach on her part.

            1. JessaB*

              It is if you’re giving your spouse enough information to recognise the interviewee in a small industry. Any information passed to a spouse should be stripped of any identifying information. Not to mention I can’t imagine that interviewer had no clue he had a babbler for a wife, that doesn’t come up out of nowhere. The guy gave his wife enough information that it got back to the OP that they were talking and it ultimately got back to their current boss and messed things up for them. Nobody should be telling people outside the company that much information. If the interviewer hadn’t gabbed, the wife would not have had the information to go gossip about.

            2. Someone else*

              It is a breach of privacy because he gave her substantial identifying details about the candidate. That makes him also a blabbermouth. “I had this wacky interview today” is one thing. “I had this wacky interview today, with person, who currently works for company, who looks like this, and was wearing that, and is this age and gender” is WAY unnecessary to relay whatever “how was your day” anecdote he might very reasonable tell a spouse.

      2. A grad student*

        Do you know who he reports to at the company, or could you possibly get in touch with their HR? This seems like the kind of thing that could put their company at risk in the long run- possibly someone higher up the chain would want to know this was going on.

        1. etcetera*

          He reports only to the board. I am not really interested in pushing much further as I am anxious for this entire episode to be in my past. My boss was a lot more understanding than I thought he would be, but it does put a little more pressure for me to leave. I am just bummed more or less.

      3. Barney Stinson*

        I was thinking that he was concerned you might sue him, and it’s been my understanding that even when you screw up badly you don’t want to admit fault like that.

        I’m not saying that’s right; I would be just sick if something like this happened because of my spouse and I’d be hard pressed not to make that clear to the person who was hurt. I understand why you wanted to see something different.

    6. Plague of frogs*

      An actual apology would be nice, and a comment that he and wife will act different in the future. This whole thing pisses me off so much. Eff this guy and his horrible wife.

    7. LBK*

      Whew – this is what happens when you comment and then leave for meetings all afternoon!

      I don’t necessarily disagree that it would’ve been nice for him to be more clear that he’d speak to his wife about it and apologize in a more empathetic way that showed he understood why this was bad and what impact it could have on his career. I think some of this is a bit hard for me to relate to since I’ve never worked in a small industry so I don’t know the dynamic, but if I were in this situation in my current industry I don’t think I’d expect or feel entitled to anything more than what he wrote. It’s a little cold but I don’t think it’s wrong – at least he wrote back at all. This was a hiring manager, not someone the OP knew especially well or had a long-standing relationship with.

      Again, maybe working in a huge industry that has a bit of a stuffy reputation is coloring my perception here. But it doesn’t surprise me that he didn’t write a longer, more emotive response.

      1. ReanaZ*

        This is the least satisfying update I’ve ever sene on this site. How horrible.

        Is this seriously legal in the US? An employer refusing a very minor medical accommodation that does not in anyway affect her work would be massively illegal here.

        1. Jenna*

          Seriously. Maybe if there’s a dress code work with her to find something that complies (e.g. a cape may be more professional-looking than a blanket but probably has similar coverage) but if I was asked to put my job before my health I’d quit too. No job’s worth getting cancer…

      2. etcetera*

        I don’t feel entitled to anything more, but it would have been nice. I don’t feel I ever expressed a sense of entitlement in this situation.

        1. LBK*

          To be clear, I didn’t think you sounded entitled, but more that…I dunno, just being miffed at something that I don’t think you necessarily should have expected. But it sounds like I was maybe just reading the hurt feelings as being more about that email than the rejection/situation as a whole – it makes more sense to me with your follow up comments since in the update letter itself it sounded like the email is what had made you feel so badly.

  2. Lilo*

    I feel like OP2 was a bit unfair if that was just in the car and walking between buildings. I have a friend who had skin cancer and she is similarly careful. It is easily explained away in seconds. Sound a like a mountain was made out of a molehill.

    1. Czhorat*

      Yeah, this update made me somewhere between sad and angry. It’s really something you could have worked with the employee on or let slide as a little quirk rather than this being something that ends their employment.

      1. Bibliovore*

        I know. The employee elected to leave the position? I use a cuff crutch. I don’t know how I would react if someone said to me, do you really need that? Its not very professional looking. I really can’t see how this is different.

        1. Ganache*

          I didn’t get the impression the OP or their company fired the worker for this. The update makes it sound like they asked whether it was possible for her to drop the blanket, and the coworker chose to quit. Not that they fired her for refusing or made dropping the blanket a condition of her employment. If the OP asked whether it was necessary and the colleague said ‘yes’ then simply quit I can’t see how that is the OP or company’s fault. Not for a question.

          1. Leenie*

            It sounds like it was a requirement: “She has elected to end her employment with the company rather than go without these things.” Implication is they were telling her she needed to go without them it she wanted to stay employed there. I think that’s terrible, considering she was doing that because she’d had cancer.

            1. Thlayli*

              It sounded like a requirement to me too. She chose to leave rather than stop using the health precautions. Sounds like she was told those were her options.

              IANAL but I would have thought covering up in the sun would be a “reasonable accommodation” for someone in remission from skin cancer.

              I think OP either was wrong to tell her she had to stop covering up, or else OP wasn’t clear enough in letting her know she could continue to cover up, since she clearly thought she wasn’t allowed to cover up anymore.

            2. Paula, with Two Kids*

              +1 Not only do people avoid the sun to prevent skin cancer but also for their appearance to avoid aging from the sun. I cannot imagine an employer telling me avoiding the sun would look strange to clients. I feel very bad for this survivor, hopefully she’ll find an employer that supports her healthy lifestyle, and doesn’t ask her to choose between a paycheck and risking skin cancer return.

      2. Kathleen*

        It’s as though even after finding out about the skin cancer, the OP and others were still treating this as a quirk, an eccentricity. And it’s not. Really, how difficult would it be to just explain to anyone who had to drive in the car with her, “My doctor has told me that I need to severely limit my exposure to the sun.” Saying that takes, what, 5 seconds? I don’t see the problem. So what if it looks a little odd? I mean, it’s not as though she was going before the Supreme Court draped in her blanket. And as for the hat and umbrella, call me Miss Over-Tolerant if you like, but if I saw someone wearing a wide-brimmed had outdoors and using an umbrella, I would *assume* they were doing so in order to reduce their exposure to the sun. And my feeling – which it seems the co-worker shares – would be that anybody who has a problem with this just needs to get used to it. Skin cancer is very serious stuff.

        1. The OG Anonsie*

          I mean, you don’t even need to explain it. If someone is wearing a very covered outfit you assume it’s a modest dress code they stick to or they’re staying out of the sun or they’re cold or whatever matches the situation, and then it’s pretty much immediately out of your head.

          If you’ve had skin cancer twice by your early 20’s, this is not wacky overkill. That the LW would continue to insist that her slightly unusual clothing is going to somehow damage client relationships is weird enough, but knowing the reason for it she should have absolutely let it go. I’m really disappointed that she decided this was the final hill for this woman’s employment. It didn’t need to be.

          1. Nita*

            No kidding. Would the LW prefer that the employee looked more professional, and died before she hit 40? I can totally understand the poor girl didn’t want to work with people who think like that. Getting skin cancer twice that young probably means some serious risk factors that require sun protection way beyond what most people use.

    2. Artemesia*

      I would think someone with this situation would have a garment made that she could wear in the car that would look a bit more professional than draping a blanket.

      1. JHunz*

        Would it help, though? OP criticized both the blanket in the car and the sun umbrella. If she had a sun snuggie or whatever it would still be unusual and therefore “unprofessional”.

        1. Agatha_31*

          Yeah I can *kind* of see the blanket (although I personally REALLY would not care once I knew her reason which is a damn good one)… but an *umbrella* is a problem? Really?? In this day and age? Just… wow. I’d quit, too. If my employer thinks that people maybe looking twice at someone using an umbrella in the sun (again, in this day and age, WHO WOULD STILL DO THAT ANYWAY?) is more important than my health and possibly my life, I don’t even want to stick around to find out in what other ways their perception is severely warped.

        2. Thlayli*

          OP criticised the hat too. And a hat is about as normal a “cover up” as you can find.

          Just out of interest I wonder if a Burqa would work. If I had to cover up from the sun to that extent I would consider getting a burqa.

      2. LKW*

        But why does she have to lay out the money when a blanket suffices? I think the blanket wearer made a choice, confirmed why it was necessary. She shouldn’t be asked to go get custom garments because someone might see her in the car. She has a reasonable explanation: I’m quite sensitive to the sun so I have to cover up if I’ll be driving for more than 30 minutes.

      3. SallytooShort*

        Most garments are not actually very protective of UV rays. Those that are tend to be very expensive. So, she didn’t necessarily have a ready alternative to the blanket.

        And it was just a car ride not when meeting with clients.

        Also, the OP also didn’t care for the umbrella, which is entirely reasonable and professional. So, even if she spend vast sums of money for specialty clothing it wouldn’t have helped.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          I want to also point out that the side windows of most cars do NOT have UV protection. Usually it is windshield only.
          The Coworker needed some sort of protection. The OP totally failed to work with her to accommodate her medical condition. That opens up the workplace for ADA discrimination.
          Sunscreen takes about 30 minutes to activate so that isn’t a solution either for a spur of the moment car ride.
          I suggest that the OP spend some time reading skin cancer websites so they can learn how very dangerous it is.

        2. Undercover Lady Lawyer*

          I’m with you. The OP’s complaints lost some credibility with me when I realized she had a problem with an umbrella cause it “looks funny.” My grandfather died of skin cancer before I was old enough to remember him. I promise you my mother wishes he was still here looking funny under an umbrella on a sunny day.

        3. copy run start*

          +1 Was looking at your typical sun hat at a sporting goods store today. The SPF 50+ ones were $40+, and it’s the middle of winter here.

      4. Super Nintendo Chalmers*

        UV-protective clothing is made out of specific materials and is very expensive. There is nothing unprofessional about protecting yourself from the sun when you’re literally in remission for skin cancer.

      5. Observer*

        And how does she get around the umbrella? That’s unacceptable too, according to the OP. ~~sarcasm on~~ Because there is nothing worse for a client relationship than a person who does not totally look like they came out of a cookie cutter. And there is nothing more important than satisfying clients like that.

      6. Kate 2*

        Please read the original comments, in it commenters explain why that wouldn’t be feasible. For example, special (expensive) fabrics are required for real sun protection.

      7. Flossie Bobbsey*

        You mean ONE outfit she could wear every single day? Seriously? Instead of just having an all-purpose coverup to wear with any given outfit? The latter is much more feasible and reasonable.

        1. Artemesia*

          I think I obviously suggested having a garment she would wear over her clothes in the car. If she is driving clients then she should look professional and draping a blanket over yourself doesn’t. A car cape would be fine made in a sun blocking material. If she were not driving clients, it would be no big deal but when your role puts you in contact with many clients, perhaps people you see only a time or two, then appearances are an issue. (lots of people use umbrellas for sun and that shouldn’t be an issue, but her coverup should look like a coverup and not like a random piece of bedding.)

          Or maybe her role should not involve driving clients around if there are appropriate roles to accommodate her medical situation.

          1. DArcy*

            A protective blanket is not going to look like “a random piece of bedding”, there’s nothing unprofessional about it, and the employer is clearly required to accommodate it per ADA.

          2. Marissa*

            Yeah, I think I’m with you on this one aspect. I own a UPF 50 hoodie from Lands End that cost, I dunno, $45? Just keep that in the car and throw it over whatever. It’s a better solution than a blanket.

            The umbrella thing was just wack, though.

            1. Jenna*

              I’m not sure a hoodie looks that much more professional than a blanket – it’s still very obviously casual clothing. For context, I have no problem whatsoever with her wearing the blanket in the first place, but if the workplace is nitpicking the blanket plus umbrella I suspect they wouldn’t be overjoyed by a hoodie.

          3. Biff*

            I make custom clothing. What you suggest is actually quite difficult and expensive for a number of reasons:

            * UV protective cloth tends to come in athletic fabrics/performance fabrics. You know, the sort of stuff gym clothes are made from.
            * Not only is it going to be a challenge to create something professional from gym-clothes material, these fabrics are difficult to sew without specialized equipment.
            *Specialty fabric that has a guaranteed UV protection rating is going to reliably run 40+ dollars per yard. Sure, I might find some via a jobber that is cheaper, but I might not. I’d need at least 2.5 yards to make a coat with good coverage.
            * A coat with set-in sleeves and welt pockets from gym clothes material is my idea of a TOTAL NIGHTMARE. I’d do it for a family member and curse the project the whole time, but if a stranger begged me, I can’t see taking less than 160 dollars for the work. That puts us at about 250 dollars for materials and time, at the low end. I’d imagine the project would end up closer to 400.

            The blanket is far more reasonable.

            1. Biff*

              Another point of concern would be that a single error in the sewing or the sealing of the seams could mean that the garment is compromised — most professionals aren’t going to be able to guarantee the product, which is generally when you turn down a project anyway.

      8. Optimistic Prime*

        If you’re in your early 20s and maybe this is your first job out of college, or one of the first, maybe you don’t yet have the funds to get a garment made.

    3. Fcuk cancer*

      Exactamundo and OP2 deserves to be sued for cricitising his employee over a legitimate medical issue. Shame shame shame.

      1. Half-Caf Latte*

        I just spent 90 seconds scrolling for a commenter named “exactamundo.”

        (Hangs head in shame).

        1. teclatrans*

          I thought it was maybe a company name? No shame, though, as punctuation really makes a difference. :-p

    4. EditorInChief*

      Agreed. It was really the LW’s problem deciding that the skin cancer prone coworker was “strange” or “unprofessional” for protecting her skin. The coworker’s health is much more important than LW random opinion.

      1. CR*

        Even if it wasn’t a health issue, my thinking is sort of…who cares if she wants to wear a blanket? It’s not the weirdest thing in the world and presumably doesn’t affect her job.

          1. SophieChotek*

            And even if the clients are in the car, this seems like something that could be explained in a casual not a big deal voice “I am worried about skin cancer because (I’ve had it before/my family has a history/something similar” and leave it at that. As many others here have done, I’ve worked in Asia and all the women there always carry umbrellas whenever they walked in the sun (even if walking just down one block to get lunch) and they have these cool little sleeves you cant put on your arms when driving (I got a pair for my Mom and she loves them and I wish I had purchased a few more) and on time when I was in the car a co-worker got a light thin cotton shirt out of her glove-box and put it on backwards just so it covered her arms during a car ride. Even though it is definitely more cultural there – I thought all of these precautions are quite sensible.

            1. teclatrans*

              Agreed on “even if clients were in the car,” but I would also like to point out that they weren’t, it was just coworkers.

    5. Alton*

      Yes, it’s disappointing that more of an effort wasn’t made to accommodate the employee, who had a genuine need for accommodation. There’s no indication that her blanket or umbrella was affecting her ability to perform the duties of the job, and it’s something that would be easily explained without giving too much personal medical info. Sometimes people who have disabilities or medical conditions don’t look like everyone else.

      1. Close Bracket*

        > Sometimes people who have disabilities or medical conditions don’t look like everyone else.

        Yes, this.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yes. I’m very disappointed in how this was handled, and I feel bad for the employee. I hope she’s working somewhere where people are more empathetic and flexible about how they accommodate their employee’s legitimate health concerns.

      3. The OG Anonsie*

        This is the thing with ongoing health issues. Sometimes you just need a little stupid thing that doesn’t affect anyone, but the LW’s reaction here is really common. People get very bent out of shape when you do anything outside the norm, and they often get worse about it when they find out it’s for a chronic health issue. Folks always go “well you can get accommodated if you just tell them it’s for your health” but oh baby, that is often not the case.

        A lot (A LOT) of people have an implicit bias when it comes to people with chronic health issues. There’s a feeling that you’ve failed somehow, you could have kept healthy if you were responsible, or you’re overblowing something that’s not a problem for attention and some ambiguous benefit. I get dramatically different responses from people when I tell them my various braces, wraps, tape, etc. are for sports injuries rather than symptoms of a chronic illness. If I say it’s from workout out people are cool. If I say it’s part of a long term illness, people get suspicious and judgmental and want me to stop wearing them.

        The LW clearly thinks that this level of sun protection is unnecessary and, even though it doesn’t seem to make a difference to anyone else if she does it, she feels aggravated that the employee is doing something different and feels very strongly that it must stop. This is so typical. It’s frustrating to see someone proceed like this even after hearing advice from AAM.

        1. peachie*

          I sometimes experience the mildest form of this and it never fails to confuse me. I have bad eyes, and before a recent surgery, I had to keep my monitor right up against the edge of my desk so I was only 6″-8″ away from the screen. I sat in a back corner where no one could see me from their desk, and I still got SO many comments to the effect of “Do you really need that? That seems silly, I bet you don’t really need to do that.” I have no idea why som people are so bothered by things that don’t affect them!

          1. The OG Anonsie*

            Oh they get real bothered. Reaaaaal bothered. “Why are you doing that? Well, I didn’t know anything about it until right this second, but I am now absolutely sure that this is stupid and you are stupid for doing it. I am very concerned about this and need you to stop.”

            And the best part is that for many people, that puts you in a little box that says “hypochondriac* who does stupid things” and people just trust you less. You’re immediately, for some reason, less competent and less reliable.

            *Used in the flippant way people usually use it.

            1. Mookie*

              Yep. People rules-lawyering your own health (“have you tried beans and rice, sweetie :))))”) is so aggravating. This is why, when I can, I avoid explaining that I’m doing something a particular way to accommodate a physical deficiency. If asked, it’s a friendly but airy “because I like doing it and it works for me, thanks” the first time and the second it’s a flat “because it works.”

          2. Aeon*

            Reminds me of a PE teacher I used to have in my last year at high-school.
            I have a handicap and one of the things it causes is a bad back. So the doctors (and I mean the expert doctors, not the gp – I have a whole team of medical specialists at a hospital following me) decided, to my great sorry, that I wasn’t allowed to participate in PE-classes.

            To get a passing grade for that course, I had to do a writing task once every trimester. Most of the times I had to summarize a text about how smoking was bad for your health, an introduction of a popular sport or the likes.

            But that particular teacher, she always gave me a text with the subject “how sports and good posture are good for a bad back”.

            I mean, I wish that was the case, but no that would not help me at all. I had tethered Spinal Cord Release when I was a baby and some nerves in my back are actually damaged that if I were to fall on my back or someone bumps hard on my back, I have a bigger risk of becoming paralysed than the “average” human being (next to the fact that my right leg is hindered by nerve damage as well, caused by my medical condition).

            I didn’t like her one bit. She always gave me the feeling that my condition shouldn’t have been “an excuse” not to participate in sports/PE (and truly, I always wished I could participate…)

            1. Desdemona*

              OMG, that is unbelievably rude! I’m sorry your teacher put you through that. Was there no way to appeal the topic?

            2. Julia*

              I’m so sorry.
              The number of people who say “have you tried exercising?” no matter what your ailment may be is astonishingly high. My own parents do it, doctors do it (when you go in with foot pain!), people tell me my endometriosis would go away (spoiler alert: it didn’t), and it’s so infuriating and dumb.

        2. Lady H*

          Oh yes, this is very well said. Health as a form of piety in our culture can be very toxic. My partner has a disability and chronic condition that causes pain and joint/bone problems and has taken to saying that she has a sporting injury to explain one of her most recent surgeries because people find that acceptable and are less likely to offer her up homeopathic remedies.

          1. PlainJane*

            “Health as a form of piety” – perfectly expressed. It ends up being really performative too (as I’m wearing a FitBit while typing this–*sigh*).

        3. Anon for this comment*


          I have a brain injury. Due to extreme sensitivity I wear shades indoors, if the indoor/ceiling lights are bright I wear a hat with a visor/ just the visor. I have chronic headaches but thankfully Im able to work thru these symptoms.

          Yes, IT LOOKS UNPROFESSIONAL, for me to wear shades and hat/visor indoors.

          Does it affect my job? No, these accomodations ALLOW ME TO DO MY JOB.

        4. Amy Pond*

          “There’s a feeling that you’ve failed somehow, you could have kept healthy if you were responsible, or you’re overblowing something that’s not a problem for attention and some ambiguous benefit.”

          ^^^This. As if your being sick is a MORAL failing, not just random chance. I believe it’s because people are scared. After all, if it’s just random chance, it could even happen to THEM and that isn’t something they can handle.

    6. Sarah*

      Agreed. OP is a jerk and has clearly never had any major health issues to be this much of a jerk. The employee is probably already self-conscious, and this didn’t help.

        1. Sarah*

          Sorry (having family members dealing with (different) health issues and disabilities, this really gets under my skin). I vote for the LW showing some compassion as it wasn’t affecting her job performance, and a simple, “I have health issues, so how about that quarterly report?” would’ve sufficed.

        2. WorkingMom*

          Out of curiosity, Alison, are you concerned for LW about any legal ramifications? If the employee chose to resign rather than go without (or reduce) sun protection is that a problem for the employer? (Not assigning blame or anything – just curious what your thoughts are from that perspective, because that’s just right where my mind went when I read that update!)

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Ah, you are asking me to work when I am enjoying just being able to print updates without comments! Okay, fine :)

            It depends on how the conversation went. If the OP said “is it necessary that you wear the blanket into the client’s or are there other options?” and the employee just quit, then no, probably not a legal issue. But if the employee explained that it’s medically necessary and the OP said she couldn’t, then yes, there could be legal ramifications to that. It’s hard to tell from the update.

            1. Pickles*

              I always wondered if we’d get a letter from the other side. “My boss wants me to stop wearing my sun-protecting blanket!” or similar.

              I have a lot of sympathy for this one, between my family’s history of weird sun problems – both skin cancer and allergies. Yes, you can be allergic to the sun….it’s not awesome.

              1. Alex the Alchemist*

                Yeah, I’m allergic to the sun and I always think, “Out of ALL the things I could be allergic to, surely it could be something normal like pollen or peanuts, but no, it had to be the one thing that gives life to everything on Earth!”

                1. Stephanie*

                  That has to suck. A friend of mine was super sun sensitive for about a month on a medication, and she had a terrible time staying covered. I can’t imagine how it would be to have to do it every single day.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Mm. I don’t see why the options were to leave or go without. OP could have just got over it.

      2. Sarah*

        I think the LW should call the lady who quit and offer her the job back with a raise. Also, watch that new Julia Roberts movie.

    7. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I don’t really understand #2. Who is going to see her in the car? I hope the employee was given a severance package and a good reference.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I know! That update really left a bad taste in my mouth because OP obviously still thinks the coworker was doing something wrong. I’m glad she left and hope she found a better manager.

      2. Bleeborp*

        It does sound like she rides in the car with a rotating cast of colleagues/clients, and that was the concern of the OP. But agreed, it’s strange to be that concerned about it. Would I think it was a little weird if a business associate drove draped in a blanket? Sure, a little, but I don’t think it would affect out working relationship (unless the blanket is gaudily patterned or unclean or covered in cat hair or something.) A plain blanket wouldn’t look that different than a scarf so it really does seem like perhaps the OP just didn’t like this person much to begin with.

        1. You're Not My Supervisor*

          Right, I think there’s a huge difference between wearing the blanket around colleagues in the car and entering the client’s building wearing it. The original letter made it seem as though the latter was happening.

        2. Close Bracket*

          > Would I think it was a little weird if a business associate drove draped in a blanket? Sure, a little,

          And I bet you would get over that once you learned there was a medical reason for it.

          1. JulieBulie*

            I think most people would get over it even if they didn’t learn there was a medical reason for it. “Jane likes to have her blanket in the car.” I guess if someone works in a place where no one has any personal quirks, this could be stupefying. But where I work, this woman would be fending off gift blankets left and right even if no one knew what the blanket was for.

          2. Specialk9*

            I’m shocked that other people apparently don’t have coworkers who wear blankets in the office? I’ve known so many! But somehow that’s ok, but not in the car?

            1. NutellaNutterson*

              I have seen folks literally wearing a length of fleece (like, by-the-yard from the fabric store) held closed by a binder clip – sort of a DIY snuggie. Offices with lousy HVAC end up with all sorts of creative solutions!

              My spouse goes full Bob Crachett with fingerless gloves and a hat in summer due to the AC being above their desk!

      3. paul*

        Yeah. When it sounded like she might be wearing blankets into the offices that was one thing. But in the car only, and using an umbrella to get between car and building…and OP still not liking the umbrella? T

        1. Anon for this comment again*

          if shes sitting near a window indoors, and uses a blanket, who cares? it doesnt affect her work.

          if she uses it to walk in the atrium indoors, what do u care? it doesnt affect her work.

          if she uses it to walk in the parking from her car to the employee door, and the blanket was pink stripes on neon blue, so what? it doesnt affect her work.

          if it doesnt affect her work, why do u care?

          really, most humans just need to mind themselves and not care about others eccentricies, weirdnesa, or quirks because IT DOESNT AFFECT HER WORK and she happens to have a really good medical reason.

          1. Not Yet Looking*

            For what it’s worth: If you have a client-facing position, IT AFFECTS YOUR WORK. Is it likely to affect it enough to justify LW’s concern? Probably not, but perception is money in a lot of positions, and saying that he shouldn’t have expressed concern at all is simply not taking the impact on client relationships into account. It should probably have been addressed and then ignored, like a service dog. What it shouldn’t have been, is vilified on EITHER end.

    8. Super Nintendo Chalmers*

      I think this is the most infuriating letter I’ve ever read here, both the original and this update. It’s like this person doesn’t understand what cancer even is, or the trauma that people who have it go through. Truly, truly unbelievable, and I’m glad the employee in question left.

      1. Super Nintendo Chalmers*

        I also want to point out that Alison’s original advice, while seemingly reasonable, is not tenable for this person’s situation. A scarf will NOT protect you from UV rays. Only specially-made SPF clothing will, and it is very expensive (look it up on any “outdoors” type of company website, like Columbia or Patagonia), and not work-appropriate. I can’t get over how heartless and clueless this letter writer is, it’s actually deeply upsetting.

        1. Kate the Teapots Project Manager*

          I 100% agree that the LW is heartless and clueless, and frankly I think they’re in violation of the ADA, which infuriates me, and I kind of hope the young woman lawyers up.

          However, there does seem to be a company that sells scarves with a high SPF factor – it’s called Coolibar, you can google them. Most of their clothes are “vacation” oriented but there’s also some button-up professional blouses in there, and in the men’s section (sadly not the women’s) there are some pants that I think could do for any environment short of suit-and-tie.

          1. Kate the Teapots Project Manager*

            Edit: Actually, Coolibar does sell black leggings in the women’s section that are sun-protective, so those could be layered under pants or dark colored tights and look professional.

          2. Super Nintendo Chalmers*

            Interesting, I’m looking at Coolibar’s website. Still, the only scarf they have that would cover your whole body is $70, and kind of ugly. Their button-up tops are $90-100. Definitely a “lounging by the pool” rather than “business casual” look going on.

            1. Kate the Teapots Project Manager*

              Totally agree on both price being kind of high and the fact that the general aesthetic isn’t business casual, but these are at least less obtrusive than a blanket.

              A base layer of leggings and a long-sleeved top worn under regular professional clothes, plus a scarf over the head, would offer protection to the entire body – and if you live in a place with laundry, you can wash one base layer nightly.

              Again I’m not saying that she should be required to buy these, and I honestly do think that LW is in the wrong for doubling down on her, but I wanted to post about this as a resource for the benefit of anyone having a similar problem.

          3. Anon for this comment again*

            Yes heartless and clueless and I was thinking that banning her from using skin covering fabrics or even highly oressuring her not to is a clear violation of the ADA and I hope she documents everything and lawyers up also.

        2. Close Bracket*

          > A scarf will NOT protect you from UV rays. Only specially-made SPF clothing will,

          Well, yes and no. Specially made SPF fabric has the best UV protection, but other fabrics do have some UV protection, with the amount depending on how tightly woven they are.

          1. EddieSherbert*

            Also, I assume she’s not getting a special UV protection blanket and that’s working, so I assume it depends on the fabric. She could just have a thick jacket or something that would work the same as a blanket?

            (We’re getting outside my knowledge base though, and honestly, I’m leaning towards “the blanket should not have been a problem anyways if it’s just in the car”.)

            1. Shiara*

              We honestly have no idea if she has a special UV protection blanket or not. There’s nothing in the original or update to indicate either way. The LW might not have considered it relevant to the appearance problem, or even have known at the time of writing in.

        3. The OG Anonsie*

          More and more companies are making high tech fabrics into regular looking clothing nowadays, although price is still a factor. They are much cheaper than they used to be, though. I have a bunch of work clothes made out of assorted special fabrics from places like Eddie Bauer, Uniqlo, Land’s End– largely because those places have great discounts (especially this time of year) that make them obtainable. I scrape around 6pm.com and have an REI membership that gets me occasional discounts throughout the year (plus dividends!). Sale scrounging those places has allowed me to get a lot of nice stuff that would otherwise be way too costly.

          Not saying anything about what this employee should or should not have done, I’m just chiming in because I wear a lot of clothing that’s made out of outdoor sports type material and this might be helpful to other folks. This whole thing does require a lot of effort and luck is a huge factor.

          1. JessaB*

            And honestly if it’s that huge a deal, this is kinda a reasonable accommodation for the office to put her in front of a computer and say look, we’re willing to go oh 500 bucks in reasonable accommodation here. You need to pick something UV protective that follows our customer facing dress code. We’ll pick up the tab for a reasonable number of items so that you have it on hand and also can launder them.

        4. Someone else*

          Serious question here: if clothes are insufficient protection and would need to be special fabric, and a scarf would be insufficient and would need to be special fabric, why is the blanket sufficient? Just because we’re assuming it’s substantially thicker? Or is the blanket already made of the special fabric and I missed that detail somewhere in the original?

          I’m asking sincerely here because the special fabric angle keeps coming up but a blanket is also just…fabric. So it’s a little confusing.

          1. Miss Herring*

            Blankets are generally made of much thicker fabric than clothing, especially women’s clothing. Thin fabric needs more stuff (not sure what, exactly, but a special weave? special coating?) done to it to make it protective against UV rays. But thicker things, such as blankets, don’t let light through. Just that blanket (maybe folded to double the thickness) is probably protection close to on par with a solid wall. I think dress scarves also tend to be thinner material. The one I have is a very thin fabric and would not be great for sun protection.

          1. LS*

            Depends what size you are, too. I’m plus size and pale-skinned with a family history of skin cancer, and it’s not cheap!

      2. 42*

        I’m with you, totally fuming.

        WTH OP. You opted for letting your employee quit, instead of backing her up with the scintilla of support it would take for you to explain to anyone who made a comment that your employee was taking steps to prevent a THIRD occurrence of skin cancer. I hope she ends up in a place where she doesn’t have to ever again deal with a boss like you.

    9. Temperance*

      Seriously, I was picturing LW’s employee running around like someone in an obvious, bad disguise to a business meeting. She could easily explain to her colleagues re: the blanket and hat. It’s not as if she was showing up in a giant hat and poncho to client meetings.

      1. Blue*

        Maybe it’s because I grew up in a very sunny place where a lot of people were concerned about the effects of the sun, but I’m not even sure you’d have to do any explaining! The umbrella when it’s not raining might look a little quirky, but it’s not that uncommon and is pretty clearly for sun protection, I thought. The blanket’s a bit more unusual, perhaps, but in combination with the umbrella I think you could easily guess its purpose.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          Yeah, I work at a university and see a lot of international students, especially from Asia, using sun umbrellas, and my reaction the first time I saw one was “wait, why is she…oh, it’s for sun! Why is that not a thing here; that’s so obvious!”.

          1. Annie Moose*

            I took a trip to Yellowstone this summer, and the sun was just deadly. Then my sister and I noticed all the East Asian tourists using umbrellas for the sun… it’s brilliant! We spent the rest of the trip using our rain umbrellas and it honestly made the trip so much more enjoyable. At first, I felt very self-conscious because I wasn’t used to it, and we did get some weird looks, but it was so nice.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yes. And frankly, using an umbrella for sun is common among a wide array of ethnic communities—including white folks—throughout the United States. I think OP really missed the mark, here.

    10. Millennial Lawyer*

      But doesn’t it seem like an unreasonable response from the employee unless OP2 is leaving something out? She could have pushed back and said “I’m sorry, but medically I need this” in which case OP2 hopefully would have backed off and all would have been well. Leaving seems like an overreaction, unless of course, like I said, OP2 left something out.

      1. Ainomiaka*

        She did say it was medical. The first letter mentions that she said she had skin cancer and needed to avoid the sun. So yeah, if manager is still pushing after that quitting seems like a pretty reasonable option.

        1. Millennial Lawyer*

          I guess my issue is I feel like it is unclear how it was really handled!

          “She says it is not possible for her to travel 30 minutes or less in a vehicle without the blanket and to be out in the sun without the umbrella. She has elected to end her employment with the company rather than go without these things.”

          What’s left out is whether OP said “okay, that’s fine” and then she still elected to leave over that or if OP said “well that wouldn’t be acceptable.”

          1. Kate 2*

            “rather than go without” means the options were two fold, either not use the stuff, or stop working here.

          2. Gen*

            Yeah ‘elected to go without’ implied that the LW made that the requirement- lose the medically necessary items or leave. The sentence should have been “She says it is not possible for her to travel 30 minutes or less in a vehicle without the blanket and to be out in the sun without the umbrella, which I saw was entirely reasonable and dropped the issue like a compassionate person.”

      2. SallytooShort*

        The employee had already said she needed it for medical reasons. That was stated in the original letter. The LW knew full well why she used these things. And was then advised by Alison that she should allow her to use them if medically necessary.

        The wording of it says everything we need to know. She had the choice of quitting or forgoing skin protection.

        1. NCKat*

          My dad had melanoma and you do not want to expose yourself to the sun any more than you have to. I was struck by the LW’s singular lack of empathy for the employee. No wonder she quit!

        2. Millennial Lawyer*

          I just happen to disagree that the wording says everything we need to know. After she said she needs the blanket, did OP say “of course that’s fine then” and then she elected to leave anyway? Or did OP say “no I’m sorry that can’t be done.”

          1. Ganache*

            Agree, the update is too unclear for us to be able to infer that the employee quit after being told she MUST forgo her sun protection. She could equally have quit after simply being asked if it was necessary. Or quit for any other reason, like she got a new job, so unrelated. I’m very surprised at how few commenters are picking up on this and at how many are assuming the worker quit after being told she couldn’t keep using the sun protection, when there is zero evidence that this is what happened.

            1. Leenie*

              I actually disagree that there’s ambiguity. She did this thing rather than that thing seems pretty clearly binary to me. The LW presented it to us as if this was a choice between two things. I don’t see any implication that there were other options there.

              Anyway, if the employee said, “I need to quit because I can’t go without my sun protection.” and that was some kind of misunderstanding of the LW’s intent, wouldn’t the LW just let her know that it wasn’t necessary? And then we’d have a different ending to the letter.

            2. Ellen N.*

              This wording is what is making many of us believe that the employee was given the choice between her employment at the company or foregoing her umbrella and blanket.

              “She says it is not possible for her to travel 30 minutes or less in a vehicle without the blanket and to be out in the sun without the umbrella. She has elected to end her employment with the company rather than go without these things.”

              1. DArcy*

                “She has elected to end her employment with the company rather than go without these things.” is a pretty clear statement that the LW told her that she was required to go without these things, and chose to leave instead.

            3. Turquoisecow*

              She was given a choice, but going without sun protection would have made her sick. Would you elect to go without sun protection in those circumstances? The job is not more important than her life. There’s no ambiguity there.

          2. Green*

            The OP did not take Allison’s advice. I’m not sure what else there is to say.

            OP obviously didn’t tell her that it was fine. She said she needed to stop using these items–rather than go without.

      3. BeautifulVoid*

        Yeah, I feel like we’re missing a step somewhere in here, like in between the conversation and the employee deciding to quit. Like, after the LW brought it up and she said she needed the blanket and such, did LW and her company continue to insist she not use them (and say her job was in jeopardy if she did), or was the employee offended at being asked and decided she didn’t want to work with them anymore? Or something in the middle. Obviously, if LW or others continued to badger her about the blanket and/or threaten her employment, that’s crappy, but we can’t be sure if that’s what happened.

        1. a1*

          Right, and I didn’t read it as the LW being opposed to any and all accommodations, just the blanket and umbrella. I, personally, wouldn’t care if someone uses a blanket and umbrella, but I lot of people seem to be assuming the LW is opposed to any kind of accommodation and I don’t think we have anything in the letter to say that. Even the “employee decided to quit rather than forgo those things” seems to be just about those specific things to me. I think it can be read both ways and therefore and not willing to join in on the “LW wants someone to die of cancer!” train.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            A parasol and blanket are pretty reasonable accommodations. Especially when they are only outside of the office.

            1. a1*

              I never said they weren’t. I even said I wouldn’t care, but a lot of people are assuming that LW would be opposed to any and all accommodations. I’m just saying maybe it really is the blanket and umbrella they think is weird. (again, not that I agree with that).

              1. Engineer Girl*

                If the OP was opposed to such innocuous accommodations then it can pretty much be assured they’d be opposed to more stringent ones.

              2. Observer*

                The OP’s wording was pretty clear. It wasn’t “is there another way to protect yourself?” But “Do you REALLY need to protect yourself, even for such a short trip?” And, it’s also pretty clear that the employee was effective given the choice of going without or leaving.

                1. Big Bank*

                  Even if it wasn’t that clear, what seems undeniable is the Op DID clearly make the employee feel uncomfortable enough about the extremely reasonable accommodation to the point she left the company. And the Op should really rethink how they handle stuff like this on future.

                2. JessaB*

                  How is quit “rather than do without” not clear? if the OP meant that they offered other options and the employee still quit I think that’s important enough to say so. The OP seems to make it clear that they thought having to have protection for short drives “under 30 minutes,” wasn’t reasonable.

          2. SallytooShort*

            But if the LW opposes an umbrella, and blocking the sun is part of the whole purpose of an umbrella as well as rain, what other reasonable accommodation could possibly work for her?

            1. a1*

              Hats, jackets, shawls, sunglasses, etc.

              I just assume the LW is more ignorant/oblivious than malicious. A lot of people seem to think they are malicious.

              1. Totally Minnie*

                Even if it is just ignorance, a quick google search could have cured that. I don’t think OP2 is a monster, I just think they didn’t care enough to understand why this is a big deal. And that’s not a boss I’d want to work for.

              2. Engineer Girl*

                The key factor is their willingness to judge before gathering the facts. That makes for a poor manager.
                I also get the hint that they were unwilling to work with the employee. Again, judgement in the absence of fact finding.
                Not good.

        2. Millennial Lawyer*

          That’s what I am confused about! Thanks for explaining. It’s not clear under what circumstances she decided to leave.

      4. amapolita*

        What more did she need to say? She has had skin cancer twice. She was taking a reasonable precaution (a parasol) when entering and exiting facilities in the sun. OP told her that was unprofessional despite knowing the medical necessity. I suppose she might have complained to HR or pursued an ADA accommodation (if it qualifies) but she may have felt that her boss was unreasonable and would have continued to find problems.

        This letter makes me really sad, and I also think OP is unaware of how bad this would sound if her HR department got wind of it.

        1. Millennial Lawyer*

          It’s less what more she needed to say, and more that it’s unclear how LW and the company actually handled it. Did they leave her alone and say it’s fine but she decided to leave anyway? Did they badger her that it was still unprofessional? The level of “jerkiness” is unsaid, even though I agree it sounds like it wasn’t handled correctly.

    11. AKchic*

      I can think of a few reasons besides skin cancer that would have caused the need for such measures, including medications. The LW’s reaction was bordering on ADA issues.

      1. Green*

        ABSOLUTELY. Photosensitivity is a side effect of many medications, and also a number of immunologic conditions (lupus, for example). The OP here thinks they followed Allison’s advice, and seems pleased with how this turned out, but they seem to just have bullied someone with a medical request for accommodation into quitting so… I’m not seeing how that squares up with Allison’s advice.

        If a client ever asks, she could just say, “I’ve had skin cancer several times, so I need to be protected from the sun!” That is more than enough explanation.

    12. Totally Minnie*

      I agree that OP 2 should have found a way to get past this. I’ve had melanoma, and I take extra precautions to avoid a recurrence. My boss and colleagues have never once made an issue of it. When i deal with new colleagues, it only takes one sentence to explain my enormous hat, and no one’s ever acted like it’s a problem.

      OP2, the worry a cancer survivor feels about the possibility of yet more cancer is profound. I wish you could have found the compassion to make this accommodation for your employee’s medical concerns. If a similar situation ever presents itself to you, please do better.

    13. e271828*

      OP2, I think you blew this one. The accommodation the employee asked for, for sun protection, was doing no one any harm at all. You should have had her back on it.

    14. Falling Diphthong*

      The update makes me think this was the perfect chance to utilize the (sneakers with a business suit/rings and chains on fingers/blanket in the car) protocol of briefly explaining to new people encountered in a business sense “Excuse X, it helps with a medical problem.” It acknowledges that they might have noticed this strong and seemingly optional deviation from normal appearance, and gives them a context.

    15. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      OP2, your employee had CANCER. TWICE. At a young age. She is doing what it takes to stay alive.

      Have you ever managed an employee before who dealt with a deadly disease? Or had a family member or friend fight this disease? Do you know what it does to a person emotionally? Many need support.

      As a manager, you could have backed your employee. Instead, you chose to shame her for doing something “different” or “unprofessional”. Please think about your priorities. They need fixing.

    16. Bea*

      Exactly. I’m glad the employee quit. She deserves better. Cancer sucks, she’s a survivor, let her take reasonable precautions. At most I would think her a little different if I just saw her covering up while going off site but never enough to question her professionalism.

      1. Caleb*

        I am kind of livid, because from my reading of the letter, they fired her because she wouldn’t stop using the blanket.

        Like, maybe I’m reading too much into it. But “I talked to her today, and she chose to leave the company rather than go without” seems like a choice was offered to the cancer survivor, and she chose “wrong.”

        It’s infuriating, because the manager won’t even take responsibility for firing somebody with cancer, and keeps putting the blame for even that on the young woman.

        I think this is seriously an ADA violation.

        1. Ganache*

          The OP says they spoke to the employee using a script very similar to the one Alison gave. That, combined with there being nothing in the letter to suggest the OP told the employee going without sun protection was nonnegotiable, means there’s no reason to think the worker was fired for not giving up the blanket.

          1. Kate 2*

            Yes it does. Please read the explanations others have posted of the phrase “rather than go without”.

            1. teclatrans*

              I am so confused about why this reads as unclear to people. I mean, the construction actively distances LW from any culpability and puts the reader in the LW’s PIC, such that one needs to stop and rearrange the order of causality, but all the facts are right there in the sentence. So, maybe I answered my own question: people, ignore the narrative structure and pay attention to the information provided — it’s not even slightly anbiguous.

          2. Bea*

            The letter reads like “go without protection in the car, it’s less than 30 minutes!” They have no grasp that this cancer survivor prefers zero minutes with her skin exposed to the sun and was working around that with a blanket.

          3. Green*

            The OP seems to have missed the point of Allison’s advice, so whatever deviations from the script there were, they were obviously significant since the person had the options of “going without” or resigning.

    17. Minnie*

      I feel the LW was being too judgemental and I am disappointed in the outcome as well. I hope that woman found a better job.

    18. The Strand*

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who had that reaction. One of my friends is older and has an allergy to the sun. He is now retired and makes enough from a pension that he can afford professional, high quality products to protect his skin. He showed me the catalog, and I was blown away by how expensive the coats, shirts, and dresses were. Most people can’t afford this. OP2, in my opinion you and your company just opened yourself up to an ADA lawsuit.

    19. heismanpat*

      Yup, sounds like a good way to open yourself up to an ada claim. I can’t imagine why the op would share this update and expect it to be well received.

      1. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*

        Yea Im kiiiiinda a little hoping this post gets back to the cancer survivor’s lawyer…

        (This makes me wonder if Alison has ever been subpoenaed over a letter here? Because personally I really wish this letter would help the cancer survivor if it was in fact an illegal firing and she lawyers up.)

    20. HR Here*

      I agree, didn’t sit well with me. I’d be worried about potential backlash given the association with a medical issue.

  3. Hills to Die on*

    #1–the interviewer sure could have been a bit more contrite. I was hoping he would have been more sympathetic, but it sounds like they are both (husband & wife) generally thoughtless if he wanted OP to quit without notice.

    I live in small town and I know how fast word can get out about people behaving like this. It’s not a smart move.

    1. LKW*

      My assumption is that he’s embarrassed by getting caught gossiping. The terse response is code for “Happy wife, happy life. She’s more important than you.”

      1. etcetera*

        OP I didn’t exactly want an effusive apology, but I would’ve liked him to acknowledge that it wouldn’t happen again.

        1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          etcetera, as I noted above, you can look back and see this situation as working out for the best. Think of this manager’s thoughtlessness occurring every week with you as an employee. Better to learn now and avoid working for someone like this.

          1. Rectilinear Propagation*

            Except now the OP’s boss knows that they are job hunting (said in a comment higher up).

  4. Mary Ellen*

    I feel bad for the woman in letter #2, who was essentially forced out because of what seems like a medical condition. Honestly, was it really affecting anyone that she used an umbrella to shield herself from the sun? Or that she covered up with a blanket in the car?

    1. SallytooShort*

      On the bright side she has a pretty air tight law suit against OP if she ever chooses to go down that path.

    2. Millennial Lawyer*

      I’m assuming OP2 is leaving something out, because it doesn’t seem like she was forced out – just asked if this is something she could change, and she quit over it. Seems like an overreaction when she could have just said no it would be impossible to change? Unless OP2 then said she had to leave if that couldn’t be fixed.

      1. WeevilWobble*

        The LW clearly said she opted to quit rather than forgo covering. That clearly means forgoing covering was necessary.

        If the LW meant she quit at the mere suggestion she would have said that.

          1. teclatrans*

            LW glossed over it (not saying “we insisted,” but its right there in the binary choice LW says she had to make.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Based on the prior email and this one, it sounds like OP told her she was not allowed to use the blanket and umbrella, and the employee quit instead of giving up those protections. Frankly, this sounds like an excellent lawsuit.

        1. Millennial Lawyer*

          I didn’t think it was 100% obvious to assume that, but it looks like it stands out to a bunch of people. I agree if that’s what really happened, that would be a huge legal flag.

    3. Amy*

      I’m with you on this. I was shocked when I read that LW2 apparently made her CHOOSE between medically necessary UV protection and continuing her employment there. It makes me think rather poorly of LW2/management at their workplace.

  5. SallytooShort*

    OP2 I would also opt to not die over working for you.

    Only using a blanket only in the car and, especially, using an umbrella are entirely reasonable for her situation. I’m not sure why that couldn’t be accommodated. But it seems a clear violation of the ADA that some attempt wasn’t made.

    1. Former Retail Manager*

      Also agreed. And very surprised at this update. Not sure how I missed the original letter. Usually, anything related to cancer will immediately shut up anyone who thinks anything is out of the ordinary. She has a blanket on…..weird….oh wait….it’s because she’s in remission and has had skin cancer twice….NEVERMIND!

    2. Close Bracket*

      ADA doesn’t cover every medical condition. It covers disabilities, and there is a standard for a condition rising to the level of a disability.

      “Reasonable” is also quite fuzzy. LW2 could make an argument that funny looking accessories impede the employee’s ability to do her job due to the impact it has on the people she meets with. It would be a ridiculous argument, but they could make it.

      An experienced and unethical HR department can go through all sorts of contortions to avoid giving accommodations. I was threatened with insubordination by HR when I requested a fairly minor accommodation that went against how my manager thought people should work. Someone more easily intimidated and less educated on their rights might have given in.

      Claiming ADA protection isn’t as straightforward as it should be, and winning a subsequent discrimination case is very, very difficult.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        We don’t have enough information to know if there’s a viable ADA claim. But cancer survivors are protected by the ADA, and generally speaking, reasonable accommodations to prevent future reoccurrence can also be protected. OP didn’t even initiate the ADA consultation process. She just delivered an edict when she knew her employee’s umbrella and blanket were medically necessary. ADA cases are often difficult because the underlying conduct is squishy (and because most viable claims settle), but that doesn’t sound like the case, here.

      2. Observer*

        You are right about who is covered under the ADA. But you could NEVER get an argument that “funny looking accessories impede her ability yo do her job.” Simply because discrimination to accommodate clients is not legal. (ie If this cause a problem with clients it would not be because she actually couldn’t do the work but because they have a problem with people of group x – what ever that group is.)

        1. sap*

          Yep, this. “Your accommodation looks weird” is not a sufficient grounds to deny it, under almost all circumstances. Denying an accommodation as unreasonable requires more than a vague concern that some clients may find the behavior strange. “Unreasonable” burdens on the employer are things like “your accommodation would cost all of this year’s operating budget, and unfortunately we cannot afford it” or “your accommodation would require us to move to a new office,” etc.

        1. Nox*

          I know someone who worked 1 hour away from their job, had major back surgery, couldn’t drive and still was not permitted to work from home on the long term because the lawyers and HR consultants determined ADA didn’t apply as it was an undue hardship on the company since his team complained they didn’t like emailing or calling him to talk to him.

          He sued and settled.

          1. Florida*

            Working remotely is very different from using blanket in the car. There are some jobs or offices were remote work is not realistic. I had a blind employee once. She has to get to work. From there, we accommodated her but she had to come into the office.
            Also, recovering from back surgery is not a disability. (You don’t mention if the back problem resulted in a permanent disability). A temporarily disabling situation ( broken bones, recovering from surgery, etc) do not qualify under ADA.

            1. sap*

              That’s not necessarily true. Depending on what circuit you’re in, temporary and severe conditions are DEFINITELY covered per current case law, and in the circuits that haven’t ruled, they may very well be covered.

              Recovery from back surgery would likely qualify as a SEVERE temporary condition and would likely receive ADA protection.

              1. Florida*

                But working at home is not always reasonable.

                There are very few jobs where using a protective blanket in a car would be considered unreasonable.

                1. Bea*

                  But the comment specifically stated the only reason the guy couldn’t work from home was the other people he worked with didn’t like emailing or calling him instead of him being there to just speak with. They are just lazy jerks so that’s why he got a settlement. Working from home would have been fine if others weren’t upset they had to wait for him to answer their call or email.

                  Now if he was taking forever to respond, that’s different and he would need to be reprimanded and told he needed to answer appropriately. If he didn’t, by all means fire him and not need to lose a lawsuit.

      3. HR Here*

        Most HR professionals with any sense would really try to handle this better, just to be safe. Airtight ADA issue or no.

  6. Cobol*

    I’d love to hear a less abbreviated version of the exchange for #2. It seems super extreme for something that I would expect to be a can you do this? I’m sorry I can’t, type of thing.

    1. WellRed*

      Yes, why didn’t the employee just say “no, I will continue to do this, it’s not an unreasonable accommodation, etc” instead of quitting?

      1. KellyK*

        The phrasing of “she elected to end her employment rather than go without these things” made it sound like a very either/or choice. If it was “risk dying or get fired,” then it might have made sense to quit.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Could be that this was the last straw for her, but she’s pretty new so, yeah, I was wondering that too. I mean, it didn’t sound like the OP was requiring her to give up these things, only asking for her to do so. I bet it was just that the job in general wasn’t a good fit so she decided this would be a good reason to resign.

        1. Marthooh*

          It sounded like a requirement to me!

          Employee quite reasonably refused to risk another bout with cancer, and “elected
          to end her employment with the company rather than go without these things.” That sounds like OP2 said “Go without these things (that protect you from skin cancer) or go away.”

          OP2 was pretty weasely about it, claiming they spoke “along the lines” of Alison’s script — but in the original answer, Alison told them to let it go unless the employee was actually walking into clients’ offices wrapped in a blanket, which, per this update, was not the case.

      3. another alison*

        My interpretation was that the LW made it a “do this or else” conversation, leaving the employee no choice.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          That’s how I read it, too, which may not be accurate… I’d also love more info on what all happened before she quit.

    2. Millennial Lawyer*

      That’s what I am confused about! I agree if she quit it sounds like there were further demands but it’s just not clear enough.

    3. Student*

      It’s my understanding (not a medical professional, but had a relative with such a condition) that certain types of skin cancer are very aggressive, have very high mortality rates, and also have high recurrence rates for those that survive the initial encounter. These ain’t polite, 10-year progression cancers with high cure rates.

  7. 2 Cents*

    OP #1, I know it’s disappointing, but you dodged a bullet. From the lack of apology to wanting you to quit without notice (and probably acting like you were the one who was weird for refusing to do so), they sound like Grade A jerks.

    1. As Close As Breakfast*

      The part where they wanted OP to quit without notice so the leaving employee could train them made me chuckle. (In a humorless kind of way) My boss is exactly the same! He makes comments about 2 weeks not being enough time to hire and train a new person. I always remind him that 1) this is not the purpose of a notice period, 2) most people you hire are going to have other jobs that they have to give notice at and won’t be able to start right away (he always seems to find unemployed workers for our manufacturing laborer openings, which I think has colored his perception of hiring for other types of positions) 3) do you really want an employee that was willing to just walk out on their last job (I mean really, do you think that you’re so special that they won’t do the same thing to you???) and 4) this is not the purpose of a notice period. I repeat that last one because it’s SUPER important.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Soooo much this!

        I mentioned in my interview the other day that I’d need to give notice and the interviewer said “Of course, we’d never ask anyone to be unprofessional.” Anything short of that is a red flag IMO.

      2. etcetera*

        Thank you! This made me feel a lot better about the situation. I am not that upset I didn’t get the job, and I definitely am glad I didn’t get it now! The notice thing was a bit of a red flag, and I ultimately think I’ll be able to find something much better suited to me!

      3. Bea*

        I still remember each time I gave notice and my replacement bawling about how they didn’t have enough time with me. I still laugh because none of them lasted because that’s not my job, read the copious amount of how tos I’ve done up, I was on to another place to worry about.

        My current employer knew the former person may or may not be there when I came on. He took precautions in learning things and also knew hiring someone who’s used to being dropped into the active office was a good choice.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Yeah, expecting someone to quit without notice–when they probably expect loyalty in return–is a red flag.

      (Reminds me of agents who really emphasized the importance of a trusting, committed, ongoing relationship and then toss in “established authors only.” You want people who will quit their current agent, but feel obligated to not quit you? Only people whose agents just suffered a natural death?)

      1. Candi*

        Maybe they mean people who have published several ebooks?

        Of course, then you have to explain why they’d leave an Amazon/author split, an Amazon/D2D/author split, etc., for more than one book at a time, since it would result in a income percentage loss. There’s a huge difference in percentage take home from ebooks vs the percentage of advance + royalties. And particularly if the publisher, agent, or both have a reputation for sneaking copyright grabs* into contracts. (When it comes down on where to spend your money, a contract lawyer is far more important when dealing with a publisher than an agent.)

        * On the chance the work goes Harry Potter, a publisher will likely want as many pieces of the copyright as they can get ahold of, for the least amount possible. No author watching their spreadsheets wants to get just a one-time advance plus original royalty percentage for hardcopy, trade paperback, mass paperback, ebook, TV, movie, miniseries, straight-to-DVD, video games, FTP games, app games, toys, merchandising, special releases, etc., plus media yet to be invented. (Yes, preserving copyright in relation to media not yet invented is a thing; make sure you’re on the positive side.)

        1. Candi*

          *When dealing with a publisher, an agent is less necessary than a contract lawyer. Having a contract lawyer review agent-author agreements is a good idea too. If you absolutely must have an agent; they no longer bear the keys to the publishing kingdom.

          **hardback, trade paperback, and so on.

        2. Ego Chamber*

          Wow. No. Almost all of that is wrong.

          Highlights: Trad publishing and self publishing are 2 different worlds, and there’s not as much overlap as it sounds like you’re assuming there is. Agents don’t give a fuck whether someone has “published several ebooks,” they care about sales. “Established” means you have published works, good sales numbers, and (ideally) a platform and/or fanbase; it means they don’t want to have to help build the writer’s career from the ground up.

          I also think you’re confusing agent contracts and publishing contracts? Agent contracts don’t make any claim on your rights, they detail the circumstances by which the agent is working on your behalf, and their rate of pay (typically a percentage for rights sold). Agents make money when you make money, so it’s in their best interest to try to sell all of your rights—good agents aren’t going to let publishers grab extra rights without paying extra, because that loses them money compared to negotiating more payment for those rights from the publisher or piecing those rights out and selling them to other publishers/companies. They try to make you as much money as possible because their take-home is based directly on their client’s take-home.

          Definitely have a contract lawyer look at the agent contract, but make sure that lawyer has some experience with literary contracts, or they might waste a lot of time trying to strike non-negotiable clauses that are standard within the industry.

          1. Candi*

            Tell Fifty Shades of Grey and other books that have made the jump that “agents don’t care” about ebooks. If it sells well, it sells well. If it has a fanbase, it has a fanbase.

            I did mix up agent contracts and publishing contracts a bit there. I need to check my typing and editing more carefully.

            Many agents these days work for agent companies. They are an employee of that company first. After that, they frequently work for the publisher more than the author. The publisher is the one paying the money.

            The way the traditional payment scheme works is the publisher sends the agent’s and author’s split to the agent, and the agent forwards the author’s piece to them. No, this makes no sense in the modern world. Yes, it’s been done that way for decades. Many an author has had a dispute with their agent about what they were owed vs what they were sent. How it works out often involves who can pay. Most authors cannot afford a protracted legal case.

            There is a clause in the publishing/author contracts that allow agents X amount of rights in regard to authors. Often these favor the agent/publisher relationship over author/agent or author/publisher. Then you get the agent/author agreements -which generally include the agent’s company getting a percentage of the take for an indefinite time. There’s authors who have reclaimed their copyrights from the publishing houses, but still have to pay a percentage of sales to the agent houses a decade or more later because of those agreements.

            Here’s the thing with the rights grabs; the agent can fight for one author who may or may not become famous and risk never being able to work with that editor/house again, or they can go with the flow and make it up in volume with multiple. Remember, the pay is coming from the publisher. The people in the publishing houses are the agents’ network to get stuff published. Fighting for one author insisting on their rights isn’t worth their time unless that author already has a fairly high following/income. In other words, power and money to fight.

            Another thing to note is exactly how Hollywood works in regards to optioning works for production. It’s scary and complicated. But one common note is they approach the publisher or maybe the author -not the agent. The publisher or the author hold the copyright permissions, unless the agent’s been assigned or somehow grabbed rights.

  8. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

    #2 confuses me on all sides.

    -Why does the LW care what the employee wears or doesn’t wear in the car (as long as she’s wearing something!)
    -How does the Employee drive while wearing a blanket? That seems very odd and hard to me
    -Why wouldn’t the employee just tell the LW that she’s going to continue with the cover up and stay working
    -Why wouldn’t the employee use a UPF cover up that actually blocks UV instead of a blanket.

    Sooooo many questions

    1. EditorInChief*

      The UPF clothing is fairly pricey, and might be out of the coworker’s budget. But I agree, the coworker should have told LW to mind her own business and continue to do what she needed to do to protect her health.

      1. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

        It can be spendy (I’ve bought some long sleeve shirts for ~$20), but again, it would work better than a blanket to address the Employee’s concern and be easier to drive in.

        1. animaniactoo*

          As a recent grad who may have some medical bills and other stuff going on, and is newly employed, she may not have $20 for a shirt or more for shirts just yet since it would also be expensive in money and time upkeep to keep washing the same 2 shirts over and over again.

          1. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

            Eh… I was thinking more along the lines of something you keep in the car and throw on over your regular work clothes. They have button down long sleeve ones. But really it would be safer than than a blanket. Both for her since it’s specifically made to block UV and for everyone else on the roads since wearing a blanket will restrict movement while trying to steer a car.

            It is/was a valid option.

            1. animaniactoo*

              If she’s the one driving, yeah. Otherwise, one that could be thrown on over her clothes is probably a good suggestion. It’s possible that she’s been in coping mindset for so long that she hasn’t been aware those options exist or hasn’t thought to look into them because she’s following what she got setup with at some point and nobody’s had a real issue with it before now.

    2. SallytooShort*

      “-Why wouldn’t the employee just tell the LW that she’s going to continue with the cover up and stay working”

      The phrasing suggests the employee did not have that option.

      1. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

        Like I said… it’s confusing. I would have taken it to HR if the manager made a big deal about it or if it affected my performance rating. I mean how exactly would that play out. Oh, Jane’s a great employee but her shade coverings are really the problem. I’d be very O.o if someone tried to explain to me that they had a problem employee because of umbrella use.

        I just think everyone in this situation was not exactly right.

        1. SallytooShort*

          The original letter said she is a recent grad. She probably doesn’t know she has rights under the ADA and that her manager is violating them.

        2. INTP*

          As a new graduate she may not have even known she had the option. Plus, you’re not really going to thrive in your career under a manager who would fire you if HR let him, this person is not going to give you responsibilities and promote you. Maybe she had other employment opportunities or thought it wasn’t worth a big fight to keep her job for a little longer when she knew she had to start applying elsewhere anyways.

          1. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

            All. I’m not saying that employee is at fault here. I’m just very confused as to how this all got blown out of proportion. I think both the LW and the employee sort of dug in their heels about this and there were options to satisfy both.

            1. SallytooShort*

              Yes, the employee dug her heels in over the issue of not getting skin cancer for a THIRD time. And the LW dug her heels in on the issue of… not using umbrellas.

              1. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

                For the record, the umbrella thing seems weird for the LW to get hung up on.

                But I have to be honest, the blanket in the car is weird to me. If I’m going to go to the trouble of quitting my job over my car covering. That car covering will be something that works and offers real protection from UV.

                1. SallytooShort*

                  The employee was following advice from her doctor.

                  I think she should go by that rather than internet commenters.

                2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

                  According to google, UV blocking blankets exist. We have no way of knowing if that was what she was using or not since the OP is clearly not well-versed on skin cancer protection.

        3. Super Nintendo Chalmers*

          I really fail to see how the cancer-stricken employee was in the wrong here, at all. Skin cancer is aggressive, spreads quickly, and by the time you know you have it, it’s often too late. Cancer treatment can put you millions of dollars into debt. If a blanket is what worked best for her, and what she used in her own car, I really, really don’t see the problem.

          1. Millennial Lawyer*

            I don’t think anyone is arguing she’s in the wrong here – just that it’s unclear how that conversation really went and what kind of company this is.

    3. Close Bracket*

      > How does the Employee drive while wearing a blanket?

      I cover up in the car with a scarf sometimes. My scarves are pretty large. They are about the length of my arm span and maybe two feet wide. I drape them over my shoulders from the front, under the seat belt, and trail the ends over my arms to my hands. It’s nbd, and it’s better than having the Arizona sun beating on my neck, chest, arms, and hands.

      It occurs to me that maybe the employee left bc the umbrella and cover ups are not the only thing the LW is weird about.

    4. Shiara*

      -Why wouldn’t the employee use a UPF cover up that actually blocks UV instead of a blanket.

      We don’t really know if the employee was or not. The LW’s a bit sparse on details in general (although it’s worth noting that the original letter’s phrasing was “covers herself with a blanket or cover” which may mean she has a couple different things that are UPF coverups that she switches between, or that she just grabs a random blanket and bundles up, or something else.)

      Also, it sounds like they’re carpooling, so the employee may not be the one driving.

  9. Not A Manager*

    Confused about #2. “She has elected to end her employment with the company rather than go without these things.” Did the LW tell her that risking a recurrence of cancer was a condition of the job? Surely that couldn’t have been the intent.

    When the employee “elected to end her employment” why didn’t LW apologize for the misunderstanding and explain that she was trying to come up with a more professional-looking solution, but that of course the employee’s health is the most important concern?

    1. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

      Thank you, these are some of the questions I have. I just can’t fathom why this is a problem in the first place, why everyone seemed to dig in their heels (I’m not saying I think the employee should forgo the covering, but surely there are other options), and why this ended the way it did.

    2. Ganache*

      Yes I want to know this too. So far I’ve only seen a tiny number of commenters recognise there’s too little info in this update to be able to say the worker was fired for refusing to drop her protection. It’s very unclear how this went down, and I see no evidence the OP made her choose between protection and quitting. She could have quit for any reason. It almost comes across like OP asked if it was necessary and the coworker just quit. There’s got to be something in between those two things (colleague was already planning on leaving for a new job, felt pressured, was insulted by the question, what?). We can’t infer the OP sacked her for not giving up the blanket when there’s nothing to suggest that.

      1. Academic Addie*

        The OP’s words suggest that:

        “She has elected to end her employment with the company rather than go without these things.”

        That, to me, suggests that the choice was “go without these things” or leave. If that’s not the case, OP should say what the other option was.

  10. justcourt*

    So I am completely on the employee’s side for #2. The original letter said the employee was a new graduate, so I’m assuming she was young, like early 20s. If she has already had skin cancer twice in her 20s, she is very likely to have more skin cancer in the future. She absolutely had a good reason to cover up. She shouldn’t have to give up her health because her coworkers might thinks she’s weird otherwise. Wow.

    1. Millennial Lawyer*

      How are you getting that from the note though? I think there’s a lot of details left out to assume who is in the wrong here.

      1. boo*

        It seems pretty clear to me? OP didn’t like the optics of his employee using an umbrella while outside and a blanket to cover herself while driving. He supposedly spoke with her about it and she chose to leave as a result.

        IMO, he probably demanded she no longer use the umbrella or blanket because he didn’t think it looked nice. So, she made the right choice in leaving a workplace where they prioritize how something looks over the health of their employees.

      2. Super Nintendo Chalmers*

        It seems clear to me, too. LW thought it was weird that she was using an umbrella “when it’s not raining.” LW expressed no sympathy or understanding for her situation. LW had a problem with what she was wearing in her own car.

        There is nothing wrong with protecting yourself from the thing that has already given you cancer twice.

        1. Millennial Lawyer*

          I meant in the wrong in terms of causing her to leave her job and how the conversation went – I think it’s totally reasonable for a skin cancer survivor to take precautions advised by her doctor.

      3. Close Bracket*

        All of that is covered in the original letter- the recent graduation, the two bouts with skin cancer, and the concern about what other people would think.

      4. justcourt*

        Well, the OP said “[s]he has elected to end her employment with the company *rather* than go without these things.” The clear implication of that statement is that the employee had to choose between her employment with the company or those “things” (i.e. the blanket and umbrella).

        Perhaps the OP mistyped, but based on what OP actually said, it seems like the employee had to choose between her job or the things she needed to prevent future skin cancer.

        1. Murphy*

          Yeah, I didn’t get the impression from the original letter that OP was going to fire the employee over this, but the update does make it sound like she was given an ultimatum, which seems extreme.

        2. Ganache*

          And the OP also says they spoke to the worker following Alison’s script… which absolutely did not include suggesting the coworker choose between sun protection or their job! This update is so unclear we won’t possibly be able to know what happened without more info. It was handled poorly for sure but I’m unwilling to jump straight toward castigating OP for firing her or making her choose when we don’t have enough info from the letter to suggest that.

          1. Desdemona*

            Since she said she spoke to her “following the lines of” the script, my guess is she cherry picked the part that she liked, and ignored the rest of Allison’s advice. So the conversation could have gone, “My concern is that it’s unusual enough that it will put the focus on those items rather than on the work we’re there to do.” When the employee replied, “I must cover up or risk dying,” the letter writer would have said, “I’m sorry you’re so dug in over a trivial 30 minute exposure. The door is over there.”

      5. Millennial Lawyer*

        EDIT: I did not mean to imply the employee was in the wrong for taking medical precautions – I meant in the wrong in terms of causing the employee to quit. I did not see it was implied that OP2 gave any sort of ultimatum or was not willing to be accommodating (but I can see how that is more likely what happened!).

  11. animaniactoo*

    OP#2, I’m very confused. Did you ask her if it was possible to forgo the blanket, or just ask her to do it?

    Frankly, this sounds like such an easily explainable thing all around despite the “odd appearance” that it should have been of no note whatsoever and you guys should have done everything in your power to treat it as par-for-the-course not-a-big-deal and it’s likely if you had done so that clients would have also. If anyone said anything, the answer is simple “Oh, Jane needs to limit her sun exposure as much as possible.” and move right along to the next subject.

    Considering her age (I’m assuming early to mid twenties at the latest if she’s a recent grad), I don’t know if you guys have a good grasp on how serious it is that she’s already 2 bouts with skin cancer.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      This. For it to show up on one so young, and twice! The odds are scary under those conditions an the person was right to be protective.

  12. boo*

    #2 is getting my vote for one of the worst bosses of the year. Instead of respecting their employee’s decision to protect herself, they clutched their pearls over the optics of the employee using a blanket and an umbrella. Seriously?

    I also suspect #2 isn’t being honest with us regarding the employee’s decision to leave the office. To me, this reeks of OP insisting she no longer use an umbrella/blanket all because OP thought it looked strange. Shame on you, OP. For the record, I also cover up when I’m driving and try to use an umbrella to protect my skin from the sun. Just because you choose not to do those things does not give you the right to make someone who does feel uncomfortable. She’s lucky to be rid of you.

    1. Super Nintendo Chalmers*

      This is the vibe I’m getting, too. To be fair, perhaps there was a breakdown in communication during this exchange, but… I honestly can’t imagine myself asking an employee that I know has had cancer twice to stop protecting herself from the thing that gave her cancer, even if the way she was doing it was slightly, slightly unusual.

    2. Umvue*

      I am also horrified, and restraining myself from bad words.

      If I were the employee in question I’d be wondering if this was pretextual: forcing out someone with a complicated health history in order to save on company insurance policies. That would obviously be evil too, but at least I could understand the mindset, then. For a boss to say, “My aesthetics are more important than your survival,” and apparently be surprised when the employee doesn’t agree, is totally incomprehensible to me.

  13. WeevilWobble*

    OP#2 I’m confused as to how long ago you sent in the update. But the conversation was recent as of the update.

    If it wasn’t that long ago send a letter to the employee offering her her job back and stating that you can of course meet her reasonable accomodations. Then followup with a phone call to apologize and offer her the job back.

    You are opening yourself up to so much liability for such an ultimately silly reason. It’s not worth it! Even if the employee quit of her own free will a court could see that the reason was because you wouldn’t accomodate her disability in a reasonable way.

    1. Close Bracket*

      An apology would be appropriate. In the employee’s shoes, though, I don’t think I would come back even with an apology. I would feel like I had to walk on eggshells wondering what other perfectly innocuous though unusual thing would be an issue next. Are they going to object to side rouching on my maternity clothes?

      1. WeevilWobble*

        Oh, yeah, I wouldn’t go back either!!

        But if the LW wants to at least try to limit her liability here she should make some effort.

  14. another alison*


    I feel like the only circumstances under which you could have pushed back on that employee’s efforts to protect herself from a serious sun-related medical condition that she already had TWICE, was to ask that she remove any odd garments before entering clients’ buildings/meetings, since those areas wouldn’t put her at risk. Since that wasn’t the case, I think you should have let her continue using an umbrella outdoors (I see international students at my local university use these all the time for sun protection) and covering herself in the car. In fact, I wonder if by putting her in a position where she had to choose between working for your company and protecting her health, you might have run afoul of the ADA, but IANL.

    I feel terribly for your former employee.

  15. KL*

    I still can’t get over it, WTF is up with the wife in OP 1. How lame is her book club that she’s spewing this word vomit at everyone? I can think of a bazillion other things that are more interesting to talk about than some random interviewee.

    1. SallytooShort*

      Seriously. I could understand spilling major gossip she happened upon. Not condone it! But I understand the urge if, say, LW was having an affair or something. You shouldn’t gossip but sometimes it’s hard to sit on juicy gossip.

      But how was this even interesting or worthy of discussion.

    2. PieInTheBlueSky*

      Maybe it was something like, “So, where do you work, fellow book club member? Oh, you work at XYZ Teapots Corp.? What a coincidence! My husband just interviewed someone from there! Perhaps you know them?”

      1. Max from St. Mary's*

        That might have been understandable, but in the original post the OP said that the wife had included details like the fact the OP had applied for this position twice, which the OP said was a bit embarrassing. So I’m more inclined to think mean girl, spilling information that she shouldn’t have had in the first place and in as nasty a way as possible. So I’m not surprised that the interviewer didn’t acknowledge any fault on his or his wife’s part, people married to someone who does this no longer recognize behavior like this as wrong.

    3. Murphy*

      Right? Unless someone pooped in the potted plant, why are you talking about people your husband is interviewing?

  16. STG*

    What a lack of an apology in #1. Pretty much a big collective shrug. I would have been tempted to report this to a different person instead of the manager though. Bullet dodged.

  17. sunny-dee*

    My only thinking … OP#2, was the limit to sun exposure because of a health thing or because she wanted to avoid tanning / freckling? (Not that it’s really the employer’s business either way.) Still, I knew of (worked in the same area) as an Asian woman who constantly wore long sleeves, carried an umbrella, covered up with a scarf, the whole thing, but it was to avoid any kind of tanning or freckling so her skin stayed super white. (And in fairness — her skin was creamy like porcelain.) I can see being less willing to accommodate something that is, essentially, vanity … but it still seems a lot like making a mountain out of a molehill.

    1. sunny-dee*

      NM, I just read the original letter.

      You seriously told someone to stop using protection for a major health issue? Dude … rethink your priorities.

    2. SallytooShort*

      In the original letter she said it’s because the employee had skin cancer twice already and her doctor told her she had to limit her exposure to the sun.

  18. phil*

    I am clearly not the only one who thought skin cancer. I get it myself, not seriously yet, but I use sun screen and cover up a lot. I have a cycling friend who also gets skin cancer and he wears long sleeves, tights, and a hood while riding even on hot days. And he lives in San Diego.

    1. Liz T*

      We’re not thinking skin cancer, we know it, because the employee explicitly told OP that. Read the original letter, it’s not long.

  19. Close Bracket*

    LW2, I think you need to do some serious introspection. If people do think it looks a little weird to use an umbrella while walking or a blanket in the car (has anyone actually said anything or did you invent that in your head), you should have your employees back and tell people that she has a medical need to avoid sunlight. She should never have felt that she had to choose between skin cancer and a job. I really suspect that you left out the details of the conversation you had bc they would paint you in a negative light. I hope you will read all the opinions here and reconsider your stance.

    1. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

      I think you are correct that the update is lacking some crucial information. The response that she chose to end her employment seems like a huge jump from the way that the comments were described.

      As always, I’d love to hear this story from the other side.

        1. teclatrans*

          Yes. People are finding that jump confusing and concluding that we don’t have enough info, but I find that leap damning in light of the conclusion, in which the employee was required to make a choice between her health snd het job. (OP avoids saying they required this choice — that’s the gap — but doesn’t hide the the Solomon’s Choice ending.

  20. SallytooShort*

    LW#3 Congrats on the new job!! Hope it’s going well! Don’t be mad at yourself. It’s an awkward position to have been in.

  21. Lynn*

    LW #2, you asked a young woman who’s already had skin cancer TWICE by her early 20s to get more sun exposure because you think she looks more professional when she’s risking her health. Using a blanket IN A CAR and an umbrella OUTSIDE is so reasonable that I am speechless you ever had a problem with it. Would you also ask someone in a wheelchair to walk so that they looked “professional?”

    Of course she quit. From your update, (“She has elected to end her employment with the company rather than go without these things.”) the options appear to be (1) risk her life by getting extra sun exposure because you like how she looks that way, or (2) quit and protect her health.

    1. Lynn*

      That’s without mentioning how creeped out and disturbed I’d be if my boss told me my any aspect of my physical appearance was more important than my health.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah; OP’s response is pretty craven and also completely avoids taking responsibility for putting the employee in an awful position. She didn’t elect to leave. She was forced out by a callous boss who thinks the “weirdness” of a blanket—which clients never saw—is more important to resolve than disability accommodation.

  22. I can do it!*

    #2 I’d have quit too, like “oh cool, the people I’m going to see all day every day don’t care if I live or die and also want to police my appearance beyond the normal dress code stuff byeeee.”

  23. Amber Rose*

    LW 2, you’ve now become that girl’s “terrible boss” story. That’s… not great. And personally, I’m really disappointed in your lack of compassion and empathy. I hope you learn and do better in the future, because in all respects, this was a huge failure on your part.

  24. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

    #2–not going to pile on. In the future you’ll need to think of how you want to handle this if she’d requested an ADA accommodation for this (which she could have done officially). This assumes your business is big enough, of course.

    If she’d done that, would your company have been willing to buy/reimburse protection that was deemed “acceptable” to both you and the employee? Because she had a solution, it was just one that wasn’t preferred by your company.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I just want to note that the law requires employers to raise ADA issues when put on notice. When an employee has disclosed a condition and requested an accommodation (which she did, even if she didn’t call it an “ADA” accommodation, she said it was medically necessary), it’s incumbent on the employer to initiate the ADA conversation.

      OP did not do that, and I suspect the employee (a new grad) probably does not have the confidence or knowledge to have invoked that conversation. But also, who wants to work for someone who thinks their idea of “weird” is more important than your life?

      1. MommyMD*

        Employer was clearly in the wrong but it is reaching to say it is in violation of ADA. The condition must be major and limit life function. The ADA is erroneously thrown out there a lot. The law does not require accommodation for many things.

        1. SallytooShort*

          The qualification is substantial not major (and that is not a pedantic distinction) and that limits a major life *activity* not life function.

          There is absolutely no way this wouldn’t count. Her cancer has put serious limitation on how she can walk outdoors, which is a major life activity.

          1. MommyMD*

            Limited activity = limited life function. The ADA term is thrown around a lot when it encompasses certain legal definitions. It’s not automatically applied to every case.

            1. SallytooShort*

              Funny, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which writes the regulations for the ADA as it pertains to employers, does not agree with your assessment.

              You should write to them and let them know they are wrong.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              The ADA covers cancer survivors. It’s not clear to me how you’re describing “limited life function”—it has a different meaning under the ADA than it does in medical terminology. But the EEO and DOL have extensive guidance on the extent to which cancer survivors are covered.

              I don’t know if the ADA applied to this employee. But I wanted to clarify that if a medical accommodation is requested, the ADA obligates the employer to initiate the ADA accommodation conversation. And they may later determine whether the ADA applies (although a good employer will make reasonable medical accommodations regardless of the ADA’s applicability). An employee is not required to invoke the ADA for the process to start.

              1. Book Lover*

                The thing is, I’m not aware of a physician who would agree that someone who has had melanoma should go to these lengths. I’ve taken care of lots of patients with melanoma at all stages – we recommend sun protection, which means sunscreen, wide brimmed hats, but doesn’t mean wearing blankets inside a car or always using an umbrella outside.
                I am in no way an expert on the ADA, but doesn’t the ADA in some way require that the accommodations be medically necessary? Genuinely curious, because I disagree that the employee should have had to leave, but I also think she was going way overboard.
                If a patient told me she was going to these lengths, I would very likely advise counseling.

                1. Helena*

                  Huh. My family member who has had melanoma was advised to cover up if she was going to be in the sun for more than a few minutes. She was treated at the largest/most well known hospital in her country and her oncologist encouraged her to use an umbrella and they gave out UV ray protected blankets to patients like my cousin, who had to travel from outside the city to get to the hospital for treatment.

                2. Melanoma survivor*

                  Melanoma survivor checking in. My doctor thought it was great that I started using an umbrella if I go out in the sun, especially between the hours of 10 am and 4pm. She also gave me pamphlet and list of websites that had clothing and covers which protect against uv rays. What the employee was doing doesn’t seem out of the ordinary to me. I would do the same and so would the other survivors I know.

                3. sap*

                  Maybe this is true, but I don’t think that matters here. When an employee requests an obligation, the employer has to start the ADA engagement process. Maybe the employee’s doctor didn’t, in fact, advise these things and it’s not genuinely a medical thing, but the employer didn’t take the steps they would have needed to take to make a determination about that, which can include verifying the accommodation with a doctor.

                  Employers *don’t* get to refuse to start that process because they don’t agree that something is medically necessary and won’t bother looking into that.

                4. Quiet lurker*

                  There’s really nothing overboard about using a UV protective umbrella. Mine is from a cancer association, it serves the exact same purpose as a wide brimmed hat, but won’t make my head overheat or my hair end up all sweaty, which I’m sure would look a little more unprofessional than carrying an umbrella.

  25. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

    #1, that really really sucks. I see you updated in the comments that it did eventually get back to your boss–were you able to smooth it over at your current place of work? The whole “I’m really happy here, but this was just an opportunity I couldn’t pass up”?

    I’m sorry you went through this. Hopefully it means you are in for a run of good luck now!

    1. etcetera*

      Yes, I was able to smooth it over temporarily, but my boss has now hired a second person to do my job “just in case.” It’s not ideal, especially because part of the reason I was interested in the other position was to gain more responsibilities and experience. I am not actively being pushed out, but I think the general idea is that I will move on somewhat soon.
      I think I will maintain a decent relationship moving forward (even after I leave), but it’s not the way I had planned my exit.

      1. WeevilWobble*

        That’s really crappy of them.

        I’m so sorry you went through all this stress as a result of just a normal interview.

  26. Elisabeth*

    Wow, the sun letter was kind of upsetting. Also, it’s doubtful that the OP actually used Alison’s script… Alison advised **solely** that she remove the blanket when already inside the building and entering a client’s office, which I think is rather reasonable.

    Based on the fact that the employee said “it’s not possible for her to travel 30 minutes or less in a vehicle without the blanket and to be out in the sun without the umbrella” it seems pretty clear that the OP did indeed ask her to forgo those things. And that was *not* part of the original advice. When it comes to health, it’s okay for one of your employees to look a little weird. As long as they are professional and good at their job, your role as a manager is to have their back and support them. I hope the OP learns from this experience.

  27. Goya de la Mancha*

    #2…would you ask someone who quite smoking after being diagnosed with lung cancer to start smoking again? Yes your request is that ridiculous.

    I really hope that I”m misreading the post or that there is some information that has been left out.

  28. Katherine*

    OP #2 comes off terribly in the first letter and terribly here. IN the first letter she seemed to think she knew better than the cancer patient (CANCER PATIENT) and the patient’s doctor whether the sun exposure was dangerous. And here, she’s going to the mat on the professionalism of carrying an umbrella? Most people wouldn’t care about the umbrella enough to even notice or think about it. The few who noticed would probably figure out it had to do with sun exposure. The even fewer who would comment on it would probably immediately understand when they heard it was a health issue. Because most people understand that “avoiding a recurrence of skin cancer” trumps “looking professional (as defined by OP #2’s exacting standards of professionalism).” Not sure why OP is missing this point.

    OP #2, the employee should not have had to choose to leave her job over this. She was deserving of an accommodation and you could have easily made it. Shame on you.

  29. MommyMD*

    I’m feeling sorry for the woman basically cast out of her job for using an umbrella in the sun (so what?) and covering herself only in the car with a blanket. If this was not done at meetings in front of clients the response was overkill. I wish her good luck. Melanoma kills.

    1. Victorian Cowgirl*

      Yes, agreed. Melanoma isn’t just “oh I’ll get the mole removed”. It likes to metastasize aggressively and commonly travels to the brain first, which I learned when a family member who was fainting was diagnosed.

  30. Serin*

    I’m seeing a similarity between #2 and the one about the employee who would go away in the middle of the day and come back looking like someone else (https://www.askamanager.org/2017/12/update-my-employee-drastically-changes-her-appearance-in-the-middle-of-the-workday.html), and it has to do with how you balance two values: “It’s not unreasonable for your co-workers and customers to expect your appearance to conform to professional standards” vs. “Your workplace doesn’t get to exert excessive control over how you look.”

    Not surprising that this is more often relevant with women than with men, and this is an area that has been evolving throughout my whole professional life. Think about female flight attendants being required to be slender, or about “attractive” as a reasonable job qualification for waitresses and receptionists.

    In both cases, I would have put more weight on the second value, and less on the first, than the letter writers did.

    1. Liz T*

      Really? It sounds like “Michelle” was addressed very reasonably in the letter you link to, and reacted in an unreasonable way.

      (Also, getting a makeover is a little different than not wanting skin cancer a third time.)

    2. Amy*

      There’s also a major difference here that I don’t think you’ve acknowledged: #2 is using ””unprofessional”” accessories because they’re medically necessary, while Michelle was changing her appearance based on personal preference. #2’s case, to me, is more about accommodation for a medical condition than professional dress standards.

    3. Bea*

      The problem comparing these is Michelle was not told to stop changing her appearance. She was made aware that doing so in the middle of a work day was bringing her known criticism from others. It was distracting and confusing because clients didn’t know who she was when she reappeared in a different outfit and makeup. That was a real issue when working in a front facing position. She then flipped out and showed up with her breasts exposed in the office to stick it to them.

      #2 is covering up and protecting her health. She’s nothing like Michelle and it’s poor taste to compare the two to just make it into “why cant we just always wear what we want?! This is a society issue!” side conversation.

  31. Observer*

    #2 – Actually, you did not follow Allison’s advice. She told you that you should NOT tell your employee that she can’t use the protection she needs, only that you want to know if there are any other alternatives. You asked her if it’s necessary – which she confirmed. You apparently then doubled down on the “unprofessional” bit to the point that it was an either or.

    I don’t know if ADA protections kick in here, or if there are any other more local regulations in play. But I amutterly certain that if she is covered by ADA, your response would open you would lose a case in a heartbeat. Because I don’t there that there is a reasonable human being that would consider allowing someone to wear a “strange” but otherwise not offensive as an accommodation that places an undue burden on the employer. And, tbh, I would be cheering that lawsuit.

    1. Murphy*

      Would that be covered under ADA? Cancer that she doesn’t currently have that could reoccur? (I think employee is justified in protecting herself regardless, I’m just curious about the ADA part.)

      1. SallytooShort*

        Much of the time cancer is spoken of as being in remission not cured. If that’s the case, then the ADA can absolutely apply to cancer in remission.

        From the EEOC:

        “As a result of changes made by the ADAAA, people who currently have cancer, **or have cancer that is in remission**, should easily be found to have a disability within the meaning of the first part of the ADA’s definition of disability because they are substantially limited in the major life activity of normal cell growth or would be so limited if cancer currently in remission was to recur.”

        But the ADA also applies to people with a *record* of a disability. So, it also applies under that prong.

        Again from the EEOC:

        “Similarly, individuals with a history of cancer will be covered under the second part of the definition of disability because they will have a record of an impairment that substantially limited a major life activity in the past.”

  32. Katie Beth*

    #2 Please do consult with a lawyer. You were not treated fairly and this may be a violation of the law.

  33. Juli G.*

    Letter 2: My mind is blown about declining to allow an accommodation that’s free and doesn’t impose on anyone. Those are THE DREAM!

  34. Strawmeatloaf*

    #2: No wonder the employee left.
    You know what I would think if I were a client in the car with them? “They must be cold. … I wish I had a blanket.”

      1. dawbs*

        you know, now that you mention it, I think my car blankets have been insanely useful to coworkers over the years–including but not limited to ‘help, I found a kitten”, “Help, I dumped coffee on my jacket, and it’s the middle of winter, and I have to go outside for more than 20 seconds” and “does anyone have an idea how to move these 3 gazillion books to the opposite end of a polished hallway with minimum effort”

        Car blankets all around.

        1. Tiny Soprano*

          Super useful! Everything from keeping warm to blocking sun to wrapping up injured king parrots so they don’t bite you with their big sharp beaks on the way to the wildlife centre.

  35. Kt*

    I have a illness that makes me literally ill if I’m in the sun with any skin uncovered for more than a minute or two. Incapacitated, I have to take Medicine and lie down and sometimes call my doctor ill. I live in Florida.

    In the summer, I wear 3/4 shirts to work with opera length gloves while driving or walking. I have a dozen parasols (I keep spares in the car and office!) When I meet with clients, I wear a suit, gloves, and carry a parasol in. I take them off pre meeting and off we go. My client saw me take off my gloves in August, said they were pretty, and we started the agenda of the meeting. No big.

    I can’t imagine making a big deal over something so innocuous.

    (I also sometimes drive with a blanket, and I have a special screen on my window to provide additional protection)

  36. Wintermute*

    TO THE EMPLOYEE IN #2, not the letter writer but the employee in question, You have my deepest sympathies. , I dated a woman with a condition that causes photosensitivity and I feel for your awful co-workers and cruel company.

    If you’re out there/ please, please contact a lawyer, you may or may not have a case but there is at least a decent chance your company refused to engage in ANY back-and-forth let alone the mutual negotiations the ADA requires. You can also file a complaint with the state, you don’t need ironclad proof just your good faith belief that something might have happened.

    To the LW, shame on you, you violated the law and you treated someone cruelly, I sincerely hope you take the opportunity to learn from this, and treat your coworkers as you’d wish to be treated in a similar situation of medical need. Imagine working for a company that says “I don’t care if this job literally kills you,” and imagine how YOU would feel. this should provoke some serious soul-searching and if not you deserve everything you get professionally and personally if you’re excoriated in a recorded deposition or raked over the coals in open court.

  37. Mimmy*

    I’d really love some clarification on #2 – as everyone else, I too interpreted this as a possible ADA violation. It may not seem like the type of “reasonable accommodations” people may associate with the ADA and employment–e.g. installing a ramp for a wheelchair user or hiring an interpreter so a Deaf employee can participate in a meeting. Accommodating an employee isn’t limited to actual job tasks – it encompasses all aspects of employment, which I think includes travel to and from any off-site meetings or events.

    I may be in the minority on this next point: I wonder if the employee misinterpreted what the OP said or was unwilling to consider other options. Yes, I firmly believe in accommodating people with disabilities and other conditions (in this case, someone protecting herself from cancer recurrences). However, I also think some people are quick to cry “discrimination” when told they can’t use a particular accommodation. IIRC, employers should take an employee’s preferences and needs into consideration but are permitted under the ADA to suggest other accommodations. The key is having a conversation with the employee. I know there is a lot more to it, but I’m not well-versed in all the ins and outs yet.

    Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer or an HR professional – I’m just a person very interested in incorporating ADA knowledge in her career :)

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      Unfortunately, that is not how it is read. It sounds like OP just wanted ex employee tomstop with the blanket and umbrella because it was “weird”, and didn’t give any options that would accomodate the fact ex had skin cancer TWICE and has super serious UV sensitivity.

  38. FCJ*

    Number 4, be careful about that “variety of roles throughout the school” thing. Depending on where you are and what kind of schools you work at, they may need to pay you for certain kinds of non-classroom work. Don’t let them turn it into a “team player” kind of situation with you taking on all kinds of work without pay.

  39. Candi*

    #1 -that manager is a jerk. “Sorry for your inconvenience” with no addition is a brush off and a snub. I hope you find an awesome job soon.

    #2 -I had to do some poking around on the Darwin Awards site. We’ve had submissions with incomplete information, of the same pattern as your update, before.

    Always, always, always, when our research uncovered new or different sources, the missing information drastically changed the story. It was always vital information that always indicated the actual tale was not a Darwin, and the submission had been, at best, heavily edited.

    So, I have to ask, what aren’t you telling Alison? How does it change your story? Are several commentators right, that there was a high chance of ADA violation? You don’t come across well as it is; would the missing information make it worse?

    (Granted, this is probably just shouting into an empty tunnel at this point.)

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