can I ask my company to pay for a cat sitter when I travel, my coworker calls me “honey bunny,” and more

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

1. Can I ask my company to pay for a cat sitter when I travel?

I have a job which requires me to travel for work a few times a year. When I started it was more like once a year, and now it’s, say, two to four times. In my particular part of our industry, traveling is not often an essential part of the role and this wasn’t ever something that was specified one way or the other as part of the role. Having said that, it makes sense for me to go on these trips, it’s useful for my job as it’s evolved, and I am very happy to do them. The company is pretty small and open and, although obviously concerned with finances, is not overly obstructive or stingy with employee travel or expenses.

All so far so good, but my question is this: I have two cats and live alone, so when I go away there is nobody to feed them. Because of where I live, getting a friend or neighbor to come in isn’t an option, so I pay a cat sitter service to drop in once a day to check up on them. The amount isn’t exorbitant per day, but if you’re on a trip for five days it soon racks up and eats into my monthly budget.

Obviously it is completely my lifestyle choice to have and support the cats, and if I had shared care for them it wouldn’t even be an issue. But then again, business travel is meant to be cost-neutral for the employee and this is making a hole in my personal finances every time I have to travel. I just wondered what your take on this was and if it’s reasonable to ask my company to cover these as a business expense? Is it a ridiculous ask? I don’t want to stretch their goodwill!

Sadly, you can’t really ask for that, just like you wouldn’t be able to ask your company to cover child care expenses while you traveled. It’s just one of those things that sucks about business travel.

The exception to this is if you were doing your company a big favor by going on one of these trips — let’s say it was last-minute and unexpected and highly inconvenient and you had the option of saying no but they were really hoping to convince you to do it. In that type of situation, you could sometimes say something like, “Going at the last-minute means I’ll need to pay $X for someone to come in and feed my cats. Is that something the company would be willing to cover?” But that only works if it’s a rare and unexpected thing. You can’t really do that when it’s more routine travel.

2. My coworker calls me “honey bunny”

I have a colleague who I’ve worked with now for about two and a half years, in two separate workplaces, and while we work for different divisions, we end up working together on a regular basis. When we first started working together, she was only a little above me on the classification scale, but in our current work, she’s a manager level, and I’m just a base admin. There’s a few things about her I’m not the most keen on, but I think most of it has to do with a habit of hers — she’s a big fan of cutesy nicknames for other women. And while for pretty much everyone else, she sticks to things like “sugar” and “sweetie,” with me, she’s moved on to things like “pumpkin” and “honey bunny.” Yes, in nearly every interaction with this woman, I’m called “honey bunny.” I’m sure I should have asked her to call me by my actual name a while ago, and now, it feels like I can’t, because it’s been so long, and because she’s a manager.

Do I just suck it up and deal? Should I say something? What do I say?

You can say something, even though it’s been a while and even though she’s a manager. It might be a little awkward for a minute or two, but it will almost certainly solve it, so it’s worth it. You could say it this way: “You’re so sweet, but I have a thing about nicknames — I actually dislike being called anything other than my name. Would you stick with Jane?” (You can drop the “you’re so sweet” if that’s not your style, but that kind of language can soften the delivery in a way that can help her save face and make the interaction feel nicer overall. Or you can change it to “you’re so funny” or whatever else works for you.)

If she seems offended, try to find a reason to interact with her soon afterwards so that you can be warm and normal, which can sometimes help “reset” the vibe if a tricky conversation left things feeling a little off. (This is something I talk about more in my new book!)

3. Am I out of line for eating in the pumping room?

I returned to work from maternity leave last week. I’m salaried exempt, so I am not entitled to any pumping accommodations by law, but my workplace does have a “quiet room” available for nursing mothers to pump in, as well as other private personal uses (for example, a private space to do physical therapy exercises, or to pray, or to lie down for a short while if one is feeling poorly in the middle of the day rather than going home and taking sick time).

I take three pumping breaks per day, and have been eating my lunch during my middle pumping session, since I can’t really work effectively — it’s just impossible to use a laptop with my short arms and the pumping stuff attached to my front. My manager would be fine with me taking a separate lunch break (see also, exempt, and very autonomous about daily schedule), but I choose to combine a pumping break with lunch so that I can finish my work earlier and get home to my baby earlier than I otherwise would. I’m very careful not to leave the room a mess: I take all my food trash out to the kitchen when I’m done and don’t leave even a granola bar wrapper in the wastebin in the room. I don’t bring in anything that might smell (nothing hot at all, nothing with a strong odor like tuna salad, I stick to cold deli meat sandwiches, carrot sticks with hummous, that sort of thing).

I’ve gotten some hostile looks from both people I know also use the room, and people who don’t, when I go into the pumping room with my lunch bag. One person even commented that it “must be nice to have your own private lunch room.” Am I doing anything wrong here? If not, how should I handle it when people make comments about my use of the quiet room?

No, you’re not doing anything wrong! What is with people resenting the accommodations that allow other people to do their jobs?

You could try replying with, “You understand this room is for pumping, right? And that women can eat while they do that?” Or you could respond to the “must be nice” comments with, “I don’t know that I’d call lactating while hooked up to a machine the greatest lunch experience I’ve ever had.”

4. My interviewer is dating someone I declined a position with and asked me about it

I recently had a second phone interview for a position I’m very excited about, this one with the hiring manager. My first interview went very well, but I wasn’t prepared for something that happened in this one.

The hiring manager mentioned to me that “Jane Smith” is her romantic partner, and that when she mentioned to Jane that I was being interviewed, Jane told her that I declined a government position with her earlier this year after accepting. Here’s the issue. I was offered a position with Jane after I accepted a job with an entirely separate agency three months prior. After a lot of email back and forth and weeks without any updates, I was offered a completely different job in Jane’s agency. I wound up declining because I decided that I could not in good faith accept a job I in which I had no interest nor expertise that also was not the job I was offered and accepted.

I was surprised by this, but did not say that. I responded very calmly and I told her, “I would love to provide some additional context for that decision,” and explained the situation in very top line terms without speaking ill of anyone. I then said that I felt bad that Jane and her agency had been caught in the crossfire of the back and forth, and that it was important to me that I’m enthusiastic and fully committed to any position I take, and that given the circumstances, I was not confident in my ability to do that with Jane’s agency and did not want to do a disservice to their work. I then pivoted to talking about why the position I was interviewing for is my top choice, why it’s in line with exactly what I’m looking to do long term, and why I’m so interested and enthusiastic about the company and the position.

The hiring manager was not accusatory or adversarial, and she did say that I came highly recommended and that Jane had said that she had heard great things about me. Otherwise I felt the interview went very well, and I sent a follow-up email as I usually would speaking to why I’m excited about the position and some addition information about my expertise. But I’m worried about how this will impact my chances. I understand why she wants to ensure that I can commit to the job, so my question is, did I handle this appropriately?

Yep, it sounds like you handled it perfectly. She may have had the impression that you accepted a job and then later rescinded your acceptance — and that’s not at all what happened! You accepted a job and then the employer rescinded it and offered you something totally different. So it’s really good that you had an opportunity to clear that up, and your explanation sounds like it should have done that.

I can imagine some people reading your letter and bristling at the hiring manager asking about something that she only heard about because of who she’s in a relationship with. But she did hear about it, and so it’s to your advantage that you were able to explain the situation and give her context that might make her see it differently than she otherwise would.

{ 505 comments… read them below }

  1. Chriama*

    I’m sort of balking at the hiring manager saying that Jane was a romantic partner of hers. That seems out of context. Couldn’t she just say she knew Jane and had heard of your candidacy from her? The romantic partner thing would have made me worried that she resented me or something and this interview was a revenge ploy.

    1. LouiseM*

      Yes, agreed. If she had just heard it through the grapevine, I would assume she had a more neutral starting point. I would still want to correct a bad professional impression she had of me, but it would be just that: professional. When she brings her partner into the mix, it becomes personal. Like I had personally wronged the interviewer and needed to make up for it. It would set me on edge.

    2. JR*

      That was my first thought, but then I realized if OP went to work there, she’s eventually figure it out, and then it would likely seem weirder that the interviewer hid the real connection.

      1. Chriama*

        Not sharing irrelevant details is not the same as hiding information though? It doesn’t really matter how the interviewer came by that knowledge, OP would know that the interviewer knew Mary. If it happens to come up later I can’t imagine thinking “gosh, when she told me I was recommended by Mary I never imagined they were lovers.”

        1. Wintermute*

          It’s only hiding it if, in the situation where the information should come to light later on, the person would feel deceived or that the situation was misrepresented.

          That’s why I’m on team disclosure here; first, it assuages any potential fears that an interviewer is being overly indiscreet– people tell their partners things they wouldn’t tell anyone else and it raises less questions about how widely information has been disseminated and the professionalism of the interviewer. Secondly, it errs on the side of disclosing a potentially complicating relationship as opposed to hiding it. Imagine if you found out that the “interviewer they knew” who you turned down a job with was really their partner!

    3. T3k*

      Maybe, but to me it sounds like they were just trying to be transparent. Imagine if she hadn’t revealed the relationship, hired the OP, then the OP found out about HR’s relationship with Jane. If it were me, I’d definitely be giving side eye to the HR person more in that scenario than if they had simply told me during the interview (still creates an awkward scenario for sure though).

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Second on transparency. If she said she “heard from someone” and then it turned out to be “my wife”… that feels a lot more deceptive to me. People share things with intimate partners.

        This is very different from the woman told by a coworker “So a woman in my book group told everyone you’re interviewing with her husband for a new job.” Random extraneous bystanders are not being brought in. OP is being told the exact route of the information.

        1. boo bot*

          I think it’s the term “romantic partner,” that sounds odd, at least to me. If she said “my wife,” the situation would still be awkward, but I don’t think it would have had the same overshare factor.

          I think “partner” is their usual relationship-word, and she was clarifying that Jane wasn’t her *business* partner, brought in the word “romantic,” and accidentally slapped down metaphorical hearts and roses on the conference table.

          I would have just said, “My partner, Jane, is a recruiter at X-Force, LTD, and she recalled you interviewed with her…” and let the LW put the pieces together, or not.

          1. ket*

            Why not just say, “I heard from Sydney, whom I know personally…” or “who I know in a personal context”?

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            It’s not like she said “I was at my sex club, mentioned you, and this guy in a bunny mask said you bailed on a job offer from him…”

            “Romantic partner” is a mundane term, like spouse or significant other. It removes the confusion with business partner. It indicates that the connection is someone the speaker trusts and relies on, rather than, say, someone who also takes Tuesday jazzercize class. This information about the path of the info is helpful to OP in framing her response. (Don’t throw Jane under the bus.)

            1. Anion*

              Yeah, I understand the issue with bringing romance/intimate stuff into the workplace, but I’m really not getting the problem here. People have romantic partners. People have boyfriends or girlfriends or husbands or wives. There’s nothing TMI about mentioning that you, too, are one of the millions of adults with a significant other in your life. To me, referring to your spouse or SO as just “someone I know personally” seems really weird and awkward. If somebody thinks it’s TMI or unprofessional for me to correctly identify my spouse as my spouse simply because “spouse” implies “physical intimacy” and physical intimacy has no place in the office, I’d wonder what they would think if I mention that I also have two children–is that TMI as well, because we all know what I did to get *those,* don’t we? Wink-wink-nudge-nudge.

              And yes, especially in this situation I think it would be more inappropriate or strange to just call Jane “Somebody I know,” because that makes it sound like not only is Jane out gossiping to all and sundry about her experience with the LW, but the interviewer is the type of person who discusses her employment candidates with any rando in the check-out line. I’d be relieved if the interviewer mentioned her relationship with Jane here, because getting information about a candidate from one’s spouse/SO is very different from getting information from “somebody [you] know.” One seems normal, and the other seems gossipy and kind of untrustworthy.

              JMO, of course.

              1. Nanani*

                I’m getting a whiff of “mentioning same-sex couples is automatically TMI” where it might not necessarily be perceived that way otherwise.

                1. boo bot*

                  Yeah, I had been thinking the same thing but was giving benefit of the doubt. If she’d referred to her boyfriend, Jean-Luc, I’m not sure this would seem that outrageous.

                  (That said, I maintain that “romantic partner” has an overly-cutesy vibe, but so what? – as I said above I think she was just trying to be clear, and “partner” is the default for non-married but serious queer relationships, at least in my part of the world, so I see how she got there.)

        2. Close Bracket*

          “People share things with intimate partners”

          People should not share hiring decisions or details with intimate partners. Hiring may not be proprietary or confidential, but it is sensitive. People in romantic relationships tend to lose sight of what kinds of things should be kept to themselves. You’re partnered, not borged. Don’t talk about hiring outside HR and the hiring manager.

    4. Banana muffin top*

      Why is it out of context? It’s the truth. She’s just explaining how she came to hear it. I’m not sure why anyone would choose to ascribe nefarious motives to someone who is being honest, open and upfront with the candidate.

    5. Hey Nonnie*

      I’d be more concerned about the fact that Jane clearly left out / twisted some very big, very relevant details from the story she told the interviewer.

      1. Mad Baggins*

        Yeah honestly I’d be more concerned about this, plus why did Hiring Manager mention OP to her partner? If Jane’s agency was on OP’s resume she recognized it I would understand, but I don’t see why Hiring Manager’s partner (or mother, or neighbor) should be informed about applicants. I would hope HM would know to be discreet to prevent alerting OP’s current job, and I’d be concerned about what other information she decides to share with others.

        1. LovecraftInDC*

          I guess I wouldn’t be too concerned about her mentioning OP to her partner. Neighbor would raise some concerns, but my wife and I share almost everything. If we were both managers, I can see it coming up fairly organically; ‘I think we found a great candidate, she works at x doing y’. ‘Oh really? What’s her name? We interviewed a candidate with that background’.

          Honestly, OP, you handled it fantastically, and I know we shouldn’t read into things like this, but the fact that you were discussed seems like there’s you’re on the hiring manager’s mind, which I can’t imagine is a BAD thing, particularly since you got invited to a second interview.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          When reading over applications my husband will occasionally toss out a name or other tidbit, in our case with the assumption that I have never heard of these people as our fields don’t overlap that way. The assumption is that Jane or I don’t then wander around associated workplaces saying “So my partner got a resume from Arup Gupta, anyone heard of him?” But if we know something about Arup, it would be normal to pass it on at this point. Because the person isn’t a random business acquaintance.

          “I’m interviewing a couple of people for the teapot painter, Fergus Black and Wakeen Sandstorm.”
          “Huh, I recognize Wakeen. He (turned down our job offer/worked on the Blair project with me/is Joey’s dad).”

          This is a mundane conversation for married people to have about work.

        3. MamaGanoush*

          Yes, this really stuck out to me. Of course people talk about what they do all day at their jobs, but they shouldn’t be free and easy with details like this. To me this is a message that “this employer can’t be trusted to be confidential with personal information”. And it doesn’t seem that any connection with Jane would be on OP’s resume — OP didn’t work there, but rather was offered a job there that s/he didn’t even apply for.

          1. Kathleen_A*

            All I can say is, I’m extremely “free and easy” with details when I talk to my husband. Not all details, of course, but while there could be confidentiality concerns if I shared these details with someone I work with, those concerns just aren’t applicable when I’m talking to him.

            1. Penny Lane*

              I am doing Skype and FaceTime interviews for candidates that I’m hiring as part of a volunteer board that I’m on (the board oversees several paid people). I travel to meet my fellow volunteers at a central location and we do the Skype-ing from there. When I’ve gotten home, my spouse has asked me “so, how were your interviews.” Two of the candidates have the same fairly unusual first name so I’m sure I repeated the last names because I’m making a point in my mind to distinguish between Cersei Smith and Cersei Jones. I think this is unremarkable that a spouse might hear the full name of a candidate. 99% of the time it’s going to be completely irrelevant; it just so happens this was one where the name was recognizable to the other person.

              1. Kathleen_A*

                Exactly. The chances that a name would mean anything to the interviewer’s partner are pretty remote. It happened this time, but that’s just the way the ball bounces, or so it seems to me.

          2. Anna*

            It’s not protected information. It’s not in violation of any kind of privacy law to speak the names of applicants, and it’s not even an ethical violation to talk about them to their partner. This isn’t that weird.

          3. JamieS*

            The fact you applied to a job isn’t really ‘confident and personal’ information though. There’s the convention of not directly calling up (or emailing or otherwise contacting) an applicant’s current boss but that doesn’t mean there’s some broad expectation of privacy like you’d expect from a doctor, priest, etc.

        4. Mad Baggins*

          Wow, I’m really surprised at how common this seems to be. I share lots of things with my partner but not mundane details like who joined my department or what spreadsheets I looked at. I just don’t think it would be interesting to someone who didn’t work there. And I assumed (wrongly I suppose) that hiring managers/HR wouldn’t be able to discuss details of internal hiring procedures with people outside the company… wonder if this will change with the ripple effects of the privacy laws in Europe.

      2. attie*

        Jane may also not have been aware of the full extent of the shenanigans of the other agency involved, so it may just have been the result of an extended game of telephone. Either way, it’s a good sign that the hiring manager gave OP the chance to explain what happened!

        1. Artemesia*

          By why did Jane even mention the OP’s name to her partner? I did a lot of hiring but don’t recall ever sharing such details with my husband; it seems somewhat unethical to do that.

          1. LovecraftInDC*

            Name might not have come up initially, maybe it started as a conversation which just involved title and/or employer and blossomed from there.

          2. mreasy*

            If you’re hiring and you think your partner may have heard of/know if your candidate (similar industries etc), it’s natural that you’d ask their thoughts. It’s the same as googling someone…just gathering as much info as you can.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              It’s similar to “Huh, they worked at MegaLlama 3 years ago, and I’m seeing Violet from MegaLlama at Booboo’s ballet class tomorrow; I’ll ask if she remembers Applicant.”

              1. pleaset*

                Why not appropriate?
                It’s working to get good info for your company. That’s a good thing.

                “I think it would be weirder to conceal the nature of the relationship. Talking about work/hearing things from a partner is one of the most normal/unremarkable things I can imagine; “maybe this is a revenge ploy” is so beyond the pale in ordinary businesses circumstances”


              2. Admin of Sys*

                Is it also inappropriate to ask friends in the industry if they’ve heard of / know someone? Since Jane’s partner had a chance to possibly work with the OP, then obviously they run in at least somewhat similar circles. I certainly would expect that as a candidate, a potential employer would hit up their professional network for information, I don’t see why asking friends / partners / etc that are also in the industry is not okay? But then while my industry isn’t small, there’s a lot of crossover, so ‘hey, do you know Fergus? they worked with Llama’s incorporated 3 years ago and just applied at our company’ is a completely normal conversation between friends.

                1. sap*

                  Yeah, this. It would be really weird if your partner was off limits for this kind of stuff. It’s very normal when evaluating anyone for a position for people in my industry to ask personal friends the applicant may have gone to school with/interned with/been at x company with/be in y niche industry working group with for info on the applicant-don’t really understand what’s inappropriate about that.

                2. boo bot*

                  Yeah, I agree with this. If you would reach out to other people in your partner’s position to ask about a job candidate, it’s silly not to ask your partner – presumably you trust their judgement of character in at least one arena, after all.

          3. Mom MD*

            I agree Artemesia. I don’t think spilling confidential work business to a spouse is fair game. Boundaries are important.

            1. Uranus wars*

              I don’t see this as any different from me saying to my best friend “Bob Jones worked at XYZ Company 5 years ago when you did some consulting there, did you happen to work with him?” A name is not confidential work information.

            2. Penny Lane*

              I don’t think you understand business culture, MomMD. If my spouse asks me about my day and says “how are your interviews for your new llama grooming position going?” and I say “oh, today I talked to Sally Smith, she’s an up and coming rising star from the Rhode Island School of Llama Grooming, and then I talked to Anye West, she’s the past president of the Idaho Llama Groomers Association – she’s been in the industry longer, but I’m concerned that she hasn’t had hands-on experience grooming llamas in a couple of year ” – that’s not spilling confidential information. I don’t work for the CIA.

            3. Lindsay J*

              It’s not confidential work business, though.

              If they were in payroll and told their spouse how much their mutual friend was being paid, that would be inappropriate and confidential.

              If they told their spouse about specific illnesses they knew someone had through their job, that would be inappropriate and confidential.

              If they told their spouse about propitiatory engineering plans, gave them contact info for specific clients, etc, new upcoming advertising or business plans that were said or understood to be secret until launch, that would be confidential.

              Mentioning that someone is interviewing at your company is not confidential. People that are called to be references will know about it. People that are in on the interview panel will know about it. People who see the interviewee in a business suit walking into the company headquarters will know about it. The hiring manager is going to ask other people they know in the field about it.

              I could only see it being inappropriate if the spouse (or your best friend or whoever you talked to) was a manager at the interviewee’s current job, because you don’t want to put the interviewee’s current job at risk. But otherwise, people in an industry ask others in the industry about applicants all the time, and that’s normal.

              People talk to their spouses about issues they are having at work, and that is also normal.

              You generally don’t go “Oh, I just interviewed Serina Smith, Venus Morgan, Anna Doe, and Martina Johnson today,” because, well, nobody cares.

              But you might go, “Hey, I just interviewed a Venus Morgan. She said she was at Aperture Technologies at the same time your company was working on that big project with them. Did you work with her at all?”

            4. Dino*

              Most work isn’t confidential. I’m now in a field where every detail is confidential so I don’t share anything with my spouse, but in previous jobs I definitely shared what was going on in my work world. I know that healthcare is another field where patient details and whatnot are confidential, but that’s not the case for the vast majority of work settings.

      3. nonymous*

        In gov hiring, the first-line managers have very little official involvement after creating the job posting and criteria. I could totally see Jane creating a vacancy announcement, someone in HR trying to slot OP#4 into a spot after the original offer disappeared and HR short-listing OP#4 to the SME for resume review. Sometimes HR thinks they can do resume review without a SME. And if there is only one candidate at this point, agency rules may mean that the interview stage is skipped and Jane has no veto power.

        In general, I would be very skeptical of the accuracy of job descriptions passed along by HR, especially in gov. If I experienced OP#4’s situation, before accepting/rejecting any offer I would ask to speak (on-site ideally, but at least by skype) to the supervising manager. The major reason why is because HR likes to reuse questions and descriptions from other postings with the same job code, so a specific posting can be wildly inaccurate. That might not have any bearing on Jane’s competence as a manager – if there’s a funding deadline, she may not have the time to get approval at three or four levels (which might take months depending on agency) for original content.

        1. OP 4*

          OP #4 here chiming in — appreciated Alison and everyone’s feedback, and glad to hear y’all think I handled the situation well!

          To clarify, Jane Smith was essentially informed that she would be hiring me. (I had previously worked for an elected official and was making the transition to the government side so I have more knowledge of the behind-the-scenes than an applicant typically would.) I had accepted a job in the winter of 2017 with an agency I was thrilled about, and due to some nonsense press concerns and the benign inefficiencies of bureaucracy, more than three months after accepting that job I got a call telling me that I would *actually* be working with Jane’s agency and I’d eventually (no timeline provided) transfer over to the job I actually accepted. That’s why I declined the job; it was clear that there was no clear path to the job I had actually accepted.

          I will admit that I bristled a little bit at first after the interview because it really bothered me how it was brought up (with no context), but I was glad I had the opportunity to provide context. This was a second phone interview and I had been waiting to hear back about scheduling a final, in-person interview. That never happened, which I was disappointed about. I didn’t at all feel entitled to an interview or to the job, but I will say that, maybe wrongly, I was a little put off by the fact that I had come highly recommended by multiple folks and that they weren’t able to even send a form rejection email. Oh well.

          Unfortunately the snafu with the government job led to an unexpected period of 3+ months of unemployment which has been less than ideal, but happy to say that since writing in to AAM, I’ve since accepted a job I’m thrilled about that will allow me to work remotely, pays for all travel, and has wonderful benefits and unlimited paid sick leave.

    6. Emily K*

      I think it would be weirder to conceal the nature of the relationship. Talking about work/hearing things from a partner is one of the most normal/unremarkable things I can imagine; “maybe this is a revenge ploy” is so beyond the pale in ordinary businesses circumstances it wouldn’t even cross my mind. (Not saying it couldn’t happen, but it’s something that I wouldn’t jump right to assuming is going on without seeing other serious signs of suspicious/unprofessional behavior.)

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, this.

        That just doesn’t seem like a good idea to me. And I really don’t like that she commented that the OP turned down the job–maybe she didn’t phrase it negatively, but it sounds from the letter than Jane wasn’t completely honest about the situation, which could obviously have reflected badly on the OP even when the OP didn’t deserve it.

        1. Chinook*

          It is also that Jane is the one who originally brought up OP’s name months ago when the incident happened when discussing what may have ended up being a frustrating day at her job. She could have been venting to her partner who just happens to end up interviewing the OP and remembers the name coming up in the past from Jane. It could be a coincidence. and it does happen.

          Case in point, DH the cop got his finger broken when a guy got drunk at a restaurant and threw a magazine rack with the drunk’s face on it celebrating an achievement (DH got injured when arresting the guy). I knew the magazine and saw the face, so imagine my surprise when same guy moved in across the hall from me AND became the bus driver for my commute. I was able to confirm it was the same guy when DH came over to visit and they awkwardly greeted each other in the hall. Essentially, DH telling me about a bad day for him gave me confidential information about someone else (because he chatted about why the guy was drunk and angry) that I only knew because I was a spouse. If I was hiring the guy, this is not information I can’t unknow.

      2. Kathleen_A*

        I talk about all sorts of confidential things with my husband. Why not? He’s reliable and sensible, and he’s outside the situation, and those things make him an excellent person to discuss things with.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          “Reliable and sensible” are big qualifiers, though. I’m not sure we know that Jane is, according to this anecdote.

          I can see discussing things with one’s spouse, but if I found out that somebody I had interviewed was interviewing with my partner, I’d keep my mouth shut unless I’d seen legitimate red flags. It sounds from this letter that Jane may have spun the situation to make the OP look worse, and that’s not OK.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            And OP would never have known about the wrong version if the interviewer hadn’t been straightforward about what the second-hand information was, and where it came from.

            Leaving out that it seems there may have been several layers between Jane and OP, each with a different version of events. To me, this sounds closer to people who are trying to figure out if there is a way to say “never contact this person and ask about my time working with them” and there really isn’t–the best you can hope for is that if someone talked to this person, they give you a chance to present your side.

          2. Kathleen_A*

            If I found out somebody I had interviewed was interviewing with my husband, I would absolutely tell him. It wouldn’t have to be a big deal, either – and I am not sure why you’re so sure it was a big deal this time either. Maybe Jane implied all sorts of trickery, but maybe not since we don’t actually have much evidence about what she said, other than the plain fact that the OP had declined job.

            The OP herself says “The hiring manager was not accusatory or adversarial, and she did say that I came highly recommended and that Jane had said that she had heard great things about me.” So I don’t understand the conviction by some AAMers that something nefarious is going on here. It could be, certainly, but that is far from certain.

          3. JamieS*

            I think this is overly speculative. There’s really no reason to think Jane spun some tall tale based on her saying OP decided not to take a job with her agency which is true. Point in fact, OP said Jane had said she’d heard good things about OP and it’s unlikely Jane would say that to her partner while in the midst of telling slanderous lies about OP.

        2. Oxford Coma*

          I talk about all sorts of confidential things with my husband. Why not?

          Because I’m a professional who respects the necessity for and legality of confidentiality agreements.

          1. Mom MD*

            Nailed it Oxford. That comment made me cringe. Non specific normal work issues is ok to share with spouse; names and confidential specifics is not.

          2. Kathleen_A*

            As am I. I don’t discuss state secrets with him (or wouldn’t if I had any), but “I’m interviewing a couple of people for that job opening I have” doesn’t violate any confidentiality agreements. That’s absurd. And by the way, it’s not very nice to imply that someone you don’t even know isn’t “professional” based on the flimsy evidence I’ve supplied so far. :-)

            1. Rat in the Sugar*

              You’re saying now that you don’t tell your husband anything that violates a confidentiality agreement, but upthread you said that you talk about all sorts of confidential things with him and that you are “free and easy” with the details. It’s understandable that people talk to their spouses, but we should still be careful with what we say and hold back identifying details.

              1. Penny Lane*

                I’m not going to waste one minute’s worth of time worrying about creating pseudonyms for fellow workers, clients, or interviewees for fear of “breaking confidentiality.”

                This will really drive you crazy – for one of the interviews I did yesterday, one of my fellow volunteers noted that the interviewee had worked at X University (in another city) in the Y department a few jobs ago, and said – oh, do you know Bob Smith? He’s the director of Y over there at X University. The interviewee hadn’t, as Bob’s tenure didn’t overlap with her time there, but that kind of thing falls under completely normal discussion. And, if indeed the interviewee had known Bob, I’m sure my fellow volunteer might have reached out to Bob and said – what do you think of her? That’s called normal.

              2. McWhadden*

                This seems a lot like nitpicking. KA was talking about “confidential” in the context of this conversation. Which can only be considered in the vague colloquial sense as nothing about the interview process is typically officially confidential or subject to confidentiality agreements. Nothing about what she originally said in this context suggested actual violation of genuinely confidential information. People jumped on phrasing.

                1. Kathleen_A*

                  Yes, that’s exactly what I was talking about, McWhadden. Man, communication is sometimes *hard*. :-)

              3. JB (not in Houston)*

                Yes, Kathleen_A, I think you’re getting the reaction that you’re getting because you weren’t very specific about what you spill to your husband. As Rat said, you said you are free and easy about telling your husband confidential information. If you are telling your husband confidential company information, or other information that isn’t supposed to be disclosed to the general public, you can see why people would react negatively to that. People can debate whether you should keep applicant names confidential (and they are debating that here), and I imagine the resolution of that question comes down to industry norms and personal rules of ethics. But if you’re just stating without specification that you share confidential information from work with him (which is a category that applicant names falls into), without clarifying you just meant applicant names, some people will naturally wonder if you mean you are telling him info you shouldn’t.

                1. Penny Lane*

                  JB, you’re being pedantic. The marketing report I prepare for my client is confidential in the sense that I’m not going to share it with Proctor & Gamble when my client is Unilever, but the fact that I’m doing a marketing report and we found out xyz is not SOOO confidential that I couldn’t tell my husband about it (unless he worked for a competitor, of course). Lots of things are company-confidential but they aren’t so-secret-locked-up-confidential that you can’t breathe a word to your spouse, friends, etc.

                2. Kathleen_A*

                  I don’t *have* any confidential company information. I work for a non-profit whose budget is readily available, and so the atmosphere of corporate secrets or confidential client/patient information that some of you live in is completely foreign to me. I don’t tell my husband – or sister or mother or friends – anything that I shouldn’t, but that’s a pretty easy promise to keep since I can’t even think right off hand of anything I know that needs to be kept confidential.

                  And that includes “I interviewed a woman called X…oh, you know her? What a coincidence.” My apologies if my statement misled or upset anybody, but…let’s all take a deep breath, OK? I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch for me to assume that if the topic of conversation is “secrets” on the level of who’s applied to a job, that those are the confidences, such as they are, that I am referring to.

              4. Kathleen_A*

                Rat in the Sugar, there’s confidential and then there’s CONFIDENTIAL. That someone – particularly someone I have no reason to think he knows – happened to apply for a job with me would not strike me as something so CONFIDENTIAL that I would have to hide it from DH. There are all kinds of perfectly innocent ways the OP’s name could have come out, so why assume shenanigans when we have no reason to think there are any?

              5. Chinook*

                It is important to note that there is also an implied confidentiality between spouses when something is shared between just the two of them. I think the term is “spousal privilege” and it exists because those who share a life as partners often talk about their days and thoughts with each other with the idea that it won’t be spread around to others.

                The fact that the interviewer asked the OP for clarification about something she heard about under this privilege implies that she is aware she may not have heard the whole story and is open minded enough to want to gather all the relevant information before making a decision, I would think, should be seen as a good thing.

          3. Brett*

            It is not clear if hiring manager is with a public agency, but Jane is in a public agency.
            For state and local agencies in general, candidate lists are not confidential information.
            (Not in every case of every agency, but as a general sunshine law principle they are not confidential.)

            1. Just Employed Here*

              We don’t know if the OP is in the US or elsewhere, though.

              With today being GDPR day in the EU, my first thought is that the applicant’s name and other details are part of the organization’s recruitment database and are definitely confidential. Certainly not something to be shared with your spouse! Gossiping or small talk is not a legitimate business reason…

          4. McWhadden*

            As a professional you should be aware that there is no confidentiality agreement in the hiring process unless explicitly stated. And, in fact, the hiring process almost always involves multiple people viewing and calling references. If you know someone who knows an applicant it is not only acceptable but THE NORM to ask them about the candidate.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        Supposedly language took the place of grooming in allowing us to cooperate in groups. So rather than sit around picking fleas out of each other’s hair for hours a day, we say “So Zarathustra Chaddington said yes to the offer, and we’ll have that organic chemist slot filled next week. Such a relief.” Or “So I’m looking for an organic chemist, and I think you might have worked with one of the applicants, Zarathustra Chaddington?” We say this to our spouses, to acquaintances, to people in the industry. There are all sorts of social interactions that might be strictly about sussing out professional details, or might be about The Topic After Weather, that fall well short of calling up an applicant’s current boss and outing their job search.

        1. puzzld*

          Exactly. It doesn’t even have to be that explicit… I try not to out someone who is still employed and looking, but we have a very tight circle in my field, and it would be weird if I didn’t say to someone at the other big llama farm “so Sheldon?” and hear “oh. Him! No. Leonard is a delight, but Sheldon? No, not unless you can let him work from home and not interact with the rest of your staff or your llamas …”

        1. Penny Lane*

          Again, MomMD, since you’re a doctor (right? the link in your name appears broken), things are different. A doctor can’t reveal anything about patients to a spouse or partner and it would indeed be a Big Inappropriate Deal for a doctor to say “Oh, yes, honey, I treated your friend Susie Smith for her warts that won’t go away, and by the way she says hi.” But that has nothing to do with the rest of the business world, in which it’s entirely appropriate for spouses to discuss their bosses, coworkers, subordinates, clients, vendors and interviewees with one another.

          1. Anna*

            Yes x 1000. And even for doctors, talking about candidates you’re interviewing is not a violation of any thing; legally, ethically, or morally.

            1. Just Employed Here*

              I’d be careful about treating this as the cold, hard truth. It may be correct in some countries and incorrect in others.

              I know the blog covers specifically US work situations (except for California…), but quite often the cases discussed aren’t actually in the US.

              (Happy GDPR day, everyone!)

              1. JessaB*

                And GDPR includes foreign companies that hold data on European Citizens. So if that company is interviewing Jack Daniels from that Kentucky Brewery, and happens to also be interviewing Harry Hart from that British Tailor Shop, they’ve got a problem talking about Harry that they do not have talking about Jack. Nevermind they have a secrecy issue in the first place, one certainly never mentions the words Whiskey or Galahad, but still.

                It’s not only Europe folks. Evil HR Lady did a good bit on it in her column for today.

          2. Lehigh*

            Right. This person is a hiring manager; there is no expectation of confidentiality involved (except for the courtesy of not outing the job seeker to their current boss). This is NOT like doctor discussing patients, a lawyer discussing confidential cases, etc.

            1. Antilles*

              In fact, the expectations actually go the exact opposite way – if the hiring manager knows someone who does know you personally, the general expectation is that they will discreetly reach out and ask for opinions.

      4. Not a Morning Person*

        Because discussing who you are interviewing with other people who might know them or have worked with them before is very common practice.

    7. Oxford Coma*

      Maybe it’s the intolerant area in which I live, but I assumed it was partially a request for an explanation and partially an “is the applicant a homophobe” test.

      1. Turquoisecow*

        Honestly, I went that route, too. There are certainly some applicants who would be taken aback at the idea of a boss with a same sex partner. I don’t think that’s what’s happening here, but it is a nice way to throw that fact into the mix and see what the response is.

        1. Don't have a clever name*

          I’m queer and I drop similar references to my partner (soon to be wife) when interviewing myself or considering new candidates for my team. I am lucky enough be able to vet for these issues and to ensure that I can bring my whole self to my workplace so I think this is possible although not the likely reason for asking.

          1. SophieK*

            I think the motivation here is obvious.

            Original hiring manager did OP dirty. When OPs name came up she tried to get out ahead of the story and did OP dirty again.

            OP has the truth on her side and threw original hiring manager back under the bus. Where she belongs.

    8. Not a Morning Person*

      There was a letter quite some time ago about an interview as a revenge ploy, but this is so far removed from that situation that I think it’s quite a stretch to equate those situations. If I am recalling, in the earlier letter the OP had a difficult relationship with the boss and there were some unethical things happening and she resigned because even the HR rep had told her it wasn’t going to change. And then the OP applied for a job and her interviewer was a good friend of her old boss and basically scolded her in the interview. It was outrageous. This is nothing like that and seems to be a pretty normal interaction and pretty transparent from the hiring manager. Kudos, OP! You handled it very well!

    9. Roscoe*

      I’m ok with that. I mean, it isn’t necessary, but I don’t see it as a problem either. Its like, if someone was your step brother or former co-worker, there is nothing wrong (to me) with saying how you know someone.

      I think it also adds a bit more trust if you will. Like if I just heard this from random friend of a friend who I don’t trust, or my romantic partner.

    10. McWhadden*

      I think it’s so normal to say “my girlfriend mentioned that…” that most people wouldn’t even think of trying to hide that.

      1. LBK*

        Right, I’m confused why this seems weird to anyone, unless people are interpreting “romantic partner” to mean, like, someone she hooks up with? I assume the OP specified “romantic” partner to distinguish it from “business partner,” ie to indicate that it was a personal relationship, not a professional one.

    11. LBK*

      Would it read weirdly to you if the interviewer were a man who’d said “my wife is Jane Smith”? That seems like an extremely natural and normal thing to say. Usually when you bring someone up you mention your relationship to them; being in a romantic relationship is not unprofessional or something you need to hide in a business context. I kinda sense some (presumably unconscious) homophobia in this comment and maybe a little sexism too – feels like you wouldn’t have jumped to thinking it was all a scheme if it weren’t women involved since there are stereotypes about women being more vengeful and conniving in this way.

      1. Dino*

        Thank you for this. I never like to jump to homophobia as a reason for certain reactions, but the negative reaction from commentors to this specific letter seems… out of step with the situation described.

        1. LBK*

          Yeah, and I don’t think it’s intentional either because this commentariat is usually not like that, but I think the fact that it’s an atypical term for the relationship makes it stand out more where just saying husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/etc wouldn’t have seemed like it was being specifically called out. People probably would have glossed right over it.

          1. Myrin*

            Which is super strange to me because it simply seemed to me that OP either specified “romantic partner” to distinguish from “business partner” or similar or because the HM herself used the (atypical, as you say) term.

            (I do have to say that I disagree on the “people would’ve glossed right over it” front, though. There are several comments here who seem to be viewing hiring as a truly confidential thing or who apparently never talk to their friends or family about anything coworker-related, so I’d bet actual money on people reacting just the same to “my girlfriend”.)

            1. JM60*

              People have a tendency to see anything gay related as somehow less appropriate than its straight equivalent. Movies with that may have pg13 level sexual themes are often rated R of it’s between gay characters (or NC17 instead of R). Similarly, what would be seen as appropriate in context for straight people (mentioning that they have a spouse) is often seen as TMI if it’s a same sex couple.

    12. AKchic*

      Here’s my line of thinking:
      Regardless of whether it was a good idea or not to reveal that Jane is the hiring manager’s romantic partner; it does tell me that the hiring manager discusses a lot of work-related information with her. It also tells me that were I to be hired, I will be a subject of discussion at home since I am work-related and Jane has had interaction with me and has already spun a story about me to make herself look better and to paint me in a negative light.
      That is a strike for the hiring manager already.

      I’m actually kind of glad the hiring manager was honest about where she received her information, and why she was okay with initially believing the information, but still wanting to get LW5’s version of events. Whether she believes LW5 over Jane will be a different issue, and what she does with the conflicting information is up to her.
      If LW5 does get offered this position and accepts it, I would be wary at first, just because of the Jane-factor. However, I always advise caution when entering a new workspace.

      1. Anna*

        Who cares if they talk about the OP at home? It would be weird to assume they don’t. It would be naive to assume they don’t. I KNOW my boss has probably said some not great things about me to whoever her romantic partner is and it means absolutely nothing to me. Because that is something human beings in this dimension of existence do.

        1. LBK*

          Yeah, what? Who doesn’t talk about work with their partner? I mean, my boyfriend and I generally make a point of it not to talk about work too much, but he definitely knows of most of my coworkers, and many of them by name just from stories I’ve told over time.

      2. Not a Morning Person*

        But that’s the kind of information that might even be shared with a complete stranger. What difference does it make to share information with someone you are dating if you would also share it with anyone in your industry who has worked with a potential new employee? And particularly when the “partner” also apparently works in the same field and might know one or more of the job candidates? It is not confidential information. It’s not inappropriate to ask people who might know a job candidate about their knowledge or experience of a particular candidate. It’s not illegal or inappropriate to use that information in considering whether to hire or interview a job candidate. I’m very confused with the interpretation by several people that there is something wrong with how the interviewer learned about the “rejected” job. Where is this interpretation coming from? It’s a common and regular business practice to tap into your professional network to learn about potential hires and it just so happens that the hiring manage is dating someone in her professional network. So what? It doesn’t change the situation. It’s normal. It’s appropriate. And the hiring manager shared the information and gave the OP the opportunity to provide context that may have made the whole job rejection a moot point once she’d explained it. It was handled well by both parties, interviewer and OP.

        1. Chinook*

          “But that’s the kind of information that might even be shared with a complete stranger. What difference does it make to share information with someone you are dating if you would also share it with anyone in your industry who has worked with a potential new employee? ”

          I think it is a huge difference, especially as I read “romantic partner” as not someone the interviewer is casually dating but someone she has a long-term relationship with (I would cast a side eye to her, though, if it was a casual relationship as there is no spousal privilege implied). What I am willing to talk about with my spouse and he with me is much different from what I would say to family, friends or strangers. Different levels of trust/intimacy earn different levels of information.

          1. Not a Morning Person*

            Again, think of the context. There is no confidentiality issue at all in this situation. None. And it’s so strange to me that people seem to conflate discussing a job candidate with a “romantic” partner as a violation of something…I can’t even think of what that violation would be. It makes no difference whether it’s a casual date or a deep, long-term romantic relationship or a stranger on a train. And spousal privilege makes no difference because there is nothing illegal or confidential about any of the information. I cannot think of any way in which anyone would be forced or expected to testify about this. For what? To say, yes, I learned that a job candidate I’m interviewing turned down a job a an organization where my girlfriend works? That’s not confidential. It’s not even very interesting news. Where is this misunderstanding of job search protocol coming from?

        1. AKchic*

          I work with confidential information and have for a long time. No, I don’t bring my work “home with me”, as it were. I don’t discuss my work in any way that my friends/family would know anyone’s names or that anyone would ever actually be able to know the happenings in the office or actual office issues.

          I generally keep my work life separate from my home life. I’m not paid to bring it home.

          1. Not a Morning Person*

            And that is normal or expected for your particular work. My spouse has a pretty high security clearance and doesn’t discuss those topics where security is expected. But we do discuss the people he works with, his travels, who is having a baby, who is getting married, who is traveling, who is interviewing for job openings, etc. I can see how in a particular and different role, one of more of those might be confidential, but that is in the context of the particular job or organization and not common for most employers. In most organizations, the conversation OP presented is normal and there is no compromise of information or of anyone’s integrity for engaging in that normal, professional discussion.

          2. Penny Lane*

            So you’ve never said to your partner/spouse, “Boy, I was so annoyed at Jane today – we’re working on a report, and she did XYZ”? Or “we went to the client meeting today, and Kelly really kicked butt”? If you go on a business trip with a coworker, do you really not say, “Oh, Bob and I are flying to Seattle next week to meet with Microsoft; sure hope we land that account”? This is all so secret?

    13. Triple Anon*

      I don’t think it’s that weird. It would depend on the culture of the workplace, but I think this is a situation where the interviewer was just being friendly and transparent.

      And I think the nature of the relationship does matter. If Jane was a casual friend, the interviewer probably wouldn’t give the same weight to her comments about the candidate. So it’s fair to specify “close friend,” and at that point, I get why someone would want to say, “romantic partner,” since that would probably come up later if they worked together. It’s also full disclosure for the candidate. For all the interviewer knew, maybe the OP wouldn’t want to keep in touch with Jane or her employer. So I can see the logic here.

  2. LouiseM*

    #3, I wonder if people who see you heading in with your lunch bag don’t realize that you are also pumping in there, and not just eating. It doesn’t excuse being rude, of course, and it’s a case where MYOB should be your mantra. But I can see being put off if I saw that someone was using the lactation room as their personal lunch room (even if they were using the lactation room for pumping at other points of the day).

    In any case, the advice doesn’t change, because they are being rude. But I would try clarifying that you are pumping while you eat.

    1. Violette*

      My thoughts as well! :)

      Not that you should do this, but it would be interesting if someone in your situation had enough nerve to go to the main breakroom and pump there while eating lunch with everyone… it would surely surprise people enough to tell you to go eat lunch in the pumping room, which solves the problem.

      1. JV*

        Heh. I love this idea.

        “Would you prefer me to lactate in the lunch room or lunch in the lactation room?”

        (OK, it would be a bad idea for oh so many reasons but it would most definitely stop the complaints about eating in the pump room!)

        1. I Like Lamp*

          Agreed. This is one of those cases where “return the awkward to sender” is a perfect response.

      2. OP3*

        OMG. I can’t imagine the responses. For context I work in a very conservative industry with lots of men, and where the average age in my team is close to fifty. Until maybe four years ago (when our director made a huge push for more equal recruiting) we had more women’s toilets on our floor than women!

        1. Lora*

          As another woman in a very conservative industry and often the only woman in the room…they might literally not know that eating while pumping is a thing the human body can do.

          You would think that married heterosexual men with wives and children would know this, but nope. One of the guys I used to work with had only seen his wife nurse babies with a special pillow to hold the baby and support her back and on a particular kind of chair that could hold the pillows just-so and then the baby had to be positioned just-so and needed quiet and liked to have a particular music playing and have a special blanket but not touching the baby’s head and basically a whole carload of stuff – so he figured that is just how women lactate. Like, at all, as in we are incapable of lactation unless we are surrounded by a gotdamn pillow fort made of chenille blankets, couch cushions and Mozart.

          There’s a lot of people don’t pay attention in 8th grade health class, what can I say.

          1. Workerbee*

            –And continue to enjoy the privilege of not “having” to pay attention their whole lives.

            1. Penny Lane*

              “And continue to enjoy the privilege of not “having” to pay attention their whole lives.”

              Why is it so important that they know? As a woman who did not breastfeed or pump, I don’t really pay attention to the issue (though I get the idea in general). I’m not sure why it’s really important that I know the details, as long as I’m able to be supportive in the workplace (which I have – our workplace had lactation rooms, we interviewed women who were pumping and gave them requested breaks and a fridge to store milk, etc.). But why do I have to “pay attention” to the topic? This is the oh-so-common and oh-so-dreary everyone-needs-to-know-about-my-interests-hobbies-and-life.

              1. LBK*

                I mean…that’s painting with a real broad brush. Pumping is not an interest or a hobby.

              2. Random Obsessions*

                Perhaps the idea is that because 50% of the human population (rounded for simplicity) has the potential to lactate at some point in their lives it is something about which all people should know some information.
                It might not be interesting to all but that’s also true of much information that the majority of people know.
                For instance, knowing that you drive on the right in Canada and America but on the left in Britain and Austalia isn’t exciting or super interesting but it’s useful information in case you plan to drive in those places. Same logic could be applied to having knowledge about lactation; you might never do it but chances are really good that you’re going to encounter someone who does. To draw from Lora’s example, if pumping accomodation decisions were made from the limited knowledge of how that one person’s wife nursed, employees at that company might have encountered more pushback or a longer time frame for creating a pumping room because the decision-makers thought that all those extra accoutrements were required for someone to nurse. In this example, having the knowledge that a pumping parent usually only needs x, y, z to accomplish the task, and not the whole alphabet, makes things easier.

                1. LBK*

                  Exactly, it matters because sometimes people who won’t go through it themselves will have to make decisions that affect people who will. So the options are either to ensure everyone’s educated or to ensure there’s people who are affected at the table to help make the decisions.

                2. JamieS*

                  TBH if a company is willing to designate a pumping room without kicking up a fuss, while a bit odd, I don’t think them having the sincere belief someone would have to make a trip to Bed, Bath, and Beyond in order to get the proper supplies would cause that big of a problem. If they do kick up a fuss they’d likely try to avoid their obligation even if they know only x,y,z are needed.

              3. Anna*

                Considering how little so many men actually do know about women’s bodies (there are men who literally believe women can stop menstruating on demand), it is worth people being educated. Not to mention, being ignorant of basic bodily functions is what leads to situations exactly like this where some ding-a-ling man thinks it “must be nice” to eat lunch while pumping breast milk.

                1. Chiroxophia*

                  An example of what LBK’s point….my husband was recently in charge of setting up a scheduling process for lactation rooms at his large workplace. He had no idea how long a person would need to pump, so didn’t know how many minutes people should be able to schedule. His first guess was 10-15 minutes for the room at a time…which for anyone who has pumped knows probably wouldn’t be enough. But he had no idea. Luckily he was willing to ask rather than just barreling ahead.

                2. Penny Lane*

                  But that’s the point – he doesn’t need to know until such moment he needs to know.

                3. JamieS*

                  We don’t know the complainers are all men nor do we know they know OP is pumping at the time. If we stipulate most others, especially men, have no way of knowing exactly what a pumping mother is doing when she’s in the pumping room, that is they’re not actively watching her to make sure she’s pumping as opposed to taking a nap, making a call, etc., I think we can accept it’s very likely people may think OP is using the pumping room as a private lunch room and not realize she’s also pumping at that time.

              4. ket*

                I have the privilege of not knowing how to get around town in a wheelchair. I have the privilege of not knowing how to use crutches. I have the privilege of never bumping my head on low doorways. It’s not really a value judgement and I’d argue that I don’t actually have to pay that much attention to any of these things — but I should be mildly cognizant of the situations that others face and be willing to learn when it’s useful!

              5. Not a Blossom*

                Given that the VAST majority of people will encounter someone who is breastfeeding or pumping at some point in their life, it’s useful for people to know “women can pump in a variety of settings and circumstances.” You don’t need in-depth knowledge, but that simple point is fairly useful knowledge.

              6. Ralph Wiggum*

                I agree. Understanding my life experience or my body is not something others need to do. Chastising someone for not knowing is divisive and not particularly helpful.

                The flip side is that you don’t need to understand to be supportive, and support is certainly necessary.

                The exception, as LBK pointed out, is decision-makers who need to be knowledgeable about the effects of their policies. That doesn’t mean everybody needs to be familiar with the details of lactation/disability/sexuality/and on and on.

              7. Ego Chamber*

                “Why is it so important that they know?”

                Because a little bit of awareness can help with empathy and understanding. I’m not saying all the company dudes and childfree women need to take a lactation class, but OP should definitely let people know that she is pumping in the quiet room, even if she goes in there with a lunch bag.

                Storytime. The last place I worked that had a Quiet Room—as opposed to a dedicated lactation room—did have people who were using it to meet up with friends for lunch or chats or to play on their phones, because the break room was “too crowded” or it was “inconvenient” to book a conference room, or whatever, and it led to a lot of resentment from people who used the room for its intended purpose (migraine sufferers, lactating parents, etc) and also led to resentment of the people who used the room for its intended purpose by people who were convinced the Quiet Room was just the New Slackers Hang Out Club.

              8. Delphine*

                Having a basic understanding of a woman’s body is hardly the same thing as being bored by the details of someone’s hobbies. Ignorance can lead to a lack of empathy and understanding. There are men who think having a period is like peeing and you can bleed on command, and these men live and work around women and almost inevitably end up in situations where their ignorance results in them creating problems for women.

          2. SarahTheEntwife*

            I don’t think we learned anything about lactation in health class. :-/

            1. Turquoisecow*

              I didn’t either. It’s only since I’ve gotten to the age where I have childbearing friends (where it seems like EVERYONE is having children) that I even started to become aware that pumping was a thing, or that lactating and feeding the baby weren’t just things that came naturally. (And even then, it’s more from seeing shared articles online or listening to other conversations than from having people actually give me this information.)

              1. Amber T*

                Honestly, it was an AAM letter that pushed me to realize what pumping machines were. I’m not sure what my naive brain thought they were before… you just hooked up a suction cup to your nipple and milk just naturally fell out of your breast? I’m a woman in my mid/late 20s, mind you, you would think this is stuff I would know.

                1. Just Employed Here*

                  To be fair, I’ve breastfed (and very occasionally pumped) for a total of about 3.5 years, and it still sometimes strikes me as being a really weird thing to be doing… Somehow simultaneously both extremely strange and completely natural!

                2. Only here for the teapots*

                  I don’t have children, but I have owned a milk cow. Lactation is pretty similar physiologically speaking for most large mammals. And dairy milking machines seem to function much like a human pump.
                  I learned a lot about oxytocin and the let down response, which made my relationship with my cow a little awkward sometimes.

              2. Rana*

                I didn’t either. It wasn’t until I took a lactation class and had my own class that I learned that milk doesn’t come out of a single hole, for example, which was rather embarrassing.

                1. OP3*

                  I didn’t realize that until my baby was two months old! And until my first stretch of six hours away from baby (at 3 months old!) I had no idea how much it *hurts* to have full breasts. Apparently I’m one of the lucky ones who didn’t get engorged during the first few newborn days so I was blissfully unaware…until I wasn’t anymore

          3. JamieS*

            Can’t really blame that guy since there’s a strong possibility his wife told him she needed that stuff. Not surprising he’d take that to mean women in general need that stuff.

        2. CoveredInBees*

          Would it be too much for them to say something along the lines of, “Yeah, pumping really takes it out of you, ya know?” Of course they probably would have zero idea how taxing lactation can be but that would be the point.

        3. Chameleon*

          If saying something snarky is too much, maybe you could prominently carry the pump or bottles in your hand with the lunch bag? Then they can reach the correct conclusion themselves (maybe).

      3. AKchic*

        I do love the idea of asking them outright if they are inviting you or requiring you to join everyone else in the main break/lunch room and pump openly while you eat so they don’t feel jealous of you eating alone. And don’t break eye contact while you wait for them to give you an answer.

        I’m also a fan of MomVoice (TM) and dramatic flair.
        “I’m done with your passive-aggressive guilt-trip complaints. If you don’t like my legal right to pumping breaks, by all means, take it up with HR. I’ll happily go with you right now since you seem to have time to complain to me to my face. If you don’t feel satisfied with their answer, I direct you to the internet where you can write to your representatives to get laws changed. Please, let the whole world know that you are against lactation.”

        1. JamieS*

          The problem with that is they haven’t complained about her pumping, they’ve complained about her eating in the pumping room so her saying that would come across as ridiculous and missing their point. Someone correct me if this is wrong but employers are required to provide a place to pump, they aren’t required to allow pumping mothers to also eat, drink, play games on their phone, send emails, etc. while pumping.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            “Someone correct me if this is wrong but employers are required to provide a place to pump, they aren’t required to allow pumping mothers to also eat, drink, play games on their phone, send emails, etc. while pumping.”

            Kind of? I can’t imagine it not being seen as some kind of penalty/different treatment for the employer to say “You’re allowed to pump in the quiet room, but you’re ONLY allowed to pump AND NOTHING ELSE”—it would be like trying to dictate behavior on any other break, overreaching at the least. I know they can’t require you to work, but I also don’t think they’re required to pay you for the time (I’ve had at least one employer with the policy that ADA breaks aren’t paid breaks unless you use PTO to cover the time, but I’m not sure whether it was legal because a lot of shit that place did was very not legal).

          2. Database Developer Dude*

            That’s a stupid assertion. Seriously. While pumping, you should be able to do whatever else you are able to do.

            1. JamieS*

              Don’t call my assertion stupid unless you can show I’m factually incorrect. I didn’t say someone should be barred from doing anything other than pumping. I said the employer isn’t required to allow for anything other than pumping meaning there’s no legal obligation to allow eating in the pumping room, making phone calls while pumping, etc. They’re only required to allow mothers to pump and can make policies barring any and all other activities if they so chose so long as the policy doesn’t bump up against another protection. Therefore if someone complains about an additional activity taking place while pumping, such as eating lunch, they aren’t violating OP’s right to pump and OP asserting they are isn’t going to help her.

            1. PsychDoc*

              It’s probably the closest thing they get to a nap . . . So if it’s an option . . .hehehe

    2. WorldsWorstHRPerson*

      I would agree here. Most employers I work for lock down the lacation room and only grant access for lacation and other medical needs because there is a tendency for people to turn the rooms into private phone call or private lunch rooms. I think your coworkers are thinking that you are abusing the room.
      In my opinion, you are multitasking and doing an okay thing. I also assume you are wiping down the room after use anyway so who cares?

      1. Murphy*

        Is there a reason they can’t be private phone call rooms though? (As long as they’re available when mother’s need them.)

        1. MyBossSaidWhat*

          YES. Because the point of a ladtation room is th be available for pumping. Not for a mom to rush in there on her already-insufficient unpaid break (and possibly in pain from waiting) and argue with some douche that her baby is more important than his phone call. HTH.

          1. Murphy*

            I said “as long as they’re available when mothers need them”. I just meant that there was a point in time where nobody was using the room, someone stepping in there for a phone call might not be the worst thing in the world.

            As a working mom, and as someone who has spent far too much of her time trying to improve access to lactation rooms at her place of work, I’m well aware of the point of a lactation room.

            1. Allison*

              Right, but just because a room is free at one moment doesn’t mean it won’t be needed in five or ten minutes. Unless you know it’ll only take a minute, it’s not a great place for a call. I mean no disrespect, I understand that as a working mom your viewpoint on this holds more water than mine, but I can see myself being a new mom, having a busy schedule, needing to pump right now because my next meeting is in 20 minutes, and going into the room only to see some dude in a suit on the phone, giving me the “hold on one minute” finger.

              It’s the same reason why you avoid using the handicapped stall in the restroom if there’s a regular stall available. Sure, you’re allowed, and there might not be a handicapped person in there now, but someone could come along in a minute or so who really needs it, and why make them wait to use something that’s meant for them?

              1. Murphy*

                I don’t know what part of “as long as they’re available when mothers need them” is unclear, but obviously something is.

                (The room I used most often for pumping was not actually a designated lactation room, so there were many times when someone was in there on a phone call or whatever and I had no leg to stand on to get them out. That’s fine since my campus has several designated lactation rooms available, just in other buildings.) For the sake of argument, if the room I was using was a designated lactation room, I was literally the only person using it as such, and that room would be occupied for an hour a day, and empty the rest of the time. I don’t see the problem with the room being used for other purposes for the many hours in a day that it was not being used for those purposes, so long as I could get in there when I needed to. Yes, there can be obstacles to making sure it is available when a mother needs it, but that wasn’t my point at all.

                1. Pollygrammer*

                  Couldn’t you ask to reserve it for your hour, though, with a sign on the door or something like that?

                2. Murphy*

                  Sadly, it was the only unreservable room on my floor. I thought about trying with a sign, but didn’t think I’d get any backup if there was conflict over the room, since there were other lactation rooms. And there were some days where I had to change up my times. There were two rooms within very close walking distance, so it wasn’t so bad.

                3. LBK*

                  I don’t know what part of “as long as they’re available when mothers need them” is unclear, but obviously something is.

                  It’s not that it’s unclear, it’s that it’s one of those things that’s much simpler on paper than it is in reality. Have you never had to kick someone out of a conference room you had booked? People aren’t generally great at respecting schedules and I’m wildly skeptical that the same kind of people who grumble about these rooms in the first place and think having to pump at work is some kind of special privilege will be quick to exit the room the moment a mother needs it. I picture a lot of “I’m on a call, can you give me 10 minutes?” conversations.

                4. NewWorkingMama*

                  Seconded what LBK says here. There’s nothing more infuriating than booking a mother’s room and walking down in pain and REALLY needing to pump, only to find the door locked and some guy inside on the phone who then saunters out without so much as an I’m sorry. And you have to remain calm because otherwise you’re the crazy lady who yelled at a poor guy for just trying to take a phone call. I’m with you 100% that it should be a simple case of sharing, but realistically that’s not how it works because people generally don’t understand the importance of being able to pump when you need to or the pain that happens when you can’t.

                5. Specialk9*

                  What LBK said.

                  So think this through. It’s free when you arrive, so you go in and close the door for a private phone call. So then a lactating mom shows up for the 20 minute pumping session she needs, and the door is closed. So it’s not available when she needs it.

                  Or let’s say you don’t close the door. Then the lactating mom has to decide whether she needs to go in, interrupt someone on their phone conversation (!!!) OR figure out a universal signal for “hey seriously WTF are you doing in here in my room, my breasts are about to explode with milk, and I need to get half naked and hooked up to painful suction in the next 60 seconds or so help me God”. I don’t really know what that sign is.

                  The thing is, many people would feel like they’re being rude for interrupting a call (despite having much more right to that room), but also pissed that they’re having to fight for the right to be a working mom in dear-God-it’s-2018-folks.

                  At the end of the day, the best thing to do is to have an access-restricted 1-use-only lactation room (my company had security give access, and it was kinda like I need access please, ok thanks). It just solves a lot of problems. People aren’t great at doing it on the fly, just lock it down.

                6. AKchic*

                  I’m going to do a typical thought process here, so please bear with me. Please do not think that the next couple of paragraphs are directed at you specifically, or that I actually think this of you at all:

                  Because too often, the idea of “just a minute” takes precedent. A lactating mother isn’t actually *working* right now anyway, so it’s not like she’s being productive anyway. This “just a minute” issue is needing to be cleared up ASAP and the longer you interrupt and harass that “poor man” while he’s on his call, you’re wasting his “precious time” that he could be using to focus on his “just a minute” call (even though it’s probably 10 “just a minutes” or longer).
                  You (the general, hypothetical “you”, not the real “you”) are only making his “just a minute” phone call last longer by interrupting him, and by persisting to insist that he leave this nice, quiet room that is largely unused all day unless *you* need it for pumping. How rude of you. Can’t you see he needed it for “just a minute”, if you’d only left him alone to handle his business?

                  Yeah… that’s why lactation rooms aren’t for everyone. Yes, it’s a nice, quiet spot, but just because it’s largely unused space and it’s convenient doesn’t mean you get to use it simply because it’s there. It’s selfish (and narcissistic) to believe that someone’s “just a minute” phone call is more important than lactation, which is literally someone’s health. “Just a minute” phone calls can find other quiet places to be taken, pumping can’t (well, shouldn’t, since that is the assigned room).

                7. DCEC*

                  My office also has a multipurpose quiet room that is primarily used for pumping but we are currently debating how to interpret the obligation that the room must be available when nursing mothers need it. I would read it to mean that nursing mothers would receive prioritized access to the room (to the point that they could ask a non-nursing colleague using the room to leave), but others understand it to mean that they would just have to wait it out if another employee needed the room for medical accommodations or to pray. Am I misinterpreting that provision? Is there any guidance on how to balance meeting those different needs? We are working to set up an online scheduler but I don’t actually think that will give us enough clarity on how to juggle multiple people needing the room. We also want to avoid being perceived as providing greater support to breastfeeding employees vs employees with medical or religious requirements. (Apologies if this takes us too off track and should be posted in the open thread instead!)

                8. A Nickname for AAM*

                  I suspect it might also mean there aren’t that many women of pregnancy age in the building: once Anna in accounting is done nursing her baby, the room will sit unused for three or four years. I’ve worked places like that, where a pregnant employee was an anomaly.

                9. PM*

                  A benefit of designated lactation rooms that can’t be used for other purposes is that you don’t have to self-consciously kick people out of them. Even when you have a legit need to ask for the room, it gets stressful.

                  I once visited my company’s HQ and discovered that there was one conference room with a door that locked. I was told to use said room for pumping, but also the CEO had it booked for the whole morning one of the days I was there. I had to go to his admin and ask if she could help me out. She was very kind and sorted it out for me without anyone knowing, but it was still mortifying to ask.

              2. ThatGirl*

                This varies by company, but in a lot of places mother’s rooms/lactation rooms are reserveable. Ours is. Of course, we also have phone rooms intended expressly for individuals to have a private phone call.

                1. Specialk9*

                  I like that setup. Companies who go to cheap (open) desks without private phone rooms are evil. I don’t care if that’s hyperbole. :D

            2. Kathleen_A*

              It’s not actually a lactation room, per se. The OP said in her letter than it was available for other quiet things: “my workplace does have a ‘quiet room’ available for nursing mothers to pump in, as well as other private personal uses (for example, a private space to do physical therapy exercises, or to pray, or to lie down for a short while if one is feeling poorly in the middle of the day rather than going home and taking sick time).”

              I wouldn’t say a phone call qualifies, but I could be wrong about that.

              1. Dust Bunny*

                Depends on the phone call. I’ve had phone calls with my insurance company that required me to recite my social security number, and phone calls from doctors that required me to discuss awkward medical situations. I do have an office with a door but it opens onto a shared space and it’s definitely not guaranteed that all of my coworkers and our clients can’t hear me, anyway.

              2. Ego Chamber*

                “It’s not actually a lactation room, per se.”

                This. Jesus. Everyone keeps calling it a “lactation room” but the company designated it a “quiet room” which is different and also a bad idea but I see how the company got there since they have so few women and didn’t want to waste the space on an unused room for years at a time—this is the most forgiving assumption I can make to their logic.

                If you want to experience the most uncomfortable thing in the world, try to keep taking phone calls like nothing’s happening when there’s a screaming match going on in the quiet room because a woman started pumping while a migraine sufferer was chilling out in the dark waiting for a ride home—fwiw, they were both awful people to work with, it was totally inevitable and had been building forever. (Extra awkward bonus points when your caller asks if you need to go do something about your kids and then lectures you for doing call center work from home without childcare and doesn’t believe these are your coworkers in a real call center.)

                1. Kathleen_A*

                  Yes, a single undesignated “quiet room” is one of those ideas that sounds a lot better in theory than it works out in practice, I imagine. Even if everyone means well and tries to be considerate, the time will inevitably come when two equally valid but contradicting reasons for using it collide, as in the case with your migraine sufferer/lactating mother. That they happened to be awful people just made a bad situation worse.

                  I wonder if the answer could be making the one room into two smaller rooms, one for lactating mothers and one for everybody else? There still could be conflicts, of course, but at least those won’t be *scheduled* conflicts.

            3. Observer*

              In real life, though, MyBossSaidWhat’s scenario is so likely, that I’d really not want that happening.

            4. smoke tree*

              I can definitely imagine this turning into a situation where every time someone needs to use the room for its intended purpose, they have to fight Tim from accounting who is in the middle of a call. Less friction all around if it’s just kept for its main purpose. People can use conference rooms for their private calls.

            5. Le Sigh*

              I think the bigger thing here is by locking it down, it sets the tone and boundaries for the office. The message is, “This is for lactation only and if you’re not a nursing mother who needs to pump, you cannot use it under any circumstances. No, Fergus, not even for your “quick” call.” Setting the tone and not budging any inch isn’t quite so much for the normal people who would get out of there right away (though that can still be a hassle) — it’s for the Ferguses of the world (and I’ve worked with many of them) who if you are even slightly flexible will take a mile, and would make someone wait or get annoyed or snippy or whatever. And not all of these folks are the obvious jerks in your office — some people, if they don’t understand what a nursing mother or other accommodated person in the office is experiencing, treat it as an annoyance for them.

              And when you’re creating accommodations for people in the workplace, I think part of that should be making it so the person doesn’t have to deal with the stress of constantly shooing people out or defending their right to the space, or better parking spot, or whatever. The company already did the hard work of creating and enforcing those boundaries, which can lower stress for the employee.

              1. Kathleen_A*

                I think the “no phone calls” rule sounds like a fine idea, but in this particular case, the room does have more than one intended purpose. The OP calls it a quiet room, not a lactation room.

                1. Le Sigh*

                  Oh sure, agreed. Mostly was just commenting on the rooms that are locked down and only for lactation, and some others who were asking if other people using it for calls and the like could still use it, as long as it’s available to the moms. It’s moot for OP, it sounds like, just commenting on the need for the bright line in these cases sometimes.

          2. pleaset*

            “As MBSW says, the nursing mother than has to eject Fergus, who gosh darn it is going to be done with this call very soon and she can wait. And then he needs to make a few more calls, but his mental image of this time is completing 5 phone calls in 30 seconds, and who can’t wait 30 seconds?”

            “argue with some douche that her baby is more important than his phone call.”

            You two seem to be in some seriously dysfunctional workplaces.

            In my organization, when someone else has a room booked (for anything) and one person is alone in there, they tend to hop up, say “Oh, you had this room?” and upon getting a nod leave fast. They respect that the room is not theirs at that time.

            The need for such rigid rules about lactation rooms clearly makes sense in your circumstances with so many assholes, but also reflects there being (it seems) a high percentage of unreasonable people where you work.

            Argue with someone about lactation? That’s a sign of deeper, bigger problems.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              It’s certainly not just the two of them. This kind of thing is fairly common/routine in large workplaces.

              1. Specialk9*

                Yeah. I’m not sure what kind of magical workplaces are out there, but I’ve met many many humans acting like humans in my decades of work. I think it’s always wisest to assume some people are going to be jerks, and plan ahead for that.

            2. Bow Ties Are Cool*

              The world (or maybe it’s just my country) is littered with people who cannot comprehend that an experience they’ve never had (like lactation/needing to pump at work) is in any way more important than what they happen to be doing/want to do. Even in very functional workplaces, people with “special needs”–either chronic or temporary–run into occasional resistance from these folks. Especially, I have noticed, if the people with the needs happen to be female.

            3. TheCupcakeCounter*

              My work did it in a kind of fun way. The lactation rooms were not in any directory or building maps made public to the general employee. When a pregnant woman turned in her FMLA paperwork she was given the tour of the secret rooms and a key card that unlocked the door leading to the available rooms. It was awesome. Had a fridge and lockers so I didn’t have to cart my stuff all over the building.
              The architect and designer was a pregnant woman.

              1. LBK*

                The only thing that could’ve made this better is if they were located behind a bookcase that slid open only when you played a certain sequence of notes on a nearby piano.

                1. Anna*

                  And had a lobby where there was someone there to offer warm towels and light refreshment.

              2. Specialk9*

                My company too. I got a pregnant parking space, and security gave me access to the pumping room. We had 3 fully curtained stalls, a mini fridge (no food allowed), and pleather reclining chairs (pleather for easy cleaning) and heavy duty extension cords ziptied for easy reach.

                I know there are secret prayer rooms but have

                1. Specialk9*

                  …but have never had reason to get that access added to my badge. We also have showers and have to be given access to them too.

              3. motherofdragons*

                This reminds me so much of the Room of Requirement at Hogwarts and I love it!

              4. Robin Sparkles*

                My company does exactly this- I got FMLA approved and HR sent me the lactation room list with codes.

                I work for a hospital that has a high rate of breastfeeding in the state.

                1. Chiroxophia*

                  I am heartened to hear that so many workplaces are taking the needs of new moms seriously. I work at a huge “progressive” university that had no lactation rooms pre-healthcare law. I literally pumped in a closet (in 2012-14, so this isn’t really ancient history). I live near to campus and bike because parking permits are expensive, but couldn’t anymore at the end. I went to the parking office to ask for a temporary permit at 8 months pregnant when temperatures were 90+ everyday and was told that none were available. In a spectacular pregnant lady hormone explosion I burst into tears and they asked me to leave.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          As MBSW says, the nursing mother than has to eject Fergus, who gosh darn it is going to be done with this call very soon and she can wait. And then he needs to make a few more calls, but his mental image of this time is completing 5 phone calls in 30 seconds, and who can’t wait 30 seconds?

          Often the appearance of the lactation room triggers a realization that people in the open plan office are desperate for a spot to make private phone calls or have work-and-other discussions that shouldn’t be broadcast to the room. It means management should add another private room (or go wild and give people offices with doors).

          1. OP3*

            We have separate phone booths! And plenty of small conference rooms that aren’t bookable but are available first come first serve for impromptu discussions. Thankfully people using the pumping rooms for calls or private workspace hasn’t been a problem. I have had to eject nappers who overslept their alarms though

      2. eplawyer*

        But this is not a lactation room. It is a quiet room used for other purposes. So why can’t one of them be, a quiet place to have lunch?

        I’m confused, just because the person is salaried exempt the pumping laws don’t apply? Why would that be? Surely even salaried women go on maternity leave and need a place with a door that locks to pump in when they come back.

        1. OP3*

          It’s super unfair but the laws are written to only apply to employees covered by FLSA. I consider myself fortunate my employer has pretty generous policies (I got six months of leave for example, four of which were paid) and my manager is pretty chill.

          1. Emi.*

            Are … are you willing to say where you work, so I can see if there are any openings? ;P

            1. ElspethGC*

              I always get super confused by what people mean when they talk about “generous” parental leave until I remember that the US only mandates 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Here in the UK, statutory parental leave is 52 weeks with 39 weeks paid, and two weeks of that is mandated. You can also have shared parental leave, where the two parents split 50 weeks of leave (and 37 weeks of pay) between them. Come emigrate over here! We’re actually having quite a nice summer so far!

              1. Emi.*

                Well, last time I looked into it neither I nor my husband would be eligible to work, so…

              2. Specialk9*

                Ha ha I got 6 weeks paid, or a month and a half. Then I was allowed to take another month and a half unpaid, without getting fired.

                And I’m in the upper middle class, so that’s a best case scenario! It’s awesome being American. (Sorry, not trying to start this one again.)

              3. Commander Shepard*

                Agree, it’s nuts. All the threads about lactation rooms are so…foreign – it’s not a concept I’ve ever come across outside of this site really, as everyone here is just not at work for the time they would be using it

        2. fposte*

          As the OP says, at the federal level the lactation protections come through FLSA (via the ACA) and therefore protect only non-exempt workers; in addition, it’s only those working for employers with at least 50 employees, and even there an employer can push back if it’s a hardship. I believe some state laws have broader protections, though.

    3. Cambridge Comma*

      I wondered whether OP’s pump was as visible as her lunch bag when she walked in. If not, that might be the answer.

      1. OP3*

        The lactation room has a locking cabinet that pumping moms store our pumps in. Many moms take theirs home every night, I’m fortunate enough to have two (one from insurance and one a handmedown from my sister) so I just leave one at work full time.

        So yes, maybe people don’t realize I’m also pumping in their. I wonder if it would be okay to leave my lunch in the cabinet with my pump. There are fewer people out and about in the hallways when I pump mid morning.

        1. Engineer Woman*

          Unfortunately, there will always be people who feel compelled to nose into others’ business. OP, you’re doing nothing wrong by eating while pumping.

          To the “it must be nice”…yeah, it’s wonderful having a meal while hooked up to a pump that makes loud “whoosh whoosh” noises.

          1. BRR*

            Yeah I think some people think the LW might just be eating lunch and some people don’t realize that it’s not a luxury to eat while pumping. I’m going to classify that second group as being similar to people who refer to parental leave as a nice vacation.

          2. Lara*

            I’m so confused by the amount of people who seem to think pumping breaks are a treat.

            1. MyBossSaidWhat*

              These are probably the same “the company didn’t ASK you to have children!” Crowd. I work in a male-dominated field where being female and procreating is seen as major treason.

              1. the gold digger*

                I have been following Kelda Roys’ campaign for governor and am delighted that she has breast-fed her baby during an ad shoot and that she has her baby with her as she campaigns.

                1. Specialk9*

                  I love that that senator who lost her legs in the war just came in with her baby for a Senate vote.

                  And then I get sad that I know that and am not totally sure I know her name (Tammy Duckworth?), Since it’s that’s big
                  of news, and dammit it’s 2018, why isn’t this routine by now.

            2. BadWolf*

              Perhaps the same that think you can “hold” your period? And that maternity leave is just like a beach vacation?

            3. CmdrShepard4ever*

              Since the room is not only for pumping and it has other uses such as laying down if someone is feeling under the weather when OP is only bringing her lunch in with her and not any pumping supplies people might think she is only using the room to eat lunch and not realize she is pumping as well. While I would never say anything I have to admit I might silently judge that person even though I know I shouldn’t and don’t know what they have going on in their lives. I agree explicitly calling out the OP is rude and should be stopped. OP is under no obligation to address rude coworkers but if she is worried about her reputation she could mention that she is pumping and eating at the same time.

        2. Thursday Next*

          I’m sorry you have to deal with this. Storing your lunch there might be the easiest way out of it, though it’s a shame that you’d have to resort to smuggling in your food early so you can eat without being criticized.

          I love Alison’s last line, but that might be a good *follow-up* response to someone, if they needle you once you’ve already told them you’re pumping. JV’s line, said breezily with a smile, is another great option for a follow-up.

        3. Mallory*

          Until I had babies of my own, I had no idea what a pump was, or how it was stored. Even with my first, I didn’t recognize The Black Backpack. I’m sure these people just think you’re having lunch in there and are making comments without thinking.

          Funny enough, I used to store pimped milk in a lunch bag. So for all they know you could be carrying a sack of breast milk around (I did it so I didn’t have to be so obvious).

            1. Elemeno P.*

              Yes! Normal typos generally don’t catch my eye but this and “dined” below have me cracking up. It’s a great day for perfect typos.

            2. Specialk9*

              I giggled too. My expressed milk was certainly pimped, in my mind. It sparkled like diamante, in my eyes.

          1. pleaset*

            In my previous office my desk was next to a single-person room with a chair, a tiny table and a phone that was literally called the “Pump Room.” Supposedly named after the restaurant in Chicago, but also used for lactation.

          2. hermit crab*

            Yeah, our “wellness room” (that’s what the company calls it) doesn’t have a fridge, so my coworker who pumps keeps the milk in a lunchbox in the regular kitchen fridge. I know other people who keep temperature-sensitive medication in an insulated lunchbox. People put all sorts of things in lunchboxes! Lunchboxes do not always equal eating. (And now the word “lunchbox” has officially lost all meaning to me. Happy Friday, everyone.)

        4. Falling Diphthong*

          I think you should adopt the line upthread, “Do you want me to lactate in the lunchroom or lunch in the lactation room? Because I need to pump right now.” I agree with the theory that people might think now that you have the coveted lactation passcard, you’re using the room for all sorts of crazy private things while they’re all stuck in the open bullpen.

        5. OP3*

          I’m mortified by the comma splice and incorrect “their” in there. Augh. This is what I get for posting by phone while nursing in the middle of the night.

          1. JerryLarryTerryGarry*

            I would just give them a sunny smile and make a little aside about multi-tasking.

        6. BadWolf*

          I’m also wondering why people think it would be so awesome to sit in that room and eat lunch. Are the lunch accommodations so awful otherwise?

          1. Been There, Done That*

            My workplace has no lunchroom or break area, so at lunch some people will coopt the visitors office if it’s empty, or a sales rep’s cubicle if they’re out just to get away from their desk. Taking lunch at your desk leads to the expectation that you can pick up phones and at least put them on hold, for gosh sakes since you’re ONLY eating lunch!, or you can answer this quick question between bites, or gee it only takes a minute to get up and get me the key to the server room. It sounds laughable now, but when I first started there, I couldn’t believe how nasty some people got if you actually TOOK you LUNCH (you subversive).

    4. This Daydreamer*

      I think I’d be tempted to tell them to come on in and pump along side you. Bring your pump, latch it on, eat away, and talk about the joys of being a mother to a baby. Make sure to chat about diaper disasters and spitting up.

    5. Minerva*

      I’ll join you on the “benefit of the doubt” train. I know that when I was pumping I actually had to go to HR due to the number of people who were using our dedicated lactation rooms to take personal calls or as a “quiet room.” We had about 6 new moms trying to pump 3x a day between 2 rooms and it was frustrating and off putting to go for your scheduled time and find a man in there taking a call. It was so bad that they ended up installing security badge readers. So people may innocently think that LW is trying to take advantage of the room as a personal lunch space, and that’s not cool.

      Of course they could also be jerks/busybodies who think that pumping is a “break” or a luxury.

      In either case others in this thread have given excellent suggestions on how to address the situation. :-)

      1. TheCupcakeCounter*

        My work had the badge reader thing when I was pumping. You didn’t get the badge until you turned in your FMLA paperwork.

    6. Sarah*

      I think maybe pick your battles on this one. I appreciate their intent, and their veracity in doing it just not in the way it is coming out. Your lunch bag is an indicator that you are having a private lunch (almost as heavenly as a nap to a mom or stressed out person), which technically you are doing and I get way. They absolutely are being rude but at the same time they are sticking up for keeping the room for what it is intended for and not allowing anyone to turn it into a lunch area or a phone call room. In conservative offices that are mainly men in charge getting a room to use for lactation and keeping them in tact is a uphill battle. So while they are being rude I think in its own way it’s a great testament to your company and co-workers for what while badly doing they are trying to preserve.

  3. This Daydreamer*

    OP4 I am impressed. You were thrown a real curveball and handled it amazingly well. I’m pretty damn sure I wouldn’t dine nearly as well as you did!

    1. Cambridge Comma*

      I wondered if OP4 was a long term AMA reader who had developed the ability to channel Alison at will.

      1. OP4*

        I am, indeed, a longtime AAM reader! I had prepared to speak to leaving my most recent job (mostly through reviewing AAM archives!) but the additional curveball threw me off a little.

        It’s great to get some validation that I handled it well, though — I’ve spent entirely too much time replaying it in my head!

        1. TheCupcakeCounter*

          For what it’s worth, I agree with Alison that your answer was spot on. Sounds like the Jane Smith person still thought highly of you even with the kerfuffle at their employer.

    2. Engineer Woman*

      Yes, I can only wish I would respond so well.

      I’m glad to hear such stories – I keep hoping one day I’ll put my AAM reading to use in a situation that could use a calm tactful response to a relatively stressful question. Alas, I feel when the opportunity comes, I’ll just babble nonsense…but here’s to hope!

  4. LouiseM*

    #2, just because it’s been a long time, doesn’t mean you can’t correct her. Think of it like any other nickname and don’t focus on the honey bunny part. I’m sure we’ve all had an instance where we thought someone was “Allie” when they really preferred “Allison” (although given the huge number of nickname anecdotes we got just two days ago, I think we can all save them this time!). If you don’t make it a big deal, it won’t be one.

    1. Hey Nonnie*

      You all are way more polite than I am. I’d just flat out say that “hunny bunny” (or “sugar,” “sweetie,” or “pumpkin,” for that matter) is an infantilizing nickname, and kindly do not infantilize me, ever, but especially not at work.

      I have a low tolerance for being treated like I am less-than.

      Also, another pet peeve: if someone introduces themselves as “Allison,” then you only, always from here to eternity, call her Allison; unless and until she explicitly tells you to call her something else. This is a very simple rule to follow and it keeps you on the right side of basic manners. It’s just as rude to decide to call Allison “Allie” as it would be to decide to call her “Bob.” (To be clear, I’m not talking about the terminally forgetful who can’t remember names — although even then it’s preferable to cop to it and ask for her name again, rather than calling her Jane.)

      1. LovecraftInDC*

        Definitely a pet peeve of mine as well. My name is similar to”Daniel” and it constantly gets shortened to “Dan,” particularly by one project manager who I will be working with seemingly forever. Most people ask, which is annoying enough (if it’s in my email signature, it’s how I want to be addressed), but at least they’re asking.

        1. eplawyer*

          The asking right after you introduce yourself by your preferred name is the worst. If I wanted you to call me a nickname I would have introduced myself that way.
          I have a long first name with many many nicknames. I use none of them. I introduce myself and people immediately say Can I call you ep or lawyer, which do you prefer. Well actually, I prefer the whole thing, deal with it.

          1. Viola E.*

            Not quite the same, but that last part reminds me of my favorite line from The Shining (the book, not the movie) — Jack introduces his wife as Winifred, and the previous caretaker immediately asks her “Are you a Winnie or a Freddie?” She says, “Actually, I’m a Wendy.”

            So even if someone DOES go by a nickname, it’s not always the one you expect, so maybe don’t try to guess?

        2. the gold digger*

          That lesson was taught to me very bluntly by a college friend whom I called “Dave” after I met him.

          “Should I call you ‘Stupe’ for short?” he asked.

        3. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I had a coworker at a previous job where I was for 3 years that called me by the wrong name the whole time. This was a retail setting so there were no emails it was all personal interaction. The name he called me sounded pretty close to my actually name. I have been told both personally and professionally that sometimes I mumble and/or don’t fully enunciate (its something that I continue to work on) and it is hard to understand me sometimes. So it could have been partially my fault. Most of the time our interactions were just saying hello in passing, after a while it seems too late/awkward to correct him that I never said anything.

        4. Razilynn*

          I’m one of those always ask people. I’m amazed that some people just assume a nickname is okay because it’s okay for “most” people. So I ask. That way if I hear someone else calling Jason “Jay,” and I know he said to call him Jason, and I’m not going to think, “Oh, maybe he likes to be called Jay and just didn’t say anything.” I had a co-worker who was something to the effect of Maximus Q. Awesomesause, Jr. He always answered the phone by saying Maximus and his email signature was Maximus Q. Awesomesause, Jr., but he insisted people on his team just call him Max. I’d rather a slightly awkward “Do you also use a nickname?” convo vs. calling someone a name they internally cuss people out over!

          1. Hey Nonnie*

            Wait… he literally told you to call him Max — so where was the confusion, and why would you need to ask him again?

            I think legit reasons for not taking people at their word when they introduce themselves to you are vanishingly rare. And if they do introduce themselves as Maximus, and then silently seethe that you’re not calling them Max, that’s on them. Expecting mind-reading is a pet peeve of mine, too. Just use your words.

      2. Em*

        I have a very similar name to Allison, and actually do like being called something like “Allie”. However, I’ve found that introducing myself first as “Allie” seems a bit young/immature, especially since I’m in my mid 20s. Is there a good way to express you’re ok with a nickname among friends but still go by your full name for interviews/bosses? I haven’t found a good way to segway between that.

        1. Susan Sto Helit*

          I use my full name professionally, and places where people I know professionally will see it (LinkedIn, facebook, twitter, email etc), but use my nickname on WhatsApp, where I tend to communicate with my friends. People I meet through professional networks I introduce myself to by my full name, people I meet socially I introduce myself to by my nickname. It works, and I quite like having the clear demarcation between my ‘work’ character and my ‘off-duty’ character (like Beyonce vs Sasha Fierce).

          Generally I find that people will call you by the name you use when you introduce yourself. It gets a but muddy when people I’ve met professionally cross over into friends – some of them switch to nickname, some don’t – but I’ve never really had to enforce a name choice either way. The only one I object to is when people use a shortened form of my name that I really don’t like, at which point I’ll correct them.

        2. Teapot librarian (and recovering lawyer)*

          Here’s what I do (which doesn’t precisely respond to your question, but gives related thoughts.) If the context is one in which using first and last names is appropriate, I introduce myself as “Teapot Librarian.” If it’s one where just first names are appropriate, I introduce myself as “Teapy.” My email address and signature use “Teapot Librarian” but I sign my emails “Teapy.” I don’t complain if someone calls me “Teapot.” (At my first post-law school job, I had been thinking that “Teapy” sounded too young and I might switch to “Teapot.” It turned out there was already a Teapy there, which made it easy to switch to to Teapot. It turned out I hated it, and it was a good thing the job was a temp job!)

      3. Anononon*

        That sounds like a pretty extreme reaction. Would you really burn bridges and say it that way? There are many other ways to ask the person to stop instead of fill out hostility.

        (Because commenters love the “what ifs” on this site, of course if there is a sexist or problematic issue involved, being more terse or firm can definitely be required. I’m only talking about situations where endearments are just how people speak.)

        1. Hey Nonnie*

          Infantilizing diminutives are infantilizing diminutives. They are still infantilizing diminutives even if someone is “clueless” or “means well” or “that’s just the way they are” or whatever excuse you’d like to make for them. It’s freaking 2018, if you work in an office you have the internet, you can get news on your phone, so none of this should come as a surprise to anyone — if you’re that far behind, you’re behind willfully. If someone, somehow, still doesn’t realize that treating someone that way is infantilizing and inappropriate-to-hostile, then saying it to them in so many words has now educated them. Naming it means it cannot hide under a cloak of ignorance (real or feigned). Frankly, I’m all in favor of breaking down internalized misogyny just as much as patriarchal misogyny. And of course it’s a sexist issue — I can’t think of a single time I’ve heard someone call an adult man “hunny bunny” or “cutie pie” or “pumpkin” in the workplace. Nor can I imagine an adult man receiving that well.

          Yes, I am very direct, because it saves a ton of time and second-guessing, frankly. If someone is going to get offended over a perfectly reasonable request, I haven’t found them to get LESS offended if I soft-pedal — only that they now have more room to misunderstand (real or feigned) what I was saying, which means I’ll just have to be direct with them anyway. This can all be said with a mild-but-firm tone, by the way. If the other person feels bad about it, well I can’t say that it’s an inappropriate reaction, given their behavior that led to it. But let’s be clear that it’s THEIR behavior that’s the problem, not mine. Blame-shifting is also really typical of misogyny; and I’m not here for it. If someone doesn’t want to be called out on bad behavior, they can behave respectfully in the first place.

          Being a professional in a professional environment requires a certain standard of behavior. Respect for your fellow human beings is the most basic, bare minimum of that standard.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        Okay, but lots of people don’t speak up the instant something annoying happens. They give it a chance to be a one-off–smooth functioning in large groups pretty much requires that we let some annoying things quietly pass on, this is very normal. Then by the time they are sure that they should say something, it feels like it’s been too long and they can only solve it with time-travel.

      5. Oxford Coma*

        I had a new coworker introduce himself as Full First Name and claim to dislike nicknames as a rule. Over a period of a couple years, he start signing e-mails and referring to himself via voicemail as Nickname. I ended up asking him this week if he’d changed his mind about what he’d initially requested (partially due to the nickname thread bringing it freshly to my mind), and he acted like he had no memory of the first conversation. Very odd.

      6. Razilynn*

        Yes! THIS. I had a client always call me “kiddo.” Okay, I get that I was 23 and she was…not, but I’m an adult at the workplace trying to gain some ground as an adult at the workplace. Every time she said “kiddo” I felt like any career progress I thought I was making was out the window. It was like a verbal pat on the head. Like, “Good job, kiddo! Maybe one day you’ll be a grown-up!” I might have been 6 months out of college, but I still wanted to be taken seriously!

        Also, the nickname based on your actual name. I ALWAYS ask people, “So do you go by Jennifer only? What about Jenn? Is it one “N” or two when I write you an email?” It’s someone’s name for crying out loud – they get to decide how people address them. I had a manager that starting calling a co-worker Annie, when she only went by Ann. Ann never said, “It’s okay to call me Annie,” the manager just decided her name was now Annie. I just find that totally rude, controlling, and arrogant! (And that manager WAS all those things and that was one way she showed it.)

        1. SoCalHR*

          I *hate* kiddo as a nickname – never liked it when I was a kid, and certainly didn’t like it when I was 27 and my old boss called me that. Recently my boss (who I’m on really good terms with) called me that once – I immediately shut it down (as nicely, but unequivocally as I could). I don’t see how anyone thinks that is a workplace appropriate nickname!

          1. smoke tree*

            I also find it particularly grating for some reason, maybe because it’s so blatantly patronizing. Even as a kid I didn’t really like to be reminded of my inferior social status.

      7. Pleather*

        Responding that “honey bunny” is infantilizing is like a less extreme version of the recent person who hates the word “ASAP” for their own reasons. Maybe you feel infantilized by it, but it’s a term of endearment that – while not appropriate for the work place – certainly doesn’t mean the user is speaking down to you or infantilizing you. It’s good to speak up and tell them to cut it out, but it’s really not necessary to impute some malicious or condescending intention where there isn’t one.

        1. Birch*

          Hmm? It definitely is infantilizing to use *any* term of endearment in the workplace. It’s about the balance of power–using nicknames and terms of endearment on people who did not give you the OK to do so is about asserting power over them by forcing intimacy.

          1. Pleather*

            Or they’re just being friendly? There’s no reason to go around assuming everyone who calls me “hon” or “sweetie” is trying to assert power over me. Sure, terms of endearment can be used that way, but since this coworker does it with everyone, assuming she is doing it as a power play turns her from an overly casual, inappropriately friendly office lady into some kind of Machiavellian mastermind trying to gain control of everyone she meets through the use of “honey bunny.” Not that likely.

            1. smoke tree*

              I think the majority of people will read it as infantilizing, and it is pretty much always a reflection of some kind of hierarchy (age, gender, relative position in the company). Can you imagine calling the CEO or an older, male coworker “honey bunny”?

            2. Birch*

              “And while for pretty much everyone else, she sticks to things like “sugar” and “sweetie,” with me, she’s moved on to things like “pumpkin” and “honey bunny.””

              Per OP, the coworker is ramping it up with her more than with other people. Really, calling an acquaintance “honey bunny” is so out of the norm intimacy-wise that it would be inappropriate even if she were using it on everyone! It’s not OK to call people names they didn’t agree to be called. Regardless of her intentions, she needs to cut it out because it’s bothering OP.

              1. Pleather*

                I agree! It’s completely inappropriate and OP needs to ask her to stop. Our only point of disagreement was the intentions, so if we’re disregarding that, we’re on the same page.

                1. Hey Nonnie*

                  Her intentions are irrelevant to how infantilizing diminutives are; they are that way with or without her consent. Diminutives are literally for making the target smaller in terms of social standing. You may think that’s fine for children (I’d argue against that, for any child that is not literally a non-verbal infant); but it is most definitely not fine to do that to an adult. That is not something you do without explicit consent, and absolutely not in a professional environment. I mean, if you can’t imagine asking for consent to go over well — like “Hey, Jane, can I call you “Punkin” at work instead?” — then why would you think it’s okay to do it without consent?

                  As I said above, if she’s so unaware of basic manners/respect/adulting that she doesn’t know that diminutives are infantilizing, well, telling her straight up is the most direct way of imparting that knowledge, so she’ll never make that mistake again.

                  And no one can improve themselves if you leave them in the dark.

            3. Totally Minnie*

              As a woman who looks younger than her actual age and gets a lot of endearments from strangers (sweetie, honey, mija, etc), literally no one has ever called me “honey bunny.” It’s leagues apart from the kinds of endearments people tend to use in social interactions, and it’s more like something a man in his seventies would use to refer to his wife.

              1. tangerineRose*

                I agree. Honey Bunny is so over the top. I’ve been called hon or sweetie, but Honey Bunny?!!

        2. Database Developer Dude*

          Are you kidding me??? Are you stupid? There is never any appropriate reason to call someone ‘honey bunny’ at work, and arguing that there is just makes you incredibly tone deaf and stupid. If you called me anything but “J.D.” at work, I would shut you down with a quickness.

    2. AKchic*

      I absolutely refuse to be called any nickname at work, whether a derivative of my name or otherwise. My boss started calling me “Missy” here at the office. I’m only one of four women in a sea of men (all blue-collar union workers). Every time, I’d reply back “did you forget my name, I can wear a name-tag if it helps. Call me by my name” and remind him of my name. I’d do this in front of everyone. Clearly. It didn’t help. Finally, in front of his boss who’d stopped in to do his 6 month evaluation, he dropped the “Missy” nickname again and I had it. Asked him if my name was difficult (it’s not) or if he is having memory problems or if there is a misogyny issue that needs to be addressed. I’ve asked consistently, daily, in front of multiple witnesses to be called by my name and not “Missy” and my name has not been uttered once. If the word “Missy” is used in my direction again, I will file a grievance (I’m union). His boss didn’t seem too pleased. However, I’ve not been called “Missy” in almost a year.

  5. nutella fitzgerald*

    There’s actually a huge sign on the door of our lactation room warning that no food is permitted inside. I always assumed that there was some reason I didn’t know about for keeping food away from a lactation room?

    1. LeRainDrop*

      In my last office, one of my friends was pumping in the lactation room when someone started insistently banging on the door that they needed to get in to get to the mini-fridge. My friend was really startled but she’s also compliant, so she ended up letting the person in. The other lady walks in, pulls out a leftover piece of cake, and then gives my friend the side-eye like she was irritated my friend prevented her from getting her cake sooner. Um, lady, there is actually a really nice kitchen with two refrigerators right around the corner — you think you could have used one of those for your freaking cake? Although with all the lunch-stealing stories, maybe not. Either way, my friend and I (and basically everyone she told the story to) were totally appalled by that other lady’s rudeness!

    2. JR*

      I can’t think what the issue would be! I mean, I can imagine general issues around people cleaning up after themselves, but there’s nothing pumping-specific that makes eating in the pumping area an especially bad idea.

    3. I Coulda Been a Lawyer ;)*

      We had a new mom using the room who was very allergic to all sorts of foods – peanuts and shellfish and I can’t remember what all. Coworkers in neighboring cubicles couldn’t have food or eat at their desks. The zone was extended when she became eligible to use the room.

    4. Kheldarson*

      If they’re preventing food, it’s probably due to allergy concerns. Mom could be allergic or baby could be and nobody wants to be liable for that sort of thing.

      1. Safetykats*

        I think that if people are eating in the pumping room you just want to be sure to be extra sanitary about it. The only downside is the potential for cross-contamination – which is the reason we have a dedicated refrigerator also. OP might just want to make sure (if the room is normally locked) that janitorial has access for vacuuming and such.

        1. CTT*

          Yeah, cleaning concerns are what first came to mind for me. Both that the cleaners may not have access or may not have been told to clean it, and because someone might forget they have food in there. Since it’s not a room that’s consistently used like the break room, I feel like it would be easy for something to get forgotten and become gross.

        2. NYC Weez*

          Exactly. You are supposed to keep all of the tubing, etc, extremely clean. I totally understand the wanting/needing to eat at that particular time, but I also would be super irritated if I went in for my 30 minute pumping session, and my apparatus got someone else’s salad dressing smeared on it right before I was going to start.

          Do they provide cleaning supplies to wipe everything down before you begin? If so, I don’t see anything wrong with eating then, but if not, I can see why others might not like it.

          1. OP3*

            They don’t, but I can see in the storage cabinet that everyone’s like of stuff includes either a pack of sanitizing wipes or a dedicated staging mat. And I dont leave crumbs ever. I wipe everything down with my sanitizing wipes as the last step on my checklist before I leave.

        3. OP3*

          The room is only locked when in use. Since it’s available for unscheduled things like “I have a headache and need to lie down until the Tylenol kicks in” it’s not badge accessed

    5. Mallory*

      My guess is it’s to keep people from storing their lunches in the fridge meant for breast milk. Or to minimize messes. But I’d wager on the former.

  6. Sami*

    Oh Honey Bunny, you can absolutely shut this down and totally should. Be kind and direct and you will be fine.

    1. Neosmom*

      Agreed. I had a peer calling me “Sweetheart” (as if she could not remember my name). I tried calling her “Cupcake” every time she did it, but it never registered to her. So, the next time it happened, I took her aside, apologized for the delay in speaking up, and asked her to call me Neosmom because I preferred it.

      She was surprised, apologized, and has been working hard to make the change. Mostly, she just does not use a name reference at all. However, I always greet her with, “Hello, Betty.”

    2. Ama*

      I developed a weird habit when I was a teenager of calling people “dear” or “sweetie” — I think I picked it up from my ballet teacher at the time (I sometimes worked for her assisting with the younger classes). Finally one of my friends just flat out told me “I hate it when you do that, it makes you sound like [patronizing teacher neither of us liked].” It took a little bit to fully break the habit, and obviously as a friend to friend conversation she could be a little more blunt, but I hadn’t realized how much I was doing that outside of the dance teaching context or how it was coming across, so I appreciated the heads up.

  7. Sandy*

    I have a similar situation to #1 and I am curious about how I should approach it.

    We have a MAJOR conference coming up at work, and my boss recently told the three leads (including me) that we should be prepared to stay in a hotel closer to the conference for the week leading up to it, since our hours will be brutally long and we all have long commutes to the location.

    She specifically said we should be prepared to make childcare arrangements (one of us has kids, one of us has pets, one of us has kids and pets) but the question of who is paying for that wasn’t addressed (it was an off the cuff conversation).

    Normally I’d assume that it would be my responsibility to pay for it, but on the other hand, this is my company’s request to make things easier rather than a necessity, so I am more on the fence.


    1. MK*

      You can bring the matter up, I think, but they might just tell you, ok, then stay home and deal with the commute to the conference. In which case you should be extra vigilant about being on time, since they warned you about the long hours and did offer a solution (I am assuming the hotel is on them).

      1. Lumen*

        In a normal work situation, the hotel should be on them. If they don’t want to pay for it, then it’s a choice on your part and you should be able to commute to the conference prep instead. If they really really really really really need you on-site, then they really should be paying for the hotel.

        However, childcare/petsitting arrangements are going to fall to you either way, since this isn’t a last minute or emergency situation.

        Now, if they are paying for the hotel and you want to decline (so as to not have to arrange for childcare/petsitting) that’s something to float with them. But I agree with MK – you’ll have to be extra careful about making sure you’re on site all expected hours and fully invested in the conference preparations.

        1. mrs_helm*

          If the hours will really be THAT long, you may still need childcare and/or pet sitting. (Unless you have only healthy cats.)

    2. Ali G*

      If they want you to stay in the hotel, they should pay for that – just like any other business trip.
      Typically, as Alison mentions, child and pet care is on the worker.
      I have a dog and have always traveled for work. The only time I was able to get dog care paid for by the company was a last minute, local trade show on the weekend with super long days (so both Saturday and Sunday I was gone from like 9 am – 7 pm. I had to get my regular dogwalker to come 2x both days, last minute, to walk and feed the dog. Since it was a weekend she charged me extra. I was able to get work to pay for it since it was unexpected and on the weekend, and was more expensive than the normal visits. But in 15 years, that is the only time!

      1. Penny Lane*

        AliG, it was evident from the post that of course they’d pay for the hotel. That wasn’t the OP’s question.

    3. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Your company should pick up the tab in the same way they would if you were traveling to a different location for a conference (hotel, food, parking). They wouldn’t normally pay for childcare or pet care for travel, then they wouldn’t be paying for this.

      I interpreted from the comment about childcare and pet care that she was setting the expectation that you should make arrangements as though you would be traveling because the hours and the on-site stay will be comparable to a work trip.

      But if you’re unclear, just ask your manager.

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      Normally I’d assume that it would be my responsibility to pay for it

      Why? Your employer is basically requesting that you travel for work. Even if the travel is happening in your home city.

    1. Lorna D*

      agreed! I was thinking

      *sshat: Must be nice to have your own lunch room.
      LW: I wouldn’t know, it’s a pumping room. If you find a private lunch room, let me know!

      1. SR*

        “‘I don’t know that I’d call lactating while hooked up to a machine the greatest lunch experience I’ve ever had.'” A+ WOULD SAY THIS AGAIN :)

        1. Kheldarson*

          I utilized a stare and a lifting of my pumping bag the few times I got statements (which was rare because I primarily worked nights while pumping). It’s amazing what a cold stare that questions the *sshat’s intelligence can do.

    2. OP3*

      I love this response! That and the lactating in the lunch room are great lines I’m going to tuck away

  8. Anon Cat Lady*

    OP#1, your question is making me laugh so hard because I have been in the same position as you! True story: As the single owner of two cats, as well, the first time that I had an extended business trip I was hoping my firm would pay for the cat-sitting, even though I knew it was probably unlikely, because it totaled around a couple hundred dollars. I talked with my assistant, who was completing my expense report, and she was like “I’ll see what I can do.” My assistant was a super awesome lady with long tenure of exceptional work at the firm, and sometimes she can work magic. Anyhow, a couple weeks later, I got a phone call from someone in our finance department. She says, “Do you have children?” I’m like, “No, why?” She’s replied, “I’m looking at your expense report and you have a claim here for back-up child care.” LOL! I had no idea that’s what my assistant was coding it as, finance caught it, and oh well! I explained how I was hopeful the firm would cover the expense necessitated by the business travel, but no big deal, and from then forward I knew it wasn’t gonna happen.

    1. Van Wilder*


      Just came here to say that I work for a large company and there is a small budget allowed per year to cover child care or pet care if you’re traveling for business. Like… a couple hundred per year max limit. So, it’s not an unheard of expense. I would at least try feeling them out on the topic.

      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        I successfully negotiated for my company to pick up my cat expenses. I was willing to take on an extended (9+ month) assignment at 100% travel. As I sat down to discuss the terms with my boss and grandboss the discussion took an odd turn. Keep in mind I’m all of 24ish at the time and this was one of the first times I’d negotiated employment terms.

        I was fine with the money they offered (I got a pretty significant raise for this), company car, expenses paid (food + hotels). I said that I wanted final say on the hotels I’d be staying at because my cat would be coming with me. This launched a 30 minute negotiation on the terms of my cat :)

        Yes, he was coming with me (non-negotiable), I would have final say on the hotels and would work with our admin to secure discounts for long term stays… my boss at the time was mostly sitting back and letting me and the grandboss work out the details, but would jump in to support me when I needed it. Grandboss was one of those intimidating people, who sound the same if they are yelling at someone or joking with him,
        so this felt like a particularly tense negotiation.

        He finally gives up and says “Fine! the cat can go, but I’m not paying extra for it!” And because I’d already done some research on the hotel, I said, “Well it’s $5 extra per day for the cat, how’s that going to work, are you going to charge me for that or try to have the hotel split out that charge? I mean I guess I can write you a check or something, but … ” Meanwhile my boss is silently laughing at the whole thing and the grandboss is muttering about cats and more trouble than they are worth. He finally gave up and said, whatever… I don’t care as long as I don’t have to talk about cats anymore!

        1. smoke tree*

          Nice! I was going to suggest to the LW that since she mentioned her role evolving anyway, maybe she could consider if it’s a good time to ask for a raise, and that could help offset the additional travel expenses.

    2. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

      I work for a company that expects employees to be able to travel weekly; we often do not have to travel for our projects but we are expected to be able to.

      The company also offers us a yearly stipend which we can use to offset some costs of travel (dry-cleaning, pet-sitting, etc.) or can be used for certain types of perks (new technology, personal travel). The stipend is taxable, of course, but the idea behind it is: making employees travel from home (routinely or occasionally) is disruptive and that the company is trying to make things a little easier with that stipend.

      I am both surprised and not surprised that more companies expect childcare, pet care, and other challenges that arise during business travel to fall on the worker.

    3. featherwitch*

      Once I started traveling more than my original job description required, I asked for a raise with the additional responsibilities. It was granted. But for me it was really about the additional expenses I was incurring– dog boarding at $50/night (often nights away +1 night due to boarding center hours), home alarm and environmental monitoring and a camera system because I was gone for days at a time.

  9. Leela*

    “I can imagine some people reading your letter and bristling at hiring manager asking about something that she only heard about because of who she’s in a relationship with. But she did hear about it, and so it’s to your advantage that you were able to explain the situation and give her context that might make her see it really differently than she otherwise would.”

    I’m curious if AAM or other readers would weigh in: what are your thoughts on generally bringing up something like this to a person you’re interviewing? Honestly I’d definitely bristle if this happened to me and it would really put me off of the interviewer and company. I understand this is a bit of a different case as the LW was able to explain the situation and not just have it in the employer’s mind, which is definitely better than if the interviewer just secretly thought it and mentally docked them for the possibility. Do you find it appropriate to go “I’m dating someone who you declined a job with; tell me about it”? The fact that this isn’t even really what happened here makes me bristle even more, whether or not Jane Smith felt or intended the situation as such, she told incorrect information about someone to a person who’d be impacting their career. Tone of voice, demeanor, phrasing, etc, all things I can’t know, make a huge difference in how this information was spread but still I’d leave with some bad feelings about this company and most certainly Jane, thoughts?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think if you’re going to hold something against a candidate that you heard secondhand, it makes sense to ask them about it if you can, if they’re otherwise a strong candidate. But how you phrase it really matters. With something like this, you could say something like, “I feel awkward asking about this, but I assume there may be more to the situation than what I heard and I wouldn’t want to proceed without you having the opportunity to address it. A contact of mine at X Organization mentioned that you’d accepted an offer with her but then backed out and left them in a difficult situation. I know there are a lot of reasons why that could have happened. Is there any context you can share with me?”

      1. Mad Baggins*

        I mentioned upthread but my concerns would primarily be, “how does the Hiring Manager know I declined that job?” If my resume says I worked at Acme Corp. and HM knows Ms. Acme I get why she’d contact her, but is there a non-troubling reason why HM would know where I interviewed/declined? I’d be concerned that HM would alert my current job I’m looking, or that she would share other details like my salary or evaluations with people outside the company. Is this unfounded?

        1. Mystery Bookworm*

          In this case, it seems reasonable that Jane might have told her partner, “oh, they’re moving Dexter to my team, I’m so excited to have this new person,” and then later was like “Dexter decided they’re not coming to work for us anymore, now I have to start the search all over again!”

          Jane may not have had the context the OP did (and it sounds like Jane did say nice things about the OP) and it makes sense that she would have spoken at home about a new person being added to her team (one whose already accepted the offer, so that’s hardly a secret).

          Now, Dexter comes across Jane’s partner’s desk – it’s going to be impossible for them to “un-know” the information they already have, so I agree with Alison that it’s actually more ethical to raise it.

          1. epi*

            I agree. As a candidate I would hate this but I see how it could happen.

            I don’t have a job where I am privy to confidential information about coworkers, but in general I have no qualms at all sharing details about people I am complimenting. If someone did a great job or I am excited to work with them, I’d be pretty likely to mention their name to my husband. Why not? It’s neutral to beneficial to them.

            Then if later I find out I won’t get to work with them, that’s bound to come up. I probably wouldn’t decide to share the person’s name in a story about how they disappointed me, but in this situation it’s already been shared.

        2. Not a Morning Person*

          People know other people in their organizations and in their field and in the community. People talk. I can imagine many scenarios because job openings are not typically confidential. Hiring managers know other people in their field, and if I were hiring someone I would ask some of my acquaintances and friends in the industry, “Hey, do you know Fergus McGee from Acme? He’s applying for a position on my team. What do you know about him?” And if I heard something I was concerned or curious about, I’d want to offer Fergus the opportunity to share his side of the situation. I see nothing wrong, nothing nefarious, and nothing even inappropriate in that situation.

          1. Jennifer Thneed*


            Mad Baggins said ” is there a non-troubling reason why HM would know where I interviewed? ” and the non-troubling reason is that people tend to talk to their industry peers. I know that I do, and that’s exactly how we warn each other not to work for Bad Manager. (I know I’ve got a couple of names that I would tell people “always work for this person if you get a chance” and “never work for that person even if you’re hungry”.)

        3. Trig*

          I think this concern gives more reason for HM to mention that the source of the info was a romantic partner (which people upthread didn’t like).

          I expect many people talk to their partners about frustrations at work in more detail than they would share with everyone they knew. It’s reasonable to think that, while the declined-manager may have talked to the HM about So-and-So, the candidate that declined the offer after accepting, and the HM may have mentioned that they were interviewing So-and-So, and why was that name familiar? it doesn’t necessarily extend to HM talking with all of their contact, including So-and-So’s manager, about So-and-So’s candidacy, salary, and evaluations.

          Without the ‘romantic partner’ disclosure, it’s a bit more quesitonable why declined-manager would be sharing this info.

      2. Close Bracket*

        I think if you’re going to hold something against a candidate that you heard secondhand”

        Let’s address that “if” …

        If you heard something potentially negative from a reference or professional contact outside the hiring context, sure, ask about it. Otherwise, maybe don’t place so much weight on secondhand info.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      It’s a cousin of “Huh, OP worked at Choco-Llama 5 years ago, when my friend Belinda was there. I’ll ask Belinda about her at lunch on Thursday.” Even if OP would prefer that no one EVER talk to Belinda the Belligerent about her. Or to anyone from Choco-Llama. Or has no idea who Belinda is, but boy does Belinda know and have thoughts about OP which she will share if asked. You don’t control everything that is said about you. Or what odd tangents might draw connections between people in completely different areas of your life.

      AAM example I thought was over-the-line: The lady who told everyone in her book club about the people her husband was interviewing for a position (while I’m sure the book club wished she would shut up) which is how the applicant’s current coworker-cum-book-club-member found out she was looking.

      This isn’t like that–it’s normal for partnered people to talk about their work, and if that touches partner’s circle (“That’s Wakeen’s mom, from softball”) it’s normal to reveal that, so people don’t stumble unaware of who knows what. Jane didn’t leave her partner in the dark about her impression of OP. Interviewer didn’t leave OP in the dark about the second-hand information or how it came to her attention. She gave OP a chance to address it, rather than silently mark it down.

      Worth noting that the interviewer could have just remembered her partner being so excited that they had hired Bettina Warbleworth to fix the gaping hole in the org, and then upset when Bettina Warbleworth suddenly bailed. And remembered the name when Bettina’s application later crossed her desk, asked her partner about that, and then given Bettina a chance to give her version.

    3. Antilles*

      Honestly I’d definitely bristle if this happened to me and it would really put me off of the interviewer and company.
      Hard disagree. The alternative scenario here is that the interviewer doesn’t ask you about it, but just believes the information and probably has a pretty negative assumption because of it.
      I’d much rather have them ask about the information to give me the chance to set the record straight. Or, even in a different scenario where the story was factually accurate, at least I still have the chance to explain my side of the story that “well, yeah, I did revoke my acceptance of the job and I really felt bad about it, but it happened because of [reasonable explanation here]”.

    4. Roscoe*

      I think it goes back to the whole thing that just because something isn’t on your resume, or someone isn’t a listed reference, doesn’t mean you can’t contact them.

      If someone was interviewing me and knew someone at my former company, I wouldn’t be taken aback that they asked them about me. I think its very nice that they would actually let me have the option to tell my side of the story so at least they aren’t just hearing one.

      1. Antilles*

        Bingo. The fact that “it’s her partner” is a red herring – it doesn’t matter whether it’s a spouse, a friend, a co-worker, or an ex-colleague. If I’m a hiring manager and someone trustworthy/discreet in my network knows the candidate, I’m being negligent in my job if I *don’t* try to dig for a bit of information.
        And the interviewer handled it perfectly here – she received some iffy information about OP (backed out of a job? red flag!), but rather than just writing OP off entirely, she gave OP the chance to explain and set the record straight.

    5. Mom MD*

      My thought is that people do a lot of blabbing to others about private work issues that don’t involve them. And in doing so it can backfire negatively on someone else.

      1. Not a Morning Person*

        And if it were private, that’s a different situation. This wasn’t private or confidential information. Although lots of factually true stuff also can lead to negative consequences and I’d prefer the option to offer my interpretation and my side of the events.

      2. WolfPack Inspirer*

        So I’ve been reading your comments thru the threads here and you have a very strong reaction to the idea that most business people “talk shop” to their families or spouses or friends.

        Do you NEVER talk about ANYTHING from your work with your family? What on earth do you say when they ask ‘how was your day today, honey?’ over the dinner table? “oh I’m sorry dear, you know that everything from the names of my coworkers to what I got from the cafeteria for lunch is all confidential private business info I can’t share with you. What salad dressing do you want?”

        I’m just… we don’t all work in healthcare. And even if we did, our coworkers’ names and the fact that they’re applying to jobs isn’t subject to HIPAA or confidentiality agreements.

        1. Robin Sparkles*

          So I don’t agree with Mom MD’s hard stance here but she isn’t wrong in her statement that this could hurt someone getting a job. If you and a spouse work in really close industries – you have to have a way to address this professionally. However, I don’t agree with the sentiment that we shouldn’t share professional information with our spouse ever! The reality is that most of us (myself included) share mostly everything about our lives with our partners. That’s why we marry them – I am at work 80% of the time – why would I leave such a big factor of my life out? The best option if my spouse told me about a candidate I was interviewing is to honestly call it out exactly as this hiring manager did. Because if I kept my mouth shut and now have a bias without basis or confirmation, I am hurting someone’s livelihood. I think how you handle it is what matters.

        2. smoke tree*

          My stance here is somewhere in the middle. I think it’s to be expected that people will share information about their work life with their partners, but I do think interviewing can be a fraught enough situation that you really want to make sure you trust your partner’s judgment before saying anything, particularly if they work in the same field. I work in a small, close-knit industry and would be somewhat uncomfortable to think a hiring manager was spreading information about my interview. Since I don’t know them, I would start to wonder whether I could trust their discretion.

        3. Chinook*

          Heck, DH had a job where the details were NATO top secret and the most he could say was “oh yeah, I saw that as it unfolded last month” when something appeared on the news, and we still were able to talk about his coworkers and bosses. Even “secret squirrel” type jobs allow you to talk about the people you interact with with your spouse (and they take that into account because the background checks include detailed checking of the spouse’s background as well).

          I learned along time ago that, if one spouse/partner knows, assume both do.

          1. Kj*

            Yep. I work in the medical field and while I would never share client info with my husband, I’m human and I do talk about my day, my co-workers and tell the occasional amusing story about something that happened at work. No client names or details, but more like “someone came to the office wearing a bat man costume” sort of thing.

    6. Close Bracket*

      I don’t think you should discuss hiring decisions with your romantic partner, period, unless you are the hiring manager and they are the HR person (or vice versa). So, yeah, major sideeye if I got that question.

      1. Penny Lane*

        That’s really extreme. Normal people who are not in the CIA discuss the happenings in the workplace with their spouse/partner. “I’m hiring a new account manager” isn’t any more secret than “I’m working on redesigning the teapot accounts receivable report.”

  10. Lumen*

    #3 – The people giving you dirty looks or making snide comments are assholes. It does not actually affect them in any way if you eat in the private room while you pump, except that they’ve decided to be petty and weirdly envious. If it did affect them, someone should have (and probably would have already) brought it to your attention so you could work out a fix.

    I personally like just a direct but otherwise cordial “I combine my lunch hour and pumping time so I can get home sooner and spend more time with my newborn. Is this causing a problem?”

    Pushing the responsibility for NAMING a problem and proposing a solution back on them will likely take the wind out of a lot of people’s sails. It’s more personal than I like – because again, it is none of their business and you shouldn’t need to explain yourself to avoid dirty looks – but it might get people to back off (or think twice about their judgements).

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      I really don’t even understand why someone would even want to just sit alone in a closed off room to eat lunch. If I want to be antisocial at lunch I’d prefer to eat at my desk where there is a computer with internet!

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        Probably people in open offices! I work in a very people-oriented job and would love to sit by myself for lunch a lot of the time to get some peace.

      2. Jennifer*

        Because if you’re at your computer people assume you are working and will still come over and ask you questions incessantly.

      3. MF*

        Either you’re an extravert or you have your own office, yes? For those of us who are introverts who work in open offices, a closed off room for lunch is heaven. In my current job, there’s no quiet, private place for me to eat lunch, so I usually end up eating in my car everyday if for no other reason than preserve my sanity.

    2. tangerineRose*

      I think people think that the OP is just having lunch and don’t realize that she’s also pumping.

  11. Safetykats*

    I love the idea that business travel is meant to be cost-neutral for the employee – and I’m really wondering if the OP’s employer has told her that, or written it in a policy or something? Because honestly, I have never experienced that to be true, and I don’t think that’s the intent at all. Everywhere I’ve worked has had a policy to reimburse “reasonable and necessary” expenses as pre-defined. There are always expenses that aren’t covered. If you travel a lot you get better at avoiding some kinda of expenses (oops, forgot hairspray or toothpaste; oops, forgot to pack my black pumps) but other things just happen regardless (oops, airlines broke the handle on my suitcase) and definitely if you have pets or kids or elderly parents or plants to be watered you’re going to have to make arrangements, which aren’t going to be covered. On the other hand, they are paying for your food – which they wouldn’t be if you were at home – although at home you possibly wouldn’t be eating out most meals. After enough travel, I think you just try not to spend money out-of-pocket on things that don’t matter. Obviously getting trustworthy care for your pets matters a lot.

    1. Mad Baggins*

      I agree, I’ve never heard “cost neutral” either. Even if you think about it, most businesses don’t subsidize everyday childcare or dog walkers, so why would they pay for it when you’re out of town?

      1. sssssssssss*

        Interestingly, I work for a national union with several national committees. Committee members travel to my city for meetings once to three times a year. The way the union set it up, the committee members can actually claim reimbursement for child care costs when they travel for committee work, something I’ve never seen in the private sector.

        1. banana&tanger*

          If you want you’re committees to reflect your membership, you have to make it feasible for parents and caregivers. Presumably, these roles are duties beyond normal work hours, and even if compensated, expenses such as child or elder care may be prohibitive.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Well, as someone said in a different thread, they get reimbursed for extra care expenses over and above what they normally pay during a normal work week. While I’ve never seen that here in the US, it strikes me as a reasonable expectation, because otherwise the travel could be a hardship on some employees.

        Of course, you normally use food and hygiene products when you’re at home, so your employer shouldn’t pay for those, except that your food costs will usually be higher, hence the per diem which doesn’t necessarily cover three full meals eaten out, but theoretically compensate you for the difference.

    2. Cambridge Comma*

      If you forget your hairspray or shoes, and have to buy more, you still get to keep them afterwards so I wouldn’t have thought that has a big cost impact (and it’s kind of your mistake). If the airline damages your luggage I would suppose you get compensation from them?
      I would guess that the real costs would be, for example, increased wear and tear on your luggage so that you end up replacing it sooner than if you were just going on personal trips, and I suppose you’d have to factor in whether your salary was high enough for you to absorb such expenses.
      I think the idea of travel being cost neutral is predicated on the outdated idea that everyone has a partner who takes care of their children or pets while they are out of town. It’s another example of the ‘tax’ on the single.

    3. Ruthie*

      In my field, travel itself isn’t cost neutral, but individuals who are expected to travel frequently tend to have higher salaries than similar roles without the travel.

    4. MeridaAnn*

      Does it help at all to think of the balance to your overall budget? Yes, you’re now paying for the pet care, but for that week, you’re not paying for food, you’re not paying for utilities for the lights/TV/showers/etc. you would have used at home otherwise, you’re not using gas in your personal vehicle that week, and things like that. Can you think of it in a way that those saved costs help to counteract the pet-sitting costs (I don’t have pets, so I don’t know those costs exactly and I understand it might not cover the entire price, but at least you are getting some savings during the time of the trip, right)?

      1. Ali G*

        The thing with pets though, is that their care for when you are out of town tends to be higher than daily care. For me it’s something like this:
        Daily dog walk (while I am at work): $15
        Pet sitter (who is a friend and charges me a cheap rate): $20 per night
        Boarding (for when pet sitter is not available): $50 per day/night
        So when I am out of town, the dog actually costs me more money for his care than when I am home.
        Also, if you are exempt, you are not getting compensated for thos red-eye flights, the 4 hour drive you start at 6 am, etc. So you are spending a lot of your time.
        I’m still bitter that my last job didn’t let me expense my car insurance deductible ($100) for a cracked windshield on my personal vehicle when it was damaged during a work trip. Or the $250 cost for global entry, even though I was traveling internationally very regularly for work. Jerks :)

        1. Dust Bunny*

          I have two cats, so no dog walker or pet sitter while I’m home, and I don’t spend a kennel-stay worth of money on food when I’m home, either, because I usually eat at home. They cost me WAY more when I travel.

    5. Emilitron*

      I do get the impression at my workplace that they want it to be cost-neutral, though it’s certainly not spelled out that way. My workplace doesn’t do a per diem (here’s $N/day and you can spend it how you want); that kind of situation would definitely cover pet care, you’d just have to spend less on restaurants. Other places (the OP, sounds like) you submit receipts for everything they allow, and get reimbursed to the penny, and you’re SOL for antyhing not covered. Mine is in the middle, there’s a magic number that if you spend less than that on food/meals they don’t want to see your receipts; it’s common practice (i.e. our managers all agree but would never make it explicit to Finance/Travel) to round up to that number whenever you have to buy extras, like a phone charger or spare shirt. If I had to pay for petsitting, I could make the “food budget” cover a significant fraction of the cost, and per culture here, would not feel guilty in doing so.

  12. misspiggy*

    If the increased travel is recognised as additional responsibility, OP could factor that into a request for a pay rise. Not mentioning the added expenses, just the added value she is bringing to the organisation.

  13. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

    OP2 – you could reply to every “hunny bunny” with “snookums” or some such…

    1. MamaGanoush*

      Or my favorite Southernism: Aren’t you sweeeeeet? (this is not a compliment).

    2. Rat in the Sugar*

      I know you’re probably just joking, but I do want to point out that if coworker uses pet names herself, it probably won’t even register that you’re using one with her (unless you make it ridiculous like Falling Diphthong’s suggestion). Or if she does notice, she may just think OP is returning what she feels is a friendly gesture, since coworker apparently likes pet names.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        OP already said that she tried using “Cupcake” back and it failed to register.

    3. Close Bracket*

      I did that once, with success. It was a different situation, though, and I think success would be really dependent on who you try it with.

  14. Polina*

    #1. Maybe it’s because I’m outside the US, but when I travel for work (or exceptional overtime – not for an hour but definitely for a Saturday) I get childcare reimbursed – only the time outside of normal office hours, of course. Strikes me as quite reasonable. And yes, I use it even when my partner is at home but wants some hours without the toddler to do shopping etc. After all, it’s not up to my employer to decide whether my partner should be made to do childcare.

    Any other employers/countries have a similar experience or have I been wrong all along to take this for granted?

    1. RedStateMotherJones*

      Hold on while I stop laughing.
      So where I live in the US, 7:30 is the earliest you can drop off children at public elementary (kids are ages 4-11) school. Except a lot of employers in our community (we’re not taking hands-on like dispatcher or teacher, we’re talking control) NEED you at your desk earlier. So you drive by the school around 7:15 and see bunches of kids being dropped off and hanging out in front of the school unsupervised. Pedophiles and human traffickers in our community have taken both notice and advantage – we had an incident just this month.
      The employers – don’t care; won’t bend even 15-30 min on “butt in chair”’time.

      1. Anon to me*

        To be fair, I probably wouldn’t volunteer to work an extra 1.25 to 2.5 hours a week without extra compensation. The school district I live in has a before and after school program that allows for a 6:30 am drop off and a 5:30 pm pick up. It does cost extra though.

        1. Lehigh*

          That’s your response to the news that there was an incident this month with a pedophile or human trafficker in this commenter’s neighborhood?


          And she wasn’t blaming the school. She was pointing out that the parents’ employers have unreasonable expectations which are literally endangering their employees’ families.

      2. Teal Green*

        And where I am in the US, 8:00 is the earliest you can drop off at elementary school. If you need to drop off earlier than that you have to pay for before school care, just like if you can’t pick up on time you pay for after school care. The local YMCA runs a before/after school program at the school or you have to find a daycare provider who will drop off/pick up.

    2. Teal Green*

      My employer is certainly not contributing to any of my cost for childcare. If I have to travel or work late, it’s my problem to find additional childcare. My boss has said outright, “Why can’t your husband watch them?” when I push back due to childcare reasons. She acts baffled at the idea that my husband’s employer asked him to work late first, so I’m already watching the children while he works later. I’m also exempt so I’m not getting paid extra for travel or overtime.

    3. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

      Just one data point – I’m in the US – I had one employer who did reimburse for certain childcare costs when traveling for work. As in they had specific written policies and certain parameters. 2 other employers had fairly generous/flexible travel expense policies and while they did not have specific written policies in place, I could see them reimbursing some costs if it was either negotiated as part of the offer process or if it were requested/approved prior to the trip.

      However – I’m in an industry that is known for fairly generous benefits and travel is common for certain departments within the industry.

  15. WS*

    #1 If your job has changed in such a way that you are travelling a lot more than you were when you were hired, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for a modest raise. Not specifically for the cats, but you are encountering work expenses that you didn’t have when you took the job.

  16. Bloo*

    When I was 19, 25 years ago, I had a higher level coworker call me Honey Bunny on occasion but we were working in a diner and I was grateful no one told me to “kiss their grits”.

      1. Winifred*

        “Early to rise … early to bed … and in between I cooked and cleaned and went outta my head … goin’ through life with blinders on it’s tough to see … I had to get up get out from under and LOOK … FOR …. ME!”

  17. March Madness*

    Cutesy nicknames like “honey bunny” make me nauseous in work contexts. You have my full sympathy, OP.

    1. Nita*

      Oh, heavens… I have a coworker who was very free with the “honeys” and “sweeties” and “pumpkins” when she started here. She used them on a lot of people, but must have been using some kind of judgment when they’re appropriate. I’ve never heard her “honey” one of the senior VPs. Somehow that made it even more icky to be on the receiving end. FWIW, she’s a good 10 years older than I am but looks very young, so I swear I thought she’s a kid just out of college and she keeps calling me pumpkin. It was so weird that I never quite figured out how to speak up, and mostly went out of my way to avoid her. Someone did eventually talk to either her or HR, because she’s stopped with the pumpkin-bombing.

      She’s still here, and a very nice person. I think maybe that’s normal where she’s from, and she didn’t realize for a while people don’t talk this way to coworkers here. Whatever it was, so much nicer to talk with her and not expect to be called some kiddie nickname.

      1. Jennifer*

        I hate pet names because it seems like a fair chunk of people start calling you pet names when they want to deliver bad news or snow you about something. (Especially my mother: “I’m going to be late again, sweetie…”)
        Not everyone does it, but enough people do that when I get honeyed or sweetied, red flags wave.

        I hate ” sweetie” so much you’d think I was George R.R. Martin, who makes me think he must have a similar issue.

  18. Jessica Day*

    OP#1 – this is so weird because I literally just spoke to my company about this myself! I’m going on a ten day trip for work and it’s going to cost me ~£100. They were sympathetic – my boss said if it goes through him, he’d OK it – but ultimately HR had the same answer that Allison gave you. I figured it was worth a shot but wasn’t very surprised by the answer. I think like you said this is just one of those expenses you have to deal with when you have a cat.

    1. Emily K*

      I never found the cats to be too difficult to arrange care for. Somebody would come check on them every 2nd day to scoop their box and make sure they still had food and water, and I’d pay them the equivalent of $20 a week and a six-pack of beer. (And the reverse of that when they took trips.) For quick 1-2 night trips I wouldn’t even both to arrange check-ins

      Then last year I adopted a dog. In the DC metro area you can’t get a dog watched for less than $35/day, and the better sitters (professionals who are licensed and bonded) are often $45-50 and up. And there’s not usually any sort of discount for long trips, so a two-week vacation costs over $400 in dog care!

      It’s by far the single biggest expense I didn’t anticipate with the dog. Because I never even arranged care for my cats on my 1-2 night trips, my mental estimate of how often I traveled and needed pet care was way lower than reality because I wasn’t factoring any of those short trips in. I was just thinking, “I only really go on one vacation a year.” I’ve majorly cut back on the short trips I take for business and for pleasure, and as much as possible I try to bring her with me (she’s under 10 lbs so travels easily).

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        It depends. We have a cat who had gingivostomatitis bad enough that she wouldn’t eat, and so after consulting with a couple of veterinary specialists we had all of her teeth pulled. She’s been happy and healthy for years now, but can only eat wet food, so we need to have a sitter come twice a day. We have also had our pet sitters give injections and oral suspension medications, although for a while we didn’t go on even overnight trips together because we had more than one pet with special medical needs.

  19. AK*

    OP#1 are auto feeders an option? I have a cat and any time I’m traveling for work, I just fil it up with 4-5 days of food and it spins around every day to show him one section at a time. I fill up a few extra water bowls and make sure his toys are spread around the house, then he’s good to go.

    1. Clare*

      That is way too long for a cat to be by herself with no one checking on her. I would not recommend the OP do that.

      1. Anon Cat Lady*

        Yeah, there is no way I would do that. My cats are like my shadows and they crave lots of cuddles and attention. One in particular gets separation anxiety pretty quickly. I’m swear, I’m not just imagining it. He actually starts destroying things, changing his eating habits and puking, etc. I can leave them for a night, but past that is going to throw off their habits enough that they get stressed and are not well. I would want a daily check-in by a sitter, at a minimum, for the cats’ health and safety and for my own peace of mind.

    2. Ceiswyn*

      Leaving a cat alone for 4-5 days is neglect, even with ‘enough’ food and water. It is not OK. What if the cat gets injured or ill? Or just lonely?

      1. VictorianCowgirl*

        Not only that, the water could be tipped over and the food dispenser could break. Not to mention such a dirty litter box. This is far too stressful and long of a time – complete agreement.

    3. Kate Daniels*

      Auto feeders can malfunction. I once pet sit for a neighbor who had an auto feeder, but also had me check in on her cats once a day, and sure enough, one of the trays got stuck. If I hadn’t been checking, the cat wouldn’t have been able to eat.

      For my own cat, I love using auto-feeders as a backup (for instance, if your pet sitter has an emergency and can’t make it that day) but wouldn’t solely rely on it if I’m gone for more than one day.

      1. Bad Candidate*

        Yep this happened to me once. My cat gets wet food, so I have to have someone come by at least once a day anyway. But one time I had no one to do that and it was last minute and couldn’t get a sitter. So I used an auto feeder I had and gave him some dry. And the batteries on it died. It wasn’t 4 days, but I still felt horrible that my poor baby was home alone and hungry.

      2. epi*

        Yeah, we use an auto-feeder solely to let the cat sitter come once a day instead of twice. (Our cat gets a twice daily medication that she eats in treat form while we are gone.) Our cats also drink a lot more water while we are gone, plus it can evaporate or get dirty. For us, having someone there every other day would be an absolute minimum. Even very reserved cats don’t want to be 100% alone for days on end.

        We are pretty laid back cat parents but it should really be obvious that you can’t leave an animal you are responsible for alone for days, with no assurance that they haven’t run out of food or water or gotten sick. This is the most basic responsibility of having a pet, literally the least you can do. There’s nothing wrong with going through a time in your life where you travel too much to care for an animal– but then it’s on you not to take on responsibility for one. Getting a pet who loves and depends on you, then neglecting them is not OK.

      3. Decima Dewey*

        They can also scare the crap out of the cat. And if the cat’s afraid of the autofeeder, it defeats the device’s purpose.

    4. Lady Blerd*

      I guess I’m the heartless person who has no qualms leaving her cats on their own for a week with a pet feeder and more water then they needed. They were fine if extra cuddly for a couple of hours when I came back.

      1. Luna*

        By “fine” all you really mean is that they didn’t die while you were away (yet). That’s a really low bar. That’s a huge risk you are taking at the expense of your pet’s health and safety. If you can’t afford a petsitter then you can’t afford a pet.

        1. Jonah James*

          It’s just a cat after all, come on. A friend of mine leaves her cats at home with huge amounts of food, not even a pet feeder when she travels. The cats are fine.

        2. Lady Blerd*

          Wow, allow me to respectfully roll my eyes. I’ve been a cat owner for 17 years, I think I know by know how to care for my pets without putting their lives in danger.

      2. Grizzzzzelda*

        Don’t worry, I guess I am pretty heartless too. My cat is absolutely fine 4-5 days alone. I don’t have an auto-feeder, but she doesn’t overeat. I just leave extra bowls out. I have 2 water bowl things (I don’t know how to describe, it’s almost like jugs of water sitting in the bowl, so it is constantly full?). I do buy a few disposable litter boxes if I’m leaving for multiple days because she does get a little fussy if her box isn’t clean. When I leave she’s probably in litter heaven. She’s an old girl, just turned 17. Seems pretty content. Even when she was a kitten she never really liked anyone but me and tends to disappear if I ever have company over.

        I don’t currently have a dog, but when I did, I couldn’t have the dog alone for more than 6 hours at a time. I always considered that the big thing cats had “over” dogs, they can manage on their own for a few days.

        If I get another cat in the future, especially if I get a kitten, I guess I’ll just ask a friend to pop in once in a while. If only to make sure food and water are available and the litter boxes are clean.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          It really, really, really depends on the cat. Some cats would be fine with this, and some would be oh, so not fine. I’ve never left any of my various cats home alone this long (two days is about the limit of my comfort level), but I’ve had some that I’m sure would have been fine with it. Some cats are simply a lot more attached to a place and to a routine than to a person, and those cats are often fine being left alone so long as they are in a familiar place with plenty to eat and drink.

        2. Ceiswyn*

          That nothing bad has happened to date, still doesn’t make it a good idea or a responsible thing to do.

          “It’s always been fine before” is cold comfort after the one time it turns out to really, really not be.

        3. Luna*

          I’m sorry but leaving any cat, but especially a 17 year old (!!!!) cat alone for this long without anyone checking on her is simply unacceptable. Even the unfriendliest cats need someone to check that there is no emergency. My brother’s cat once somehow got herself shut inside a kitchen cabinet all day while he was at work and couldn’t get out. Another friend’s young, healthy cat suddenly had a stroke one night (luckily they were home and rushed her to the vet). If those things had happened while the cat was alone for 4-5 days they would have died.

      3. smoke tree*

        Yeah, when I was a kid we used to do this with our cat too. He was semi-feral and was able to come and go from the house on his own, so I don’t know if he ever noticed we were gone. Indoor cats seem to be much needier, though. (I still find this kind of baffling, since the cats I grew up with barely tolerated our presence, except as feeding systems and rodent disposal units.)

      4. Starbuck*

        Oh dear, if my family tried that we’d come back to “presents” all over the carpet- after 4-5 days the litter box is gross enough that they’ve stopped using it! Really needs to be scooped daily.

    5. Rusty Shackelford*

      In my experience (okay, my experience watching my sister’s cats), a daily check isn’t necessary. Could you save money by having the caregiver come in every other day? Even if you need to buy an extra litterbox, it would likely save you money in the long run.

    6. Kittyfish 76*

      Don’t forget cleaning the litter box, kitties don’t like to use a full box!

    7. Rockhopper*

      I have left extra food and water if I were going to be away one day (for example, leaving Friday night and returning Sunday by middle of the afternoon), never longer than that. But now my 2 geriatric cats are on daily meds so I wouldn’t do that anymore. I have had good luck over the years identifying a responsible young neighbor (usually 12-14 years old is a good age) who comes in daily and is very happy to make $10 per day for a 10-minute job.

    8. Oxford Coma*

      Cats who don’t eat for more than 24 hours are in danger of liver disease. If that thing breaks, you may come home to dying cat.

      Also, if your cat tolerates 4-5 days of used litter, you have an incredibly laid-back feline.

    9. Mom MD*

      No way. Animals need to be checked at least daily. They may be sick, injured or gotten themselves into a situation. I would never recommend the leave out food and be gone for days advice.

    10. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I used to think it was okay to do for a max of 2 nights, but now I won’t do it for more than one because the last time I did it, I came home after night 2 to Sam VERY sick and in need of emergency medical care — which I wouldn’t have known if I’d been gone longer. Plus as others have said, automatic feeders can break, or there can be a power outage.

      1. Anon Cat Lady*

        The first time I left my cats for two nights thinking it would be fine, but they ended up shutting themselves in my roommate’s bedroom and she was also out of town. They must have done it soon after we left because when I got home and discovered them, they had created their own bathroom spot in the corner and they seemed quite distressed. Fortunately my roommate had left a glass of water in her room, so they were able to drink, but they didn’t have any food.

      2. Ceiswyn*

        Or the estate agent selling your house can use his set of keys to come in and show some potential buyers around, in the course of which he shuts all the doors. Shutting your cats away from the food and water you left them.

        In mid-July.

        Good thing I’ve never left them alone for more than a full day.

    11. ZucchiniBikini*

      We have both a dog and a cat, which renders this discussion moot as obviously the dog needs a daily, or preferably twice daily, visit, so the sitter does the cat at the same time. Actually if we go away for more than a weekend, I usually book a house-sitter who also takes care of the fluffies. I have a great one who charges me $40 a day to stay in the house; bring in mail; feed and water dog, cat, fish and plants; walk dog daily and twice daily on weekends; and deal with any house emergencies that come up. Well worth the money IMO, especially as the animals lurrrve her.

      However, in the past when I have had only cats, I have happily left them overnight with food and water and still think that’s fine, but I was uneasy stretching it to two nights without a check-in and never left it longer than that. I grew up in a vet practice (my dad’s clinic was attached to our house) and my dad saw too many cats that had come to grief after a few days alone with no check-ins. Auto-feeders are great for people who have long or erratic work hours, to make sure the cat gets fed at a consistent time, but not a substitute for human contact.

  20. Emily*

    OP #1 – it’s funny that I read your question because today I coded an expense report for a woman who had her dog sitting covered while on a trip. Now I’m not sure of the exact circumstances, but I know we coded it to her salary (i.e. the expense will be added to her w-2 as income). So maybe there’s some room for negotiating it as part of your salary or benefits package. Unfortunately though I don’t think businesses could cover it as a classic business or travel expense. There are tax implications there where you can’t use business money to pay for personal expenses. Adding it as part of your salary though would be the most appropriate loophole if they were willing.

    1. nonymous*

      This was what I was coming here to say. I have dogs and live in an urban area, so the expense is an order of magnitude different. But assuming the increased travel is four extra trips a year and the approximate care cost is ~$250/trip, that would represent 1% of a low six-figure salary.

      Five week-long trips (including travel days) is a job with 10% travel. If the nature of OP#1’s job has changed from “occasional travel” to 10%, it’s absolutely worth asking for a raise, and she should feel absolutely justified saying that it is in compensation for the sacrifice in personal time.

  21. Delta Delta*

    Every pumping woman I’ve worked with also ate lunch during a pumping session, if for no other reason than that it was efficient, and they each felt like it was a good use of their time. All the other people in the office neither commented nor cared, because it really was none of our business and everybody did their respective jobs.

    1. Tableau Wizard*

      Not to mention pumping made me STARVING!! I almost always ate a snack or a meal while pumping, at the very least a little chocolate.

      1. OP3*

        I used to play rugby and do serious powerlifting and I have never known hunger like the middle-of-a-nursing-or-pumping-session hunger. It’s kind of awe inspiring.

        1. Parenthetically*

          YES. It’s incredible. Especially in the first few months, pity the person whose fingers got too near my mouth! Ravenous doesn’t even begin to cover it. I kept granola bars and bowls of trail mix on my night stand and I would be trembling with hunger even though I’d just eaten two hours before. Gave me a lot of sympathy and solidarity with my newborn!

    2. hellcat*

      I’m pumping right now (literally as I type this), and while I like to pump before lunch and then eat after, it doesn’t always work that way. This week, I’ve been pumping at my desk, while also eating and trying to catch up on email. Glamorous life of a working mom. There is a pumping room in the building, but it’s several flights down from my office, and I’m lucky enough to have a private office with a door that locks, so it’s easier to just use that.

  22. Kate Daniels*

    #1. As a single girl who owns a cat, I’d also love to have pet sitting covered by my employer during business trips because it gets expensive! But at least meals are covered, which is something I’d ordinarily have to buy with my own money if I wasn’t traveling, so I try to think of it as sort of balancing out.

    I have an auto-feeder, but I only use it as a back-up for a pet sitter and don’t solely rely on it because they can malfunction (for instance, if your power gets knocked out during a storm and cuts off WiFi).

    1. Lady Blerd*

      I have battery operated pet feeders that I use when I love for more then 24 hours and the issue is that the cats have figured out which one they can jigger into dropping extra food. So basically I put in more food then they need and accept that they will be fatter when I come back.

    2. JustaTech*

      Your auto-feeder has WiFi? That’s fancy! Mine is just a koi feeder on a timer (dry food), but we use it all the time because her majesty can’t be trusted with more than about 20 kibbles without bolting her food and immediately throwing it up.
      If we’re gone for more than a weekend we have a friend check on her every other day (ish), and the house will call us if the power goes out so we can ask a local friend to check on her.

      1. Kate Daniels*

        Yes! It has a camera, too. :-) I can control it by an app on my iPhone whenever I am and watch her eat when I feed her. It makes a loud noise when the trays turn, which will rouse her if she’s napping, and I love to see her come running! I only use dry food in it, and have a pet sitter come to give her wet food. She’s super spoiled!

  23. Lady Blerd*

    OP1: I don’t think it’s unreasonable to inquire into the possibility of expensing pet sitting costs, especially since travelling is part of your job. I will admit that I say so as someone who works for the government and we do get a daily stipend for miscellaneous expenses that some do use for pet sitting fees. So I say do look into it and maybe, as others have done, find a way to expense it under a different name.

    1. bonkerballs*

      I’d be *very* careful following your last line of advice seeing how fraudulent that sounds.

  24. Alica*

    I actually said I couldn’t go on a last minute work trip a few weeks ago because I was feeding my parents’ cat! They were away for 5 days, and had asked me 4 months beforehand if I could feed the cat whilst they were off (I live with them currently). As the work trip was a last minute thing (as in, asked on the Tuesday if I could go Wednesday, come back Thursday) I said I couldn’t because I had already promised that I would feed the cat. Luckily I have a super reasonable boss (small company, there’s 8 of us so we all know each other pretty well) and wasn’t personally needed on the trip, so a colleague could go instead, but I wonder how that would work out in another company? I see “I made a commitment to someone else” as different to “I would need to make arrangements for my own household”. Obviously the short notice played a huge part, but I’d still feel bad about having to back out of something like that a week beforehand?

    Our cat is on a mix of wet and dry food, so the autofeeders aren’t an option. Also we don’t have a catflap, so we physically let her out of the back door when she wants to play out. (she does have a litter tray, but she hates using it.) She’s super spoilt by the fact that my parents work from home!

    1. Susan Sto Helit*

      A friend of mine who works from home has a super-needy cat, and no cat flap. The neighbours feed him when she’s away but he sulks if he’s left alone for any length of time, and takes a while to forgive them when they’re back. So a few times they’ve had me cat-sit for them – the duties are mostly hanging out with him, letting him sit on your lap when he starts yelling at you, and spending at least the occasional night there so he can sleep on the bed with you. He is hugely spoilt.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      One of mine has to have canned food because she tends to get constipated (like, to the point of needing medical treatment) on dry. Plus, her food is prescription for a chronic condition [other than the constipation] so she and the other cat have to eat separately.

      Plus, both of them get SUPER upset if they’re left alone. And I love knowing that if somebody broke into the house or there was a fire or hurricane, they’re in a kennel and supervised.

    3. tangerineRose*

      I think most reasonable bosses know that asking someone to do a trip last-minute is likely to result in an “I can’t…” because people have lives and make plans.

      1. random observation*

        That completely depends on the nature of the industry. Trying being a lawyer and saying that you can’t go on a last-minute business trip to take deposition because you have to feed someone else’s cat.

  25. Glomarization, Esq.*

    For OP#2: “Hey, listen, would you please stop calling me ‘honey bunny’? I don’t like it.”

    Period, end of (or maybe throw in an “I’m sorry” or two if you want to to make it sound like you acknowledge the awkwardness), but repeat as necessary. There really is no further softening or explanation needed to get someone in the workplace to stop calling you by a term of endearment.

  26. Bookworm*

    “When I started it was more like once a year, and now it’s, say, two to four times. In my particular part of our industry, traveling is not often an essential part of the role and this wasn’t ever something that was specified one way or the other as part of the role.”

    I have to somewhat disagree with Alison on this. I understand her POV (if it’s routine and it does make sense for you to go, then you might have less leverage) but if this has *now* become part of your job and it wasn’t so when you started, then maybe you have some leeway here? Circumstances change: roles evolve, people move on and others take on their previous duties, etc. If budgets are tight I wonder if there’s any sort of compromise possible (a co-worker agrees to watch the cats or someone can temporarily check on them while you’re gone, etc.). Good luck!

    1. not a cat person*

      Please do not foist cat care on your coworkers. They’re your cats, not ours. (I’d make an exception if there’s someone you’re *really* friendly with, or a known cat lover around. But that’s a special case.)

  27. blackcat*

    Re: the lactation room

    Depending on your state, you may be legally entitled to the time/space even though you are except. Massachusetts is one such example.

  28. Kyubey*

    OP 1: Maybe you could request that the company booked a hotel that allows pets and you could take them with you? I’m not sure if this would be allowed, or if you’d be too busy to look after them, etc.

  29. only acting normal*

    Maybe because ‘hunny bunny’ is a more unusual pet name in the UK, but every time I hear it I think of Pulp Fiction.
    If she called me ‘hunny bunny’ I’d feel compelled to respond “If any of you f-ing p-ks move I’ll execute every m-f-ing last one of you!”
    … I’m guessing that would discourage her? :-S

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I’d pay good money to see this happen. Or at least for you to start calling her Pumpkin.

  30. Parenthetically*

    Swear to God, thanks to all these letters and scenarios lately, the next person who says “must be nice” around me is going to get a psyche-altering sh!tstorm of Teacher Voice Lecturing for DAYS.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I like to respond to “must be nice” as if the person were being sincere. So in this case, I’d say “Yes, it IS awfully nice that our company provides a lactation room where I can pump and eat lunch at the same time. It’s very convenient.”

  31. essEss*

    For your cats, why do you need someone to check on them EVERY day? They have a litter box, and you can purchase a food/water dispenser so that they can be fed over a longer time. That would cut down your expenses. You could pay someone to come in once every other day or even every 3rd day. If you do every 3rd day, you’d only need someone to come in once in the middle of the time you are gone.

    1. Memily*

      That’s my thought–my old roommate had two cats and if she was going to be gone for an extended period of time and I wasn’t available for pet care she would leave out extra food and have someone check in every 2-3 days. Daily check-ins aren’t usually necessary for cats like they are for dogs, but ymmv.

      1. Luna*

        It really depends on the cat. Every other day is sometimes fine, but every 3 days isn’t enough.

    2. Morning Glory*

      Yeah, I was thinking the same thing – cats are way more independent than dogs. I recently left my two cats at home when I went on vacation for two weeks with extra litterboxes, a drip water and lots of food – I had someone come twice a week to take care of them, and that rate of care was just fine.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      Not all cats will tolerate this, though. Neither of mine will tolerate not having their litter boxes cleaned daily.

      As noted above, too, automatic feeders can malfunction, and they only work with dry food.

      But, really, if companies start asking you travel a lot and don’t either cover this or give you a raise enough to cover it, they’re jerks.

      1. essEss*

        I have to politely disagree with a couple comments. There are also automatic water dispensers for cats as well. I did a quick google search to make sure I wasn’t remembering incorrectly and many products showed up. Based on the logic that companies need to give a raise to cover pets when you travel more, would you expect an employee with children to get more money than a childless employee making the same trips just because the employee with children has to pay for childcare? The choice to have pets is not a cost that should be incurred by the company.

        If your cat really can’t handle a litter box for more than a day, there are also self-cleaning litter boxes that would also be a small investment but would be cheaper than a daily person checking in.

        1. Luna*

          I wouldn’t expect a company to cover these costs specifically, though if a job changed from very little travel to moderate/significant travel I think a raise would be in order regardless of any pet or childcare costs. Even if no extra costs are involved, traveling for work is a hassle; employees with lots of travel duties should be compensated more for it.
          That being said, in the OP’s situation I’m not sure that 4 times a year is quite enough to qualify. I guess it depends on how long those trips usually are though.

      1. Morning Glory*

        I know a lot of people are bringing their own personal experiences with their pets to this thread based on their cats’ personalities… but do you mean you need to monitor your cats as they eat every single time you feed them to prevent one from stealing the other’s food? That sounds exhausting. My cats eat a bit then leave, then go back and eat some more; takes a couple of hours usually for them to eat all of their food.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          No kidding. I can see that a person may have this kind of cat situation, but there’s absolutely no reason to presume that all cats need this kind of monitoring.

  32. Widgeon*

    #1- I have never heard it to be the norm to have any kind of care (kid, pet) reimbursed. Is this a thing? I have always had to pay out-of-pocket for evening/weekend/conference childcare. I would assume this should be factored into people’s budgets before taking a position. It would be an amazing option for sure though.

    1. Kate*

      I don’t think it is a thing, and certainly if you know the job is going to require a lot of travel, that’s something to consider before accepting the position. But as the OP mentions, jobs can change. I had a similar situation to the OP’s where I took a job with very infrequent travel, and then it got ramped up to trips nearly once a month. I had a dog and no friends in the area, so I needed to pay to board her and also was constantly reminding people that they couldn’t tell me on a Friday that I needed to fly somewhere the next Monday because I needed to make arrangements for my dog. I can understand the OP’s frustration, but I agree that reimbursement for pet care isn’t a thing. I would usually just eat cheaply, and use some of my per diem to go towards pet care.

      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        That happened to me too. I got a puppy when I traveled once a year, maybe. Then about 3 months after I got the puppy I was pulled into a different group and my travel went up to 20-50%.

        My spouse has a weird work schedule (24 hour shifts, rotating days) so at first we were going to be a very lucrative customer of the doggy daycare we enrolled the pup in. We got super lucky that our retired neighbors love dogs and have semi adopted her, so she stays with them when I’m traveling and the spouse is working.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I love this solution. A friend who travels internationally for work did a similar thing, shared a dog with the elderly man next door.

        2. Kate*

          I love this too. I used to have friends around who offered to watch her, but they became increasingly unreliable, so I finally had to give in and start boarding her. I cried SO MUCH the first time I dropped her off, but I would board her at the vet, so I knew if she had an emergency, they would be on top of it, and when I came to pick her up, she basically had to go around and say goodbye to each and every one of them. So I knew she was in good hands.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Our dogs pop happily out of the car at the boarding kennel and bounce in, tails wagging, so I can tell it’s a fun trip to the dog hotel in their view.

  33. Uranus wars*

    I jump right to “I don’t know that I’d call lactating while hooked up to a machine the greatest lunch experience I’ve ever had.”

  34. JessaBee*

    OP3 – I haven’t seen this addressed yet, but I’m focused on this statement:

    I’ve gotten some hostile looks from both people I know also use the room, and people who don’t, when I go into the pumping room with my lunch bag.

    I think you can tell the people who aren’t using the room to suck it (by, you know, not addressing your personal matters with them because it’s NOTB). However, I do think it’s worth addressing it with the people who are using the room.

    You’re not bringing in microwaved fish for lunch, right? I kid, but seriously if the odors of your lunch are lingering in a room that other people are using to express milk or pray, you might need to figure out a new lunch arrangement. Because yes you are using the room completely appropriately, but you do need to be respectful of the other people using the room.

    If there issue is just with the optics of it, I kindly invite them to join everyone else giving you side-eye in the go-suck-an-egg category.

    I do sympathize – I’m currently pumping 3x a day and try to do one of my session over my lunch break. But, I have to pump at my desk, in my shared office, so I’m trying really hard to be aware of the other staff using that space.

    Good luck! And remember, even if your coworkers are making an unpleasant task a little more unpleasant, you’re your best for your baby and that’s what really matters.

    1. Alica*

      The OP states in the letter that “I don’t bring in anything that might smell (nothing hot at all, nothing with a strong odor like tuna salad, I stick to cold deli meat sandwiches, carrot sticks with hummous, that sort of thing”. So that’s not the issue.

      1. essEss*

        Personally, I can smell hummus and cold sandwiches so I don’t think you can eat in a small room and be completely aroma-free. Using the room as a prayer/quiet room, I would think that smelling the remains of food (even faint) would be distracting. I understand wanting to eat lunch while lactating, but I do think it would be unfair to the others using the room for meditation/prayer (especially during Ramadan when the person praying has been fasting).

        1. OP3*

          Hmm. I’ve been trying very hard to stick to things that dont have a strong smell, but possibly someone else can smell them? I’m in the room right now pumping (!) And maybe when I’m done I’ll go stick my nose in a bag of coffee beans to reset my senses then come back and see if I can smell anything. I know when I was pregnant and using the room for naps to make it through the workday, the odor of some people’s cologne was vomot-inducing (literally). So I’m trying to be conscientious about that.

          It’s also not a super tiny room. It’s probably 10 feet by feet? Theres room for a twin bed, a desk, armchair, small fridge, and a large storage cabinet in here. It’s like twice the size of my cubicle

          Any suggestions for less odorous food?

        2. tangerineRose*

          I think people are being obnoxious because they don’t realize the OP is also pumping.

      2. JessaBee*

        Agreeing with essEss, those items do smell – especially when eaten in a small, closed room of unknown ventilation. It’s still worth investigating on the OPs part.

        1. Pika*

          Everything smells. Everything has a smell. It’s the strength of the smell that should really matter.

    2. Close Bracket*

      People really shouldn’t eat around optical set ups. They are too sensitive; even the cleaning could misalign something that you don’t notice until the next time you turn on the laser, you could miss a speck that’s not visible to the eye. I’d be pissed if I had to realign my optics bc someone ate their lunch around them. Of course, it would be really weird to put optics in a lactation room anyway, so I don’t see that being a problem.

    3. Quickbeam*

      Our lactation room became off limits to eating after one user consistently brought strong smelling foods in. The odor lingered and made a different user sick.

  35. Cheeky*

    What provision of the law says that salaried exempt workers are not entitled to time to pump? I’m very confused by that, unless she works for a company with <50 people. My understanding is that the ACA has provisions for exempt employees.

    1. Kate*

      The exempt most likely refers to the explanation of lunch, taking it while pumping so she doesn’t need to work more than a flat 8 hours.

    2. McWhadden*

      No, the ACA provision only covers those who are considered non-exempt under the FLSA

    3. turquoises*

      I was confused by the exempt piece too… from the standpoint that, don’t pumping mothers need a dedicated *space* to pump regardless of how their work hours & breaks are structured? Do companies really not have to provide a pumping room to salaried exempt employees, and if so where do they pump?

      1. OP3*

        There’s no law that requires providing a space to salaried exempt employees, nor a law that says you have to be allowed time to use it if, say, your boss wants you to run 8 hours of back to back meetings.

        Massachusetts just passed a state law requiring space for all lactating employees regardless of exempt status, but as far as I know the other 49 states have no such protections.

        It’s been a huge topic of discussion in my alumnae network.

        Anyway, I threw that in there to head off questions about whether having a multipurpose quiet room is legal (dunno if it is for non exempt, but that’s irrelevant to me) or whether combining breaks is legal (again I dunno since I haven’t had a legally protected lunch break in almost twenty years).

    4. essEss*

      I did a google search for “pumping law exempt” and found this code> which says
      “Who is entitled to reasonable break time and a space for expressing breast milk at work under the law?
      ANSWER: The federal law provides that employees who work for employers covered by the FLSA and are not exempt from section 7 […] are entitled to breaks to express milk”

      There is more information in that answer in the […] in the link but I posted the main part.

  36. Sara without an H*

    OP#2: Honey bunny?? HONEY BUNNY? What the french toast…
    Alison’s script should work — myself, I’d probably resort to “bless your heart,” rather than “you’re so sweet,” accompanied by a patently false smile.
    Why women choose to undermine each other this way at work is something I’ll never understand.

  37. Betsy Bobbins*

    I called my male co-worker Honey Bunny once, very accidentally, and I was mortified. We were on the phone, I was mildly distracted and looking at a picture of my daughter and said, “Well ok Honey Bunny, I’ve got to get going, I’ll talk to you later”. As soon as I hung up I realized what I had said, stared at the phone in paralyzed silence for a few minutes and called back apologized. We were pretty friendly with one another so it ended up becoming an inside joke between us, he would even sign off e-mails after that as H.B.

  38. Lisa L*

    LW #3 – You sound like an excellent multitasker. It is a shame that you don’t have enough time in your day to eat while you’re not attached to a machine. I’m sure that’s not a relaxing break. But you need to eat, and Baby needs to eat. It’s nobody’s business what you’re doing in there. You have a right to privacy. Don’t let a bunch of busybodies make you feel otherwise. Take care of yourself and Baby. Good luck

  39. Indie*

    OP3, What is WRONG with people? How bitter and joyless do you have to be to have a problem with seeing someone efficiently feeding her baby, herself, and hitting her job targets and getting home handy? I’d cheer if you were my colleague. Do they have to eat lunch at the bottom of a gym’ s laundry basket? With ….each other? Or do they just despise a happy person who’s balancing the plates? Id be tempted to respond with “Ohhhh its lovely” and just let them suck on their own sour lips.

  40. CMF*

    I have an employee in her 70s who calls everyone – me, the owner, coworkers, clients – EVERYONE honey, babe, sweetie, doll, kiddo. No idea how to get her to stop. It’s a habit and I know she means no harm but I fear she’s alienating clients who don’t appreciate such familiarity.

  41. E.*

    OP#1 and other pet owners – Have you ever looked into house sitting? One of my coworkers lives alone and always has house sitters come take care of his dogs and house while he’s out of town (you don’t pay for it, the sitters just get to stay in your house for free). He said its saved him tons in boarding costs and all the sitters have been great people.

    1. Starbuck*

      I would be skeptical of the quality of care from someone who isn’t getting paid, unless they’re a close friend. Maybe this varies regionally, but where I live (lots of retired people taking extended vacations) house sitting is a stay in the house, water some plants, maybe bring in the mail kind of situation. Might or might not be paid, but understood that there’s no pet involved. Pet-sitting can include all that, but there’s also a pet at the house that you’re walking, feeding etc. and around here, definitely a paid thing. Still way cheaper than boarding though, around here the going rate for staying at the house with one dog would be ~ $20/day.

  42. Foon*

    I’m a little tardy to the party but I’ve been in lw#2’s shoes. I’m young, and look even younger. That, coupled with a high pitched voice and a touch of shyness means I come across, without meaning to, as someone who needs to be taken under a wing, as opposed to someone competent who can take on leadership roles and coach others. I once worked with a receptionist who had taken to calling me “Sweet Pea”. I was a contract employee at the time but I had hopes of being hired as a full-time employee at a later date. This was at a law firm, so I really needed to gain the respect and trust of a small office of experienced attorneys. Having their receptionist refer to me as “Sweet Pea” was not the way to do that. The receptionist was someone with a strong personality who did not take the slightest feedback well- not even from her direct manager, let alone from me- the most junior person in the office. I finally got up the nerve to ask her to stop calling me that- she was a little off-put, but recovered quickly by saying that if I didn’t like “Sweet Pea”, she would call me “insert equally saccharine nickname here”! Problem solved! So I had to prolong an uncomfortable conversation an additional five minutes why I explained why that was also unacceptable and what I was trying to accomplish by insisting I be called by my actual name. I think she was still a little offended that I was rejecting her “friendship” but she couldn’t really come up with a justification so we were able to move on.

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