can I ask my husband’s boss not to renew someone’s contract, keeping personal files at work

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

1. Can I ask my husband’s boss not to renew someone’s contract?

My husband told me that he and a contractor had an affair while on a company trip. This contractor’s contract is due to expire in a few months. Can I ask my husband’s boss to not renew the contractors contract for personal reasons (to save my marriage) without it bouncing back on my husband?

No, you definitely cannot. First of all, you shouldn’t be having any contact with your husband’s boss about anything, unless it’s to say that your husband is in the hospital or something like that. But beyond that, it would be incredibly inappropriate for you to try to interfere with someone else’s employment, or with your husband’s employer’s hiring decisions, because of issues in your marriage. It would reflect really poorly on your husband … and a decent employer wouldn’t take your opinion into account anyway. Do not do this.

This is between you and your husband, and needs to stay that way.

2. Keeping a file of personal items at work

I’ve seen some great videos on having a tidy workspace and I’ve shared them with my team (I like a clean, neat workspace and I try to lead by example). I wonder what others feel about personal items in your workspace. By personal items, I don’t mean a picture of your family or a box of tea. I’ve worked in two positions where one of my admins has dedicated an unlocked file cabinet drawer to organize their life – from healthcare claims, credit card bills, and mortgage information to court information on a divorce in progress. If I’ve discovered this drawer while looking for a copy of something, how many others have discovered this, and how many have been nosey enough to have a good read? Any thoughts on this?

It’s not something you should intervene in as their manager. But if I were advising the person doing it, I’d suggest that they not keep such a file at work, at least not if they want to keep the info private. It’s normal to have some of that stuff there temporarily, like bringing a bill to work because you needed to call your credit card company about it that day, or having some paperwork there while you were in the process of applying of a mortgage, because there’s often back and forth on that during business hours. But if they’re keeping a permanent “personal documents” file at work, there’s no guarantee of privacy, or even a guarantee that it won’t somehow get accidentally thrown out in some office purge that they’re not full control of. And  it’s going to look a little odd if someone comes across it, as you did; it reads as “I’m managing my entire personal life from work on the regular.”

But it’s not really something for you as their boss to be dictating. I would also lay off sending the videos about clean workspaces; focus on the work.

3. My employer told me to express breastmilk in my car

I’m in my mid 30’s and just started a family. I work in an offsite sales office that is currently being remodeled. Our sales office has around 60 employees. While I have a private office now where I can shut my door, when the remodel is completed, I will have an open cube and all quiet rooms will all have glass walls.

My problem is that I am due to give birth before the remodel is completed and will be back in the office after it is completed. I plan on breastfeeding, which means I will need to pump during the day. Our remodel does not allow for private space — our conference rooms and kitchen will be glass walls. When I brought this to HR, I was told my manager approved the space and that if I need to pump, i can do so in my car or bathroom. I’m not happy with this answer and feel like being told to pump in a bathroom or my car is illegal. Am I off base here or not? I work in Connecticut and am an exempt, salaried director.

People don’t always realize that the federal law requiring employers to provide a private space for pumping (which cannot be a bathroom and which must have a door that locks) only applies to non-exempt workers. However, many states have passed additional protections, and fortunately yours is one of them. Connecticut state law requires that employers “make reasonable efforts to provide a room or other location, in close proximity to the work area, other than a toilet stall, where the employee can express her milk in private,” and that covers exempt workers too. I’d show them this and propose that one easy way of complying with the law would be to simply hang curtains in one of those quiet rooms and keep them up as long as needed.

4. My employee scares the crap out of me by not knocking

I am a manager and have a recurring issue with one of my team members. When he comes to my office to discuss something, rather than knock on the door or speak to announce his presence, he will just walk in without making a sound (carpeted floors, soft shoes) and stand there in silence until I notice. My desk does not face the door and when I am engaged in a task, I tend to be very focused. I usually jump half out of my skin when I finally become aware of his presence!

I’ve asked him to please say something or knock when he enters but he responds that he doesn’t want to interrupt me. I guess he’d rather give me a heart attack than interrupt my typing! How do I get through to him? I am considering giving him the same treatment!

Revisit it with him and this time be firmer about it. Say something like, “I appreciate that you don’t want to interrupt me, but I do want you to knock or say hello when you come to my door rather than waiting for me to notice you. Otherwise I don’t always see you right away, and it can be jarring when I finally do. So, please just knock.”

It’s unlikely that he’ll flatly refuse when you put it this way, but if he does, then say: “I’m telling you this with my manager hat on — start knocking. Thanks.”

5. During layoffs, is it better to jump ship or gamble on sticking it out?

My employer is facing a sudden, unexpected loss of a significant source of revenue next year. They have been pretty transparent with us about what happened and have announced that staff will be impacted, meaning layoffs, but we don’t know who, when, or how many yet.

They’re still trying to get a handle on the budget situation, and have also told us they would offer severance. We have no idea how the layoffs are going to be decided. I’m not the newest member of my team, but I haven’t been here two years yet.

With so much uncertainty, what makes the most sense to do? Start looking for another job now? I’ve already taken a look at our household finances and where we could trim. I like this job and would like to stay, but I also don’t want to go through months of layoffs or being anxious every Friday or whenever my boss needs to meet with me. I know this is sort of like asking you to look into a crystal ball, but what do you think is the best course of action?

Start job searching now. You won’t necessarily need a new job, but job searches can take a while and by starting now, you’ll have a head start that you’ll be grateful for if you do get laid off. And you don’t need to accept a job if one’s offered to you; if you’re still employed when that happens, you can decide at that point whether you prefer the new job or the old one, along with any uncertainty that still might be attached to it.

And read these tips for what to do if you’re laid off, and these tips on how to prepare if you think you’re going to be fired (which is different from being laid off, but a lot of the advice in that piece still applies).

{ 543 comments… read them below }

  1. Sami*

    Oh OP 1 — Alison is correct. You absolutely cannot do this. The issue is between you and your husband. You have to work it out with him. (Or not, I suppose, but definitely not with his employer. )

    1. Engineer Girl*

      I’m pretty sure this would fall under gender based discrimination. As Alison said, you can’t interfere with someone’s employement this way.
      I had the girlfriend of a good friend of mine demand that he not speak to me (she was a super unreasonable jealous type). Fortunately he continued to speak to me and let me know of her demands. We were assigned to work together on the same project even though we were in different companies. If he had refused to work with me you better believe I’d be dragging EEOC into it.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yes. In addition to this being extremely inappropriate, terminating the contractor’s contract because of an illicit relationship with a married employee raises all sorts of legal liability concerns. I don’t think it rises to gender discrimination (particularly because Title VII does not apply to all contractors), but choosing a non-justifiable, non-business-related reason to mess with this person’s livelihood is an invitation to legal trouble.

        1. Snark*

          Oh boy. Usually I agree wholeheartedly with you, PCBH, but you’re way off base here. First off, this is a contract renewal, not a termination. Secondly, I think this is a totally justifiable and defensible, business-related reason to decline to continue a business relationship with a contractor – I would not want a contractor around who thought it was a good idea to sleep with my employees!

          OP cannot involve herself in this, of course, but there is no liability angle to this at all.

          1. Emily K*

            They were two coworkers who had an affair, but only the contractor is to be punished for sleeping with “your” employee? I’ll admit I don’t have a ton of experience with mixed employee/contractor workplaces and maybe it’s a normal policy to say that employees and contractors can’t fraternize with each other or to prohibit contractors specifically from fraternizing with employees? But this seems really weird to me to punish one of two parties in a consensual relationship between peers because they have a different employment status.

            1. Snark*

              Because a contractor really shouldn’t be schtupping people who might have a voice in whether their contract is retained or not, for example, or who might have review and approval authority over their deliverables, or who might be in a position to review their contract performance. Gives the impression of a quid pro quo, feel me? If I lost a contract to another contractor, and I learned that contractor had been in an ongoing relationship with a client…..well, maybe I misspoke above, because there’s for damnsure a liability angle there! I’ve seen contracts awards get challenged for less.

              Don’t get me wrong, if I were the boss here, I’d be disciplining the husband too, for the same reasons. But it would be eminently defensible and reasonable to not reup the contract.

              1. Emily K*

                I guess the main experience I have with this is that all the admin staff at my employer are contractors hired through a staffing company instead of directly employed by employer, so it seems weird to think that dating the admin staff is prohibited.

                1. JM in England*

                  Couldn’t the impression of quid pro quo also be interpreted as a conflict of interests?

              2. Chalupa Batman*

                My “I wonder” on this one is whether the boss even knows about the affair. It sounds pretty fresh. When you’re dealing with a recent betrayal, it can seem important (even appealing) to tell someone who has power to take some kind of action, even if it’s really none of their business. OP may be thinking or assuming the boss knows because it hasn’t occurred to them that something so important to their life may not be on the radar of everyone in the husband’s.

              3. The Other Katie*

                It didn’t sound to me like that was the case. It’s the mutual boyfriend’s boss that has power over contract renewal/termination, not the mutual boyfriend. Sleeping with anyone in your direct line of commend (up or down) is not typically a good idea, but sleeping with coworkers happens. Only punishing one of the 1+n people involved in such a situation would be unfair.

              4. Gazebo Slayer*

                Speaking as someone who’s been a temp for years: generally the power dynamic is such that the contractor is in a less senior, less powerful, and less respected position than permanent employees. A perm employee sleeping with a temp they have authority over is very likely sexual harassment, and the temp being fired when the relationship goes sour (or the perm employee’s spouse/partner finds out about it!) looks very, very much like retaliation. Or just blaming everything on the less powerful/more expendable person.

                Especially in the #metoo era, this is not a good look.

            2. The Original K.*

              I’ve been a contractor and I’ve been an employee who works with contractors and there’s never been any such rule that I’m aware of. There have been some workplaces that treat contractors as less than and so employees DON’T fraternize with contractors, but there’s no rule stating that they CAN’T. I worked in one place that used a lot of contractors, often for long periods of time (HR would periodically issue a “Fish or cut bait by x date” declaration re: contractors who had been there six months or more), and you often had no idea who was a contractor and who wasn’t.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I don’t think there’s employment discrimination/Title VII at play in any way (and certainly no EEOC claim), and in most cases, declining to renew a contractor for carrying on a sexual relationship with a married employee would be entirely defensible and would not create any legal liability for the party that declines to renew the contract. For the most part, there’s no legal risk between OP’s husband’s employer and the contractor if the employer declines to renew their contract.

          But because OP has a non-business-related reason for attempting to interfere with the contract renewal (however justified or unjustified), this is one of the very rare occasions when tortious interference might actually apply.

      2. an actual employment lawyer*

        Alison, could there please be a rule about giving incorrect legal advice or talking about laws which don’t apply? This would not fall under gender discrimination in any way and the EEOC would have nothing to do with this complaint and couldn’t do anything if they wanted to. Giving the wrong advice could be harmful to the letter writer and it should not be allowed here. There could be legal issues but gender discrimination is NOT one of them and there is no case for it.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t think it’s a workable rule since presumably no one is knowingly giving incorrect legal advice, so everyone would think it doesn’t apply to them. Generally it gets corrected pretty quickly though.

          1. Kuododi*

            Personally, my rule of thumb is if I am discussing issues regarding my past dealing in Family Law and Child Custody I make a point to clarify I am only referring to my personal experience within one jurisdiction at a certain time in my past. I always stress my lack of legal qualifications. (My counseling licensing board is probably not hunting me down for my posts on an anonymous web page. My training however, was very strict on these issues and this is how I default to deal with the concerns to my satisfaction.

          2. Lawyer*

            But the fact is, if you aren’t a lawyer, you shouldn’t dispense legal advice.

            Just like one who isn’t a doctor should not dispense medical advice.

            Or those who aren’t psychologists or psychiatrists shouldn’t diagnose mental health disorders.

            Why a separate rule in the case of legal matters?

            If you aren’t a professional, you shouldn’t state your opinion as a fact.

            It’s quite easy to restate the point by asking if something might be an issue instead of stating that it is one.

            “This is an EEOC actionable offensive” v “Does this fall under the EEOC?”

            You’ve been pushing back lately on off topic comments and on people assuming facts not in evidence.

            So why are you ok with people assuming expertise they clearly do not possess?

            It’s not harmless. I’m sure every atttorney in here can tell you they have gotten cases where people screwed themselves up badly because of bad internet advice.

            If the whole point is to give the OP actionable advice, why in earth are you ok w this?

            I realize you cannot stop it entirely, but not giving advice on matters that require professional training and licensing is not too much to ask.

            Yes, people aren’t knowingly giving bad advice. They are knowingly giving advice they aren’t qualified to give. They know they aren’t lawyers just as I know I’m not a doctor.

            It is legally no different than a lay person dispensing medical advice.

            I guess you think it’s ethically and practically distinct.

            It isn’t.

            It is harmful on occasion.

            It isn’t actually helpful to the OP. Isn’t that the whole point of the site?

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              No one should take legal advice from an anonymous person on the internet. Also, laws vary depending on the jurisdiction, so what is correct in one place may be incorrect in another.

            2. Colette*

              Based on that rule, Alison couldn’t mentio FMLA – she’s not a lawyer, it’s a law, and it’s only the law in one (large) jurisdiction.

            3. LarsTheRealGirl*

              There’s actually benefit to some of the incorrect legal information in the comments, as lawyers and those who know better are quick to jump in and correct, and thereby help to dispel some pervasive “legal” information that others would continue to believe if it wasn’t mentioned.

              I.e. It’s illegal to ask about family and kids during an interview. It’s illegal to fire people because of blue hair. Your employer can just decide you’re exempt – and so forth.

              1. Database Developer Dude*

                I actually just had to bring that up at work. We interviewed someone, and one of my colleagues in the interview asked the candidate when he graduated from college. I had to point out that while it isn’t illegal to ask that, we are not allowed to base hiring decisions on that.

                1. Barney Stinson*

                  I thought that the worry about graduation dates was around high school, because you can reasonably derive someone’s age from that. People graduate from college all over the age-spectrum, so it doesn’t give one’s age away so reliably.

                2. Not a Mere Device*

                  @Barney: You can’t get an exact age from college graduation year, but there’s a wide range of graduation years that make it pretty clear that the person is over 40, at which point federal rules about age discrimination come into effect.

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I never thought of it that way, but that’s excellent framing. The most common offenders are completely misunderstanding what “hostile work environment” means and how it works, and confusion about what “protected class” means. I think Alison tackled some of the common misconceptions around certain management vocab, and I find those posts super helpful.

            4. Lawyertoo*

              I am a lawyer too and there are levels to it.

              We do see a lot of letters here people fail to understand certain laws (“We can’t fire Bill even though he has stolen from us because he is disabled and the ADA protects him”). Perpetuating common legal myths is a problem. Correcting those on this forum is also common.

              But you don’t have to be a lawyer to understand or realize you are protected under certain statutes, like the breastfeeding example above.

              Not to mention for a hard case any lawyer worth their salt is not going to give an internet opinion based on limited facts. That is bad lawyering. As a lawyer you should also be aware that dispensing legal advice on the internet could, depending on the circumstances, be an ethical violation for an attorney.

              Perpetuating legal myths is bad, as is making blanket statements on complex issues. But a full “Don’t talk about the law if you’re not a lawyer” is excessive.

              Just like, hey, I shouldn’t be diagnosing cancer, but I am qualified to deal with your scraped knee or bloody nose.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Right. We talk about legal stuff here all the time because it’s highly relevant when you’re talking about work questions (see the pumping question above, for example). There’s no way for me to prevent people from talking about legal issues, and it would be a moderation nightmare to try. “Don’t take anonymous internet strangers’ legal advice as gospel” would be a better rule.

              2. GreyLady*

                Also, just because you don’t have a law degree doesn’t mean that you aren’t well versed in certain legal aspects. In my role, I’m not a lawyer, don’t need a law degree, but I have expertise in understanding what the laws related to my industry mean. See also: many in human resources, CPAs, compliance, etc., etc. I know more about the laws in my particular industry than lawyers outside of my industry, so my advice shouldn’t be discounted, because it comes without a law degree, in the same way that a lawyer with no knowledge in my area shouldn’t give advice about it.

            5. Fin Shepard*

              I totally agree. No different than practicing medicine without a license, or not armchair diagnosing mental conditions. Wanting to interfere at someone else’s place of employment out of desperation to save your message is bad regardless of legal implications, if any. Besides, it’s not the contractor that is the problem in OP’s marriage, she is just the symptom. Best wishes to the OP, but try counseling with your husband if he is willing. Or for yourself if he isn’t. I know the pain of infidelity and the out of control feelings it generates, but the problem is between the two people in the marriage.

            6. Important Moi*

              “I guess you think it’s ethically and practically distinct.
              It isn’t.
              It is harmful on occasion.
              It isn’t actually helpful to the OP. Isn’t that the whole point of the site?”

              Woah….I was with you until you went there. I think Alison does her best here.

              1. boo bot*

                Also, in fairness, there are different levels of medical advice!

                “That sounds like a thing I once had and you might want to see a real-life doctor”

                “You might want to find out if the cheap, asbestos-flavored coffee your office has switched to contains real asbestos, and then maybe see a real-life doctor.”

                “Your cousin’s boss has zombie plague and you should put her in an isolation chamber along with everyone she’s already bitten!”

                I think legal advice has similar gradations.

            7. Positive Reframer*

              Also, it is incorrect to assume that all people with a professional certification give correct information while those with no professional certification give incorrect information. People can know things without being board certified. And that is mainly in place so that people can be held accountable for potentially life ruining guidance/treatment. So if a professional is dispensing professional advice wouldn’t it be best for them to identify themselves?

              I do think that it would probably be good practice for commenters to provide background for the advice they are giving. Are they a professional? Have they been a part of a similar situation? Is this an area that they have researched and could perhaps provide some links or other resources?

              Overall the tenor is usually along the lines of “hey that might actually be illegal you should talk to a lawyer or otherwise take this seriously”

              1. Kuododi*

                I actually am a licensed mental health counselor in my local jurisdiction in SE USA. On an anonymous web page I can’t give treatment information including diagnosis bc I haven’t taken a full clinical history and evaluation. Doing so would be unethical and completely irresponsible to the person in question. The most one should ever do in a situation like that is give general information for educational purposes and provide local referrals for appropriate follow up. Hope that helps!!!

            8. BethRA*

              Giving an OP actionable advice – including in the post in question – often touches on legal issues. If only lawyers can do that 95% of this site (and a sizeable chunk of many of our job functions) goes away. It’s just not a reasonable standard at this level.

            9. Dr. Pepper*

              While I agree with you in theory (I am in a field where everyone is an “expert” and will happily give out terrible, wrong-headed advice on that subject all day), I have to say that it’s not very practical. People give advice on things they’re unqualified to give advice on every day. Often, people don’t know exactly what to do or who to go to, and are afraid of wasting a professional’s time on something possibly trivial. Or they don’t know how to frame the situation to said professional to even go about getting advice. So they turn to the internet to get some sort of consensus, or simply the personal experiences of others on such matters to help guide their next steps.

              A better thing would be don’t take advice from anonymous strangers on the internet as gospel. Use the advice given as a staring point and seek out the appropriate professionals if such actions are warranted.

              1. Michaela Westen*

                Also, use the advice as ideas for your own research. Always do your own research to see if the ideas expressed have some validity. If possible, go to the source to determine the truth.
                An example: There are a lot of renters where I live, and I am one. For many years I heard people saying there was a law that a landlord couldn’t evict a tenant if their lease expired but they still paid rent, and I believed this because we have very strong tenant laws.
                When I was in a situation where I considered doing this, I checked with our tenants organization, and it wasn’t true! I’d been hearing about this for around 20 years, and it had never been true.
                So always check the source, or take advice from a professional!

                1. Loud Noises*

                  There is a saying in the military, an institution rife with rumors, to “trust but verify”. And then there is my mother’s personal favorite, “consider the source.” I think both apply here

                2. Kikishua*

                  I am also a huge believer in “trust but verify” in everthing – partly because my usual instinct is to trust… and that has led me into Situations.

              2. Indoor Cat*

                Yes! This is a much more concise version of what I was trying to say. Internet advice can be a good starting point, even medical or law advice; just shouldn’t be an end point.

            10. Someone Else*

              The point isn’t that it’s OK when people give bad advice, the point is it’s unenforceable to prevent them from doing so. Other than trolls, people are saying things they think are true. As Alison pointed out, people are going to think they’re right and say it anyway. Even if the rule were “if you’re not a lawyer don’t say stuff about legal matters” people will think “well I’m not a lawyer but Iknow X because of my personal experience with Y so I’ll just say it anyway because no one knows if I’m a lawyer or not”. Based on your argument, the existing comments request to only give actionable advice already applies to the objectionable comments. Spelling it out even more isn’t likely to change much in the long run (although based on my experience running websites, it might actually create an even greater need for moderation which is worse).

            11. KiwiDog*

              Keep in mind that Engineer Girl is talking about a different permutation where a male coworker might refuse to talk to her about a work project and said: “If he had refused to work with me you better believe I’d be dragging EEOC into it.”

              Regardless of which laws might or might not be appropriate in the OPs and EGs scenarios, a person does have a right to go to HR and discuss whether or not any laws are being broken and what recourse is available.

              1. KiwiDog*

                Ha…adding to my own comment to say “…but the WIFE does not have the right to go to HR…”

            12. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              First, it may be helpful to search the site for previous discussions re: the wisdom of non-lawyers dispensing advice. Alison is super thoughtful and has engaged in pretty nuanced conversations about it in the comments, and that may help answer many of your questions.

              On topic: I’ve brought up the bevy of incorrect legal advice in the past and am resigned to the fact that it’s not a workable rule to dissuade people from opining on the law, even when they are very very wrong. Additionally, there are some non-lawyer commenters (often HR and compliance folks) who are way more well-versed in areas of employment law who frequently comment, and their comments often add value and are legally accurate.

              I’ve instead resigned myself to frequently saying, “No, this is not a legal problem” or “no, there’s no claim” or “no, that’s not how this works” when folks dispense spurious legal advice. I do the same thing with comments that suggest someone confer with a lawyer when there’s no benefit to doing so.

            13. IndoorCat*

              I’ve gotten medical advice from non-doctors on the internet that I’ve followed up on and it was genuinely helpful.

              Obviously there’s a difference between bad advice on “what to do if you get shot” versus “what is causing xyz symptom” (when multiple things might cause it). In my case, an internet stranger on a forum dedicated to support for certain mental illnesses pointed to a study, published in nimh, showing that 20 percent of patients who took a med I took experienced the fairly extreme symptom I was experiencing.

              I’d been going to doctors for almost two years trying to resolve the issue and rule out what it could be, and literally three days after weaning myself off the med (looping in my primary care physician and taking precautions in case of withdrawal, which seemed unlikely) I felt amazingly better.

              Now, eventually I did have to replace that med with a different one, since my underlying condition was still a problem. But that relief was amazing, and none of the doctors caught on that my suffering was caused by that drug.

              At any rate, I know enough people who have gotten advice from non-doctors and then followed up– gotten a test, tried or discontinued a med, sought out a particular kind of specialist– and got a life-saving diagnoses or immensely relieved their pain that I am very, very pro people giving (solicited) medical advice if they think they have a shot at puzzling something out.

        2. Batty Twerp*

          Possibly unworkable – the UK doesn’t have “Title VII”, for example, and while I agree that there doesn’t seem to be gender discriminiation here (are we assuming binary orientation here? I couldn’t see that the contractor’s gender was mentioned), there may be other legal advice given that’s legitimate in one country, and not in another. It’s a bit broad brushstrokes.

          1. Nanani*

            This. The couple and contractor could all be the same gender, and it would still be ethically gross to jeopardize the contractor’s employment based on the couple’s problems.

        3. Michaela Westen*

          A person who needs legal advice should consult an attorney themselves. All they can get from general internet discussion is an idea of it, at best.

      3. Cordoba*

        1) As others have pointed out, this is wrong.

        2) The letter gives no indication of the gender of the person with whom the husband had an affair, anyway.

      4. Snark*

        This is not gender discrimination and would not involve EEOC. A client can choose not to renew a contract for any reason, good or bad, or none at all, with absolutely no legal ramifications. My last contract, as a contractor, got cancelled because one new person just had the strong opinion that contractors weren’t necessary and that client staff needed to stand on their own. And frankly, “contractor had such a bad sense of professional boundaries that they started a sexual relationship with married client staff” strikes me as a perfectly reasonable and defensible consideration in whether to retain that contractor.

        Now, of course – of course! – OP has absolutely no standing to involve herself in that consideration

        1. Genny*

          Agreed. LW, this situation really sucks, and I’m really sorry you’ve been put in this position. However, you have no standing to make this request to the boss. Even if you worked there, I don’t think you’d have standing to make the request.

          As far as renewing the contract, if I were the employer, the affair would be enough for me not to renew the contract. It’s really bad judgment on both their parts, but unfortunately for the contractor, it’s easier to get rid of her than him, though my experience comes through federal contracting so that may not be true of all contract situations.

          1. Blahblah*

            Hi Genny – I stuck this comment here becaus yours aligned with mine and I got tired of looking for a good place. Under yours is a good place!

            I’ve seen more than a few workplace affairs in my career…. employees with employees/contractors/other companies in the same building/clients, etc. The way I’ve seen this scenario played out in real life more than a few times (Lot of contractor positions associated with my work):

            The contractor’s contract was not renewed because the company deemed his or her judgement and actions unprofessional. No discussion was had with respect to the contractor’s morals or lack there of. The reason for not renewing the contract was provided as “we no longer have need of your services.” If I remember correctly, attempts on the part of the contractor to obtain more detail was met with vagaries like “we are going to develop in-house skills, we are going another way, or we see the role changing/diminishing, etc.” or something of that nature.

            Nothing happens to the employee most of the time except a particular program was reassigned as soon as it made sense to do so. most of the time they don’t provide a reason, and my sense is they don’t because no one knows whether the employee is still in touch with the contractor. From 30 years of working and seeing more than a few workplace affairs, it isn’t uncommon for the affair to continue for much longer than people realize after it is discovered. Lots of people don’t stop. They just take it underground.

            Sometimes, the affair is discovered because the two people aren’t that good at hiding it. Sometimes, the affair is discovered because an angry spouse blows up the secret. I’ve even seen two guys come in and confess to an affair under threat of divorce from their wives. The absolute worst I have encountered is a third-party employee leaving the office and heading into the parking garage to go home and seeing the unforgettable and frankly revolting behaviors of a direct supervisor and his employee. Blech.

            In all cases though, what the spouse has to say about it doesn’t matter a hill of beans. I feel for her too, but you’re so right that this just isn’t something she can affect.

            I am certainly no human resources expert, but sometimes I believe a big factor in deciding what to do in these cases is the contents of the employee handbook and how detailed it is with respect to your workplace relationships and how detailed the contract with a consultant is.

      5. Snark*

        “I’m pretty sure this would fall under gender based discrimination. As Alison said, you can’t interfere with someone’s employement this way.”

        OP cannot. However, declining to reup their contract would be entirely defensible, would not be gender-based discrimination, and would not be legally actionable in really any way I can think of. If the client doesn’t want to sign a new contract with a contractor, the contractor has essentially no recourse to force them to sign a contract with them.

        This is not, not not not not NOT, an employer-employee relationship.

      6. The Rat Catcher*

        This may not even be relevant… The letter does not specify that the contractor or the OP is a woman.

    2. Stormfeather*

      And to add to this: You’re either going to have to trust your husband, or you won’t. In a way this has nothing to do with the contractor: they are not magically the only person your husband could have an affair with if you cannot trust your husband, and if you CAN trust him, then whether the contractor is there or not is a moot point.

      Torpedoing this person’s job is pretty much just revenge: it won’t actually keep your spouse from cheating. And if that is the only thing that would keep your husband from cheating again anyhow, how much point is there to it?

      1. Mad Baggins*

        +1 OP, what’s to stop your husband from cheating on you with the next contractor? This isn’t the solution to your problem.

        Also, I’m sorry this happened to you.

        1. Database Developer Dude*

          That’s an assumption that the reason the husband is cheating is for the sex with someone else. That might not be the case at all. For all we know, the husband could feel like he’s not being fulfilled emotionally.

          1. Ja'am*

            Maybe, but at the same time, if they’re not getting it from their current partner, they’re still going to look for it elsewhere.

          2. JM60*

            “For all we know, the husband could feel like he’s not being fulfilled emotionally.”

            Perhaps. Either way, trying to get rid of this one particular person probably won’t solve the underlying issue.

      2. AcademiaNut*

        I do think that in the aftermath of an affair, asking your partner to keep their distance from the affair partner is perfectly reasonable. Sure, there are possible affair partners everywhere, but it isn’t necessarily a matter randomly looking for someone, anyone to cheat with, and this is a person they have already had an affair with. Rebuilding trust after an affair can be a long, delicate process.

        However, the way to do that is for the husband to apply for new jobs, not to demand that the contractor be fired.

        1. Ender*

          This. The husband is the one who broke a promise, not the contractor. If someone should lose their job for the affair, it should be the husband, not the contractor.

          1. JM60*

            Also, for all we know, the contractor may not have even known that he was married, or might have assumed that he was in an open marriage. It would be unfair to essentially lose your job because someone you slept with was breaking a promise that they made to someone else.

        2. PepperAnn*

          Yep. My friend had an affair earlier this year with a coworker. She and her husband are now trying to work things out. She left her job voluntarily to help get her marriage back on track.

          While she and her husband still have a lot of work to do to determine whether their marriage can be saved or not, I definitely think her leaving, especially without an ultimatum from her husband, was a good step. She is still on the job hunt.

      3. Snickerdoodle*

        Exactly. This isn’t a contractor problem; this is a husband problem. There will always be another person he could cheat with, and you have to treat the source, not the symptom. Marriage counseling, not getting rid of anyone he could ever cheat with, is the better option.

        1. Antilles*

          I disagree – it seems entirely reasonable to me to ask your husband to stay away from the person he’s already cheated with. Yes, there are other women in the world and no, removing her from his life doesn’t mean that he’ll never cheat again. However, the cheating with another different woman is hypothetical; the cheating with *this* woman is actual, which is a big difference.
          I think it’s entirely appropriate for OP to want her out of his life and not have that daily reminder and wondering about their work meetings. However, this isn’t the employer’s issue to solve. If OP wants the husband to cut her out of his life entirely, that’s a reasonable thing for her to ask…but the answer to that isn’t asking the employer to fire her or completely restructure their work duties, it’s OP telling the husband to get a new job.

          1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

            Agree, except that I would upgrade cheating with other women to a “strong hypothetical.” I’m basing this on the twin belief that the other woman deserves punishment (lose her job, humiliated in front of her clients and boss, reputation ruined) and that getting rid of her will solve the problem.

            That says to me that the OP was sold this tired old bill of goods: “One time thing/she came on to me/couple of drinks/work forced us to stay in the same hotel.” It’s an easy story to sell because most people want to believe it so badly. It lets you deflect your anger at your husband’s betrayal onto some outside villain.

            But OP has failed to correctly diagnose the problem. She doesn’t have a “my husband works with women” problem. She has a cheating husband problem.

            Leave this lady alone, OP. She’s not the problem, and God only knows what your husband told her to get her in bed. Cheaters lie by their nature, and he’s not a reliable source.

          2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

            I think in the OP’s shoes I’d insist that my husband get a different job. It’s not fair to try and punish the other party when both of them were at fault.

            1. JM60*

              On the note of “both of them were at fault”, it’s possible that the contractor didn’t know the OP’s husband was married, or may have somehow been under the impression that the husband’s relationship is an open one. Even if they did know that the husband would be cheating, the husband would be the one breaking the promise with the OP, not the contractor. That makes the husband responsible much, much more than the contractor.

          3. Workerbee*

            At risk of falling into the “cheaters gonna cheat” gambit, while it may comfort the wife in a disassociative way if this particular woman were no longer easily accessible, I don’t see the husband’s propensity to cheat with a different woman as a hypothetical. Same job, different job, I’d be prone to treating it as an actuality until/unless the underlying issues get fixed.

      4. Dr. Pepper*

        Alas, yes. This is a matter between OP1 and OP1’s husband and nobody else. It really sucks when a spouse cheats, and it’s natural to want to blame the other person for “stealing them” or “coming between you” because the alternative is pretty awful to contemplate. But the old cliche of it takes two to tango applies here; you cannot steal another person’s spouse. They aren’t a stereo just sitting in your house waiting to be picked up and carried off by an enterprising thief. They’re a human being with agency. Even if the contractor had come onto him strong and tried to seduce him, he could have said no.

      5. Anonymeece*

        This. Also, there’s some messy undercurrents here about the fact that the man, who presumably engaged in this affair consensually, would keep his job, while the woman, who also engaged in this affair presumably consensually, would not.

        While I feel for your situation, OP, and I understand the pain and anger you’re probably feeling right now, this is a marriage issue, not an employment one, and your husband was just as in the wrong as the contractor was.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          +10000 to your first paragraph!

          (Also: the contractor is presumably less powerful and more expendable. Firing her and not the husband is not a good look, especially if he’s in a position of authority over her.)

    3. Lissa*

      Also, asking is not likely to have the result you want anyway. Your husband’s boss is highly unlikely to make employment decisions based on this sort of thing, and is more likely to start having questions about your husband, or speculate on why you’d ask this (it’s not a huge leap to figure out why to be honest.)

      1. Sylvan*

        +1. No matter how valid it seems to you, no boss should be making decisions based on an employee’s spouse’s demands. Imagine if someone else’s partner tried to direct how your husband was managed.

      2. Jen*

        Honestly, I think it would be legitimate to fire OP’s husband for having a sexual relationship with a contractor, certainly if he supervises or oversees the contractor’s work. It shows very poor judgement and violation proper workplace boundaries. This request could get him fired (which OP may personally want but that is a question for a relationship column, not a work one).

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          Yup. If the boss is going to fire someone for adultery, he’s far more likely to fire your husband, or fire both, rather than keep your husband but ditch the contractor. And like others are saying, it’s unlikely that the contractor bewitched him with magic and otherwise he’d have been faithful – you have an unfaithful husband, and if it wasn’t this contractor it’d have been someone else.

          Now I’m not going to say that you 100% shouldn’t try to get the contractor fired just to make yourself feel better – do it if you really want. Yeah, it’s kinda shitty, but hey, the contractor didn’t think “well, I’d really like to do this [bang your husband] but I won’t because it’d hurt [LW],” so you have no obligation to be like “well, I’d really like to do this [get contractor fired] but I won’t because it’d hurt [contractor].” However, bear in mind that it 1.) might not actually get him/her fired, 2.) might get your husband fired, and 3.) isn’t going to solve the underlying problem of the fact that you’re married to a cheater. Also, if you decide to divorce your husband, getting him fired is probably going to hurt your chances of getting a good settlement and will definitely torpedo any chances at an amicable split.

          I’m sorry you’re going through this. I suggest you go to – it’s a support site for people that have been cheated on.

            1. Traffic_Spiral*

              If she knew he was married, she knew there would probably be an upset wife. If she didn’t care about hurting the wife, the wife doesn’t have to care about hurting her.

              1. Baby Fishmouth*

                Well, the contractor didn’t necessarily know that husband was married. The husband could have lied.

                1. Traffic_Spiral*

                  1. When people work together, it’s a pretty reasonable assumption they know each other’s marital status. Absent proof to the contrary, we can assume she knew.

                  2. Why is caring about the wife her responsibility instead of the husband’s? Well, why is it the wife’s responsibility to care about whether getting fired will damage the other woman’s career? That doesn’t mean the wife can’t also be angry at her husband, mind you, but it’s not an either-or situation. She doesn’t have to pick just one. She can be angry at both. And if the wife wants to be angry at the other woman, the wife owes her no more consideration than the other woman first showed her. If you don’t care about hurting someone when pursuing what you want, that person doesn’t have to care about hurting you when pursuing what they want.

                  You can’t claim that you have no obligation to care about the welfare of your boyfriend’s wife, then go “but she should care about my welfare and not do anything that could cause trouble for me.” You bang someone else’s spouse, that spouse doesn’t owe you reasonableness or restraint in return. They’re allowed to act on their baser feelings, just like you did, and be unconcerned with whether their actions will cause you trouble, just like you did.

                2. Colette*

                  I work with plenty of people whose marital status I don’t know. That’s pretty normal, actually. Do you know the marital status of every person you interact with for your job?

                  The wife trying to get the contractor fired is a terrible idea. It won’t solve the problem (if the husband wants to cheat, he’s going to cheat), it shows the wife to be a bitter and vindictive person and will hurt her reputation, it may end with the husband getting fired, and it probably won’t result in the contractor getting fired anyway. And ultimately, the contractor is not the person responsible for keeping the husband’s wedding vows.

                3. Tuxedo Cat*

                  It’s not unheard of that a married person will claim they’re splitting from their spouse or they already have split from the spouse but the divorce is taking time.

                4. Aisling*

                  @Traffic_Spiral: I think you’re looking at this the wrong way. No one is saying that the contractor shouldn’t be fired because we care what happens to her. Most of us are saying that she shouldn’t be fired because she isn’t the problem, and trying to make her the problem is just masking the real issue, which is the husband’s infidelity. Maybe the contractor knew about the wife, maybe she didn’t, but it doesn’t ultimately matter, because the wife was married to the husband, not the contractor. The husband betrayed the wife, not the contractor. The contractor literally doesn’t matter here.

                5. JM60*


                  I disagree. It’s not reasonable to assume that they know the relationship status of the other just because they work together. I work with lots of people who I don’t know the relationship status of. Moreover, it’s even less reasonable to assume that they know the inner details of the relationship. For all we know, the husband may have told her/him that he was in an open relationship, or that he’s in the process of getting divorced, etc.

                  As for your point number 2, the husband was the one breaking the promise and causing the hurt, not the contractor. There’s a big difference between doing something that has the side effect of allowing someone else to break a promise made to another person, and trying to get someone fired.

                6. HarvestKaleSlaw*


                  Even assuming the absolute worst about the other woman (I’m going to call her Jolene. The cheating husband is going to be Kenny, and the OP is going to be Dolly), this is still not a sane or reasonable or fair thing to do.

                  Assume the worst: Jolene knows that Kenny is married. She knows that he and Dolly don’t have an open relationship. She knows that they are not separated or divorcing. Kenny, mensch that he is, didn’t tell her any of the usual lies. Nope, as he stands there unfastening his fly in the Hilton Doubletree, he straight up tells her that he is a married man, and this will devastate his loving wife.

                  Even then, Jolene is just ignoring some stranger’s pain on the way to what I’m sure is an epic good time with Ken. Sweet, sexy love with Kenny is the goal here, not hurting Dolly.

                  Dolly, on the other hand, is out for bloody vengeance. Forget the self-justifying BS, too. Burning down this woman’s professional life is not an “on the way” side effect of keeping Kenny out of temptation’s way. It’s calling up Jolene’s workplace and making a scene to embarrass her, expose her sex life to her coworkers, and hopefully destroy her livelihood.

                  Sorry, but Jolene didn’t owe a stranger anything. She didn’t make any vows to Dolly. They have no friendship that she is betraying. And the OP is now intent on hunting her down and destroying her. If the OP has rage to spend , she needs to look a lot closer to home. It’s called displaced anger, and it’s a real thing.

                7. Traffic_Spiral*


                  Again, you’re saying that the wife owes Jolene good behavior, while Jolene owes the wife nothing – that’s not how it works. Obligations are reciprocal, and Jolene established that there are none between them, so the wife can do what she wants.

                8. JM60*


                  I think that characterizing this as “owes X good behavior” over simplifies things, and ignores relevant differences. In and of itself, the contractor having an affair with the employee doesn’t hurt the OP. The OP is hurt as a side effect due to one of those two people (not the contractor) breaking a promise to not to do that. On the other hand, the OP trying to affect the contractor’s status with the employer directly harms the contractor, regardless of whether or not anyone made promises to the contractor.

              2. Dr. Pepper*

                I’m afraid I disagree. I’ve known many people who do not talk about their partners at work, like at all. I’m one of them. It’s often a shock to people that I have an SO because I simply never mention him at work. I don’t post about him much on social media either, so unless someone knew me pretty well, they might not know I had a partner. Not every married person wears a wedding ring.

                And if he was, um, let’s just say open to the possibility of an affair, he’d probably be darn sure not to mention his marital status.

                1. Lexi Kate*

                  My husband and I work for the same company, different departments and other than our last name we give no indication that we are married. We don’t do lunches together, sit at each others desks, go to coffee together, bring each other things, or discuss each other with other employees. My husband doesnt wear a wedding ring (he lost 4 and we gave up repurchasing), I wear mine most of the time but since I quit sleeping with it on (ripped the expensive sheets) I forget alot.

              3. Mike C.*

                Being cheated on isn’t a license to go John Wick on someone who wasn’t the person you were married to.

                These sorts of revenge fantasies are incredibly gross. Lost of us have been cheated on without resorting to scorched earth policies. They’re adults and need to act like adults.

            2. mcr-red*

              I’m just going to put this out there. Unfortunately I know a lot of people who have been cheated on by their spouse. Each time their spouse’s affair partner knew they were married, had met their spouse in person, etc. I’m not saying this happens all the time, but it seems like the default assumption whenever this situation comes up is, “oh well they probably didn’t know they were married/with someone/etc.” and in my limited friend experience, it’s been 100 percent the other way. All we do know is the OP is upset that this happened and doesn’t want their spouse working with the affair partner.

              1. The Original K.*

                On the flip side of this, every straight woman I know who has done online dating, myself included, has a story about meeting a man online who turned out to be married. In my case, it wasn’t hard to figure out during the course of our initial email exchanges; I asked him point-blank, he admitted it, and I blocked him. This was on, where I would not expect to meet married men. I have an acquaintance who found out that her boyfriend had an entire family. He traveled a lot for work; he had a family in his home city and she lived in a different one. She and he had taken weeklong vacations together, etc. She had no idea.

                We don’t know what the OP’s husband said or didn’t say, but I’ve absolutely known women who were deliberately misled by married men, in some cases for long periods of time. Regardless, OP shouldn’t go to her husband’s boss about this. It’s not going to yield a good professional outcome for the husband.

                1. The Original K.*

                  @Traffic_Spiral My point was that sometimes married people lie. I can think of coworkers whose personal lives I knew nothing about because they said nothing – “Plans for the holidays?” “Not really.” That sort of thing. If OP’s husband wanted to deceive his affair partner about his marital status, he could have. We don’t know, but it’s possible.

                2. Anonymeece*

                  I think that there’s enough evidence for either that speculating whether or not the contractor knew is a moot point.

              2. coconut oil*

                Yes, most office relationships that I have seen or around our offices have been a we are just having sex not a relationship. We know we are married and we are not looking to change that but, I’m not happy with my sex life and neither is he. Not that it makes it right but I swear the start of spring does something to office people.

            3. Kathy*

              Usually before someone even dates someone; much less sleep with them, they look online to see if the person is married. Between social media and places like, spokeo, mylife, FB, etc. it is pretty easy to see if someone has a spouse or significant other. Once you search for a name, usually another name pops up next to it. I find it hard to believe that the contractor didn’t know this guy was married.
              Either way, the OP’s husband and contractor should not continue to work together.

              1. JM60*

                “Usually before someone even dates someone; much less sleep with them”

                People who are only interested in sex with someone will often do less research than if they were to date them. Plus, a lot of people who cheat mislead others, possibly making it so that their marital status can’t be found online, or telling others that they’re in the process of getting divorced, etc.

            1. Traffic_Spiral*

              “Petty but realistic” may not always be the best way to go through life, but it has its upsides.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            meh – women often face penalties that men don’t (*IF* affair partner was female). In a Just World, yes, a promise-breaker would lose more than an unmarried affair partner (again, assumption), but we don’t live in a Just World.

            But whether or not the boss would fire OP’s husband for the affair, OP’s husband’s boss would think a lot less of OP’s husband if OP contacted him.

            OP, this is between you and your husband. Keep it there.

          2. Mother of Cats*

            I’ve worked at my nonprofit for 14 months, and I still don’t know whether certain colleagues are married or not – and these are people I work with on a regular basis. Not everyone talks about their family or relationships in the office.

            I’ve also had the misfortune of being hit on by men I worked with in previous roles, many who neglected to mention their spouse or girlfriend. As a rule I don’t date anyone I work with, EVER, but I can see how the contractor in letter #1 wouldn’t know the husband was married. If someone wants to cheat, he’ll cheat.

            I feel for the letter writer, but this matter is between her and her husband. The husband is the one who broke vows, not the contractor. They need to keep the husband’s boss and contractor out of it.

        2. Ender*

          There are circumstances in which he should be fired, but that would be where he is making employment decisions about the contractor. OPs letter indicates it is husbands manager who makes those decisions, so I don’t think thise circumstances apply.

          Also, some cultures don’t put a lot of weight on marriage vows but do on workplace ethics, so you can’t assume that just because he lied and broke a promise in his personal life, he will automatically lie and break promises in his work life.

          He’s proven himself to be untrustworthy as a person since he had an affair though, so I would definitely think his employer would want to be careful in their dealings with him. It’s definitely possible that his work ethics are as bad as his personal ethics.

          1. Jen*

            You Don’t have to make contracting decisions to have some degree of oversight. At my job I oversee and write up reviews of people and conduct training but while I made recommendation and wrote reports, my boss was the one who had all the employment authority (and would sometimes disagree with my recommendations).

            You Don’t have to have direct hiring and firing authority to be in a position where you need boundaries. I temporarily held my own review position over a friend in the office and I handled it by swapping reviews with another review level person, and this was just a personal friend (We started as peers in the office).

            1. Ender*

              That’s a fair point. I think it would depend on the rules of the specific organisation and the level of oversight husband has whether he should be reprimanded or even fired for sleeping with a contractor. It’s impossible to say from the letter, but OP should consider that it’s more likely her husband would get in trouble than the contractor, since as an employee he’s more likely to be the one in a position of authority over the contractor.

        3. Seriously?*

          It would be legitimate for her to ask the husband to try to find a new job if their marriage really does depend on his never working with the contractor again. It is not at all ok to talk to the boss or try to affect the contractor’s employment.

        4. Antilles*

          Honestly, I think it would be legitimate to fire OP’s husband for having a sexual relationship with a contractor, certainly if he supervises or oversees the contractor’s work.
          Indeed. A lot of companies would immediately fire the husband on learning this happened.
          Did you evaluate her work truthfully? When the contract came up for renewal and you were advocating for/against her, is that due to your personal relationship? Do we need to worry about sexual harassment lawsuits? If we need to terminate her contract, will we need to worry about wrongful termination? If we get sued over this, could we actually prove that everything was above-board when a zealous lawyer starts making insinuations in front of the arbiter/judge/jury?

      3. mcr-red*

        Yeah, I feel like in general, the world is meh on adultery, and isn’t going to change their opinion on someone based on whether or not they cheated on a spouse, or was an affair partner. (I would, but I feel like I’m definitely in the minority.) The working world is probably going to care even less.

        The only thing the husband’s boss is going to care about is that an employee’s wife is grossly overstepping their boundary and trying to tell them how to run their company. Or, if they aren’t completely offended by that, that an employee is saying they can’t work with another employee. In both cases, the person who is going to no longer be employed there is the husband.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes, the “without it bouncing back on my husband” is perhaps the most “Uh, no, definitely not” part of the hypothetical.

        OP, you seem to have this picture of the conversation wherein the boss will think “Bob and Jane? Why Jane is a shameless hussy and will certainly be let go for the sake of Bob and Margaret’s marriage. Poor poor Bob–you’re right Margaret, we need to protect him. This is no way will affect my view of him professionally, or the sort of work I assign him. Thanks for the heads up Margaret!” When in actuality the manager is going to feel that you, Bob, and Jane are unprofessional drama magnets, in that order.

        1. Lissa*

          Yeah, there are two things OP could do here – say “personal reasons” to the boss to try to get her contract not renewed, or be explicit. Neither of those is likely to have the result of the boss deciding to let this person go! Why would a boss take the word of someone they probably don’t know all that well when it comes to someone they’ve hired? The boss has no idea if OP is telling the truth, making up drama, what the situation really is… I just think “contractor gets let go” isn’t even a likely outcome, and drama sure is.

    4. Woodswoman*

      OP #1, I once had a job where a woman came to our workplace on behalf of her husband who worked there. She sat down in the office with the big boss and pleaded with him to be lenient with her husband’s poor work efforts. It was pretty public and the word got around quickly in our office. It was awful and lowered people’s respect for our co-worker who was already having difficulties in the job. He ended up leaving. Please don’t talk to your husband’s employer about any of this.

    5. Jennifer Junper*

      LW1, if you’re not already doing this, please go to therapy to work through the issues caused by the affair. If you call your husband’s boss, that could put his job in jeopardy.

  2. Aphrodite*

    OP #1, it is your husband who cheated on you, not the contractor.

    I always wonder why it is that the other person (female or male) is most often the target of the spouse’s anger and not the spouse who was, after all, the one who cheated on his/her vows.

    1. Toby Flenderson*

      As someone who has been cheated on – it takes two. Providing the contractor knew he was married, she is just as in the wrong.

      Don’t get me wrong – the husband frelled up severely – but (providing she knew) the contractor KNOWINGLY slept with a married man, which is equally as bad.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It really isn’t equally bad, and it’s harmful to draw false equivalencies. If the contractor knowingly carried on with a married man in a monogamous relationship, that behavior is certainly not great and ethically problematic. But it’s nowhere near the same level as a person who entered into a significant commitment breaking the rules of that commitment.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Also, I don’t mean to derail or feed a derailment. I’ve seen us end up with dozens of comments re: the ethics of cheating and comparative culpability, and none of that really helps OP#1 address their problem.

          1. LadyPhoenix*

            In this case, I don’t think it is dereailment since lw1’s topic is about cheating and how to treat the mistress.

            1. NerdyKris*

              Not really. The topic is whether it’s appropriate to ask her husband’s boss to essentially fire an employee. Who is or isn’t to blame or how to treat them in her personal life is irrelevant. We don’t have enough details to begin with, so we’re all creating a scenario and then arguing who is more accurate.

              It’s a group of blind men trying describe an elephant while the room floods. The elephant isn’t really the pertinent issue.

        2. krysb*

          (Even though I don’t really want to continue the derailment, but…..) This. Absolutely this. While a person who sleeps with a married person (side note: we don’t know what he has told her about his marriage, a thought to keep in mind) has some culpability, it’s the person who made promises of commitment that breaks those promises. The “other” person is not the betrayer in this scenario.

          1. Fin Shepard*

            They are not the betrayer, but they are still behaving in a morally reprehensible fashion. The person they are screwing around with, in most cases, is deceiving the one they are married to. Being a party to deception is not without culpability. I used to tell married or otherwise committed men to divorce or separate, then call me. I didn’t want to be in the middle of a dramatic mess, which could possibly be dangerous (Betty Broderick anyone? Extreme I know, but hey it happened). The only innocent party in an affair is the one being cheated on. OP is in pain and I hope starts radically caring for herself, in all ways. If her husband wants to save the marriage, he should offer to quit, request a transfer, or something. The cheating spouse has to be transparent if a marriage is to survive infidelity, and must do everything possible to regain the trust of their spouse.

            1. anonymity is good sometimes.*


              Agree to all of this. As someone in OP 1 shoes in the past, I think it’s often the case that as cheated on spouses, we don’t want to believe it was our loved one is at “fault” that he was lured, and it’s easier to forgive and move forward to continue to believe that.

              It’s bull hockey but to continue to believe the other woman is evil is easier to accept.

              (Note, I got over that believe right quick but it *is* how I reacted at first)

              1. Green Cheese Moon*

                This exactly. Even if the OP could magically wave a wand and get the contractor fired, that doesn’t guarantee anything. Husband could still meet up with the contractor. It’s not like meeting in person at work is their only way of contacting each other! And, of course, if husband is prone to an affair, there are a million other opportunities out there. Getting the contractor fired would be window dressing at best, just a way to deny the real problem.
                Affairs are not about the “mistress” being a seductress who lures away the otherwise loyal husband. Affairs are a sign that something is not right and needs to be worked on INSIDE the relationship. I know that is tough to face and even tougher to work out, but that’s what needs to happen. My empathy to the OP, it really is a difficult time.

            2. Elspeth*

              Really? There are lots of women who end up having relationships with men and find out later – sometimes much later – that that man is married. The married person is the one breaking the vows. If the affair partner is aware of the marriage status, then yes, I agree, it’s reprehensible, otherwise, no.

      2. Les G*

        Knowingly sleeping with a married man is not a fireable offense, so can we not with this today?

        1. God Emperor of Dune*

          Alienation of affection is very much a thing, so doing the beast with a billion backs with a married person is definitely ethically wrong, even if it isn’t the same level of wrong as the cheating spouse.

          I think a lot less of people who’ve been a party to cheating and their bad judgement would have some influence over my decision to continue a contract or not. The same as I would reconsider contracting someone with a bad attitude or unrepentant mistakes. I wouldn’t want discord in my workplace.

          OP1 should definitely not contact her husband’s boss, but if I was said husband’s boss and I got wind of this, both the husband and the contractor would be in my low estimation and I would be less likely to put either of them forward for responsibility over projects and I’d be watching their conduct closely with a view to getting rid of both or either of them in due course.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            It’s extremely extremely rare and difficult to win an alienation of affection suit, and it’s not the law in the majority of states (a very small minority of states still recognize some version of AoA, with very few states recognizing the original common law tort).

            And as we’ve discussed, what is unlawful or opens you up to legal liability is not the same as what is/isn’t ethical.

            In my head, I think of it as the difference between committing murder and being the getaway driver (aiding/abetting). The person who committed the murder is undoubtedly more blameworthy, although if the getaway driver knew they were driving the murderer to/from a location to commit murder, they also have culpability. It’s possible to have two people engage in bad behavior and still have different weights for the “badness” of their behavior.

            1. One of the Sarahs*

              There’s also the case where the contractor has been told what a hideous shrew OP is, how the marriage is over, but they have to live together for the sake of the kids, that poor husband hasn’t had sex for years, and only Contractor understands him, which can be super-attractive, especially from a manipulative A-hole. We can’t tell if husband did it, but it’s the equivalent of being a getaway driver, but being told you’re just giving a friend a lift, as they really need to get to point B fast and only you can help.

        2. Snark*

          Whether an employee can be fired is not the same question as whether a contractor can be retained. It is a fundamentally different business relationship that operates under different rules.

          If I had ever slept with a client, and it became known, our COR would have – rightly, and for good reasons – requested that I be removed from the task order and replaced with other personnel.

      3. Ender*

        I’m sorry you were cheated on, but it is absolutely not as bad to sleep with a married person as it is to be married and sleep with someone else.

        Your spouse was the one who made a solemn promise not to sleep with anyone else. Their partner made no such promise. Therefore they didn’t break any promise (unless they too were married).

        Personally I think it is wrong to intentionally sleep with a married person – but it is nowhere near as wrong as actually breaking your marriage vows.

          1. Book Badger*

            That’s speculation, and even if it were true, that’s breaking a promise to contractor’s hypothetical spouse, not OP1.

      4. esra*

        This comes up every time a letter involves cheating, and I don’t think the two sides will ever meet.

        That said, when it comes down to it, the other man/woman doesn’t really matter. The only person who concerns you/you have impact on, is your partner. So either you work it out with them (or you don’t), you trust them (or you don’t) and act accordingly. But trying to remove temptation is just an exercise in futility and misplaced blame.

      5. Miss V*

        Disagree strongly. It’s not just as bad. It is not this woman’s job to police the actions of married men. It was on the husband not to cheat on his wife.

      6. SavannahMiranda*

        As someone who was, ahem, briefly and regrettably involved with a married person, I agree with you unequivocally that it really is equally as bad for me to have been involved as him.

        Been there, regrettably done that. Very regrettably. There are no clean hands in such a situation. No one comes out on any peninsula of moral high ground, provided all parties were in full possession of the facts. If they think they do, they are deluding themselves, and their capacity to do that says a lot about how they agreed to put themselves in such a situation. I did not delude myself. I vastly regretted. I took full responsibility for my part. And I’ve never done it again.

        Provided the third person is fully aware and in possession of all the facts, they bear equal ethical responsibility.

        No, third parties do not ‘make’ spouses cheat. A cheating spouse who is determined to cheat will move on to the next target. But having been the third party, it didn’t have to be me. I let it be me, I agreed for it to be me. That was my significant ethical lapse. And that is what was my responsibility.

        No advice here to OP. And OP’s relationship without a doubt is with her husband. Her only field of action is with her husband. I’m not endorsing holding the contractor responsible for the husband’s failures. But I am against the idea that the contractor (if she had full facts) is somehow ethically less at fault simply because *she* wasn’t the married partner. Nope!

        1. Elspeth*

          Yes, but did the contractor KNOW that her affair partner was married? Not clear at all from the information given.

      7. Barney Stinson*

        No. The one who made the vows to OP is the one at fault. The contractor may be a slime for sleeping with a married man, but she didn’t make vows to the OP.

    2. Observer*

      She wants to save her marriage. This level of anger makes it hard to do that, so she needs to find another target. It’s a common mechanism.

      1. AnonymousCelebrity*

        Yes, very common. The LW wants to preserve her marriage. It’s so much easier to blame the contractor who “made” the spouse cheat. Heck, if it’s all the contractor’s fault, no change in the marriage is required, and there’s no reason to talk about what happened and why. It’s just easier. And many, if not most, people like things to be easy; they like to NOT have to do anything to make a change.

        I think we’ve all seen this attitude play out in many different scenarios. It doesn’t surprise me, but I also think it’s nonsense and doesn’t resolve things.

    3. Lissa*

      Because it’s easier to be angry at a stranger than somebody you love. It’s not logical, but humans often aren’t. If the cheated-on person can believe it’s all the other person’s fault, and that their spouse would never have done it if it weren’t for the influence, it’s easier to move forward than if they believe a would-be cheater would find an opportunity.

    4. mark132*

      I think most people in this situation have plenty of anger to go around, for their spouse or the person they cheated with.

          1. Mark132*

            Fwiw, this strategy may actually be more likely to get het husband fired than the contractor.

          2. Traffic_Spiral*

            So? The wife’s not obligated to be fair and equitable in her consideration of the affair partner’s welfare.

            1. Aisling*

              No, she’s not, because the contractor doesn’t matter. If the contractor is fired, the husband could still cheat again with someone else. That’s just one reason why the wife shouldn’t get involved here: it doesn’t actually solve anything and will look poorly on her husband. Vindictiveness is not going to change the fact that it happened. And, that kind of vindictiveness will look poorly on the wife as well.

              1. Traffic_Spiral*

                And the contractor wasn’t entitled to jump on her husband’s dick. Looks like everyone’s getting something they aren’t entitled to, today. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’ll be a good move, professionally, but the contractor has no standing to demand that the wife treat her fairly or honestly.

                1. Mother of Cats*

                  The contractor is entitled to do her job. If the letter writer wants her husband to cease all interactions with the contractor, she should tell him to look for another job. It’s HIS responsibility to save the marriage, not his employer’s.

      1. mcr-red*


        I always love the “well why are they mad at them? They should be mad at the spouse!” comments. Who ever says they are not?

        1. anoniaa*

          Considering in this situation writer # 1 is trying to actively go after the other woman, that’s why people probably are saying that. As for this letter, and the larger ‘two sides of this argument’ thing, being upset and taking action against a stranger are different. The different opinions n unfaithful spouses often only stem from all persons involved not taking any accountability for their actions.

        2. Book Badger*

          Not only is OP1 going after the contractor and not the spouse, but she’s actively trying to *prevent* any work-related consequences for her spouse. It’s not, “Could I go to my husband’s boss and get them both fired?”, it’s, “Could I get the contractor fired without anything bad happening to my husband?”

          1. mcr-red*

            As I said up-thread, the contractor’s finances are not tied to the OP’s in any way, but the husband is. Op may hate the husband every bit as much as the contractor, but if he gets fired, OP’s fiances take a hit.

                1. Gazebo Slayer*

                  But attempting to make those consequences *only* happen to the woman, especially when she’s the junior, less powerful person, is fueling some gross stereotypes and feeding the continuation of a long history of exploitative, misogynistic BS.

              1. mcr-red*

                I never once said it was ethically correct (P.S. – we’re suddenly worried about ethics in this situation, LOL) but people keep saying, “Well if OP is mad at her husband too, why is she only trying to get the contractor fired?” and I’m saying, “Of course OP is not trying to get the husband fired, his fianaces are tied to the OPs, and they don’t want to take the financial hit themselves on top of being cheated on!”

                OP can be just as mad at the husband, but not want to take away his job, because that hurts the OP, and they can dream up some other way to “get back” at the husband that does not involve finances.

    5. Akcipitrokulo*

      Mainly because if you want the relationship to recover, you have a vested interest in finding some reason to forgive or excuse. Also, if you don’t know the other person, it’s easy to paint them as a 2D villain, instead of the 3d person you know has good points.

    6. Justin*

      I think a big difference here is that she benefits from him having a job. He could look elsewhere, but I can see why the wife might not want him to change it up.

  3. Butter Makes Things Better*

    OP3: In a former job, colleagues used a form of removable contact paper on their office windows, like the frosted glass ones you can get at Bed, Bath & Beyond. Good luck getting them to accommodate you!

    1. Mad Baggins*

      I have purchased these on Amazon, there are several varieties from “frosted” look to mosaic to black-out look. They are cheap and not very difficult to apply.

      1. Sarah N*

        This is what we did at my office to cover up the small window that opens into the rest of the office (it’s a regular office w a closing door so otherwise fine for pumping). It’s worked really well!

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Oh good suggestion! We’ve had those in the bathrooms for months (a tougher environment than an office, with the humidity) and they haven’t budged. Look like regular frosted glass.

        And like the curtains–but cheaper and moreso–easy to put up when OP needs them and remove when she’s done pumping, if they want to. (At that point, as with other accommodations, the office may have a bunch of people who don’t pump but like having a non-visible space for other reasons.)

        1. Anne of Green Gables*

          When I pumped, I used my boss’s office. The county added curtains to the window and the film that frosts the glass to the window in the door. Boss liked the frosted window so much she kept it long after I stopped pumping.

    2. Clare*

      Is there some kind of course in architect design school where they are taught that open concept glass covered offices are the height of design achievement? Seriously why are there so many of these crap offices? I’ve never met anyone who liked them. My company just moved into a space like this and it sucks- no one wants to sit in a fishbowl all day!

      1. Persimmons*

        I’ve joked that it’s a conspiracy by SC Johnson lobbyists. Imagine how much Windex they could sell.

        But in all seriousness, I think it’s just another flavor of “butts in seats” management. Some higher up decided that everyone would hit 100% concentration and efficiency if they knew management was using the transparent walls to look over their shoulders all day.

        1. Jennifer Juniper*

          I’m guessing those are the same workplaces with restrictions on bathroom use and pressure to not take breaks/lunches.

      2. Elemeno P.*

        I have to be in one of those right now, and the remodeling team is in here too. I don’t know why they chose it, but they did, and it’s awful. I’m in a cube so it doesn’t affect me very much, but the managers are all in doorless fishbowls and they have to reserve a conference room for any sort of private conversation, which is very anxiety-inducing.

      3. Guacamole Bob*

        I think some glass can be a really good thing. There has been a lot of inappropriate behavior in offices over the years, and design that creates semi-private spaces and rooms that are acoustically private but have some transparency can make things more comfortable for those with less power and those who are more likely to be harassed.

        My grad school advisor had an office of the “no one would even hear you scream” variety in a big old fortress of an academic building – thick stone walls, solid door, neighboring offices that were rarely occupied. He never did or said anything to make me feel uncomfortable, but the architecture itself sometimes put me on edge. Sometimes when I’m in a windowless room with someone in my current office and there’s a need to close the door I feel the same way. And in conference rooms at my current workplace people are constantly knocking or just walking in because there’s no window and you can’t tell whether the room is occupied.

        I have friends in academia who worry about this from the other side – they want their students to feel comfortable, and sometimes those students need to have a truly private conversation, but they also don’t feel it’s completely appropriate to be in a totally closed-off private space one-on-one with a student. I’d guess that at least some managers in regular offices feel the same way, especially when it’s something like an older male manager with a lot of young female staff, someone managing a lot of interns, etc.

        I also hate the feeling of working in a fishbowl. But partially frosted glass walls, windows in the doors, or a glass panel next to the door are common in some offices. Those seem like good compromises between giving people enough privacy to work comfortably without closing people off entirely. Plus they let people in the interior of the building see some daylight. And smaller bits of glass are easier to cover up in a situation like OP’s.

      4. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I was wondering that myself. Why would OP’s company switch from having private offices to these fishbowls?? Sorry if this is off-topic, but it makes no sense to me. Except as someone else pointed out, as a butt-in-seats management style. Even if they needed the remodel because they were running out of space, they still shouldn’t do clear glass for everything. Sounds exceptionally distracting and it obviously is going to cause more problems than it solves. And it’s a sales office?? Doesn’t sales require some amount of privacy for the buyers?

        Good luck, OP. I hope they figure this out for you. Curtains or the frosted contact paper suggested above sound like a workable idea. And make sure to mention them to the company when they realize after a few months that all that glass wasn’t a great idea after all.

        1. Yvette*

          Is it possible that glass walls are cheaper and more easily reconfigured in the event of future remodeling? At one place I worked the glass walls were actually pre-fabricated panels that could be moved and interchanged.
          Also, if they are remodeling to put more offices, conference rooms etc. in the same space, a small room with solid walls feels a lot more cramped than the same size room with glass walls.

          Not saying I think that is the way to go, but it could be the reasoning behind it all.

          1. Patty Mayonnaise*

            Yep, you’re right, it’s both cheaper and easier to remodel. Susan Cain (author of Quiet) has covered the topic of open offices and said that these are the main reasons officers opt for it. I personally hate them.

      5. Whit in Ohio*

        They’re designed to make it imposssible to have sex in the office, thus preventing sexual abuse and harassment. They offer auditory privacy but not visual privacy. At least, that’s how they’re marketed to churches. I’m not sure if they’re sold to secular businesses in the same way.

        1. Eplawyer*

          If your office has this big a problem, glass walls wont solve it. Thats a personnel problem not an office design problem.

      6. SouthernLadybug*

        This reminds me of an article I saw recently asking men to walk around their own building…wearing a skirt. It highlighted that all those clear walkways are a problem…..

        I’ll post a link in a comment.

        1. many bells down*

          The Museum has an exhibit right now that features a room with lots of mirrors and a very shiny black floor. We put a carpet runner down, ostensibly so that people would have something to focus on if they became disoriented, and also because some service animals were disconcerted by the shiny floor and refused to cross it.

          But some of the security staff told me that also, they hadn’t considered guests wearing skirts/dresses when they came up with the concept for this space. The floor is *very* reflective. Oops.

          1. required name*

            Ah, yes. One of the problems you never think will be easily solved by diversity until your lack of diversity smacks you in the face.

      7. Old Cynic*

        Certainly I can’t speak for all, but one company I worked for a few years back had glad walled offices because they wanted everyone to be able to see outside, even if it was through someone else’s office. As a then cubicle dweller, I was appreciative.

      8. Akcipitrokulo*

        I think it’s to allow more natural light into interior sections of the building?

        Not worth it though!

        1. peachie*

          I can feel this being an unpopular opinion, but I disagree–I could not believe how much my mental health and work productivity and happiness improved when I went from an office where I could not see a window without going into someone’s private office to one where I, a cubicle-dweller, was surrounded by natural light on three sides because of floor-to-ceiling windows and all glass doors around the perimeter. I’m back in a no-windows place now–I have my own office, and being able to close the door is nice, but I still think I’d opt for the windows.

          (Maybe I would have felt differently if I had an office, but honestly, I used my boss’s office a lot when she wasn’t in and I didn’t mind at all. One or two small truly-walled-off rooms would have been nice, though.)

          1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

            I agree with you Peachie, I’m currently in a windowless office and it’s depressing to have to go into the conference room to look outside. It’s doubly worse in winter when I arrive and leave in the dark. I would love more natural light, if only so I wouldn’t need a “grow lamp” for my office plant. But there needs to be a balance of open and private spaces.

            1. Lily Rowan*

              And the balance just isn’t that hard! My office has one glass wall. The glass is frosted in the middle, from a couple of feet above the floor to a few feet below the ceiling. So someone walking by can see legs, and light can come in through the top (if there were light outside my office, but that’s another story).

          2. Chinookwind*

            I agree with you because I was in a “right to light” office where the receptionist station (where I worked) was the only one the designed without concern for natural light. I could see outside but never had natural light get anywhere near me (it was taunting me its nearness but to far for me to feel it and still be able to answer the phones). It was depressing to see how everyone else worked in a bright,open space where I had a little black cave with stylish backlights behind me, a dark desktop and architectural overhangs that look stylish but felt enclosing.

          3. Akcipitrokulo*

            Yeah – I think you need both – but I think someone got the idea “glass to let natural light in good!” = “everywhere must be glass!”.

        2. Anja*

          That’s what it is in our building. We have cubicles to the windows and offices on the interior with goals of having a minimum of X% of natural light for every work point. In order to achieve that we have lower cubicle dividers (though you still have to stand to see over them – come to the top of my head sitting), the higher dividers on walkways have the additional panel on top being glass, and glass office walls/doors (but with privacy film applied).

      9. EPLawyer*

        Trying to get curtains or cover up paper may even make other people in the office grateful. Some privacy SOMEWHERE.

        1. peachie*

          Frosting the glass could be an option, too–more permanent, but relatively cheap and easy to do.

      10. Hillary*

        I never thought I’d say this before we moved, but I actually like our new open space better than the old one. We have lower cube walls and a lot fewer offices, but everything is light and bright. The only offices with external windows belong to senior execs, the 4′ wall cubes got all the other windows. They also did 100% standing desks and dual monitors.

        Mood and collaboration have both improved for our team. It’s been a huge surprise.

        1. Hillary*

          we also have dedicated focus rooms, personal call rooms, and “wellness” rooms with locking doors complete with occupied indicators that can be reserved in advance. They really thought it out.

          1. Triplestep*

            Sounds like you have a well-programmed and well-designed office. I design and build spaces where people work, and most of the complaints about open space offices are from people who are stuck in poorly designed spaces, placed there by leadership that didn’t listen to designers like me telling them to add more focus rooms, amenities, etc. Instead my experience with people who move to well-designed open space plans is that they are pleasantly surprised … much like you are!

        2. DCGirl*

          I think the issue may people have with open concept offices is the number of employers who don’t think it through. At a previous job, management went to a full open concept but only created two phone/quiet rooms, which were impossible to get into because they were always being used. Other larger conference rooms were similarly unavailable. There was literally no place else to go if you needed a break from the noise and distractions.

        3. KK*

          Lower cube walls are one thing; I have that.

          Open concept is another….when you are able to literally reach over & touch the coworkers on either side of you just by extending an arm. And hear, smell and touch everything on their desk. And likewise they can do back to you.

      11. CTT*

        I’m in one now and don’t love it, but I know that the assistants who have desks outside the offices really appreciate getting the sunlight, or even just seeing what the weather was doing outside. I ultimately would prefer to have a regular old wall, but when I get annoyed with it, I try to remind myself that there’s at least one benefit.

      12. Midge*

        Honestly, I’m baffled by it as well. My office just did a pretty major renovation where they plunked a conference room in the middle of a big open office area, and two of the four walls are glass with a band of frosted contact paper in the middle. It’s just so bizarre. Oh and all the conference rooms used to have solid wood doors, but they’ve been replaced with glass doors with a band of frosted contact paper. Not as private, not as sound-absorbing, but I guess they look cool??

      13. Green Cheese Moon*

        Part of it probably IS the architects and designers who get so wrapped up in how their creation LOOKs they forget about any kind of functionality. The same thing is happening in airports that have magnificent interesting spaces, but are incredibly lacking in comfort and usable space. And then there are the McMansions, don’t get me started on those! (But all part of a bigger trend of creating spaces that look lovely in pictures, but don’t serve the people who actually use them on a day to day basis).

      14. Chinookwind*

        I think it may be a side effect of the “right to light” movement which was a thing in one large office I was in. All the offices were interior with glass walls and the cubicles all were closer to the windows, which meant everyone got natural light. It took about two days of working this way before facilities went around and installed frosting from knee level to shoulder level on all office walls. Turned out that the newly installed desks had no modesty panel and that combined with glass walls meant everyone wearing a skirt felt very uncomfortable sitting at their desk.

      15. Trying to Retire*

        A while back, probably about 10 yrs now, I interviewed with a great company that had just opened a new location in Cambridge. It was considered a very green building, making maximum use of natural light, etc. Outer all glass. Big multi-story central lobby, ringed by offices on all upper floors. Light-swnsing movement activated lights every place (won’t get into that nightmare!). All the offices were all glass. Inner ring faced lobby, outer faced outside, desks facing away from hallway between the two rings.
        So the building opened to much acclaim. And then they realized that the inner ring of offices, the ones facing the lobby, anyone standing in the lobby got a very clear view up women’s skirts while they were sitting at their desks!
        Didn’t take long for them to ring all rooms, office and otherwise, with a very wide band of strategically placed frosted glass.
        Seriously, how could no one have thought of this!

    3. Happily Retired Now*

      But that would make the the room private even when the pumper is not in it. Alison’s suggestion of curtains is perfect because they can closed when she is in the room and open the rest of the time as it was designed to be.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yeah, but maybe privacy all the time would be better. Glass walls and doors are pretty ridiculous. The reflections alone would drive me to distraction on the regular – I can’t even have my cell phone on my desk with the screen facing up because of the reflections.

        1. BethRA*

          Privacy all the time WOULD be better, but it doesn’t sound like the people who run the OP’s office get that.

      2. Matilda*

        But if it’s intended as a quiet room, I would assume it should have a certain level of privacy regardless. Generally people use quiet rooms for pretty personal things – pumping, lying down and possibly sleeping if they’re not feeling well, praying or meditating, and probably lots of other things that I’m not aware of. That’s the whole point of a quiet room, is that it gives you a private place to do private things!

        I’m not trying to argue with you, Happily Retired – I actually came here to make the same point regardless, and you just gave me a convenient place to put it. OP3’s employers are being ridiculous, if they think people will use quiet rooms with glass walls. (Also, I would bet heavily on the quiet rooms being removed in the next remodel, on the grounds that nobody is using them…)

    4. Ann Perkins*

      This is what I do for my glass office as well. Curtains are great for if they want the ability to make it viewable or not on a daily basis, but more conservative offices might prefer the frosted glass look. Either option would be an easy way for them to accommodate OP3.

    5. Hump Day!*

      I did this gor my front door while i was nursing. After my neighbor saw me in all that first week glory

      I dont know if id do it at work for a full body length window. You can still see shadows and shapes.

    6. Lucille2*

      My former job did this as well. They converted a conference room into the Mother’s Room by frosting the glass walls for privacy and adding a lock to the door. It’s always best to have a sink and fridge in the room for cleaning supplies and storing milk, which this room didn’t have. I had to store milk in the breakroom fridge which wasn’t ideal. But it beat using the bathroom or sitting in my car in the parking lot. Honestly, I’m surprised HR would suggest your car since there’s high likelihood someone will see you and complain.

      My sympathies, mama. I’ve been through it twice and pumping at work brings in a whole new level of awkwardness into the workplace.

    7. M. Albertine*

      I have a spring tension rod and a blackout drapery curtain to cover up the window in my office when I pump. I just put it up and take it down as needed.

  4. Sarah M*

    Re Letter #2: If my boss sent my videos and harped about a “clean” desk I would roll my eyes and likely start job searching. You shouldn’t force them to be a neat freak like you as long as their work is getting done and they aren’t doing anything gross like leaving food or dirty gym clothes around. Let this go. Not everyone cares about a spotless desk.

    1. Butter Makes Things Better*

      Right? Some of the one-of-a-kind, top performing managers in an old job were the ones with the desk piles.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      Yup. There’s pilers and filers. I am a piler. And yes, I know that the document is 2-1/2 inches down the 3rd stack.
      Unless you have a security clean desk policy you shouldn’t be dictating this. Go for neat, not sterile.

      1. The Original K.*

        A family friend is retiring after 39 years in the same place in the senior-most position. Her office had piles everywhere – and she could tell you EXACTLY where everything was. People would test her – “Such and such file from 2002!” and she’d be like “BAM” and pull it out. Her office made me want to cry because I very much like for things to be put away, but it worked for her. None of my business.

        1. Essess*

          At one of my OldJobs, I worked in an old filthy basement office cube farm. The carpets were old and threadbare, at least 40 years old and never cleaned. It was disgusting. One of my coworkers was retiring and he was a ‘piler’. His office was completely full of waist-high piles of papers and reports. When he moved out, all the piles were removed. Everyone in the office gathered to see the BEAUTIFUL immaculate carpet that was in his office that had been protected under all that debris.

      2. Melba Toast*

        For me, piles (or whichever non-filing method I use) create an almost flowchart for my brain/memory…If that makes *any* sense. If something’s filed away it becomes “dead” to me in a way because, not only can’t I see it, but it now matches everything else— Even with labeling or a color coded system it’s harder to find because it doesn’t stand out in a way that’s significant to my brain. I wonder if this is a nutty way of thinking of this or if it’s totally common >_<

        1. JaneB*

          I read somewhere that that pattern of thinking is actually common in people with ADD/ADHD – it’s totally how my brain works too!

        2. Kelly White*

          I’ve never been able to express it- but this is it! exactly!
          My desk looks like a mess, but I actually know where everything is, and based on where it is on my desk, I know the priority/status.
          Today I was trying to tidy up a bit, and I filed something in my drawer- maybe 15 minutes ago, and I already don’t know where it is. But it’s been on top of my computer for a month, and I knew exactly where it was (and why).

        3. Alli525*

          I sort of do this too! If something is out on my desk or in my email inbox, I still have to do something with it. If it’s filed away in a physical or electronic folder, my part of that project is done.

          I was also one of those kids who got told “clean your room” a lot, and even though I generally enjoy cleaning, I always pushed back and said “well I can’t see the floor but I know EXACTLY where everything is” and dared my mom to send me on a scavenger hunt. (She did not take the bait.)

          1. Just Employed Here*

            Yeah, I’m basically like this.

            But it’s not about locating things: you’re not going to be able to actually clean the floor if you have all your stuff on it. (Of course it might be that there are people out there who have stuff in heaps but then regularly lift them up to clean the floor, but I haven’t met a person like this yet.)

            I feel like this is less of an issue on a work desk, which is a smaller area which no one walks on. Or then I’m just trying to rationalize having a messy desk but a clean floor.

        4. GT*

          I don’t know how common this is, but I think this way, too. Stuff that gets put away just “disappears” from my brain.

          1. The New Wanderer*

            Yes – “out of sight, out of mind” is definitely a thing for me too. I married a filer, which led to some fun times over what was okay to leave on the shared surfaces (end result: shared surfaces are tidy as long as I have enough space on “my” surfaces to put all the stuff). He even still uses a Single Monitor and he’s a programmer! Some people are just good at that sort of thing. Meanwhile, two monitors was a revelation to me, the spatial distribution helps so much.

        5. Iris Eyes*

          Every time I try to do a deep clean/organization I loose things. I will occasionally loose things otherwise but I definitely loose things when I try to clean up.

          “I know I put it somewhere that made perfect sense at the time.”

      3. soon 2be former fed*

        But supposed you are on vacation and I need that document? How much time will I waste looking for it?

        1. Nanani*

          You will plan ahead and get before they leave (or even implement digital records or some other diagonal solution), or you will wait for them to get back.

        2. Baby Fishmouth*

          But why should a coworker need to organize her own workspace in a way that suits you so you can find a document for the 1% of the time coworker is away? And it’s also worth noting lot’s of people’s organization systems don’t actually make sense to other people, even if it appears neat and tidy from the outside (I’m thinking of a coworker who likes to organize files by colour rather than alphabetically, that actually makes it much harder to find things than if it was piled on her desk!).

          If many people on a team will frequently need to find and use the same documents, it makes sense that they work out an organization system that works for all of them – but otherwise, people are allowed to use systems that work for them.

      4. Bea*

        My beloved old boss was a piles guy. We had to clean his office after his retirement (due to illness) and what a walk down 30 plus years that was. It wasn’t filthy, minus the dust. Just a lot of stuff he knew where things were until his dementia stole him from us.

      5. Amber T*

        I’ve never heard that term before, but that is exactly me. My desk looks messy, but I know where everything is and can find things in seconds.

        My office is slowly phasing out the need for most paper documents (yay!) and I have 10 shelves and eight drawers. Half the shelves have binders on them that will just stay there until they disintegrate, the others are empty. Two drawers have work related paper work, three are empty. One has office supplies stuff, and two are full of personal stuff (one full of snacks, my food scale, my vitamins and pain killers… what else I got… dayquil, a lint roller, stamps, lip gloss, oh look my library card). One is full of my paperwork… tax returns, all the crap I needed when I bought my place, random rebate checks I get, health care stuff. Can anyone in my office find it? Probably. Am I so worried. Nah, it’s all also saved on my work computer.

    3. Cobol*

      Not a huge fan of neat freak, because it can be read as criticizing OP, but yes agree 100%

      OP#3 don’t think of yourself as “leading by example.” You’re doing what’s best for you, but having a desk free of items might be determental for somebody else.

    4. GradStudent*

      I didn’t read anything in the question about OP “forcing” their employees “to be a neat freak like” them or “harping about a clean desk”. Besides, that wasn’t the focus of the question. OP was hoping to hear opinions about keeping private files and information in the workplace.

        1. Perse's Mom*

          We don’t really know if her employees are leaving used tissues on their keyboards and mice are living behind their monitor and subsisting on the crumbs scattered across their desks… or just a single sheet of paper isn’t perfectly aligned with the otherwise neat stack of files on one corner of a desk.

          But at the very least, it’s passive-aggressive. If there’s a legitimate reason to be concerned about cleanliness and disorganization, don’t send videos to everybody. Address it directly with the specific offender!

      1. Fin Shepard*

        Yes. Keeping all that private information in an unlocked cabinet is ridiculous. Find the key, or scan the necessary papers to a flash drive, and take the originals home. This shows poor judgement.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I have a folder with with personal private information that I keep in a file holder on a cabinet. It is not locked up and anyone could look at it. I would be upset if someone was going through it to be a snoop, but if someone accidentally went through it while looking for something else I would not mind. I know anything I keep at work is truly never private, anything I don’t want anyone at work to know about I don’t keep at work.

          As for looking like I manage my personal life all at work, to a certain extent I do. I get an hour lunch and two 15 min breaks. I can usually eat in 10/15 minutes, the rest of my lunch hour I watch TV on my phone or deal with personal tasks. Making appointments, online payments, calling to check up on things are all things that I can do on “my time” at work without it impacting my work responsibilities.

      2. SusanIvanova*

        I was starting to wonder if there had been a different #2 question, because the bit about videos and clean desks had been filed away as “background info” and forgotten by the time I finished reading the whole thing!

    5. Mad Baggins*

      This seems really out of line considering what people are keeping at work: “healthcare claims, credit card bills, and mortgage information to court information on a divorce in progress.” I’m really confused by Alison’s response, because it sounds like she is saying the boss can’t/shouldn’t allow employees to use a whole drawer at work for private, non-work-related information. Not only is this not an appropriate use of work resources (which the office is in charge of managing and upkeeping), I’m afraid this could cause problems if someone else sees this information. Could the company be liable for not protecting employee information? What if someone sees the private information and it influences their decisions (bias based on health status or other discrimination)? What if it gets destroyed or tampered with, who is responsible?

      I think framing this question as “can I ask my employees to keep their desk clean” is misleading. It seems to me the question is “can I ask my employees to not keep a file of personal information at work” as Alison states in the title, and that seems a very reasonable expectation to me.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m not saying that a boss shouldn’t allow that kind of info to be kept at work; in fact, I’m saying it’s not something the boss should intervene on (although I think it’s a bad idea for the person to keep there). I’ll edit the answer to make sure that’s clear. That said, I don’t know if the OP is actually asking if she should take any action; the question reads to me like she’s just asking if it’s a bad idea for someone to keep this kind of file at work or not.

        1. Mad Baggins*

          Ah, I see I misread “my team” as OP being the boss. I can see why you told OP not to intervene in, it’s harder to police behavior as a coworker. But thank you for adding the clarification.

        2. I Herd the Cats*

          I think this is the first time I’ve disagreed with Alison (and several of the commenters thus far) on an answer.

          I commute on public transportation, as do most of my coworkers. My guess is that most, if not all, of my coworkers have personal files somewhere in their desks — from the totally benign (utility bills) to more personal files (medical issues, legal issues.) Many of those issues need to be dealt with during the day — while we’re at work — and we’re not hauling them back and forth on the subway. And no, I don’t think that’s an employer’s concern unless it becomes clear that you’re spending hours a day balancing your checkbook or whatever. We’re not punching clocks or accounting for billable hours. In my case, related to an accident, I have to call the insurance company and hope (pray?) they call me back sometime that day.

          In this particular instance, OP found the files because she’s looking in an assistant’s desk, so I guess if I thought someone would be rooting through my desk regularly looking for something, maybe I’d be more discreet? But most people here aren’t in that situation. I’m not demanding total privacy for my personal documents in my company’s workspace; by the same token I don’t think they should care if I keep them there.

          1. a1*

            and we’re not hauling them back and forth on the subway.

            And how did you get them to work in the first place? Presumably with you on the subway. SO you bring them to work, make the call you need to make and leave it there? Why not bring it home with you after you’ve made the call? I don’t get this. I bring stuff like this to work all the time, for these reasons, but I then bring them back home. I’m not saying having a few of these items at work is bad, it’s not. I just don’t understand needing a whole drawer/filing system or the fact the apparently you never want to bring these things back home after taking care of whatever needed taking care of.

            1. I Herd the Cats*

              How do you know I never want to bring these things back home after taking care of them? And what difference does it make anyway? People leave shoes in their drawers. Workout clothes. Snacks, makeup, prescription drugs. I could go on and on. Where’s the line on personal stuff? Again, as long as I’m not claiming some inherent right to privacy in my desk drawer, or putting something hugely embarrassing (for myself or someone else) like porn mags in there, what difference does it make?

              1. a1*

                You outright said you bring them in and then “wouldn’t be hauling them back and forth”, hence my conclusion that you were leaving them at work.

                You also seem to have missed this part of my comment ” I’m not saying having a few of these items at work is bad, it’s not.”

              2. Mad Baggins*

                “Where’s the line on personal stuff?” I think this varies across cultures. It seems like it is common in American offices to have more personal things at work than in my experience outside the US (once a colleague had a photo of her daughter and joked about putting it up like in an American office. She took it down the next day). Personally I think it’s not appropriate to store things long-term that you will not use at work and that are irrelevant to work unless you have a good reason to (people below mentioned it might not be safe to keep things at home if building a case for divorce).

          2. Jack Russell Terrier*

            Just take a photo of what you need. Mostly you don’t need the document yourself – just the info in it. You can always upload it to a secure website for access so that you’re not keeping personal information on your phone. I use public transportation al the time too – and that’s what I do. That way, you’re not forgetting anything.

          3. Alli525*

            I think there’s a difference between keeping personal stuff at one’s desk/cube versus in a publicly accessible drawer, where anyone could be looking for a spare pen or notebook or archival file and stumble across someone’s Social Security card.

            1. Alli525*

              Oh, and I guess OP didn’t specify where the file cabinet was located, but I don’t see any reason why “just anyone” (or even a boss) would be rifling through a file cabinet located in someone’s personal space, so I’m assuming it’s a public file cabinet in a hallway.

              1. doreen*

                Depends on the job and the filing set up- at a couple of previous jobs, all the files assigned to me were in a file cabinet in my office or a file drawer in my cubicle. Of course people would end up in my file cabinet – how else would they handle my cases while I was out of the office?

          4. Important Moi*

            I agree with you. Having a drawer with personal papers is fine. I’ve taken into account that others could find it. Not your circus, not your monkey….

            1. soon 2be former fed*

              I wouldn’t do this unless the drawer locked and I had the key. All of my personal items were in drawers that locked. Office theft, including identity theft, is a thing.

      2. JSPA*

        Depending on how acrimonious the divorce is, or how rotten the home circumstances, keeping personal files at work may be a necessity.
        For example, getting your essentials out of the house and into another safe yet accessible location is one of the top level suggestions for fleeing an abusive relationship or divorcing a spouse with drug or gambling problems. In fact, this also applies in states where there’s no one party, no fault divorce, and the person wanting to leave (and perhaps also file for custody) needs to amass documentation and / or wait two or three years, while the other spouse tries to sabotage the process.

        You can make it clear that keeping personal files at work isn’t a good default behavior. You can suggest (if the employee has a large enough, locking desk drawer) that files be kept there, if they must be at work.
        You can suggest a locking file box at their desk. But have some sympathy, if “personal files at work” is the best, most workable answer to a bad situation.

        1. Bea*

          This was my thought as well as soon as I saw divorce papers.

          Also that backup paperwork sounds like she’s building a case against her ex. Perhaps for alimony or proof the spouse was having an affair. Perhaps they have a prenup and they have credit card statements showing local motels or some nonsense.

          1. bohtie*

            pretty much this. I kept a lot of my divorce and other important paperwork in a (locked) desk drawer in my office until the case was done, because my ex was stalking me and broke into my apartment at least once that I know of. My work is much more secure.

        2. Tuxedo Cat*

          I like suggesting a locked drawer. The employee might not be thinking straight and not realize that the paperwork is accessible to anyone.

        3. e271828*

          Yes, this was my thought too. Employee has removed the most critical paperwork from home to prevent soon-to-be-ex from abusing their access. Please don’t make this harder for the employee—offer a locking cabinet, perhaps?

      3. Colette*

        Keeping personal files at work is a bad idea for the employee- but the employee is t the one asking. There’s no affect on the business, assuming it’s one drawer, so the boss should let it go.

      4. chrome ate my username*

        My thought on that was it was an extenuating circumstance specifically because the employee is going through a divorce. Said employee may still be in process of separating housing, belongings, etc., from the ex, and be temporarily storing all of that stuff at work specifically to keep it somewhere the ex does not have access to it.

    6. Ender*

      Yeah – this is one of those things that is about personal preference. It’s like insisting that all your staff wear your favourite colour. For some people, a neat desk makes it easier to concentrate. For other people, it has no impact on concentration and taking the time to tidy up is what distracts them. Personal preference. And I can’t begin to imagine how distracting it is to get sent videos by your boss! You can bet if boss is setting that sort of example, everyone else is probably emailing each other videos too.

      On the other hand spending company time doing personal tasks IS a big deal. As Alison says, a call once in a while is one thing, but managing your entire personal life during work time is not acceptable in most jobs.

      What’s confusing me is that it seems like the employee did keep her workplace neat – all her personal stuff was tidied away in a drawer. So OP has actual proof right there that keeping your desk neat doesn’t mean you’re focused on doing your job. Yet they are sticking to their belief that having a neat desk is important. It’s really strange.

      1. Butter Makes Things Better*

        Ohh, I see that I missed the point of the letter! You’re right, it is confusing. I’ve occasionally kept personal documents at work (a random lease, xeroxes of my passport), but they were hidden away and my desk and office were lockable, so I felt okay with it. I wasn’t in a role where people would be rummaging for work-related stuff. (I also didn’t realize there might be a company liability issue.) But I wasn’t the only person keeping personal stuff at work — we found a series of X-rays under a couch when my old boss moved into a bigger office a couple doors down the hallway!

        1. Logan*

          I have a big file of personal documents at work, however they are all scanned documents and contained on a ‘Personal’ folder on my personal drive (a tech administrator could likely get access, but no one else). I occasionally bring paper documents to work, however I almost exclusively scan papers at work or take photos of them at home (not perfect quality, but much faster and easier than scanning) so I do not have paper copies at work.

          I recently had a big fire at work and was not able to retrieve any papers (the building was too damaged) so I’m even more keen to do everything electronically these days. The fact that I keep copies of files both in work and personal systems is helped by the fact that I trust my employer, and I don’t have anything overly worrisome (I keep copies of income tax forms and similar). I have learned that I should keep my important paper items at home, where at least I have some control over them (in the case of a fire I can hire a company to retrieve things for me – my employer would not entertain the suggestion).

      2. Nanani*

        Also, boss should keep in mind that a lot of people won’t watch instructional videos. They’re terrible for a lot of us who take in information better when it’s written, or want to be able to scan for a specific section, or any other reason.

        Save the “how to clean” videos for people who request them when they see you sparkling clean desk.

    7. Ivy James*

      Agree. And often there is good reason a person keeps personal files at work—like it is safer than their home. A colleague of mine once admitted that she did something similar as she prepared to leave an abusive relationship. Everyone has something, if their work isn’t suffering or truly impacting others, let it go.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Oh that is a good point! I hadn’t thought of it, but since OP2 mentioned divorce-related documentation, you are probably right! I wonder why the admin does not have a drawer that locks. I’ve always had one everywhere I’ve worked.

        1. Amber T*

          All of my drawers have locks, but when I moved into my office, I couldn’t find the key that went with them. I was dealing with confidential employee information, so I did need a locked drawer/cabinet, so I went to my office manager and asked if she knew where the key was to my drawer. She laughed and pulled out a huge bag of keys and said, “have fun.” There were at least 50, I tried about a dozen to get a few of my cabinets to lock (if the make/model looked like it matched), and none of them worked. Honestly, they’re more annoying than they’re worth.

          1. Amber T*

            I realize after posting you said you’ve always had one, not that you always wanted one. Sorry, I’m off more coffee.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              lol, not a problem!

              Truthfully, I was expecting to find out as I read through your story, that all 50 of them worked! (Pretty sure some of my workplaces had that problem to some degree.)

    8. A Fine Spring Day*

      Let’s say I work in the warehouse for my company. My job involves lots of boxes and crates and packing and unpacking. The oh so smart powers that be decided to put the TV for telepresence calls in my space, and my boss complains a lot that her boss is complaining about the boxes. I don’t think this is true, I’m pretty sure it’s my boss. But I literally cannot do my job without all the boxes. And I’m too overworked and short handed to keep the boxes moving that quickly

    9. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      My desk is fairly neat these days (by my standards), however, were a neat freak to open my drawers and look in there, they might be a bit disappointed. Either way, not my manager’s business, unless my desk is in a busy area that the executives or the clients walk through.

    10. TricksieHobbit*

      :looks at my dirty gym clothes lying in a bag in the corner:

      But I swear I’ll take them home this weekend.

      1. Amber T*

        My snow boots have been hiding behind my door since the last time we got snow (as we’re pushing through yet ANOTHER heat wave…)

    11. soon 2be former fed*

      I have worked with office hoarders though, where locating a file in their mountain of mess if they were not around was impossible. The office is not your home and their should be standards of organization and cleanliness. Some folks required dumpsters to clean out their crap after retiring or leaving! That said, some managers can be too controlling, I know one who cleaned and organized a subordinate’s workspace while they were on vacation. That was invasive. But extreme messiness and disorganization is no good either. I know a supervisor who leaves confidential personnel paperwork right on top of her messy desk. She literally needs to clean up her act.

      1. TardyTardis*

        I always cleaned up very well before I went on vacation (those were the times I went through my ‘rat piles’ and disposed of same, so anybody going through the stuff would see only what they were supposed to, or actually needed).

    12. schnauzerfan*

      Yeah. I get nervous when my desk is too clean. I have stacks, neat stacks, but stacks and I can find anything I need until I get the crazy idea to file, toss, etc. Then I can’t find a darn thing. Also as others have mentioned, there are lots of reasons to keep personal papers at work. Maybe the employee is couch surfing. Maybe an abusive situation where “important” papers aren’t safe at home. Maybe, like me, you just never know when Mom’s carers are going to call and need to know when she had that flu shot, had that surgery, first noticed symptom x. I have a couple of locking drawers where I keep such papers now, but at one time I kept them in a locked brief case that just hung out in a corner of my area. So I’d suggest to my employee that s/he file her private stuff somewhere that could be labeled to avoid confusing coworkers and others.

    13. Akcipitrokulo*

      Agreed. Some poeple work efficiently with a clear desk and would have difficulties without it. Other people would find a clear desk policy distracting and difficult to work with without their stuff nearby.

      Different people = different comfort levels of stuff.

      And I’m definitely of the “would lose efficiency with a clear desk policy” group.

      1. Jane Victoria*

        Tweaking the question slightly–when someone has a visible desk in a highly-trafficked service area overflowing with personal decor (think sports paraphernalia, stuffed animals and other toys, photos of movie stars from People, etc.), where would you draw that line as a manager?

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          I was more thinking work-related things (like I have reference books, notebooks, few (non-confidential) papers… as long as in neat-ish piles that aren’t in danger of falling…

          For personal decor, a couple of personal things are fine I think as long as they aren’t offensive and don’t take over. So a small teddy and a photo of family, or a few small models (<10cm tall) fine… a mountain of beanie babies you have to peer round, not so much!

          tl:dr – if it interferes with work, not OK.

        2. TardyTardis*

          I should think it would depend–one worker I knew was Beanie Baby Central, but her files were impeccable and I never knew there were that many colors of Post-Its, to be honest. Another was called Ft. Garfield, from the impressive collection of Garfields lined up in size order, but Payroll would have collapsed without him. Of course, I had fun bickering back and forth with the most determined NY Yankees fan in the place, but sports stuff doesn’t get the stigma that stuffed animals do.

    14. Trying to Retire*

      I need a 4-6 story in/out file on my desk. If I put active projects in a drawer, they are removed from my internal priority list. If the files are in front of me, I am completely efficient and organized. Working for someone who is OCD about a clean desk is horrid. I’ve done it and I didn’t stay long.

  5. Cambridge Comma*

    OP1, the only person you can ask anything of is your husband. You could ask him to find a new job, for example. However, you might want to weigh up whether working with this person was the reason your husband cheated, or whether it might be more likely that some aspect of his character led him to do so irrespective of the people he had contact with at work. Don’t be tempted to see the ‘husband’ problem you have as an ‘other woman’ problem.

    1. The Original K.*

      At first I read the letter thinking that OP 1 was going to ask HER HUSBAND not to renew the contract. When I saw it was the boss, I thought “Yeesh. No.”

      OP, you absolutely should not do this. Work this through with your husband. Do not seek vengeance, do not drag your husband’s boss into this. It’s only going to look bad for him professionally, and you really have no business interfering in his professional life this way. I know it feels like it’s personal – it’s your marriage! – but it isn’t. You’re suggesting making a professional request at a company at which you do not work, and you just don’t have the right to do that. If I were your husband’s boss, I would be really annoyed if his spouse came to me with issues in their marriage – it has nothing to do with me and the work I need to get done.

    2. MJ*

      It really bothers me that LW’s solution to her husband’s bad behavior was to deprive someone ELSE of a job. If the husband can’t work with the other contractor, then he needs to leave the job, not chase the other person out.

    3. It's not the contractor's fault.*

      This is my thought; this isn’t a problem with this specific contractor, this is a problem with her husband cheating. Even if this contractor gets laid off (which she shouldn’t), there will always be temptation/another contractor/other women alive. Husband needs to learn boundaries.

  6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, the short answer is that yes, in Connecticut, your employer’s response is unlawful. If your employer fails to accommodate you properly, you have a great complaint for the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. Moreover, this isn’t a new law—Connecticut has required accommodation for breastfeeding mothers since 1997, and it expanded those protections in 2001. Whether a manager approved an inappropriate space doesn’t somehow transform that space into an appropriate location for expressing breastmilk. So your employer can’t argue that they were somehow unaware of these laws or the utility of a lactation room for current and future breastfeeding employees.

    As Alison noted, Connecticut law requires a private (read: locked, not in public view like your car), non-bathroom/toilet location to express breast milk. Some employers try to push back on the “toilet stall” language to mean that a bathroom is ok, but unless the bathroom can be locked and has a location that is separate from the stalls, it won’t meet CT’s accommodation standards. If HR continues to push back, you may want to share the CHRO’s Guide to Connecticut Breastfeeding Nondiscrimination and Workplace Accommodation Laws with them.

    1. Jemima Bond*

      I hope this isn’t a de-rail (if so please delete with my apologies) but could someone explain the federal law to me a bit because it’s interesting – Alison notes that federal protections for breastfeeding mums don’t apply to exempt workers. Now if I’ve understood correctly, exempt = exempt from a law requiring overtime to be paid for any hours worked over a certain amount? What is the rationale behind not giving this protection to salaried workers? I would have thought they would normally have better benefits? Or maybe that’s the point – do hourly-paid workers need the accommodation because they have less flexibility in general, and the law thinks salaries workers get enough benefits anyway and might get this one at the companies’ behest? That doesn’t really make sense to me though. It feels like, as an example I’ve made up, a person working a set number of hours in the office of a small charity being allowed a special chair to accommodate their dodgy back, while a corporate lawyer has to bring his own cushion. Grateful for any clarity!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        At the time that the FLSA was passed (1938), it was intended to protect classes of workers who were thought most likely to be subject to abuses. The exempt categories of workers (management employees, professional workers, learned professions like lawyers and teachers, and a few others) were at the time thought to be far less at risk of abuses than, say, factory workers. But the law hasn’t really kept up with the way modern work works.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          And with breastfeeding, the reason the federal law doesn’t cover exempt workers is because the federal breastfeeding legislation simply amended the FLSA to add that protection. Since the FLSA doesn’t cover exempt workers, the law only impacted non-exempt ones. Congress would need to pass a separate law, not just amend the FLSA, in order to extend it to everyone.

          1. blackcat*

            I remember reading that the senator who put this in the ACA (basically, the ACA modified FLSA) really regrets doing this in a way that only applies to non-exempt workers. It was a choice when writing the ACA, and I think the senator who pushed it expected resistance. Instead, one of the super conservative republicans who also happens to be a doctor championed it, and it passed very easily. So it could have been broader.
            Our system is flawed, but there was at least solid support for that provision in the ACA.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Some of the things you’ve described apply to all workers (FMLA, employment discrimination laws, the ADA). So things like a dodgy back that needs a special chair apply to exempt and non-exempt employees, so long as the company has enough employees to fall within the ADA’s protections.

        What exempt employees are exempt from is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which discusses things like break periods, wages, overtime, etc. The underlying rationale was that “white collar” workers had greater bargaining power than “blue-collar” workers (often paid hourly), who were thought to have unequal bargaining power relative to their employer. It essentially sought to set a floor of the bare minimum that could be expected with respect to hours worked and wages for all workers so that there was some degree of protection for both unionized and non-unionized workers.

    2. Anon because SECRETS*

      Is it better to warn your company to prepare a place ahead of time – even if you yourself aren’t sure? I want to try to breastfeed, but I know so many woman (maybe a larger percentage than is normal?) that have had a lot of trouble with it, and generally if something can go wrong with my body it will, so I’m not totally confidant that it’s gonna happen. I’m in a ‘wing it, we’ll see how it goes’ place with it right now. And I don’t want to get my work all worked up about setting up a place if there’s a chance I might not need it. On the other hand, maybe it’s better they have more warning? I don’t know of anyone else who has pumped here, even though we are a large location and someone else just had a baby.

      1. MLB*

        I would definitely say something so they can prepare to have a room available for you. If you want to breastfeed, then ask for it. It may work for you or it may not, but as far as your office is concerned, your intention is to breastfeed and they need to provide accommodations for that.

      2. Rachel in Non Profits*

        I spent the last trimester of my pregnancy focusing on preparing to nurse. I talked to work about accommodation, adjusted my schedule, and most importantly, went to local Le Leche League group meeting. I read their book “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.”
        Then, when the baby came, I had everything in place. And good thing too, because I had some significant hurdles and challenges in breastfeeding. My baby was medically fragile and it was very tough. I was happy to be able to meet my breastfeeding goals.
        If I hadn’t set up everything at work in advance I probably would have given up

      3. Academic Addie*

        It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. I’m breastfeeding my second and final baby, but with my first, I was seriously sickened (mastitis that required medical intervention) by my employer screwing with my lactation accommodations.

        My advice to OP 3 is to be polishing her application packet. An employer who treats her like this on something this important is probably going to find other ways to make life hard until she quits.

      4. Lynn Whitehat*

        Better to ask ahead of time. Even if you end up not needing it, someone else will, and now they’ve already thought about how to accommodate it.

        1. Just Employed Here*

          I came here to say this. You’re likely to need / be able to use it, and anyway, your employer needs to know what their responsibility is. You’re doing future nursing colleagues a favour by helping to sort this out.

      5. greenius*

        Definitely ask ahead of time! It’s a good thing for your company to plan for, regardless. Even if you only pump for a single day once you’re back at work, you’ll still need a place. If you can avoid scrambling to find a good pumping room while you’re achy & leaking, you should. ;)

        My company has been really supportive of my pumping, and that’s been one of the biggest boosts to me being able to keep breastfeeding my now-8-month-old. Go ahead and ask your employer now, so you can make whatever feeding decisions are best for you & your baby without worrying.

      6. Akcipitrokulo*

        Ask. If it isn’t used, that’s OK – it’s seriously understood that it may not work out, and that is absolutely OK.

      7. Ann Perkins*

        Definitely work it out ahead of time. Coming back from leave is already tough and hectic enough – if you are breastfeeding, the last thing you’ll want is for it to be 10 am and your boobs are about to explode but there’s no arranged place yet.

      8. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yes—assuming your employer is somewhat rational/reasonable, it’s definitely better to warn and prepare the employer ahead of time, even if you aren’t sure if you’ll need it. Ultimately someone will need access to a lactation room, and given that the employer is contemplating a massive remodel, it will be cheaper and more efficient for them to anticipate the need for a place to express milk now than to try to fix it later.

      9. Observer*

        A major reason women have trouble with nursing / pumping is problems at work. If your location has had multiple women giving birth in the last couple of years and NONE of the nursed, I’d be willing to bet that at least some of them were influenced by the fact that there is no lactation room, and it’s going to be a “big deal”.

        If you plan to give nursing a serious try, you should definitely give your employer a heads up that you “all going well, I’ll be nursing New Baby”

      10. Lucille2*

        You’re right that nothing goes quite the way you planned after baby comes, and breastfeeding can be very difficult for new moms. But chances are that you are not the only woman who will request accommodation, so the company should really consider providing a space. You may not end up using it, but you will likely benefit other moms down the road.

    3. Fergus*

      Yea it was 88 degrees in DC at 9:30AM this morning, the milk would be sour before she was done pumping in the car. Sounds like boss is a jerk

      1. Friday*

        Breastmilk actually stays fresh for at least four hours at room temperature. I don’t know about 80+ degrees, but I’d be willing to bet that milk expressed at 98.6 degrees would hold at 80-90 OK for the 20-30min it usually takes to pump, and then it’s usually chilled down right after.

        1. Lucille2*

          The breastmilk will probably be fine, but sitting in the car for 20-30 minutes in that kind of heat would be miserable. You’d have to have the car running, and I don’t know about DC, but I live in an area where letting a car idle is very much discouraged due to affecting already poor air quality. Besides that, asking someone to pump in their car in the parking lot makes an already somewhat awkward thing become mortifying.

  7. Observer*

    OP 1, as noted this is between you and your husband, and his boss should NOT be invited into this situation. It’s likely to have a lot of negative consequences for you. Keep in mind that no halfway reasonable boss is going to make such a significant decision about someone’s employment based on vague “personal reasons” voiced by someone outside of the company. So, it’s going to make you look odd (at best). Which means that in order to have a chance to get what you want, you are going to need to share what happened. If that doesn’t get your husband fired (and it might in some companies) it will bring the boss into your marriage and possibly give him entree to make comments and judgements that you really don’t need.

    Getting the contractor fired is not going to save your marriage anyway. If he’s over the affair, then it doesn’t matter that she works there. And if he’s not that’s a problem regardless of her presence. If he wants to be over it and is willing to do the hard work of changing, but her presence is such a problem for his ability to move forward, then he’s the one who needs to leave the job.

    1. SignalLost*

      I mean, if he wants to have an affair, he’s going to do that with her whether she works there or not, or with another woman at work, or with a woman he meets at the grocery store. This is a hundo percent a problem with your husband that he needs to be willing to solve, because the world contains other women that he could also have an affair with. I’m not trying to say your husband is terrible or a committed cheater or whatever, OP, but it’s not reasonable to assume this coworker is the only source of temptation in his life and removing the temptation will solve the problem, because that’s not true. He needs to work on this problem, because it is a problem with him. You can (and should) help him in that and be supportive and encouraging, but it’s not like AA functions by destroying all alcohol everywhere – it functions by giving you methods of coping with your own alcohol issue. This is a similar issue, in terms of solving it.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Honestly, if I were running a business (which I admit is something I’ve never done), and received a request from an employee’s spouse not to renew a contract with one of my contractors, because the employee had had an affair with that person… On my good day, I’d probably sit down and weigh the pros and cons for my business of keeping either person and letting the other one go; with added negative points against the employee, because he’s the one that created this mess with the letter from the spouse in the first place. On my bad day, I’d probably just let the employee go and call it a problem solved. You seriously are not in a place to give your husband’s boss staffing advice, OP. This will come across as all kinds of weird and boundary-crashing. How about some marriage counseling instead?

  8. Uncertain Man*

    OP5 – thanks for asking the question, I am pretty much in the same boat now. The company is facing cutbacks following an unsuccessful year, lots of people ALREADY jumping ship, and a friend heard a boss saying my contract is not going to be renewed. It would be much safer for us to have a job offer in hand than to wait and see if rumors turns out to be false.

    1. Elemeno P.*

      My fiance recently went through this, and he didn’t start job searching until he had a severance date. I think the anxiety he went through would have been lessened if he’d started searching when he first heard about it.

      1. Annie Moose*

        I did this. And while things worked out well for me (I’m much happier at my current company than my old one!), I also wish I would’ve started searching earlier. I kept trying to deny that it would happen, even though I knew it was coming, and it added so much more stress to the process.

    2. Remington*

      I’m in a similar situation of not being sure if I should start job searching based on the signs that something could be happening. I was recently headhunted by my current job, and I’ve only been here a few months. They are still hiring at the lower levels but there’s been massive turnover at the higher levels and it’s starting to trickle down and if I had a couple years in, or at least a year here I would definitely be hardcore job searching. But I have no idea what to say about why I want to leave my current position! For now I’m occasionally scoping out job boards for positions in my somewhat niche field.

      1. MLB*

        I think you can be honest about your current situation. Another company is not going to hold it against you if you tell them you are looking for a new job because your current company has been downsizing. In fact I think any company would be ok with honesty if it was a legitimate reason to job search (like a highly toxic environment) when you’ve been somewhere for a shorter time.

        I’ve been laid off twice in the past – the first time they gave us a 2 month warning and the second time as sudden and I had no idea. Then at my last job, they were laying people off left and right and making major changes. I survived that time, but was job hunting like crazy while it was going on.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      I’m somewhat in the same boat–my company is being sold. We found out about the sale in June, which will be finalized next month, and we’ll all find out next week whether we have a job with the company that’s buying us.
      It’s been tough to wait it out.

      I told my team early on to at least wait until they have their “job status” meeting next week before they jump ship, since most of them would be giving up a fair amount of severance if they leave now, as well as their annual bonus and some other things. On the other hand, they need to decide for themselves if having job security outweighs losing any severance offered. For one team member, she decided that she would forfeit anything she might get in favor of having job security; her last day was a few weeks ago. She knew she wouldn’t accept an offer from the new company, and she couldn’t stand the feeling of being in limbo until next week.

      So what it boils down to is whether OP would rather jump ship now and forfeit any severance she might get so she can be certain of having a job, or if she’d rather wait it out and possibly get a good severance. That’s something only OP can decide and it’s definitely a gamble. Good luck, OP!

    4. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      OP5: three times, I have been at a company that was going through layoffs. I left early every time: once in a voluntary layoff with a severance package, once to go to a new job, once just to escape. Company 1 had multiple layoffs over several years and its stock dropped over 50%, leaving everyone’s stock options worthless. Company 2 went out of business and everyone was let go with little severance. Company 3 got acquired, laid off many people, and lost its unique culture. In all three cases, the employees who stayed did worse than those who left. Better to control your own departure.

    5. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster*

      I think that almost every company I’ve worked for has done major layoffs! My MO is to wait for the shoe to drop.

      I’d personally rather collect the severance package. Plus, I have *zero* qualms about being on unemployment — I pay for unemployment insurance and collecting unemployment is my legal right to do. I know some people have some kind of aversion to collecting, but I sure don’t. So, I wait to get laid off, I don’t jump ship.

      That said, I have the kind of job skills that are sought after, with great references and strong experience. I am not particularly worried about finding a new job if mine goes away. And, I have an emergency fund of several months’ expenses.

      So, it makes sense for ME to collect a bunch of money and get some time off between gigs, rather than just jumping to the next available job the minute I hear about layoff rumors.

    6. De Minimis*

      #5. Definitely start looking now. I think it often takes longer than one thinks to find a new job, despite the adage of “It’s easier to find a job when you have a job.” It took me a good 4 months and a ton of interviews before I found a new position, and I’m located in an area with a supposedly strong job market.

      Even if you end up weathering the storm, often the changes in the working environment are hard to tolerate. I know at my previous job as people left we had to cover for them and the workload became really heavy to where I probably would have left even if I knew I was going to be permitted to remain.

    7. TardyTardis*

      One question to ask is how big is your 401(k)? Sometimes a large one will make a company hesitate, because they don’t really want to cut that big a check if they’re hurting for money. On the other hand, this might be a very good reason to bail to make sure your 401(k) still *exists*, depending on how portable it is

  9. Toby Flenderson*

    #1 – I’ve been there. While battling all my emotions and feelings, knowing my wife was still working closely with the person she cheated on me with (technically in a superior/underling dynamic too) it’s not really worth it. If your husband cheated on you with her once, it probably doesn’t matter who he works with – he needs to deal with it himself.

    Getting involved at the employment level won’t help issues he has, or you have with him. I can see exactly where you’re coming from, but it’s just going to create extra drama and stress your marriage clearly *doesn’t* need.

    I pray you and your husband figure things out though.

  10. Cobol*

    Not a huge fan of neat freak, because it can be read as criticizing OP, but yes agree 100%
    OP#3 don’t think of yourself as “leading by example.” You’re doing what’s best for you, but having a desk free of items might be determental for somebody else.

    1. Lynn Whitehat*

      Yes. Also, it’s standard advice when leaving an abuser to keep your documentation and files at work, where the abuser can’t get to them. I suppose the same would apply in a contentious divorce where the soon-to-be-ex is sabotaging the process. I get that the workplace is for work, but in the particular case of divorce paperwork, I would temper justice with mercy.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It’s that exempt employees aren’t covered by the FLSA, so you’d need to create a whole different law to extend the breastfeeding laws to those employees.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yep — when we talk about “exempt workers,” it literally means “exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act” (which includes overtime time, etc.).

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Thank you for explaining this. It’s so simple that it should be obvious, but I never realized.

        2. mmppgh*

          Wow. I have been “exempt” for most of my career but never knew this. Always interpreted it as OT exempt. Now, I want to look into what else I’m exempt from..

    2. Granby*

      I think it’s pretty obvious – what’s the reason for the existence of exempt employees at all? You might hear all kinds of rationalizations but there’s one simple reason – employers want to be able to not pay overtime/ not provide pumping rooms, etc and they had enough influence to help pass laws that benefit them.

      1. Mad Baggins*

        I’d like to learn more about this. “Hey shouldn’t some people be exempt from having fair labor standards” is such an… odd concept to propose, I’d be interested to learn more if anyone has resources they can recommend.

        1. JSPA*

          There used to be a lower percentage of exempt positions. Ownership / management applied to a select few. Many people with various level of oversight function were salaried employees, and protected. (
          A rough parallel might be the military, where there’s a distinction between non commissioned officers — lower level officers who come from the ranks — and commissioned officers who are pre-trained and contracted for leadership / management roles.)

          There’s been a gigantic shift in the last few decades to make people salaried / exempt — in large part to muck with their protections / pay them far less than they’d get if they were on the clock, getting overtime, and otherwise being protected.

          Discussing the gritty details of recent past attempts to extend protections to cover something closer to the percentage of the workforce covered by the original act would –almost by necessity– stray deep into politics, so we really can’t go there. As with breastfeeding, many gaps have been filled by state law (so yes, you should look into state laws and protections when considering jobs, or when your company moves!)

          1. Natalie*

            The original act was a little thinner than you might think – retail and service workers, domestic workers, and farm workers were all exempted at first and only added later (mid 50s for retail & service, mid 60s for some farm workers, and mid 70s for domestic workers). A lot of small businesses were exempted as well.

            1. JSPA*

              Good point (hadn’t known retail / service came later, actually). Makes sense; the unions made it happen…the coverage expanded somewhat in tandem with the unionization of those other sectors.

            2. Gazebo Slayer*

              Yep, and a lot of the exemptions in the original act were just plain racist. (Jobs with a large percentage of workers of color were often excluded from protection. Some of those exclusions are still in place, still largely because of racism.)

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Alison describes this upthread, but the primary framework of the FLSA centers on relative bargaining power in the workplace. For the most part, bankers, lawyers, doctors, etc., were thought to have more relative power than hourly workers (which is certainly true now and was even more true during the Depression). The same went for management, but that’s because the “management class” was also a much thinner and smaller percentage of the workforce when the FLSA passed.

          Here are some resources that may provide more historical context:
          Grossman (Dept. of Labor), Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938: Maximum Struggle for Minimum Wage
          Forsyth, Legislative History of the FLSA
          The Living New Deal, <a href=";Glossary: FLSA
          Samuel, Troubled Passage: The Labor Movement and the FLSA

      2. LQ*

        It’s sort of the opposite of this, and I think that’s kind of important. You have to assume that everything starts from a place of no rights, no protections, no limits, no restrictions. Then laws get passed to ADD rights, protections, restrictions. I know it seems a little pedantic. But realize that at least in the US, the base assumption when it comes to work, should be…yes it’s all legal, unless there is a law prohibiting/protecting. Not the other way around.

    3. Natalie*

      This was never my area of focus, but my recollection is that a lot of the New Deal legislation, including FLSA, were passed by a pretty Herculean effort including a lot of horse trading to get the necessary votes. (If you were following the two year process to get the enough votes to pass the ACA, think of something like that but several years longer.) So, for example, there was a huge carve out for Southern senators that wanted to preserve the existing racial caste system in their states – farm workers and domestic employees (almost exclusively black) were not covered by the law until the mid 60s-mid 70s.

      The US has always been fairly individualistic in terms of attitudes towards a welfare state, and that was much, much more entrenched 80 years ago. The idea that the federal government should legislate minimum standard across the board for something as quotidian as what a worker was paid, much less that the constitution would even allow them to, was not a given.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yuuuuup. Though a lot of the racist carveouts are still there – like a disgustingly low agricultural minimum wage.

    4. blackcat*

      As I recall, it was easier to write the law that way and it was more palatable. It is due to a provision of the ACA that modifies the FSLA. It could have been set up differently. And I remember reading that the senator who added the provision regrets doing it the way he did, but he thought it was more likely to get passed that way. But, as it turns out, folks on both sides of the aisle agreed on breastfeeding protections.

      There were so, so many pieces to the ACA. It’s understandable that many of them were flawed.

  11. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    Ugh, OP3, I feel so angry at your employer on your behalf! A car is not private (unless you have, like, an electrician’s van and sit in the windowless back) and Connecticut is cold in the winter! Also, your employer is being foolish from a selfish perspective as well. Because I was able to pump in my own office, the time I spent prepping and cleaning up was shorter than if I’d had to walk somewhere far off two or three times a day. And I was able to do some work while pumping. (Though not all women can – it’s a pretty psychological thing, and some women need to focus on a picture of their baby, etc. – and that’s also ok. But I definitely would have done less work while pumping if I’d been doing it in my car.)

    Good luck, OP. If you haven’t already, I recommend joining a local La Leche League group or LLL Facebook group. I found it really helpful.

    1. This Daydreamer*

      Yeah, I really winced at that bit. And telling a woman to pump in the restroom sounds way too familiar. Apparently there are some workplaces that have managed to avoid the entire conversation about breastfeeding.

    2. MamaCat*

      Yeah, that whole exchange made me super grumpy. That HR person has obviously never pumped, or they’d know how annoying it is to try to pump in the car (yes I’ve done it, with one of those hands-free pumps; I had a long-ish commute). And the plugs in the bathroom! Are they close enough to the stall? Even setting aside, y’know, breaking the law, they really didn’t think this through.

      1. Persimmons*

        Plugs not being near the stall sets up a whole other issue. I worked in a place that made a woman pump in the stalls, and the only outlet was by the sinks. The cord to her pump was strung at calf-height across the doorway. Several of us pitched face-first onto the tile floor while tripping over the cord.

        In retrospect I should have raised holy hell on her and our behalf, but I was young and knew nothing about workplace protections.

        1. blackcat*

          This is also a problem with pumping in a car. Many of the pumps covered by insurance require being connected to an outlet.

          1. NewWorkingMama*

            OP you absolutely SHOULD not have to pump in your car, but they do make adapters should you want to at any point. However, that’s absolutely not the point here. Employers should want to provide workers with whatever they need to pump in a quiet environment where you can relax and return to work as soon as possible. My experience has been more that people who set up the rooms (or don’t in this case) have never pumped and totally don’t get the importance of it (physically or mentally). I was happy to educate my husband about this nonsense issue, which eventually resulted in him telling his startup coworkers to “respect the pumping room” and not have a meeting in there. I’m enraged on your behalf and hope for a happy follow up letter when you return!

          2. dawbs*

            I will say that the requirement to pump in the car is obnoxious and horrid.

            That said, I also recommend most moms who pump a lot to buy either the AC/DC adapter or the battery-pack that let it runs off AA batteries or both–because weird crap happens and the *need* to pump is a need and power outages and stuck in a car and everything else happens just often enough to make it a good idea to have a backup. But that’s backup, not reality.

            (I did a lot of commute-pumping. Less distracting than my radio, really. But I ALSO learned that a car is NOT a temperature stable solution.
            If I”m 20 minutes into my commute then the temperature outside doesn’t matter–but if you get to trudge across a snow covered a parking lot in January, to sit ina -2 degree car to pump, you discover you can’t pump in a parka and it is TO COLD to sit and pump without one. FLip side, in July, that whole ‘it’s to hot, pets die’ applies to someone trying to pump too. You can’t just sit in the car, and leaving it running for ages without actually moving is a recipe for an overheated car)

    1. GermanGirl*

      No, it’s the one with what to do if you’re laid off that doesn’t work (at least for me, I click and it does nothing).

      The other one, with what to do if you’re about to be fired, works for me.

  12. Copier Admin Girl*

    OP #1, I’m first hoping you can sort through everything in your personal life and reach the healthiest conclusion for both you and your husband, whatever that may be. I have been in a similar situation and I am sending you healing thoughts as you move forward.

    Next, I see I may be redundant at this point but please take Allison’s word, and all the other commenters’, who are advising against this. Respectfully, you have no standing in anyone else’s workplace, spouses’ workplaces included. That in turn means you have no right to contact a company authority and make such a request, especially when it involves a personal marital issue like this. It would be jarringly far outside of professional and liability norms.

    You wrote that you want to save your marriage but I would venture to say that overstepping this professional boundary so much would not help rebuild any trust in your relationship with your husband. That is part of a different discussion but still leads to the most important point at hand- marital problems are marital, for the spouses involved to handle between themselves. They cannot spill over into anyone’s workplace; it would be detrimental to everyone involved and would help nothing in the marriage.

    Requesting an end to this person’s contract would be an action fueled by pain and anger (emotions that are completely understandable here). Neither pain nor anger can be mitigated by creating more pain or anger. Please do not approach anyone at your husband’s company with this. I am sorry you are in this situation, OP, and I wish you peace.

  13. CatCat*

    #3, my workplace has offices with glass walls and cubes. A nursing mother works in a cube. She uses an office when she needs to pump using a lightweight folding privacy screen to block the glass with a do not disturb note on the door. So that’s an idea you might present.

    Usually someone isn’t around and so an office is pretty much always available (and if everyone with an office were there one day, I can’t imagine the office wouldn’t make it work so she could use an office at a time she needed it). Are your coworkers supportive and you can enlist their help for a solution?

  14. Brock*

    I believe that OP2’s questions is about the personal filing items themselves – it sounds like the items are not ‘out’ in the clean desk sense.

    Alison’s advice is great for most people/situations….but I’d like to point out that sometimes people have reasons that are none of the coworkers’ business. For example, there may be Issues at Home (e.g. impending divorce, family member with certain types of non-trivial mental health issues etc), where the office is really the best, least-risky place to keep certain papers even if the privacy isn’t ideal or one’s coworkers might think it a bit odd.

    1. BK*

      Sure, but that still doesn’t mean it’s actually a suitable place to keep that stuff for all the reasons mentioned.

    2. krysb*

      While I agree that the manger in this scenario shouldn’t try to control what people keep at their desks, I think there should be a reminder that your work space is not a private space, and there should be no expectations of such.

  15. Leenie*

    We had the glass in our quiet room covered with an opaque frosted white film. What’s the point of having a quiet room where everyone can see you napping or meditating or pumping or whatever appropriate thing you would want to do in private? Everyone loves the pretty, new, all glass office, but form needs to follow function.

    1. Ender*

      Um… in the case of pumping I agree with you, but “quiet rooms” are definitely NOT for napping and meditating or being “in private”. They are for concentrating when you’re working on something you need peace and quiet to concentrate on.

      1. Chriama*

        Well it depends on the office. Some quiet rooms are absolutely for all those things. Maybe not napping… but meditating, praying, pumping, etc are all legitimate activities someone might need to do during a work day and an employer might want to provide facilities for.

          1. SarahTheEntwife*

            I don’t usually meditate at work, but there’s no reason I couldn’t do so on my breaks.

          2. Dolorous Bread*

            My work has meditation rooms and 2 “wellness rooms” with couches (one has a massage chair too). I’ve totally napped in a wellness room. Meditation isn’t my thing.

            We also have a New Mother’s Room specifically for pumping, I believe it also has a mini fridge and a sink in it, so we’re lucky.

            I don’t understand why employers don’t want to make these little adjustments — it boosts morale and retains employees.

          3. Grace*

            My company offers group meditation sessions twice a week over the lunch hour. We also have designated Mother’s Rooms.

          1. Leenie*

            True. The only time I’ve actually used our quiet room was when I was hit with sudden stabbing pains in my side (turned out to not be at all serious, but I had a lie down until I gave up and texted my husband to pick me up). Someone definitely might go in there while they’re waiting for the Excedrin to kick in.

        1. Leenie*

          I could see how napping might be scandalous in a lot of places. My industry occasionally requires long hours in the office, and I live in an area of the country where a lot of people have long commutes. So the most common use of our quiet room has definitely been a quick snooze, and no one gets the side eye. But that’s highly dependent on office culture and employee needs.

      2. Jaybeetee*

        I used to work at a call centre that had “quiet rooms”, which definitely were not meant for “need a quiet place to focus on work” (because “work” was the phones, and not portable). Napping might be a stretch (it would probably be noticeable if you were in one of those rooms for long stretches), but meditating and the like, certainly.
        There was a rumour that one time someone went into one of those rooms and found footprints against the wall behind the chair, so I suppose the rooms occasionally had other uses as well…

      3. Leenie*

        Maybe in your office that’s what quiet rooms are for. Where I work, most of us have private offices, plus conference rooms, so we definitely don’t need that room for work. And when we asked the office designer about it, she mentioned that rooms for resting or religious observance (which can also be used a a pump room with a mini fridge) are becoming really common. So I don’t think we’re an outlier.

      4. Matilda Jefferies*

        Every office I’ve worked in, quiet rooms were explicitly for napping and meditating and so on. Complete with labelling, signage, furniture, etc – most of the ones I’ve seen don’t even have desks.

      5. SavannahMiranda*

        We have the napping variety of quiet room at my office. It’s called the wellness room. It’s a dark, windowless, interior office outfitted with a locking door, a small fridge specifically for breast milk, a comfy chair, and nice lamps. And a rather hard and uncomfy sofa!

        I have used it as an exhausted new mom, not to pump, but to lay down and rest my eyes during my lunch hour when getting in 45 minutes of shut-eye meant more to me than any food you could have put in front of me.

        I’ve worked at several offices now that have the napping versions of these rooms. The sofas are always…adequate. Not especially comfy. Deliberately I’m sure. They don’t want you losing hours because you couldn’t wake up. At one work place, there was no sofa. Just a lounge chair you could lean back in. All of this is a reminder that the employer isn’t providing ya a darn hotel room.

        These rooms are used for meditation, prayer, a good cry session, moms who pump. Heck, one day I had awful cramps combined with a migraine. I knew if I could strike with the right combo of meds and a dark room, I’d be okay. Driving home in that condition sounded worse. After 45 minutes with my meds in the cold, dark room I was good to go!

  16. RG*

    OP #4 – I winced reading that. Growing up it was hammered into me that you knock before entering a room. I’d probably mention that there’s a nonzero chance that could really freak someone out due to anxiety or trauma – and that they may not be so nice about it.

    1. Dino*

      Yes to this. As a person with trauma, startles like that leave me adrenaline-shaky for 15-30 minutes afterward. I have been known to snap at repeat offenders if I’ve already asked them not to sneak up behind me. I’m not proud of it and it’s something I try not to do, but it’s taken a lot of therapy to have snapping be the worst response I have. This person needs to understand that knocking isn’t a suggestion but a requirement, and is actually the polite and professional thing to do.

    2. Mad Baggins*

      Since they don’t want to interrupt OP, maybe OP can explain that certain interruptions are preferable to others.
      Knock-knock: Oh, someone wants to speak to me.
      Standing in field of vision/waving: Oh, someone wants to speak to me.
      Turning around and seeing someone standing behind you silently: AUGHFDKSLGHOSTMURDERER

      This person should really get it, but OP might want to invest in a mirror so they can see people come in–just for your own blood pressure!

      1. Matilda Jefferies*

        I mean, he’s interrupting either way. So why not do it in the least intrusive way possible?

        OP, I agree with Alison – put your manager hat on, and tell him that he *must* knock or say hello or do something to get your attention. Clearly he hasn’t noticed that he’s scaring the carp out of you by standing there in silence…or he’s noticed but hasn’t learned from his mistakes…or who knows why he keeps doing it, but he obviously hasn’t gotten the message. As with any other managerial task, you’ll get better results by being clear and specific about what you need.

    3. Ender*

      It’s so weird that he doesn’t realise how rude this is! I’ve been in loads of countries for work and I can’t think of a single culture where it’s NOT considered rude to walk into someone’s actual office without knocking.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I still knock or say hi, to get the person’s attention. Even if they’re facing the door, they most likely won’t notice me come in if they are busy with their work.

        2. Ender*

          Yes, even then. If the person is facing the door, and you know they’ve definitely seen you, you might walk in, but walking in when they can’t see you? Rude AF

          1. a1*

            I was only talking about actually knocking, as that’s the only thing you said in your comment – ” I can’t think of a single culture where it’s NOT considered rude to walk into someone’s actual office without knocking.” You didn’t say anything about a general announcing yourself. I don’t knock, but I do say something when I walk in, or before I walk in. It just seems weird to knock on an open door to me. You said that would be rude. That was my disagreement.

        3. LizB*

          If the door is open (or someone is in a cubicle) I generally just say “Knock Knock!” as I approach.

      1. swingbattabatta*

        I worked with someone like this – a couple of times she startled me so badly I actually screamed, and then she screamed and scampered away, and then my entire train of thought was completely gone.

    4. Miso*

      I think this is something that differs from workspace to workspace. One of my colleagues explicitly told me that I shouldn’t knock before entering other coworkers’ offices because then they’d expect a customer.
      But obviously, if you’re told to knock, you knock.

      1. RG*

        True, but it’s not even the not knocking portion. It’s that he’s just standing there silently, really. Like part of me is wincing and another part is like dude does this not seem like a weird thing to do?

      2. Observer*

        No, it really doesn’t. This is pretty standard stuff. Sure, there are exceptions, either for knocking specifically or announcing yourself somehow, but they ARE *exceptions*. So much so that your coworker had to explicitly tell you not to know AND explained WHY.

    5. MLB*

      I used to work on a team where I was second level support, so our 1st level team had to come to me often with questions. One of those people would lurk at my cube until I noticed he was there. I told him repeatedly to knock on my cube so I knew he was there but he never did – he would stand there like a stalker. Most of the time I was aware of his presence, so I just started ignoring him until he would either say my name or knock on my cube as I requested.

    6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I winced too! I’ve had coworkers do this to me. Makes me jump out of my skin every time!

      If the employee does not want to interrupt, why wouldn’t he IM the boss and ask if/when he can stop by?

    7. Turquoisecow*

      I sat in a cubicle at a recent job, and listened to music on headphones most of the day. Most coworkers would either come from a direction where I could see them, or knock on one of the metal edges of the cube (the walls themselves were cloth).

      Except one coworker. I was senior to her, and did a lot of her training, but she didn’t report to me, and didn’t really listen to advice on how to do things. She would stand there silently and wait for me to notice her. I have no idea how long that took. Possibly several minutes. Then I would see her, and have a mild startle reaction.

      No attempt to ask her if she could knock or clear her throat, or something? worked. She just stood their quietly and waited to be noticed.

    8. paxfelis*

      If he doesn’t want to interrupt, he can e-mail so OP #4 can fit that into her workflow. For any nonscheduled interaction, he’s probably going to be interrupting because he’s choosing when to interact.

    9. A CAD Monkey*

      I am a “office ninja”. I walk silently due to being a night owl living in a wood framed house with squeaky floors. I do a quick double rap on the door as I enter someone’s office or jingle the keys I keep on my hip to alert people i’m there. I’ve still scared people unintentionally. This guy needs to be flat told to knock on the door/wall.

  17. Jo*

    Op 4, this made me laugh imagining this guy just walking into your office and standing there until you notice him! It might just be that he’s a bit shy or uncomfortable about interrupting people, especially someone senior to him. It might help to make him feel more comfortable about doing this, saying something like ‘Unless I’m clearly in a meeting or on the phone, please DO just interrupt me if you need to speak to me, if I can’t talk there and then I’ll let you know’ as part of the conversation you have with him. Hopefully he will start knocking or saying something to announce his presence!

    1. Traffic_Spiral*

      Thing is, if he’s walking into LW’s office, he *is* interrupting, so it’s kinda a weird reason.

      1. Jo*

        Yeah, maybe his thinking is that if he speaks or knocks, his manager has to acknowledge him there and then whereas if he walks in they get a moment to stop what they are doing and can speak to him when they’re ready. It’s a flawed logic though if that’s what he’s thinking as, like you say, he is interrupting in a way by walking in.

      2. Small jar of fireflies*

        Yeah, he’s clearly decided its important enough to stand around for a while with when he could be working on something. And he is interrupting, unpleasantly.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      If someone routinely did that to me after being told to just knock, I’d be very tempted to just let the person stand there for an extra long time before acknowledging them.

      1. MLB*

        I used to do this. Didn’t have an office but a cube and one of the guys who had to come to me often for questions would just stand there until I noticed him. I told him several times to say my name or knock on my cube to let me know he had a question, but he would just stand there. So I started pretending he wasn’t there.

  18. Cordoba*

    #4: If the layout of your office allows people to sneak in without you seeing them this specific person probably won’t be the last one to do it. I’d spend the $15 for an electric eye sensor that makes a pleasant tone every time somebody comes through the door.

    Problem solved, no behavior modification needed from the office ninja.

    1. Marthooh*

      BETS: Five dollars says ninja guy decides to limbo through the door to keep from setting off the electric eye.

    2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      Ha! My mom used to have one of those. It looked like a frog and made frog noises when you tripped the sensor. She had it down the hall from her office so she’d know whenever anyone was coming to see her (large office, very few people).

    3. MLB*

      The issue is with the worker’s refusal to follow the OP’s request of knocking. She shouldn’t have to buy something to accommodate his inability to follow a simple instruction.

      1. cowgirl in hiding*

        I have seen people that place mirrors on monitor so they see people come into their office. Is it possible to moving the office around so your back is not to the door? This will not only be for your sanity but if you are working on sensitive information as a manager, you don’t want people standing there reading your screen while you are working.

      2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        It might make her feel better – knowing no one can creep up on her. Once you’ve been scared badly a few time you can get a little paranoid. This way she can sit in her office secure at all times that there is no one lurking behind her.

      3. Bea*

        Right. He should change his ways. But what if he’s unable to or unwilling? Yeah, you could write him up and fire him but is it worth it for this obnoxious quirk?

        Sometimes you improvise to save yourself because you can’t force a person without taking it to extreme levels.

      4. Cordoba*

        Presumably this one person won’t be the only person who ever comes to her office without knocking. There are some easily foreseeable reasons to expect that even if he suddenly developed the ability to unerringly follow her commands she might yet be surprised in the future.

        For example:
        -Maybe someday another person will simply forget to knock
        -Or their hands will be full
        -Or a new employee won’t know the rule
        -Or a visitor won’t know the rule
        -Or a visitor will knock, but not loudly enough for her to hear

        A person who (1)has a desk facing away from the door, (2) focuses intently on their work, and (3) is sensitive to being startled may well benefit from an electronic door notification even if all of their immediate colleagues know and follow the rules. That sure strikes me as an easier solution than individually training everybody who might come by to remember to knock.

        1. Elsajeni*

          All of those are possible, but most of them would be unusual one-offs. And this really isn’t a “rule” that new employees and visitors would need to be specially informed about — it’s the standard procedure when you need someone’s attention and they haven’t noticed you. Knock, clear your throat, say “Hi, Jan, got a minute?”, whatever. If the OP had said this was a frequent issue for her, or that she was having this problem with every other person who comes by her office, I think a “doorbell” sensor might make sense, but this seems like an issue that can probably be solved more efficiently by talking to the one person who it’s an issue with.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I might be overly optimistic, but I really don’t think there are that many people that need to be trained, or informed of the rule, that it is not cool to quietly creep behind a colleague and stand quietly behind them for as long as it takes the colleague to notice, whenever they have a question. Most people tend to instinctively know that this is horror-movie type of stuff, and needs to be avoided in the workplace.

    4. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      That was my first thought too, but only in addition to speaking to the ninja. It doesn’t even need to be a door chime, which could bother others depending on how often a person walks in/out of that office all day. It can be a motion sensing light with a short range.

  19. KR*

    #3 – that sounds ghastly and I’m sorry. Curtains do sound like the best thing here. Honestly with a pending remodeling if I were the company I would be grateful you pointed it out. Can you try something like “This law is not likely to change given the increased awareness of the needs of new mothers in the workplace. Would it be possible to change our remodeling plans to accommodate a nursing space as I will definitely not be the only nursing mother working here?”
    #2- I have a single file folder that is little notes from colleagues, printed out emails where someone might have said something nice to me or that I want to save, or general person debris that builds up at the office not otherwise contained in my drawer organizers. One folder. All those other documents need to be at her home, good Lord.

  20. Bagpuss*

    #2 there are reasons why someone might keep that stuff at work . If they are in an insecure living situation or in or trying to leave an abusive relationship.
    It’s not ideal, but unless it is actually creating a problem, (for instance if space is very limited and personal stuff is taking up too much space) I think I would probably just speak to the employee to remind them that the drawer / file cabinet is not private and that if they want to have personal stuff at work,they need to be aware that it isn’t necessarily completely private, and that the company is not responsible for keeping it safe or secure.

    1. Ender*

      Actually that makes sense. Given she was going through a divorce she might have been in temporary accommodation at the time. Good point!

      1. Bagpuss*

        Well, I am a divorce lawyer by trade so it is something that I sometimes need to suggest to clients, that they think of somewhere safe they can keep documents etc. I’ll normally suggest they think about whether they have a friend or family member they could keep a box of stuff with, in the first instance, but ‘in my workplace’ is another option.

        also, if people are living with room mates or in a situation where they have to move around a lot, keeping important stuff at work may feel much more secure and stable.

        Most people have breaks during their working day so I don’t think that keeping things at work necessarily implies that people are working on that stuff in their employers time. (our IT policy explicitly allows personal use of PCs during breaks, subject to rules about appropriate use.)

  21. Beth Jacobs*

    # 1: Imagine if the contractor’s spouse had called up the boss to demand your husband be fired – to save their marriage. Doesn’t seem reasonable the other way around, does it?

    1. Genny*

      It’s not equivalent though because not renewing a contract isn’t the same thing as firing someone and a contractor by nature is always on shakier employment ground than a direct hire, so it’d be especially weird for a contractor (or their spouse in this hypothetical) to demand a direct hire be fired.

      1. Statler von Waldorf*

        +1 for Beth Jabobs absolutely nailing it.

        @Genny – My experience is the exact opposite. In my decades of experience in the oilpatch, the vast majority of the higher ups I’ve worked with are actually subcontractors, and they can and do demand that employees get fired. The same is true in a large number of blue collar fields I have seen, where the only real way of “climbing the ladder” is to start your own business as a subcontractor.

        1. Genny*

          True, I can see how that would work in the blue collar my field. My experience is in federal contracting where it is definitely easier to hire/fire contractors (or not renew contracts in this case) than it is to hire/fire civil servants. I’ve noticed the same tends to be true in consulting or contracting for time-bound deliverables. I think overall white collar contractors have substantially less bargaining power in terms of demanding a direct hire be fired/let go than blue collar workers.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        The first part (“not renewing a contract isn’t the same as firing someone”) really depends on the nature of the contract. While I have seen job offers for a 3-month contract, 6-month contract and the like pop up in my inbox, my ex, for example, used to be a subcontractor for the DoD. The office had dozens (at least) of contractors and subcontractors, many of them had worked in that office in that role for 10, 20, or more years, and, when my ex and his teammates were told one day “your contracts will be terminated two weeks from now, you have two weeks to find work”, it felt, for all intents and purposes, like they were being laid off. (A fed employee manager from another team picked him up for another long-term contract, though with a substantial pay cut. He worked for that person in a contractor role for another 15 or so years before he was finally made staff.) To be fair, we do not know which one the contractor in OP’s letter is.

      3. JM60*

        They may not be equivalent when it come to legality, but I think they are close enough when it comes to morality for this thought exercise to work. It’s unfair for the OP to demand that the contractor lose her/his job over this when it’s the husband who cheated on her. If the OP wants the husband to not work with the contractor (which makes sense), then they should ask the husband to find a new job.

  22. Kate, short for Bob*

    OP4 – assuming you’re a woman your creeping guy is creeping me out. When you tell him explicitly that he has to knock, keep a close eye on his expression for anything other than positive agreement. Deliberately causing a startle response in women is on the spectrum of abusive behaviour and would warrant extra care being taken with this guy. Obviously, I hope he’s just socially awkward.

    Also, is it possible to move your desk so that the door is in your eyeline?

    1. Kay*

      Woah I don’t think thats fair. It’s fairly common behaviour to not saying anything but assume they’ve heard you and wait until they’ve finished what they’re doing before interrupting. It’s not borderline abusive until a lot of other things happen. OP should just ask the employee to knock. They probably don’t realise OP doesn’t know they’re there.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Whoa, there’s nothing in the letter to indicate that, so let’s not go down a very speculative road that isn’t supported by anything in the letter.

    3. Ender*

      Most guys have no idea how much this sort of behaviour would creep a woman out. It’s an outside possibility he’s abusive, but it’s far more likely he’s just clueless.

      1. SLR*

        I agree with cluelessness here. I have a huge startle response & sometimes it’s better than other, depending on my stress levels. One coworker loved yo startle me, until very stressed from a bad family visit, I straight up told him: “this startle is not funny to me at all, it takes me a while to recover when you do this & this is a direct result of past trauma; you’re actually making it worse. I need you to stop.” Guess what. After his initial uneasiness with my blunt directive, he stopped. Most people honestly don’t associate startles with trauma, and that’s ok. So we tell them & then get nasty if they dont stop.

        1. Washi*

          I am a woman who doesn’t startle easily, but I had a boss who did, and it took me a few instances like the one OP described to realize that I was really freaking her out. (In my defense, her desk does face the door, but she was often so focused that she didn’t notice me enter.) It’s not super clear how firm the OP has even been about this – if she said “no it’s ok for you to knock and interrupt me!” the employee may not have seen that as an order, versus “going forward, please knock first to get my attention.”

      2. LGC*

        So I posted below, but…you’re spot on! I’ve noticed this in myself, and with other employees.

        To me, the detail that jumped out was that Fergus justified his behavior by saying that he noticed LW4 was busy and didn’t want to disturb her. He could be gaslighting LW4, but I think the more reasonable assumption is that he’s trying to be considerate and failing.

        (That said, it’s not just a guy thing! It’s stereotypically a guy thing, but I’ve been in LW4’s situation with female employees. I’m a 6’5″ guy, but that matters a lot less when I’m sitting down.)

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Not a guy thing at all IME. We women are conditioned to be nice and to take little space, and combined with insufficient social skills, that can result in a creep-in. The coworker who gave me the biggest scare ever was a woman. I was sitting in my cube working, at one point I look up and she’s standing next to me, studying the papers pinned to my wall. No idea how long she’d been there. She didn’t even have a question, just was walking by and decided to pop in and take a look at my cubicle wall.

    4. drpuma*

      This is extreme but also not impossible. LW4 says they’ve asked the guy to say something when he comes in the room, but he hasn’t changed his behavior. Men who ignore women stating how they want to be treated is definitely a red flag for me. If the LW is a woman, I’m hoping that he’s just not thinking it through or needs extra prodding to take a woman’s request seriously, rather than enjoying scaring the bejezus out of her.

      1. Observer*

        I agree it’s possible. But I didn’t bring it up because it is extreme and really useful to the OP. Alison’s scripts are the way to go here. And if that STILL does not work, that becomes a different and more serious issue.

    5. MLB*

      Very extreme assumption. Not out of the realm of possibility, but a pretty big leap based on the letter. I worked with someone like this and he was just socially awkward. I’m thinking that’s the more likely scenario.

    6. That Would be a Good Band Name*

      That seems like a whole lot of speculation. I do think moving the desk is a good option if at all possible, but only because it sucks to startle easily and not face the door. I startle easily and people here do not knock so I was constantly jumping when someone would walk in and just start talking so I flipped my whole office around so that I can see the door.

  23. Detective Amy Santiago*

    So in OP#3’s letter, am I reading this right that there will be absolutely no private spaces for anyone? Beyond their breast feeding issue, this seems like a recipe for disaster. Where is HR supposed to conduct confidential meetings? How are managers supposed to have serious performance conversations with their employees? And what is the purpose of a ‘quiet room’ where everyone walking past can stare at you?!

    I realize these are macro level problems, but wouldn’t it be worth it for the OP to raise them? I feel like this kind of set up could cause a lot of other issues that no one is thinking of.

    1. Ender*

      They’ll be private from a sound perspective though. And if you angle your laptop screen to face into the room, you can have a private meeting with graphics in a glass room. Most offices nowadays are moving to glass meeting rooms. Most have some frosting on them, but not full frosting, so not private enough for beeastfeeding.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I was thinking more about privacy in disciplinary matters. If I’m a manager who has to have a difficult conversation with an employee – putting them on a PIP, terminating them, etc – I would prefer not to do so in a room where anyone walking past can see what’s going on.

        1. Chocolate lover*

          I agree, that’s totally awkward. I wouldn’t want to have any kind of one on one meeting, for fear of everyone wondering what’s going on, or witnessing someone get upset.

      2. SarahTheEntwife*

        Do other people have better-quality glass in their offices? My workplace has a lot of glass fishbowls and while closing the door helps a little sound-wise, they’re not even slightly soundproof. You’d have to literally whisper to have a private conversation.

        1. Ender*

          Double glazing is really really soundproof. The problem in your office is probably a lack of soundproofing above ceiling and below floor level. If the glass wall doesn’t have some sort of barrier above and below, the sound will travel above or below the glass wall. Ceiling tiles are usually not soundproof at all so you really need a barrier above the ceiling too. My office has glass walled meeting rooms and you can be standing right outside and not hear a word.

      3. Totally Minnie*

        Even if the glass is totally sound proof (which is not a given) it still doesn’t cover privacy needs. Anybody walking by can see that Boss is in a meeting with Lucinda and Lucinda is crying. That could feed the office gossip mill for who knows how long.

    2. Cordoba*

      I don’t know that glass walls are a problem for many of the typical uses of a quiet room.

      You can still have conference calls or phone interviews or talk-intensive meetings in there even if people can see you, right?

      I agree that it would be good (even necessary) to have other spaces that are both optically and acoustically isolated, but a glass room with a door is not an inherently unreasonable thing for an office to have.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        It reaches the unreasonable level when all the enclosed spaces in the office have glass panels, which is apparently the fashion with architects just now. There should always be somewhere available in an office where people can’t look in and try to speculate on what’s happening.

    3. Beehoppy*

      I recently worked in an office where the main conference room was all glass, and for a period I sat right outside. Management board had no clue I could hear about 75% of their “confidential” conversations – including discussion of everyone’s annual performance reviews, raises, bonuses, and – my favorite – the LARGE starting salary they were going to offer someone to take 1/2 of my role and 1/2 someone else’s.

    4. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      I think that since they are an offsite sales office, HR and other high security departments, are at a different location. I bet if HR needs to talk to someone, they just summon them to the main office.

  24. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    LW4 I have bad peripheral vision and combined with a deep focus on my work I am offended startled by people coming up behind me or even next to me 3 or 4 times a week. Most people apologize when I jump but the solution is obvious. Announce your presence, say something before you enter someone’s personal space.

  25. MuseumChick*

    OP 1: Why not have your husband get a different job instead of focusing your anger on the other woman?

    OP 3: I’m sorry your HR is so out of touch. Along with showing them what Alison suggested I would also say something like “I looked into this and it turns out there are both Federal and State laws regarding breastfeed.” Keep your tone casual/neutral and then present the solution Alison suggestion. If they push back you can add. “I’m worried we are running afoul of the law with this. It’s pretty clear that we are required to do X and Y for breastfeeding mothers.”

    OP 4: I actually think that conversation can be a lot shorter. “Fergus, we’ve talked about this. I need you to start knocking before entering my office.”

    1. MLB*

      I think it’s easier to blame the “other woman” than the one you love, when in reality it doesn’t matter who he works with if he’s willing to cheat on his wife.

  26. AnonandAnon*

    OP#1 Your husband’s affair with the contractor is but a symptom of a deeper issue, removing the one symptom will not fix the issue. You may be angry with the contractor, but really your anger should to be squarely directed at your husband and the two of you need to discuss how to move forward.

    I am sorry you are dealing with this, but trying to get someone fired is not the way to go here.

    1. LadyPhoenix*


      Yeah, I get the mistress should get SOME heat if they knew the were dating a taken person…. but the major blame should go to the cheating SO.

      You think firing a constractor is gonna stop your husbands cheating? Hah! Hd’ll just find another girl, or use tinder, or go to a bar.

  27. LGC*

    So, like…for LW1, I feel like the contractor and your husband were both pretty out of line. I believe that it’s not a good idea to sleep with your customers or vendors in almost all cases. (Also, the entire adultery thing. But that should remain between you and your husband.)

    I’d like to emphasize, though, that your husband is also in the wrong. As such, if you feel like her conduct merits termination, so should his. Or, to be blunt about it: if you think the other woman should be fired, then your husband should also be fired under your logic.

    1. a1*

      Not renewing a contract is not the same as being fired. The wife still shouldn’t interfere, but they are not the same thing at all and people keep calling it “getting her fired” and that’s just wrong. The coworker is not an employee. The husband is. Not renewing a contract is often easier than firing someone. Again, the wife should NOT talk to the boss at all, but there is a difference.

  28. LadyPhoenix*

    Op#1: Trust me. Gettingyout hubbie unemployed is NOT gonna “fix your marriage.” If I found out the reason I was now unemployed is because my SO told them not to hire me/fire me/renew the contract…. that SO would quickly turn into an EX-SO.

    You have a hubbie problem, not a mistress problem.

    1. Ladyphoenix*

      I misread the letter.

      Demanding someone else to be fired is still kinda awful.

      You need to talk to your husband about taking steps yo fix this… or ditch him.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      OP#1 isn’t asking to have her spouse terminated – she is asking about the person the spouse cheated with.

      1. Ladyphoenix*

        I reread the comment and changed my stance

        I should ask AAm to just delete this so I am not drowning in comments.

  29. BRR*

    #4 I think you’ll just have to remind him a few times to break this habit. I would explain how common knocking on an open door is. He sounds like he might be shy so I would make an effort to be extra welcoming the first few times he knocks to help him get over his concern of interrupting.

    I think there’s another option as well. If these are genuinely interrupting you, I would ask him to send an IM asking when you have a moment to let him know. This is what I do with my manager. I let him know if I need a smaller or larger chunk of time and this way he can let me know when he’s at a stopping point.

    1. Product Person*

      Based on what OP#4 wrote,

      I’ve asked him to please say something or knock when he enters but he responds that he doesn’t want to interrupt me. I guess he’d rather give me a heart attack than interrupt my typing!

      I disagree with the approach of continuing to remind him. AAM has a great script as the first step: “I’m telling you this with my manager hat on — start knocking. Thanks.”

      If he still responds “I don’t want to interrupt”, then I’d go with “But it’s my choice here, and I do prefer to be interrupted rather than jumping half out of my skin when I finally realize there’s someone in the room. Can I count on you to stop with this behavior?”. Using our authority is perfectly justified in cases like this when someone is not listening to a pretty reasonable request.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Yep. At some point – and from the letter, soon – it has to become “I am your manager. I am TELLING you to knock. Are you able to commit to doing this?”

  30. Amelia*

    I’ve pumped many times in my car. But aside from being inappropriate/ illegal when requested by my employer, it’s also close impossible in certain seasons.

    In NYC, we have a 3 minute idling law due to car emissions. After 3 minutes, you can be ticketed. So on a lovely 65 degree day, sure I can easily spend 20 minutes in the backseat (where my car has tinted windows) with the car turned off.

    But yesterday was 95. And when I got blocked into my space yesterday by a truck for 5 minutes, I watched the internal temperature go up to 105. Between that and the dead of winter, I’m not even sure if my pump would continue to function – it’s not a high end piece of sports equipment.

    The employer’s suggestion is ridiculous.

    1. J.B.*

      If you get blocked in, could you talk the cop into handing the ticket to the truck driver? I understand why you wouldn’t but that’s pretty ridiculous.

      I too have pumped in my car, when I chose to travel to something. It was quite the production. So glad those days are over!

    2. Bea*

      I want to shove my fist in my mouth to stop the screaming. It’s so insane to me that there are businesses that run in these ways. The law doesn’t require protection for contractors and exempt folks but denying a request is absurd. You’ll have to do it for a non exempt person, so having a plan to go by is necessary. These companies are lazy and exploit their workforce. I want none of that.

      1. Buckeye*

        Also, in some states, employers with less than 50 employees are exempt from the requirement altogether (regardless of whether the nursing mother is exempt or not), so there are numerous loopholes.

  31. Quackeen*

    Oy, I had to pump in my car after the birth of kid 1 (independent contractor, no protection) and I highly do not recommend it. And I say that as someone who had an easy time pumping what seemed like endless quantities of milk. Pumping can be stressful and uncomfortable, and you deserve a private room to do it in.

    1. anonymous for this*


      Now imagine you’re a wedding vendor and can BARELY duck out for the 20 minutes it takes you to pump.

      Now imagine you’re gone for up to 12 hours so you need to pump at LEAST twice if not three times.

      And now imagine you’re in the middle of nowhere (or worse yet, in a huge convention center or hotel with no room of your own)

      Yeah, car pumping was a fact of life for me in those days. And I BF my daughter til she was almost 3 so….

  32. Ms. Meow*

    LW5 – I went through this exact same situation 2016-2017. I stuck it out, applied to jobs, and made a deal with myself that I would leave if I was offered an opportunity that was as good or better than my current role. I also trimmed my budget and picked up a part time job (~10 h/week). These actions didn’t get rid of the stress completely, but it helped me get my ducks in a row.

    A lot of people jumped ship. Most of them are happy where they ended up, others not so much. When everything came out in the end, I didn’t end up finding another job but was fortunate that my division was divested rather than eliminated. I now work for a different company in my same exact role. You never know how things will shake out, but luck favors the prepared. Good luck!

  33. Alex*

    OP #4- I also startle easily and hate having my back to the door. I have had employees who preferred to ‘wait til you notice me’ instead of ‘bothering me’. It’s awful. When I had my back to the door I put a mirror on the wall in front of my desk so I could catch the motion of anyone behind me right away. A jingle bell on the door handle might also work.

    1. Kat*

      Yes, if not possible to move the desk to be able to see the door, a “rear view mirror” is a great idea!

  34. Not a Mere Device*

    Since OP4 is this guy’s manager, they can say “I’m telling you this with my manager hat on,” but (even for this case, and certainly in other circumstances) they might also say “Fergus, you are interrupting me when you stand there like that, and it’s more disturbing than a knock. If you don’t want to interrupt, stay at your desk and send email/an IM asking me to call or come over when I have time for $issue.”

  35. Persimmons*

    #4 Creepy McLurkyson is wasting time. He’s just standing there doing nothing, hoping you happen to glance in the correct direction. You can manage him from that perspective. If he won’t respect your desire for knocking, maybe telling him that he needs to stop wasting time will scare him straight.

  36. Truthiness*

    OP1: Your husband is half of the problem. How would you like it if his “friend’s” spouse demanded the same of your husband?
    Don’t mix your messy personal life into someone else’s livelihood…and remember your husband was “seduced.”
    He willingly cheated on you!

  37. LGC*

    LW4, it sounds like your employee is trying to be considerate (and failing). Use that! Emphasize that you get startled easily so you’d rather he knock. I think he’ll probably be mortified that he caused offense, but that might get through to him.

    (Also, to everyone who does this: please don’t! I’m a recovering lurcher, and I have employees that lurch. What got me to do this less was being sat down and told I was making people a bit uncomfortable (notably my boss). I still slip up from time to time, but I’ve gotten a lot better.)

  38. Kat*

    OP #4 – is there a way you can reorganise your office such that your desk does face the door? Most offices I have come across are set up as such. Having your back to the door leaves you super vulnerable to people sneaking up on you!

  39. I'm A Little Teapot*

    #4 – One manager asked me not to email her individual updates when something is ready to review, but to send her my updated tracking log. I understand from her point of view, but from my point of view, I need to cover myself that I did send something for review. The conversation was joking, but still very serious underneath. I’m sending her the tracking log, and in the first email, I specifically said that since she didn’t want the individual emails, here’s the log.

  40. Urdnot Bakara*

    Hey, Alison. I think your link to the post on what to do if you’re getting laid off is broken! It looks like it has some extra characters at the beginning of the URL.

  41. Red Sky*

    Yeah, the divorce thing is what caught my eye, too. It definitely could be the worker needs a safe place to keep personal docs where soon-to-be ex spouse wont have access to them.

  42. LadyPhoenix*

    OP #1: Getting the contractor fired is NOT gonna fix your marriage. Your hisband will either continue the relationship off hpurs, sleep with a new contractor, go on Tinder/Online dating sit to find a new hook, or go to a bar.

    You do not have a mistress/homewrecker/other person problem, you have a husband problem. If you want your husband to stop cheating, HE needs to make the commitment to you. Otherwise, you should divorce him.

  43. Justin*

    It’s worth it to prepare to be laid off even if you are not because this might be a sign of future troubles that could result in a layoff for you down the road.

  44. Scubacat*

    No, you can’t talk to your husband’s employer (Llama Feedlot Inc.) and ask them not to renew the contractor’s contract. You don’t work for Llama Feedlot Inc., and thus you have no standing with the company to make this request. As others have pointed out, trying would be so inappropriate that it would actually damage your husband’s reputation at work. I’m sorry that you’ve been hurt so badly by your husband’s choices.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I think this is the most important point. I mean, there’s lots of good, relevant discussion about how this isn’t going to solve the problems in this marriage, and how unfair it is for one half of the couple to lose a job and not the other half. But the bottom line, as far as this LW is concerned, is that even if it were okay to fire the contractor, even if you haven’t been convinced of how wrong that is… YOU have no say in the situation. YOU do not have the standing to demand or even request it.

    2. NW Mossy*

      I’ll argue that it would be inappropriate even if the OP and her husband worked at the same employer, or if it was the husband making the request.

      This request is a Huge Deal. Like, spend-all-your-political-capital-and-borrow-the-next-20-years-of-it huge. Very few people are so important to their employer that they can both ask for something like this and get it without taking a serious career hit.

      1. Subacat*

        Yeah, you’re right NW Mossy. Even IF the OP1 was also an employee, it wouldn’t be appropriate to make this request. Unless there is a supervisor-reporting staff dynamic, (or similar conflict of interest) sleeping with a married coworker isn’t relevant to the employer.

        Though I very much empathize with the OP! If my partner cheated on me, I’d want the contractor to be fired. I’d probably fantasize about that a lot. However, the OP just can’t follow through with their idea.

    1. H82BL8*

      Ugh! Back in the day when I was a nursing mom, there were no laws about this. I could use the ladies’ room. Unfortunately, because of that, I didn’t nurse long. Now where I work they have lactation rooms in each building. The rooms have locking doors, you have to be on the list to be able to badge into the room, and they are very welcoming and comfortable. I’m glad some places know how to do it right, even if I don’t personally benefit.

      1. Buckeye*

        I pumped in the bathroom with my first baby and can say, for sure, that I prefer the car between the two. I don’t see how any employer can think that the bathroom is a reasonable set up.

  45. Liane*

    OP 1: Alison had a letter a while back from a woman in a similar position. in that case the Husband got into the office’s Super Bowl squares which was run by Ex-flame and that Wife found out about it–but acted *before* writing AAM. She sent Ex-flame a “Stay the H— away from MY husband!” message to their workplace. HE got called on the carpet and informed in writing that if His Wife contacted or visited anyone at the company *ever* HE would be reprimanded.
    This triangle was a little more complicated* but OP 1 might find reading it (link in reply) in reply. Beware, that previous OP came in for a lot of understandably harsh criticism in the comments, so brace yourself if you check it out.

    But take heart, OP, *you* thought and controlled your impulses enough to ask advice before you got your husband’s company involved. Which means you can start doing something constructive, without first having made the situation much worse, and making you, the non-cheating spouse, look terrible. And I feel so bad for you and hope you & your husband work it out.

    *TL;DR: That Husband had dated both women before the marriage, at the same time

  46. Liane*

    Surprised no one has brought up the Super Bowl Squares post (link in reply) from the wife who actually sent a “Leave my husband alone!” type message to her husband’s Ex-flame at their workplace. He got a written warning that she couldn’t contact/visit anyone there, and of course her question was, “Can they do that?”

    OP1, you may want to read that, although the comments were often harsh. And then be thankful you wrote Alison BEFORE going ahead. So now you can work with your husband on your marriage without having made things worse for yourself. I really hope things work out. (Internet hugs!)

  47. Colorado*

    I found pumping at work in general to be incredibly stressful and it impacted my milk supply to where I had to stop at 9 months, and I had a cushy room with locked door, soft chairs, a sink and refrigerator. I absolutely would never pump in my car or the bathroom (gross)! How would you even set up in the bathroom with all the parts, need for outlet and sanitation. Please push back on your employer. You deserve to be fully accommodated. This kind of stuff just pisses me off and only adds to the stress of being a new mother. Not to even mention the crap mothers have to deal with around breastfeeding outside of their home, smh..

    1. Ender*

      I don’t understand why anyone things pumping in a toilet is acceptable. Imagine giving an adult food that had been prepared in a toilet room! And babies are far more susceptible to germs. I think people think “bodily fluids” and forget that breastmilk is just not like other bodily fluids. Other fluids are all waste, whereas milk is food. It’s the opposite of other bodily fluids.

      I’ve only ever pumped in bathrooms when I’ve been drinking or travelling so I’m pumping and dumping to keep my supply up.

      1. Colorado*

        “Hey HR – I’ll go pump in the bathroom while you prepare your lunch in the stall next to me! It’ll be great!”

  48. LadyPhoenix*

    LW3: ugh. A pox on the manager that thinks pumping in a bathroom is acceptable. Go with AaM and show them the law.

  49. Mary Anne Spier*

    I’d solve the problem in #1 easily. He just wouldn’t be my husband anymore. Then it doesn’t matter who he works with…

    1. Grapey*

      Same. I’m betting it’s a matter of still needing/wanting his income which is why it’s more convenient to try to sabotage the other person.

  50. AKchic*

    LW1, I am going to give you some advice:
    D is abundant and low value.

    You do not have a “woman working with my husband” problem. You have a cheating husband problem. Removing a contractor who slept with your husband will not remove the root source; which is the ease in which your husband put his D into another woman when he had the chance, and probably, given the chance, will do again. You cannot work with HR to keep him from female contractors, coworkers, clients, industry gurus and whatnots. He will need to control himself. And really, if a person *wants* to cheat, they will find someone to cheat with. Apps abound, and from my experience on these apps (and finding their wives after a cursory search), their cover stories fall apart quite quickly.

    Keep HR out of it. All you’d be doing is telling them that he slept around on a work-trip and probably violated the no-fraternization rule (if they still have one, some companies still do). Costing a woman her contract but expecting your husband to suffer no career hits is incredibly 50’s cliché.
    I understand you want to save your marriage. Go to counseling. Both by yourself and together. He needs to earn your trust back and if the only thing he’s willing to do is let you get the woman he slept with removed from the office, then he isn’t going to stop cheating. He is just trying to placate you.

  51. Lucille2*

    #1 – You have my sympathies. I can’t even imagine going through the pain you’re likely suffering. And I commend you for working together on a solution. I only suggest considering how requesting his employer not renew a colleague’s contract may not bode well for your husband either. It is easier not to renew a contract than it is to potentially terminate someone, but his employer knowing something inappropriate happened between two coworkers on a business trip may negatively affect your husband’s reputation at work. Your husband is accountable for his own actions and needs to take responsibility.

  52. Jessica Fletcher*

    Even if you get laid off, be sure to work all days given to you. Don’t no show or call out the last days because you think there’s no work to do. If you do that, your state unemployment agency may consider you to have quit instead of being laid off. Don’t jeopardize your unemployment payments!

    One thing I do at my current job is work with people getting laid off, and this is what the unemployment specialist always stressed.

    1. Natalie*

      This can definitely vary – in my state you’re still eligible if you quit within 30 days of a firm layoff date. So check your local laws.

  53. Kenneth*

    OP#5, take Allison’s advice on this one and start job hunting now. 10 years ago I was laid off from my job. All the “signs” were there as well: my responsibilities were reduced, my manager started getting distant, barely any new work was coming my way. Plus we’d just been through a major merger – my employer acquired another company.

    The last sign that I knew he’d made the decision to cut me in the coming layoffs was when he jumped down my throat for a seeming innocuous reason. I’d just finished rewriting some documentation for the company and needed to know where to send the final draft for branding, formatting, and publication. I noticed he’d just arrived in the office and I walked into his office to talk to him. I mentioned briefly that I have a final draft for the documentation. He was close to yelling at me in telling me that I wasn’t going to be creating the final document, before I had the chance to ask to whom I’d need to send the draft. Calmly, I replied that I already knew I wasn’t going to be creating the final document and needed to know who would be.

    I nearly walked out instead without asking, and didn’t inquire about how he initially reacted after getting my answer.

    After lunch that afternoon, I started job hunting. I was laid off the next Monday. The company was acquired by another firm 6 months later.

  54. Lemon*

    #4 put a bell on the door, craft section at wal-mart, or hobby lobby has christmas out. Seriously its maybe $3 and an immediate quick fix.

    1. BookworminVT*

      I had this idea too! Leave your door half-closed (if it’s fitting within office culture) and leave a tiny string of bells on the handle.

  55. BookworminVT*

    OP3, although your employer sounds a bit heartless and out of touch with the legalities around nursing mothers in the workplace, you could suggest a nursing pod such as this. They’re prefab and freestanding spaces for offices exactly like yours, and I’ve seen them in airports around the country too.

    1. Someone Else*

      OP3’s employer’s plan also seems to be incredibly short-sighted. Even if CT didn’t have the additional protections (which they should already realize they’re required to follow), if they thought they only had to adhere to the federal standard, they’d still be assuming they’ll never have a non-exempt employee who needs to pump. Their reaction to use the car or bathroom to OP sounds like they think they just don’t need to provide a space at all, and if they’re doing that because OP is exempt…I guess I’m dancing around it but: they’re being dumb. Even if I try to give them the benefit of the doubt, they’re being dumb. Especially when it can probably be solved by buying $20 curtains at Target.

  56. ManderGimlet*

    One thing to keep in mind, LW #2, is that many people, particularly women, do not have private spaces elsewhere in their lives. Many women in abusive relationships must hide any evidence of their own bank accounts, money they are saving to get out, lawyer info, etc from their partners and the only safe space is their work because their spouses do not have access there. If their workstations can accommodate them, consider getting small, lockable file cabinets for your team to put by/under their desks. They can be used to hide desktop clutter as well as provide a safe spot to stash purses and other valuable during the workday. They may also be the one spot of sanctity in an employee’s life.

  57. petpet*

    I think you’re really reading into things. I have multiple student workers who do this and they’re all women.

    Drives me bananas too, OP4 – my sympathies!

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