our company is teaching us about a new coworker’s (possible) religion, I got drunk on a work trip, and more

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

1. Should I get an educational lesson on a new employee’s religion?

I work in a small (less than 20 employee) company. We are in a moderate sized city, but a very conservative town and our company generally reflects that. They just hired a new employee who is expected to start in a few weeks. We have no concrete evidence of his religion, but his name and background suggest a particular religious practice.

At least that’s the execs’ assumption. It’s noteworthy, but I don’t plan to make any assumptions. I’m personally agnostic, and my coworkers’ religious beliefs are non-starters for me. But we’re in a meeting now getting a history lesson about this faith, their prayer practices, etc..

Is this a good idea? Is this necessary? Again, for myself it makes no difference what faith my coworkers practice, especially if we don’t even know he actually practices. But on the other hand, we do have some highly conservative (I might say narrow-minded) employees. A lesson in tolerance might not be so bad.

Nooooo, this is not a good idea. Many people would be tremendously uncomfortable to learn that their new office had held a session to educate people about their religious practices. And this is made even weirder — and frankly more offensive — by the fact that they don’t even know if this is his religion or whether he practices it or to what extent. Assuming that you know anything about someone’s faith or lack thereof based on their name is pretty gross.

I suppose in one light, it’s good that they want to be welcoming. But this is not the way to do it. If your office is concerned that people will be hostile or insensitive to someone of a different religion, they can address that by explaining they’re not going to tolerate that — and then not tolerating it. That doesn’t require a course in any particular religion. And they’re undermining their own efforts here by the ignorance involved in their underlying assumptions.

2. I got drunk on a work trip five years ago

Five years ago, I got drunk on a work trip where there was a swim-up bar and free booze. I ended up drinking too much and later that night walked around the hotel in my small nightgown trying to meet people. I thought I looked good, but I just embarrassed myself in front of the rest of the group who saw me. No one who worked in my office was there, just others in the industry, and I don’t think anyone I actually work with would have found out. I wasn’t rude, didn’t hurt anyone, and I only disrespected myself and the hotel (I’m sure they’ve seen everything).

I didn’t think anyone remembered, but someone brought it up the other day. No names or anything, just said someone got too drunk at that hotel, and I think she was talking about me. However, maybe not! Should I worry about this?

I’m going to say no. It was five years ago, and if this is the first time you’ve heard it come up since then, I don’t see much point in worrying about it. The person who mentioned it may not have even realized it was you (especially likely she if she did, she probably wouldn’t have mentioned it in front of you, at least not worded that way). Certainly if you saw evidence that people in your field weren’t taking you seriously, that would be a problem, but it doesn’t sound like that’s the case.

It was five years ago, you made a mistake, none of your coworkers were there, time has passed, you’ve presumably conducted yourself well since then, and there’s nothing to achieve by worrying about it now anyway. Let yourself forget it happened (but then remember it again in 20 years, by which time it will have become amusing).

3. My new coworker isn’t getting it — should I try to help?

I’m having a hard time figuring out what to say or do about my new coworker who just isn’t getting it. He started about five months ago and, after a rigorous training program, has had four months in the actual role. In that time, he has totally failed to meet any of the very modest goals laid out for him, and it seems like he really isn’t trying. He comes in 15 minutes late almost every day, takes a long lunch, and leaves on the early side.

My problem is twofold. On the one hand, I know that my company is quick to let people go when they aren’t meeting goals, and I don’t want to see that happen. He’s a nice and really smart guy. On the other hand, we work as a team and his lack of production/failure to complete projects impacts me (on a financial level, because we share a team production bonus or will lose the production bonus if we don’t meet our goals) and puts a lot of extra work on my plate.

I know that my manager has had many talks with him about how to improve and has him on a PIP, because the coworker told me. What I’m asking is, what can I do to get through to him? Is it my job to say anything here or just hope that he improves on his own?

It’s definitely not your job to try to intervene here. You certainly can if you want to, but it’s very much not something you’d be expected to do, and I’m skeptical it would help. This isn’t someone who doesn’t realize that he needs to pay a little more attention to detail or would be helped by hearing, “Hey, when Jane says the deadline is Tuesday, she means  5 p.m. Tuesday, not later that night.” This is someone who seems like he’s not trying, routinely comes in late and leaves early, has failed to meet all of his apparently attainable goals, and has been repeatedly coached by your manager and warned that his job is in jeopardy. It’s unlikely that there’s anything you could say that will get through to him when your manager’s multiple conversations haven’t. It sounds like you might be more invested in saving his job than he is, and that never works.

Sometimes people aren’t the right match for a role, and that may be the case here. Your manager is doing all the right things, and if she does decide to let him go, that’s a pretty reasonable outcome (in fact, it may be the only reasonable outcome).

4. Is it job hopping if you stay with the same company but keep changing roles?

I know that job hopping BETWEEN companies is a bad thing. But is it still considered job hopping if you change roles about once a year inside ONE company? Especially if you are advancing in the ranks?

In general, concerns about job hopping don’t apply if you’re moving around within your company, as opposed to changing companies.

That said, if you’re making a bunch of lateral hops year after year and not advancing, that’s going to raise questions about why you were getting moved around so much. And you want to stay in roles long enough that you’re able to show real accomplishments in each one (which in many jobs will be hard to do if you move every year).

5. Working for a small employer with chronic illness

I was just placed in a very small law firm in a temporary position that may become permanent. If I decide I want to make it permanent, I’m worried about my lack of FMLA coverage. I have an autoimmune disease that is in remission, and I’m worried what might happen if it comes out of remission.

When I was first diagnosed, I was sick for months before we figured out what was wrong. I ended up having to take some unpaid leave and have leave donated to me. It was in a large company where FMLA applied.

If I join this firm, I know FMLA will not apply to me. I’m fairly young, and I’m on a newer treatment, so my doctors don’t know if it will come back or not. If it does, we’ll be faster to catch it, and so I’m less likely to get as sick.

But I’m worrying what will happen if I do have to take significant medical leave. If they decide to let me go for being sick, what would I say the next time I tried to get a job? Should I discuss this with the employer if I decide to stay on permanently? (My instinct is no.) Should I roll the dice? Should I avoid small businesses entirely?

In theory, you might be better off avoiding employers that are too small to be covered by FMLA, but that’ll of course depend on your sense of how easy it would be to do that and what other options you might have. (It’s also good to keep in mind that even at larger employers, FMLA won’t cover you until you’ve worked there a year.)

If you do stay where you are more long-term, I wouldn’t raise it with your employer as a thing that might happen — cross that bridge if and when you come to it, since there’s nothing really actionable if you tell your manager that this might happen (other than it potentially making them worry). If it happens, you’ll deal with it then. If they do end up letting you go for missing too much work, you’d explain to future employers that you were dealing with a health issue and needed time off to deal with it (and you’d likely to be able to negotiate with this job for it to be a mutual decision rather than a firing). Good luck!

{ 382 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    1. Please make a point of keeping your comments on this post and others on-topic.

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    1. Amelia Pond*

      Ooooh! I’m betting collapsing threads will help with my browser freezing on threads! Thanks so much for pointing it out.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      The story became so much more fascinating when I imagine it delivered by Michael Scott.

      (But yes, it’s a well-intentioned but extremely offensive and stereotyping overreach.)

    2. Mad Baggins*

      This definitely happened on the Office. Maybe YouTube has a compilation of questions Michael asked Kelly about her religion that you can show at your office to dissuade them.

      My personal fave is when he makes an egregious statement about beliefs in Hinduism, and Kelly says, “I don’t think that’s right.” And he counters, “Are you sure?” and she says, “…No.” She’s not even religious and Michael is the one hung up on it! Please do not reenact this cringefest in a real office!

    3. Lilian*

      That’s immediately what came to mind.

      Also as someone who is visibly foreign in the country I live in and having people assume things about me and treat me different everyday, it makes my skin crawl thinking about all the unnecessary assumptions which may be created by this training. Please, just no.

  2. Sami*

    OP 1 — Yikes! That’s just bad all the way around. Perhaps the people who organized this have their hearts in the right place (I’m hoping) but are going about it all wrong. Just reading your letter made me squirm.

    1. Julia*

      Maybe someone should redirect them to general diversity and sensitivity training instead of “let’s all learn about this religion we think new employee follows!”

    2. AsItIs*

      I don’t think their “hearts are in the right place” though but it does scream “political correctness”. Anyway it doesn’t matter what the religion (or no religion) of the new coworker is. Religion is a private matter and not something requiring or deserving of “sensitivity training” in the office. Yuck.

      1. Just Employed Here*

        Weeeelll… As someone who works with several people who follow a not very common religion that has some very clear rules about certain things that are otherwise common in our country, I don’t think it’s an entirely private matter. I was given a quiet nudge about this by my boss after having started here, and I have done the same thing to new team members I have been supervising.

        The reason I’ve done it is because it would be unfair for a new person to unwittingly say or do something that could cause offense, just because they had no way of knowing that some of the colleagues had a certain belief. We are in a very secular country, the religious colleagues in question are part of the same population as most of the other colleagues here, and although the religion is one you’d know by name, I (at least) didn’t really know what its teachings were before I looked it up.

        You may call it political correctness, but I just called it being kind to everyone involved and avoiding any clashes instead of just seeing how the chips fall and possibly having a new colleague feel bad afterwards about something they’ve said or done.

        1. Just Employed Here*

          Just to clarify: I don’t think my religious colleagues would actually *take* offense, but they would have to react differently to other people in some situations, and it would all be awkward and a strange change from our usual, relaxed atmosphere.

          1. Slartibartfast*

            There’s a big difference between a quiet, private heads up about avoiding a specific behavior and a full staff meeting to learn about one individual’s possible religion before they arrive in the office. “Hey, FYI we have some Pastafarians in the office, and they aren’t allowed to touch people who aren’t family, so we don’t offer handshakes in the office”, said in private is kind. Sitting through a company wide presentation on the evolution and practices of Pastafarianism because Rigatoni Alfredo will be starting next week is just setting the stage for an awkward and uncomfortable office.

            1. Lily Rowan*

              Yeah, totally — “Just FYI, don’t wish Sue a happy birthday because she’s a Jehovah’s Witness and won’t like it” is a kindness. “ALERT ALERT POSSIBLE JEHOVAH’S WITNESS IN THE BUILDING” is not.

              1. Bex*

                We have a Jehovah’s Witness in our office, and I know I’ve made the mistake of asking what she did to celebrate a milestone birthday (ugh!). But she is understanding about it. And it’s wonderful to have her help around the winter holidays (she takes a bit chunk of vacation either a few weeks before/after the holidays so she’s not shortchanged.).

            2. Just Employed Here*

              Sure! I don’t think what was described in the letter was even remotely a good idea.

              The point of my comment was just to give an example in which your colleagues’ religious views aren’t only a private matter of theirs. Their *actual* religious views, that is, not their assumed-based-on-their-name-etc religious views.

            3. Observer*

              I agree that the company is handling it very poorly. The point here, though, is that it’s possible that it is actually meant kindly.

            4. NorthernSoutherner*

              First of all, Rigatoni Alfredo the Pastafarian is just inspired. Thank you!

              May I say that this whole issue is a tangled web. Years ago, someone must have noticed that the U.S. had become quite diverse and the phrase “happy holidays” was born. Immediately, other groups began to feel marginalized at something that was meant to be inclusive.

              Now, if your religious or cultural beliefs forbid you to accept a handshake, that should probably be made known. But when it comes to holidays, I never assume people are on board with XMas or any of the others. Unless they specifically wish me a happy [whatever], I just tell people to enjoy their time off, have a great week, or something similar.

              Same goes for minor arcana holidays. Perhaps someone has lost a parent, and a question about Mother’s Day might cause pain. Unless you know for sure, just tread lightly is what I guess I’m saying.

        2. Specialk9*

          A good rule of thumb: Swap out “political correctness” with “kindness, even if people aren’t like you”. If it doesn’t line up, you’re dealing with a strawman made originally by an angry white man.

          1. Specialk9*

            To be clear, “Political correctness” is a term coined by the contemptuous conservative right, to decry multi-culturalism, based on made up supposed incidents at evil liberal universities. (Ooh what a coincidence that that exact same group also, gasp, now supports viciously racist policies.)

            So just fyi, if you actually use the term PC or politically correct, most of us are going to assume you’re proudly racist.

            1. ArachneWeavesaDream*

              Err, no. (Warning: history lesson about to follow.: “Political correctness” was actually coined on the left. I remember it being used in the early seventies to mock , usually directed at those more academically-oriented fellow-travellers displaying a bureaucratic tendency, rather than the “in the field” type organizers who took their tone from earlier “pop front” unifiers who got a wide variety of folk to rally ’round the flag of common self-interest.

              And how I wish that overly “PC” censorship was just made up. It’s true that some who sling this phrase about wish to discredit leftists and liberals in general, but I’m sympathetic to enough Libertarians I’ve met to realize alas, they’ve got a point. So no, I won’t paint all who use it with the same broad brush.

              That said, whether this particular heavy-handed bit of clunkiness falls under the sin of aiming towards an imagined correct standard for PC overlords, or under an overly-sympathetic but misguided hat-doffing to the guardians of a more catholic inclusiveness, it falls wide of the mark either way, motive be damned. AAM is exactly right: aiming to quench potential fires can actually ignite them. Businesses should tread lightly when marching into religious territory.

      2. Mookie*

        I think it’s more Othering than “political correctness,” although what passes for PC is often ‘benign’ and extremely exhausting hyper-Othering.

        1. PM Punk*

          Yes, I read it as “othering” as well. But as someone who is a religious “other” in my own office, I certainly think some sort of blanket training could be helpful if they’re worried that folks will react with confusion toward the new employee. For some of us religion cannot always stay in the realm of private. I’ve experienced this many times when simply asking that my employer provide food that I can eat at a work event. Refusing to acknowledge the difference at all has never been helpful, but hyper focus can also be very uncomfortable.

      3. Snark*

        I disagree, having observed a few members of minority religions get treated with a stunning lack of tact, respect, and consideration in the workplace. Religion is a fit subject for sensitivity training, private matter or not. But the way this is being done is ham-fisted, bizarre, and exclusionary.

        1. Jake*

          Exactly. I also think a major factor in this going from “well intentioned” to “pretty racist” is the fact they are assuming the new employee follows a given religion based on his name. “Positive” racism is still racism folks.

          1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

            Ehh, I think it depends on the religion, and the name. For example, although this makes absolutely no difference whatsoever, there’s a girl from India in my program whose last name is Kaur, who recently married someone whose last name is Singh, so I have been assuming that she is Sikh. I had done some research into the religion recently at the time as a result of hearing about the Sikh temple shooting in the news, and so I just assumed when I heard her name. Of course, I haven’t told anyone else about this assumption (until now) and obviously haven’t treated her any differently, but there are a few names that are strong indicators that someone came from a religious tradition, even if they don’t themselves practice.

            1. One of the Sarahs*

              “even if they don’t practice” is the operative phrase here – there’s no way of knowing if someone whose surname is Singh is a practicing Sikh any more than someone whose surname is O’Callaghan and is married to someone whose surname is Murphy is a practicing Catholic. You can make some guesses about where their surname comes from, and that’s it.

            2. Anne Noise*

              Ask yourself this: do you assume someone with a name like Noel, Matthew or Aaron are active in the Christian church? Or that someone with the last name Abrams is a practicing member of the Jewish faith? Considering “Singh” is the most common last name in India, why would it be any different than any other name in projecting personal faith? I would hope the single indicator that someone follows a specific religion is them saying, “I follow [specific religion].”

              This is not directed critically at you, necessarily, So Long, but is a good thought experiment about how we approach cultures that we might not be personal experienced with.

            3. Courageous cat*

              Do you do this with white people? My guess is no, which is what makes this messed up – it’s still generalizing based on race.

              1. AnonSikh*

                If I met a white person with the last name of “Kaur” and learned her husband’s last name was “Singh,” I would 100% assume that woman was Sikh.

                Sikhism highly encourages adult practitioners to change their last name to Kaur (for women) or Singh (for men).

                1. Anne Noise*

                  Or, like any other surname, it was passed down through multiple generations. In the 1800’s it was required by religious leadership, but that doesn’t mean everyone who was born into the name is practicing, which is why the assumption is inappropriate, just like assuming a Joseph Smith is a Mormon. The name was also associated with people of the area for hundreds of years before being adopted into religious significance. Yes, names are often associated with religions, but assuming that ALL PEOPLE with a given name are associated with the religion is ignorant. Singh is the most common surname in India!

              2. No One Shall Know Me*

                Eh, I do. If someone tells me they’re a Mary Elizabeth McBride and their sister is Ann Margaret and their brother is Patrick Joseph, I assume that somewhere along the line there was a Catholic grandparent. However, where I live there’s still a lot among white Protestant/Catholic names that break down along denomination lines (i.e. ‘Lutheran’ last names, ‘Catholic’ last names, etc). YMMV depending on where in the country you live.

                I also don’t ask them because I have a last name that DOES NOT follow that convention (for example it’s like I’m a Mary Patricia Ann Margaret Murphy who is actually Buddhist) but it is kind of fun to think of the history of other people’s family.

      4. Frankie*

        Mmm, I don’t see this as “political correctness,” I see this as a subtle form of racism. It reduces the coworker to a (presumed) religion based on a last name (a proxy for ethnicity, the letter suggests). It’s not PC, it’s the opposite.

      5. CaliUKExpat*

        I often describe this as “their hearts are in the right place, but their brains aren’t”. I find it incredibly useful to phrase it that way, it seems to get through to people who might otherwise lose the message for the terminology

    3. Yeah, no*

      Agreed. I was screaming internally by the end of that letter. I don’t know that I could not say anything to management about how misguided this is.

    4. AKchic*

      OP1’s letter makes me squirm too.

      It doesn’t read as “well-intentioned” by management. It reads as “benign racism” and “attempts to prove ‘we’re not bigots!'”.
      Granted, none of us can know for sure if management is only assuming this religion based on the new hire’s name and background, or if the hiring person has more concrete evidence. I would *hope* management has more proof, and maybe even the new hire’s permission to broach this subject; but at the same time, as someone who doesn’t practice the prevailing local flavor of worship (and has been the subject of, well… “issues” stemming from that), I would hope that the staff wouldn’t let these things be a focus. Unfortunately, it can be, and at least management recognizes that?

      *sigh* All around, this letter bothers me. It raises so many questions in me, and none of them are constructive, or conducive to helping this situation.

    5. Maji*

      I completely agree. My husband has about the most stereotypical Muslim name (first, middle, and last) you can image. Yet he is not a practicing muslim.

      It’s already weird when coworkers suggest halal food options and such. Although that is taken in stride as he realizes they are trying to help. But if they had had a Muslims 101 course before he were hired, that would just be so insanely weird and uncomfortable.

  3. Tara2*

    OP#2: I want to add that, especially since per your letter all that she said was that someone was acting drunk in the hotel (and if she didn’t mention anything about the nightgown thing), there’s a high probability that she wasn’t even talking about you! I very much doubt you were the only person drunk at a hotel with an open bar.

    1. Friday*

      Open bar and/or swim-up bar? Many a drunk person to be had. I’ve had great fun being one of the many on some fantastic trips!

      1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

        Swim-up bars are AWESOME, and I only managed not to get drunk at one because I wasn’t all inclusive. I can def. see how the OP overindulged, and I’m positive she wasn’t alone.

        1. an infinite number of monkeys*

          Swim-up bars ARE awesome, but I’ve always been vaguely disappointed that the bartenders were not also in the water. The experience would be so much more immersive (sorry!) if they were.

          1. KH*

            You guys are thinking too small. You shouldn’t have to go to the swim up bar, the bar should come to YOU. The bar should be in a giant life preserver or inflatable raft and float around to the guests!!

    2. cncx*

      yes, if there’s an open bar there isn’t just going to be one person drunk. this happened at a work event a few years ago at my job, the hostess kept walking around topping up everyone’s champagne, everyone was champagne drunk

      1. blackcat*

        One of my friends “complained” about the servers at my wedding. They kept refilling her wine glass! She lost track of how much she drank and OMG she was trashed.

        Open bars are dangerous things. Unless it was a really small gathering (like… my wedding!), I sincerely doubt she was the only person awkwardly drunk!

      2. MagSag*

        My 5 year high school reuinion was open bar…at a very popular party bar. People were trashed. My 10 year is coming up in a few weeks…another open bar, but this time there will also be heavy appetizers. It’s at a classier place, and I think a lot fewer people are still around to show up…so it should hopefully be a better experience with more networking and less “Oooh you single baby? I had a big crush on you in 5th grade…make my middle school fantasy a reality”…

        Would not want to go to an open bar work-related event ever (mostly because I think I am perfectly fine, until I’m not)…that’s just asking for trouble!

      3. TardyTardis*

        We had an open bar at one Christmas party, and the first DUII was at 8:30 pm. The management said Never Again, and thenceforth handing out drink tickets (now, you could still get trashed if your friends didn’t drink, but you had to work at it).

    3. EvilQueenRegina*

      Yes, even if there was something in the original conversation that made it clear she was talking about something that happened in the right time period, it’s still possible she wasn’t talking about you. The wording “someone got too drunk” is vague enough that it sounds like that person doesn’t actually know anything specific.

      1. Artemesia*

        Actually it wasn’t the drunk part that is the problem (assuming with an open bar there were many drunks) — it is the walking around in public in a short nightgown that is memorable. Her best hope is that people remember ‘a woman’ but don’t really remember it was her.

        1. boo bot*

          Yes, and in fact I think the memorability of the nightgown thing is likely to be her saving grace! If anyone remembers it, they will mention “woman walking around in her nightgown”, not “someone got drunk”, and OP will know they mean her.

          If anyone does remember woman-in-nightgown and hasn’t yet connected the dots that it was the OP, they’re not likely to figure it out unless she tells them. Which she should, in about 20 years!

        2. sheworkshardforthemoney*

          Without stretching my memories I can recall many people behaving badly while drunk at bars. None of them were memorable enough to recall specifically so you have nothing to worry about. If she does ask you directly then you can always deny it was you. If she is willing to name and shame you for an incident from 5 (!) years ago then you’ve been forewarned about her character.

        3. Michaela Westen*

          I was once at a party where a much worse incident happened – one of the guests slept with the host’s girlfriend and was caught.
          A year later I was talking with the guest and I had completely forgotten the incident… the party came up in another context and he got all embarrassed and I didn’t understand why until he reminded me, and even then I had to think for a minute to remember it.
          People’s memories are short! Even those who were there have probably forgotten it was you. If they haven’t, that tells you something about them.

    4. Quackeen*


      Even though no one wants to be That Person, and the cringe in the days to follow is very real, it’s not the first time someone has been that drunk and it certainly won’t be the last.

    5. The Other Dawn*

      Given what I’ve seen at industry conferences, many people are drunk and walking around the hotel, striking up conversations. It’s nothing unusual. I’d only worry if the person specifically mentioned OP walking around in her nightgown. Then it’s much more likely they’re talking about the OP.

    6. always in email jail*

      Even if they are like “the drunk girl in the nightgown from 5 years ago!” I agree with AAM that they probably haven’t connected the dots and realized it’s you, or they wouldn’t say anything in front of you.

    7. Snickerdoodle*

      Yeah, I’d like to have a dollar for every forgettable incident involving someone who overimbibed. It’s unlikely anybody even remembers (especially if they’d been drinking, too!).

      I once heard someone repeat an extremely dubious rumor to me that I myself had helped spread without knowing it wasn’t true some years before. I didn’t own up to it out of sheer embarrassment and instead just helped quash it. No alcohol involved, but the point is that people tend not to remember who actually said or did what if it wasn’t egregious.

    8. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, what OP has described seems like the type of thing people might have laughed about a bit at the time and then probably forgot about. Definitely not wild enough behavior to warrant bringing it up again 5 years later. I think it’s very likely they were talking about someone else.

      1. Washi*

        Yeah, it would be different if the OP had been overtly sexual towards others, or belligerent, but wandering around in a nightgown and being a little overly friendly is just embarrassing, and after 5 years, probably pretty much forgotten.

    9. GG Two shoes*

      Oh man, I accidently got pretty drunk with the new President at an industry work conference (my first one!). He is a 5’10” guy with probably 80lbs on me and drinks regularly. I rarely drink and am on the smaller side. Each time he got himself a drink, he got me one too. A few hours in I got up and realized I was DRUNK. I told him I need to head to bed and went inside the hotel.

      Then I remembered I had to pre-check in for my flight the next morning. I was falling off the stool in the business lounge, swaying and fell into the elevator. Just ridiculous.

      I got back to my room and drunk dialed my mom.

      I’m so glad no one from my conference saw me.

  4. Stefan Overfiller*

    #1 – “We have no concrete evidence of his religion, but his name and background suggest a particular religious practice.”

    I don’t want to be *that* guy, but in your company’s effort to be woke, is this not racial profiling?

      1. Lurker*

        Not following how assuming someones religion based on a name would also be racial profiling. Race and religion are not the same.

        One could assume someone with an “Irish” name is Roman Catholic. One could also assume someone with a “Hispanic” name might be Roman Catholic but they could be two completely different races…

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          There’s a lot of good literature on how religion can be racialized (see Kenji Yoshino’s Covering). And racially profiling someone to try to determine their religious affiliation is way more common than it should be.

          Where I live, I see it happen most frequently when people make assumptions about what they think are “Jewish” last names, as well as stereotypes about the faith practices of folks of South Asian descent or with Arabic names.

          1. Lurker*

            I’m not saying religion can’t be racialized, but as Airy points out in the comment below, they aren’t mutually exclusive so to jump right to that’s ‘definitely racial profiling’ seems a bit extreme. (Tangentially related: It seems like hyperbole and jumping to extreme worst case scenarios are more common in the comments recently…)

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        This has the potential to take us too far away from the OP’s question (and into more theoretical debates), so I’ll ask that we leave it here.

    1. Airy*

      Religious profiling? Race and religion aren’t necessarily linked (eg not all Arabs are Muslims and not all Muslims are Arabs).

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It’s both. It’s profiling someone’s religion based on perceptions about that person’s racial identity.

        I mean, Islam and Christianity (writ large) are religions with an extremely racially diverse population of adherents, but in the United States, there are all sorts of racialized assumptions about who is “likely” to be a Muslim.

      2. KTB*

        Which is exactly the problem. If they’re educating everyone about Islam based on an Arabic-sounding name, that’s racial profiling.

      3. Observer*

        That’s true. But profiling is often not reality based. In fact, that’s the most fundamental problem with the practice.

    2. Trek*

      Can you imagine starting a new job and finding out that everyone had to take classes on a religion because of you? Whether that religion turned out to be yours or not I can’t imagine not feeling uncomfortable that everyone was studying religion because of me. I’d also be wondering if I’d be forced to study someone else’s religion during my employment and what planet I had landed on. This is absolutely bizarre.

      1. Specialk9*

        I’m trying to think of ways to do this and have it not be terrible. Maybe if it was one of those business based “hey be careful about these behaviors, they come across badly in these cultures”, like don’t blow your nose at the table or take a card 1-handed in Japan.

        So maybe a grab bag of ‘some people in this religion object to X, but obviously not all because people are individuals and have varying faith observances, but be sensitive of the possibility’. (Eg prohibition on pork in Judaism & Islam, prohibition on caffeine for Mormons)

        But honestly, this just seems so fraught.

  5. Butter Makes Things Better*

    Yikes to the assumption of religion. It’s bad enough assuming background based on a name. I got a quick reminder that even asking someone about their ethnicity doesn’t often go over well — today, I asked an employee at a fast food counter if they were Filipino (I am), and they looked insulted. I was just a dumb customer, not even management at his job!

    1. My stats are not public*

      I think it’s good to ask yourself what you would do with that information once you received it. Now that you know this stranger’s/coworker’s ethnicity/religion, what are you going to do about it? Say “neat, me too” and go about your day? If their personal info is just a fun trivia fact for you, then do you really need to know it?

      -Signed, someone who gets asked “where are you from?” abruptly by strangers in public

      1. Julia*

        There may also be a difference between asking someone, “are you XY, too” and just asking if they are XY. One is trying to find common ground, the other sounds like potential others.

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          My aunt does that with anyone she sees in the street and thinks is a fellow Filipino. She is trying to find common ground, and usually when I’ve seen her do it people have taken it that way, but reading this now makes me think that one day someone might not.

          1. Dankar*

            My partner’s mother does that, too. In her case, she’s trying to build an “expat” community to replace the one she keeps having to leave. She’s a military wife, so by the time she established a group of Filipina friends, their family would move and she’d have to start from scratch at the next base. Of course, a lot of military wives her age are Filipina or East Asian, and they’re all doing the same.

            Ironically, she gets VERY upset if anyone asks if she’s Mexican or Puerto Rican, which happens quite a bit in Florida!

      2. Mookie*

        Exactly. This kind of quasi-anthropological curiosity is aggressive and off-putting. Learning what one assumes to be someone’s Secret Handshake before even meeting them is a waste of resources and actually speaks to a much larger intellectual void, where the world is a mystery to you until you see a way of capitalizing on its perceived differences in a very shallow and temporary fashion. It’s icky to rope employees into this and it’s icky and sad for the incoming employee herself.

      3. nonymous*

        I get the aggressive anthropology plus disbelief. Then they basically interrogate my family tree. No I’m not Filipina. No you do not need to ask about my parents and grandparents to figure out how I got my features! Maybe they’re my own mutation, eh?

      4. Dr. Pepper*

        Eeesh. “Where are you from?” Um, here…? So awkward. I have an uncommon and hard to pronounce name and I get asked about it a lot. While I know it’s often a well meaning effort to make small talk or genuine curiosity, it’s still uncomfortable. If employers made assumptions of my religion based on my name and I learned that the entire office had been subjected to sensitivity training on my behalf, I’d be freaked out and want to apologize to them. Not a good way to start off with new colleagues.

        1. Anonymousaurus Rex*

          Yeah, same. I get asked where I’m from all the time and I’m a white lady born in the US, but I have a first name that’s uncommon here and hard to pronounce. Anyone googling my first name or looking up its meaning would see it’s much more common in Arabic-speaking countries, and in the US is almost exclusively used in African American communities. I have, on more than one occasion, given people I’ve only corresponded with by email quite a shock when I meet them in person. I have no problem with sensitivity training in general, but I’d be pretty upset if my employers made assumptions and did training based on my name.

          1. a username*

            I’m very American, but my ancestry is Irish-Italian, as is my coloring (dark hair, olive skin) and my last name (Italian.) I often get people looking at me and my name, and assuming I’m either Hispanic, or mixed Asian.

            I don’t care, but for most of my work history, I’ve worked in community organizations that serve majority non-white populations, and a lot of people try to suss out if I’m “one of them” or “an outsider (white).” In Chinatown, I got lots of people asking me questions in Chinese, or very specific questions about Chinese food items, from people trying to figure out if I was Chinese or white; in Hispanic communities, people speak Spanish to me and try to work into the conversation things about immigration, foods, holiday or cultural traditions, etc., to see if I’m Hispanic or white.

            I find it amusing, if only because it’s the opposite of what kind of ethnic questions people expect to encounter!

            1. jolene*

              Ooh, me too. In Sri Lanka people kept speaking to me in Singhalese, etc etc. I love it and it means I get a lot less hassle in so many areas.

    2. Valancy Snaith*

      Why would you want to know? I am that person on the other side of the counter and it really sucks to get interrogated with personal questions. Best case scenario, the person isn’t irritated and says “yeah I am” and you get to have a moment of “oh hey me too!” and then what? Why not just leave it be?

      1. Lover of friendly customers*

        As a person behind the counter I would just think wow finally a friendly person.

        1. boop the first*

          Ha ha ha, honestly same. I used to get a few questions in this category. However surprising they are, the experience definitely stands out in a sea of strangers who would otherwise pretend I didn’t exist in front of them. Or are otherwise incredibly rude for no reason.

      2. Traveler*

        Having spent many hours behind counters in my younger days, I hated these kinds of questions. When you get asked questions like these dozens of times each day, its awful. And I’ve found engaging with them often led to even more awkward and inappropriate lines of questioning. Plus, being behind a couner, you’re often trapped. It’s difficult to just give them a surprised look and walk away to avoid the conversation and situation. You’re their captive audience.

    3. finally free from retail*

      I’ve never minded this general question from someone who is also obviously a person of color, since I do get that feeling of “oh, maybe we can connect!” It can get a bit delicate if you ask if they’re a specific race/ethnicity though, since so often in communities (thinking of Latinx communities specifically, but I’m sure others do this too) there are “tiers” to countries, and people who consider themselves on a “higher tier” will get pissed quick if you assume they’re from a “lower tier,” or from a country with historical aggression toward their cultural home, etc.

  6. nutella fitzgerald*

    OP2: If it makes you feel better, I also got too drunk on a work trip five years ago. A coworker and I had the same clutch, they got mixed up, and I ended up back at the hotel strutting around in my platform heels waiting for Clutch Twin Coworker to return with my ID, phone, and room key. I grant you permission to apply plausible deniability and explain this as your colleagues talking about me.

    1. Just Employed Here*

      “A coworker and I had the same clutch”

      OK, I’ve definitely been listening to too much Car Talk, because I didn’t understand this at all until I got to “ID, phone, and room key”…

      1. Antilles*

        I also thought of the car part until I got further into the comment and realized it meant a purse.

        1. Qosanchia*

          If it makes you feel better, I interpreted “clutch” as “group of reptile eggs,” so I was at least as confused, and I had to read it two or three times to realize that nutella fitzgerald wasn’t talking about being a Snake Person somehow.
          I even had coffee this morning, so I’ve no idea what my excuse is

    2. TootsNYC*

      I agree w/ Alison that it’s probably the best outcome, for him to get fired.

      but if the LW#2 feels bad watching it happen, I think she/he could say, “Dude, I just want to have said: They are serious about PIPs here–they WILL fire you. I just want you to hear it from someone in the trenches–the threat is real.:”

      1. TootsNYC*

        whoops! My screen scroll screwed me up when I clicked “back”–this goes under the next answer, about LW#3, the coworker who isn’t doing his job.

  7. Freya*

    #3 He doesn’t sound that nice or that smart, to be honest. It’s nice that you want to help but he doesn’t sound like he is trying to do anything except get himself fired.

    1. Turquoisecow*

      Yeah, I get that OP3 is a nice person who wants to help out the new guy, but the new guy is not very nice if he seems like he’s not even trying to take on his share of the work, taking long lunches, coming in late, leaving early, and allowing you (and the rest of your team) to pick up the slack. He may not know that his slacking will deprive the rest of the team of bonuses, but if he does and is not putting in more effort, that’s especially not nice.

      And if he’s not even attempting to learn the work, and has been clearly told that he needs to or else he’ll lose the job, then either the work isn’t a good fit for him, or he’s not smart enough to connect “bad behavior” with “consequences.”

      All that aside, it doesn’t sound like there’s much to be done from OP’s position anyway. Unless OP has some great way of explaining the work to this guy, I don’t think a few choice words will do what multiple months of training and actual work have failed.

      1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

        I think this is the key. He’s not even trying. Unless there is some extremely good reason why he works less than others (like, if he is a part time employee, or the rest of the team always work extremely long days and he’s not able to do that but still works a normal full-time amount), he should know that being around for the whole day and using that time efficiently is a minimum requirement – at least for someone who isn’t twice faster than anyone else! He should be aware by now that what he’s doing isn’t enough, but he still doesn’t do more. If he doesn’t try harder there’s really not much anyone can do about the situation.

      2. LadyPhoenix*

        I had a coworker like that when I worked at the grocery store.

        She would disapear for long times, take super long breaks, constantly go for the carts (she was actually smoking), take super long lunch breaks at off times (i was supposed to take mine first, but she took it, dispeared, and by the time she came back I was HANGRY…

        She got fired in a week. And it turned it that she did this to ALL of the businesses.

        You could see why I hated her guts without even speaking to her.

      3. Snark*

        I mean, I’m sure he’s a reasonably pleasant fellow to interact with, but he sure sounds inconsiderate and careless.

      4. Dr. Pepper*

        Agreed. While the OP might like him on a personal level, he sounds like a terrible person to work with. Since it appears he’s been given many chances to change his behavior and succeed, there’s not much else you can do. If the guy’s boss saying “you need to do better or you’ll be fired” isn’t enough for him to shape up, then a colleague saying the same thing won’t make a difference.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          OP, if you’re tempted to be friends with this person, keep in mind he’s not someone who makes an effort.

    2. Ender*

      Yeah, he’s essentially dumping work on OP and risking her bonus. That’s not the behaviour of a nice person.

      OP, there are lots of people who are charismatic, pleasant to talk to and fun to be around, but don’t actually treat people well. You have to look at people’s actions, not their words.

      This guy presumably knows you’re working longer hours than him, knows you’re picking up his slack, and knows his behaviour is potentially costing you money? If he is aware of these consequences but continues to behave this way, then he’s not being nice to you, regardless of how he behaves in conversation.

          1. Bones*

            Can I ask a question? This is clearly a rule I don’t understand super well: What would have to be different about the letter for this kind of comment to not be too far out from the post? This is definitely something that happens in the workplace, so what specifically is the issue with mentioning it? Not being difficult, really having trouble getting it. Thanks!

            1. Observer*

              Have you noticed the posts about “advice column fan fic”? All of that applies here.

              Just because something happens does not mean that it’s a reasonable assumption in all cases. There is NOTHING in the letter to indicate that this is happening – in fact we don’t even know if the OP is a woman. On the other hand, given that the behavior affects the entire team AND he’s been put on notice that his job is at risk, it’s kind of unlikely that he’s doing this specifically because of the OP. In other words, yes, this happens and COULD be happening, it is a really major stretch.

              On the other hand, it’s also totally not actionable. Not for the OP and not for anyone who is reading this. The bottom line remains the same “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” The bystander (ie the OP) has no responsibility here, and it looks like the issue is being handled to they also don’t have to worry too much about the long term, although the short term is aggravating and upsetting.

            2. CmdrShepard4ever*

              I reread the letter and maybe I missed it again but OP3 does not mention that they are a woman. But further even if OP3 has stated they were a women, there is no information in my mind that points to the coworker slacking because OP3 is a women.

              I think it is similar if I said it is possible the coworker comes in late and leaves early because they are taking care of a sick relative. While I don’t disagree with you that what you mentioned is definitely something that happens in the workplace there does not seem to be anything else to show this might be the case.

              Idk exactly what would have to be different, there could be many more things mentioned that could lead one to reasonably think this is the case. The coworker refuses to take advice from OP3 on how things are done, the coworker makes disparaging comments about other women.

      1. Not a Mere Device*

        “Nice is different from good.” A person can be surface-pleasant, polite, or chatty without actually treating other people well or caring about whether he’s hurting them. (I don’t mean this guy is trying to make everyone else’s work more difficult, but that he either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that they have to pick up his slack.)

        1. Bea*

          He seems aloof at best to me.

          I had this guy to manage before only he wasn’t late at least. Just unable to learn the job in the end.

          He was nice and a good person. He was in over his head and couldn’t swim.

        2. Kyrielle*

          All of this. I know lots of people that I would happily chat with all day – they are pleasant to talk to, use courtesy, are fun and interesting and bright, so the conversation will be great.

          Some of them I would also be glad to see as a coworker. But not all.

      2. boo bot*

        “OP, there are lots of people who are charismatic, pleasant to talk to and fun to be around, but don’t actually treat people well.”

        As my mama says, “Anyone can do nice.” :)

    3. Kitty*

      Right?! Why would you want to help someone stay when they are lazy, not even trying, and actively harming your income??? Let him get fired.

      1. TootsNYC*

        in fact, be GLAD that your company is willing to cut someone lose promptly, and be GLAD that your manager has been clear and is, well, managing.

    4. MLB*

      Yup. You can’t make someone else care about their job. It doesn’t matter how nice this person is, he’s not making any kind of effort. If he’s affecting your ability to do your job, that needs to be relayed to your manager (I’m assuming manager is aware if he’s on a PIP). Otherwise, you shouldn’t go out of your way to help him, because he clearly isn’t interested in improving.

  8. Jay*

    O.P. #1: How small and how conservative are we talking here? I spent many years living and working in the rural South and, sadly, I can see this being the lesser of two evils, provided that they do indeed know his religion. It would need to be handled very, very carefully, but if you have multiple employees who’s only exposure to this culture is the hysterical ravings of televangelists, pundits, and fire and brimstone preachers, well, I’ve been in workplaces where people have come to near riot over less.
    Hopefully you are just dealing with well meaning but clueless management and will end up eye-rolling your way through the meeting where they explain that employees can no longer have raw pork-chop fights in the conference rooms. Not even on Raw Pork-Chop Fight Thursday or The Raw Pork-Chop Fight Festival in June. They’ll have to get back to you on Raw Pork-Chop Fight Awareness Month. That one might be a Federal Holiday…..
    It would certainly be better than someone showing up to work armed and terrified because of what Preacher Bob said that Sunday.

    1. Ender*

      I was wondering if I was the only one who thought this! In a liberal company this would be awful. In a really conservative company where people are genuinely completely ignorant about the religion in question, or even have misconceptions about it – it could be beneficial.

      Imagine for a second that this new employee is a Muslim, coming to work in a company where most people either know nothing at all about Muslims, or else are under the impression that all Muslims are evil terrorists. I can see it making sense in that atmosphere to let people know that in fact most Muslims don’t support the murder of innocent civilians. And letting people know that the new coworker might observe strict prayer rules. If you had never heard of Muslim prayer, you would be pretty taken aback if your new coworker suddenly rolled out a prayer mat beside his desk and bowed down to the ground multiple times every day. Especially if you had been socialised to be afraid of Muslims.

      I don’t really see the problem in giving people info about the religion, so long as the info is correct. It’s quite common in some international workplaces to have information on cultural practices and norms. A friend of mine works on an international team and they have a sheet on every culture represented in the team and require everyone in the team to read all of them. She said the sheet on our culture is pretty accurate.

      I’m also wondering how OP knows for sure that her employers aren’t aware of the new employee’s religion? Is it possible that someone in the company is aware that they are this religion but hasn’t shared that info with OP?

      1. Yvette*

        That is the key. If they know for a FACT that this person is a devout follower of religion “X” and this is a group of people who have never been personally exposed to anyone from or has any knowledge of the practices of religion “X” this might not necessarily be a bad thing, provided that the info is correct.

      2. Mookie*

        I just have a really hard time conceiving of adult conservatives needing to be coddled this way, where the presence of religious iconography, accoutrements, and practice is likely to spook or bewilder them, such is their inexperience with the world at large. I don’t disagree that Islamophobia is real, rampant, and manifests in many different fashions, but if Islamophobes’s hatred or fear can be Taught Out Of Them, the workplace is not an appropriate venue for that kind of education / de-briefing / de-programming nor should anyone in that workplace try to speak authoritatively on this subject. Any such exercise is fraught with real risk for employer and employees alike. The flier you describe is fine, but I wouldn’t encourage someone to carry it around to use as a crib-sheet when interacting with colleagues. Barring respecting someone’s choices and requests, professional contact and collaboration generally can survive without ever needing a copy of World’s Religions for Dummies.

        1. Queen Anon*

          You haven’t been in the right churches or political groups! (Insert eye-roll here.) I definitely know these people. They’re adults, they have at the minimum a high school education, yet they’re completely ignorant about Islam and blissfully pass along all the ignorant – and hateful – misinformation their ministers and political leaders feed them. (My own minister is not, I’m happy to say, one of them.)

          1. MatKnifeNinja*

            Come to my work place. The preconceived notions about any religion outside of Evangelical Christianity is appalling, and these folks have 4 years of university under their belts.

            1. Submerged Tenths*

              Exactly! I would feel so, so sorry for anyone of another religion — especially Islam — who came to work here. Maybe it’s fortunate that my employers would never, ever, hire anyone who doesn’t look just like them (and presumably think just like them. I am the Stealth Liberal around here . . . )

              1. Gazebo Slayer*

                I WOULD say your employer is asking for a racial or religious discrimination lawsuit…. except that is so, so hard to prove in hiring. :-(

          2. AKchic*

            Agreed. My city is one of the most diverse in the country, and yet the amount of narrow-minded, bigoted racists that still live here and purposely isolate themselves from “others” is astounding. And of course, they generally go to either one of the two very loud conservative churches in town, or their small church supports those churches (and the younger minister’s political action group).
            And while I say “younger minister”, I actually mean a man who is probably 50-60 years old. The older one is in his 70s now in the larger church.

            Some of the hatred is generational. However, it cannot be described as “quaint” or “quirky”. It is deep, it is in the forefront of their personality and it appears to be a core tenet of the fabric of their being. For some of these people, it is how they were raised, and since they are younger, there is more hope that they can be shown that what they were taught and socialized to believe growing up is/was wrong… before they pass it on to another generation.

        2. Lora*

          I sort of feel like in that type of environment though, a cheerful training on Diversity Appreciation wouldn’t actually work all that well.

          My current Grandboss takes the Tiger Mike approach to “you WILL be respectful of ALL your colleagues, so help me god, or you’re fired/demoted somewhere you won’t like to be”; the layer of management directly below the Grandboss is much gentler in tone but has the same basic message that this is non-negotiable, you will focus on work interactions and be polite. The CEO backs up the Grandboss and other line management on this point. It really works, and I’m in a notoriously non-diverse field. Last time I worked in a company that was relatively diverse (only two men for every woman, two women in senior management and a solid 20 – 25% PoC which included many Black and Latino folks rather than only Asian), they also employed this method to great effect. Be polite, be professional, be respectful, focus on work, or you can clean out your desk.

            1. Cassandra*

              Not to derail too far, but in my experience as a higher-ed instructor, setting interaction expectations quickly and as clearly as possible is definitely a good idea. My classrooms are often tech-focused, so I usually reuse the Recurse Center Social Rules (linked to my handle). As always, do your best to keep the rules focused on behavior (rather than mindset) and don’t single out anyone or any group as a potential offender or (insofar possible — see RC’s fourth rule for a counterexample) a potential target.

              Depending on the class subject matter and the maturity of the learners, it may be possible to involve them in collective decisionmaking about the classroom environment. The way I do this is to ask them to write a note (no names) and pass it to me: on one side, what they’re most concerned about as they start the course; on the other side, how other learners and I can best help them with it. Then I scan the notes for themes and we talk them through. Again, this is a little bit specialized to tech classrooms (where impostor syndrome is A Thing), but in case it helps…

            2. Lora*

              Unfortunately they are rarities in the field.

              One of the reasons I wanted to work in CurrentJob even though the hiring process was a giant headache and it’s notoriously bureaucratic is that I wanted to work under this particular Grandboss and see how she managed.

              The other company was 15 years ago. Had the pleasure of watching a real pig of a manager get fired on the spot by his female director, for asking a female client for sex in the office.

              But yeah, basically management has to be deadly serious about “you will be respectful or you will be fired,” and acting with all swiftness and wrath to enforce it. Most places that take the Diversity Awareness method tend to be sort of mealy-mouthed when it comes to dealing with actual bigotry and harassment and cultural issues: “Oh, you must have misunderstood,” “it was just a joke,” “he SAID he was sorry, I think you should accept the apology,” “you’re going to have to get a thicker skin,” etc etc. in the face of actual problems, and then it’s somehow a big heckin’ mystery why PoC and women don’t apply for jobs there and they can’t retain any diversity, gosh, maybe we should have a Tuesday after-work support group or put something in the monthly newsletter or try a different recruiting strategy and pester the ONE woman or PoC we have left to get their friends to apply…

              1. Michaela Westen*

                “asking a female client for sex in the office.”
                OMG! If I was that client I would have called the police! :O

        3. Observer*

          I guess your experience is not wide enough. And, by the way, this is NOT just an issue of “conservatives” – liberals can be equally ignorant. It’s also not necessarily about Islamophobia (although that is a completely real thing.)

          1. Youth*

            +1 Some conservatives are very religious but make a point of learning about religions other than their own. Some liberals laugh off all religions as hogwash but barely know the first thing about any of them. Political leanings don’t make people homogeneous.

          2. Jessie the First (or second)*

            I assume Mookie specified “adult conservatives” in the comment because that it what the LW specified. Lots of people can be ignorant. But the LW talked about how their company is in a very consersative town with very conservative employees. The management at her company appear to believe that this particular group of (conservative) folks are going to need Extra Special Handling to deal with the existence of a person of a different religion.

        4. Dr. Pepper*

          It’s pretty ridiculous all right, and sadly completely true. Anyone deeply entrenched in their belief system has a very difficult time accepting those outside of their community of fellow believers. Looking in from an outside perspective it’s both amusingly ludicrous and deeply sad to see grown adults fumbling with their fear of someone they perceive as Other. This goes for ANY belief system, not necessarily religious beliefs, though that’s the one you hear about all the time.

        5. Quill*

          Part of the reason we had “Religions of the World” as a required class at my (Lutheran) college, I’ve come to understand, was to make sure people had a very basic grounding in what the actual facts of major world religions were. Judging by what several of my classmates, circa 2010, thought about Islam, it was sadly necessary, and hopefully it’s cut down on the need for this sort of crash course as they entered the working world.

          That said… I kinda want to sign my uncle up for this company’s little class. There are a lot of people who have been professionals for decades who need to be informed better, and most of them won’t do it on their own.

          (Though if culture at this company is such that a majority of these workers need to be taught this beyond “other people’s religions are none of your business at work,” I pity this new hire…)

        6. Working Mom Having It All*

          I keep trying to type responses to this, and I keep coming up against the reality that, for a group of supposedly “ignorant” people to need to be hand-held in this way due to simply hearing mention of a “stereotypically” Muslim/Hindu/Jewish/Zoroastrian/etc name, then… it sounds like the people we’re dealing with aren’t ignorant so much as they are bigots. If they know enough to know what names to listen for in order to direct their hysteria, it sounds like a company wide explainer is beside the point.

      3. Delphine*

        I have to say if I was going to work in the type of office where my coworkers were highly conservative and potentially bigoted (out of ignorance or otherwise) I would not want my employer calling even more attention to my supposed religion. I’d want them to tell everyone speculating that whether or not I am Muslim that they shouldn’t make assumptions, that discriminating against me in any way because they think I might be Muslim is wrong, and that they won’t tolerate bigotry. The fact is, I don’t think a workplace seminar about Islam would help change the minds of people who have accepted that all Muslims are terrorists and calling more attention to me would make me feel a bit unsafe.

        (Frankly, I’d be worried about working in such an office in the first place, and I wish the employee going to work in OP’s office well and hope that he or she feels accepted and welcome…it does not sound fun going to work in a place that needs to have a meeting about your possible religion–whatever that may be–before you start.)

    2. Mad Baggins*

      For this reason, I wonder if this can be spun into a general “teaching tolerance and diversity” series for OP’s workplace, since it sounds necessary, instead of “be prepared to treat the newbie extra carefully because of his weirdo religion”. I don’t think newbie will feel welcome when he is greeted by his cube-mate with, “Oh, go right ahead and pray right here, I don’t mind! I learned all about your religion in our company workshop! *sincere grin*”

      1. Mookie*

        I’d hesitate to try to spin it that way when it’s now been broadcast that the impetus for reinforcing or revamping basic internal policies governing tolerance and diversity is a single person who hasn’t even arrived yet. I’d steer clear from directly associating any future changes with her presence.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Yeah, we don’t want her coworkers to see the new hire as “that killjoy who was the reason we all had to go to sensitivity training.”

    3. Jack V*

      Yeah. What they *are* doing is clearly a bad idea, but if I’m likely to face insulting ignorance when I turn up, I’d appreciate them having some kind of heads-up about specific things not to say (like cultural training when employees from different countries have to work together). But I’m not sure what format *would* be appropriate.

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      That’s what I was wondering – if it’s possible that they’re thinking “We’ve hired this person who we presume is Zoroastrian because of his name, but we know our current employees believe that Zoroastrians are puppy-killers, and in order for everyone to get along and not make this guy miserable, we want them to understand that the true edict of Zoroastrianism is that you must love and respect puppies.” I mean, it’s still not a good idea, but I could see this coming from a good place.

    5. Emi.*

      > showing up to work armed and terrified

      Seriously? This is an extremely remote possibility and not helpful to the OP.

      1. Not All Who Wander*

        You’re lucky in who you know. Unfortunately, I have at least 2 family members who would absolutely do this…though it would be “armed and enraged” not “armed and terrified”. I truly think that my (estranged) uncle would have at least 50/50 odds of ending up in the news if his company hired someone darker than him not of Judeo-Christian faith. He scares the crap out of me frankly.

      2. Gaia*

        Ahhh I don’t know. It really depends on how ‘conservative’ this group (and community) at large is. There are definitely some places where this response is, at least, a 50/50 chance.

      3. aJennyAnn*

        I mean, I have 3 current coworkers and 2 coworkers from my last job that I know for a fact carry concealed in the office at times (regularly). It’s a bit of hyperbole, certainly, but not an impossible consideration in some communities.

        1. Submerged Tenths*

          Same here. 90% of the front office staff here carry concealed, because it’s a “bad neighborhood” (about 50% PoC). But they are more than happy to do business with those same folks.


      4. Observer*

        Unfortunately, that’s not as extreme as you seem to think. Especially the “terrified” part. People have some very strange ideas and beliefs which totally lead to irrational fears – or rather fears that are only rational because of the context of the irrational or incorrect beliefs that the person holds.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          Not trying to go OT, maybe this will help OP in coping with her colleagues… Fundamentalists/Christian fascists deliberately use fear to control their followers. They deliberately demonize people of other religions and those who don’t look like them. The situations being discussed here are not coincidental.

      5. Daffy Duck*

        Oh yeah, three out of 4 communities (all in different states) I have lived in as an adult had/have neighbours/acquaintances who would definitely do this. Coming from a multiculturally diverse state I was surprised by the reaction to my name, which is slightly unusual but easy for English speakers. As a blond-haired, green-eyed, highly educated woman people were much more helpful/friendly once they met me; if my complexion was different life would have been much harder. There are definitely places I never want to live again.

      6. Ender*

        66 people were killed by coworkers in the US in 2016. Couldn’t find any stats on how many of those killings were racially motivated though.

    6. Genny*

      There are a lot of really offensive stereotypes in your comment. I’m sorry you’ve had bad experiences, but you and LW are both painting with way too broad of a brush. LW is attributing narrow-mindedness to his colleagues based merely on them being conservative, but gives no indication that they’d actually treat this co-worker any differently. Both you and LW could stand to check your assumptions and perhaps take your own lessons about tolerance.

      1. Washi*

        The LW is pretty clear in their letter and also in a comment below that they have heard a number of bigoted comments from their coworkers. I think they are trying to paint a picture of the work environment, which is very relevant to the question.

        1. Genny*

          To be quite frank, I don’t find this LW to be a reliable narrator, and I question their definition of “bigoted” given that they used “conservative” and “highly conservative” as synonyms for “bigoted” in the letter. I don’t want to derail, so I’ll stop there.

    7. CM*

      Noooo. This is not the “lesser of two evils.” What’s the other evil, the new coworker shows up and everyone is mean to him? Having a staff meeting about all the ways the new coworker is different and foreign and has weird religious practices is NOT going to stop those people from being mean to him. If anything, it will fan the flames.

      Some people are able to treat people respectfully regardless of their culture, background, differences, etc. Other people are intolerant of difference. The way to solve this problem, as Alison said is to say that treating people differently or disrespectfully for any reason is not acceptable and that there will be consequences if this happens. Not to make assumptions about the new guy and hold a meeting on how to deal with him as if he’s a new animal at the zoo.

    8. peachie*

      I will say I haven’t had the experience of working in a place like this, but even so, a company meeting about this would only be appropriate if HR or the employee’s manager discussed it with the employee and it’s what THEY wanted (and if they have control/approval over the contents/format of that meeting). It shouldn’t be a decision management makes for the new guy.

    9. Polymer Phil*

      A friend of mine once accidentally walked in on a Muslim coworker praying on a rug in an isolated part of the building, and was a bit surprised by it. This was in a liberal, diverse part of the country – it’s just not something you typically see in an office. I wonder if the company could be doing something along the lines of “Don’t be surprised if you see the new guy praying on a rug.”

      1. Specialk9*

        Really? We have at least one private office specifically dedicated to praying. But it’s a big office, and it’s very multi-cultural.

  9. Bea*

    For what it’s worth all the businesses I’ve worked with are not FLMA size. However the owners were all great at accommodating spotty attendance for various reasons that popped up, as long as the employee is a solid worker and viewed as such. It’s all about your role, if someone can pick up your duties while you’re gone and how long you’re out for. If your issues resulted in weeks of absence, that’s usually hard to deal with in a 20 person set up but not necessarily one that your firm may be able to work around. I wouldn’t count them out nor assume that because the law isn’t on your side, a business won’t voluntarily work with you.

    I’m grateful we enacted paid family leave and medical here and am waiting for other states to jump aboard. Small still won’t require job security but we have incentives in place to grease the wheels so companies can get assistance for the cost of temp replacements or OT caused by the leave.

    I agree completely that you cross this bridge if you come to it, not now. Use now to solidify the permanent position and make yourself as valuable as possible!

    1. Beancounter in Texas*

      This has been my experience with small businesses too! I’ve been a reliable, well performing employee and when I became pregnant, my employer was more than happy to hire a temp to fill my role while I took 12 weeks off. They were super flexible with me and gave me an office so I could pump and work.

      Small businesses can have a hard time attracting quality workers, because they cannot offer the perks and benefits or larger businesses, such as FLMA. If you need to take time off in the future, they may be willing to work it out with you, in order to keep you. Good luck.

      1. Bea*

        The women before me in my 10yr position had a baby a few years prior to deciding to move on (hence me taking over). She had the option of bringing her child to the office as well. It was a one person set up, no coworkers to bother, all the other employees were in another area. She took as much time as she needed and there was an assistant brought in for her for the first six months. Then she was able to go 3/4 time and bring kiddo in if necessary.

        My boss knew she was too good to push around. Granted he was also a dad of two preteens around the same time and they worked in the summers. It was family friendly.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I agree that often small companies can be quite decent over FMLA-type issues (sometimes they can be even MORE accommodating). Sometimes that’s because they know they’re competing with other, larger companies that DO offer FMLA.

      I think you could bring this up as a GENERAL thing: “As you know one difference when working for a smaller company is that many of the legal requirements, like FMLA, don’t apply. How does your company handle things like that?”
      I wouldn’t bring up your specific health, but you can ask about the generalities. I mean, *I* would want to know; what if I get hit by a bus?

      And you can wrap it into general inquiries about all their sick-leave and vacation policies.

    3. LurkieLoo*

      My company is also very small and does not qualify for FMLA. However, we still have it written in our handbook and do follow it. We implemented a sick policy in the last year so I’m not sure how it will work moving forward, but I actually had to be out for a surgery for about 6 weeks and was paid in full the entire time. Another co-worker worked part time, but got paid in full when her kid was in and out of the hospital for almost 6 months.

      You never know when/if/how a small company will work with you in a situation like that. Hopefully, if it is ever needed, you will be such a valuable asset they will want to do whatever they can to keep you and get you back to good health.

      Sometimes small businesses have the flexibility to care more.

  10. fposte*

    For #5, pay attention to state and even city laws, too; several of them have a much lower threshold leave for the required number of employees to be eligible for state FMLA. (I realize you may already know this, given your profession, but what the heck.)

    1. snowglobe*

      It would also be a good idea to find out if this particular business has any formal PTO/sick leave policy. Even if it is a small company, they may have a formal policy that would indicate that your illness wold be covered for a certain number of days.

      Also, regarding mentioning the illness to the company: if you are offered the position and have decided to turn it down because of the lack of FMLA coverage, might as well bring it up then – what have you got to lose? Maybe they’ll surprise you.

    2. always in email jail*

      My current organization is too small to have to comply with FMLA, and says that in the handbook, but then goes on to say that they will grant unpaid medical leave for up to 12 weeks after you have worked here more than a year. So, FMLA-ish?
      If you make it to the offer stage I would ask to see a handbook of policies etc. I am in basically the exact same boat (got my job offer when my disease was flaring, am now on infusions for it, etc.) and I reviewed the handbook to see if it would work for me. Our PTO policy is atrocious, so I did ask for some flexibility regarding my infusions before accepting the job and that was granted.

  11. I'm Just Here for the Challah*

    I am of two minds on #1.

    Assuming the guy’s religion based on his name: definitely no.
    Some background on basic religious practices: maybe not such a bad idea if conducted by a member of that religion with sensitivity and tact.

    I say the latter because as someone who practices a non-majority religion, it gets really old and uncomfortable to have to explain, and explain, and explain basic religious practices at the office, ESPECIALLY when there is a power dynamic involved.

    Just this week I was in the position of having to explain to my boss why scheduling a major work conference, which I am supposed to lead, over Yom Kippur was not going to work. The guy is a well-intentioned guy and all but he was genuinely like “….is that a big deal? Why is that a big deal? Are you sure you can’t reschedule?” Nope, can’t reschedule the holiest day of the year, sorry!

    A one time thing, most people (myself included) can laugh off. But it happens SO. MUCH. Guaranteed I am not the only commenter here from a non-majority religion who has had their work interrupted by a well-intentioned coworker asking “so, my brother’s new girlfriend is X. Does that mean she won’t eat at my house?” and having to decide between a) explaining that you are not the arbiter of all things related to that religion and you need to get back to work, or b) not wanting to be rude/sensing an opportunity for learning and putting down your work to explain your religion to a coworker.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I agree that it’s exhausting having to explain why your religious practice matters or should be accommodated, and the default assumptions can be tiring. But I have also never seen anyone who is not of my faith group give any kind of “info” session that does so in an accurate and respectful manner. Frankly, even people within my faith group are not excellent at explaining religious practice.

      So I’d be hesitant and wary of an employer—especially a non-religious employer—trying to educate everyone else. I’d prefer for them to articulate principles of inclusion with respect to religious practice (or lack thereof).

      1. I'm Just Here for the Challah*

        Completely agreed. Bare minimum requirement is that it be conducted by someone from that faith group with a modicum of formal experience in conducting this type of training. Otherwise, oh heck no.

      2. Anon 4 today*

        I grew up in a big city in the Midwest and in an area of the city with a surprisingly large Jewish population. My (private) high school always tried to schedule teacher conference days or work days over Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. One time, because she was tired of everyone asking about those holiday, one girl in my class voluntarily gave an all school presentation on the meanings of said holidays.
        It was really informative and helpful to us! BUT this was high school, not a business setting, and the person involved wanted to take the extra time and effort to explain things. I think it’d be weirder in an office setting, especially since it’s not coming from the new employee or isn’t a request of the new employee. (Although that would also be strange, IMO).

      3. Guacamole Bob*


        Signed, someone whose religion frequently gets described as a historical curiosity that is no longer practiced.

    2. Lurker*

      You need to move to New York City! Pretty much every place I’ve worked plans around the Jewish holidays. September/October is tricky… “Nope, can’t have it then, it’s Rosh Hashanah.” “No, that won’t work, it’s Yom Kippur.” And then in the spring it’s “That’s Passover.” I also love those days because public transportation is less crowded! (More crowded around Christmas and Easter because tourists.)

      1. CoveredInBees*

        Also, suspension of alternate side parking! You’d be hard pressed to find non-Jews outside of NYC who have heard of sukkot and shavuot, but plenty of NYers know them for just this reason. I thought I was going to fall over in shock when I said something to my Catholic, Puerto Rican super about an upcoming holiday and he responded, “That’s the one with the huts, right?”

      2. Observer*

        Even in NYC the issue crops up. I’ve actually had problems with stuff that was scheduled by people who REALLY should know better.

        And then there are the people who wan to know why you can’t just get your Rabbi to absolve you for this one situation.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Well, after all, it has apparently been done by some people, the “absolution” thing. *eyeroll*. NOT A THING.

          When I first moved to NYC, I met a bunch of people at my work (retail) who had never really known a Jewish person and had no idea about certain things, like that we don’t celebrate Christmas. I was shocked by that, because I was all, “New York! I’m everywhere!” but nope. Insulation, whether intentional or not, exists everywhere, especially in a city that’s very defined by its neighborhoods. I wasn’t treated badly by these folks– in fact, they were kindly curious and asked really nice questions– but it surprised me.

          1. Holly*

            Ivanka and Jared were “absolved” from keeping Shabbat for the inauguration so I think that’s how it somehow got into popular lexicon, despite it not being a thing for every day people!

            1. Observer*

              Nah, this stuff predates this by a couple of decades.

              And, by the way, I’m pretty confident that no Rabbi actually gave them an all clear. I do know that some people asked the Rabbi of the synagogue they are supposed to be members of about it and he said the he absolutely did NOT ok it. It seems to me that the buzz about this comes from the assumption that this is a thing, rather than people thinking it’s a thing because of the buzz.

              1. Holly*

                I get that it’s been done before, but a lot of people who do not observe Judiasm never heard about it beforehand, and I don’t think any reports confirming what you’re saying were ever as widely viral as the original report, although I take your word for it that it’s likely untrue!

      3. strawberries and raspberries*

        It’s true that New York City is a lot more accommodating in terms of Jewish holidays on an institutional level, but there are still definitely plenty of individuals who are ignorant bigots floating around, let’s not even pretend. (The social work school I went to is known for an anti-oppression curriculum, with different seminars on various types of discrimination and oppression, and I was kind of flabbergasted and alarmed at the level of derision and skepticism our antisemitism unit received from my classmates, all of whom were working in the social services field.)

      4. TootsNYC*

        as a matter of fact, I had a kid in public school and a kid in a Catholic school. And we couldn’t take a vacation during the school months for YEARS bcs my public-school kid had all the Jewish holidays, and my Catholic-school kid had only the Catholic holidays.

    3. Mad Baggins*

      “a) explaining that you are not the arbiter of all things related to that religion and you need to get back to work, or b) not wanting to be rude/sensing an opportunity for learning and putting down your work to explain your religion to a coworker”

      “Well my cousin’s girlfriend’s neighbor is also Llamapaloosic and they don’t drink milk.” OK, great for them? But I don’t know if that’s because they are from the NoLlamaMilk sect, or if my LlamaLeader didn’t tell me about the special no-milk rule for certain LlamaWorshippers, or if they’re just lactose intolerant. All I can say is I too worship the Great Llama and I drink milk all the time.

      1. Liz T*

        I feel this so hard as a Jew who doesn’t keep kosher–I’m observant, but Reform, so kashrut just isn’t something my sect emphasizes. I went to grad school in London and the graduating class knew exactly one other Jew–another American, who did keep kosher. They could NOT comprehend that I didn’t keep kosher. They kept making jokes about bacon no matter how many times I told them.

        1. SpaceySteph*

          Yeah as a Jew who grew up eating all the bacon cheeseburgers (although I no longer eat pork for religious reasons), I was thinking this same thing about the OP’s case.
          I also predict (from lots of personal experience) a few people in the office will become the self appointed hall monitors of the faith, like “should you be eating that bacon?” or “well we are all doing X but she can’t come because she’s Jewish” without giving her a chance to answer for herself.

    4. BethRA*

      Reading the OP’s letter, I actually wondered if people in her company were known to have said stupid things about Assumed Religion X in the past and that’s part of what’s behind the training. I still don’t know if this is the best approach, and it shouldn’t have taken the impending arrival of someone who MIGHT be a member of Assumed Religion, but it make the training idea seem less out of the blue.

    5. youg*

      Thank you for these thoughtful comments. I understand the objections — and at the same time, the company is trying to be inclusive and clearly wants its employees to be clear that they need to. Honestly. It really can be a damned if you do, damned if you don’t thing.

    6. Alton*

      I feel like there’s no fool-proof way of handling it. I definitely agree that it can be a big burden for an individual to always have to educate people and be treated like an official ambassador for their religion (or other minority status). But I also feel like there’s some value in teaching people not to assume, and letting individuals set their own boundaries. I think there’s a risk of people coming away from 101-style presentations feeling qualified to have an opinion on people’s level of observance.

      People having some basic understanding why Yom Kippur is an important day is valuable. People questioning why a Jewish co-worker is observing Yom Kippur when they don’t keep kosher wouldn’t be.

    7. Quill*

      I’m never sure why people don’t ask pertinent questions about religion rather than just assuming their religion is the default.

      “That’s a major holiday in my religion, so I can’t attend,” “Okay, could we have the meeting the week before?” or “I have dietary restrictions based on my religion,” “Would you prefer the vegetarian option in order to be safe or do I need to take a closer look at the menu?” are both conversations that people in majority religions should be, if not used to having, then prepared to have.

    8. Becky*

      Mostly a PSA:
      Resource for anyone who is wanting to learn more about religions around the world:
      Harvard online free course is available here https://online-learning.harvard.edu/course/world-religions-through-their-scriptures

      I have not done this one but I did do a world religions course in college that I really liked. We live in a world where so much information is available instantaneously, it takes minimal effort to find it!

      There are lots of websites that offer “Ask a so and so” where people are willing to answer those cultural/social/religious questions so you aren’t bothering that one person you know who is part of that religion.

      I live in an area right now where my religion is a sizeable population and well known in the area, but I grew up in an area very much in the minority and had to answer questions and correct false information a number of times.

  12. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#5, I have an autoimmune disorder that’s usually in remission but can beastly if it “flares” up. Speaking personally, I avoid employers that aren’t covered by the FMLA (or an analogous state law protection) because I’m super risk averse and have seen how things sometimes play out badly for folks who aren’t at FMLA-qualifying employers. But I also have friends with chronic illnesses who don’t think twice about whether a new employer is subject to the FMLA.

    So I think this is really about your own feelings with respect to the risks. I get nervous just worrying about meeting the hours requirement before the FMLA protections kick in. But maybe there are other benefits (e.g., excellent health care coverage) or protections (e.g., state law) that outweigh the fear of losing your job if you need leave. Or maybe you’re financially secure enough to be able to weather a transition. Or maybe the opportunity outweighs the risks. Ultimately, you’re the only one who can navigate how your feelings might affect your decision to lean in/out.

    1. Sara M*

      I’m in a similar boat with chronic illness. Speaking from experience, you need a contingency plan. Whether or not it includes FMLA is up to you, but either way: make a plan.

      1. Freya*

        “Whether or not it includes FMLA is up to you”

        But it doesn’t sound like it is up to the OP as their job doesn’t include it and they would need time to qualify elsewhere. Everyone is talking as if FMLA is an option for them.

        1. hbc*

          Sometimes, sadly, the backup plan is “Live out of my car and park outside the nearest soup kitchen.” But it’s rarely that bad, and even making that plan and knowing the address for that soup kitchen gives more peace of mind than the general, rhetorical worry of “What will I do?”

          Maybe in the LW’s case, becoming as indispensable as possible at the new job so they’ll be likely to make FMLA-like arrangements is the best Plan A, or maybe it’s to earn a check and continue job searching for a place where FMLA applies. But neither option guarantees that she’ll have a job waiting if there’s a flare-up, and it makes sense to know what she’ll do then.

        2. biobotb*

          But some people do? And when the OP is job-hunting, maybe they will try to prioritize searching for and applying to jobs where FMLA would be an option over jobs where it wouldn’t. This doesn’t guarantee that they’ll get the jobs with FMLA, but just because sometimes you don’t get those jobs doesn’t mean you can’t try to take the possibility of FMLA into account when you’re trying to plan out your career path.

      2. thatsickchick*

        I totally agree- you have to have a Plan A, B, and C when you are sick and working. FMLA is offered in big companies, but you need to be there for a while.

        I have had to really downsize all expenses and live frugally so if I need to downgrade to a part-time or something less stressful but less money, or not working at all – I can afford to do so. When I am healthy it is annoying to do so but when I am sick it makes all the difference.

    2. Bones*

      What happens if you aren’t able to avoid those kinds of employers, though? People in those situations need to be able to pay their bills, too.

      1. Electric Pangolin*

        Then you take the job because you have to, and try to struggle through if the worst happens. But it seems like the OP does think that they would have the option find a job elsewhere at the end of their temp period, otherwise they probably wouldn’t write in asking for advice about which option to pick.

        1. Bones*

          What happens when you’re then in a situation like mine, where you have to choose between working so you can afford medical treatments or going to the hospital so you don’t bleed to death? I’ve dealt with this TWICE in the last month. What then?

          1. Electric Pangolin*

            Then you go to the hospital to have medical treatment you can’t afford, and struggle through the aftermath.

            Or you don’t, and then you don’t have to worry about anything any more.

            Either you have options, or you don’t. If you don’t, then the question of “which should I do” becomes moot. At that point, all that’s left to say is that’s awful, and I’m sorry that you’re in that situation. Best of luck, and I hope things turn around for you.

            1. Washi*

              Yeah if you don’t have a choice then you don’t have a choice, and there’s not much to debate/write in to an advice columnist about.

              The OP sounds like they do have some choices, even if they are not great ones: take a job with a company that wouldn’t be covered by FMLA, or hold out for something else at a bigger company, and that’s what we should be giving advice on. “What do you do if you are sick, can’t get a different job, and can’t afford your treatment” is a bigger political question, not an AAM question.

              1. Washi*

                (Political in the sense that the situations sucks and is unfair and it’s a legitimate question why this is how our system works. Obviously it’s still a very practical concern for a lot of people, but that’s not what the OP’s original letter is about.)

          2. Bones*

            I should also say I’m not trying to make this about me, I’m trying to highlight that these scenarios DO come up.

          3. Anonanonanon*

            I’ll do my best not to contribute to derailing, but unfortunately this plays out across the states every day. So many of us are sick from working to afford coverage for being sick. It’s messed up for sure.

            1. Bones*

              Yeah, I’m trying not to derail but I also want people to know that this happens, it’s awful, and we need to do something about it beyond “that sucks, hope it gets better!”

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                If you’re asking “what if you can’t afford to avoid those employers,” then the answer is “you take those jobs and scrape through as best as you can.” And that sucks! But it’s no reason not to offer the advice for people for whom it’s relevant (and my sense is that you may be making a point that’s taking us beyond the scope of this blog, which is not going to solve poverty or the health care system, and as I said above is taking us into “not everyone can have sandwiches” territory).

              2. Bea*

                State Legislature is slowly rolling out and patching the holes.

                I know you are in a hell of a spot right now and can’t fault you for being scared.

                Another backup plan is falling back on friends and family in a lot of cases. If hell came riding in through the door, even in my limited circle I have at least 3 couches I can think of.

                Please note that hospitals can’t turn you away if you’re hemorrhaging! They’ll also waive fees for the uninsured because they have plans for that. Being under insured is a million times worse. I truly hope things get better for you soon.

              3. Gazebo Slayer*


                Yes. We need a better safety net because people are suffering and dying due to the huge holes in the one we have. Systemic problems need systemic solutions. People without options can’t just bootstrap their way out.

          4. Dragoning*

            This sounds very “not everyone can eat sandwiches” and I’m not sure it’s helpful to the OP.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Of course folks need to be able to pay their bills, or live in their car, or find some kind of alternative if they can’t find an FMLA-covered employer.

        That said, it’s important to remember that the majority of employers are FMLA-qualifying. The last available data on FMLA coverage (from 2012) suggests that 59.2% of all employers are covered by the FMLA. That number has likely increased in the intervening years.

        But it’s still possible to be in a geographic area where there are no FMLA-qualifying employers. In those cases, there are way fewer options, of course, but the options may include things like try to get the highest paying job with an uncovered employer, save money for a landing fund in cases where you may lose your job due to illness, or alternately, pay for your own supplemental disability insurance policy for long periods when you’re unemployed due to your illness. Or it might require moving to a region with a greater diversity of employers so that you can find coverage. Even if you are FMLA covered, the FMLA only protects your ability to return to your job—it doesn’t pay for your leave or give you better health coverage, etc.

        Ultimately, we need better policies with respect to access to affordable medical care and paid family/medical leave. The vast majority of Americans are one serious medical incident away from financial devastation. The overwhelming majority of personal bankruptcy filings are for medical debt, and 80% of those folks had health insurance. There’s a bigger breakdown in the system, but for the purposes of responding to OP’s immediate question (which suggests they’re able to work for an FMLA-covered employer), they have to assess the risks and determine what they’re willing to tolerate or risk.

    3. CM*

      I was thinking the same thing. Personally, I’m risk averse enough that if I had options, I would avoid employers that are too small for FMLA. I agree with those above that there are plenty of smaller employers who are very supportive, but I would want a guarantee that I’d have some protection if health issues flared up. If I were you I think I’d keep my eyes open during the temp job — see if you can get a sense of how health issues or other types of leave are treated generally, and whether this is an employer that only does the bare minimum that’s legally required or goes out of its way to support people. Also, I’m assuming you’re not a lawyer since this is temp work — I don’t know if you’ve worked at a law firm before but sometimes there’s a hierarchy where unfortunately, staff gets treated worse than lawyers. So I’d specifically look out for how staff is treated, not just the lawyers.

  13. Assumptions are how we function*

    I really don’t think it is that crazy to make assumptions about a religion based on a name. If this name is distinctive enough to trigger associations with a religion the person probably does have some connection with that religion either as a personal follower or through his family. What if the name is Mohammed? Are we still going to say it’s stupid or wrong to assume some connection with Islam? Now whether to have a sensitivity training is another question.

    1. Femme D'Afrique*

      Thing is, everyone is an individual and just having the name Mohammed doesn’t mean the person is a practising Muslim. Religion and culture interact in many ways, and just being named according to a family’s cultural or religious beliefs doesn’t/shouldn’t imply an individual’s adherence to that faith. Plus, if someone is born into a religion and turns to atheism later in life, are they supposed to change their name?

      Things can get messy too: I’ve witnessed people “confronting” others based on assumptions about their religions: “Wait, you drink alcohol? But you’re name is Mohammed!” It’s invasive and and not particularly useful.

      1. Julia*

        Yeah, Rachel Rosenberg or Muhammed al XY could be the most atheist people in the company. Or have a completely different faith – my Catholic grandma married my Jewish grandpa and has a distinctly Jewish last name, but still goes to church.

      2. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

        True, becoming atheist doesn’t usually involve a name change, and also converting to another religion doesn’t always require it. I know at least one Christian Mohammed.

        1. JSPA*

          I was thinking “Singh,” which raises the further spectre (besides not all singhs being sikhs) of the presentation boiling down to, “don’t worry about the turban and beard y’all, and maybe even a ceremonial sword, he’s not a Muslim” thing. Hard no, frankly. If company is insular and bigoted enough for this to be a safety issue, hold a required session on religions of the world. Because not being a douche is good general business practice.

          1. Artemesia*

            Yeah what is being done is awkward but having lived in the South for decades I can imagine the necessity of some sort of preparation to prevent even worse issues.

            It would seem more appropriate to do some kind of tolerance thing where elements of various religions including Christianity that might affect interactions in the workplace be done. You could then learn about Sikh customs like turbans that tend to frighten Islamaphobes, and JW prohibitions on celebrations like birthdays, and Muslim fasting in Ramadan and Christian practice of Lent etc. etc. This office is ‘doing it wrong’ but they may be right that something needs to be done when bringing people on board with a very different background from the local norm especially when the local norm is associated with violence and intolerance.

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I once had an entire first date that consisted of him asking me what my favorite kind of vodka was, me explaining that I haven’t drunk the stuff since college, except in mixed drinks at bars, and him asking again and again and again, until I begged him to stop.

        Do not assume, people. Specifically, do not assume based on name and background, because that implies that all people of the same background are basically identical to one another, which is othering and not cool.

    2. pcake*

      Most people I know seem to feel that certain German names mean a person is Jewish, which just isn’t the case.

      Btw, just because someone has the name Mohammed doesn’t mean their mother isn’t Irish or that they aren’t third generation UK or U.S. citizens who haven’t ever been exposed to any particular religion at all.

    3. Apollo Warbucks*

      It wouldn’t be stupid or wrong to assume some connection with Islam, however it doesn’t tell you anything about how observant he is or the type of Islam he follows or any real meaningful information.

    4. Koala dreams*

      A lof of everyday discrimination is based on this kind of group thinking. Yes, maybe you can say that statistically people with the name X are more likely to belong to religion Y, or speak language Z, or eat food W, but when you apply that thinking to a specific person you risk alienating people.
      I also feel that the training is a big part of the problem. If somebody just makes assumptions quietly and don’t talk about it at work, then there is no problem. When those assumptions are the basis for specific work activities, there is a problem.

      1. Lance*

        That last part is kind of key: making these kinds assumptions is one thing, and already isn’t great, but acting on them in any way is just really not good.

    5. LarsTheRealGirl*

      My father has a very Muslim name, because of the country he grew up in. He has never practiced Islam, wasn’t particularly raised with it, and has very little connection or knowledge about it.

      If he was hired somewhere that did a class on Islam “for him”, people would be super confused at him with a bacon cheeseburger and scotch at the company happy hour.

    6. Mookie*

      It’s possible to assume any number of things, but you [the royal, the hypothetical you] don’t have to share them out loud with people, y’know? Projecting the feelings that arise within you when confronted or considering something ‘alien’ to you onto another person is not good and it’s not their problem to manage your reaction or assumptions nor should you pry until your curiosity is abated. It’s a data point that has no bearing on your relationship as co-workers. Discard it or file it, but move on, would be my advice to the LW’s more piqued colleagues.

    7. blackcat*

      The Mohammed I am closest to is a rather intense atheist. His parents are also atheists, but his dad was also named Mohammed so my friend became Mohammed Jr. (and I don’t even think Jr’s are a thing in most Islamic cultures–this was just a dude wanting to name his son Junior).

      I have an incredibly English sounding name. The last ancestors anyone knows to have been born in England are 5 generations back (more recent arrivals from Ireland contributed to my gene pool), and the bearers of my last name arrived in the US *four hundred years* ago. I am a rather rare case of an American who is very, very removed from recent immigration. So, I guess you could say that my name offers a “connection” to my English ancestry, but that connection is really remote.

      I don’t think it’s wise to ever make assumptions about religion of even ancestry based on names.

      1. blackcat*

        (Should say a rare case of a *white* American so removed from recent immigration. Because obviously Native Americans have been here a hell of a lot longer than my ancestors.)

      2. londonedit*

        I have a last name that most people would probably automatically think of as Irish. My dad has the same first name and last name as a very famous Irishman. But, in fact, my entire family on both sides as far as the uncle who’s researched it has managed to go back (about 300 years I think) are from England (my family still lives in England). No one is even from Wales or Scotland or anywhere else in the UK, let alone Ireland. It just happens that our last name is common in both Ireland and in the region of England where my dad’s family are from. My family is generally not very religious, and I’m agnostic/atheist, but people might assume an Irish religion based on my last name, and they’d be wrong!

      3. Anonygoose*

        Ha, this reminds me of something that happened to me – I have a very Scottish name (Scottish last name, and a first name that could be traditionally Scottish but was also just very popular during my birth year) but I am a multi-generation Canadian. I did go to Scotland for school, and went to an event for International Students – and had the minister of education look at my name tag and ask why I was there since I was clearly Scottish.

        It’s weird to assume race, heritage, or religion based on a name.

    8. MaryB*

      I mean, Barack Hussein Obama sounds like a Muslim name, but thats just because he was named after his dad, he’s a practicing Christian. I don’t think it’s good to make assumptions based on names, in America.

      I also have a bunch of Muslim friends who are the equivalent of what Catholics call “Creasters” – they dress up and buy presents and go to mosque for the couple of major holidays ,especially if they have family, but for the most part, aren’t very devoutly practicing. This is even more common with my Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist friends.

      1. SoCalHR*

        Exactly. I have an old female friend from India, her middle name is Mohammed and she is a practicing Seventh Day Adventist…goes to show you, you shouldn’t make assumptions based on names (or ethnicity)!

      2. Specialk9*

        Barak is in the Bible. (Deeply ironic, no?)

        He was the great Jewish general who defeated the Canaanites who were vastly outgunning the Israelites. But he didn’t get credit for it, that went to Deborah (Devorah) the famous female judge, and to Jael, who seduced and murdered the Canaanite general.

    9. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      It is absolutely that crazy. This person could be virtually any religion (either converted to their spouse’s, or just converted of their own free will, or his family has just plain practiced a religion that is a minority one for his background) or non-religious.

      I cannot imagine what my reaction would’ve been if I walked into a new workplace on my first day, only to find out that they had held training classes to learn about my assumed religion, which I do not belong to. I’d be puzzled/confused/embarrassed/wondering how to act around these people, and what else they assume about me based on my background, when I should be concentrating on learning about my new job and getting to know my new colleagues in a professional way. It would be hugely distracting and, tbh, demoralizing.

      1. Femme D'Afrique*

        Or we could flip this around a bit: if a workplace in a predominantly Buddhist/Hindu/Islamic country organised a teach-in about Christianity because their new yet-to-arrive coworker from Australia was called “Mary,” it would be just as bizarre. It’s an assumption and not a particularly useful one at that. (And then Mary would be put in the position of the resident go-to person about all things Christianity (whether she’s, you know, actually a Christian or not) rather than, like you said, learning about her job.

    10. Assumptions Hurt Ppl*

      I would just like to point out, as an example, that the name Mohammed pre-dates Islam. So there are people from East Africa, the Middle East, and the Levant who are named Mohammed and descended from people who never practiced Islam.

      Also, ever heard of the Yemeni Jews? Look it up.

      The Lebanese part of my family has always practiced Christianity for as long as we’ve known. But some are Buddhist now, some are atheist, and some are non-practicing Christians. One married a Jew. But people see the black hair, black eyes, and hook nose and scream “TERRORIST!” to them at the grocery store, walking down the street, etc.

      1. Specialk9*

        I didn’t know that! But it makes sense, the Prophet got his name somewhere, right?

        And that sucks. I’m sorry that happens.

    11. Observer*

      If a guy’s name is Mohammed, it’s TOTALLY stupid to assume he’s a practicing Moslem. It’s just so out of tune with reality that it’s pretty much asking for trouble. The fact that he may have some connections to some Moslems one way or another doesn’t really matter much, especially in a context like this.

    12. Anon for this*

      Not religion, but my first name is pretty popular in African-American communities here in the US, and my last name is a generic Americanized last name. I’ve encountered people (colleagues, friends of friends) who assumed based on my name that I would be African-American. But I’m as pasty white as they come, with equally casper-white parents. Sometimes people will ask me if I have an African-American parent or relative. Nope, my parents just liked the name. Assumptions are bunk.

      1. Anonymousaurus Rex*

        Same! I commented similarly above. My name is much more common among African Americans in the US, and outside the US it’s most common in Arab countries. I’m a white lady and it surprises people all the time.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        One of my sons has a first name that apparently sounds African-American to people. It’s an Eastern European name of Greek origin. None of us knew, until he started college and his new roommates would do a double take when first meeting him, and then explain that they hadn’t expected to see a white guy. Assumptions are so cute.

      3. Julia*

        I’m still surprised by all the people who squint hard enough when they look at my long-nosed pale face to assume I am half-Japanese, simply because I speak the language and have a Japanese last name I acquired through marriage.

    13. Working Mom Having It All*

      I dated someone with the surname Mohammed. He’s an atheist.

      I have a close friend with the surname Silverman. She grew up Methodist.

      You 100% can’t make assumptions about this stuff, especially on a granular level, about one specific individual person.

      Not to mention that there’s no real reason to assume anything about anyone’s religion, whatsoever. I have a stereotypically WASPy last name, and I did in fact grow up Episcopalian. I don’t practice any religion at all, and the Jesus-ey stuff holds absolutely no significance for me. It would be ridiculous for a workplace to host some kind of Getting Along With Protestants workshop because of me. And that’s speaking as someone whose religious upbringing matches their name.

  14. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

    Having fallen foul of the same kind of thing as OP2, I’m firmly of the opinion that free booze at work events is not a good idea.

    1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      It can be okay if a person goes in with an idea of their own limits and tolerance and sticks to it. I’ve been at four open/free drink events in my (new) job in the past month, and I’ve gone knowing that I need to have at most two alcoholic drinks and a lot of water in order to not do or say anything stupid (read: overly affectionate. Bad thing with colleagues/boss/students…)

      Just Tuesday I went to a bar grand opening held by people from the department–had two cocktails, one large glass of water, several appetizers to dilute the alcohol, socialized for an hour and a half and went home.

    2. Rockhopper*

      I’m with you. My spouse uses the example of donuts. If you put a large plate of free donuts in front of him, he will eat them until they are gone (or rather, that used to be the case–he’s over the donut thing now). If you charge him $2 a donut, he’ll probably only have one or two at the most. Now consider someone who has an addiction to alcohol (not saying OP does at all!). Is it right to put free booze in front of them?

      1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        “Is it right to put free booze in front of them?”

        Yes, they are an adult and have to have personal responsibility for their actions.

        1. caryatis*

          Yes. It’s a test of whether the person has self-control. If you really cannot handle being near alcohol, you should know that and stay away.

          1. Elbereth*

            If it’s a work-related event, though, or even an Important Networking Event, staying away is hard.

      2. ThatGirl*

        Free donuts, free booze, it’s the same answer – you don’t *have* to eat or drink any; you certainly don’t have to have more than one. Yes, some people are binge eaters, some people are alcoholics, but that’s where personal responsibility comes into play.

    3. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      I guess, I’m in the group that thinks presumably if you’re being served booze at a work event that means you’re an adult and should be able conduct yourself accordingly.

      Of course, it does happen where an otherwise responsible adult has a lapse in judgement. And yes that sucks and is embarrassing. But the answer to not wanting to drink at a work event is to not drink, not to disallow drinking in it’s entirety.

      1. Observer*

        I don’t think that we should “disallow drinking entirely”. But certain types of situations are more problematic than others. And things like open bars in situations where people can’t really stay away are a bit unfair.

        If you’re an alcoholic, you should know better than to go to a bar. And if your friend is throwing a party and is going to have an open bar (with no provisions to keep any eye on over-imbibers), then you can apologize and just not go. But at a work event where you really don’t have the choice to stay away. “Just exert some self control” is neither fair nor realistic. That’s doubly true with setups that are effectively designed to encourage more drinking without thinking about how much you’ve had.

        1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          Unfortunately that’s just life, sometimes it sucks and sometimes it’s unfair. I see this open bar question the same that I would anything else that some people might have a problem with. You aren’t always going to be able to accommodate everyone’s unique situation.

          So, does this mean that you shouldn’t have a free buffet at a work event because some people might have an over eating/food addiction? What about a fruit or dessert buffet because you might have a diabetic in attendance? No, you’d never do that, you’d make allowances and have options available for people that shouldn’t eat high sugar content foods and expect them to manage their health by themselves. Open bars and alcoholics are exactly the same thing.

          In the real world it’s expected that at certain events there will be an open bar for clients or guests. No company in the world is going to stop that practice just because Bob in accounting can’t control himself.

          At a certain point people have to stop expecting for the world at large to be the responsible party for their actions and they need to take those responsibilities for themselves.

          1. Observer*

            Open bars and alcoholics are exactly the same thing.

            No, they are not. I can’t think of any business event that needs alcohol, much less an open bar, even if the event is quasi social. I get annoyed by the people who apparently would like to bring Prohibition back. Alcohol is hardly the root of all evil. On the other hand, I really have an issue with people who can’t deal with any limitation whatsoever on their alcohol consumption. If you really can’t manage to get through an event without access to an open bar then you have an alcohol problem or there is something VERY wrong with the event.

            It also plays out very differently than the examples you cite. Although if you know that you might have people who are, say diabetic, it’s a really good idea to have to REASONABLE options those folks can eat.

            Putting people who don’t have a choice to stay away in that position is a crummy thing to do. To that just because some people have a “social expectation” is what gets people riled up enough to start campaigns.

        2. Jane of all Trades*

          I agree. I also think that the fact that this was a swim up bar moves this event into the category of “should absolutely not be a work event”. Sounds like a lot of fun to do with your friends, but it’s a complete mine field in a work context, given power dynamics and the fact that opting out of work events is not so easy.
          That being said, OP, it seems like this has been a non story at your job for the last 5 years, and apparently none of your coworkers saw you. Most likely if it were common knowledge and gossip fodder, you’d already know. Unless somebody is much more specific, I’d assume they are talking about something not involving you.
          If somebody does bring it up, I’d say that enough time has passed to where you can just shrug it off and say something completely non commital, like “yes, looks like I had too much fun / too much to drink that evening,” and then don’t engage further. Odds are this is a much bigger thing for you than it is / was for other people!

    4. Quill*

      Yeah, free booze always strikes me as unprofessional? Like, it’s kind of mad-men-esque to be drinking to any sort of excess at a work event. (Also it’s often really unfriendly for people who, for whatever reason, don’t drink… The only thing worse than dealing with drunk coworkers is dealing with drunk coworkers while you yourself are sober…)

      1. Specialk9*

        I just don’t get how people get home, if it’s not a city center. My office is way out there, so everyone is driving home. It really bugs me when they have drinking events.

  15. Worker Bee*

    Let new coworker sink or swim on his own. Don’t interfere in any way. The outcome will be what it’s supposed to be. Good luck.

    1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      I mean, if the OP really likes him, it may be worth *one* “dude they *WILL* fire you” conversation. But just one.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        Yes, but why does she like him? He makes no effort as a coworker. He doesn’t try. Why would she want to reach out to such a person, no matter how charming he is? If they were friends he’d likely do the same thing: Make no effort and not try.
        Even if some of the other commenters are right and he’s in over his head with the work, he’s not even trying. It says something about who he is.

      2. GlitsyGus*

        I’m thinking if anything she needs to give him one, “dude, our bonus is riding on ALL of us getting this done on time. We’ve gotten it for the last five years because we all get our work done. I like you, but I don’t want to lose it this year. Are you confused about anything or do you have questions I can answer for you?” Then leave it.

        If he actually is floundering and has questions, he can ask, if he continues to blow everything off, he’s not as nice as you think he is.

  16. anonanon*

    #1 makes me cringe. I have a name that is typically considered Islamic, and I’m not at all. My ancestors are but I was raised agnostic and have never practiced religion. Yes, when people meet me they’re often surprised at myself and my appearance (read: I’m white) and while I understand the assumption I would be mortified that people had to have ‘training’ on how to work with me based entirely on my name.

    I understand that I’m likely not the majority, but this just makes my skin crawl

    1. CoveredInBees*

      I think you’re comfortably in the majority for the skin crawling factor. It’s a big pile of nope.

  17. Bones*

    OP5, I’m in a similar situation and I empathize. My shitty company offers no kind of flexibility for women who have had miscarriages, and my job has been threatened because I’ve had to take time off from work to address my health. I live in a different state than where I work, and I had the bad manners to miss 4 out of 10 days during a two week work period because I almost bled to death via my cervix. Twice. And from what I can tell from Glassdoor (my company has a 1.4 rating, 225 reviews) this is a common problem people face at my company when they have a medical crisis. Employers: don’t put your employees in shitty positions between a rock and a hard place.

    1. Bunnykins*

      That’s awful. I hope you’re getting out of that workplace ASAP. Reasonable employers understand that an employee can have a medical emergency or fall ill, which requires time off.

    2. OP5*

      Bones, I am so sorry that happened to you. I was fortunate that on top of legal protections, my boss was on the “do what you need to do” side of things, though I had one coworker I have never forgiven that tried to bring up “by policy, she’s might need to be written up bc of how much unpaid leave she’s taking” when I was going back to the hospital because my kidneys trying to kill me and they still didn’t know why.

      I hope you make it through, both with your health and with your job.

  18. That Cat Lady*

    OP 1 – What your employers have done is set up an environment where before this guy has even started work he’s been identified as an outsider.

    Now instead of meeting this employee and taking him at face value people are already going to have formed opinions on who he is and how to treat him without ever having met him/ got to know him. If some of your coworkers are bigoted one meeting on inclusion is not going to change that. It will however paint a massive target on this new employees back. The only thing the company can do, as Alison said, is to set up a zero tolerance policy for discrimination and uphold that policy.

    My sister in law went through a similar thing during school where she and her siblings were the only black/ mixed race kids at a white school and the teachers used to pull them out of class for lessons on diversity and inclusiveness. They thought they were being helpful and teaching kids who might not have been exposed to other races that we’re all the same but all they did was draw a huge “us and them” dividing line between her family and the other kids (and if you think things like this just don’t happen anymore mys SIL is only in her mid-late 20s).

    1. media monkey*

      sorry, the black/ mixed race kids got the inclusiveness lessons? am i reading that right?

      1. Quackeen*

        I read it that the SIL and siblings were pulled out of the class so that the white kids could have diversity and inclusion lessons.

        1. Femme D'Afrique*

          Pulling kids out of class so their classmates can learn about inclusion. That’s… amazing.

          1. JSPA*

            I wonder if it’s actually that they were paraded around to other classes as a sort of exhibit. People get very weird about boundaries when they think they’re doing a Good Thing. For Greater Understanding.

            But the constant intrusion gets old. Takes me back to when, around yearbook prep time, student photographers would be hanging at the edge of every conversation if some of us were non-pink, waiting for the skin tones to line up juuuust right… And sometimes even breaking in to ask people to move around. They needed to get their quota of what we called “United Nations” candids, to make what was a pretty white school look a bit more diverse.

            It’s not exactly Sarah Baartman. But it’s still not cool.

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              I remember a white teacher pointing at the (at the time) only black child in my very white elementary school during a lesson on “Black Americans.” Even as a little white girl from a small homogeneous town, I squirmed with secondhand embarrassment, though I wasn’t sure why.

        2. media monkey*

          ah. well that makes some sort of sense i guess, despite being totally misguided and quite horrific.

    2. FD*

      Yeah, exactly. I was trying to put that into words but I couldn’t verbalize it.

      I feel like it also accidentally creates a feeling of “Well, we didn’t care before but now we do because there are Different Sorts here and we need to be Sensitive now.” Which…isn’t great.

      1. Mookie*

        Bingo. It’s demoralizing to be seen as so fundamentally different that the authorities think your peers need a class and some lessons before they can interact with you properly.

  19. Lynca*

    OP 1- I have a very traditional sounding Catholic name but I don’t practice Catholicism. The number of times I’ve been asked to explain things about Catholicism is annoyingly high. So I’m glad you’re not making assumptions.

    They don’t need to do educational lessons in the office. They do need to make the expectation clear that you can’t be hostile about someone else’s religion. You just have to actually manage people instead of just hoping it will all work out. It sounds like they don’t want to have to deal with questions or complaints.

    1. East Coast Girl*

      You have my sympathies. My parents gave me a very Quebecois French name. The number of people that assume (a) I speak fluent French and (b) am Catholic is mind-boggling.

      The “your name is French so you must speak the language” part is semi-understandable, but the assumption I am Catholic based on my name alone drives me batty. If I were, why does that matter? I’m not, but why should that matter either?

      As a side note, aside from basic French words and phrases the only bits of the language I know are Quebecois swear words learned from my father…

      I can not imagine walking into a new job and finding out an educational session had been hosted because they assumed I was a certain religion. Whether I practiced that religion or not, it would be insanely offensive and make me feel unwelcome. Particularly if I lived in a place where there was a lot of misinformation and stereotyping about that particular religion.

  20. Delta Delta*

    #1 – So many assumptions about a person based on a name! I once worked with a person with a name that was stereotypical of a particular non-Christian religion so it was assumed she was a practicing member of that religion. Nope. The last name was altered at Ellis Island a couple generations ago, and when the parents picked her first name it was after a person they both knew and admired. The end result was a name that caused people to speculate.

  21. AnotherFed*

    OP#4 I work for a decent size federal agency (about 11k people overall, 4k in my location), job hopping throughout the building is quite common. We even had a developmental program where people where rotating jobs every 6 months for 2 years. If you are wanting to climb the GS ladder, its common knowledge that you will be moving jobs every 1-2 years until you get to the upper levels. Laterals are not even that frowned upon especially if you are shifting to a new job series or completely different kind of workload in order to gain more experience.

    1. Elemeno P.*

      My industry (theme parks) has a similar scenario: people tend to have a permanent position and shift to temporary seasonal jobs to progress their careers. If you do well in a seasonal position, you’ll get another seasonal position, and with enough of them you’ll be able to transition to a higher-paying permanent position. I’ve had 6 positions in 7.5 years, and 5 of those were in the first 3 years before I hustled/lucked into an office job. That’s actually pretty low for this industry!

      1. Bones*

        I would love to learn all about what it means to work in a theme park. What an awesome career path!

    2. roisin54*

      I think this happens a lot in government jobs. I work at a public library in a big city, and lateral moves are common particularly for those of us who (like me) started out as floaters (people who move around from department to department depending on staffing needs.) I had 5 different positions in my first 3.5 years here, all in the same pay grade. I’ve stayed in #5 for about 8 years now, although we had a re-org a couple years ago so technically it’s #6.

      I’m perfectly happy to repeat my spiel as to how all of this happened to anyone that asks, and most people seem to think it’s an interesting as opposed to problematic story. I think as long as you can easily explain the hows and whys for all the lateral moves you’ll be fine.

    3. Not Myself Today*

      I’m in a very similar position in a strictly commercial environment.

      It is commonly known that at a particular point in your career (which I happen to be at), you need a number of lateral rotations before you can move to the next level. It’s a fundamental change between responsibility for one function and responsibility for several, so they want you to have a good grounding in more than one and understand how they work together in the company before taking that kind of role.

      You don’t need to have worked in every department you’re going to manage, but higher numbers of rotations – with demonstrated achievements in each role – really strengthen your candidacy.

      The interesting thing is that stopping in one role at this level is perceived as a sign that your growth and development has petered out –

    4. Job-Hoppy*

      I wrote OP#4; thank you for commenting. I think I have a different situation than other people in the thread are describing. I work for “Fast Teapots” which is a terrible company; their terrible-ness is reflected by the fact that I have had three managers in 2 and half years because the first two quit. Other signs of how bad it is include my being told I would have between 5 and 7 of one kind of project to do in a year, the actual number I did was 150; they “didn’t have” enough money to pay the graduate student who was helping me until she got fed up and quit (rightly) yet they have enough money to refuel the founder’s private jet; I have been sent to the hospital 2 times this year for stress illness, and many of my coworkers have quit/become sick from stress. I want to work for the one reasonable VP because 1) he has enough power to say no to terrible requests and 2) he understands how to manage people who do the kind of work I do (I am a researcher). And if you are wondering, I would quit too but I have few savings, no second household income, and have been job hunting for a year (applied to 80+ jobs). Oddly, I keep getting told I am too quantitative as if liking/knowing math is a problem; 4 of 6 companies I interviewed with said this to me. But the combo of horrible job + job hunting + insomnia/depression/anxiety (that is sending me back to the hospital this week for a third time) has really worn me out. I just hope I can work for this VP while I try to get healthy. Sorry for the long post. Thank you folks for any advice on being told “You are too quantitative.”

  22. Nonsensical*

    So for number 1, I am Jewish and there are some ‘obvious’ Jewish names, however with interfaith marriage and some people just aren’t observant, I would not be getting a crash course under the assumption the new employee is even that religion! They could be possibly descended, but how about you let them reveal what they want? Religion is a protected class and this is over the extreme.

    I have never disclosed directly to my boss that I am Jewish. I do wear a Star of David necklace and I recently put in PTO for the upcoming High Holidays. My boss figured it out based on my PTO title “PTO – Jewish new year” ;) and finished a recent 1:1 with “shalom”. It is indirect awareness like that is appealing but not directly confrontational. Merely acknowledges it without Making A Big Deal over it. They should definitely not be hosting sessions over it. If the person is the religion and wants to share, feel free to ask them but religion is very touchy and not something that should be brought up at work.

    1. Annie Moose*

      This sounds like the ideal way to handle it. Even when religion needs to enter the workplace–such as requesting religious holidays off or someone needing a quiet place to pray–it can be done without making a big deal out of it or holding meetings on the subject. At least in a healthy workplace!!

      1. Nonsensical*

        If people are religious, they usually bring it up in the first week as they will need accommodations. For Jews, if they’re religious, they may need to leave earlier on Fridays. I am not that religious. I also live in a state where Jewish High Holidays are not a given day off because the number of Jews frankly just isn’t that high enough for awareness to be widespread. There is a large enough cluster where I live people know about it but it isn’t incorporated into our holidays like NYC is for example.

        Some forward thinking companies will let people swap holidays – work the New Year’s and take off their new year. In my case, I just use PTO. It is just not doable for me to work on the established company holiday.

        It is a nice surprise though when your boss knows enough to know that shalom means goodbye!

    2. Specialk9*

      Exactly. The recent president of my synagogue is named Christian, which is also his faith. (His wife and kids are Jewish.)

  23. Not a Blossom*

    OP4, I think a lot depends on the industry and if the moves are up the ladder or to completely different jobs. Like, if you move from Assistant Tea Pot Painter to Tea Pot Painter to Senior Tea Pot Painter, no one is going to bat an eye. If the changes are something like Assistant Tea Pot Painter to Junior Tea Pot Designer to Spout Quality Assurance Checker, I’d just have an explanation ready of why you moved so that it doesn’t look like it was done on a whim. There are plenty of valid reasons for these kinds of moves; just make sure you have one at the ready.

  24. Mazzy*

    Op 1 I don’t like the conflation of conservative and close minded or ignorant. Chances are you don’t know what your coworkers know, they probably know more than you know and just don’t have a reason to show it off

    1. OP#1*

      Then I would have left off the conservative and stuck with the closed-minded. A few have made grossly bigoted comments, and I stand by that conclusion.

    2. Specialk9*

      OP never said Christian, actually. They said conservative and narrow-minded. I’ve lived in non-Christian countries with both traits.

  25. Anon Anon*

    #5 – sometimes companies that don’t fall under FLMA can better. My employer doesn’t fall under FLMA, and yet we’ve had at least two people out for year long stints due to cancer. We held their jobs for them. We’ve also worked with people who need intermittent leave. Obviously you wouldn’t get legal protections, but you may be surprised that some smaller organizations can be very generous.

    1. Slartibartfast*

      This is widely variable though, unfortunately. I spent many years at a small business with a great owner who would, and did, support employees this way. Not surprisingly, most people had been there a decade or more. Then, owner retired and sold the business to new boss. Under new boss, it became common to expect a poor performance review just before taking time off for surgery or shortly after your family member had a medical issue. Basically padding your file in case new boss wanted to fire you. There’s only 2 people that worked for old owner still there. So my advice would be to investigate the company culture while you’re there, see how long your coworkers have been employed there and how happy they seem to be. Small businesses can be great or awful, take the temp job and see how it goes.

      1. Bea*

        The rub is that the large companies still pull the same nonsense. Then you have to fight them to comply with the FLMA.

        Mega corporations make the news every day skirting laws and sometimes getting caught. I’m subscribed to so many newsletters for HR and labor issues, it’s suffocating at times to read about.

        Sadly it’s due to most workers not knowing their rights or how to access them. They exist but there are hoops and still an idiot in the HR department can deny your request because they’re not a good person.

        So you should research any place you work. No matter the federal protections out there.

        Signed the person who saw people fired for being injured on the job.

        1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          Or large companies are complying with the law and it still doesn’t quite work out.

          Technically I’m probably not covered under FMLA due to the ‘key employee’ rule. My company defines key employees as the top 10% (or something like that) earners in a company location. Not this definition makes perfect sense in most of the locations, as they are going to be either the executive level in our larger typical offices and the person in charge of our small remote offices.

          Except, in rare cases like me, where I technically work out of one of our remote offices but work group wise I’m in one of the largest work organizations meaning if based on my work org I wouldn’t be in that cutoff group. But because of the work location I’m in I do, however the rub is I’m not a key employee in their operations.

          In other words, even if a company is bound by FMLA the rules and the reasonable application of the rules could make a person ineligible. For the record, I’ve never heard of anyone who hasn’t been covered or treated more than fairly by my company, so I’m not overly worried by this. It is a personal risk, but not a high risk.

  26. OP#1*


    To clarify, and as mentioned in the letter, there is more than just his name to suggest a particular religion. Based on what it is, I don’t think it’s a far-fetched assumption. In NO WAY at all conclusive, but not far-fetched. It’s the idea that, based on that religion, we assume it to be a “thing” in the workplace, that is egregious.

    1. awkward*

      Egregious? If someone is going to start laying out his prayer rug at regular intervals, I should that might be a good thing for people to be prepared for if they have never encountered that before. Maybe it’s clumsy, maybe it could be done better but it sounds to me like a well-intentioned effort to accommodate religious diversity. A lot hinges on whether or not the new hire actually is a practicing whatever. In your original letter you state it’s not known. Now you state “I don’t think it’s a far-fetched assumption.” People are responding based on your assertion that it’s unknown, but of course, if HR actually did know, maybe had even talked to the hire about accommodating the religious practices — the perspective among many would probably be a lot different.

      1. Gaia*

        It is highly unlikely that this employee would lay out a prayer rug in the middle of an open plan office. If they did pray, at regular intervals, and use a rug they would almost assuredly do so in a more private place (so as not to be disturbed or distracting)

        And no, people don’t need a heads-up. They need to deal. They are adults. They should be well versed in the concept of “we’re not all the same and that is okay and not scary.”

        1. nonymous*

          At one workplace the individual praying asked to use an alcove off the stairwell (it had a well-positioned window). There was a heads up email so that the rest of staff knew to keep the space clear of boxes and not to assume that our coworker was ill when he was in a prone position. iirc he replied-all that we were welcome to keep using the stairwell during those times, but asked for our consideration to keep noise down.

          OP#1 – any workplace training should be of this vein. Focus on the logistics and how it may cause current habits to change. In my former workplace it meant that we had to prioritize putting away deliveries so the space would be available, and consequently other tasks got shifted around. In your workplace it might mean that the org is increasing their standards when it comes to workplace sensitivity.

      2. McWhadden*

        “If someone is going to start laying out his prayer rug at regular intervals”
        That’s a pretty HUGE if. I’ve worked with many Muslim people over the course of my life and I only one did this regularly at work. If the person is Muslim, explaining something like Ramadan might make more sense. So there aren’t a million questions about why they aren’t eating.
        But nothing should be done without consulting the employee first.

      3. biobotb*

        It’s the assumption that’s egregious. You can’t just assume someone’s a specific religion and that they practice it a certain way.

        1. Washi*

          Right. It would be one thing if there were some kind of quick heads up and brief explanation that the new hire will be using X room for Y religious practice occasionally because this accommodation has already been requested. But even if they absolutely know for sure what the religion is, they have no idea how this person will practice it – maybe they just identify with it culturally, but don’t practice at all.

          If I were management, I would just keep an eye on everyone and have a zero-tolerance policy toward bigotry in general, towards anyone, rather than holding education sessions on this one religion. Because even if this new hire weren’t starting, it still wouldn’t be acceptable for employees to be making bigoted remarks, which it sounds like has been the case, based on the OP’s letter and later post.

      4. CM*

        But wait until he DOES lay out his prayer rug at regular intervals. Don’t assume he’s going to. And even then, see if it’s actually causing a problem before having a staff-wide sensitivity training about it.

        The intentions may be good but the execution is WAY off. I would be absolutely appalled if I learned my new job had a training to teach people about my perceived culture so that they could appropriately interact with me. (Plus I guarantee you that they would be wrong about my perceived culture.)

        OP#1, I don’t know if you have the standing to say or do anything about this, but I agree with you completely. I think this will raise a lot of suspicions and assumptions about the new guy before he even sets foot in the door, making it a “thing” even if it wasn’t going to be one before. I hope you and other coworkers are able to set an example by treating the new guy as a normal human being and hopefully insulate him a bit from the inevitable comments that will come from the “training.”

    2. Observer*

      From what you say, it’s not necessarily so egregious.

      Keep in mind that there are practices that, even for people who are not bigoted, can be legitimately confusing or even scary. The classic example is Sikhs who often wear a long knife / sword. You don’t have to be an Islamophobe to find that scary. If a devout Moslem disappears several times a day to pray, that could make them look bad to someone who doesn’t understand what’s happening.

      I don’t really think that your workplace is handling this well. But from what you are saying, it’s hard for me to get on board with “Outrageous and egregious.”

      1. Washi*

        The point is not that you can’t ever explain a particular practice to folks who have no experience. It’s that the company doesn’t seem to know exactly what the new hire’s practices are and is going to likely spread a lot of assumptions and unhelpful information as a result, since religious practice is so individualized.

      2. Delphine*

        If a devout Moslem disappears several times a day to pray, that could make them look bad to someone who doesn’t understand what’s happening.

        I think a typical person might assume they went off to use the loo since it’s likely to happen at most three times during the workday if at all…whereas a bigoted person is going to assume something sinister is happening.

      3. Julia*

        I would think even religious accommodation doesn’t allow anyone to bring long knives or swords to work.

        1. Ender*

          I’m not sure what qualifies as “long” here. I can’t speak to other jurisdictions, but the kirpan is protected under human rights legislation in Ontario and is allowed in workplaces, schools, and on domestic/international flights (except to the U.S.) as long as it is under a certain size.

          1. Specialk9*

            Interesting. The Sikh men I see at my work do not have visible swords, and I didn’t ask even though I’m friendly with several Sikh practitioners (because it’s work and they’re not my personal Wikipedia). But Google told me that the sword can be symbolic and short. (Shrug) I’m glad that there are legal protections there. I wish there were more here, especially when people regularly attack Sikhs thinking they’re Muslim (which is horrific even before the idiocy).

  27. Liz T*

    There is something so endearing about going, “Look at me in this little nightgown! I look great! Time to meet some people!”

    OP I heart you and very much relate.

    1. CM*

      I liked this letter too! And also liked Alison’s advice to forget about it, but then remember it again in the future when it becomes more funny than embarrassing.

      Don’t worry OP#2, so many people have been there! I put this right up there with the “I accidentally hugged the CEO” stories. You are hardly the only person to get drunk on a work trip and it sounds like you didn’t even do anything inappropriate.

    2. Em*

      And of course depending on the nightgown, it might have passed for a dress so people who do remember just remember “friendly drunk coworker” and not “friendly drunk coworker IN A NIGHTGOWN”.

  28. Busty Alexa*

    OP#1… I’m totally creeped out by someone googling (or equivalent) a religion and teaching a class on it anyway… I practice a non-majority religion (Catholic in a historically Protestant area) but I never put myself at work. A few years ago someone from the “culture committee” decided to have Pancake Tuesday and prepared a lecture on the meaning of Shrovr Tuesday/Mardi Gras… it was awful and incorrect and embarrassing for everyone.

    1. Annie Moose*

      I am shuddering at the thought of a culture committee… run by anyone other than members of a particular culture, at any rate! At OldJob, we had stuff for Diwali, for example, but it was run by some of the company’s many Indian employees. Definitely not by non-Hindu, non-Indians!

    2. strawberries and raspberries*

      Especially when you consider what other kind of appropriation might be happening hearing it from those peoples’ eyes. I’ve gotten into many a contentious debate with Christians who don’t see the problem with having “Passover seders” in which all the symbols are reimagined to be about the Resurrection, which, no. Just no.

    3. Genny*

      Right. So you think this guy is Muslim? Do you hold a lecture on Shi’a, Sunni, Wahhabi, Sufi, Salafi, or Ahmadiya Islam? Do you focus on how it’s practiced in Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Somalia, or the United States? Pick any religion and you have the same problem. I don’t even see how this type of training could be effective regardless of how receptive the audience might be. It’s far more likely to get it wrong than right.

      1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        I learned about Islam in a world religions class over two weeks, and that was a survey of major religions. I can’t imagine how a workshop is going to go over a few hours.

  29. rubyrose*

    #1 – OMG!
    I worked at a place that brought in a long term temp sight unseen and perhaps without an interview. Her name was Irish, nothing out of the ordinary. But she turned out to have converted to Islam as an adult and wore modest clothing, along with something that totally covered her hair. This was a bit of an initial shock for a group of seven that included two Jews.
    It worked out wonderfully. Over time we all shared our individual beliefs and practices in a very natural way, as things came up. She was getting married, so we got an inside view that some lecture would never have given us.
    This is how to introduce differences in the workplace.

  30. That Would be a Good Band Name*

    #5 – If you haven’t already, see if it’s possible to get a copy of the employee handbook. I have worked for companies where even though FMLA doesn’t apply, they had their own leave of absence policies in place that works much as FMLA would. Also, I think a lot of people on here worry that an employer is just going to let you go if there isn’t a law telling them that they can’t. It costs too much to onboard a completely new person to do that. Sure, there are going to be employers that will fire someone over needing some sick time. It’s definitely a thing that happens. But I think it’s far more common that good employers will work with employees that are having health issues, even if they don’t have to follow FMLA.

    1. Bea*

      This is why all my employers have been easy to deal with about leave issues. Yeah, they can try to replace a position but the talent pool is rather dry to say the least.

      At least in our set up now, you wouldn’t be pestered by any means but being available for occasional questions would be valuable. Unlike the FLMA that forbids such a thing. So the flexibility and working together plays into it.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      Sadly, there are a lot of penny-wise, pound-foolish employers who don’t worry much about the costs of turnover…

  31. Technical_Kitty*

    OP#3, AAM is right, this isn’t your problem to fix. It sounds like the person isn’t very good or motivated across the board, don’t bother trying to assist here, you don’t want to work with this person long term. If they get themselves let go, that’s fine.

  32. Temperance*

    LW1: I think your org is coming from a good place, but at the same time, this is such a bad idea. You can’t guess someone’s belief system from their name, and even if you’re right, there are so many different sects of the same religion and individual practices that there’s no way to get this right.

  33. Collarbone High*

    OP 5, I’m glad you have a diagnosis and are in remission now!
    Aside from the FMLA issue, I’d suggest getting very familiar with their health insurance before accepting the job – specifically, look at what percentage of a hospitalization is covered, whether your treatment is on their list of covered drugs, and what the deductibles and out-of-pocket maximum are. A smaller company is more likely to have plans with high deductibles and OOP maximums, which can really hurt you if your first treatment of the year exceeds those and you have to come up with thousands of dollars every January.

    1. Bea*

      I’ve seen horrible health coverage for large companies. Whereas if the owner of a small company is on the plan, they want a Cadillac policy. We don’t pay anything towards the premiums and have the lowest deductible available. Less than 20 people.

      It varies so drastically. You should check any and all benefits possible no matter the size.

      1. Nervous Nellie*

        Bea, that’s interesting! My experience has been quite the opposite. The larger companies I worked for had a larger pool of age ranges for the health insurance application, and more negotiating power, and had the lowest copays, deductibles, and out-of-pocket limits of any insurance I’ve had. The small/medium ones had fewer folks, skewed older, and had less bargaining power, and cost as much to me as the ACA Bronze plans ($600 premium, $7650 annual out of pocket limit, $100 copays….)

        Also, when I had a medical issue in a too-small-for-FMLA company, they could only offer to keep my health insurance active if I worked 20-hrs a week to maintain it – no real leave, so I quit and bought an ACA plan. Right now I am sick and unemployed thanks to this. But once treatments are done, job search full gear!

    2. OP5*

      I was very very lucky with how quick my diagnosis happened and that my remission has gone smoothly. Thank you!
      Having had approximately half a million dollars spent on me through health insurance for medical treatment, fortunately through the most excellent of health insurance that covered almost all of it, I am extremely aware of how very much health insurances can differ by company!
      And they’re actually small enough that they don’t offer health insurance at all. I’m very fortunate to have good health insurance through my partner and his much larger company.

  34. Gaia*

    Here’s a novel idea: how about these managers expect their adult employees respect each other and their differences and then deal with the people who can’t manage that simple requirement?

    If you think that won’t happen, you have a bigger problem that is really just a lawsuit waiting to happen.

  35. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP#2 – Please don’t beat yourself up for this, or assume everyone remembers this as much as you do. I cringe when I think of me in the 80s, attending corporate events for the first time. Open bars and ‘2 Martini Lunches’ were a big thing and I wanted to be like everyone else. I took full advantage of that, and tend to get giggly and happy – and really chatty – when I drink. Guess I made an ‘impression’ on my boss’s boss at some long-forgotten event, but it blew over. If someone asks you directly about it, then you can be more direct. Until and unless they do, please don’t assume they remember this as vividly as you do!

  36. Mark132*

    One challenge with teaching about someone’s religion is a few religions have “secret” ceremonies that they don’t talk about with other people. I’m a former Mormon, and trust they don’t want questions about their underwear. And if you were to give a high level overview to a group about Mormonism and mentioned it lightly you might encourage coworkers to ask unwanted questions.

  37. Estraven*

    OP1 that’s a bit weird and previous, as you don’t know how any individual’s beliefs will play out in practice….no religion/culture is a monolith.
    A nice approach from my current workplace: when our new Diversity Officer started, she ran a few seminars on disability that started from discussion of her own disability (she is visually impaired). All sorts of practical stuff like ‘I may not be able to identify you in the lift so please say who you are’ and ‘yes I can read emails because I’ve got a screen reader and this is how it works’. It’s so much better when the person in question can answer questions about their situation.

  38. shadowette*

    OP #5 – I haven’t seen anyone remark on this yet but I wonder if your disease may possibly count as a disability. If so, you may have protections under the ADA, which might include missing work for medical treatments. I don’t know for certain whether your immune deficiency is a disability or not but thought you might want to take the ADA into consideration along with the FMLA.

    1. McWhadden*

      Although even the ADA only applies to employers with 15 or more employees. Much more coverage than FMLA but a very small law firm may not even reach that.

    2. OP5*

      Even though it looks like this office is too small to qualify, as McWhadden mentions, I’ve taken a closer look into the ADA at your recommendation. At the surface, it looks like my AI could qualify based on the 2008 Amendment, but I’d honestly wouldn’t count on it until I had an attorney talk to me about the case law. Nonetheless, I hadn’t thought about the ADA at all, and will remember this in case I need it in the future!

      1. Steve*

        You might want to go talk to a lawyer. ADA would require they offer reasonable accommodations for your illness, but that might not mean “taking time off during flare ups and protecting your job when you get back” like FMLA does. Furthermore, you might have to notify them in an official way, to make sure there is a paper trail and they can’t claim you never requested accommodation.

  39. Trek*

    OP #3 While you can help him by reminding him of a deadline or letting him know when something is urgent be careful that you don’t do too much. I’m not sure how you want to help but if your help causes the manager to think that he’s improving when in reality he’s receiving more help from you, this may cause more problems in the long run. Also what happens when you can no longer help him?
    Personally it sounds like he’s given up on the job-still coming in late and leaving early etc.- or this could be part of a larger pattern for him and he just bounces from job to job. The termination seems a reasonable outcome to his behavior and lack of ability. Helping him may prolong his employment but I don’t see him ever being a long term employee.

  40. Kat Em*

    As a religious minority myself (not one you’d know from my name), I’d be more than happy to create a presentation on my faith and practices for coworkers if asked to! It would save me a lot of hassle when I’m taking certain days off of work, fasting, turning down drinks, etc.

    What I would NOT be happy about is someone who has no connection to my religion making that kind of presentation on my behalf. You’re likely to use poor sources of information, misunderstand specific terminology, and pronounce at least 50% of the words wrong.

    I appreciate diversity training, but this is not the way to do it.

  41. StephaniePP*

    #2- a coworker is very involved with her church, and it just so happened that her church rents out a duplex that I used to live in during a few of my college years. When she learned this, she said “wow, you must have just missed the stoners that lived there around that time! I heard they smoked marijuana all the time”.

    I managed to not turn TOO bright red because she definitely was talking about me and my roommate. She had literally no idea it was me (she’s not that good an actress), and I had changed a lot since my college years and wouldn’t even think of touching the stuff now. I feigned compete ignorance.

    So yeah, my advice is to forget about it too.

  42. doingmyjob*

    #1 that is so bad. Talk about the road to h3ll being paved with good intentions…………if you have a good relationship with the higher ups, you might gently challenge their assumption and suggest that they leave this alone for now.

  43. thatsickchick*

    #5 Hit me close to home – dealt/dealing with this now at my new job that is very small (about 10 people).

    I agree with AMA response – don’t cross that bridge until you get there.

    I recently have had a similar scenario:

    In remission for a long time, got hired, and went out of remission two months into my new job with no insurance. My illness makes walking/movement/typing at times impossible (live in NYC) and mentally fatigued as well.
    I hid it as much as I could (a process in itself) and then eventually started thinking about looking for another job with more flexibility or work at home option.

    Long story short: I approached my boss and told him I was dealing with a serious illness and that it could affect my work when I am sick. I framed it as: I have had it for years, and have always managed to do my job, would like to find an agreeable solution, but at the same time that I would understand if they could not accommodate me so that would mean I would have to be terminated or quit.

    Thankfully it went well, and now I have the option to work from home when I cannot get to the office, and flexibility with time regarding sick days when I cannot do anything at all. They also allowed me to enroll/receive health insurance two months earlier as well to help out. Plus lightened my load a bit(I had the most volume of teapots) when a new hire came on board.

    Great experience, but I took a chance going to a small business. Probably would not do that again to be honest.

    OP: wait and see, but in the meantime get your ducks in a row should things go badly.

    1. OP5*

      Thatsickchick: Thank you for your own story. My sympathies on your own illness, and I’m so glad you managed to work it out with your job. I’m honestly feeling better about taking a chance on them because I can temp first and get an idea of what their attitudes are before signing on full time. But I know it’s still going to be a risk. But I can speak to how I’m able to do my job while on treatment, and that was competently enough.

      I wouldn’t take the job at all if it weren’t for my partner – they’re small enough that they offer no health insurance.

      Thank you again!

      1. thatsickchick*

        My sympathies to you with your illness as well! I hope it goes great with the company – it is good that you are tempting first to see what they are about.

        Hope it goes well and that you have decent health. :)

  44. OP5*

    Thank you for the response! I’m glad to have some of my instincts reaffirmed. I’d rather go to a larger company, but right now my experience being what it is, I’m a little bit on taking what I can get. Knowing that you don’t advice I run away as quickly as possible is reassuring, at least. (I’m very lucky that I get good health insurance through my partner, otherwise I could not take a job at a small company and risk theirs.)

    I honestly hadn’t thought about the fact that, should my illness reoccur, I could take the proactive step of discussing with my employer what my needs will be and if they could accommodate it, rather than just being sick and waiting for them to decide to fire me. Spending six months getting progressively worse did a number on me, and I forget that I will definitely be in a better place if it ever happens again. Thank you again!

    1. Observer*

      Also, keep in mind that even if your illness does flare up, if it happens after you’ve had a chance to prove yourself, you have a much better chance of your employer working with you. This is more true of a smaller company because there tends to be more room for flexibility (despite the fact that ADA, at least, DOES require that an employer try to be flexible and accommodate the individual.)

  45. Steve*

    #5 I am not a lawyer, but, I was just reading about FMLA last week. I learned that “potential” FMLA leave is *not* covered by FMLA. So you can actually be fired (by, presumably, a terrible employer) for telling your boss that you might need FMLA leave in the future, if you aren’t actually requesting specific time off for your medical condition on specific dates.

  46. Therese*

    #1 – I feel like with #1 the employee might have to fast on certain days or go pray in the middle of the day so they are prepping the team for those interruptions? But really that isn’t anyone’s business. If that happens the employee will tell their supervisor who will let them go do what they need to do and we don’t even know if these are going to be issues that will effect his work. The whole thing is very Office-esque and weird.

    1. buttercup*

      OP1’s team doesn’t know what this employee’s religion is. Even if they did, the manager should deal with it individually – they don’t need to hold these weird meetings.

  47. Meißner Porcelain Teapot*

    OP 1: Nooooooo! Dear god, no! I don’t know if the term “religious profiling” is a thing, but that is exactly what’s going on here. You don’t even know if they are a member of that religion! And even if they are, you don’t know how rigorously they practice that religion and trying to “accomodate” them before they even ask for it is going to make people in your company come across as tone-deaf at best or religiously prejudiced at worst. If you are on good terms with whoever organized this, please tell them that this could seriously backfire on them in the future. Really, the best course of action in any situation is to approach new people with open minds and hearts and basic human decency and kindness, then listen to their feedback if they voice concerns.
    For example, I have many colleagues who are muslims. I also have many colleagues with Arabic names. Not all of them are muslim and not all the muslim co-workers have Arabic names. And even of those co-workers who are muslim, not all practice equally. I don’t think any of them have ever requested a room for prayer, for example. Some of them observe Ramadan, some don’t. The solution is not to skip every potentially muslim co-worker when you offer the team cookies during Ramadan. The solution is to offer everyone the cookies and then graciously accept their choice if someone declines because they are fasting. (“Oh, I see. Maybe next month then. Happy Ramadan!”)

    Op 2: I wouldn’t worry about it. It was five years ago and no-one from your current company was there to recognize you. If, by some ridiculous chance, somebody figures out that it was you, you can always say: “Oh yeah, that party… yeah, that was not my brightest moment. I was really embarrassed the next morning, but at least I learned a valuable lesson: only one glass at company events for me. That has been working out really well for me for the last five years.” (aka “I realize I did a stupid thing, I accept responsibility for it, here is what I’ve done to make sure it never happens again”)

    OP 3: Please, please, PLEASE don’t try to “help” your new co-worker. If this person was seriously struggling because of unfortunate circumstances (too much workload, incompetent boss, over-complicated processes, insufficient training, etc.), then I would totally say “yes, please talk to them”, but in your own words:

    – “He started about five months ago and, after a rigorous training program, has had four months in the actual role.” which means he had one month of training, which sounds like a very reasonable and generous amount of time for most jobs.
    – “In that time, he has totally failed to meet any of the very modest goals laid out for him, and it seems like he really isn’t trying.” which means that, by your own admission, the issue is not that work is too hard, but that they simply do not care.
    – “He comes in 15 minutes late almost every day, takes a long lunch, and leaves on the early side.” which demonstrates very bad work ethic, lack of respect for the rules and his co-workers and an alarming sense of entitlement.

    Let me make this as clear as I can: this person is a freeloader, a leech. They are trying to do the bare minimum of effort to get by and the more you enable them in their behavior, the more entitled they will feel. “Helping” them will not fix the issues – it will likely only make them worse, because people like that thrive off of others picking up the slack for them.

    Your boss is being absolutely awesome and right here by putting them on a PIP and will hopefully go through with firing them if they fail, because that’s the only way people like them learn that actions (such as the behaviors you described) have actual consequences for them. If they get fired, it will not be your fault. They had every chance to improve and they didn’t. Sit back, do your work, and remind yourself that if this person gets fired, it will be for their own faults, which are not yours to manage, and you are likely to get someone new assigned to your team who will hopefully not be an entitled slacker.

  48. Working Mom Having It All*

    Re #1, Woof. This is worse than my dad asking whether we needed to eat at a Halal restaurant when I dated someone with a typically Muslim last name. (The guy was an atheist, for the record.) Like, that was cringe-worthy, but at least it was an ask, and at least it was came with the best possible intentions. I mean, it’s theoretically possible that your daughter might be dating a Muslim and that this person might have dietary restrictions that might need to be taken into account when making dinner reservations. Silly, but theoretically possible.

    This is just nonsense, though.

  49. just peachy.*

    OP #5 – I feel your pain (no pun intended). I have fibromyalgia, Hashimoto’s, possibly lupus and a couple of other autoimmune disorders (basically I’m a hot mess – literally sometimes, I hate getting hot flashes as a 30-something year old!) My last job was at a small nonprofit. We didn’t have FMLA, but a very generous amount of sick days available, which was super important to me when I took the job. Unfortunately, when my beloved boss left and we got a new CEO, I think she never actually even bothered reading the organization’s handbook. She didn’t understand the culture of our sick days, vacation days, etc. My colleagues were aware that I had a host of health issues and everyone was super understanding and even encouraged me to take sick time when they saw that I could barely stand or looked like my pain was intolerable even with meds. But when I took a single sick day one week, and then another single sick day another week, our new CEO questioned why I was doing so (which was one of the final straws of me quitting my job…. more like quitting her). I told her I was not someone that abuses my sick hours and that I had many many hours left and used them responsibly, not to mention I got my work done when I wasn’t sick. When I told her I had fibromyalgia she said, “oh I thought I had that once, but it was actually menopause”. Uuuggggghhhhh.

    Right now I’m interviewing with another nonprofit and if I do get a job offer (*fingers crossed!*), I will definitely be making sure that they have some sort of policy that will work for me. Although since stress really exacerbates my health conditions, hopefully being in a better, less toxic work environment won’t cause as many flare-ups.

  50. buttercup*

    CRINGE to number 1. The nicest way you could treat anyone is by treating them like a human being with boundaries. Not this faux “well-intentioned” OTT behavior.

  51. OP3*

    Hi Everyone,
    Thanks for the feedback and reassurance that this doesn’t have very much to do with me. I was very concerned that as a more senior team member, it was also my shortcoming when someone I had a hand in mentoring really fell short in the role. Shortly after I sent my letter in, my manager did go through with letting this employee go and in only one week, I’m already realizing how much extra work I was doing (both consciously and not) to make up for this person’s lack of effort.

    It’s still always difficult to see someone go (even someone who was warned and was plainly not a fit for the role) because I know that person is living their livelihood.

    Thanks for the tips/support!

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