sick coworker says he can’t work alone

A reader writes:

I’m an avid reader and I have a question on behalf of a friend. She works in retail and recently told me she felt too sick to work but couldn’t call in because her coworker, “Bob,” who has stage 4 cancer says he can’t work alone. This sounds off to me. I understand that due to ADA requirements he is entitled to reasonable accommodations but I am unsure if he indeed can require that a sick coworker stays at work with him.

He says that he has stage 4 cancer and that the doctor says he might as well just quit chemo because there is nothing he can do. She says otherwise he seems healthy. He drinks beer, eats raw fish and junk food, and otherwise seems normal. He is unable to answer any casual questions about his health when he brings up the cancer, such as what his white blood cells are, etc. He always answers by saying that he doesn’t know and starts to make a facial tic as if he were lying. I asked if he has supplied her company with a doctor’s note to confirm he needs accommodations. She says that her laid-back management takes his word for it. She suspects (but hopes not) that he might be fabricating his sickness. He is adamant that no one outside of work knows, and recently she has come to learn that he has been stealing items from work (another issue).

Bob says that he can not work alone because he might become dizzy, etc. and needs someone there in case that happens. This doesn’t sound too unreasonable, but they normally only have two staff per day at the small shop and what if the other person is sick? My friend went in to work anyway after vomiting because there was no one else to cover her and again he says he can’t be alone. When she mentioned that she had been vomiting all night, he replied that he knows all about that, as if he were shutting down any thought of her leaving. Can someone with a disability require that they not work alone at all times? What if the only other staff are sick themselves?

In a business where only two people are typically present at any time, my hunch is that “must always have another person on the premises, with no exceptions” would be considered “undue hardship” and thus not a reasonable accommodation that they’d be legally required to make (since it would mean having to keep three people there instead of two, in case one of them had to leave unexpectedly). But that’s something that your friend’s employer would need to talk to a lawyer about, since what the law considers “undue hardship” isn’t always in line with what a normal person would consider undue hardship.

Typically, though, what I’d expect an employer to do in this situation would be to say to Bob, “We can definitely try to schedule you with another person, but if that person becomes sick or unexpectedly has an emergency and needs to leave, we can’t guarantee that we’d be able to get someone else there within a few hours. We’d certainly try to call around and get coverage, but it wouldn’t be immediate.” I’m curious if your friend’s employer has said that to Bob or not. I’m also curious about how much of this conversation Bob has had with his manager, versus just with your friend.

And most importantly, I wonder if your friend is taking on way more of this problem than she should. She’s allowing Bob to dictate the terms of her employment, when that’s something she should be talking to her manager about. Just because Bob says “I need you here,” that doesn’t mean that your friend has to comply. She should talk to her boss about what’s going on and ask what she should do if she gets sick at work and Bob says he can’t be alone. And when she needs to call in sick, she should just call in sick. She doesn’t need to come in while she’s vomiting just because Bob asks her to. It’s perfectly fine to say, “I’m so sorry, but I’m too ill to come in today.” From there, it’s her employer’s problem to solve. And really, by being overly accommodating like this, she’s preventing them from even knowing that there’s a problem they need to address, and that’s not good for anyone.

If Bob really has talked to the employer about this, and the employer really has agreed with Bob that they’ll ensure he’s never alone, then it’s on the employer to make that happen. Your friend doesn’t carry the burden of making that work. The employer does, and they’d presumably need to put more staff on those shifts or otherwise change how they handle it.

As for your friend’s worries that Bob is lying … he might be! Or he might not be. Ultimately it doesn’t change the way she should handle this. Either way, the right course of action is for her to shift the problem back to her management to deal, rather than trying to make it work on her own.

By the way — she should report the stealing. I don’t know if she’s hesitant to do that because of sympathy or if she’s worried that her management will excuse it because of the medical situation, but she really should speak up about that, and even more so in a situation where she already feels like she’s being asked to take on more than she should. She shouldn’t take on potential complicity in theft on top of that.

Read updates to this letter here and here

{ 388 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A note here about speculation: Because it quickly becomes derailing, please limit speculation on facts not presented by the letter-writer to reasonable assumptions based on the information provided. If are you’re speculating on facts not in the letter, please explain how it’s actionable for the letter-writer.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Do you ever edit letters when you publish them? Because I honestly feel like the letter itself is full of mean-spirited speculation.

      1. JokeyJules*

        i didn’t read it as mean-spirited. I think that OP’s friend does have some suspicion that Bob might not actually have cancer, and isn’t sure if that is playing into it or not. The observations presented didn’t come across to me as mean-spirited speculation.

          1. Annoyed*

            Me either. In fact I think OP/friend may be right about him lying. Stage 4 cancer…most people aren’t working. Especially when their doctor says there’s nothing that can be done.

            1. Anonymosity*

              Bob could have a health problem he doesn’t want to talk about and is just saying it’s cancer so no one will argue with him about it. Or maybe he doesn’t want to be alone so he can shift the blame for the thefts onto his coworker. I don’t know, but something about this really sets off my bullshit detector.

        1. ToS*

          Exactly – it’s something that people with invisible disabilities deal with all the time. By taking it to management, LW and friend can *end* the speculation, as management can get documentation *not* so everyone needs to know details, but so there is some structure to where the limits are. If the guy faints, discussing the protocol for anyone fainting (like a walk-in customer) helps everyone without getting too twee. Even covering dialing 911 from his own cell if he’s in need of support, is a thing.

          Anyone can faint at work. Some people, depending on a variety of factors, not all of them health-related*, do it more than others. Staffing is management’s concern. LW’s locus of control is reasonable attendance.

          *For a while, in middle school, some of the guys held their breath while in detention. It became a contest to them, and suddenly the school nurse was checking out why so much fainting was going on.

      2. MK*

        Maybe so, though I think the main problem is that Bob’s behavior is clashing with the prelevant (created by the media) image of a cancer patient: a saintly person who valiantly fights the disease, while consoling their loved ones and sprouting words of wisdom for those left behind.

        Bob sounds, at best, like an incredibly self-centred, entitled person with a chilling disregard for those around him, but that doesn’t mean he is lying about having cancer. It’s possible that he was always selfish and getting sick doesn’t cure you of that. It’s also possible that his fight with cancer dried up any reserves of empathy he had, so he is only able to think of himself and wants to do whatever is best for him for the little time he has left.

        1. madge*

          I’m honestly not seeing anything in the letter that indicates Bob has “chilling disregard for those around him.” His response to the friend’s sickness seems not particularly warm, possibly unkind, but ultimately open to interpretation. Even assuming he was acting completely selfishly in that particular situation, it’s a bit much to generalize to “Bob is a terrible person.”

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Or perhaps Bob is a scared, sick person who desperately needs to retain his job to pay for his medical care.

          Either way, it does not matter. Here is what matters.

          1. Bob told LW’s friend that he cannot work alone and she had to come to work even though she was ill.
          2. IF Bob genuinely cannot be alone at work, he needs to discuss that accommodation with management.
          3. IF management is able to grant the accommodation, it is their responsibility to ensure shifts are covered when emergencies crop up.
          4. People should be calling off to management, not their coworkers.

          Everything in this letter is speculation and hearsay. There is no mention of management’s involvement at all and that is the biggest issue of all because it is a management issue.

        3. T*

          There are just too many options, so it’s best not to speculate, as all employees have The Persona That Work Sees. People are complicated. Bob is showing up and interacting at work in a complicated manner for his work peers, so management is needed.

          I appreciate the letter because it’s a real Ask a Manager moment.

      3. Yetanotherjennifer*

        Part of the tone may also be because this is a friend writing-in and not the person with the problem. She’s repeating what she’s been told, probably during venting sessions, and has no relationship with Bob that might otherwise soften the tone. I don’t think it’s intentional or mean-spirited.

      4. OP HERE!*

        Only whether he has the illness is speculation. The stealing was fact and they have gained enough evidence for him to be fired.

        1. Zillah*

          OP, who is “they”? Is it your friend and her coworkers, or is management aware of the issue?

          1. OP HERE!*

            They means management*
            There aren’t many coworkers to speculate with since there are usually only 2 people there at a time. Further down explains the evidence and the nature of the stealing.

        2. Yellow Rose*

          Bob’s stealing and his self reported inability to work alone waved a red flag and rang a bell for me, albeit a speculative one. What if he’s banking on fingering the other employee on duty for company shrinkage, should it be discovered by management first, rather than one of the other workers reporting it?

        3. Michael*

          And they should. Cancer or not he should know right from wrong. I personally think he’s lying about the whole illness thing. And speaking of his cancer. If he has it then the company better be looking at putting someone else in his work position. A stage 4 patient won’t be around too much longer. At least not in any shape to work.

      5. Lily in NYC*

        Why is it mean-spirited? There are plenty of people who fake serious illnesses. I can think of three women I know personally (one from HS and two former coworkers) who did the same thing. It’s more common than people realize and OP’s friend seems to be basing her beliefs on logical reasoning based on conversations and tone, not just wild speculation.

        1. CristinaMariaCalabrese (do the mambo like-a crazy)*

          Ugh, I also personally know two women who fake illnesses for attention. I hate it not just because it’s a terrible thing to do, but also because it actually gives me standing for doubting others whose claims seem…suspicious. I always try to give the benefit of the doubt, but these women have made it so I can no longer say, “That’s the line; no one would EVER do something like that!” Innocence lost.

          1. Lissa*

            Yeah, one reason people do fake illnesses is because of how unacceptable it is to be the person accusing someone of faking cancer. If you’re wrong, you’re a monster! But it happens more than rarely. I mean, I get not accusing but I think the fact that you’re not ever supposed to be suspicious or question is why people choose these illnesses as things to fake.

      6. Richard*

        Yeah, this reads like a long happy hour rant against a coworker mixing legitimate beefs with wild and cruel speculation pretending to be a basic question about workplace policy.

        1. Jesmlet*

          Not sure why everyone is saying this. It read pretty neutral to me. The only thing that felt out of place was the comment about his eating habits.

            1. Lehigh*

              I didn’t really think that was mean. If you’re used to seeing cancer patients being very careful with their diet due to chemo or a desire to fortify their immune systems, this would stand out. Of course, given that he’s stated that he intends to let the disease run its course, the point is moot. No special diet needed for that. But it makes sense why it would raise doubts for a casual observer.

              1. Lehigh*

                Oh, maybe I misread it. I thought “the doctor says he might as well quit chemo” implied he had already quit it, but that’s not actually clear.

                If he’s on chemo…that diet would surprise me, too, especially the raw fish. My experience with cancer is limited, so maybe I’m wrong, but it sure would raise questions.

                1. Michael*

                  Your question is definitely valid. If he were on chemo or recently stopped he wouldn’t be eating all of these things without becoming sick. As I commented a few minutes ago, I think that he’s lying

              2. Managing to get by*

                People I’ve known who had stage 4 cancer actually avoided sick people as they’re immune systems were pretty messed up either from the disease or the treatment. The most suspicious behavior described here (to me) is telling a coworker to come work with him while sick.

                Even after stopping treatment, I have observed in multiple people that the size effects don’t go away very quickly.

  2. Anon for this #533*

    Um…I’m reasonably certain being around sick people is a really bad thing for people in chemo. I’m not saying that as a factor on whether Bob is lying or not, just that it’s a legitimate excuse to call in sick if you potentially could further sicken a dying person with a weakened immune system. “I don’t want to accidentally kill my coworker” would be pretty justified, no?

    1. JokeyJules*

      Extremely justified.

      Cancer patients should not be around sick people as much as reasonably possible. Staying home when you are sick is both reasonable and possible.

    2. Lexi Kate*

      It is so so so much worse for a person with cancer to be around someone sick. My father has Stage 3 cancer and he couldn’t tell you his white bc count to save his life but if he see you cough or sniffle he puts his mask on and either leaves or has the sick person leave. My mother stayed with us last year when she got the flu to make sure dad didn’t get sick, ie during flu season he really doesnt leave his home or have many visitors because last time he was in the hospital for 2 months.

      1. Dolorous Bread*

        My MIL has cancer and is the same way. She wears a mask out on the street like 80% of the time as it is, and if one of us is sick, forget it!

        That part of the letter actually stands out as more of a hint this coworker might be lying, more than drinking beer and eating sushi.

      1. neverjaunty*

        This. In fact I misread the letter the first time and wondered what the problem was – then realized Bob says he WANTS her there? Bob is a Problem Child.

      2. DouDouPaille*

        The LW specifies that this is a retail environment. Which presumably means that whether or not she comes to work, Bob will risk being exposed to germs from customers who enter the store.

        1. snarkarina*

          That’s what I was going to say–which was befuddling to me . . . but maybe Bob needs the job for the health insurance in order to afford the cancer treatment?

          1. MsChandandlerBong*

            Yeah, I wouldn’t assume that continuing to work indicates he is lying. I had a heart attack a month ago, and I’ve been in the hospital three times since then. All three times, I had my laptop in bed with me and spent several hours each day working. My employer doesn’t provide my insurance, but we can’t afford to go without my income, and I only get 10 days of PTO per year (no separate sick time). I already used five days in May when I had major dental work, so I used up the rest during my first hospitalization. If I didn’t work, I’d have no income coming in, and we need it to pay for my medications, my cardiac rehab program, my hospital bills, etc.

              1. MsChanandlerBong*

                Wishing I was Canadian. :) I’ll be wishing it even more when I have to start shelling out the $7,500 for my hospital bill!

          2. Someone Else*

            Except part of the story is that his illness is now beyond treatment, I thought? Although he may be on some “make him more confortable” prescriptions rather than anything that is treatment at this point.
            I’m not personally doubting his illness, just that “job to keep his insurance” would seem to not really matter much at this point.

            1. Girl friday*

              A lot of cancer treatments now advise watchful waiting, so he may not be beyond treatment-they’re just saying there’s nothing they can do. Not necessarily a dire statement. His doctor may be saying that they want to save further chemo to save his body and maybe for future treatments. Just because it’s stage 4, and he uses those words, doesn’t mean anything else besides those two things are true.

        2. LilySparrow*

          Yeah, but people who are feeling extremely ill and vomiting are a lot less likely to be out shopping. And you don’t spend 8-10 hours interacting with the same customer. There are levels of risk.

          1. Amelia Pond*

            Yeah, if someone is super sick and vomiting probably won’t be out shopping, you can still be contagious when you’re only feeling a little under the weather and go out anyway. (Possibly could also be a carrier? I’m not really sure on that, but it’s possible)

          2. Nancie*

            Anyone who’s not having acute digestive distress (in either direction) may run to the store for a quick errand. Or be dragged to the store by a thoughtless parent. (Citation: the dimwit I encountered a few months ago who was browsing Sephora with her chicken-pox infected kid. A distressed-looking employee was following them with a bottle of disinfectant.)

            1. Lavender Menace*

              I feel so sorry for the kid. Chicken pox is miserable; why would your caregiver want to drag you along on a Sephora run?

        3. Dove*

          And also handling money or products. My housemate, who works as a grocery store cashier, occasionally has to point out that he gets sick less often than the rest of us because his immune system is dealing with a constant influx of germs just because he handles money. Add in people with allergies, or who aren’t symptomatic yet (but are shedding)…yeah, retail is not where someone with a weakened immune system ought to be.

    3. EPlawyer (not an employment attorney)*

      My first thought too. You should not have sick people around someone who is dying.

      It is highly possible he ended chemo, and is eating whatever he wants because it is Stage 4 and incurable. Might as well enjoy life then. Why eat healthy when it won’t matter?

      But yes, report the stealing. Management probably thinks they can’t fire someone who asked for ADA accomodations but they most certainly can. They just have to cross all their i’s and dot all their ts.

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        But even if he ended chemo and is trying to live the last bit of life he can to the highest degree, the last thing you want to do with that bit of life is become sick. Your immune system stays weak even after chemo – so it would be easier for him to catch and harder for him to fight off. The whole willing to be around a violently ill person is the part of the letter that stood out to me the most.

        1. Folklorist*

          Sorry for the off-topic, but LOVE your username! RIP Terry Pratchett. I just re-read Good Omens ahead of the new TV series.

    4. The Other Dawn*

      Agreed. Someone who has had chemo recently shouldn’t be around someone who is sick.

      Also, “He drinks beer, eats raw fish and junk food, and otherwise seems normal” is not a valid argument that someone is lying about having cancer or any other terminal illness. My brother did all those things up until a couple weeks before he died of cancer last year. You really couldn’t tell from the outside that he was sick, other than him tiring easily.

      1. Juli G.*

        If my doctor said “There’s nothing more we can do”, it would be sushi, junk food, and alcohol all day for me.

          1. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish*

            And when my hand gets too weak, just put it in an IV.

        1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          When my uncle was dying of pancreatic cancer he drank quite a bit of beer. He liked it and he could keep it down unlike some other beverages. He survived almost two years after his terminal diagnosis, so he did a lot of things that you don’t normally associate with “terminal cancer patient”, like extensive travelling.

      2. Oryx*

        Yes, I know someone who had Stage 4 lung cancer and kept smoking. Doctor even said at this point it didn’t matter and had no issue with it

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Yes, he had stage 4 esophageal cancer that had spread to his stomach and liver by the time he found out, which was very likely caused by many decades of heavy, heavy smoking. Some family members apparently has asked him if he was going to quit. Why the hell would he quit now? It helped him cope with his impending death. He really didn’t need the stress of quitting on top of the stress of, you know, dying in less than a year even with treatment. Even my in-laws asked my husband if my brother was going to quit and was like, “Um, what’s the point??” And it was his life to do with as he pleased anyway.

          1. Julia*

            That’s pretty harsh. I’m anti-smoking, but this is The Other Dawn’s brother we’re talking about here.

        2. Kyrielle*

          I knew someone who did that also. It wasn’t going to change her death in any significant way, so she only stopped smoking when they had to put her on oxygen.

        3. Anne Noise*

          That’d be my mother. Diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, only “quit” while she was physically in the hospital for treatment. She even smoked outside the hospice doors and after some arguing the staff gave up. At that point, who cares as long its not bothering anyone.

      3. Kelly*

        Both of the times that my mother went through cancer treatment we had to make sure that we weren’t sick when we were around her. She also skipped my dad’s family Xmas during the first time she had it because his family was notorious for coming even when they were sick.

        The food thing kind of makes me skeptical about how severe his cancer is. During both times she went through treatment, her appetite was very affected by the drugs, chemo and radiation. Towards the end she wasn’t eating much more than soft bland foods like jello, pudding, mashed potatoes, or applesauce, rice, and broth. She didn’t care if we ate other food around her and would occasionally try to eat small portions of certain things like french fries. Even the food that well meaning relatives sent including frozen hot dishes and cookies she wasn’t able to eat and ended up being ate by the rest of us.

          1. Amelia Pond*

            He could also legally (or illegally) using marijuana, which could be boosting his appetite, as well as potentially helping with pain.

          2. Lia*

            yeah, my ex-MIL died of liver cancer. For the week or so immediately after a treatment, she only ate bland-ish foods, but after that until the next one, she ate whatever she liked. Once she stopped chemo as the cancer has spread, her appetite was good until about a month before she died. And she ate all KINDS of junk — why wouldn’t you? I sent her a box of cotton candy and sugar waffles as she was craving that.

          3. PNW*

            The letter says “the doctor says he might as well just quit chemo because there is nothing he can do,” not that he has already quit treatment. When my grandson was receiving chemo treatment, he couldn’t be around someone with as much as a sniffle.

        1. sam*

          but everyone is different – my mother lost *most* of her appetite by the end, but the only things that she could keep down would be classified as “junk” food. When we asked the doctors if this was OK, nutrition-wise, they were basically of the view that the most important thing at that stage was that she get calories, in whatever form they took. If 90% of her calories were from crap? fine.

          She had weeks/months left – there’s a certain point at which you just…don’t need to worry about the long-term health effects of too much chocolate.

          The thing that did strike me (as it did others) was much more the fact that people with cancer/going through chemo often have severely compromised immune systems, and it’s extremely dangerous to be around other people who are sick/contagious. But perhaps he’s also at the IDGAF stage with that as well.

          Either way, it’s not on your friend to manage her co-worker’s accommodation. Your friend is also entitled to take a sick day when she’s sick, even if she’s not dying of cancer.

          This entire thing is just more evidence that our entire healthcare/benefits/leave system in this country is completely messed up.

        2. jessejane*

          When my mom went through chemo, she was encouraged to eat whatever she wanted and whatever sounded good to her. She ate a lot of crunchy cheetos and licorice! I didn’t agree with her choices, but it helped her get through those treatments.

          Cancer patients all have different appetites and cravings. I don’t think bob’s diet means he’s lying.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        I thought that seemed odd when I read it, but then in the context of the other details (coworker instructed not to commiserate with his friends and family about the situation if she runs into them, he insists ill coworker come to work and is unconcerned about her breathing on him) it makes more sense that she would notice that.

        So no, OP’s friend, the food and alcohol consumption are not indicative of anything healthwise. The other things may be, or they might have prosaic explanations. Regardless of how real, well-understood, or well-managed his illness is, it’s unreasonable for ill coworkers to have to come in and keep him company–that’s not a normal accommodation. And what both friend and Bob need to do at work should be negotiated with their manager.

      5. Allison*

        F’real. He could either be thinking “Imma die anyway, YOLO!” or he just wants to maintain some sense of normalcy when going through a rough time. If someone told you you have a terminal illness, would you really want to give up your favorite foods? Why? Because of the small chance you’ll live a little longer if you suddenly eat super healthy?

        I don’t have cancer and I’m not Bob’s best friend here, I just think it’s a good idea to put yourself in his shoes for a hot sec.

    5. Dust Bunny*

      Was just getting on here to say this: If Bob has cancer, he DOES NOT want coworkers around him when s/he’s sick! Employer needs a back-up plan. One aside from forcing people to work when they’re ill.

    6. EddieSherbert*

      Alison has *literally* had a letter or two where that WAS the concern – either a coworker or the OP or a close relative was going through chemo and they were upset a sick coworker still came in!

      I’ll add link(s) if I find any…

        1. I GOTS TO KNOW!!*

          Was there ever an update to the norovirus one? I forget but I remember being so angry at her. I get not wanting to use sick time on a sick kid – I am a parent, I get it. But norovirus isn’t the same as a damn fever from a 24 hour bug!

    7. An Academic Librarian*

      Agreeing with the other commenters on this; chemo patients take a huge risk by being around anyone who is sick, and tend to be very careful about such things. Things that are a minor inconvenience to those with a healthy immune system can put chemo patients in the hospital for weeks or months. I’m seeing way too many red flags in his claims.

      Side note: stage 4 cancer can vary greatly in its prognosis and outcome depending on what type of cancer it is. Some people can get cured, if they have the right combo of cancer/immunotherapy/genetics. I know nothing about this guy’s situation so have no idea if this would apply to him, of course, but stage 4 cancer is not an automatic death sentence for everyone who has it. If he needs accommodation he should be providing documentation signed by his oncologist to his employer. Otherwise it’s just talk.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        My family was EXTREMELY careful about exposing my brother to any illnesses when he had leukemia, and even a cold was a HUGE deal and extremely frightening. Honestly, if HE was your coworker, he would have walked right out the door if you came in sick and risked exposing him to anything.

        I know that not necessarily relevant, as the OP shouldn’t question the coworker’s cancer diagnosis, but hopefully this DOES encourage her to push to NOT come in when she normally wouldn’t anyways… AND someone is potentially immuno-compromised.

      2. Kevin*

        Stage four is metastatic cancer. It is literally the worst stage of cancer. Unless somebody has been magically cured of stage 4 cancer, they are living with a death sentence. Metastatic cancer is cancer that is aggressive, and spreading. Prognosis might vary, but once cancer begins to set up “satellite cancer centers”, it is by definition aggressive and malignant.

    8. Shalla*

      Literally my first thought. She shouldn’t be around a stage 4 cancer patient if she’s sick and her work should make sure she can call out (both for her sake and Bob’s)

    9. many bells down*

      Yeah my volunteer partner at the museum stopped working months before he passed away because his doctor told him he couldn’t spend time around groups of people. Way too many disease vectors.

    10. Not a Blossom*

      I thought this too, and I think the OP’s friend might want to bring that up if she gets pushback from management about coming in sick. Of course any reasonable employer would let someone be out sick when they are sick, but as we know, not all employers are reasonable.

    11. Tequila Mockingbird*

      100% correct (even though I’m echoing all the comments above mine) – someone actively undergoing chemo can’t socialize in any non-sterile environment, especially a place like retail where they’re going to be encountering lots of strangers. My husband’s aunt was unable to attend our wedding because she was in chemo at the time, and the doctor wouldn’t sign off for her to attend.

      1. PhyllisB*

        Yep. My husband was treated for Lymphoma 15 years ago (successfully!!) and when he had chemo he had to be extremely careful around other people. He went to work because he didn’t have a lot of personal contact with others, but he wouldn’t attend church the week after because even people who knew better than to shake hands would want to hug him or touch him in some way.

      2. Lavender Menace*

        That’s not always true. My mother is currently actively undergoing chemo and she hasn’t been prevented from socializing in a non-sterile environment. She’s definitely been shopping since beginning her treatment. It depends on the kind of chemo.

    12. media monkey*

      i came to say this as well. i have unfortunately known a few people with stage 4 cancer and they would have much preferred that a sick person stayed well clear of them!

    13. pope suburban*

      That was my thought too. When my grandpa was going through chemo, and later, when he entered hospice, my whole family was very careful not to visit if they thought they were sick, or had been recently. It was hard missing out on the time with him, but even a mild cold could have been the end for him. I would never go into work with a cancer patient if I had been sick to the point of vomiting. That would be reckless, and I wouldn’t want to live with that on my head if something did happen to them.

    14. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Actually regardless of the impact of the illness to the other employee. A sick person should be able to stay at home if they want to. The LW didn’t mention that there was an issue on the employers part about taking a sick day so she should have taken one.

      Agree with Alison, the friend is taking too much of this on their shoulders. If the employer has an issue with not letting Bob work alone, then they need to be the ones to address that, not the other employees.

    15. Persimmons*

      They work in retail, FFS. Bob couldn’t get much more germ exposure unless he worked at a daycare.

    16. TV Researcher*

      Very much this. I had a dear friend/co-worker who went through chemo and if I even thought I only had a cold, I would try to work from home (or at least stay as far away from her as possible).

      And I also went through chemo (last year; doing much better now) and if I suspected you had a cold, I would stay on the other side of the building as you and call in to meetings from my office, if I thought you were going to be there. I also had this rule if you were the parent of a sick child because their germs are mobile. Note: I had this rule for family, as well.

      I’m not accusing Bob of lying, but for my own mental health, if I were sick, I would not show up where I knew a person going through chemo would be.

  3. Bigglesworth*

    Something for your friend to consider. Ignore Bob is on chemo, his autoimmune system is compromised. Even having a cold could be detrimental to a person going through chemo. Although not Stage 4 cancer, a former coworker going through chemo used to leave work if she found out someone had come in sick to avoid catching whatever they had. The Cancer and Careers website has an article that shows what you should and should not do around a coworker going through chemo.

      1. epi*

        This is a lovely resource that I’ll be bookmarking. I especially love the advice about how to make offers to help specific and actionable for coworkers. This is great:

        You might ask: “Is there a special customer you are worried about? May I call him for you, to let him know he’s still in good hands?” Or: “Is there something on your desk that’s undone that is bothering you, and could I tackle that for you?” Or you could ask: “What work project is stressing you the most right now? Let’s plan how I could help you reduce that stress.”

        People have done that for me when I was just normal stressed and I still remember it and feel grateful years later. It’s excellent advice for coworkers who want to help but respect the relationship they have without prying.

    1. Bigglesworth*

      The second sentence should say, “If Bob…” not “Ignore Bob…”

      Sorry about any confusion!

    2. madge*

      This seems like something that, at best, will only take the friend further down the road of involvement where she does not need to be involved. Bob and/or Bob’s doctor should determine whether he needs to avoid being around other people. As with health issues in general, I would assume that Bob knows what’s best for him unless he explicitly asks for advice.

      1. Bigglesworth*

        I was hoping that by reading this resource that the friend would realize she could actually be less involved (i.e. Not coming while ill instead of coming in after vomiting all night).

        And I was speaking from my own personal experience living around and working wth people who had cancer and were going through chemo. You are right that it should be his and his doctor’s prerogative as to whether or not he should be around very sick people while going through chemo. However, my experiences have shown that the doctors of my friends, family members, and coworkers have encouraged them all to avoid sick people. Perhaps not every doctor is like that, but it may be medical malpractice or negligence to recommend otherwise. I don’t know the laws surrounding doctor’s recommendations, but it might be something to consider.

        It’s not the coworker’s place to ask what the doctor recommends or try to figure out whether or not Bob actually has cancer. Absolutely. That said, I would be suspicious too in this situation due to Bob’s nonchalant attitude towards being around someone who is very ill when his reasoning for accommodations is directly linked to his chemo. Additionally, Bob already has a history of unethical conduct (i.e. stealing things from the workplace). What I would do in the coworker’s shoes would be to brig up the stealing to management and then let management know that I can’t come in when sick any longer and let them figure out how to get his accommodations met (if for no other reason than catching my illness would cause Bob’s death and then I would have to live with that). This would let me leave my suspicions at the workplace door so to speak and deal with the underlying issues as I see them to be – inability to trust a coworker and delaying a full recovery of my own health issues.

  4. Amber T*

    Argh, this sucks for your friend, and is well past her own responsibilities. If you have a terminally ill employee, you can’t have laid back management, you need to have a management team that’s planning and figuring out what’s going happen… including what should happen when there’s a (temporarily) sick second employee!

    Bob… may or may not be a problem. I knew someone who faked a lot of stuff, so I have an unhealthy level of skepticism, but I also have a parent who had cancer (and is now thankfully cancer free) and was accused of faking it, and that hurt runs deep. But your friend definitely has a management problem. Her boss sucks.

    1. OP HERE!*

      I agree that management definitely hasn’t thought this through. I haven’t worked in retail since I was a teen so I’m not sure the norms but when I did work it, I remember it was very dysfunctional surrounding scheduling.

  5. The Person from the Resume*

    Just yes. Your friend is taking on too much of the responsibility for maintaining this situation herself. Do what she needs to do (like stay home after a night of throwing up) and make her manager/employer find another person come in short notice if it’s necessary.

    1. epi*

      Exactly this. If the store management agreed to *never* have Bob work alone, it’s on the friend’s boss to figure out who will work with Bob when people are sick. Scheduling and making sure there is coverage is management’s job.

    2. Annoyed*

      This. This is absolutely management’s problem.

      Bob really has cancer and needs someone with him at all times, management needs to figure out an accommodation or else it’s an undue hardship and he gets let go (lawyer time!), but it is not on the OP’s friend to even need to worry about Bob or his health and/or work issues.

      I know that sounds cold, but iften times we, especially women take on way, way, way more than our responsibility, particularly around labor/emotional labor. If being “cold” is what it takes to not be unduly burdened…so be it

  6. My job is EPIC*

    My first thought was that if he in currently going through chemo he shouldn’t be around someone who is sick. His immune system is compromised and he could become really ill!!

    1. Genuinely wondering*

      Please nobody jump on me for asking this, but whenever people say that in this situation you should stay home to protect the immuno compromised person – why is it not recommended that they stay home to reduce the risk of being exposed to infections?

      1. JokeyJules*

        I think it is recommended that people who are immuno-compromised to stay home. The general public isn’t immuno-compromised so we might not hear that side as much. Good point to remember though!
        I had a woman fighting cancer who worked from home as much as possible to avoid contact with germs, viruses, and infections, but there were times that she absolutely had to be in the office. So the office rule was to help everyone (especially her), stay home if you are sick and keep the germs away.

      2. Lance*

        Honestly, I’m not sure there’s any single good answer to this. As I see it, if there’s chance of contagion in general, it may be better for the sick person to stay home (and also, the fact that they’re temporarily sick in the first place); outside that, though, I don’t really have an answer beyond ‘it depends’.

      3. CDM*

        Because immunocompromised persons have lives and bills to pay and errands to run and school to attend and children to pick up. Why should they have to stay home because someone who knows they are contagious believes their wants and needs should take a higher priority?

        Plus, there’s no public warning system to send a phone alert to immunocompromised perople when someone decides it’s okay to take their kid with chicken pox into the pharmacy for “just a minute.” Depending on the kindness of others to warn you when they have exposed an immunocompromised person to a significant illness is not particularly successful.

        Immunocompromised people are your neighbors, your co-workers, your kids’ schoolmates. They aren’t always visible, walk into our local elementary school and try to pick out which kid out of 400 has the liver transplant, which one the heart transplant, which one leukemia and which one cystic fibrosis. Should they stay home from school all winter so other parents can send their sick kids to school?

        It’s common courtesy for EVERYONE for people with contagious illnesses to stay home and not knowingly spread their bacteria and virus willy-nilly to the infants, to the elderly, to anyone.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Look, I’m immuno-compromised, and I don’t think it’s realistic to expect everyone with contagious illnesses to stay home, even though it would be preferable from a public health standpoint.

          For the same reasons you’ve described, people who are economically vulnerable often have to work when they are sick because they (1) cannot afford otherwise; and/or (2) would lose their job if they took leave. The problem isn’t individual behavior; it’s a system [of employment and healthcare] that doesn’t provide adequate protections for workers (and members of the public) who are ill.

          1. caryatis*

            Well, and even people who have adequate sick leave are not going to want to use a week of it up just for a cold.

          2. Observer*

            It’s also not just about inadequate sick leave. It’s rarely possible to truly quarantine people who are contagious, which is why it needs government intervention AND assistance to manage, and it’s reserved for major public safety issues.

            To take the example given – you’re home with a sick kid and you need food or medicine, and there is no one to deliver. What choice do you have but to take the sick kid to the store. And, you’re the one who is sick and don’t have someone to run errands for you, what are you supposed to do?

        2. Emi.*

          Sick persons have lives and bills to pay and errands to run and school to attend and children to pick up too. Do I *want* to come to work with a cold? Hell no. Can I afford to stay home for two weeks three times every winter and twice in the summer? Also no. So for now I’ll have to stick with Purell.

        3. professor*

          I’m immuno-compromised too, and yeah, try not to go to work sick (but then, our sick leave policies suck), but really…sick people need to go to the doctor and buy themselves food too (especially if they live alone and have to go themselves). Not to mention people are contagious before they know they are sick quite often. It’s on us to protect ourselves…

        4. Temperance*

          I’m saying this as a person with a somewhat weak immune system: what will make me sick vs. the vast majority of other people is pretty minor. So sure, I wish my colleagues didn’t bring colds to work because I’ll develop bronchitis, and maybe I’ll side eye, but it’s my problem, not theirs.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Why are folks jumping on this question, construing it in the most unfavorable light, and suggesting that Genuinely wondering is recommending firing someone or having that person not earn an income?

        For many folks seeking ADA accommodation for cancer, staying home (and working from home) is a fairly common accommodation. Telework may not be feasible in this scenario, but it doesn’t mean that Genuinely wondering is idly staring at the clouds wondering why Bob isn’t foregoing a salary or paid leave benefits.

        1. CDM*

          Well, narrowly applying it to just the letter situation, Genuinely is asking why Bob shouldn’t have to miss a day of retail work so that vomiting all night co-worker can work instead. Which places the immunocompromised employee squarely in second-class employee territory.

          More broadly, not all immunocompromised people are elderly or middle aged people with resources. Not all have cancer. Not all are disabled, let alone covered by the ADA.

          If an immunocompromised person has the ability to and chooses to work from home, that’s great. Some of them may not want to. Some may not want to disclose their private medical information. Telling an immunocompromised person that they need to stay home so coworkers can work while sick is hugely problematic. While having contagious employees stay home improves the health of everyone in the workplace.

          1. Observer*

            Some may not want to disclose their private medical information.

            Sorry, you don’t get to create problems for people because you don’t want to disclose relevant information.

            While having contagious employees stay home improves the health of everyone in the workplace.

            Not necessarily true. What is a problem for someone who is immunocompromised is different from what will be a problem for people who are not.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              relevant information =/= private medical information

              people have a right to keep details of their medical situations to themselves

              1. Observer*

                In the context that CDM posits, no. You don’t get to force people to take time off that they wouldn’t have to, because you don’t want to tell your boss that you need to reduce your time in the office.

      5. epi*

        One reason is that, as we get better at keeping people alive and functioning with chronic diseases, the prevalence of immunodeficiency is increasing. People with serious illnesses that might have died or been severely limited in their daily activities may now live active lives for years. Some common examples are HIV/AIDS, organ and tissue transplantation, and cancer. If a person with an immune deficiency can expect to live for years at a pretty high level of function, they are going to want (and probably need) to work, run their own errands, and have a social life outside the home. As a result, you’re very likely to share space with someone with some degree of immune compromise, because they make up an increasingly large share of the people doing all the same things you do!

        A person whose immune system is compromised may be in that state for weeks, months, years, or the rest of their life. So it may not be reasonable to expect them to always stay home. In contrast, having a contagious disease is temporary and most people would like to stay home to recover if possible. Plus, walking around with a contagious disease potentially hurts everyone around you, including those with healthy immune systems. This is why removing barriers and penalties to staying home when you’re sick– such as lack of universal paid leave– is an important public health policy goal in the US.

      6. HR Newbie*

        There are varying degrees of this. My brother is a transplant recipient and as such will always be immuno compromised. He needs to be to Immunosupression drugs in order to keep their body from fighting off the new organ. He can’t spend his whole life avoiding work, errands, and socialization because there’s a chance someone is sick. It’s always a risk, but he relies on people also helping to mitigate that risk by not coming into work when they’re contagious and he’s forced to share a space or interact with them.

      7. Annoyed*

        I am immunocompromised. I stay home/WFH if it’s not impossible. You’d think being the owner it would always be an option but unfortunately it’s not.

        That said I don’t want people at work if they are ill: for me, coworkers, clients, and *themselves.*

        You are sick? Rest. Calll me later to update me. We will survive you not being here for a day or so.

        And yeah I pay when people are off legit sick. So far no one’s bullshitted me as far as I can tell. They’ve all been with me for years.

        My big thing: be honest. Cant wrap your head around working today? We can deal with that. Don’t pretend you have X if you just need a day at the beach. I get it (trust me!) and I’d rather that than a lie.

        But I do realize that not all (most?) employers embrace my way of thinking.

  7. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

    Bob sounds like a real treat, but I think you can ignore the “Bob has a chronic illness” issue and focus on “Bob’s behavior is massively inconveniencing your friend and not at all her problem” issue. It matters not why Bob behaves how he does, merely that it’s a problem for management and not for your friend.

    1. JokeyJules*

      exactly. Whether he is faking it or not is moot. Thats a personal annoyance thing when it comes to workplace interactions.
      If Bob says he has cancer, then interact with him professionally and as respectfully to what his announced medical condition requires. That especially means staying home when you are sick.

          1. JokeyJules*

            Bob isn’t a manager, Bob doesn’t cut the checks, so Bob insisting she comes in means nothing.

    2. Snark*

      Absolutely. Bottom line, she needs to go to her boss, discuss this with them, and reach an agreement on her hours. A coworker cannot dictate the hours you work. If Bob is genuinely worried he’ll keel over – snrk – then that’s a problem he needs to bring to his boss. If Bob wants someone else to blame for shrinkage, well, that’s also a problem for the boss. But this is not OP’s problem to solve.

    3. Myrin*

      Yes, I agree. I honestly found this letter a bit all over the place and was quite confused after finishing it – there’s a huge focus on speculation about the veracity of Bob’s illness but the meat of the question is actually a completely different problem (the one Alison’s answer focused on). Not to criticise the OP – we’ve seen time and again that it’s really not that easy to write a cohesive, concise, yet containing-all-necessary-information letter to an advice column, especially when you’re talking about a problem that isn’t even your own, but I got the feeling that OP’s friend thinks there’s some other reason Bob wants her to stay (like he’s bored, he’s lazy, he carries a torch for her, etc.), and I’m not quite seeing what’s up with that.

      1. Biff*

        I feel like the letter is all over the place because the LW is struggling to put their finger on what’s wrong, only that they know something is.

      2. Mad Baggins*

        Yes, I think LW’s friend is just plain worried. What if Bob isn’t actually sick and is just a weirdo? What if Bob isn’t actually sick and is setting up an elaborate scheme to frame coworker for his thefts? What if Bob is sick and is stealing from the store to support himself and if coworker reports that she will look insensitive?

        I can see how this would be distressing to LW & friend, but at the end of the day coworker doesn’t need to speculate or get involved. “Sorry, Bob, I’m sick, I can’t come in.” Then redial manager and say “Hey I’m sick, can’t come in.” Stop reporting to Bob and let management handle it. If they won’t then wash your hands of it, it’s not your job to babysit Bob and if he collapses it’s not your fault or responsibility.

    4. Antilles*

      Agreed. Whether Bob is completely inventing a diagnosis, exaggerating his condition, or staring death in the face…none of that actually matters to what OP’s friend should do. Her response is the exact in all those Bob situations: (a) Tell your boss that Bob wants a second person there at all times and let them figure out how to handle it and (b) Take your own sick leave and vacation whenever you want/need it.

      1. Annoyed*

        Actually telling the boss that Bob wants a second person thete at all times isnt OP’s friend’s responsibility at all either. Bob can do his own talking to management about that.

        Friend’s only responsibility is to notify management when she is going to be out sick/coordinate vacation and PTO as needed.

  8. Cordoba*

    I’m not a doctor, but I suspect that if Bob has Stage 4 cancer it’s probably not a great idea for him to spend all day sitting next to a person who may have the flu or something else contagious.

    1. samiratou*

      That was my thought, too, but who knows?

      Either way, Alison’s advice is spot-on, and LW’s friend needs to make sure Bob’s accommodations stay on her employer, not on Friend.

  9. CaliCali*

    Resisting the urge to get all advice-column fanfic about this (because who knows what’s actually going on with Bob), I think whatever his angle, he’s making your friend feel guilty about even making it a management problem — which she shouldn’t be — and using that to get away with his unreasonable demands. Even if he’s being 100 percent honest about his health, it’s still not any sort of error on her part to rope management in.

    Although I do wonder if part of her worry is that management will agree with Bob just to cover their own @$$es…in which case, she really just needs to look for a new job.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Agreed. OP’s friend needs to be able to take sick leave, and it’s the employer’s responsibility to figure out the accommodation. The current set up is not reasonable, practically or legally.

      So OP’s friend has a few options on how to proceed. First is letting go of the guilt—this is not her circus, and she should not take on the burden of managing the monkeys. Second, she can suggest the employer hire an on-call temp to cover scenarios like this. Third, she can recommend the employer undertake the iterative process with Bob, and to seek an attorney’s advise during that process.

      There are also valid policy arguments. As others have noted, you cannot have someone sick around someone with cancer who is immune-compromised. And if the staffing is this thin, the ADA may not even apply to the employer.

      1. Observer*

        You are right that ADA may not apply. What may apply, though, are local sick leave laws. In many areas those laws cover quite small companies, so a set up that effectively denies her sick leave would be illegal in those places.

        OP, it’s worth your while to ind out what rules apply where your friend works.

      2. Annoyed*

        If its a small store that’s part of a larger chain, ergo many, many employees overall, doesn’t ADA, etc. still apply?

    2. Snark*

      “get all advice-column fanfic”

      FETCH IS A THING!!! :D

      Agreed, and not just because you verbed my coinage. This is a management problem. Dealing with schedules is a thing of bosses.

  10. chrome ate my username*

    This is absolutely the kind of situation that happens in workplaces that deliberately under-staff. The staff begin to feel a loyalty to their coworkers, and the customers, that they be present so as to “avoid creating extra work” for a single staff person, and to avoid service disruptions to customers, especially if the business is one that has many regulars, like a gym. Everyone is acting not in loyalty to the business, or to the job, but to the other people who are left in the lurch when they’re sick or have an emergency. Managers exploit this, ex: how could you leave Bob hanging like that, you know he has cancer? Rather than understanding that it is their job to correctly budget, hire, and schedule staff because people are not robots and will become ill or otherwise have days when they cannot come in.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I don’t think there are any leaps? chrome is offering their perspective and experience to allow OP to view this through a different lens, not arguing that this is 100% what’s happening to OP’s friend.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Again, I don’t think chrome is arguing that OP’s friend works under the conditions described. They’re offering a potential analogue to help reframe the issues for OP’s friend, who sounds like she’s internalized a lot of guilt and may be feeling coerced.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            If they don’t have enough people to have somebody fill in when this happens, they are understaffed. The place I worked before Current Job had enough people to cover . . . assuming nobody was ill or needed day off. Then the whole schedule got torpedoed and people got guilt-tripped about not coming to work. And while they may not be thinking “we are going to minimally staff this joint!” , if they don’t have a backup plan to cover, even if it just means the owners might have to work some extra time, they are actively not remedying the situation.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                It can be typical and still be understaffed, which is what chrome is describing.

                1. N*

                  That is what I meant. Having scheduled just enough staff to handle things provided they all are there, rather than scheduling enough to handle contingencies.

            1. SarahTheEntwife*

              Yeah, it *could* just be a perfect storm of Susan can’t work Wednesdays and Robin is on vacation that week, but given how common this is in retail environments, it isn’t much of a job at all.

            1. Emi.*

              Although it sounds like except for the Bob Issue, one absence doesn’t actually need to be covered.

            2. Colette*

              I’m not sure there’s a good way to handle that, though.

              They have enough work for 3 people. Do they:
              1) Hire a 4th person for the odd time someone needs to be off, and only those hours?
              2) Hire a 4th person and cut everyone else’s hours to 3/4 of what they were?
              3) Hire a 4th person and pay someone to not work, or to do less work so that everyone keeps the same hours, even if it makes the business unviable?
              4) Expect people to work alone instead of in pairs when necessary?

              The thing is, businesses with a small number of employees are going to have times when no one is available to cover. If 2 people are scheduled on a holiday or long weekend, it’s entirely possible the other 2 will already have other plans that they can’t change at the last minute. It’s up to management to deal with those situations, and the OP’s friend needs to start letting it be their problem instead of hers.

              1. AMT*

                5) Have a couple of people they can call in for the odd shift when there’s no full-time employee to cover? There are plenty of students and people with part-time jobs willing to pick up a few bucks here and there. This is also common in healthcare—a lot of people who work full-time have per diem jobs on their off days where they’re only called in if someone calls out.

                1. Annoyed*

                  Also the manager could cover… Anyone remember the woman wanting to go to her own college graduation and be late for a couple hours…not a whole day just a couple hours?

                  The manager refused instead of stepping up himself…

                2. WS*

                  +1. I run a small business. We have several employees (all parents of small kids) who aren’t able to work full-time but can work regularly part-time plus covering days for other employees when necessary. Sometimes it takes a bit of juggling (because if you need someone urgently they have to organise childcare/grandparents/travel/etc.) but being flexible and helpful when they have emergencies mean they are going to try their best to be flexible and helpful when other people have emergencies. It can’t just be one way!

                3. Colette*

                  That’s scenario 1 – and I doubt there are a lot of people lining up to take a job that they will typically be called for at the last minute, so that they can never make plans.

                4. bonkerballs*

                  No, those people can make all the plans they want. I used to work at a preschool and that’s basically the substitute position. It was mostly college kids or people with other part time jobs who were looking to pick up some extra cash. So they get hired as subs and tell us I’m typically available Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Then when a teacher calls out sick on Thursday you call the sub. The sub says yes, I’ll be there! Or they say, sorry won’t be able to make it, I have a doctor’s appointment. And then you move on and call the next sub.

        1. Colette*

          I don’t see any indication in the letter that management is accusing the OP’s friend of leaving Bob hanging, understaffing, or otherwise exploiting the OP’s friend’s loyalty. It doesn’t sound like 2 people is usually a problem, and it’s not clear that the friend tried to call in sick and was told to come in because Bob. It sounds like she’s taking the responsibility on herself, without management even being aware that there’s an issue.

          1. Kella*

            I think chrome was describing the larger context for this kind of issue in retail. Not all of those factors might be in play for this particular situation, but they are all really really common in retail jobs where there’s a small staff. It would help explain why OP’s friend felt so obligated to come in to work even though Bob isn’t her superior *and* it would help address that saying “this isn’t your problem” isn’t always enough.

            1. Izzy*

              Agreed – it’s a very common situation in shift-based service jobs like retail, hospitality etc, certainly all the ones I’ve ever worked in small businesses. Intellectually you are aware that ensuring coverage is your boss’s problem and not yours; practically you know that if you do not go in to work today, *somebody* will have to either do a shift by themselves or come in on a day off and most people don’t want to subject coworkers they like to that. (Or worse, your boss will have to cover you or even close the business until they can get someone in and will DEFINITELY be unhappy about that.)

              Management doesn’t have to actively be exploiting their employees for the sense of obligation to occur* – the nature of the job is such that workers will basically police themselves. This is especially likely when there’s something really emotive like “but Bob has cancer!” at play – even given a weird situation like this one, who wants to be the person that leaves the guy with cancer to close up by himself?

              *although they definitely can do – “oh, you’re sick? I guess I’ll call in Dave… on his day off… I know he was really looking forward to it… but if you’re REALLY THAT SICK…”

              1. Fish Microwaver*

                I agree. My office mostly only has enough staff to cover so anyone calling out is missed. We have all been there when staffing was dire and don’t want to subject each other to it.

      2. LCL*

        Leaps? My pulled out of thin air estimate, because I’m not going to back and count them, is that AT LEAST a quarter of the letters to this blog are a variant of my workplace conditions are terrible but I fear doing anything will make conditions worse for my coworkers. CAMU has got it exactly right regarding how understaffing affects workers, and why they won’t tell management to go to hell when asked to do something unreasonable because they don’t want to hurt their coworkers.

    1. ItsNan*

      How could I leave Bob hanging? Well, I thought my heart attack was more important at that very moment. I also figured you wouldn’t want a law suit when I died because you wouldn’t let me leave. I also wasn’t sure if my dead body counted as companionship for Bob or not.

    2. Dr. Pepper*

      Deliberate or not, it does sound like the place is understaffed. I’ve been in situations like this, where you do develop loyalty to your coworkers because there’s only a small number of people to do a lot of work. So you try to cooperate together to get things done and boundaries get blurred when you’re torn between taking care of your own needs and not leaving your coworker(s) in the lurch with ALL the work to do. It’s easy to get stuck in that mindset, especially if management is very hands off and basically the only message you get from them is “get the work done, or else”.

      1. hermy-one*

        My first job was like this. I remember doing a lot of schedule somersaulting to accommodate other staff and my boss at a family-run franchise. She had a ton of boundary issues in retrospect, but she was also really nice to me (and I think pretty insecure in her role, since we were both in our early twenties and VERY new to the work world, and she was trying to cultivate her reputation as “boss” and prove herself to her parents), so I put up with a lot more than I should have because we were a small, close-knit family establishment. I can see something similar happening in OP’s friend’s situation.

        (So glad I’m in a completely different work environment now, btw.)

    3. teclatrans*

      Yes, I was wondering about this.

      And it would also help explain friend’s overinvestment in determining whether or not Bob is actually sick (quick note, OP, your friend should stop grilling him about white counts); it sounds like uncovering a deceitful plot is the only recourse friend thinks she has in this situation. She might be right (esp. if this is a dysfunctional small business situation), or she might be drawing the wrong conclusions from other life situations, but in any event, Allison’s advice helps cut through all this. (And if taking the problem to management and putting it on their shoulders results in them telling her it’s actually her burden to shoulder? Then she should be actively, energetically searching for another job.)

      1. OP HERE!*

        They are and have always been understaffed. They hire from Craigslist and don’t do a lot of vetting and she says it’s hard for them to gain and keep staff. She has worked there for 5+ years and they have been consistently understaffed. Management is aware that Bob says he can’t be alone. It seemed like they notified staff that he couldn’t be alone. I think they totally would have given a side comment of: “How could you leave Bob alone?” (before it was revealed he was stealing).

        1. Observer*

          It doesn’t really change much – she still needs to push back on management. Not in “Well, maybe Bob’s not sick” but in “When I’m his sick I can’t come in and you’ll just need to figure something out.”

          The other thing I’d add is that your friend needs to start jab searching. It sounds like an exploitative environment, and it also seems to be warping her sense of what is appropriate to ask of coworkers.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          So it sounds like she has two ways forward: (1) Assert her right to take sick leave, and (2) leave a bad workplace that sets coworkers up in an understaffed, Lord of the Flies situation.

          Management sending the notice about Bob could mean that they needed other people on the floor to be aware that he shouldn’t be alone. Or it could have meant “so we’ll always deny your sick leave requests.” But right now, your friend doesn’t know which version is going to transpire, because she hasn’t taken this up with management. Bob can’t change his medical needs, even if your coworker believes he’s being dishonest about those needs. But management can and should do something, and if they choose not to, that’s another reason to leave for a better employer.

        3. Bagpuss*

          I think the answer to “How could you leave Bob aloine?” is “I didn’t have any choice,. I was too sick to come in.” (And possibly, if applicable, “I called you / line manager to let you know so you could arrange cover”

  11. MuseumChick*

    Wow, I will say, I highly suspect Bob is lying but that doesn’t really help how your friend handles this. As others have said, if he is going through chemo he is autoimmune compromised and he should not be around anyone who is sick. I think that is how your friend should approach this.

    It would be so hard for me to not causally being up with my boss how strange it is Bob doesn’t know who shouldn’t be around sick people while he is on chemo. But this is a bite your tongue situation.

    1. Jupiter*

      His word should really be taken that he is ill. Not everyone with cancer presents the same for a variety of reasons. You never want to assume, and in a situation like this it is crucial. This is a manager issue and a manger should be calling the shots. This is when he friend needs to speak with mamagement for guidance on what to do. It is up to them to determine the legitimacy of an illness and if any accommodations will be made.

  12. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Perhaps Bob is “unable to answer questions” because it is rude for his colleagues to ask them and he is deflecting. Perhaps Bob is eating raw fish and junk food and drinking beer because he likes it and he is terminally ill so why shouldn’t he indulge?

    Ultimately none of this matters because your friend needs to address this issue with her manager. If Bob is not in a position of authority, he cannot insist she come to work ill. When your friend speaks with her manager though, she needs to focus on the specific, actionable work related issues as they relate to her. Which means that unless she personally witnessed Bob stealing things, it’s also not her place to bring that up.

    1. ItsNan*

      Yeah, I find asking Bob about his white counts a bit (read: a whole lot) intrusive. If I was getting ready to die, I’d be loading up on wine, chocolate, and bacon guacamole burgers, so we are we to judge Bob about beer and sushi?

      1. Meow Yorker*

        Count me in on that same boat. It’s an understandable sentiment, maybe, when the friend feels like she has to bend over backwards to accommodate Bob’s needs at work, but trying to determine if he is faking it or not through “gotcha!” questions isn’t healthy for the friend, either. Like Alison says, I’d focus on putting the boss and the company back on the hook for Bob’s accommodation.

      2. Amber Rose*

        When my grandpa was dying, all he ate was fruit pie. It was the only thing he could manage, and since he had no chance of survival, he was basically told to eat all the pie, since it would be some nutrition at least and it was better than suffering from starvation on top of cancer.

        Aside from the extreme weight loss at the end, he looked pretty good too. He went on long walks with me nearly every day when he visited.

    2. LCL*

      OP doesn’t go into how her friend knows Bob is stealing things. But it is the reasonable and right course of action to report you suspect someone of stealing things from a small shop. Friend shouldn’t make any false or unproveable accusations. But it is right for friend to report if something was there when she left but disappeared when Bob was there. Or if Bob was seen with something reported missing. Friend doesn’t have to have witnessed anything, but does have to give true evidence. It is up to management to decide what to with the accusations.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        The “recently come to learn” phrasing implied to me that she heard it from someone else. And quite frankly, with the sheer amount of what amounts to nasty gossip portrayed in the letter, I’m not inclined to believe it’s accurate.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Eh, I very well might phrase it that way if my knowledge of a coworker was stealing circumstantial, even if I had enough evidence that I was 100% confident in my conclusion, but I hadn’t actually witnessed Bob deliberately stuff a pair of khakis under his sweater and walk out the door. She might have heard it from someone else, but you can’t really go off that wording alone.

    3. Dragoning*

      Yes, I’m curious about the environment that considers that a “casual question.” It’s weirdly invasive, and not having cancer myself, I’d have no idea what it means if he answered it anyway.

    4. Essess*

      That was my immediate gut reaction too. Any coworker of mine that started asking for my test result numbers would be getting “I don’t know” from me, accompanied by a facial expression that the question was really out of bounds.

    5. Persimmons*

      My curiosity is peaked by this set of facts, because it seems that Bob is unwilling to offer medical info, yet does volunteer diet info. If coworker is not friendly with Bob, how does she know he eats raw fish and drinks beer unless he talks about it? (I certainly hope coworker isn’t observing him consuming alcohol on the job.) What is the context of why Bob shared that? So many questions.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        You don’t see the difference between mentioning that you went to [local well known sushi restaurant] for dinner and providing personal health information?

      2. Baby Fishmouth*

        It’s fairly common for people to discuss what they did last night, or what they did on the weekend, and not discuss their white blood cell counts. Bob also might be eating sushi for lunch, or they might be going out for drinks after work. There’s a huge difference between medical info, and casual information about what you do outside work.

    6. It's Pronounced Bruce*

      Yeah, you better believe that I don’t wanna answer people’s questions about my illness either. I’ll mention it when it’s something I’m open to mentioning but other than that, I’m not gonna disclose anything. Especially not things like my lab values, what in the hell? If someone asked me that I’d probably make a weird face, too.

      “If you’re really sick then why are you doing [thing]” is a pretty common line and the usual answer is that sick people are also human and need to get pleasure from the same places as anyone. Sometimes we break our diets or do activities that will make us feel worse later because you gotta live while you’re alive sometimes. That goes extra for folks who are at the point of discontinuing care for a terminal illness.

      1. Decima Dewey*

        Once a clueless coworker was rambling on about his mother’s diabetes in the lunchroom and asked if I knew what my A1c was. (He knows I’m diabetic). I told him “Yes” and went back to reading my book

    7. MillersSpring*

      Hear, hear. It is ridiculously rude and intrusive to ask someone their numbers: weight, cholesterol, white count, etc.

    8. Delphine*

      I agree. It’s incredibly unkind and I’m sure that I would also develop a “facial tick” if my coworkers were rude enough to interrogate me for details about my terminal illness.

  13. MechanicalPencil*

    Friend is assuming way too much guilt and worry here about Bob and his situation. She needs to be worrying about herself and her health as well.

  14. Rusty Shackelford*

    Yeah, your friend is talking to the wrong person. If she’s too sick to work, she needs to talk to her own manager, not Bob. Bob doesn’t get to instruct her to be his accommodation.

    (And I wasn’t sure if he actually quit chemo or if his doctor just said he might as well quit, but if he’s still on it… this is raising all kinds of red flags.)

  15. ItsNan*

    I don’t see this as much different than places that staff 2 people for safety reasons. Middle of the night staffing at gas stations and convenience stores, for example. If someone gets sick or has an emergency, they have to go. Sorry, Bob, my burst appendix says I need to go, I can’t stay here in case you maybe possibly pass out.

    While I’m sympathetic to Bob’s situation, he needs to have the same sympathy for others.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      “While I’m sympathetic to Bob’s situation, he needs to have the same sympathy for others.”


  16. Amber Rose*

    Friend is not responsible for managing Bob’s illness, whether he’s sick or not. That’s his manager’s problem. Any accommodations for illness must come from the company, not just from random other employees at Bob’s discretion. That’s not how that law works.

    Speculation on lying or not should be halted immediately. It doesn’t matter, and it’s a seriously bad, uncool habit to start questioning other people’s word on their own health. That doesn’t mean letting them push you around, but that and the health thing (and the stealing thing) are totally separate issues and should be dealt with as such.

    1. debonairess*


      Whether Bob is “really” ill or not is not the issue and possibly obscuring it. How would any of us react if we knew we were suffering from terminal cancer and there was nothing more that medical intervention could offer? For those of us who are lucky enough not to be in that situation, all we can do is to remain thankful and kind and try not to judge others who report being in that place.

      The real issue is that (a) you call in sick to your manager, not your co-worker, and if your manager needs to find someone else for the shift, that is their job, not yours; and (b) if you suspect your co-worker of stealing, that is something you should be flagging with management.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Totally agreed. Whether Bob is lying about his diagnosis (and I certainly hope he isn’t, because it would make him a disturbed and craven person), this is not OP’s friend’s problem to manage. And if I were her, I would approach the problem with the assumption that Bob isn’t lying, as it might help her reframe her concerns so that she doesn’t appear callous. It sounds like Bob is becoming her BEC—he doesn’t have to be a bad person for this set-up to be a problem.

      1. Frank Doyle*

        (and I certainly hope he isn’t, because it would make him a disturbed and craven person)

        It would also make him not dying of cancer, though, so there would be that.

      2. JB (not in Houston)*

        I totally agree about the BEC thing. What’s going on is a very common and very human reaction. The OP’s friend feels like she has no choice but to give in to Bob’s demands, even when she herself is sick, which if true would not be fair, and that unfairness is coloring how she sees Bob and the situation. It makes her more inclined to blame Bob for her feelings and see everything he does through the lens of that blame, so it makes sense she thinks he might be faking (by “makes sense,” I don’t mean it’s logical, I mean that when people feel they are being treated unfairly, and the see one person as the source of that unfairness, they will often see that person in the worse possible light). Of course, OP’s belief is inaccurate, and Alison gives her some good advice on that. Hopefully reading Alison’s response and the comments will make her step back and see what she’s doing here.

  17. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    Having someone work who has throwing up all night is not okay. What if she passed it on to customers? What if she had been dehydrated and passed out at work? Yes, what I just mentioned is all speculation. But this could all be a liability issue and management needs to be involved.

    Your friend needs to leave Bob’s cancer diagnosis out of it (as well as how he acts and what he eats), report the stealing, and work with management to come up with a better solution than working after throwing up all night.

  18. Katie the Fed*

    I wonder if Bob would have the same requirement for a male coworker to be there with him, or just your friend. Something is off here, and managers need to MANAGE.

    1. irene adler*

      Exactly. Why is it even OP’s friend’s concern?
      Management needed to attend to the man’s ADA issue from the first day he notified them of it. They should have had a plan in place should co-worker call in sick.
      Course, maybe their plan was, if co-worker contacted manager because she’s not going to show up for her shift, then they handle the situation themselves. Which won’t work if co-worker never contacts management.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      Or perhaps, as Snark suggested above, he’s setting her up to be the fall guy for his thefts…

      (If he’s faking the cancer – and the diet isn’t much of an indicator here but the lack of concern for contagion is a red flag – it could well be an attempt to garner sympathy in case he’s suspected or caught.)

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        (OP’s friend should certainly not accuse Bob of faking the cancer! It would be horribly unkind if he isn’t faking, which he probably isn’t.)

  19. epi*

    The OP and their friend should just quit speculating about whether Bob really has cancer. It’s ignorant and cruel.

    I am a cancer researcher and have worked directly with pediatric cancer patients in the past. Tons of people who have cancer, have a family member with cancer, or are at high risk of a particular cancer do not have a sophisticated understanding of cancer. There are tons of appointments and technical details to remember or not remember, to understand or not understand, and they are really none of anyone else’s business anyway. The appropriate treatment for different types and stages of cancer varies a lot, and there is no way for an outsider to know how Bob should be spending his time or managing his health– even assuming he is getting and complying with an optimal treatment plan, which many people don’t.

    There is no need to pry into other people’s health or perpetuate unkind myths about what cancer is like and how people with cancer should behave. No, the OP’s friend shouldn’t be required to come to work when she is sick; no, stealing from work is not OK. No diagnosis needed.

    1. Avid reader infrequent commenter*

      Agreed. One thing that stood out to me from the OP: ” I asked if he has supplied her company with a doctor’s note to confirm he needs accommodations. She says that her laid-back management takes his word for it.” That’s really not any of her business, and a good manager would not disclose this information to her. Let’s focus on what a reasonable accommodation is and put the question of whether he is or isn’t sick out of mind (which I do think the commenters and Allison have done a good job with so far!).

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It’s problematic, for sure. It sounds like OP feels that Bob is exploiting their friend, so they’ve decided Bob is a Bad Person to justify why their friend shouldn’t be exploited. And I don’t expect the friend to know whether Bob has provided a note or other confirmation of his diagnosis to management—that’s private health information that coworkers have no business knowing about, let alone speculating about.

        Bob’s behavior and health is frankly irrelevant to how the friend should navigate this situation. Fixating on whether he’s lying/stealing/cheating is unkind, uncharitable, and unnecessary.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            It sounds like that’s what happened. When OP provided additional details, it made more sense to report the theft. The letter makes it sound super speculative or like it’s the product of rumor.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Exactly. You’re being far more eloquent than I am because I just want to scream incoherently so I appreciate your comments all through this post and will likely bow out of it.

        2. epi*

          I agree. It is tempting to go down this road when you feel put upon by someone else, looking for reasons they are a bad person or their request is unreasonable. The letter is a good example of why you shouldn’t let yourself get into situations you resent– it lead here to some speculation that the OP would probably realize is very unkind in any other context.

          It’s not clear from the letter if the OP’s friend has ever tried just calling out when they are really sick. It doesn’t sound like their manager ever told them there were no emergencies allowed during Bob’s shifts. This is the manager’s job to fix, and staff should assume the manager will manage until proven otherwise.

    2. BookishMiss*

      Thank you so much for this. The number of comments speculating on or commenting on Bob’s illness is astounding, when really the diagnosis is a red herring.

    3. Mad Baggins*

      Thank you for this. I often see “well my so-and-so had cancer so I know xyz” when there are lots of kinds of cancer and lots of care plans and we really don’t know and it’s none of our business.

  20. Holly*

    I always preface by saying *you may have state/municipal laws that are stricter than the ADA*

    But yes, I’m not even sure that could be a reasonable accomodation, legally speaking, for others to come in even when sick. His purported condition might even mean he’s no longer able to fulfill his essential job duties, which comes into play. Either way, this is not your friend’s problem – your friend needs to hold firm and discuss what’s going on with management.

  21. Jane*

    It’s really uncool to have someone with a sickness–especially one that includes vomiting, those are so contagious usually!–to come into work and expose customers to the illness, regardless of whether or not Bob cares about his own exposure.

    I would put it to the manager and say “I was ill but Bob pressured me to come in anyway due to his condition. I don’t think this is good for our business or customers, not to mention unfair to me to have to come in when I was very ill. How should I handle this next time?”

    1. Gazebo Slayer*


      Public health is one of the many reasons we need adequate, well-enforced universal sick leave!

  22. KR*

    If Bob cannot be alone in case he falls suddenly ill, he should get a life alert button and/or keep his cell phone on him at all times with voice commands enabled. It doesn’t and shouldn’t fall to his coworker.

    1. pcake*


      Besides, his co-worker isn’t a doctor, EMT or other medical or emergency person. What is she supposed to do if Bob passes out, has a seizure or some other awful thing happens?

  23. Linzava*

    Ok, this one annoys me. My MIL just finished chemo and we had to be extra careful not to bring germs to her. A cold can kill a person on chemo.

    I also was defrauded years ago by a friend who “had cancer” because I didn’t know enough about cancer and treatment to know she was lying. People who are found out become social pariahs for good reason. They are willing to accept money and sympathy while the real cancer fighters are scared, suffering, and fighting for their lives. This friend received 7 months of free room and board and thousands of dollars from my family. When we found out, she moved on to the next chump and it took me a long time to heal from the betrayal.

    1. Owler*

      I had a friend in high school who claimed she had cancer (spoiler: she did not). It is so awful to be used by someone in that way, and I’m so sorry your friend took advantage of you.

      I hope you give yourself permission to be free of any guilt or anger that your friend took advantage of your kindness. I didn’t work through it, so when I ended up with cancer in my 30s, I had to deal with the grief that came with getting a stage III diagnosis and the anger that I got it and the person who pretended to get it did not.

  24. Bea*

    Well if he’s terminal, I can see why he’s like “Ef it, I’m drinking and eating whatever I want!”. So that’s not weird at all.

    However it’s absolutely ridiculous she can’t call in sick. Management can be as laid back as they want. One of them can cover her, that’s their job ffs! I would focus on their terrible management and leave the dying dude out of the mix.

  25. Les G*

    Far be it from me to tell anyone else how to run their website, but…this of all posts could really use the “no speculating please” sticky note at the top. Folks are doing whatever the opposite of armchair diagnosing is, and it’s a dang shame to see.

    1. Lilo*

      It is also entirely irrelevant to the question. Friend could get in massive trouble for saying Bob is taking. His cancer is not her business. It is her business how management expects her to handle her sick days.

    2. Bea*

      The whole tone of the letter is basically “He says he’s got cancer but idk if he’s really got cancer…” So the comments aren’t the problem IMO. This was out of control at the jump.

  26. Lilo*

    I have managed someone with a health accommodation and disability. The burden should always been on management to accommodate the disability, not a coworker. The employee I managed needed help typing and used a computer system, but sometimes his system would crash. It was my responsibility to contact IT and get it working as quickly as possible when he had trouble, and foisting it off in another employee would have been inappropriate.

    I see no difference here. Bob can’t work alone. That doesn’t mean the onus should be on your friend to come in sick or make sure he is covered. It is totally foreseeable for an employee to have to be out sick or for personal time. If he cannot be alone it is on management to have a backup plan and that management must implement it. Putting this burden on your friend is wholly inappropriate.

  27. Ok...*

    Speculating on cancer seems mighty inappropriate so I feel like that should probably stop.

    My brother has stage 4 (technically grade 4… staging isn’t used in his cancer) cancer and is considered terminal. He has stopped chemo because the utility is short lived and there’s no more it can do for him. However, he lives just like any other 20-something. Drinks, works, drives, eats junk food, goes to music festivals, etc… if you didn’t know he had it, you’d be pretty floored to find out. All things relative, his form of chemo wasn’t too hard to live with, even during high dose weeks. Like Bob, he likely has no idea what his white cell count is because he only has blood work done every few months. He also strongly dislikes being asked about his health by random associates, so he gets pretty cold when people ask invasive questions or coddle him or treat him like he’s on death’s door.

    Yes, Bob sounds like he sucks, and perhaps he is misunderstanding his doctor’s requests, or maybe he’s scared and vulnerable and unnecessarily needy, or maybe he’s lying. But I think expressing skepticism about something so serious is just in poor taste. As the coworker, I’d be pushing back against her manager, not against Bob.

    1. FortyTwo*

      All of what you said! I’m also stage 4 (breast cancer), and I can do quite a bit, too. I wrote my full take on this in a later comment.

    2. Bea*

      Thank you for sharing this. And so unbelievably sorry that your brother and family have to shoulder the vicious illness and meddlesome humans.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      So sorry about your brother. My family’s experience is the same. My dad declined treatments when he was 70 or 71, lived another four years, and none of the relatives suspected a thing. No one (myself included) knew he still had cancer, apart from my mom. He rode his bike all over town, mowed my lawn, did various projects around my house. I only started vaguely suspecting something in the last six or eight months, and only because I was around him all day and couldn’t help noticing the little things. Our large, extended family, who lives in the area and who saw him at family events and talked to him on the phone every week, had not the slightest idea. The reason he declined further treatments after the first one failed was that he said he wanted to keep his quality of life for however long he had.

    4. It's Pronounced Bruce*

      Yep yep yep.

      On that last note about not understanding doctor’s requests, Bob may be saying fishy sounding things because he doesn’t really understand exactly what’s going on. My dad had stage 4 cancer and was extremely health-illiterate. I had to talk to his doctors directly to get accurate info. He would mix up terms and give wildly contradictory information if I asked him what was going on. It wasn’t because he was trying to concoct some kind of elaborate ruse, it’s because he straight up didn’t know the right vocabulary. He thought he did, but he didn’t, and doctors are not typically great at accurately making sure their patients are really grasping what’s going on.

      I thought of this specifically because he told people he was going through chemo many times because he thought that was another name for the therapy he was getting. Spoiler, it wasn’t, and this really confused a lot of people and caused some shakeups at his job until it got cleared up. It only got cleared up because he told me about it and I explained it to him– it never got illuminated with any of his health care providers.

      And overall, people LOVE to scrutinize sick people at work. They love to squint at every thing that they do to catch them in a lie or determine whether or not they’re deserving of whatever because they saw them eating french fries once or whatever. Folks also love to insist that if you aren’t willing to give extremely personal detail to everyone you work with, it must be because you’re lying or hiding something. It seriously needs to stop, not least of all because the potential for Bob to be lying here is actually super irrelevant to the problem. Management has decided they want to have him paired with someone, so this person needs to talk to management about what to do when she needs to call in. Whatever else is going on with Bob here isn’t even relevant to her, this is about scheduling and it’s their management’s issue to solve.

  28. FortyTwo*

    If he’s not currently on chemo (that is, if he took his doctor’s comment to mean that he shouldn’t put his body through that much pain for no gain), then he might not look or act that sick. Most of the weakness people associate with cancer comes from the treatment—chemo is literally poison. It kills the cancerous cells, but causes a lot of collateral damage, typically in healthy cells that reproduce themselves quickly (as the targeting cancerous cells do). The hope is that the patient out-survives the cancer cells. So, if the doctor told him that he won’t outlive the cancer, then he may be deciding to make the rest of his short life as pleasant as possible. Sure, he may not seem sick, because the cancer itself may not be affecting his day-to-day functions—until the catastrophic day when it does.

    I have Stage 4 breast cancer, and I’ve been on chemo of various types (yes, there are many different kinds of chemo! It’s not just one thing!) for three and a half years. I’m currently on a rough one that initially gave me mouth sores and intestinal cramps before my oncologist and I found a dosage I can withstand. I’m only on it because it’s having an effect. If my oncologist told me that none of it was going to hold off the inevitable appreciably longer, I wouldn’t put my body through all this!

    Anyway, that’s why I don’t think, “He isn’t acting sick,” is enough to prove he’s lying. As for not knowing the numbers, maybe he doesn’t want to know at this point.

    1. Lilo*

      A guy in my office was dealing with Stage 4 lung cancer and died last year. He had a slightly off breathing that you could notice after a while but other than that, absolutely no external signs. People need to cut this out, it is cruel.

  29. What's with today, today?*

    This sounds like my former co-worker who said he was going to the doctor for a stomach bug, and then called in (to me) and said he was about to be wheeled back for an “immediate emergency colonoscopy.” I have Crohn’s disease. I have colonoscopies twice a year. I’ve had them while in ICU before. That’s not how they work, dude(He was really car shopping). He later got fired for faking a heart condition. That’s an even better (or worse) story, depending on how you look at it.

    1. What’s with today, today?*

      Having said that, I hadn’t considered any of the info the poster just above me provided. Maybe he’s really sick with cancer!

    2. Grapey*

      I actually had a blocked bile duct once and the doctor told me I needed an emergency endoscopy in the ER. Under pain meds, I incoherently and incorrectly told some family members I was getting a colonoscopy since I guess that was the only common “scope” procedure I had heard of. The nurse corrected me in the moment but the error isn’t as implausible as it seems on the face of it.

      1. What's with today, today?*

        I totally get what you are saying. In this particular instance, it was, in fact, a big fat (very coherent) lie.

  30. The Doctor*

    Am I the only one who is reminded of the letter about a coworker whose disability management “accommodated” by banning the letter writer from ever using vacation time or taking days off?

  31. Bagpuss*

    LW, I agree with the other posters. Your friend is not responsible for Bob’s accommodation. If she is sick, she’s sick. At most, she could speak to her own manager and ask whether, if the situation comes again, they want her to phone a manager as well as letting Bob know. But other than that, if the policy is that she calls the store, or that she calls Bob because he is sharing the shift, then she does that, and if he pressures her to go in any way, her response is “That won’t be possible. I am sick”.
    It may be that if the company has decided that Bob can’t work alone, that they will have to have a contingency plan in place, whether by changing his shifts so that he works at busier times, or by having a manager on call. After all, if Bob does have Stage 4 cancer, surely the risk that he may call in sick is fairly high, so they ought to have contingency plans for when that happens.

    Bob may have cancer and be worried about passing out. Bob may be lazy and not want to have to work single handed. Bob may be lonely and not want to work by himself. Or any combination of those, but that is not your friend’s problem to fix.

    I think Bob’s caginess about his illness is a bit of a red herring. It is possible that the whole thing is invented as a way to get sympathy, it’s also possible that Bob’s way of coping is to (mostly) pretend it isn’t happening, but again, that is not your friend’s business, or her problem to solve.

    The stealing is a separate issue, and your friend needs to report that. Quite apart from anything else, if she and Bob routinely work together, then if it is discovered, she may be in the frame herself. And Bob is caught and it came to light that she knew and said nothing, she may be fired too.

  32. LSP*

    Yeah, that as the biggest red flag for me that this guy may very well be lying about cancer. People going through chemo have extremely lowered (nearly nonexistent) immune systems, and it would be extraordinarily dangerous for them to work closely with someone who was actively sick (vomiting, coughing, running a fever).

    This is the reason kids fighting cancer cannot be vaccinated, because although vaccines help boost a person’s immune system, someone going through chemo has no immune system to boost, and would therefore become severely sick from the vaccines.

    My nephew died from cancer, as did my godmother, and the thought of anyone faking it (out of what? laziness in not wanting to work alone?) makes me see red! Report the stealing OP’s friend, and don’t let this guy dictate the terms of your employment.

  33. OP HERE*

    Hello all,
    I’m the OP for this one and haven’t had time to read all of the comments yet but I wanted to add a small update.
    My friend notified her boss about the stealing. I didn’t give details on that issue but they work at a shop where they buy teapots from people that bring them in and they resell for a profit. My friend had found that Bob had been pricing expensive teapots (although he didn’t have clearance to price items) at a very low price for the shop, he then would buy them for himself and sell online for a very large upcharge and profit. My friend had found his online website where he was selling the items. She said her boss was surprised and angry to hear this but believed her because she had never turned anyone in before and the evidence was clear on his personal website.

    As for Bob’s illness, I’m no doctor but as she explained Bob functions totally normal and goes on trips and eats whatever he wants including raw sushi, beer, alcohol, fatty foods, big ice creams etc. All I can say is that it sounded not typical of someone stage 4 of what I’ve seen. This is a job where he stands all day: think teapot boutique cashier. From what she explained no one at the shop likes to work alone sheerly because they feel it’s extremely boring without someone else there. Again, he had never shown any proof or anything so much as a doctor’s note. When she kept asking how chemo went, he finally replied that the doctors said there is nothing they can do so they’re stopping treatment. I’m unsure as of now has he been fired for the stealing yet.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Your entire second paragraph is unnecessary. It is not your or your friend’s place to judge how someone manages their illness (or if they are actually ill).

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I somewhat disagree. Because the managers are managing, Bob is making this the friend’s issue by using it to demand she stay at work with him. Yes, speculation is inappropriate, but it’s becoming her business because Bob is making it her business.

        1. Grapey*

          No, “I can’t stay, sorry” should be the extent of the friend’s issue with MANAGEMENT, not even with Bob.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          It doesn’t even say that management has explicitly made it a policy that Bob cannot work alone though. Just that *Bob* said it.

            1. Baby Fishmouth*

              But that’s still management’s problem – there needs to be a contingency plan for when the person scheduled to work with Bob is sick/quits/gets hit by a bus. It’s not your friend’s problem to manage.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              That’s not the same as saying staff can’t take sick leave, though. There are all sorts of jobs where you can’t leave someone alone on the floor, and although that often doesn’t include retail, it’s not so far out of bounds that it’s an inappropriate request (assuming that people can still take leave and that there’s adequate staffing on Bob’s shifts). There’s no indication of what management would do if your friend called out sick.

              I mean, what if she had had norovirus? At some point, she’s going to have to go up the chain of command instead of directing her frustration at Bob.

            3. boop the first*

              They’ll figure it out when the “right” illness comes along. I am also one of those people who avoid ever asking for anything, including unpaid sick leave.

              But when I caught a legitimate flu that made it so that I couldn’t even stand upright for 3 days, I suddenly had no problem with staying home.

              …Even though it was at the point then that I was pretty much the only staff person working the morning shift and NONE of the managers had keys to the building and were all locked out. If it’s a problem for staff, nothing will be done. But if it’s a problem for management? Well… You bet they finally all had new keys cut within that week.

      2. Funbud*

        Fair enough, but if I worked this closely with someone and I never saw any evidence that they are actually ill (no phone calls from doctors, etc). I would be suspicious myself. I would not expect to see a doctor’s note; as a coworker it’s not my place to demand documentation. It does sound, however, like Bob has stated that he is getting treatment and the friend naturally asked how it was going. When he was dismissive, this raised a red flag for the coworker. That’s a natural reaction.

        This is really a management problem. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn their management is on the “you guys just work it out between you” side. But Bob’s illness, real or imagined, is affecting her friend’s employment. She needs to take it up with management and not waste time speculating.

        1. madge*

          It might be “natural” to be suspicious (although I wonder why we can’t just take people at their word), but that doesn’t make it any less rude or inappropriate to voice those suspicions.

        2. Zillah*

          I just literally watched my mom pass away from ALS two and a half weeks ago, and when people have asked how I am, I usually just say “okay” and quickly change the subject. No one has seen “evidence” that my mother died. That doesn’t mean I’m lying; it means that people process things in different ways, and compartmentalization is a pretty common one.

    2. Lilo*

      While the stealing is frustrating what is best for your friend is to sort of stay in her own lane. She did her job by disclosing, she can’t control their reaction. If she has hard evidence (what is presented here really isn’t enough) that Bob is lying about his cancer (I can’t come up with a hard example, let’s say she over hears him on the phone confessing to it), then I could see raising it with management, but otherwise, stay out of it.

      She needs to frame it as a problem she is having (I need to be able to call in sick, we need a system to allow me to stay home) focused in the employee and her, and not a Bob problem.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      OP, please forgive me for being blunt: You and your friend really need to stop fixating on whether Bob is lying about having cancer. You’re perpetuating a bunch of problematic stereotypes on what a person with terminal cancer *should* look like and how they should behave, and that’s really not cool.

      Pretend for a moment that he’s telling the truth and really does have incurable, stage 4 cancer. Please think of how awful it is for someone to probe the details of his diagnosis and treatment plan, including his impending death. Then think about what you would want to do if your treatment were not debilitating. You might want to live a normal life and enjoy all the foods and activities you normally would, right? And you might not be economically secure enough to do that without continuing to work, right? Because not everyone experiences cancer the same way, and all of the activities you list are things that people with terminal cancer could be able to do, depending on how their cancer affects them.

      Focusing on whether he has cancer or not is truly awful behavior, and it doesn’t reflect well on you or your friend.

      1. ToS*

        The sitting governor of Maryland had stage 3 cancer, which is in remission, and had a whole lot of work going on.

        I can’t remember what level happened in Like Breath For Air, but there was a lot of work going on there, too. Great book.

        Be compassionate when people disclose, and have a good sense of boundaries.

        Be more upset that the guy stole from your place of employment, and know that betrayal makes people question EVERYTHING, but really, he was stealing. Lead with that. We hope he becomes a better co-worker at his next job!

      2. smoke tree*

        Yeah, I have a relative with terminal cancer, and you wouldn’t be able to tell at all if you didn’t already know. It’s not always obvious from the outside whether someone is sick or not. I assume the LW’s friend is focusing on this issue because it seems like disproving Bob’s illness is the simplest way to get around the requirement to work with him, but I think there are deeper issues here that she should consider instead of fixating on Bob’s health.

      3. MatKnifeNinja*

        My uncle had stage 4 colon cancer. Until the last three months of his life, when metastasis finally overwhelmed his body, he looked and acted like any slightly chubby, 64 year old golfing grandpa.

        He golfed. He drank beers. He ate junk. He did whatever maintenance treatment they thought might work.

        I really get pissed that the only cancer story that is acceptable is all your hair falling out, losing 90 lbs in 3 months, you are bed ridden, with your friends bring you smoothies to boast your immune system. My uncle ran his insurance business up to the bitter end. He was a squirrelly person before cancer, and he was squirrelly after the diagnosis. You can have cancer and have craptastic behavior.

        All cancers have different treatments. People handle them differently. My father’s astrocytoma disease process (no he didn’t look like death’s door until the very end) was different than my friend who had pancreatic cancer.

        There are two different issues. What ever Bob is doing that is illegal/needs accommodations and his illness. Management needs to wrangle the work issues. I would have not come in if I was that sick. Period.

        Whether Bob has cancer or screws loose, that’s none of your friend’s business. Either way his life is a tire fire. That’s punishment enough.

    4. LizB*

      I mean, if you knew you were going to die soon, wouldn’t you eat what you wanted, travel while you could, and be very reluctant to answer your coworker’s (frankly kind of nosy) questions about the terrifying medical reality you’re facing?

      Your friend should stay home when she’s sick, and Bob shouldn’t be defrauding the store. But the “I’m not a doctor but this person sure doesn’t sound cancer-y!” is not adding anything to your point, and is coming off extremely poorly.

      1. OP HERE!*

        I also commented to her that perhaps since it has gotten so far he has decided to live his life however he wants if there is nothing that can be done. Others have chosen to do so, so it’s not wildly strange if indeed he was given the prognosis that there’s nothing else that can be gained from chemo or a strict health regimen.

        I don’t want to make it seem as if it is in fact me that is very invested and speculating on the Cancer aspect. My main question is more so if 2 people are sick can one sickness trump the other? I only included the details on the said cancer and her speculation because that is how it was told to me and tied into the overall history of lying she was expanding on. She said he does have additional examples of lying on serious issues.

        I also have had family members with Cancer but in my experience they have all been very ill and weak so I’m sure there are examples on both sides of the fence

        1. Anon Today Anon Tomorrow*

          Everyone is different.

          Stage 4 cancer can also mean different things depending on the type of cancer. All stage 4 means (well for a lot of cancers) is that the cancer has metastasized and that it cannot be cured. But, people can live with cancer sometimes for years. It’s all dependent not just on the type of cancer, but also how aggressive the cancer is, and what treatments are available.

          I would encourage you to stop considering Bob’s cancer diagnosis at all. It doesn’t really matter the underlying reason why Bob can’t work alone. All that matter is that if management has agreed to his request (or they are legally obligated to agree) then it’s their responsibility to address staffing needs when another employee is sick.

        2. Oxford Comma*

          Again, I think this is an issue between your friend and her manager. Bob shouldn’t enter into it. It’s about your friend’s ability to take sick time when she is ill.

          1. MatKnifeNinja*

            Believe me, if your friend was in ICU on a ventilator, guess what, management would have to figure it out. Like come in to cover for her.

            Management gets paid more to handle stuff like coverage. I have worked for bosses that screwy. I call in sick and shut off my phone. I’m sick.

            I worked on a closed unit hospital floor, meaning staff had to cover call outs. The floor couldn’t use agency or hospital float nurses. When none of the other staff could come in, the one of the head nurses did. Were they happy? Oh hell no. They did it because that is part of the deal when they were hired.

            Bob’s issues should have no bearing about calling in sick. Management whines because this is the yuck part of managing, which is them covering a position.

        3. Gazebo Slayer*

          “If two people are sick, can one sickness trump the other?”

          In this case, her sickness could very well make his worse, considering that she’s probably contagious and people with cancer are usually immunocompromised. Which is all the more reason for her not to have to go in and work with him.

        4. Zillah*

          “My main question is more so if 2 people are sick can one sickness trump the other?”

          Sure, it definitely can – but that’s really something that’s more applicable to us in our personal lives and judgments than in our jobs. If I have a small stomachache and my roommate has the flu, I’m probably going to decide that his “sick” trumps my “sick” and go out to pick up orange juice for him. On the other hand, if I have a migraine and he has a nasty cold, he’ll probably decide that my “sick” trumps his “sick” and go out to get me medication. It’s all relative and there’s not an objective calculation there, but ultimately, we go out of our way to help people we love, even when it’s inconvenient to us – and vice versa.

          People do make that calculus at work, too – there’s not always a way to avoid it, because even with a decent amount of coverage, sometimes we just get unlucky. But that should really only be happening once in a blue moon. If it’s happening more regularly or could happen any day (as opposed to “there’s a really important presentation today”), that’s a problem – and regardless, it’s a problem that’s on management to solve.

        5. Mad Baggins*

          “My main question is more so if 2 people are sick can one sickness trump the other?”
          I don’t see why we need to compare sicknesses to solve this problem. Your letter suggests that Bob’s cancer is worse than Friend’s vomiting, so Bob wins and Friend has to suck it up and work. If Bob is lying, then Friend wins and doesn’t have to work.

          But actually that’s not the nature of the problem nor the solution! Bob has cancer, which means he cannot be scheduled to work a shift alone (for the sake of argument). Friend is vomiting and cannot work today. The solution is to have someone else work with Bob that day. If Bob does not have cancer, then management can still decide if they need him to work with others; if so, then they schedule someone else. Regardless, Friend is sick therefore she does not work that day. Your and Friend’s attitudes are making this into a problem it’s not.

    5. Dee*

      I’m sympathetic to your friend’s concern that she’s being manipulated, because we all know it’s happened, but neither you or she has enough information to know what’s going on here. And if Bob does have cancer, your friend is likely being extremely cruel, pushing him for details on a terminal illness. It’s his business. Not hers. And definitely not yours.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Well put. There certainly are people who lie about things like having terminal cancer – and we’ve seen letters along those lines here in the past – so that possibility isn’t unthinkable, especially in a known fraudster. But pushing for details is indeed cruel because it’s very likely he *isn’t* lying about the cancer, and prying into a seriously ill person’s health like that is horrible.

        1. OP HERE!*

          Probably should have elaborated that she only asked follow-up questions to Bob when he would initiate and go into detail of his treatment or what the doctor said. It wasn’t for the sole purposes of catching him. It was more so Bob speaks for 15 mins about his diagnosis and how it’s so bleak and the doctors said they can’t do anything and THEN my friend responds: OMG what’s your blood count!? etc. This was always in RESPONSE to Bobs thorough discussion of his medical issues. He would end the discussion if she asked anything further.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            If you take a step back, though, that’s still pretty inappropriate. I ended up caretaking for a neighbor with breast cancer who was undergoing radiation and chemotherapy and was immuno-compromised. When she told me how her treatment was going, I never asked her about her blood count—that would be super odd. Instead, I asked her about how she was feeling, what kind of support I could provide, etc. Getting into the details of her labs would have been really odd, unless she was discussing the results of a new scan or biopsy.

            1. OP HERE!*

              I probably wouldn’t have asked any follow-up questions if it were me. She explained that Bob talks about it all day so I’m assuming she eventually tried to make idle chat or show concern by asking follow-up questions (knowing her). I on the other hand wouldn’t have engaged in anything further than: “I’m sorry to hear that”. I did provide several defenses for Bob. I definitely wasn’t on board with Bob is probably lying as the first explanation for odd behavior. I was more so well maybe Bob does that because of X?

              1. jolene*

                I’m entirely sympathetic to you and your friend, OP. Bob is sending up red flags all over the place and you’re perfectly within your rights to notice them, since he’s making his possible illness her business.

    6. nnn*

      You know, the fact that he has a teapot reselling scam thing going on makes me think the “can’t work alone” thing must be legit. Wouldn’t it be easier to carry off this scam without witnesses?

      1. WillyNilly*

        See now, my first thought reading the original letter was the “can’t work alone” thing was him covering himself with plausible deniability: “I couldn’t have stolen, Nancy was here with me the whole time!”

    7. Submerged Tenths*

      Thanks for the update. Bob sounds like a sorry piece of work, but your friend’s problem is still that she needs to have management do the managing. Congrats to her for outing the stealing!

    8. Amber Rose*

      Oh man, please tell your friend to never ever pester someone about their health issues ever again. That is gross, intrusive behavior and if I was Bob I’d have been much nastier about it. How awful to be sick and have someone you barely know bugging you about it constantly. Nobody deserves that kind of treatment.

    9. Wannabe Disney Princess*

      Stop. Just stop with trying to figure out if a person has cancer.

      I have a really good friend who’s on chemo. Her cancer is never going away, they can just suppress it. When she feels like it, she uses a standing desk. Sometimes, we’ll go out for pizza or burgers. She still enjoys wine. Her husband brings her home ice cream when he passes her favorite ice cream place on his way home from work. And when people find out how advanced her disease is? Their first response is “Wow! You don’t look sick.”

      If he’s lying about terminal cancer, that’s awful. But karma will catch up. If he’s not lying, then let the man live in peace.

    10. Ok...*

      I posted above, you can see my response there. My brother has grade 4 cancer and is terminal. He eats whatever he wants, including sushi, beer, other alcohol, fatty foods, and ice creams and goes on lots of trips. He is also training for a 10K and has run numerous 5Ks in support of cancer research. He has ceased chemo as well because it’s no longer suggested.

      Not all cancer patients, even terminal ones, lie in bed all day on death’s door. Most of them make the most of what time they have.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Exactly. My brother was camping and kayaking up until about a month before he died. Sure, he needed some help setting things up at the campsite and getting the kayak into the water, but you wouldn’t have know he was on death’s door. He did as much as he could up until the end. He even took one last trip to Alaska (from New Hampshire!) to see his step kids.

        I don’t get upset about all that much, but it’s really frustrating to read the comments in the letter about Bob’s lack of symptoms and that he must be lying. I know OP says her friend is saying all that, but it comes across to me as OP also thinks he’s lying. Maybe he is, who knows?

    11. Jessica*

      Does Bob have the authority to fire your friend? Or the authority to deny/approve her usage of sick days? It sure doesn’t sound like it.
      Therefore, it REALLY doesn’t matter whether he just wants a co-worker there to help pass the time or if he has a medical need for a second staff person to be with him at all times in case he has a medical emergency. Your friend should not go into work if she is too sick to go into work, end of story.

    12. Bea*

      They made a show about a guy who sold meth to take care of his family when he was diagnosed as terminal. Yes that’s incredible but not as far fetched as you’re thinking.

      Stealing and eating what you want is incredibly likely for a person staring down the reaper.

    13. Lynca*

      I would really shy away from needing proof of an illness. I’ve known people with terminal cancer that went on trips, ate what they wanted, etc. It stemmed from a combo of ‘why not? this isn’t going to hurt me’ and in one case they were put on a red meat style diet by their team. This isn’t something that is that unusual to me. The stealing and forcing someone to come in sick is where the problem is/was.

    14. NW Mossy*

      It’s ultimately going to be better for your friend’s well-being if she changes how she looks at Bob. The original letter and your follow-up give off a sense that she’s behaving a bit like a detective in a TV drama who’s trying to either a) get Bob to confess his various sins and crimes and/or b) expose Bob as a lying, stealing malefactor. Bob might legitimately be The Worst and guilty of everything that your friend suspects, but she’s not a cop and it doesn’t fall to her to be Bob’s own personal criminal justice system.

      Your friend needs to detach from Bob and his doings, swiftly and certainly. It’s not serving her to spend this much energy dwelling on a person she can’t control or change. She needs to give Bob over to fate and let the universe do its thing. That’s sometimes less satisfying than being an avenging angel, but it’s also a lot less work and gives your friend time and energy to focus on things that she loves and cares about way more than Bob-the-possibly-cancer-ridden-thief.

    15. Oxford Comma*

      OP: I think your friend needs to ignore Bob’s health. That’s not the issue. The issue is that your friend cannot take sick time. That is an issue for your friend and the manager. Bob should not have been dictating anything to your friend unless the manager gave him that authority.

      Take Bob’s health status out of the equation and your friend has less to worry about. She’s notified the manager about the dishonesty. Her work there is done. Now that’s all the problem of the manager.

    16. Observer*

      Your friend did the right thing in reporting the stealing.

      But you REALLY need to cut it out on the speculation. I suggest you read the comments, as there is a ton of information about this in the comments. The bottom line is that NOTHING in your original letter or the “additional” information in this update means ANYTHING in terms of whether he actually has cancer or not.

      Stop it. And pray that you never find yourself in a situation where you are being doubted because your behavior doesn’t look the way someone who doesn’t know you decided it should look.

    17. PizzaDog*

      Paragraph 2 is no one’s business but Bob’s.

      A coworker has no right to see a doctor’s note. That’s between Bob and his boss, no one else. And if Bob isn’t missing work, or is using PTO for treatment, the boss might not even need to see that note.

      If your friend wants to take a sick day, she should take that up with her boss when the time comes. “Hey, I’m not feeling well / I have a stomach virus / I’m fighting Thanos.” and if the boss says “actually, Bob is working alone today.” The answer she can give is “oh no, poor Bob, maybe Margaret can cover for me so that he’s not by himself.”

      It’s not your friend’s job to a) police a guy with stage 4 cancer, b) worry about scheduling issues. And b) isn’t Bob’s job either, there’s no need for HIM to police anyone else’s sick days.

    18. OP HERE!*

      Again just to recap:
      1. They are understaffed and have always been.
      2. The boss did let everyone know Bob can’t work alone (which is the question… can they do that?).
      3. It is seen as a horrible thing to work alone in the shop. Everyone hates it. They say it’s boring or something of the sort like the day is unbearable to work alone.
      4. Bob is most likely if not already fired for stealing with overwhelming evidence from the cash register records, his online profile that displays the stolen items AND customers who have complained of him down-charging the items they sell to the store.
      5. My friend wasn’t prying for health info from Bob. He was VERY forthcoming about his medical issues until a follow-up question was asked in conversation/response to him. She said that actually he spent a lot of time talking about his Cancer during the day until anyone asked a follow-up question he would immediately stop. Which is his right if that’s what he wants to do.
      6. Times Bob said he needed off work for chemo in her town, his social media showed he was actually out of town at a frat party-esque beer binge party.
      Several times chemo was used as a reason for being off work or he was too sick to come in to work and his social media showed he was doing other things.
      7. Everyone is correct that his health has nothing to do with if she can leave for being sick herself (literally what my question was). But it was relevant to her other concerns for lying (proven) and stealing (proven).

      As far as the Cancer I have pointed out that perhaps he has just chosen to live his best life and be carefree if it’s terminal now.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        OP, I recommend taking a step back and really reframing what’s going on, here. It seems like you’re doubling down on why your friend didn’t behave badly and why Bob is shady, but I suspect if you take a little more emotional distance, the comments will be more helpful to you and your friend. Both for maintaining her composure and getting what she needs, it’s really important for your friend to redirect her energy away from Bob (who could be the worst person ever, who knows) and toward management.

        With respect to #2 on your list, of course the boss can let everyone know that Bob can’t work alone for Reasons. That’s a fairly common warning for people who need certain medical accommodations.

        But your question isn’t about whether management can require at least 1 other person on the floor when Bob is working. Your question is whether your friend can take sick leave without feeling guilty or coerced. The answer to that is: Yes. She should let go of the guilt and try to take leave when she needs it, and if management hems and haws or comes up with some crazy solution, she needs to push back. It should not be impossible for someone to be on the floor with Bob, including the manager if necessary, when another employee needs to take sick leave.

        Issues #1, 3, 4-6 are simply not relevant or helpful to your friend when it comes to fixing her problem, which is that she feels she can’t take sick leave. Focusing on how dishonest or shady Bob is will not help either of you. His firing won’t help, either. She won’t know if she can take leave until she tries, and she needs to try.

        Alison and the commenters have given you both a lot of assistance and advice on how to come out of this by taking the high road, and I think it’s now up to you both to decide if you’re going to do so.

        1. OP HERE!*

          Not doubling down. I immediately began defending Bob when she told me the whole story and my takeaway from the conversation at that time was: hmm can your management really say Bob can’t be left alone and what if someone is sick?? She had no answer for what if someone were sick and just explained when she was going to gently tell Bob she would need to leave because she’s sick, he pushed back and replied in a “oh you think that’s sick!” kind of response. I think it came down to if you really want to be the person to leave a terminally ill person alone and then something happen? I don’t think management should have even put staff in that position of: well you’re all aware Bob can’t be alone and that we’re understaffed.

          I def wouldn’t have questioned him on his Cancer at all but since he’s being fired I guess the whole thing is ended on another note.

          I think everyone has answered to what I was thinking: one person can’t be forced to stay at work even though they are sick because of another’s accommodation.

          1. Anonynonynonymous*

            Hi OP, I just wanted to say that there have been a ton of comments about how you/friend shouldn’t focus on the cancer, that’s wrong, blah blah, but I hear you through it. You’re not focusing on the cancer. I see him lying as a relevant character trait. It is not fully relevant to your friend’s question, but that was your question in the first place, and it makes sense to include the info anyway. I hope you haven’t felt too attacked by all the comments.

          2. Annoyed*

            Hi OP. I also hear what you’re saying here. Whether Bob has cancer or not is basically irrelevant however I can see someone using it as a trump card to manipulate others/get their way.

            “I have *cancer* therefore *nothing* you have could possibly be worse so I win every single time because *cancer.* Add to that he is a thief and a liar…his character is questionable.

            Your friend has as much right to be ill/take care of herself/stay home from work as anyone else, even someone with cancer.

            1. jolene*

              Yes, I too am really peeved by OP and her friend being attacked. Bob is clearly dodgy on at least one front and when that happens you are entitled to wonder if he’s being dodgy on another, since you know he’s a liar.

              People project and virtue-signal SO much on this page and it’s massively tedious. I think there was a long discussion about that very recently, where many posters said they hated it. Shame it doesn’t seem to have got through to some commenters.

      2. Holly*

        That was my thought – is it possible management is saying Bob can’t work alone, not really due to the cancer, but due to the stealing? Or at the very least it’s in case something happens to Bob, but not intentionally trying to bar people from taking sick days

    19. Someone Else*

      This is anecdata but may be useful for both you and your friend to reframe your thinking:
      All of my relatives who have been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer were diagnosed EXTREMELY late. Died 2 weeks later late. None of them felt or seemed ill before their diagnoses. In each case there was some major event as a result of the spread of the illness that caused them to finally be diagnosed. But a month before that happened? You would not have looked at the person and realized they were terminally ill. No one around them did. And those people definitely had cancer for a long time given how much of it there was an how much it had spread. So maybe recheck your default assumption of what “person with stage 4 cancer” looks like? You can’t see cancer, and a lot of the symptoms most people associate with that illness are really symptoms of the treatment. So Bob stopped treatment, there can very easily be no visible cues that’s he’s sick unless you were looking at his MRIs.

  34. Anon Today Anon Tomorrow*

    To me this is the employer’s problem not the sick employee’s problem.

    If Bob is insistent that he needs another person with him, and it’s something management has agreed to, then it’s management’s responsibility to find coverage. It’s not the sick employee’s job.

  35. Goya de la Mancha*

    Lying/stealing or not, this is something that the manager and/or owner need to be dealing with NOT your friend! If she needs to call in sick (legitimate) then THEY need to worry about finding the coverage if Bob being alone is the issue – not her – and even if that means they might have to cover until a replacement can be found.

    Like always, Allison’s advice is spot-on.

  36. EvilQueenRegina*

    This should be for the manager to solve. If the friend is that ill, it’s not a good idea for her be around Bob, to say nothing of customers/vendors etc. who could also potentially catch a vomiting bug if your friend goes into work with that. Your friend would be best leaving any speculation about Bob’s lying out of the conversation and bring it up in terms of how she should be able to call in sick if she’s vomiting, and could management arrange for A N Other to be with Bob.

  37. Nom De Plume*

    Stage 4 cancer isn’t necessarily terminal, or not immediately so. My husband was diagnosed with Stage 4 Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia 8 years ago, and probably had it several years before diagnosis. He continued working full time until last year, and now does consulting. He copes very well, but what he can’t do is be around people who are sick. He catches everything that goes around, and gets the worst possible symptoms because his immune system sucks. Ordinary flu will put him in bed for 2 weeks, so we avoid crowds and he wears a surgical mask when we can’t. He backs up like a dog near a vacuum cleaner when someone even sneezes, so I can’t imagine why Bob would want someone who wasn’t well working with him.

  38. Red Sky*

    True story: I had a coworker who was for years a one-upsmanship type of pathological liar to the point where people never took him seriously about anything. One day he has a seizure at work, turns out he had stage 4 cancer that had spread to his brain. He didn’t know this and he didn’t look or act any different up until he had the seizure and had to be transported to the ER by ambulance. If this coworker had known about his cancer and told coworkers none of us would have believed him. I always think about that whenever I hear about someone possibly faking an illness. Liars and thieves get cancer, too, anyone can get cancer and you can’t tell just by looking at someone.

    But really, whether or not Bob has cancer is a red herring. The real issue is that it is unsustainable to require OP to always be available to work with Bob. Things happen, people get sick or in car accidents or have honeymoons and management needs to have a plan for shift coverage other than OP.

    1. Anonymosity*

      Yep, and now that management is aware of the theft, it seems as though the situation will take care of itself.

  39. Natalie*

    This is absolutely a longshot, but if your friend works in a jurisdiction that has instituted mandatory sick/safe time they should check the details of that ordinance. Many of them include protections for actually using the required sick/safe time that could apply here.

  40. Cancer fighter*

    I have cancer and could not tell you what my exact blood count is. I do know if my counts are low based on my weekly bloodwork, but not the exact count. I wouldn’t take your coworkers lack of knowing this info as faking it.

    1. OP HERE!*

      Also pointed this out to here. I couldn’t tell you my weight and I just got weighed last week.

  41. doingmyjob*

    I’m not going to get into whether this is allowed, a good idea, or anything like that. It’s as simple as this:

    IF the employer has agreed to this arrangement, it is not the responsibility of the particular employee to meet the request. It’s the EMPLOYER’s responsibility to find a replacement if the scheduled employee is not able to be there. The obligation is on the employer not the employee who works with this person.

    1. Jaydee*


      If having a second person there with Bob is a reasonable accommodation for this employer to make, it is the employer’s job to figure out the logistics if whoever else is scheduled calls in sick. Maybe that means calling someone else in. Maybe that means the manager or owner goes in. Maybe that means closing the store and paying Bob to stay home that day because there isn’t a second person available to work. But the employee gets to call in sick if the employee is sick, and the employer gets to figure out how to deal with that situation.

  42. JSPA*

    There are all sorts of health issues that might cause someone to pass out (with or without warning). But unless there’s dangerous machinery involved–in which case, it’s a safety issue to have Bob there, at all–passing out is not, per se, terribly likely to be fatal. Furthermore, there are various solutions (most of them designed for people who live alone) that can handle the automated call for help that MIGHT be needed if someone passes out. If this is per orders from the boss, boss needs to be encouraged to look into one of these (low cost, simple technology) options. They’d be a lot safer for Bob, too; presumably he does not have female co-workers follow him into the men’s room (the one place he’s most likely to hit his head if he goes down suddenly and hard).

    For that matter, if Bob falls hard, it almost certainly is not safe for a random coworker (even if they’re healthy and burly) to try to cushion the fall. So the only reasonable function of the coworker is as a sort of wetware version of a dead man’s switch. And…a real dead man’s switch is one of the oldest, most thoroughly reliably forms of technology there is. (Sample scenario: if he’s on a computer, simply monitoring keystrokes / activity could do the trick. If he’s moving around the office, a motion sensor would work. If there’s no motion and no activity for 3 minutes, set it up so he gets pinged. If no response, he gets robocalled. If no response, 911 gets called.) Or just put in one of the many nanny cams, point it to pick up the floor area, and ping someone if a body hits the floor.

    As someone who’s in biology, has worked in cancer-adjacent research, and has also been a support person for three people with cancer, and has worked with people with cancer, including one who’d had a couple of falls…it also seems unusual and quite likely medically counterproductive that Bob would rather have someone infectiously sick present, then have someone calling in to check on him. Or some technological alternative. That doesn’t mean he’s lying*; he might be confusing “what I need to feel safe” with “what I need to be safe.” (People do that all the time.)

    I can see why it might be comforting to have a person there. But there’s a world of difference between ‘what makes me feel comforted’ and ‘what I reasonably need, to do my job.’ Unless the actual (or additional) diagnosis is more along the lines of anxiety–in which case, he needs to get that diagnosed, and discuss reasonable accommodation for that disability.

    *doesn’t mean he’s not lying, either. I can also see why he might want plausible deniability if he’s doing something shady, by having someone else there. Or why he might not want to have his motions sensed and keyboard/mouse activity tracked.

    1. OP HERE!*

      This is a very helpful post! I didn’t think to suggest a life alert type of bracelet! Not that it will change his accommodation request but it still sounds helpful for if someone has to go to lunch etc.

      1. Annoyed*

        I was thinking about this too. Can Bob never be left alone? No one can take a break/lunch/use the bathroom?

        If he needs someone with him 24/7 then he needs like a medical aid type companion with him. He can’t reasonably rely on his retail coworkers to be knowledgeable in a medical situation.

  43. Birch*

    This is not really a situation of one sickness trumping the other, like in the competing accommodations cases (e.g. service dog + employee with dog allergies). Accommodation for one person’s illness cannot impede someone else’s life. It’s up to your friend to manage her own sickness and realize that a manager asking anyone to come in to work sick against their will is doing the wrong thing. In any case, the coworker with cancer is not her problem.

  44. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

    Holy boundary crossing, none of those questions are ones you ask a sick coworker! They’d even be inappropriate if asking a friend.

    1. jolene*

      OP says he talked about his cancer for 15 mins straight and the friend politely asked a follow-up question, which he promptly dodged.

  45. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

    FWIW, I don’t think the speculation on the cancer is inappropriate. I think it’s pretty natural to wonder when things don’t add up to someone, be it legitimate or because of unknown circumstances. It is relevant to the original questions, because it has an impact on how your friend views the request.

    Let’s be honest, she’d likely think herself a heel or worry about being viewed as one if she didn’t acquiesce to a sick and/or dying person’s wishes. At the same time she’s being asked to inconvenience herself for someone when she’s not sure of the validity of their claims. I don’t blame her in this case.

    Yes, it’s very true that all people show the same characteristics in the same situations, but at the same time people have lied about things just as big.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Hmm… let me try this sentence again, this time with all the important words added.

      Yes, it’s very true that NOT (caps so it’s apparent what I missed the first time) all people show the same characteristics in the same situations, but at the same time people have lied about things just as big.

      ETA… adding that I do agree the OP’s friend should really get this sorted with management. The next time this comes up she shouldn’t call or talk to Bob at all. Instead go straight to her manager to call in sick. This eliminates the whole issue.

      Well unless the manager demands she go to work sick, but then that falls into the realm of an unreasonable manager and the OP’s willingness or ability to push back on the management demand.

    2. PizzaDog*

      I think the speculation about him actually being ill or not should have been left as a private conversation between OP and her friend – it has no place in this letter.

      1. JSPA*

        Posting to strangers on the internet is actually a pretty good way to move “stress outwards / support inwards.” Besides, OP is getting useful feedback, namely, that cancer really can “be like that.” But that reasonable long term support for cancer really can’t.

    3. Observer*

      Firstly, it is natural to wonder, but that doesn’t make it OK t ask these intrusive questions. And the level of speculation here is rankly ignorant and in part based on inappropriate behavior on the part of Friend and clear bias to find a lie. Asking him about his blood counts is totally out of line. And assuming that the tick he supposedly gets must be because he is lying is just stupid. There are SO many reasons why someone would react this way to a stupid and intrusive question about a majorly stressful situation.

      And, it does NOT change anything. She doesn’t need to prove he’s lying for her to push back with management. And, it’s management she should be talking to, not Bob, anyway. The idea of trying to prove that someone is bad so you can continue to be able to “live up” to some imaginary level of sainthood is …not good.

      She needs to be able to take off when she is sick. And it’s on management to make that happen. And Bob’s illness or not doesn’t change that.

      1. Robin Sparkles*

        Yes – while I get the impulse and I understand questioning the friend- that’s a matter for the friend to speculate in private. In the workplace -she needs to address the work impact and forget that Bob may or may not be lying. That information changes absolutely nothing for the friend on what she should do.

  46. Elder Dog*

    I’ve worked retail where there are only two people on, and if you are sick, you call in to the store. Your coworker is the only other person there, and you don’t have the owner or manager’s phone number. It’s written down next to the phone, but woe betide you if you call and it’s not an emergency! Many times your coworker won’t call the owner or manager for you, but instead will pressure you to come in.

    This is really really common in retail.

    Either Bob or OP’s friend needs to call management so management can deal with this problem.
    And OP should tell her friend to write down the manager’s number so she can call off without dealing with Bob.

  47. Anonymeece*

    The conversation about whether or not he does have cancer is a bit of a red herring – an intriguing one, I’m sure, but not the main issue. I agree with Alison completely: your friend should not be going through Bob at all, and she needs to be less involved in his issues. The speculation on whether or not he provided a doctor’s note for his illness is not any of her concern.

    She needs to focus more on herself. In this case, that means going through management, not Bob, if she needs to call in sick; if Bob tries to complain that he needs someone there as an accommodation, that is up to management to take care of, not the friend. She can hold firm and – until management tells her, “Yup, you need to come in sick,” she can take sick days. If management does say that, then she can talk to management to clarify how that’s supposed to work.

    And yes, stealing from work is a really big deal, and she should report it immediately. I understand wanting to be compassionate, but that doesn’t extend to stealing from one’s employer.

  48. lucky2cope*

    I really don’t think why Bob wants/needs accommodation matters at all, so what he’s sick with or how sick is management’s problem. The question boils down to “Should an employee who’s sick, in the normal sense of a stomach bug or fever or bronchitis or whatever, have to come in to work because they are the only person on shift with someone who’s requested not being alone?” I think the answer is clearly “no.” Heck, in food service, vomiting means you do NOT come in, it’s a health-code violation. I called off during my ‘probation’ period with a casino because I was a cook and I was running a fever and curled up by the toilet being sick. They were fine with it because obviously you can’t work if you’re throwing up and no one wants to get everyone else including the guests ill. The fact my manager then had to find someone who could cover my shift or cover it himself was not considered my problem. The friend needs to tell her management that she cannot come in when she’s that ill, and the fact Bob wants someone with him is not her problem to accommodate. (And the labor board is the one to take it up with if they threaten her. Even in at-will states when you start making those types of demands you can get called up.)

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      I’m really glad to hear there are at least some restaurants – like the one at the casino where you worked – that actually let contagiously ill people stay home! You hear so many horror stories of those that don’t, regardless of health codes.

      Unfortunately, in most states the department of labor wouldn’t do anything about a boss demanding that someone come in sick. A few states and cities in the US have mandated sick days, but unfortunately most don’t. And those that do usually have restrictions on the legislation; in my state (Massachusetts), you’re only eligible for sick leave after 90 days in a position, which really screws over people who’ve gotten trapped in perpetual temp work.

  49. Could be Anyone*

    Is beer something cancer patients normally can’t have? Regardless, if I had terminal cancer I’d probably be drinking more beer than usual!
    In any event, I don’t think a retail worker needs to take it upon herself to make sure another employee is getting their appropriate ADA accommodation. Just call out sick when you need to and let management worry about it!

  50. Amelia Pond*

    The secondhand nature and speculation on this one makes me a bit uncomfortable, but I’ll give my 2 cents anyway.

    It is definitely possible that he needs to keep the job in order to keep his health insurance. A friend of a friend of my mother’s has multiple myeloma but had to keep working for insurance. She wasn’t able to do very much at all but they still kept her on payroll for as long as they could.

    As for his appetite, different types of chemo make people react differently. He could well be using marijuana (legally or not) for nausea and pain. Even if he’s in a state where it’s medically legal, not all companies are ok with employees taking it and definitely aren’t ok with it being taken illegally, so he wouldn’t necessarily be open about it. He also may not know some of his medical details if he has a spouse, child or other advocate helping him out. Even as an adult I’ve needed help from my mother to keep things straight because there’s just so much information to keep track of and medication alone (and sometimes the conditions themselves) can cause memory problems. And honestly, that’s pretty embarrassing to admit as a grown adult.

    Really, I think the LW’s friend really needs to talk to their boss to clarify what (reasonable) accommodations are actually in place, without speculating on whether or not this man is truly sick or just lying. 

  51. bopper*

    “Bob, you are going to have to talk to Boss about having another worker with you. I couldn’t possibly put you in danger by coming to work this sick.”

  52. anon4now*

    This is management’s call. Not a peer call. If your friend is sick, she just needs to call in to management as such. Unless Bob is her manager, his opinion will have no bearing on whether she should come in or not (like, was she just showing up sick to work and then tried to talk to Bob about feeling sick? What?!).
    As for his medical condition, who knows? He could be faking or it could be real. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough details to make an educated guess in this scenario, so it’s all just speculation. But…was he eating sushi and drinking beer in the break room (and can one drink on chemo?)? Or did he offer up this information?

  53. a good mouse*

    Aside from worries about Bob, isn’t it bad to come in while sick to a retail environment? In an office you could close your door or try to limit your direct contact with others (use more calls, etc), but in retail I’d worry your friend would end up making a bunch of customers sick.

    1. Oaktree*

      It’s definitely a bad idea to come into work sick anywhere, but especially in a customer heavy job. But it happens all the time- I was once forbidden from sending my supervisee home when she was vomiting because “two people have to be in the store at all times”. This was, unfortunately, in a restaurant. (I haven’t worked there in 4 years, thank god.)

      1. nonegiven*

        If someone is vomiting in a restaurant and aren’t allowed to go home, that’s a call to the Health Department

    2. Courageous cat*

      Theoretically, but retail and food service are two of the industries in which coming in sick is the most encouraged. No one at corporate cares as much about their customers’ health as they do about making sales, meeting goals, and having coverage (even if it’s just a warm body and not much more).

  54. Lady Phoenix*

    I find it creepy that OP’s female friend has to manage her male coworker, and that he demands her to be with him. You can call me paranoid, but I always feel that to be a red flag.

    But even if that isn’t a concerned, friendo is not a medically trained professional or caretaker. Friendo should let management know that Bob is demanding friend to stay with him, and that she can’t accomadate thst request. Management should be dealing with this.

    1. OP HERE!*

      I also thought to ask if it were appropriate or reasonable for a lone cowroker to be responsible for seeing that a coworker not pass out. She’s not a medical professional so if that did happen she could only call for help. Which I guess is still assurance he’s not just passed out in the store for long periods with no help but I’d be traumatized if something did happen to him while I was there.

      1. Lady Phoebix*

        If you are not medically trained, that is pretty much all you can do.

        Call 9-1-1, follow their directions, and… that’s it.

  55. Ashlee*

    I’m not seeing in the letter where the friend is calling Bob to say she can’t come in. It says ” couldn’t call in because her coworker, ‘Bob,’ who has stage 4 cancer says he can’t work alone”.

    If your friend is too sick to work, she should call in. They need to get someone over to work with Bob, even if a manager has to cover. I had a coworker who was taking chemo and he usually wore a mask to help prevent getting sick from someone who wouldn’t (or couldn’t) stay home.

    If Bob does get dizzy, what is coworker supposed to do? Give him a chair? Guide him to the breakroom? This is bizarre to me.

  56. Oaktree*

    Bob may or may not be lying about his diagnosis. It doesn’t really matter, though, because regardless, his ask a) is not reasonable, and b) should be to the manager and not OP’s friend. OP’s friend needs to escalate this to the manager. It’s not Bob’s decision who has to come into work when they’re sick and who gets to stay home to recover. OP’s friend should document all of this, preferably without editorial comments about Bob’s personal health information (which is no one’s business but his and possibly management’s, if he needs a formal accommodation).

  57. Lady Phoenix*

    So I read the comments and got an update.

    Still gonna ignore the question about whether he is or isn’t faking his cancer. That is not important.

    I’m just wondering why he hasn’t been fired. Your friend showed he’s a thief (by finding his website), is this management winding up that third striker so that they can fire him, so that is why he can’t be alone?

    Either way, management’s problem, not your friend. It sucks dude has cancer, but he shouldn’t demand coworkers to stay with him—especially if they are sick or have their own obligations.

    Get thy friend to management, call them, and get some rest and relaxation ad recovery

  58. ladycrim*

    Someone undergoing cancer treatment shouldn’t be around people with a cold/flu/virus because their immune system is compromised and they’re far more susceptible to catching the illness. My mother was in such treatment on a day when I saw her briefly. I woke up with a fever the next day, and was terrified that I might have unwittingly gotten her sick. LW’s friend can certainly bring up this valid health concern when she asks about calling in sick on days she’s supposed to work with Bob – and HE should be insisting that nobody who has a potentially contagious illness be near him.

  59. Longtime Lurker*

    I worked in a field where the number of workers on the premises was required by state law (a preschool) and there was a whole system in place to make sure that staff was available even when someone was sick (including a small bonus for people who took more than two last minute shifts in a month). If your employer requires this person to not work alone, they need to implement similar procedures. It’s not up to you to fulfill this, especially if you don’t feel well. Whether or not you agree with his needs is immaterial.

  60. Girl friday*

    People who steal, lie. That’s not true for everything: for example, people who have affairs are not always liars in business because people compartmentalize. And it certainly doesn’t work the other way, obviously that would be a fallacy. It’s like the saying, “You can trust a dog to guard your house, but not your sandwich.” So this guy just needs to find a different job. For many reasons.

  61. Koala dreams*

    I’m not sure if I’m interpreting this correctly, but it sounds like this work place is one of those work places where employees are expected to solve staffing issues among themselfes, including when they are sick. This kind of set up is really stressful for employees, and can cause a lot of resentment and friction. Your friend should put some of this stress back on the manager’s shoulders. After calling Bob and telling him that she can’t come to work, she can call the manager and tell her about the situation, including that coming to work while sick is not an option. Then the manager can take it from there.

    Hopefully your friend has recovered. However, this doesn’t mean it’s too late to mention anything to the manager. The friend could ask for clarification about what she should do if this kind of situation comes up again.

  62. OP HERE!*

    Thanks everyone!
    There were some really helpful comments. Thanks for sharing your views and your personal/family health stories. My overall takeaway is that management needs to be more proactive with scheduling. As some people pointed out or guessed, yes they do expect staff to work out scheduling issues on their own. If one coworker has an accommodation where they can’t be alone and there is no one else to cover them then they can feel trapped. Especially when the reasoning is that someone’s life can be at stake if they decide to call in/out. The life alert bracelet sounds like a really good alternative.
    The speculation on his illness did derail the conversation a bit but that information was added to explain the overall dilemma and complexity of the issue and the reluctance to report that he had been stealing. I think it’s best to not even engage in medical talk at work which I guess can be hard if there are only 2 employees standing side by side all day. He would spend a good part of the day discussing his medical issues. I will definitely suggest to her that she should just be short when it comes to his medical discussions since a lot of readers pointed out that the follow-up questions can be offensive.
    I will provide an update on if anything new arises. As mentioned earlier my friend brought forth the fact that he might be stealing to management and once management looked harder it was confirmed that he was in fact stealing so he might be fired already (haven’t had a chance to speak with her).
    I tried to be active in the comments as I enjoy with letter-writers are active in the comments when I’m reading.

    1. voyager1*

      Thanks for the update. If he brings up his medical issues then a question from your friend isn’t really out of line.

      If he is stealing he should be let go cancer or not.

      1. jolene*

        OP, your friend did nothing wrong. It is not offensive, but actually being politer than I would be, to ask someone a follow-up question after they’ve chosen to bang on about their illness for 15 minutes. Commenters here can get really into their virtue-signalling and in this case it’s particularly ludicrous.

        1. madge*

          What do you mean by “virtue signalling”? As I understand the term (expressing an opinion intending to demonstrate one’s moral superiority) it seems to me that you are equally guilty of “virtue signalling.”

        2. OP HERE*

          I was not surprised to see a lot of: “don’t question Bob’s illness!!!” comments. I should have made it clearer that Bob had been telling everyone every chance that came available about his illness and would only shut down the conversation if a follow-up question was asked. I also should have made it clear that his food choices were only brow raising because he would consume them during the time he was receiving chemo and the overall illness was notes in the letter because he had lied so much that it was another level of frustration to the situation. It also adds to the argument that if he has never passed out at work before and he appears and has been able to work 8 hour standing days without passing out previously then was his request a reasonable accommodation? That’s what I was hinting at. But it is hard to hit every detail without becoming long winded AND trying to keep a certain level of anonymity. There were too many things to point out to be as concise as I would have liked. The suggestion about a life alert bracelet was a great idea.

          There were some useful comments, especially that management should figure out what to do when no one else is available and the only available employee to be with Bob is sick herself. They should not leave it up to staff to feel like the bad guy. Furthermore, Bob shouldn’t have pressured her to stay as well. I think a lot of commenters began to paint their own picture of Bob as a sick guy down on his luck and a pesky coworker harassing him about his illness when that was not the case. He was the one to bring up and talk about it all day periodically throughout the day but also make it clear that no one is to bring it up around his friends or wife outside of work (if they happen to bump into them). Which is his right and business.

          1. jolene*

            Oooh, no, it’s not his right to tell people what they can and can’t talk about when he’s happy to tell “everyone every chance that came available about his illness”. If he’s bringing his business up to me incessantly, he certainly doesn’t get to censor my topics of conversation to others; there’s no expectation of confidentiality for this kind of thing between co-workers. It’s not Fight Club.

            Frankly, this is probably the solution right here. Anyone who sees his wife or friends outside work should commiserate while mentioning the latest details of what Bob has told them and see what happens.

    2. boop the first*

      “….complexity of the issue and the reluctance to report that he had been stealing.”

      That’s true. But also, when you work in a chronically understaffed workplace, the fear of losing a coworker to a firing or otherwise (thus eventually leading to her being the lone staff person frantically holding down the fort from then on and probably forever) can make one do strange things.

  63. Len F*

    I’m terribly curious why you mention “raw fish” in the same breath as “beer” and “junk food”. What’s wrong with raw fish? I more or less lived off sushi hand rolls for a year or two. Or are we talking just plowing into a fresh fish Gollum-style? (also weird, but doesn’t strike me as unhealthy, as beer and junk food would be)

    1. LGC*

      Probably the “raw” part – there’s a higher risk for foodborne illness since it’s not cooked.

  64. Clementine*

    Bob may or may not be lying about cancer. However, his co-worker should expect he may be trying to obscure evidence of his thievery and blame it on another. So shut that down immediately by reporting it, and also the bizarre request that he must have her there with him.

  65. The Hobbit*

    My first thought, like other people have pointed out, was that your friend being sick, she shouldn’t be around Bob while she is or can be contagious (several bouts of cancer in my family, including myself when I was younger). But that aside, she should be calling her manager, not Bob, about calling in sick, and handling it with them. Having someone coming into work sick is not a reasonable accommodation. And what if this coworker is ‘going to the hospital’ sick or has a car/transit accident on the way to work? All kinds of things happen, and when it’s a matter of accommodation, the burden of providing it needs to fall on the employer, not on coworkers. (I just want to note that I’m not in the US, so I’m talking more from a practical than a legal POV)

  66. AZEsq*

    Bob is a problem, but in different ways.
    1) OP’s friend needs to tell management about the stealing. With detail. Providing all relevant information (dates/times) so it can be reviewed; and
    2) Whether or not Bob has cancer, OP’s friend has the right and responsibility (especially to a cancer patient!) to stay home when she’s legitimately ill. Management needs to address this with Bob.
    3) The ADA does not require reasonable accommodations where the business has less than 15 employees. And, therefore, Management or HR may already be aware of Bob’s health issues, but may see him a potential liability and know or believe he’s dying and therefore have decided to take the road of least resistance; and
    4) That road may require Bob to come to work, but it does not require management to require OP’s friend to come in sick.

Comments are closed.