I have way too much vacation time, asking my husband’s boss to secretly okay time off, and more

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

1. I accrue way more vacation time than I can use

I work for a small nonprofit in the education field. My manager is incredible and supportive, I’m paid a competitive salary, and the benefits are great. The problem is, I accrue WAY too much vacation. We bank one full PTO day each week, in addition to federal holidays. Our office is closed between Christmas and New Year’s, during which the entire company receives paid leave. I work in a two-person department specializing in meetings and conferences that regularly requires longer hours (10-14 hour days) totaling around three to four weeks annually. Those hours get added to my PTO bank as well. The company has a “use it or lose it” policy and we are allowed to carry only six vacation days into the next calendar year.

Although I’ve already used 22 days total, I’m looking at having over a full month of unused PTO days by the end of 2018. The nature of my position does not allow for extended absences or longer vacations, especially working in a small department with a workload that is heavily based in customer service. Even in the highly unlikely case of having four-day work weeks approved for the rest of the year, I still would have more vacation time than I can realistically use.

I’m at a loss as to what to do. I’ve been in my position for around 18 months after transitioning from over 10 years of retail and food service jobs where vacation time was nonexistent. Trust me, I feel crazy complaining about this! I’m SO thankful for such a generous leave policy, but the likelihood of receiving permission for short weeks is incredibly slim. Unfortunately I live in D.C., where there is no law about vacation time being paid out at the end of the year.

Planning and running our meetings and conferences is no small feat and I do feel as though a partial vacation payout or a larger number of days to carry into next year would be an equitable way to handle this excess. Is this worth bringing up to my manager or should I just let it go?

That’s a huge amount of vacation time, relatively speaking — 10 weeks a year!

What do other people in your organization do? Do most people take most/all of their vacation? Or do most people end up in your situation?

If it does seem like people use it, one option is to talk to your manager and say, “I’m finding I’m having trouble taking all the vacation time that’s given to me, and I’d like to make better use of it. Can we talk about how to plan ahead so that I can do that?” It’s possible that with enough advance planning, you could plan to actually use it all next year — but it might mean planning out your 2019 schedule now, and getting your manager’s sign-off.

I don’t know that there’s a lot of point in trying to get more days carried over into the next year, since then you’ll just have an even larger pool of days you’re trying to use next year. And I suspect they’re not going to want to agree to pay it out when you leave, since that would be a significant expense and they’re a nonprofit. Instead, you’re better off working with your manager to figure out how to actually use it.

Alternately, if there’s no practical way to do that and still do well in your job, the most sensible approach might be to just use as much of it as you can, but not feel like you’re failing if you don’t manage to use it all. Even if you only use, say, six weeks, that’s still a pretty great vacation allotment. (Ignore that, though, if the vacation policy was a key factor in you taking the job, or if it led you to accept less money than you otherwise would have. In that case, we’re back to you talking to your manager to formulate a plan.)

Read an update to this letter here and here.

2. Bereavement leave when I’m not bereaved

I recently found out that my estranged father is in hospice care. At his nurse’s urging, we spoke over the phone, said what we needed to say, and now it’s just a matter of time before he passes.

A couple close friends at work know, and they keep asking me what I’m going to do with my three days of bereavement leave, since I’m not attending the funeral. As a state employee, it is standard to get three paid days of leave when a family member passes.

I hadn’t planned on taking any leave when he does pass away, but my friend says it’s foolish to just skip out on three days’ worth of paid leave. They feel I should take the time for myself. I went through therapy years ago, and already grieved his loss then.

I feel like taking leave but not attending the funeral is taking advantage, somehow. I’d appreciate your thoughts on the matter.

If those three days would be indistinguishable from vacation time for you — if they would have no connection to your father’s death at all for you — then yes, taking them would be taking advantage of the bereavement policy, or at least its spirit. They’re intended to be used for attending a funeral and other logistics around a death, and to some degree for dealing with grief (although the expectation isn’t that the grief will be wrapped up in three days). That said, it’s unlikely that your employer would know that was the situation, and there’s no real practical reason you couldn’t take the days if you wanted to. It’s more of an ethical question.

However, it’s possible that you’ll be surprised by your reaction when your father dies. You might have more of a reaction than you’re predicting — and you might not realize it right away, either. I don’t think it would be an outrage to plan to take the time, just on the basis that losing a parent, even an estranged parent, can shake you in ways you don’t expect, and you might want to treat yourself extra gently then.

3. Can I ask my husband’s boss to secretly okay vacation time for him?

I want to surprise my husband with a vacation he’s been wanting to take for a while. I’ve planned it out, and it’s totally doable, except for one thing. If I want to keep it a secret, he can’t know that he’s taking time off of work. If he’s not scheduled for work, it’ll raise a red flag for him, but I don’t want him to “call in” at the last minute for this trip. I’ve met his boss and we’ve chatted at work parties and other social events, so he knows me more than just as Fergus’ wife.

Here’s my questions: is it okay for me to contact his boss and ask for his help with this (as in, putting him on the schedule when he’ll actually be off)? Or will it look like he’s just not able to schedule his own vacations?

Resist the temptation.

It’ll put your husband’s boss in an awkward position. He won’t know whether your husband really wants to use his vacation time that way or whether he might prefer to save it for something else (or even whether this trip will mean he’ll have no vacation time left for something else he’s already planning later in the year). And it can cause work problems, since your husband won’t know that he can’t plan on that time to complete work, meet deadlines, schedule important meetings, and so forth. In practical terms: If you announce to him on Sunday that you’ve gotten him the whole next week off, what’s he going to do about the work he had planned for that week? What if there are deadlines he needed to meet, calls he needed to make, etc.? In some jobs, a boss could work behind the scenes to mitigate those things, but in others, it would be all on your husband to take care of those things. He could end up scrambling to cancel meetings, plead for deadline extensions, etc.

A lot of bosses wouldn’t want to deal with all that, and would be uncomfortable making plans for an employee’s PTO with the employee’s knowledge.

It would be better to instead ask your husband to take that week off for a surprise, without telling him what the surprise is, or find some other way to do this that doesn’t involve arranging something with his job behind his back.

4. Can I ask my coworkers to get flu shots?

Would it be rude to remind my coworkers to get their flu shots this year?

I am currently going through treatment for breast cancer and my immune system isn’t what it should be. Everyone one in the office has been super supportive of me, but I don’t know everyone’s personal feelings about the flu shot and don’t want to overstep.

I work for a federal agency in the U.S. and free flu shots are provided in the health center. I expect there will be an announcement of their availability in a few weeks. Can I ask my coworkers to get theirs?

Yes, as long as you’re careful not to sound like you’re ordering people to do it or that you don’t realize people might have legitimate reasons for not being able to (such as a medical condition that makes it ill-advised). You could use wording like, “Many of you have asked if there are ways you can support me during my cancer treatment. I’m really grateful for that, and wanted to mention that one easy thing you can do is to get a flu shot if you’re able (free in the health center) since my immunity is lower right now. Thanks so much if you can.”

That way you’re giving them information that they might not have thought about (that this would help you) but not pressuring them inappropriately or prying into legitimate reasons they might have for not doing it.

5. How can I tell my new employer I don’t go to bars?

I’m in a recruiting position and the recruitment team often hosts post-event networking sessions in a bar. I do not drink alcohol for religious reasons and neither do I want to go to places that serve alcohol, i.e. bars, even if I’m drinking a non-alcoholic drink. How do I explain this to my new employer? I wouldn’t mind if the networking session was held in the office (or anywhere but a bar) and alcohol is present, but not physically entering a bar. I would feel comfortable declining if it was a casual after-work thing, but if my team organized it and I technically must be there, it feels awkward to decline. It was different at my last job as I did not have to attend networking sessions.

If you don’t go in bars for religious reasons, you can present that like any other religious accommodation you might request. For example: “For religious reasons, I don’t go to bars. But I’d really like to participate in post-event networking sessions. Is there any chance we could schedule some of them in locations other than bars so I’m able to attend?”

{ 628 comments… read them below }

  1. sacados*

    There’s one thing I don’t totally understand…
    The OP does not want to enter a bar/establishment where alcohol is served, but would be fine if the event were held at work with alcoholic drinks present?
    Anyway, I suppose that doesn’t change the substance of Allison’s advice, but it stuck out to me as kind of confusing — and if you’re presenting it as “I don’t go to bars for religious reasons, but if the event is at the office then it’s OK if people are having alcohol,” then that might also come across as odd to OP’s boss/coworkers.

    1. Not A Manager*

      I admit I was curious about this too. Restaurants are “places that serve alcohol” but the LW doesn’t seem to be excluding them? OTOH, it’s not up to me to cross-examine someone else’s religious observance.

    2. Ehhhh*

      I read it as an akward wording of ‘at work or at a restaurant that serves booze but not a place that exclusively serves booze.’ Not that booze would be at work, but clarifying that they aren’t opposed to attending after hours events out of hand. Some locales do have bars that don’t even serve food and as a non-drinker it is super awkward. I can only imagine if I had a religious or cultural objection to alcohol how weird it would be, especially with the events being work-adjacent.

      1. Clare*

        I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been in or heard of a place that served notjing but alcohol. And considering that these are professional networking events it seems strange to me that a company would choose that kind of place for these events. I’m curious to know how the LW is defining “bars”- does she mean any establishment that has alcohol available?

          1. snowglobe*

            Yes, but as Clare pointed out, it would be unlikely for a company to have a networking event that didn’t include food of some kind.

            1. RussianInTexas*

              The bar I frequented for years until they closed never served food, they did not have a kitchen. Many companies in the area had happy hours there. My current trivia place does not have a kitchen either, the Wandering Tamale Guy rolls through around 8:30pm, but that’s it. A lot of places like that in the area.
              Such places are 21 and up only, not even kids allowed.
              Kitchen adds expenses and permits and space.

              1. KR*

                Your point about 21 and up may be a good talking point. They could mention that if they hire someone who is under 21 and the people they are networking to are under 21, they could be excluding a whole age group. Also, there may be people who are alcoholics who flat out avoid any and all networking events knowing they’re held in bars.

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  If a main target of the networking is people 18-20, the company probably already noticed that bars won’t work. Very likely the networking targets are old enough to have either graduated college or put in a few years working and advancing in their post-high-school career.

                  The limit rules out people who for recovery reasons don’t ever enter bars, but I’m not sure you could convince your superiors that that’s a significant number of people they would really want. (Emphasis on the significant number–if moving the event encourages 1 person in recovery to attend and 10 people looking for a quick networking stop to pass, it’s only worthwhile if the one is somehow the perfect target and worth missing the 10. That seems like it might occasionally be true in specific cases, but not often enough to change the default simple solution.

              2. Captain Planet (nee Snark)*

                When I worked retail finishing up grad school, Wandering Burrito Guy would roll through at about 10:30. His machaca and egg burrito will haunt my dreams forever.

          2. Captain Planet (nee Snark)*

            In the context of a work event, we’re probably talking about something more like brewpub or similar.

            1. Captain Planet (nee Snark)*

              As several have explained, being in a space that is oriented towards drinking – rather than, say, eating and socializing and drinking as well – feels different, and more exclusionary, to someone with moral objections to drinking.

              1. Vermonter*

                It’s awkward even as someone who doesn’t drink for no particular reason. I don’t have a moral or religious reason not to drink; I just don’t. Still super awkward standing around with a water or maybe a ginger ale.

                IME, people tend to DRINK more at bars than restaurants – even at work events. It’s weird when you start wondering if you’re the only person who will remember this by Monday morning.

            1. GreenDoor*

              Yep. I’m in Milwaukee (aka Brewtown) and it’s totally normal here to walk into a bar and find families with small kids. You can even allow your child to drink (the bar won’t serve but parents can allow their child to have a beverage). We permit our 4 & 5 year old a one sip sample and no one bats an eye. So as far as a bar “excluding” employees or participants under 21, that also depends on the region & local culture. I do think some events should be held in an office. Even if alcohol is served, there’s a difference in atmosphere. A bar says, “Let’s party!” while an office says, “Drink if you like but act like a professional while you’re doing it.”

        1. Brett*

          We have lots of those types of establishments here, and they are legally not allowed to have any under 21 inside them. They exist because you can serve alcohol without a food inspection. (They do sell prepackaged food like bags of chips.)
          And, surprisingly, business networking events are commonly held in those places. They are much much cheaper to rent out than restaurants.

        2. Bea*

          It depends on your area. We had laws requiring food in all establishments that served in my old state. Then I moved where there are tons of breweries without kitchens. They do connect frequently with food trucks but it’s two different companies. I go to bars with just snacks available frequently. Even in a state it’s required many fudge the law with “secret” menus if someone asks for one, they can get a microwave tv dinner.

        3. straws*

          I’d imagine that there could be a difference between an establishment that happens to serve alcohol and one whose primary purpose is serving alcohol. A little more extreme, but along the same lines, I may not feel comfortable attending a dinner event at a strip club, even though clubs exist that have food service.

        4. Ralph Wiggum*

          As a non-drinker, I assumed for the longest time that bars exclusively sold alcohol. I was quite surprised to discover they regularly serve food.

        5. BF50*

          Some areas legally require bars to serve some kind of food, even if it’s just free peanuts. Some (many? most?) areas charge higher liquor licenses for places without food and/or without a kitchen. It depends on your location if there are bars without any food at all.

          I have not been to a company sponsored event at a bar that does not also provide snacks, but that might be because there aren’t any within 15 minutes of my work and that type of bar doesn’t normally open until later in the evening.

          1. skunklet*

            Yup – the entire state of Virginia – there are no bars (not legally) – to get your ABC license, you are required to have a certain %% of your total sales receipts be from food sales – and ABC has the legal authority to revoke your ability to sell alcohol if you do not get to that %%. Now, ftr, I moved from VA in 2011, so this MAY have changed (I doubt it, however).

            1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

              45%- it’s still the case, though I believe wine and beer count as “food” based on some bar receipts I’ve gotten >.<

            2. Hobbert*

              Another Virginian here and, yep, I wasn’t aware bars that don’t serve food actually exist. Maybe that’s the hang-up? I don’t drink and would feel weird in a place that *only* serves alcohol but I do wonder if that’s definitely the case in the OP’s area. Maybe she’s assuming bars don’t serve food?

            3. Ciscononymous*

              My cousin from VA came to visit me in MO once when I was 19 or so. It was probably 9:30 on a Friday night when I suggested Buffalo Wild Wings and she responded “But… You can’t get in, can you?” That was when I discovered the wild variations on alcohol sales and licensing among US states.

        6. Kay*

          There’s TONS of them in NYC and they’re often used for networking stuff because it’s just a bunch of open space to wander around and chat in, no real table layout needed.

    3. Pumpkin Soup*

      They can’t go somewhere that’s entirely focused on selling alcohol – like a vegetarian not hanging out in a steakhouse. Not sure what’s difficult to understand?

      1. Ridikulus*

        What’s difficult to understand is why that makes the slightest difference. If someone can’t be around alcohol, why does it make a difference if the alcohol is in a bar or not? It seems like an arbitrary and odd distinction to draw, hence the confusion. If someone asked me to relocate an event from a bar because they have a religious restriction relating to alcohol, but then said they were fine with the event serving alcohol at another venue, I’d be extremely confused.

        I have a vegan BFF who regularly comes to a steakhouse for dinner with me (they do serve vegan-friendly options too) so your analogy does not make sense to me.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The OP does not feel comfortable going into bars. That’s her prerogative, and I’m going to request that we not interrogate whether or not it’s legitimate for her to feel that way. It’s not up to any of us and is going to derail from the question.

          1. sacados*

            Oops, yeah… was definitely not meaning to derail anything. Just to point out that my first reaction was “?” and if OP’s boss/coworkers react the same it might be good to keep that in mind and/or add some kind of extra explanation to the script.
            (Not that OP should need to justify anything)

            1. Hills to Die on*

              I would assume that the new employer would be really surprised to be finding out about this for the first time after OP accepted the offer. It’s a networking position! I know the point is moot for this OP, but Nyone else in that situation should really say something upon receiving an offer. They need to Network at places that are attractive to those they want to network with, which may frequently be bars. If this is a key function of OP’s job, I would be concerned that the new employer would be pretty upset. I’d feel like s/he pulled a fast one, personally.

              1. Ramalamadingdong*

                It’s a little disingenuous for her to turn around and say, “No, I’m not willing to be in a bar” when it’s basically part of her job to attend these post-event gatherings (presumably to network with candidates in a less-formal setting). As the hiring manager I wouldn’t be happy about that at all.

                I have colleagues who don’t drink alcohol for religious reasons, and they have no problem with being in a restaurant that serves alcohol or going to our company holiday party (which has an open bar). They’re comfortable in their beliefs and practices, and aren’t trying to engage in some sort of virtue signaling about their colleagues who do choose to imbibe.

                1. Jadelyn*

                  There’s nothing about “networking events” that inherently means “will be held in a bar”. OP is specifically saying that she’s happy to attend networking events that are not held in a bar, even with alcohol being served. Networking events can be held in all kinds of places, bars are not even remotely the only or even the presumed main option for events like that.

                  I mean, think about what you’re basically saying, here – that you can’t/shouldn’t/don’t want to ever hire people with religious prohibitions on alcohol for ANY position that includes regular networking events, and if you accidentally do hire someone like that, you’re going to be upset with them over it.

                  I’m just…super not okay with the idea that it’s “disingenuous” or “pulling a fast one” or “virtue signalling” (wow, really?) for someone to say “I’m happy to attend networking events as part of my job, just not in a bar”. That seems needlessly exclusionary.

                2. Hills to Die on*

                  I think it’s a pretty common part of American culture, actually. There’s nothing wrong with letting them know in advance. Clearly, it’s enough of an issue that the OP wanted to write in to figure out how to navigate it. I think maybe my comment wasn’t clear, because I am not condoning thinking can’t/shouldn’t/won’t want to hire someone who doesn’t want to be in a bar, which is why I suggest mentioning it after the offer. The issue is that the OP didn’t mention it up front.

                3. Jadelyn*

                  @Hills – I mean, I kinda get where you’re coming from, but I’m still gonna disagree, hard, on the idea that OP had some kind of duty to disclose upfront, thus jeopardizing her chances at getting the job. Especially since it seems like she found this out after being hired; I got the impression she didn’t know this was such a big aspect of the job until after she started, so there was no reason for her to think she would need to navigate this issue until it came up. There very much could be a problem with letting them know upfront, as evidenced by a number of comments in this thread that seem to suggest that anyone who doesn’t go to bars shouldn’t be a recruiter (???), meaning it’s not so simple as “you should have said something before starting”.

                4. Hills to Die on*

                  Hi Jadelyn, After seeing what OP said – that she didn’t know about those events until after the fact, I agree too. The only place to say it even if she did know would have been after (and only after) she got the offer. But I think it will be fine for OP regardless since it’s not a huge part of the role and she’s only asking to change the type of venue once in a while.

              2. LabTech*

                It’s worth pointing out that holding these events in a bar excludes prospective employees who also aren’t comfortable in them.

                1. LabTech*

                  Mormons, Muslims, Ex-alcoholics and even those whose close family members are alcoholics. Not exactly that rare, but also beside the point.

                  As a rough analogy, people with disabilities are a minority, yet we still have wheelchair ramps and handicapped parking spots for accessibility purposes. It’s not about whether it’s likely to happen, but the necessity of people being able to access these resources. People need jobs, and people need to be able to get in and out of a building, regardless of who they are.

                2. Hills to Die on*

                  Ex-alcoholics and current recovering alcoholics generally do not avoid bars–I am one and go to bars for social occasions. Same with my Mormon friends and coworkers, and same (as I understand it) for Muslims and others who don’t drink for religious reasons.

                  Regardless, those events are typically scheduled at bars. That’s just the way things are. SHould we change sopciety to be more accomodating? Sure, I’m all for it. However, this is the reality of the current situation. Networking events are typically held at bars. OP shoudl have let someone know upon accepting the offer.

                3. LabTech*

                  You’re generalizing behaviors quite a bit here. You, specifically, feel comfortable going to bars as an ex-alcoholic, that doesn’t generalize to everyone else. Same goes for Mormons and Muslims – I say this as a Muslim who will occasionally socialize in bars. I’m fine with it, that doesn’t mean everyone in every one of those populations I mentioned is comfortable in that setting.

                  And still beside the point: “just the way things are” isn’t a good reason not to change it, nor does it mean every networking even needs not be held at a bar. The venue isn’t set in stone, and having some networking events outside of a bar isn’t all that big of a drain on resources.

                4. Hills to Die on*

                  1. It generalizes the hundreds, maybe thousands, of people who I have sat in meetings with who feel the same way, the part of the Alcoholics Anonymous Book that specifically discusses bars and says that we can and should go wherever we want, and that we shouldn’t hide from society as a result of being alcoholics. So there’s that.

                  2. Nor did I say every last person is okay with being in bars, so I think you are reading things that aren’t there.

                  3. Finally, the point of the event is to Network and most people do that in bars. I’m not saying there aren’t exceptions, but that’s where most people want to go, so it’s where most people do go.

                  None of which address my original point (and not the one you are trying to infer), which is that the OP should have said something upon receiving the offer. Seems like you are trying to have a different conversation from the point I am making.

                5. LabTech*

                  You’re insisting that those populations are comfortable in a bar setting, yet the whole premise of the question revolves around someone who doesn’t drink for religious reasons and doesn’t feel comfortable in a bar. Trying to claim those populations are all fine in a bar setting save for very rare exceptions doesn’t line up with the fact that many of these people won’t feel comfortable in a bar, including OP.

                  Also to keep this from derailing too much, OP5 commented below, and clarified that networking is a part of their job, but not the key function, and that they didn’t realize networking events are bar-centeric.

                  But also, networking doesn’t only happen in bars, so changing venues isn’t a huge imposition.

                6. Hills to Die on*

                  I can’t keep going in circles over this. If you want to understand my comment, then re-read it. If you want to argue, I just have too much to do and am disinclined anyway. I think this is where we agree to disagree. I already made my comments to OP5 anyway. Have a good one.

                7. LabTech*

                  My point is that plenty of people don’t feel comfortable for diverse and perfectly valid reasons – and listed such examples – and that it’s good reason to change the venue. You were trying to claim those reasons weren’t valid, citing knowing people in those groups who do frequent bars. That still doesn’t refute my claim, hence why we’re going in circles. Good day.

                8. Hills to Die on*

                  You already made your point ad nauseum. In your mind it doesn’t refute the claim, but see how that comes out in practical application. This isn’t the blog for what should be, but what is. It doesn’t matter anyway, because it isn’t OP’s primary job and she didn’t know about it in advance.

                  Go ahead and keep arguing over things I didn’t origianlly post about–you can do it by yourself.

          2. Nom Nom*

            While we can agree that OP is not comfortable going into bars, OP has said this is for religious reasons and quite a few people who also abstain for religious reasons have responded with slightly different takes on the same problem. OP is entitled to her own boundaries but she doesn’t speak for everyone who abstains for religious reasons. I’m not sure how that derails given OP specifically cited religious reasons and a number of religious people have responded saying this might not actually be a religious problem and more a personal boundary issue. If this is OP’s boundary all power to OP. But OP doesn’t speak for all religious people with the same restrictions and it would be unfair to expect everyone else to adhere to the same standards OP wants to set themselves. Realistically it’s a career limiting move when you sign up a job that requires networking you choose not to attend for whatever reason. OP should totally set her own boundaries but she doesn’t speak for religion generally and may I respectfully request you make that distinction – OP gets to set her own boundaries but so do we whatever our own religious boundaries.

            1. Half-Caf Latte*

              Nom Nom: As noted below, something doesn’t need to be religious doctrine per se, but rather a sincerely held religious belief.

              OP’s not asking to prevent her coworkers from drinking because of her sincerely held beliefs (a-la hobby lobby), but rather for her employer to change the venue or otherwise make accommodations for her beliefs.

              Saying that the request is a personal boundary issue and not an accommodation issue takes us down a slippery slope.

              1. Nom Nom*

                OP is yes asking to prevent her co-workers from even being in a bar (let alone drinking because she finds even being in a bar without drinking uncomfortable while the networking events are usually held there) and she is totally entitled to do so if that is her place she needs to be. However, employers will look at the whole workplace and I don’t think we are doing OP any favours pretending otherwise when most employers will look sidewise at someone who has those restrictions. Not drinking at work things – No problem anywhere I worked. Not going to bars for religious reasons (also ok) however, it IS a personal request if you expect to never go to a bar for networking events ever – you’d be pushing it uphill to get in religious accommodations because pretty much every religion that doesn’t allow that stuff wouldn’t allow OP to work either. There is no slippery slope here. Everywhere I have ever worked (including the Middle East) has had reasonable accommodations. however those accommodations are based around workplace and religious norms and assuming OP is in the US, these are well outside the norms. OP doesn’t seem to be claiming the ground you are here so I am a bit confused. She just said she didn’t want to go to bars. All good if that is her boundary. Whether it is a religiously protected boundary is a whole nother thing

                1. Nom Nom*

                  Sorry also ask our Rastafarian brothers how that sincerely held religious beliefs are working for them. I’m sure they’ll get right back to you from jail. Sincerely held religious beliefs only work if you are a white male usually.

                2. AnotherSarah*

                  I think this is really not true–that religions that have restrictions about entering certain places wouldn’t allow the OP to work. And even so–people pick and choose aspects of a religion to follow all the time, and it’s not our prerogative (or the boss’s) to question that.

                  I am also curious about the not BEING in a bar, but I assume it is similar to a principle in Jewish law, which holds that one should not give the impression of violating a law even if the person is not actually violating a law. So for example–a person who keeps kosher should not be seen in a non-kosher restaurant, even if they are just having a glass of water.

                3. Ms Jackie*

                  I think there is in some faiths (Im thinking of Southern Baptists) one cannot give the impression that they could be drinking. My BIL is a SB minister and they wont go to a winery for an Easter egg hunt because it could give the impression of drinking.

            2. Genny*

              Religious people all practice in different ways. There’s nothing strange about one religious person taking a stricter approach to an issue than other religious people. I don’t think we need to get into no true Scotsman territory here with her religious beliefs.

          3. Student*

            I think it’s relevant insofar as considering what kind of accommodations the employer is legally required to offer to the OP.

            The OP can absolutely ask for her personal preferences, like not having company events at a bar, to be accommodated. And the OP can make an informed decision this job is not a good fit if they don’t respect that.

            However, I don’t think the OP is going to have much of a leg to stand on if the company says she doesn’t need to drink alcohol but she does need to attend these events that are hosted in bars. The alcohol-consumption issue is a religious accommodation. The venue change is a personal preference, and though it is strongly related to the religious accommodation, it is not an actual religious requirement upon the OP as set forth in the OP’s post. They don’t need to change the venue to successfully accommodate her religious requirements – though it would be considerate toward the OP if they did.

            That doesn’t mean the OP shouldn’t ask, but it does mean she should have reasonable expectations around how this might play out when she does ask. The questioners asking about it are kind of beating around that bush indirectly because they’re having a hard time going between the religious requirement not to drink alcohol and the religiously-based preference to not go into bars.

            OP – I do get the preference. I’m a non-drinker, though for other reasons. I hate going into bars too, whereas normal restaurants are easier to handle. It might be effectively a requirement of your job, though. You WILL be seen as the party-killer by some of your colleagues if you push for the venue change, and you have to decide whether that’s worth it to you – will hostile colleagues throwing tantrums about their drinks being curtailed be more uncomfortable than these bars? In my experience, that depends a lot on culture and manager support – sometimes it is worth asking for, sometimes it isn’t worth the price.

          1. Murphy*

            I think it’s hard for someone not the OP to see where the line is with what they’re comfortable with and what they’re not. The OP may need to explain to their employer where the line is.

            1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

              I was also kinda fuzzy on where the line was between a restaurant and a bar. Where does a sports bar stand for instance? It is called a bar, but I mostly think of them as that place where loud sports are played and greasy food is served. The average sports bar isn’t too different from an Applebees or a Red Robin when you get down to it. I feel like the OP will have to be clear with her company on what type of places she is uncomfortable with when she talks to them, because I feel like ‘bar’ just leaves questions about where the line is.

              1. E.*

                Was thinking the same – there’s often not a clear line between “a bar that serves food” and a “restaurant that serves alcohol” (some bars have waiters, some restaurants have physical bars people can sit at, etc).

          2. Green*

            That’s not actually all that really matters here. If you’re asking them to change their standard practice and expectations for a role due to your religious beliefs, you do need to be prepared to discuss what is personal preference vs. what is or isn’t a religious prohibition. Minority sincerely held religious beliefs need to be accommodated if there is no undue burden on the employer, but idiosyncratic preferences do not.

        2. Smarty Boots*

          That’s nice for you and your vegan BFF, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the OP at all.

          The OP has a religious objection to going to bars. Bars are places that serve alcohol — that’s their *purpose*. Other places might also serve alcohol, but it’s not their purpose to do so (restaurants’ main purpose is to serve food; offices’ main purpose is to do work).

          Think of it this way. Suppose I have a religious objection to going into a house of worship not of my own faith. That doesn’t mean I can’t attend a meeting at the office where some of the folks pray quietly while I’m there.

          1. Starbuck*

            Yeah, I get OP’s perspective here. I’m vegetarian for ethical/environmental reasons (working my way up to vegan), and I actually wouldn’t consider the option of getting a veg meal at a steakhouse to be a reasonable compromise; I don’t want to in any way support an establishment that revolves around what I find to be the most ethically & environmentally problematic meat in particular (cows). I know most other restaurants do serve beef as well, but that’s where I personally chose to draw the line. Luckily I live in an area where steakhouses aren’t super common or popular.

            So I think if OP is really morally opposed to alcohol consumption on religious grounds, it makes sense that they wouldn’t want to buy even a non-alcoholic drink at a bar.

        3. President Porpoise*

          Some people don’t feel comfortable supporting an establishment in any way that exists for purposes contrary to their beliefs – for example, going bowling in a casino if you consider gambling to be stupid/predatory/sinful, getting medical care at Planned Parenthood if you don’t support abortions (I know that’s nowhere near all they do, folks), or working for a company that produces commercial items as well as defense articles. It can certainly be religiously based, and that’s find and should be accommodated if at all possible.

        4. JessaB*

          I think there’s an issue of optics, if for instance I was a member of a religion that prohibited alcohol and there are a bunch of them, going into Luigi’s Italian Restaurant, even though it serves wine and booze, is not the same as being seen either by someone who knows me in person, or by someone in social media photos, in a place my religion says I should not be. The fact I’m not drinking doesn’t stop some people from looking down on me for being in a bar, if I were in such a religion. I do not need to have the “I was drinking ginger ale on the rocks there, not whisky and soda, thank you,” conversation with possibly the religious leader of my local group because I showed up on Facebook in the Sportsball Bar. For some people no booze also means no hanging out in places that are primarily known for serving booze, food nothwithstanding.

        5. Ellen N.*

          I believe the reasoning might be similar to the reason that Orthodox Jews don’t go to non-kosher restaurants, but they go to grocery stores. It’s other people’s perception. The original poster may be reasoning that many people go to restaurants and don’t drink alcohol, but very few people go to bars and don’t drink alcohol. Therefore, if someone of his/her faith sees him/her entering a bar that person would think he/she was consuming alcohol. Most people would not presume that a person entering a restaurant was consuming alcohol.

      2. Just me*

        Your example doesn’t make sense. They serve non-alcohol drinks at a bar. Also, as a vegetarian I do frequent steak houses. There are yummy alternatives always available on the menu (ex. I always get the potato soup/salad at The Outback.)

        1. Aitch Arr*

          If you are a vegetarian who is morally opposed to the killing of animals for human consumption, then you wouldn’t go to any restaurant that serves meat.

          That’s more in line with OP’s views on alcohol, I infer.

          1. Holly*

            And vegans shouldn’t go to vegetarian restaurants that serve eggs and cheese? It’s a bit ridiculous to expect that of people and not at all common.

          2. E.*

            I’m guessing Just Me is morally opposed, but recognizes that there are so few totally vegetarian restaurants out there, it’s not viable to avoid anyplace that serves meat.

            1. Starbuck*

              That’s true; but as a vegetarian I do personally draw the line at eating at and therefor supporting steakhouses; I know other restaurants have meat on the menu too, but eating at a place that revolves around meat is over the line for me. So I totally get OP’s unwillingness to have even a non-alcoholic drink at a bar and I think it’s a reasonable position to take.

      3. Queen Anon*

        Part of it – I was raised in a denomination that taught the same thing – is that ostensibly people go to bars to drink. Period. (At least that’s what we were taught.) People go to restaurants to eat, and selling booze isn’t a restaurant’s full reason for existence. Though there were actually plenty of folks in my church growing up that wouldn’t go to restaurants that served alcohol, either. Pizza Hut used to sell beer back in the day and there were church members who wouldn’t go to Pizza Hut, ever, for any reason. They would quote the verse about not giving any appearance of evil. Not going to bars but being ok eating at a restaurant that serves booze might be confusing to someone who wasn’t raised with those beliefs, but it makes perfect sense to someone who was, even if they no longer believe the same way themselves.

        1. Annie Moose*

          Yup. I was raised in a group where some people held this belief pretty strongly, so OP’s objections make perfect sense to me. But I understand that for people who aren’t familiar with it, it definitely sounds like a contradiction!

          At least among the people I know, it’s more about the principle of the thing than the actual presence of alcohol–that there’s a difference between “let’s go into this establishment with a focus on selling and consuming alcohol” and “let’s go into this establishment which sells food/hosts a meeting/is a workplace that also has alcohol around”.

          1. Dragoning*

            Plus, OP said that they’d “feel comfortable declining” at the office but not at a bar–which I can understand! As a non-drinker who has gone out to bars as social events, it is very awkward and uncomfortable to have to explain you’re not drinking anything.

            1. E.*

              Wait, is OP talking about declining alcohol at the event or declining attending the event? “I would feel comfortable declining if it was a casual after-work thing, but if my team organized it and I technically must be there, it feels awkward to decline.” If the problem is that she feels awkward declining alcohol at a bar (and not that her religion prohibits her from entering a bar), I would have a very different take on this.

              1. Ego Chamber*

                I was reading it like you originally did: she considered not attending because of the alcohol at bars, but would feel awkward doing that because the event was organized by her team and there’s an assumption that she’ll be there.

                I seriously hope no adults of drinking age are feeling some kind of latent middle school peer pressure to drink at a bar if they don’t want to. Whenever I go to a bar and don’t order alcohol, the bartender assumes I’m the designated driver and gives me free (non-alcoholic) drinks and snacks all night—I live in a state that’s known nationwide for having way too many alcohol-related highway fatalities, so your results may vary.

            2. Konakathie*

              I’ve never understood that. I drink, but sometimes just have a soft drink as I’m driving, I don’t feel like drinking, etc. and I’ve never once felt awkward talking to someone who is drinking when I’m not. Get over yourselves, folks, nobody knows or cares what’s in your glass!

        2. Memily*

          I grew up in an evangelical denomination where if anyone ever drank, it was kept very quietly. My dad recently told me that for a long time he’d been taught that casual drinking was actually worse than binge drinking because it normalized alcohol, I guess (though now that my sister and I are grown and openly drink alcohol he has changed his stance because we’ve not been ruined by drink).
          When I was in church youth group we had a chaperone on a trip that refused to buy any food at the Mexican restaurant where we were eating because they served alcohol.

          1. Memily*

            ETA that because this was a church youth group trip (ages 12-18 plus chaperones) no one was from our party was purchasing alcohol.

    4. Casper Lives*

      That’s a good point. OP might want to reword it as “I don’t go to places that are centered around alcohol.” There’s got to be a better way to word that. What I mean is that bars center around alcohol, even though they could have food, live music or darts.

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      i agree that it could read funny to say you don’t go to bars for religious reasons but are otherwise comfortable around alcohol.it makes it sound like the religious conflict is with the bar, when it sounds like the religious concern is alcohol.

      I get that it’s not fun to go to bars if you have religious restrictions re: alcohol; e.g., I don’t drink for religious reasons, and absent pub trivia, bars are mostly for drinking. What I’ve found to be slightly more effective than saying I can’t participate for religious reasons is suggesting alternative venues—like a restaurant with a good happy hour. When making a pitch for a different locale, I explain that it makes the networking event more accessible to people with religious or medical restrictions related to alcohol. I’ve found when it’s pitched as a way to be more inclusive, people are more likely to be willing to compromise on, or at least revisit, the venue.

      1. Pumpkin Soup*

        “What I’ve found to be slightly more effective than saying I can’t participate for religious reasons”

        I think the LW does need to mention this though as they’re asking for accommodations not to do something required for their job.

      2. Less Bread More Taxes*

        I agree that there’s a better way to pitch it, but unlike some of these comments, OP makes perfect sense to me. Think about a more extreme version: I object to drug use, but I wouldn’t leave a friend’s house if someone was using. However, I would never step foot inside a dealer’s house (if I could help it) as forced interaction with someone who’s sole purpose is selling something I object to is not doable.

        1. OP5*

          OP5 here. Wow! Nothing like the mention of “for religious reasons” to get everyone triggered!

          I’m gonna reply to this thread to keep it neat and also because Less Bread has got it perfectly. Their analogy is spot-on.

          I do not drink, and do not want to, and do not feel comfortable going into places whose primary purpose is selling alcohol. Explanation below but first: why am I not opposed to attending events at places other than bars and places that are centred around alcohol? Because – and some of you got this – selling alcohol is not its main purpose. And yes, these places include but are not limited to restaurants, cafes, grocery stores, conference rooms, someone’s house, galleries, parks, and my own office.

          To address questions/speculations in other threads:

          1. I will not reveal my religion to prevent further derailing and interrogation and my religion being called “radical”, “fringe” or “extreme”. My religion says “do not drink alcohol” and I would like to adhere to that, thank you. Whether some people think it’s illogical or irrational is not going to change my having a religion and wanting to adhere.

          2. I will say that I am not Mormon. But the “appearance of evil” thing is similar. My religion doesn’t specifically say “do not enter a bar or any place that is based on alcohol”. It just wants me not to drink, and places that endorse drinking are essentially places to avoid.

          3. I don’t care if I stick out and I am obviously the only non-drinker. Where I live people don’t question you when they see you not drinking and you do not have to justify your choices. But if they did, then I would have no issues declining offers of alcohol (even repeatedly). I don’t feel awkward or get mad about it. I just decline politely.

          4. I don’t care if other people drink around me and neither am I trying to “engage in some sort of virtue signaling about [my] colleagues who choose to imbibe” (seriously?). Not trying to discourage anyone from drinking, not proselytizing. I just simply wish to avoid entering an establishment whose primary purpose is drinking alcohol. Just me. No one else.

          5. I wouldn’t dream of asking my company
          a) To change its entire practice of holding these networking sessions outside of bars to accommodate me *every single time*
          b) To cancel a bar/similar that’s already booked

          I only meant, out of 5 networking sessions, can we please hold *one* in a non-bar. If not, I will not be able to attend because of reasons I’ve already mentioned.

          6. No, prior to starting I did not know that networking sessions at this company are usually held in bars/similar. Hence not trying to be “disengenuous”. I knew there would be networking sessions, I knew I’d have to attend some, but I did not know where. They didn’t tell me and I didn’t think to ask. And yes, while networking sessions are a part of my job, they’re not *my job*. They’re an extension of my job, post-event (held in the office), and people are now looking to chat and exchange business cards. While I am not 100% required to attend these, it’s good to mingle with guests and clients I had just been engaging with during the event.

          1. Hills to Die on*

            I am sorry that people have commented on your religion–that’s not fair. It also makes a lot of sense that you didn’t know in advance–I can see where a post-event event might have been unforeseen.

            I’m glad that the post-event sessions aren’t your primary job, too, because that makes this a lot easier for everyone involved. I don’t see a problem with asking for one to be somewhere else, so I would approach it with a suggestion already in mind–makes it a lot easier to accept and say, ‘sure, why not!’ rather than the person thinking that they have to come up with the place.

            Good luck, and let us know how it goes!

          2. Ktelzbeth*

            Thanks for being willing to pop in and comment in the middle of this. . .um. . .discussion. It’s too bad this didn’t come up somehow before you took the job, but I can absolutely see how it wouldn’t and how “How often does work require going to a bar?” would not be a question one would think of in most interviews.

            Now, I think, like Alison says, what you can do is ask for accommodations. Though some of the discussion about bars vs other places that serve alcohol on this thread does not seem to be in a good spirit, it probably is worth having a good grasp on how to explain which places will be acceptable and which won’t, which it sounds like you do. Good luck!

          3. Catleesi*

            I’m sorry people have been attacking your religion. You have a right to believe what you believe, and are making personal choices, not making judgments about others choices.

            Would a bar within a restaurant be an acceptable location? I’m trying to think of the networking events that I’ve been to, and I think it would be rather awkward to sit at a table in a restaurant. If this isn’t ok – I would suggestion being very specific to your boss when you bring this up. My guess is that bars are simply easy, and having an event at the office is probably more work than just going to a bar, which are often set up in a way that makes it easy to walk around and talk to people. You may want to bring some specific alternative locations and ideas when you do ask. Good luck!

      3. Lily*

        I (not opposed to alcohol but not really drinking for personal reasons – basically I don’t like the taste that much) have been to a lot of bars as the only person not drinking. It is… fine for one evening though I’d like to meet somewhere else the next evening, please, because bars are loud and talking is difficult.
        But that’s not the problem with the letter writer. She’s not like “alcohol is slightly annoying but whatever”, she is opposed to it for religious reasons. For me it makes sense that she doesn’t want to be at a place whose main purpose is drinking alcohol. Yes, cafés and restaurants also serve alcohol but you don’t get funny looks if you order a tea/hot chocolate/whatever there. Having ordered the hot chocolate in a cocktail bar, I can attest you that it’s considered a bit strange. You get non-alcoholic beverages in bars but most of the time it is assumed that you only order the coke because you are designated driver, pregnant or otherwise unable to drink. I fully understand that the letter writer doesn’t want to be around that.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I’m not contesting OP’s assertion—I agree that constantly having to be in bars for work when you don’t drink (including for religious reasons) is uncomfortable. I’ve been the person ordering hot chocolate or tea, as well, and it’s true that people look at you oddly and start speculating about why you’re not drinking. OP can absolutely still mention their religious concern (and probably should to make clear this isn’t a preference but a religious objection), and it’s 100% reasonable for OP to feel frustrated or not want to go to bars.

          It’s just been my experience that people who do drink, and who organize all their networking events around bars, often do not understand or cannot adequately empathize with someone who says they’re uncomfortable going to bars for religious reasons. People can be bizarrely aggressive about wanting to keep going to bars for after-hours work events.

          My advice is primarily to help OP navigate a situation where under-empathetic people might “blame” OP for having to change venues, which creates a different kind of uncomfortability. It’s not right or fair, but I’ve had plenty of experience with the situation OP is describing, and I’ve tried Alison’s advice and my slight adjustment. In my experience, the slight adjustment is often more effective and mitigates any backlash or blame about changing locations.

      4. Thankful for AAM*

        @pbch “I’ve found when it’s pitched as a way to be more inclusive, people are more likely to be willing to compromise on, or at least revisit, the venue.”

        This is perfect and I am going to keep this in mind at work.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I’m so glad it was helpful! I’ve found people want to be seen as good/compassionate, and they’re more willing to change behavior to fulfill that expectation than to respond to what they perceive as a “ban” or a rule that won’t let them do what they want to do. The first method gets them to be collaborative, while the second method tends to make them more combative and less sympathetic.

      5. MissGirl*

        I don’t drink for religious purposes, and I can attest there’s something different about a bar versus a restaurant that serves alcohol. When I got my MBA, there were often networking events at bars and while I went, it was more uncomfortable.

        I don’t like to drink my calories nor do I like to fake drinking so I usually just had water and there was always someone who had to make it a thing. Why don’t you drink? Have you ever been tempted? Why not try a glass? I couldn’t believe I was in my thirties and back to high school, and it didn’t tempt me then.

        You just feel more “other” and awkward. Even if the bar still sells food, and I love me some pub food, the main reason everyone there is to drink. It’s easier if there’s a few of you don’t but sometimes it’s just you. If I was the OP, I’d ask if the events could be held in a restaurant. I bet she’s not the only one who would welcome the change.

        1. I Love Thrawn*

          I don’t want to go to bars either and would be highly, highly uncomfortable. In a restaurant, alcohol is just one more thing they sell, and people are there primarily for the food anyway.

        2. SignalLost*

          Your larger point is excellent and touches on, religious reasons or not, why not all networking events should be held in bars. They are not literally the only social venue around, and the issue of diverse representation is very real. On the more minor point, if you get a soda water or tonic water, it looks bubbly and people assume you’re having vodka or gin. Or you can return the awkward to sender full force, which is also fun.

        3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          This has been very similar to my experience. The people I’ve gone to bars with haven’t pressured me to drink (in fact, they’re usually saying “hey, let’s bring Boochie so we know we’ve got a DD!”) but bars are still a very “othering” experience for me that I don’t enjoy.

          Plus, I find the smell of alcohol pretty overpowering, and I don’t like being surrounded with it. Restaurants that serve alcohol don’t smell like alcohol, they smell like food.

          1. Ralph Wiggum*

            “hey, let’s bring Boochie so we know we’ve got a DD!”

            This is just as bad as being pressured to drink. I don’t want to be responsible for other people’s misbehavior.

              1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                Agreed, and it’s something I’m happy to do for my friends on odd occasions — I’m glad to know they’re safe, and none of them are such heavy drinkers that I’m worried about cleaning up messes in my car.

                Still, I’d much rather do something not at all bar-related.

              2. Ego Chamber*

                Depends on what your drunk friends are like. If they’re stupid drunks who think taking you along as their Sober Sally means you’re going to babysit them all night and then drop them off in their bathroom with a bottle of pain killers and some Powerade after they black out (instead of dropping them on their front lawn and saying good enough), then yeah, they want someone else to be responsible for them and that’s the only reason they’re asking you.

                (I need better friends.)

        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Totally agreed. This comes up a lot in law, also, which has a significant problem with substance abuse (particularly alcohol abuse). The two programs I remember having the most public, alcohol-focused events were always the law school and B-school, and in my experience, that carries over to post-grad practice.

          Bars are absolutely othering for non-drinkers. In the case of my friends who are recovering (or sober) alcoholics, it can be a really awful and uncomfortable experience. Networking venues shouldn’t make people feel uncomfortable or like they can’t/shouldn’t attend. I’ve found a subtle shift in venue will often placate people who really want to drink after work while being more inclusive for the people who really do not want to drink. And the atmospheric shift between a bar and a restaurant can be huge (in a positive way).

          1. SechsKatzen*

            Lawyer here as well–in a city which has a huge drinking culture. It’s completely normal to have networking events, conferences and even CLEs include not just some alcohol, but large quantities of it. Food is offered at the vast majority but the focus is definitely on drinking and when food is offered it tends to run out quickly. The beginning of the year events are coming up in the local Bar Association and I literally have 4 events to go to in 4 weeks and all of them will include alcohol. If someone isn’t drinking it’s generally assumed (and not always quietly) that it’s due to either pregnancy or substance abuse. Bars and focusing strictly on drinking is incredibly alienating for non-drinkers and especially in a work culture that is itself focused on drinking, switching the venue may not completely change that but can have a positive effect.

        5. LabTech*

          I don’t drink for semi-religious reasons myself, and have the same experience. I actually don’t mind going to bars, but plenty of people make it uncomfortable about my decision not to drink. Seeing all of the comments here insisting that OP just go to the bar anyways confirms my suspicion that it’s less about the bar itself and more about being singled out for being a religious minority. Regardless of whether we choose to go or not, we’re going to get people who are hostile for making the “wrong” choice.

    6. Mark132*

      I used to be active in a religion that opposes alcohol. And I get where the letter writer is coming from. From a practical point what are you going to do in a bar if you don’t drink? From a religious point of view you are in a place of sin.

      (Now from my less religious point of view, bars are boring and expensive. )

      1. Dee*

        What might they do in a bar at a networking event? I dunno… Network? It’s a networking event. I get tipsy quickly so I don’t drink at networking or work events. My husband is sober but he’s managed to go to bars and even wine tasting with friends without actually drinking booze. It’s not rocket science to not drink if you don’t want to drink. People are there to talk and network. If you find networking events at bars boring and expensive it sounds like the problem is not enough talking to people and too much paying for pricey drinks. That’s not the bar’s fault. That’s your fault.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          I think the real issue is that bars really expose the fact that the non drinker isn’t drinking. It makes them “other”, which is never good for social situations. Other venues don’t expose this so much.
          And frankly, there’s always the person that can’t handle it when someone isn’t drinking. Again, the bar exudes extra pressure to drink.
          There are a lot of venues that serve alcohol but don’t focus exclusively on drink. These venues are much more inclusive to people who don’t drink, religious or otherwise.

          1. Ann Non*

            I’m torn about this – in a bar, people don’t necessarily overhear your drink order if you walk up to the bar, so it might actually be LESS obvious that you are having sparkling water/apple juice/… than if you are in a restaurant where the server is collecting drink orders around the table.

            But I so agree with “there’s always the person that can’t handle it when someone isn’t drinking”. Why do these people monitor that??? I hate the taste of alcohol (no religious objections, just personal preference), but at every work dinner there is one (often more) person who “needs to” comment.

            1. Thankful for AAM*

              @Ann Non, “always someone who comments” – same for food choices. I’m vegan and while I dont mind the genuinely curious, there are so many comments about my choices.

              This thread is a good time to remember that we have learned from AAM not to make comments about coworkers choices and preferences, or anything really.

            2. Queen Anon*

              And it could actually be that less obvious aspect that’s part of the problem. People might see the non-alcoholic drink in the non-drinker’s hand and assume it’s actually an alcoholic beverage. The non-drinker will look as if she’s sinning, even though she’s not – she’s giving the appearance of evil. It’s conceivable, even, that word could get back to, say, someone on the deacon board that she was seen in a bar, drinking alcohol, and she could get reprimanded. No, it makes no sense at all if you weren’t raised that way. Yes, it’s definitely the way some people think.

              1. Jessen*

                There’s also some people who enjoy pointing out religious people being hypocrites. If OP’s opposition to alcohol is known to any of her coworkers, there’s a chance of someone deciding to make a fuss over her finally “loosening up” or something. Sometimes people who aren’t even part of your faith can be way too interested in whether you’re doing it right.

              2. Parenthetically*

                Yes, this was my thought as well. If I’m, say, pregnant and don’t want anyone to know, I can order a tonic and lime and it’ll look just like a G&T, which is my intention. But if one of the main points is that I don’t even want to LOOK like I’m drinking, even a Sprite would be problematic.

                1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

                  Not always, depends on the place. Sometimes if you order just a coke they will give you a gallon of coke, but if you order a jack and coke you will get a small whiskey glass of coke. It is possible that happens more in places that allow below 21 in so they can have a visual of who may be sneaking drinks, or possible they do that so people who are just drinking coke don’t take up more of the bartenders time for refills.

                2. Hills to Die on*

                  Great point, MusicWithRocksInIt. When I want people to not comment on my lack of alcohol, I get my soda in a rocks glass. :)

          2. Clare*

            But the LW says she doesn’t want to go into *any* place that serves alcohol. It’s not clear to me if she including all restaurants that serve alcohol in this proposed ban?

          3. pleaset*

            “bars really expose the fact that the non drinker isn’t drinking. ”
            I rarely go to bars and never drink alcohol, but the few times I have gone that hasn’t happened. The bartender knows but not other people.

            “always someone who comments”
            I have heard comments – like “Oh, you don’t drink” and that’s it. They notice something distinct about me and move on. NBD.

            I probably hang around with more considerate people than average so that might be part of it – people that don’t care about stuff like this.

            A few times someone has said much more about not drinking (and frankly, not at business events, where not drinking is normal for many reasons – more at socal events). And you know what: they’re assholes and it’s actually helpful to me for them to expose themselves like that.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              I go to bars semi-regularly to hear bands and have never had anyone comment on whether or not I was drinking (I drink but then sometimes I don’t due to a medically trivial but super annoying health condition wherein alcohol periodically triggers nagging headaches).

              I don’t think work events should be held at bars, though, just because I don’t really like what that implies about the overall culture. “Uncomfortable” would be an overstatement, but it has a whiff of frat-boy-ism that would put me off.

        2. Glomarization, Esq.*

          Recovery is really very different from a religious objection. And, frankly, “it’s not rocket science to not drink if you don’t want to drink” is not a nice thing to say about a lot of people who have struggled with alcoholism.

          1. Yorick*

            That comment was not about people who struggle with alcoholism, but about people more generally who will not be drinking

            1. BethRA*

              I think Glom was responding based on this “My husband is sober but he’s managed to go to bars and even wine tasting with friends without actually drinking booze”

              Awesome for Dee’s husband, but as Glomarization, Esq.points out, recovery is different for different people.

        3. Smarty Boots*

          It’s troubling to me that so many of the commenters are focusing on why the OP’s stance is not rational, or how it doesn’t match their or their friends’ experience.

          OP has a *religious* objection to going into bars, and thus having work events at bars is a problem for the OP for *religious* reasons. Religion does not have to be “rational” and the proscriptions and expectations of a particular religion may differ from (indeed, be at complete odds with) those of the wider society. If the OP has a *religious* objection, I think the office is going to have to accommodate it. And in this case, it’s extremely easy to accommodate. I can’t think of any reason why networking events must be in bars, unless they’re for an alcoholic beverage industry event, and I’ll bet that’s not the business the OP is in.

          1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesInYourHouse*

            I can see changing the vnues around but not all the time. OP has a religious objection to bars. So OP needn’t go to those. Same as if someone has an objection to going to a loud area, dance hall, etc. The whole office shouldn’t have to change every event for OP. Have a mix of venues and OP can go to the non bar ones.

            1. Half-Caf Latte*

              What I took from the letter is that these events are not really social/networking events for the OP, but work events, and as a recruiter OP is serving as a facilitator or at least a representative of the hosting company. While not changing every venue is fine, there does need to be a protection that the OP isn’t penalized for not attending all events in that case.

            1. Greaty*

              It’s the truth. Religion tells you not to doubt and just believe which is the opposite of rationality. That’s why religious arguments don’t make logical sense but people follow them regardless.

              1. Jadelyn*

                The smugly superior Look How Rational I Am, Unlike You Primitive Religious People mentality is not a great look on anyone. Just saying.

                Religion does a lot of different things for different people. It depends heavily on the religion, sect, adherent, etc. You’re painting a hugely diverse set of beliefs, customs, traditions, and cultures with a single, overgeneralizing brush and it’s deeply offensive, and I suspect you’re well aware of that.

            2. Engineer Girl*

              As a logical rational engineer, let me assure you that I examined my religion before committing to it.
              I examined my scriptures, the archeological evidence, the impact on history, etc. I continue to do so.
              I don’t have blind faith as you suggest. Most of us don’t. That would be silly- and irrational.
              It’s incredibly close minded to assume that millions of people think that way because you disagree with it. It’s also dishonest.
              Next time ask someone “why do you believe that?”

              1. Greaty*

                Believing in irrational things like God doesn’t mean someone is stupid. You can be smart and rational and still have irrational beliefs. I know I used to believe in astrology.

                Religion is irrational, it’s about belief, not facts or logic.

                1. Engineer Girl*

                  Logical fallacy (therefore irrational). You have presupposed something as irrational before examining the evidence.
                  You can state something is irrational. But that is merely your opinion. Once yiu have an opinion you need to go further and submit evidence to support your belief. Otherwise it may be irrational. :)

        4. Mark132*

          I think I would enjoy a wine tasting. I admit I have only rarely gone to bars but those few times weren’t enjoyable. Expensive booze, drunk people, and loud music. There are lots of other places I’d rather be.

    7. RoadsLady*

      As an active worshiper in an alcohol-abstaining religion myself, I largely get it. There’s something different about a bar vs anywhere else that may or may not serve alcohol.

      Then I think “But you’re not drinking anyway, so…?”

      I figure it’s a reasonable request of preference and I’d probably be shocked if Boss made a big deal over it, but in my religion, at least, I doubt you would be shunned for going to a bar for work; if it came down to brass racks, would it really stand up to religious protection under law?

      1. Nom Nom*

        I wondered that too. We have various functions both alcohol and non alcohol and about 25% of the workforce who abstain for religious reasons but they generally show up for work related functions (eg industry and awards dinners etc) and mostly show up to farewells etc as well if they are held in a bar.

        We also have a small but significant minority who are part of a very strict group who aren’t supposed to touch members of the opposite sex who aren’t family but they still shake my hand in meetings etc. I asked about it when it came up and they said their teachings include respect (I am a bit higher in the food chain) and that it was respectful to do so in the workplace context (about 90% professional males and it would be disrespectful to not shake a woman’s hand when they were shaking males of the same professional level) and that they saw no conflict as it was clearly business related and their leaders didn’t either. However if we met in the supermarket or eg outside their place of worship (a couple of blocks from where I live) then that would be different as not business related. A lot of organisations seem to have made accommodations of this sort where I work. OP is it worth checking in with a spiritual leader where you worship as this problem may well have come up before and there could be guidelines that apply that might help you navigate this issue.

      2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        I wondered if this would stand up to the law as well. I mean, the OP shouldn’t have to test that out as hopefully his employer will make accommodations when requested, but if it had to, would it? Because it seems more like a case of “I don’t want to be in bars because my religion dictates I can’t drink alcohol.” rather than “My religion dictates I can’t go in bars.” which seems like a significant difference. I guess my question is could the OP argue that she has a sincerely held belief that she cannot go in bars?

        Honestly I feel like the best way to make this work is to make it less work on whoever is organizing this stuff. Is the business renting a room or space in the bars or are people just going and gathering? If they are renting a space can you do some work and find an equivalently nice space somewhere that is more a restaurant but also serves alcohol? Or even a fun event space they might not of thought of? I feel like asking them to hold the events in the office would be a lot of work coordinating a bartender and bringing food in.

      3. Zennish*

        The difference is with a bar, alcohol is the point, the primary function of the establishment. I also avoid bars for religious reasons, even though my particular faith can be interpreted to allow drinking, as long as it doesn’t lead to heedlessness or drunkenness. Some religions have prohibitions that are based on the motivation of the adherent or the establishment. I can eat meat, for example, but I cannot go hunting.

        1. Nanani*


          In a bar (or boozy party, or brewery, anywhere where alcohol is the main draw) being a non-drinker means spending the whole time going “no thank you” and justifying why you aren’t drinking for the Nth time. If you’re a woman, throw in rampant speculation about the contents of your uterus as well.

          None of it is ok but it happens, and we all get to say Nah to that.

      4. Statler von Waldorf*

        IANAL, but I did observe a similar case in Canada once, though it was over a decade ago. I worked at a teapot company that hired a religious person to do sales. After the hiring, he disclosed that he would not go to “places of sin” which included any bars. The owner fired him for cause on the spot, and then the lawyers got involved. The owner won the resulting legal case, with the court agreeing that requiring a sales person to network and socialize in an environment that serves alcohol was both reasonable and a bona fide requirement, and that it would cause undue hardship on the business to accommodate the employee’s religious beliefs in this situation.

        Now my layman’s understanding of the case was that if the teapot industry wasn’t obsessed with drinking, or if the employee had not been hired to do sales with advance knowledge of that fact, the ruling would have been different.

    8. Book Badger*

      I’m wondering if OP is Mormon, and can’t enter bars because their primary purpose is alcohol, but can be present in places where food and alcohol are optionally served.

      1. RoadsLady*

        Except in Mormonism there really is no policy against going into a bar, just the alcohol consumption.

        I understand why OP5 isn’t willing, but if he is Mormon, there’s nothing tangible stopping him.

        Probably mostly semantics and gray areas, but it should be clear between what is personal commitment to a religion and what the religion actually decrees.

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          Yeah, he doesn’t drink alcohol and doesn’t WANT to go to a bar – but I don’t think that counts as a religious exemption. No one’s making him drink.

          1. RoadsLady*

            Yeah. And if Bosses are fine considering his preferences, that sure is thoughtful of them not wanting an employee to be uncomfortable.

            But if someone did try to fight back on this being a religious exemption, well, I would agree with them.

        2. Apollo Warbucks*

          My understanding is to request an accommodation it only needs to be based on a sincerely held religious belief, not just necessarily something the religion prohibits.

          1. MK*

            Hmm, ok, but that seems very open to abuse, in my opinion; one twist pretty much anything to fit “a sincerely held religious belief”, and it can get complicated if you are taking it to extremes. The majority religion in my country forbids the consumption of meat on two days of the week and also during Lent, but very specifically does not forbid being around meat or other people eating meat (the whole point of fasting being that meat is easily available but one is choosing to abstain). Someone asking for an accommodation because they personally believe they shouldn’t even enter restaurants that serve meat on those days would be problematic; on the other hand, religious observance is personal and one can and should think critically about doctrine and practices, on the other, if you ask for accommodation because you want to observe even stricter rules that the official Church demands, “reasonable accommodation” is going to have a higher bar. If the OP’s case came to court here, for example, if not going into bars is actually decreed by their religion, the employer would probably be expected to change venues for at least some of these gatherings; if the restriction is based only on their personal belief, the accommodation would likely be that they can be excused from attending.

            1. Apollo Warbucks*

              I agree with you that there is the potential for abuse, but I also think that people should be free to practice their religion in the way they wish.

              To use Islam as an example, as far as I know there is nothing that makes wearing a headscarf mandatory, but an awful lot of people wear one which is the sort of situation the law around religious accommodation is trying to allow for

              1. RoadsLady*

                The scarves are a great example I didn’t consider.

                I confess, a lot of my perspective on this came from another advice area elsewhere where the letter writer wasn’t comfortable working Sundays due to a sincerely held religious belief but was denied an alternative schedule because while his religion preferred not working on Sundays it didn’t prohibit it and Joe Coworker’s faith actually did prohibit it.

            2. Smarty Boots*

              It doesn’t matter if it’s open to abuse. All sorts of laws meant to accommodate or help someone are potentially open to abuse. That’s the way it works.

              How is this helping the OP?

              1. MK*

                It’s helpful to know how your request for religious accommodation is likely to come across to determine what you can reasonably ask. Particularly since, though the OP seems to want to decline attending, Alison and most of the comments are about changing the venue. Which might be a good idea or it might be impractical/contrary to the culture of the field.

            3. Genny*

              The law is written that way because no one wants the government in the business of determining what is and isn’t a “legitimate” religious belief (within the bounds of reason of course. I’m aware the that the government has occasionally stepped in to ban things like drug consumption or animal sacrifice). The government, lawyers, and judges are not typically experts on religious doctrine, and aren’t qualified to determine on behalf of all the various religious sects what their religion actually says.

              1. MK*

                Courts are not experts in anything other than the law, but they are called upon to determine an insane variety of issues (including whether a tomato is a vegetable or not). And they are very much qualified to determine what accommodation is reasonable, which would be the issue here.

                1. Genny*

                  The point isn’t determining whether an accommodation is reasonable. The point is the law is vaguely written because no one wants the government saying Christians believe X or Orthodox Judaism teaches Y. It’s not the government’s place to make those determinations, so they wrote a vague law that gives people plenty of leeway to determine for themselves what is means to be an observant Orthodox Jew, Sikh, or Evangelical Reformed Presbyterian.

              2. JamieS*

                To that point when the government bars a practice they’re not determining whether or not it’s a “legitimate religious belief”, that’s not really they’re determination to make, but rather it runs afoul of a law.

            4. Mary*

              The idea of an “official church” is specific to certain religions with a top-down authoritative structure. Tons of religions don’t have “official” versions.

            5. madge*

              I think your comment (and various other comments here) demonstrate precisely why this is not likely to be abused–people tend to be very attuned to (and quick to question) ideas/behaviors/requests for accommodation that register as unreasonable, unfair, or outside of the norm in some way. It’s very likely that the general social pressure to not be seen as unreasonable or different prevents people taking advantage of this law.

          2. Greaty*

            That sounds pretty discriminatory. So your sincerely held beliefs are only protected if they’re religious? What if you object to drinking on other grounds? No protection then since no supernatural powers involved?

              1. Greaty*

                It’s still discrimination against atheists’ sincerely held beliefs. Religious people can request all kinds of stuff claiming it’s their religion, even if no religious authority agrees with it. So they can basically make up restrictions and rules. But atheists don’t have that protection and are forced to go against their values if the job requires it.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Actually, the law protects you based on lack of faith too. You can’t be forced to participate in a religious practice at work, for example.

                  But yeah, the law doesn’t applied to sincerely held beliefs that aren’t connected to religion/lack of religion. If you just hate bars because you hate them, the law won’t protect you. That’s the way the law is written.

                2. JamieS*

                  Alison, if OP’s opposition had been based on their sincerely held morals but those beliefs aren’t based on their religion would the law say OP’s employer has to treat their request for accommodation the same as an accommodation based on a religious belief?

              2. P-dub*

                I think you brought up an interesting point, Greaty. As far as the “supernatural” statement, I don’t find it rude. Anything that doesn’t fit within the known laws of nature could well be described as “supernatural.”

        3. scribblingTiresias*

          Dunno if you’re Mormon or not, but at least where and when I was raised, there *is* a policy against going into a bar.

          Specifically Mormons are supposed to “avoid the appearance of evil”, which means “not do things that even slightly/sort of look like you could be doing something that’s against the principles of your religion”. So, like, not only are Mormons not supposed to drink, you’re supposed to avoid drinking pop out of a dark-coloured bottle (because someone could think that you’re drinking beer) and avoid virgin versions of drinks that are normally alcoholic (because someone could think that you’re drinking alcohol)… Similarly, Mormons aren’t even supposed to get hot chocolate or pastries from Starbucks, because if someone sees you going into a Starbucks, they could think you’re going to get coffee.

          The stated reason for this is that Mormons’ lives are supposed to be the symbol of their faith, so you’re *supposed* to look ridiculously straight-edge so that everyone knows you’re Mormon and can see how different your life is from theirs. It’s a slightly less pushy form of proselytizing.

          I’m ex-Mormon, so I’ll refrain from giving my own thoughts here- but yeah, at least where I grew up, there *was* Church policy about that.

            1. Birch*

              There’s a rule against caffeine, which includes coffee and caffeinated soft drinks. I bartended a Mormon wedding once and it was kind of fun and interesting to invent virgin mixed drinks from clear sodas and fruit juices.

              1. MissGirl*

                Nope, we can drink soft drinks, although some don’t. This is why guessing the religion leads us down a rabbit hole. Let’s stay on topic.

                1. Birch*

                  I get that it’s different for different regions, but some of these answers have been clarifying questions based on real observations. Your experience is valid: so is ours, and if ours is off topic, so is yours. The comment policing of all sorts on here is getting really out of hand.

                2. scribblingTiresias*

                  I’ll note for non-Mormons that this is an issue of fierce controversy- when I got bored in Sunday school, I used to ask whether or not it was okay for Mormons to have caffeinated soda.

                  An argument *always* ensued.

              2. JustaCPA*

                Interesting. I wonder at the origin of that. Many religious dictates have their origin in economic or social benefits. I find it fascinating.

                (and just for clarification, I dont drink caffeine but thats a health issue vs a religious one)

                1. scribblingTiresias*

                  [note: snarky exmormon, definitely biased, do not read if you’re gonna be offended by this]

                  Joseph Smith- the first Mormon prophet- used to have meetings with early Church leadership in his family’s house. The men would smoke tobacco and get smoke all over the place. Joseph Smith’s wife was none too happy about this and asked him to please do something about this before she went insane.

                  So he went and prayed about it and God told him that Mormons shouldn’t smoke, drink alcohol, drink coffee or tea, or eat too much meat. I’ll note that this was rather *convenient* for Joseph, seeing as he was having some domestic troubles at the time. But he started enforcing it on the other guys, and that particular problem went up in smoke.

          1. MissGirl*

            Active Mormon, here. And I have never heard of anyone not being able to drink out of a brown-colored bottle. Yes, we try to avoid the appearance but that mostly means don’t do the thing you shouldn’t do. Perhaps that was some regional thing you experienced. Let’s not spend time trying to analyze religion or try to guess the OP’s religion because that takes us down a rabbit hole that doesn’t help anyone.

            1. Sara*

              I’ve sure heard of it growing up Mormon, and not from just one source. Root beer bottles can look like beer bottles so they should be avoided.

              1. MissGirl*

                Oh my goodness the amount of root beer I drank as a child out of brown bottle would beg to differ. This might’ve been just a family or regional thing for you. Active member all my life.

                1. VintageLydia*

                  Just like any sect, there are more or less extreme versions. My best friend and my GF are both exmo. My best friend was raised more like you, but he lived in Provo so he knew a lot of very strict versions of the religion. My GF was raised very strictly, like the person above described. There is a LOT of variation within the Mormon religion, just like there are a lot of variation in the Catholic religion (how I was raised) despite both having very centralized and authoritarian top-down structures.

                2. President Porpoise*

                  Yep – grew up Mormon, and there are some really weird regional or family specific ‘doctrines’ that are extreme or just plain make no sense. I had a friend ask once why I was allowed to ice skate, since another Mormon family she had known growing up couldn’t do it for religious reasons. I… had absolutely no answer for that. That’s nowhere in any of the standard Mormon teachings that I know of.

                3. Botanist*

                  Came here to agree with this. Also an active Mormon all my life, raised in Utah, never heard a word about not drinking out of brown bottles. There can definitely be a lot of debate about interpretation of doctrine but that one seems a bit extreme. I agree with Lydia below- some Mormons set up a very strict lifestyle and others focus more on the spirit of the law. Most are somewhere in between at a self-decided place.

          2. Queen Anon*

            Exactly like the strict variety of Baptist I referenced (without naming) in my other comments. (Except that Baptists have no trouble at all with caffeine – I can’t imaging a Baptist church of any variety without a couple of big coffee tureens in the kitchen!)

          3. RoadsLady*

            Wow, I really have no idea where you were raised and when, but there is absolutely nothing official on anything you just said. I need more than two hands to count the Mormons I know who work with alcohol in restaurant bars.

            Not to mention all the Mormon-friendly Starbucks lists people make.

            So maybe that was culture in your upbringing but I assure you there is no written policy on ANY of that.

              1. RoadsLady*

                No Mormons are not.

                Yet one can’t take local variations and proclaim them as official church policy because that’s not how the term works.

                1. scribblingTiresias*

                  It might be ‘local culture’ and not ‘what the Prophet says’- but it’s still sincerely held religious beliefs. Not any different from how you’re not allowed to bring face cards to Girls Camp, even though there’s no official *rule* against it.

                  Also, this miiiight have been a ‘we’re out in the mission field and so have to be on our BEST BEHAVIOUR ALL THE TIME’ thing. My ward wasn’t anywhere near the Morridor, so there were only 3 or so Mormon families in the school district- stuff like that.

          4. Youth*

            Just for the sake of accuracy…I’m a Latter-day Saint (from Utah!), and I’ve definitely been in a Starbucks for hot chocolate or pastries and had soda out of a dark-colored bottle. I don’t think there’s ever been an official church policy on any of those things, so this comment really confuses me!

      2. MissGirl*

        Let’s not spend time trying to analyze religion or try to guess the OP’s religion because that takes us down a rabbit hole that doesn’t help anyone. This is their belief and it doesn’t matter if they worship Zorp of Pawnee, we should help the with the work part of it.

    9. Glomarization, Esq.*

      This thread is turning into a lot of second-guessing about OP’s religious belief and what is or what should be OK for them. I wish the commenariat would take OP’s restrictions at face value.

      1. MissGirl*

        Yes, thank you. It’s so derailing when we try to guess the religion. Then everyone weighs in on the religion and not the question at hand.

        1. MissGirl*

          Please don’t be rude. I don’t comment often on here but today it’s hard when you see misinformation being spread. I wish the entire thread would be deleted my comments and all. And I’m worried the OP will read this and feel piled on. We’re not always friendly to religion in the comments. Don’t worry, I’m not commenting anymore after this nor will I look again.

      2. Sciencer*

        Agreed. My jaw is on the floor reading these insensitive and, in some cases, abrasive comments. Honestly I don’t think OP even needs a religious justification to make this request; simply saying “I’m uncomfortable in bars and would appreciate if we could schedule these networking events somewhere with a lighter/more professional atmosphere” should be enough. Even better if s/he suggests a few alternatives to get the ball rolling.

        1. RoadsLady*

          Indeed. I apologize for speculating so on the nitty-gritty beliefs, but I stand by my opinion the bar thing is still likely a reasonable request.

        2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          I don’t think uncomfortable would really pass the stress test for changing an established business pattern the way that religious objection would. I am uncomfortable going out into the plant at my work, it’s loud and smelly and there are forklift drives that race around like loons. It stresses me the F out, but I still do it because it’s part of my job sometimes. I feel like if she says she is uncomfortable they will not take it seriously. The religious angle will hold a lot more weight.

          Also if you ask for somewhere with a more “professional atmosphere” it sounds kind of insulting, especially if you are talking to the person who picked out the current venues. I would try to avoid making it sound like you are judging anyone or acting like the current culture is bad, just that you are requesting something different. Absolutely do some research and have places to suggest that are equally or more convenient. Something with similar prices, distance, location, maybe even something new and better to offer! Try to find a perk – closer to the office, will cut us a deal, has a bakery attached, view of the water, fun activity attached!

        3. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesInYourHouse*

          Yeah, as a business owner, I’d say no. Doesn’t matter if the worker is uncomfortable, lots of jobs are. Plenty of customer service people are uncomfortable around yelling/irate clients. It’s the job. And what you said would be a slap in the face for many professionals. Many bars are clean, neat, have rooms to rent for a party/networking, and being at a bar networking event isn’t unprofessional.

      3. Holly*

        I agree with you but I think it’s important to note that OP is going to have to make it clear to her employers exactly what OP needs since this is not a common request. I think the confusion (while it could be kinder to OP) is indicative of how OP’s employers might react, and to prepare for that.

    10. PhyllisB*

      The optics are different if you go to a bar. If you don’t drink for religious reasons going somewhere where the prime focus is drinking alcohol is very awkward. It also makes you look like a hypocrite to say you don’t drink alcohol and patronize a bar. And depending on what denomination you are, can have repercussions from your church. Meeting at a restaurant or a ball game or whatever where alcohol is available is different. People go to these places for all kinds of reasons, but when you go to a bar chances are about 98% you are there to have an alcoholic beverage.

    11. Anon for this*

      A lot of the replies in this thread are pretty mean-spirited. I’m sober and don’t like going in bars; I won’t revert or freak out or anything, but it’s a place where the focus is drinking and it’s just not the best environment. I’ll still go on occasion for events, but I cut those trips short (like, less than an hour). For the LW, being fundamentally opposed to the environment would be really uncomfortable on multiple levels, and cutting a networking trip short is not good for their career.

      A restaurant or office where alcohol is available isn’t the same environment as a place that was built specifically for the consumption of alcohol. The fact that some people are okay with this environment does not mean that the feelings of the people who are not okay are invalid.

      1. AMPG*

        I completely agree with you, but I think the sticking point is over what the job is required to accommodate. Someone who’s sober or who has a religious restriction is probably entitled to accommodations that someone who just doesn’t like bars isn’t.

        1. Anon for this*

          Yes, this is true, but the comments in this thread have veered far from “what should the job accommodate” and well into “anyone who has a problem with bars needs to suck it up.”

    12. Quickbeam*

      I am just like OP#5. I do not attend work functions in bars. I also do not attend work social functions where alcohol is served. I have gone to working business meetings where alcohol is served. It is different to me as to what I can control. I also do not go to work events in casinos, another religious belief. Both of these have come up in my work life but I have always told employers these things upon hire.

    13. Allison*

      Context matters. I don’t think the presence of alcohol is always a problem for non-drinkers, but a bar is a place that primarily serves alcohol, and people usually go to bars to drink alcohol. Yes, sometimes there’s trivia, a painting event, live music, social dancing, standup comedy, pool, darts, speed dating, etc. and you don’t have to drink alcohol to partake in those things, but drinking is still a big aspect.

      Also, religions that preach against drinking alcohol probably warn their followers to stay away from bars in order to resist temptation, so the word “bar” probably carries a very negative connotation for them, which I may not agree with from my own perspective but I can understand and respect people who feel that way.

    14. Half-Caf Latte*

      I think sacados’ original point is a fair one- it may not be intuitive to OP5’s boss how bars are different from not-bars with alcohol, especially if there’s been a long history of using bars for this purpose and the manager hasn’t really questioned the mindset of that.

      I think PCBH’s language around inclusivity is helpful, although the OP may need to still make clear that this is a religious accommodation request, especially if the venue is only sometimes changed to a not-bar.

      I wonder if the advice remains the same if the reason to not go to a bar was recovery?

    15. eLearning_eVangelical*

      I read this as “I don’t want to be at a bar when I’m not partaking in alcohol consumption”.

      Ordering a soft drink at a bar often results in a lot of questions and conversations. Some people find this type of questioning awkward and difficult to navigate, especially if the decision to not drink is tied to something inherently personal like religious affiliation. A non-drinking friend of mine avoids bars for this reason – she got sick of having to justify her beverage choice to both friends and strangers. It’s the same thing as a vegan going into to a barbecue place and ordering a salad – it’s probably going to result in a lot of awkward questions and life decision justifications.

      1. pleaset*

        “A non-drinking friend of mine avoids bars for this reason – she got sick of having to justify her beverage choice to both friends and strangers.”

        “it’s probably going to result in a lot of awkward questions and life decision justifications.”

        She should reconsider her friends. Seriously. It seems like you and your friend are with the wrong people. I don’t drink and have rarely had a problem with this. And even family – an uncle of mine started telling my wife she should learn how to mix drinks so she could be a good hostess. We shot that down with a “No.”

        She never got close to that uncle, and you know what? That’s probably a good thing.

        I have never drunk alcohol BTW. I’ve faked it once or twice in very important situations – a meeting on the side of a mountain with a bunch of woodcutters and farmers in Mexico where it was important to be polite. But in “normal” circumstance in my personal and social life: no.

    16. NLMC*

      I would take it as if you see someone enter a restaurant that serves alcohol you don’t assume they’ll be drinking, but if you see someone walk into a bar it is easy to assume they will be drinking. It’s most likely an appearance issue rather than a not wanting to be anywhere near alcohol issue.

    17. Idonthaveanametoday*

      I grew up in a conservative church – I was specifically taught that going to bars was giving appearance to evil 1 Thessalonians 5:22, because they believed *all* alcohol was a sin (I never could get past the but Jesus turned water into wine part…). So it could very well be that belief. Which I don’t and won’t judge. I’ve been to a few work happy hours (I don’t drink very much) and I don’t drink at them and they are the most uncomfortable things on the planet.

    18. Indoor Cat*

      Possibly a certain Anabaptist / Mennonite rule, which is that if you pay for something at a bar (or another taboo place), you’re financially supporting a sinful institution. Unlike the prohibition against alcohol for certain Jewish and Muslim denominations, which is about keeping one’s own body pure, the Anabaptist prohibition is more concerned with the negative effects of alcohol on a greater family or community, so financially supporting a bar, or even socially supporting one (seem to be enjoying yourself in a photo, for example), is considered wrong.

      (Sorry if I’ve misrepresented Jewish or Muslim prohibition of alcohol; feel free to correct me! I was raised in an Anabaptist church, and this was how the difference was explained to me).

        1. curly sue*

          A huge number of our practices involve a blessing over wine, even. Purim with grape juice only would be a very different scene than the holiday I grew up with!

    19. Noah*

      Right, this seems hugely problematic from a legal standpoint. I don’t know of any sincerely held religious belief that prohibits going to bars but allows you to go to a restaurant that has bar, or allows you to go to an event at work when they wheel in a portable bar or use a table for a bar.

      While I don’t necessarily think OP5’s request is unreasonable, I very much doubt that it is legally protected.

      1. Rat in the Sugar*

        “Sincerely held religious belief” refers to an individual’s belief, not a religious text or teaching. It doesn’t matter if there’s not a specific rule in OP’s religion against going into bars, it only matters if OP herself sincerely holds that belief.

    20. I get it*

      I don’t think the fact that OP’s religion banning alcohol and their current stance to avoid bars really matters. Those who do not drink alcohol, regardless of the reason, are often ostracized by peers in a setting like a bar. You don’t have to do anything to draw attention to it except not have an alcoholic drink in hand. Some drinkers seem to feel threatened by that. That may not be as big of an issue at a networking event, but I can see the OP having been down this road before and feeling it’s just easier not to get into the discussion about why they choose not to drink at a networking event. It can spiral into an inappropriate discussion pretty quickly. Occasionally, I have chosen not to drink for a variety of reasons, and I always get a remark about it at after-hours work events.

    21. Totally Minnie*

      I was raised in a ver conservative religion. We were taught that bars were send of iniquity and we should never darken their doors. It’s a very specific teaching in certain religious groups.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        And I’m just now re-reading this and realizing why I should never comment on AAM before I’ve had my caffeine. Sorry for the typos!

  2. nnn*

    For #3, I’d strongly recommend surprising your husband now with the fact that you’re taking him on this vacation later, as opposed to surprising him on the spot with “We’re going on this vacation right this minute!”

    For people who take pleasure in travelling, anticipation is part of the pleasure. By not telling him in advance, you’re denying him this part of the pleasure. Yes, you’re giving him a surprise, but it will be a surprise whenever you tell him.

      1. Nines*

        OMG! Yes! My partner just does NOT get this! He will randomly take days off work to see me as a surprise and getting to spend a day with him is great! But I already had All The Things planned for that day that I now can’t do. One thing I’m working on is figuring out a way to communicate this without hurting his feelings or sounding like I would rather do laundry than spend time with him…

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          Ugh, people who don’t listen when you tell them you don’t like something, then act offended when you don’t pretend to like it are the worst. Good luck with that.

          Have you tried the whole “sit him down and tell him ahead of time, then if he does it again, say ‘I told you I didn’t want this,’ and then letting him sulk” technique? I mean, if you keep hoping he’ll stop on his own but giving him positive reinforcement every time he does it (because you don’t want to hurt his feelings) he’s probably going to keep doing it. Maybe just clearly explain it to him a few times and if he wants to ignore that and be unhappy – let him.

          1. Ender*

            She hasn’t told him at all yet that she doesn’t like it, so it seems like you’re making some pretty negative assumptions about the husband.

            1. Health Insurance Nerd*

              Traffic Spiral was responding to the comment above, not the LW. They aren’t making any negative assumptions.

        2. Engineer Girl*

          I had someone that became an ex because of this. In his case it was a passive aggressive “do you love me enough to dump work?”
          The real issue is not respecting YOUR time. He can ask for it, but the real thing is that when he just shows up he’s passive agressively demanding it.

          1. EvilQueenRegina*

            Ex: “Do you love me enough to dump work?”
            You: “Do you love me enough to support me financially when I get fired over it?”

            Sounds a bit like some of my relatives who have tried suggesting that I call in sick so I can go away with them on very little notice …um, no.

            1. Gaia*

              I worked with a friend and when she was fired she demanded to know why I hadn’t immediately quit. To which I naturally informed her “you don’t pay me a salary to be your friend, soooooooooo”

              We are no longer friends.

        3. Ender*

          That’s really sweet of him. If he really is a sweet guy then he’ll understand if you explain it to him. Why not just say it like you said it to us, or use some of Alison’s wording to the OP? “I plan the housework for the day ahead of time, and while it’s absolutely lovely to see you, I still need to get the laundry done!”

          If he really just wants to spend time with you he should be totally willing to spend that time helping you with the laundry! You can work together to get the days housework done in half the time, then have a half day to yourselves. It’s much better than taking a day off but having the nagging feeling of a full days housework to do that evening or squeeze into the rest of the week!

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Exactly. “Cool! I have to do laundry today, but now you can do it with me!” And if he isn’t happy to spend your day together doing what *you* planned for once, instead of what *he* planned, I’ll just point out that when someone does something “for you,” even after you ask them not to? They’re not doing it for you, they’re doing it to you.

          2. Gaia*

            It is not really sweet of him. She doesn’t like surprises. Continuing to surprise her when she doesn’t like surprises is not sweet at all. It is actually pretty rude.

        4. I'm A Little Teapot*

          “Hey, partner, about the surprise hangout things. I get the gesture, and I appreciate it, but when I have planned out my day to get various chores, errands, or other things done, it really messes with my head to suddenly throw it all out the window when you show up unannounced. I can’t do sudden change of schedules like that. If you want to show up unannounced, that’s great! You’re welcome to tag along with me while I do whatever I need to get done, but if you prefer that we just hang out, I need a bit of notice to rearrange plans.”

        5. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Argh, I know how you feel. My ex would sometimes take a day off so we could spend the day together. I worked at home a lot and he just didn’t understand that I was working, not lounging at home. He knew I didn’t like surprises anyway, but always seemed to time these bonus days off when I was working on a project with a major deadline or had back-to-back conference calls. He’d sulk because I didn’t drop everything – he was just a Nice Guy trying to do something nice, but NOOOO – and eventually found a buddy to hit the links with him. Which, IMO, was his main goal, but I don’t know for sure…there’s a reason why he’s my ex.

        6. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Nines, put the laundry basket in your partner’s hands and see if he gets the message: the work still needs to be done, so if he wants your free time, he can free some up for you!

        7. AdminX2*

          “I really do appreciate your intent to be romantic and do the work to give me a fun experience. But I truly value planning as part of the process and quick changes to my routine and expectations are a big draining negative thing for me. In the future, it would be great to just plan the time off, but keep the activity a surprise.”

          It may hurt his feelings, but that’s part of managing adult relationships and recognizing people are DIFFERENT and just because X is amazing to you doesn’t mean it will be amazing to another and forcing your idea of amazing is not cool. If this is enough for him to be unreasonable over, well better to find out now than over something genuinely life changing.

        8. nnn*

          Maybe something like “OMG, that sounds like so much fun but I wish you had given me more notice – I absolutely have to get X, Y, and Z done by the end of today because [boring information about task dependencies], so we’ll have to take care of that before we can spend time on fun stuff.”

          The emphasis would be that X, Y, and Z have to get done, because if they don’t, A, B, C, D, and E will get messed up. (As opposed to that you were planning to do them.

          1. AdminX2*

            Yes but that suggests it’s this ONE TIME conflict, not addressing the value/priority conflict inherent with the process and what needs to change. As AAM always says- don’t hint about it. If you want a change, explain the reasoning and ask for it.

        9. Ego Chamber*

          “One thing I’m working on is figuring out a way to communicate this without hurting his feelings or sounding like I would rather do laundry than spend time with him…”

          Dude. Just include him in whatever plans you have.

          Partner: I took today off to surprise you! Now we can spend the day together!
          You: Great! It’s laundry day and it’ll go a lot faster with your help! And then we can clean the bathroom!

          Trust me, this works.

      2. Allison*

        Yes, absolutely! I am definitely not a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants person, I’m not even fond of last-minute evening plans, let alone spontaneous trips that require me to pack and get on a plane at the last minute. I need time to plan my outfits, assemble my various travel cases of makeup and toiletries, and decide what to download from Netflix for the flight.

      1. Cat wrangler*

        I worked with a woman years ago who had it arranged by her husband for a week’s surprise leave to celebrate their first wedding anniversary. So he turned up at work and swept her off at lunchtime, she literally went out with her handbag as she thought they were going to the pub for lunch.

        I think although she enjoyed Paris, she would have liked to have chosen her clothes to pack herself and not had half the office knowing about it ahead of time. I would ask your husband to book the leave himself but leave the details as a surprise.

    1. MLB*

      I prefer planning and anticipating a trip, but if my husband said “Surprise, we’re going away tomorrow”, I wouldn’t complain.

      Regardless, Alison is right. She shouldn’t contact her husband’s boss. Tell him he needs to take off certain days, and tell him the “why” is a surprise. I planned a long weekend away when my husband and I celebrated our first anniversary. I even made him drive and still didn’t tell him where we were going, just told him what turns to make :-)

    2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      Yes – I love the anticipation of knowing I’ll be going on a trip. Surprises can take the fun out. My husband recently surprised me with tickets to see the Werq the world tour of the RuPaul’s drag race winners. Which was great and so much fun! But also I haven’t watched the most recent season yet, so I had no idea who *any* of the queens were. If I had known we were going I would have watched the season and it probably would have been a lot more fun for me.

    3. Lehigh*

      While generally I agree (and am not a big surprise fan), some people genuinely do love surprises.

      If her husband is in that category, maybe she can ask him to take the time off for something less interesting–a trip to see her family, or a more run-of-the-mill vacation, or some other thing that he’ll be more than psyched to switch out at the last minute for Dream Trip.

      1. Parenthetically*


        (N.B. I loathe surprises with my whole being, but I think if I were a surprise-loving person this would be just the right compromise — responsible and all, but you still get the big reveal at the end.)

    4. Zennish*

      Also, regarding contacting the boss, for this and all similar posts everywhere…

      “Can I call my husband’s/wife’s/child’s/aunt’s/uncle’s/second cousin’s boyfriend’s boss about anything besides their sudden hospitalization and inability to call or come to work?” No, no you cannot. It is not generally A Thing That is Done. It will nearly always come across weird, and make the boss uncomfortable, both with you and the employee.

      1. Kathleen_A*

        Exactly. It puts a conscientious boss in an awkward position – and it puts a boundary-crossing boss in a position where she’ll be faaaaaar more involved in her employee’s time off than she really should be. I get why the OP finds the idea of this surprise so attractive, but the price to pay for that surprise is just too high. Your spouse will be surprised whenever you reveal your plans to him, so why make everything so complicated and fraught by insisting on revealing the surprise at the last minute?

        1. KC without the sunshine band*

          I think this really depends on how well the LW knows the boss. My boss and his wife have been friends with my husband and I for a decade before the working relationship began. So for my 40th birthday, my husband planned a week’s vacation surprise. He called my boss to ask for me to be off, no problem. Usually I’m the trip planner and enjoy that part of it, but I loved it because it took so much effort and thoughtfulness to do!

          1. Kathleen_A*

            That’s great, but I think your situation is the exception. I don’t think this would work well in most boss/employee situations. All other complications aside, the boss won’t always know everything that the employee has planned for the work week, so how can she know that it’s OK for the person to take the time off with no warning? It seems to me that the instances in which it would work are…pretty rare.

            I mean, even in your case, your husband could have done all the planning and just not told you where you were going. That would still have been a lovely surprise, or least it would have been for me. :-)

    5. Katelyn*

      There was a commercial years back where a couple is clearly on the outs because the guy is going to a “destination” business trip… the guy has his wife drive him to the airport for a trip, and surprise! he has packed her bags too and she is thrilled to be coming along! My mother turned to my father and said “you ever try something like that on me and we’re getting divorced.” The anxiety of not knowing if he had checked off all the things she considered important would over-shadow the whole thing, let alone letting her prep for it and pack, etc. She just does not like surprises, but dad had to be reminded of that, because he couldn’t tell the difference between “surprise trip away for a week” and “surprise breakfast in bed”…

      (9 year old me was wondering what they were planning on doing with the car if they were both going to be flying away now…)

      1. Turquoisecow*

        I haven’t seen that, but it reminds me of the commercials where someone buys an expensive car as a Christmas gift and surprises their spouse with it. The best, most concise criticism I ever heard was “guess they don’t have a joint checking account!”

        1. Gaia*

          Here’s a gift that will cost us several hundred dollars a month for the next few years, sweety! I even picked out all the features and the color for you!

    6. Night Cheese*

      I have friends who surprise each other with trips – but the surprise is *where* not *when.* One partner will plan the trip, and let the other know when it’s happening so they can get the time off.

    7. LW3*

      Thanks for the comments, and I’ll address some of the concerns. First, my husband works as a chef. He doesn’t schedule meetings, have client calls, etc. He goes to work, cooks the food, goes home. Yeah, there’s some menu prep and a meeting here or there, but it’s not like he’d need to reschedule anything, especially if his boss was in on it.

      As far as the surprise, my husband is usually the spontaneous one. He’s the one to say, “hey honey, let’s take a road trip this weekend!” He’d totally be game for this surprise trip. So for all of you who are assuming our marriage will disintegrate because I surprised him with a long weekend trip, you’re wrong. My husband actually likes surprises and I’m the grumpy one who doesn’t. But if I can plan it, he can be surprised by it, and we’re all good. (As I just mentioned, this would be a long weekend trip, like taking off Monday and Tuesday to have a long weekend road trip. It’s not a two-week tour of Europe.) And I do all the packing when we travel; he’s the type who would forget his underwear.

      He has tons of vacation that he rarely takes; as of right now, he has almost two week accrued and only has plans to use one day of it.

      I’m not totally sure the relevance of some of the comments, though. The comments about “I have all of these chores to do, now you can accompany me!” That’s what I’m trying to avoid. If I tell him to take the days off “to chill” or “to get stuff done around the house” or whatever reason that won’t tip him off, he’ll start planning things to do those days. If I tell him we’re going to see my family or some other sort of misdirection, he’d wonder why we aren’t bringing the kids. I can’t think of a lie to tell him that won’t tip him off or cause a conflict.

      So it looks like there’s no way to actually surprise him.

      1. AdminX2*

        You may have to multi step this. First, get him comfortable and used to scheduling time off. Communicate it as a priority for your shared lives and make it happen as a benefit in a coupled way. Hopefully he will become addicted to mini breaks. From what I hear, chef life is pretty 24/7 and most hate being away so that may take quite awhile.

        Then, you can schedule time, but keep the what a secret. Maybe even to the point that he only knows the days to take while you pack and pay for everything else.

        My partner has never enjoyed or felt secure taking time off or in vacations- they were always just more work and stress for him. It’s a long term mission of mine to teach him how to love vacations. But I started by asking for a day here, a day there, try this type of hotel first, that type later. It’s something I expect to take years.

      2. CMart*

        I’m not AAM, but I have worked in restaurants for a long time. The rules and “professional norms” are very different there, especially when it comes to scheduling.

        I honestly think given his position, your plan is just fine. Restaurants are much less rigid about personal/professional boundaries, for better or worse. And I think this is one of those times where it’s ever so slightly weighted toward “better”.

        But that’s just one career bartender/sometimes manager opinion.

        1. Emily*

          Yes, I did this with my ex boyfriend. He worked in a small family-owned restaurant and I coordinated with his boss to get him surprise time off for his 30th birthday. She was thrilled to help out.

          But I think you could also tell him he needs to take time off for a surprise and just not give him any more details.

      3. ISupportSurprises!*

        So I did basically this exact thing for my partner’s birthday — planned a long weekend surprise trip. They are a software developer and from the commentary here it seems like the work/office norms are just totally different. The office is really small, we know and spend a lot of time with their boss/family, and my partner’s hours are super flexible. Basically, as long as there isn’t a meeting scheduled, they can work from anywhere or just not work at all.
        My partner is also all about surprises (although I’m not, which creates its own sets of problems…!), so I knew they’d dig it. I emailed the boss before I bought the tickets to make sure it’d be ok they were gone for a Friday, made sure to say that we didn’t have to go over a work day if it was going to be a problem, and he was cool with it. I mean, I only did this because I felt pretty darn confident it wouldn’t be a problem – I *definitely* would NOT have done this if I knew the office was a more traditional work space. But it sounds like your husband’s work is also an environment that’s really different.
        I think you should do it! Our surprise vacation was so much fun, and it was truly a surprise, which was honestly part of the fun for him. What’s the worst that will happen? His boss will say no and maybe think you’re a bit odd? Given that he’s a chef, I don’t think there’s too much risk at all here.
        I hope you do it and I hope it works out and it’s awesome. Good luck!

      4. Ender*

        Since he’s a chef, I think you can go for it. He has the time available, he has no other plans for it, and it won’t cause him any problems at work to take the time off at short notice (so long as his boss knows in advance for scheduling). Honestly I think if you’d included all those details in the original letter Alison might have given you the opposite answer!

        Or maybe not. But I think you should go for it.

      5. Courageous cat*

        Personally I think in many (most?) cases people should specify that they work in restaurants/food when they write in, because it seems like it changes so much advice! I wonder if this really is a different scenario then, because normally I’d agree with Alison on this one.

    8. Orange You Glad*

      My friend recently went a surprise trip. Basically his partner told him the dates (so he could take off work) and a rough outline of the type of clothes to pack but otherwise he didn’t know where they were going until they arrived at the airport.

      I personally am not a surprise person but this method seemed to work best as it didn’t totally upset his work and other personal plans.

      1. KTB*

        My BFF’s husband did something similar to this for my BFF’s Christmas present one year. He told her what dates to take off work, and what to pack. She knew they were going on a ski trip, but had no idea where. Better yet, she also had no idea that my husband and I were going too, and was doubly surprised when we showed up at the same random restaurant three hours from home for lunch. It was a great trip!

    9. HariMadSol*

      I don’t think Alison is giving bad advice — but if you know the boss… I did something like this for my husband one year and it went well. I asked for a Friday, not a whole week! Boss thought it was fun, and promptly booked hubby for an all-day “strategy and visioning” session. He told hubby not to prep so that they could “brainstorm” with an open mind. Hubby honestly did not believe his best friend when he appeared in hubby’s office to go do their favorite hobby all day. Boss had to say, “No, really, you’ve got the day off!”

      1. Rainy*

        That is ADORABLE.

        Also: excellent name :) Some of my old favourite books, from one of my favourite authors.

  3. Ehhhh*

    #2: Save those days. Don’t be surprised if you turn out to be the executor of his estate, he has debt that must be dealt with,or it ends up in probate and you have to go to a hearing -whether you care about any inheritance or not. Sometimes the family members we have the least connection to end up requiring the most time after their death.

    1. Mike C.*

      I have to echo this from personal experience. Even in a situation where it was my mom who passed, I was spending those days working with my dad and brothers trying to sort everything out.

      There’s an incredible amount of paperwork that shows up when someone passes.

      1. ExceptionToTheRule*

        Eh, it’s depends. I was the executor for both my mother & my father who died both testate & intestate respectively and I found the paperwork to be… underwhelming. I had attorneys in both cases so that may have minimized it and that was worth every dime. I think someone mentioned this below, but you can decline being the executor of any estate.

      2. SinSA*

        The amount of paperwork I’m getting as the executor of my Mom’s estate is almost unbelievable. The thing is, it’s still coming, I still have to handle it/make calls/send documents and she passed away in July.

    2. CJ Record*

      Amen – doing the paperwork here, too, and it’s amazing how much it piles up. (Though, let it be said: being named executor is generally something you can be designated by the will and yet say “lol no” to.)

    3. OP #2*

      Fortunately, his wife is still alive (a d a good part of the reason he and I have no relationship anymore, as she hurried him away from the rest of the family almost immediately after they married 15+ years ago), so no chance of me being named the executor.

      In fact, I received notice from his attorney last year that I was going to be removed from the will, though I later found out that the letter was written by his wife and not his actual attorney.

      Thanks for the advice so far.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Sounds like, even if you don’t need those three days for logistics, you still deserve a dad-related break. Don’t feel bad about taking it.

      2. Getaway Girl*

        I was going to comment on a similar situation before I read your comment, OP #2. My dad and I weren’t estranged, but not for lack of trying on the part of my stepmother. When he passed away, I was entitled to a week of leave. I took it, even though I wasn’t included at all with the funeral arrangements. And when she passed a year and a half later, I again took the leave I was allowed. I needed to reconcile a few things with myself and oddly enough, those few days helped. I agree with AAM that you really don’t know how you’ll react to the news when you hear it. It may be just my opinion, but I don’t think there’s anything ethically wrong with taking a few days to be kind to yourself. I wish you the best.

        1. BF50*


          OP – You might not be sad that your dad died, but you might still be *emotional*. You might find yourself so angry that it’s hard to work. You might find yourself grieving for the dad you didn’t have. You don’t really know.

          Personally, I wouldn’t schedule the days, but would inform my manager that my father passed and we had a complicated relationship, so I’d like to leave the door open to take the days *if* I need them.

      3. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

        I’m sorry you’ve had to handle a fraught situation with your dad, though it sounds like you’ve handled it admirably well considering the hand you were dealt. I don’t think it would be out of line to use the bereavement time for some gentle self-care. Can you work with your manager to schedule it for some point in the future (i.e. not directly tied to the funeral)? As other commenters have pointed out, the passing of a relative often requires mountains of work after the fact. I don’t see why it would be unreasonable to take bereavement days over the next few weeks/months to help recharge after the mountains of [emotional] work you must have done to get to this point.

      4. Erica B*

        I lost my Dad a couple years ago, and he hadn’t been in my life since I was an infant. When my sister and I found out he was in palliative care, we flew out to him to spend some time, so he could have some closure because he was just hanging on… It was a nice visit, but I didn’t know him, and I am glad I was able to see him once before he died and before he was really terrible. I think I technically had 5 days off, but I only used 2, and I wasn’t sad at all. He was a man I didn’t know, but we were hoping to get some of his ashes and sprinkle them at the beach with my mom and sister as a little memorial service, so I had blocked days off for that even though it ended up not being able to happen. (His ashes were in TN, and we weren’t sent any even after being promised some) Don’t feel bad about not taking the time off. Everyone’s relationships with their parents is different, and not everyone has a positive one. In fact, I would even encourage you not to mention to your coworkers when he passes away if you just want to keep working.

      5. Not A Morning Person*

        Oh I am so sorry and I can sympathize. I had an evil stepmother, too. My stepmother violated court orders and attempted to get access to funds that the court ruled belonged to the children. Since you found that the “notice from his attorney” was not from his attorney, you might want to contact the attorney for clarification. Save your time if you need to show up in person for any reason.

      6. Arya Snark*

        OP, I had a very similar situation to yours. Dad and I were estranged and we all knew his time was coming. There was no funeral at his request so I had no need to travel out of state for services. I wasn’t sad that he died – frankly, I was relieved that he would no longer suffer.
        However, I was surprised to find that I was more emotional about it all than I anticipated. I was really sad that I wasn’t sad, if that makes sense and I did mourn the relationship we didn’t have. Maybe take a day or two to take care of yourself. You might be surprised by how much you need it.

      7. Elaine*

        I’m sorry this has happened to you. But I agree with Allison that you may be surprised by your actual reaction (or not, of course), and having those days available might be worth it to you. My grandmother was a terrible, narcissistic woman. I didn’t wish her any harm, but I would have been happy to never see or hear from her again. When she died in my early 30’s after a short illness, I was astounded that it shook my world. It wasn’t as bad as it would have been if I’d loved her, but all the same it was a permanent change in my life. So by all means take care of yourself and use the days if you need to.

      8. AMPG*

        It’s still possible that you’ll end up with paperwork to sign or other issues to take care of, and it would be good to have the time to do that without taking vacation.

      9. MassMatt*

        OP 2, whether you feel the need to grieve or not, everyone deals with grief differently, some people prefer to carry on with work or stick to their routine instead of taking time off. Do what feels right for you, whether it’s taking the time or working.

        If co-workers or friends are pressuring or questioning your decision one way or the other just shut it down quickly with something like “I am _____ (working, or taking time off, or whatever), this is what I have decided is best for me, thank you for your concern”. No one else gets to decide how you feel or deal with your feelings. Good luck to you!

      10. DesertRose*

        I’m glad the paperwork end isn’t likely to land on you, but as another person who was estranged from their father when he died, don’t be surprised if your emotions do some weird shit after his death.
        When my oldest brother called me to tell me about Dad’s death, my initial reaction was just flat. Like, “Well, okay, that’s over.”
        But a few months later, the emotional roller-coaster launched. Be gentle with yourself.

    4. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Note: you can refuse to serve as executor. You can refuse an inheritance. And if all else fails, the Courts will appoint someone to sort everything out.

    5. Canadian Public Servant*

      OP 2: glad you’ve had therapy and grieved the loss of the relationship, already. When my estranged father died, I found myself more upset that I thought I’d be – while it was sudden, and thus we didn’t have the chance to have a last talk, it meant accepting that our rift woulf never be fixed, and mourning what could have been (I’d dealt pretty well with what I’d already lost). I also chose to attend the funeral, when I hadn’t planned to, because my sibling asked me to. All of this may not apply to you.

      Recently, when a family member I am not close to died unexpectedly, I used my bereavement days to make care packages for the family members who were close to him (we live a few thousand miles apart – large part of why we weren’t close, in spite of the technical relationship).

      Ultimately, do what you feel you need, whether that is time for yourself, or for others, or nothing at all.

      1. Dead Dad Club*

        OP2, I was also estranged from my dad when he passed, and I was genuinely surprised by how hard the loss hit me. Which isn’t at all a prediction about your situation, just a small anecdote that feelings and families are weird, and sometimes we react in ways we could not have predicted. Take care of yourself.

      2. Competent Commenter*

        I was not fully estranged from my mentally ill and emotionally traumatized father but thought I’d made peace with the fact that I’d never had the dad I needed, to make a nuanced story simple. Then he had a massive stroke and was completely incapacitated and that hit me very hard. I realized some part of me had held out hope that he could change. I thought I’d processed and accepted all that but when he died in his nursing home unexpectedly a year later, it hit me all over again. I guess some hope had remained. I was really surprised.

        A decade later I started to miss him. That was a surprise too.

      3. Lizzy May*


        My grandmother died just before the new year. We hadn’t talked in years because she decided to cut off my parents for whatever reason. I was surprised by my reaction.

        Whatever you end up feeling, whether it’s sadness or anger or guilt or relief or nothing at all or any strange combination it’s okay to feel those things and if you want, okay to feel those things from the comfort of your home. Don’t assume you won’t need those days and don’t feel bad if you do but also, if you don’t need the days, don’t feel bad about that either. Family deaths are complex and there isn’t a right or wrong reaction so do what’ll be best for you in the moment.

      4. Unregretful Black Sheep*

        This question & your answers couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time for me. I received word about an hour ago that my estranged father has become quite ill & is in the hospital & I’ve been trying to figure out what I’m going to do when the time comes (this isn’t the first time this year – I know his death isn’t not far off). Part of me feels like I deserve bereavement time now because I didn’t get it when everything went down ten years ago, when I was truly grieving the “loss” of my parents, even though they were very much alive. You all are making helpful comments & suggestions – thank you!

        OP2, best wishes to you.

    6. Turquoisecow*

      Yeah, but that’s long term and, aside from immediate funeral arrangements, won’t get taken care of in 3 days. (I’m assuming OP won’t be the one to manage that.)

      My grandmother died in February of 2016 and this past weekend my aunt, the executor of her estate, finally handed out the last of the checks to her siblings. I think there are more things to be done, and they also sold her house in the middle of everything, but it takes a while for the estate to be closed.

  4. Not A Manager*

    LW3 – If you don’t want to ask your husband to take a week off “for a surprise,” how about if you just fib to him? Ask him to take the week off for some plausible vacation/time-off thing that you’re not really doing, like a week at your sister’s or something. But then surprise him with the real trip. It might be easier to enlist the aid of your cover story (sister, for example) than it would be to enlist the boss.

    1. valentine*

      In a sitcom, the boss would be caught between clearing the dates for OP and backing up hubby’s insistence that he must work that week (because he doesn’t want to go to the fake event).

    2. Ender*

      This is how my sisters boyfriend proposed to her. He told her they were going somewhere mundane (out to dinner at a friends house and they would be staying over) then he brought her to where they had their first date, popped the question and then they went to a super fancy hotel where champagne and chocolates were waiting in the room.

    3. Red Reader*

      I did this. Made up a wildly implausible story about a family reunion he had to go to with me the week after his birthday. Bless him, he never complained (though he did mutter to our housemate about who the hell plans a family reunion in March), and he took off the two days, and he thought we were driving to Michigan right up until we got to the airport and I surprised him with an envelope of plans for a long weekend in New Orleans. One of the only two times I’ve ever managed to surprise him. Heh.

      1. WellRed*

        That’s awesome! But now I gotta ask, what did he have for clothes? Cause March in Michigan vs in NOLA sounds challenging.

        1. Red Reader*

          Conveniently for me, he wears the same thing year round – jeans and a button-down shirt – from midwestern winters to Florida summers. (I don’t know how he does it, seriously.) So he pretty much just left his heavy coat in the Airbnb while we were there.

    4. Holly*

      Just make sure that it’s not a destination where certain things would need to be packed, etc.

      OP knows her own husband better than we all do, but having a week-long vacation be a surprise can have some hiccups and I hope OP has thought it through!

  5. Casper Lives*

    #1: I wonder if your situation is by design. You can’t take long vacations and there doesn’t seem to be a good way to use it all, but the employer gets to tout its “generous” vacation policy. Did the NPO offer a lower salary or another benefit for the vacation? I’m curious what your coworkers do.

      1. Casper Lives*

        Me too. I missed the part at the beginning where it said she has a competitive salary and good benefits. Even if it is sick leave & vacation, I’ve got a conservative count of 81 PTO days!

    1. beth*

      I also wonder this, a little. OP1, do most people manage to use up their vacation time? If not, this might be a case where the PTO is generous on paper but more limited in reality. If the pay and other benefits are also generous, that might not be a big deal…but if the vacation time is a real selling point, that’s a bit of a bait-and-switch.

      If, on the other hand, the norm is for people to use most or all of their time, then hopefully a conversation with your manager will help get you properly scheduled to use yours. You could also talk to your peers to get a sense for how they manage it.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        I also thought it might be a “good on paper but not in reality” situation – it sounds like OP is being giving (a minimum of) 10 weeks vacation, but she can’t be gone for any long periods (which also begs the question: what counts as a long period? 2 weeks? 1 week? 3 days?).

      2. OP1- Vacationless in DC*

        I actually didn’t discuss benefits at all during the interview process because I was honestly so desperate to get out of waiting tables/retail that I didn’t care. Most of my coworkers do take multiple vacations a year, either a handful of shorter trips or one large 2- 4 weeks vacation, but their workloads all involve less in-person office time.

        The other person in my department has a side business which does her away from the office for a few weeks a year (she negotiated this perk when she was hired so it’s not anything shady!) so I know she appreciates the lenient vacation policy. That also leaves me manning our department when she is away, so unfortunately less opportunity for me to take time off.

        1. The Ginger Ginger*

          If this is the case, I’d definitely talk to your manager the way Alison suggested. Because what’s happening in practice is that you are getting less PTO than your coworkers. In fact your coworkers are getting their full PTO at your expense (not intentionally or maliciously, but that’s how it’s shaking out), and that’s not fair. You’re missing out on part of your compensation package, and that needs to be rectified.

        2. Anonamoose*

          So you can cover for her but don’t feel like you can ask her to cover for you? It seems to be that after being in the food industry, you’re leery of using vacation time, even though your coworkers seem to have no problems using it!
          You should talk with your boss and your coworker about arranging more time off for yourself; YOU might feel like you need to be there all the time but they could see it differently. After all, you manage when your coworker is out. Yeah, you can’t both be out and I guess that limits the days you can take off but it still sounds like you can ask your coworker to cover for you and take the time. Especially if you plan things out in advance; I wouldn’t be surprised if your coworker’s takes vacation for special events related to her side business (like a specific convention she likes to attend every year, for example). If that’s true, she probably knows those dates months in advance, making it easier for you to plan larger vacations around those dates if you start planning things together.

          1. Kes*

            I agree, if coworker in the same department is able to take several weeks off with OP to cover I don’t see why OP can’t likewise take a few weeks while coworker covers. OP might not be able to get through all of the time she’s accrued but it sounds like she’s preemptively assuming she can’t take any of it, which may not actually be the case. OP should talk to her manager about how she can take some of the vacation.

        3. beth*

          If your coworkers are mostly able to use their vacation time, then the general office culture is probably that it’s there to be used. That means you should be able to use it too.

          Your coworker being away doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to use your vacation time. It might mean that you two need to schedule around each other, so at least one of you is in office each day, or it might mean that your boss needs to pull someone in from another area a couple days a year to cover things. But ‘OP1 doesn’t get to take vacation even though everyone else does’ isn’t a reasonable solution to that problem. It might be too late for this year, but you should definitely bring it up with your manager to figure out how to manage things so you can use this perk next year!

        4. Seriously?*

          If part of why you can’t take time off is because other people are taking time off, then you should definitely speak up! They need to find a way to either allow you to use more time off or compensate you for holding down the fort so that others can have the perk.

        5. Sharkie*

          I feel like we worked for the same non-profit! Thankfully I was a temp so I didnt have to deal with all the PTO!
          Have you thought about using them for snow days?

        6. Green Cheese Moon*

          In that case, I might try to compromise by pushing for the X weeks of time off (like everyone else gets) but letting the person who does scheduling decide WHEN those weeks will be. That way they can schedule your absence when it is easiest to cover for.

    2. SS Express*

      I wondered if maybe it’s intended as a more practical version of the increasingly popular “unlimited” vacation policy – people can still pretty much take all the vacations they want, but it makes business planning a little easier and reduces the risk of people actually taking LESS vacation because they aren’t all on the same page about what is and isn’t reasonable.

      1. RoadsLady*

        My thought as well. It sounds virtually unlimited even if not practical.

        It’s like it’s mocking…

        The Tantulus of vacation benefits.

    3. neverjaunty*

      I wondered this as well. “Benefits” that the employees never actually get to use are a great way for an employer to tout their fabulous benefits, while also not having to absorb the actual business cost of those benefits.

      OP, have you had a chance to talk to your boss about this problem? And it really is a problem, not an embarrassment of riches. If your workplace is hostile to you taking all that accrued vacation time, then it raises a real question about why they are giving it to you.

      1. Yojo*

        Even if it’s not feasible to use it all on a regular basis, it would still be a big benefit if it could be there in emergencies. I imagine OP’s office would let someone use all of their vacation in one go for maternity leave or extended illness.

        1. neverjaunty*

          “Vacation” that you can’t really use for vacation is a phantom benefit. If it’s meant to be generic leave (and we have no information that it is) then shouldn’t it be called that?

        2. OP1- Vacationless in DC*

          I was able to use 4 days in a row on incredibly short notice earlier this year due to a family emergency, so I know that it’s possible to be out of the office and for my department to not fall to pieces! But it was a true emergency, not a vacation.

          As far as maternity leave, I’m 28 and one of the youngest staff members and one of only 3 people who don’t have kids (although I hope to start a family in the next few years). One of my coworkers that I’m close with just had a baby a few weeks ago and said negotiating a 3-4 month partially paid leave was like pulling teeth =(

          Out senior management team is significantly older- as in well over 65 years of age on average- and there’s definitely an underlying attitude of “Well *I* didn’t get a long maternity leave 35 years ago so you don’t need it now.”

          1. Anonym*

            Yuck. Hopefully some new blood or new thinking comes in before you need the mat leave. Good luck with working out the full use of your leave in the meantime!

      2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        Actually the employer is probably absorbing the cost* of these vacation days. It’s my understanding that vacation is accrued on the books as an expense (I probably got this wrong, there’s a reason I’m not an accountant!) and it actually counts against their financials.

        1. Ann O'Nemity*

          My employer treats vacation time as an accrued liability specifically because we’re in state that considers PTO as earned compensation. That means it can’t ever expire and employers must pay out unearned vacation time when an employee leaves.

          It’s probably different in the OP’s case since they have such a stingy carry-over policy.

        2. JeanB in NC*

          I think that if you don’t state how many vacation/sick/personal days employees have, you can’t put it on the books. And I think that that’s the reason companies say “unlimited leave” and then make it difficult to take. They don’t want to carry that liability. It’s also possible that their handbooks say unused leave will not be paid out (depending on state laws). My contract states that – we have a generous leave allowance but if you don’t take it, you lose it when you quit.

    4. Bumble*

      I work somewhere with generous paid holiday (41 days a year – this doesn’t include sick leave). I started working mid-year, and didn’t quite realise that I’d accrue more leave than I could use! (It’s a university, and we can’t take leave in term time, so no four-day weeks allowed to use it up between Sept and Dec)

      Basically, I followed Alison’s advice and made myself a plan at the beginning of the year. It ended up as something like 3 weeks in April (this was actually for a family wedding, so a bit different), 2 weeks in the summer, and 2 weeks for Christmas/NY (1 week of which is required, because the office is closed anyway). This kept a bit in reserve so I could take another few days off here and there in the summer.

      I’d also note that the senior staff in my department always went on a lot about how they never manage to take their holiday, and it’s all just a fiction to give us that much… I asked around, and it turned out most of the people at my own level, and a bit above, were just quietly booking and taking the full amount! So I did the same.

      So the moral there is – just because a few people loudly go on about how it’s impossible to use the vacation days, doesn’t mean that’s necessarily the office norm.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Most of the people at my own level, and a bit above, were just quietly booking and taking the full amount!

        I really love this detail.

    5. MK*

      Possibly, but it’s also possible that it simply needs better scheduling. In my current position I am not going into work for six weeks during the summer, but during the year I have bimonthly panels that I cannot miss, so I cannot take more than 10 days at a stretch.

      The OP says she works in education; if that means they roughly follow the academic year, it makes sense she cannot ask to take a month off during the busy autumn season and should be scheduling her long vacation in the summer.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        OP did mention she comes from another industry, so it is likely this snuck up on her and/or she needs to work on a viable schedule that would allow her to use most of the PTO.
        I see how it might be difficult if this is your first year in a new job, where you probably don’t WANT to take much time off because you’re trying to become more familiar with the role initially.

        1. Ama*

          When I first moved out of academia into a non academic non-profit, it was a BIG adjustment to not have eight guaranteed quiet weeks every summer — in fact, my particular new role had several key projects due in the summer. The first 18 months I worked here I barely took any vacation, because it seemed like I was always running up against a deadline. But as I started to understand our project calendar a little more I also realized some project timelines could be flexed a little bit.

          This year I started planning in the first draft of my timelines for the year to give myself time to take my longest vacation in five years (two and a half weeks), and it worked out great — I had plenty of time to make sure my boss and my direct report knew what might need to be covered and what could be put on pause until I returned, and I was able to get a real break without worrying that a ton of work would be waiting for me when I got back.

      2. OP1- Vacationless in DC*

        We work with educators and provide training/professional development, so unfortunately May-August are my busiest months because there is no school and faculty are more available for in-person workshops.

        But you’ve also made me realize that it might be possible to schedule during my slower season, which is December- March! Unfortunately a little late for this year, but ample time to plan for the end of 2019…

        1. J.*

          I also work in an education-adjacent field, and half my team is gone for the entire month of December. It’s great – I have plenty of time to take care of my extensive holiday cookie baking and do errands around the house like fully putting away my warmer weather clothes and take my cats for their annual checkup, etc.

          Some of my colleagues get annoyed about the mostly “use it or lose it” policy (we can also only carry over a few days), but I like it because it forces me to use my vacation time in a way I’ve struggled with in past jobs. Figure out what you want your year to look like, and plan the bulk of your time off in advance, leaving a little bit of wiggle room in case of emergency. You don’t need to have your specific plans laid out yet, but you can figure out the general dates you want to be gone and plan your vacation activities around them rather than vice versa. If you wait to know what you’re doing before you request your days off, you’re going to get trapped in this cycle of not being able to take enough time.

          1. OP1- Vacationless in DC*

            That’s really reassuring to hear from someone else in a similar field- and good on ya for coming up with a solution and taking those vacation days! I really appreciate the suggestion for mapping out next year’s vacation days in advance- especially because that will give me something to look forward to during the longer days!

        2. MK*

          I hardly think it’s too late to plan vacation for this year; in any case, if I were you I would take the time off anyway. You don’t have to go to the other side of the globe to be allowed leave.

    6. Glomarization, Esq.*

      This was pretty much my thought. As Allison suggested and Bumble mentions here, this can work out well, though, if you sit down in December or January and plan out the year, getting your supervisor on the same page.

    7. Persimmons*

      Yuuuup. You say bug, I say feature.

      I’m curious how they talked about this amount of vacation time during LW’s hiring process. Did they crow about it in the job ad? Brag in interviews? I can’t imagine they waved it away in a realistic fashion: “Eh, it’s a lot but no one has time to use it all” since LW seems surprised/frustrated.

    8. Lily Rowan*

      To be fair, the OP does say she’s already taken over four weeks off. So it’s not like she’s not able to get time off — anyone would need to be serious about planning for 20% of the year off!

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Yeah, at my last job I always lost some vacation time but I didn’t hold that against the org. It was very generous leave, and I might have prioritized taking it all, but I didn’t feel like I personally would have met my performance goals if I had, so I didn’t. No hard feelings. Some people did use it all. It was my choice. It’s a little odd that it’s been acknowledged on this site that you’re not necessarily supposed to use all your sick leave, and I just treat vacation similarly.

        In my case it helped that I didn’t really have the budget to do that much travel, and I’m not a fan of long staycations.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          Crap, typo – I didn’t mean that part about “it’s a little odd” – that was from a prior sentence that I deleted. That sentence should have read, “It was my choice. It’s been acknowledged on this site that you’re not necessarily supposed to use all your sick leave, and I just treat vacation similarly.”

    9. KC without the sunshine band*

      If I couldn’t take it week long increments because of work, I would do a bunch of long weekends. And if you can’t figure out what to do on those long weekends, try Pack Up + Go. It’s a travel agency that plans your trip for you ad surprises you with where you are going. We’ve used it and it’s great.

  6. MissPettyAndVindictive*

    LW3 – from experience with planning surprise things for my fiance, the “hey can you take time here for helping me with ______” (insert plausible thing you want help with) or “I would really like to have some time at home just us, can you take vacation for these days?” work a treat. The second one I especially like, as they can already be looking forward to hanging out with you, and then the surprise is even better.

  7. MamaSarah*

    I would actually seriously consider getting a flu shot if a colleague asked using the script Allison provided. Hugs, LW 4! I wish you all the very best.

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      I have never gotten a flu shot, but I have a friend who was just diagnosed with cancer and this letter made me realize I need to this year even if she doesn’t think to ask. It might not have occurred to me otherwise.

    2. neverjaunty*

      Not a colleague, of course, but please do consider getting a flu shot for the same reasons! Not everyone who is at risk will reach out to you, and herd immunity is important for everyone.

    3. gmg22*

      I’ve been thinking about it, too, and the thoughtful response to the question made me think more. I hate the idea of putting others (small children, older folks, people dealing with underlying illness) at risk. My problem is that the last time I got the flu shot some years ago, I had extremely unpleasant side effects that mimicked the flu. Thankfully this ran its course very quickly and 24 hours later I was fine, but even knowing it would be short-lived, gearing myself up to possibly experience that again is tough. I have also struggled with how to talk about this experience, because I get a lot of “no, you just imagined that” from medical professionals. Well, even if I did (uh, folks, I believe the correct medical term is “psychosomatic,” you might want to use it with your patient instead of patronizing them or telling them they’re nuts), it was still pretty dang awful and I’m not sure how I would avoid it a second time given that I’m not really in charge of whatever part of my brain stem makes stuff like that happen … I guess to be a decent member of society I should just suck it up, plan a quiet Saturday with nothing to do (ha) and go get the shot on a Friday night. Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised this time.

      1. Double A*

        It’s also possible that you coincidentally got a 24 hour bug at the same time you got your shot. So your symptoms we’re real but unrelated to the vaccine.

        That being said, I often do feel crummy the day after getting a shot. And it makes sense why that would be, your immune system is spinning up to react to what it thinks is a pathogen, and making you lay low helps divert energy to that process.

        I just got my flu shot today, and my baby is due any minute so hopefully this year it doesn’t make me feel crummy.

        1. gmg22*

          The suddenness of onset and severity of symptoms in this case left me feeling very, very, VERY sure that it was not a bug caught by coincidence. Though that is indeed the other infuriating explanation I often also get — both explanations of course being variations on the theme of “You weren’t really that sick, you just imagined you were,” which IMO is not a compelling message for public-health folks seeking to persuade skeptical patients.

          Judging by what happened last time, if I get the shot, I do feel obliged to assume that I need to go right home and stay there for safety reasons (mine and others) because in the previous experience, the symptoms of extreme fatigue and head/body aches came on VERY rapidly — within about 30 minutes, about 8-10 hours after I had had the shot — and were so debilitating that I couldn’t drive home. (I almost passed out in the cab that took me home, and to my later amusement realized that the most likely reason the cab driver wasn’t more worried about that is that he probably thought I was drunk — it was around 9 or 10 pm.) I’ve never experienced a “24-hour” bug like that, before or since.

          All this said, I am very open to the possibility that what happened to me had a psychosomatic component to it, for reasons I won’t get into here but have to do with past trauma around a family illness. It’d just be nice to hear that discussed in a non-dismissive way by any medical professional I might happen to interact with about it.

          I will try to transition from “rage at being dismissed as a crazy lady” to “interesting experiment opportunity and also, herd immunity is awesome!” and pencil in a quiet-Friday-leading-into-quiet-Saturday on my calendar for this. Flu shot woo!

          1. gmg22*

            Sorry, I meant to add a very important PSA: The flu shot does not cause the flu, folks! And I would not wish anyone reading either of my comments to take them as evidence that I believe it does (or that they should).

      2. Double A*

        It’s also possible that you coincidentally got a 24 hour bug at the same time you got your shot. So your symptoms we’re real but unrelated to the vaccine.

        That being said, I often do feel crummy the day after getting a shot. And it makes sense why that would be, your immune system is spinning up to react to what it thinks is a pathogen, and making you lay low helps divert energy to that process.

        I just got my flu shot today, and my baby is due any minute so hopefully this year it doesn’t make me feel crummy.

      3. Ego Chamber*

        I’ve been getting the flu shot consistently for at least the past 15 years and I’ve gotten the flu twice despite being vaccinated for it. What that does is make me even more likely to get the flu shot in the future, because I’ve been so recently reminded how absolutely balls having the flu is. :(

        Basically, my recommendation is to get it, even with the chance of a 24-hour-whatever-the-hell-happened because it reduces the chance of being put down for a whole week or 2 with the real thing.

      4. Kyrielle*

        It’s worth doing it either way. I’m sorry they told you it was all in your head. The flu shot cannot cause the flu – but that doesn’t mean that your immune system reacting to the flu shot can’t have consequences, or that you can’t get something (a cold, something else) at about the same time and feel crummy as a result. I think dismissing it as purely in your head was unnecessary on their part.

        I went to a local pharmacy that a) accepted my insurance so the shot was free and b) gave out a $5 coupon for the larger store it was inside, for getting your flu shot. I have to admit, an extra $5 to spend made me feel better about the shot this year, even though I know it’s important for its own reasons.

      5. gmg22*

        A few points to clarify my comment. I’m fully and convincingly aware that the flu shot cannot and does not cause the flu. That said, this alleged “24-hour bug” made me feel like I wanted to die for those 24 hours, and I’ve never had a bug anything like that any other time in my adult life — so no, I do not believe it was a coincidence of that kind and perhaps should have noted that I am likewise very, very, VERY tired of being told that. (And that I think the discounting of experiences like this is what makes more a few people not want to get vaccinated, which is very counterproductive to public health, isn’t it?) I believe very strongly in the overall importance of vaccines, AND I also believe what I stated above, that I simply experienced very unpleasant yet temporary side effects from the shot. My problem is that it is hard to gear myself up for the possibility of that again, remembering what it was like. I was so ill I could not drive home from work and had to take a cab, I almost passed out in the cab, and I barely made it home and into bed, where I slept for the next 14 hours — what I’m trying to explain is that I do not feel for my own and others’ safety that I could risk being away from my home for the 24 hours following getting this shot, that’s how ill I felt. I’ve also never had the flu as an adult, so it’s likewise hard to get too exercised about the comparative risk. But as I get older myself, and for the sake of those around me whose immunity is suppressed, I know it is still important. I’m still not convinced, unfortunately, that I want to possibly go through that again. I very much wish I could just hear ONE medical professional say something like “Yes, that sounds like a very unpleasant reaction that was thankfully temporary. It could have been psychosomatic or it could have been an immune-system response to the particular makeup of that year’s shot and wouldn’t happen again. You should try and see, it’s still worth it.” No one ever says that. Everyone makes me feel like an idiot who just happened to have the worst “one-day bug” of my life that kicked in exactly 8 hours after I got the flu shot. Or that I “imagined it.” It is infuriating.

  8. beth*

    OP2: I think that the spirit of bereavement leave reasonably includes really any purpose related to the death in question–not just attending a funeral. That includes taking some time to process things emotionally. I know you say you’ve dealt with the loss in therapy already, and that’s great! But death marks a new and rather final stage in your non-relationship; a lot of people experience a resurgence of complicated feelings in that moment. Even if you don’t feel a need to grieve your father as he was, you may find yourself once again grieving the father you wish you had, or feeling the loss of the chance (no matter how small) that your relationship might improve, or even relieved that people will stop doing the “But he’s your DAD! You can’t just cut him off!” thing (and then maybe a little guilty that you’re relieved he’s dead). Bereavement time is for people to process their reaction to a family member’s death; it doesn’t require that your reaction be a straightforward or ‘normal’ kind of grief, it’s just as much for this kind of complex reaction as it is for a more traditional type of mourning.

    1. Becky*

      Both of my grandmothers passed away when I was in no position to go to the funerals (2000+ miles away and no money for a plane ticket). I still needed the time offered by bereavement leave to process and grieve. My mother’s mother had had a severe stroke about 6 months before passing and I had visited my family over the summer and seen my grandmother in the care facility she was in after the stroke. I knew then it was likely that I would not see her again, but it was still rough when she did pass away.

      1. Mazzy*

        For me a recent death that was definitely expected and a relief for 90+ year old family member still left me depressed at random times for months. It’s not just missing the person, there was a lot of general nostalgia and fear of growing older myself, fear of having to deal with other people I’m close to being in the same situation, and a bit of depression that as time goes on, there are less and less people who remember way back when.

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I’m estranged from a family member as well. If/When they pass away, I’d rather stay away from work for a day or so, rather than hear, “Wait, why aren’t you at the funeral?” too many times.

      1. MatKnifeNinja*

        OP #2…

        Even if you worked your therapy and made peace of the situation, still consider taking those days.

        I was estranged from my mentally ill father. When he died, I wasn’t there. My issue wasn’t his death or our horror history together, it was every insane relative and his idiot friends blowing up my voice mail and text.

        Never under estimate people who will shell out money for a phone number or spend hours Google searching you.

        Honestly take those three days, get out of Dodge with burner phone. I had my friend gut out my voice mail and text. I truly didn’t want to know who contacted me or what they said.

        I don’t have many relatives or knew my Dad’s friends. People would not leave me alone.

        Those three days are a buffer from the crazy.

    3. Ganymede*

      #1: if you accrue a day’s holiday per week, why not just start working 4-day weeks? There’s been a lot of recent chat about this in the press, and seemingly employees become mentally healthier while remaining equally productive. It can mean (in some cases) working an extra couple of hours on the days you are actually in the office, which of course would give no actual extra time off, but if you’re being given actual PTO then you shouldn’t have to do that.

      Trying it put would be one way of seeing if your employer is really sincere about your PTO or if it is just (as suggested upthread) a way to make themselves look generous.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Even in the highly unlikely case of having four-day work weeks approved for the rest of the year, I still would have more vacation time than I can realistically use.

        Not an option for OP.

    4. Smithy*

      I lost my father over the summer, and my boss asked me whether or not I was comfortable with our larger team knowing. Depending on your relationship with your boss – you can always say that while you are taking the bereavement that you prefer to keep this private and not share with the wider team/office.

      No need to share that you were estranged or anything, but I did find my boss’ offer very kind. And unless your office/boss are prone to bad boundaries it could be a way to take the bereavement without coming back to lots of family questions or sympathy.

    5. Fall Mums*

      Yes, I hadn’t seen my father in 28 years when he died, he left when I was 7 and never contacted me again. I thought I was good with it, and had accepted that he was not in my life. So I can’t explain myself when he passed. So OP leave your options open, you might not need anything and it would be a great day to sleep in, do nothing, go shopping, paint your bathroom, or you might need it to drive 800 miles to sit in the hallway during the service.

    6. OP #2*

      Excellent post – I have had over a decade to grieve his loss, but you’re right; there may be one small spark left that will go out, and if the time comes and hits me harder than I expect, and I need the space, I will take the time.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        OP, I wonder if you’d feel comfortable asking your boss if it would be okay to take the time even though you don’t plan to go to the funeral? Then you could take the time off and go on a short retreat somewhere to process your feelings, or stay home and decompress from work and not have to feel guilty that you’re somehow getting away with lying about going to the funeral when you don’t plan to. Does it say somewhere in the bereavement leave description that it is specifically for attending the funeral, or does it just say that the leave is for something like dealing with the arrangements?

    7. Nita*

      Yes. Someone close to me was in a similar situation, and it did re-open the feeling of mourning. There had not been a relationship for years, no reason to think it would change, and yet, there it was. Grief because the door had closed for good.

    8. OxfordComma*

      Yeah, I think it’s wise to keep your options open. Sometimes you think you’ve come to terms with something and then wham, your emotions have another plan.

  9. Mark132*

    @LW3, my wife actually did that to me. It was actually a blast. She hid my keys just to make sure I didn’t go to work on accident. I was freaking out because I couldn’t find my keys. I got teased (not meanly) a lot at work for it later. Which was fun too as well.

    That said I can see where Alison is coming from. It puts the manager in a potentially awkward spot.

    1. Pumpkin Soup*

      Wow. I would not be happy if my spouse did this to me. Generally I feel a good rule of thumb is that if you need to cause stress, the joy of a surprise isn’t so joyful and isn’t worth it. So basically you need to know your spouse!

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        You can add me to the ‘not a fan of surprise trips’ list. Maybe “I’m taking you on vacation this weekend and where we go is a surprise” would work, but not this.

    2. Ender*

      I think it really depends on both the person and the job. If OP knows that her husband would definitely like it, then it just comes down to the job. Some jobs, like Alison said, would make this really stressful. Others wouldn’t be such a big deal – eg if he was a retail assistant and OP secretly arranged for his coworkers to cover his shifts, with the time paid back slowly so he’s not doing double shifts for a week. But it really depends on the job for a whole week. And also what other plans he might have had for the vacation time.

      1. LW3*

        I mentioned this in a comment on another thread, but (a) he’d be game for it. (b) he’s a chef, so no missed meetings, no “work to make up.” (c) a fib would lead to too many questions and would unravel quickly. If I’m going to surprise him, it would be easiest to do by just leaving him in the dark…. which won’t happen, I guess.

  10. Calyx Teren*

    OP5: There are many restaurants that serve a range of drinks including but not only alcohol, and are suitable for after-work networking, but are not bars. Why not suggest one of those?

    1. Indigo a la mode*

      Or a cool coffee house! Many have draft beer and even if they don’t, people can network without booze.

    2. Traffic_Spiral*

      One thing about restaurant vs bar is that you can often mingle easier in a bar, whereas you’re stuck seated in one place at a restaurant. So that might not work out as well.

      1. Techworker*

        Also it possibly varies by location (and if it’s a busy night or not) but pretty sure most restaurants around here don’t like people taking up tables if they’re not ordering food, so it could be tricky.

        1. Someone Else*

          If you were going to use a restaurant for this type of event you’d either reserve a private room/patio (which means choosing a restaurant that has such a thing) or buying out the whole venue for the night.

      2. Clare*

        Yeah, the LW can certainly request that she not be made to attend these events, but before asking to move them to another location LW needs to make sure any suggested location change makes sense. The reason bars are often chosen for this things is because they are easy and cheap. No room rental fee, no trying to guess how many people will show and reserve a table. Plus people can come and go as they please and mingle easily. And companies don’t usually host these events in their offices for liability reasons. I guess my point is LW should make sure not to suggest or ask for something that clearly won’t work as it might make her look out of touch. The best solution might be to just explain that she can’t attend.

        1. Alton*

          It’s also easier to handle paying, I think, because bars are set up better for handling lots of individual transactions/tabs than some non-bar restaurants.

        2. Joielle*

          Yeah, this is what I was thinking too. Bars are – for better or worse – well suited for this kind of gathering. Setting up something similar at a restaurant could be a lot more work. Maybe OP could suggest the bar/lounge area of a restaurant, if they could find one with a big enough space? Not sure if that would be restaurant-y enough for the OP or if that crosses the line into bar territory.

          Also, trying to explain OP’s specific religious restrictions to someone who’s not part of the same religion could be hard. “No bars, ok… so you can’t be around alcohol? Wait, some alcohol is ok? Alcohol is ok if it’s in a restaurant but not a bar? Is a sports bar a restaurant or a bar?” Usually I’d say OP doesn’t have to answer questions about their religion, but in this case, OP is asking the group to change plans based on a specific and confusing religious practice, so I think they might have to go into a bit more detail.

          1. Indigo a la mode*

            I don’t think it’s really that difficult. It’s like that Supreme Court case on pornography — maybe you can’t define *exactly* what constitutes a bar, but you probably know it when you see it.

  11. Engineer Girl*

    #3 – OP, you know your husband. That said, if anyone planned my precious vacation without me I’d be furious.
    I might have a place I’d want to visit, a restaurant I’d want to try etc that I hadn’t previously disclosed. I’ve also found that in the very action of planning the trip I find attractions I wanted to visit.
    In short, it’s better to plan it together. That way everyone gets what they want.
    Personally, just telling him that he’s getting his wish and that you’ll be planning it together would be enough of a surprise.

    1. Catwoman*

      I second the “know your husband”. The best of both worlds is to ask your husband to take time off and either tell him it’s for a surprise or misdirect with a white lie. This allows him to plan his workload for being off during that time and have the time off to look forward to (or dread depending your lie, haha). I would steer far away from reaching out to his workplace yourself unless you have an unusually close relationship with his supervisor (like you babysit each others kids and regularly see supervisor out of a work context and consider them a friend) because you would be asking for this favor as a friend. It is way outside the scope of normal supervisor duties, and it sounds like you don’t have a close enough relationship to get away with this from the letter. So know your husband and know the relationship you have with his supervisor.

      You’re coming from a good place and wanting to do something genuinely sweet, so just make sure you’re doing it in such a way that it is the most convenient for the most people affected.

      1. Catwoman*

        Also, one of my friend’s husbands did this for her birthday recently. He told her which days to take off work and to pack for somewhere warm, but no further details. She had a lot of fun trying to guess the location and really appreciated the advanced notice to get things lined up at work. She’s also relatively new to her workplace (less than two years) and it’s a larger national corporation so they both would have looked really bad if he tried to reach out on her behalf to her workplace.

  12. Zombeyonce*

    OP#1, could you not only try and take a day off a week when you can, but also work shorter days basically the rest of the year whenever possible? Working a 5- or 6-hour day (when it’s not one of your long days) will kill some of those hours and also have the benefit of making the 10-14 hours days feel more manageable since you have shorter days outside of them.

      1. Michael Lewis*

        Best feeling ever, going home for lunch, and taking a nap in the hammock during the silent part of the day.

    1. WellRed*

      I did this recently leaving an hour early to burn off a couple of days. I mean, I am exempt, so while it technically didn’t matter (in my office), I just felt better for it. And vowed to plan better next year. Last week, I took a random Tuesday.

    2. Ama*

      My employer decided to give us the Friday before Labor Day off, and it was announced as a surprise the week before (September and October are very busy months for us so it was kind of an advance thank you for the hours we were about to put in). It had been a long time since I had a four day weekend without travel and it really surprised me how much more relaxed it was than even a three day weekend — plus then you have two short work weeks on either side. I’m already considering scheduling a few four day weekends in the spring when our program schedule won’t allow for a long vacation but I need a little down time.

    3. OP1- Vacationless in DC*

      To my understanding (which is 100% based in office hearsay so not necessarily true), many, MANY years ago some people negotiated 4-day work weeks and abused the hell out of it. Which of course means that the current staff essentially is getting punished and held responsible for bad behavior that happened decades ago.

  13. Ally Yohn*

    Op2- Seconding What Allison said about emotions bubbling to the surface after someone dies.

    I was estranged from my emotionally abusive mother for years. Had therapy, thought I was over it all. Even when she ended up on life support, even when her heart stopped 3 times in as many days, I mostly held it together.

    Then they took her off life support and I just felt nothing for about 24 hours. And then I lost it. I cried, I screamed. Could not get myself under control and kept getting angry at myself for being upset. I finally realized I was upset because now she would never ever apologize for what she’d done.

    If you’d asked me before she got sick if I was going to need bereavement time when she died I would have said no. If your father dies and you don’t need the time, don’t feel obligated to take it- it’s no ones business but yours. But if you do find yourself dealing with grief, take the time to process it.

    1. Ehhhh*

      Thanks for sharing this. I’ll eventually be going through the same and am aware I have no idea how I’ll feel. It’s not the kind of thing most people can even comprehend so not a lot of advice on the inevitable…

    2. Engineer Girl*

      There is also a (small) secret hope that the relationship can be repaired in some way. Death ends that hope.

      1. Exhausted Trope*

        Oh, wow, this hits uncomfortably close to home for me. My situation nearly exactly. Thanks, Ally Yohn, et al, for your perspectives.

    3. Flash Bristow*

      Yep, this. Whenever I’ve grieved, I thought I was fine – then about a week later something seemingly inoccuous triggered me and I broke down, needed to drink and cry and get it out of my system. Understandably this happened with my beloved dad, but unexpectedly this happened with my not-close grandparents too.

      I would take a day off (maybe the day of the funeral – even if you’re not attending, I bet you’ll be thinking about it on that day – even if you want distraction, in which case plan a day trip or something). And explain to your manager that at present you don’t see the need for the other two days of bereavement leave, but IF it triggers the need for a mental health day or two, could it please be allocated to bereavement leave rather than held against you as sick leave. And that way I hope you’ll also feel more comfortable to take the day off if you’re just feeling inexplicably Meh in the following week or two.

      Emotionally flat, unable to focus or unexpectedly angry – all possibles and it will be good to know if you need to call out, your manager has your back. And if you’re fine, or need to throw yourself into work with gusto, no worries. But please give yourself the option – don’t anticipate how you’ll behave and then feel pressured to stick to that.

      It may also be that someone else in your family has an extreme or unexpected reaction, and you appreciate the time off in order to support them.

      I hope things go as smoothly as possible. Good luck with everything that’s coming.

    4. Anon for this one*

      And on the other end of the spectrum, when my estranged sibling died, I was shocked at how little I felt. I would have taken time off to be with my parents, to support them, but my sibling was thoughtful enough (heh) to die during the week my employer shuts down at Christmas. As it was, I never even mentioned it at work – they have no idea.

    5. Adlib*

      My husband is in this situation. I imagine we’ll find out about his mother’s death through the grapevine. He probably doesn’t expect to react much to it, but I’m glad you shared because I can be prepared to be supportive but also let him know that he may have unexpected emotions over it.

    6. halfmanhalfshark*

      I haven’t spoken directly to my father in over 20 years, and not even by email in ten, and he’s at an age where he could die tomorrow or live another 15 years, so I think about this a lot. I would definitely take the bereavement days. When he dies, I know I will be grieving something. It may be his death, or I may just grieve the relationship we never had, or it maybe just my status as “adult child with estranged father” (which is a weird thing to grieve but grief is a weird thing). However I feel, I’m going to need three days to feel worst of it. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this, and be kind to yourself.

  14. Everdene*

    OP3: My FIL wanted to do something similar for a big birthday for his wife. Firstly he told her that his work had had a really profitable year and the owners were delighted, they he laid the ground work of a holiday for top sellers and their partners as a reward and could she tentatively book time off. My MIL was skeptical but had no idea what he was upto…

    On her actual birthday he gave her tickets to a dream location and she was thrilled and had about a week to prepare to go away (this was key as she could pack things he never would’ve remembered for her and also think about what she wanted to see/do while there). Then as a final suprise their kids and partners (inc me!) were also at the airport to go on holiday too!

    What I’m saying is there are ways to suprise your partner without intefering with their boss and leave policies.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Every detail of this is incredibly thoughtful. Especially giving her a week to think about what to bring or do, and all of that cloaks the real surprise of the extended family.

    2. Everdene*

      She was delighted and the stepped suprise also reduced stress for her. However the lying was awful for a while – by the weekend we all flew out I was dodging my MILs phone calls!

  15. Everdene*

    OP1: I admit that I read the title and scoffed, but that is a huge amount of leave! Effectively you can take a fortnights holiday per quarter and still have public holidays & one off days for bits and pieces. I think Alison is right that the only way to take all that leave would be to plan way ahead.

    What an amazing benefit to have – I’ll probably be day dreaming about all the things I would do with it if I had that much leave. Planning here is definitely your friend.

  16. Foreign Octopus*

    Op2 – in February of this year, my paternal grandfather died. He and my dad hadn’t spoken in the 17 years before his death. He was a physically and emotionally abusive man who never got over the fact that when his son was born, his wife’s attention was naturally split (she’s not much better). Everyone, including my dad, expected his death just to pass us by but dad’s reaction was unexpected.

    He was moody and taciturn and a little short tempered as he processed his feelings. This may not happen to you but your reaction may be very different to what’s expected. Plan to use the days just in case, or perhaps let your manager know so that if you need to call in one day because it’s hit you harder than expected, they can help you there.

    Good luck,

    1. Batty Twerp*

      Similarly, my hubby is estranged from his father, and has been for over 20 years. Absolutely no contact.
      Cut to us watching Coco recently – and hubby is in floods of tears because of the forgotten father. He’s an emotional sobbing wreck, to the point where I had to watch the final ten minutes of the film by myself alone at a later point. Turns out there were a lot of unprocessed feelings that even hubby wasn’t aware of, and he was definitely caught off guard.
      OP2, you might think that therapy means you have processed all your feelings, but there is still the capacity to surprise you. Do you have siblings? Take the bereavement leave – if you have a surprising reaction, you won’t be at work to deal with it, and if you don’t, you could be there to support other family members who may have surprising reactions of their own.

      (sorry if this makes less sense than usual – i’m dosed up on phenylephrine)

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        As someone who hasn’t been here, I really appreciate the number of people chiming in with first person accounts of how this played out for them. Thank you.

      2. I’m actually a squid*

        I’ve been estranged from my parents (both still living with no major health problems) for 2 years now and it’s crazy what triggers grief and what doesn’t. Coco’s forgotten grandfather didn’t affect me at all (though that last scene with grandmother Coco caused some tears) but Cars 3, of all things, left me sobbing.

  17. Richie*

    OP#1 , your situation sounds very…French ! Here in France, vacations or using your days off are strictly enforced! I’ve seen people take every Friday or Wednesdays (especially if they have smaller kids) off for a period of time to use up their account. For the days that can be stored away in a ” time saving account”, they use it to retire early months earlier but this only works if you have been working for a very long time in the same company.

    1. Constanze*

      Just to add to what you are saying, in France in the private sector, we legally have 25 days of vacation time (plus some bank holidays – Christmas etc…).
      Then, depending on your status, you can also have 12 days (they are called RTT, they are basically bonus days for the people who work more than 35 hours a week). And some industries / companies also give more, but I am not a part of one.

      And no limited sick time (although during your first year at a new company, you are not paid for the first day – and up to 3 in some branches – but if you need more sick days and it is justified by a doctor, you will be paid the whole time you are out sick).

      To be honest, I have never found it difficult to take it all because I plan it : basically, 2 average holidays a year (2 weeks during the winter and the summer), some long week-ends and 1 or 2 days here and there.

      But you have to plan it in advance and warn your colleagues, it is much easier that way.

    2. Armchair Analyst*

      In Germany, the kids’ schools are mostly half-day on Wednesday. Is this the same in France? Seems to me that would cause a crisis for working parents that don’t control their hours. I know this is off-topic, feel free to ignore.

      1. Project Manager*

        I know it was the same in Belgium when I worked there. It was simply accepted that parents worked half days on Wednesdays as well; I can’t recall if they had to use vacation time or not.

      2. doreen*

        Maybe not – I’m in the US and the school my kids attended from pre-K to 8th grade had half days Wednesdays ( It was a Catholic school and the building was used for religious education classes CCD) . I just had to make my child care arrangements taking that into account, just like they had to account for school closings/vacations when I had to work.

      3. Marlowe*

        Yup. Wednesday mornings are spent at school, but the afternoon is free, generally to allow for outside-curriculum activities. State-run schools offer after-school programs for kids whose parents are working, though.

  18. Legalchef*

    Re #3, I’m in the “suprise him ahead of time” camp. My now-husband and I got engaged while on (a planned) vacation, and he also surprised me with an extra day of vacation tacked onto the end that he had arranged w my boss. That was fine, because she could make sure I kept that one day clear and I had already prepped for being on vacation. But had he surprises me w the vaca in total, I would have been so stressed about not having had arranged coverage for my work that it would have overshadowed everything. And FWIW, my boss told me that she was very torn about approving the suprise vaca day, but ultimately went with it because it was just one day. Had he approached her about surprising me with a whole extended vaca, she never would have approved it bc of concerns that I might want to use my PTO differently and also because of logistical concerns.

  19. WS*

    LW4 – When I was undergoing treatment I asked my co-workers something similar to Alison’s script, plus noting where it could be done (there were a couple of local options apart from getting your doctor to do it). People were pleased to be able to do something concrete to help.

  20. Constanze*


    OK, unpopular opinion there, but I can’t be the only person thinking it, so here we go.

    If it was a work happy hour or something like that, it could be quite easy to move the location (just go to a café or a restaurant instead of a bar), and I would say that you can absolutely ask.

    But networking events are different, they are necessary for your business and they involve (much) more amounts of planning ; finding the right venue can be complicated, depending on your requirements, the number of people there, your budget, etc…

    Assuming this is a real networking event, and not just “let’s grab a seat at the nearest bar”, I would NOT ask a new employer to change this kind of plan (and possibly office-culture) for such an arbitrary reason. It will make you look difficult and self-centered, and possibly tone-deaf.

    If I was the person organising this kind of event (I have done it, and it can be surprisingly difficult), I would be seriously peeved to have this kind of request and I would absolutely wonder about your judgement. If you don’t wan’t to go, just don’t go, but don’t put the burden of your religious obligations on the rest of your office. This is not the place for it.

    1. Traffic_Spiral*

      Yeah, it seemed like this is a basic part of the job he’s just applied for – rolling up and being like “oh, btw, I didn’t bring this up in the interview but I don’t want to do part of my job” is gonna raise some eyebrows. Like, if you were a Hindu that applied for a job at McDonald’s and then said you didn’t want to serve any of the beef products. Maybe not the best choice of job then?

      1. Birch*

        Yeah, and if OP was aware already that this would be a problem for this particular job, they could spin that preference as a positive. Like knowing that other people might also prefer a different networking setting, they could suggest creative ideas like local parks or museums, galleries, great cafes in your area, if there’s an interesting market, a great donut shop, old fashioned ice cream parlor, a tapas restaurant, a BBQ festival, etc. etc. etc. There’s so many great casual places you can hang out and network that are more fun than bars (if you don’t like bars) that might bring a whole other angle to the recruitment strategy. OP needs to do the legwork here rather than complaining about not liking the status quo but not offering any solutions.

          1. Birch*

            True, but I think this is true for all sorts of situations involving accommodations of all sizes and shapes. Like the old shooting down every restaurant option but having no suggestions. If you need a certain accommodation or have a certain preference, it can’t just be in the negative, it’s up to you to figure out at least one alternative since you’re the one wh0 knows what you want/need.

      2. Rat in the Sugar*

        I don’t see how that’s the same at all! OP was hired as a recruiter, and as far as I know that career has nothing to do with hanging out in bars. It does require a lot of networking, but that can take place in many locations, not just bars.

        OP is not saying they don’t want to do part of their job, they’re saying they want networking events to be held somewhere other than a bar.

      3. Jadelyn*

        Okay, what is wrong with everyone today? This is like the third or fourth time someone has acted like “I am uncomfortable entering a bar for religious reasons” = “I don’t want to do networking events at all and tricked my employer into hiring me so I could spring that on them now.”

        OP is not comfortable entering a bar. The bar itself, the location being “a bar”, is the problem here. OP EXPLICITLY SAID that they’re fine with non-bar venues that serve alcohol, or serving alcohol at an event held in the office. How in the name of hell are people getting from that to “clearly OP just doesn’t want to do a core part of their job”??? I am just…so baffled by this, and especially the fact that it’s coming from multiple people, so it’s obviously not just one person misunderstanding the situation.

        1. Sweet Fancy Pancakes*

          EXACTLY. This is exactly why bars can be very uncomfortable for those of us who don’t drink- it feels like we are constantly being judged for it, and so many of these comments have confirmed that that is exactly what is happening, at least from some quarters. The assumption seems to be that normal, regular, everyday people must drink, and if someone doesn’t, there must be reasons and they must be weird, etc etc etc. From your (bar-friendly) point of view, you don’t seem to understand our position, but honestly, I don’t understand why booze seems to be so vital to social interaction. I have managed to get jobs, have fun with friends, make connections with colleagues, and live a full and contented life without having had a drink since college (25 years ago- and then it was only every once in a while). If the OP had said they were a recovering alcoholic instead of saying it was for religious reasons, would the responses here be so judgey?

        2. OP5*

          Spot on. Thank you!

          Also I commented under Less Bread’s thread above in case you haven’t seen it. Although it’s nothing you don’t already get from my supposedly poorly worded question. Again, thank you.

        3. Traffic_Spiral*

          Because bars are very common networking places so not wanting to set foot in one while performing a networking-heavy job is like wanting to be a vegetarian food critic. No one’s saying you 100% can’t, but if you didn’t bring it up during the interview process, your employers might not be too sympathetic.

          1. Sweet Fancy Pancakes*

            Is it though? I admit, not having a job like this, I may just not understand the expectations of the job, but unless it’s explained there in the job description, I wouldn’t expect to have to go to bars to do my work. If it’s not explicitly laid out in the job description then we are dealing with assumptions that “everyone” knows something that in actuality, not everyone knows. OP5 could very well have applied for and gotten this job without ever even considering that going to bars would be a part of it, because going to bars isn’t a regular part of their life or anything they would normally do by choice.

            1. Jadelyn*

              I agree with you, SFP – I don’t think “networking happens in bars” is anywhere near as universal as many people are presuming, so I don’t think it’s fair at all to act like OP just ~should have known~ and it’s perfectly reasonable to censure her for not proactively disclosing about something she wasn’t aware was an issue.

    2. InfoSec SemiPro*

      But it is the place for it?

      A bunch of those arguments sound like “this is the way we’ve always done it so it has to be done this way”. Change office culture? Yes, if the culture has decided bars are where they work. It means the office is really alienating a bunch of people, which is a bunch of good talent that they need.

      If there are planned events in the hopper, I could see saying “the venue is confirmed for events X and Y, but we will look for different venues for future events.” I see the request similar to asking for kosher or halal meals to be served at work events. Or when women started asking if networking events could happen outside of strip clubs. Venue identification is always a headache, event planning is the art of ironing out a million details. “We can’t hold every event in a bar” is just another one.

      1. Constanze*

        Actually no, my argument is that it can be difficult to plan a networking event and it is definitely NOT like ordering also vegetarian / halal food (which is relalively reasy and not a hassle)

        And bars are not like strip clubs, I disagree with this comparison : bars are normal places to hold events, because they are practical and less exepensive than other venues.

        Lets’s be honest, the OP has really radical religious belief, but that’s on her to deal with them. Nobody is asking her to drink alcohol, but she disapproves of the place and people who drink – likely thinking this is a place of sin -, so she wants to force her workplace to change its habits.

        This is likely not a reasonable accomodation for the company.

        1. Nox*

          Our clients determine where we go when they are visiting us. We have one mormon and he proactively excuses himself from the event and will have another PM attend on his behalf.

          He only tried once to get a non bar event to happen but the client basically scoffed and ignored the request.

          1. PhyllisB*

            Nox, I first read this quickly and thought you said, “We have one moron…” That’s what happens when you don’t pay close attention!!

        2. Yojo*

          Wow, let’s not make super negative judgmental assumptions about OP’s religion. Nobody is suggesting that they change events that are already on the books.

          Acting like it’s a Big Hassle to look for restaurants instead of bars screams prejudice, not practicality.

          1. Constanze*

            Actually, it can be a big hassle, and that is why I nuanced my message above by saying “assuming that it is not a really quick lets-go-to-the-nearest-bar kind of event”. If it is, it can indeed be really quick to change it.

            If this is the kind of networking event where you book the venue, negociate prices, order foods etc…, it can be much more difficult and expensive in a restaurant.
            If you have 5-10 people, no worries, it is indeed quite easy. But if you have more people than that, it becomes complicated and more expensive to find another venue ; have you tries booking a restaurant for 50 people ? Not impossible of course, but more complicated / expensive than just booking a bar, and depending on where the OP lives, the company might not have these many options.

            So yes, it could be a big imposition to ask for such a change – only the OP and the people organising know that.
            I think it matters a lot that this request comes from a radical and fringe religious belief, and not from a reasonable need. I don’t think we should act as if this is a normal thing to try and exclude bars from work events, because :
            1) it might not be practical ; this is such a normal business practice that it is reasonable to assume that a bar is the more convenient place for these events.

            2) this is not a neutral request. I am pretty sure that this request would count for a lot in how OP is viewed, especially since she is new.

            1. Yojo*

              If you’re throwing around the phrase “radical religious belief” then you need to examine how you think about prejudice.

              You’re Othering, you’re considering your own ways as the norm and as correct, you’re saying that there are “reasonable” reasons to make choices and religions you disapprove of are not among them. Tell me if I’m wrong, I’m only looking at the words you’ve used.

              1. Traffic_Spiral*

                You’re wrong.

                You’re also wrong about restaurant vs. bar.

                Get solid RSVPs so you know how many people to make a reservation for,
                Get people to either order things or risk the wrath of the venue,
                Have people seated so they can’t easily mingle,
                Get people to show up on time,
                Perform a monster of a tab split calculation at the end of things.

                Send note to people saying “Event will be 7-9pm at bar.”
                Show up.

                1. Lehigh*

                  Wow, I think *you’re* wrong about all the the above. I guess this could just go on forever, couldn’t it?

                  Do they not have fast casual or diners where you live? Nobody is suggesting this get moved to some upscale sit-down place.

                2. Traffic_Spiral*

                  Are you seriously suggesting they hold the event at McDonald’s? You might want to stop doubling down and just admit that you don’t know how running a networking event works.

                3. Yojo*

                  I’m not particularly invested in the restaurant vs. bar discussion, party planning logistics, whatever.

                  I am horrified that people are so nonchalant about calling someone’s personal beliefs–which aren’t dangerous to others, which they aren’t proselytizing–“radical” and “extreme” and “fringe.”

                  And about using “reasonable” (somebody’s opinions) vs. unreasonable (a religion somebody doesn’t subscribe to).

                  I don’t think that’s remotely okay, and that’s all I’ll say on the matter.

                4. Health Insurance Nerd*

                  I agree with all of this. The main different between bar and restaurant is the show up factor- you really can’t just show up with a large group for dinner, not even at a “fast casual” place (per the comment below). Having a networking event at a bar as opposed to someplace else is about convenience, not alcohol.

                5. Lehigh*

                  McDonalds is not fast casual. Think Panera, Cosi, or anything else that actually falls into that category. I’m not doubling down, I just think you’re reply to Yojo was offensive and I disagree with you.

                6. Someone Else*

                  Look you have valid points that restaurant vs bar, restaurant will generally be more expensive and can be harder than the bar approach, but the reasons you just listed are (if they have any type of experienced person doing the event planning) not the reasons. It’s more like:
                  Find venue that offers private dining/has a party room/has sections that can be roped off/private patio etc.
                  Get RSVPs to within 10%
                  Decide in advance what food offerings will be part of the event and order it and pay for it as the organizer (ie don’t expect attendees to pay for any food, have platters of whatever appetizers you pre-order in amounts based on the RSVPs)
                  Decide if you want there to be floating servers in the event’s part of the restaurant so people can order additional things and pay directly if they want to (normally not done, usually it’s whatever’s provided and there are not servers coming round to tables, even if people are mingling at tables)
                  Decide on cash bar vs drink vouchers (the latter if you plan to provide everyone a drink or two or not)
                  Have the room/patio/area/whatever booked for a chunk of hours
                  Have signage at the venue so people know where to find the event within the overall restaurant

                  That said, when I’ve encountered networking events at bars, it was not just a matter of having 30, 40, 80 people show up at the same place. You also have to coordinate with the venue, or should. So some of the above may apply to a bar just as much as a restaurant. Although bars are very often cheaper even if there is more overhead than just telling people to go to one.

                7. Traffic_Spiral*

                  Someone Else: You realize that you’ve just quadrupled the work for the planner, created an event that actually needs a more experienced planner as opposed to something that can basically be done by an intern, halfed your venue options, and half-to-quartered the amount of people that will show up (people aren’t going to be happy about being hounded for RSVPs) and quadrupled the price?

                8. Quoth the Raven*

                  Uh, I’ve organised work events at bars, and they’ve always required the same steps you’ve outlined for a restaurant above.

                  In no work event would I ever just say “event will be 7-9pm at the bar” and consider that a done deal.

            2. JeanB in NC*

              “I think it matters a lot that this request comes from a radical and fringe religious belief, and not from a reasonable need.”

              Really? You don’t even know which religious belief this is. That’s pretty offensive language there. And you are being ridiculous to think that bars are the only easy place to host networking events. Have you ever heard of event rooms at restaurants? Or conference rooms at hotels?

              1. boo bot*

                Yeah, the comment that quote is from is… a radical way to respond to the OP’s question. It also doesn’t matter, in the US, if the religious belief is radical or fringe – it just needs to be sincerely held.

                Religious discrimination aside, this is an easy thing to accommodate. Holding events in not-a-bar is an obvious solution and not particularly hard.

                I also think that the comparison to business meetings at strip clubs is a good one – despite Constanze’s response above, the problem with that tradition was not about the expense, it was about who was excluded from the space. However one might feel about strip clubs vs. bars, it’s the same problem – insisting on a venue that some members of the team can’t comfortably enter prevents those people from being fully part of the team. That’s a bad thing.

            3. SechsKatzen*

              Whoa, I don’t see where she said anything that suggested she was judgmental of anyone who drinks or chooses to drink; just that she belongs to a religious group which requires her to abstain and she intends to do so. She didn’t suggest that every event be held at a different location, just that **some** be held at a place other than bars. It sounds like there are a lot of networking events involved in her job and so to request that **one** be held someplace else at some point in the future isn’t unreasonable. She’s not even asking for there to be zero alcohol, just that it not be held in a bar. I agree that asking for no alcohol at all would probably be out of touch if it’s a normal part of the office culture or industry, but that’s not what she’s asking for. And I say this as someone who does enjoy wine especially at the end of the day and think it helps to make networking easier. The logistical issues about a bar vs. restaurant are legitimate and so that’s why ideally this should be a dialogue about how to maintain the same spirit of the event while at the same time not contributing to an alienating situation.

        3. Close Bracket*

          Strip clubs used to be normal places to hold events. I can’t speak to how expensive it is to book one vs. book a non-strip club, but it terms of practical, you’ll need to explain what your criteria are. Strip clubs have all the same elements bars do – tables, a bar, rooms. And they are generally on the edges of town, so there is plenty of parking. What’s not practical? It’s a good comparison. Companies hold events at locales other than strip clubs. Companies can hold events at locals other than bars.

      2. Fall Mums*

        In my experience we attempted to switch up networking events from a bar (more like a sports bar) to coffee houses, a panera, a few local restaurants with party rooms, and once a new axe throwing place when a co-worker had issues with being in a ‘Bar’. However we were never able to get the turnout anywhere near what we would get when we had the event after work at the bar. The difference for us in people participating goes down by over 1/2. At the Bar we always had big numbers and a good mix of different people attend, our lowest point was a meeting at the local Italian restaurant where our team had 3 people show up.

          1. Constanze*

            My guess is that it is more flexible to go to a bar for the people invited as weel as for the organisers. You don’t have to stay that late, you are less likely to be stuck for the whole evening (contrary to a restaurant), if you have to pay, it is much less expensive to order an orange juice / a beer than a meal.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              I think the flexible start/leave times are a good insight into why bars work well.

              OP might just need to take a nod from the Mormon PM above and bow out of such things–a lot easier if you’re valued in all the other parts of your job and this isn’t seen as a critical task, so how it flies your first weeks of work probably depends heavily on the latter

          2. Fall Mums*

            We have a couple of working theory’s
            – A bar is not impeding on your family time you stop by for 10 minutes or till it closes and have a drink and a couple of wings and nachos and head home without being stuck for very long and still have dinner with your family.
            – The bar is non committal you can just show up you don’t need to make a plan for it, or around it.
            – We are all college grads in our 30’s -40’s most with kids, so the bar is nostalgia and makes us feel younger, and most of us want a drink before we go see our toddlers or teenagers. (Our 2 past employees who wanted another venue we not college graduates, so this comes up a lot)

            1. Traffic_Spiral*

              Yup. it’s not about wanting a drink (although yes, some people do). It’s about having the freedom to show up whenever, make the rounds (as opposed to being stuck in a seat next to 2 people only) and then leave. If I need to stay a little late at the office or duck out a little early, I can.

              Also, as someone who has also run a networking event, if you try to make me book a restaurant for a bunch of noncommittal networkers and then sit through the final tab calculations I will tell you to stick your idea up your ass.

          3. Manya*

            People don’t want to chit chat with people they don’t know well without the social lubricant of alcohol. I know I sure don’t!

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Even for those who don’t drink, an event you can easily bow out of when you decide you’re done is going to draw in more people than one where leaving early would mean you have to duck and roll out of your Go Kart, or abandon your trivia team, or leave before the food you ordered arrives.

        1. KayEss*

          I can’t decide whether I’d be more or less likely to attend a “throw axes and network” event. One the one hand, it sounds kind of awesome! On the other hand, “how well they can throw an axe” seems like information I’d rather not have about my professional associates. I think I’d look at a colleague differently if I found out they could nail a resting fly with a hurled chunk of weaponized steel.

          1. Traffic_Spiral*

            Me, I just don’t trust my fellow idiots not to find a way to throw the axe behind them and maim someone.

            1. Fall Mums*

              Only one person is allowed in the lane at a time, and there is a fence guarding the onlookers, so at least the appearance of safety. We were grasping at straws to find somewhere that was not a bar but still enticed people to come and we failed miserably.

              1. boo bot*

                Just for extra fun, where I live there is an axe-throwing bar.

                This is the opposite of what the OP needs, however, so I will hereby drop the subject.

      3. Alton*

        I don’t think that having networking events in bars is always inappropriate in the same way that a strip club probably would be, though. I think trying other locations is a great idea, but the company might not want to give up using bars entirely, and it’s hard to say if it would be difficult to always excuse the OP from those events.

        The thing with providing kosher meals is that there are multiple levels of accommodations for that, too. It can mean anything from making sure you don’t hold events at restaurants that serve exclusively pork or shellfish to providing specially-prepared kosher entrees to people who request them to making sure you only have work meals at exclusively kosher restaurants. The first two options are usually pretty easy to do, but if someone said that they couldn’t be present at work events that take place at restaurants that don’t have kosher kitchens, that might be harder to accommodate (harder than avoiding work events at bars).

    3. Glomarization, Esq.*

      If it’s a “real” networking event, then (as I mentioned below) the LW will be in an even better place to say “let’s find someplace other than a bar, because having this at a bar all the time will exclude a lot of people.”

      1. MK*

        Will it exclude a lot of people though? Most people, even those that don’t drink, don’t have issues going to bars; making that assertion will make you look clueless or worse. Especially if the culture in your field is socialising-in-bars friendly.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          Many people struggling with alcohol addiction don’t go to bars. They’re also frequently less accessible to people with sensory sensitivities, though that varies a lot by location.

          1. Constanze*

            It is basically the same in restaurants, though : they can be loud. And the OP doesn’t have a sensory disability.

            The bars that are generally chosen by companies for events are big, have a lounge atmosphere, you can talk and move. They are generally not the kind of dirty pubs with loud music you can find which also fall under the “bar” denomination and which would not be really appropriate for a work event. The latter are indeed not really inclusive, but the first ones are.

            Let’s not let extreme religious beliefs demonize what is a really normal practice and place. The OP is the one out of the norm here and she shouldn’t impose her views on her coworkers.

            1. Tardigrade*

              1. I don’t think this is an extreme religious belief, especially considering people suffering addictions might have issues going to bars.

              2. OP is not imposing her views on her coworkers; rather, they simply want to be included in networking events that they are normally excluded from based on venue. This is not demonizing alcohol, but I do think we have a huge drinking culture that’s feeding into some of this.

              3. There are other options besides bar or restaurant.

            2. ANon.*

              Agreed with Tardigrade above, it’s not an “extreme religious belief” but regardless, the law dictates that companies provide reasonable accommodations for religious beliefs.

              Constanze, you’re posing that (1) finding a non-bar location would not be a reasonable accommodation; your logic is that it could be more costly to the organization, to the point where the event becomes unaffordable.

              You’re also posing that (2) it is more of an inconvenience to the other attendants of the event. Essentially, that most people prefer to attend bars because of the flexibility they provide and, as such, the event would have a higher rate of attendance.

              Okay, so:

              Regarding (2), this is a preference thing. Since the law does require reasonable accommodations for religious reasons, and does not require that most employee preferences are met, the company is still obligated – and should – change the venue. Now, it may not be a reasonable accommodation to ask for a venue change on Wednesday for Thursday’s event. But certainly for all events not yet planned, employee religious accommodation takes priority over other employee preferences. Say a team of 10 people wanted to do a team building activity, and the manager chose to go on a hike. 9 of the members LOVE hiking and were stoked and 1 wasn’t and couldn’t go because of a medical reason. The manager should find a different activity. Same goes when the event is 50 people and 48 are stoked but there’s 2 or 3 people who it won’t accommodate.

              Regarding (1), that’s potentially a different story. But I imagine that it would be very, very hard to argue that the company can in no way find any other venue that would work. The company is legally obligated to make every effort to find something reasonable. Will it be as nice as a bar? Maybe not. But, again, niceness of venue (and rate of attendance) is not a law-protected obligation, whereas reasonable accommodations for religion is.

              That said, where I see your point is OP’s image and the culture of the company. Like someone allergic to dogs at a dog-friendly workplace, you don’t want to be the person who ruined it for everyone – even if the law is on your side. OP can certainly take that into consideration, but, personally, I think most people just won’t mind finding alternative venues.

              1. Technical_Kitty*

                When I plan events (rarely these days thankfully) bars are hands down the easiest. I call them a week before hand, tell them what I need, and they put up the reserved signs. We then show up. As long as it’s not Friday or Saturday there is no fee and the waitstaff deal with the drink/food orders. Other venues are tougher.

                Restaurants don’t have the same flexibility and are costly to the people attending and/or the organizer, cafe’s just don’t do this sort of thing unless you rent the place so that’s expensive, “other” venues are rentable, so again, expensive. In some places there are public spaces that can be used but they often have to be booked and are only available for certain times.

                It might sound super easy to “just switch the venue” but there is a reason these kind of things are held at bars. Casual, chatty atmosphere, ease of movement since seating isn’t required, and booking is usually low/no cost with little hassle.

                And if “rate of attendance” is the required outcome for a function and moving the function effectively negates the possibility of the required outcome, I’m not sure that is a reasonable accommodation. I’m not saying don’t move it or talk about different venues, just don’t underestimate the amount of time and money that will be required and maybe OP should have a couple discussion points or suggestions or be willing to pitch in a bit when looking for a place.

                1. ANon.*

                  I’m not saying it will be easy/cheap/NBD to find a different type of venue. Just that the law requires that the company find reasonable accommodations to accommodate those with various religious beliefs, and “it requires more work and planning/it isn’t as cheap/etc.” usually don’t cut it as reasons to deny the requested accommodation (assuming there are no other alternatives).

                  I think of it as similar to a company hiring someone in a wheelchair. Sure, it might be costly to add a ramp to get to the building. And sure, it’s going to require more work on somebody’s part to get it all set up. But it’s a reasonable request. The fact that it’s costly and no one will use it except this one person (or, in the case above, a cost that may make people like the event less) is not relevant in the eyes of the law.

                  *Not a lawyer, but would be very interested to have an employment lawyer weigh in!

            3. Marlowe*

              How is this a radical religious belief, though? It doesn’t discriminate against anyone, it’s not inherently judgemental, it’s a personal preference based on a specific aspect of the OP’s own relationship to faith.

            4. MD*

              But there are plenty of people who do have disabilities (that could easily be accommodated in the workplace) who are effectively excluded if networking events are only held at bars. I have both deaf friends and friends with trouble talking loudly (due to medical reasons) who don’t like going to bars because they can’t communicate effectively with others there. Just because there’s plenty of non-disabled individuals who like going to bars doesn’t mean a company should be trying to always exclude individuals with certain disabilities from their networking events.

            5. Delphine*

              Your insistence on calling this an “extreme” and “radical” belief is starting to sound like a dogwhistle.

              1. Traffic_Spiral*

                If it makes you feel better, OP is probably not Muslim. The whole “bar is bad, restaurant that serves booze to your fellow tablemates is ok” thing is pretty restricted to Mormons and some other American-Christian offshoots that emerged at the exact same time as the USA temperance movement in the 1800’s.

                The dry islamic beliefs tend to go either “I don’t drink but you go ahead” or “I cannot be present where there is drinking because my presence is seen as approval.” Bar vs. restaurant generally makes no sense to them because Islam didn’t emerge from 1800’s America.

                1. boo bot*

                  I hear that this is an acknowledgement that there’s some ugly, dangerous discrimination against Muslims here in the US, and that’s good to acknowledge, especially when people are calling not drinking a “radical, fringe belief,” as if the OP is a potential national security threat because she doesn’t want to go to a bar. Because yeah, dog whistle feels like an understatement.

                  That said, it doesn’t mean it’s OK to treat the OP poorly because she’s from a less-oppressed religion, or that her request for accommodation doesn’t need to be taken seriously.

                2. boo bot*

                  Also I’m not sure I see a difference between “bar is bad, restaurant that serves booze to your fellow tablemates is ok” and “I don’t drink but you go ahead.”

                  I’ve never taken a poll, but I think most adults, regardless of religion, are aware of both bars and restaurants, and at least passingly familiar with the difference. (Gastropubs, on the other hand, deliciously baffle us all.)

        2. Chocolate lover*

          I do drink occasionally, and I still don’t go to bars or any venue exclusively based around drinking (aka no food, music, etc.) . Not even socially.

          I wonder if OP knew that particular part when they accepted the job? If they’re being required to go for work and didn’t know about this, I could understand why it would bother them. Even so, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask if other locations could be considered.

        3. Anon From Here*

          In my experience — and maybe I self-select for a lot of acquaintances who are in recovery — there are quite a lot of people who categorically will not attend a gathering that takes place in a bar. I also have colleagues who abstain for religious reasons, and they’ve expressed discomfort about attending professional gatherings in bars.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I think this is going to come down to culture, where some places would find the bar drew good numbers and other events didn’t (example upthread), while other places would find that having a variety of different events drew in a better cross-section of people.

            I would note that these aren’t team building events, which you attend with coworkers you already know. Chatting with strangers or near-strangers, potential targets are going to want much more of an escape hatch built in–at a bar you can come in for five minutes, decide this isn’t what you want, and leave. With the exception of the alcohol-serving coffee house (good idea but they tend to be rare) most other venues aren’t quite as low-initial-commitment-of-time.

      2. Roscoe*

        I honestly don’t think it will exclude as many people as you think. Even if they aren’t drinkers, many people will still go to a bar for networking.

    4. Bye Academia*

      While I agree it’s common for a recruiting job to include networking at bars, I think it’s a little extreme to say that bringing up this religious accommodation makes the OP difficult or self-centered. Obviously there are recruiting jobs that do not require presence at bar events, since the OP was just in one. I can see why it may not have occurred to her that they would be standard at the new job.

      There are plenty of ways this can work for both the OP and the employer. The OP is not asking for all bar nights to be canceled, just to be excused from them or change the location occasionally. And maybe the OP can lead some events in other venues, which could attract a different/broader pool of candidates.

    5. Rat in the Sugar*

      A sincerely held religious belief isn’t arbitrary, and the law requires the employer to make a reasonable accommodation. I don’t think the fact that networking events are more complicated to book at restaurants would be accepted by the courts as a good reason to deny that legally required accommodation (IANAL).

      Also, there’s a reason we have those accommodation laws. Why should OP’s job suffer because of their faith? It isn’t necessary to have networking events in bars, just more convenient. There’s no reason to tell OP that they should have to violate their faith to avoid inconveniencing their office.

      1. Holly*

        The law doesn’t require the employer to make the specific changes the employee requests, and it doesn’t require anything that would be an undue burden. If going to bars is an *essential duty of OP’s job* (which we do not know if it is) OP may need to try a different company where it ‘s not an issue.

  21. Jenna Maroney*

    OP1- ask if your workplace will allow you to donate the extra time to employees with spouses in the military?

    1. Jenna Maroney*

      And people with sick spouses/family members? Some places let you donate it to employees who need it, which is really cool.

      1. OP1- Vacationless in DC*

        Unfortunately our policy does not allow that, as a bunch of us asked about donating/gifting leave for a coworker who just had her first baby. The idea was promptly shut down, which was such a disappointment because I would’ve LOVED to give her an extra week or so with her new little one!

        1. Cassandra*

          Ugh, that’s frustrating. Same thing happened to me, and I was livid. (I also have generous leave allotments, but the academic calendar is unrelenting — and no, I don’t have “summers off,” I’m on a 12-month appointment.) I’m sorry.

        2. Ego Chamber*

          “The idea was promptly shut down, which was such a disappointment because I would’ve LOVED to give her an extra week or so with her new little one!”

          I get where you’re coming from, and Cassandra, but I’ve worked a few places that allowed this and it always devolved into a clusterfuck—usually due to poor planning, but still, it’s hard to make sure it’s done equally (popular coworker vs unpopular coworker, guess who doesn’t get donated extra time?) or to avoid the company ending up in the position of accidentally deciding someone’s honeymoon was more deserving of extra PTO than someone else’s cancer treatment (and that ended up killing the donated PTO initiative).

  22. Glomarization, Esq.*

    LW#5: Maybe you and your pastor can come up with a short list of venues that would work for you, and you can suggest those places for the events.

    I’d also keep in mind that, if you’re recruiting, you don’t want to limit your pool so that you exclude people who don’t drink (whether they’re in recovery, or they don’t drink for religious or health reasons, or they’re below drinking age, whatever). When I’ve organized group events in the past, I’ve tried to keep that kind of idea on everybody’s radar. When you hold all your events at a bar, you know, you’re not being completely inclusive.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Ooh. This made me super uncomfortable. I’m not sure how I’d feel if I had an employee come to me and say “I can’t attend the events at this location, but my pastor and I made a list of alternatives.” Asking for a religious accommodation for yourself is one thing. Expecting everyone else to bend to your religious accommodation is another.

      1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesInYourHouse*

        Yeah, I’d be furious at that as a co worker. It’s not OP’s job to use religion like a club. If OP doesn’t want to go to a bar, they can bow out. Or have various venues that include bars.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Okay, I have to ask. How is this any different than the letters we’ve gotten from people whose bosses are trying to plan awful team-building events that would exclude them? The standard advice there is to propose inclusive alternatives. Why is it suddenly “using religion like a club” to literally just *suggest* alternatives to the way things are currently done?

      2. neverjaunty*

        Why do you think the OP would be bringing up her pastor, rather than saying “we could consider these places for events too”? And why erase the people who have non-religious reasons to bow out of hanging at the bar?

      3. Quinn*

        Yeah, definitely wouldn’t make me a fan of this employee. People can have their own beliefs, superstitions and whatever silly rules they want put on themselves. But I draw the line when they start making it a point that everyone else now needs to dance around their rules.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Ye gods, apparently “for religious reasons” really brings out everyone’s inner judgmental jerk. I mean you’re literally dismissing OP’s religion as “superstitions and silly rules”. Why would you think that would be an acceptable thing to say to someone?

          1. Quinn*

            Cause the beliefs are just that, beliefs. Dependent on faith. If people tell you with straight face and die hard belief that they believe in the tooth fairy, are you going to tell me you have zero judgment in that? That you don’t at least think it odd? Or have some thought of ” well that’s interesting”.
            As I said, I would think that person can have their belief in whatever the heck they want, but I am not stopping doing things that I think are normal legitimate things, because they have an issue with it ( whatever that thing may be)

    2. Constanze*

      Yikes. I wouldn’t want some random member of the clergy to interfere in my workplace habits / culture just because of an employee.

      That’s a really risky suggestion, and it could really backfire on the OP. She might keep the advice of the pastor / priest / whatever to herself and act accordingly but it is really not a good idea to bring these ideas up at work like they should be accomodated. Come on.

    3. Anon From Here*

      Glomarization, Esq. didn’t say that LW should tell the boss that the list comes from LW and their pastor, just that they could brainstorm a few venues.

      1. Technical_Kitty*

        Yeah, if OP#5 is going to propose this change it’s better they show up with a few possible suggestions. Just don’t mention the pastor to anyone at work.

        1. Glomarization, Esq.*

          Indeed. I meant bring the list to the employer, not say “this is the list my pastor says is OK.” I was unclear.

  23. Carlie*

    Am I the only one who finds it strange that all of the company’s networking events are at a bar? I don’t even need two hands to count the number of times in my life that I’ve been in a bar. The first half of my life was for religious reasons, but even decades after rejecting those beliefs, I just don’t see the point of going to a drinking place to drink. I’d think a company had a weird obsession with alcohol if I saw all of their events were bar-based and not really want to do business with them. So they might be cutting themselves off from more networking and clients without realizing it, aside from their own employee’s objections. (And there are probably other employees who would rather have some events elsewhere but haven’t spoken up.) It doesn’t have to be religious; some people are just not bar people. They’re turning people away with this setup. Not to mention that by having all events at one establishment they look like there’s some kind of connection between the business and that one place (Does the CEO’s cousin own the bar? Does the events director get a kickback? Why are we always at that bar?)

    Also putting a vote in for the “hates big surprises” team. I would be furious if I had a whole week of plans upended for a surprise trip.

    1. Carlie*

      Edit: I was writing the above “am I the only one” commenting right as the other ones mentioning inclusivity came in – didn’t ignore them on purpose, and thank you for mentioning it in those terms!

    2. McWhadden*

      I’m not surprised they are all in a bar. They can be pretty convenient to book large amount of space.
      Often have finger foods and such that are good for an atmosphere where you don’t want to sit down for a meal. And it is set up so standing around (to meet more people) or having more casual seating is the norm.

      It’s easy to default to. But that doesn’t mean it is a great idea to do them all there. I think it’s very possible they just haven’t thought about it but would change it up sometimes if asked.

      1. McWhadden*

        FWIW I’ve been to many networking events in bars. But I definitely think it should be more inclusive. Most people whose religion forbids alcohol can be in bars. But it still isn’t the most welcoming message to those people to have them *all* there.

    3. MK*

      There are all kinds of bars. Almost all such establishments in my town (and country) are all-day-bars that open around 10 a.m. and close at around 3 a.m and there is no especial emphasis on alchohol, as they serve anything and everything except actualy cooked food. You can go to the same place at 12p.m. to have a coffee work meeting, at 3p.m. for an after-lunch coffee (many SAHP find this a good time to meet friends), at 6p.m. for an after-work drink, etc.; the atmosphere varies.

      Also, I find the whole “a bar is a place you go to drink” concept a bit odd, frankly; if all I wanted to do is drink I could do so easily and cheaply at home. It’s a place to socialise, same as a restaurant; would you say that a company who holds their events at a restaurant has a weird obsession with food?

      1. Carlie*

        I probably would think it was a bit weird if every one of the events was at a restaurant. When you network you want a variety of new people; doing it at the same place all the time runs counter to that.

        I don’t get why “a bar is a place to drink” is odd. I can socialize anywhere, so if I’m at a bar it must be because also want to drink, otherwise why not go anywhere else? But I’m not really trying to argue that point, I’m trying to point out that exclusively using a bar to network is excluding a lot of people for a lot of reasons, not necessarily just religious ones. Not everyone is comfortable in a bar setting.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Bars are set up to accommodate large groups of people and they have refreshments available. A lot of people go to bars and don’t drink.

          I feel like some people are equating bar with neighborhood hole in the wall. My guess is the reality is a lot different. Think about a hotel bar. There are sofas and chairs and small tables that facilitate mingling and conversation.

      2. Tardigrade*

        Also, I find the whole “a bar is a place you go to drink” concept a bit odd, frankly

        Sorry, but isn’t that what the word “bar” in this context literally means? I have to assume, given OP’s letter and objection to the location, that it isn’t a coffee bar or the like.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I think in this context it’s closer to the corner pub example given elsewhere in the thread–a gathering place where you can go to meet people, and where chatting with anyone nearby doesn’t raise the same ‘uh… what?’ it would if you tried it in line at the grocery store. And it’s a gathering place where you not only don’t need to drink, alcohol but can stay for 2 minutes or 30 or 90 depending on how you’re feeling.

          I go to coffee shops and not bars, but I think coffee shops tend to have less casual chatting up of strangers, and more a dozen people bent over a book or laptop, while a few pre-existing friend sets chat over lattes.

          1. Captain Planet (nee Snark)*

            Take car, go to Mum’s, kill Phil, grab Liz, go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint, and wait for this all to blow over. How’s that for a slice of fried gold?

        2. Evan*

          No, in this context “bar” literally means “a place to network and socialize that serves alcohol and may or may not serve food.” It’s just as easy to get tanked at an Applebee’s as it is not to drink at a bar.

          1. Tardigrade*

            That would be fair if OP hadn’t specified that the venue is indeed a bar and not an Applebee’s.

            I wouldn’t mind if the networking session was held in the office (or anywhere but a bar) and alcohol is present, but not physically entering a bar.

            For whatever reason, I don’t think a lot of commenters understand that it being a bar is exactly what OP objects to. It doesn’t matter what kind of bar, nice social lounge or absolute dive, it’s still the same objection for OP.

      3. Persimmons*

        My area has several all-in-one bars that are basically like Chuck E Cheese for adults. There is a bowling area, an arcade, a stage for bands, and individual bars scattered throughout. Seating includes high tops, booths, and family-style tables.

        Basically, they are staged with open-air “rooms” for the demographics of patrons to shift throughout the day and night.

    4. Anononon*

      Maybe it’s because I work in a major city, where you can walk to so many bars, but I don’t think it’s weird.

      Also, I’m someone who rarely drinks (I’m annoyingly sensitive to alcohol), so most of the time, I just have water or soda. I’ve never felt alienated or excluded.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I rarely drink, I think I’ve only been in bars attached to restaurants (in the context of waiting for a table). And I don’t think it’s weird, either.

        It strikes me as similar to putting out a bowl of candy on your table at a conference–a lower barrier to entry, since it gives targets something to do while they glance over the display and decide if they want to learn more. “Swing by a nearby bar” can be for five minutes, then extended if things are going well, and it’s easy to pay and leave as soon as you want to go–a replacement venue would need to duplicate that low initial time investment for those who decide to come. GoKart racing, for example, wouldn’t cut it.

    5. kay*

      I’m wondering if this is a cultural thing, because 95% of the networking events I have been to have either been in a bar, or at the company for a ‘cocktail’ event. You don’t need seating, it allows people to circulate, and people often like the social lubrication. I’ve also found that the amount of people who are unwilling to go to bars or be around alcohol (for religious or recovery reasons) is extremely low. But it might be because I’m Australian

    6. FD*

      I don’t think it sends a great message, to be honest. To me, it sends a different message to host it in a venue that is primarily a bar vs. one that is a restaurant that also sells liquor. As a potential employee, the first one implies–rightly or wrongly–that this is the sort of environment where everyone is expected to drink and people who don’t will tend to be excluded from future opportunities.

      The reason that it would read that way to me is that having them consistently in a bar suggests to me that the organizer thinks of the bar as their default meet-up location.

      1. galatea*

        Same here.

        I’m in tech and there’s a whole sector of tech that seems to want to treat work as a single never-ending frat party, and I also live in a major city where there are lots of venues and places to meet that are cool/interesting/not specifically centered around alcohol; I get a little wary if a company or event is consistently in a bar as opposed to some kind of event space. Even if it’s an event space where they supply booze, it’s a different vibe from Going To A Bar, you know?

    7. londonedit*

      In Britain, 99% of all non-work interactions take place in the pub. OK, I exaggerate, but the pub is so woven into the fabric of British society that it’s the first choice for after-work drinks, company events, birthday drinks, etc etc. I’m not hugely familiar with American bar culture but in Britain while the pub can be somewhere for hardcore drinking on a Friday night, it can also be the place for a quick half-pint of beer and a quick lunch with a colleague, somewhere to have a drink (alcoholic or not) and read a book while you wait for a friend, somewhere to take your parents when they come to visit, somewhere to go with family or friends for Sunday lunch, somewhere to go for a couple of drinks with colleagues or friends after work. And contrary to some of the beliefs I’ve seen expressed here, while the UK does have a bit of a reputation for binge drinking, that’s actually a very small section of society and it tends to be in cities at the weekend, not in your local pub. We don’t really have ‘bars’ in the same way as you do in the USA, from what I can gather…in cities there will be places like cocktail bars which are more of a night-time sort of place, but there are pubs in most towns and villages and they’re just a part of the fabric of life. So no, to me it’s not surprising that work events happen in places where alcohol is served.

      1. Lehigh*

        That’s sounds like a diner where I am. They generally serve beer and wine, as well as food, and they’re generally very relaxed. Often you can sit at the “bar” or at a table.

        1. londonedit*

          That’s interesting – I didn’t realise diners would serve beer and wine as well as food. Pubs in the UK are putting more and more emphasis on food now, as people expect to be able to go to a pub and get a good meal, but for years a lot of pubs would only serve alcohol and snacks, maybe a ‘bar menu’ with some snack-type things and possibly a couple of hot food options in the evening. Pubs were about being a meeting place for drinks – and again, I don’t mean a meeting place that’s necessarily for people to get together and get completely drunk, I just mean a place where people would meet for a couple of pints, or a lunchtime half, or whatever. If you have an afternoon off work, or on a Saturday if you’re out and about, you can quite happily go to the pub with a friend, have a drink or two, spend a couple of hours sitting there chatting, and not feel any need to order food. I picture an American diner as somewhere that’s all about food – would you be able to spend an afternoon in a diner and have a couple of drinks and not order anything to eat? Or would that be weird?

          1. Lehigh*

            I’m sure it varies, but the ones I’m familiar with you can go and order just a beer, just a coffee, or whatever you like. Spending hours there over just a couple of beers might be a bit weird? When I waitressed in one, we had a few regulars who would just come in for a drink or just a drink and fries. But they generally didn’t stay that long per visit.

      2. curly sue*

        It’s the concept of the third space – the social space that is neither work / school nor home. Very broadly speaking, prohibition and the temperance movement turned the standard North American ‘third space’ into coffee shops rather than the neighbourhood local.

    8. pleaset*

      “finds it strange that all of the company’s networking events are at a bar?

      I almost never go to bars, don’t drink, and don’t find it strange at all.

      Bars are places people go to meet. It seems very logical and in practice I see it too.

    9. Nita*

      I find it a tiny bit strange. It’s very common here, but IMO kind of defeats the purpose because a lot of people in a small space = so much noise it’s hard to talk over it, or hear others. Bars are the low-hanging fruit because they’re easy to find and can fit lots of people. Other networking spaces are harder to come by – but in my experience, work much better for the intended purpose.

    10. Cake*

      “So they might be cutting themselves off from more networking and clients without realizing it, aside from their own employee’s objections.” – This is what I thought too.
      LW is a recruiter and could also point out that they are excluding candidates like herself/himself who would not attend networking events at bars, and they could cast a wider net by also having events that don’t involve alcohol.

    11. Ann Perkins*

      Yeah, I find it strange too. My company typically does restaurants and reserves either the whole thing or a side room where they can serve both food and drinks, or places like bowling alleys or Dave and Buster’s as mentioned below. I don’t drink much for health reasons and have been pregnant twice in four years so I would find it highly annoying if they always did bars.

    12. MissDisplaced*

      I don’t find it strange because bars are generally easy to book, cheaper, and flexible about people coming and going and mingling. Plus, a lot of bars are connected to a restaurant with food options and/or do serve other beverages besides alcohol drinks.
      But I think it’s ok to ask the organizers to consider some other places such as coffee houses and the like.

    13. SechsKatzen*

      It’s not a huge surprise to me though I suppose there may be regional or industry differences. In the legal field where I live pretty much every event includes alcohol and they’re generally going to be held in bars or perhaps other venues where the idea is still “bar like” (in the sense of you can show up at any point, you can move around easily, etc.). I can see why an employer may bristle at the suggestion of doing something else though there are potential solutions that would reduce the discomfort of those who don’t wish to be in bars.

  24. Anon, just in case*

    OP2, keep the option of the bereavement time open. My estranged father died this year. I needed a day to regroup after the funeral and process my emotions. (I attended it to support my Grandmother. That family is exhausting.)
    I know you’re not attending the funeral, but his death may stir up emotions and giving yourself even a day might be what you need.
    My EF was a horrible person and I had come to terms with that long ago, so I was surprised that I needed some self-care after.
    Please take care!

    1. Lilly*

      I agree. My boss took off a total of 1 hour when his father died and he was extremely irritable… for him the loss brought out anger and we had to listen to him kicking and punching his desk.

      No part of bereavement leave says you have to attend the funeral (most leave is used at death and before the funeral anyways) or even be sad. The only element is a family member needs to have died… I don’t see how you can abuse it unless you fake the death for time off!

      I frankly couldn’t leave paid time off on the table. Consider it a gift and spend time reflecting at home in your pjs.

      1. Anon, just in case*

        Exactly. I didn’t take the 5 days I was entitled to, just 1 was all I needed. (Funeral was a Sunday night *I didn’t even know you could have Sunday funerals*, I took Monday off) Everyone is different.
        But I needed it. I grieved again for what he cost us. What could have been, what should have been. I grieved because he lied so much and one of the results of that is I don’t even know my immediate family medical history. Seems so silly, but I happened to need to fill out a questionnaire for my doctor around this time, and it hit me how it’s just another way he affected us.
        The day off was one of the best things I did for myself.

    2. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Anon and OP, sending you hugs – and same here, Anon. I had not spoken to either of my abusive parents in 20+ years when my father died. I’d already dealt with their absence from my life and didn’t react much. I wasn’t happy he died, but neither was I grief-stricken.

      My brother had taken care of him in the end stages of cancer, and he asked me to attend the funeral as his moral support. I wasn’t looking forward to seeing my elderly mother, who was as bad as our father. She’d spread stories that her children abandoned her for no good reason, and there were glares and sniping from various relatives and neighbors. I ignored them and was glad I could be there for my brother.

      2 days after the service I was hit with lots of emotion, positive and negative. I remembered the rare good times, like when my father wrapped my sprained ankle and kept telling me I’d be okay. I mourned the could-have-beens and if-onlys that can we can’t help but think when we lose a family member. And I was hit with the negative memories I had dealt with long ago, but they came back anyway. I took a couple of days to process these unexpected feelings, and it made a difference for me. The worst was behind me already.

      OP, be kind to yourself and take the bereavement leave, even if it’s just a day. Get a facial, work out, have lunch with a friend, watch Netflix, sleep late, you get the idea. You might not have aftershocks, but you can still take care of yourself.

      1. Anon, just in case*

        SheLooksFamiliar, my heart just breaks for you. Hugs back to you and thank you!
        Hugs to everyone who is dealing with this unique type of loss.

  25. coffeeeeee*

    My grandmother was an evil woman. She was so mean and evil to my mom I can’t even accurately paint a picture. One example: While my mom was away at college my grandmother/father moved and didn’t tell her. My mom came “home” for summer break to find strangers living at the house. She had phoned my grandmother while in school (this is pre-internet for you young folks out there) and she never mentioned moving! My mother called her and she gave no reason or apologies for not telling her.

    Anyways, my grandmother had a stroke and was immobile (not even able to talk) for the last few years of her life. My mother (and I) were very much estranged from my grandmother. But when my grandmother died, my mom cried for days. Initially I said…”but she was so awful to you” and my mother said “but she’s still my mom”. My heart broke.

    So OP, you may never know how you’ll feel the actual time comes.

    1. stitchinthyme*

      For every story like that, there’s a story on the opposite end of the spectrum. I didn’t cry or even feel much of anything when my father died — he’d skipped town to avoid paying child support when I was 9, and it was only by sheer coincidence that I even knew when he died: the year I graduated college, I spotted him running a game booth at a carnival that had come to town. If not for that chance meeting, I wouldn’t have been in touch with him and his carnie friends would not have found my number to call me a year later, when he went into the hospital for the last time. I did go to see him at the end, and I said everything I needed to say and got closure, but like the OP, I had done my grieving for his loss many years before; by the time I ran into him again, he was little more than a stranger to me.

      My point is, the OP may grieve, but maybe not. If the loss does hit in unexpected ways, they can take the bereavement leave. I didn’t feel I needed it when my father died. There wasn’t even a real funeral for him; he was cremated and his siblings and their families got together, but none of them had seen him much in decades, so all the memories of him were from their childhood.

      1. coffeeee*

        Yep. Just like I didn’t bat an eye when my grandmother passed. The point is, you may think you know how you may feel – but you don’t until it happens.

      2. Amber Rose*

        Or the very opposite end of the spectrum: I loved my grandfather dearly, but when he died I didn’t cry even though I was sure I would. I felt sad, but I’d felt sad for a long time, ever since he was first diagnosed with cancer. At the end he went peacefully on his bed at home and I just felt like it was a suitable ending.

        Grief is a strange thing.

        1. stitchinthyme*

          Yeah, I’ve experienced similar. My mother had a boyfriend through most of my childhood who was like a father to me, and I loved him very much. He died suddenly and unexpectedly when I was 24 (about a year after my bio-father died), and although it was a total shock and I did mourn him way more than I did my father, I never really cried or fell to pieces. However, 23 years after his death, I still think about him pretty often.

          Different people grieve in different ways.

  26. MLB*

    LW1 – The only reason I would bring this up to your boss was if you felt you were overworked, needed more time off and were unable to take it because you don’t have many people to pick up the slack when you’re out. Having too much vacation is really not a problem, unless you’re unable to take any of it because of your heavy workload.

    Since you work for a small non-profit this may not be an option, but see if you can donate your time to someone else in need. My husband works for the government, and he had to have surgery at the end of the year once. He didn’t have much sick time or vacation left, and others were able to donate their time to him so he wouldn’t have to take time unpaid.

  27. Roscoe*

    #5 Is tough for me, because I know how often these things are in bars. And frankly, the fact that they are in bars is sometimes the draw of going to them. I feel like having them in an event space and a few beers there isn’t really the same, and attendance may very well decline by doing that (or not, I guess it depends on the field). But assuming that is the case, I kind of think your bosses would be perfectly fine saying you don’t have to go, but they will keep having them in bars. Would you possibly be ok with something like a TGI Fridays that is technically a restaurant, but still has a bit of a bar feel?

  28. Micromanagered*

    OP1 uses the term “PTO” and I’m wondering if her employer maybe doesn’t differentiate between sick leave and vacation leave? I work for a nonprofit and we get separate sick and vacation, but we accrue WAY more sick leave than someone without a serious illness should be using in a given year. The idea though, is that if you or a family member do have a catastrophic illness, you’re covered. Could that be what’s going on here?

  29. MissDisplaced*

    You’re very lucky OP #1, but yes what is the point of all that PTO if you can never really take it? Rolling days is a good solution typically, but it your case it compounds the problem.
    I think you can talk to them about it. Perhaps they would “buy” the days back as a bonus?
    Do you go to the conferences? Is it possible for you to stay in a conference city as a “vacation” or take off a few extra days following a conference? Sometimes I’ll do that, but if you have a SO it can be lonely by yourself. It also depends on the conference city!
    Not sure how else you can utilize these. Unfortunately, they might just be an unusable perk.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      My office allows us to sell back up to 10 days of vacation a year and it’s one of my favorite perks about working here.

  30. I'm A Little Teapot*

    #4 – I think that wording is perfect. Also, don’t be offended if someone doesn’t get the flu shot, or at least don’t ACT offended. There are people who have irrational objections to the flu shot (looking at you, mom), and there really isn’t anything you can do about them.

    Hope your treatment goes well.

    1. Yojo*

      Even if people don’t get the flu shot it’ll be good if they tell OP they aren’t getting it, so she can take extra care to keep her distance if it looks like they’re getting the sniffles.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        My thought is it’s ALSO a good reminder/notification to everyone that she is immunocompromised, so hopefully they’d also be more likely to stay home if they’re getting sick!

    2. Annie Moose*

      There’s also always people who can’t get the flu shot for medical reasons–you’re never going to get 100% coverage. But even if most coworkers get the flu shot, that’s a big help!

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        And it’s more important that people who *can* get it do for those people as well as people like the OP. We rely on herd immunity.

        OP won’t be able to convince everyone though. Some people are irrational about that sort of thing.

        1. cheluzal*

          Herd immunity was a term designed for natural immunity, not via a shot.
          And if this year’s batch is as “good” as last year’s (10%), then we can’t really rely too much on it.

          The flu is a year-round thing, not just winter. If only we could lose the shaking hands in America. Even during the worst flu they have you do it at church. I’ve started bowing to people.

    3. Bunny Girl*

      I was actually just coming to say that. Please don’t be offended if people chose not to get a flu shot. They could have their reasons for not getting one as well and just don’t want to share it. I’ve never gotten a flu shot, but I just had two other vaccinations in the past year, and I didn’t react very well to either one, so I can’t see myself getting the flu in the near future.

    4. AngelicGamer, the Visually Impaired Peep*

      All of this. I cannot get a flu shot because I will have a milder case of flu that lasts a week followed by bronchitis. The third time it happened, my doctor said to not get one again. I don’t know why it happens but it happens, so I’m very glad I work from home.

      1. bonkerballs*

        Yep, the only two times I’ve gotten the flu was during the two years I worked at a preschool and was required to get the flu shot.

      2. Rainy*

        The last two vaccinations I got, I had some very worrisome reactions afterward, so I would at this point only get one if it’s life or death. My fiancé gets his flu shot though to hopefully minimize my exposure.

  31. There is a Life Outside the Library*

    LW 4: I agree with the advice. In my experience, do it tactfully and it may actually convince some people, too. I just don’t think some people realize that it’s not necessarily about their personal risk of getting sick, but getting others sick. I just got my flu shot last week, as my coworker is immunocompromised.

  32. Lily in NYC*

    LW#3: Part of the joy of taking a vacation is actually anticipating it (for me, at least). Surprising someone kind of takes that away. I think of this whenever I see a video of parents surprising their kids with a trip to Disney and not telling them where they are going until they are there (very little kids, which is why they didn’t figure it out). My niece quivered with excitement for a month before going to Disney for the first time – and it was really fun to witness. Of course LW knows her husband and I don’t so maybe he loves surprises. I make sure to tell anyone I date not to surprise me unless it’s something tiny like bringing me a cold drink on a hot day. That said, I wish Alison would separate out the letters she knows will get tons of comments into separate posts. It’s a nightmare to wade through all of the religious non-drinking comments to see comments about the other letters.

    1. Rainbow Roses*

      “It’s a nightmare to wade through all of the religious non-drinking comments to see comments about the other letters.”

      Yes, I wish all letters are separated since there are always letters that don’t interest me and I have to wade though hundreds or thousands(!) of posts to find the 1 topic out of 5 that I’m interested in. Clicking the Collapse link helps a bit.

      1. Green Cheese Moon*

        Yes, me too. Collapsing does help, but I really wish there were separate pages for each topic (all the time, not just today’s). And if we each have to open five different pages instead of one big one, wouldn’t that mean 5x the ad revenue? So win-win all around?

    2. thing1*

      Huh, when I collapse the threads it seems to me that there are actually fewer threads about #5 than many of the others (although they may tend to be longer). I do find that collapsing them makes it easier to find the ones I want to read.

    3. just my opinion*

      I think it’s probably hard to tell ahead of time which will attract a lot of attention. With a few exceptions of course.

  33. boop the first*

    What is it with surprise travel? When do you reveal the surprise?
    I am so bad at life that I will likely never get to travel, so I do love the idea of someone doing all the planning (including begging my boss who would never let me go, I’m sure) and just letting me know when it’s sorted out. But not as a close-to-event surprise! Wouldn’t it take time to plan how to pack? Doesn’t seem fair that one person gets to have random “aha!” thoughts about what book would be perfect to bring, more opportunities to find appropriate clothing they wouldn’t otherwise wear, make medical appointments for innoculations or what-not, apply for passport (??) etc… while the other person gets what, a few days? A few hours? How much time are we talking here? I would panic.

    1. Amber Rose*

      This is a pretty fair point. Unless the place we’re traveling is just a couple hours away, it takes time. We spent nearly a year planning our trip to Japan, and it took both of us to get everything done. As it was, I forgot my raincoat. Also half the fun was making plans and suggestions and seeing things and being inspired and stuff.

      Now, one possibility is to go to a travel agency and put money down without booking. Then you can go to the other person on their birthday or whatever with the receipt like, “hey, it’s basically all paid for, we just need to agree on when we go.” I don’t know if all travel agencies do this, but ours was willing to hold on to our money for however long.

  34. Goya de la Mancha*

    LW1 – is your PTO in ADDITION to sick leave? or does the PTO cover all of it? and does your time not roll over year to year?

    I assume that it doesn’t roll over and that it’s meant to cover your sick leave as well. In my viewpoint then, it’s like good insurance. Use what you need and be grateful that it’s there in case you do need it eventually.

    1. LCL*

      OP says they are allowed to carry over 6 days a year, otherwise it is use it or lose it. But that’s not what I am worried about from this post.

      OP talks about working 10-14 hour days, and those days ‘being added to their PTO bank.’ I am not familiar with the rules for exempt workers (salaried). But if OP is hourly, and isn’t being paid for her OT, that is illegal. And, basically, in the US, only the government is allowed to do comp time. So if OP is non-exempt working OT, and instead of being paid is taking it as comp to be used later, that is illegal X 2. It’s nice for the company, sure, they promise payment at a later date but never have to pay it. Comp time that can’t be used=working for free. If you want to do that to support the cause, knock yourself out. Yes I am rabid on this subject, after seeing one of my friends lose over 200 hours ‘comp’ time when his company went bankrupt.

      1. Goya de la Mancha*

        Reading saves lives kids *doh*

        As someone who’s company does not like to pay for overtime, like ever – I’m very thankful that there are people like you who are so rabid about this subject. I may not be able to change my situation currently, but at least I can feel justified that I’m in the “right” ;)

  35. stitchinthyme*

    #1 – A huge amount of vacation time is not an actual perk unless you’re allowed to use it. You say the nature of your job doesn’t allow you to take time off, they won’t roll most of it over, and they won’t pay it out in cash; that effectively means you don’t actually have as much vacation time in reality as you do on paper. And that’s worth pointing out to your boss.

    1. Ender*

      Yup, the problem is not “I accrue too much vacation time”, it’s “I’m not being allowed to use the vacation time to which I am entitled”.

      1. stitchinthyme*

        Exactly. They should either let the OP use the full amount, or scale it back. It’s completely unfair to dangle a big chunk of time off in front of someone and then tell them they’re not actually allowed to use it.

    2. Tableau Wizard*

      It may be worth pointing out, but I think I would just shift my mindset from “I have X vacation days” to “I have unlimited vacation” because effectively, that’s the case – she has more than she can possibly use.

      At that point, just use it to the level that you want to and if it doesn’t all get used, oh well.

  36. SechsKatzen*

    #4: You can ask, politely, but don’t be surprised if not everyone does so. Personally, I wouldn’t get a flu shot even if requested because I just don’t get them, period.

    1. Robin*

      Anything involving needles is a hassle for me because I tend to pass out which means someone has to take me (they don’t like to let you drive after you’ve passed out).

  37. Amy Farrah Fowler*

    OP 1 – Could you just adjust your schedule so that you take either a half day or a full day off every week? You say that with the 10-14 hr days you net another 2-3 weeks which you could use for sickness or for the weeklong vacation you want to take. That way you’re not accruing quite so much. You may not be able to use up all your 2018 time, but it could be a plan for 2019. I know my dad was hourly, and when he hit his 40, he came home. That usually meant taking almost a half day on Fridays because he would get in early, take shorter lunches and generally got his work done efficiently. If you just expect that in your schedule, it could be a good way to even out some of those really long days.

    1. Me*

      +1 I do this a lot too. I’m salaried not hourly, so we can flex our time within the pay period but extra hours do not get counted as comp. It’s very nice to be able to leave early or even come in late on occasion.

  38. Rainbow Roses*

    #3. What is your husband’s job? Some jobs may be OK to leave at a moment’s notice for non-emergency situations but if it’s something like an office job, that will be harder. Even a lowly desk jockey like me need to clear files, distribute files, and prepare simple instruction sheets for the person taking over.
    I’d be more stressed than relaxed if surprised.

  39. Me*

    Vacation days – I too get an extremely generous amount of vacation days in addition to holidays and sick leave. I have struggled to use it all, too much work, too long hours can’t take off, etc. After a while I realized that I was the one making it difficult for myself. Yes I can take off. Yes I can have long weekends. No the world doesn’t stop and no one is mad at me for using the leave I’ve earned.

    Here is how I handle it now. I plan at the beginning of the year all but one week of my leave. I plan a week here, two weeks there, some long weekends especially around holidays (taking the preceding Friday or Monday Tuesday if it’s on a Wednesday etc) and. I take off my birthday because that’s my present to myself. Then the remaining week I have for those things that pop up that I need or want to take off for. The result is I’m better at my job because I’m less stressed, other people have had to take on responsibility because I’m not always there (a very good thing), and I’m not stressed about being in the last quarter of the year with weeks of leave.

    I know you indicate 4 day work weeks are not likely, but if that’s an assumption on your part rather than a dictate from management, I’d encourage you to look into it. I’ve worked with people who’s off day was Wednesdays. It worked well because it didn’t leave 3 days before they could respond to something. Additoinally most work is cyclical to a degree. See if you can’t identify periods that tend to be less busy and plan for longer leave during those times.

  40. Lauren*

    OP1- Vacationless in DC, is there any chance you’re wrong about the PTO law in DC? My understanding is that employers do have to pay out your unused vacation unless a different policy is stated in advance.

    From https://www.employmentlawhandbook.com/leave-laws/state-leave-laws/district-of-columbia/#1:
    An employer must pay an employee his/her accrued vacation leave upon separation from employment, whether by quit, discharge, or layoff, unless the employee has knowingly agreed to a policy or contract that denies such payment. NRA v. Ailes, 428 A.2d 816 (D.C. App. 1981); Jones v. District Parking Mgmt Co., 268 A.2d 860 (D.C. App. 1970).

    Neither District of Columbia law or the courts have specifically address whether an employer may implement a use-it-or-lose-it type vacation leave policy. At minimum, if an employer decides to implement a use-it-or-lose-it type vacation leave policy, it may only do so if the employee has knowingly agreed to the policy or a contract that implements the use-it-or-lose-it provision. NRA v. Ailes, 428 A.2d 816 (D.C. App. 1981).

  41. Delta Delta*

    Re: Bereavement Leave – Even if you don’t go to the funeral, you may find it beneficial to take a couple days off. I can’t tell from the letter if there are friends and family who may be around for the funeral who you might want to see. I’ve found that as I age I attend events sometimes less for the event itself and more to see Aunt Lucinda or Cousin Fergus, because I haven’t seen them in many years.

  42. Delta Delta*

    Re: Networking/bars – I’m sort of left wondering what kind of networking events these are. I’m envisioning a couple situations:

    1. The recruiter and others are at an off-site location (convention hall, university, etc.) and they want to join together afterward to network with other people in their field. Sometimes it’s easiest to meet at the pub on the corner because it’s a landmark they can all get to and identify easily. And also, it’s on the individual’s own dime, so it ends up being potentially inexpensive for the company. In this situation, it seems like the OP could suggest they meet at a different, non-pub/bar place, like a coffee house, etc.

    2. It’s a planned post-event situation where the company rents a room/gives a bar a head’s up there’ll be 50 people showing up around a certain time. It also seems like OP could suggest this happen someplace other than a bar from time to time.

    People might like a change of pace from always going to a bar, so there may be more support for this than OP realizes. It seems like a mix of venues might be a good idea to keep people stimulated. Also, if people grumble about there not being drinks at whatever location, they can choose not to go or can continue their socializing later at a bar, as well.

  43. Idonthaveanametoday*

    OP#2 – My dad died in high school after a chronic illness. It was kind a “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead” moment for me. I even went to school the next day. BIG mistake. I regret that so badly. Even if you just go and do something for yourself – like a massage or a manicure or something along those lines; please be open to the idea of taking the day off. I believe you that you’ve said your goodbyes, but maybe, depending on what happened – *you* deserve to take that day off to just breathe.

  44. Colorado*

    OP 2: Personally, I’d take the time off. At least a day or two. I don’t think there’s anything unethical in the slightest bit. You may grieve, you may not. You may want to reach out to friends and family, you may want to take a long drive or get a massage and watch TV. You may decide to go back to work on day #2. The point is, it’s your bereavement time for a loss, regardless. I’m sorry.

    OP 4: I would mention it in the script provided by Alison then drop it. Don’t pressure people who have their own reasons for not getting the shot. I’m a bit gun shy to get the shot again as last year I had the flu twice (!) and had the shot. My company also has unlimited sick time so it’s a huge advantage cause we’re “bullied” to stay home by our coworkers when we’re sick knowing no one is penalized (bully being a strong word here, more like told annoyingly to stay home). Warm thoughts on your recovery.

  45. Lucille2*

    #1 – Have you considered taking a day off here and there? This might need clearance from your manager, but you could take every other Fri off or something like that. Especially if your work tends to wind down on Fridays. LastJob had a generous PTO policy especially for those who had worked there for 10+ years. It was common for people to take Fridays off to burn off some excess PTO. Also, there may come a time when you end up depending on that generous PTO. It is so much easier to take a leave of absence for illness or caring for a family member if you’re using PTO. It’s paid and would not usually require documentation from a doctor to justify the absence like FMLA or short term disability.

    #2 – I don’t feel that using bereavement in your case would be unethical. FWIW, if I was your manager, and you told me your situation, I would still encourage you to consider using your bereavement just in case. It’s not up to your employer to determine how you should grieve. Bereavement policies are often terribly insufficient anyway. Please don’t feel bad if you decide to use it.

  46. The Lady Amalthea*

    #2: I was in a similar situation two years ago when my estranged father died (although I didn’t talk to him; he did leave me a sweet voicemail about how awful I was and how much I’d regret not talking to him before he died). I’m sorry you’re going through it right now. I will tell you that for me the emotions I felt and still feel were unexpected. Much like Alison said, I find myself mourning the father I never had. It’s also hard and awkward to explain the situation if I mention my father being dead (“oh, it’s ok–we were estranged”). I don’t have any advice on taking the bereavement leave–I did take one day, but definitely understand the guilty feeling of not really needing it. The biggest piece of advice I could give is just to take care of yourself–and if taking a day and getting a massage is it, so be it.

  47. Clisby Williams*

    OP#1 – Is your PTO just vacation time? Maybe businesses use the term in different ways, but when I’ve heard of PTO, it’s a combination of sick leave and vacation. If it’s supposed to cover sick leave as well as vacation, the amount doesn’t seem that strange to me. If something happens where you suddenly need 6 weeks of sick leave, you’ll appreciate it.

  48. Ellen N.*

    Alison, I hope you’ll rethink telling the poster who is estranged from her father that he/she might mourn him despite that he/she said she won’t. I was estranged from both of my parents at the times of their deaths. I can tell you with certainty that one thinks long and hard before cutting off communication with one’s parents. As a culture we promote family unity at any cost. Once I was estranged from my parents many people told me that I was wrong to not have a relationship with them despite a lifetime of suffering their abuse and neglect.

    The original poster said that he/she has processed his/her feelings about his/her father and that they said what needed to be said. Why don’t you believe that he/she knows that he/she won’t mourn when he dies? I believed that I wouldn’t mourn my parents and I didn’t.

    1. Catwoman*

      I don’t Alison is trying to tell the poster how to feel, just that it might be prudent to not make a decision about those days ahead of time. Even if the OP doesn’t mourn his father (perfectly valid and appropriate!), there may also be loose ends with his estate to unexpectedly tie up or OP might feel the need to support other family members during this time. I think leaving the possibility of using those days open is wise, and I don’t think OP would be in the wrong to use those days for something other than strictly attending the funeral.

      1. Ellen N.*

        I didn’t say that Alison told the poster how to feel. I said that Alison told the poster that he/she might not be correctly predicting his/her feelings. This is the advise I was responding to.

        “However, it’s possible that you’ll be surprised by your reaction when your father dies. You might have more of a reaction than you’re predicting — and you might not realize it right away, either.”

        Imagine the reaction people would have to the inverse. If a poster wrote in to say that he/she will feel extreme grief after the anticipated death of a parent to have the advise columnist respond that the poster might be surprised by their lack of grief and that they might not need time off.

        1. bonkerballs*

          You might want to take a look at the dozens of comments on here that back up exactly what Allison said. Yours is not the only way to lose an estranged parent. No one is telling OP how to feel. They’re simply preparing her for the possibility that her reaction won’t be what she anticipates, as evidenced by the dozens of personal stories written about here. There’s nothing at all rude, unkind, or dismissive in that.

    2. Redshirt*

      I think that the recommendation still makes sense. If all goes as the OP expects (that they aren’t affected), then that sounds like the best of all possible options. It’s okay to take bereavement leave (if one wants to) because someone has died. Even if the the person taking bereavement leave feels completely fine and has no obligations to attend to.

  49. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

    OP #2 – I went through something quite similar a couple years ago when my father, from whom I had been estranged for years, died. I can attest, like others, that emotions bubble up unexpectedly. I chose to go to work the day he died (I had learned of his death hours before the workday began), and midway through that day I realized I was much more irritable than I normally ever would be, and that I was very distracted. I may not have experienced the same despairing grief I felt when my mother died, but I was not really capable of focusing on work. I took the next day off and everyone understood.

    Additionally, there are often a lot of mundane tasks that fall to survivors: notifying family (or dealing with family as they go through their own grief), working with hospice or other medical care teams to coordinate what happens, dealing with funeral arrangements — even if things have been planned and prepaid. All this to say, you would not be taking advantage of bereavement leave to plan to take this time off even if you do not expect to feel despairing grief over this death.

  50. JxB*

    #2 Bereavement Leave – I also work for a government organization. The policies may be different, but with us an employee can take UP TO 3 days of leave to deal with bereavement, the funeral, details, etc.

    It’s not automatically 3 days (for us). Personally, if I didn’t need to use the time for those purposes, I wouldn’t feel right about taking off more than necessary. On the other hand, you may feel more than you expect – or even just need some time away from the office to process. So my advice is to take what YOU need.

  51. Greg NY*

    I’m late to the game, I’ve been too busy today, so I’ll condense both of these into one comment. Apologies if either of these were covered elsewhere.

    #1: You’re in a better position than someone with unlimited PTO, because you cannot have those benefits taken away from you. You must be given an opportunity to use them, and if business needs dictate that you can’t, then they must be paid out, even with a use it or lose it policy. An employer essentially reneging on benefits is not legal. By contrast, with unlimited PTO, you can take time off whenever your workload permits. If it never permits, no PTO for you. Speak to your manager about this and see how they want to handle it.

    #2: Bereavement leave is for taking care of matters related to an estate, funeral, or house clean up after a death. It’s not meant as emotional leave, although I don’t think anyone would bat an eye if it was used that way. However, if you are neither emotionally bereaved nor have any business relating to the death that needs to be taken care of, you shouldn’t be using the days. It’s like sick leave. If you are not actually sick or need a mental health day, you shouldn’t use your sick leave, even if you leave days on the table. Bereavement leave is not meant for emotional recovery from a death, which almost 100% of the time takes far longer than the 1, 3, or 5 days (depending on the familial relationship) you are given.

  52. Candace*

    Re the beareavement leave – I have to say I do not expect people would say much if you do not take time. My husband and I were both fairly estranged from our families. Both our fathers died. Neither of us took a minute of the 4 days of bereavement leave. I got flowers and a card from work, and I thanked everyone who expressed condolences, but not a living soul said anything about me not taking time off. One person asked if I was going to a funeral, and I said “No.” They just said “Oh, okay. Then can we meet about X sometime in the next few days?” My husband never even told people at work when his father died. The only reason I did is that they knew I had gone on one visit to see him before he died, months earlier, as he asked for me, after not seeing me for a few years. People care a whole lot less than you think. Or perhaps they know that families are often minefields. And yes, while it’s certainly true that it is possible to be shaken even when you don’t think you’ll be, so far, neither of us has thought much about it or shed a tear. It’s been 14 years since my husband’s dad died, and 2 1/2 years since mine died. I doubt we will. So it’s also possible that your reaction will be exactly as you think – nonexistent. Sorry if that sounds cold, but both our families were severely dysfunctional, and sometimes I’m astonished we both emerged with most of our sanity intact.

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