our holiday party excludes people with mobility issues, turning down training requests, and more

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

1. Our holiday party excludes people with mobility issues

Recently, our small company grew large enough to require an actual HR department and a person was hired. Said person has taken over leading/supervising work related social committees — holiday parties, summer potlucks, that sort of thing. Usually she gathers some staff to help out, but generally she and the EA do most of the organization.

In the past year, we have had two major off-site work events that I could not attend because they forgot to check if the venue and/or arranged transportation was accessible. I am not wheelchair-bound, but have mobility restrictions that require me to use two canes permanently. Both times, I chalked it up to both of them being new and being distracted by the food-restricted people. (We have multiple vegan, vegetarian, celiac, and life-threatening allergies so meal planning is a challenge.)

Well, the annual holiday party is upon us and we’re going bowling. Great! We all like bowling. We’ve gone before as a group and had a blast. Except that decided they didn’t want to book where we usually go, they wanted to go somewhere a little flashier. (Our usual place is, admittedly, a dive. The food is great, the place is clean, but a dive). The new place does not have a ramp or an elevator, nor does it offer any kind of adaptive bowling equipment. I am welcome to bring my own, if I have it. I do not. I bowl once a year with the work crew. It should be noted that I got this info directly from the bowling alley myself. I asked the EA when the holiday party email went out what the accessibility was like and she said she’d call, but didn’t.

How do I respectively decline to go to this event without sounding hurt (which I am)? “I’m not coming because you forgot to check if I could participate again” sounds petty. And how do I broach HR about this continued exclusion when it’s HR doing the excluding?

“We’ve had three major off-site events this year that I couldn’t attend because they’re weren’t accessible to me. Starting in the new year, could we make a point of ensuring that venues and transportation will be accessible?” And then if they say “oh yes, of course,” then you say, “Is there anything different that could be put in place to ensure that? I ask because for the holiday party, I inquired about accessibility and was told Jane would check into it, but then I never heard anything back, and when I called on my own, found out it wasn’t. I’m hoping there can be some official change made to whatever procedures are used for booking venues and transportation to ensure it doesn’t fall off the radar in the future.”

This is eminently reasonable to ask for. And I know you’re worried about taking HR to task, but really, this is a pretty serious oversight on their part, and any halfway decent HR team would want to know this was happening so they could fix it. Look at it this way: You’ll be doing them a favor by putting this squarely on their radar, because it’s something they should really, really want to fix.

If this doesn’t solve it, then pull in your manager. But hopefully this will do it.

2. Should I ask for a gift since I can’t attend the office holiday party?

We relocated to an area and I sought out an insurance office that was next to our temporary housing and started working there — mostly remote but I occasionally would go into the office. Last year we relocated again and now we are five hours away. I have worked for my boss now almost four years, but was only able to attend his dinner one time in the past. I spoke with him yesterday and he mentioned that they are planning the dinner in January and within the week I should let him know if we will be in the area.

My dilemma is that when I cannot attend, I don’t receive anything in lieu of not attending the dinner. I feel for my hard work and dedication, it would be nice if I get a little something — maybe a gift card for local restaurant? I mean, if we were to travel, we would spend, time, gas, hotel, etc. — obviously that just doesn’t make sense.

Your thoughts whether it is rude/wrong of me to simply tell him I cannot attend and then somehow suggest a restaurant gift card instead?! If okay, not sure how to word it either?!

It’s fine to tell him that you can’t attend; he probably assumes that’s likely going to be the case since you’re five hours away. But you should not suggest that he give you a gift instead. This isn’t a situation where everyone else is getting a gift and you’re not. This is a situation where others are attending a workplace event that you’re not attending because you’re remote. A gift isn’t an equivalent substitute. It’s true that it would be a nice gesture for him to send you a gift in lieu of being able to wish you happy holidays in person, but it’s not in any way obligatory or even something you should expect — and asking him to do that would come as weirdly transactional.

There are huge upsides to being able to keep your job when you move away, but there can be downsides too. This is one of them, but it’s a pretty minor one.

3. My old boss just got fired — should I contact her?

I resigned from a difficult job last year and landed at a new company where I’m much happier. A big part of the reason for my departure was my former boss — decent person, not-so-great manager who ran a chaotic and ultimately unprofitable department. She was let go a few weeks ago in a very public way (it’s a small industry), and I’m struggling about whether I should reach out to her.

A significant part of my reason for leaving was that I just didn’t have a great rapport or comfortable working relationship with her. She’s not a bad person (and she is super creative and charismatic, so she has a lot of fans in our industry), but I found her chaos really stressful, and I wanted a job that was a better fit for me and my working style. When I announced my resignation, she grew quite cool, and I had a somewhat uncomfortable last couple of weeks at that job. I haven’t been in touch with her in the year since I left.

I’m trying to put myself in her shoes and decide whether I’d like to get a note of support from a former colleague at this time … or if I’d rather just lick my wounds in peace. However, we have such a small professional circle that I wouldn’t be surprised if our paths cross again. I feel as though I should reach out, just to say … something? “I’m sorry this happened, and I wish you success” sounds trite. “Thinking of you” sounds like someone died. The last thing I want to do is be patronizing.

However, I want to be kind (because getting fired stinks), and I want to be professional (because who knows, she could end up working at my new company in six months or six years — a distinct possibility despite the firing because again, small industry). Would you suggest I write to her, and if so what should I say?

I’d leave it alone. You weren’t currently working with her, you didn’t especially like working with her, and she’s not someone you’re actively trying to maintain a relationship with. It’s not rude not to contact her. Plus, contacting her is essentially saying “people are talking about you being fired,” which is not a wonderful thing for her to hear, even if she figures some of that is probably happening. You’re fine just leaving it alone.

4. How can I turn down training requests from my clients?

I am an independent consultant that works on, let’s say, specialized teapot tracking systems. My clients send me issues and change requests; I handle them. I have a few people who, every time they request something, also add a request for “training” on how to solve the issue themselves. The requests range from the general, “train me how to troubleshoot delivery errors,” to the super specific, “train me on how you fixed the data in this particular one-time broken message.”

Alison, I hate training. I’m good at it, but find it exhausting, and it’s taking time away from work I do enjoy. I want to work on teapot systems, not train people how to do that. I already happily do some training, when appropriate (or unavoidable). If possible, I refer them to classes or documentation. Unfortunately, this is a niche product with hardly any resources available.

The reason they ask is because they hope to (or were hired to!) take over part of the work I do for them. And I honestly encourage them to pursue that! (Just don’t ask me to teach them how.)

Deflecting the requests is getting exhausting and, worse, coming across as unhelpful. Clearly, I need to reset expectations somehow. I’m hoping for a script that gently says, “I don’t do training on X,” but, you know, actually sounds supportive. I want to be a partner assisting them, but I have to cut back on this training. I can’t think of a reasonable position to take, and I don’t have any good alternatives to offer them if I don’t suck it up and train them. Do you have any advice for this situation?

It’s perfectly reasonable to decide that you’ll sell your expertise and labor doing X but not for Y — and in fact, one of the benefits of freelancing is that it’s easier to set those limits.

You could say, “I actually don’t do training, but I can get this fixed for you and then refer you to some documentation if you want to take a more detailed look at it.” Pairing “I can’t do X” with “but I can suggest Y” instead will soften the no.

And if you’re asked why you don’t do training, you could say “It’s never been what I’m best at” or “I’ve found it takes too much time from the work that I prefer to focus on.” And then you could add, “But I’m glad to fix anything like this that you want me to handle, and I can point you to some classes if you’d like to learn about it yourself.”

Read an update to this letter.

5. Can I ask for my coworker’s higher pay rate when I cover for her?

I work for a healthcare clinic as a front desk patient services representative. We have several clinics around the state. I work as the front desk for both medical and dental in my office. This already is more than most of the other front office staff responsibilities, but I have a coworker who constantly calls in to work for various reasons. When she does this, I am expected to fill in for her. The starting rate for her job is $3/hour more than mine, but I still get paid the same even if I do both our jobs.

Is it unreasonable to ask to be paid at least starting rate when I do her job? How and who do I ask about this? I am just shy of a year at this company, but the job was way more work than I imagined it could be and they add on new stuff regularly.

Yeah, you can’t really ask that — but you can ask for a raise on your own merits. The reasons you can’t really ask for her rate of pay when you fill in for her are (a) there might be all kinds of other reasons why she earns more than you do (like bringing more experience or skills to the job, even if some of your duties overlap at times) and (b) it’s pretty normal to be expected to fill in for coworkers when they’re out and it doesn’t normally warrant special pay for that period of time (with some exceptions, like a very long-term parental leave cover).

However, you’ve been there a year, the job has been expanding, and you’ve proved your reliability by filling in for other spots when needed. You’re well-positioned to ask for a raise on your own merits, totally separate from the issue of your coworker. Here’s how to do it.

{ 334 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, this is awful, and I’m sorry. One would hope that HR realizes the importance of ADA compliance (and accessibility) even at after-hours work functions. I think Alison’s scripts are bang on but wanted to offer sympathy because it sounds incredibly frustrating.

    1. sacados*

      Yeah, I mean maybe this HR person is stellar in every other respect, but just from reading this letter it makes me wonder. Perhaps the larger issue is that what they have is not, in fact, a “halfway decent” HR department.
      Especially given that the company is recently grown and recently hired the HR person, it’s possible that if the hiring manager (CEO, whoever) was not super knowledgeable about HR needs in general, that they wound up with a not great hire.

      1. Corrvin*

        Are we for sure the HR person didn’t call the bowling alley and get a different answer? I mean, the question isn’t “are you accessible, yes or no” it’s HOW are you accessible and what needs to happen for that. The answer seems to be “if you can manage however many stairs, and bring your own adaptive equipment for bowling like a ball ramp or pusher, yes we’re accessible.”

        My mom is a cane/walker user for the past few years, so I’ve been busily scouting out locations for her when we visit. I have had so many conversations with employees who don’t understand that just because my mom can walk, it doesn’t mean she can handle stairs. (Even worse for people’s comprehension: she can handle one step up, and sometimes more, but can’t go down steps. We were stuck in the St. Louis courthouse for a half hour once because the person at the front told us there was a chair lift at the back, so she went up the stairs inside, but then the lift was locked…) It’s also pretty common that able-bodied folks will come up with a solution that isn’t safe or dignified; okay, yes, my mom can technically sit down on the top step and scoot down each one on her butt. If the building was on fire, you bet she’d do that rather than die. But that doesn’t mean it’s a cool thing to ask OP to do just to go to a bowling party.

        1. Asenath*

          This is very common. “Oh, sure, we’re accessible” and it turns out that the place is accessible for people with some needs, but not for people with others. Or you can actually get into the venue just fine, but the toilet is on another floor and the elevator isn’t working, or there isn’t one because really, there’s only a few (or one) step to the corridor with the toilet. I (who am able-bodied, although having increasing problems with stairs) recently visited a favourite shop which had moved to a new location and proudly advertised its increased accessibility. Sure, once you’re in there, it’s all on one level. And there is street-level access to an elevator – which wasn’t working when I arrived. The actual main entrance requires going down and up quite a steep flight of stairs.

          1. Mary*

            There was a super useful thread on Twitter a few weeks ago about someone who phoned a restaurant to ask about accessibility, and instead of getting “yes, we’re accessible” got, “OK, hi, what do you need? Yeah, we’ve got a small step up to the door, about two and a half inches, how’s that going to be for you? Once you’re inside there are no stairs. Not all our tables are accessible but if you tell me what you need I can make sure you get one of the ones that is. Visual impairment too? OK, our menu is available in PDF, can your screen-reading software cope with that? Do you want me to email that to you directly? Great, OK!” Just a proper detailed discussion with someone who was confident and friendly and willing to look for solutions. I’m thinking about the accessibility of the service where I work at the moment and I found that really helpful in terms of what we should be aiming for.

            1. Quackeen*

              I would patronize the heck out of any establishment that did such a great job with that question, and I’m not a wheelchair user!

            2. mr. brightside*

              OK I’m tearing up that sounds amazing, I want more of that.

              So many things say they’re accessible but what they really mean is there’s a handicap accessible bathroom… in a building with stairs and narrow doorways.

              1. OhNo*

                Same. As a wheelchair user, being able to have a detailed conversation about access sounds like heaven on earth. “Accessible” covers so many possible variations, all I want to know is which version of “accessible” they have!

              2. TooTiredToThink*

                So I’m not the only one trying not to cry? *PHEW*

                But then; I’m the one that’s taken pictures of a popular restaurant that has blocked their elevator from being used.

            3. Merpaderp*

              I would love if you happened to remember identifying details so I could also find what sounds like a super interesting thread!

            4. LizB*

              This is so great! I’ve started seeing a lot more attention to accessibility in my social circles, and it’s always nice when someone puts detailed info on a facebook event. “Wheelchair accessible” is okay, “There is a ramp at the back door and two steps at the front door, no steps up to the bathrooms” is way better.

            5. Stinky Socks*

              Disney Resorts do this really, really well. I visited Disneyland recently with family, and when I approached a customer service kiosk about an accommodations pass, it basically involved a “What are the limitations and how can we help you” conversation. Because really, an autistic teen is going to need something different from an adult in a chair who can’t do even a single stair.

              1. Aitch Arr*

                I was going to chime in about Disney. My parents, partner, son, and I went to Disney World last year.

                My mother has severe food allergies (like anaphylactic shock and death severe). At Tusker House, the chef actually came out and gave her a ‘tour’ of the buffet, going over the ingredients of each item. At Hollywood & Vine, they had an allergy guide handout that went over whether items in the buffet were gluten-free, dairy-free, shellfish/seafood-free, etc. If she wanted to talk to the chef, she could have; same at the Moroccan restaurant. I’ll note that I indicated a food allergy when I made the reservations on Disney’s site.

          2. MatKnifeNinja*

            My mother had a halo brace, and was a paraplegic.

            You’d be amazed how many MEDICAL offices have no clue.

            OP, it might be worth your while to give HR a list of SPECIFIC questions to ask the venue, to make the magic happen for you.

            HR might be sort of clueless, and I can’t tell you how many times some venue drone, said, “Yeah, wheelchair accessible”, which meant I could get my mom’s power chair through the front door to the reception desk, and maybe into an exam room. Maybe. Everything else was flames on the side of my face.

            It’s BS that places don’t care about people with mobility issues. And I know I hated doing 20 questions to make sure trips with my mother didn’t morph into a dumpster fire.

            Fire it up to HR with your needs, and escalate to your boss if necessary. Once people knew, they bent over backwards for me.

            Good luck!

            1. willow*

              Ha, medical offices! I knew someone who had claustrophobia and acrophobia, and her psychiatrist’s office was on the 12th floor that you had to use an elevator to get to!

            2. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

              My university had the disability office on the second floor that was only accessible by a massive staircase…..

              1. Kat A.*

                What?! That’s preposterous! I really want to know what university did this. And was it ever corrected?

                1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

                  By the time I graduated (after 3 years as a campus tour guide, dreading the day that a prospective student would ask to talk to the disability officer) they’d finally moved the office to the main floor. I don’t know how it ended up on the second floor–EVERYONE was aware that it was a truly terrible (not to mention terribly ironic) place for it. Now that I think about it, though, that central building had some stairs leading up to it. And a step or two down to the very narrow oddly shaped ladies room. So it was just all around a not great place on accessibility.

              2. Astor*

                One of mine had theirs on the main floor… except separated by multiple steps. If I recall correctly, there was a way to access it without the steps, but it required you to do a big circle around the space. They also had their test rooms set up in such a way that it was a trek to get to the bathrooms and outside of their space so you needed permission, too. It was so disappointing and exhausting.

        2. Ewesername*

          Hi there!
          The question of how accessible the venue is was posed to HR yesterday by my manager after he found out I wasn’t coming. Her face fell in an “oh crap we forgot Jane again ” kind of way. She danced around the issue with him for a bit then admitted they didn’t consider it.

          1. SigneL*

            Oh, man, I’m really angry on OP#1’s behalf. I hope their manager presses this (I would, hard) because this is NOT OKAY.

          2. EPLawyer*

            That’s horrible. I can see once maybe possibly not realizing there are accessibility issues but 3 times? Especially after being specifically asked? Having other concerns like food issues does not excuse this.

            Your HR sucks. You need to make this very clear. It is worth spending capital on. If they are this casual about accessibility issues what other HR things are they not doing? This is kinda their job. If they can’t get this basic thing right, I would not trust them with the bigger things.

          3. Blue*

            I’m glad your manager knows and called her out! I don’t think it’s your responsibility to address the HR person’s on-going inconsiderate behavior, and it’s way past time for the company to address this. I’m sorry she’s put you in this position. The thoughtlessness of this is astounding.

          4. Asenath*

            Ah, so clearly not a simple case of miscommunication over what “accessible” means. It’s hard to imagine someone making that mistake not once but three times!! She clearly needed to be corrected by the manager, which it appears, was done. Perhaps she could be instructed to have the choice of venue approved by someone – maybe the manager, maybe sent out to everyone by feed back – BEFORE any bookings are made or deposits paid for the next event?

            1. Recent Anon Lurker*

              Agreed, once is a mistake. Twice I can maybe accept a miscommunication about accessibility. Three times (and I think I remember from below that HR was chatted with by the boss after OP couldn’t go the second time) makes me really question this HR person and their ability to fully do the job and all that it entails.

              1. Tammy*

                My former grandboss used to like to say “Once is a mistake. Twice is carelessness. Three times is a choice.” That feels very apt here.

                1. Artemesia*

                  Or as James Bond noted, once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, thrice is enemy action — with regard to encountering someone.

            2. Flash Bristow*

              Quite. If I was the manager, I’d be telling HR “well, Jane can manage at Dive Bowling, so we’ll all go there again instead” and leave it to HR to detangle the mess they got themselves in. That would hopefully prompt them to remember you in future, OP1!

              The alternative is that Manager takes you and the rest of your team for an afternoon in a local accessible pub or similar, but I’d do that as an as-well rather than an instead, so it makes the point that they aren’t standing for you being left out, rather than HR thinking “oh they’ve got their own solution so problem solved”.

              Sympathies, OP – I’m a wheelchair user myself and I really wouldn’t fancy this situation (nor having to “make a fuss” about it, but you don’t really have a choice if you want things to change).

              I get so frustrated about how disabled people often have the least energy to spare, yet we are the ones who have to waste it just in order to get the same basic access as anyone else. Grr.

          5. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Just got to the bottom of comments and have to say I am SO looking forward to hearing what happens at today’s meeting with HR & BigBoss. At 50+ comments, there is not one that tries to explain it away — that universality speaks volumes.

          6. NerdyKris*

            I feel like you and your manager should bring this up to whoever hired her. This is a job performance issue on her part, and it should be treated like any other.

          7. ella*

            I know you said in your post that you don’t want to sound hurt, but I think it is 100% justified to convey that these (repeated!) oversights are hurtful when you explain why you can’t go.

            1. Recent Anon Lurker*

              Agreed, once was maybe a mistake, but when HR says something like “I forgot about OP” then upset is I think mild. I would make sure that HR knows (and boss/manager/grandboss) that I’m very hurt that for the last year I’ve not been able to participate after nine years of being able to do so because accessibility hasn’t been taken into account at these events.

              1. Kathryn T.*

                That’s the sort of situation that makes you want to say “Oh, dear. Is there anything I can do to become more … memorable?” in a tone that starts frosty and ends menacing.

          8. ISuckAtUserNames*

            If I were your manager I’d be breathing fire at the HR person and whoever she reports to. Leave my team member out, again!?! Aw, hell, no. Y’all are finding a new venue. Now. Period.

            Or I’ll take my team out somewhere nice on the company dime and better not hear one word about the expense.

          9. Cacwgrl*

            So at this point, if it was me, I cannot explain how awful I would feel having realized my oversight and done A LOT of immediate research to figure out how to fix this issue. Did this HR person do anything to fix it. Because oopsy my bad isn’t a solution.

          10. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I am eagerly hoping he will light them up over this. If they can remember food restrictions, they can remember physical accessibility!

        3. Laurelma01*

          I went through this with an employer (workman’s comp situation with them) where the elevator was down. They said they would carry me up and down the stairs, I was on the 2nd floor. I actually got quite ugly with them about.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            … who was gonna carry you? Some random coworker??? That’s a recipe for a worker’s comp claim if I ever heard one.

          2. Jadelyn*

            Oh my god are you serious??? Gods forbid you prefer to have some dignity – and safety, can you imagine having someone who’s not trained in it, maybe not actually strong enough to safely support the weight of a person up and down stairs? Someone is going to get dropped, or fall and take everyone with them – and not be *carried* bodily around your workplace.

            1. rogue axolotl*

              Even apart from those issues, carrying someone involves pretty close physical contact, which I think most people would be pretty uncomfortable with from a coworker.

      2. Labradoodle Daddy*

        Agreed, I don’t have much confidence in an HR person who would overlook something like this.

    2. OhGee*

      Yup. As an able-bodied person who learned to take great care when inquiring after accessible venues, these people are cutting corners. Maybe it’s ignorance, maybe it’s ‘oh, it only affects one person and I can’t make that much effort’, maybe it’s actively malicious, but OP is right to take them to task about it and ask how they’ll do things right in the future. OP shouldn’t *have* to help them understand the best way to go about this, but I hope they will.

    3. DCGirl*

      It’s amazing how little some HR departments know. At my last job, when they redesigned the office, the furniture in all the conference rooms was all high tables and stools. When I said that some people really can’t manage getting on and off stools, the HR person looked at me like I was speaking in tongues.

      1. katelyn*

        oh my! I mean, not even based on physical ability, but wearing a suit with a pencil skirt makes getting on or off a stool either a chore or a NSFW experience… see also wearing heels!

        1. Perse's Mom*

          Even able-bodied but fat! My company participates in blood drives and I don’t give anymore because the first time I did, trying to get up onto the bed was humiliating.

          I’m also relatively short, so the combination makes high narrow chairs/stools a personal nightmare. Even if I can manage to get up there, it’s going to be an uncomfortable balancing act to stay there.

        2. Jadelyn*

          There is just no dignified way to get up and down off stools unless you’re over six foot tall with long legs, in pants instead of a skirt, and wearing flats. Even then that could so easily go wrong.

        3. DCGirl*

          I know. In addition to have a bad back that makes clambering up and down difficult, I almost always wear dresses not slacks, meaning that I might have a wardrobe malfunction along the way. That office was designed for looks, not function.

        1. SarahKay*

          I actually have reasonably long legs (for a woman) and I hate them too!
          Our work canteen was getting refurbished a couple of years ago, and the vendor we brought in for it was showing us all these stylish pictures of long counters against a window, with high stools, saying how amazing it would look. I pointed out that I don’t care to look ‘stylish / fashionable / insert buzzword here’ at work, I want to be comfortable, and able to sit down easily. Luckily the rest of the team agreed with me and we have nice sensible chairs and tables at normal height!

          1. SarahKay*

            Oops – just to clarify my post above, I hate counter height tables and stools. I don’t hate my legs!

            1. female peter gibbons*

              I’ve never thought of myself as short but I haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate barstools. Now I’m feeling bad for people who are shorter than me or have any other things that make getting on a barstool difficult. I FREAKING hate this trend!

              1. Recent Anon Lurker*

                Anything other than jeans and I hate barstools. My legs are short enough that sitting on them in anything but pants can be dicey.

    4. CaneUser*

      I know I’m way late on this. I wish I knew that holiday parties counted for ADA accessibility, because HR told me “too bad.”

      My former department used to have the holiday party at a small restaurant with a private room downstairs, and no elevator. An accident left me disabled. I’m able to walk but it’s severely limited, including no stairs. The following holiday, I asked the department head to move the party and was told no because “everyone likes that place, so I don’t see a reason to move it.”

      HR, as I said, was no help.

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        Holy crap that’s awful. I hope you either have a better job now or the energy to take it up with them again, with appropriate legal backup.

  2. Reb*

    I’m side-eyeing OP1’s manager too. If someone on my team couldn’t come to 3 events in a year because they weren’t accessible, I’d be talking to HR myself. In fact, I would’ve after event #2, or even event #1 if I’d been on top of things.

    1. TootsNYC*

      Me too. I consider this part of my job. I’d be proactively checking in, at least w/ the OP if not w/ HR before this event got planned.

      And I’d be pretty firm w/ HR now, so I’d want to know right away, even before the OP goes back to HR.

      1. Jasnah*

        Agreed. I would also not mince words with coworkers when asked about the events. “Yeah, I was really looking forward to bowling with everyone, but HR picked a new place that isn’t accessible, so I physically can’t go. :(” If I were OP’s coworker, I’d wonder why we couldn’t just go to the usual place so that OP could participate. It might be a good way to put pressure on HR in a way that doesn’t require OP to be the only squeaky wheel–your coworkers could also essentially say, “It’s more important that OP be there than the place be nicer than usual.”

        1. Gweneth*

          LW1’s kneejerk reply, “I’m not coming because you forgot to check if I could participate again” is actually spot on – purely factual and unemotional but with the implications perfectly clear. I don’t think I would personally have the guts to say it but I don’t think it’s outside professional behaviour to do so.

          1. P*

            Yes; one of the times it might be worth an email blast too “hey everyone have fun sorry I am PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO ATTEND ONCE AGAIN” HRshaming.com

            Maybe not really but tempting.

            1. Clorinda*

              It’s not OP’s job to make excuses for HR here. If anyone asks, OP should answer clearly and honestly. I don’t know about the unsolicited email to everyone, though.

          2. valentine*

            I agree; it’s not petty.

            I would also not mince words
            Yes, OP1, tell your colleagues why you don’t go to events anymore. In this case, HR broke something that was working. And I hope they don’t tell you to DIY, but I wonder if you need someone specifically tasked to ensure accessibility, as HR’s happy to forego it.

          3. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

            I’m totally ok with some non-hysterical pointing out of HR’s lack of, oh, I don’t know, paying attention to things completely and specifically within their professional purview after the 3rd time around, to one’s co-workers.
            Perhaps a rogue bowling party on the same night would send a more specific message about the value of a colleagues needs.

          4. blackcat*


            My university just had a series of events to “support non-traditional students.” Cool.

            They scheduled all of them 5-7pm. When many “non-traditional” students are either working another job or caring for their children. Our university doesn’t have many night classes, so most older students work evenings.

            I sent an email that simply said, “In the future, be aware that many non-traditional students cannot attend an event outside of business hours. While one event in the evening may be appropriate, scheduling them all to specifically exclude students who are parents is rather insensitive.”

            I got no reply.

            I have no regrets.

            1. pleaset*

              “to specifically exclude” makes it sound like that was their goal. That their intention was to exclude parents. I doubt that’s the case, even if the result is the same.

              “scheduling them all at a time that specifically excludes” is slightly different and more accurate.

            2. bonkerballs*

              Hmmm. This is interesting. Where I am, it’s the non traditional students (myself included at one time) who NEED the evening classes and meetings since having everything during business hours didn’t work well for all of us who were working full time during business hours.

              1. That girl from Quinn's house*

                Yes and if there are typically classes scheduled from 8-5, they may be limited in their ability to hold extracurricular meetings, because many students will be unable to attend as they will be in class.

              2. blackcat*

                But why schedule 3 sessions all 5-7pm on Wednesdays? Why not 1 at at time, 1 at 10am, and another on a weekend?
                I am also cranky because the grad student counsel legit said that grad students who are parents “don’t care enough to show up” to their meetings that are always at 7pm. And, no, they are not allowed to bring children. That would be too disruptive.
                My best friend in my program is a parent, and he’s so pissed off and tired of complaining, I’ve taken up the torch for him.
                (And since the university is so-un friendly to non-trads, there really is not a way to get a degree without being here during business hours, save a few small professional masters programs.)

            3. Clay on my apron*

              The problem here is that, probably, nobody asked the intended audience what would actually work for them.

              I’m working in a customer & staff experience role and it’s simply astounding how many decisions are made for the supposed benefit of customers and staff, without doing sufficient (or any) research into what those people actually need or want.

          5. Rusty Shackelford*

            I wouldn’t say “not coming.” I’d say “I can’t come.” Because the decision wasn’t made by the OP.

    2. Mystery Bookworm*

      I had the same reaction. This is completely unacceptable. OP’s manager should be coming out swinging.

    3. Bulbasaur*

      This happened once at a company where I worked. Nobody remembered to check accessibility at the party venue, and one of our staff who was in a wheelchair wasn’t able to get in (some of the people he arrived with went out elsewhere with him for dinner).

      The CEO was mortified when she found out, sent an all-staff note the next day acknowledging the error, and promised it would never happen again (and it didn’t). That’s how normal companies deal with this kind of thing if it ever happens.

    4. jam*

      Yeah, at my old job our department always had a few under-21 employees. The company was constantly picking bars as party venues that had a hard 21+ policy. It was easy to see which of our managers over the years were better than others because they always chased this up and insisted that something be done (different venue, wristbands, etc) so that our younger employees weren’t constantly being shut out.

    5. Ewesername*

      My manager and I discussed it, as he found out I wasn’t coming. It turns out that he had this conversation with HR after the last incident so he’s not impressed.

      1. Mary*

        Ewesername, I am glad your manager is on it, but I think you should also feel EXTREMELY FREE to say to everyone else, “No, I can’t, it’s not accessible. A real pity, because I love bowling! Oh well—guess I’ll be at home with the new episodes of The Good Place!” or whatever. Feel free to make it Very Awkward for the HR person. Don’t smooth it over or feel like you need to tell white lies to protect her or make her not feel bad or anything! This is absolutely basic stuff, and I think you should be as public as you like about why you can’t go!

      2. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

        I’m glad your manager is fighting for you–but this makes HR even worse! Shaaaaame them.

  3. Common Welsh Green*

    I’m joining the chorus here, OP1. Your manager should have been on this from the beginning. Your inclusion in off-site activities should be a given, not a boon to be hoped for.

    1. Green great dragon*

      Fully agree. Does your manager realise all of this detail? Because I would be furious, and it’s a lot easier for a manager to announce that this is simply unacceptable than for you to.

  4. Mrs. Wednesday*

    LW #1, that’s not acceptable. At all. I’m a lifelong disabled person who’s had progressive mobility issues. Those excuses are way too familiar. I realize you may well not be in California but here’s a link to Know Your Rights-type information: https://legalaidatwork.org/factsheet/disabilities-in-the-workplace-an-introduction-to-state-and-federal-laws/

    Disclosure: I used to work there!

    Best to you. Advocating for yourself is really hard. But I promise you that people you will likely never know about will also benefit from your advocacy. Especially folks with highly stigmatized disabilities.

    1. Becky*

      If LW 1 is in the US, you might also follow up on the bowling alley–isn’t it legally required to be ADA compliant as well?

      1. KimberlyR*

        But I imagine they aren’t required to have adaptive bowling equipment. And I don’t know what the ADA requires but if OP’s company booked a private room or something that isn’t accessible by a ramp/lift/elevator but the rest of the bowling alley is accessible, it may still follow the letter of the law.

        1. Becky*

          I was more thinking of the ramp/elevator thing that was mentioned, not the adaptive bowing equipment. The point about a private room though is a good one.

      2. Queen Anon*

        I think there are plenty of “ADA Compliant” places that meet the letter of the law but not the spirit. The building I work in is “ADA Compliant” in that it has ramp access, an elevator, and one handicapped stall with rails in the smaller of the two women’s bathrooms. However, it only meets the letter of the law – not one of the stalls in either bathroom will accommodate a wheelchair, a walker, or a helper. I imagine the men’s rooms are the same. I suspect the laws aren’t as user friendly as we’d like them to be.

        1. Avatre*

          I will never forget the time I had to help a customer at the grocery store I worked at get into the bathroom—he was in a wheelchair, and the bathroom, prominently marked with that little wheelchair logo that’s supposed to mean “accessible,” had a heavy manual door that couldn’t be opened whilst sitting down!

          I needed to get back to my department (on a different floor), as I was the only one on that day, so wound up asking another employee to wait and make sure the customer could get back *out* of the bathroom. But there was plenty of room for the wheelchair once inside, right? :p

          1. rogue axolotl*

            I’m pretty disappointed with a major tourist attraction in my hometown, which has tiny, cramped bathrooms that a wheelchair user needs to do extremely complicated manoeuvres to fit into. I doubt a power chair would fit in there at all. Sure, it’s a historical building, but it was already renovated to include the public bathrooms in the first place. Millions of people visit each year.

        2. Not Rebee*

          My office is one of those places. Our building door (and this is brand new CA construction) is very heavy and has odd hinges which mean that the doors, when opened, take up about a third of the assumed entryway space. I can practically guarantee that you would not be able to operate the door with a wheelchair and even if you could you wouldn’t be able to fit through without opening the second door (doors open away from each other, and hinges only operate one-way). They are not rigged to any kind of push-button-to-open system that would allow them to become automatic doors. Our bathrooms have handicapped stalls, and I haven’t sat to think about whether you could actually use them or not, but you’d have a hard time getting in to the bathroom as well. And on the building, right next to the doors, is the little gray wheelchair. I’m amazed it ever passed code.

  5. Engineer Girl*

    #5 – It’s quite possible that you are only covering the less technical aspects of your coworkers job. If that is the case then you are not doing the tasks that merit the higher pay rate.
    Even if you are doing the tasks it’s not normal to get extra pay for short term assignments. You are, however, getting experience in the more technical tasks. This will give you standing for later promotions.

    1. LarsTheRealGirl*

      This. Alison has covered this before in terms of “I covered for my manager/a director/etc”. You may he covering the day to day, but you’re often not covering the high level work that the role requires. (Obviously there are exceptions to this but most people are not that exception.)

    2. Beatrice*

      Yep, it’s better to think of it as an opportunity to learn and network.

      I had a maternity leave cover ages ago who used covering for my maternity leave as a pitch for an opening to join our department permanently. It was actually a great opportunity for her to do just that, except she had a really inflated sense of how much she learned/knew after that six weeks. She covered the most basic 25% of my actual job, and directed traffic for the rest, and had no idea how much difficult work she was redirecting. She bragged to people that she had the job in the bag, complained that she wasn’t being paid as much as I was, and then complained that “we took her job away from her” when we hired someone else. Not that the OP is doing anything like that at all, but I think it’s a common misconception when people provide coverage, that they’re doing everything, and people who’ve encountered that in its most obnoxious form tend to get their hackles up when they hear anything remotely like that in the future.

    3. That girl from Quinn's house*

      I think it honestly depends on how your work handles pay. I’ve worked places where different jobs have different codes and base rates in the timeclock software, and it would be entirely appropriate to be given a separate paycode and payrate for each job you perform. There are also situations where you would provide partial coverage, but would be required to clock in under your “normal” code and “normal” pay rate simply because the coverage was a one-off situation, or you lacked certain experience/certification/authority to fulfill the role in its entirety.

      My recommendation would be to ask politely how it’s handled, and accept the answer you’re given.

  6. Ginger*

    #2 – no, just no. Demanding a gift because you, as a remote employee (by your choice), can’t attend a dinner? The meal is a nice gesture, not an annual bonus. Your boss doesn’t “owe” you for you doing your job aside from the salary you already receive.

    1. Jasnah*

      Agreed, this is really comparing apples and oranges. You’re thinking of it as, boss is paying for my dinner as thanks, so if I can’t attend his dinner I should get another one. But first of all, it comes across as greedy to ask for presents from people, especially if you’re refusing their present because it’s inconvenient for you. So this is not going to make you look good.

      Second, you’re looking at this from only your perspective, where option 1 is spend time and money to get a present, or option 2 is spend no time/money and get no present. If you’re weighing those options then sure you’d think, why should I have to spend time/money to get a present, I should get one regardless. But instead you need to see this as an optional freebie that the company is offering to everyone, like extra cake in the break room. If you’re out of the office or sick that day, then tough luck, you don’t get the cake. It would be nice if your boss got you a pastry when you were back in the office, but it might not happen. I think you will be happier with the outcome if you can reframe this as a perk you missed out on because of your work situation (and working remotely is a perk too), not as something you are owed.

      1. Colette*

        And from the business perspective, giving the OP a gift card will cause problems with other people who also can’t (or don’t want to) go.

        1. Antilles*

          Yeah, that would absolutely raise some issues with the rest of the staff, some (most? all?) of whom would prefer a quiet gift card paid-for dinner with their spouse/SO rather than a work party.

        2. Washi*

          Yeah, there was an interesting discussion of this over the summer with a similar letter from the manager’s perspective. (#1 at the link in my username)

          I think the consensus there was the same – remote employees shouldn’t be excluded from office events, but if they choose not to go (which is valid!) you don’t get a “make-up” gift.

        3. ISuckAtUserNames*

          And there’s probably also some weirdness about tax laws & business expenses. They can expense an entire dinner for the team, but giving an individual a gift card might need to be reported as income to the person for tax purposes (unless the boss paid out of pocket, which isn’t a great thing, either).

    2. Rose*

      I kindof like how wonderfully bananas this is and now I’m tempted to randomly ask people “for gifts instead” up until Christmas.

    3. Traffic_Spiral*

      It’s also kinda funny when juxtaposed with the “so I can’t attend the holiday party because HR keeps booking non-accessible venues” letter. Like, one of these is a legit company holiday party problem, and one, well, is not.

      1. rogue axolotl*

        Eh, I don’t think the LW was out of line to ask about it. It’s not always intuitive when it comes to things like compensation/bonuses/perks, and sometimes it’s hard to know if you’re uncomfortable asking something because it’s a bad idea, or just because you’re not used to advocating for yourself. In this case I agree that it was a bad idea but I don’t think everyone would automatically realize that.

        1. rogue axolotl*

          That is, I don’t think it was out of line to ask Alison about it. I don’t think it would go over well to ask the boss.

    4. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      Yup – In this particular way a company holiday party isn’t any different from a social holiday party one of your friends would throw. If one of your friends throws a party and you were able to go, yes you would get free booze and free food that was provided for the party, but if you couldn’t make it you can’t demand that your friend give you a gift instead or pay for a separate meal. “I can’t make it to your party – but you could give me a present instead” would not be ok to say to a friend, and is equally tone deaf to say to your work.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Argh. This is actually a thing! This is why people send out announcements and then oops not everyone on the announcement list gets invited. But still gets to find out where the couple is registered. Baaaaarf

          1. Marthooh*

            Wedding announcements are an actual thing, though, since people have legitimate limits on wedding size. Including the registry information with an announcement looks pretty grabby, I agree.

            1. Clisby Williams*

              Including the registry information with the invitation looks pretty grabby, too. If people want to know if someone has a registry, they surely know how to ask.

              1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

                Ehhh. I’ll freely admit I am lazy enough, and hate talking on the phone enough, to wayyy prefer to just have it say on the invite where they are registered. I don’t want to go through all this extra work to buy someone a present. I want to get you something you want in my price range with as little extra effort as I can manage. I feel like having where you are registered on the invite is the new normal. No one wants to bother calling the bride’s mother anymore.

    5. MLB*

      I honestly don’t understand how anyone would even think this is okay. Plenty of people don’t attend company holiday parties because they just don’t want to, and as Alison said, being able to work remotely is a plus that isn’t available to a lot of people.

    6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      OP2 is already getting the gift of having a 100% remote job; which not being able to attend the dinner is a side effect of. I’d just be thankful for that. CurrentJob is pretty stingy with WFH (in varying degrees, depending on your manager’s goodwill), and I’m sure that, if I asked everyone in the office to raise their hands if they would prefer being remote, even though it meant losing out on mediocre work-sponsored food once a year, that every hand would go up.

      Or, OP, just take a day off and drive five hours one way and attend the dinner, if it’s that big of a deal! I’m sure you are invited.

    7. LKW*

      This is a kindness on the part of your employer and is non-transferable. Think about how much you save by working remote, gas, dry cleaning, whatever. There you go -that’s your gift card right there.

    8. Mommy MD*

      It’s kind of an outrageous thing to expect and I hope she doesn’t ask as it’s going to make her employer take pause for a sec. I’d be ecstatic I could work remotely.

    9. Marthooh*

      The dinner seems to be a symbolic “employee appreciation” thing; the OP is being appreciated by being invited. If you think of it as an annual bonus… well, it’s a pretty sucky one.

    10. YoungTen*

      Totally agree. Asking for a gift is really asking for payment, which they already are getting. Its not like a holiday bonus is being withheld because they dont attent the event

    11. JustaTech*

      To offer a tangential perspective (that doesn’t apply to OP2), when my work throws our holiday party we make sure to order a nice dinner for the group of people who are on-call and can’t leave the phones. They work the night shift, I don’t think I’ve ever met them, but it would be super, super rude to just ignore people who are physically coming in to work who *can’t* come to the party for work reasons.

      But our remote people? Nope. There are a lot of benefits to working remotely, so you miss some on-site stuff like parties. (For some people this is probably a bonus.)

      1. JessaB*

        Exactly, when Mr B’s company has parties and stuff the at home workers aren’t included unless they drive in, however, that being said when company swag is being given about, they do mail stuff to the home people. So if they do give let’s say gift cards, they do mail em to the at home workers. However, party at the Bowling Alley? You get to drive in or you don’t go.

        Once in awhile though if they have a ginormous pizza party they will send gift cards to the pizza co to the offsite people, I think they get the cards as part of the deal to cater a zillion person party, so it’s good business for the pizza place to do that for them, cause it introduces new at home workers to this really killer awesome pizza joint, and they get future business. But normally nope. And driving in means you gotta find a hot desk and work on site, which is yucky anyway.

    12. Artemesia*

      Being a PITA is also a good way to get WFH policies discontinued because they are too much trouble. Generally letting someone keep their job when they move by working remotely is a giant favor.

    13. Micklak*

      I cringed when I read this one. Can you imagine being the boss on the receiving end of that gift request? I honestly don’t know what I would say.

    14. the elephant in the room*

      Yeah, most of the people I work with view office parties as obligatory team building events (because they usually are), not gifts. Waaay out of line to ask for a gift instead.

  7. Mary*

    #4. It is perfectly fine to say this is something you cannot do. Many people are not naturally able to teach something despite being able to do it really well. Your skill lies in doing not teaching. “I am really sorry, training is not part of my skill set, I have tried before in the past and it was not a happy experience either for me or the client so I no longer do training”.

    1. OrangeYouGlad*

      #5 – I freelance and I like to find my “happy pricing” amount for things I don’t want to do.

      How much would someone have to pay me to be happy to do XYZ for them?

      Using your example of fixing vs training:

      My rate for fixing XYX is $100/hour and even though I deeply dislike training XYZ, I would happily do it for $300/hour.

      So I don’t have to say “no” to those requests; I quote them my “happy pricing” and it’s all good! If I don’t ever have train XYX? I’m happy! If they want to pay that? I’m happy! Win-win!

      1. Parenthetically*

        Yes, I think this is an excellent plan. I’m doing that this year with teaching/tutoring. I don’t want to do it, but for $45/hr I will happily do it, and I have two families who are willing to pay that amount for my time. (There are some students I wouldn’t tutor for any amount of money but this is the rate for students I like.)

        1. OrangeYouGlad*

          I know people often say, “I wouldn’t do it for any amount of money” and perhaps that is true for them? However, in our era of people eating worms for a chance at $10,000, I think most people DO have a dollar amount for most things.

          For me, if I would do tutoring for $45/hr for students I like and someone I don’t like wanted to work with me? I would do it for $225/hr (5x the regular rate).

          Is anyone going to PAY $225/hr for that? Probably not. But I often mentally calculate how much I would multiple my rates depending on the scenario.

      2. MLB*

        I think it’s fine to offer that if you’re honestly willing to do the additional task for a higher fee, and not just trying to call their bluff and hope they decline to pay that extra cost.

      3. Environmental Compliance*

        This is exactly how I quote out certain (ginormous/fiber I hate working with/overtly complicated/ridiculous time frame) knit custom orders people like to throw at me out of the blue. You want a black, highly cabled/lacework, lace weight queen-sized afghan? Uh, yeah, huh, that’ll be $1500 plus materials. However, I enjoy knitting in general, so it’s more paying for the time I would lose for me to work on my designs than to bribe me to knit.

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

        Right! It’s the Pain-In-The-Ass tax.

        As a graphic designer this happens so frequently — and I imagine that it happens frequently to others whose business “product” is their skill and knowledge. I’m not going to train my clients even if I was good at it or enjoyed teaching; that skill and knowledge is what I’m basing my income on. That’s like going to the mechanic and asking them to teach you how to fix a transmission, or expecting the doctor to teach you how to diagnose and treat yourself without having to go through years of medical school, or expecting a lawyer to teach you the law instead of represent you in court… it’s just so presumptuous.

      5. OP#4*

        Hi OrangeYouGlad, OP#4 here. That’s great feedback! I actually considered this, but I have a contract with most of my clients that spells out rates. That will be a lesson for me in the future, to write the rates for *defined* services.

        1. OrangeYouGlad*

          OP#4 – When was the last time you updated your contracts? How long are your client relationships? Can you create an addendum to the contract for clarity on specific rates for services?

          I think you have an obvious “opening” by saying, “I’ve gotten multiple requests for training on XYZ and I’m adding a new section to our contract that stipulates rates for training vs fixing so I can better accommodate these requests! Please sign & date this addendum. Thanks!”

          1. OrangeYouGlad*

            #4 – I work with a video editor and we have a signed contract with our agreement of rates/tasks.

            Turns out she also does websites and when I hired her to do this additional thing, she sent me an addendum to our original contract that has her rates/tasks for website work. She is charging me the same hourly rate for both video editing & website work but she itemized them individually in our contract.

            1. OP#4*

              Thank you OrangeYouGlad — I did not actually realize that I could do something like send an addendum to the contract. I like your wording about the opening too. Thank you!

      6. Lew*

        OP also suggested that the newly trained employees will take on some of the work that OP is currently being paid to do. In that case, they should also add a “compensation for lost future income” tax. It’s why photographers charge more for reproduction rights than for prints.

    2. Wall flowr*

      But OP specifically said they were good at teaching but just don’t enjoy it and it stresses them out.
      I suffer from the similar problems. I have high competency in interactive aspects of jobs but find interaction draining. I’ve never been successful in getting out of it without alienating people in the process and I can’t even lie about it because my success is a part of the public record.

      Some people prefer to have that Human interaction and will always assume other people would rather talk to them than Not talk to them. (Awkward).

      People also assume that if you are good at something, you must enjoy it. It’s not true, sometimes you are just effortlessly good at things you don’t even like and some other factor, like wanting to be a decent person, is forcing you to use these abilities when you’d rather not.

      It’s incredibly difficult to refuse help when asked without coming off as a not very nice person.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        This. I gave a skill which I am very good at and with which I have decades if experience.

        I hate doing it. I’ve considered how much it would take to get me yo do it, just one more time and honestly I can’t come up with a number.

        A million dollars? Half an hour of my time…yes if course I would do it because … duh … but I’d resent the hell out of selling out the whole time.

      2. Dr. Pepper*

        Yes, but the OP doesn’t have to tell the client that. You’re allowed to give an easily understood reason instead of the real one in cases like this. I would even argue that not enjoying something to the point of being stressed out over it definitely counts as not being good at something, or it “not being your strong point”, or however you like to word it. I think the OP is getting caught up in how to explain something that doesn’t really need much explaining. While “this sucks and I hate it” is not a professional thing to say when asked why you don’t do something, I think it’s perfectly fine to give some generic answer. Akin to saying you’re “under the weather” or “not feeling well” instead of “I was so depressed this morning I couldn’t handle coming into work” or “I hate you all and I need a day off”.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        I wondered if it weren’t clear where the OP’s actual job duties ended and “extra” stuff started.

        I’ve occasionally asked our IT department to teach me to do certain things, not to be a pain, but because I suspect they are very basic things that I should be able to do myself instead of asking IT for help (because goodness knows they have enough other things to do). So I wonder if OP’s clients think this is something that ought to be their responsibility and not hers, and think they’re taking a nagging little task off her hands?

      4. OP#4*

        Wall flowr, I feel like I could have written that post! Thank you for that. It is truly a difficult problem.

    3. Marthooh*

      The OP says “I already happily do some training, when appropriate (or unavoidable)” and I presume they don’t want to lie.

      OP, you could describe your own training instead: “I learned how to do my job by…” getting this degree and that certification and working at it for however many years. I also like OrangeYouGlad’s idea of expressing how much you dislike training in terms of the very large amount of money it would take to get you to do it.

      1. OP#4*

        Correct, I do not want to lie. And I actually do want to be helpful! I’m not sure that, “I took this one class that doesn’t exist anymore, and went to a bunch of meetings that don’t exist anymore, and RTFMed, but really in a large part figured things out on my own over decades” is something I could tell them? Because honestly that’s what I did — I am good at figuring things out. (I’m bad at everything else, so let me have that one thing.)

        Anyone got any tips for phrasing, “No, because of X, but I’d do it for $Y”? For some reason I’m really struggling with the wording of what should be a very straightforward note.

        1. Someone Else*

          I usually do something like “X is outside the scope of our current agreement. My rate for training is Y. Would you like me to write up a letter of agreement for some training?”
          Or, if for example some of the training you mentioned that you already do (the “unavoidable” stuff) is something less onerous and that you’re willing to keep doing, you could even go the route of “I offer an introductory training for rate X. It covers a, b, c. If you’re looking for something more advanced than that, unfortunately I don’t offer that level of training at this time. You might try Z or Q for those services.” (if you know of someone else who does offer that kind of training. Or if no one does then turn Z and Q into what documentation they ought to read instead) But the point is you’re firmly stating what you will do, what you won’t do, and what they can do instead so you’re not leaving them hanging.

        2. Heuristic Chick*

          “Training services aren’t part of my standard services, but I do occasionally contract for them separately. The rate for that is $Y.”

          Or, if you don’t want to do it for that customer, “Unfortunately, I don’t have the bandwidth to offer that service right now.” (It could be emotional bandwidth, but they don’t need to know that!)

        3. rogue axolotl*

          I would just say something vague like “Unfortunately I’m not able to offer training, but I am happy to help with fixes or suggest places to find more information.” I usually find that the “unfortunately this isn’t possible” kind of phrasing works well because it’s polite but non-negotiable. Although if I had a closer relationship with the asker I would consider being a bit more candid about the reasons behind the decision.

        4. JSPA*

          “I provide essential training like [examples] as goodwill, but my normal training rate is [dollar amount] for one-on-one, and [alternative dollar amount] for [name group scenario, if there is one]. I should also mention that I don’t train people on topics like [C, D or Q] because there are far too many variables, such that a little knowledge is dangerous.”

          Feel free to add details.

          First ask yourself: What grinds you most about doing training? The sense you’re doing yourself out of a job? The risk of teaching someone just enough so they can F things up really royally? People breathing down your neck and vice versa? Having to work out answers for every different way that somebody could misunderstand a process? Having to think about and talk about the bad aspects of the design, instead of avoiding them effortlessly, out of habit? Pressure to write a manual? The misery of not having a manual? Waiting while people take notes? Personal interaction, in general? Not liking a teacher-pupil dynamic? Having to breathe in someone else’s hair care products?

          If you can put your finger on whatever it is, and if it’s avoidable or can be mitigated, make that a condition of the process.

          1. OP#4*

            I like your phrasing, thank you.

            That’s good advice, to try to figure out what is it that really irks me. I wrote down a list of a dozen things, then erased them all because basically it boils down to me being a horrible person that resents people for being human. I’m uh… working on mitigating that. With possible therapy.

    4. Oh Hey.*

      I also hatteeee training. It wears on me. Frustrates me. The main point to me here is that they are wanting to be trained so they will not use his services anymore. I’d never train someone in order for me to lose income.

    5. Sloan kittering*

      This is totally something OP could do. At my company, we probably wouldn’t use a consultant who refused to show us how to fix something ourselves – I’d assume they’re trying to ensure we have to hire them every time the thing they fixed breaks again, so we’d be looking for a new vendor. But since OP owns the business they can decide it’s worth it to them!

      1. OP#4*

        Yes, well aware of that. What I’m interested in is not a flat refusal, but reducing the volume, honestly. I have a lot of work in my backlog, and I really don’t want to say ‘no’ to things I like to do (from other clients, even) because I’m caught up in 5 hours a week training client X. If I could get it down to 1 hour a week, or 1 hour every 2 weeks… I would be happy with that. If it helps any, this is technical – it hardly ever breaks in the same way twice. Any training I do tends from the overly general (and thus frustrating for the trainee) to the super-specific (a little more gratifying for the trainee, but largely useless in the future). Sure, they pick up a thing or two, but it’s honestly not a good use of anyone’s time. Truth be told, it would take a couple years for someone to come up to speed on just one of these systems, and there’s half a dozen involved here.

        1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          I think your explanation for why you don’t routinely offer training should explain just what you’ve said here. The systems are complex, it takes an extended time to really understand them, and there are so many ways it could break that you really need to know how every aspect works in order to troubleshoot. Offering truly adequate training requires more time than you have available due to other client commitments, but you can point them to people or resources that specialise in comprehensive training.

          I imagine it like a car. There are a few things I can do and have done myself with the aid of a Haynes manual, like replacing parts and changing oil. But I usually need an expert to diagnose the actual problem.

    6. epi*

      I would bet it’s more than fine. If I were the OP, I’d take another look at who these requests are coming from and the context around them.

      Some people (I am one of them) will include requests like this whenever they find themselves asking for a lot of help, or help with something they suspect they could have just done themselves with a quick pointer. No one wants to be that person doing the domain-specific equivalent of calling IT before they tried restarting their computer. It’s fine to respond and say it’s actually easier to do it yourself, or that it was reasonable to send the task to you at the point that they did, or to give them some pointers about what to try next time without making a whole training. That is probably all some people are looking for.

      Also, the dynamic here sounds like it is often with individual contributors who might one day do the same work as the OP. Not necessarily with the person who made the decision to contract with the OP, and determined their scope of work. Training isn’t just suddenly part of your job because someone who is essentially a peer asked for it! If the OP thinks some of these requests are for more than tips or links to documentation, I think it’s pretty reasonable to go back to the specific person who hired them and discuss whether that should be part of their contract, and under what terms. Good bosses are well aware that real training takes time, and it may not be how they want OP’s time or employees’ time used right now.

      1. OP#4*

        Yes, you hit the nail on the head. Sometimes these people were hired to take a few things off my plate — but they lack the skillsets to do so. The power dynamics are a little different here because this is a client, and I would hate to lose them over it.

    7. OP#4*

      Hi Mary,
      Thanks for your comment. Training is actually something I need to be able to do from time to time for these clients, and I am good at training, when I suck it up and do it. The part I’m struggling with is, “Okay, I’ll train you on this one custom thing you have because it’s unavoidable, but I don’t want to train you on the system in general.” I wish I could just categorically say that I don’t do training, but unfortunately, in my role it is a necessary evil.

  8. Cambridge Comma*

    I don’t know that OP4‘s reluctance to train in general is the main issue here. She is mostly employed to do something different; the employer might not want her taking so much time away from her other work.

    1. Sam Sepiol*

      She’s an independent contractor and it seems to be her clients who are asking for this. I think her reluctance is the main point.

    2. Blossom*

      She says she’s an independent consultant; I assumed self-employed. It’s clients making this request.

      OP4 – are there any trainers you could refer them to? I must say, I do feel for them, using niche software and having to always pay for the fish rather than the net, if you like.

        1. Antilles*

          Many people would, but apparently OP is perfectly fine with it – she said “honestly encourages them to pursue” being able to take over part of the work themselves. So I think we have to just take her at her word that she honestly hopes they get some training, just not from her.
          And for the record, there are a bunch of potential reasons this attitude could make sense:
          Maybe it’s because she’s got so many clients, she’d be fine if a few could handle their own work. Maybe it’s because training them to do the lowest end tasks themselves means she can focus more on really interesting projects. Maybe it’s because OP (correctly!) judges that clients with some knowledge can be significantly more reasonable to deal with and truly value your work.

          1. LQ*

            The last one is a big deal. I want training, but that doesn’t mean I have time to do the work at all, it just means that I’ll be able to talk about it better, request funding better, and make sure that it fits into our bigger picture.

            And as someone who desperately wants training from a vendor but isn’t getting it, just offering resources can be really helpful. At this point I don’t even know enough to get good google results from the thing so heck even a LMGTFY with the right keywords would help because I keep coming up with nothing useful. Here’s an online class that I can’t officially tell you about because we don’t endorse any outside training company was the best email I got last week.

            To the OP I’d also say make sure that whoever …owns the contract knows that people are asking for help, they may be able to find other resources (I’d be thrilled to hear someone was asking for training from a vendor, and would get them training through another resource.)

            1. OP#4*

              Hi LQ, that’s an interesting thought in your first paragraph. I didn’t think about it in that way, but that’s a really good thing for me to keep in mind. Thank you for bringing that up!

          2. OP#4*

            Antilles, all three of your points hit the nail squarely on the head! And to be perfectly honest, part of me also hopes that they would just try to sit down and figure it out (which I know they haven’t attempted). It’s possible, because I did it, and I am not the sharpest tool in the shed.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yeah, I definitely understand why they would want to learn it but I’m kind of surprised that it’s apparently so common for people to say to the OP essentially “please teach us what we paid you to do so we can stop paying you to do it.”

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            They’re really tone deaf it sounds like. There are other ways to learn to do things to cut down on consultant fees without asking a consultant to train you. Doh.

          2. OP#4*

            Hi MCMonkeyBean,
            Yes, there is a bit of that in play. I feel for them — it’s a tough spot to be in, when you are dependent on one outside resource.

      1. OP#4*

        Great idea, and I wish I could! This is a niche product, and there’s honestly hardly any resources available. I do sympathize with them as well. I had to figure everything out, which took a couple decades. Of course, to be fair, there were more resources available at the time I was learning.

  9. SuperPoodle*

    Just a heads up for headline #1 that “people-first” language is usually preferable, so “people with disabilities” rather than “the disabled.” Not meaning to nitpick, but inclusive, non-stigmatizing language is really helpful in terms of centering a person rather than defining them as only a disability. Thanks for listening!

    OP 1, I’m so sorry this is happening; HR is absolutely failing you. I hope this will be conscientiously resolved!

      1. SuperPoodle*

        Which is totally fine! Everyone can use their own terminology, especially when they’re defining themselves. “The disabled” does bother me as a phrase because it really elides the person, especially when it’s being used to define someone else rather than oneself, whereas “disabled person” doesn’t–I personally tend to go with “person with disabilities” (I say this as a person with disabilities!), but that’s just personal preference.

        1. SuperPoodle*

          Thanks for the update, Alison–I really appreciate it! Feel free to delete my above comment since it isn’t relevant anymore :-)

      2. LarsTheRealGirl*

        This has been discussed at length in previous posts.

        I believe the general consensus was that each individual has a preferred identity and “people first” is definitely not universal.

    1. Knitting Cat Lady*

      I suggest you take the lead from the person.

      I’m autistic. I hate being referred to as person with autism.

      The deaf community largely prefers that to all alternatives.

      The split about ‘people first’ language is roughly 50-50 over all. Some specific communities lean more in one direction.

      I know you mean well, but this crops up a lot online and there is no one true answer. Just ask people how they want to be referred to.

    2. Ewesername*

      I use mobility issue/ disabled/ persons of alternate abilities interchangeably. Disabled gets the point across clearer, in my opinion.

      1. JessaB*

        Although I do love something I just read in the Arabic press, the catch all for disabled people/persons with disabilities in the UAE is “people of determination.” I think that’s kinda cool. Many might disagree with me but I think that’s really…incredibly non stigmatising language doesn’t even mention what the disability might be, physical, mental, whatever.

          1. JessaB*

            Yeh it was mentioned in a speech by the Emir of Dubai when he was talking about more large government expenditures to train people of determination to get jobs and to make Dubai itself more physically accessible to people. Dunno if he coined it or one of his advisors gave him the idea but I think it’s very very cool.

  10. Harper the Other One*

    OP #1, another point you can bring up to your manager or HR is that your coworkers are now almost certainly wondering what else falls through the cracks. If I knew that a person’s mobility issues had been forgotten three times for special events, I would definitely be questioning if other important details were being forgotten! It would make me wonder, too, how HR would handle it if I developed a chronic illness, pregnancy complications, etc.

    It’s not “just a party,” and while you’re the most affected, others will be observing and this will be changing their opinion of their employer in ways that will probably not be obvious. If I were your coworker, it would definitely make me question if this organization was where I wanted to stay long-term.

    1. Sled dog mama*

      If I worked there I would be wondering if my food allergy was actually accomodated or they had forgotten that too.

      1. Yvette*

        That is an excellent point, if they can forget accommodations for someone whose needs are clearly visible, (there is nothing subtle about using 2 canes) it would certainly make me wonder if my life-threatening invisible food allergy was properly accounted for.

          1. Not Rebee*

            Fourth. My office forgets my allergies all the time. We accommodate vegetarians and celiac, but otherwise don’t pay any attention to other dietary restrictions such as the more obvious religious restrictions or any food allergies. Even people who I’ve told about my allergies and who do the ordering will forget. I’m lucky that my allergies are easily noticed and easy to avoid, are not life threatening, and that I check any food where I don’t know exactly what’s in it. But have definitely had to go out for food on a day we were supposed to be having a catered company lunch.

            1. Recent Anon Lurker*

              My solution has always been to pack a small non-perishable lunch for any catering events (especially when I liven in Mobile, AL with a potentially deadly seafood allergy). That way I didn’t have to leave, but also didn’t have to go hungry. It was a way I knew I was taking care of myself (my mom a nurse raised me with the expectation that the best person to manage my food allergy was myself).

        1. JessaB*

          I hadn’t even thought of this issue until youse guys brought it up. Yeh, what else are they forgetting, not taking properly seriously, not checking up on. I mean I’m allergic to mustard, I’m fine with dealing with eating veg or something if they go to a place that’s filled with it, but did they even ask? Can I be sure that yellowish sauce on the veg is saffron or something and not a mustard vinaigrette?

          on the other hand I do my own checking since it’s food, I will absolutely demand the number of the venue or catering co and ask because I don’t happen to want to die on the company dime.

  11. Delta Delta*

    #1 – I think an email to HR, cc’d to the manager is in order here. And use some of Alison’s language. The manager may not know what’s going on, and may wonder why all of a sudden OP isn’t attending events.

    I also think mentioning the issue to coworkers is appropriate. They are likely allies to OP and would also want to make sure everyone can attend the event.

    1. Ewesername*

      Update OP#1
      Thank you to everyone for their ideas – I wasn’t expecting them so early!
      My manager found out I wasn’t coming and why, and boy, was he mad. Apparently he raised a stink after the last time. We have a meeting with HR and the boss this afternoon to discuss inclusiveness in the workplace and what steps are going to be taken to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
      I have mentioned to my team why I’m not coming and they’re all understandably horrified. They have offered to skip it in solidarity, but I have asked them not to. I don’t want to make this worse. Other staff that have asked, I am just saying I have other plans.
      I will be using Alison’s phrasing in the meeting today – speaking with people is not my strong point and I have a hard time getting my point across sometimes – so thank you for that!
      Will let you know how it goes.

      1. Delta Delta*

        I’m so glad the manager is already in the loop on this and is definitely on your side. Hope your meeting goes well this afternoon!

      2. B*

        Fingers crossed, OP. My work recently moved an entire offsite retreat because despite clear accessibility requirements the original site still had “just one stair” and their mobility van “wasn’t adapted for non-manual wheelchairs”. This is worth fighting for.

      3. Detective Amy Santiago*

        You are way nicer than I am. I think your team skipping in solidarity is a wonderful gesture and I sure as hell would be telling everyone who asked that I would love to come, but I can’t because the selected venue isn’t accessible.

        I’m super petty like that though.

        1. Les G*

          So, uh, to nitpick on word choice, but “petty” is really rubbing me in the wrong direction considering the OP was worried she’d come off as petty for *checks notes* telling HR she couldn’t attend a party they planned because it wasn’t accessible.

          Being vocal about your rights isn’t petty.

          1. Jadelyn*

            I think the “being petty” was more about the phrasing and actively spreading the word to bystanders than just “being vocal about one’s rights”. Telling your manager and HR “I checked with the venue and they’re not accessible, so I won’t be able to go” isn’t petty at all. Actively telling folks specifically “I’ve been excluded because HR fucked up” is…not super petty, but a wee bit.

            1. BelleMorte*

              (Speaking as a person with a disability that requires a lot of accommodation and as an advocate)

              No, this is not a wee bit petty at all. This is stating what is happening. A huge part of the reason that people with disabilities get marginalized, excluded and discriminated against when it comes to promotions and training is because they are encouraged to stay silent about issues like this. OP has every right to discuss issues in the workplace and failure to receive accommodation with her co-workers and not be thought of as petty. She also doesn’t need to come up with any excuses about why she is not attending to make it less objectionable.

              To flip this a bit, would you be ok if the venue was men only and was not accessible to women? So men would be able to be seen as a “teamworker” by their bosses, and other workers who may not know why the women didn’t show would write them off as not being part of the team. This is how EVERYTHING is for people with disabilities when it comes to barriers at employment. For example, I was left out of leadership training because the event was not accessible, my other two co-workers attended. So now they would be considered for promotions and I won’t be because I don’t have that training. When people ask why I haven’t gone through the training should I say well I didn’t go because I was busy that week? or is it petty of me to say ” the training wasn’t accessible and when I flagged this as an issue, it was not remedied”. The former fixes nothing, the latter may inspire change in training protocols.

        2. Jessie the First (or second)*

          It isn’t petty to be honest and straightforward and vocal about something that matters.

          And this matters – the company is deliberately excluding someone who has disabilities. It’s not an oversight the 3rd time it happens, it is a deliberate choice to not care.

          I know the boss is not happy – but it is HR of all people doing this, and it is the 3rd time it has happened, and if the company as a whole does not stop this RIGHT NOW, then this is on the company, not just HR.

          The company needs to not just say sorry and scold the incompetent HR person, but ALSO put her on a PIP/give her a formal warning. And move the party somewhere accessible.

        3. Michaela Westen*

          I think it’s important to tell everyone the truth. If I was an employee there, I would want to know how incompetent HR is.
          As others have mentioned, HR doesn’t deserve your kindness.

      4. I heard it both ways*

        I think you should tell people outside your department why you really aren’t going. Don’t cover for hr. Plus aren’t they setting themselves up for a lawsuit? Isn’t it discrimination?

        1. Southern Ladybug*

          Yes. I think it’s completely appropriate to share that you are unable to attend because the location isn’t accessible to you. Just state it factually.

          I’m sorry. I would be horrified as your coworker, as well.

        2. Rose Tyler*

          Yeah I wouldn’t say that you have other plans, that gives a not-great impression of you and this is totally not your fault! You can say “unfortunately the bowling alley isn’t accessible so I can’t attend, but I hope you guys have a great time! (Boss) is working on a better plan for next year” and that says it all in a non dramatic way. Good luck with the meeting this afternoon!

          1. Jasnah*

            I like this. It doesn’t feel petty, it won’t turn everyone on HR if that’s what you want to avoid. But it doesn’t pretend that you didn’t want to go.

        3. Rusty Shackelford*

          Exactly. You aren’t being gracious to people who made an honest attempt and it didn’t work out. You’re covering for people who have blatantly ignored your needs. And acting like that didn’t happen just makes it easier for the next person to do the same thing.

        4. Retired. Retired. Working*

          This is awful! Don’t lie to cover someone else’s huge mistake, and it is huge. Tell anyone who asks why you aren’t going. You can be polite and direct.

        5. Not Rebee*

          Not a lawyer, but I don’t think you can consider this workplace discrimination because work is only required to give you reasonable accommodations required to do your job, and this event is not actually part of their job function. So, it’s not illegal, it’s just shitty.

      5. Green great dragon*

        Good! For context, we had a work accessibility issue which was truly tricky (more than one need) which we escalated rapidly to the great, great grandboss of the person concerned. Who made it clear to all staff he expected to be informed immediately of any case where [support function] was not promptly providing effective service to anyone with special needs. Your manager is right to be mad, and I’m sure whoever is ultimately in charge of HR was also want to know.

      6. WellRed*

        I can’t believe your boss already raised a stink and then they went and excluded you a third time! Honestly, I’d be seriously considering putting her on notice if I were her boss.

      7. eplawyer*

        Worse for whom? HR that screwed up YET AGAIN??? They need to know there are serious consequences to this kind of screw up.

        Worse for you as you don’t want to draw more attention to yourself? I get that. You are allowed to protect your privacy as much as you want.

        But don’t be acting out of some sense of loyalty to the company. 1) the Company itself seems to have your back and 2) HR really messed up and loyality to the company means protecting them from a bad HR.

      8. Peachkins*

        I’m so glad to hear that your manager is helping you handle this. It boggles my mind that HR themselves would drop the ball on something as obvious as making sure a party location is accessible to everyone.

      9. Parenthetically*

        Seriously bless your team and your manager!! Good good folks. FYI, I don’t know that I’d hesitate to say, “Ah, I can’t make it because the venue isn’t accessible,” if people asked.

        Can’t wait to hear your update. Fingers crossed for you.

        1. Yvette*

          Really, a simply stated “I can’t make it because the menu is not accessible” in a neutral tone and expression is not throwing them under the bus, or being petty. It is a simple statement of fact.

      10. Recent Anon Lurker*

        Ewesername, it’s great that your boss has your back, and that a meeting is being scheduled to get this sorted out so that there isn’t a fourth time.
        I will agree with the others that are saying not to cover for HR. I think a simple the venue isn’t accessible explains why you aren’t going, but doesn’t get into any blame/emotions. If HR has to take some heat from others plus the meeting it may make the whole lesson more likely to stick with them.

      11. Hmmm*

        I’ll be honest, if I was on your team I’d be horrified, and I wouldn’t WANT to go! So perhaps that’s what they really want to do.

        And I agree with others – why cover for your incompetent HR? It’s completely your choice to do so, but they deserve to be put on the spot, and it might help them remember it in the future! I think as long as you’re calm about it, “Oh I can’t go because the venue isn’t accessible, it’s too bad”, of course.

      12. Elaine*

        I understand that from your point of view, you don’t want other people to refuse to come, thus making it more difficult for you. If I were your coworker, though, going to a fun work party from which you are excluded would make me a person I don’t want to be. I simply could not go. I truly hope that after you, your manager and HR meet the whole thing will be moot, and they will come up with an inclusive solution.

      13. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I agree with everyone else that while you don’t need to try to name and shame, you should let all of your coworkers know what happened if they ask. I would probably want to decline to attend an event that was excluding a coworker due to accessibility, out of principle more than in protest. If enough people did that, they would be shamed into changing it, which they should be anyway regardless of attendance.

        Good luck with HR! Don’t let them make you feel bad, as this is the THIRD time they’ve done this, it’s definitely on them to fix it!

      14. Observer*

        Please don’t tell other staff that you have other plans. It’s not true and it shields HR at your expense. I’m not just talking about the fact that you are being excluded. But by saying that you have other plans, it sounds like you don’t care, even though you do (and SHOULD, imo) and it makes it sound like you don’t want to do things with your team mates. Given the culture that your organization seems to have , that’s not really the best look for you. Now, if you really did NOT want to do things with your team, if would be one thing – you have a right to not ant to do things with your team. But for you to have this negative attitude attached to you, when it’s not even true? Why!? You really don’t owe it to the HR person or the Admin. And, it is NOT “making it worse”. It’s making the reality clear to everyone, and that’s a good thing.

        1. JSPA*

          It’s laudable and wonderful when people have the energy to spread the message, self-advocate, and be activists. It’s not, however, required.

          It would be great if OP could comfortably say this to everyone who asks. It would be great if the predictable upwelling of support made up for the emotional and practical aspects of feeling like you’re pointing out “hey, remember I’m disabled” to every random person. It would make sense to have a unified message out there, so nobody can say, “I talked to OP, and they made it sound like a personal decision, not a problem.”

          But sometimes, someone doesn’t have the emotional bandwidth to have “that” conversation One More Time. So let’s express support for it, without going into “should” mode. Because sometimes, people just need to get to the bathroom, or to the meeting, on time and with composure.

  12. Lance*

    For OP#3, I have to ask: what’s your goal here? To commiserate? To keep in touch (with someone you don’t really care for)? Or, from the sound of things… to cover your ass if you run into her again and she remembers not hearing from you, a former direct report, after she’d been fired (and, further, after you’d already left)?

    Because trust me, she won’t notice, and she won’t care, unless she’s extremely petty, and then, it’s on her anyway, not you.

    All in all, if it was a manager you liked, sure, you can reach out to still keep in touch, but otherwise, reaching out in such a way doesn’t really serve any meaning.

    1. Micromanagered*

      Same. I was reading #3 trying to figure out why OP would want to contact this former boss? It sounds like she wasn’t a good manager (clearly, because she was let go), the stressful environment she created was a large part of why OP found a new job, and she took OP leaving personally. I’d be concerned that contacting her now, when they haven’t had contact in a year, might come off as gloating or concern-trolling.

      With that said, I think, if OP should run into this manager again and it comes up naturally, OP could express some consolation, like, “Yeah I heard about how that went down with X company. I’m glad you found a better fit with Y company! Sounds like you’re doing great!” I had an experience like that once. I ran into a former manager at a social event and she basically admitted to being a terrible manager because of the pressures coming at her from above. She’d ended up stepping down and taking another position after I’d left because the stress had “become a health issue” and we kinda got some closure.

    2. Dr. Pepper*

      Yeah, I’m wondering that too. I mean, you didn’t work well together, you didn’t particularly like her, you moved on to another job, and you have had no contact for a year. Why would you reach out now? It would be a weird move. If you do run into her again, greet her warmly and pretend you don’t know she was fired. People very often take their cues from you in a potentially awkward situation, so if you’re worried about such a thing, be prepared to be friendly and cheerful should you see her again. That is really all you need to do.

    3. MLB*

      Agreed. If this person was a bad manager and the reason for you leaving your previous job, I would imagine you would never work for them again, or would want them being a reference for you in the future. So why would you want to reach out?

    4. Important Moi*

      I wondered the same thing.

      There seems to be a “everybody has to be friends/friendly , even when they’re not” vibe to the letter.

      1. JustaTech*

        I was getting more of a “I’m pretty sure there are social obligations but I’m not sure what they are”. Mostly a “I want to do the right thing” with a bit of “I don’t want this to come back and bite me”.

        It’s one of those “want” vs “should”. OP might not “want” to contact their old boss but is checking to see if they “should”.

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

      Agreed. It may not be intentional but it had a bit of a “how can I rub this in her nose that she was a bad manager without obviously rubbing it in her nose” sort of feel. I think it’s the statement about her licking her wounds. Yes, getting fired is not pleasant, but she might actually not be that surprised or upset about it if she has a lot of contacts and support and is able to land a new job quickly. Getting fired isn’t always the end of the world.

    6. JSPA*

      It gets really awkward if the manager briefly thinks you’re reaching out to recruit them, but clearly you’re not… so was it to spite them? Or what? Best to let it sit.

      If it comes up later? You had your nose to the grindstone / family stuff was happening. You think you heard something, hope it all worked out OK, so glad to see her again, isn’t it funny how life works.

      This goes double if you’re in an incestuous field and there’s any risk that things you’ve said about your time with her could have fed back to contribute to her dismissal. Touching base with a tone of sympathy does nothing to negate any such effects, and will only rub salt in the wounds and be enraging.

  13. Bookworm*

    #1: That’s not cool, OP. I’m sorry that happened and hope your org makes this right.

    #3: I’d totally leave this alone. That she was cool to you when you resigned should tell you what she thought (even if you didn’t like working with someone, it’s not unheard of to part on a least amiable terms). I wouldn’t avoid her, but this seems like a cocktail for awkwardness and I agree with Alison to just let it be. Who knows, maybe with the passage of time you’ll be at least politely friendly but right now it might seem like it’s salt rubbing into the wound.

  14. anonagain*

    Re. OP #1:
    It sounds like these events used to be accessible. Is there a way to find out who used to plan them and get that person’s input now? Maybe they have a checklist or guidelines for event planning that they can share with the new HR person. They might even have a list of some accessible venues in the area.

    I don’t know how you would bring this up, but it sounds like the HR person could potentially benefit from more training with disability stuff in general. Does she know how to handle accommodation requests from employees or job applicants? Maybe she does, but I would want reassurance on that point.

    1. PhyllisB*

      RE accessible venues: Why aren’t they physically checking out these locations to SEE if they’re accessible? With the checklist that OP provides, or helps provide, someone should visit said location and make sure that it is totally accessible. I have heard of people calling and asking is said area accessible to be told yes, then arrive and….it is not. As some of the comments have already mentioned.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        If the HR person had called with a description of OP’s needs and been told the venue was accessible and then was very upset when the group arrived for the party and found out the venue wasn’t accessible after all, I think most commenters would be cutting them a lot more slack. The fact that after excluding OP twice and hearing about it from her manager they just… forgot? That’s completely inexcusable.

        I mean, after this the HR person should be doing site visits for future events because the way OP has been excluded has been so egregious, but I don’t necessarily fault someone who calls and checks and then takes a venue at their word.

        1. Recent Anon Lurker*

          Agreed, I said elsewhere with some others if there was a miscommunication between her and the venue it would be one thing, but three straight events makes it look like a very not good pattern by the HR person.
          A miscommunication and then lots of apologies doesn’t seem to be what is going on though (especially with the “I forgot” after a talking to from OP’s boss after the second “oopsie”).

      2. anonagain*

        That’s definitely an important point. I also think it’s hard to assess how accessible a venue is for someone else unless you have specific instructions for what to look for.

        When I mentioned a list of accessible venues, I was thinking a list of places that they had gone to in the past. If you have 3-4 events per year, I think it’s probably actually fine to stick with the handful of places that work until she’s trained up enough to plan something different.

        Even if the HR person is an internal hire, she might not realize that the usual bowling place was chosen for accessibility reasons.

        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          According to OP’s updates in the comments, it’s not really that she doesn’t know how to assess or doesn’t have enough info on OP’s needs. It’s that she actually completely “forgot” to even consider accessibility in any way, shape, or form. Didn’t consider when booking, never asking the venue. For the third time, even after having a manager tell her clearly after time #2 that accessibility is an issue.

          1. JessaB*

            And even if you don’t know for sure you need accessibility in a large company it’d be good to check anyway. If I had no idea and I were HR I’d send out a blast email going “Planning the bowling thing, anyone who has a specific need – access, food, whatever, lemme know so I can check.” This way I won’t forget Sue who is vegan, Zayed who is Muslim – no pork but not otherwise worried, Sarah who is Jewish – seriously Kosher here people, Dave with the mobility scooter, Lizzie with the crutches, Jessa with the mustard allergy, etc.

            If you’re new, you ask and if it’s part of the planning in the first place, people can tell you what they need or check things themselves (can you bring an outside meal for Sarah or Sue if the place cannot accommodate?) There should be a checklist.

            But if you send that email every time and the company just hired Erzebeta who is blind, and Niall who just went skiing and broke his hip and has a frame for the next three months, you’ll not only find that out ASAP, but people will go “hey they sent out the email about the Christmas party hey Niall don’t forget to tell HR about your hip, your temporary thing might not be on the master list of questions.” cause they expect to be asked.

  15. Où est la bibliothèque?*

    #5–I agree with Alison about asking for a raise. And I think it would be fine to tell your boss “[X]% of the time I’m covering [coworker’s responsibilities] in addition to my regular work.”

    Don’t specifically mention her position or the hourly rate, just briefly tell him what duties you’re covering that fall under her job description and how often.

    But…”coworker who constantly calls in” is another not-great kettle of fish, and there’s a chance that the boss hasn’t actually noticed the pattern–in which case you have to think about whether it’s something you want to bring to his attention or not.

    1. MLB*

      Agreed. I would start documenting when you are covering for your co-worker. Lots of times people don’t realize how much something is happening until they see it on paper. This will also allow you to push for a raise, especially if a lot of your time is spent covering for her.

      1. Colette*

        It’s possible the coworker is dealing with an intermittent medical issue and the boss is already aware how often she’s out. Documenting isn’t going to help the OP if it’s something like that, and even if it’s not, keeping track of when the coworker is out is not a good look.

        1. MLB*

          If her covering for the co-worker often is affecting her own job, then she has every right to document it and take it to her boss. Keeping track of it is not for “tattling”. It’s for justification of a raise based on the amount of extra work she’s doing.

          1. Colette*

            She can say something like “I covered for Coworker approximately 2 times a week for the past 8 weeks”, but not “Coworker was out the 4th, 7th, 11th, …”.

            If the coworker is out due to a disability, the OP puts herself in the position of complaining about someone taking leave they are entitled to – and if she’s out for frivolous reasons, the OP doesn’t gain anything by having a record. Tracking the coworker’s absences is literally not her job, it is the manager’s job.

            1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

              I don’t think anyone is saying that they should report specific dates/times to the manager right off the bat, but it’s hard to keep track of exactly how much time you’re spending doing something if you don’t keep a log for yourself. Then they only need to bring it up if the result is “12 hours per week for the last month” and the manager says “what? that can’t be right” they have data to back up what they’re saying.

              1. JessaB*

                This is not about whether the coworker is taking legitimately permitted leave or taking advantage at all, that’s an issue between management and the coworker. This is about how that legit or not legit leave impacts OP’s ability to do their job. Op’s issue isn’t whether or not the leave is okay, it’s how do I do my job when coworker is out.

              2. Colette*

                If the manager wants to confirm how often the coworker is out, she presumably has other ways to figure that out (like a time-tracking system). It’s not the OP’s job to do that – and it’s a short step from tracking someone’s time to feeling like they owe you an explanation as to why they’re not there, or telling yourself their slacking, or other things that will cause problems for the OP.

        2. Jerusha*

          I would cast it as “x% of my time is spent performing y duties”, without making any reference to “because it’s supposed to be done by my co-worker, who calls in all the time”. That part isn’t relevant, and as Colette mentions there may be information that you’re not privy to. Keep both your tracking and your conversation focused on you – the duties that you’re performing and the time you’re spending on them – not on how much time your co-worker is absent or why that might be. That will be a much stronger argument for a raise. (And if your boss didn’t truly realize how often your co-worker is out, this will highlight it for them, but without you coming off like you’re the office Hall Monitor.)

        3. JSPA*

          This isn’t, “document the coworker’s absences.” It’s “document OP’s coverage.”
          They’re not automatically the same in practical terms. (There could be absences with no coverage, or occasional coverage by a third person.) In addition, they’re not the same in terms of how the manager thinks about the issue.

          In terms of really learning the full extent of a job (as opposed to picking up the easy bits), cover occasionally for a few hours ≠ cover a full day twice a week ≠ cover a full week once a quarter ≠ cover two months of maternity leave.

          Personally, I’d approach it as, “I fairly frequently do, and am comfortable doing, many of the day-to-day tasks when I fill in for coworker, which I do [summarize time per week]. Would it make sense for me to learn about / be trained on any higher-level aspects of the job, so that I could also competently sub for those, in case of a longer absence?” And, “I find I enjoy the tasks I do when I sub for coworker, but I want to make sure that her tasks and mine are correctly prioritized, and that you’re satisfied with the coverage, given that I spend [x hours per week] doing two jobs at once.” If you get positive feedback, then proceed with, “Successfully taking on the extra work load and responsibilities has been good for my self confidence and my skill set. Could we talk about possibilities for promotion, including what additional training I’d need?”

          Do listen closely in case manager instead lets you know that coworker is bundling the higher level stuff into the time she’s there, and leaving you the more basic bits. As others have noted, it’s easy to come a cropper, assuming that what you’ve done of a job, is the job.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        See, I assume she’s calling in a moderate amount. I’ve had plenty of times someone has over estimated that someone is “gone all the time” and no, they’re gone just as much as anyone else. Or I have a lot more information to why they’re gone, so it engages a “well aren’t you nosy” sideeye.

  16. Roscoe*

    #1 Can I suggest you volunteer to be on the party planning committee? I think you make valid points. Unfortunately, as someone who has planned many holiday and company events, there are so many things to think about (since its often not your JOB, just something in addition to your job) that I am willing to cut people a bit of slack for overlooking it. Don’t get me wrong, you are totally justified in how you feel. But I think sometimes its one of those things where you just don’t think of every single thing. I’m also not sure how much you are around the person planning, because its really easy to forget something if you never actually see the person. However, if you are on the committee, then you can always be there to make sure these things are taken into consideration.

    #2 Alison is totally right here. This comes off as very entitled to me. Like, I’m in a remote office myself. I know that there are a few perks I don’t get for being in that office. But I also don’t have a boss in my office and have a lot more flexibility in when I work, etc. This isn’t like a bonus you are missing out on, its one meal.

    1. LKW*

      I think given the updates, it’s unlikely that the party organizers will forget again. It may not be relevant if HR is doing it solo with no help. But you do make a good point if you want change, get involved.

    2. WellRed*

      The letter writer specifically asked about accessibility at this venue and was told they would check, which they then failed to do.

    3. Guacamole Bob*

      I think you’re letting the HR person in letter 1 off the hook too easily. I was on the staff of a small nonprofit that did events and meetings both for the public and for our 300-400 members. If you’ve got a reasonably stable group that you’re regularly planning for, you just get to know the needs of the people in that group, and it’s not that hard. We had a couple of members who used wheelchairs, a couple more with other mobility issues, a board member who kept kosher, a couple of vegans in another subgroup, tons of vegetarians, etc. And if it’s a public event, then you make sure it’s a wheelchair-accessible location, offer to book interpreters if people notify you in advance, make sure some of the food is vegetarian and offer to accommodate other dietary restrictions if notified, etc.

      It’s simply part of your job when you manage events, and you just get used to it. At my nonprofit job we had limited space of our own and our members often hosted events for us at their homes, offices, or other facilities. I can’t count the number of times I asked someone if they had a ramp to handle the step up to their home, or called to make sure the elevator would be working for a committee meeting on the second-floor because a person with limited mobility was attending, or checked in with someone about whether vegetarian food was ok or if it had to be certified kosher. Yes, sometimes it’s a pain in the neck, and sometimes it requires changing venues or caterers, and occasionally you screw up because of a miscommunication or someone with special needs RSVPs late, but it’s just what you do when you’re planning professional events. And when you do screw up once, you apologize profusely and pay really close attention to make sure that person is fully included in the future.

      1. Roscoe*

        I think I’m just not as quick to get the pitchforks out as some people. I’m not saying it wasn’t a big mistake, I’m just saying this stuff can happen and its not always some horrible person doing it.

        Hell, I was in a wedding once. The groom’s family handled the rehearsal dinner. They got a private room at a nice restaurant. The private room was on the 2nd floor, and the grandmother used a walker. There was no elevator to the 2nd floor. This was the GRANDMOTHER of the groom, but so much was going on that they didn’t think to ask about that. I don’t think they are horrible people, just that it was an oversight.

        Similarly, I can easily see something where new person finds out they did bowling the previous year, and just assumed that it was a fine event since it worked before. I’ll be honest, I’ve never even thought of accessibility at bowling alleys. But I can see them thinking that the divey place they did it at before had the accomodations, so OF COURSE a nicer newer place would have them.

        1. Recovering journalist*

          And did they then make the same mistake at two more huge family events that year? This is a persistent issue. It’s more than an oversight.

        2. Parenthetically*

          Sure, I can see all that, too, but: a) I don’t think anyone’s getting out pitchforks or saying the HR person is a horrible ableist monster, they’re just reiterating that this isn’t acceptable for HR to overlook and needs to not happen again, and b) this is the third event OP has had to miss because of venue accessibility issues. I think OP was extremely understanding the first time to extend a little grace to a new HR person and not make a big stink. A first time: understandable. A second time: frustrating. A THIRD time? Come on, that’s just thoughtlessness, and it needs to be addressed — and, thankfully, from OP’s update, it seems like it will be.

        3. Someone Else*

          I still think you’re cutting too much slack. This didn’t happen once, it happened thrice. And assuming because one bowling alley is accessible that others would be is, I suppose reasonable for an average person whose job does not require them to ensure things are accessible. But seriously, it’s part of this person’s job to know what to check AND OP had discussed with them the need to check, and then the HR person simply didn’t do it. They do not need to be cut slack for this. That’s very clearly not doing a part of their job.

        4. Labradoodle Daddy*

          It’s literally their job NOT to screw this up. And holding someone accountable for an error is not getting out the pitchforks, at all.

        5. anonagain*

          The OP is being shut out of work events, where there is an obligation to accommodate people. There’s a different standard for work events than for social events like weddings.

          Again, this is an HR official. She’s not a volunteer on a committee and she’s not someone planning a social event in her personal life. This is actually part of her job.

          Aside from the obligation to provide accommodations, it’s not fair that disabled employees should systematically miss out on these opportunities for networking that their non-disabled coworkers get to enjoy. Here’s the essence of this situation: the HR person has planned three work events that excluded an employee on the basis of that employee’s disability. Yikes!

          If these venues had signs on the door that said, “Cane users not welcome” I think it would be immediately obvious why everyone but the OP gathering there would be unacceptable. A physically inaccessible building might not be quite that bad, but perhaps that thought experiment makes it clear why people are reacting as they are.

        6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          A wedding is not the same as the workplace, where there are laws that protect OP. The oversight is a massive faux pas in the personal context. It’s illegal in the workplace context (especially after two prior failures and being put on notice).

        7. JessaB*

          Forgetting Grandmother at a single event is a mistake and it happens, these are not HR people nor professional party planners, however HR has a higher duty to make sure this stuff doesn’t happen, and I’d argue that if it was a professional booking that wedding, they had a duty too, they’re getting paid to remember stuff like that when the family is running around like headless chickens due to stress. The events are not actually comparable.

        8. JSPA*

          The HR person may not be a horrible person–that’s outside the scope of the question, and really not relevant in any case. What’s relevant is that they’re horrible at a basic aspect of their job, and have single-handedly created an illegal situation.

          I can come up with a scenario where the HR person has nothing but admiration for OP, and keeps forgetting OP’s limitations / requirements because they think of OP as a superhero. Makes no difference. They prioritized “ooh, this looks nicer” over the core function of their job. That’s serious stuff.

    4. Ewesername*

      We rotate committees so that everyone gets a chance to help out. I’ve been with the company for 10 yrs so this isn’t a new, easily forgotten issue.

    5. StressedButOkay*

      Forgetting small details in running a party is one thing, forgetting about accessibility needs is a whole other, larger issue. And right now, it’s only (that we know of) impacting one person. What happens when/if they get others who need accommodations? If they let them off hook now, it’s only going to get worse.

      They’re the ones who are supposed to have your back in situations like this, not be the ones causing it. (Though I’ve learned a lot about bad HR departments from AAM!)

    6. anonagain*

      It is HR’s job. I don’t think the OP should have to be on the planning committee in order to be accommodated at work events.

      I would actually advise against this, unless they have an interest in being on such a committee. It can sound like being proactive and being the change, etc. but in my own experience, it takes away from time spent on core work tasks, reinforces pre-existing ideas about disabled people being less competent, and leads to further marginalization in the workplace.

      If it’s unclear how that would happen, just think of the career impacts for women serving on that kind of committee. It’s unfair and rooted in backwards ideas about what kind of work is important. But it happens and if you started to get involved in this kind of thing, it can be hard to break out of it.

      Besides, OP 1 is aware of their own needs. They should not be responsible for looking out for every other disabled person in their company. They’re not equipped to do that.

      You’re right that things fall through the cracks. You can’t always think of everything, but accessibility is one of the things that you always need to think of.

    7. lulu*

      There is no way OP should have to be on the party planning committee just to make sure they pick a venue that is accessible. That should be handled by HR. It’s not a small detail that can be overlooked, and if it is they need to come up with party planning guidelines that remind them to always check about the accessibility of a site.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        Yes. Post-its, highlighting, bulleted or numbered checklists, Outlook reminders, whatever they need to do to get this done. That’s what I do to remember things. Even if it’s a big pink and purple post-it right in my face.

        1. fposte*

          This isn’t a post-it thing, though. This is a written policy thing. It needs to be part of the official guidelines for the office. If the OP is in Ontario, there are guidelines from the Human Rights Commission for office accommodation policy and procedures; they can just work from that. (Might be in other provinces too, but I just hit Ontario first.)

    8. Dragoning*

      It’s literally HR’s exact job to make sure things are legally accessible to employees, though. You’re basically asking OP to do their job AND HR’s job. When does HR have to do HR’s job?

      1. Phony Genius*

        When HR needs to be put on a PIP, who is responsible for doing so?

        It’s like the old question progression: Who polices the police? The police police. Who polices the police police? The police police police, etc…

        1. JessaB*

          well in some venues there’s now a citizens oversight committee of some sort, that is actually not the police. Some work better than others.

    9. UghThatGuyAgain*

      I agree with the above commenters who point out that this is not a small detail or the OP1’s job to handle. I’ve planned staff and public events and addressing individual accessibility needs is a core part of that, not an ancillary function.

      Also, didn’t the letter also mention that some other employees have life-threatening food allergies? If this HR person can’t get it together enough to get an accessible venue, how can they be trusted to manage life and death dietary needs?? If I had any kind of dietary restriction I would absolutely not eat anything at these events until this is fully addressed. Terrifying.

      1. Recent Anon Lurker*

        Or in my case (I have a potentially deadly food allergy), become the person who grills the wait staff/kitchen about the food to make sure I’m okay. I wouldn’t be blatant about it – but I wouldn’t completely hide what I was doing either. HR is supposedly doing this, but they keep messing up with the accessibility part so I will need to verify they got my part correct as well.

    10. Jerusha*

      #1: *IF* this were being planned by a random committee of fellow employees, and *IF* this were the first occurrence, I might be willing to cut a little slack. However, this is the third occurrence in a year. I’m reminded of the quote, “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.” Even if this were a crew of total amateurs, trying to fit party planning in around their other job duties, by now they should be expected to get it right.
      Also, as many people have pointed out, this is not a crew of amateurs. This is HR. Getting things right in relation to employee disabilities is a significant part of their actual job (not just one facet of a side task like party planning). If they’re so incompetent with this, which is relatively low stakes (albeit entirely infuriating!), what else are they incapable of or unwilling to handle?

    11. Kathryn T.*

      I disagree strongly that the solution to “someone isn’t doing their job to a degree that impacts me significantly” is “volunteer to do their job for them for free.” After all, if your paycheck was screwed up, you wouldn’t decide that the solution was to go volunteer over in Payroll on your free time.

    12. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think you’re missing the legal context. This isn’t simply an exclusion issue because of a volunteer party planning committee (although frankly, they’re obligated to ensure ADA accommodation too. I know OP is Canadian, but my understanding is that the laws are the same).

      This is about repeated failures to accommodate OP, resulting in exclusion from work-related activities that could impact her job. Being socially ostracized or denied employer-sponsored opportunities to network or otherwise commingle with your coworkers is an adverse employment action that triggers legal liability. HR has been put on notice thrice, as well as directly confronted about the failure to accommodate. So HR is literally creating lawsuit conditions because of their fundamental failure to add OP’s accommodation to their checklist of tasks. OP is frankly doing them a favor by being so gracious about their stupidity. Leaving the ethics and basic human decency arguments to one side, there’s a very real risk-management reason to keep sounding this horn.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, I’m really astonished by this (and so glad the manager has OP’s back). After the first failure, there should have been a clear written protocol established for event-booking to avoid this in future. I suspect instead they have a sticky note somewhere about food considerations and were relying on memory to add the OP’s accessibility needs in. Which is bad, but then when you see that that system fails with the *second* fiasco, there’s no defensible reason for not pulling your finger out and formally fixing this stuff. This is a textbook example of needing to actively plan to work against discrimination, or else it will happen.

        Honestly, if I were her manager I might just file a complaint with the provincial authorities at this point. If the OP’s in Ontario, my impression is that they don’t mess around with stuff like that.

    13. Astor*

      I also want to highlight that most of us who need these kind of accommodations are very likely ALREADY cutting a lot of people slack for overlooking it. In this case, it’s obvious from the original letter; Ewesername specifically wrote they “chalked [the first two mistakes] up to both of them being new and being distracted”. And then gave them a reminder about the third event which they never followed up on!

      My frustration is placed similarly to Flash Bristow’s comment about “how disabled people often have the least energy to spare, yet we are the ones who have to waste it just in order to get the same basic access as anyone else”. Ewesername should not have to be a part of every party planning committee just to get basic access to events, and certainly not when it’s someone else’s job.

      Those of us who need physical accommodations know that wherever we go, whatever we do, accessibility is an afterthought for others. We think about it, we plan for it, and we spend our time trying to figure out work-arounds so that we can get some of the most basic of things accomplished in the face of unnecessary hurdles. We really don’t need to be told to cut able-bodied people even more slack when they’ve had this many opportunities to correct themselves.

    14. JSPA*

      I get this is meant well, but count this as a big Hell No from me. People should not have to take on extra tasks to get their mandated accommodations!

      If the planning is HR’s job–and it sure sounds like it is–then HR needs to do its job. This isn’t “the party committee of people not trained in accommodations got it wrong this year.” And even if it had been, then it would be HR’s job to make sure that the planning committee knows the importance of these issues. There’s really no gray zone here.

  17. Kimmybear*

    Unfortunately the accessibility issues are not uncommon. I worked on a team that let the young, active staff with no event planning experience plan team building and other events. Recent events had only alcoholic beverages (no soda), involved brisk walks of over 2 miles, failed to address dietary restrictions, or were held in inaccessible locations. Management didn’t seem to see an issue. One of many reasons I changed jobs.

    1. Kix*

      Indeed. I remember one prior job where the team building event involved a lot of standing and walking. I can’t do a lot of standing and walking. I was labeled as a “poor sport.” That was pretty much the final straw for me and I left shortly after.

    2. Stephanie*

      Yeah, my section teambuilding events tend to include things like kayaking and golfing. I think they just don’t think about accessibility issues, unfortunately.

    3. rogue axolotl*

      At an employer I used to work for, there was one team that was known for doing extreme sports as a team-building exercise, to the point where apparently they regularly asked how job candidates how they felt about hang gliding as part of their interview process. Fortunately my manager was a lot more reasonable and explained to them why this was a bad idea.

  18. StressedButOkay*

    OP2, I get that it’s a bummer that you aren’t close enough to attend the holiday party but Alison’s advice is spot on. We have remote folks, too, in my office who live in various states. Part of the agreement with work is that they come in a few times a year – expenses paid by work. Generally this happens quarterly so that we can all see each other face to face, have meetings that are harder to have when they aren’t there, have happy hours etc. Some of them time the last quarter meeting to be around our holiday party so that they can attend.

    If you currently have something like that, maybe you can talk to your bosses about having one of your visits be over the holiday party so you can attend and not have to shell out of pocket.

  19. Hiring Mgr*

    On #1, HR obviously dropped the ball and as you’ve said your mgr has addressed it with them. For the short term however, can you just have this year’s party at the old (and accessible) place?

  20. learnedthehardway*

    OP#3 – I would leave things along, and let your former manager reach out to you, if she feels a need to get in touch. If she does reach out, I’d be civil, accept a LinkedIn invitation, even pass on concrete job leads (where I wasn’t actually referring her / endorsing her as a candidate to someone whose opinion I particularly value – after all, she sounds like a bit of a disaster as a manager, so you don’t want your network to think you have poor judgement, but at the same time, you don’t want to burn a bridge with your former manager in case of running into her in the future). Basically, I’d be hands-off unless the former manager initiates contact.

  21. Rowan*

    OP #4 – you say there aren’t a lot of resources out there. Would it be possible for you to create some? Record some demo videos on common topics, maybe?

    I’m in tech training, so I know that “just create some training materials!” is often easier said than done. But it might be worth the time here, if there are common topics that you can record once, and then never have to do live training for again. ;-)

    1. sunshyne84*

      That’s a good idea. I was thinking doing a one time training for all of the clients. They could pay you and send in one person to learn the basic things that they keep asking you about.

      1. Onyx*

        Agree, a video training series and/or an eBook would be a lot of upfront work but ultimately provide long-term value. More immediately, you’d have an easy way to redirect people seeking training without taking time away from what you love. Even better, when you’re getting started at a new consulting assignment, you can give it to the client upfront and look proactive.

        Longer term, if you package the videos/eBook just right, it can be a great form of ongoing passive income. With limited materials currently out there on the topic, you could probably drive high demand for your content resources.

    2. OP#4*

      Rowan, great idea. I wish I had the skillset to do that. I know that personally, since it took me about eleventy billion years to make a website (slight exaggeration), a video would probably take me through the rest of my life to create something I was happy with. Honestly I wouldn’t even know where to start, other than hire someone like yourself. I have a lot of respect for what you do, objectively, but also in part because it is so difficult for me!

      Complicating this is most of my clients have highly customized systems, so it’s rare that two are running the same configuration.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        1. You could hire an audio/visual student – one who does good work, of course! To make the video for you. Maybe one with experience in tech videos.
        2. You could boil it down to basics and make a no-frills basic video so it doesn’t take the rest of your life.
        It has to be:
        – Understandable
        – Easy to see
        – Easy to hear
        – Your name and contact info for consulting.
        – Maybe if you feel like it, some simple color, graphic, or visual effects – maybe with your logo?
        Everything else is optional!
        Did you ever see the Excel tutorials on the DataPig site? I was looking at them this year. They were posted in 2003. Still useful. Beautiful in their basicness – only the spreadsheet, the voice explaining, and the cute DataPig logo.
        Unfortunately the site was taken down in October.

      2. OrangeYouGlad*

        I’ve worked with freelancers who do training using screen capture with voiceover.

        Like it’s just their screen and then moving the mouse going, “Click on the blue button, scroll down to the 4th option “connect”, click on that, then wait for the screen to open the connection, then click the “start” button….”

        It’s totally boring to watch UNLESS you are the person who needs to do the exact thing they are doing!!

        Maybe there is a different price between you doing screen capture video for them to reference that you make on your own time vs live training where you have to talk them through it?

        1. Indigo a la mode*

          Loom is great for this. It’s so easy and you don’t even have to show your face if you don’t want to.

        2. Michaela Westen*

          Yes, that was the DataPig videos. I was watching to learn the technique being shown, and it was excellent because it showed the steps with no distractions or glitches.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            An advantage to using training videos is, I can watch them as often as I need to to capture all the steps. With a live trainer I would either be missing steps or stopping them so I can make notes. If OP is deciding between live or video and she hates training, I think video would be good. She’d only have to make it once, and the trainees could watch it 10 times and it won’t bother her. :)

  22. Scott M.*

    #4 – The OP might try writing some documentation themselves for common issues. I’m not suggesting a long comprehensive book. Just some screens shots and text for each issue. I’m a application developer in I.T., but I do a lot of support work. I’ve developed a large library of Word documents for common issues and tasks with the systems I support. When people ask me “how do I …?” i just shoot them an email with the appropriate document attached.

  23. CBH*

    OP1 it sounds like the party planner is not getting back to you as a way of avoiding the situation. From their point of view it may be too late to cancel the party and find another venue (not an excuse). I’m angry for you as this is the third time this has happened. Not only is that rude, its totally unprofessional. Alison has given you some awesome advice. I’d also do what other posters said by making others aware of the situation – mention it to coworkers; bring it up to HR again; mention it to your manager. This is something that needs to be corrected. ADA comes into play but common sense too!

    1. CBH*

      WHat gets me with OPs situation, is that having a physical disability is not a unique situation for a company to deal with. I could see it being hard to adjust for so many dietary needs that needs to be taken into consideration, but access to a building should just be a given in any event planning.

      1. JessaB*

        Exactly, the ADA has been around for way too long for anyone to not get this, and places that are not properly accessible deserve the consequences of not getting the business.

        Honestly if I owned the business I would see if the party could be switched back to the dive and if told the fancy place deposit was non refundable take em to court because of the lack of accessibility. I didn’t cancel on them because I changed my mind I cancelled on them because they were inaccessible, a thing they cannot change.

        1. fposte*

          The venue may be perfectly legal, though. There are exemptions from the elevator requirement under the ADA, and Canada/the OP’s province likely has similar exemptions.

          1. JessaB*

            Yes obviously they may be legal, and I’d lose the case, and my in house counsel would advise me to *not* try and get the deposit back. I understand that, and if necessary it’s on the company to eat that deposit and any fee to the original place for faster service (IE to get around them wanting x time notice to prepare for a takeover by 100 people or whatever. an agent of the company messed up, that’s a cost of doing business that I’d find important to pay. I’d rather pay it if than leave an employee out.

            However, if it was feasible, I’d attempt to recover.

  24. Four lights*

    OP 4: It seems to me one of the nice things about being an independent contractor is being able to say “That’s not my job.” (provided you didn’t agree to it in whatever contact/agreement you have) You could just say “Training is not one of the services I offer.”

  25. Rex*

    OP 4: Do you know another contractor in your line of work who is really good at training? Maybe you can recommend them? (And they can agree to send clients your way who meet your areas of expertise?)

  26. Laurelma01*

    #1 Our holiday party excludes people with mobility issues
    I would say something to HR, so that it’s flagged. They are opening the company up for a lawsuit.
    #2 Should I ask for a gift since I can’t attend the office holiday party?
    Do not ask, comes across that you feel entitled. Many employers consider working remotely a privilege.

    #4 How can I turn down training requests from my clients?
    You can always charge a huge fee for training.
    #5 Can I ask for my coworker’s higher pay rate when I cover for her?
    Is this for long periods of time, or off and on due to a disability, etc? If this is say for 12 weeks straight while they are out on medical leave you may be able to ask for a temporary pay increase. The state does a temporary pay band adjustment in this situation. (sometimes) It if it’s a huge difference in level of responsibility. If it’s just an increase in your workload, but not level of responsibility you may not get it.

    1. OP#4*

      Laurelma01, thanks for the comment. My rates for services are spelled out in existing contracts. I will make a note in the future to specifically exclude training in future contracts, but for now at least, I’m stuck with the rates I have.

  27. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    #5 How long has she been working there? She may only be making the extra amount due to her length of service. $3 leads me to believe her job description is only a bit more than yours is.

    Wages sometimes do work that way but it’s rare and usually requires a CBA. Are you unionized?

    You’ll come across naive at best to bring this up. Especially after just about a year. Pitching in and covering for her is a good opportunity. I agree you should inquire about a raise but on your own merits.

  28. Michaela Westen*

    OP1, I have an idea: HR’s boss should change the bowling back to your usual venue, and the lost deposit should come out of her check.
    Don’t know if that’s legal, but it would be justice.

    1. Jessie the First (or second)*

      Ack, no. No deducting lost deposit from a paycheck. But I completely agree that they need to change the party if it is at *all* possible!

    2. Michaela Westen*

      I understand it’s not legal. It was more of a fantasy.
      Why should the company lose the deposit money when HR knew of the disability need? It would be justice to charge the HR person. But it’s not legal, I know.

  29. Goya de la Mancha*

    #5 – Our employee contract allows us to receive the higher rate of pay if it’s an extended leave or if we are filling in for the person over 10 days/year (not necessarily consecutive) and we are doing tasks specific to that position (if it can’t wait until they return). So if they are out 12 days for the year and I did all the teapot builder scheduling on days 11 and 12, I will paid at the higher pay rate for day 11 and 12.

    Generally speaking though, if they are out for a day here or there, it’s unlikely in our line of work that it can’t wait until their return.

  30. Arctic*

    I think we need more info for number 5 to say yes or no. Sure it’s possible that she *may* not be doing all of the high level tasks but we don’t know that.
    In my workplace, there has been a lot of high level turnover and the staff covering the director level positions absolutely get their pay for the interim until a new director is hired.

  31. Lucille2*

    #4 – Having been in your shoes myself once, I recommend putting together some standard emails that you can send easily for these requests. If you are hearing the same questions over and over, it will save you some time and help the client if you have some responses ready to send right away. Also, recording yourself doing a web training on certain topics might be another option you can send. Otherwise, I agree with Alison’s advice to explicitly state what is included in your price and that you can do live training for an additional fee.

  32. learnedthehardway*

    OP#5 – it makes a lot more sense to request a pay increase based on your own personal growth / contributions so far, rather than on what your colleague’s role pays. A) a raise based on your contributions will be permanent. B) you can be absolutely sure you’re asking for a raise based on a true understanding of what you role is. C) In contrast, you can’t be sure that you’re totally filling your colleague’s shoes. It’s entirely possible that you’re getting the operational / daily tasks of her role, but that someone else (eg. her manager) is fulfilling the strategic aspects. If you ask to be paid the same without understanding that you’re only filling a piece of her role, you’re going to peg yourself as someone who really doesn’t understand the scope of your colleague’s responsibilities.

    This is exactly what happened to a direct report of mine – she had interviewed for the role before I was hired and didn’t get it. (I didn’t know this when I was hired, which was a mistake on someone’s part). When I assigned her projects to do, she got the idea that she was doing the same role I was, and that she should be promoted and paid the same. She failed to realize that she was doing the operational tasks and that I and my manager were doing the strategic work that led to the to-dos I’d assigned her. It was rather awkward to explain this to her, and I’m sure it was embarrassing for her as well.

  33. curtangel*

    OP 1 – Is there any chance that your employer would be able (and willing) to purchase the accessibility equipment you’d require at the bowling alley? Obviously it should never have been an issue to begin with, but this could be a solution that would make it so you could attend this year.

  34. stephclarice*

    For #4, one option would be to decide how much they could pay you to for you to actually want to do the training. This could be at an exorbitantly higher rate than your typical, but then you could feel like it’s worth it to you to take your time away from the other parts of your job that you like. If it’s willing to the client to pay that increased amount, then WIN/WIN! But typically the customer will back off, and you protect the working relationship and continue to do what you love.

    1. OP#4*

      Thanks Stephclarice — do you have any suggestions for phrasing that? “I’m going to charge you $X” without any explanation or context seems kind of .. punitive to me, for reasons I can’t really articulate. For some reason I’m really struggling with phrasing. Complicating matters is that I have a contract that spells out rates for “services” which is generic enough to be almost anything.

      1. Jasnah*

        How about, “Thanks for asking about training. I usually don’t do training for these issues, but as a special circumstance, I can train you for $X if that is something you’d like to pursue?” or “Based on the scope and content, training would be $x. Please let me know if you would like to schedule a training session.”

  35. Florence*

    I really just think people don’t spend even one second considering what it’s like to use crutches, a cane, a walker, a wheelchair and/or scooter, etc. Employers/HR are (inconsiderate, thoughtless) people too.

    I have a family member, who uses a scooter, once ask the manager of a local establishment if the restrooms are accessible. After being told yes, they are, and attempting a visit, we discovered that the restroom was up a flight of stairs at the end of the hall.

    Another time, while searching for an apartment for this family member, I remember countless times being told that units were wheelchair and scooter accessible, only to visit the facility and find the units on the second floor of a building with no elevator. Utter disrespect.

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