my boss told my office I’m lying about my health condition

A reader writes:

So I’ve been at my job at an educational institution for about six months now, and live about an hour away (unfortunately, moving is not an option). Over the winter, ice and snow that I experience living in a valley has kept me from getting to work more than once, though my workplace is open because they don’t experience it there.

I also have a medical condition which essentially means I get sick more than most people do. I was very up-front about both of these things, even before I was hired, and always keep my boss in the loop about weather or illness. I’m very open about my health struggles, and my coworkers know when and why I’ll be absent. (“Hi guys, I won’t be able to be here next Friday; I’m having some imaging done at X Hospital. Let me know if I can do anything from a distance!”)

We had even discussed, at the very beginning of my time there, me working remotely on days that I would be unable to come in. When I’m unable to work in-person, I almost always work remotely for at least a few hours a day (as much as I can, as there is limited work I can do online). I would have hoped that my boss, a nurse, would understand the severity of certain chronic conditions and been more sympathetic and less judgmental.

However, a coworker (who I have befriended and trust implicitly) recently told me that my boss announced to my coworkers that I am lying about illness and/or weather, and that I’m not where I say I am on days I call out. Other coworkers have confirmed this.

My boss has decided this in part because I haven’t brought in my labs and medical records to show to her, because she is convinced that she can figure out exactly what is wrong with me, even though six years of specialists haven’t been able to, either. I’m uncomfortable sharing my private health information with my boss or coworkers, and I don’t think I should be expected to share these things just to corroborate my story. A doctor’s note? Reasonable (to some degree and in this context). Seeing my pulmonary labs, bloodwork, MRIs, and more? Absolutely not.

Am I in the wrong for being infuriated? To me, it seems unprofessional and frankly unacceptable to say things like that to my coworkers/her subordinates, especially since she (1) is our boss and shouldn’t be “talking down,” (2) has known about these issues for months, and (3) has never said one word to me about my attendance, doctor’s notes, or anything else to address this issue.

Any advice is very much appreciated. I know, with my illness and location, I’m not the best employee in the world, but I certainly try, and I have given her no reason to come to these conclusions about me. If I’m in the wrong, please tell me — but I really don’t think I am.

Nooooo, you’re not in the wrong.

It’s ridiculously Not Okay for your boss to tell your coworkers that you’re lying — about your illness or about the weather, but especially about your illness.

It’s also ridiculously Not Okay for her to think you should even consider bringing in your medical records to show her.

If she has concerns about your attendance or your honesty, she should speak with you directly, one-on-one. Because she’s your manager, and that’s her job.

By not doing that and instead complaining to your coworkers, she’s making herself look like a terrible manager to anyone who hears her, on multiple fronts: She looks terrible because she’s trash-talking an employee behind their back (bad), and because she’s saying someone’s lying about a private medical condition (even worse), and because if she really believes what she’s saying, she’s proclaiming that it hasn’t occurred to her to do her job (also bad).

You can and should address that head-on. Sit down with your boss and say something like this: “I’m really concerned about something I’ve heard, and I’m hoping it just got garbled in the telling. I’ve heard from multiple people that you’ve said that I’m lying about my medical condition and the weather when I’m not able to come in. I’m really taken aback by this. Have I done something to make you doubt my honesty?”

Because your boss has been cowardly so far, there’s a good chance that she’s going to deny that she’s been saying this. If that happens, then say this:  “That’s a relief! I was really shocked when I heard it and had a hard time believing you’d do that, so I’m really glad to know it’s not happening. I do wonder what’s given people that impression though — do you have any concerns that we should talk about, about my attendance or the information I provide when I’m going to be out?”

If she says no, then you should say, “If you ever do have any concerns, I hope you will let me know right away so we can address it.” Now you’ll be on record as having raised the issue yourself and having prodded her to share any concerns (something people who are lying generally don’t do), and it’s going to be harder for her to continue doing this behind your back now that she knows it’s getting back to you. (Speaking of being on record, follow up this conversation with an email so it’s documented in writing. It can just be something like, “Thanks for talking with me today. I’m glad to know you don’t have concerns about my attendance, but I want to reiterate that if you ever do, I’d be grateful to know right away so we can address it.”)

On the other hand, if she says that yes, she does have concerns about your attendance, then you can say something like, “When I was first hired, we talked about accommodations for my medical condition, and the fact that the snow and ice can sometimes be worse in ___ than it is here. At the time we agreed that I’d work remotely as much as possible on those days. Does that arrangement still work, or is there something we need to do differently?”

It’s possible that your absences have ended up being greater than she’d realized they would, or that they’re having a bigger impact than she’d anticipated — and if so, that’s a legitimate concern (even though it’s getting overshadowed by the crappy way she’s handling it). So you do want to have an open conversation about what they need from you in that regard, whether the current accommodation is working, and what might need to change (if anything).

It’s a little harder to address her interest in seeing your health records (!) since it sounds like you’ve only heard about that secondhand. But if she ever says anything like that to you herself, you should say, “Oh wow, that would be a huge violation of our boundaries as manager and employee! I can of course get you documentation from my doctor about the accommodations I need, if you want that, but I’m sure I shouldn’t be sharing my labs and bloodwork and other private medical records with an employer.” Be very direct that this is not appropriate, and very firm that it’s not happening. If needed, you can say, “I’m really uncomfortable with you suggesting that and hope you’ll agree that would be incredibly inappropriate since you’re my employer.”

Also, if you have decent HR, you need to loop them in on what’s happening here. They’re going to be more aware than your boss is of the dangers of what she’s doing (and will know, for example, that if your condition is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, she’s opening them to serious legal liability) and are likely to get involved and shut this down.

One more thing: You might be inadvertently playing into this dynamic with your boss in ways you don’t realize. It sounds like you’re being more open about your health condition than you need to be at work — people don’t need to know that you’ll be out having imaging done or that you’ll be at X hospital. They just need to know you’ll be out (and your boss just needs to know it’s a sick day). I suspect you’ve felt that giving details will come across as more credible — but people don’t need those details and by giving them, you’re playing into a narrative that the details of your health conditions are their business. It’s going to be easier to maintain appropriate boundaries with your boss if you preserve the privacy you’re entitled to.

If you do all this and you continue to hear that your boss is telling people you’re lying about your health or the weather, you’ll need to have a more assertive “this is not okay” conversation with her and HR — but I’d start here and see where it gets you.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 383 comments… read them below }

  1. No Mercy Percy*

    Wow. OP, your boss is horrible. I hope you take Alison’s advice and that this stops. Serious contender for worst boss of 2019 right here

    1. Mazzy*

      I am going to comment from the other side. Yes, boss is 100 percent wrong for talking down about this. However, I can tell you from experience working with someone who wouldn’t drive in the snow and took at least one sick day per week….my otherwise excellent boss at that job really lost her patience. So did most of my coworkers. This ex coworker at ex job would sometimes be out three days in a row with no notice and no backup plan. It was a pain to deal with for multiple parties, not including myself. I used to just happen to sit near them. Im commenting early to push back against the common sentiment in the internet but not in real life that the employer needs to accommodate everything and being out is always ok. And I’m not commenting on the talking down about health issues since that’s obviously wrong

      1. Jaz*

        How common snow is vs. how much snow it takes to stop OP from coming in can be a big factor. Living in Alabama, most people miss work on snow days but it’s not a big deal since we have a handful of them each year. When I lived in Utah and had coworkers who wouldn’t drive in the snow at all, that meant for 3-5 months a year they missed more days than they worked!

      2. anon24*

        But if it’s an attendance issue the boss needs to have a conversation with OP. The problem is that OP told the manager this could happen, presumably it was fine because she was hired, and now all of a sudden she’s hearing that it’s a problem from her co-workers. Not cool.

        1. Jennifer*

          Exactly. She may have a valid concern but she hired the OP knowing about both of these issues, maybe she underestimated how tough things would be, and she’s gossiping like a middle schooler being the OP’s back. She’s lying about her as well.

          If the attendance issue is that frustrating to her, be an adult and have a conversation.

          1. Middle School Teacher*

            As someone who has been in this position, knowing and experiencing are two different things. I might hire someone knowing in theory they may miss a certain amount of work. But actually experiencing it, seeing the impact on coworkers and clients, is different.

            I’m not necessarily defending the boss. I’m just saying that you can’t always say “they knew what they were getting into with employee when they hired her.”

            1. Jennifer*

              I agree with you. I said that because I think it’s ridiculous that the boss is gossiping about her behind her back and telling lies as though she wasn’t aware of this all along.

              She does have the right to have concerns about her attendance.

            2. Sloan Kittering*

              Well especially if you’re sitting down with your spreadsheets at the end of the year realizing that you are paying an employee a full time salary for essentially part time work :( I’ve seen it happen several times that somebody who previously seemed understanding ultimately changed their views when they were number crunching. (Of course this in no way justifies how the boss is handling it – I’m just getting the sense from the comments that people feel that OP having raised it in the interview should be the end of the matter, and in my experience it isn’t).

              1. designbot*

                Completely agree. I had an employee that was supposedly shifting their schedule around teaching, which we fully supported and were very encouraging about. But she didn’t always handle it well in terms of wrapping things up for the day and communicating with people which was occasionally a issue, and then HR brought to our attention that she was frequently not quite making up the time. I’m sure from the employee’s perspective she wondered why our views switched, but it was because new information came to light that reframed things.

              2. atalanta0jess*

                Well, but you’re probably either paying someone because they are using leave time that they are entitled to, or they are taking unpaid time off. Right? Is there some way to get paid to be out sick/stuck in snow if you aren’t using benefit time?

              3. Observer*

                Well, that’s one thing that we know is not happening. The OP commented below – if she doesn’t come in, she doesn’t get paid.

                So while the boss may have some legitimate concerns, paying for non- work is NOT one of them.

              4. TardyTardis*

                The boss may have a righteous beef. But the way he/she is going about it means that other employees will be scared to call in sick for fear they’ll be treated the same way. This is how the plague gets spread.

        2. sunny-dee*

          Well, this may be a situation where the expectations were very different. I used to live in the mountains (well, in a valley) and I worked one town over. The mountain pass was occasionally shut down for weather, but never for more than a few hours, since they were pretty accustomed to handling snow. It would be one thing to come in late or to miss one or two days a season because of the timing of the closures. But if it got to be a lot more than that, it would be very out of step.

          So OP could have said “I’ll miss some days because of weather” and the boss heard “I could miss when there are road closures” but the OP meant “I’ll miss whenever I don’t feel comfortable driving,” which are very different things.

          1. AKchic*

            Very much this.
            I live in a city where we get snow 5-7 months out of the year, depending on many factors. We have people living right around sea level (me) all the way to the tops of mountains (not far from me) and everywhere in between. My city, with the national forest, the various “neighborhoods that have turned into midsized towns on their own” are now the same size of New Jersey. It could be snowing 2 inches in the north side of Chugiak where my MIL lives (relatively flat land, somewhat near the inlet), but up on the mountains in the southeast they will be getting white-out conditions and 10-12 inches of snow and the roads are impassable, while in midtown proper, a light drizzle and a warning for potential freezing roads overnight and at my house on the south side just 1-2 miles from the blizzard-like conditions? Well, I’ll see maybe 2 inches of snow. Just depends on the way the wind blows.

            I think that maybe in the weather issue, the boss didn’t ask specifics and assumed something.
            The medical issue… well, that is something different and I can’t even begin to understand why a boss would think they would be looped in on someone’s private medical information.

          2. Anax*

            I suspect that being completely snowed in is hard for a lot of non-rural folks to imagine, in this day and age. You don’t have to be too far away geographically… but you do have to be living in a lone farmhouse, and that’s pretty uncommon in most areas.

            I have family who live about 45 minutes from Largish City, and they live on a country road – which means that it’s low priority for plowing, and the plows may not arrive for a day or two, or sometimes longer.

            They take reasonable precautions – four-wheel-drive vehicles, allowing extra time for travel, etc. – but when they get two or three feet of snow overnight, and there’s several miles of unplowed road to traverse, there’s just no way to get any car or truck out, and it’s infeasible to plow out several miles of road without a municipal snowplow.

            (Also might be worth noting that this winter has been particularly gnarly much of the US, for the non-Americans who may not be aware. Very cold, unseasonable amounts of snow and ice.)

            1. Kyrielle*

              The house I grew up on was on a dirt and gravel road, 15 minutes to the nearest small town and an hour to the city. In an area where winter weather wasn’t uncommon, but snow “sticking around” for more than a few days happened 1-2 times a winter at most. It didn’t get plowed. Ever. So everyone (as far as I know) had chains, but would just stay snug at home unless they needed something or the storm went longer than expected.

            2. beckysuz*

              Yeah, I live about an hour outside of Metro Detroit on a farm. We have about 10 miles of backroads to traverse to get to our small town. When it snows heavily we aren’t always first on the list for plowing. There have been plenty of times when we got completely snowed in. People who don’t live in the country don’t always get it or believe us when we say we are snowed in.

            3. Perse's Mom*

              We have pretty great infrastructure to deal with snow and ice where I am, I grew up here and am pretty comfortable driving in winter, and I think I still blew through half my accumulated PTO due to exceedingly awful road conditions this winter. There has been SO much freezing rain and sleet!

        3. Coder von Frankenstein*

          Even if it were a problem–if the manager thought it would be okay, and now it’s turning out it really isn’t working–that wouldn’t necessarily be the end of the world. The manager could have sat down with the OP to say, “I’m so sorry, but it turns out we can’t be as flexible as we thought we could be on this. Can we work out some other accommodation here?”

          But no matter what the problem is, the list of acceptable solutions is never going to include “spread false rumors about OP to their coworkers.”

      3. LavaLamp*

        Actually in some cases you do have to accommodate that. I was on FMLA at my previous job and while it wasn’t great I wasn’t allowed to be punished for essentially being sick. Perhaps OP can look into a more formal accommodation.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Not yet, but when/if OP becomes eligible, they should immediately put in a request for intermittent FMLA. It won’t cover the weather absences, but at least the medical leave should be covered.

            1. fposte*

              Yes, absolutely. And as I said below, she should check the state, because if she’s in a state that gives an earlier option, she should grab it the moment she’s eligible.

          2. Is it Spring yet?*

            I am not eligible for Fmla due to the amount of hours I work, but I did find out that bringing in documentation from my doctor on my chronic condition qualifies me through the Ada. Been there for years and just now found out. I too have a supervisor who doesn’t believe me and coworkers who trash talk others. Makes for a fun place to work, not.

            1. TardyTardis*

              And the boss is teaching the workers never to call in sick, which brings on a host of other problems.

      4. Observer*

        The issue here is not the the employer is not accommodating the OP. In fact, Allison explicitly addresses that. The issue is that the boss is behaving in a way that is utterly inappropriate. It’s also so our of line and stupid that it reduces her credibility.

        If you have a boss with boundaries who tells an employee “I need to you to call in by X:00 if you are going to be out” or “I didn’t realize that you would need to be out this often, and it’s having a negative impact on our work. We need to change something.” there would be very little push back. But, when someone who is upset that you didn’t bring her your labs says “Your absences are a problem” it reads like “I have a problem with your not sharing the intimate details of your medical condition so I can decide if it’s really serious enough to take time off” rather than “there is a genuine problem with your work.”

        1. fposte*

          Yes. It’s absolutely acceptable for a manager to find it frustrating that an employee has a lot of absences. It’s absolutely unacceptable to deal with that frustration by bitching to other employees rather than raising the question with the employee herself.

          It’s not clear what kind of PTO the OP has; it sounds like there’s an attempt to avoid requiring her to use it but the remote work plan isn’t really suitable for her job (my suspicion is that that’s part of what’s burning the manager–that she regrets having allowed the possibility of remote work). I think it would be perfectly reasonable for the manager to say to the OP that remote work isn’t proving practical and that absences will need to come out of PTO; given that the OP has already mentioned the medical issue, I would also say “The ADA is likely in play here so let’s talk to HR about what accommodations look possible.”

          It’s possible that this job isn’t a fit for the OP–that the weather absences alone are too great, or that the proportion of days off she needs for health are beyond a reasonable accommodation for the job. But the manager isn’t openly addressing those issues, and that’s what she needs to do.

          1. Mazzy*

            I agree with this completely. I also am not seeing the fact that the boss agreed to this beforehand as synonymous with them agreeing to it permanently or even knowing what they were agreeing to.

            1. fposte*

              Yup, totally agree; similarly, it could be a post-hiring surprise to the boss, and she might still have to accommodate it. I understand the emotional weight of “But you knew about this before I got hired!”, but it doesn’t actually matter all that much to the boss’s options.

              Given a time machine, I’d have the boss be a lot more concrete and explicit about what absences are workable and the provisional nature of working at home, and I’d loop HR in from the get-go.

              1. Nic*

                Really? We don’t know that the boss wasn’t concrete and explicit in their interview, or that HR aren’t looped in! We’re giving the boss’s actions a level of legitimacy here that I’m not sure they warrant – they are unreasonable, full stop. I see little point in wondering if maybe there’s a buried spark of rationality somewhere very far down in there, and it’s all OP/their illness making the boss be inappropriate.

                She’s being unreasonable on multiple fronts, and sometimes that happens with a chronic health problem – your boss takes an irrational dislike to your illness/disability and refuses to admit to it, and you spend hours and weeks wondering if maybe you didn’t tell them in quite the right way, and maybe if you’d given more options for what you could do when you’re working from home it’d be OK…But at the end of the day, they’re bad-mouthing the OP behind her back, they’re casting doubt on her honesty and the legitimacy of her illness, and that is not something you can appease by saying “oh well maybe they just didn’t know what they were getting into” or “well maybe OP didn’t communicate well enough” or “well, disabilities and illnesses are a burden you know”. That’s an abusive dynamic and bigoted to boot – but it’s terrifyingly common for people with hidden disabilities and chronic illnesses to find themselves at the mercy of someone who just plain doesn’t want to believe they’re ill.

                (Here’s one of my examples: at university, at the end of my last-but-one year, I took my disability support tutor to a meeting with my Head of Degree Subject to have an early planning session for the accommodations I’d need for my final year research project. The meeting went well and we came up with a reasonable agreement that worked for everyone, even if I did have to go back to fundamentals when explaining in a way I hadn’t expected after keeping my head of degree fully informed about my condition from the moment I applied for my course.

                (I got back from summer holiday and…heard nothing. I gave her the benefit of the doubt because I didn’t want to nag her. When my research project started, there was no mention anywhere of lab help. I asked where my agreed help was, and she reacted with surprise – she didn’t remember the meeting or agreeing to anything and could I explain why I needed the help, please, because she didn’t understand why I’d need them now? And oh well, it was a bit late to arrange things now but she’d do her best. I burnt out in a fortnight, trying to keep on-schedule solo, and then was bed-bound for a month, recovering. Finally, belatedly, I got my lab help – and found that the post-grad student tagged to help was bound by really strict rules (that no other lab help I’ve heard of has been bound by) to make sure I didn’t have an “unfair advantage” over other students.

                (Towards the end of the year, my disability support tutor was accidentally forwarded an email that formed part of a discussion between my head of subject and several other professors, saying “Oh hey, does anyone think Nic’s really going to be able to finish this year?” but not actually brought up in discussion with me. Oh yeah, and right after exams I was told that because I’d had the lab help – despite the strict rules that made it impossible for me to be at an advantage compared to others, and despite the fact that I’d kept a very thorough lab diary detailing everything I did, what help I got and when, and when I started/finished all my sessions in the lab – I’d need to sit an extra viva so that they could be certain that I knew what all the lab equipment in my experiments did.

                (After that, I never wanted to be part of academia again.)

                1. fposte*

                  I’m sorry you had a bad time.

                  The thing is, as noted elsewhere, even if the boss was clear and concrete, it’s possible for her to determine that this arrangement isn’t workable. Several of us want to make sure that this point isn’t buried either: even if the boss is an ass, that doesn’t mean the OP will be able to get the accommodations she seeks from a non-ass, HR, or whomever.

                  It sounds like you’re not in the US, so I don’t know what laws are relevant where you are; in the US, the ADA doesn’t require that all workplaces provide all accommodations, and it’s often legal to deny a specific accommodation. That’s especially true when the accommodation is absence. The EEOC says explicitly “Employers generally do not have to accommodate repeated instances of tardiness or absenteeism that occur with some frequency, over an extended period of time and often without advance notice.” (And that’s assuming the OP’s illness falls under the ADA, which isn’t a guarantee either. At least we can assume that the employer is big enough to be covered by the ADA, but not all employers are.)

          2. always in email jail*

            I had the same thoughts re: the PTO issue. It sounds to me like the initial agreement may have been that OP could work remotely and not use PTO, but that there’s not enough work to justify doing so? Or there was a misunderstanding in the initial conversation, where the supervisor thought OP meant they would take leave for weather/illness absences but still be available remotely if needed (to compensate for being out so much, at least for the weather stuff), and OP thought they agreed she’d be working remotely instead of PTO.

            To me, the weather and illness absences are two separate issues. And, of course, regardless of the situation, it was entirely inappropriate for the boss to communicate her displeasure to other employees.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              It might be helpful to use numbers to describe the problem.

              At one point I got pretty sick, not like OP, but I saw enough to get an idea. In bad weather my half hour ride to work became a two hour drive. To drive two hours, work eight hours and spend two hours driving home was not doable for me given my givens.

              I had no one near me that I could ride with and there is no other transportation system.
              When a person has a health issue bearing down on them, driving in bad weather for longer periods of time becomes a hardship. After driving for two hours at 7 mph hour to get to work, I arrived so tired and worn that doing actual work was not possible.
              Respectfully, I disagree that weather and illness are two separate issues. There can be times where one may be able to separate the two but I don’t think those examples come up that much.

              1. Jasnah*

                Of course the issues are related because as you describe, one compounds the other. But I think “always in email jail” was separating days where OP would be able to work under normal weather conditions, but because of the weather it’s no longer possible (as in the example you described), from days where OP would not even be able to work a normal 8hr+sunny commute day. Because if OP is well enough to work if it were sunny, then one solution is to find a way for OP to do more work remotely. But if OP would take that day off regardless of the weather, then enabling OP to do more work remotely would not solve the problem–this is a question of how to accommodate OP’s illness. So of course the issues are interconnected but different days may require different solutions.

      5. No Mercy Percy*

        I have to disagree. The boss in this situation is completely indefensible. Yes, having someone out often for medical treatment is inconvenient, but this boss is completely mismanaging the situation. If the OP is leaving inadequate backup plans and documentation (which I doubt is the case), the boss should bring it up with OP to come up with a workable plan together. Instead, this boss is gossiping behind their own employee’s back.

        Regarding the snow, it really does have a big impact on driving (I speak from experience, living in snowy Chicago). It sounds like maybe this area doesn’t get much snow overall, if where OP lives an hour away gets snow often, but near their workplace doesn’t. If this is the case, it’s possible there isn’t a regular snow plow fleet that goes around, and unplowed roads are even more dangerous.

        Furthermore, OP was up front about all of this before they were hired. This boss made the hire with their eyes open.

        1. JustAClarifier*

          Came here to second this: “OP was up front about all of this before they were hired.” Boss really can’t claim they didn’t know when OP was crystal clear about what their situation was in advance. Not to mention, to agree with others, that this is not the concern. The concern is that Boss is discussing employee concerns with the office, which is not appropriate, and alluding to accessing private medical records, and how OP should handle it.

          1. No Mercy Percy*

            Exactly. Even if it’s more than the boss thought it would be, and that’s causing issues, what this boss is doing isn’t what you do. Instead, boss should have sat down with OP and have a conversation about what the issues are and how to mitigate them.

          2. Quackeen*

            I think it would be fine for the boss to look back at the past few months and want to review what is and is not working IF AND ONLY IF the first people she talked about it to were OP and (in very strict, problem-solving confidence) her HR Business Partner or equivalent. But the boss loses all credibility with me for talking about it to OP’s peers/her own direct reports. That’s not how you solve a problem! That’s how you torpedo trust and engagement and make everyone uncomfortable and concerned about what you’re saying about them when they’re not around.

            I once left a job that was an absolute $h!tshow in many respects, not the least of which was an extremely gossipy, untrained, inappropriate HR person. (Literally, the owner liked her and needed to justify a FT salary, so he added all HR duties to her workload, despite the fact that she had zero HR training or experience). Now, the HR person really liked me and trusted me and never did anything to or about me as far as I knew…but I witnessed her talking crap about my coworker so many times, and it made me deeply uncomfortable, to the point where I had to get out of there. You don’t have to be the target of someone’s terrible and toxic management for it to compel you to leave.

        2. Bunny Girl*

          Yup. An hour away can make a huge difference in regard to snow. There is a city that I visit frequently that is about an hour away and sometimes they will just get a dusting and we’ll get upwards of 4 inches of snow and ice and vice versa. My friend and I actually used to have an issue with this because she would ask me to come over and I would say I can’t there’s too much snow and she thought I was being over dramatic. But then she came and visited once when they had no snow and we got a lot and she was like Damn you’re streets are horrible! Yes I know. LoL

          1. Apostrophina*

            It doesn’t even have to be that far, either; my extended family lives about 15 miles away, in a neighborhood on (but not very far up) a mountain. Anything I get in the way of snow and ice will usually be doubled at their house—at least.

            1. That Work from Home Life*

              This is so true. I grew up in a commuter town 1 ish~ hours north of NYC where there are low mountains. My family moved to a neighborhood just 2 or 3 miles up the mountain my senior year of HS and it was like living in a completely different region in the winter. Roads were often unpassable and we always had at least twice the amount of snow as lower lying areas. It sucked so bad and my teenage self was VERY annoyed with my parents for doubling how long it took me to get to school and “ruining my social life!” as I liked to tell them (teenagers can be dicks haha).

              1. Jules the 3rd*

                Agreed. My county is about 40 miles north to south, and we regularly have snow days where the northern end’s got 8″ + ice but the southern end is dry. Very little altitude change, we’re just in the middle of the transition band. Our school system has taken to posting pictures of some of the roads in the northern end of the county to explain why the whole county’s out. (We can not have some open because of legal discrimination concerns)

            2. Harper the Other One*

              Yep, second this. I used to live next to a “mountain” – it wasn’t really that big but it did have a big effect on weather. Sometimes a storm would stop moving over our area and we’d get double or more snow than in the town where I worked. Other days the mountain would divert a storm and I’d head in without checking road conditions and be shocked when I reached the major highway because it was so treacherous.

            3. Nic*

              Heck in my town, which side of the hills you live on often determines whether you’re snowed in or not! The eastern side is the biggest part of town, with flatter land and wider roads – it’s easier for the gritters to get to, and the winter sun hits that side of the hills throughout most of the day, so there’s far more snowmelt. Less than a mile away on the western side though, they’re in the shadow of the hills, with twistier, smaller roads that the gritter has trouble with – and the snow just doesn’t melt there.

              1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                Yep. All winter I deal with the drivers on I91 in Connecticut who don’t know or can’t remember that the mountain in Middletown will ice up before either side — and that the weather on the north side can be drastically different than the weather on the south side. It’s little as mountains go, but it still has a huge effect.

            4. Quackeen*

              Yeah, I had a former boss who was not at all a fan of letting us work from home, unless *she herself* had trouble driving. Didn’t matter that she had a huge AWD Jeep SUV and I didn’t, or that she lived 8 miles from the office and I didn’t, or that I live on a dead end that gets plowed just about last in my town…let alone the fact that it wasn’t a client-facing role and there wasn’t likely to be a justification for making me get to the office in a blizzard. If she could get in safely, we were all expected to get in or use PTO. If she couldn’t get in safely, we were suddenly OK to work from home.

        3. Alton*

          Agreed. Snow and snow management can vary a lot even in short distances. For example, I just live in the suburbs a short distance from the city, but it sometimes takes days for my side streets to be plowed vs. the main streets or the downtown area where I work. I’m able to get out of my neighborhood, but can see how it would be more difficult if there were a lot of hills, for example. There are a lot of days where schools in my county are closed but the city ones aren’t. And if I lived even an hour west, I’d be in the mountains and have much more hazardous conditions.

          That doesn’t mean it would be okay for someone to be missing so much work that it creates issues, but I think the first response should be to try to work something out so that things can get done without forcing people to endanger themselves.

        4. Mazzy*

          I think the boss’s actions to date aren’t defensible, buy I’m sympathetic to the predicament their in.

          1. Oxford Comma*

            If they are not happy with the employee’s performance, they should be addressing that with the employee. It doesn’t sound like the manager has done that with the OP at all.

          2. Delphine*

            You’ve assumed the predicament is that the boss has an employee with a chronic illness who lives far away from the office–but a reasonable manager who had that issue would bring it up. The actual predicament is that the manager is a terrible, boundary-crossing person who spreads misinformation about her employee. I think bringing this up was unnecessary and potentially derails the conversation by implying that the employee shares some blame for having a manager who demands to see her medical records so that she can cure her and spreads lies about her behind her back.

          3. Observer*

            Well, we don’t actually know what the predicament. It’s possible that the boss has a genuine problem with the OP’s attendance that they have TOTALLY failed to address. On the other hand, the predicament actually sounds like “my employee won’t share their medical records with me”. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the former because the boss is NOT DOING HER JOB. And I have absolutely ZERO sympathy for the latter.

          4. Winter Wanderer*

            The predicament you have IMAGINED they are in, since you are inferring facts not in evidence from the OP’s letter.

            It’s very easy to use your own personal history to fill in the blanks and decide you know what’s really going on, but it’s not really helpful.

        5. alwaystheo*

          Yes to all this – not to mention, I’m getting some hints that OP has chronic pain issues, which can be exacerbated by cold and especially by driving. Getting stuck in traffic in the snow could actually be a health issue for OP.

      6. LGC*

        It’s complicated, but you bring up a side issue: her boss is a nurse, which is a field that usually requires coverage. Although LW can work from home in a limited fashion, part of the boss’s perspective might just be that she’s naturally a butts in seats person.

        (This autocompleted with “her boss is a MONSTER,” which I also agree with.)

        But also – I feel like even though it is frustrating, the boss forfeited any right by openly speculating about the LW’s health and asking to see very personal information! Like, I’m going to grumble a bit (privately) if someone calls out sick – I had to deal with someone calling out because of an emergency, after calling out two days last week and just generally having poor attendance. (My job requires people to be in the office.) But I’m not going to ask to see personal documents about the emergency, because that’s way too intrusive.

        1. Liane*

          “Her boss is a nurse, which is a field that usually requires coverage.” There are lots of fields for nurses that don’t require coverage, and the boss could even be a nurse working in a non-health care field.
          The OP didn’t say they worked in health care, and since they can do part of their job remotely, it is very unlikely OP in a clinical position since those are 0% remote.

          1. Zillah*

            I think that the point wasn’t that this is likely a position in healthcare, it was that people previous experience’s can really impact how they feel about certain things. IME, people who are used to positions that require punctuality can often be rigid about it elsewhere as well, for example.

            1. LGC*

              Exactly. I was trying to point out that part of the issue might be the boss bringing her own past experiences in. Badly.

              From what it seems like, LW isn’t a clinical employee necessarily. If she were, that’s an entirely different thread.

              1. Quackeen*

                I think you’re spot on, though. My experience working in 3 separate medical centers now have supported this. At least the places where I worked (major city on the east coast), healthcare institutions are still very reluctant to let people work from home, even if they’re not patient care or operations support. There was never going to be a health-related emergency as a result of my working from home (i.e., patients weren’t going to go unseen; floors weren’t going to go un-disinfected, etc.), but the mindset was still, “ALL hospital employees are essential personnel.” We were told very clearly that, if there was a driving ban and we got pulled over, our hospital IDs would identify us as being OK to be on the road.

                It’s a very slow industry to change, and it sounds like OP’s boss may have retained that mindset despite no longer working in a patient care setting. That works for some people, but not for me. There’s nothing magical about my desk that makes me better able to get work done.

                1. OP*

                  These are all great points. My boss is a newly-minted nurse who has never worked clinically and has never worked in a capacity with the rigidity that’s standard in healthcare, which would explain the frustration (but not the behavior).

          2. emmelemm*

            Yes, it says in the letter that she works at an “educational institution”, which implies that she doesn’t work in *direct* health care.

      7. biobotb*

        If there’s no backup plan, that’s at least partially on the boss though. At minimum, they’re the ones with the authority to tell the coworker to come up with a backup plan, and at maximum they have the authority to come up with it themselves and demand that it be implemented.

      8. Beth*

        Of course attendance can be a legitimate concern and can impact coworkers in difficult ways. But 1) gossiping behind an employee’s back and telling coworkers they’re lying is a completely unacceptable way to address such concerns, and 2) OP did discuss the current arrangement and get it approved, and does work from home where possible–they’ve done everything they can to make sure things are above board and work for everyone, so it doesn’t sit right with me to suggest they’re the problem here.

        1. Quackeen*

          The lying part is that part where my jaw dropped. It’s one thing (and still a bad thing, to be clear) for the boss to say to the coworkers, “Wow, OP is just out far too much. This isn’t working.” But for her to jump to and spread the rumor that “OP is lying” just takes this another notch into Absolute Jerk category.

          1. TardyTardis*

            And this affects the other workers, too–I bet they don’t care come in sick, which can add to workplace problem when oh, say, pneumonia starts getting spread around, or a bad flu.

      9. MommyMD*

        Agree about the weather. Years ago I commuted and at times had to deal with snow. I left extra early and informed myself on road conditions. I never called off one day for weather. Certainly if I had a chronic health condition I would make extra sure I showed up on weather days. I think Boss is frustrated. Boss is very wrong for gossiping about health but chronic absences do affect the workplace. I also would not discuss my medical issues and appointments with staff. Sooner or later staff is going to get annoyed if they feel they are picking up slack or not awarded as much time is OP to deal with their own issues.

      10. Wot, no sugar?*

        Yeah, I think the boss is finding that the reality is turning out to be more extreme than she’d predicted and is having buyer’s remorse. Do other people invariably stay home when the weather is bad, or do they find a way to make it in? Would Lyft/Uber or carpooling be options? As for the health issue, the fact that it seems to involve a chronic, nontraditional medical condition (fibermyalgia?, chronic fatigue syndrome?) the legitimacy of which is still suspect in the minds of some docs as well as civilians doesn’t help. Although the idea of providing her manager personal records is absurd, perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to educate her as much as possible via whatever general info on the disorder she can find.

        1. Evelyn Blah*

          I don’t necessarily get the sense that this is one of those oft-hated disorders like fibromyalgia. It reads more like OP is immunocompromised, either from a primary immunodeficiency or as a side-effect of another chronic condition (for example, lupus).

          But if it is something like fibromyalgia – then honestly, trying to have an educational dialogue with the boss isn’t going to fix anything. The boss is off the rails and “educating” the boss will probably just result in a group chat about OP’s medical delusion.

          Honestly, OP really needs to try to find a way to leave this job.

          1. Evelyn Blah*

            Edit: yikes, I totally missed the part about how they are undiagnosed. I see what you mean now. But still think “educating” the boss/coworkers would do more harm than good. This person needs to start setting firmer boundaries for as long as they are in this workplace.

      11. IndoorCat*

        Well, sure, but it sounds like LW *does* give notice and does have back-up plans (working from home, etc). So, it’s not really a comperable situation.

        Nobody thinks that no-showing without notice or without planning is okay if you can at all help it. But if there’s a plan, then it should be fine, and it’s just grumpy-grumbliness to talk behind someone else’s back if the plan isn’t working rather than figuring out how to change it.

    2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      I kind of wish AAM had a something like a “like” button for posts, but instead of “like” it would be, “wow, what a jerk.”

      That’s why nobody would ever give me an advice column. It would just be me hitting that button all day like a trained pigeon.

      1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        Oh drat – I said posts and meant letters. Talking about the original letter and the boss in it, not the post I was replying too. Drat!

        1. beagle mama*

          It would be helpful for comments too! There are times when I see a comment I 100% agree with, but don’t want to pile on in the comments with a superfluous post.

      2. Sloan Kittering*

        I actually think OP should follow Alison’s advice without deciding prematurely that her boss is a jerk. The reason is that her coworkers seem to the be the one spreading the rumor at this point. I have definitely known some sh*t stirring, drama llama coworkers in my life who would take a relatively innocuous comment and run straight to OP with a report like this. That’s why the advice given is so good: it gives boss a chance to clear this up without coming in super hot.

        1. Scarlet2*

          That would mean that all her coworkers are lying then? I don’t think I’d call it a “rumour”. A coworker she’s friends with informed her of what boss was saying behind her back (which I think is the friendly thing to do) and the other coworkers confirmed it. If boss made a completely innocuous comment and is absolutely not a jerk, it means there’s an office-wide conspiracy and all coworkers are lying and making up stories…

      3. Common Welsh Green*

        Now I’m imagining a little pigeon wearing a funny hat, pecking corn kernels off the keyboard. In my case, that would explain a lot!

  2. Amber T*

    Wow – you’re absolutely right OP, this is Not Okay. Agree with Alison. My one recommendation would be, if you feel you might get angry/emotional when talking to your boss (I would), I’d maybe skip talking to her and go straight to HR. I do think talking to your boss first would be better, but if you’re too angry (or, if you’re like me, have a tendency to get choked up), it might be better to skip it.

    1. Sleepytime Tea*

      This is what I was thinking. I have a health condition, which I generally keep close to the vest, but if after disclosing it to I started getting accused of lying about it, I might get pretty upset trying to confront that person, regardless of all the cool-headed verbiage I might have practiced ahead of time.

      It depends a lot on your HR though, and whether or not your coworkers would be willing to “testify” to what they’ve heard your boss say.

      If you don’t have official accommodations for your health, I would highly recommend you get them in place if your condition is protected by the FDA. A crappy boss can mess with your livelihood, and it gives you certain protections. It also gives you a point of contact for any health related issues, and that takes your boss out of the equation. I did this at one job where I went from having a boss who was very accommodating and didn’t care as long as my work was done (and was truly empathetic and kind) to having a new boss who wanted butts in seats 40 hours a week no matter what. Obviously this doesn’t help you out with inclement weather, but it’s a good starting place.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        What does the ADA protect in terms of as-yet-undiagnosed medical conditions?
        I honestly don’t know — but it’s worth considering.

        1. Sleepytime Tea*

          That’s a good question. I really don’t know if the illness is undiagnosed. A good question for doctors and/or lawyers I suppose.

        2. Gerald*

          I don’t know the details of the ADA, but in some circumstances the wording is essentially ‘a health condition / illness which a medical professional can document (certify?) as preventing the employee from being able to do their job’.

          A list of illnesses is highly problematic in these circumstances, as there are new ones showing up (think AIDS in the ’80s, SARS, Zika virus) and not all illnesses affect jobs equally (a visually impaired office worker can easily be accommodated with technology, whereas there is probably no way for them to be a pilot). If there is no list then there is no need for a specific diagnosis.

          1. Not Monday Again*

            The ADA is concerned with the essential duties of a job. Accommodations are to allow you to performs these essential duties without undue hardship to the employer. Undue hardship is a pretty high standard, essentially involving some type of harm to the employer far beyond mere inconvenience. There are many, many ways to establish reasonable accommodations. ADA expert here.

        3. Doodle*

          It’s not s list of covered illnesses and conditions, but rather the effect an illness or condition is having on your ability to perform certain life functions. You don’t need a diagnosis; you need a medical professional to certify that you are unable to perform X or Y function, or that you need care or treatment that affects your ability to perform X or Y function, or that you need A or B accommodation in order to perform X or Y function.

          In addition to looking into accommodation under the ADA, OP should discuss FMLA with HR as well.

          AAM’s scripts for confronting the boss are good, but for sure I would *also* be meeting with HR.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      The one next to it is mine.
      What boggles me most is that the boss is a nurse. The medical professionals I know –from MD/PhDs down to EMTs and LpNs — have had privacy issues drilled into them during training. They have been if anything over-cautious, even after they retire.

      1. JenRN*

        This. This is what shocked me. And that OP works at an educational institution. Here’s hoping that her boss is not in charge of educating future nurses….

      2. Gerald*

        On the other hand, I have often heard that medical folks can be least sympathetic to illness

        1. Arya*

          Yeah – my jaw is not on the floor, it’s firmly attached to my very tired face. I am chronically ill (though I have a diagnosis, thank god) and I have experienced this and heard this sort of thing again and again. There’s a reason LW needs to ask if this is ok – it’s because they have encountered people with this attitude before, in some other part of their life.

      3. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

        That is what shocked me the most as well. I work as a volunteer at a doctors practice and even we volunteers are drilled about privacy issues.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        Boss thinks she is going to diagnose OP herself.
        Ever read those medical reports? Some of them are a bunch of medical terms that render the report meaningless to the lay person. As a boss the last thing in the world I would have time for is to drill down through a medical report to understand what is going on. No. I want a short message on letter that is written in language a lay person can follow.
        I have to believe that she wants the reports so she can get even more involved in OP’s issues.

      5. Arya*

        Toxic people will do their thing, in every profession. It’s not that shocking.

        LW needs to get out of this nightmare work environment. I’ve known people exactly like this and this situation is only going to escalate.

  3. Mazzy*

    Oh this one is stickier than I think people realize. I think most comments are going to be in the OP’s side because the boss broke a cardinal rule about talking down about health issues, of all things, which is wrong. However, to be honest, I’d be very flustured if someone kept calling in sick but didn’t have a diagnosis, and not feeling like I had any sort of control over when they’re coming in.

    1. Justme, The OG*

      How do you think it feels to be someone who is continually sick and without a diagnosis?

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        This! Twenty years…t w e n t y years of being told I was “imagining” things. Twenty…years.

      2. Mazzy*

        But asking that doesn’t solve the problem of finding coverage when an employee is out. I don’t want to overcomment on this thread, I commented above, my point was to provide an alternate view to the premise that the boss is a monster. Not only does it not provide any action, it completely absolves the OP of any responsibility, and it isn’t realistic in any workplace.

        1. Nopeasaurus Rex*

          The boss is not a monster. The boss is a poor boss who is not doing their job, does not have appropriate boundaries, and is behaving inappropriately.

          What responsibility do you think the OP has here that they are failing to fulfil? They have been upfront about the issues, kept their boss informed, and are doing their best while dealing with a difficult medical situation. What more do you expect from them?

          The fact that you wouldn’t be able to manage in this situation either is not an excuse. You being a poor manager too doesn’t absolve this manager from doing their bloomin’ job!

            1. Nic*

              Well I don’t know – but how about:

              1) Stop gossiping behind the employee’s back.
              2) Stop telling other employees that their coworker is a liar and a (medical) fraud.
              3) Stop low-key angling to see confidential documents which are not in your remit as manager (because you are not OP’s care-provider).

              And on a positive note: 4) Talk to the employee if you think that their absence is more than originally expected and the accommodations you originally agreed on aren’t working out in practice. Discuss other ways in which that problem might be overcome, or if it cannot be.

                1. serenity*

                  Agreed with all of this.

                  Managing this situation isn’t really as hard as some people seem to think it is, if you’re a straightforward person who engages your direct reports directly rather than spreading gossip and speculation (!!) about their medical condition.

              1. Shayland.*

                I had a manager who seemed to think exactly like Mazzy does. I say, seemed to, because she never talked to me about ANYTHING. She thought the interactive process of accommodation ended on my first day of work even when it was clear the accommodation wasn’t working for anyone. I’m having to edit out details here because the legal proceedings are still ongoing.

                I already came up with an alternative for my accommodations and clearer it with another, more experienced coworker (who would play a direct roll in providing the accommodation) who was maybe also my supervisor but was not involved in my termination (?) the hierarchy there was a little confusing.

                Anyway, I was fired instead because, well “it’s a sticky situation” and unlike cigarette breaks, the breaks I needed where unpredictable and “outside of my managers control.” (And it was really clear that upset her.)

                The follow up question of “So what do you think they should do in this case? What would be being the good manager?” is completely unbelievable and disgusting to me.

                There are so many cases of “well OBVIOUSLY start by not doing x” that appear in the original letter and which Nic above me covered wonderfully well. There were many more, different cases of OBVIOUSLY don’t do x which appear in my case. And which also appear in writing.

                And while I’m hoping to get a nice settlement and have some governing bodies crack down on the able ism, mistreatment, and discrimination demonstrated against both staff and clients, from the organization, I’m also deeply looking forward to sharing my termination letter. It broke my heart to receive it. Especially because I was fired basically out of the blue less than one week into a months long contract. Anyway, I digress.

                Mazzy, however, seems to disregard this disgusting behavior on the manager’s part as, “[breaking] a cardinal rule about talking down about health issue”. I really think that understates and minimizes the lying and control issues present in the original letter.

                Both mine and OP’s bosses needed to sit down and talk clearly about the current accommodations and the impact our work is (/was) having on the organization and start to brain storm ways in which to fix the problems occurring. Like you would with any employee. Like the ADA demands. Maybe this is the only accommodation. Maybe it isn’t even really causing problems, the manager is just overly ridged when it comes to attendance and timeliness in a way which is not appropriate for the current work environment.

                And, I want to note to all managers reading that if they ever find themselves in a similar situation they MUST do the same. Like, are legally required to do the same. The accommodation process is interactive and ongoing. You can’t simply fire someone, or retaliate against someone, when the preaggreed upon accommodations are either causing problems and hardship or are just pissing you off.

                I think not spreading rumors that a direct report (or anyone) is faking a disability is pretty much a given. But I also think the idea that you need to talk to a disabled employee when the disability or accommodation is an issue is also a given. From my experience and some of the experiences shared through letters here it certainly seems not to be.

                In fact, Alison has talked in the past about how she made this same mistake. I urge you, Don’t! There can be major consequences and even if there aren’t it’s a pain in the butt for everyone involved!

        2. Human*

          The issue isn’t that the boss doesn’t have a right to be frustrated or even to doubt the employee. The issue is how shes reacting to the frustration and doubt. Regardless of how poor the employee is she shouldn’t be demanding medical records or calling her a liar to her coworkers behind her back. Thats bad managing no matter how you cut it.

    2. Temperance*

      I mean, I get how frustrating it is to work with someone who is not reliable, for whatever reason, but, at the same time, assuming that she’s lying about having a chronic illness and telling everyone the same is really craptacular.

    3. CatCat*

      But would you fail to discuss any attendance concerns directly with the person and instead spread lies about that person to their coworkers, and complain to their coworkers about not getting to see their medical records?

    4. Naomi*

      But even if an employee does have a diagnosis, they are not obliged to share it with their boss. And not having any control over when someone calls in sick is just the nature of illness. Basically, it is not OP’s responsibility to manage the boss’s feelings and/or curiosity about OP’s health condition.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, this is the key thing. Even if she had the diagnosis, her boss wouldn’t be entitled to know what it was or even that it had been made. She’s only entitled to have a conversation about what accommodations the OP needs.

      2. blackcat*

        Yeah, my mom is “diagnosed” with several things that care the “idiopathic” label. AKA we don’t know what causes it. There’s surely an underlying condition that has not yet been found. But the “idiopathic” diagnosis is what means health insurance covers stuff…

      3. Mystery Bookworm*

        It’s also worth noting that even if the employee had a diagnosis, and even if they did chose to share it with the boss, there’s no guarantee that would result in the manager feeling they had any “control” over the issue, as Mazzy alludes to.

        I’ve seen this firsthand. It’s very tempting to feel that a diagnosis will provide control and reliability over a condition (and I don’t mean to downplay the value of a diagnosis here, which can be a – literal – lifesaver). However, the reality is that illness don’t always present consistently across populations or time.

        And having a diagnosis with a recommended treatment course doesn’t always mean that the treatment will progress and be responded to in the way that we hope.

        1. One (1) Anon*

          Yes, yes, this. Having a diagnosis does not necessarily make things any easier wrt accomodations and workplace relationships; the key issues of attendance or participation will still exist regardless of how much knowledge the boss might have of their employee’s illness.

          The control they want to achieve in trying to tease out information out of the OP is power over them, period, not a genuine attempt to help them both.

        2. Tiny Soprano*

          100%! My mother has a rare chronic condition that’s had an enormous impact on her work, but the only treatment available for it will damage her liver so she can’t take it. Even something like vigorously cleaning the house or accidentally getting a coffee that’s not decaf can lead to a flare-up. Having a diagnosis was a huge comfort to her and it’s helpful in some cases, but it doesn’t actually have an impact on how the illness affects her physically.

          So I agree: the OP getting a diagnosis may not have any bearing on how many sick days she requires, and is irrelevant to how the manager should’ve proceeded.

    5. Amber Rose*

      Even if that person was upfront about it prior to being hired?
      To the point of asking for medical records?

      That’s just ridiculous.

    6. Health Insurance Nerd*

      You should not need to have an explicit diagnosis in order for calling in sick to be acceptable. Frankly, even in the LW HAD a diag, she still would not be obligated to share it with her manager. Simply stating “I have a chronic condition for which I will need accommodations” should more than suffice.

    7. Amber T*

      There’s a difference between “oh I think I have this illness but I’m not gonna confirm and get officially diagnosed” and “I’ve been working with doctors and specialists for 6 years and we still don’t have a diagnosis.”

      1. Jadelyn*

        Except there…isn’t, actually? People don’t seek formal diagnosis for things for a variety of reasons, only one of which is “I don’t feel like it”. Someone being fairly certain, based on their own research, that they have X condition, but not being diagnosed, doesn’t automatically mean they DON’T have X. It might mean they can’t get the time off work to go to all the appointments and specialists; it might mean they have severe anxiety that kicks up every time they try to schedule appointments; it might mean they can’t afford the monetary cost of diagnosis.

        Please don’t dismiss people who have chronic illnesses/conditions, just because they’re not being a Good Sick Person by your standards. They aren’t obligated to perform chronic illness “correctly” in order to have their limitations respected.*

        *caveat: I mean respected socially; in terms of employment, unfortunately people are obligated to hit certain targets in order to have their limitations respected, but if you’re not their boss that doesn’t apply to you so please respect them regardless.

        1. Gerald*

          Amber T has a point from a work perspective (which is what is being discussed here).

          The length of time spent looking for a diagnosis doesn’t matter, but a workplace does care if a medical professional is willing to sign a piece of paper certifying that a health problem is preventing someone from doing their job. If someone isn’t willing to visit a medical professional then a workplace has a harder time justifying extended absences.

          1. fposte*

            I agree with that, and I think it’s good to separate that from the diagnosis issue. A lot of medicine happens without a diagnosis, and a lot of times it makes more sense to proceed without it. A lot of diagnoses are just official terms for a cluster of symptoms anyway. Stuff like House makes it seem like there’s a single weird answer at the end of the medical rainbow upon which treatment hangs, but a lot of times, especially as you get older, it’s more like “We’ve ruled out the things that will kill you; here are some things we’ll try.”

    8. Seeking Second Childhood*

      OP was flat-out honest about it during the hiring process: “I get sick more often than other people do” and
      she (she?) has been trying to get a clear diagnosis for 6 years. She says she clearly communicates when she can’t come in. There are better ways to address this than snarking behind someone’s back — the manager could go to HR and say “this was disclosed during hiring but I didn’t realize it would have her out 3 days a month.” The manager could go to the employee and say “I need to have someone cover your X tasks when you’re out sick so I’m going to have her transfer you the Y tasks which can be done over the VPN.”
      Chronic conditions can be as simple as a patient gets a disease that isn’t often seen in this country, or one that is usually seen in much-older/much-younger patients. And it can be as complicated as a series of tentative diagnoses none of which respond to treatment or show up under testing, that turn out to be exposure to an allergen that she’s been told isn’t in the food.

      1. K*

        Yeah, it could be really anything. I know a girl with a handful of autoimmune disorders, there’s no one in the world with her mix of issues so she doesn’t have a clear diagnosis for an overall issue, just vague sub-diagnoses. Sometimes there just isn’t something, or sometimes there is and it can be extremely difficult to find.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        Also chronic autoimmune disorders (of which I have three diagnosed but they suspect, yet cant really diagnose, two more) are more often than not, invisible, so people tend to not believe one is “really” sick.

        1. Else*

          Also, they tend to come in groups, just so you can look different than the superficial Mayo descriptions available to most people. Also also, they often have symptoms that look like things that are not syndromic, so people want to start calling these zebras horses. And so on.

          1. AnonEmu*

            This. A lot of people don’t realize that even well-managed celiac still has a systemic toll, and I know I’m at risk of other AIA issues later in life. I have family with celiac + diabetes, for example. And even when I get glutened, I may be able to go to work after the worst day has passed or so, but I’m still gonna be dealing with the skin blisters/fatigue/migraines/gut issues for at least a week. Autoimmune issues can look invisible but take a huge toll (plus they seriously up your basal protein requirements bc the immune system is a protein hog)

    9. Observer*

      Part of being an adult, never mind being a boss, is understanding that you do not get to control everything. That actually happens to include your employees!

      The OP and her employer came to an agreement about how her work absences are going to be handled. The OP is holding up her end of the bargain and is also doing her best to make sure that people know when she’s going to be in or reachable or not. If you, as a supervisor, get “flustered” by that, that’s your problem. If it actually has some significant impact on work, then you need to have a conversation about that.

      But, you do NOT EVER have these conversations behind the employees back. And the diagnosis or lack thereof is utterly irrelevant.

    10. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I apologize if this is harsh, but the boss has no right to know about the OP’s diagnosis. Knowing someone’s diagnosis doesn’t change the fact that unpredictable absences can be frustrating. Instead of focusing on whether OP is lying (!?) and acting like a garbage person, the Boss needs to focus on the actual problem—dealing with the out of office-ness.

      If the OP has to call out more than the boss realized, then the thing to do is come up with a contingency plan, knowing that those absences are going to happen. That’s a normal and reasonable way to approach ADA accommodation, which sounds like it may apply for OP.

      Given that there is a small degree of predictability for things like snow or non-urgent health appointments, OP should do their best to communicate those absences in advance. It may not make a huge difference, but it gives the boss some flexibility to try to come up with a solution. And if the boss requires medical confirmation about the nature of the accommodations (i.e., a doctor’s note), then that seems relatively reasonable. If I were OP, I would stop communicating the details of why I’m absent.

      I have two chronic illnesses, one of which leaves me immuno-compromised. Oftentimes I can’t predict when I’ll need to be out of office. But I have pretty good processes for how to deal with work while unexpectedly staying home, and it may help OP to remind their Boss of the processes they agreed to when OP was hired.

      1. AKchic*

        I don’t think this is harsh at all. I agree with you. I have chronic conditions too, and yes, it *is* frustrating. I don’t want to be out of the office more than other people. I don’t want to be at more doctor appointments, I don’t want to be home suffering from the conditions I have. I don’t want to be at home knowing that my work isn’t getting done, feeling like I’m being judged, and now knowing (in this letter’s instance) that my boss is telling people that I’m lying about my condition(s) to skip work. There are days where if I push myself to work rather than stay home and handle my condition, I will hurt myself and end up in the hospital, or end up staying home more days to recover. I’d rather not do that.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          The best “everyday” analogy I have encountered to explain life without enough spoons to someone who’s never had a chronic condition: pneumonia. Someone can have walking pneumonia and carry on for a fairly long time, as long as she’s able to rest frequently. But then comes tax season and her company needs her to work 60 hour weeks — so she ends up in the hospital. Which she wouldn’t have if she’d kept working 40 hour weeks.
          I wish I could remember where I ran across that to give credit.

          1. OG Karyn*

            I just have to say, I so very much appreciate your use of spoons! A dearly departed friend of mine who had several chronic conditions before being ultimately diagnosed with several cancers showed me the spoon post and it was a Godsend when trying to explain my thyroid condition to people.

            1. designbot*

              I had never heard of this, so thank you both for calling attention to it! I am currently stocked with sufficient spoons, but spent about a year on a very limited spoon budget, and this would have been so helpful to be able to talk about it.

              1. Airy*

                I have never understood why so many people find spoon theory a satisfying metaphor when a spoon can’t be used up, can be immediately re-used if you’re not picky about how clean it is, and won’t replenish/clean itself if you wait. Am I just too literal-minded?

                1. Jasnah*

                  I don’t like the spoon metaphor satisfying either. I have played enough video games that “lives”/”hearts”/”energy bars” makes intuitive sense to me so I use that instead.

                2. OG Karyn*

                  If you read the actual piece it comes from, it makes more sense – she wasn’t using the Spoons as a metaphor so much as she was simply using something physically and readily available to quantify how much energy she has at a given time and to give a visual representation of that energy being drained. It’s not about the spoons as much as giving someone a physical idea of something that can’t, by definition, be physically observed.

                3. Spoonie*

                  The spoons came about because of the origin story of the theory – there were literal spoons being used to represent the idea. It wasn’t chosen to be a “satisfying metaphor”. It was what was at hand when the originator was expressing the concept for the first time.

                  And yes, I think you are taking it WAY too literally. It’s a metaphor. Feel free to replace with whatever suits you if it works for your brain. But the originator used spoons, because that’s what she had on the table. And so that’s what she wrote about, and that’s what others responded to, and so it’s spoons.

    11. LadyL*

      But if you have a chronic illness/pain, and you are going to the doctor and they don’t have an answer for you, what are you supposed to do otherwise? What would be the better option?

    12. fposte*

      I don’t think it’s stickier at all. It’s understandable that the manager is frustrated, sure, but I don’t think anybody’s said anything to the contrary. What she’s actually *doing* isn’t acceptable, and her being frustrated doesn’t make it so.

    13. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      The bottom line is that the OP gave her boss a heads up before she took the job. Unless the OP severely underplayed the seriousness of the medical condition, the boss is 100% in the wrong. She already 100% in the wrong for the WAY she’s handling the situation.

      1. fposte*

        Even if the health-related absences were a surprise to the boss, there are protocols for how you handle it, and this isn’t it.

      2. Jennifer*

        I don’t think it’s 100% wrong to think that her attendance issues are more than she can handle right now. It’s okay to revisit that with the OP. I hope she revisits it with compassion and they can come up with an arrangement that works for both of them.

        I agree that the way she went about handling it that was wrong.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes — to be clear, the fact that the OP discussed it in advance doesn’t prohibit the boss from realizing it’s not working and revisiting it now. The issue is that she’s not doing that the way she should be.

          1. JessaB*

            Accommodations need to be reasonable. And sometimes it takes some experimenting to find one that works for both sides. It’s not a situation where you have a talk, set up an accommodation and that’s it. Forever. An awful lot of times it becomes something that everyone thought would work but didn’t. That’s when you have a second discussion. You don’t, however call people liars etc. If you really honestly think the employee is lying, you go to them and ask for documentation. Not all their private medical information, just something from the doctor that describes what accommodations are needed.

        2. Sloan Kittering*

          Yes the boss may have legitimately underestimated the amount of absences between snow and work, particularly if OP is cautious about snow driving. That one is particularly tough, because in a lot of workplaces there’s really no accommodation for fear of driving in nasty weather (ask me how I know). So the boss may have been thinking the road is only impassable a few times a year, but OP calls out if there’s a foot of snow which happens more often, for example. Raising things in an interview really isn’t much protection if the boss is unhappy and wants things to change. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the boss is completely miss-handling this, if they’ve never brought the issue up to OP and if they are legitimately gossiping with other people behind OP’s back.

          1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

            I worked somewhere that opened in the snow such that staff would get stranded there and couldn’t get home. One guy spent the night in a homeless shelter. Another nearly got hit by a snowplow walking to work in the street in the dark, while it was whiteout snowing, because the sidewalks were impassable. A third left at the end of the day and found her car encased so encased in ice she couldn’t open it, and had to break the ice while sitting on the ground because it was too slippery to stand.

            1. AJK*

              I also used to work somewhere that did not close under any circumstances and you were penalized, attendance-wise, if you didn’t show, no matter how much snow there was. I lived an hour away, so I spent many nights in a hotel or on co-workers couches. One morning I set out for work in a snowstorm I hadn’t expected and ended up landing in the ditch twice in one morning, in the same ten mile stretch of road. (Someone helped me out the first time, the second time I went so far off the road I needed a tow truck.) I made it in to work… four hours late.

          2. Jennifer*

            Yes, maybe they both needed to be more specific. I know of someone with a chronic illness who misses about two days of work a month. At her job, it’s not a big deal. At some places, it would be. Maybe that on top of the weather issues is just too much for boss to handle.

            1. fposte*

              I also wondered if remote work was expected to be more of a solution than it turned out to be.

              1. Jennifer*

                Yes, she said she works in higher ed, and her boss is a nurse, so I’m guessing that there is a good amount of work that must be done on-site. It seems from the letter that she’s limited in what can be done from home.

                I wonder if there is a way she can just focus on her “in-person” work when she’s on-site and save the online work for her remote days? Hard to say.

            2. Dust Bunny*

              I rather suspect this: The boss should have asked more questions but perhaps the OP understated her absences, or didn’t realize that she would have as many as she now does working that far from home (maybe at her preceding job, the commute wasn’t as problematic).

              1. Jennifer*

                An interesting post would be how to bring this up during the hiring process and what to say. If you have four or five doctor’s appointments a month, when do you say that? After you get an offer? During the interview? Another would be advising employers on how to seriously consider if this is something they can work with.

                1. fposte*

                  Generally that’s after you get an offer. You want them to be invested enough in you to be willing to work something out. I think there may have been a few posts that have addressed this–if I find one I’ll post a link.

                  On the employer side, my immediate reaction is to go to HR :-). My goal would be to articulate what reasonable accommodations we could offer (we might be able to do half days but not whole days for appointments, for instance, or certain days of the week might need to be untouchable) and then get back to the candidate with this information; if HR wants me to request documentation, that’s when I’d do that as well.

    14. Zap R.*

      I didn’t have a diagnosis for 17 years. I am certain that teachers and employers thought I was faking. Turns out something was very wrong, I need invasive surgery, and the damage is probably irreversible. Being “flustered” is a small price to pay for someone’s ultimate well-being and quality of life.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        I hear ya. Solidarity from Seattle!

        It took me 20 years of being “young” and “imagining” things before the first doctor, who incredibly was listened to by other doctors (as opposed to listening to me…the person actually affected) before they started paying real attention, looking at things thst matched my symptoms/complaints, running tests, etc., etc., etc. so frustrating on so many levels.

        Never really been sure if they thought I was just BS-ing them all those years or what…

        1. Anon For Mental Health*

          Oh gosh, double solidarity! I have bipolar II with suicidal ideation when in full depressive cycle. It’s well controlled on meds now that it has been diagnosed properly. But throughout my twenties my concerns were persistently waved away by my therapist as “You’re just young and having trouble growing up.” What a tragic outcome that could have led to, in the nearly-two-decades between identifying a problem and getting it diagnosed accurately! You’d think a mental health professional would be better attuned to the signs of a fairly common condition, but apparently Being Young is too confounding a variable for many people’s differential diagnoses!

    15. Psyche*

      The boss may have a valid concern about the excessive days out. And that is a valid concern that should be addressed. But telling all her coworkers she is lying is a very very bad way to handle her frustration and completely inappropriate.

    16. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from reading this site is that most of our frustration (as managers, but I think it applies to most other sources of frustration as well) comes from feeling powerless.

      I imagine I would be really frustrated if I were the manager of an employee who wasn’t able to work as often as I needed her to work, no matter how valid the reasons for her absences.

      But the manager needs to remember that she’s not powerless. There are lots of things she can do to make this situation better:

      – Get clear about whether the LW’s absences are a problem, and, if so, what about them are problematic. Is it that the LW’s absences mean that she doesn’t get the volume of work done that the manager needs from this role? Is the LW’s work quality poor? If it is, why is that? Does she miss out on important context because she’s out of the office often? Is she rushing things because she is scrambling to catch up?

      – Reallocate assignments so the LW has more work she can do from home (or work that is less time-sensitive so she can catch up after her absences, etc.)

      – Negotiate accommodations with the LW that make sense for the employer as well as the LW: how much notice does the employer need for scheduled absences (the imaging appointments, etc.)? How will the LW handle catching up after unplanned absences?

      – Decide that this role needs someone who is in the office more consistently than the LW is able to be, and work with the LW on an exit plan that gives her ample time to transition.

      (and so on)

      Note that none of this requires knowing details about the LW’s health (or commute).

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from reading this site is that most of our frustration (as managers, but I think it applies to most other sources of frustration as well) comes from feeling powerless.

        Yes! I actually think this is at the root of a huge portion of manager frustrations (often when they actually do have power and just don’t know how to use it).

    17. Anon for this*

      1. It’s very possible to be in pain and/or sick for years without a diagnosis. Ask me how I know.
      2. It is not a manager’s job to be in control of her employees’ health care or diagnoses.
      3. At no point should the manager be discussing her opinion of her employees’ health situation with her other reports.
      4. No manager should need to see test results and lab work to verify the health situation of her reports.
      5. If the manager has issues with her report’s performance, she should be taking those up with that person directly. Not with the employee’s peers.

      1. nonegiven*

        >At no point should the manager be discussing her opinion of her employees’ health situation with her other reports.

        The fact that she has been, means she should get no information at all, beyond “I’ll be out on medical leave, date from x-y.

    18. Oaktree*

      If someone’s sick, they’re sick; it doesn’t matter what their diagnosis is, and you’re not entitled to know what it is or if they have one. That’s intrusive and entitled.

      My province has legislated that employers are not allowed to require sick notes or grill employees about what’s wrong with them, and it’s because of attitudes like yours.

      1. Gerald*

        Sick notes are almost always allowed to be required after an amount of time (the most liberal legislation is usually 10 days – if you are sick with an illness for at least 10 days, then your workplace can require a medical professional’s note). The premise is to minimize the number of people going to a medical office for notes instead of treatment, and if someone is still sick after 10 days then it’s not unreasonable to expect them to get a note / get treatment.

        1. Dr Wizard, PhD*

          10 days would be nice … we have to do so after 2.

          Which, yes, leads to a lot of ‘Doctor, you and I both know that this is a bad cold. Can I get a note saying so? Thanks.’ and paying €60.

    19. Jessie the First (or second)*

      “However, to be honest, I’d be very flustured if someone kept calling in sick but didn’t have a diagnosis”

      I disagree so very hard that the situation should be frustrating for the boss because of a lack of diagnosis. The lack of diagnosis affects the LW, and it affects LW’s medical care team. It does not affect the boss, not in any way. It *does not matter* – all that matters is that the LW has a chronic health issue, and that it manifests in ways that mean LW needs accommodations to her schedule and will call out sick more often.

      A diagnosis would not change a single thing about that. The sick days and symptoms would be the same, right? The attendance and call outs would be the same.

      The diagnosis is just part of the piece that shows this is a cluterf*ck of boundary issues for the boss.

      1. boo bot*

        Not to mention, knowing the diagnosis just opens up new avenues of inappropriate judgement and boundary-crossing (especially because the boss is a nurse, and might feel even more of a right to opine than the ordinary busybody.)

        “You have Llama-Oatmeal disease? That’s not serious, my sister has it and she’s fine.”
        “You shouldn’t be eating that, with your condition.”
        “What you need is to be at work and active, not staying at home.”
        “I know someone who fixed that with green tea and positive thinking.”

        1. Banana Pancakes*

          This is exactly my experience with getting disability accommodations in both educational and workplace settings. If you give people who are already being weird and rude an actual diagnosis, they just funnel their energy into questioning that instead. The problem isn’t that they don’t know how you’re sick or when you’re going to be sick, the problem is that they believe you’re getting away with something you shouldn’t be and they’ve decided to be a “hero” about it.

    20. Janie*

      How do you… think people get diagnosed? Do you think it’s just “oh, I’ll take an afternoon off and pop over to the diagnosis store”? Because I’m sure my friend who’s working on year 25 without a diagnosis would love to know where that is.

    21. ClumsyCharisma*

      The diagnosis is none of the boss’ business. Yes, I’m at times frustrated when I have people who cannot keep a consistent schedule because of illness but it’s not up to me to give a pass to someone whose illness I know and understand and be harder on someone whose diagnosis is a mystery.

    22. Former Retail Manager*

      While I agree that the boss’ behavior is out of line and unacceptable, I also see what you’re trying to convey here. I have been in this situation when I was in retail and it was awful. I worked more than one double shift because the employee called in and no one was available to cover the shift/they refused. After about 6 months the mgmt. staff began wondering if the health issue was real or not. As flexible as retail can be, it still creates a burden on others in one way or another when someone doesn’t show up. We eventually decreased her hours because she couldn’t be relied upon to show up. We told her in advance and clearly explained why. She appeared to take it well. She then quit citing too few hours and moved on to a different employer??? I later found out through the grapevine that she had done this both before and after she worked for our employer. We never pried like this boss or crossed that line, but it was beyond frustrating and created a scheduling nightmare.

      If the OP’s health issues are in fact causing more issues than anticipated, could dropping down to part-time potentially be a solution? Or trying to find something closer to home to deal with the snow issue and a closer distance might enable a more flexible work schedule if OP has a medical appointment?

    23. RUKiddingMe*

      I think OP’s boss should have explored a bit deeper…how often is “more” often…what can I as an employer accommodate regarding absences due to *any* reasons at all…how often is driving likely to be a problem…etc. and can I do this? *Before* she made an offer and an agreement with OP who made a point to be crystal clear before even being offered a job.

      Boss made an agreement and now wants to move the goal posts. Ok, her prerogative, but she has no right to demand medical info beyond a letter saying “yeah OP needs accommodations.”

      Moreover it was shortsighted to not assess her ability to absorb absences and OP doing WFH. I know no one can predict perfectly, but she should have looked at it more closely before hiring OP.

      On top of all of this she is gossiping and speculating about OP to coworkers.

    24. Holly*

      The boss may have a valid concern, but isn’t doing her job. I once had a teacher give me an 80% on a project I thought I really nailed. I asked her why I didn’t get a higher grade, and she said “well, I think you plagarized.” Of course the response was (1) Why wouldn’t you talk to me about it? (2) you’re giving me 80% for plagarism? Why wouldn’t it be zero? (2) If the boss thought she was really lying about her illness she needs to (1) talk to OP (2) take proper disciplinary action!

    25. Amelia Pond*

      It sucks even more to be the person that goes years without a diagnosis, with people believing you’re making it up or crazy. And continuing to believe that even once you have a diagnosis. This boss has absolutely NO RIGHT to gossip and spread lies behind he LW’s back. None. Nothing excuses what she did.

    26. EtherIther*

      I think you really need to examine your feelings here. Why would you be flustered if someone kept calling in sick without a diagnosis? That reaction is NOT required – there is no reason a diagnosis should change your reaction. Even without a diagnosis, people with all sorts of medical issues need time off (and often without notice).

      Also, why do you think you need (or are entitled to) “control” when the an employee comes in? You can’t control that. You will NEVER have control over whether or not people come in – you can’t control other people. You need to think of what you DO have control over – discussing the issue with an employee, for instance. Even if OP was absent too often for the job and was laid off, the boss would have control over that.

      But the fact that you approach this with the idea of “I would not have control so I am justified in feeling flustered” is YOUR problem, not a problem with a sick person taking leave when they need it.

    27. Batgirl*

      That’s not the main point though…calling someone a liar to the team is no way to go about it.

    28. Former Employee*

      “I’d be very flustured if someone kept calling in sick but didn’t have a diagnosis, and not feeling like I had any sort of control over when they’re coming in.”

      Why does Mazzy think that the employee’s having a diagnosis = the manager’s having any control as to when the employee comes in?

      There are all sorts of chronic illnesses which can be diagnosed, but aren’t especially treatable. Just because certain chronic illnesses now have some treatment options available it doesn’t mean that any of those treatments will work for a given individual. Also, many medications for chronic illnesses have side effects which can make them unworkable for a significant minority of patients.

      While the manager isn’t a “monster” (I reserve that term for people who hurt animals and children, serial killers, etc.), she certainly seems to lack the character to be in charge of anyone.

    29. Not So NewReader*

      Reality is that it can take years to get a diagnosis. Something we (society) does not discuss much is that people are dying before they even get diagnosed. My husband was one of those people. It took them months to figure out what was wrong, he died several days after they figured it out. This means he never got any treatment, he just went for test after test. Sixty seven medical appointments in thirteen weeks.
      His story was a short one. Other people live much longer waiting to find out what they have. And this is happening all over.

    30. Kettles*

      It took a relative 9 years to get a diagnosis for a condition that means he has to inject pain medication into himself once a day. The fact that no-one could figure out what was wrong didn’t mean his pain magically went away, however inconvenient it was for his co-workers.

  4. INeedANap*

    If you’re working in higher ed (not sure what educational institution means), honestly I would suggest you go straight to HR. A boss willing to do this isn’t someone who can be trusted to have the kind of sane, rational conversation Alison is suggesting.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I felt the same way. If multiple people are saying that Boss told them this, I’d have a hard time having a one-on-one with them without becoming emotional (upset and/or angry). In an ideal world, the script Alison lays out is great, but I’d have a hard time getting through it.

      1. INeedANap*

        I would also be concerned that Boss has already shown their willingness to lie about employees; this kind of talk opens OP up to having their words twisted, deliberately misinterpreted, or lied about. I would be concerned that any interactions with Boss about this may actually be actively harmful to OP for that reason.

        1. Ice and Indigo*

          And also … OP, is your boss, by any chance, one of those people who approaches other people’s problems with an impervious, ‘It’s not a problem until I agree it’s a problem, and if I don’t understand it, I can’t agree about it and it doesn’t exist’?

          Because if so, and she’s a nurse, she could do harm to her patients. What you describe is her wildly overestimating her own expertise and making rash judgements on that basis. That is … not a good attitude for a practicing nurse, and someone might want to check in on that.

  5. Amber Rose*

    I get this crap a lot from my work too. Be prepared for the vague lecture.

    My boss expressly told me, in a passive aggressive “not talking about you but a hypothetical someone” way, that anyone using all their sick time is just looking for extra vacation days. And when I tried to use Alison’s scripts, I got more of the “again, not talking about you, but there are some people, and there are some people who think that looks bad and maybe they’ll think oh, if that person calls in sick all the time I should too.”

    It went around in a circle for an hour and was exhausting, so while I do agree with Alison’s script, be prepared for it to fail completely in the face of poor management.

    1. Tisiphone*

      I hate that kind of vagueness. I had a boss do it to me back when I was in my early 20s. My boss called me into his office to discuss a theft from the cash register. I was completely oblivious to the subtext, and responded only to what he explicitly stated. I’m a fan of detective stories, and I took this as an opportunity to solve the mystery of who stole money from the cash register and asked questions about how much money and when it was discovered. Once or many times? I got that it was $20 on Date (once only) and then he dismissed me, saying this was going nowhere.

      But I knew who had stolen the money by that time.

      A couple days later I realized he was not asking me to help him solve the mystery, he I did stole the money and I wasn’t sticking to the script.

      I never told him who did.

      1. boo bot*

        I love, so much, that you responded like this.

        Passive-aggressive behavior often goes completely over my head, and over time I’ve realized that even when I do notice it, it’s best to pretend I don’t. Subtext is for novels and mathematical notation.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Boss: “not talking about you, but a hypothetical someone”
      Me: Okay, I understand that part. Now I want to move the conversation to talking about me. I want to know where you stand with my accommodations for illness and weather.”
      Boss: “not talking about you, blah, blah, blah”
      Me: “I am trying to limit this conversation to being about my situation. What are your concerns with my attendance.”

      After making three attempts to get a solid answer, then go to HR. “Here’s the conversation I had with my boss regarding my accommodation. I asked three times and did not get a clear answer relevant to my own work effort. I can explain line by line how those attempts went……”

  6. Rusty Shackelford*

    Um, yeah, your boss is awful.

    I would have hoped that my boss, a nurse, would understand the severity of certain chronic conditions and been more sympathetic and less judgmental.

    Based on my personal experience with nurses, this hope is unfounded.

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      Then you have met some shitty nurses. While I’ve had one or two that weren’t great, my overall experience has been that nurses (as well as CNA’s, LPN’s etc…) are some of the hardest working, most caring, and least appreciated people on the planet.

      1. blackcat*

        YMMV, but in the experience of quite a few of my friends, people who are excellent nurses can still be shitty bosses/managers.

        It’s one of those fields where people end up managing others without getting training/experience managing.

        1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

          It’s also not uncommon for people in care professions to use up all of their sympathy reserves on patients and clients, and not have much left for employees or coworkers.

          1. Nic*

            Sadly it’s also not uncommon for people in the care professions to use up their sympathy reserves on patients/clients with known illnesses that they can do something about, and take people with mystery conditions as a personal insult. I’ve read of a number of world-renowned experts that cannot get their heads around the idea that medicine hasn’t finished discovering stuff yet – and turn to blaming the patient for daring to be ill with something that no-one’s slapped a diagnosis on yet.

            1. Amelia Pond*

              Yep, I’ve had countless doctors tell me I’m crazy… even when I have evidence of not just abnormal lab tests (that they did not inform me of, until my mom started requesting my records and researching them) but pathology reports from multiple tumors. The Mayo Clinic in Minnesota missed two of them, which I didn’t blame them for the first time… but when I went back with evidence, for seemingly unconnected problems, I was told that no, they didn’t miss anything, I was crazy. Each time nearly broke me and the last time I was just soooo bonkers, but it’s a long tale. But doctors believe me now, especially with the genetic test, I’m just too complicated for them to deal with. Yay…

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        I should have specified that I mean nurses in my personal life, not nurses I’ve seen in a healthcare setting. Yes, they are hard-working and caring. But they’ve seen it all, and they work in a field where it’s almost impossible to take a sick day themselves) so they often have a “suck it up, buttercup” attitude for someone who is their friend or coworker or family member and not their patient.

        1. BookishMiss*

          My mom is friends with a variety of health care professionals, and after she disclosed my spouse’s diagnosis to them (yep.) they all apparently spent a good long while trying to figure out who his providers were! My exboss tried the same thing – and sent the office a “give bookishmiss all your pity” email to boot.

          OP, I can only recommend a very strict information diet a la Captain Awkward for anyone not intimately involved in your medical care/life. It has made my life, and my spouse’s, a zillion times easier, and honestly it works just as well at work as it does with faaaaaamily. I wish you all the best in getting treatment and a diagnosis, and all the luck in managing your boss.

      3. Ice and Indigo*

        Can’t speak for Rusty, but I’ve certainly met some shitty nurses. Including at points where I was mid-medical crisis and in no position to protect myself. It’s one of the noblest professions, but that doesn’t make everyone who works in it a nice person.

        Of course I’ve met lovely ones too, for the record.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          My mom was a nurse, her mom was a nurse, *her* mom was a nurse, all of their friends were nurses. Good to their patients, crap to everyone else…every single one of them.

      4. Pommette!*

        That “hardest working, most caring, least appreciated” ethos can be harmful to health workers.

        Nurses are often expected – by colleagues, managers, and administrators – to sacrifice their own health and wellbeing to care for their patients. Nurses I’ve known where expected to work when were sick; to work extra hours when they were exhausted; and to put up with downright unsafe or abusive work conditions (e.g. abusive patients). It seems as if some (many?) nurse managers have internalized those unhealthy expectations, and impose them on their employees. (It doesn’t help that, as blackcat points out, those managers often don’t receive much training or support to deal with their new role).

        1. Not So NewReader*

          My nurse relative pointed out that many nurses have kidney problems because they fail to use the bathroom any where near as often as they should.

        2. Jennifer Juniper*

          *glares at whoever makes nurses work when they’re sick*

          That policy would result in already-sick patients coming down with whatever the nurse has!

    2. Agreed*

      I came here to share this same sentiment. I work for a nursing program at a college right now, and it is by far one of the most toxic places I’ve ever worked (I’m actively trying to get out). There’s no respect for privacy or boundaries here, so I was not remotely shocked by anything in the OP’s letter (including the gossiping coworkers, the environment is probably encouraging that behavior). I think part of the problem is that nursing programs train nurses to be nurses. But there’s a need for nurse educators/administrators, so some are going to end up in those roles but they may not be prepared for them (or potentially they end up there, but don’t want to be?). That’s my best guess of why the environment is like that. But the OP has my sympathy. I left work once with a migraine (mine are the “I need to lie down in a dark room for several hours or else I may vomit” kind, not the “it’s annoying, but I can push through” kind) and our associate dean (also a nurse) made a comment about how I left work “because of my headache.”

    3. Pommette!*

      Came here to say the same thing.

      Some of the worst workplace abuse horror stories I have heard have come from family and friends who are nurses (especially nurses working in hospital or other settings where coverage is required). Think repeated angry phone calls to someone who refuses to come in on no notice during his or her day off, or harassment of someone who calls in sick when he or she is sick. If that’s the manager’s background, she may have internalized some horrible attitudes about health, illness, and work.

      I’ll also say that all of the most dismissive, ableist, all-around horrifying statements I’ve heard about people living with chronic illness or disability, I heard from people who are health professionals. That kind of attitude is certainly not universal in the field, but it does seem disturbingly common. The fact that someone is a nurse is no guarantee that they will be sympathetic or non-judgemental.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        “…all of the most dismissive, ableist, all-around horrifying statements I’ve heard about people living with chronic illness or disability, I heard from people who are health professionals.”

        As someone with invisible disabilities…yes so much this.

    4. Pommette!*

      I came here to say the same thing.

      Nursing, in particular, is a field where there is a widespread expectation that people will work while ill, even if working is likely to make their illness worse. It’s normal for hospitals, in particular, to be chronically understaffed, and to fail to account for the fact that nurses, like every other human being, are going to get sick and need time off. I’ve seen relatives and friends get abusive phone calls from their managers (themselves nurses) for trying to take very reasonable time off.

      I’ll add that some of the most horrifyingly ableist/intolerant statements that I’ve ever heard about people with chronic illness or disability, I heard from healthcare providers. It’s not a universal attitude, but it’s one that is common enough that you can’t assume that someone with a background in nursing will necessarily be reasonable or sympathetic towards employees with chronic illness.

  7. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    It’s a power play. I honestly and fully believe her end game is to see your medical records so that she can diagnose you herself. Pure ego. Since she asked you once for them, and you rightly said no. For you, question asked and answered. For her, insubordination, judgement of her medical expertise and challenge to again, ego.
    When you have the conversation with your boss, that you very much need to have, do not fail to address this part. This is what her subversive attack is about. She thinks she is going to get public/peer opinion to force you to give up your records.
    You definitely need to tell her you heard from people that she thinks you are lying about your medical condition. “Other than giving you full access to my medical records, I don’t know how to convince you.”

    1. Annette*

      LW, do not address this part because it is pure speculation and might make you look paranoid at best. Stick to facts.

      1. Lisa B*

        And definitely don’t say “Other than giving you full access to my medical records, I don’t know how to convince you,” because pretty clearly she’s going to say “yes, great idea, give me full access to your medical records.”

        1. Lance*

          And also, as a further point, unless OP has proven untrustworthy elsewhere (I doubt it), then why should they have to convince the boss that they’re actually having health problems, especially on the basis that their existence (in general) was disclosed before hiring?

    2. AnonyMouse*

      There needs to be a qualifier in there if the OP is going to use that line: “Other than giving you full access to my medical records, which would be inappropriate because you are my employer….” or “… which I am not comfortable doing…”

      Also, I’m not super familiar with healthcare laws but I feel like the employer requesting this information has got to somehow be a violation of HIPPA

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I am super familiar with health care laws. It’s not a HIPAA violation. HIPAA doesn’t cover either the patient opting to share their own medical records, or other people asking them to do so. (Note: That doesn’t mean it’s *okay* for the employer to ask it. Just that HIPAA isn’t relevant to this situation at all.)

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Nope, HIPAA mostly just applies to health care professionals releasing info. That said, it could potentially be a violation of the ADA if the OP’s condition is covered under that law.

    3. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      Oh wow, reading the responses, I see that the tone of my last statement was not what I intended. OP writes that boss has asked for the medical records, and I was writing a response to that if it came up again.
      Also, OP definitely do NOT address this with your boss. I think it’s a factor OP should use to inform the conversation, but nothing will be gained by challenging/questioning boss’ motives. Absolutely deal with facts, but be aware that there is probably more going on in the background.

  8. Narise*

    If the attendance is an issue, and OP has only been at worked for 6 months, she does not qualify in the US for FMLA. I know the ADA may protect her by offering ‘reasonable accommodation’ but I’m not sure when it comes to attendance how much time is reasonable since OP stated working from home is limited due to tasks available online.
    Is there any risk that by having this conversation now with her boss she will push her boss to document and work towards dismissal due to attendance issues? Or stop being as flexible with time off in the future? I don’t mean to complicate the issue but I do wonder if without this protection OP may be at risk of being dismissed.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There’s always a risk when you confront an issue head-on that it’ll nudge your boss to take action sooner than they otherwise would have. My bias is to do it anyway unless you just need a paycheck at all costs no matter what, because (a) it’s awful for your quality of life and awful for you professionally to stay in that limbo, and (b) it’s likely to come up eventually anyway and you’re generally better off taking some control of the situation and having the conversation than not.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It’s possible, but if I were OP, I would follow Alison’s script and immediately make sure all of my absence-related stuff was on file with HR.

      Even if the FMLA doesn’t apply to OP yet, the Boss’s behavior is textbook FMLA interference. The claim might not accrue until OP is covered by the statute, but OP should still make sure they’re covering their back (because it sounds like this situation might turn into a legal conflict).

  9. ThinMint*

    “It’s possible that your absences have ended up being greater than she’d realized they would, or that they’re having a bigger impact than she’d anticipated”

    I would bet that it’s this. She handled her feelings about this in absolutely the wrong way. I do think OP needs to be prepared to hear that the way it is currently going is no longer working for her boss. Just hoping the boss does the right thing and now communicates that clearly if that’s the case.

    1. Observer*

      That’s possible. I think it’s unlikely, but definitely possible. The thing is that if this IS the situation, the OP is in a much better position to deal with it if the manager acts like a reasonable and decent human being.

    2. this way, that way*

      I think its this with the add that since the OP is giving them tidbits of information (imaging, etc) that OP is inadvertently giving her co-workers and boss the opening to guess or second guess what is wrong and that compiled with different opinions on the road hazards is causing the issues. I don’t think its right but I can see where OP is giving her co-workers and boss the ammunition to fuel this spiral.

    3. Mediamaven*

      Yep. It sounds like a lot of out of offices. And when there’s a lot of ambiguity around it, well, it’s not a good look.

    4. Dan*

      Here’s what I picked up on in the OP:

      “When I’m unable to work in-person, I almost always work remotely for at least a few hours a day (as much as I can, as there is limited work I can do online). ”

      I work in a telecommute-friendly office (the nature of work requires us to allow certain types of telecommuting to stay in business) but if you want 8 hours of pay, you are required to do 8 hours worth of work. There’s no way around that, other than to take personal leave for the time you are not directly working on projects. We work for the government, and are required to account for our time, so there’s less ambiguity about “how much work you are really doing.” And if you charge project time and you aren’t doing work, it’s a federal offense.

      I can easily image a scenario with OP where there’s a particularly bad week, with a mix of snow/ice and illness in there. If the OP doesn’t make it into the office the entire week, her wording reads to me as if there are some days she doesn’t work at all, and on a good day maybe gets a half-day of work done. IMHO, there’s no way the boss “agreed” to having this little amount of work accomplished.

      TL;DR: If you telework and get in 8 hours of productive work, nobody’s gonna notice. But if you can only get a half day in, too many of those are going to add up real fast.

      1. Alfonzo Mango*

        This is the part confusing me too.

        Is she taking sick time PTO? Or is the work not getting done? Is she not working the full 8 hour days remotely?

  10. Cartographical*

    “Flames. Flames on the sides of my face.”

    My sympathies as someone with an “invisible” disability. Mine is genetic and non-degenerative and nameless to date (it seems to be a weird version of a more common disorder) but it sure makes me disabled — there’s no treatment beyond pain management and no cure. That’s the part that makes people (inappropriately) suspicious — they can’t, and don’t want to, understand that you can be really sick and still have no answers. Doctor House isn’t real life. I find this is super scary for people and so they assume I’m lying instead of having to accept that they live in a world where you can be suffering for no known reason and with no known solution. It’s an unfair burden on top of being disabled and/or ill — and adds exponentially to how hard it is to stay employed.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I hear you. A neighbor’s MS was diagnosed early and she jumps through hoops to keep it from progressing — and even though she’s a very senior employee, she worries at every management change that someone will take away her access to some of those hoops.

    2. t1diabetic*

      Speaking as someone with a very common chronic illness people refuse to acknowledge that it isn’t something I brought upon myself for the same reason. People can’t deal with the idea that they could get sick and stay sick forever and there’s nothing they can do to prevent that.

      But people can easily blame mine on what I ate (even if that makes no sense) while without an easy diagnosis, it’s easier to accuse you of faking than to come up with a way to blame you for “bringing it on yourself”.

      1. London Calling*

        Which is why I keep my illness a secret from everyone at work except my manager, HR and one friend for mental support. What can I tell them except it’s caused by a DNA mutation that suddenly decided to activate itself and there’s no cure, only control? I don’t want that conversation about ‘But what CAUSED it? what’s going to happen?’ (I dunno, not being a geneticist, and nothing, with any luck and regular monitoring – it’s not progressive or degenerative). There are too many gossips in the office and I want my life to be as normal as possible.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        Defense mechanism – if they can blame you for your illness due to something you did or failed to do, then it won’t happen to them because they will do all the right things. See also: ‘what was she wearing’ and ‘if she made him happy he wouldn’t cheat’.

        It’s not right, but it’s very common. Knowing why helps me dismiss them, and helps me argue with my own self-blame.

        1. London Calling*

          A bit like appeasing the gods. ‘I said the right prayers, she didn’t.’ Well, as I discovered a few months ago, doesn’t work like that. When I was having my bloods taken one day to test for this mutation, the nurse did say that some people blame themselves for something they did or didn’t do, when it’s like blaming yourself for having blue eyes instead of brown

    3. RUKiddingMe*

      Silly Carto

      If you have all your limbs and/or can walk you *can’* be disabled…


    4. Kettles*

      I think it’s related to the just world fallacy. Certain people would rather assume people are lying than accept the fact that sometimes when it comes to health, there are no answers, there is no cure, and you just have to cope.

  11. LaDeeDa*

    “One more thing: You might be inadvertently playing into this dynamic with your boss in ways you don’t realize. It sounds like you’re being more open about your health condition than you need to be at work — people don’t need to know that you’ll be out having imaging done or that you’ll be at X hospital.”

    I often find that people get into your business because you open up your business to them. If you are getting imaging done, then that is usually an appointment, and you book that time off, and you put an OOF message in your email and on your voicemail. Unplanned absences-you speak to your manager, and if appropriate team members and keep it to the minimum “I am out sick today, I will available for part of the day by email/phone.”

    1. It’s a Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s SuperAnon!*

      This is a good point. My manager and team lead know I have a partially diagnosed condition that leaves me fatigued. Everybody else knows that I occasionally work from home when I am sick or have a doctor’s appointment. It’s not that I am hiding my health issues, but the details don’t have any bearing on why I am out of the office, just that I am not up to coming in that day.

      I applaud LW for being up front with her own condition, because it can be scary to be that vulnerable. But maybe holding back some details is a better option for the time being, until things settle out with her manager.

    2. General Ginger*

      Unfortunately, some offices do very much have a culture/expectation of you disclosing all that.

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        I knew someone who possibly foiled that. When they mentioned the word “proctologist,” the boss replied something like, “You can have the time off. TMI!”

  12. starsaphire*

    Until I got to the “ice and snow” part, I was seriously wondering if I’d written this letter about OldToxicJob and just forgotten about it.

    I too had a “manager” (scare quotes because she never, ever managed us) who discussed behind my back WITH HR that she thought I was faking my disability. And that basically declared open-season on me and every accommodation request I made, doctors’ notes or no.

    I am so sorry you are dealing with this. I hope you can find a better solution than I did (to wit: I walked away with no new job to go to).

    Best of luck, OP. *ninja hugs*

    1. WhoKnows*

      HR didn’t shut this down? That’s insane. If you’ve filled out accommodation paperwork, can they do that?

      1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

        They can claim that a proposed accommodation isn’t reasonable, for one.

      2. starsaphire*

        HR was perpetrating it. It was a daily battle. I looked into legal options and couldn’t afford them, so I walked.

        I have a great job now and I’m much happier. I’m still in touch with former co-workers, and so if anyone else decides to fight the good fight, I’m willing to testify, but otherwise… *shrug*

  13. sunny-dee*

    I think it’s a one-two punch here, weather issues and health issues, and they’re being blurred together (by the boss and kind of the OP).

    With all the hand-waving that the boss is totally in the wrong here, it sounds like the OP has taken a lot of days off last minute, unpredictably, and not related to her illness at all. My guess is that the boss is extremely frustrated with the overall amount of time the OP has taken off and that’s creating a BEC situation all around. Especially since, after awhile, you kind of expect someone to get their act together and figure out how to make a situation work. “The highway is shut down because of snow” is unavoidable. “I don’t like driving on ice” feels like something that could be worked on as the days start piling up.

    So then you hit the health-related absences, and I think the boss (irrationally and immaturely) has hit her compassion limit and is not that sympathetic to the excuses. So it goes from “OP is out for legit health reasons” to “OMG, is OP out sick again?”

    The boss’s behavior is totally out of line, but I can kind of understand her emotional state. She’s just handling the situation terribly.

    1. Colette*

      This is a good point. The OP can’t do much about the medical stuff, but the living situation is probably a big part of the issue.

      The OP says she can’t move, which might mean that she needs to find a job closer to home, find another way to get to work when it snows (even if it takes a long time), or find a job where she can effectively work from home. An hour is a long commute at the best of time, but if she doesn’t show up when it snows, that could easily make this an unworkable situation for the boss (although the boss should be dealing with it much differently than she is).

      1. Psyche*

        Yeah. Depending on how often the weather related absences happen, I can see the boss feeling like she should have worked it out by now. I have lived in places that snow a lot and you buy a car that can handle it. I knew people who lived on streets that didn’t get plowed often, so they bought attachments for their truck so that they could plow their way out. If this is normal winter weather, you are expected to find a way to deal with it. Another friend who lived in the mountains had chains for her tires. None of it is applicable if the weather is extremely unusual for the area.

        1. Janie*

          You also need to buy a car that suits your financial and physical needs. Getting into or out of a large vehicle can be brutal on the body. Not to mention how much more fuel large vehicles tend to use.

          That’s not a good take tbh

          1. Tiny Soprano*

            Her chronic illness may also prevent her from performing an activity like putting chains on her wheels.

            1. Janie*

              This. Not to mention you can do all those things and it can STILL be dangerous to drive in bad weather.

      2. TootsNYC*

        or, she may need to find ways to spend the night in town on the days when bad weather is in the forecast, so her commute is not a factor.

        It might be expensive (hotel, AirBnB, relationship costs if asking to stay over with a friend). But it might be necessary.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          LW, while maybe you can explore these options, if you can’t do it (illness, cost, dependents with no other care, etc), then please don’t blame yourself. In the end, you have to manage your life as best you can, and us internet strangers don’t know your situation like you do. Good luck to you.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Thank you for saying this. I’m not OP but just reading all the suggestions I was thinking “maybe she *can’t* do that.”

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      There are solutions, too.
      Pre-laptop, my company had a hard production deadline once a week. More than once a blizzard showed up on that day — and they booked me a room at a nearby cheap hotel. Problem solved.
      (I’d have been content with a guest bed in a co-worker’s house, but the people working on deadline with me were living in micro-studios!)

    3. Who? Me?*

      While I have all the sympathy in the world for the OP and think the boss is outrageous for what she told the co-workers, in the end, work needs to get done. It sounds like this job is not a good fit for the OP.

      1. Ice and Indigo*

        I think that’s a bit less than all the sympathy in the world. It’s certainly not helpful advice.

        1. Lemon water*

          It may not be sugar coated in the way people today want things said, but it sounds like its the truth and its helpful to know the truth even if you don’t like it.

        2. Who? Me?*

          I *do* have all the sympathy, but whether the problem is the driving on ice/snow or health, a solution has to be found. And that solution may end up being finding another job that is either closer to home or with more PTO, flextime or fulltime WFH.

          FWIW, helpful advice is not always easy to swallow, but it may be true.

        3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Really? I think it’s super helpful advice.

          The LW is in a crappy situation: she has an illness that doesn’t have an end date, a commute that isn’t changeable, and an out-of-control boss (and/or lying coworkers) who is upset with things the LW can’t change. I certainly would advise a friend of mine in that situation to look for something else.

          1. One (1) Anon*

            “Look for another job” is pretty dismissive, though. Presumably the OP has thought about this already?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Sometimes that’s the answer — “this is unworkable and your energy is better spent on job searching.” Sometimes that’s the answer I give too. I don’t know that it’s at that point here, but I do think it’s something the OP needs to be thinking about.

            2. Ice and Indigo*

              In this economy and with the current state of workers’ rights, it’s not helpful to be overly blithe in assuming that another job is easy for someone who needs medical accomodations to get. Especially when the answer to ‘Why did you leave your last job?’ is ‘I needed medical accommodations and the boss resented it,’ and when relocation doesn’t seem to be a possibility.

              Perhaps it was a question of tone; it seemed a bit of an assumption to say ‘The work needs to get done’ when OP explicitly says they work remotely. It’s assumimg the boss must have a point when she’s demonstrably unreasonable. Bosses do not always have a point.

              Don’t get me wrong; a different job would mean a different boss, which would be an improvement. But in this situation, and presented this way, it felt like there were some assumptions unfair to the OP.

      2. Jessie the First (or second)*

        The boss is not a reliable source of information on what problem may or may not be caused by LW’s absence.

        She’s gossiping about the LW and spreading (false) rumors about her to her peers, she wants to examine the private medical records of her direct report, and she has not remotely hinted to the LW herself that attendance is an issue.

        So I don’t see how you can take those facts and extrapolate to “in the end, work needs to get done.” We have no idea whether work isn’t getting done in a way that’s a problem for the organization, and we certainly have no reason to trust that this crazy bananacrackers boss is somehow coming from a reasonable, justified place.

        1. Who? Me?*

          If the OP is out of the office (weather, dr’s appts. whatever) and can’t perform all tasks via telecommuting, assignments are probably not being completed in the required time. That’s just physics. You can’t put 10lbs of sugar in a 5lb sack.

          I’m not saying that the OP is not a good worker. It just doesn’t seem that this position’s requirements are a good fit for the OP’s situation. Another job with more PTO, flextime or fulltime WFH could be an excellent solution.

          1. Ice and Indigo*

            But that’s the point: saying OP’s job can’t be done out of the office is a guess, not a fact.

            1. Who? Me?*

              The OP explicitly said the job couldn’t be done 100% from home because not all the students didn’t use the online system provided (they weren’t required to do so).

    4. EH*

      “…it sounds like the OP has taken a lot of days off last minute, unpredictably, and not related to her illness at all.”

      Where did you get this? Re-reading the letter, the LW says they “always keep my boss in the loop about weather or illness.”

      1. Avocado Oil*

        Weather is unpredictable, most absences require a 24 hour notice to not be last minute waking up to snow is last minute. It does sound like it has been a few times from the letter.

      2. TootsNYC*

        the one example she gives is “I’ll be out next Friday for imaging.” So it sounds as though a lot of her absences ARE planned.

        Sure, some may not be. But when you’re in “getting diagnosed” mode, you are often dealing with scheduled appointments.

        1. sunny-dee*

          No, I’m talking specifically about the weather-related absences. What I’m saying is that the high number (high being more than 1 or 2) of last minute weather-related absences are piling on the scheduled health-related absences.

        2. Geography Matters*

          Maybe just my assumption but I was assuming that by OP mentioning it that it has occurred on more than one occasion. With her being new and and in a 6 month time frame more than once would be excessive.

          We moved from Atlanta Ga, to St. Paul Minnesota for my husbands job. In Georgia if we had snow that stuck the city shut down, in St. Paul in 12 inches of snow my neighbor helped my husband put chains on his tires and he went to work. We quickly learned the value in paying to have our driveway plowed.

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      I agree with this. The open speculation about OP “lying” about her health is beyond the pale, but having someone who is often not at work and is limited in what they can do remotely could be tough on the team as well. The combination of weather-related call-outs and a lot of medical absences – and I can’t tell from the letter if this is one day a week or a couple days a month or if keeping Boss informed is a day-off call-out or more advance planning – means that work has to be done by the rest of the team because OP isn’t able to make it in. It might be that one would not be a big deal but both in combination are creating problems for both OP and the employer. (Though, if the employer has a problem, that should be addressed directly and not in the manner that it has.)

      I would honestly recommend looking for another job. Boss sounds like an absolute nightmare, and, absent some strong support from HR, I’d not want to work for someone whose response to frustration is to gossip about me to other employees rather than addressing concerns with me.

    6. a1*

      I’m somewhere in the vein, too. Yes, the boss is behaving totally wrong here. This is bad management, for sure. Even being forewarned of frequent absences, she probably expected something different than reality. But now, here they are with reality and thinking “well, I did say she could work from home, take time off unexpectedly, etc” so now what? Rather than discussing with OP, she’s probably saying or replying to things like an inquiry of where OP is of when to expect a reply from her, etc with something like “OP is sick again” with a visible eye roll, or a “yes, snow issues again” while making air quotes with her fingers. Really immature. Hopefully if the OP does take the initiative as outlined by Alison, they can have the right kind of discussion. It’s sad OP has do this rather than the manager, but it needs to be done.

  14. Jennifer*

    I thought the same thing about sharing that you’re having imaging done at a certain hospital. No one’s business. All they need to know is that you won’t be in and whether or not you’ll be able to work from home after your appointment. Giving more information than is needed just gives people more fodder for gossip. Sometimes they even try to do their own little bogus investigations and figure out what’s going on with you, which seems to be happening here.

    If you are in the US you may want to look into intermittent FMLA. I think a generic doctor’s note might be the best way to go to shut her up. You absolutely don’t need to give her your blood work or MRI results.

    And hugs. Being sick is tough enough without having to go through all of this with the doctors AND your job.

  15. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Your boss is terrible.

    Sadly you’ll find those with medical backgrounds among the worst in these cases. They are often biased and argumentative about the conclusions of other medical advisory that you’re currently under. It’s the God complex at work. Nobody is ever as smart as they are etc.

    Honestly I’m at a loss for dealing with it. I would just let her stew and assume you’re lying. You’ve already given her more than enough details. She’s just awful AF.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      I used to work at a job where one of the owners had been a dentist. The company paid all insurance premiums (super good), but required information on what was done at dental appointments before covering the costs (bad).

    2. I coulda been a lawyer*

      I once needed a doctors note that I was recovered enough from the flu to return to work. Dr insisted I had to take 3 more unpaid days off because I needed rest. The irony? The nurse who took my vitals was sick; she didn’t have paid sick leave either, and said she would be fired if she took off unpaid.

  16. Chronic Illness Sufferer*

    LW, please protect yourself. You should absolutely have the discussion that Alison outlined, but you should also formally submit for reasonable accommodation.

    I have a series of rare medical conditions that generally take 10-15 years to get proper diagnosis. I was denied reasonable accommodation, then ultimately ended up losing my job. There are legal remedies for this type of situation, but as someone still dealing with the initial medical issues and the repercussions of what happened, you don’t want to have to deal with that long, intense process. Its best to make sure accommodation is in place and make sure that everything is documented well. Also, if your condition is genetic, your employer asking for test results, other than being inappropriate, in a violation of GINA.

    1. fposte*

      I totally agree that the OP should submit a request for ADA accommodation. However, it’s quite possible she’s covered by the ADA anyway just as a result of requesting absences for her chronic medical condition–the courts have been very clear that an employee isn’t required to say “ADA” explicitly for the law to apply. That mostly matters 1) to her employer, who should understand that they’re not off the hook just because the employee didn’t say ADA and 2) as a remedy if the OP suffers negative job action as a result of her absences, and I definitely agree that the OP should bring it up. I just wanted to expand to note that her not saying it doesn’t mean she’s not protected by it.

    2. Soveryanon*

      Yep, that was the first thing I thought of – OP needs to go to her (?) HR department and get this all officially documented and get them involved in the interactive process. The employer was put on notice of the medical condition and the OP’s need for accommodation; they can’t now just throw up their hands and say “we need to see your medical records or you’re lying!” It’s inappropriate for the manager to see those, anyway.

  17. RUKiddingMe*

    Listen to Alison not to me because my first reaction is that your booss can go pound sand. Which of course doesn’t help. Just letting you know thst this anonymous commenter is supportive.

  18. voyager1*

    I am going to disagree with AAM. Do not start with a conversation, start with an email. Definitely use the script AAM provided but put that in writing. I don’t think you can trust this manager at all. I mean talking about your medical stuff is just so darn out there she doesn’t deserve the benefit of doubt that she can be trusted. Good Luck.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I wouldn’t do this conversation in email. It’s a conversation, and that’s not what email is for. She should absolutely follow up with an email to document it, but this is a conversation to have face to face.

    2. CCM, Ltd*

      To me, this would come across as very hostile and as the boss, I’d immediately be on the defense (the boss might feel like this regardless of how OP approaches her, but I don’t think it’s useful to start out the conversation in an antagonistic way).

      It sucks to have to have to be the adult when your boss is acting like a teenager, but acting reasonably will likely result in a better outcome for the OP.

    3. BRR*

      I agree that the documentation is important, but sending it via email is has a “roommate left a note” feeling about it.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        Also, people can read it over and over again and assign whatever tone they want to it.

  19. yup*

    Ugh, what an awful situation.

    OP, I think you need to break this down into two parts – a short term and a long term one. If your commute prevents you from being in the office and you are in a role where it is necessary and you are having to take time off for health issues, I don’t see this as a good fit in the long term. For right now, I think you need to focus on how you can manage to be the most productive/ visible. Is there someone you can stay with locally if there is going to be bad weather? Are there affordable AirBnBs nearby you could get reimbursed for? I would start there.

    Also, I know you have befriended this coworker, but you have only been at the job for a few months. Is it possible your colleagues are bitter about the amount of time you are taking off and are trying to pin it on the boss? I would hate to think this is the case and I like to believe most places are good but sometimes negativity breeds negativity.

    1. TootsNYC*

      were I a business owner, I wouldn’t reimburse someone for an AirBnB that they were going to stay in because of their weather-reliant commute.

      And if this is higher ed, I bet they don’t have a budget for it.

      But the expense might absolutely be worth it. And if she has any friends or friendly colleagues whose commute is good, it might be worth arranging to stay over with them when bad weather is in the forecast.

      Sure, it’s difficult–I don’t mean to imply that it’s easy. But it might be needed.

      1. Kettles*

        If OP is a part time worker with a chronic illness, I sincerely doubt they have $60 spare for every time it snows.

  20. Psyche*

    Another thing you want to evaluate is whether this job is good for you. I have chronic health conditions and had a job that was a terrible fit. It started a downward spiral where the long hours and stress made me sicker which made me miss more work which made me more stressed. My boss also didn’t seem to believe my medical problems (despite being in the healthcare field) which added to my stress even more. My health improved dramatically when I finally left.

  21. Anonynonymouse*

    Alison gave great advice, so I just want to answer the question of whether you should be upset.

    YES!! Reading your letter, I’m infuriated for you, it is so inappropriate if she really is saying all that.

    Good luck!

  22. Not Fair*

    I think your boss is a jerk, and its a crappy way to treat workers. I also don’t think this is the right job for you if there is a limited amount of work you can do online. With the weather you are dealing with (I’m not going to question whether you are right or wrong but keep in mind co-workers always will), and adding in the chronic illness you really need a position where all of your work can be done online if you cant make it in. Its not fair for you to be talked about and get a reputation for not showing up, and its not fair to your co-workers to cover so much.

    1. Bob*

      This is basically the best summary of my thoughts too. Crappy boss, but the situation overall just seems like its not going to be a good fit in the end.

      1. Tiny Soprano*

        Yes, it makes me wonder how unreasonable this manager is in general… Doesn’t sound like a great work environment.

  23. Anax*

    It feels like the manager might be partially annoyed by “convenient” timing – that the OP might be missing work disproportionately on Fridays, or Monday mornings, or on days when tedious or awkward meetings are scheduled. I’ve heard that that sort of timing can increase the perception that someone is faking illness, because it coincidentally extends their weekend or gets them out of an unpleasant task.

    I assume that in the OP’s case, any such “convenience” is pretty coincidental – say, “I have a standing appointment every fourth Tuesday which happens to take place during the team meeting”, or “I like to have treatment which will make me tired on Friday so I have the weekend to rest”, or “I was late on Monday because the county doesn’t want to pay the snowplow crews overtime, so they run a skeleton crew overnight on weekends.”

    Obviously, there are plenty of perfectly reasonable reasons this might be happening. But… if that’s part of it, do y’all have any thoughts on combating this impression?

    1. Anax*

      (As a sidenote, this is definitely what comes to mind for me personally, because my own chronic disabilities mean I’m much more likely to be unable to work late in the week. I’m autistic, and if I become overloaded, the only thing that really helps is a LOT of sleep and quiet. Like, fifteen hours of sleep.

      That’s obviously not really possible on a workday, which means I basically start with a limited pool of energy on Monday, and if I’ve run out by Friday… I’ll have a really hard time working, because I can’t concentrate or form words. I try to budget appropriately, but sometimes unexpected things come up, and my brain just doesn’t handle ‘unexpected’ well.

      It’s a nonphysical issue, it’s normally resolved after one day, and it’s disproportionately likely to occur on Fridays. The optics are Probably Not Great.)

      1. wittyrepartee*

        I honestly think this is true of a lot of people, even when it comes to viral sicknesses. People travel on weekends, which puts them at higher risk of Monday sickness (meeting new people, changing sleep patterns), and a lot of people who got exposed to a cold will start to show symptoms when they get more run down towards the end of the week. Doesn’t change the perception issue, but I bet it’s an actual disease pattern.

        Also, could you do a remote day on Wednesdays? I have a friend with social anxiety who was really helped by having a planned day away from people in the middle of the week.

        1. Anax*

          That’s reassuring; I worry a lot, and it does seem like a potential factor in OP’s concerns.

          For myself, I’m just settling into a new job – this is my one-month anniversary! – so I’m still figuring things out. I may request a remote day a little later on, when we’re out of the training and getting-to-know-you phase, and I have a better handle on how things will usually go.

          Working from home is a mixed bag for me, though it’s an excellent suggestion. It gives me more control over my environment, and especially when I’m VERY overloaded, it can help a lot – I’m much more likely to be able to work if I can sit in a blanket fort with earplugs and my support cat, while hand-flapping and rocking to my heart’s content. A lot of my self-care involves tightly controlling sensory inputs, and you can only do so much of that in an office.

          If I’m not so overloaded, it’s often a little frustrating to work from home, because I need to work from one tiny laptop screen with a pack of bored cats begging for attention, and my comfy, comfy bed staring alluringly.

          A more ad-hoc work-from-home schedule may be the way to go, but it’ll probably take me a few more weeks to figure out exactly what would be best for me. At my last job, it helped a lot – I was dealing with customers, public transit, and regular interruptions, which was A Lot.

          This job is easier on me, but that doesn’t completely prevent overload – sometimes, the cat pukes, the water heater breaks, the neighbor’s car alarm won’t stop going off, and everything is just internal screaming forever.

          1. JSPA*

            If there’s nothing too confidential, “work half day on laptop from underused corner of public library with good internet” might work. If there’s one near work, you can even come back for any essential meetings. Check the schedule first for regular events.

    2. Doodle*

      Or, you schedule medical treatment for Thursday or Friday so that you have the weekend to recuperate.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Just to add one more wrinkle, this year the storms seem to fall on the same day each week. So if the boss is ticked because you took every Wednesday off for weeks in a row, keep track of the fact that it stormed every Wednesday for weeks in a row.
      My bible study got canceled for five weeks in a row because of storm after storm. It was Wednesday so it was snowing.

  24. 2 Cents*

    OP, I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. To echo what Alison said, definitely don’t overshare what’s going on. It’s OK to let your work BFFs know, but rando coworker doesn’t need to know what you’re doing where. What might be more helpful is to include in the emails if/when you’re available by email/phone/text (if you’re getting imaging done, you can’t take your phone into the MRI). So, “Hey all, I’ll be working remotely today. I’ll be checking email regularly, though not from 1-3 p.m.” (or something like that, if your work is time-sensitive).

    As a fellow chronic illness sufferer, it took me awhile to get a definitive diagnosis. You know your body and if you aren’t feeling right. Don’t let this horrible manager convince you otherwise. (Also, I guess she’s God’s Gift to Diagnostic Medicine if she can see what your issues are when trained specialists can’t? LOL)

    1. Spring flowers*

      I agree that OP is sharing too much and giving her co-workers too much to speculate about and opening up ways for them to second guess her diagnosis(or diagnosis her). I feel like the real issue is that OP’s work can’t be done from home, so that is taking a bigger toll than anyone thought that maybe the amount of time she is off was not what the boss was thinking it would be.

  25. Emi.*

    “My boss has decided this in part because I haven’t brought in my labs and medical records to show to her, because she is convinced that she can figure out exactly what is wrong with me, even though six years of specialists haven’t been able to, either.”

    Oh my word. Is this part of what you’ve heard from your coworkers, or has she said this to you directly?

    1. London Calling*

      Having been diagnosed with a chronic condition and feeling like the hospital is my second home ATM I’m deeply sympathetic to the OP but if this is second hand it’s possible that Chinese whispers (not to mention a degree of embellishment and straightup mishearing) might be at work here. We had a staff get together with a motivational speaker last week and one person who wasn’t there was told that the CEO said there would be no payrises this year (which no-one else heard. As if the CEO would say that in what was meant to gee us up to be enthusiastic for another year…)

    2. OP*

      This is verbatim. She, at least once or twice a week, suggests what is wrong with me, despite never having seen so much as my hospital bracelet.
      I have my own gripes with her medical expertise, but that is irrelevant to this conversation, haha.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Why not say, “Jane, I really prefer not to discuss my medical condition at work. Thanks for understanding.”

        And then, if necessary, “I’m really uncomfortable with discussing my medical condition at work and am asking you to respect my privacy.”

  26. Jennifer*

    Can you work ahead when you’re feeling well so that less work falls on other coworkers when you’re out? Not sure if that will work for you, depending on the type of work you do.

  27. M2*

    Most educational institutions will tell you about days off. Having my partner work at one they usually message and say no one come in except essential staff (they know if essential) or opening X hours late. Being an hour away shouldn’t change the weather much from where you work so I would say unless it’s a snowstorm or your work cancels you should try and make it in or take paid time off. I know it sucks to shovel yourself out but I think you’ll have to handle the snow issue for next year.

    The health issue is a big red flag. Your boss is out of line but she may be questioning since it sounds like you have taken off a lot of time for snow. I would get a doctor’s note.

    I also would be aware. I worked in a similar situation and the person brought ina doctors note but basically always called out. Our employer also gave substantial paid sick leave and once that was used you were able to get an additional 6 month period of 50%-70% of your paycheck while still on sickleave ( this was for people who had cancer, etc). Legal and HR got involved and the person actually wasn’t protected under ADA and ultimately were fired. So just make sure you cross your ts and dot your is and go in when you are well.

    1. Anax*

      I can actually tell you from experience that depending on the topography, one hour can be an enormous difference in weather. In the Flat Corn Fields of the Midwest, 15 degrees Fahrenheit and an extra foot of snow isn’t uncommon – I can only assume that in the mountains, the difference can be bigger. More to the point, a lot of more rural areas get snowplowed MUCH later than urban roads and major highways, which may make a road truly impassable.

      It may be that this job isn’t a good fit because of that, but it feels a little bit condescending to frame this as a ‘too lazy to shovel your driveway’ issue, when it sounds more like a ‘rural vs urban commute’ issue.

    2. BadWolf*

      An hour can make a big difference where I live too. Snow vs rain. Sleet vs snow or rain. 8 inches vs 2 inches of snow.

      1. nonegiven*

        30 feet. No trouble getting out the door, to snow drifted up against the storm door waist high.

    3. blink14*

      My elementary/middle school was on the state line, and the school went by the closest major town weather forecast – which was in the other state. I cannot tell you the amount of times we had school cancelled halfway through the day or our bus couldn’t get to school because the actual local weather varied hugely, with less than a 10 mile distance from the neighboring, out of state town. Eventually my parents started keeping me home on bad weather days, and 90% of the time school closed early.

      Even where I live now, a difference of 10-20 miles can be the snow/rain line, or the difference between a few inches and a half foot, its very common to have such varying weather. OP lives in a valley, which probably means her workplace is on the other side of a mountain range, which could mean drastically different weather.

    4. TootsNYC*

      Being an hour away shouldn’t change the weather much from where you work

      This is so wrong.

      Geography and weather are MUCH more complicated than that.

      Plus–did you really not read the letter? She lives in a valley, so that it absolutely going to be very different weather than up on the hill next to it.

      There are many comments here that point out the things that can influence this. One municipality might not have much in the way of snowplows (smaller towns have less money and less pressure).

      An hour can be 60 miles away. I’ve been surrounded by slippery snow in Manhattan and gotten out of the subway in Queens, about 6 miles away, to clear skies and streets.

    5. Nic*

      Can I point out that depending on the health issue and symptoms, spending energy on shoveling yourself out may well result in LW using up all their energy/”spoons”/wellness for the day, and subsequently not being well enough to work when they arrive at their job, or even not being well enough to drive themselves to work. I know it doesn’t seem like the weather call-outs are health-related – but actually, they may be!

      1. CheeryO*

        That’s kind of irrelevant, though. The bottom line is that OP needs to find out if her absences are actually an issue, and if they are, she either needs to figure out ways to reduce their frequency or find a new job. It sounds like this may just be a bad fit.

        1. fposte*

          Yes, I can understand why that would be physiologically true(it would be for me) but that doesn’t mean an employer is required to accommodate it.

          This is one of those situations where the limitations of an employee can be absolutely legitimate but it can still also be absolutely legitimate that an employer can’t accommodate them.

        2. Nic*

          It’s not irrelevant to the person I was commenting to, who was of the opinion that OP should just deal with shoveling their own snow and get into work regardless.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      An hour’s travel can be much bigger than you realize.
      I live in central Connecticut at an altitude of 417′. I drive 45 minutes to work along the coast at an altitude of 66′. Home-to-office weather is very different. Two examples: One Monday this winter I woke up to 3 inches of solid ice but my office had a chilly rain. Another Monday I woke to 9 inches of wet snow but my office had a 2-inch dusting.

    7. Tinker*

      “Being an hour away shouldn’t change the weather much from where you work”

      Someone needs to file a defect against the Rocky Mountains, then.

      1. twig*

        And the Sierra Nevadas!

        1 hour’s drive can mean as much as 2,000 feet elevation difference (or more!)

    8. Janie*

      It seems OP lives in a rural area. You can’t really shovel out the entire road if they’re slow to plow you.

  28. OP*

    Hi folks.
    First of all, thanks a million for all of your support, feedback, thoughts, and perspectives. I appreciate all of you a lot. I just wanted to clarify a few things!

    1. I only work part-time. I’m in a sort of job desert, if you will, and so it’s next to impossible to find a job closer to home (but I am trying, and I am hopeful). Because of my part-time status, I don’t get any real “sick days” or other employee benefits that might help me navigate this situation. I suppose that’s part of the anger- my boss knows that if I don’t come to work, I don’t get paid, no ifs, ands, or buts. I could never afford to not come to work just because I don’t feel like it.

    2. Because I am undiagnosed, it is exceptionally difficult to get disability accommodations. If you ever want to know what real frustration looks like…

    3. My job is actually able to be done 100% online. If my office closed, I could still work. As a matter of fact, last week the office was closed for a school break and I still did my job. When students come to my office for my help, if I’m not in, they are redirected to the website to submit their work, which I can review from home and send back to them. As a matter of fact, it’s far more efficient this way- I can get more work done in less time. However, if they choose not to submit their work, that’s not something that I can help.

    4. I always let my boss know about scheduled appointments, and do my best to schedule them while I’m not working, but because my hospital is close to two hours away (that rural living, right?), I occasionally need to leave an hour early to make it before they close. I always clear it with my boss first, and if she says I need to change the time of my appointment- done. I also, after sick or snow days, check in with my boss when I come back, apologize, and ask if my attendance is an issue. She has consistently said my attendance is fine, that my work is high-quality, and that she has no complaints. I suppose that’s the other big aspect of my anger- I have opened up the conversation multiple times to talk about if this is an issue, she has said no multiple times, and then she tells all of my coworkers that I am a liar. Being undiagnosed comes with its own frustrations, depression, and humiliation- my coworkers being told that I’m lying to them and calling off for the sake of calling off adds a new level of shame that I feel isn’t deserved.

    I hope that cleared up some questions or confusion.
    If y’all have any other questions, let me know!

    1. KGP*

      OP, are you sure that your co-workers are telling you the truth?

      I know you said you have a good relationship with the person who initially told you, but is it possible that your co-workers are the ones who are frustrated with you being out and are putting it on your boss (making her the bad guy rather than just addressing the issue directly)?

      1. fposte*

        I was thinking that, but then there’s that weird thing about the boss being so invasive and wanting medical records. OP, would it be possible for you to shed a little more light on the records request and how that squares with “she has no complaints”? What else is happening in the conversation when she requests your medical records?

        I can’t tell just how much remote work is possible; here it sounds like you got more than I inferred from the initial post. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound likely to be any more viable than it is as long as students have the option of not submitting online.

        If she’s really intent on denial you may not get past that, but if she brings up the records thing again, that might be the time, in addition to saying no, to ask why this is a concern when she’s said she’s pleased with your work.

      2. OP*

        Honestly, that’s a great point. Unfortunately, I’ve had other coworkers confirm what the original coworker said. It’s a pretty small office, and none of my coworkers are affected when I’m out because we cover different work. Given that, and my boss’s need to be in control, I’m inclined to believe them.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Do they believe YOU?

          Do they think she’s out of line? Since it’s a small office, your reputation may not be in as much danger as you think.

          But it is infuriating.

          1. OP*

            They do! I’ve mentioned that it’s a small office and we’re all pretty friendly- we’re all in our 20s and get along really well even outside of work. We’ve gotten food and they’ve watched me take pills I need to take before I eat and that sort of thing. I’m Facebook friends with a few people, on which I’m very open on about my medical care because it’s such a large part of my life.
            Similarly, they’ve got no reason to believe I DO lie about it, but my boss is definitely a “pay attention to me and acknowledge my authority” kind of person. Because of all of that, I’m not particularly concerned about my reputation. I appreciate the thought, though! Truth be told, it never even occurred to me my coworkers might consider me a liar, haha.

            1. KGP*

              Got it — then I’ve got nothing that hasn’t already been suggested. The situation sucks — I’m really sorry that you’re having to deal with it!

        2. KGP*

          Got it — then I’ve got nothing that hasn’t already been suggested. The situation sucks — I’m really sorry that you’re having to deal with it!

    2. LGC*

      …yeah, you don’t have a call out issue, you have a “my boss is a jerk” issue.

      Best of luck in getting this sorted out! Normally I’d tell you to DTMFJ (with “job” subbed in for what the A usually stands for), but that doesn’t seem like an option.

    3. blink14*

      OP – not sure what your current work schedule is, but would condensing your schedule be a possibility? Say instead of working 5 days part time, working 3 days at a full time schedule?

      If you could do that, you could hopefully arrange most or all of your medical appointments to the other days you have off. I also am in the midst of being diagnosed with a chronic condition (on top of one I already have), and the appointments are exhausting, and I live in a major city! I also have lived in a very rural area, and I know how important it can be to plan a to do list when you go “in town” and knock things off that list all at once.

      A more condensed schedule could also really help with commuting – it would cut down on your commute time, especially in the winter. It might also be more motivation to make that commute in less than ideal weather, because you’d be putting in a full day’s time, vs. a partial day. This may also have a more positive outlook with your boss – you’re in for those designated dates, you’re doing your best to arrange medical appointments on the other days (but not mandatory to), and she may feel like you are putting in more time, when really it’s the same amount of time.

    4. Emi.*

      Given 3), I’m confused about “always work remotely for at least a few hours a day (as much as I can, as there is limited work I can do online)” from your letter. Is it the issue with students not submitting things online?

      1. OP*

        Essentially! Students are encouraged to submit online in general, but especially when the weather is bad. It’s an option we encourage (again, because it’s REALLY efficient), but if they choose not to use it, they forego help.

        1. Doodle*

          Start requiring students to submit online. I don’t know if you have the authority to do that.

            1. valentine*

              Imagine zero impediments to working from home and, including your commute and seven-day availability, calculate how many more hours you would’ve been able to work these six months. Is it closer to the number of hours per week you were hired for? (I like the advice for a condensed week on-site, but I think your health won’t allow you to make that commitment, unless you know on Monday, for example, that you can definitely be in Wednesday-Friday.) If so, sit down with your boss and tell her that, with a combination of requiring online submission and you remoting, you expect to be able to work x hours per week or y per month.

              It may be that she’s one of these irritating people who say q is okay because they think that makes them sound good or that’s even who they want to be, when they’re really a butts-in-seats person. If you’re asking her each time, after the fact, if not being in was okay, that’s too much and may be having the opposite effect. It’s too late to tell you, she doesn’t feel she can demand you show up when you call out, so it’s just a reminder of this situation she refuses to take charge of.

              Unless there are shared tasks like answering phones, I don’t see why your colleagues need to know when you’ll be out. Stop giving details, as your boss may think she knows things like, “That hospital only does imaging on Tuesdays, so OP is lying” and I fear she may use her status to seek out your health information.

        2. Lemon water*

          So which is it you can’t do your job online, because students don’t always submit online or you can do your job 100% online. It sounds like you cant do it online.

          1. fposte*

            I understand her as saying theoretically she could do her job 100% online but it doesn’t work like that in practice. So she can handle those that do submit online remotely but there are still those students who didn’t who need to be served.

            1. Lemon Water*

              That is how I read the post that OP can’t do the job from home only some of the job. Which means they cant do the job at home. I’m not sure why OP is not clear on this because it makes the job a bad fit and makes me wonder if they don’t see this piece what other pieces of this puzzle is the OP not seeing in the right light. The boss is still a jerk, either way.

              1. MayLou*

                OP could do all of her work from home, if the boss made it a rule that students submit work online instead of/in addition to in hard copy. This is pretty standard anyway – I’ve not heard of an educational institution that doesn’t use Turnitin or another online plagiarism detector, so even if they also require hard copies of work, digital submission is the one that is considered the definitive “this is what was submitted, and the time it was submitted”.

                OP couldn’t require all work to be submitted electronically, but the boss could! Not necessarily to always replace in-person work in the office, but to reduce the disruption if that’s not possible. Clearly the infrastructure exists, so this is about the boss refusing to implement a policy which would meet OP’s needs and also ensure that work gets done.

      2. Anax*

        From what OP said, it sounds as if they might be doing something like academic advising or working at a writing center, and that part of their job in person involves being available for drop-in guidance – their actual workload isn’t always super high, but that ‘on call’ factor is valuable to the office.

        If that’s right… OP, I wonder if you could help mitigate this by offering Skype appointments. I know a lot of college students aren’t big fans of phones, but if you offered Skype calls in combination with online submissions, you could have the interactive conversations your office might be valuing, and you could also accommodate more readily accommodate nontraditional students – e.g., ones who are working part-time, who have irregular hours, who have long commutes, who take a lot of evening classes.

        (And more billable hours for you, which sounds like a good thing!)

        Perhaps you could have Skype hours two days per week, and in-person appointments the other three, or something similar?

        1. Butter Makes Things Better*

          Skype appointments are a great suggestion — it could cut down so much on their unpaid days and boss’s concern with absences. I hope OP sees it!

          1. OP*

            It is a great suggestion! Unfortunately, we don’t have the software to support the work that would need to be done. I’m not sure if you guys saw, but there is an online submission that students are encouraged to utilize, which functionally does the same thing as a Skype appointment (but without my poor students seeing me in my “I think I might actually be dying” pajamas and ponytail).

            1. Anax*

              Yep, I saw that; what I’m thinking is that your boss might be valuing those in-person office hours more than you’ve realized, and that might be a point of friction – having a way for students to have an interactive conversation that gets closer to the in-person experience might help, even if it means having to get out of pajamas. (Which I know, super sucks, I love pajamas-from-home days.)

    5. Jules the 3rd*

      1) I love how everyone is giving practical solutions
      2) Your boss sucks. She’s going to lie to you again. Given what you say here, that she’s said there’s no issue when asked, bring in HR now but in an indirect way. Before you go to your manager, reach out to the university’s HR contact in charge of ADA / FMLA, and just have a conversation about ADA accommodations that the university sees as reasonable, and mention you think you’ll mention some of them to your manager. Then have the conversation with your manager, put in the ‘wfh / skype / other solutions that HR mentioned’ suggestions. Follow up with an email, cc’d to the HR contact.

      You’re going to need someone with authority looking over her shoulder.

      1. fposte*

        FWIW, I suspect the OP won’t get enough hours to be eligible for FMLA even when her year is up. If so, focus on the ADA (and that’s better anyway because you can do it right away).

        1. Sarah N*

          I’m not sure how possible it would be to get ADA accomodations without a diagnosis, though? I’m not an expert, but I think that would be very challenging.

          1. Psyche*

            Most likely they have concrete tests that show some dysfunction but don’t have an exact name to put on it. So the OP probably has a placeholder vague diagnosis like “autoimmune disorder” that can be used for the ADA.

          2. fposte*

            Fortunately, it’s not. All you have to do is meet the standard: a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity. You don’t need to say why you can’t walk unaided; just that you’re medically adjudged as needing assistance when you walk.

      2. Nic*

        I wonder – in the UK, our universities have a disabled students support service, which has staff who in addition to their study support service, can either assess student’s needs from first principles (what can you do?/how do you do it?/how often can you do it?) or refer them to a specialist company who can assess them.

        Could OP talk to her equivalent people about how she would go about getting assessed for a formal statement of her accommodation needs? Or if they can only help students, they might have information available on a website. Then she could take the suggestion to her boss (or a higher boss), and – if they agree to her getting one – it would serve two purposes: to bypass the lack of diagnosis by focusing on her needs (and possibly come up with some accommodation suggestions that OP hasn’t thought of, or lend more weight to reasonable options that Boss has previously dismissed), and to get that all-important ADA recognition. And unlike OP’s boss, they’d be a neutral party that isn’t out to “fix” her diagnosis or prove her wrong.

    6. Alfonzo Mango*

      Best wishes for clearer communication and expectations, OP! Please update us if possible.

    7. Chronic Illness Sufferer*

      Just because you don’t have a clear diagnosis doesn’t mean that you don’t have a disability or deserve accommodation under the ADA. Employers may request documentation when the disability and/or the need for accommodation is not known or obvious. You clearly have a constellation of symptoms and your doctor probably uses those for billing purposes. “Op suffers from a disabling medical condition that requires her to seek frequent medical treatment. Further, Op’s condition may limit her from x,y,z and the ability to occasionally work from home would be beneficial to her”

      Your condition does not have to have an official name to be disabling. I urge you to speak with your specialists about this. Many are well versed in ADA accommodation and will know how to word things properly to convey what you need, but protect your privacy.

    8. NotAnotherManager!*

      Oh, gosh – I’m so sorry to hear that you’re in a job desert and having to travel so far for your medical needs! My inlaws live in a similar area and, as they get older, the distance they have to travel for medical care and testing makes me increasingly nervous. That’s not stress you need on top of trying to figure out what’s going on.

      Thanks so much for the additional information. It sounds like your boss is just a loon, and I hate that you have to deal with that on top of your commute and your medical issues. I really can’t think of anything else to suggest, other than what Alison already did in her response.

      I hope you’re able to get everything sorted (or HR can kick your boss in the butt), and please keep us updated!

  29. Blabla*

    When I imagine this conversation going down, I think there is a pretty good chance that the manager’s reaction is not going to be, “I never said that” but rather, “Who told you I said that” which puts the OP in an awkward spot. What should they do if the manager tries to just derail the conversation with accusations about who ratted her out?

    1. fposte*

      Pin it on the direct request for medical records, which is sufficiently out of line to be a topic in its own right.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      “I don’t really want to get into that” or “I’ve heard it from more than one person” or “I was told in confidence.”

        1. Not So NewReader*

          For added effect: “If just one person said it then I would not be here, I’d blow the comment off and ignore it.”

  30. Matt*

    How do you suggest starting a paper trail in a computer-less office? ie it sounds like OP could be a nurse, and I know my wife works in a paper-charting hospital and she doesn’t have a work email account.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      OP’s boss is a nurse, but she isn’t. She works in an educational setting, not healthcare.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      I would be surprised if a supervisor doesn’t have a company email, even if OP does not. I would start by sending the follow-up from a personal email (preferably a tertiary mail account and not a primary/family-and-frieds-only one) to that one. If that’s not an option, go old-school and follow up with a paper letter.

  31. OwnedbyAnEquine*

    Talk to a lawyer. This manager is toxic. Document your conversations to her and send a copy to your lawyer. Do not let your company know you are speaking to a lawyer or they will close down on you. Follow your lawyer’s advice on how to navigate this situation. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to document your conversations to your manager. Good luck

  32. Not So NewReader*

    OP, I feel ya.
    I think I worked for your boss’ sister.
    She wanted to pour over my medical reports and she criticized my choices in doctors. The one I went to at that moment, I found out had gotten into hot water and had his license pulled for a while. She told me this.
    To her absolute dismay I went to that doc and TOLD him my boss was asking about this because he was giving me notes for illness. He went through the story of what happened, his rehab and how he has learned and changed. I was impressed.
    My boss almost died when she heard I had asked the doc about it. She never thought I would do that. (This story was very tense for me at that time, I thought that she might start choosing my doctors and telling me the company said I had to go to these certain docs. Yeah, this place was really bizarre.)

    Because I “went public” or at least seemed willing to involve other people outside of our little department and company, she thought twice about her harassment of me. To my face she backed off entirely. She still talked up a storm about me to my cohorts. She had so many lies and exaggerations about people that people pretty much stopped believing her.

    Understand something here, if this boss is like mine, you will win the battle but lose the war. This sounds like a very toxic boss. She is way too involved in your life, you will probably find that she is way too involved in other people’s lives too. This is not a personal mission against you, rather this is a very toxic manager doing what toxic managers do.

    My best thought here is fine other ways to drag in people out side of your department or organization. I don’t know all your particulars, but as I am reading and thinking along here I did have one idea. I would bring my phone to the meeting to talk with her. I would ask her what she needs on my doctor’s note to calm any concerns she may have.
    I would call the office IN FRONT of her and say, “My boss needs a note that says…..”
    I promise you that your boss will look like an idiot to the doc’s staff.

    But you may find another way to drag outsiders into this story. And be sure to tell her who you have involved in her on-going drama she is creating. Be sure to work into the story line that you are giving people her name. “I told Doc Smith that I needed a letter addressed to you, Jane Jones.” You can act like you are sincerely trying to rectify things but the subtly won’t be lost on her, she will think “OMG, she is using MY name like this around other medical professionals.”

    Alison’s point about providing her with information is dead on. Stop any information at all. I know first hand that I thought I was not saying too much about my issues and I found out saying one sentence was too much. Go down to zero information or as close as possible. That will also help a lot.

    Meanwhile, look around maybe one of your coworkers would give you couch space over night to help with your winter commutes. And check the job postings for your organization, maybe you can find something else in another department and get yourself away from this person.

  33. ..Kat..*

    As a nurse myself, I am really angry that your boss (also a nurse) is doing this to you. It saddens me that anyone who knows she is a nurse might give more credence to her comments on your “not really being sick”. Grrr.

    I hope Alison’s advice works for you. Good luck.

  34. Neurodivergesse*

    OP: I’m so sorry that this is happening to you.

    As somebody who has experienced disability-based discrimination in the workplace, I want to chime in to agree with those above who have urged you to document as much as possible. It’ll help you in the future if you do need to file some kind of complaint–and it might help you maintain your sanity if your boss starts making claims that get you questioning reality.

    I normally think that Alison’s advice is terrific, but I might *really* think twice about confronting your boss in the way she suggests. I’m a little conflicted about how to weigh in here, because I do believe generally that people deserve the benefit of the doubt, and I’m normally 100% in favor of resolving problems with reasonable discussion. But on the other hand–my own experience has taught me that people and institutions can be cruel to people with disabilities in ways that would be absolutely unbelievable to most people.

    I don’t want to taint your experience by asking you to see it through the lens of my own! But my gut reaction here is that you are going to need support from somebody over your boss’s head to deal with this problem. If nothing else, find somebody trustworthy in another office (HR, disability services, whatever) who can document your concerns somehow–even without taking any action. (You might say, “I want to try to resolve this with my boss directly, but if things escalate, I’d like to have these concerns noted in your files for future reference.”)

    Given my past experiences, I’m about 99% sure that I would not be trying to resolve this with my boss directly. Using a health/disability issue to try to damage your professional reputation like this is unconscionable, and it’s a pretty powerful indicator of what she might be willing to do to if she decided that she *really* wanted to make you miserable or make you quit.

    I really hope I’m wrong, and that’s she’s simply immature or undisciplined. But… my gut says, brace yourself.

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