my boss thinks our new hire shouldn’t use a disabled parking pass, employee flips from great to terrible, and more

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

1. My boss thinks our new hire shouldn’t be using a disabled parking pass

I am an office manager and just hired a new staff member. She has a handicap card hanging from her rear view mirror and has parked in the handicap spot. She does not appear to have a disability, but as someone who has had back surgery, I know only too well about “invisible” disabilities. Also, as a hiring manager I know what I can and cannot ask regarding this topic.

My issue is that my boss called me into his office and questioned her use of the card and spot. I was floored. He admitted that he knows I can’t come out and ask her about it. He said the president of the company noticed and wanted to FIRE her because he thinks she is using it fraudulently. I was shocked. I am hoping this just blows over as the CEO only comes to the office once a year, but he can just as easily check up with others in the office. I’m so disappointed in our company. I’ve been here almost two years and really love it but this has knocked me down a peg. I am not sure what or if I should say or do anything. What would you suggest?

Oh my goodness. Yes, many disabilities are invisible and hassling Jane over this (let along firing her — !!) could land your company in boatload of legal trouble, not to mention a PR disaster. It’s also incredibly crappy on a human level.

So yes, speak up! Go back to your boss and say this: “I’m really concerned about Bob’s statement that he wants to fire Jane because of her parking card. Like we talked about, many people have disabilities that aren’t visible, and there’s no reason to assume that Jane is using her card fraudulently. If we hassle her about this, let alone fire her, we could get in a lot of legal trouble — as well as cause huge PR problems in the community and with the rest of our staff. What’s the best way to explain this to Bob? It’s really crucial that we ensure Jane isn’t mistreated over what’s presumably a legitimate disability that she has no obligation to disclose to us.”

2. Employee keeps flipping from great to terrible

I have a direct report who was at one time my star performer and was on track for leadership. She had some challenges in her personal life over a couple years, and over time her performance slipped until it became a problem. Accuracy errors, chronic lateness, and a general negative attitude that brings her peers down have come and gone over the last two years. It will get really bad, we’ll have a “come to Jesus” conversation about whether she wants to be here and do well, she’ll pull it together for a while, and then she’ll backslide.

I’ve continued to hold her accountable to her job duties and expectations, but my question is to whether I have to continue to invest in being excited, motivated, and supportive of her getting herself together over and over. It’s exhausting and disappointing to keep thinking she’s going to finally get back to where she was and then have her go down the same path over and over. Do I have to act like I have full faith that this will be the time she maintains performance, or can I be honest with her and tell her that when she maintains it for six months, we can start talking as though it’s the new status quo? She just emailed me her aspirations to be in leadership and the ways she’s going to turn things around, and all I can think is “I’ll believe it when I see it,” but I also don’t want to demotivate her by giving the impression that I don’t think she’ll actually do what she says she’s going to.

No, you don’t need to pretend that everything is great when you’re looking at a repeated pattern of up and down performance. You can give her positive feedback for the work she’s doing now while still talking about the broader pattern and the need for more consistency. If you haven’t already, it’s worth saying something like, “When you’re doing you’re well, your work is great, but the pattern for the last few years has been very up and down. I need you to sustain a higher level of performance consistently. Your work on (recent projects X and Y) has been great. What we need now is for you to focus on consistency and sustaining this level of work going forward. If you keep this up for the next six months, at the end of the year we can talk about goals from there — but for now, I really want your focus to be on just sustaining this level of work.”

(It’s also reasonable to decide at some point that the inconsistency is too much of a problem. If the problems return again, it’s okay to decide that you need someone in the role who doesn’t keep swinging back and forth — although you should warn her it’s at that point if in fact it is.)

Read an update to this letter here.

3. I’m color-blind — how can I get my clients to stop sending in-line responses I can’t read?

I’m color-blind. This doesn’t usually impact my ability to do my office job, but it presents a real problem when people send me in-line email responses (replying within my original message rather than writing their own, separate message) and add their text in a different color. People usually use red, purple, or blue — which, to my eyes, results in a giant wall of dark text. I can’t tell where my message ends and their comments begin!

This is bearable for shorter emails; I just have to read really, really closely. But I often have to draft and send complex documents for clients to review, and longer in-line responses are incredibly tedious for me to deal with.

Is there any way that I can politely ask clients to stop sending me in-line responses, or at least use bold/italics in addition to font color? I’ve casually brought up the topic to repeat clients, which has helped, but I’m not sure what to do about one-time correspondence. Is there a non-heavy-handed way to mention it up front? Any ideas would be much appreciated! (And a PSA to those who use inline responses: for the sake of the color-blind, please use alternative text formatting options!)

You absolutely can explain it to repeat clients, as you’ve been doing. For one-time correspondence, if you’re sending a shorter email it sounds like it might matter quite as much — but if you’re sending something longer, it makes sense to say something up-front. You could just include a note in your email saying, “By the way, I’m color-blind so please don’t reply within my original message (I won’t be able to spot your comments if they’re highlighted in another color). A reply above my message is best or, if you must use an in-line reply, please bold or italicize your comments so I can find them!”

4. I’m an intern and I want to make a good impression

I’m an intern working on my third co-op work term in a museum. I am very passionate about museums and working in archives, but I always find myself worrying too much about what the boss thinks of my work. I show up on time, I do my work diligently, and never say anything inappropriate or NSFW, but I’m only 22 and I want an impeccable reference from my boss so I can enter the workforce with a good repertoire. I shouldn’t be this worried about this given it’s my third work term, but I still am. I’m also not the kind of person who requires constant positive feedback. Is there any more I can do to show I go above and beyond in the field I want to work in most?

The person who can best answer this for you is your boss, and it’s 100% okay to ask her! You can say something like “I really want to do excellent work while I’m here because I’m passionate about this field. Is there anything you can recommend that I focus on or do differently? I’d be grateful for any feedback you can give me that will help position me to do well professionally!”

5. Applying for another job at a company where I’ve already interviewed twice

How should I handle applying for a third job in less than a year with the same small company? It would be the same hiring manager, same HR person. I got an interview both times, and have reason to believe I was top two (or so) both times, but they didn’t make me an offer. A new job has come up which is slightly higher level than the last two, but I am absolutely qualified for it. I think I was a genuinely good fit for both of those jobs AND this job, and I think the company is a great place to work and they treated me well in both of those interview processes. It’s one of the only businesses in this area and my field that I’d like to work for and that could offer competitive pay/benefits and more opportunities than my current job.

At the time of the first process, I was desperate for a new job — but I got a new boss which has made a huge difference, and now I am much more content in my current job and believe I’ll have more opportunities, autonomy, and quality of life going forward. I also believe that in both cases they just found someone who was more qualified for both of those positions, which they may not for this one! How do I coolly and maturely convey, “Please only interview me if you are genuinely interested! But also, even if you do interview me again and you don’t offer me the job, I won’t be sour, it’s fine, I’m fine, I’m truly not as desperate as I must seem.”

Should I email the hiring manager? I do work with her in my current position, minimally. I don’t want to bypass the hiring process, but it feels a little weird not to acknowledge we all know we JUST went through this, and, frankly, considering the interviews, and the working together, if they already know they are or aren’t interested in me, I’d kind of like to skip some of the stress and uncertainty of the process.

You don’t really need to spell all of that out — if they’re decent at hiring (and it sounds like you think they are), they’re not going to want to put you through a whole third hiring process if they’re not genuinely interested. And assuming you’ve been professional thus far, they’re going to assume you’ll continue to be professional even if this doesn’t work out.

That said, you can emphasize that with the tone of your note. Write something like this: “I saw the X job that you’ve posted, and I wanted to touch base with you about whether it would make sense for me to apply. I think my skills in X and Y could make me a strong match for it, and from our past conversations I know I’m really interested in working for you, so I’d love to throw my hat in the ring. But since we’ve already talked about two other roles recently, I figured I’d check in with you first. If you have a different candidate profile in mind, I’d completely understand and will just keep my eye on future postings instead.” With that, you cover (a) I’m not desperate, just enthusiastic about your company, (b) we’re talked a lot already, and (c) it’s completely okay to tell me this one isn’t quite the right match.

That also opens the door for them to shorten the process for you a bit, if that makes sense. (For instance, in this situation if I thought you were a strong potential candidate for this job, I’d have you skip the application stage and move straight to later stages of the process. I’d still do another interview, because I’d want to probe different things for this job than I did for the other two — but I could cut out some of the early steps.) But some places are sticklers about not doing that, so don’t read anything into it if they don’t.

{ 647 comments… read them below }

  1. PollyQ*

    There are a**holes, and there are idiots, and then there are people like CEO Bob, who are outstanding examples of both.

    1. Jasnah*

      How do you know, Bob, that she’s using it fraudulently? She doesn’t look disabled but again,, Bob? I think OP’s company is due for some HR sensitivity training…

      1. Busy*

        I swear to God what does it even matter!!!!! Why are people to invested in what other people are doing?

        I have a friend with lupus of the stomach. She goes through periods of time where has to use a walker and other periods of time where a cane will suffice. Some days, she feels well enough not to even need that. Yet people still WILL MAKE COMMENTS TO HER ABOUT HER PARKING PASS.

        Y’all, they had to sell their house ten years ago, buy a rancher, and spend their own money renovating it to make handicap accessible for her!

        But even if none of that were true, why be so freaking invested in whats someone else is doing?!?! The payoff of being right is so minimal compared to the repercussions of being wrong, that it is not even worth the stress to think twice about it?!

        In other words, stop monitoring people this closely, BOB! You are the MFing CEO. Go CEO. Let OP manage her people.

        1. Lucy*

          “The payoff of being right is so minimal compared to the repercussions of being wrong,”


        2. Pommette!*

          It’s so perplexing!

          First, of course: how is it that so many people can reach (advanced!) adulthood without realizing that lots of disabilities are invisible? And then, more disturbingly: when someone kindly explains that, yup, invisible disabilities are a thing, why do so many people choose to dig in their heels and maintain their outrage at what they choose to continue to perceive as fraud?

          But more broadly: it’s odd and disturbing that so many people who never express any interest in accessibility and inclusivity suddenly care so much when it comes to policing where other people park. You know, if you don’t think that there are enough accessible parking spots for everyone who needs them, work to get more spots designated. You’re the CEO. You’re actually really well-placed to do that, and to take other real steps to make your organization more accessible. (Or you could just continue to assume the worst and to micromanage employees in ways that almost certainly constitute discrimination).

          1. Karen from Finance*

            it’s odd and disturbing that so many people who never express any interest in accessibility and inclusivity suddenly care so much when it comes to policing where other people park

            There it is. They don’t really care about protecting that space for the sake of “real” disabled people. They are about “hey, why do *they* get to use the better parking spot and I don’t?”

            1. Rainy*

              I had a coworker many years ago who was furious that Wal-Mart had closer parking designated for pregnant women and new parents, when her mother couldn’t get a disabled placard for her ankle after surgery because her injury didn’t qualify as disabling for long enough (she was anticipated to be fully healed within six weeks, and that was too short for a temporary disabled placard).

              I asked–quite reasonably, I thought–why, if my coworker was so worried about it, she didn’t drop her mum off in front of stores and go to park, then go fetch the car and get her mum from the front of the store, to spare her the walk. Turns out my coworker didn’t have a driver license. Her mum chauffeused her everywhere.

              It’s all just selfishness and lack of compassion, really.

              1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*


                I mean really just…W.O.W.

                I shouldn’t be so shocked, my brother used to pull the same crap with our elderly mother (now deceased) but then again, he’s an incorrigible alcoholic/addict that’s sliding around on the scale somewhere between toxic narcissism & sociopathy.

              2. Chelsea*

                This. My grandmother has a hard time walking long distances and, while she has a handicap placard, she doesn’t drive and finds it a pain to bring it in every vehicle. So if there’s going to be a walk, I drop her off and go park. When we’re finished, I go get the car and pick her up from the entrance.

          2. Airy*

            I think it’s because they think of the accessible parking spaces as a *perk* of being disabled rather than a small accommodation to offset the extra difficulty a disabled person experiences in everyday life.

            1. Astonished*

              Yeah, I would gladly trade my invisible disabilities for the stupid parking placard. I too have been monitored by the handicapped parking space unofficial police while my placard is properly posted. I cussed them both out, shamed to say. People really need to MTOB.

              1. hayling*

                Amen. I have a chronic neck injury, and one of the things that triggers it is craning my neck back and forth as I drive around looking for parking. I am always anxious that someone is going to hassle me. I would gladly park a mile away to not be in pain every single day.

              2. ZK*

                My brother in law has bone cysts. Not just a few, his entire body is riddled with them. He’s in so much pain that he now wears a morphine patch, 24/7. He drives himself places because to use public transport risks getting bumped, tripped, etc. and a ruptured cyst could be life threatening. From the outside, he looks totally normal, and I am sure people give him the stink eye when they see where he’s parked. Please, do mind your own business.

            2. Kat in VA*

              I’m sure my husband would rather trade the dual 6″ scars and rods/screws in his back – and his freakin disabled pass – for a continuous string of days where he was pain free. I know I’d rather trade the half pound of titanium in my neck and my pass for the same.

        3. facepalm*

          My best friend with multiple invisible disabilities (including CANCER) has had the police called on her more than once (which I 100% believe is at least partly because she isn’t white) while using her handicapped pass. She’s had people video her, and even scream and verbally assault her to the point where the police have pleaded with her to press charges. All she wants is to go buy some flipping laundry detergent or groceries or whatever and not be exhausted or in pain the rest of the day because of it. It makes me sick.

          1. Scarlet*

            She should press charges! These “vigilantes” seeking justice need some vigilante justice of their own.

            1. facepalm*

              She has pressed charges on at least one occasion, but I know there have been times where it’s just too overwhelming and exhausting and all she wanted was to go home and have everything be over. Can’t remember what book it was, but I read something once where someone with terminal cancer had been overcharged at a grocery store by something like $20. He was standing in a long line with his receipt and realized, is $20 worth my limited time left standing in this line when I could be home instead? So even though $20 is a lot of money to be overcharged, he felt much happier not standing in the line, and that was worth more to him than the money or the principle of the thing. So even though I would prefer every one of those a$$holes who assault sick and vulnerable people to be punished, I have to respect her choice of what’s the best personal use of her time and energy and health.

              1. A Day at the Zoo*

                It was an anecdote from The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. Dr. Pausch had three kids under 4 when he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in his early 40’s. A great book that puts life into perspective. He also spoke of how he did not “look” sick, even though he was dying.

          2. Steggy Saurus*

            My mom’s in the same place regarding cancer treatment and her handicapped placard, but I don’t think she’s been called out on it (yet). It’s a completely invisible disability – just go with the assumption that if a person has one, it’s because they need it.

          3. Astonished*

            She should have pressed charges. Police can’t do anything if the placard is valid. I too have been confronted and it didn’t go well for the nosy busybodies.

          4. Wintermute*

            It sounds like it’s the police that need job training! It’s not the responsibility of the person to decide to press charges or not. The police will often ask as a courtesy and give weight to their decision but if they feel someone is being intimidated out of it, they absolutely can, and should, bring it to the prosecutor or assistant DA for prosecution.

            The law has not required individual citizens to “press charges” since the 1700s, since then it has been the decision of the prosecutor. Lack of a complaining witness is often damning to a case but if police have seen the behavior themselves or there is other evidence they might not even need to subpoena her testimony!

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              If she doesn’t want to go to court, a reluctant witness for a victim makes for a lousy case.

          5. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

            I am so sorry this has happened to your friend, and so often! I can’t even IMAGINE getting upset let alone calling the police over someone who ACTUALLY HAS A HANDICAPPED PLACARD PARKING IN A HANDICAPPED SPACE, no matter how they looked or acted when they got out of the car.

            Someone WITHOUT a placard parking in the space? Totally fair game for calling the cops! But with one? WTF is wrong with these people?!

        4. Scarlet*

          Agh. That’s horrible; I’m so sorry for your friend.

          Like on the one hand, I’m happy that people take those parking spaces seriously, but on the other, people need to CHILL OUT with policing it.

          I watched a news report a while ago where a veteran – with a prosthetic leg – parked in a handicapped spot and someone let him the nastiest letter on his windshield. So infuriating. I don’t know – does everyone just want to be a hero or something?

          1. Lynn*

            I love that folks take the spaces seriously as well. Honestly, folks who don’t need them using them is such a huge pet peeve.

            On the other hand, I have an acquaintance who uses a HC plate on her motorcycle and the amount of guff she gets from folks when she parks in a HC space is unbelievable.

            For the record, it isn’t easy-but she loves riding, so she has found ways to make it work despite the difficulty. And her handicap is very visible, but folks just assume that because she is able to do one thing, the disability must not be real.

            I often think something rude to myself if I see someone who I think might be using the space without needing it. But then I remind myself that I have no way of knowing the whole story and I should just mind my own gosh-darned business.

            1. Jadelyn*

              My mom occasionally gets dirty looks because she has a disability placard and drives a sports car. People seem to have this Very Definite Idea about what kinds of vehicles should be in an accessible parking space, and gods help you if you’re driving the “wrong” kind of vehicle and have the nerve to use your duly granted parking placard to use the accommodations you need.

            2. Astonished*

              Folks who don’t have a placard or handicapped plates are my pet peeve. Otherwise it’s OK whoever is parked there. I also don’ t like when someone is sitting in a car hogging a handicapped space.

              1. Airy*

                Maybe their particular disability means they need a bit of time to sort themselves out (take medication, adjust equipment, catch their breath) before getting out of the car or before driving away. Maybe they’re waiting to pick up a disabled person who hasn’t come out yet and they need to stay where the person can see and reach them easily. Try not to jump to considering them “hogs.”

              2. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*


                Someone’s got a handicapped placard? I DGAF if they get out of their car and start doing backflips down the sidewalk.
                I know people with handicapped placards and contrary to popular belief, they don’t just hand those things out like candy at Halloween. (Same with disability- it is HARD to get, and I live in liberal, generous California.) So backflips or not, if they have that placard, I’m going to assume that they need it.

                Parking in a handicapped space with no placard? THAT’S when you will FEEL MY WRATH!!!

            3. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

              I know multiple people with handicapped placards, almost none of them look like they need them. They are all actually very much in need of them.

              Handicapped placards are not easy to get- they are not handed out just for the asking, there has to be a medical need for one. They are SO difficult to obtain that it honestly should just be the default assumption that whoever has one actually needs it, regardless of how they may appear to others on the outside.

              And as a disabled person myself, who does NOT have a placard but is going to eventually need one- if making sure all the disabled people who need aid (disability, parking placards, medi-care, whatever) actually have it means that a few (and in reality it’s very few) frauds & fakers get through, well, I’d much rather see that happen than our current situation, where we put up so many barriers to fight mostly imaginary fraud that vast numbers of people who desperately need help are left hanging.

            4. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

              Ah, also, this thread just triggered a memory from nearly 30 years ago!

              I was very close with my then-boyfriend’s fraternal twin sister, who was born physically disabled, and suffered from so many serious issues (including partial blindness) that she has required a caretaker her entire life. As a result of her disabilities, she looked about 12, even though she was 20/21 when I knew her. She could walk, and preferred to as much as she could, but she tired easily, and used a chair as well.

              I often took her places in her mom’s little pickup that had the handicapped plates. One day, we were getting out of the car at a shopping center, and some jerkass decided to yell at us about how we “didn’t need that spot”. Because he didn’t see two young adult women friends, one disabled, about to do a bit of shopping, he saw an adult woman and a tween girl “stealing” a parking space from someone who “really needed it”. (And honestly, she did have enough physical differences that even a mildly observant person should been able to infer that she was disabled, even if they still thought she was a child.)

              I was LIVID, but the best part was before I, the big scary no filter punk rock biatch could open my foul mouth to chew him out, my dear friend- who was a sweet (not innocent lol), good, kind Christian girl had flipped him the bird and told him to F.O.

        5. I have a pug*

          I partly blame the show “What Would You Do?” That show actively encourages the public to get involved in matters that are not their business. I was brought up to mind my own business and not get involved in matters when I did not have all of the facts.

          1. Google Eyes*

            I hate that show. What I Would Do is not spy on people’s private conversations and insert my nose where it doesn’t belong.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              That’s the whole point of the show though. At what point should people intervene when something bad is happening?
              Clearly they’re jumping the gun on handicapped parking spaces. I think maybe because it’s an easier way to feel they’ve done something, than many other choices.

        6. some dude*

          Exactly. Why get all up in people’s business about stuff like this? There are definitely times and places to speak up and make a stink. Questioning the validity of someone’s handicap placard is not one of them.

        7. Sarah N*

          “The payoff of being right is so minimal compared to the repercussions of being wrong, that it is not even worth the stress to think twice about it?!”

          THIS. If you knew FOR SURE that someone was fraudulently using a disabled parking pass — for example, if the person TOLD YOU they were using it fraudulently and thought it was a funny joke — I can see being pretty upset about that because it is potentially taking up space that a disabled person would need. However, without that level of proof, it just does not make any sense to get overly invested in it.

          Also, let’s Occam’s Razor this thing — would it really be worth it for this employee to use a fake pass AT WORK when she almost certainly knows people are going to at least mentally question it and potentially judge her based on her outward appearance? Would saving a short walk in the parking lot really be worth it? I mean, it’s possible, sure, but isn’t it MUCH more likely that she in fact does have an invisible disability and thus needs the spot?

          So then, likelihood of being wrong = high + costs of being wrong = very high. So yeah, just let it be.

        8. Princess PIP*

          PREACH. My great-aunt has lupus and all the other issues that can crop up after decades, and still people see an upright person and assume all is well.

          My best friend has MS. When she’s doing well and the weather is cool, she appears ‘normal’ (ugh, just typing that). She uses her parking placard because she never knows when a flare-up may occur. I wish could shadow her everywhere just to give doubters the raging stink eye.

          1. Wintermute*

            My girlfriend is overweight and has lupus and rhumatoid arthritis. The lupus causes her to gain weight, because of intestinal dysfunction. In fact she was put on a hospital liquid-only diet and GAINED three pounds in a week on a diet designed to cause you to lose 10-15.

            As a result she gets treated awfully by people that think obesity is a self-inflicted disability and doesn’t “really” warrant being treated as disabled because you should… just make better choices or something? It’s so frustrating and depressing, I’ve almost been in a few fights.

            Even if she was of normal weight, her spine would still be a mess of bone spurs and decay, her knees would still be trying to eat themselves and she would still have chronic joint, muscle and organ pain, but no, being heavy means she doesn’t deserve compassion.

            This is why we can’t have nice people.

            1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

              Even if her weight was entirely caused by her own choices in diet & lifestyle, and it was 100% the cause of all her health problems, she would still deserve compassion.

              But I agree that all the terrible assumptions make it all that much worse. (Been there myself with health/medication related weight issues, and it’s so damn frustrating!)

        9. AnnaBananna*

          After I picked my jaw up off the floor for LW 1’s CEO’s comments, my first instinct says it’s simple school yard jealousy. The have and have-not mentality is so ingrained in us that there are some, perhaps Bob being a fine example of competitiveness gone awry, who could be used as source material in the dictionary for it. And while his competitiveness helped him in business, it does not help him in being a basic human being.

          1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

            That mentality, plus the political rhetoric that paints benefits fraud and abuse as rampant & epidemic, when the actual numbers show that it happens at such a low rate that it is not actually an issue that anyone needs to be concerned about at all.

        10. Glitsy Gus*

          Exactly! The only possible situation where I can see it being even remotely OK to worry about this is if your business caters to the elderly or other groups with a high likelihood of mobility issues and therefore you have a higher than normal number of folks needing that spot. Even then, the solution isn’t to accuse Jane of lying and then fire her! It’s to sit down and really figure out the best way to accommodate both Jane AND your customers’ need for access.

          That’s really moot in this case, though, because there is no indication that it’s an issue, just that the CEO doesn’t like it because… reasons?

          1. Senior Center Worker*

            I work at a senior center, and would never think to worry about someone’s card being legitimate – the vast majority of my patrons could benefit from a disabled parking spot, and I wish there was a way to move all the spaces closer to the entrance!

          2. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

            I would honestly NEVER quibbles over the validity of a person’s handicapped parking placard, because I know people who have them and therefore know just how difficult they actually are to obtain.

            And honestly, I know that real disability and other benefits fraud is actually such minuscule percentage of claims, (and that serious but totally invisible disabilities are SO overwhelmingly common) that I have zero interest in trying to sniff out the mere handful of fakers amongst I may or may not have come across at some point or another in my life. It is a non-issue in my book.

            The only problem I have is with people who do NOT have placards who park in handicapped spaces- those people piss me off to no end!

      2. Karen from Finance*


        This is why people with invisible illnesses have such a hard time. People. F*cking… People. My mother has MS and she didn’t want to get her disabled pass for so long because of the stigma around disability, because she didn’t think of herself as disabled, yet she needs it. People behaving this way only reinforces this stigma and fear for people with actual conditions. The fact that this is coming from an actual CEO just makes me so angry and sad.

        OP, please follow Alison’s advice. This is important.

        For people saying the employee may actually be fraudulent: think of it this way. If they are and they let them use the parking spot, an asshole person is still an asshole. If they intervene and they’re actually disabled, you’re HARASSING A DISABLED PERSON ABOUT THEIR DISABILITY. And/or fired them over it.

        1. Scarlet*

          The irony is that anyone who harasses a disabled person like this should be the ones getting fired.

      3. Lx in Canada*

        A coworker of mine has multiple sclerosis and has a handicap parking space. She says that she told the doctor she didn’t need it, but he said that one day she would. She was diagnosed several years ago and has days where she’s dizzy and has trouble walking, and she has trouble with hills and escalators. Sometimes these progressive things can just kind of show up and slowly get worse…

      4. Former Help Desk Peon*

        Exactly. My mom has an ankle brace, and some days needs a cane too. But on good days, if she’s wearing long pants, you can’t tell. She still uses the pass because good days can turn into bad days so very easily, and although she walks IN to the store easily enough, she may not make it back OUT and all the way to some distant parking spot. :-/

        1. Jadelyn*

          This! My mom has severe arthritis in her knees. On a good day, you wouldn’t know it – she walks slower than most people, but she’s not limping (if only because it’s both knees, so favoring one wouldn’t help the other).

          But she’s still very limited on how far she can walk in a day. If she’s trying to run multiple errands, especially at large stores with large parking lots like Costco or Target or the mall, she’s very quickly going to hit her limit. Parking in the accessible spaces allows her to stretch those limited number of pain-free steps further since she doesn’t have to waste them walking into the store before she can actually do her shopping.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          This is also my mum. She can’t muck about for a long time without wearing herself out. She can walk, but after traversing, say, a mall for a while, the car at the end of the parking lot is just too far away.

          As for me, I park at the end of the lot myself because it’s a little bit more exercise to walk and I’m physically capable of it, so why not?

      5. Burned Out Supervisor*

        Exactly. Disabled tags, and who qualifies to have one, are determined by the person’s doctor and the state agency that reviews the medical paperwork. *IF* the person is using one fraudulently, that’s not the employer’s concern.

        1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

          And they are NOT easy to get. Seriously, I don’t understand how people think that non-disabled people could just waltz in and get one for the asking.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Yep. There are a lot of people who do not LOOK handicapped….until they’re forced to overdo it and they relapse. For someone recovering from something like herniated disk surgery, walking short distances could be fine. Whereas walking the length of a football field could set back their recovery. CEO Bob has no way of knowing if the new employee barely makes it through the day and does nothing at home at night except recover for the morning.
      If CEO Bob is insistent, the best response I could think of to satisfy the CEO *AND* not invade an employee’s privacy would be to formally request the traffic division of the local police department include his company’s parking lot when they spot-check that no one is abusing the handicapped placard system. And yes that means they’ve invited the traffic division into their parking lot, so if anyone’s parking in a loading zone, he too would be flagged.

      1. Not Fully Caffeinated*

        Out of curiosity, are the police able to inquire about the legitimacy of a disability necessitating a parking pass? Does an individual have to disclose the nature of their disability to law enforcement?

        1. Scarlet*

          I have a friend with epilepsy – she had to go to the DMV with a doctor’s note to get her parking pass. So IANAL, but I would think it would be the DMV who would investigate it, while the police would only be able to tell if the parking pass is assigned to the person driving or not.

          1. fposte*

            That’s how it works in my state. The cops would be able to check who owns the placard and whether it matches the driver, but not the medical background of the placard.

          2. MassMatt*

            This, the cop is just supposed to check that the pass is legit (including whether the person displaying it is the owner), not whether the person owning it is “handicapped enough”. But that’s not to say any particular cop might be just as much a nosy busybody as anybody else.

        2. Amber T*

          I believe the handicap sticker has a name attached to it, so Bob Smith’s pass will have the name Bob Smith so Joe Gray can’t use it (vaguely remembering that from my grandfather’s pass). So in theory, the police could request the ID of the new hire to see if it matches the pass, but I don’t think the police could then go and check with the new employee’s doctor to make sure she “really” needed. That being said, even getting the police is a huuuuuge invasion and in incredibly poor taste.

          1. Sarah N*

            Yes — my mom actually has one for her car, but it is only supposed to be used when she is with my grandmother and taking her somewhere (that is, my mom is not disabled, my grandmother is, and my grandmother does not drive/does not have a car, so my mom is often taking her places). From what I understand, it does have some sort of info on it with my grandmother’s name, etc. so if my mom was using it just for going to the grocery store by herself, theoretically police could check on it.

            But, in this situation the employer REALLY needs to let it go; calling in the police would be so extreme.

            1. BelleMorte*

              We busted my MIL parking in the handicapped spot at Costco one day, just happenstance. She has a placard for Grandparents-in-law, who were not with her. My husband made her move the car, best day ever.

            2. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

              Yes, I had a friend many years ago who was too severely handicapped to ever drive, her mom was her caretaker and had handicapped plates. When my friend and I wanted to do something on our own, I’d borrow her mom’s truck so I could still park in a disabled spot, because my friend ABSOLUTELY required it.

        3. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          The cop would only have to confirm that the placard is legitimate and the person is the one it’s issued to. The police don’t have to discuss it’s validity. They check the computer, like a license plate. “Is this your car?” Yes. “Can I see your drivers license?” Yes. You don’t have to produce the pink slip or cashed checks. Same with the parking card. Does your ID match the name and address of the user?

        4. Loose Seal*

          The short-term tags that hang from the window have the expiration date on them so I would think the police could check to see if the person was using an expired tag.

          But I think it’s reprehensible to call the police on blue parking slot users.

          /someone who needs a tag but refuses to get one because she doesn’t want to go through this bullshit every day.

        5. fhqwhgads*

          They’d validate that it is a valid pass (ie not counterfeit) and that it is assigned to someone in the car. For example, my grandmother drove and had a placard. If we were out and she no longer felt well enough to drive, I’d drive her car to our next stop and park in the spot for her. That’s theoretically fine. If she’s not there, it’d be very very not fine. Cops don’t validate the reason you have the placard. They validate the placard itself and that it belongs to the person it’s being used by.

          1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

            Yes, this. A friend of mine often drives her disabled mom around, and can use her mom’s placard while doing so. When her mom feels up to driving herself, she puts it back in her own car.

        6. Wintermute*

          They have the ability to see if the tag is legally issued, which required their doctor to contact the state agency. They don’t have the ability to review that decision, that’s between the doctor and the state as it should be, but they can determine if a tag is forged.

          And you know what? knowing how stringent the state is about disability (qualifying for a tag is a major piece of evidence in an SSI hearing, and the state hates to give out money for SSI disability insurance) there is approximately zero point zero percent chance of someone flim-flamming the state and their doctor.

          1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*


            I don’t think any of these people have any idea just how difficult a handicapped placard is to obtain.

            I blame the political rhetoric that paints benefits fraud as being rampant when it is most decidedly not so.

            1. Carl*

              I’m pretty sure my father and his new wife are committing fraud, but I am not in a position to stop them. New Wife’s former husband was disabled and had a lifetime placard. When he died, she held onto the pass. Although it’s possible that my dad or New Wife have a disability that warrants a pass of their own, they’re so frequently active (she and my dad just finished remodeling a house and are working on another) and also inconsiderate people that I wouldn’t be surprised if they were committing fraud.

              And yeah, maybe it is none of my business. I myself have an invisible disability (shoulder/forearm injuries – can walk fine, but probably would benefit from using a motorized shopping cart), so I get it. But it does tick me off that on top of all the other crap my dad and New Wife have done (emotional abuse), they might be taking spots that disabled people need.

              1. Carl*

                So, after reading around a bit more, I realized that my comment was a bit bitter. I just had another bad visit with the two of them and New Wife was extremely rude to me about my disability, so it’s all very fresh in my mind. Sorry about that.

        7. JSPA*

          In my state, police can issue directly for amputations; anything else requires paperwork from a doctor.

      2. Anax*

        Yep. And the activities which are ‘okay’ can be really non-obvious. Weather conditions, the amount of slope, whether the ground is uneven…

        My dad had polio as an infant, and had a bunch of surgeries as a kid so he could walk without leg braces. But because those surgeries involved salvaging working muscles and tendons from other parts of his feet and legs, he also has really weird, non-obvious deficits – so things like uneven ground are really hard.

        Bodies are weird, and the range of possible disabilities is pretty huge.

    3. boo bot*

      Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity *and* malice!

      (bot’s razor: the answer to nearly all ontological either-or questions is, “both.”)

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        I remember a comment under a Dear Abby or someone regarding a letter from someone constantly harassed about parking. “If I see someone who looks perfectly healthy to me getting out of a car in an handicapped spot, I absolutely will give them a look. They obviously don’t need it.”
        A lot of “wow, the psychic doctor at work” replies. But I let it go, because you can’t fight stupid and you can’t fight assholes, and threatened stupid assholes are just not worth it.

        1. Llellayena*

          I would never give a *person* getting out of a car in a handicap spot any kind of look (except maybe compassion), but I will check that the CAR has the tag. I generally assume that if they have the tag, there’s a reason, but I’ve seen quite a few cars park in HC spaces and not even put the tag on the rear view. And the cars who decide that the striped space between two HC spaces is another available space tend to get an additional grumble from me, that clear area is there for a reason!

          1. jennie*

            But why check? Why expend the mental and emotional effort of caring why someone else is using that space? If they’re scamming, a dirty look from you isn’t going to shame them or change their behaviour. And if they need the space, patrolling and judging them is just making their life harder.

            1. PollyQ*

              If it’s an obvious scam, e.g., no placard at all, then the reason to check is that they’re taking up a space that a legitimately disabled person needs. But I wouldn’t bother talking to the fraudster, I’d just call the cops.

            2. Jasnah*

              Exactly. honestly whether someone is disabled or not, or needs extra space or not, or has the right to use their placard under certain circumstances or not, none of that is my business. I’m not championing disabled rights by rooting out Bad People who are using spots meant for others. That’s not the worst offense a human can do, and I have no authority to do it. Better to let someone “get away with it” than to make an actually disabled person feel horrible as people have shared all over this thread.

            3. Pandop*

              I check to see if they have a blue badge, and if they don’t have a blue badge on display I will complain to the store – my Mum has a blue badge, and needs those spaces, they should not be blocked by people who don’t have a badge (or by the stores own van – you bet I complained about that!)

          2. Astonished*

            I hate it when the striped areas are excessively large. WalMart does that when there could be several more car sized spaces.Yeah you need some of those larger spaces for vans with lifts but frankly I see more normal vehicles than anything with handicapped parking placards or tags.

            1. Wintermute*

              As someone with a girlfriend with Lupus and rhumatoid arthritis, at a wal-mart the reason for the large loading zone is so a caretaker can go get a mobility scooter, drive it over and help them out of the car and into the scooter without trouble. You need to park the scooter so the door can be fully opened and they can use it to support their weight while they get out, a half-closed door is a recipe for the door closing on them and causing a nasty fall or door slam injury to the caretaker or disabled person.

              You also need the ability to corral your grocery carts while helping them back into the car after the trip is over, and it’s better to have a loading zone than put them in a traffic area, plus by law the loading area will be flat so your carts aren’t going to roll off. Yes you could unload the carts while the disabled person sits in the scooter, have them move up, then return the carts, open the door and help them but that would take more time and leave them sitting in the scooter which may not be comfortable or it might be raining out or whatever.

              Trust the designers, they know what population they are serving.

        2. Loose Seal*

          I had to get fierce with someone in the Ladies’ Room once when I was coming out of the accessible stall in a roadside rest stop. (I was not in my wheelchair that day but I need a higher toilet everyday and the accessible stall frequently is the only higher toilet provided.) She wasn’t waiting for the stall; she just said something to the 12-ish-year-old kid she was with about healthy people stealing (!!) space from the unfortunate (!!). It was her word choice that made me the most angry. So instead of calmly explaining invisible disabilities to the kid, like I would have normally done, I raked the woman over the coals in the most acerbic language I could think of. I was shaking afterward and started crying when I got to the car. Not only did that lady ruin that day for me, I still clearly have not forgotten it. (See above where I said I wouldn’t get a tag because of BS like this.)

          I think what upsets me most is that she was so blatantly teaching the next generation to hate. Like, I know that obviously happens because hate doesn’t die out. But to see it happen right in front of me, because of me, really shook me to the core.

          1. Big Bank*

            This is especially bizarre since handicap stalls are not “reserved.” They have numerous other uses such as parents with young kids that need help at the toilet, or who just need kept in sight, larger folks who might not fit into a standard stall, and frankly just anybody to use if there are only a couple stalls available (I’m not waiting in line bc someone else might need it). People need to chill out and stop policing others over this stuff. This all calls to mind the guy in Florida that got killed in front of his kids by a vigilante who was upset he parked in a handicap space. People should follow the law and not park in handicap spots without a permit, but no one should get shot over it.

            1. Wintermute*

              I’m a very large person, I’m overweight but not massively so, but I’m 6’6″ tall and wide-shouldered. At the risk of being too graphic it’s very difficult for me to reach everything I need to sitting on a low toilet in a normal stall! my shoulders will hit the walls and I’m sitting on top of my knees!

              If there’s someone claiming they need the stall because they’re disabled or obviously disabled I can make do, but it’s not great.

              1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

                Hell, I’m 5’11” (female) and I still find regular stalls too cramped, especially once I put on weight in my 40s.

                But I also use them because of numerous invisible disabilities.

          2. fhqwhgads*

            This is especially stupid because accessible stalls are not like parking spots which are explicitly reserved only for those who need them. If it’s a public bathroom with limited stalls, unless someone who visibly needed that one were clearly also approaching the restroom, if the others are taken there’s no expectation that people leave the accessible one open just in case. If no one were approaching, in 99% of cases by the time someone else who might need it arrives, the current occupant would be done already. Even if it weren’t a case of an invisible disability that woman is out of line in this context.

          3. Burned Out Supervisor*

            Ugh. I used the accessible bathrooms specifically for the higher toilets when I had foot surgery and had a CAM boot on. I couldn’t put all my weight on that foot, so the higher toilets were easier, and there were grab bars. I got really pissed one morning when I went to target and needed to use their restroom, but the only 2 stall that were being used (out of a SEA of 10 to 12 stalls) were the accessible stalls. They were being used by young women who were changing their clothes. I mean…c’mon.

    4. AngelicGamer, the visually impaired peep*

      It’s one of the few times where I’m thankful I can shut people up about my own pass by whipping out my red tipped cane. Since it’s a crime to pretend to be blind, people back off what quick. If I was in the position of the OP’s employee, that boss and CEO would get an icy glare, a visit from HR, and I’d be looking for a new job ASAP along with naming and shaming. I was bullied as a teenager for it and I will not put up with this BS as an adult.

    5. Samwise*

      OMG, this really infuriates me. My son has a severe vision disability, but unless you know (or are looking really closely and can see that one of his eyes is slightly off kilter) you wouldn’t know. He moves through the world like a full-sighted person most of the time. Can’t drive, can’t ride bikes, can’t skateboard, can’t play sports with stuff flying at your head from the side — but lots of people choose not to do those things, so no one can just tell. Which means he gets to hear all sorts of a-hole commentary about disabled folks “getting undeserved extras” that people know enough not to say in front of obviously disabled folks.

      CEO Bob makes me wish Zeus and his thunderbolts were real, because if anyone deserves to be incinerated by the gods, it’s him.

    6. Malty*

      New theory: if your immediate reaction to a handicap card user with no visible disability is to assume the person is a lying asshole, then it’s proof that you yourself are a lying asshole

  2. HannahS*

    OP1, please say something! Use Alison’s suggestion. You have a great opportunity to do something that can ultimately benefit future disabled employees as well as your current one. Don’t just hope this blows over–it’s too risky to your employee. The worst thing your boss can do to you is say something insensitive about someone who isn’t in the room; the worst thing he can do to her fire her and get your company in major legal trouble.

    1. Artemesia*

      Trying not to be an ass here and I totally agree that Bob and hr etc should absolutely not be hassling this employee. Chances are that a youngish person using one at work is actually disabled would see quite high. BUT there is a huge amount of fraudulent use of handicapped parking passes. I personally have known many people who have used the pass of a relative, even a deceased one, or who have badgered a doctor who is a personal friend for one long after a temporary issue is resolved; there are many people, especially older people, who feel entitled to these passes when they don’t have disabilities. So how should this get dealt with in our society so that people who actually need these spots get them? Who does get to ask? If HR can’t require documentation then who does get to make sure that these passes are not abused to the detriment of those who need them?

      1. Margaret*

        I wrestled with this for awhile, then eventually accepted that it wasn’t my position to police. Those doctors should be fined, parking monitors should be double checking the license numbers displayed on the pass and matching them to the IDs of drivers. *I* can’t know, and it’s not my job to monitor, especially since given invisible disabilities there’s no easy way to know whether or not what I’m perceiving is a valid or invalid use of the pass.

        Just behave with integrity in your own dealings, teach the young people in your life that they should be doing the same, and advocate for stronger ethics governance in the medical system in general if you feel so strongly about it that you feel you have to put your energy somewhere.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Exactly. It’s beyond the scope of the employer to decide whether or not a person should have a parking pass.

          The most that can be expected here is IF the company finds out she is lying, then they can deal with it WHEN that happens. But to just ponder this question with no factual basis for worry, only makes the company look bad.

          It would be better for the prez to address his actual concern. For example, he may be concerned that there is not enough accessible parking slots, with one slot now being in use on a regular basis. He could create another designated parking spot, to allow others an opportunity to park.

          I can’t be sure but it seems to me that grocery stores have been adding more and more accessible parking spaces. Our society is changing as people are able to get navigational equipment which allows them mobility and medicine is changing people’s lives also. We have never seen so much adaptive equipment like we have now. It’s reasonable to assume that we will see more an more folks who use the accommodations that we put in place, such as parking spots, ramps and so on.

          Perhaps these are a couple talking points you boss can use with the CEO to help him see that worrying about one parking space is very short sighted. If things continue on the way they are, we will have more and more people who are out living life in spite of their encumbrances. This is actually positive change for our society.

          Another thing you can point out is that while it is true that some folks do cheat the system it is also true that there are many folks who never ask for help that they actually need. This is the world we have. To focus on “getting the cheaters” is the wrong focus, period.

          1. Wintermute*

            This, so much this, plus we’re an increasingly disabled society. In my youth I worked on the Health and Retirement study for the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Organization, and one of the open research questions was “why are so many more older people [our demographic was just being expanded to include the mid-baby-boom population 1955-’60] disabled than ever before?”

            The solution we realized was modern medicine. Not only is it enabling more people to be out in society and not in care homes, but it’s also meaning that people with severe disabilities that would have lead to an early death in the 1950s or ’60s are now living full lifespans. Modern chloroquinine replacements have revolutionized the treatment of autoimmune disorders, for instance, someone with Lupus is not assumed to have a lifespan of 30-40 years anymore, they can live into their 60s even 70s, perhaps even a full, relatively normal for a certain definition of normal, life now. Modern surgery means that people who would have been in a wheelchair 30 years ago can walk now, with great difficulty but they can walk.

            But that means that we have more disabled people than ever before with all kinds of disabilities highly visible, invisible and everywhere between.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Thank you for this explanation. I had heard my decade had the highest percentage of disabilities of any decade and I always wondered why. My friend was born with a serious birth defect that should have killed him. But it didn’t, he got treatment. Even though the treatment was botched, something must have went right because he lived. And he went on to get polio. At this point in the story many kids from previous decades would have been overwhelmed and killed by all this. However, my friend is still alive. One example but there are many, many more examples all around us.

        2. Essess*

          I was interviewing a person for a position and near the beginning of the interview the man actually bragged that he was able to avoid the parking problem outside our office because he just used his wife’s handicap placard to score a spot right outside.

          I didn’t really listen to what he had to say for the rest of the interview. Our company has strong ethics rules and bragging about breaking the law in the interview told me everything I needed to know about him.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            Even without ethics rules, I wouldn’t want to associate with him either. Imaging working with someone who thinks that’s cool…

          2. Fiberpunk*

            And he thought he was going to score points in an interview for being scammy? Ugh. What a waste of time.

            1. boo bot*

              Maybe he’s trying to weed out companies that wouldn’t be a good, scammy culture fit!

            2. EinJungerLudendorff*

              Maybe he thinks it shows how clever and out-of-the-box his thinking is.
              Or he’s just shortsighted and disgustingly proud of pulling one over on everyone else.

          3. Librarian of SHIELD*

            When I was in college, a girl I had several classes with had a first date she was really excited about. When I asked her about it the next week she said she was never going to see the guy again. Apparently, they went to a bar and grill type place to see a band. The parking lot was full and the guy didn’t want to park in the dirt lot where the overflow was, so he parked in an accessible space. She told him he shouldn’t do that and he said it was fine because nobody at this restaurant ever checked so they wouldn’t get in trouble. She explained that that was not her point, and he didn’t really care, so she went home and they never talked again as far as I know.

      2. Lucy*

        “Who gets to ask” is a fraught question, but “why ask” is simpler. If Jane is using the space / one of the spaces set aside for people with disabilities and nobody else needs it, then why does it matter how badly she deserves it (ugggggggggh)? Would HR or management also get to grill visitors who arrive with tags on their car and want to park in the designated spaces (ugggggggggggggggggggggggggggggh)?

        If on the other hand there are often more people needing the spaces than spaces available, perhaps the employer should think about designating more spaces.

        In the UK it’s very difficult to get a “blue badge” (our equivalent) and there appears to be very little fraudulent use, so I think most of us tend to assume that use is legitimate. It’s a real shame when a few lazy/greedy people misuse a very important accommodation and thereby cast doubt on the people for whom that accommodation can be literally life-changing.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Who gets to ask is simple. The police. Gull stop. In Washington state you get a little walker card to go with the pass/plate. If the *police* have a question, the card along with an ID proved it.

          Just because someone is young doesn’t mean they aren’t disabled. There are several “not in a fucking wheelchair” reasons someone might have one.

          The doctors and the state probably know better than Bob.

        2. RUKiddingMe*

          Even if someone else needs it, if she needs it then “someone else” doesn’t take priority just because.

        3. RUKiddingMe*

          Abuse of parking placards/plates here is really not that widespread.

          It happens sure. Full disclosure I’ve actually known a couple of people who were using it when they shouldn’t have e.g. usually drove Mom (her placard) around, and thought it was no big deal to go ahead and use it at the grocery store even when Mom wasn’t with her. I read that particular person the riot act.

          The thing is that anything can be abused, but all the hyperbole about the rampant abuse of parking placards/plates, food stamps, service dog vests, etc. being so out of control, is just that, hyperbole. It’s really not like most doctors, friends or not will just sign off for no reason. They kinda worked hard for that medical license and most aren’t willing to risk it just so someone, friend/family or not can park close.

          1. Lucy*

            Exactly! The fraudulent use must be tiny compared to the legitimate use – perhaps similar to levels of unlicensed drivers or something. We assume someone driving has a valid licence; we assume someone with a placard/plate/badge is using it legitimately.

            My point about “someone else” is that most workplaces don’t have more people wanting to use reserved parking than reserved parking spaces (at which point it would be fair to ensure that those spaces are used only by those entitled to do so). In other words, the tiny chance of fraudulent use is only even remotely relevant if there is insufficient provision – but (1) we have no reason to believe the use is fraudulent here anyway and (2) if there is insufficient provision then maybe increase provision proactively rather than policing use.

            Parallel – spouse’s OldEmployer had some special parking places reserved for those charging electric/hybrid vehicles. Being able to charge your car for $0 was very attractive. But there were more people wanting to charge their cars than charging spaces, and C-suite liked to park there anyway because the spaces were near the door (face palm). That ended up needing negotiation and compromise … but really a tech firm should have been planning ahead and realising that chargeable cars are becoming more popular so installing additional charging points would have been clever. Similarly, if you want to be able to employ people with disabilities on equal terms, and since it’s 2019 yes you do, proactively ensuring that your workplace has ample provision including assuming good faith, taking people at their word, suitable parking, level access, bathrooms, etc will show that you actually mean it.

            1. Lucy*

              Argh and by “ensure that spaces are used only by those entitled to do so” would be “check that cars are displaying necessary tags”, not “ask employees for medical details”!!

            2. Bunny Girl*

              I’m willing to bet it’s a lot smaller than unlicensed drivers. I used to work in a police station and the amount of unlicensed drivers is actually a lot larger than you would believe.

          2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

            The thing is that anything can be abused, but all the hyperbole about the rampant abuse of parking placards/plates, food stamps, service dog vests, etc. being so out of control, is just that, hyperbole. It’s really not like most doctors, friends or not will just sign off for no reason. They kinda worked hard for that medical license and most aren’t willing to risk it just so someone, friend/family or not can park close.
            This. So much this.

          3. Jadelyn*

            I saw a screencap of a tweet about “abuse of food stamps being at an all-time high!” by saying “Yeah, the all-time high is 0.9%. That definitely sounds like a good reason for attacking the other 99.1%, right?”

            Weigh the harm you’re potentially causing if you’re wrong against the actual odds of you being right in this one instance. I like to think any reasonable person would quickly realize that their potential to humiliate, abuse, and harass disabled folks for “not looking disabled” is far worse than the effects of a *few* people here and there who are genuinely abusing the system.

            1. pamela voorhees*

              There’s a very good book out called “The Queen” by Josh Levin that chronicles Linda Taylor, the “Cadillac driving welfare queen” that really created the stereotype of welfare cheats, and convinced people that welfare fraud was widespread. The problem is, as the book explains, Linda Taylor is an absolutely buckwild but singular person – so yes, she did commit crimes (and really welfare fraud is the absolute least of it) but there’s absolutely no evidence of widespread abuse of the system — just like with disability tags re: OP1. Yes, people will always have individual stories of tag abuse, but it’s a bit like trying to argue that nobody should be allowed to have dogs because someone might secretly run a dogfighting ring.

          4. JSPA*

            I’ve heard some irritating people brag about getting one because they had friends in the police department. But…. I’ve also had a couple of cases where family members then mention, sotto voce, that pop / husband / granny doesn’t like to admit to having a heart condition / emphysema / MS (and the placard is legit). So I try very hard not to judge.

          5. EinJungerLudendorff*

            Yeag, the problem with abusing the system is that you both have to be a complete jackwagon, and be willing to put a bunch of effort in for something that is (to you) of relatively little value.

        4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Even from the most cynical, business-minded standpoint, even if I approach this issue with zero empathy, confronting Jane about her spot and tag is still a terrible idea. Don’t know the numbers on handicap tag fraud, but I assume they can’t be that high. Suppose that the odds of Jane’s tag being fraudulent are, say, 5%. This means, if CEO and OP’s boss confront, or fire, her, there’s a 5% possibility of contrite Jane apologizing and making whatever amends, and 95% of the outcome being what Alison described – a lawsuit against the company, the story hitting the social media and then the media media, the news getting out to the competitors who will milk it to the last drop. Heck, if CEO Bob’s company is small enough, it might shut down as a result of all this. Is this kind of risk worth the questionable pleasure, to Bob, of Bob sticking his nose where it does not belong?

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Nesting error – That was supposed to be a reply to Artemesia! Sorry!

        5. Rebeck*

          A friend in the UK has been fighting a losing battle with her child’s school for the last decade over use of the (only) disabled parking space. The school has at various times kept the minibus in it, or had it half covered by a skip. Problems with accessibility are not unknown in the UK.

          1. Loose Seal*

            Nor are the unknown anywhere:


            (Images of places that are meant to give access but so clearly don’t.)

        6. Seespotbitejane*

          Also, the idea that “people cheat at parking sometimes” at grocery stores or whatever is different than doing it everyday at work. I have a friend with an invisible disability and a totally legitimate hang tag. She actively avoids using it at work because even though she works for a very empathetic employer she’s worried about bias in the workplace. Your experience at a store you’re shopping at is transitory but a place you go every day, where people know you is different. I find it hard to believe someone would be so attached to their fraudulent parking that they’d willing take on all the BS and risk that comes with having your employer know you have a disability.

      3. Forrest*

        If the company finds that they have more employees or visitors with disabled parking badges than they have disabled spaces, they can create more disabled spaces.

        If there’s a lot of fraudulent use, then the people who manage the scheme need to identify what problems are being caused and if necessary redesign the scheme. But it’s often the case that it’s better to tolerate a certain amount of fraudulent use to ensure that everyone who needs a badge gets one than to design a scheme around the likelihood of fraudulent use that excludes some people who need one, which may be what’s happening here.

        It’s definitely *not* a private company’s job to police who is “genuinely” entitled to a disabled badge. (How would they even do that, anyway? They have a CEO who doesn’t know that there’s such a thing as invisible disabilities: how good do you think they’d be at deciding who is ~really~ entitled to use their badge?)

        1. Pommette!*

          If the CEO cares about accessibility, there are lots of steps he can take to promote it. Seeing to it that more spots were designated will go a long way to ensure that accessible parking spots aren’t an artificially scarce resource that needs to be policed.

        1. MayLou*

          Really? Is it a criminal matter to use a handicapped tag when you’re not entitled? This is a genuine question, I’m in the UK and I’m not sure what the law is here either.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              It’s a parking violation here (Seattle). When I forgot to hang mine (twice!) I got a ticket. Went to court, showed my stuff. No fines because I’m entitled, just forgetful. Judge “talked to” me about my memory. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Should clarify. Police issue citations, citations lead to fines ($450.00 per occurrence in my state), and police can have a vehicle towed which will end up costing even more money.

            Possibly needing to go to court, but IDK about that for certain.

            One’s employer…or any random person has no right to demand proof. Only police can require that.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              Yes, but they only issue citations. They don’t arrest people. It’s considered a civil crime (i.e. parking violation) not a criminal offense.

              1. doreen*

                That is going to very much depend on exactly what you mean by “fraudulently use”. If you mean a person uses Mom’s legit placard when Mom is not there, he or she probably won’t be arrested (mostly for practical reasons ) – but that doesn’t mean they can’t be :
                And I’m sure that California is not the only state with such a law.
                Other types of fraud – lying on the application or an outright forgery often does lead to arrests. And while doctors don’t generally want to lose their license , there are some conditions that don’t lend themselves to tests so the doctor must rely on what the patient reports- I mean , if I tell my doctor my knees hurt so much from arthritis that I have to use a brace/cane/walker, he’s not going to tell me I’m lying about how much pain I’m in.

          2. The Rafters*

            Police can issue citations and the fines are usually quite a bit larger than those just for parking a little too close to the fire hydrant, etc.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            In most U.S. States, yes, it’s a matter that falls within the police’s purview. It’s effectively a traffic/parking violation, often subject to a fine. In my state (California), it can rise to the level of a misdemeanor and be escalated to a higher offense under certain circumstances.

          4. Akcipitrokulo*

            Yes. From a solicitors’ webpage

            “It is a criminal offence, under s117 Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, to misuse a badge. Under Fraud Act 2006, it is a fraudulent offence to use a fake badge, a stolen badge or the badge of someone who is deceased. If you are suspected of committing a criminal offence, you will be interviewed under caution by the police. If you are charged, you will face prosecution. Following a conviction, you will receive a conviction for fraud on your criminal record and a possible fine of up to £1000.”

      4. Mookie*

        This is not remotely the kind of hill employees die on for their employers. This is not a problem their workplace has any business solving.

        LW: document all of this. You and the new employee may need it.

      5. Harper the Other One*

        The thing is that the amount of fraud does not justify making the lives of people who need a placard any harder through speculation about whether they REALLY need it.

        If you personally know of fraud, you can likely report it. But that’s only if you know 100% that someone is DELIBERATELY using a placard fraudulently, and that’s hard to know. People cover up how serious their challenges are to save face; people have conditions that vary highly from day to day; people get medical advice from their doctors about how much to walk in a day that you wouldn’t necessarily hear about.

        I get your impulse, and it sucks that anyone uses a placard meant to help people in real need for their own convenience. But any confrontation about the right to a placard –
        from anyone, but particularly from an employer – is more likely to mistakenly target someone in actual need than it is to catch a scammer.

        1. Mary*

          >>I get your impulse–

          –but if you want to support disabled people, there are SO MANY MORE USEFUL things you could be doing than gatekeeping who is entitled to a parking badge!

          1. Archaeopteryx*

            Yes, the impulse to expose supposed fraudulent tag users seems more related to wanting to play detective and get to shame somebody than it is to any kind of desire to protect disabled people.

        2. RUKiddingMe*

          “The thing is that the amount of fraud does not justify making the lives of people who need a placard any harder through speculation about whether they REALLY need it.”

          This right here. This is all of it.

      6. Overeducated*

        Not trying to be flippant since I don’t know the answer of who has the responsibility of verifying passes legally, think in this context it’s quite simple. It sounds like legally the boss doesn’t get to require disclosure, which is presumably a rule to avoid potential workplace discrimination. That is the workplace’s actual obligation and primary responsibility to their employees. Potential fraud is indeed a problem in the world, but that doesn’t make it a work problem.

        1. Cathie*

          Here in Saskatchewan Canada, the way the system now works is that a doctor has to attest to the need for a person to get a parking pass (mainly, that the person finds it difficult to walk more than 100 feet, I think) and whether the disability is temporary or permanent. Then the form is taken to the Saskatchewan Abilities Council office, which then provides the pass — it can expire on specific month or is good for several years, whatever the situation requires. The pass is transferable between vehicles. I don’t know if every province has it set up this way or not. The Abilities Council is an NGO which is funded to provide services to disabled people (ie, they will lend people wheelchairs, sponsor summer camps for children, etc) so it is logical that they get involved with the parking passes too.
          When I broke my leg, I got a temporary pass — I was amazed at how excited my office mates were when we were going downtown for lunch one day and I told them we could use my parking pass for the van we all travelled in. When they saw how difficult it was for me to get out of the van and across the icy sidewalk into the restaurant, I think their enthusiasm was quelled somewhat — maybe it helped them realize how truly annoying it was to have a disability that limits walking.

      7. Anathema Device*

        Really? Because I’ve never known anyone to misuse one. So either you have awful friends or maybe perhaps there’s some hyperbole involved here?

        1. Lx in Canada*

          It’s like disability/welfare… There’s always the “but the scammers!” I know many people who don’t appear disabled at first glance, but then when you get to know them better you learn more about them and you find there’s many reasons why they’re on disability/need a placard/whatever. I’ve learned to try my best not to judge… It probably helps that I appear perfectly healthy but actually have a bunch of completely invisible health problems you wouldn’t know about just by looking at me. :)

        2. RabbitRabbit*

          My father-in-law used to misuse one. He had one leftover from when his wife had needed it. But he was a pretty awful person in general.

        3. Jules the 3rd*

          I don’t know anyone who has misused one. I know 4 people who have one.

          Anecdote, not data, but even if the ‘fraud’ rate is as high as 10%, you’re much more likely to be harassing someone with an invisible disability than someone who is using it fraudulently.

          I’d really push on this one, OP. Don’t let them get into ‘which invisible disability do you think she might have’, just say that invisible disabilities are real, and that it’s not your company’s job to police that.

          1. uranus wars*

            Off the top of my head I can think of 6 people I know who use a disability tag. 4 of them use someone else’s so they can get better parking. But I still don’t think it’s our job to police it and in this case in particular the OP should push back.

        4. Anon for this*

          I shortly dated a person whose mother used her tag long after she needed it because she “deserved to park close too!” and let me tell you she was the evilest person I have ever met. Maybe .001% of people think to misuse it like that.

        5. JJ Bittenbinder*

          According to the police in my town, they issue citations approximately 2 times per week to someone who is using someone else’s tag or using a long-expired one. While one can safely assume that more people are doing it than are getting caught, that’s still not a huge number of people.

      8. Detective Amy Santiago*

        No one gets to ask. The damage you can do questioning a disabled person far outweighs any ‘benefit’ of catching a scammer.

      9. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Artemesia, there’s fraudulent use of just about everything you can think of. I don’t think it’s helpful to ask ‘how should this get dealt with…so that people who actually need these spots get them?’ – if only because people who need these spots actually DO get them.

        I agree, it sucks knowing some people are gaming the system – but they are not the majority. Even so, fraudulent use doesn’t justify making people prove their need to appease those who are outraged because of their personal knowledge of fraud.

      10. Vermonter*

        I’m a disabled person, but my disability is invisible. I would much rather Jane hypothetically get away with using a handicap card she doesn’t need than get grilled by my employer about why I need one.

      11. HannahS*

        Well, I think that you as a friend have an opportunity to speak out against the fraudulent use of those passes every time you hear about it. You can remind these people that most users of the pass genuinely need it, even if they don’t appear to, so using one fraudulently is taking a limited resource away from someone who needs it. You can scold and shame them! You can even report it to whichever body regulates the use of these passes. But Harper the Other One’s and Lucy’s comments above pretty much sums it up. At work, take people at their word.

      12. uranus wars*

        I actually worked with a woman once who used a handicap tag on her vehicle and used the only handicap spot in our parking lot for a long time. It was a campus that had a lot of visitors so we would have to get exceptions all the time for the visitors who came in wheelchairs or otherwise couldn’t walk and let them park in the fire lane. No one ever wanted to say anything to her, though, because (as others have stated) you never know.

        It wasn’t until I broke my leg about 2 years into working there she admitted she didn’t have a disability and the tag was her grandmothers. She felt she had a right to use it because even though her grandmother passed away “she was always with [her].

        I know I shouldn’t care what other people do, but it took me a little while to not be skeptical of people who used a tag. It was like the intellectual part of my brain got it, but sometimes my emotions couldn’t listen.

        1. Observer*

          So you have ONE case and that means that “everyone” needs to be suspect? Yeah, your emotions are definitely not in sync with reality. The good news is that you are an adult, and can act on fact rather than emotion.

          I would also add that while this woman is a true jerk (spare me the emotional mumbo-jumbo!) your campus management were an equally bad lot. ONE handicapped slot for a campus that gets tons of visitors – A lot of them handicapped?! And they KNOW about the problem because you keep on having to have people park in the fire lane! Sorry, if anyone cares about disability, the people who REALLY need to have their heads handed to them are the people who never added some slots.

          Although, I’d be fine with firing this woman as well.

          1. uranus wars*

            I probably should clarify some things: This was 20 years ago. For the past 19 years I have had my emotions in check that disability does not = visible. At 23 I had a harder time getting over myself than I do currently. 10 weeks of crutching uphill made me obviously biased as well – even though I did have some killer arms.

            The campus also added numerous other slots since the days of this incident.

            She was fired eventually, but not for that incident.

            I also never meant to imply everyone should be suspect. I noted elsewhere that I don’t think its my job to police and the OP should push hard against what the CEO and boss are implying.

            1. Observer*

              I totally understand why your emotions were what they were – you were clearly victimized by this woman. And her excuse was really awful. And I do give you a lot of credit for recognizing the disconnect and acting appropriately.

              The campus also added numerous other slots since the days of this incident.

              That’s good to hear. Seriously, I can’t imagine why it took them so long.

              She was fired eventually, but not for that incident.
              It’s not really surprising. The employer doesn’t seem to have taken the situation to seriously, but this woman clearly has (had?) both integrity and empathy issues, so it’s really not surprising that she’s wind up fired eventually.

            2. Michaela Westen*

              I would have anonymously reported her to whoever governs the handicapped passes.

            3. AnonyMoose*

              I work for a big public university and parking is a scarce and valued resource on campus. We don’t have nearly enough handicapped parking spots close to buildings for both visitors and staff.

              I’m glad she got fired, and if your university is anything like mine, it probably took a lot of time and documentation for that to happen. My department under new leadership finally fired one person who had not been doing his job well or at all for a long time this winter. The guy was making close to 6 figures, but it was unsure how much he actually did except be a BS buddy with the former head grand poobah. People had been frustrated with him and his staff for a long time, so it was coming.

      13. BananaPants*

        It’s the responsibility of the government entity that administers a handicapped placard/plate program to reduce fraud, in conjunction with law enforcement/parking enforcement. It’s certainly not a matter for an employer to try to police among their employees.

        My parents have disability placards. In our state it isn’t a simple matter to get a permanent disability placard; physician certification is required, the person has to have specific disabling conditions, and the need for a placard has to be re-certified by a physician when their driver’s licenses are renewed. The permit is issued to the disabled person and is only supposed to be used when the permit holder is in the vehicle. When a permit holder dies, their placard is revoked automatically and if the DMV gets reports of misuse or abuse they can and will revoke the placard.

        They’ve been subjected to rude comments from strangers who assume they obtained or are using it fraudulently because neither of them is in a wheelchair. They both still work full time and are out and about more often than some folks with placards/plates. Dad’s disabling condition is “invisible” but progressive, while Mom walks with a visible limp – he actually doesn’t use his placard most of the time unless Mom is with him because he’s so often on the receiving end of comments from members of the public who think it’s somehow their business to know details of his disabling condition.

      14. Observer*

        Chances are that a youngish person using one at work is actually disabled would see quite high. BUT there is a huge amount of fraudulent use of handicapped parking passes

        Given the first half of this quote-back, the second half is just not relevant.

        I get that universally abuse of the system is a real problem, although I would challenge you on the scope, your stories notwithstanding. (You don’t get to hear all of the “dog bites man” stories of people who got their cards legitimately, nor the stories of people who should have been given a card but weren’t.)

        But it really does not matter in this context AT ALL. On the one hand there is absolutely no reason to assume that Jane is actually being fraudulent. On the other hand, there is also no reason to believe that someone else with a “CEO Approved disability” is being denied a place.

      15. Mike C.*

        How do you know that there is a “huge amount of fraudulent use”? How do you even go about measuring and classifying this?

      16. Lime Lehmer*

        In my state, Handicap parking permits are issued on a temporary (6 month) or permanent ( 2 year ) basis and have to be certified by a medical practitioner.

        So the mechanism to make sure that theses passes are not abused is in the hands of a medical practitioner and the state and is renewed on a regular basis.

      17. OhNo*

        If HR can’t require documentation then who does get to make sure that these passes are not abused to the detriment of those who need them?

        The DMV, when they issue them. I guess maybe you’ve never gotten a pass yourself, but you have to have a form filled out and signed by a medical professional in order to even get one of those passes. And they are tied to a specific name (and sometimes license number or license plate), so the police can run the placard number and issue citations if the wrong person/car is using them.

        Source: I am disabled, have a placard, and have been harassed for using it even though I use a wheelchair because someone got on their high horse about fraud and decided I must be faking.

      18. Burned Out Supervisor*

        HR certainly does not get to ask. These passes are the purview of the state agencies, such as the DMV. If you think a friend is using one inappropriately, you could certainly alert the DMV, but HR would pointedly not get involved as the risk of breaking employment law would be too high.

      19. poolgirl*

        At my workplace the on-site nurse reviews documentation from the employee’s doctor and the DMV and handicap placard for our facility is issued. This is absolutely necessary as the same situation Artemisia reports was rampant at our facility. It’s sad to say a large proportion of people had no qualms whatsoever about abusing the system. It’s true there are many people with hidden disabilities, and hassling them is legally and ethically wrong. I can understand people’s frustration though, as how I’ve witnessed first-hand for many years how people will give any excuse for convenient parking spot IE. But I was only going to be a minute! Or they’ll leave someone else in the car and say well I would move anyone wanted the spot. Now that I have to deal with taking my mother places with her wheelchair, the self-centeredness of a lot of people is really discouraging. Just to be clear I am NOT talking about people who are actually disabled invisibly, I’m talking about the people who illegally take handicap spots, whether by using someone else’s hang tag or not. In reference to the suggestion the CEO just make more handicap spots, there is a formula that mandates at a minimum how many spaces there should be, according to the number of employees or the average patrons of the business.

        1. Fiberpunk*

          I would wonder if that oversight was legal and would consider it seriously problematic. Your employer doesn’t get to decide, if the employee’s doctor said they were qualified. Also, making someone turn over medical records to use a pass they have acquired legally is just so horrible.
          If someone was turned down as the nurse didn’t think they were disabled enough, I think there are real potential legal issues. Your employer is not behaving well.

          1. nonymous*

            I was thinking that the nurse’s review was in lieu of checking with DMV that the placards were legit. Anyone with their own placard would have the application packet including documentation of the placard ID, and having the nurse review means that immediate supervisors/coworkers don’t see HIPAA details.

        2. Observer*

          What Fiberpunk said.

          Here’s the deal. You do NOT need to do what your employer is doing to curb abuse. If your on-site nurse is actually disqualifying a significant number of placards that the doctor signed off on, your employer WILL get sued and they WILL lose.

          I’m going to point out that your claim has little credibility for two reasons. Firstly, you keep on refusing to provide actual data – ether a study or data published by an entity that has jurisdiction on the matter. Secondly, you are explicitly conflating a number of different issues. While parking in a handicapped space “just for a minute” is an abuse of the system, using stuff like that to prove that there are a “huge” number of fraudulent tags is nonsensical (and tbh, seems rather dishonest.)

      20. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It’s simply not true that there’s a “huge amount of fraudulent use,” and it is actively harmful to people with DP-qualifying disabilities to repeat that non-fact.

        1. poolgirl*

          Actually, there is a huge amount of fraudulent use. It’s not a majority but it is a large amount. I understand it’s difficult to believe because people I want to believe the best of other people, but unfortunately my 25 years of experience have shown me that it’s true. And actually calling out the fraudsters helps people who are disabled and need those spaces, so not sure what you’re referring to that it harms them.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Can you offer data for that? Other people have provided data to the contrary, so if that’s going to get repeated here, I’d like it to be backed up by real stats.

            I also want to emphasize, though, that it’s irrelevant to the letter writer situation.

            1. poolgirl*

              Yes I can. I will happily tell you the position I hold, and even my name, if I can do it directly. I work at a federal facility so I have to post anonymously.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Is your data anecdotal, or global? Is it specific to your facility, or is it a more universal representation of abuse?

                I ask because I don’t doubt that there are jobs in which people see placard abuse occur more frequently. But I think folks are extrapolating their experiences to draw conclusions about the world writ large, and from what I can tell, data doesn’t support those conclusions.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Yes, I’m asking about published data for large groups, not anecdotal or narrowly defined!

                  I want to ask that people stop repeating this idea that there’s widespread abuse unless they’re citing actual data to back it up — because otherwise misinformation is too likely to get repeated. Thank you.

                2. poolgirl*

                  My data comes from a career working in a field where parking enforcement is under our purview. Maximum staffing at my current facility (in the US) can exceed 5,000, from a large cross section of the public. My previous experience is from a jurisdiction not bound by this facility. Without constant enforcement, roughly about 30% of people were abusing the system. I am not referring to people who attempt to fraudulently obtain a hang tag, I’m referring to people who are not disabled and try to abuse the system, thus taking away spaces from people who legitimately need them. To be clear, I in no way condone the LW situation, no one except law enforcement has any business determining whether someone is parking illegally or not.

      21. Samwise*

        It’s not up to HR to check on that — in most (all?) states the placard is something you get from the DMV, which has documentation requirements, etc. It’s none of HR’s business.

        Yes, there’s a lot of fraud (people using false placards, people using a relative’s placard, people getting placards under false pretenses, straight up assholes who park in handicap spots without any placard). So what? There are also a lot of people who aren’t committing fraud. You can’t tell the difference. You can’t.

        If you think someone’s committing fraud, you can report it to the DMV. Or to Handicapped Fraud . org. Steps to follow:

        Keep HR out of it.

      22. AnonyMoose*

        I work for a public university where parking is both a valued and scarce resource, as well as being entirely self funded, getting no public money. Parking permits for staff and students range from $900 to 12oo per year, depending on where you get assigned to, and your assigned area is dependent on your length of service. The longer you’ve worked for the university, the better (and closer to your office) your parking spot will be.

        Campus followed state guidelines for handicapped parking up until about 10 years ago, when they added needing a campus handicap tag in addition to the state required permit. The likely reason was that there were some staff and students who had a state issued handicapped parking permit parking in handicapped spots that were more aimed at visitors rather than staff so they didn’t have to pay for parking. It was an equity and fairness issue because most of us have to pay something to get to work, whether it’s a bus pass or for parking. It was also not making campus welcoming to visitors by forcing people who had state issued permits pay for parking in a city garage. The campus handicapped tag is about 2/3rds the cost of a regular parking permit and it allows its holder to park anywhere in a lot or garage with handicapped spots.

        One particular person who works in my building was one of the people who was abusing the free handicapped visitor parking. She still has her tag, but has to pay for it. I’m sure she wasn’t happy about having her free parking taken away, but it’s still more fair to those of us who pay for our bus pass or parking permit.

      23. Astonished*

        Do you have any source for there being a huge number of fraudulent handicapped parking pass users? It might be your own prejudice at play here.

      24. Cherries on top*

        1. Do you have evidence of that?
        2. Even if 20% of handicap parkings were made by people who didn’t need the space, should you eliminate handicap parking? Tighten the rules for reciving a permit? Have all people in need of parking cut of their legs so there’s visable “proof” that they are entitled to the “perk”?

    2. Phony Genius*

      This can get really ugly if the CEO orders a lower ranking manager fire the employee. In many jurisdictions, this would be an act of discrimination made by that manager, and the law will not allow that manager to hide behind the employer. That is, even though they were on the job, the manager, not the employer, could be made to pay the judgement. Yet, if the manager refuses, the CEO could fire the manager, which would likely lead to the manager having a valid suit against the company. Of course, any time you take a “they said/they said” case to court, the outcome cannot be guaranteed.

      In short, if your manager is trying to make you do the firing, you are legally obligated to say no. But don’t expect it to end there.

    3. charo*

      “Fergus” sounds like he’s either the most dense guy ever, or he has an “issue,” a pervy / obsessive issue of some kind. Either one is serious enough to threaten to fire him. There’s so
      “Disabled ” — psychologically.

  3. Sami*

    I have a handicap placard and invisible disabilities. I’d be HORRIFIED to know anyone in my workplace thinkers of me this. Let alone wanting to fire me. OP- please continue to pushback on this.

    1. No I don’t LOOK disabled...*

      So many disabilities are invisible, and so many people expect them not to be. I know I’ve been side-eyed by people who think I look fine.

      Your CEO is a jerk, and someone needs to educate him.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        And the younger you are the more side-eye you get. My(multiple) disabilities started in my 20s. In my 20s multiple doctors and four different states felt I met the criteria. But sure, Bob knows better. I don’t like Bob.

        1. Amber T*

          “You’re too young to be that sick/in pain/hurting!”

          Please kindly tell my body that, and then please kindly go fork off.

          1. Anax*

            “You’re not disabled, you’re just immature! Get over it!”

            … is my personal favorite. It’s amazing how many people think PTSD is just… whininess.

          2. Annabelle*

            I have invisible disabilities that started when I hit 21, and even though they’re enough for me to get a handicapped spot I don’t want to go through the effort of dealing with people to get one. I’m still processing the pain years later, I don’t need strangers asking if I’m sure I really hurt as well. Also might be tempted to start throwing things…

        2. MassMatt*

          This is a big thing, I know 2 people with barely or in-visible disabilities and many of the vigilantes are elderly. Someone with MS and a vet with a leg so riddled with screws and plates it sets off airport metal detectors just don’t cut it with them, they feel entitled both to the spaces (“Those are for US, sonny!) and the vigilantism.

    2. Auntie Social*

      Why do the boss and CEO automatically think the worst about someone? Why wouldn’t they assume the best about a new hire, or at least give them the benefit of the doubt?

      1. Jasnah*

        I wonder if they give crap to people who take sick days off and don’t come in the next day coughing and sneezing: “You don’t LOOK sick.”

        1. Catsaber*

          I had a boss like that – if we needed a sick day, we had to call her in the morning and explain our illness *and* sound sufficiently sick to her. Then she’d let out this long, exasperated sigh and say, “Okay, well get better,” and hang up the phone. She absolutely hated anyone being out of the office for anything.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            Likewise, years ago. A co-worker was fighting a flu bug and asked to go home for the second half of the day. Our boss asked her usual questions, making faces and taking long, uncomfortable pauses, as if she hoped the person would be shamed into saying, ‘Okay, you caught me, I’m lying.’

            Ha. My co-worker threw up, and I mean THREW UP. She later said she aimed for the wastebasket, but she hit our boss’s desk pretty square-on. We were in an open office and the smell was vile; if anything smells worse than sick, it’s Glade-scented sick. But the look on our boss’s face was worth it.

            1. Catleesi*

              I had a boss do something similar. I was at a conference, relatively near to where I lived. I woke up feeling ill, and threw up. I told my boss, did my presentation, and then told her I needed to leave. Her response was “if you really think you need to.”

              If businesses trust employees to handle their daily work, their fund, their clients, etc – they really should be trusting them to not be blatantly lying and taking advantage of these kind of situations. Just because a small number of people take advantage of and abuse privileges doesn’t mean the larger group should be punished for it.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              Hahahaha, that happened to me in primary school once. I was in the library and said I felt sick, but the librarian wouldn’t let me leave to go to the bathroom (I was in time-out; it’s a long story of abuse and I don’t want to tell it). I sat there as long as I could and finally bolted for the hall, where I proceeded to upchuck in spectacular fashion–twice.

              They called my mum and she took me home. For years afterward, I wished I’d stayed in my seat and thrown up on the carpeted library floor. Or on the librarian.

      2. Works in IT*

        The only reason I could see would be if either they don’t control how many handicapped parking spaces there are (lot owned by third party that won’t add more), or if it’s a small parking lot in general so adding more handicapped spaces isn’t really an option. I know that when I worked retail we were told to park as far away from the building as possible because the parking spots closer to the building were for customers.

        But none of those situations gives justification for saying someone isn’t “really” disabled! More a reason to be annoyed when the parking lot owner decides to put in a fast food place or bank and reduces the amount of available parking immensely.

        1. Yvette*

          “The only reason I could see would be if either they don’t control how many handicapped parking spaces there are”
          We had that issue at old job. The building was located in an industrial park. The state/town/whatever mandated the number of handicapped as a percentage of total spaces. We were not the kind of place that got a lot of random visitors. We could have designated a handicapped spot for each employee that needed one, plus ten extra (that would probably almost never get used, any of them) and it would only have been half of what we were supposed to have. We needed so many spaces we had to lease from other companies in other buildings some of which were literally a 5 -10 minute walk away. It was kind of disheartening to have to park that far away in awful weather and then walk in and out past empty spaces day after day. As far as I know however no one abused them, they were left empty, all day every day.

        2. Anax*

          A minimum number of handicapped parking spaces is legally required by the ADA. I definitely know of a few small businesses in my hometown which only have handicapped spaces at all because it’s legally required, and I suspect that’s fairly common.


          A lot of them think of it as an unnecessary and onerous imposition, especially the folks with smaller lots.

        3. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          Ugh, yes. I worked somewhere where the lot was too small for the capacity of the building, so the staff had to park on the street. The neighborhood was mostly apartments and you’d end up parking blocks away, irritating the people whose building you just parked in front of. We had people get physically threatened and have their cars vandalized.

    3. MJ*

      The number of people who misuse the placard must be tiny compared to the number of people who need it and use it appropriately. Therefore, odds are Jane is using it appropriately. Does the CEO really want to play those long odds?

      1. Anonny*

        Many countries make it difficult to get disability benefits/placards/devices so if Jane has one, she almost certainly needs it! It’s more likely that there are people who need them and were denied them than there are people who fraudulently have them.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          “It’s more likely that there are people who need them and were denied them than there are people who fraudulently have them.”

          Exactly this. I’ve known people who absolutely couldn’t get around well, really needed them but had paranoid doctors and so it took forever to get one who was like “well of course you need it!”

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            My grandpa fought for a ridiculously long time to get one (with his doctor’s assistance!) after his right leg was amputated (following a diagnosis of Agent Orange-related issues). A *ridiculously* long time. They kept issuing the temporary ones with a very short expiration period…as if his lack of a leg was going to suddenly get better? It brought my grandmother to tears on many occasions from pure frustration & helplessness. They were in their 60s when it happened. How is a 60s year old woman supposed to help a 60s year old man, new amputee and still learning how to function, in and out of a wheelchair in a normal parking spot??

            I have no sympathy for those who misuse the system…but it’s also 100% none of my business to be the one policing whether it’s “needed” or not, because you have no idea what their diagnoses are and/or what they went through to get diagnosed, it’s likely to be invisible, and you have no idea what they went through to get that damn placard.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              Everywhere I’ve had one it’s been pretty simple. The doctor fills out the paper work, I take it to DMV, I get the placard.

              The disabling conditions seem to be pretty much the same stuff state to state even if worded slightly differently.

              Mine is “permanent.” That means getting the doctor to re-sign every five years (she does) and getting shiny new placards. The plates just stay the same.

              1. Environmental Compliance*

                It was supposed to be a simple process, but the office here for it mucks up on a grandiose level. Once it was finally through, it was a very simple re-signing process.

                1. Auntie Social*

                  That’s how many caregivers are injured—wives trying to wrangle a man into a bed, the tub, a wheelchair. Which gives the caregiver spouse a bad back–the gift that keeps on giving, long after the patient has passed away.

    4. Liz*

      that irks me like nothing else. My mom, who uses a wheelchair 24/7 but still drives has one. So her disability IS visible. I have a co-worker who has an invisible disability, and also has one. My VERY judgmental, know it all boss, noticed her car parked in the HC spot, and proclaimed LOUDLY “why is SHE parking there????” Im friends with said CW and just kept my mouth shut. But she’s the type (boss) who would do the same thing the CEO in the OP did. becuase she’s ignorant.

    5. Phony Genius*

      I’ve seen some really ugly stuff in Florida. For example, in a parking lot where all of the reserved spaces were filled, somebody rolling by in a wheelchair was yelling at a guy using a cane. He was saying that the picture on the sign shows a wheelchair, not a cane, so the spaces are for wheelchair users, not cane users. Apparently, some people think that they are in some kind of competition to see who is more disabled.

      1. Construction Safety*

        FL is some kind of special though. The Lowe’s in Ocala has designated first six spots of virtually every row as HC accessible.

      2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        It’s really hard when there isn’t enough of something to go around. I will say, trying to help someone get into a wheelchair in a spot that does not have the little “aisle” next to it so the chair can be rolled alongside the vehicle is sometimes impossible and always difficult. My grandmother can walk very short distances using a walker some of the time (such as trips to the bathroom at home), but needs to use a wheelchair almost all of the time. She is too frail to push a chair herself, so we have one of those travel chairs that someone else has to push. I feel bad taking a close to the door space since I’m perfectly able to push that chair across a parking lot, but I really need a space with extra elbow room on the passenger side so she can get in and out of her chair. I realize that cane users may tire quickly and need to be as close to the door as possible, but I actually can’t get grandma out of the car and into the store at all without either the spot marked with the “aisle” or parking across two spots somewhere in regular parking. (In our state, there are 3 different levels of placard, and in large lots some spots are set aside for people, such as my grandma, who need the wheelchair spots with the aisles from the larger supply of close-to-door disabled placard spots to try and solve this.)

        In parking lots that happen to have non-disabled spots with aisles next to them on the useful side of the car (some parking lots will paint a pedestrian crosswalk all the way through the lot, for example), I’ll tend to park in those with grandma since they work just as well for her actual needs. Similarly, if you don’t need the elbow room, just to be close to the door, if there are multiple disabled spots try not to take one of the ones with that aisle. It’s frustrating that we’re trying to pack “can only go short distances and needs to be close” in the same needs bin as “needs more space around the car” when some people only need one or the other of those (some people, of course, need both), but that’s where we’re stuck with for now.

        Also, if you see someone parked on the line and taking up two spaces, while it’s possible they’re just a jerk, keep in mind that they might be doing that because there are no accessible spots with aisles available and they’re otherwise trapped in their car. I know my boss at work was frustrated when she noticed a car parked right in front of our building that way once last year, until I pointed out that a paratransit bus (which was there to pick up someone with a disability from the entrance next to ours) had completely blocked off both of the accessible spots in our lot while they waited so they might be parked that way because they needed to get in and out with a wheelchair. (This space blocking happens a lot in our parking lot. The people next to us serve a large disabled population and their buses are always blocking the accessible parking. The lot really needs to be re-designed with a bus zone for them that is not also where the can/van sized disabled spots are, but that’s not something we have control over.) We kept an eye on the car in two spots, and sure enough, it was someone in a wheelchair who couldn’t get to the accessible spots.

        1. EH*

          I see that kind of double-space parking pretty frequently, and it never occurred to me that it might be for the reason you explain! Thank you for sharing this.

      3. Catleesi*

        My uncle, who uses a power wheelchair, generally doesn’t use handicap parking. He figures we can park further away and as long as the ramp can get down it doesn’t matter how close he is to the door. People with trouble walking, or in push chairs would have more trouble than he does.

        The majority of the people I’ve seen trying to police accessible parking don’t need it themselves – and it’s really disheartening to see people that do need it trying to “outdo” one another.

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, this is incredibly appalling, and I am so sorry about this. As Alison notes, I think it would be incredibly helpful for you to intervene with your boss, and to enlist him in addressing the CEO. You don’t want to wait for this to blow over—this is going to linger in the CEO’s mind, ultimately skewing their entire perception of New Hire.

    Even if the CEO realizes they can’t fire New Hire, that CEO and possibly your boss may carry a great deal of biased, emotional baggage with them when they evaluate New Hire. So in addition to safeguarding her, now, they also need to reframe right quick to avoid penalizing her for their secret, unfounded suspicions. This is why I think, if you feel you have the security and political capital, you should affirmatively intervene. And if you don’t feel you have that power and you have a functional HR department, share your concerns with that department.

    Normally I’m a fan of doing this one-on-one, but this is such an egregious situation that it may also make sense to request that the employer solicit and obtain diversity training. Your boss and CEO’s attitudes are extremely harmful and laden with fundamental misunderstandings or misperceptions of disability.

      1. MarsJenkar*

        Given that the CEO is the one causing the problem, HR’s hands may be tied. Still, you should talk to them; one way or another, they should be able to clarify the situation further.

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      I’m really concerned for that employee. With this attitude she’s unlikely to get a fair shake from this company. Even with diversity training, I’d bet this attitude is so ingrained that it’s not going to help.

      Internal dialogue: “Sure a young person could be disabled, but how do we know our employee is? Why can’t I demand she disclose/prove it to me? Is she “slacking” because she’s ‘disabled’? Maybe I should manager her more closely. Look she’s walking so she’s not really disabled…etc.”

      It has “future AAM letter from the employee” written all over it.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        A few friends of mine are disabled and have handicapped parking passes. One of them has severe back problems and cannot walk long distances without pain. Since she doesn’t look disabled, people have yelled at her as they’ve seen her walk to and from the handicapped spaces at our neighborhood grocery store. IMHO, it’s not the job of random strangers to police the handicapped parking spots.

      2. Tango Foxtrot*

        I was reading old AAM posts yesterday and, by coincidence, saw one about a coworker “Beth” who had lupus but hadn’t disclosed it to most of her coworkers. Coworkers were starting to grumble about picking up slack for Beth, since she had claimed the time she’d been taking off was for colds or as a seniority perk. There was some pretty spirited debate in the comments, with people arguing that the whole conflict was entirely of Beth’s own making and was unnecessary since she could just disclose her situation and everybody would be hunky-dory.

        I think this post and the stories shared in the comments here are a good reminder that it’s never quite that simple.

      3. Aspie AF*

        It probably doesn’t end with parking, either. I started a new job a year ago – I told them in the interview that I have trouble blocking out external sounds and wear headphones to address it. Everything seemed to go well and I was happy to get an offer… My first day I asked if I could wear headphones and was told “no, we talk to each other all the time and we collaborate.” I didn’t feel like I had much of a choice at that point, but two of my coworkers (who moved into my pod after 6 weeks) talked to each other a LOT. Ugh, open concept offices!

        There were other red flags at the beginning, too, like me asking if I could start a bit late in July and August because my bus had been cut for the summer. My manager said this was fine (non-customer-facing, I was on the latest shift so others were in at that point), until I’d had a couple of days on that schedule. Her boss talked to her and all of a sudden this wasn’t okay.

        The tipping point for me was being told that I shouldn’t take sick leave for mental health conditions. I filed an ethics complaint, ended up on disability leave for two months during the busiest time of year, and left on May 31 after several months of them struggling to accommodate (basic stuff like adequate training and positive feedback!). This is a company that made a big deal about Mental Health Week, spent a fair bit on diversity training, and specifically wanted to hire neurodiverse people. I made sure to parrot their wording about “supporting an environment where people can contribute” in my resignation letter!

    2. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      This has nothing to do with anything reasonable. This is a CEO who is a giant baby and sees someone “lower” than him getting special treatment — and NO ONE BUT HIM is supposed to get special treatment waaaahhhhh!

      I have an “invisible” disability and have had to live through garbage like this for seven years. (“SHE gets to come in late, SHE gets to leave early, and SHE never gets in TROUBLE for it like she’s SUPPOSED to.” I have ten doctors and see them all regularly, douchecanoes) I suspect the disabled co-worker has already done this (smart people do), but you may want to check if she’s been to the EEOC and a good attorney already. I did, just to know my rights. I haven’t made a formal complaint, but I can.

  5. Anathema Device*

    #2 It sounds like you’re stuck in a cycle that’s become the new normal. I mean this kindly, and I’m not blaming you, but she isn’t doing this on her own – you’re going round and round the same hamster wheel with her.

    You say: “I also don’t want to demotivate her by giving the impression that I don’t think she’ll actually do what she says she’s going to.”

    That may not be helping you. I think you need to say what you see, and what you need to see. You’re concerned about giving the impression that you don’t think she’ll do what she says, so you’re holding off on setting expectations as to what she should do. That doesn’t really make sense. If you don’t set expectations for her – to do what you say she should do, what she says she will do, whatever – how is that better conveying your belief she can do those things?

    Say what you see, and what you need to see. If that “demotivates” her, then that just confirms that she’s not performing. Anyone who gives half a monkey about their job will not be demotivated by actual expectations. If you’re not setting those you’re doing her and you a disservice. So I would definitely lose the kid gloves. They aren’t helping either of you.

    1. Amber T*

      I think Alison’s right that consistency has to be the key focus. Someone who does a good job 80% of the time is better than someone who does spectacularly 50% of the time then crashes and burns the rest of it. We’re all entitled to off days and some extended periods of time, but if you never know what you’re getting performance wise, that’s not good.

    2. uranus wars*

      This is excellent advise. I am going through this now with someone who has an attendance problem, but who works under contract with a vendor and I have no direct ability for disciplinary action or really oversight at all to talk with her directly. It’s a screwy situation.

      I inherited her from the person in my role previously and apparently everyone complained about it but never actually addressed it with her. The first thing I did was sit down with the person who had direct oversight over her contract and asked the to explicitly lay out our expectations and that we would not be giving her the additional hours she wanted added to her contract until she could show us she could actually show up to work the hours in the original contract.

      Since that conversation 3 months ago it is like a different person is working in the same position. It really woke her up to know we were watching (and tracking thanks to a nice spreadsheet I drew up). We still haven’t added to her contract, we are waiting to make sure it sustains a little longer but it was a great wake up call for her. I think she was just going along thinking no one else thought it was a problem, and over time is just became her new normal.

      1. EinJungerLudendorff*

        Responsibility without authority is always such a joy.
        Glad to hear it got resolved though (for the forseeable future).

      2. charo*

        I suggested a calendar, but a spreadsheet is good too. The calendar could trigger her to realize she’s got hormonal/bio. patterns — and I’d say the same if it were a guy.
        Or maybe she’s got partying friends she hangs w/certain weekends. Or other habits she could see on the calendar.

        Looking on a calendar and asking what’s going on then might clarify some cause and effect for her.

    3. charo*

      LW needs to look at bigger picture and mention it. Even suggest employee take a calendar and note the kind of feedback given, to see the ups and downs. Look over the entire year or however long. It’s good for both of them to see this pattern and how long it’s gone on.

  6. Topcat*

    #3 – there must be a tech fix for this as well, surely? Like an email client plug-in or Word macro that automatically changes different colours to greyscale, or bold/underline?

    If not, it’s time someone created one! Any coders out there?

    1. Ralph Wiggum*

      I’d be interested in building this, if it doesn’t already exist.

      OP, which email system / client do you use? And what would be the preferred formatting in lieu of text color? Bold? Italics? Highlighted? Box around it?

      1. OP #3*

        That would be SO cool! Thanks for looking into this. I’ve searched for a program like this before, but haven’t been able to find anything.

        We use Gmail. Bold, italics, or a box around the text would all work! Highlighted might work, but depending on the color of highlight it might not be readable.

        1. Fine Point Pen*

          Search for “Chrome Extention Color Enhancer”. The top result for that one look promising.

    2. Bilateralrope*

      I’d suggest the letter writer try highlighting the text to see if that makes it more readable. Ctrl-a is a quick way to highlight everything.

        1. valentine*

          OP3: It’s fine to reply to one-offs and tell them to respond separately (if that’s what you really want) or to underline.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        But that doesn’t solve the problem, which is that they can’t tell the text in a different color apart from the original text, so they wouldn’t even know what to highlight in the first place. It all looks the same since they can’t distinguish the colors from each other.

        1. only acting normal*

          Different text colours turn different colours under highlight, so highlighting everything might make black vs red/blue/green on white (e.g. turned white vs yellow/cyan/magenta on black) easier to tell apart. But it’s just a possible short term hack not a full solution.

      2. OP #3*

        That’s a good idea! I think that highlighting would work in some programs (e.g. Word), but it doesn’t change most colors for me in Gmail.

        1. ECHM*

          Could you copy/paste Gmail info into Word doc, then apply highlighting? Or would their formatting be removed in the process?

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            Nope! You have to specifically “Paste as plain text” to remove formatting. (I know this because I do it ALL THE TIME in various contexts.)

    3. nnn*

      Also, if, for whatever reason, there isn’t an immediate fix for your email program, is it possible to read these emails in a browser (for example, through a webmail interface, or by saving the file as HTML)?

      I know Firefox has options to override default colours and extensions that purport to correct for colour-blindness, and I’m sure by now Chrome has something comparable. Maybe a workable configuration can be found through a browser?

      1. Winry Rockbell*

        I’m also colorblind and I have this problem as well! What I do is copy everything into a Word document, bold and italicize everything I’m having trouble reading, then make the whole document black. This works better the shorter a communication is, but on longer things I’ve done it a page or two at a time as well.

      2. No Green No Haze*

        Google Chrome has an extension called Color Enhancer that aims to do this. 4/5 star reviews by 2,687 people, 177,902 users if that helps.

    4. TechWorker*

      Word can do this – or nearly. You really want to choose ‘text that isn’t black’ so you’d have to do something like convert the black text into pale grey so you can see what’s left – link in next comment.
      … and you’d need to paste the whole email first which I realise is a bit onerous.

      Side suggestion which may or may not work depending on what the emails you’re sending are and how much formatting they need in the first place: you could switch to plaintext emails.

      My boss uses these (because he uses some more Linux-y email client than outlook) and if you try on outlook to respond using colours it’ll give you a warning that they’ll be lost! People tend to in that case inline with their initials and newlines eg:

      original mail blah blah…

      TW: some in-line comment

      original email continues…

      This is a bit of a sledgehammer because it means you can’t use much formatting in your original email but it might be easier to get the email client to enforce not using formatting you can’t read rather than relying on telling people and them remembering.

      It’s also very possible that a different email client would do this for you as presumably people who use plaintext clients need to be able to read formatted emails when they receive them…

    5. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      That’s what I was thinking. There has got to be some kind of extension or tweak that can automatically change the coloured text to italics or to a colour that works better for the OP. It’s reasonable to ask people to help you but people are bad at remembering to do this kind of stuff.

    6. Environmental Compliance*

      I figured out recently in the newer Windows, you can set the color schemes to be color-blind friendly.

    7. Linzava*

      A quick fix with minimal effort is to just forward the email to yourself and highlight everything, select font color to black. Press send if you want to read it later.

    8. djl*

      It’s quite possible and not very hard to do what you are suggesting in Word. I could do it in 5 minutes and send it to OP if he wants it.

  7. All Hail Queen Sally*

    OP 1: Years ago I worked with a woman who had a handicapped placard but had no visible disability and looked and acted young and healthy. More than once I saw people giving her the side eye. However, she had a foot prothesis, having had her foot amputated as a child. She walked perfectly with it as long as she only had to go short distances, but would have difficulty with long distances. You never know what the situation could be.

    1. Traffic_Spiral*

      Man, but imagine the great scene she could make if anyone ever tried confronting her on it.

      Jerk: “hey, what’re you doing in the handicap zone?”
      Her: [hikes up pant leg] “I only have one foot, asshole!”

      1. Magenta*

        My brother’s friend, young guy in ins early 20s, nice car with tinted windows, big speakers, and a huge exhaust pipe, was parking in an accessible spot when an older lady stood in the space to try to prevent him from parking. She started laying into him about parking in spaces meant for disabled people and how he should be ashamed of herself. He bent down and took one of his legs off and asked if that was disabled enough for her or should he take the other one off and crawl over and beat her with it?

          1. Magenta*

            She got defensive tried to argue that he didn’t “look” disabled and she was only looking out for people who needed her spot so there was no need to be rude! He told her she was rude, judgemental and sticking her nose in where it wasn’t wanted.

            I’d like to think she learnt something that day but I very much doubt she did.

            The car was provided by the Motability scheme and had had controls, he used to have to strip off the extras before it went in for the annual service because he wasn’t supposed to make any alterations to the car.

            1. Observer*

              Unfortunately, I suspect that you are right about her not learning anything. A person who was capable of learning something would have apologized not accuse him of being rude!

              But, your brother’s friend is a hero.

              1. Magenta*

                He really is, this was all at least 15 years ago, he is now a respectful husband and father but he has always done the things he wanted to do despite his disability on occasion he has used it to his advantage.

                One time on a night out he ended up at a club, the bouncer told him he wasn’t allowed in because he was drunk, he claimed he wasn’t, the bouncer said
                “you’re pissed, you are swaying and you can’t walk straight”
                the reply was a slurred “I’m not drunk, I can’t walk properly because I’ve got no legs” at which point he lifted up a trouser leg.

                He got in for free.

                He was fairly pissed, he had been drinking all night, but possibly not enough to be refused entry to a nightclub.

              2. Femme d'Afrique*

                She definitely didn’t learn anything. I mean, she doubled down and tried to justify herself, AND called HIM rude so… yeah, no.

    2. Mockingbird 2*

      Yes I have one, and for me it is about distance and having a flat surface (as I’m more prone to serious injury, so something like ice or cobblestone is an issue for me). I think it does confuse some people because I generally don’t have issues at work… but it is climate controlled with flat floors haha. OP, please speak up for your coworker if you are in a position to do so!

      1. Rebecca*

        Yes, this exactly – after my elderly father had hip replacement surgery, he had a parking pass and used it when the weather was icy, or there was a very uneven ground to cover between where he could park and where he was going. He appeared to be just fine, but had a legit reason for the pass.

    3. JessaB*

      Absolutely, so many people, for a short time they’re fine and then bang. I have an issue because the way the laws and specifications are written the handicapped parking spots need to be near the curb cut. The issue is sometimes that’s too far for me to walk. My wheelie friends get around better than I do. But on a really good day, you wouldn’t know I have issues.

      I am not sure of the legality but if Her Highness Princess Consuela would like to chime in, and from an ethical and moral standpoint I hate the idea, but perhaps HR can figure out a non discriminatory way to ask for the ID that goes with the permit. I mean getting the mess out in the open is fast and easy, every state has a thing that goes with the permit that shows who it belongs to, and if it’s temporary what the duration is. I’m pretty sure it’s not in the law, like the ones about what you can ask/do regarding service animals. It wouldn’t require the worker to tell what the disability was, the paperwork wouldn’t have that information. But as a last resort, it’d get management off their back.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        From a legal risk management perspective, I would likely advise the employer to leave the New Hire alone. Under the ADA, the company’s responsibility is to participate in a conversation regarding accommodation if it would be appropriate. But trying to investigate whether the New Hire has a valid placard in her name goes against the ADA’s legislative purpose, and it’s likely actionable. The employer would effectively be trying to negate the New Hire’s claim to that placard, which is likely a form of reasonable accommodation for that employee. That’s going to look an awful lot like ADA interference (it’s unlawful to “coerce, intimidate, threaten or interfere” with an individual who is trying to exercise ADA rights).

        In my opinion, ethically and legally it’s better for the employer to assume that an employee who utilizes a placard qualifies for that placard.

        1. Jasnah*

          Agreed, I understand side-eyeing someone with no placard who parks in the disability spot–though you never know someone’s situation and should give them the benefit of the doubt–but New Hire has a placard. Surely the rule is “only people with permission to use the spot can use it” and that placard is permission to use that spot. What else do they want? It’s not the company’s job to root out fraudulent placard use.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I’m very puzzled by the suggestions on trying to “root out placard fraud” (i.e., attempt to invalidate the new hire’s disability), especially when OP has indicated that this person has a valid placard. It just seems like it’s doing exactly the thing the CEO did, which was objectively appalling.

          1. AcademiaNut*

            I think the idea is that if they demand proof that she has a valid placard, and she provides it, instead of being suspicious and muttering about firing her, everyone will be happy and leave her alone, now that they know that she’s actually disabled and not just faking it.

            The problem, even aside from the whole giant issue of legality, is that they’d be accusing her of being a liar/thief and demanding that she prove them wrong, which is a bad idea on so many levels.

            1. Artemesia*

              Given the CEO here and others side eyeing her, the fact that there is no registration of the placard at work or other validation will mean that she will be facing bias throughout her work life there that she can’t combat because it is not in the open. The CEO and others up the chain to him may know they can’t say anything but that doesn’t mean they won’t harbor unspoken bias towards her that will damage her career.

              1. Lucy*

                But even if she does provide proof, it sounds likely that Bob might think “ok that’s a real placard issued through official government channels and signed off by a certified doctor BUT JANE ISN’T ACTUALLY DISABLED THOUGH”. Bob has decided she’s either a (ablist slur) or a fraud, and it’s up to LW to push back on those assumptions.

                1. RUKiddingMe*

                  Yup they’ve already decided that she is faking. It’d be best for her to find another job IMO. Of course that would mean letting her know how fk’d up this place is, so…

                1. RVA Tacocat*

                  I have no idea where OP is, but I am in VA, and I had to provide the parking services department for my work a copy of my placard and my card that goes with it. I am in my 30s, and also have an invisible illness. I work in a city, so have to park in a deck, blocks away from my building. I didn’t even bat an eye when they requested it…it’s just not a big deal. It’s a valid handicapped placard, so I just scanned it and emailed it. Took all of 5 mins. My biggest concern was whether I’d be ticketed for having parked in the handicapped spot without the placard showing for the day I took it in to scan it.

                2. RUKiddingMe*

                  I’m not sure that was legal. Sire no big deal but still mot sure it eas legal for them to demand your placard.

                  License plate number…definitely. I don’t know maybe it is legal but I have never ever before heard if this happening.

                  Maybe I’m too sheltered.

                3. RVA Tacocat*

                  I’m not sure either, RUKiddingMe. Maybe because I was requesting a disabled parking space specifically? And it wasn’t the HR department or my manager, but parking services…? Thanks for your reply! I just wanted to let you know that I did actually have to validate my parking request!

                  Actually, come to think of it, at a previous job, I also had to provide a copy of my disabled parking placard. There was a separate lot “for disabled employees”…there were fewer spaces than there were disabled employees, so a few disabled employees had to park in that lot but not in a designated space. But to move me to that lot, they required that I provide a copy of the placard to them as well, and that was to HR! Also, these are state jobs.

                4. RUKiddingMe*

                  @RVA Taco cat

                  Ok “parking services” and limited handicapped parking availability…I can see them asking.

                  Still not sure it was legal, particularly the employee lot but I can understand why they did.

                  Though if it’s private property…might be different rules in play. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

                5. Judy (since 2010)*

                  I’m pretty sure that at every large employer I’ve worked at they required handicap permits to be registered with work. I’m fairly sure they didn’t require to know why, but they did require to know that the permit was for the employee, not their spouse or mom.

                  One large employer had separate lots with key cards, so you had to register your permit to get into the close lot.

                  Another would ask once a year for registration (and possibly more often if they saw all of the spots were mostly taken) so that they could make sure they had enough spaces & spares by the right doors in the large lot at the manufacturing plant.

                  Another had assigned spots for management, the only closer spots were the handicapped ones, so they probably wanted to make sure that there were not too many handicapped spots.

                6. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

                  I could see it if it’s a lot that assigns specific spots to specific people. If you’re requesting that your assigned spot be a disabled spot, proving that you have the tag that lets you park in such a spot before it’s assigned to you seems reasonable. It’d be like any other accommodation request – you need your assigned spot to be closer to the building or have the wheelchair aisle due to disability, and the disabled tag is the simplest piece of documentation (given that you already have it) you can provide to show the need for that accommodation.

                7. Commentor*

                  I had to register a separate placard through work to be able to park in a disabled spot. It was actually a bigger ordeal that the placard I already had.

                8. That Girl From Quinn's House*

                  RVA Tacocat: Are you at a university, since you say “parking services?” That’s a whole different beast than the average employer, because that’s a unit that’s almost fully separate from HR functionality and has to handle and manage tens of thousands of parking permits on campus. It’s entirely plausible that a university would want a copy of the placard, to issue you a campus handicap permit, in the way a regular HR department would not be able to.

                9. RVA Tacocat*

                  That Girl From Quinn’s House: no, not at university, but I do work for the state.

                10. Kix*

                  When I first came to work at my department 11 years ago, disabled parkers were assigned reserved disabled parking, but to get the reserved parking, we had to register our placards with the department’s building operations manager. My placard was valid, so I didn’t consider it a big deal at the time.

                  About three years after I started here, this practice was discontinued because of complaints that one shouldn’t have to identify themselves as disabled to building ops just to be able to park at work. The disabled reserved parking went away and now we have generic employee disabled parking places, first-come, first-served. People already know I have an invisible disability, but in retrospect, it would have been nice early on to not have to call it out in order to be able to park near the door.

              2. Detective Amy Santiago*

                I am having a really hard time thinking of a way to reply to this without breaking the “be nice” rule, so I will just say that your comments in this post are seriously, seriously misguided and you really need to educate yourself on the issues that people with invisible disabilities face.

              3. Observer*

                That’s all good and fine. There are a number of problems with this approach though. And even to take your tack that fraud is a real thing, and the the CEO and Boss are legitimately frustrated and their frustration is going to keep on simmering if Jane can’t prove them wrong, asking for the placard will not work!

                Other than literally doing something like taking off a prosthetic foot, there is NOTHING that Jane can do to change their minds. Because to them “She doesn’t look disabled” so the placard IS fraudulent. Doctor signed off? She lied, or badgered the doctor or maybe she bribed someone. How does she address that?

                1. Lance*

                  Yeah, the trouble with ‘just register it with them’ advice is very simple: it will never end. She’d have to do it again at a new workplace, and again, ad infinitum for however many jobs she has, however many places she goes.

                  There is no burden of proof to be placed on her; there’s a burden of reasonability (I had a different word earlier, but it’s not coming back, so this’ll do) to be placed on everyone that wants to fight her use of a handicapped placard.

      2. pleaset*

        “I mean getting the mess out in the open”

        There is no mess related to the person with the permit. Don’t involve her in the company’s mess – which is the lack of empathy and legal awareness on the part of some of the leadership.

        1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          Getting “the mess” out in the open seems to this layperson to be a great way for the company to be sued or otherwise in trouble for ADA violations.

        2. RUKiddingMe*

          Right? That’s like saying that the employee created a problem by being disabled.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Mine is tied to my name. I think the wallet card might have my DL number on it, but IDK tbh (and not going to go check right now LOL) because I don’t have to have an actual license in order to need/use it.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Just checked because it was bothering me.

            It has my name, placard number and plate number (I have one DP placard I use in Husband’s car and a plate on my own car) and a DP identity number that’s not my DL number. Oh and exp. dates.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          We had a hanging placard for my uncle that was tied to his name since he was unable to drive.

        3. BananaPants*

          My parents’ are, as well. For permit holders who cannot or do not drive, it’s tied to their state-issued photo ID number.

        4. Drax*

          In Alberta Canada it’s your name printed on there with the expiration dates.

          Which I mean, this would be so much easier if that’s the case in your area. Just tell the CEO that they have no right to be questioning this and if they insist on proof they can go look at the name on the pass. Jane has a pass registered to Jane that’s displayed in the window, there’s your proof now drop it CEO.

      3. RUKiddingMe*

        “…perhaps HR can figure out a non discriminatory way to ask for the ID that goes with the permit.”

        No they can’t. They can’t ask for proof.

    4. Auntie Social*

      My hip was replaced but I still need the placard for longer distances. I’ve stared down so many officious police wanna-bes that it doesn’t even bother me. I grab my phone and call the police myself, and say “Let’s see!” They back down quickly when they see I’m confident that I’m right.

    5. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I had a friend in school who was able to play softball with her prosthetic leg, but she still had a disabled tag on the family car because sometimes she was not able to walk for various reasons. It didn’t make her disability any less legitimate.

    6. Nansi Alexander*

      I have a placard because I had the lower lobe of my right lung removed. I can do short distances walking, but not long ones without difficulty.

      I am so tired of people like the CEO who think they have xray vision & can magically tell who needs a parking placard or not.

    7. M&Ms Fix Lots of Problems*

      I have a friend who but for his plates (Purple Heart permanent disability) would get the same. When he wears pants you can’t tell that he is missing one foot completely mid-calf and several muscles and tendons are majorly damaged in the other leg to the point he has to wear braces on that leg. Short distances he is okay, longer distances or uneven ground can sometimes cause problems.
      The only reason he doesn’t get crud is because like I said – Purple Heart license plates. I’m in an area that prides itself on respecting veterans. Now if we can just help people understand that the same respect should be extended to all people who have a placard.

  8. Beth*

    OP3, would it work for you if people made their comments in-line in a way that was distinct based on something other than color (e.g. italics, bold, a different font, highlighted, etc.)? If so, that’s an option you might consider. The advantage of in-line edits is you don’t have to contextualize them, since they’re already in context–which isn’t to say that you can’t ask people to put their comments in a separate space if that’s what you need, but it might be less back-and-forth to see comments in the relevant place. And bolding or highlighting is no harder than changing the font color, so I’m sure people would be happy to do it!

    Alternatively, maybe send the message that’s going to be edited in a google doc or word doc so it’s easy to mark it up with their comment functions?

    1. JessaB*

      I know this is going to be a weird question, but I do not know a lot about how various types of colour blindness see the world.

      This harks back to photography (the old school kind with film) and photocopying things. There’s a colour called non photographic blue, and for years it was used to mark things that wouldn’t show up in the print, or on the copy. The only way to make it show up on a copier if you needed to was to put in a yellow filter (just a piece of clear yellow plastic, easy to get at an office supply) to change the colour to green.

      Would getting a filter that would differentiate things help? A blue filter would leave black alone but make red look dark purple for instance. I have no idea if that kind of thing might work.

      1. Winry Rockbell*

        I’m red-green colorblind, and for me, filters on computer displays are mostly just annoying. They correct the colors I have issues with, but they also tint the colors I don’t, which for me outweighs the benefits. A blue filter would make red into dark purple, but it would also make white. beige, grey, and green into blue.

        1. Winry Rockbell*

          And clarification for myself specifically: my colorblindness almost solely affects red/brown/orange/pink, and only affects greens and yellows a little bit. Everyone’s different, but most colorblindness is going to fall into the red-green category, the blue-yellow category, or the grayscale category.

          1. JessaB*

            That makes complete sense, I really had no idea how colourblindness works from a physical standpoint.

      2. sb51*

        There are some phone apps that you can use to “see” the world with different types of color-blindness — they filter the camera input.

        1. JessaB*

          That sounds awesome, I had no idea such existed, I also know that for some dyslexic people tinted glasses can help them, so maybe this’d work for that too. Very cool

    2. Read It Again Sam*

      OP was literally asking if it’s ok to request people use alternative formatting options: “Is there any way that I can politely ask clients to stop sending me in-line responses, or at least use bold/italics in addition to font color?”

      1. MediQueen*

        OP I often use inline responses in red, but moving forward will also use different fonts! Thank you for writing in, this is not something I ever would have thought of (and I work in healthcare and teach health literacy!).

    3. Jasnah*

      I agree, in-line edits are there for a reason. Still, after one or two back-and-forths it can get tricky to tell who said what, and what is new. I usually clean it up after a while to a short summary of the issue and use line breaks, though some colleagues just reply right in-line to the text and it’s hard to see even in red! People default to red/blue/purple because they’re pretty and stand out against white (as opposed to green/yellow/gray), whereas all italics/all bold is hard to read. Also it’s really hard for people with normal color perception to understand what colors look the same to people with different kinds of colorblindness; most people outside the art world don’t think about how much red is in purple, and it’s not intuitive why red & green would look the same (as opposed to red & orange).

      OP, what helped for me when a coworker said they were colorblind and could I use different colors, is that they gave clear advice on what colors to use and what not to. I also started clarifying things like “yellow columns (A and F)” which is actually easier for everyone to understand. As someone who was asked this recently, I felt bad that I’d inadvertently made it hard for them to read and made changes immediately, just as if I’d sent them something in the wrong language. So please ask, I don’t think it’s a big deal!

      1. Jasnah*

        Forgot to add, I think it would help if you could emulate the style you would like them to use. So if you want them to preface their in-line edits with a line break, bolded “Update” and text in a color you can see, then do the same and it will hopefully be a good example for them to follow.

        1. Sarah*

          Or even just making updates parenthetical? They could then leave it whatever colour they like for themselves, but it would be a fairly non-intrusive visual clue for OP to see where changes have been made. (Though bolding honestly seems easiest – quick keyboard shortcut, easy to notice, easy to change.)

          1. OtterB*

            I fairly often respond to emails with in-line text in red. Mostly it’s corresponding with people I work with often, so I know it’s not an issue. If I did that with someone new and they said they were colorblind and could I mark responses some other way – preferably specifying how they’d like to see it and leaving an in-line option, because context, as others have said – I’d say, “Sorry!” and respond the way they asked. No big deal. I’d be horrified to find that I’d repeatedly given them responses they found hard to read.

            Sarah mentioned parenthetical updates. When I’m drafting things, I flag points I need to go back to with square brackets, like [is this the right date?] Those are easy to search on since they’re not usually otherwise used in the document.

    4. Alianora*

      I don’t think this is an editing situation exactly. I read it as the LW is asking a series of questions and instead of replying in a separate email, people reply in-line. Which annoys me even though I’m not colorblind, because a lot of our email communications have to be logged in a database that strips out all formatting. Which causes the same issue the LW is having.

      1. Alianora*

        Although yes, if people are making edits to the documents themselves then using Word’s comment feature would solve that problem. That’s what we do with contracts in my office. Pretty standard procedure across the legal teams from the companies we deal with.

    5. Tomato Anonymato*

      How about suggesting replying all in CAPS? (Hopefully you won’t feel like they are screaming at you :-))

  9. Laura H.*

    As an aside, I’m just glad coworker is using a placard to park there!

    Your boss is way off base here! While there ARE some people who abuse a placard- that’s pretty much true with any special sort of provision. But there are the majority who truly need that safety the parking closer provides- myself included. It’s not my place to decide if someone else truly needs it or not- that’s between them, their doctor, and perhaps their conscience. (Note that ‘their Boss’ is not included)

    1. Ginger ale for all*

      I agree, it isn’t the bosses place to act as judge and jury on this issue. I have seen YouTube videos on how the police catch handicap placard abusers. Each one is numbered and the police run that number and see if the person who is registered to that placard is the one using that placard. So if the employee is abusing the system, there are other agencies to catch them, not rogue vigilante bosses. Let the police do their job and stay out of it.

      1. BananaPants*

        Yup, if law enforcement or the DMV thinks abuse is happening, they have ways to investigate. It’s not the role of an employer to ferret out potential abuse.

      2. irene adler*

        Exactly! Let the police do the policing.

        Strictly a side issue: is there a premium on the handicapped spaces at OP #1 company? If not, then this is simply someone trying to play ‘cop’. Not their place. Very troubling, in my opinion.
        If there is a premium on the handicapped spaces, then hey, time to create some more. Get out the paint can and stencil!

        One just never knows another person’s situation. And no one is owed an explanation either. I so hate how folks jump to the worst conclusions about others. Maybe just thank their lucky stars they are not in need of such a placard.

        1. Cherries on top*

          I never wish illness and/or disability on anyone. I do however wish the societal and bureaucratic consequences of the above on some.

  10. Please clarify for me...*

    If OP1’s workplace is an “at-will” employer, then am I correct or incorrect that it’s NOT illegal to terminate an employee “for NOT being disabled” (as in, if it turns out that said employee actually ISN’T disabled…or really ANY other random employee who isn’t disabled, as in simply telling him/her out-of-the-blue “You’re terminated for NOT being disabled”, with no other reason given)?…And correct or incorrect that it’s considered illegal a.k.a. wrongful termination ONLY if they terminate said employee “for being disabled” (whether disabled or not)?

    1. Dragoning*

      The employer is not at liberty to decide if someone is or isn’t disabled. Clearly, she convinced the people who issued handicap placards she needed on–and there’s a fair bit of paperwork involved in that. They have to abide by that not their own interpretation of the situation.

      1. Dragoning*

        Functionally, they’d be firing her for using an accommodation she’s been granted for a disability. And yeah, that’s not legal.

    2. Gaia*

      If they could somehow prove she is not disabled AND that she got the placard through fraudulent means they might, maybe, possibly prevail if they fired her for that. BUT if she is not disabled (and that is a big enough stretch that it is a non-starter) but was issued the placard legitimately they are in hot water. And even more so when they randomly decide on their own that she is committing fraud and not disabled and it turns out neither of those are true. And how would they know she is not disabled? They are not her medical providers.

      1. JessaB*

        The issue would not likely be, “is she using a permit she received via fraud,” the issue would probably be “is she using someone else’s legitimate permit.” In my case both Mr B and I have permits, we both carry the “registration cards” in our wallets, when we had two cars, I couldn’t move my permit to his car because I have a handicapped parking space at our apartment complex and would therefore need to move my car to a place I couldn’t walk from. I’m taking a chance that having my own timely documentation would get me a warning if a cop had questioned me in the truck with Mr B’s permit in it.

        But anecdotally more permit fraud is committed by someone using a legitimate permit registered to someone else. Depending on the state getting a permit could mean jumping through a lot of hoops. And in all cases requires a doctor/pa/np/etc. to sign a paper.

        1. WS*

          +1. I used to work in a department that handled these permits, and the most common fraud was someone using a permit that belonged to a non-driving relative – e.g. the relative really was entitled to that placard in that vehicle, but the driver kept using it when the disabled person was not in the vehicle. But this was actually pretty rare compared to people who desperately needed permits having extremely long delays getting them. Odds are that the new hire really is entitled to use that permit, and even if she isn’t, that’s not her job’s problem to resolve.

          1. blackcat*

            Yeah, my family participated in this sort of fraud.
            I had a placard after a severe sports injury as a kid. It was a 6 month term, hanging one. For whatever reason (I suspect my pushy lawyer mother), we got it very quickly. Maybe two weeks after applying for it.
            I got better after about 3 months. Shortly thereafter, an elderly neighbor broke her hip. It took THREE MONTHS to get her placard. In the mean time, we gave elderly neighbor my placard. She NEEDED it. I did not. She got her placard a few weeks after mine expired.
            Was that wrong? Legally, yes. Ethically, I feel completely fine about it. And my lawyer mom was pretty confident it wouldn’t be a legal issue, either, since the placard was not actually registered to a plate (it was assigned to me, a minor, and I did things like take it when friends’ parents were driving me). And no one would actually question an old couple with one of them in a wheel chair.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      The best way to invite a lawsuit that will require settlement is to terminate someone out of the blue and say, “You’re terminated for NOT being disabled.” It’s bizarre enough to suggest that the employer is indeed firing someone because they think that person is disabled.

      But let’s say New Hire is disabled but has not yet disclosed. CEO decides to fire her because they think New Hire is using a placard fraudulently. New Hire turns out to be, indeed, disabled. In this scenario, firing New Hire would still be illegal under the ADA.

      The same applies if New Hire cannot prove to her employer that she has a qualifying disability (because, among other things, the test for reasonable accommodation is different than the criteria for a DP placard). So New Hire still uses the placard. But CEO starts to retaliate against her based on CEO’s beliefs about New Hire having or not having a disability. Depending on the circumstances, this could also trigger an ADA retaliation claim.

      1. Please clarify for me...*

        Well it’s known fact that disability/medical condition is a “protected class” just like pregnancy is…but then is non-disability/non-pregnancy also “protected class”? As in, also considered wrongful termination if a non-pregnant employee is terminated solely “for NOT being pregnant”? I know it’s bizarre…but then again, it is at-will employment…

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          No, non-disability and non-pregnancy are not protected classes. However, there would be other legal problems with firing someone for not being pregnant (particularly around gender discrimination). We’re getting off-topic here though so let’s leave this here.

    4. RUKiddingMe*

      They have no way to prove whether or not she is disabled. First they are not doctors or the state agency that issues permits. Second, and very importantly it would violate her right to medical privacy. Third I think it really runs afoul of ADA rules.

    5. EPLawyer*

      That is the problem here. They know they can’t fire her for her disability or not being disabled, in case she turns out to be actually disabled. So they fire her for some other reason like culture fit or they nickel and dime her to death on the rules, 5 minutes late back from lunch, TPS not in the correct format. These are called pretextual reasons when the real reason they want to fire someone is discriminatory.

      Op1 needs to head this off at the pass. She needs to be clear that this opinion of OP is not to affect any evaluation of her work.

      And no, there is no nondiscriminatory way that HR can ask for proof. They cannot ask. Tacocat, your job asking is WRONG. They can ask if you have one when assigning places, but the paperwork that goes with it is OFF LIMITS.

    6. PollyQ*

      In this very hypothetical case, the employee wouldn’t be getting fired for not being disabled, she’d be getting fired for lying about being disabled, which is an entirely different kettle of fish.

  11. Another Manic Monday*

    I have an invisible disability that makes me eligible for a disabled parking pass. I have never asked for one because I don’t want to become a target for the self-proclaimed parking space police. Driving has become more and more difficult for me, especially at night, and I’m starting to fear that I might not be able to drive at all in a few years. It would be nice to have disabled parking space and it would make my life easier, but I rather not get the stare of death.

    1. Laura H.*

      I’m sorry you fear that happening to you. I say go for it- if a placard helps you stay safe in your condition, it’s a wise thing to consider. But if you need it- go get your placard!

      (And… I’ll admit to being a bit parking police-y, but it’s usually towards people who park in a spot and have no placard, and it’s internal indignation/an unseen side-eye (aka, I just sorta talk a big talk…)- I don’t have the guts to confront anyone, or sic the police on anybody… plus heck I’ve forgotten mine in a bag that I’m not using from time to time… benefit of the doubt goes a long way…)

      1. Shad*

        Yeah, things I will parking police at the side eye level include not having a placard in the handicapped spot and parking halfway into the hashed space for those who need extra room to exit the car. And maybe some grumbling when I disagree with the garage’s arrangement of handicapped spots (A few on every floor plus elevators accommodates for those with aches and pains too minor for the sufferer to feel formal accommodation is warranted. First floor full of handicapped spots and no elevators does not share the love. Plus, optics are worse with the bigger sea of open spots if the handicapped spots are much more available).
        Not being able to see why you have the placard is nowhere close to on the list.

        1. JessaB*

          OH the parking police (bad words, bad words, bad words,) I had gotten so much of it a couple came over to me and asked “How’d you get that permit,” and I immediately went into why I have an invisible disability and was entitled to it, and they legit wanted to know “What do you have to do to apply for one and where do you go and is it expensive?” I was so embarrassed. I did give them the info, but still. A perfectly polite question got my back up so far.

          1. Anathema Device*

            I always answer these questions completely seriously. If the person wants to know they find out. If they’re just being rude then that just backfired.

        2. CDM*

          I see people who park halfway into the hashed space at my work all the time. (my office overlooks the parking lot, and there are medical providers on the first floor of the building, a lot of cars with placards coming and going)

          They do it because the left hand space (with the hashed area on the passenger side) is already occupied, and they need sufficient room to get their disabled passenger out on the passenger side of their vehicle.

          Backing into the space would be a better option, but some drivers aren’t comfortable doing that due to age and/or physical or visual limitations.

          The only real solution is to hash out space on the passenger side of all handicapped spaces, but that isn’t going to happen unless it gets legally mandated.

          There’s a FB meme that shames drivers who park in the hashed area, and I want to scream every time I see it. It happens because providing extra space on the passenger side of only half of the handicapped parking spaces doesn’t meet the real-world needs of those with disabilities.

          1. fposte*

            But aren’t we still then still talking cars with handicapped placards? I think the objection is to people without such placards using the hashed space.

              1. fposte*

                Ah, I must have gotten the wrong end of the conversation then. Yeah, I figure if you’ve got a placard the hash space is yours to use however it works best.

            1. Old and don’t care*

              No, we’re talking about anything that’s ever happened to anyone that’s tangentially related to handicap parking, with an added bonus of laws and regulations for random locations. I feel bad for the letter writers if the other questions.

          2. Llellayena*

            I’ve seen cars parked in each of the HC spaces to either side of the striped area WITH a car parked in the striped area as if it were another open space. That got a glare from me. But as for which side of the car the clear area is, the HC person is not always the passenger, so planning clear spaces only on the passenger side has just as many issues as 2 spaces sharing a clear space between them.

          3. Cherries on top*

            I do not have a drivers license (and live in a country with way stricter laws for obtaining one than the US) but not being able to back into a parking space seems unsafe. Can you explain?

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        Husband had a habit of removing mine from the mirror (his car) and I didn’t notice, twice ($450.00 tickets here…each) when I parked. I had to go to court twice in two weeks. The second time the judge laughed and told me if I was back “next week” he was going to make me pay a fine of $50.00 to help me remember to check before leaving the car. It’s been several years and so far so good. I have plates n my car which is part of why I don’t think about it when driving Husband’s car…habit.

        1. RVA Tacocat*

          Wow, RUKiddingMe! In my state I’ve heard of people getting ticketed for driving with the placard hanging on the rearview (obstruction of view). But I’m very glad you’ve remembered since those two times :)

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            You aren’t supposed to do it here either. Same reason. But everyone, and I mean everyone does.

            I got “talked to” by a cop when I lived in Baltimore for doing that and once in Pittsburgh. Maybe it’s a PenMarVa thing… I got the plate in order to mot need yo remember.

            I don’t drive Husband’s car much anyway. It sucks and I hate it. He’s all like “it’s a Mercedes.” Yup, still sucks. So the forgetting thing hopefully was a one…two off.

        2. Essess*

          I don’t understand how your husband removing it from the mirror would impact when YOU drive it. It’s not legal to drive while the tag is hanging on the mirror, so you should be putting it on the mirror each time you park.

    2. Gaia*

      I’m sorry you have to deal with that. I have several family members with MS. As many people know, MS is something that (especially in the early years) really comes and goes in visibility. They all have placards and sometimes they can get out of the car, spry like a teenager but by the time they finish a 10 minute shopping trip, they’ve barely got enough energy to get to the handicapped spots. I’ve been around more than once when people made comments. I wish people would mind their business more.

      1. Auntie Social*

        My nephew was diagnosed with MS just last week. We’re all learning about not taking on too much.

        1. Artemesia*

          Sorry to hear about your nephew. I have known several friends and colleagues for decades who have dealt with MS and in every case, they have lived long productive lives managing it well and flare ups have not been too difficult to deal with. Hope your nephews situation will work out that way.

        2. 2 Cents*

          Not to totally derail, but I was diagnosed with MS at 25. I found the “newly diagnosed” info at National MS Society to be particularly helpful. Hope this helps.

    3. Shock & Naw*

      My dear, you should get your placard and ignore any stares. Your health and well-being is far more important than unfounded opinions.

    4. RUKiddingMe*

      Get the placard. Yeah the parking spot police are annoying but it’s not like they happen every single time you park. You need it, you are entitled to it, get it.

      I have always tried to leave the closest spots for those who “really” need them. In the past few years I’ve become one of those people and while it was hard because “others have it worse than you do” thinking screwed with my head. I now use them because *I* need them.

      You need a placard. Screw what others think.

    5. BananaPants*

      My parents are in their 60s and both have handicapped parking placards. Mom’s is for obvious/visible orthopedic issues, Dad’s is for a progressive neurological condition (his specialists evaluate him quarterly to ensure he’s still safe to drive).

      He primarily uses his placard when Mom’s in the car with him and not on other occasions because he’s been on the receiving end of too many comments from the self-proclaimed parking police. His condition is progressive and eventually will rob him of his ability to drive and function independently, so he *really* doesn’t like being put on the spot by strangers who think they’re somehow entitled to demand that he justifies his placard.

    6. Observer*

      Please get the placard. Don’t circumscribe your life so much just to placate the busybodies to whom you owe ZERO.

    7. Curmudgeon in Califormia*

      Get the placard. You don’t have to always use it, but get it for when you need it. Don’t let the Mrs Grundy’s of the world put you through discomfort.

  12. Kathlynn (Canada)*

    Ouch, I had to defend a coworker recently, who has a chronic illness but doesn’t need accommodation. (I accidentally outed her as someone with a chronic illness, because she was suddenly absent at work). Coworker who was acting 3rd said that they wouldn’t have hired her if they’d known that she had a chronic illness, because she wouldn’t be able to do the whole job. Completely ignoring the coworker’s human rights. My head hit the wall mentally a lot in that conversation. (this is the same coworker who has tried to get me to do things that would trigger stubborn asthma attacks and do heavy lifting while having a severe asthma attack)

    1. RVA Tacocat*

      I’m not sure what “acting 3rd” means, but if it means that RudeNosyCoworker has any kind of authority…yikes.

        1. RVA Tacocat*

          Yes! Because…wow. Bob is bad. This coworker is also bad. Bob owns the company, it sounds like, so if he gets his company in trouble, well, he’s the *main* one to suffer from that (hopefully). But this lady…just no. Do(es) the regular manager(s) know about this woman’s discriminatory thoughts? Because if not, and she is in a position of authority, she could get the company in a lot of trouble (I have not been to Canada and know nothing about the legalities there, but given the great overall attitude towards taking care of people, I assume that this would be illegal discrimination there). Not that you, Kathlynn, should have to alert management to what seems to be your own (sometimes?) supervisor’s discrimination, but if you are not 100% sure that they know about this, please consider bringing it up to them, if you feel it would be something you could do without repercussions for yourself.

          1. Kathlynn (Canada)*

            I brought it up to the acting manager, and was immediately like “oh, heck no, she’s wrong”. And my regular manager knows about the other stuff. And yeah her view point/actions are totally illegal in my part of Canada (for human rights, all chronic illnesses are seen as disabilities, and protected with the same level of accommodation required as in the USA)

      1. Kathlynn (Canada)*

        Like 3rd in command at the store, but not actually management. Does some of the work management does if the manager or assistant manager aren’t there.

  13. Auntie Social*

    Print out the EEOC’s powers—including reinstatement, attorney’s fees, etc. for your boss. Your employee hasn’t requested any ADA accomodation from the company (although a kind employer would say that they had noticed the placard, and ask if she needs an accomodation). A doctor’s signature was required in order to obtain the placard—your boss has to assume there is a legitimate need for the placard, and let it go. You don’t want your office to be held out as an example of what not to do by the EEOC. An attorney would be drooling to get a Title VII case such as this one.

    1. Snuck*

      This is what I am thinking. I don’t know where the lines legally are, but you could say something like “I notice you use the disabled bay, are there any other accommodations we need to make for you?” And if there is now a shortage of disabled bays you could ask “before we go to the expense and difficulty of marking another disabled bay, would you mind confirming whether you need to have this bay available long term”?

      Neither of those are asking her disability and both are able to address the concerns hopefully. If she declines further accommodations and indicates she needs the bay long term you can then Act accordingly

      1. K. A.*

        No, the company should NOT ask those things. Because it makes it obvious that people at the company don’t believe/accept her medical need and is an attempt to pry — which is wrong to do and will make the new hire uncomfortable and feel misjudged.

        You know perfectly well that if she needed accommodations other than a handicap parking bay that she’d ask for them.

        If you wouldn’t *genuinely* say it to a person in a wheelchair, don’t say it to the new hire. She has a parking placard. That means that a DOCTOR signed off on her legitimate need to use a handicap parking space and the Department of Motor Vehicles confirmed it’s legitimate. No one else gets a say. No one else gets to even question it.

        1. JessaB*

          A doctor, signed for a permit, and that permit is in the car. Whether or not that permit is in the name of the worker, is a different issue, I agree, I’m inclined to take it at face value, anyone parking with a permit has a right to do so. But I’m not sure where the line goes if someone doesn’t think the permit belongs to the worker. Some states actually put the info of the permit owner on it. Most don’t.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Why is it anyone’s business whether the permit belongs to the employee? There’s literally no basis for CEO’s conclusion except for the CEO’s own problematic assumptions about what constitutes a placard-qualifying disability.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I apologize—I realize my tone may sound aggressive. I meant it to read as bemused.

            2. Artemesia*

              It wouldn’t bother you to arrive needing a disabled parking spot to find 6 people using grandma’s cards had filled up the spaces because it was raining and they didn’t want to walk three blocks across the parking lot? Everyone here seems to think abuse is rare; using other people placards may not be particularly rare. It seems unlikely that an employee would chance that in the employee parking lot however. Abuse is not a ‘victimless crime’ — it disadvantages those who need the spaces.

              1. Forrest*

                How would this theoretical disabled person know that the other six people were using the card fraudulently? Why would the theoretical disabled person leap to blaming the other people using disabled badges, rather than the organisation with the power to create more spaces if they regularly get filled up?

                1. valentine*

                  Everyone here seems to think abuse is rare
                  The bottom line is Acme Corp isn’t going to unmask a fraudster, especially when the president(/CEO?) is ableist. These guys need to literally mind their own business.

              2. RUKiddingMe*

                Abuse of placards is a whole lot more rare than the people who need them being the same people that are parking. As someone with multiple physical disabilities and a placard, yes I would be pissed if six people were using the spots. All the spots being taken up by fakes however seems like pretty astronomical odds.

              3. Psyche*

                Which do you think happens more often: people fraudulently using handicapped placards or people being harassed for their legitimate use of a handicapped placard? Additionally, which do you believe is actually more harmful?

                If all the spaces regularly get taken up, make more spaces. Problem solved without any harassment.

              4. MassMatt*

                This is a straw man. In my area large lots have MANY accessible spaces and many remain vacant even with people driving around looking for spots or parking far away. If abuse were this rampant then the spots would always be filled and we would be hearing from disabled people about the abuse. We’re not.

              5. Observer*

                Abuse may not be a victimless crime, but that’s not really relevant here. For one thing, there is no doubt that the consequences for a given company trying to police this – given that they have neither the legal authority nor the most basic level of competence to do so – is FAR greater than the consequences of them NOT trying to convince them.

                Everyone here seems to think abuse is rare; using other people placards may not be particularly rare.

                Given what we DO know about the process of getting these placards and how they are set up, your insistence on the idea that abuse is actually really, really common is odd. Keep in mind that abuse would have to be REALLY common for it to be a real problem for people who are actually handicapped. The idea, for instance that 6 or 7 people in a parking lot ALL have fraudulent placards is just absurd.

                Using this kind of imagination based edge case for trying to mitigate the outrageousnss of the CEO’s behavior is … not a good look.

              6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                This is a straw man argument. It bothers me that an employer wants to harass and disadvantage a new employee who has a valid placard, which ostensibly means that employee qualifies for use of that placard. The harm of harassing that employee is much worse (and much more likely) than the likelihood that that employee is committing placard harm.

                If you’re going to argue placard misuse is very common, then there has to be evidence to back that up. In Los Angeles, which itself believes it has a significant placard abuse problem, the average misuse rate is 7.6% (and the highest misuse rate, during a high demand event, was 17%). That means that, even in the worst circumstances, the overwhelming majority of placard use is lawful and valid.

                If there’s a concern about accessibility, then focus on making places more accessible. Don’t pit people with disabilities against one another in a Hunger Games dystopia where only one person gets a parking space.

              7. Astonished*

                Artemesia you really need to quit. I bet you have been the handicapped parking police before, hence your continued justification for this reprehensible practice.

          2. RUKiddingMe*

            Do you question every placard you see? Do you wonder if it actually belongs to the person using it? Likely it does. If they think it doesn’t belong to the worker, they can call a cop. Then a lawyer because they’re likely gonna need one.

        2. Snuck*

          I don’t know that she will, many new hires are nervous about asking for things, so as part of a regular informal ‘how are settling in and do you need anything’ conversation this could be natural?

          To assume it’s because she isn’t believed is to assume we are being judgemental, as a person who has managed quite a variety of people I would suggest sometimes it is better to admit the elephant in the room, with gentle listening, and zero prying. Not always, but there aren’t blanket rules, take time to express support in an appropriate way…

          If someone is using a handicapped bay (in Australia at least) they have a significant mobility issue and while it may be invisible there could be a very strong need for other supports. If they say they don’t… great, but often we hear things like “it was obvious because I had a mobility permit but they didn’t even ask if I needed something else, they should have known!” So ask once, be done with it and move along. Asking shows you care, are willing to work with them on their individual needs and leaves the door open if they want to come back later at any time.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            No. Asking them to confirm they’ll need the parking space long-term is prying into something you have no grounds to pry into, and implying they’re using up a resource you’re hoping to to use for something else. There’s no need for any of this, and this person should not be singled out and asked prying questions simply because she has a legally obtained parking permit. It sounds like there might be cultural differences here, but in the U.S. this would not be okay.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Folks are assuming its judgmental because we already know that boss and CEO are judgmental. It’s not always appropriate to “admit the elephant in the room.” Asking does not always show care, and in this circumstance (assuming it’s in the U.S.), there’s no way to ask without engaging in unlawful prying.

            I would strongly prefer that people who have problematic and ableist assumptions focus on receiving appropriate training to prevent themselves from acting on those assumptions instead of interrogating people with disabilities about the validity of those disabilities.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        No, they absolutely should not ask those things. She has a legally obtained parking permit, end of story. There is zero reason for any type of investigation here.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        The second question (“before we go to the expense”) would be incredibly inappropriate.

        In general, the accommodation process is supposed to be an iterative discussion between employee and employer. The question has to be focused on the employee’s need for accommodation in the workplace. It should not suggest that there are insufficient handicap parking spaces available because someone who qualifies for those spaces actually uses one.

        I also want to point out that the standard for obtaining a DP permit is not the same as the standard for reasonable accommodation in the workplace. If the employee declines accommodation, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have an ADA-qualifying disability. It also doesn’t say anything about whether her placard is valid.

        It’s dangerous and wrong-headed for employers to mix up the DP permit standard and reasonable accommodation standard. It’s also wrong-headed to try to “catch” an employee by trying to disprove that that employee has a disability. This is literally the exact opposite purpose of the ADA.

      4. Anathema Device*

        “before we go to the expense and difficulty of marking another disabled bay, would you mind confirming whether you need to have this bay available long term”

        I don’t even know where to start with this.

      5. Jasnah*

        Not in the US, but I think the most you could say is “We noticed you have a parking placard. As we told you at orientation, if you ever need an accommodation such as [medical leave, ergonomic desk, changes in job duties, EAP, whatever else the company offers] then please talk to [HR person].” Hopefully that would cover any new/inexperienced people who don’t know how the accommodation process works, without making them feel singled out. And then make sure this stuff is actually covered at new hire orientation/available as documentation somewhere so nobody has to ask.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Yeah, this. No need to bring it up or to reiterate what was said at orientation.

        1. Auntie Social*

          That’s what my last employer did. He noticed I had trouble getting up and I’d wait to photocopy several items at once. He didn’t ask about my hip but he went out on his own and got me a nice copier for my office. Thoughtful, and no prying.

  14. mark132*

    How should a company handle it, if they have good proof of fraudulent use of a handicap pass or a fraudulent pass?

    1. mark132*

      If a doctor signs off and it is issued by the DMV, it’s not fraudulent. But if it’s a fake pass, or there is good evidence they are using someone else’s pass.

      1. MicrobioChic*

        I can’t say it would ever occur to me to investigate a coworker that deeply just because I noticed they used a handicap pass.

        How would you even notice it was issued to someone else or collect this evidence? Take a photo of the pass number and search through DMV records? No clue if those are publically available, I would kind of hope not. Would you try and stalk anyone that might be your coworkers doctor to see if they ‘really’ signed off on a parking pass?

        This seems a ridiculous line of thought filled with unfounded assumptions about anyone with an invisible disability.

        1. mark132*

          For a suspected fraudulent pass you actually can ask the state to validate it, or it could be as simple as the pass is expired (probably handle this case differently). As for fraudulent use of someone else’s pass, that could be as simple as them casually mentioning it’s someone else’s pass in a discussion. There are many ways you could find out.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      I agree. If someone’s willing to fake a pass (or use the pass of someone else) there will be other issues at some point. People who “cheat” at that will cheat on other things.
      You’ll see sloppiness, excuses, lateness, etc.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Agreed and I’m concerned it’s sending the message that this is in any way appropriate for the OP’s employer to be contemplating, and it’s not.

    4. Anathema Device*

      Okay so this is something that really grinds my gears. You met a few people who had a fake pass. And?

      If my house burned down, would you list statistics for fake emergency calls?

      If I told you I had cancer, would you tell me about someone who lied about having cancer?

      Yes, a tiny minority of people lie. But with disability that minority gets brought up far too much. Stop. Just stop.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There’s no indication that that’s in play here, so I’m removing the discussion that followed (and which led to some weird comments and suggestions for the OP’s situation, many of which would be illegal and are certainly unethical). There’s no indication of fraud here, so let’s leave this here.

      1. Cassandra*

        Thank you for shutting this down. As a 29-year-old with a disability that is “invisible” on days when I’m feeling strong enough not to use my cane or walker, I can’t tell you how disheartening this thread was to see. It’s bad enough when complete strangers photograph me and put my license plate number on in a misguided attempt to enforce the rules (and for those of you with jaws agape, yes, that website actually exists and yes, it’s as horrifying and humiliating as it sounds). It literally brought me to tears this morning to read these comments and think that my coworkers could/would consider taking similar actions.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          That’s horrible. I’m sure fraud does happen, but it’s probably the EXCEPTION and not all that common really.
          Probably those “morality police” also do the same for those using food stamps.

        2. Hera*

          Is that even legal?

          Btw I just looked at it and the latest “addition” says it all: Very healthy 20 something going to workout at gym.
          As if people with dissabilities can’t go to the gym.

      2. Observer*

        Thanks for catching this. This is one of the times I’m glad I’m coming to a discussion late, because it would have REALLY steamed me.

      3. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

        Thank you. As a person with an (mostly) invisible disability and a legitimate blue card (which btw, is not easy to get(!) in the country I live) this is a topic that really infuriates me (hence why I am only replying here).

    6. D'Arcy*

      If a company has “good proof” of supposedly fraudulent use of a handicap pass, they should look at immediately firing the employee or employees who obtained that supposed proof, because *it is literally not legally possible* for them to legitimately obtain such proof.

  15. HannahS*

    OP 3, I wonder if you could include a line below your signature that says, “I’m colour-blind, so if you’d like to use in-line replies, please use bold, italic, or underline instead of using different colours.” And put “bold” in bold, and the words “different colours” in different colours. It’s not heavy handed, and the different texts and colours will pull people’s eyes down so that they actually read it.

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      I wouldn’t use different colors, because too often people see but don’t read, and they’ll just mimic what catches their eye even if it’s the wrong thing.

      1. Anathema Device*


        Also, give ONE option, not three. People are more likely to follow it.

    2. KayEss*

      I’d actually put it at the top of the signature, before your name, so it looks like part of the body of the message. Email signatures so rarely contain relevant information that most people tune them out.

  16. PossibleSuggestion*

    OP3 – can you create your email with a specific spot for people to reply in that are labeled with tags? Instructions at the top to indicate “please reply in the response areas”. Something like

    Question #1 is blah blah blah blah?

    Question #2 is something else blah blah?

    You could bold the ‘tags’ so they stand out better to your eyes.

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      I like this, and also, OP, if you are using bullets in your emails, maybe switch to numbers. I myself am less likely to choose inline formatting if I can number my responses to match the sender’s points.

      1. Lucy*

        I loathe inline comments as they hugely confuse email chains, and agree that numbered questions are more likely to elicit numbered answers!

        I also agree with other posters that if significant comments or amendments are likely to be offered, there are far better ways of managing those than inline in email. MSWord’s “track changes” mode effectively has version control built in, and contributors can add explanatory comments to their changes which aren’t part of the main text.

          1. Essess*

            I prefer receiving inline responses and most people in my office also prefer them. They are more efficient than constantly scrolling down and up…scroll down….”what was question #2″… then scrolling up for the answer… scroll down for question 3…. scroll up for the answer…. Then if someone else in the email recipient list adds additional comments to question 2, are they commenting on the original question, or are the commenting/clarifying someone else’s answer for #2?

            I agree that if you send out a set of questions, you could put a comment that due to colorblindness you ask people to please not respond inline.

            1. Name Required*

              Also prefer inline for the same reason — hate scrolling back and forth. I’m not color blind, but I do sometimes specify how I want to receive the answers with clients who tend to respond in a weird way (like attaching a document with their answers, or answering in a separate email thread).

              I prefer bolded text, so I might put instructions on how to respond: “To help me best read your answers, please respond below each question with your answer in bold.”

  17. Marzipan*

    I read the title for #2 and immediately decided the employee must really be identical twins swapping places on a regular basis, and now nothing will convince me otherwise…

  18. You're Not The Authority So Stay In Your Lane*

    What kind of bubble are people living in that they think all medical conditions are easily visible? And, for some, their condition is only invisible because you see them clothed (like surgery scars).

    I try not to use my placard because of ignorant, judgmental people like that CEO in Letter #1. The first time I used it, it was because there were no other spaces in the lot and I would have had to park in a lot across the street, which I just could not do. So I pulled into the disabled parking spot, put the placard on my rear-view mirror, slowly stepped out and stood up while gripping the car door for balance, and a man took a photo of me with his mobile, then loudly accused me of not having a right to park there. I got back in my car and cried!

    I told my doctor what happened at the next appointment, and he said he hears stories like this from every one of his patients — even those with visible disabilities whom strangers accuse of faking.

    Every time I use a space, I get mean stares from people and sometimes gruff comments or questions. If you’re not my doctor, you don’t get a say where I park! And I don’t have to explain myself or prove a damn thing to any of you!

    1. Myrin*

      I’m so sorry – that sounds like a deeply shocking and uncomfortable situation!

      I alway think that it would be awesome if people were this passionate about defending disabled people’s rights in literally every other area of life. It’s fascinating that this is the avenue so many take to let off their righteous anger, especially if they have no stake in this at all (as in, it would at least be understandable if the “accuser” were a disabled person themselves and wanted to use the parking space but from the comments so far, it’s always some uninvolved bystander. Like. Dude. What do you care?).

      1. Lucy*

        It can only be lazy envy, surely? A sort of dog-in-the-manger bitterness. “I wanna park right by the entrance!”

        1. valentine*

          It’s the difference between seeing something you don’t get to have and seeing someone else get it. Why these people were raised to have a rabid response, I don’t know, unless they’re fraudsters and schemers themselves and assume everyone’s taking whatever isn’t bolted.

        2. Myrin*

          That’s what would make sense to me, but from all the stories in this thread, it seems to always be people who are just randomly in the vicinity and have nothing to do with the designated parking spots.

          And the one time I’ve seen this happen IRL, I was a teenager in the car with my father and as we were leaving the carpark belonging to a supermarket we’d just been to, my father rolled down the window and rudely yelled at someone getting out of a car parked in the disabled parking space. In his case, it was some strange kind of saviour complex which he also displays in other situations in life – he fancies himself the defender of all kinds of groups and while that can genuinely be helpful (I’ve seen him come to the rescue of someone who was in a disadvantaged situation many times), it often comes across really poorly and not particularly well thought-out.

          Now I’m wondering if there’s mainly some feeling of “hero complex” going on with the people others talk about in this thread, too.

      2. Pommette!*

        Like the CEO in this story. You are worried that this employee is fraudulently using her parking pass. I see two possible reasons for this; either:
        1) you want an excused to get outraged and feel self righteous……. In which case: Don’t and don’t; just move on.
        or 2) you care about accessibility and are concerned that you did not allocate enough accessible spots when designing your lots…… In which case: great! There are actually entire consultancies and advocacy groups dedicated to helping companies like yours become more inclusive and accessible!

      3. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        I wish people would put one tenth as much effort into policing that sidewalks and ramps are kept free of obstructions so people in wheelchairs can use them as they do policing these parking spots. (I remember going in to complain to a hotel because they had an employee out wrapping Christmas lights all over the handrails on their ramp to make the entrance look “festive” while making them rather difficult to actually hold on to. I complained because I am a person who uses handrails to reduce fall risk, but that would be a fabulous cause for the able bodied Disability Police to take up if they’re looking for one.)

        1. Lucy*

          Ooh how about making a point to complain when the only baby change unit is in the only accessible toilet? Or pointing out that it is unacceptable to use the accessible toilet as an overflow storage cupboard, blocking all the space which then can’t be used for turning circle, etc. Or (this drives me nuts) making sure the emergency pull cord isn’t neatly tied up out of the way.

          My church had a perfect storm of all three of these (!!) but someone went to task in defence of those who actually needed the provision. I am proud of them every time I see the signs reminding everyone how it should be kept.

    2. WoodswomanWrites*

      So sorry to hear this. How appalling for you and everyone who is the target of such hideous behavior.

      I know the response you have gotten is all too common. It boggles my mind that so many people think it’s appropriate to comment with whatever they happen to make up on the spot about the physical needs of someone else, when it’s zero concern of theirs.

    3. OG Karyn*

      True story:

      When I worked in the mall as a part-time job a few years ago, I parked in the handicap spaces (yes with a valid placard) because I have among other things a musculoskeletal condition that would rear its nasty head particularly after 8 hours on my feet, and it would be easier to walk the short distance to my car in that space than allllll the way at the end of the parking lot where employees were “supposed” to park. One time, I saw a mall cop trying to write my plate number down, and I asked what he was doing. He said that as a mall employee (we had to register our cars with the mall office), I wasn’t allowed to park in handicap spaces because they were for employees only. I told him that “mall security rules” don’t trump state or federal laws. He asked me what I thought I was going to do about it. I got out my phone, called one of my clients of my full time job (an employment lawyer), told my client what was going on, and handed the cop the phone. Two minutes later, I got the phone back, and the mall cop apologized and went on his way.

      I still don’t know what my client told the guy, but I suspect it started with, “I’m OG Karyn’s attorney…” and ended with, “I will send your supervisors a letter if you don’t stop harassing my client.”

  19. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    Alison, I apologize. This was in response to a comment in a thread that was later excised, and it ended up posting as an independent comment once that thread was deleted.

  20. 2230*

    OP 3 – I worked with someone who was colour blind and had similar issues reading inline comments. He had a polite standard email he would send a couple of times explaining what worked and what didn’t work and would usually give people 2 or 3 reminders. After that, he would simply reply to the offending email and politely advise he would love to help them out however he couldn’t read their email and attach a copy of a previous email with his please use these (3 or 4) formats that worked. This was never an issue with either internal or external customers (the usual response was – oh bugger, sorry, forgot). If it was something super urgent / safety related etc he might chuck it to a couple of us on the team and we would change the inline text and send it back (mainly because there was specific safety issues and he wanted to make sure it was correctly identified and he was worried he might miss something) This happened maybe 4 times a year and no-one had a problem with it.

    OP1 – Even when I temporarily hurt my back, my workplace just assigned me a spot in the visitors car park for a few months as the nearest next carpark was about 1km away across unstable ground. No sticker required (there were complaints from some colleagues but they were told to stick it. ) They also added extra designated disabled spots as required – We had a couple of people in wheelchairs and a couple of others who weren’t. As parking was tight, they did respectfully ask the couple of people who weren’t in wheelchairs if they needed a space with the extra width or if a regular width car space would work for them etc on the understanding they would get the width they needed.

    1. Dr. Pepper*

      A former boss of mine was completely color blind and he relied on me and my peers to sort things out for him when he couldn’t read or see something. It would have been nicer if he’d just told people up front, but for whatever reason he was really loathe to admit that he was colorblind. He didn’t even tell *me* for a long time and when he finally did (was forced to) all I could think was that I could have used that information a lot earlier. Like, I don’t care, dude, I just need to know so I don’t keep sending you graphs you can’t read! I frequently had to color correct charts and slides he’d made because he used the most eye searing, atrocious colors that clashed horribly. We didn’t do much with inline edits but if something like that came up, he’d hand it off to me immediately.

  21. Janet*

    Hello fellow disabled folks! I have arthritis in my back, hip, and knee and use a handicapped placard on my rear view mirror. (I also have the handicapped designation on my vehicle’s license tag.) I can’t walk distances at all and sometimes use a wheelchair. Otherwise, I use two canes. There is the rare day when I can walk without the canes, but I take them anyway because (1) I will probably need them later and (2) I don’t want to get harassed by jerks. It’s a serious failing of people to judge others about their invisible disabilities. In my state, SC, you can’t get the placard without a form from your doctor.

  22. Forrest*

    >>It’s really crucial that we ensure Jane isn’t mistreated over what’s presumably a legitimate disability that she has no obligation to disclose to us.

    Take out “presumably”! Don’t “presume” it’s a legitimate disability, which suggests there’s some room for doubt. Just take it at face value that it is.

    1. Lucy*

      Go further. “It’s really crucial that we ensure NOBODY is mistreated over a disability the details of which they have no obligation to disclose to us.”

      The whole point of the tag is that someone with the full details has already validated the need for an accommodation, so everyone else doesn’t need the full details and can simply provide the accommodation.

  23. Random Brit*

    OP#3: maybe ask people to prefix their comments with their initials? E.g.: “RB: are we sure this is the correct teapot price?” It’s something I’ve done before, though usually only when there’s an email thread with several people all adding inline comments: maybe I should switch to doing it all the time.

    1. iglwif*

      Everyone I work with does this. Except that we work with software, so instead of “IW: Are we sure this is the correct teapot price?” it tends to be “Are we sure this is the correct teapot price? ”

      (without the spaces, of course!)

      1. iglwif*


        There should be angle-bracket tags around that second thing, but of course they got stripped out, even though I added spaces!

  24. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

    So, I recently lived #2 (and am not entirely out of the woods yet, knock some wood for me).

    A long term, senior employee with critical job duties had a serious medical diagnosis about five years ago. I scaled back her job, leaving her with still one critical ongoing project. It was a less-than-full-time job and her co-workers rallied around her with work support as well as personal support, fundraisers, everything we could possibly do in that period. She went into remission and happily her health crisis is in the rearview mirror.

    Then came the personal crisis. Without details, suffice that her personal crisis was almost as devastating as the health one. I kept her job duties scaled back and her co-workers kept supporting her. They had to pick up a lot of slack but, hey, here to support you.

    Looking back, the big mistake I made during this time was not being crystal clear about the level of support we were offering her, how her job performance was not up to par but that’s okay because we gotcha right now and how we are expecting you to come back to XYZ performance when the smoke has cleared here. It would have seemed cruel to point it out! Turns out it was maybe the only way to avoid what happened next.

    Everything went pear shaped. Not only did her performance never improve, but her co-workers were compensating for her in drastic ways that I wasn’t aware of. Their resentment reached critical levels and finally spilled upwards to me. (Given that they like her personally and everyone has worked together for a long time, it took quite a lot to get to that boiling point). The attitude of entitlement that accompanied her co-workers covering for her was maybe the most salt-in-the-wound element for them.

    Good lord (remember we are on like year 4 here), I gotta fix this mess. It was at *that* point that I went through a year of up and down performance as you describe in your post. So now we reach year 5.

    January of this year I gave myself ONE year to turn this around or fire her, even though firing her seemed unthinkable. I met with her and was crystal clear about how serious this was and that only sustained improvement would save her job. I set up monthly check in meetings specifically tied to “are you meeting expectations”.

    I did a bunch of other things including pull all of her senior project duties and reconfigure her job to be a full time with no possibility of co-workers having to do her job duties. They were either done to standard or they weren’t, and only by her.

    The part where she was in danger of getting fired, that penny did not drop until month FOUR. Month four! The first three months she spent her part of our meeting time telling me about she could do more creative projects and spinning me ideas for how to reconfigure her job that I had just configured to make her 100% accountable, the job she was not yet meeting expectations on.

    (In case all y’all are wondering why it takes management so long to Take Action, we’re human beings too and sometimes in trying to do the right thing, the Right Thing (TM) isn’t always obvious)

    The last couple months have seen a turnaround finally and yay, and I am ready to up the level of her responsibilities but I have been super clear that this has to be *sustained* progress. I don’t think we are out of the woods but I see the clearing.

    As related to the OP, it’s not your fault that your employee goes back and forth in improvements, but consider the part you may have played, well intended or not, in allowing her to internalize that it’s really okay to be that way. Your employee is not hearing that her star performer status is a distant memory. I had to be willing to fire my employee before she could hear that message that just might save her job.

    I am still willing to fire her. I need to see a year of sustained good performance. Short leash.

      1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

        Right? Are you kidding me? (see what I did there)

        The medical crisis was two years. The personal crisis directly after that was one year. So there is three years right there. Add another year for where everybody waited for her to finally return to normal, that puts you at four. And year five is trying to fix the performance mess.

        There is only so much do things differently on my end would have changed the course. It couldn’t have changed the first three years but would have, MAYBE, gotten things back on track faster. If I am still managing at age 100, I am going to be really really good at this.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Gosh I’m feeling bad for you right now. How frustrating.

          Also pretty good that you’ve been such a stand up person through all the crisis when a lot of people would have just terminated the employee because it was just …too much… from a business perspective.

          Also I get how one day you turn around ad …wow… ten years already? Here’s hoping things keep getting better.

          And yeah, I saw what you dud there. :-D

    1. Myrin*

      Wakeen! I feel like I’ve only seen you very sparsely on here lately! Good to hear from you, and with such an excellent tale even.
      (I mean, not excellent for you and the coworkers picking up slack, obviously. But I’ve always felt like you’re a great manager and I could learn so very much from you.)

      1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

        Hello! I read daily but haven’t commented much in the last couple years. Work & other commitments. Plus, the current regular commentors do such an excellent job, there’s rarely ground left uncovered. :) I did have a relevant story for this one though!

      2. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

        also, I wasn’t so excellent in this scenario but it came of a good heart trying to do the right thing, just missing the mark. :)

    2. AnotherAlison*

      I have witnessed one of these, too, so the time line does not really surprise me. My coworker had been #3 in charge of my office when I started in 2005. He left soon after to be president of a new regional office for a competitor, and came back around 2013 after that office shut down (mergers, changes in business lines, not his doing). He had a much lower duty role, but he was now closer to retirement, and it makes sense that he just wanted to be a sort of SME senior consultant, right? About 2 years after that, he put his name in the hat for a department leadership role, which went to someone else. Then, he started having health issues. About 2 years after he went for the leadership role, he left the company, after much time off. I took over a very simple project of his and it was 100% over budget when I got it. This was like a $100,000 project, and this guy was running an office that did millions of dollars of work 5 years before.

      I was junior and not his manager, but as a witness, I think the only thing to do is be transparent with people about their performance throughout their health and personal issues–be kind, but be clear. People may think they are doing okay. They may think no one has noticed if it isn’t said, and that they’re covering it. It’s okay to say you aren’t doing well, but we’re going to work with you. It’s not okay to let it go unsaid.

      1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

        Exactly right.

        Five years ago, discussing sub-par/poor performance even in passing with someone who was dealing with a potentially fatal ongoing medical issue, was the sole breadwinner for her family & economically vulnerable, well that didn’t seem like the right choice. Or during the personal crisis directly after that left her even more economically vulnerable.

        And yet, what I ended up with was someone who somehow still thought she was a star performer, many many years after it was even sort of true. She could not hear me this year, for months, at how close she was to being fired. (I have a theory that having gone through all of the trauma she did, that her mind had trained to reject bad news and filter to only things that were a positive outlook, just a theory. How you can tell somebody that their job is on the line and they tell you “I am happier when I am doing something creative” I DON’T KNOW)

        Point being, to do over again, I would risk delivering poor performance news, gently, during a downturn so that the person would have a better chance of doing a upswing on a faster timeline than five years OR at least lay groundwork where I could address the issues faster.

        Oh, and I would check in with co-workers much more proactively. I didn’t know how bad it was and they didn’t want to tell me but they probably would have told me more if I had asked more specifically.

    3. Anax*

      Oof. I’ve been That Employee, and I’m sorry.

      Dealing with personal and medical crises exhausted me, and I burned out hard, even though work was being wonderful and supportive. I had a really hard time getting back on track at that job, and it was a relief to eventually move on.

  25. nonegiven*

    Colorblind DH and his colorblind brother, each separately almost got run over in the nearby large town because they have changed their left turn red lights to left turn red arrows.

    I want to strangle someone.

  26. RUKiddingMe*

    Way back in the dark ages when I was young and a jerk, there was a girl in school who used a taxi to/from school. She got like half price ride coupons because she had RA. She was all of 18 and didn’t look disabled, but apparently it was actually pretty bad. I and several others used to joke about the taxi thing. It seemed …pretentious… I guess. We were all jerks.

    Being young doesn’t preclude someone from having a (severe) disability. A disability being invisible doesn’t mean it’s not real, or severe. There is no requirement for being in a wheelchair.

    Contrary to popular belief it’s not easy to get a placard/plate and while yes there are some young people using Grandma’s placard, it’s not that widespread. Chances are very good that the employee has a legit condition and is using the placard legitimately.

    Twenty some years on and I still occasionally get side-eyed, occasional comments, occasional demands to “prove” it all because I don’t look disabled. I’ve had people threaten to call the police. Which, fine call them. I’ll be inside let me know when they get here.

    My biggest concern is that some self-righteous yahoo vandalizes my car. <–I always take down license plates just in case … if my car is vandalized, I know where to point police.

    OP You must shut this down. Not only because of the legal/PR issues it could evoke, but because it’s the right thing to do for your employee. How dare Bob!

    1. HannahS*

      Yeah. My grandpa had one because he had angina. I was offered one for fibromyalgia in my teens. I wound up not really needing it, thank goodness, but looking healthy and *technically* being able to walk certainly factored into my decision.

  27. Thaleia*

    OP1: I think you already know this, but… it’s time to start looking for a new job. Your boss and your CEO are empathy-challenged idiots on the wrong side of the law. Run.

    Also, should the OP tell New Hire, given that illegal discrimination is occuring?

    1. Moray*

      There’s also the chance they’re just dummies with a very misguided (and probably very impulsive) sense of justice.

      She says she mostly loves her job–IMO this situation alone isn’t worth running away over, especially if she can bring them to their senses.

      1. Thaleia*

        Yeah, I see your point (and I agree that OP doesn’t need to leave without lining something else up), buuuut I do think this is more serious than a couple of dummies. If this were just them being crappy (vs. the threat of actual illegal employment discrimination), I would agree with you. Her boss’s reaction to the CEO was to pass CEO’s concerns on to the OP (as opposed to never mentioning it again). Even if he doesn’t understand employment discrimination law, that shows pretty bad judgment imo. OP says further down that this impulsive behavior is typical of the CEO and he had fired (and rehired) employees before. Those feel like serious red flags to me both for how the business treats its employees and what kind of judgment OP’s bosses are likely to use in the future.

    2. Numba 1*

      Nope. Took me a long time to find one and I actually like it very much. My direct boss is non confrontational so I’m not worried about him. If they ever did push it to the point of firing her, I’d go straight to HR.

  28. Klingons and Cylons and Daleks, Oh My!*


    Your boss and the CEO clearly know the laws regarding disabled employees (because it’s their job to know), which tells me that they’re trying to set you up to take the fall for the inevitable legal ramifications of firing her. Contact the company’s HR and legal departments as well as your own lawyer.

    1. fposte*

      Tons of Americans have no idea about the laws but think they do, though. Being a manager or CEO doesn’t mean they’re accurate about the laws.

        1. Klingons and Cylons and Cybermen, Oh My!*

          Any court would rule that they CAN be presumed to know the relevant laws, specifically because such knowledge (or immediate access to it) is within the scope of their jobs.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Right, it’s not a defense against breaking the law; they’re still liable. But you were suggesting above that it was intentional malfeasance.

            1. Klingons and Cylons and Daleks, Oh My!*

              I didn’t mean to suggest that at all; I meant to state it directly.

              The fact that they’re “in a position to know” the relevant laws strongly indicates that they DO know, which qualifies their actions as intentional malfeasance.

              1. fhqwhgads*

                Nope. Ignorance is rampant. From a legal liability angle, they’re presumed to know because they SHOULD because it’s literally their job to, hence they’re responsible for knowing. That’s completely different from being competent at their jobs and actually knowing.
                It could be intentional malice but it’s just as likely they’re idiots.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                No, absolutely not. Loads of managers don’t know employment law. In fact, it’s rare for managers to be trained in it. It’s ignorance, not malfeasance.

    2. Myrin*

      Your boss and the CEO clearly know the laws regarding disabled employees (because it’s their job to know)
      I feel pretty confident in saying that there’s nothing “clearly” about this – law is something that very many people view as its own beast and if the situation isn’t about something that affects them directly and continuously, they’re very likely to not know about the intricacies of it at all.

    3. Not Me*

      I have had actual practicing attorney’s ask me if we legally need to pay employees for all the time they worked.

      So no, I definitely wouldn’t assume any manager knows everything they should.

  29. Grits McGee*

    Hi OP4-
    Having been in your position for many years, and then supervising interns myself, it sounds like you’re doing a great job so far! If you really want to knock it out of the park there are a couple things I would suggest:
    -Archival and museum work both require an incredible amount of attention to detail and consistency, so it’s really important to make sure that you understand your tasks. The most successful interns I’ve worked with have been proactive about asking questions when they weren’t sure about how to do something, or how I wanted them to document their work. The least successful intern I worked with acknowledged that he didn’t understand what I asked him to do, then hid from me when I tried to get the work back from him.
    -Have a plan for work to do when there’s downtime, especially if you’re waiting for a staff person to have free time to supervise you. If there’s reference books or a library on site, take the opportunity to learn more about the collections or the field. It really makes a great impression to be proactive about making the most of your internship, and has the advantage of not creating more work for your supervisors. It gives the impression that you’re a fellow professional, and not someone who needs to be babysat.
    -So much of the work we do in museums and archival collections is tedious and detailed, so it really makes a difference when interns are enthusiastic about doing less glamorous grunt work. I had an intern who was tasked with doing a really detailed and tedious project reconciling two document-level finding aids, and she really impressed me with how thorough and accurate she was. (And believe me, I talked her up to everyone who would listen.)
    -Ask staff about their careers and education, and how they ended up in their current positions. When I interned with the National Park Service, I learned that it took the people I worked with about 10 years of seasonal and term work before they got their first permanent job; that was a big factor in deciding to pursue a career outside that agency.
    -Don’t expect that you will be hired on after your internship. Unfortunately, it’s really common in the field for staff supervising interns to wistfully talk about they just wish they had the money to hire you, and, maybe if this grant comes through or we may have funding next year…. that job never comes through, or if it does, it’s part time with no benefits. I have no idea why people in this field do this, because they’ve been in your shoes before and they know it isn’t going to happen, but they do it anyway. Don’t let yourself get stuck in a holding pattern expecting your supervisors to come through with a job offer.

    1. Grits McGee*

      Oh, and one more thing- internships are a great time to learn about how every institution does things differently, and it’s a great idea to (politely*) ask for context- ex “Why did the deed of gift language change from x to y?”. It’s best to save these kinds of backstory questions for when you’re working with someone one-on-one, rather than bringing it up in a group meeting.
      *By politely I mean- without value judgement, and just once, if you get the impression that this is a touchy subject that your supervisor doesn’t want to get into.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Hi OP#4… Take any opportunities you have to attend training sessions. If the permanent employees are going to a conference, at least ask if there’s any way you can go as well. I did this as a long-term contract employee and was delighted that they sent me. I learned so much –including things that I have used many times since I changed careers out of archive work.
      On a trivial note, never trust spell-check & auto-fill on your final documents. Visually similar words can have very different meanings. I’m going to go out on a limb here and ask if you really meant “repertoire” or if spellcheck changed it from “reputation”. This one’s a professional substitution that just stood out at me because I’m proofreading a lot of material typed by people who are not writers. But believe me I learned this the hard way and now always prefer a final check by a fresh pair of eyes.

    3. Person of Interest*

      Good advice here about being proactive about asking for more tasks or for guidance when you aren’t sure about a task. I encourage my interns to have 1-1 conversations with other staff members outside of my department, so they can learn more about the work of the org overall and the different roles that go into our work. Many interns are still exploring what aspect of nonprofit work they really want to do and find this opportunity to see the work from many sides helpful.

  30. Knitting Cat Lady*

    #1: Arrgh!

    I have several accommodations at work:
    -window seat
    -height adjustable desk
    -LED lighting

    I have sensory issues.

    The desk and the window seat were easy. There’s procedure for those.

    But getting the lighting switched to LED was a nightmare.

    And all the hoops I had to jump through to get my disability recognized?

    Assholes who question other people’s disabled status make my blood boil.

    The amount of money payed out in fraudulent benefits is a pittance compared to what rich people don’t pay in taxes.

    1. WomanFromItaly*

      I have to admit that at my last job when the light burned out I didn’t put in to have it replaced for the whole two and a half years I was in that office (in my case it was causing migraines). The office had a lamp, which unlike the overhead light, didn’t suck. So I called it a win.

  31. Lalitah28*

    LW#3 Should consider making their accommodation part of their regular signature, like we do with preferred pronouns in environments where were supportive of people’s individual gender.

  32. Trout 'Waver*

    OP#4, A big part of interning is learning professional norms and practices. A decent manager will know that and be available to help you learn. Just by being conscious of your professional image and asking when you have questions, you’re already a great intern. I’m sure you’ll do great!

  33. Frenchtoast*

    OP2 – what incredible timing, pretty sure I just terminated this same person at my work. It was a VERY hard decision and I still think of their high quality work and second guess myself… but the low quality work/attitude was having a huge impact on the team and frankly, the flip flopping and inconsistency was exhausting me.

    In addition to clarifying that you need to see sustained performance, I’d also suggest spelling out really clearly that all the “great” work in the world can’t make up for a consistent work ethic and attitude. Not sure about your employee, but I felt like with mine, there was a particularly toxic strain of perfectionism and people-pleasing at play. They SO wanted to knock it out of the park on big projects, but loathed small tasks and team collaboration. I thought more ownership of big projects would make the other stuff more tolerable for them, but in retrospect I wish I had just said “both of these are parts of your job and success here means commitment to all parts, not just some.”

    Also, while I’d avoid asking anything too prying (lest this too becomes the parking pass situation too), could you say “I’ve noticed this trend. Why do you think this keeps happening?” I had an employee whose behaviour was also inconsistent, but was super upfront about their Seasonal affective disorder and we built in accommodations to help him during the challenging times.

    PS. Unrelated but to OP1 and commenters: is calling the parking pass a “parking placard” an American thing? I feel like most comments are using “placard” which to me (a Canadian) seems unexpectedly British. I’ve only heard it here as “parking pass” or “wheelchair pass” (even though everyone knows it’s not necessarily for wheelchairs, I think it’s just because the spots have the wheelchair symbol).

    1. pentamom*

      There’s a distinction between the permanent license plate designation, and a placard which is temporary or designed to be moved from vehicle to vehicle and only displayed when the vehicle is being used by the person to whom it’s assigned (either as driver or actual passenger at the moment.) I’m not sure under which conditions one is assigned as opposed to the other, but that’s why that term is used.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      There are two different ways to indicate that a vehicle is permitted to park in an accessible spot. If the disabled person owns a vehicle or is always transported in the same vehicle, that vehicle is eligible for a specific type of license plate.

      If the disabled person could be transported by numerous people, there is a “hang tag” that can be utilized in any vehicle that person is a passenger in. These hang tags are commonly referred to as placards. People can also be eligible for a temporary tag in certain situations (my dad had one after hip surgery). The most common type of fraudulent use of these is when an able-bodied person uses a friend or relative’s tag without the disabled person being with them.

    3. Rebecca1*

      In most states, I think, it’s a placard if it hangs from the rear view mirror, and a plate if it’s a label on the license plate.

    4. Thankful for AAM*

      I have never heard of the hang tag version being called a placard. Here ppl seem to say x has a handicap parking permit or, make sure to get the handicap hang tag from your car (when I am driving).

      My husband has a temporary handicap hang tag (with a prominent date on it!) due to an injury to his foot. He is a very healthy, fit person and is no longer wearing a boot or using crutches. His is a very invisible issue right now. But walking very far is still painful. And worst of all, he is not cleared to play hockey yet!

      1. doreen*

        I’ve never heard of the hang-tag being called a placard- but I think that’s because NYS issues hang-tags which are not valid for street parking in NYC and NYC issues it’s own rectangular placards which are placed on the dashboard.

    5. Place Royal*

      In the UK it’s a “blue badge”. I’ve only ever heard “placard” used in this context when it’s a US thing.

    6. Laura H.*

      I’m not sure if it’s strictly American to refer to it as a placard or if it’s regional, but yes- same thing, different terminology.

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        I’m in the US. Now I’m going to spend the rest of the week polling people on this!

    7. londonedit*

      British here, and ‘placard’ sounds weird to me. A placard is a thing you take to a protest march. We have a colloquial name for disabled parking badges – ‘blue badges’ (because they are blue) but we’d call them a badge or a pass.

      1. Astonished*

        Badges and passes sound weird to me. We don’t call it that here in the US. Remember that everything is relative.

      2. Carlie*

        And to me a badge is only ever something you wear on your body, not something you’d have in your car. Language is weird!

    8. CDM*

      And the laws around issuing placards/hang tags and plates vary by state in the US, to make things even more confusing.

      My state, PA, will not issue temporary credentials. You break both legs and an arm, no temporary hang tag for you. Other states will issue them for 6 months, those hang tags are often (always?) red to distinguish them from the long term blue ones.

      I had researched the various state laws about 15 years ago to help an online acquaintance who was lobbying to get CA to change their laws, which only allowed the issue of one hang tag (many states issue two) and restricted license plates to only cars registered in the name of the disabled person (other states will allow plates for cars that regularly transport a disabled person or for parents of a disabled child). She had a disabled child who used a wheelchair at school, and she and her husband split their work schedules so one could drop the child off at school and the other pick the child up. But they were only allowed one hang tag, so they had the two terrible options of one parent parking in a regular space daily at school or entrusting that the young child wouldn’t lose the hang tag at school.

      Far less infuriating, another acquaintance, in NY, had to get a state-issued non-driver photo ID for her four year old before their two hang tags were issued in the child’s name. And in NYC, vehicles with a handicapped permit are allowed to park in diplomatic parking spaces, which apparently the diplomatic staffers do not appreciate and will argue with drivers about.

      1. Silver Fig*

        My state, PA, will not issue temporary credentials.

        There’s a check box right at the top of form MV-145A for “temporary placard”. My mother-in-law got a temp tag just a few months ago after a joint replacement.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        That is actually incorrect. I am in PA and my dad had a temporary hang tag last summer when he had both hips replaced.

    9. Drax*

      Alberta – here we often refer to Placard’s as the permanent ones (blue), Pass’s are the red/yellow temporary ones

      but I did recently over heard someone refer to the handicap parking stall as ‘wheelie parking’ which did amuse me to no end

  34. Bulldog*

    I don’t know if all states are the same, but in my state the handicapped placards have the person to whom it was issued’s name and an expiration date clearly printed on them. (Obviously this is for the type that hang from the rear view mirror and not the license plate type.) I assume this is so parking monitors can check their validity, but I’ve often wondered about the wisdom of having this info easily seen by anyone passing by a parked vehicle. While I absolutely agree that CEO and/or HR have no business questioning Jane about the use of the placard, if someone truly suspects fraud, it would be very easy to see if the placard is issued in her name. If it is, then at the very least, a doctor signed off on her having a disability that necessitated the placard and that should be the end of it.

  35. Omar*

    OP3, I’m not colourblind, but I use different strategies to help with managing responses to emails.
    1. I try to avoid having more than one question where possible in an email.
    2. I sometimes use the table feature in Outlook and leave an open column for responses (works best when short answers are needed). You can even set the width a bit wider for them to help.
    3. Using bullet points or outline numbering, you could have your points in the main area and indent next line. Leave it blank. It will look like you have a weird way of showing paragraphs, but it should help in most cases.
    As a responder, I think I would like any of those as it means I don’t have to find and colour my own response. I’m sure some will colour responses anyway, but at least you will know where to start looking.

      1. 2230*

        Unless at the other end your company doesn’t use Outlook, and then you can’t reply within the table because it is not supported in other formats. And the table doesn’t always show up clearly. Grrr

        1. Omar*

          Since later versions of Outlook use html by default, it’s not as difficult as it used to be. I just round tripped an email from desktop Outlook to my phone Outlook to webpage Gmail and back again. All were able to edit the table and all showed it correctly afterwards.

          Now, don’t get me started with iPhones. They seem to mangle everything. (Personal bias showing through again).

        2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          Tables can be an issue for screen-readers depending on how they’re formatted. I wouldn’t worry about that in one-to-one communication with someone I knew wasn’t using a screen reader, but it’s something to be aware of for things going out to a more general audience.

  36. Apostrophina*

    Regarding OP1, I worked briefly for a small company with space in an office building. One of the other employees was an older disabled man, and the building management tried to tell us that he could not use the handicapped parking because that was just for clients of the various businesses. (This was the 1990s, so Google was not a thing for most of us; I now know it was illegal, but we only suspected it then.) I left soon after that, so I don’t know how it all shook out.

    It’s been 20+ years now, and every time I see that place (which is often, since it’s near my house), I think about those jerks and hope their building stays empty. Aside from the obvious doing-the-right-thing aspect of OP1’s post, this is the kind of reputation their bosses are courting.

  37. Silver Fig*

    LW #3, my spouse is a protanopic educator. He has really struggled to get administrative support for his needs (don’t even get me started about how Madyson’s need to express herself via pink glitter pen is apparently more important than his disability accommodations).

    Please do advocate for yourself, because color-blindness is so commonly ignored in incredibly important situations. (Let’s use red and green to tell two-ton death machines when to stop and go! Let’s put the instructions for caustic drain cleaner in red letters on a a yellow background!) Give people the chance to make the changes you need. If people ignore your request, then you’re fully within reason to reply that you are unable to read their response and need them to alter the text per your previous request.

  38. Temi*

    Currently, I am the employee of OP2, but not due to personal crisis. I was a star performer the first two years but it meant working long hours, sacrificing vacation and accepting (not that I had a choice) additional responsibilities, until finally I started dropping balls. I also started exerting boundaries, leaving ‘on time’ and not bringing work home on weekends.

    When your boss doesn’t protect you as a resource, inconsistency is an organic outcome when the job scope exceeds the effort that can reasonably be sustained in the long term.

    1. TheRedCoat*

      Same. The job I am paid for is two levels below the job I do (literally, we’ve got job bands and pay bands), and I just got passed over for promotion again because they “forgot”.

      So…. yeah. You’re gonna get stuff on time and not early. If you don’t appreciate above and beyond, you don’t deserve above and beyond.

      1. Curmudgeon in Califormia*

        This. I’ve done the 100% company person, with extra hours and all that. All I got was abuse and eventually fired because I didn’t play the “be visible, doing visible things while kissing up and bragging” in a stack ranked environment. No promotions have ever been forthcoming. Instead I keep having to “help” new managers (who have different plumbing and fewer years.)

  39. Numba One*

    OP 1 here! I haven’t had a chance to read every comment yet but thanks to Alison and those who replied. Some additional context: the CEO is known to be a knee jerk reaction type. There is a story circulating that he fired someone on the spot during one of his annual visits only to hire them back two days later. I am hoping this will just fade away since I haven’t heard anything since. I’m loathe to go to HR unless absolutely necessary. What puzzles me is my immediate bosses advice to “Keep an eye on things. ” One of the commentors suggested looking out for for other signs of being untrustworthy so I suppose that is all I can do. Fortunately, she seems like a good fit and is a quick learner.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Assuming she is untrustworthy is a big problem. There is literally no reason to suspect that she is anything other than honest and it is unfair for you (or anyone else) to scrutinize her because of this.

      1. Numba 1*

        I make no assumptions. She is working out great so far. I just felt like I was being put in a no win situation.

        1. Tinker*

          A thing that can happen with folks who are around people like your CEO is that they get used to having a constant calculation of how to manage them — how to keep them from going off, and when they do go off working out whether to gently redirect them or deflect until their attention seizes on something else, or whether in theory this particular issue is one to make a stand on and potentially make oneself the target of the knee-jerk person with the power (who can sustain acting like this in the first place because of that power).

          Problem with doing that is that it gets to be really difficult to maintain perspective — if, on an everyday basis, you’re dealing with managing Explosive Bob and their impulses in the context of a continual string of minor outrages, the natural tendency when things get really out of line is to lump that in with all the other smaller outrages to be minimized and swept under the rug.

          That you’re looking at the advice here and concluding that the best you can do is “looking out for other signs of [the disabled employee] being untrustworthy” is a concerning sign that this is happening to you.

        2. Close Bracket*

          You are in a tough situation, but I don’t think it’s no win. As Tinker says, it’s hard to maintain perspective when you are used to sick situations. Keeping an eye out for other signs of untrustworthiness might seem reasonable, but it’s not. Your best course of action is to treat her the way you treat everyone else, ie, do not monitor her for untrustworthiness.

          Your letter above doesn’t say what your response to your boss in the moment was, and it doesn’t say whether he asked you to do anything specifically. Did your boss ask you to do anything?

    2. anonagain*

      “One of the commentors suggested looking out for for other signs of being untrustworthy so I suppose that is all I can do.”

      Respectfully, this is not the message to take away from this post. I hope you will re-read Alison’s advice and use it. If you are involved in hiring people and your boss came to you to discuss possible firing, you are in a position where you can and should speak up when someone is being treated unfairly.

      Singling out this employee for closer scrutiny because of her disability is a terrible idea. Unless you meant you plan to look out for other signs that your boss and CEO are untrustworthy, because that seems justified.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        I think (hope) it’s the bosses whose untrustworthiness is being scrutinized, based on the ‘CEO is known for knee jerk reactions’.

    3. Mike C.*

      If this person gets fired, you have a moral obligation to let them know why, so that they may be made whole. I hope it doesn’t come to that, but you should be prepared to do the right thing.

    4. Psyche*

      Honestly, I think you should be more concerned that your boss is untrustworthy and seems ok with discriminating against a disabled employee.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I admit that was how I read that sentence the first time: “ah, look for other signs of boss/CEO being untrustworthy, yes, makes sense… Oh wait a minute.”

        Because the other reading is just so bizarre, it did not even occur to me at first.

        1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

          Same! I read it as “look for signs of the CEO being untrustworthy”, it would make sense coming right after the revelation that CEO is an unreasonable ‘knee jerk’ reaction kinda guy.

    5. Observer*

      Please do NOT “look for other signs of being untrustworthy” – at least not more that any other employee. And if you think that that is what your boss is doing, then it actually IS “absolutely necessary” to go to HR. Because this employee is being discriminated against. At best it’s just morally BAD. At worst, it’s a legal and PR nightmare waiting to happen.

    6. learnedthehardway*

      OP1 – Personally, I would interpret your manager’s directive to “keep an eye on things” in terms of “keep an eye out to make sure that nobody discriminates against the new employee and if anyone makes comments to her about her use of the disabled parking space, please bring that to my attention so I can head off a lawsuit before it happens.”

      After all, the directive is open to interpretation. I would interpret that your manager wants to conform to the requirements of the disabilities law and wants to do the right thing.

    7. General Ginger*

      OP, I really don’t think “looking out for other signs of [new hire] being untrustworthy” is what you should be doing here. Aside from your CEO’s kneejerk reaction, which is on CEO, not on her, there are no signs of her being untrustworthy! Why would you even be looking for those?

    8. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Thanks for the update and for looking for this employee. Here’s hoping she’s left alone to do her job. Good luck!

    9. L.S. Cooper*

      I’m pretty sure that a CEO eager to violate ADA is a situation where going to HR, or at least SOMEONE, is absolutely necessary.

  40. Quickbeam*

    The disabled parking status is an ongoing headache for many in the work place. I happen to need the hash marks because of limited mobility (need to open the driver’s door all the way) so I am unable to access my car if anyone parks too close to me. I handle questions based on the spirit in which they come. If someone has a relative that needs the option I can walk people through the process. Because I only rarely walk with a cane, I’ve had people ask why I have disabled plates. I don’t mind unless there is a negative undertone.

    The privilege is between the driver, the state DOT and their MD. Maybe it’s a coincidence but I found people took me much more seriously when I got disabled plates vs the hang tag. The hang tags break easily. They should also not be left in place when driving.

    My former boss hated the idea of handicapped parking and when our new building was designed he had the spaces put as inconveniently as possible from the employee entrance. I had to push on an ADA level to be allowed into the closest door. There are jerks everywhere.

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Wow, that former boss is a real piece of work. What possible benefit is there to do something like that? I can’t imagine being that hateful. I’m sorry you had to deal with him and am glad you’re out of there!

    2. Curmudgeon in Califormia*

      That boss was a nasty piece of work.

      Then again, my current workplace adheres to the letter of the law, but not the spirit, which means there are the right number of handicapped spaces, but they aren’t actually the most convenient to the buildings.

  41. drpuma*

    OP3 I just wanted to say thank you for writing in. Your question will help a ton more people be better coworkers to folks they may not even realize are colorblind.

    1. jDC*

      I agree. I also think it is zero big deal to just tell them and ask for the easy accommodation. For those not colorblind it doesn’t even occur to us, but not a big deal to change what we are doing.

    2. TheRedCoat*

      Yes! I do in line responses on occasion, now I will make them bold and a different color.

      1. jDC*

        Awesome. It’s something we don’t consider but such an easy fix. Now I will do the same.

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      Yes, it did – I usually bold in-line responses, now I’ll initial and *always* bold.

  42. jDC*

    My ex was in the 95 Paris Metro bombing. He heroically pulled 8 people to safety before passing out and waking up in the hospital three days later. He looks fine but has shrapnel inside his stomach and back. By the end of a day walking around he is in such pain he can’t move. I constantly heard people questioning him about his “disability”.

    My husband doesn’t have or need plates but was deployed 6 times and has a back that causes him similar pain.

    People. You have no idea what someone’s been through. Knock it off.

    1. jDC*

      I also was run over when i was 15. I could probably get a plate but really don’t need it but sometimes by the end of a day of walking. Wow. My mother always says she can see it because my leg starts to turn when i walk but that’s because she knows me and has watched how I walk following the accident for 21 years. Others won’t see it. It can be so painful and exhausting by the end of the day. My hip hurts, my back is throbbing, my knee looks fine but feels like it must be double it’s normal size. I threw out my back recently and ended up at the doctor. He asked my level of back pain. I had to laugh because although it hurt bad this is just my daily reality. I was mainly there because i couldn’t stand up straight it was so bad. Just because I’m not limping around doesn’t mean I’m not hurting. Sometimes that extra half block can put me in bed the whole next day and there is no cure or solution I just have to live with it. At best I could take some pain killers that hardly do anything and make me feel groggy. I did that for long enough with no results. No thanks.

      1. Rainy*

        I use the accessible stalls in bathrooms whenever possible because of my arthritis, and I’ve had people look daggers at me (a seemingly hale and youthful 43) when I come out, but if my knee or hip decides to stop holding me up and I’m in a stall without grab bars, I know they won’t enjoy trying to winkle me out of whatever crevice in the stall I’ve fallen into, and waiting for maintenance to help me out (and possibly mop the floor if I really have to go) is going to tie up all the stalls for way longer than me just peeing in the one that I’ve chosen.

        1. jDC*

          That’s annoying. If you feel a need to use it then use it. I just had to at the airport because I was traveling with my dog. I traveled alone and had to use the bathroom between flights even though i wasn’t excited to drag him in there with me. With him, his bag for under the seat and my purse I couldn’t even get into the regular stall so i used the handicap. I was in and out yet a woman made a rude comment. There was another empty handicapped stall next to me. Sigh.

  43. TheRedCoat*

    Oof, Letter #2. I feel like I could be that employee. My cycle goes like this:
    1. Do rockstar level work, and get a bunch of extra responsibilities.
    2. Go all out to keep those responsibilities, and try to use them to get promoted in my department.
    3. Don’t get promoted, have to train an outside hire on the extra responsibilities I had taken over.
    4. Don’t really feel motivated for a couple months, and then…
    5. Start the cycle over again.

    1. BeenThere OG*

      *cries* yes! I’m very good at doing what I’m given because I vet positions heavily and I accept the compensation based on that. Please don’t give me extra or I’ll take it as a sign I need to perform less well because I am happy at my level with my responsibilities. If I wanted to move up I’d tell you.

      – Signed
      A hardworking bright person who has always been given extra work with no reward since elementary school and has been punished for not wanting to move into leadership.

    2. Temi*

      Me too! Sometimes being a rockstar can be difficult to sustain. The de-motivation can be personal or work related.

      1. TheRedCoat*

        For real. My only reward for being good at my job is more work? And nothing else? (No raises, no promotions, barely even thank you?) Thanks but no thanks, I’ll pump the breaks and go back to mediocre.

        1. BeenThereOG*

          I’m always grateful for this site in making me feel less alone in my work challenges! I love Alison to do an article on this if there isn’t something in the archives already. Is there a name for this type of treatment by managers?

  44. Transit Whisperer*

    A quick note on language. Most people in the disabled community prefer the term ‘accessible’ over ‘handicap’. For example, ‘accessible parking’, ‘accessible restroom’, etc.

    1. Quickbeam*

      Not sure if this was to me, but I was using the legal language of my state related to parking. There are statutory definitions of the parking privilege.

      1. Transit Whisperer*

        My comment is not directed at anyone in particular – just helping to make sure we’re not using ableist language. I’m not surprised that legal statutes are behind on this.

    2. Peacock*

      THIS. In the UK the terms “handicap” and “handicapped” when referring to disability and accessibility issues are considered outdated and offensive. I see a lot of US commenters using the term and I find it very jarring, but had previously assumed it was a cultural difference and maybe that it’s not considered as offensive as it is over here. However, a quick browse of the ADA National Network website reveals the following on their guidelines for writing about disabilities: “Note that ‘handicapped’ is an outdated and unacceptable term to use when referring to individuals or accessible environments.”
      I hope that US AAM commenters will consider this in future.

    3. Curmudgeon in Califormia*

      Some people in the disabled community don’t give a hoot. I’ll use disabled, handicapped or accessible interchangeably.

      I’m disabled. Except on very good days it’s visible when I move.

      Where I currently work, the disabled parking is not particularly ‘accessible”, so that would be a misnomer.

      1. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

        Hell, there’s times I refer to myself as crippled or a gimp. I am disabled and just do not GAF.

  45. Anon for this*

    That is what I struggle with on this. People suck and get all judgy. But I have seen people game the system and I have been accused of gaming it. I could let this person color my view but I refuse to let a bad apple ruin the bushel. At the end of the day, people need to mind their own business.

  46. Wow.*

    People that harass people who have a placard are just jerks.

    The only time I have an issue is with the people who just park in the handicap spot without any placard, “just for a minute.” Those people are lazy jerks.

  47. iglwif*

    OP3, please do speak up!

    Another idea for those who want to be colorblind-friendly in their email replies (and at the same time avoid email clients that strip or alter your formatting) is to identify when you’re “speaking” with angle-bracket tags (like in XML or HTML) or square brackets, add asterisks at the beginning of each comment, or even just put your initials followed by a colon at the beginning of each comment. These things also make it possible to search the text for your comments :)

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Square brackets are probably safest for this, since some programs might interpret angle brackets as HTML and some turn asterisk-surrounded text bold (though bold is probably not so bad).

  48. Lkr209*

    Color blind: Could you include that in your email signature?
    *Please Note* I am colorblind-please reply in a new body of text instead of in-line responses in differing colors. Thank you for your consideration.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      I think it has to be above the signature, some where that’s spotted immediately. People only read what they have to. Unless they need to contact OP another way, other than replying to the email, I don’t think they will look at the signature.
      I find people rarely look at a second paragraph!

  49. anon4this*

    OP#3….not sure if this will but you can use color inversion, which will invert the colors on the screen.
    It’s super easy to look up directions to do this for both mac and PC, and you can probably easily program it as keyboard shortcut. This make quickly make the text more readable for you, rather than the constant hassle of having to let people know.

  50. cmcinnyc*

    OP#2, I get that you want to cheerlead/motivate your employee because she’s so good when she’s good. But it sounds like your fear is that honestly telling her you’ve been on this ride before and you’re skeptical this time will be different will send her into a tailspin and bring on another round of Bad Employee. If her attitude/work ethic/mental-emotional stamina is that fragile, she’s going to hit *something* that sends her downward again. You can’t control what’s going on in her personal life, her mental health, or her other working relationships. It sounds like you’re trying to be the bright spot for her to keep going. The truth is, you doubt she’s going to be able to stay on track for 6 months. Six months is not a whole lot of time. If you honestly don’t trust that an employee can keep it together for six months, that employee has a problem that is bigger than you can solve. I would suggest being honest and dealing with what’s really happening and what eventually happens, good or bad.

  51. raisingsand*

    I am a manager of a startup warehouse operation. In the beginning, we had multiple employees using the handicapped parking spots without hang tags. It’s one of my pet peeves, if an employee is going to break that law and use those spaces illegally, what other laws will they break? It’s a strong mark against their character, in my opinion, so I did have to “police” the use of the handicap spots. After a week of making employees move their cars, one employee showed up with a hang tag. I felt it was well within my responsibilities to inquire about it. I asked him if the tag was in his name, and he replied “well, either mine or my mother’s.” I asked to make a copy of the tag “to check the database”, and let him know that if the tag was not his then he was not allowed to park in that spot. Obviously, only law enforcement can check that database and I did not carry it any further, but did put a copy of his tag in his file for future reference. He stopped parking in the spot immediately. Even after reading all these comments, I do feel it is my responsibility to make sure our employees are following the law at all times while on our property.

    1. fposte*

      I get the impulse, but the problem is that *you’re* not following the law, and the law you’re breaking is considerably more significant.

      It’s fine to require disabled tags to park in those spaces. Interrogating people on those tags? Breaching federal law. Depending on your company and its relationship to the parking lot, there may be other approaches you can take, but straight up quizzing people is out.

    2. irene adler*

      Why not just let all employees know that the local police monitor for proper use of the handicapped spaces? And ticketing for improper use of same?

      1. fposte*

        Can’t say what raisingsand’s situation is, but a lot of these parking issues are on privately owned or leased lots that the police don’t monitor.

        1. irene adler*

          In which case, can’t a company ask the local police to swing by and check the placards? No one has to know management initiated the check.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            It’s not always possible / feasible to have police tagging private lots, no.

            I think it’s ok to require employees to have valid tags to park in an accessible spot, and raisingsand is on firm ground there. Questioning someone with a tag is not ok.

    3. OG Karyn*

      Yeah, um… you definitely are running afoul, or dangerously close to it, of the law on disabilities. Yes, people should obey the law with regarding to parking in spots they’re authorized to park in and not parking in those they aren’t. But this isn’t like using customer parking as an employee. That, you could “police.” This is requiring someone to tell you whether or not they have a disability or face sanctions at work. It doesn’t matter that you’re not asking them to tell you what disability it is – the fact of the matter is, you can’t demand to know if they have one or not, and you certainly can’t tell someone they will be penalized at work for NOT disclosing that information to you.

  52. MassMatt*

    #2, from experience with a few employees whose performance gyrated between excellent (or at least good) to subpar–it’s a classic sign of potential addiction issues, maybe check for other indicators.

    1. Observer*

      Why? It’s really not the employer’s problem. The performance issues ARE the employer’s issue, regardless of the cause. But it would be an enormous overstep to start trying to diagnose.

      1. Massmatt*

        Because there may be other issues that are less apparent but also damaging. When I managed a team I was required to document heightened scrutiny for things like bankruptcy. It makes a difference whether it’s someone who is handling cash or medication vs checking reports and filing but there are cases where scrutiny is warranted.

        Countless scandals could be averted by heeding warning signs which are apparent in retrospect.

        1. Observer*

          That’s nonsense. You don’t have to start looking for addiction or trying to armchair diagnose things without any expertise or adequate information. Trying to do so makes it LESS likely that you will see the signs of scandal. Because plenty of scandals happen without drug addiction. But if you’re busy trying to figure out whether someone is addicted, you’re diverting attention from something else. And what happens if you decide (because you are such a non-expert) that this person is not addicted? Does that mean that you don’t have to pay attention, despite the problematic behavior?

          The signs you need to be looking for are the same, and need to be dealt with the same without reference to addiction.

    2. I'm anon for this*

      I went through a several year period of cycling through my usual excellent work and truly abysmal performance (*I* would have fired me, frankly) but I don’t drink, smoke, or do any drugs licit or illicit. But my child was on and off chemo, you know, on the verge of DYING, and my husband was both unhelpful and having an affair, so…

      Please don’t armchair diagnose.

  53. Formerly Known As*

    OP 1–your company’s management is awful, but you know that now. I’m sensitive to this issue because my mother has a serious heart condition and uses a handicapped parking permit. But if you look at her, you wouldn’t know she is disabled. Not all disabilities come with a wheelchair, walker, cane, brace, etc. My mom has been harassed by strangers and non-strangers alike for legally using her permit because these ignorant people don’t think she needs it because she is not visibly disabled. People suck. If the company persists in bothering this employee about her permit or fire her (!!), I hope she sues.

    1. Numba 1*

      Agree 100%. I was the one who brought up “invisible disabilities” to them. They should know better!

  54. Sara without an H*

    Hello, OP#1: I haven’t had time to read all the comments upstream, so I may be repeating something that’s already been said. In addition to briefing your own manager, you may want to give your HR people a head’s up. This is definitely within their remit.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Seconding this suggestion. The OP doesn’t even need to mention that it was the CEO who made the comment. Just tell HR that the new employee uses a disabled parking space and someone has questioned it, even though she has a tag. Bringing this to HR so they can do some disability education within the company.

  55. Me*

    When I was in high school I had a temporary handicap pass for about a month after I broke my leg. One day my friend and I volunteered at an event at one of our town’s elementary schools. The parking lot was completely full, we drove around a few times and the only spot that opened up was a handicap one. There was a lady in a minivan behind us who was also looking for a spot. She honked and gave us (two normal looking teenage girls) probably the dirtiest look I’ve ever seen when we pulled in.

    I thought she was going to yell at us…until I hopped out of the car with my cast and crutches. And then she looked extremely guilty and drove off fast.

    I get it, I hate when people abuse handicap passes because it leaves less spaces for people who need them. My old neighbor used to brag to my mom about how she borrowed her elderly mother’s pass to get a good spot. Meanwhile my grandmother who needed those spaces often had trouble finding one. But I would NEVER judge someone I saw using a handicap pass because so many disabilities are invisible and it’s none of my business.

    1. Another worker bee*

      Seconding on the broken leg!
      I broke my ankle and received a temporary disabled pass – even after the crutches phase was over, I was wearing an ankle brace (and it was winter, so it was under my boots and not really visible). It was a pretty short recovery time for me to be able to walk short distances on flat ground (i.e. inside) with ease (and without a noticeable limp) and took closer to six months before navigating parking lots with their uneven surfaces, curbs, wet/icy etc. became doable.

  56. voluptuousfire*


    My mom was type 1 diabetic and nerve damage due to neuropathy in her feet and from a car accident she had been in as a young woman, so walking could be difficult for her. She only got a cane the last few months of her life, but her doctor was able to get her a handicap placard when she was about 50 or so. She gave up driving so I would take her shopping or to doctor’s appointments and we used to get such BS sometimes from people who thought we were using someone else’s placard because my mom didn’t “look” handicapped. It still rubs me the wrong way when people make such outrageous presumptions.

  57. TooTiredToThink*

    #3 – I hate when people do this to me and I’m not color-blind; but thank you for pointing this out as its also not something I would have considered either. I’m wondering if just adding to please make replies 508 compliant would be helpful in cases like this.

    1. fposte*

      I think that that’s not specific enough, though, and a lot of people won’t know what it means; it’s easier to get action taken when you make your suggestion specific.

  58. Chronic Illness Sufferer*

    LW #1- I have a permanent handicap parking placard and I look fine, but I am NOT fine. I have been hassled many times by people that assumed that because I wasn’t using my wheelchair that day I was misusing my placard. Your employer would get in serious trouble for taking action against this employee, she could absolutely file an EEOC complaint and would have a good case. Invisible disability SUCKS. I would give up my front row parking in a second to not need it.

  59. Becky*

    I would never grill someone about why they are using a valid handicapped placard, but if I see a handicapped placard that is after its expiration date? I would probably question, though in a more polite “oh, it looks like your placard has expired!” way. But I will judge real hard on seeing someone parking in a handicapped spot who has no placard or handicapped plates.

    1. Laura H.*

      I had someone come into my workplace and their placard was expired. I was not clear enough that it was more like a ‘hey your placard is expired- it’s easy to forget but you should get it renewed ASAP” and almost got rightly griped at for it but once we were both on the same page- it went considerably better!

  60. OG Karyn*

    Last week, I had not one but TWO people in parking lots complain that I’m “clearly using my parents’ handicap placard” when it’s actually mine, for both a lung issue that keeps me from being able to walk in cold weather for long distances, AND for a musculoskeletal issue in my back. I’ve always sort of floundered when responding to these people. The difference here, OP, is that you are in a position to do something without being the person at whom the insult is hurled. I suggest taking Alison’s advice – it’s spot on, per usual. You’ll be doing a great kindness to Jane, as well, because should the CEO decide to confront her himself over this, she’ll probably be in a similar mindset as I am when it happens to me – although even worse, because at least I have the benefit of never seeing those people again.

  61. Cheesecake2.0*

    I’ve had my handicap placard for about 4 years now and luckily never had anyone say anything to me at work. I have leg braces (which hide under my pants) so unless someone watched me walk a long distance and noticed my slight limp, I would look totally fine.
    Only once have I had an encounter with someone who really should mind their own business – I went to the beach with my husband and was driving in my bikini, with my braces and shoes on. I parked in a handicap spot and stood up out of the car. A woman in the parking lot on the passenger side of the vehicle comes strutting over with this righteous look on her face, so I stepped out around the front of the car and gave her a huge smile and said “lovely morning, isn’t it!?”. Oh man, the look on her face. In addition to my 2 leg braces, I’ve had more than 15 abdominal surgeries so my stomach looks like it was shredded by a bear. Doesn’t stop me from wearing my bikini though! Her jaw dropped open and she turned and ran off without saying anything, haha!

  62. Anon for this one*

    OP 2:
    I was that inconsistent employee. The best thing that happened to me was getting an excellent manager that made expectations clear and enforced consequences. I was put on a performance plan with a verbal warning, a written warning, and then termination. Most importantly, the bouts of good performance didn’t earn me a “reset” on the next backslide. This ended in me getting fired, but it was still what I really needed. The job was just not working for me, but I couldn’t admit it and would never have left on my own. My own perfectionism and need to please drove the bouts of excellent performance but my overall mismatch for the job (including some personal health issues) always resulted in a backslide. This would result in guilt–which eventually built up so much that I could motivate myself to change for a while, but the whole experience was miserable.

  63. incompetemp's colleague*

    #3, you should, of course, let people know so they can format their stuff for you.

    Another idea (and one I implemented due to completely different reasons from you) is to turn your emailed questions into simple forms for them to fill out. So rather than a paragraph with 5-6 questions, you insert a table with one column for questions, one column for answers. It might sound a little silly to go through all the trouble, but it actually saves so much time in the long run. Imagine you’re like 15 emails in and you’re trying to remember at what point you asked what type of teapot spout they want and where they answered. It’s so much quicker to scroll down and consult a table of the questions and answers.

  64. Safely Retired*

    When my wife had the handicap card to hang from the rear view mirror her name was on it, as well as an expiration date. I wonder if someone could simply look at it through the windows and possibly learn something.

  65. coffee cup*

    #3: thank you! I’m not colour blind, but we use this email formatting at work and it really irritates me for other reasons. There’s really no talking to my company about stuff like this (well, there’s no changing their minds), but this is a very good reason that I hadn’t been aware of, so thanks for highlighting it. I’d no idea that made such a difference. Perhaps I will mention it at my work.

  66. Wren*

    For OP #3, I’m wondering if the IT department can help you with your email settings to alter how responses are formatted. Occassionally, how the incoming email is formatted might still break the system, but some automation at your end for displaying emails might take care of a large part of the problem.

  67. NMFTG*

    #3 *I’m not sure what to do about one-time correspondence. *

    For one-offs, where you just want to get it done with as little fuss as possible, you could do a sort of reverse underline/bold marking, at least in e.g. Word.

    In word, if you do a search and substitute in a highlighted area, you can choose formatting to change (you don’t need to write any words to change in the box). Since you don’t know what colour your contributor has chosen, you can use what you know about your own text. If you *know* that your own text is black, you can do an all over formatting substitution like change all text in “black” to “black and underlined” or “black and bold”. That way, any text that’s NOT underlined or black are the new edits.

    That would be tedious, of course, but you can do it relatively quickly for your larger documents. If your text is not in Word (or similar) you can copy and use paste options to keep the original formatting before doing this.

  68. Astonished*

    I cannot believe that in 2019 people still think all disabilities are visible. I have congestive heart failure and diabetes. I am on a reasonable accommodation with my employer because of these conditions. My doctors certified me for my placard. People need to mind their own damn business. I don’t have to disclose my private medical information to anybody not of my choosing. And I look like everybody else on the outside. But I cannot walk very far and can quickly go hypoglycemic. Folks need to stop with the judgement.

  69. Keyboard Cowboy*

    OP3, it’s very common in the open-source software community to use plaintext email with inline replies, which tends to look more like this:

    >>> Blah blah, point from original email
    >> I don’t think that’s a good idea, because a;lksdfja
    > Well, have you considered…
    This is the most recent reply

    Your email client may even have a way for you to turn that on so that folks’ inline replies are a different depth, rather than just a different color!

  70. SharpAsChow*

    Hi OP2 – I also think I was your employee at one point in my life. Definitely had fluctuations in my attitude/performance and would have meetings where I’d turn it around only to slide back.

    It turns out I had an undiagnosed mental health thing that, when treated, helps smooth things out between my peak and trough performance. If there’s a pattern to this, it could be related.

    I doubt that has much influence in what you can do for this employee. However, when I read your letter, I was reminded of myself so much I wanted to share a possible perspective.

  71. Curmudgeon in Califormia*

    OP 1, stand up for them.

    I use a disabled placard or plate. My own car has a disabled plate, plus I have a “hang tag” placard.

    In California, you are technically required to carry the certificate that the send you with your placard, and show it to a peace officer if asked. I have it folded in my wallet right behind my drivers’ license.

    Verbatim, from the form “Disabled Person Placard Identification Card/Receipt”:

    “This identification card of facsimile copy is to be carried by the placard owner. Present it to any peace officer upon demand.”

    There’s more, of course.

    While a cop can require a person to produce that form, I don’t think your boss or HR can. Maybe if all drivers are required to register their vehicles with the office, and placard holders must provide the documentation, but I don’t have to do that at my work and they require non-disabled people to pay for parking.

    If they were in my state, HR might “request” a copy of the card “for their records”, but it would be on sketchy ground.

    Having known lots of people with invisible disabilities, I would encourage your boss to get over it and not assume the worst about your coworker. Anything else opens them up to a lawsuit for discrimination.

  72. Hitting A Handicapped Placard Nerve*

    Puh-lease puh-lease puh-lease give me your thoughts on parking with a disability placard:

    My employee parking lot designates the front row (40-60) for those who have the blue tag. Furthermore, we have an employee shuttle that goes from ALL SPOTS in the parking lot to the employee entrance. So whether you are in the front or back, in the first or last parking stall, the shuttle will take you.

    95% of those employees simply ignore the employee lot and park right on the first floor of our parking garage, which is designated for those with a disability placard. I GUARANTEE YOU 80% of the first floor which is for the disabled public is occupied by employees, thus requiring those coming to my place of employment to park on higher levels.

    My suggestion for those employees who still wish to park in the garage park on the very top floor of the building. You are still closer than the employee lot, and the general public will now have access to those spots. I have been shot down each and every time I have suggested this.

    (Example: Someone gets winded after two minutes of walking, thereby requiring them to be closer to whatever the nearest entrance is rather than the employee entrance. Fair enough.)

    You are absolutely right: Some diseases are invisible and I absolutely shouldn’t judge. But we provide disabled parking in our lot AND A SHUTTLE!!!!! So no matter where you are, we will get you to work!

    And when someone with a placard says he can’t take the stairs but is seen running the track, invisible or not, it bugs me that this able-bodied person is taking a space from someone who without question needs it more. And that’s a fact.

    1. Rainy*

      Stairs and flat ground really are different though. I have a really hard time with stairs because of my knees and ankle, but I can walk (and even sprint for the bus if it’s a good day) on flat ground without much problem.

      I stepped off a curb earlier this spring and the four inch drop was just enough for my knee to hit at the wrong angle. It collapsed under me and I fell into the street. Two days later, I had to sprint for the bus–on flat ground. Am I able-bodied and faking, or are bodies complicated?

      1. Hitting A Handicapped Placard Nerve*

        For the record, this person runs down the stairs to get out at the end of the day.

        But yes, bodies are complicated.

    2. I Don’t Remember What Name I Used Before*

      If they have handicapped placards/passes/plates, they can park in any disabled spot they want to, period. You do not get to police which spots they use and you especially do not get to police whether or not they are disabled or disabled ‘enough’.
      If you are not disabled this does not affect you at all, so it’s really unclear why you feel the need to bring it up at all.

  73. s0nicfreak*

    RE: #3 – it’s completely possible to set up your email client so that emails never show a color you can’t read. Google accessibility options for [your email client].

    Allison may think it’s appropriate to ask, but if someone said this to me, I’d wonder if it’s because they don’t have the computer competency to change their settings or use a plug-in, and I’d take my money elsewhere. But maybe LW is in a field where computer competency isn’t relevant.

  74. Michele*

    For disability parking pass, on your lunch break or before/after work, get the registration number from the handicapped parking pass and call it in to see if it’s valid. Doing it off working hours excludes you from confronting the person and causing legal issues.

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