coworker might be abusing her disability leave, employer shamed candidate over a swimsuit photo, and more

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

1. I think my coworker might be abusing her disability leave

I have a peer who is on a short-term disability leave. I am not sure what the issue is; it looks like stress/exhaustion but, again, I don’t know the details. Another peer brought it to my attention that there is a lot going on in this person’s life. Her husband took a job in another city and she does not have a lot of friends or family in the area to help her look after her seven- or eight-year-old child. We have an early start time of 6:30 am, so I suspect that is one of the issues. Who looks after the child and gets him off to school? It now looks like this peer is selling her house and furnishings. To me it looks like she is not planning on coming back to work. I am wondering how a person who is on leave because they are not capable of doing their job is able to take care of these arrangements.

Do I have an obligation to talk to her boss and let them know? It feels like she is abusing our sick leave program. Does it change anything if I don’t have a great relationship with the person? I don’t want to be seen as someone who is trying to set her up. My initial reaction is to say nothing and trust that karma will address this if in fact she is abusing the system.

This is very much not your business, and you shouldn’t say anything. There is a ton of speculation in your letter and, as you acknowledge, you don’t know what’s actually going on.

People can have a legitimate medical need to be off work and still be able to sell their house. They can sell their house because they’re moving to a new home in the area, without it meaning they’re planning to leave their job. There are loads of scenarios here that could be different from the conclusions you’re drawing! But even if it turns out that you’re right, there’s nothing to report because it’s all speculation. If your coworker had come to you and told you she’s not planning to return after her medical leave, I could see why you’d wonder if that’s something you needed to share with your manager. But there’s nothing like that here. Follow your original instinct and leave this alone!

(And yeah, the fact that you don’t like her feels relevant. It doesn’t change the advice, which would be the same regardless, but it’s an additional reason for you not to speculate on — let alone report — things that just aren’t in your purview.)

2. Employer publicly shamed job candidate for a swimsuit photo on her personal Instagram

I stumbled across an article this morning about a woman who applied to a company and was encouraged by the hiring team to follow the company’s Instagram account during the application process. The woman went to the Instagram account only to find that the company had posted a swimsuit picture from her personal Instagram account, telling their followers that having these types of pictures on your personal Instagram is unprofessional and will cause you to miss out on jobs. I was immediately dying for your thoughts/opinions on this matter.

The employer was utterly in the wrong — as well as unprofessional, sexist, and grossly shamey. People have lives outside of work and sometimes wear swimwear. It’s bad enough to hold that against her as a candidate — but to publicly post her photo and try to shame her over it as some kind of object lesson for job seekers is vile.

3. Is asking a question before your interviewer does a good interview trick?

Someone I know recently suggested that when you have a job interview, you should always go in and start the conversation by asking a question about the company/organization you’re interviewing with, i.e. “before we get started, I was wondering if I could ask a quick question, I noticed on your company’s site….”. He suggested that this would shift the dynamic of the interaction from the interviewer asking you questions to more of a back and forth conversation about the company and what you can contribute. He said he always does this and he has never interviewed for a job he was not offered (he is now a business exec). I think his success is more likely due to his extremely charismatic personality, but maybe there is something to this idea that asking a question about the company right off the bat sets a good tone for the rest of the conversation. What do you think?

Nah, it’s gimmicky.

It’s absolutely true that the best job interviews feel like conversations rather than interrogations — but you can do that through your energy and the way you approach the discussion. And really, interviewers who lean toward an interrogation-type style are likely to go right back to it once they answer your opening question.

Plus, from what I’ve seen, people who do this kind of thing often do it badly — the question they come up with is transparently just for the sake of asking a question, rather than something that truly makes sense to speak up about before the interview is underway. (You also see this with people who’ve heard they should call and ask questions about a job before applying. Their questions are almost never ones that warrant the call.)

I suspect your friend has other qualities that make him interview well, and he’s wrongly attributing his success to this tactic.

4. Can I be unavailable for lunchtime meetings?

I cannot take any more lunchtime meetings!! Our company is a mixture of remote employees, employees on the west coast (I’m on the east coast), and on-site employees. This has resulted in meetings right at lunchtime three to four days per week. I am SO sick of it! I’m a very introverted single mom who has a child with a chronic illness, and I use my lunch breaks to do errands, simply be alone and not bothered by my employees, call doctors and pharmacists with limited availability, and of course go and get lunch.

These meetings have become such a nuisance that I’m simply declining any requests for a lunchtime meeting with the exception of our west coast colleagues or critical standing meetings that I must be at. Aside from that, the way I see it is that if they need me there, they need to find another time. What do you think of this approach? I’m a senior manager here, so I’m not top of the hierarchy but I’m also not on the bottom. If you don’t agree, what suggestions can you offer? I’m sick of spending three to four of my precious lunch breaks in rambling and inefficient meetings that almost always go over time while I sit there starving with a list of errands I need to figure out how to do.

Yep, try blocking out that time on your calendar as busy and/or say you’re unavailable for meetings at that time. You’d need to pay attention to your office culture to make sure that’s not out of sync with it, but generally that’s a reasonable thing to do (as long as you’re making exceptions for critical meetings, which it sounds like you’re doing).

Also, consider talking to people who repeatedly target that time for meetings and ask how difficult it would be to avoid that time. Maybe it’s the only time that works for the whole group, but you might find they have other options they can use once they know your preference.

Also, I’m assuming that for some reason it’s not an option to just take your lunch afterwards? (If that would solve it, you’d probably be doing it — but if not, consider trying that.)

5. Coworker backed out of a pizza party after I already ordered

My manager assigned me to plan and coordinate the pizza party for our department. I asked everyone that morning if they would like to do the pizza party and would agree to the price per person. My coworker agreed. I ordered the pizzas based on the number who RSVP’d. Then my coworker decided to back out and do something different. I am losing money since I put the cost on my card. Should he be required to pay me? He RSVP’d and then cancelled, and that meant I had to pick up his portion too.

Yes. You can try saying, “Since you had put in your order for $X and didn’t cancel before the order was placed, I need to collect that money from you.” If that doesn’t resolve it, then this is something for your manager to handle — you shouldn’t be out money just because she asked you to place the order. Talk to her and say, “You asked me to order pizza for everyone who signed up, and when I picked it up, I paid the full cost of $Y out of pocket. Everyone has given me their money except for Rupert, who said he won’t pay since he didn’t end up eating it. I can’t cover his cost just because I was assigned to pick it up. How should I get reimbursed for this?”

{ 696 comments… read them below }

  1. jm*

    that first letter has me vibrating. “she’s selling her house and a lot of her stuff, therefore she must not actually be disabled”. there’s also the possibility that she and her family had to downsize due to medical costs, or their mortgage or rent were too high, or they had to move closer to family.

      1. valentine*

        I am wondering how a person who is on leave because they are not capable of doing their job is able to take care of these arrangements.
        Any which way she can.

        Who looks after the child and gets him off to school?
        This is a really odd concern, OP1. Don’t borrow trouble.

        1. Thatoneoverthere*

          Most 8 year olds can get themselves on or off a school bus with ease. My 8 year old walks herself to and from the bus stop. Most 8 year olds are also pretty easy to care for in general, don’t need constant watching or entertainment like a toddler. (of course there are exceptions to this dependent on the child)
          OP, this is not your concern.

          1. annony*

            When I was 8 my mom had to leave early to get to class (career change). Our neighbor came over for the time between when my mom left and the bus arrived. I don’t think it is that uncommon to have that sort of arraignment. My friends typically drop their kids off at the grandparents house on the way to work. It really seems like an odd thing for the OP to see as a red flag for abusing leave.

            1. Karo*

              Yeah, there are definitely options for this. We didn’t have any family in the area, but we still made it work when my parents had to go to work early. I remember both being dropped off at the school as soon as it opened at 7:00 (school started at 8 something) and being dropped off at a neighbor’s house who had a ton of the neighborhood kids in her care and her job was to make sure we got on the bus. And it’s not like we were friends with the neighbor, she was essentially an early morning babysitter my parents knew we could trust.

              1. Pommette!*

                Yep. And sometimes there are no good options, and families still have to make do as best they can. Kids get dropped off at schools that aren’t open yet and won’t be for a long time; kids who aren’t mature enough get left to make their own way to the bus stop or to school; kids get stuck with unreliable caretakers; kids miss school.

                It’s really not on outsiders to judge. Unless the OP is able to offer meaningful help to the coworker and their relationship is good enough to allow it (it doesn’t sound as if that is the case), s/he needs to let this go.

            2. Fortitude Jones*

              Yeah, my mom was a single parent who had to get to work before school started for me, so I would walk across the street to my friend Jessica’s house and her mom would take us to school in the morning (our town didn’t have buses). People make it work all the time when they have to.

              1. Veronica*

                I’m wondering why employers have such insanely early start times. 6:30 am? Why??? I can’t imagine a work or industry related reason other than “it’s always been this way.”
                If they all had reasonable start times, parents going to work early wouldn’t be a problem.

                1. Nethwen*

                  Healthcare/hospitals. If your shift starts at 7:00, often, you have to be there by 6:30 to “get report.”

                  Daycare. Some daycare centers start accepting children at 6:00 a.m.

                2. Sockster*

                  I got to work at 6:45am this morning because I work at a before-school childcare center that opens at 7am.

                3. KayDeeAye (a.k.a. Kathleen_A)*

                  My husband is a mechanic, but he works for a company that manufactures industrial mechanisms, and they start at 7 a.m.

                  Which sounds early until you compare it to his previous few jobs, when he was a mechanic for various golf courses and had to be there by 6 a.m. most of the year. The reason is that they needed to get most of the mowing done before golfers started to show up. Why anybody would want to live next to a golf course is a total mystery to me!

                4. yuppers*

                  Sometimes I arrive early to leave early. Also we had a lady that worked 5am-1pm, at a standard 8-5 place. She had to run some kind of report that early. What it was I don’t know. I just know there was a decent reason for her being there.

                  My husband had an internship where the entire company’s hours were 7-5, no exceptions. I honestly can’t remember why, as this was almost 20 years ago but it was a policy none the less.

                5. noahwynn*

                  Super common in industries with 12-hour shifts. Otherwise, you end up getting home way late.

                  We used to work 6am-6pm when I was a paramedic. It actually worked out really well for some people with kids because they only worked 3-4 days in a week and were able to have the others days off to be with kids. Also worked somewhere with 24-hour shifts for awhile and a lot of parents loved that too because you worked one day and then had two days off.

                6. PollyQ*

                  An office on the west coast may need provide support to colleagues or customers on the east coast. For a while, my sister had a job like that which required her to start at 4:30am.

                7. Seven If You Count Bad John*

                  Inbound call center, our hours are arranged to capture the times we’ll be getting calls. That generally means something like phones open 8am Eastern and don’t close until 6pm Pacific. (Varies by client, but that’s the general principle) I come in at 6am and get East Coast callers and early birds. The closing shift leaves at 6pm and mainly gets West Coast businesses and people calling after work.

                8. Ophelia*

                  When I worked the morning shift as a lifeguard, I had to be there to open at 5:45 – the gym/pool opened to customers at 6, so they could work out before work. A lot of service industries–coffee shops, grocery stores, you name it–open early/late so that people can go before/after other types of work, and plenty of the people who work those early/late shifts are parents.

                9. Veronica*

                  Yes, understandable in daycare and golf course situations.
                  But is there any real reason for hospitals and manufacturers to start at 7am instead of 8 or 8:30 or 9?
                  I’ve been in the work force a few decades which includes some manufacturing and insurance back-office that started at 7am, and never saw an actual, tangible reason for it. It seems to be because that’s how it started way back when and continued with no one ever questioning it.
                  I work in a hospital now (office job, not patient care), and I heard one of our sister hospitals has their data people starting at 6am. That’s insane. As a non-morning person, I would never take a job with such hours. It would completely wreck my life. :( It really limits a person’s social life when they can’t do weekday evenings, and I think employers should have some awareness of this.

                10. Eukomos*

                  When my partner managed a pharmacy he had to be there at 6:00AM to open. I assume they open that early so people can pick up medicine before work, or first thing in the morning if they got sick in the middle of the night or something.

                11. Dahlia*

                  Actually, myself – I used to start at 5:30 because I was doing childcare for a family where they started work at 6am or earlier, as an aide in a nursing home and an oil rigger.

                12. anon9*

                  There are plenty of industries that need people there early in the morning. The people on night shift shouldn’t have to stay longer because of your childcare needs because they probably want to get home to take their child to school so they can sleep.

                13. AKchic*

                  When I worked in the hospital kitchens or even on the military base in food service, mornings started anywhere from 4:30-5:30 in the morning because you had to warm up the ovens, prep the morning stuff and actually cook the food before opening. Food isn’t magically ready for people when a business opens and hospital kitchens just don’t magically serve people at regular intervals without prep work and the kitchen folx don’t work a standard 9-5 because the patients don’t eat within just the 9-5 realm either.

                  Some places have earlier start times to accommodate other industries or other time zones (many west coast folx go in earlier to accommodate east coast time zones; daycare and food and retail service workers go in early / late to accommodate the “standard” hour folx). And that’s not even mentioning the 24-hour industries outside of the customer service industry. The medical field (including caregivers) is the most famous for odd shifts, followed by (in no real particular order) law enforcement, fire / rescue, and fishing / oil.

                14. J.*

                  My mom was a teacher (at a different school from the one my brother and I attended). She had to drive across town to be there in advance of her students’ start time as we were getting to school ourselves.

                15. Oaktree*

                  Not all jobs are your “typical” 9-5, even office jobs. All you have to do is look at commuter train schedules and you’ll quickly realize that thousands of people get to the office at 7 am every single day. Sometimes this is due to the nature of their work (journalists and people who work with press clippings often have to start early, for example); sometimes they request it for personal reasons. I work 8-4 and leave the house around 7 am to get to work on time.

                  Also, not everyone has an office job, it turns out! My partner often works 7 am start times (he’s a millwright), and his commute is sometimes an hour each way, depending on the contract. That means he leaves the house at 5:45 to get to the job site a few minutes before the actual start time.

                  Your comment betrays a pretty ignorant attitude, to be frank.

                16. Retail worker*

                  I hate this mindset – I work in retail and work some evenings and weekends, and people are always like, “ugh don’t you wish you worked 9-5?” and it’s like
                  1. yes, of course I wish I worked those hours
                  2. someone has to service all those 9-5 people, you know?

                17. Hey Anonny Nonny*

                  I leave the house at 0630 to get to work by 0730, sometimes 0800 because traffic is absolutely Biblical in the DC metro area. My youngest gets on the bus well after I leave.

              2. RUKiddingMe*

                When my son was in kindergarten we lived in a town that had a dial-a-ride thing. It was $1.00 per ride.

                I had to be at work/got home before/after school time.

                I dropped him off/picked him up from a friend’s house almost the entire year.

                It was only about ½ hours time I couldn’t be there to take him/pick him up, but dial-a-ride was a lifesaver.

                Oh and he wasn’t the *only* child doing that…not by a long shot. You do what you need to do.

            3. Ophelia*

              Yeah, one of my friends’ moms was a teacher, so her mom would just drop her off at our house on her way to work, and she’d walk to school with us. This is SO not at all the OP’s concern.

            4. tink*

              There was definitely a time when I was very young that my sister and I got dropped off a few blocks away at grandma’s and took the bus to/from her house instead of our own home because of work schedules.

          2. Quill*

            At Eight it was my job to ensure that my (then five) brother got off the bus with all his stuff and then we walked a whole block home and, if my mom was still at work, let ourselves in with the garage door code. In most cases my mom was home within half an hour (she substitute taught at our school so whether we were taking a bus or reporting to her classroom could be variable.)

            Personally the only time I’d be alarmed about an eight year old unsupervised in another nearby room was if I heard something suspicious.

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              The most suspicious thing is SILENCE. Children are rarely naturally silent, so the absence of noise is always worth investigating.

              1. TootsNYC*

                with my kids, I realized that it meant they were absorbed.
                Which meant they were doing something new.
                Which could have been something that I wouldn’t be happy about.
                It never was, with my kids–but it was always worth investigating.

          3. Amethystmoon*

            I was a latchkey kid at that age, but it was also the 80’s. Still, depending on the kid, they can be alone for a while if they are mature enough.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Same here–although my dad usually took us to school, we often rode the bus home and were alone until our folks came home around five-thirty. We also had the option of walking (alone) from the school down to their business and hanging out until they closed, then getting a ride home. I did this often so I could go to the library.

            2. Anne Elliot*

              My siblings and I were ’80s latchkey kids too. We took the bus home and, because we weren’t allowed to watch TV on weekdays, watched Brady Bunch and Three’s Company until my mom’s car pulled in the drive around 5:30.

            3. Marmaduke*

              My brother and I walked the two miles to and from school and hung out together until our parents got home from work, starting when he was nine and I was seven. That was the late 90s, and nobody seemed concerned.

          4. Mama Bear*

            Agreed on all counts above. OP is not privy to personal decisions that the coworker is making and is speculating on 2nd hand information at best. Life doesn’t stop just because you have a problem – OP is thinking it’s stress, but it could be a number of “but you don’t look sick” type illnesses and OP shouldn’t assume. While the coworker’s spouse is in another city, he can still be helping with things like the sale of a home. OP is also making some unnecessary assumptions about the child and morning routine. Bottom line is still not OP’s business.

        2. EPLawyer*

          Probably co-worker does because she is, you know, home. On disability leave does not mean “unable to do anything but sit and breathe.”

          LW, I think you are definitely letting your personal feelings color your thinking on this. If this was someone you liked would be thinking instead “Oh she’s on disability leave for exhaustion, but still has all this going on, we should try to help” or would you still be thinking the person is gaming the system and you hope karma gets them.

          1. TooTiredToThink*

            Yes, exactly. And knowing what its like to have to pack up and move; her exhaustion is going to be greatly impacted as well. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to work full time and needing to pack and move at the same time; all by myself.

            1. Stormfeather*

              Right? I mean, maybe just consider that her selling her house is part of the stuff contributing to the exhaustion that’s requiring her to take time off work?

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Selling her house and selling her things. I hope you can apply some brakes here because if she is in a spot where she has lost everything to medical bills, then her world is falling apart. Maybe she actually can’t do the work involved at home and she is incurring more medical problems forcing herself to push through this, we have no way of knowing.
            OP, I hope with all my heart that you never learn how hard this is to do and how under certain types of circumstances it can be total emotional and physical devastation. People are probably helping her. It could be her church group or her bowling league, who knows.

            If she is gaming the system we have systems in place to figure that out, investigate and report it to proper authorities. The courts handle it from there. This is stuff that is so, so very not your circus. And to be honest with you, OP, if you stay in a capacity of supervising people you will see questionable stuff over and over. We don’t have the full story, we don’t know who and what are involved and it’s not ours to decide on anyway.

            Your best bet is to detach ASAP each time you see these things. I made myself focus on the work in front of me, instead of watching for pending train wrecks. The only time I spoke up was if people tried discuss things in front of me. I had a person who was bragging about avoiding taxes. This went on for a day or so. Finally, I simply said, “I work hard to pay my bills and pay the taxes that I owe. If your chose to do something else, that is your choice but do not discuss illegal activities around me. Find other things to talk about.”
            This worked much better than expected because it went right through the group, “NSNR does not want to hear about this stuff.”
            As their boss, I served a very limited role in their lives. My role was to make sure they knew the company rules and make sure they knew how to do the work correctly. That was it, that was my total purpose in their lives.

            And I can tell stories about what they were doing, holy cats and dogs. I landed on, “We can’t interfere with other people’s learning experiences. We can only focus on our own learning experiences.”

            1. Laurelma01*

              I’m wondering if the husband left town and they are divorcing. She could be selling everything due to financial reasons. When I see things like this letter I wonder about one’s empathy for another. To be dealing with a medical issue on top of a move … how horrible. OP — do not say anything, if you do it may reflect back on your poorly. Management may come back with the assumption you do not have enough work to do if you’re working about your co-worker’s disability.

        3. Pommette!*

          “Any which way she can.”

          Very well said. There are things that have to be done, even when you are unwell. The OP’s coworker is presumably doing everything in her power to get those things done, and hoping that it will be enough.

        4. Emily K*

          Right, my first thought was, “Presumably someone, or a truancy officer would be getting involved.” It’s not like she’s the only parent in the country who needs to be at work before school opens. Like some others in this thread, at one point my sister and I would go to our next-door neighbor’s house in the mornings before the bus came – the neighbor had a live-in nanny who would watch us for 20 or 30 minutes and then make sure we all got on the bus. Once I was a bit older I was enrolled in my school’s SACC (school-age childcare) program – which is a thing specifically designed for this exact situation, a child-care facility on school grounds that opens earlier and closes later than school hours so that parents can drop off and pick up kids on their way to and from work and the kids can easily get themselves to class from SACC and to SACC after school because it’s attached to the school.

          1. Hills to Die on*

            When my kids were little, ours opened at 6am. Plenty of time for me personally to be at work by 630.

          2. OhNo*

            Yep, a lot of schools have similar programs. I never went to the one in my district, so all I remember is that it was open from 5am to when school started, and from school ending to like 7pm, and one of my friends in elementary school was there for the whole time most days because her mom worked two jobs. It’s such a common thing that it seems odd to me that it wasn’t the OP’s first thought.

            OP, it might be worth self-reflecting on this a bit. If your first thought when thinking of your coworker’s childcare arrangements is “who is taking care of the kid?!” rather than “they must have some set up to take care of the kid”, that’s a pretty good sign that you’re not assuming the best of that coworker. That’s fine, but it also means your speculation on their use of leave might be in the same vein.

            It’s okay not to like your coworker. It’s not okay to try and get them in trouble based on speculation biased by the fact that you don’t like them.

          3. ellex42*

            My mother used to work at a daycare that had a “before and after school” program for school-age kids. The school bus would actually pick kids up and drop them off at the daycare facility.

        5. TootsNYC*

          Also–if you are not well enough to work effectively, you may not be well enough to look after all that effectively either.

          But you don’t have a boss to please; you’re allowed to do a not-particularly-great job for yourself, in your personal life.

          You also have a more flexible schedule for yourself. Sure, the kid gets off to school at the same time every day, but you don’t have to be dressed; you don’t have to answer the phones too, etc. You can go straight back to bed once he’s on the bus, in the carpool, or walking up the sidewalk from your car.

          Our OP should trust that there are many mechanisms to protect the employer and the insurance company from fraud, and they will use them if they feel it’s needed.

        6. MsClaw*

          Right? You don’t have to be comatose to be on disability leave. I can think of multiple situations requiring medical recovery that would not interfere with you selling your house or caring for your child.

          Also, even if she doesn’t have a lot of friends and family in the area, she may have enough to help, or she may have hired help. Furthermore, it’s not like you can take short term disability leave on a whim; there is documentation involved. Someone, presumably more qualified and knowledgeable than the OP, has determined that this woman meets the requirements for leave.

          I am trying to remain even in my response, but the pettiness of this letter is unsettling.

          1. Rainy*

            I wonder what the LW thinks of women going on FMLA leave post childbirth. “How in the world can someone on disability leave take care of an infant??!!??” Clutch those pearls!

        7. bluephone*

          Seriously, this. Like honestly, OP1, what’s it to you? It’s not your kid, right? You’re not the kid’s teacher, right? This is all very much a “eyes on your own paper” situation.

    1. Tiny Soprano*

      Or say she has a condition that may become debilitating and they need to move into an accessible house.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Exactly what I was coming here to say. Depending on the reason for the leave, she may realize they will need a one-level house, beds and chairs with lifts, a kitchen sized/laid out for mobility assist, etc.

      2. Felicia*

        My mom is currently on medical leave from work and her condition makes stairs painful for her so they’re selling their house and moving to a condo that’s pretty close by

      3. Fortitude Jones*

        My mom has vertigo and a problem with her feet, so she’s moving into an apartment from a three bedroom townhouse because she can no longer do stairs. Looking at her, you’d never know she had these issues.

    2. Arts Akimbo*

      Exactly. Or she and her husband are separated/divorcing and now they have to sell the house to divide their assets.

      In any event, a little compassion would go a long way.

      1. Linzava*

        Yes to this. Gossip can be really mean and make difficult times worse. If coworker is trying to hold things together while her life is falling apart, passing gossip to her manager is just kicking her when she’s down. I’m glad OP wrote in before acting.

    3. KR*

      This was my first thought. If there was any illness or injury she could also find herself unable to take care of the house, walk up and down stairs, ect.

    4. Pony tailed wonder*

      My fiance is disabled and at first glance, you wouldn’t think he was. There are many ways that a person can be disabled that fall outside of the stereotype.

      1. Cat Meow*

        Haven’t read the comments So please forgive me if this is a duplicate but I agree. LW1, I hope you will never harass someone with an invisible disability for using a handicapped parking space based on speculation like above. Keep in mine that by trying to “protect” people from “abusing” the system, you are harming the very people you are trying to protect. I would suggest reading The Mighty to educate yourself on what invisible disabilities look like.

        1. annony*

          I think this is really important. The OP and her coworkers are not the gatekeepers to access to disability leave. Someone else is. Assume that that person is doing their job and therefore anyone on leave needs it. The alternative is simply mean spirited and achieves nothing.

      2. Alton*

        Absolutely. And having an invisible disability doesn’t mean that someone is capable of working. Being able to (maybe) help your kid get to school isn’t the same thing as working all day.

        1. Wintermute*

          Tagging onto this, people with all kinds of disabilities, but especially invisible ones have good days and bad days!

          You might see them out and about, like any other person. What you don’t see is that they had to ration out extra pain medication to enable that, and will spend the next three days in bed recovering. Or maybe not, it might be a good day for them!

          A Lupus patient might have just gotten their back injections and it’s been two weeks since their last chemo injection and their white blood cell count has stayed low and so they feel up to going out and being active. But a month later their WBC could spike and they could be totally immobilized with pain and swelling, put on heavy chemotherapy drugs and dialysis.

          Being “totally disabled” does not mean they are not “allowed” good days, or that they must be sufficiently wretched for anyone’s standards. It means they could not consistently hold down any 9-5 job because of their illness. That might look like someone that holds it together well most days but has serious flares that would mean they are not employable due to how much work time they would miss. It might look like someone that’s fine most of the day but is incapacitated for short periods more than a workplace would tolerate or could become incapacitated on very short notice and have to leave work or even be unable to leave work (think uncontrollable epilepsy and narcolepsy for the first, and things like severe fatigue conditions or severe intestinal conditions for the second, few employers would be okay with an employee that suddenly be out for a few hours).

        2. Alienor*

          It’s true–my late husband had congestive heart failure and there was no way he could have worked a 40-hour week, but he could run light errands, go to his doctor’s appointments, and make the 10-minute drive to pick up our then kindergarten-age daughter from school. There’s a lot of grey area between “totally bedridden” and “functioning at 100 percent.”

      3. facepalm*

        Exactly. My best friend is diabetic (type 1), has cancer and several other conditions that sometimes make it impossible for her to get out of bed. But you would never guess it to look at her. Letter writers like this make me sick

        1. Exhausted Trope*

          Facepalm, my thoughts exactly. I HATE it when coworkers feel they need to be the company “police!”

    5. Nita*

      Yes. OP1, I don’t think your coworker has the option of not dealing with her child’s school schedule when she’s stressed. And it’s none of your business why she’s selling the house – how do you know she’s selling it, anyway? Have you been hunting for details that will make your boss go “aha! she’s not disabled! fire her!” in your spare time? You know what that’s called, what you’re doing? Kicking someone when they’re down, that’s what it’s called. Don’t do it.

      1. Dot Warner*

        And it’s none of your business why she’s selling the house – how do you know she’s selling it, anyway?

        Yeah, this jumped out at me too. OP1, did you find this out from social media? If yes, then why are you following someone you don’t like? If you found it out from office gossip, then chances are good that it’s not accurate, and regardless of the accuracy, sooner or later the boss will hear it and act on it if necessary.

    6. Mookie*

      LW is wary of poor people and single mothers*. Bless their heart and all the their little toes-ies.

      LW, this appears to be all about the feelings you feel, the thoughts you have, elicited by third-party gossip and innuendo. But why on earth would your employee care about your hunches, and why would someone struggling be worthy of “karma?” I’m guessing you would have said if this colleague’s actions and absences affect you at work, so your investment in getting rid of this person is clearly emotional and personal, not rational or helpful.

      *“How do they do it?” Well you should ask, but I’d suggest taking the blinders off first and realizing that being ill doesn’t actually stop debt-holders and bankers from bothering you about unpaid bills and mortgages you can no longer afford, furniture you have no way of storing.

    7. Myrcallie*

      I was off work earlier this year due to panic attacks related to the traumatic breakdown of a long-term relationship- but I still had to find my own place. I can’t imagine how much worse it would have been if I’d had OP1 for a colleague.

      1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        I can. I was in coworker’s position once using FMLA. I was required to put all absences on the group calendar because two busybodies would spend the time loudly asking where I was. So I did. And instead they speculated about why. Made a bad time much worse. So OP, to be clear, medical leave requires putting your personal medical info on the record at work. It requires doctor’s visits and forms filled out by doctors confirming everything.
        So yeah, if you’re waiting for karma…see above.

      2. mcr-red*

        Yeah, I had to be off work for 7 days this year, honestly BECAUSE of work. I had full-fledged panic attacks, couldn’t stop crying, felt like I was having a heart attack, and had to go see my doctor, who told me I needed a week off to reset and try to get it under control (and upped my medication). I had tickets to a concert I had paid for a while ago and asked what to do and he said go if you feel up to it. So I did. And it was probably the best thing I could have done. All the days leading up to it were bad, that one day was kind of a turning point. So OP would have been mad that I’m off “having fun” and not realize that every day before my good day was spent crying and feeling like an elephant was standing on my chest.

      3. ellex42*

        I’ve had three different coworkers out on FMLA in the past couple of years because they had close family members who were dying. A few others have been out for recovery from various medical procedures. A few years ago a coworker broke her leg, it healed poorly, and had to be rebroken. She had a desk job, but she was literally on full bed rest until the leg healed, and that company had limited work-from-home options.

        You can wonder and speculate all you like, but the details of a coworker’s FMLA leave is best described as “none of your business”.

      4. Nursey Nurse*

        I’m in the same situation now. I wish I could make my coworkers read this thread. I’m already exhausted, depressed and anxious; having to listen to people muttering about how it must be nice to have a little vacation without using PTO (I’m on FMLA and my CBA authorizes us to choose whether to use PTO or take the time unpaid) makes it so much worse. Yes, the panic attacks, hysterical crying fits, and arguments with my spouse have made for a nice little vacation.

    8. Lynca*

      Honestly the whole thing makes OP sound like they have no clue how short term disability even works. You don’t just go to your employer and say “Hey I’m just going to take some short term disability” and then it happens. Someone has seen a diagnosis and if it’s anything like what I’ve seen- it’s not just a singular signed doctor’s note.

      And your life doesn’t stop just because you have a disability or illness! Of course she still has to care for her child and of course she’ll move if she needs to. That doesn’t invalidate ANYTHING.

      It honestly sounds like they just want this person fired and that’s pretty monstrous.

      1. MatKnifeNinja*

        Yeah, what the ever loving hell OP#1.

        If money isn’t coming out of your check, what do you care what this coworker does or doesn’t do?

        Short term disability isn’t only for people strapped into an iron lung, where it’s obvious to everyone the person “looks sick”.

        A coworker of mine had to take off work because of colon cancer. She didn’t look like the stereotypical cancer patient people that people picture. Hair didn’t fall out. Didn’t lose 80lbs in 4 weeks. Color looked good. (Thank heaven for all that). There were office dirt bags who continously dragged her, and didn’t believe the diagnosis. The woman only a few feet of colon left and a colostomy bag. WTF?

        OP #1 , if you hate this person, hate on her for whatever reason you have, don’t drag her medical issues into the mix. It is extremely hard to go on STD. You don’t pop into HR, and have it magically happen without a whole lot of documentation. If the insurance company thinks it’s a scam, they’ll sent out surveillance.

        This screams more about you, than your coworker scamming the system. Using a “gotta yah” technicality for removal will not look good on you. That’s cold blooded.

        1. Not a Blossom*

          Holy cats, that fills me with rage on behalf of your ill coworker. What is wrong with people?!?!

          1. Arbynka*

            People, what a bunch of bastards.

            Now Roy, thats’ not fair. Have you met all of them ?

            I’ve met enough of them.

      2. Sunny-dee*

        And she very well may have help. I had a major surgery last year and my husband took off a week, then my parents and mother-in-law each came down for a week to help me. I didn’t need direct care but I needed help doing basic tasks like laundry or getting groceries because I couldn’t lift anything.

      3. Jaydee*

        Most short-term disability insurance plans through employers simply require that the employee be unable to perform their usual job due to a medical condition. This doesn’t mean the employee has to be unable to do *everything* or even unable to do every job. The point is to provide compensation during that time period while the employee either recovers (if it’s something you can recover from), seeks other work that they can perform, or applies for their employer’s long-term disability insurance and/or Social Security.

      4. AlexandrinaVictoria*

        I use intermittment FMLA, and I couldn’t just go to my HR department and say “Hey, I have an invisible disability I’ll need time off for.” There are many, many hoops to jump through, doctors to see, forms to fill out, managed care companies to deal with, I have to use all my PTO for my time off then it’s unpaid, so I never get a vacation when I’m feeling well….it’s not a vacation, is what I’m trying to say, and “faking” a disability would take a LOT of work!

        1. Kitty Cathleen*

          I’m in the same position. I’m lucky enough to get all of my vacation and personal time at once (personal time for the year on January 1st, vacation time for the year on my work anniversary), so I often try to schedule a proper vacation for sometime shortly after my vacation becomes available. But once my PTO is gone, it’s all unpaid. Dealing with the process is exhausting. Papers upon papers, doctors appointments, the risk that my company will insist on a second opinion. I always worry about what my coworkers think, exactly because of letters like OP1’s. I don’t like to be public about my health issues, and I often end up disclosing far more than I’d like in an effort to make it clear that if I could breathe properly, I would absolutely be at the office.

      5. Mia*

        Yeah, I’m in the process of getting FMLA approved and there isn’t really a “I’m stressed and exhausted” option. There are certainly a lot of medical conditions that manifest that way, but you need a concrete diagnosis from a doctor.

      6. JM60*

        “it’s not just a singular signed doctor’s note.”

        When I went on STD, it only required one doctor to fill out the relevant forms, but it’s definitely not like you can just run to HR and tell them you feel sick.

        I am in California. Perhaps obtaining STD in other states involves a lot more hoops. And I also was on FLMA leave for surgery that resulted in complications before and during my STD, so the STD wasn’t out of the blue.

    9. M*

      I agree. To me it seems like the coworker must have high medical costs because they are selling their house and items. Keep out of it, OP. This reminds me of nosy people in my office. My organization won’t fire these people, but these types of people don’t get promoted. Stay out of it, OP!

    10. MsChanandlerBong*

      Letter #1 has me pretty ticked off. I had a heart attack last year, and I ended up taking TWO DAYS off from work. For reference, when my dad had his first heart attack, he was off for four months. But my company isn’t big enough for FMLA, and we have no short-term or long-term disability, so it was either work from my hospital bed or risk losing my job. Last fall, I had a horrible autoimmune flare and could barely move. I was so weak and fatigued that I would go to bed at 6:00 some nights. But guess what? I still worked 60+ hours per week during our peak season. People with disabilities have bills to pay, too. Does this person think that if you have a disability, you should just be sitting home twiddling your thumbs, or else you’re faking it?

      1. TootsNYC*

        well, I think OP#1 thinks that her colleague should do what you did–come to work even though you’re sick or suffering or struggling. After all, you -could- do your work, right? >insert eyeroll here<

        The OP comes across as someone who only measures a person's worth based on how much they work.

    11. Come On Eileen*

      I took 5 weeks of FMLA a few years ago to attend an intensive outpatient program for substance abuse and mental health disorders. I was in the program for 3 hours every morning but had afternoons free, so would often try to get out and do fun things (you know, to improve my mental health and show myself life is OK without substances). If you didn’t know why I was on FMLA it would probably look suspicious! But it was just my life at that time. I can’t imagine what I would do if a co-worker was sniffing into my reason for being on leave and making judgments about me.

    12. That Would be a Good Band Name*

      Unless OP 1’s company is badly managed with indiscreet HR and payroll staff, OP doesn’t even know if her coworker is on STD. People assume things all the time. Companies can offer different types of leave: personal, medical (not qualifying for STD), STD, whatever they want really. Most of the time when I hear another employee all fired up about the “fairness” of someone being out they have 10% of the details and have assumed the other 90% incorrectly. We have someone on leave right now that absolutely cannot do their job, but could care for a child, sell their house/furniture, and many other activities. STD doesn’t mean they can’t do anything, just that they can’t perform their job duties for a reason that their doctor and the insurance company have signed off on. Last year we had an employee take a several week leave that *wasn’t* STD, but people assumed that’s what the employee was out for and several complained because they thought the employee was “taking advantage” and “not really sick”.

      TLDR: Don’t assume you know why someone is out. Leave it alone.

    13. Bunbun*

      As someone who is CURRENTLY on short term disability for high acute stress (panic attacks, vomiting, depression, uncontrollable crying), this letter made me do a double take. Have you ever had stress so bad all of the above plus more I didn’t list are happening to you? And happen only at work, or whole you’re driving to work (so dangerous driving while trying to stave off a panic attack), or on Sunday evening? I stopped eating!

      Now these symptoms only present themselves whenever my work is present. As soon as I removed myself from the situation, the symptoms lessened abundantly. I get a call from my HR? Ramped right back up again. This means that while I’m at home, I can do all sorts of stuff. Some days are worse than others but for the most part I can do stuff. And actually my doctor and therapist have both recommended I try to lead a normal life as possible. This means: go to the gym, go do errands, keep myself busy around the house, meet family or friends for coffee, go on dates with my husband, go out on the weekends with my husband and kid, etc. These are all things that will help me recover mentally which will help me recover physically. I’m saying you don’t know the true situation as that is between your coworker and the doctor.

      My doctor and therapist that I also shouldn’t return once my short term disability is done and I should look for work elsewhere. Why? Because my work environment, manager and coworker is so toxic and filled with harassment that they are the reason I had to take leave.

      Food for thought.

    14. Hills to Die on*

      Which is exactly what my ex-husband and I had to do at one point. To pay medical bills and because we couldn’t afford that big house payment plus everything else on one income.

      FWIW, we hired people to pack and help with the personal errands we could attend to. We also had a babysitter. It was all fully legitimate and not abusing disability benefits my ex-husband was receiving.

    15. some dude*

      Yeah…if your coworker is on disability for a back injury and posts pictures of them bungie jumping, maybe that is a case to report it, but I think minding your own f’ing business is a good policy to follow in cases like these. You don’t know her issues, and you are hypothesizing what it is and how she might be abusing her leave based on what you think she may be on leave for and what she may be doing. Just let it go. Not your problem to solve, and there is a high probability that you are misreading the situation.

    16. madge*

      This was my immediate thought. My husband had a stroke this year and we are currently at around $500k in medical bills. I’ve never been so grateful for my employer’s insurance. Our entire family is in individual counseling and even with insurance, it has really added up as a separate medical issue. I can completely see someone selling their home to save money or be closer to family who can help.

      And the child-care concern is an odd thing to mention. It reads as if OP is hoping Alison will tell her to call Child Protective Services.

    17. Jadelyn*

      Same. I’m guessing it hasn’t occurred to OP that the coworker might have taken medical leave specifically because she didn’t have the spoons to be working and dealing with moving house at the same time, so she took medical leave and is using her capacity that would’ve normally been expended on work to take care of other stuff, like moving.

      And you know what? Sometimes Life Just Happens and you have to find a way to cope with it regardless, so even though you’re supposed to be on medical leave and resting (or whatever), if the choice is between selling the house and moving and getting foreclosed on, you have to take care of that whether that’s what you’d intended to be using your medical leave for or not.

    18. I will kill people with this cricket bat*

      I too am vibrating with anger. I’ve been off on med leave before and could still do certain things. That was part of my leave, to allow me to get better. This is just such a busy-body position to take and so, so ableist. I truly hope the OP never has a medical issue themselves that takes them away from their work and has people judging every move they make.

      OP, this is 100% not your problem. Leave it alone. And yes, the fact that you don’t like this person makes it 1000% worse. It seems like you’re out to get her and that’s a truly small-hearted approach to life.

    19. Certified Scorpion Trainer*

      ” there’s also the possibility that she and her family had to downsize due to medical costs, or their mortgage or rent were too high, or they had to move closer to family”

      excellent points. LW1 deserves a gold medal in mental gymnastics.

    20. rnr*

      Exactly. I want to chime in with my own experience with short-term disability. I was clinically depressed and took a couple months off work in order to get treatment. At the time I was wringing my hands over whether it was the right decision, whether I was just being lazy and not wanting to work, etc. In hindsight it was the best decision I could have made, since it gave me time to start recovering and feeling better – and when I came back to work I was actually showering every day and cared about the quality of my work.

      I was in a program where I had essentially several half-days a week of treatment/therapy, so I was still able to get around town and even take a few weekend road trips. I constantly lived in fear that I would see someone from work while I was out and about, and they would look at me and wonder why I was on disability, since I seemingly looked fine. OP, perhaps you haven’t every considered the myriad reasons why someone might need to use disability, but be aware that just because they “look” ok, that doesn’t really mean anything.

    21. JessaB*

      Or maybe they’re moving to a more accessible house, I’m disabled and if we could afford it we’d do anything to get into an apartment on one floor or with a lift instead of stairs. Maybe the house they’re in is bad for the coworker’s disability.

      Not to mention a lot of house selling can be done on a phone or a computer with the realtor or the lawyers or whoever. House staging can be arranged by the realtor and possibly paid out of the closing costs or at least be paid post sale. There are a zillion cleaning companies and packing ones, that can do work whilst you sit and watch them.

      Also if the disability leave is for something psychiatric, like anxiety or depression or anything else, that doesn’t preclude someone from doing tasks. And even if it does, you have to get things done. No choice. Life happens. You fight through it and it might even extend your disability because you had to do things anyway.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, I’m so confused. When I read what you’ve written, there’s almost nothing that would make me think your colleague is abusing sick leave. Based on your disclosure that you don’t like her, it sounds like you may be frustrated with her work performance (or lack thereof) and are assuming that she’s purposefully slacking off at work when nothing’s “truly wrong” in her non-work life.

    It may be helpful is to imagine you really like your coworker. Now take a second look at what you’ve written. What conclusions would you draw? I suspect you wouldn’t be tempted to report someone you liked. This approach may help you do an initial gut-check on how to go forward in situations like the one you’ve described.

    1. Myrin*

      Yeah, I started reading the letter waiting for the part where it gets to how the coworker is abusing disability leave and then the letter was over.

      In fact, I first thought the OP’s basic attitude would be understanding and sympathetic – I assumed the “there is a lot going on in this person’s life” would lead to the assumption that this “a lot” had aggravated an already exisisting illness. Well. That’s not what happened.
      (I would personally guess, though, that this might indeed have been a catalyst for a condition becoming worse, and it’s somewhat unusual to me that OP’s mind doesn’t seem to be going there at all.)

      But in any case, OP, I’m questioning your framework here: if you’re sick, you can take off from work; you can’t take off from life. That means that things like taking care of your child still need to happen. And you also don’t know how well or how easily your coworker can do these things, nevermind that this is all just hearsay anyway and the situation could be quite different in reality on all kinds of levels.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I had a roommate once who didn’t pay her rent when it was due. I asked her about it, and she got mad. She had taken a week off from work because a friend was visiting, and she said, “I’m on vacation!”

        I said, “You take a vacation from work. You don’t take a vacation from life.”

        Likewise sick time and disability. They’re because you can’t work. But you don’t get to stop being a parent or a homeowner.

        OP#1, if you have a really bad cold, would you still have to get your kid to school?

    2. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      OP1 seems to have a great deal of hangups she needs to personally examine.

      That may sound harsh, OP1, but I think you need a harsh wake up call after the callousness you’ve displayed in your letter. There are so many plausible explanations for why things are going the way they are for your co-worker, and the LEAST likely is fraud. That you immediately jump there says more about you and the way you think of your fellow human beings than it does about your coworker.

      OP1, you need to do some serious self reflection on your biases and your treatment of other people (because I guarantee if your first instinct is to leap to these ridiculous conclusions, you ARE treating people differently based on your biases, you probably just aren’t aware).

      We all have implicit biases that affect our behavior in ways we aren’t aware of until someone points it out. Hopefully all the comments here have indicated to you that you have some work to do to rid yourself of at least some of yours.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        I 100% agree with this. OP needs to figure out why they felt the need to write in about co-worker when they have zero facts (EVERYTHING in the letter is speculation). If co-worker being out is affecting OP’s ability to get their work done, that’s something they need to take to their manager. But outside of that, this falls into the mind your business category.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Some people are far more likable than other people. This is a given. It’s easier to cut likable people some slack than it is to cut slack to people we don’t like so much.

        I have had times where I have really had to think about this one. My conclusion landed on, “What would I say/think/do if likable Jane or likable Bob were in a similar spot as disliked Charlie or annoying Nancy?”

        It gave me a wake up call about fairness, about being less judgy and about minding my own business. “We don’t know what it is we don’t know”, became a thing that I told myself over and over. Let’s face it, people do people-y things that are, at best, ambiguous on the surface.

        As far as her disability is concerned, my husband used to do activity checks as an insurance adjuster. His job was to drive by people’s houses and report what he saw them doing. (Now you guys understand why he left the job.) So he would report Joe with the bad back mowing his lawn on Tuesday. When I was in my early 30s we hit a deer at 60 plus mph on the bike. Our habit became sitting on the front porch on a sunny day and reading to fill the time while our bodies healed. And that is when we spotted an unmarked vehicle with a person sitting in it staring at our house day, after day, after day. No doubt in my mind it was an activity check because we both on temporary disability.

    3. Perpal*

      Yeah, it’s not like OP1 caught coworker at a second job or something. Nothing reported seems incompatable with a disability major enough to prevent working temporarily

      1. JustaTech*

        It seems that some people think that “disabled” means “totally unable to do anything”, rather than “good days and bad days” or “can do some things but not all of the things”.

        And because you inherently *don’t* see people on the days they are unable to get out of bed, you never have a full picture of someone’s abilities or disabilities.

        1. JessaB*

          Not to mention some things you have to do anyway, I have to go out and buy food (we can’t afford things like shipt) and well that pretty much puts me in bed the rest of the day but we have to eat. Doesn’t make me less disabled and someone seeing me at the grocery store doesn’t know that this is going to cost me the rest of the day unable to do anything else. Just because someone has to do x doesn’t mean it’s not seriously hurting them.

    4. Jennifer*

      Yes, when I saw the title, I was expecting a letter about someone who claims to have limited use of their arms loading heavy equipment into their pick up truck or a similar story I’ve seen on the news.

    5. CatsAreImportantToo*

      People here are told all the time that you don’t need to tell people about your medical issues. For all we know, exhaustion is just a way of saying nunya business.

      If OP isn’t friends with the coworker and isn’t in a supervisor position , I’m going to go ahead and say that the coworker and boss probably aren’t even telling her what’s going on with coworkers illness because it isn’t her business. The fact that she may not be getting that is worrisome.

  3. Fortitude Jones*

    Regarding the second letter:

    So this company thinks the applicant is unprofessional for having a bikini pic on her personal Instagram account, but they posted the photo without her permission to slut-shame her (she looks great, btw, but that’s beside the point) and their About Us section on their website sounds like it was written by a 13-year-old (the profanity and poor grammar alone…). But she’s unprofessional?

    Make it make sense.

    1. Anonny*

      There does seem to be a type of person who is obsessed with other people’s ‘professionalism’ but has absolutely none themselves.

      For example, Carol and the tattoos.

      1. Kiki*

        I think this is really true. I think a lot of people let biases and preferences masquerade in their minds as rules of “professionalism” and get fixated on them instead of actually evaluating if this even matters at all.

        1. Cristabel Walken*

          Hey, how do you know my manager?! (I am crying inside, seriously. It’s like living under extra gravity to work for people like this. This Emily dodged a large-caliber bullet.)

          1. FiveWheels*

            Extra gravity is a great way to put it.

            “do everything perfectly and quickly but not without my approval even though I’m often out of the office! Let me know what you’re doing at all times but don’t take any time to prioritise your work! Read and respond to all your emails but don’t expect me to read mine! Oh and have you drafted a for a file you’ve literally never heard of? Why not? No I don’t want excuses!” is not a pleasant work environment.

            1. Sharkie*

              YES THIS. I have told this story many times but I once had a manager write me up and lecture me for 10 minutes for joking calling myself a piece of crap “because swearing is not tolerated at large household name company.” He then dropped the F-bomb 20 times during a 15-minute meeting……..
              I threw a party when I was finally let go

            2. Banana Bread Breakfast*

              My former boss’s brand of this was “Know exactly what I want you to say and do and where I want you to be but under no circumstances are you to expect me to be available to ask for guidance. If you mess up I’ll send an equal-level-but-senior staff member to privately chastise you and then publicly chastise you in the next staff meeting as well.”

              Yeaaaahhh I didn’t last three years.

            3. ellex42*

              Oh, I worked for that lady.

              No, wait, I didn’t actually work for her. But some of my work still had to go through her. She went on vacation and literally expected everything to grind to a complete halt. I had a report that absolutely had to go out that week – it was already overdue – so the GM checked and approved it. When she came back, she actually berated the GM for checking and allowing a form letter – a form letter! – to go out without her approval.

            4. Eukomos*

              Oh, you’ve met my boss? I also enjoy the “I gave you a deadline but everything should be done before that deadline, ideally by whenever I next happen to think of it, regardless of how large the project is.

        2. Parenthetically*

          100% worked with this person. In addition to a non-stop gossip campaign against teachers she didn’t like, she once flung the door to my classroom open while my students were getting settled for class and, in a barely-controlled scream, a foot from my face, trembling with rage, questioned my professionalism and asked me how I could dare to undermine another teacher’s authority. (The teacher whose authority I had supposedly undermined was not even HER, but another coworker who, as far as I know, remained unbothered by my offer to look over the essays my students were handing in for his class.)

          I’ve never met anyone with less sense of irony.

    2. Sharkie*

      Yep. And a few weeks ago I guess the company had some type of retreat on a boat so they posted a pic of the team having fun. While they were all in swimsuits*…… I just can’t guys.

      I am so glad that they gave job seekers such a public red flag so people know to avoid them.

      * yes the team members in the front row were all wearing cover ups but it was very clear that swim suits were happening. And not to derail or be mean but I can’t help think that jealousy might be involved.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        I said the same thing to myself – jealousy may very well be the motivator here. There was nothing wrong with that woman’s picture. She’s fit and wants to show it while hanging out with her friends – big deal. Don’t tell job candidates to follow you using their personal Instagram accounts if you’re going to be triggered by perfectly normal snapshots of someone who may be more attractive than you.

        1. Sharkie*

          Exactly. That woman was very attractive and looked like she was having fun at a Vegas Pool party or Spring Break situation. Hell I admit I am kinda jealous cause I want to go to fun parties like that

        2. LunaLena*

          The article I read implied that they actually told her (and probably other candidates) to follow the company Instagram so that they could show them those photos and shame them for being unprofessional. The image was edited to include the comments from the CEO (as in, the text was added to the original photo and then posted), so they must have prepared it in advance before telling her to follow them.

          I read about this on a site where the demographics definitely skew towards older and conservative people, and it was alarming and saddening how many comments were along the lines of “well, she should have known better! Young people these days need to understand that they shouldn’t be posting their entire lives on social media and/or posting slutty photos of themselves for attention!”

        3. That's a No from Me*

          They’re wrong but accusing them of “jealousy” is problematic. It’s a common go-to in the workplace when men are trying to undermine a female manager’s legitimate concerns about a younger female staff member who is underperforming.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        OH MY GOD this was already a beyond ridiculous situation but that really just takes it beyond beyond. Wow.

      3. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yup, that’s the part that completely shocked me. And the fact that the company is run by women, which I guess shouldn’t have surprised me but either way the whole story is utterly unbelievable. I mean, I believe that it happened I just don’t believe how stupid and horrible any start-up company could be to have someone like that running their IG account.

        1. Phoenix Programmer*

          Doesn’t surprise me at all. I read a similar article about babe.net exposing the toxic sexual harrasment culture of their office (man in powered routinely sleeping with new hires, lots of drunken office shenanigans, etc.) … Incredibly ironic since they were made famous for a call out article about a consensual date note being done right.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Women can be super harsh on each other. I have often thought that in as much as we complain about men, we would do well to examine our own actions and words. I noticed it tapering off in my own life as I went through my 30s and 40s. So we also can check ourselves about bias against younger people in general, also.

          1. Tinuviel*

            So true. Even here I notice the most vocal proponents of “maybe it’s sexism” speculation hating on people having children in public. We’re all learning about intersectionalism…

      4. LizzE*

        Yup. In addition, it was uncovered that the founder of the firm had various pics of herself in bikinis (vacation pics) and outfits with curse words on them on her personal social media accounts. Not that I am arguing having those things on your social media makes you unprofessional, but it clearly reeks of her own hypocrisy and that she is the type of person who does not hold herself to the standard she holds others.

      5. Blunt Bunny*

        I think the issue with the applicants bikini was that her breasts were hanging out the bottom. The style where it is on purpose to have your breast hanging out, as a FF cupped person it is almost impossible to find a bikini top that covers your breasts completely or shows no skin. But there is no other reason to have you breasts hanging out the bottom unless you wanted them that way and I guess if you are posting the pic on social media that is exactly how you wanted it to look rather than a fashion mishap. I myself always think why would you want to look like that, is it even comfortable etc
        However, the applicant is obviously happy with the way she looks or she wouldn’t have posted it so it is pointless to try and tell her she shouldn’t dress like that and rude. If they really wanted it to be a teaching moment they would have blurred out her face or messaged her privately.

        1. Dahlia*

          I think it’s seriously inappropriate to say her breasts are “hanging out” because she’s showing underboob.

        2. The Boy Out of the Bubble*

          Virtually all bikinis are made to reveal some part of the breast. The fact that you think the part she exposed is inappropriate is your problem, not an objective “issue”.

          They also cropped out her head. It doesn’t matter. What they did was inappropriate top to bottom. They had nothing to teach and everything to learn.

        3. tangerineRose*

          It’s not like she posted it on LinkedIn or put it on her resume. It’s her personal account.

      6. That's a No from Me*

        They’re wrong but accusing them of “jealousy” is problematic. It’s a common go-to in the workplace when men are trying to undermine a female manager’s legitimate concerns about a younger female staff member who is underperforming.

    3. Mookie*

      Ladiez’z nekkid bodies under clothing is ultra-unprofessional, you guys. She should definitely be ashamed of the dirty pillows featured in the screenshot these delicate flowers had to make, lovingly gaze at, write words on, and then eagerly re-tweet. This company is very professional. The best people. Since they are only looking for “professional marketers,” male applicants wearing baseball jerseys and drinking crap beer in public photos and posting glamour shots of their watches and forearm tattoos are also turned away because this company is not looking for sports fans, people with bad taste, and male Inspos and influencers. Professional marketers only, lads.

      1. BennyJets*

        Lad culture isn’t (only) at play: Reading the linked article you discover that the company was founded by women and their Insta features a photo of all the women in the company in bikinis.

    4. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      I’d be tempted to screenshot that post and publish it with the caption “this is how you build a bad reputation”.
      BTW, is this Instagram account run by the Extreme Photoshop person someone wrote about last month?

      1. Autumnheart*

        I don’t see any extra arms or Godzilla-sized people in the photo, so I deduce that no, it’s not the same person. ;-)

      2. Veronica*

        No don’t! That will tip them off that they’re warning people away. Let them continue so everyone knows what they’re like!

    5. Jax*

      The name of the company isn’t button-down but clearly trying to be vibrant/hip/cutting edge. I actually wondered whether all of this is an example of how it will get your marketing to go viral and is basically free advertising for both the company and maybe a model/intern applicant, who also has a background in marketing.

      But I see today the company has disabled all of its own social media so that pretty much answers the question.

    6. Not a Blossom*

      The owner of the company also posted a picture of herself flipping off the camera on Instagram, but I guess that somehow is professional? UGH.

      Thanks to the (deserved) backlash, the company has had to make their social media private.

      1. pony tailed wonder*

        It was reported elsewhere that the company had a photo on their social account with all the women executives in their swimsuits as well.

        1. ...*

          Also videos of the founder trying on bras and discussing the proper exercises to keep a man around. LOL

    7. MissGirl*

      I’m curious what Alison would recommend about calling out the company publicly. While I think what the company did was wrong and so hypocritical, the internet mobs tend to get out of control and punishment outstrips the crime. The blowback can also affect the candidate herself and make it more difficult to land a position.

      It mentioned she asked them privately to take it down. Im not sure how quickly they acted, however, or if they apologized at all. That would affect my opinion on going public.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        I would have gone public regardless – they should have never used her likeness without her permission. They’re supposedly in marketing and should know better than that.

      2. pleaset*

        Fair question, but I’ll add that that’s more than a jobs question – it’s a life question.

      3. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

        They are posting articles and videos to their LinkedIn about how to do better at hiring. This is information I think the public needs to have if they want to claim to be experts in this area.

        1. MissGirl*

          Yes, it is great for clients and candidates but I’m more worried about this candidate having it as the thing she is known for. In ten years, when someone googles her name this will probably be what comes up, or maybe not. It may get old for her to deal with or it may not. Once you’ve gone viral, it’s hard to control the message and things spin out in unexpected ways. Today she’s a hero; tomorrow is a question mark.

          1. Indigo a la mode*

            We’ve had a couple of letters here along those lines, years after fallout for a public incident with grey area. It seems to generally turn out okay. The applicant was polite in her call-out and has done nothing wrong, so no reasonable future interviewer would hold this against her. (If they do, they subscribe to this employer’s viewpoint and she shouldn’t work there anyway.)

            She made a reasonable post objecting to her public shaming. The court of public opinion is doing the rest, and gloriously. I love when massive hypocrisy is exposed and has consequences.

    8. Sharrbe*

      Agree. And frankly, I think the woman dodged a bullet because the company itself seems like its selling a whole lot of b-s ridiculousness. And its named Kick Ass Masterminds!!! How is that professional?

      1. ...*

        Honestly the company kind of seems like a weird Pyramid scheme scam thing? Selling super expensive tickets about how to BE YOURSELF! and GROW!

      2. AuroraLight37*

        Yeah, their company name has profanity in it, and they’re just fine cursing up a storm in their company description, but someone in a normal bikini on her own personal social media page is the unprofessional one?

        Irony, they do not haz it.

    9. Half-Caf Latte*

      The most RAGE- INDUCING part?

      They told her to “follow their insta to get an advantage over other applicants” 14 minutes after posting the story.

      This is grade school queen bee shit. They wanted her to see it, and went out of their way to make it happen.

      1. Observer*

        I missed that, too!

        Please don’t insult grade school queen bees – this is a whole different level, from supposed adults who are supposedly into women’s empowerment.

      2. Close Bracket*

        They aren’t actually a hive mind. It might have been two different people who didn’t talk to each other for those 14 minutes who re-posted the photo and told her to follow them.

    10. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

      There is an inverse relationship between being obsessed with this kind of thing and being competent / having transferable skills.

    11. Perpal*

      If it’s any consolation, looks like company got super blasted for this and seems to be in full retreat. Wonder who thought it was a good idea to shame employeees over personal photos, especially innocent/fun photos; might be a little different if the personal media had something something illegal or really mean; but even then social media shaming doesn’t make sense, just don’t hire them!

      1. Petry Dish*

        Can you get someone involved legally about this was my first thought? Can a corporation use your likeness and it being a bikini photo seemed iky to me.

        1. TootsNYC*

          There’s a copyright consideration–though I don’t think reposting it on Instagram violation. That usage is probably covered in the terms of service (that someone can use it anywhere on Instagram). If they had moved it to Twitter or a blog or their website, it might be a problem. (Her Twitter comment is probably OK given that it’s commentary and in the public interest; theirs wouldn’t have been.)

          I think it would be covered as opinion in terms of slander/libel.

          1. pamela voorhees*

            It’s very complicated re: copyright, but the short answer is not really — she would already have to have trademarked her image (I think it’s trademark, and not copyright? I’m not 100% though) and then claim infringement. Unfortunately this is often the process that victims of revenge porn have to go through as well.

            1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

              Because of instagram terms of service she probably doesn’t have recourse there–but otherwise would have been protected by copyright law. Not because it’s a picture of her, but because copyright belongs to the person who took the picture. (so I guess technically whatever friend was holding the camera could have sued…)

          2. pamela voorhees*

            I’d like to amend this because other people pointed out that Instagram has different internal rules and would likely take it down if you ask — technically speaking, her image is fair game since it was in a public setting, but the photograph itself belongs to the photographer (who I am assuming is not her) who could claim copyright. However, I doubt Instagram cares enough to make her find the photographer and have THEM submit a claim, and will probably take it down if she asks.

        2. Blunt Bunny*

          I think she maybe able to sue. There have been paparazzi that have sued celebrities for sharing photos of themselves that the paparazzi have taken of them. Even though they didn’t have permission to take the pictures and they are making money of off those pictures and that they wouldn’t have a career without stalking them and taking pictures of them.

        3. Perpal*

          Suing is probably more trouble than it’s worth. At best maybe there’s a copyright claim, but it’s already taken down and there’s no concrete financial damages or profits to sue for.

    12. Former Govt Contractor*

      I saw that article this morning too, and I was taken aback when I read the comment section. Mostly people saying the company was wrong, BUT…(insert some form of slut shaming such as, that’s what she gets, what did she expect when she posted a “nudie” of herself, blah blah blah).

    13. Quill*

      You’re a woman with a body! How unprofessional, unlike the fact that we apparently go through our candidate’s instagrams!

    14. Tequila Mockingbird*

      I am curious, where are you able to read their website? It appears the company has deleted its website, along with its Facebook, Twitter, Insta, etc. pages.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        All of their social media was still up around the time I read it early this morning (so, like, 12am-1ish).

    15. some dude*

      I mean, the company is called Kickass Masterminds, so I think their only choice was to double down on being full-on d-bags.

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, this approach is so vile. How can you encourage people to use their personal accounts to follow the company account, and then shame applicants for that personal content? I’m not going to create a “professional” instagram account just to satisfy some clueless employer’s sexist and prying assumptions about appropriate Insta-content.

    This makes me want to punch someone in the face.

    1. Chewy Mints*

      This^. Also, such sanctimonious approach coming from a company with “Kickass” on their name…makes even less sense.

      And to think the CEO is a woman. No wonder they’ve shut down their social media accounts as well as their website. This is as hideous as it gets in terms of recruitment practices.

      Now imagine working for this company and making a mistake. Next thing you know you are being paraded down the office wearing a donkie hat.

      1. 2 Cents*

        I am a woman. I wish we could stop with the “can’t believe Boss did this because she’s also a Woman!” All women aren’t on the same side, just like no group of people with one shared characteristic is all on the same side. /rant/

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Agreed. Women can be just as hypocritical, rude, sexist, and generally asshole-ish as men.

        2. ...*

          Yeah I would be surprised if it were a man that did this! Seems more like petty jealous “no one younger or prettier” than me can succeed behavior

          1. Indigo a la mode*

            That’s also a sexist assumption, though. Women also do things out of motivations other than cattiness.

    2. Phil*

      #4 I HATE lunchtime meetings! Especially when they acknowledge it like, “sorry for the time, feel free to bring lunch!” No. Piss off, I need my me-time, I’m not working 9 hours straight.

    3. MP*

      They shouldn’t have shamed her like that – creepy. However, I was expecting a normal bikini picture – her picture was very racy. The way she adjusted the suit to just barely cover herself, her bust “busting” out of the bottom, the angles, etc – it was kind of porny. So I get what the company was saying, but wow, they shouldn’t have done what they did. Just not hired her and moved on. *maybe* privately tell her the picture comes off as a bit much.

      1. Sharkie*

        I respectfully disagree. What people do on their own time is 100% not your employers business unless it is harmful to others. They should have just not said anything at all if they had a problem.

        1. Sharkie*

          Also- I was a competitive swimmer all my life and lifeguarded in my teens and early 20’s. 99% of my uniform suits were cut like that on the bottom. The characterization of the angles and the style of the suit as “porny” is a little gross.

        2. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

          I disagree with MP too, but not respectfully because what they said wasn’t respectful.

          MP, what a gross and creepy characterization. Step away from the puritanical patriarchy and allow women to exist, please.

          This should have had NO bearing on hiring the woman for the job.

        3. Autumnheart*

          I don’t really see why a decolletage is somehow acceptable, but the same amount of flesh shown below the nipple is “racy”. It’s the same proportion of boob. It might be an unusual bathing suit cut, but it doesn’t show any more flesh than a regular triangle top.

          1. TootsNYC*

            my own reaction is based on gravity and the way the body moves. I worried she’d pop out the bottom if she moved the wrong way. I’m sure it’s not really a risk. And I wouldn’t care what she wore.

            But you asked why people care, and that’s why. It looks like she could easily expose more of the breast than is showing now.

            It can happen with decolletage, but the angles are different.

            1. Dahlia*

              What does that a.) have to do with her? Because I’m sure she knows how her clothes fit and if she’s at risk of having a nip slip b.) have to with her not getting a job?

            2. Autumnheart*

              All I can think of right now is that we would never be having this conversation about a dude in a bathing suit, wondering if he’s going to “pop out” of it and whether this should prevent him from getting a job.

      2. TechWorker*

        1) yes the swimsuit is quite revealing but heeeey they’re in fashion now (and there’s no logical reason why underboob is any ‘worse’ than cleavage it’s all boob)
        2) it’s not ‘porny’ Jesus she’s in a swimming pool. The ‘angle’ may have looked different before the company cropped her face out!
        3) it’s on her instagram, not her linked in…

        1. Emily K*

          Yeah, nothing says “objectification” like literally cropping a woman’s head out of a photo.

      3. EventPlannerGal*

        She didn’t adjust anything – that style of swimsuit is cut like that. And it’s a picture on her own instagram, which the company was actively encouraging people to use to follow them – you think that them taking her aside to tell her that her holiday photos are “porny” would be better?

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          Also, a reason it looks “racy” is that they have clearly cropped and enlarged the image with her breasts top and centre, which is an intentional choice that makes this actively creepier.

              1. Fortitude Jones*

                Yeah, the uncropped photo is not that bad. Those suits used to be very popular in the early 90s (why, why, why is that decade’s hideous fashion coming back?! *sobs*), and I wouldn’t have said everyone who wore them looked “porny.” I’ve seen worse at the Jersey shore and Venice beach.

                1. Classic Rando*

                  I wore those kinds of bathing suits in the 90’s… when I was like 11. Guess I had “porny” tastes as a kid. XD

                  (Super agree that the world did not need them, or stirrup pants, or acid washed jeans) to make a comeback)

            1. MatKnifeNinja*

              Poor woman is more covered up than the teen girls tanning at my townhouse pool this summer. Shrug?

              I’m 55, and would look like an egg with rubber band wearing that swim suit. Honestly, I must be a weirdo, nothing to see here folks?

              This is vicious high school teen crap. I hope the company gets dragged long and hard.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Exactly this. When you see the full photo, it doesn’t look in any way objectionable. Which is not to say that the cropped version is objectionable—it is not porny or racy. But it’s important to know that the employer cropped and altered the image to make it appear more “provocative.”

        2. blackcat*

          I mean, I look at that and thing “omg, that suit looks so uncomfortable and my boobs would fall out of it.” Not anything in particular about her.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Exactly. I’m entirely too busty for that kind of suit, and it is too revealing for my tastes, but the woman’s body is on-point, so I totally understand why she would want to show it off on her private vacation with friends.

              1. MatKnifeNinja*

                IKR? High five!

                We crab about men. Women can be their own worst enemies to each other.

          2. Nancie*

            Same here! I wish I could wear a suit like that, but I can’t, so I can’t help but think what would happen if I did wear one!

            No shame to anyone who can wear that style suit, though.

        3. Half-Caf Latte*

          Clarification – which i posted in an earlier threat. They didn’t so much encourage-people-to-follow-them as they did email-this-applicant-specifically-and-tell-her-to-follow-them-for-an-advantage-14-minutes-after-posting-the-slut-shame.

          Madeline Kahn Clue gif here.

      4. Winter Red*

        “kind of porny”? wow. Talk about shaming!

        She’s wearing a bikini. It’s SUPPOSED to look like that. She didn’t “adjust” it to look that way.

        Also, so what if she had? She’s allowed to wear what she wants and post what she wants to her PERSONAL insta. If it doesn’t violate Instagram’s rules, it’s fine. Anyone else can take their shamey moralistic eyeballs elsewhere, they’re not being forced to look at it.

        this comment is really pretty gross.

      5. Myrin*

        I mean, I find that swimsuit ugly and unflattering (just my personal opinion – others above say she’s looking great, which is also valid) but it doesn’t read as particularly “racy” or “porny” to me, especially since it’s been cropped from who knows which size where there might not have been much focus on her body at all.

        1. MamaSarah*

          I agree with Sharkie – it’s a lot of flesh and a little spicy. (I’m pretty cautious about what I post on my social media.) But the company’s reposting was totally lame.

          1. Observation :/*

            Yes! Thank you. Everyone can’t resist getting their two cents in about this woman’s picture, completely missing the point. Move it along…

          2. Perpal*

            Or even if it was something worth judging over, just move on; shaming applicants publicly for pretty much anything is so incredibly unprofessional. Even if there was something truly horrid, just move on.

        2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          I think that swimsuit is just flat-out stupid, because the minute you try to run or actually swim in it, your boobs will fall out. It is not functional in the slightest.

          But it’s not obscene and if she wants to wear a swimsuit that restricts her movement to nothing more rigorous than standing still in the water, that’s her problem not mine.

        3. Observation :/*

          Why share your opinion on this? The cuteness or immodesty of the swimsuit is totally irrelevant to how effed up this company’s behavior is.

          1. Myrin*

            Because I was replying to a comment calling the swimsuit “porny”, saying it didn’t seem that way to me at all. I’m 100% on the candidate’s side, there’s really no reason to come at me quite so aggressively as if I’d started this thread instead of simply saying that I don’t share another commenter’s sexual interpretation of a piece of clothing.

        4. Veronica*

          I agree about the swimsuit looking unflattering and uncomfortable. But she herself looks great – beautiful, lively, and healthy with good muscle tone. I think that’s why people are saying she looks great.

          1. Arts Akimbo*

            Yes! She looks awesome and athletic in the uncropped photo, and is clearly just standing in a pool. Either way she should never be shamed for it, but it’s an extra layer of sad to me that they took this beautiful, powerful young woman, happy and comfortable in her own skin, and made something sordid out of it, then *used their own strawman image* to justify denying her a professional opportunity!

            In many ways, it’s a microcosm of the patriarchy, and people are rightly upset.

            1. Dahlia*

              I know it’s kind of off-topic but I’m really uncomfortable with people saying she looks “athletic”. You can’t tell that by looking at someone. Thin =/= athletic.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                When I starting taking control over my health I noticed that people have varying levels of discernment. Just my limited view but from what I saw people who worked out regularly and had been doing so for a while, never mistook me as person who worked out. (lol) Generally speaking though, many people thought I worked out regularly. No, I just had a very physical job and I watched what I ate.
                She does have good muscle tone. Some of that can be attributed to age. As an extreme example compare her to an 80 year old person you know. That 80 year old probably does not have good muscle tone any more and sadly, is also losing muscle mass. Just looking at their face it’s easy to see parts sinking and parts sagging.

              2. Veronica*

                She looks athletic/fit to me because she has good muscle tone. Whether she actually plays sports or not, she must be doing something that keeps her muscles in shape.
                I’m self-conscious about my muscle tone, that’s why I notice. I meant to stay toned and in shape as I got older, but…

          2. beckysuz*

            Yeah I don’t really like the bathing suit, but she looks healthy, happy and fit! Also there are cuts you can get away with a bit more when you are small busted. She looks great, let her live!

      6. Harper the Other One*

        Unless you can tell me both how it affects her work and that the company responds the same to male applicants posting shirtless ab shots in Speedos, I’m still going to say that it’s both none of the company’s business and a reflection of negative cultural attitudes to women’s bodies that is probably going to be reflected in other poor behaviour from this employer.

      7. Crivens!*

        I’m a former nude model whose pictures are still publicly available so I guess companies should feel free to shame me if seek out and find those pictures.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I have a friend who used to be a Suicide Girl. It’s not super hard to find her pics if you know her name and that particular fact. Thankfully, I’m pretty sure no place she’s ever worked has ever tried to hunt them down and shame her for them.

      8. Observer*

        I wasn’t impressed by the picture either. So what? What does that have to do with anything? There is no reason to think she’s show up to work inappropriately dressed, or post racy pictures in her work accounts.

        There is nothing in that picture that is remotely illegal or that raises questions about her integrity or judgement. So who cares about how “racy” her pictures are?

      9. Quill*

        They should not have been on her instagram at all! The request was for her to follow their instagram, likely for updates, not “give us your personal instagram handle so we can monitor your social media” which would have been way out of line anyway.

        1. TootsNYC*

          The request was for her to follow their instagram, likely for updates,

          according to some people here, they emailed to suggest she follow them to gain an advantage over other candidates–14 minutes after they posted it.

        2. What’s with Today, today?*

          I think you have to expect potential employers to look at your social media. I’ve been on a few hiring committees, both through work and a board position, and without fail, we snoop your social media and google you. Every.single.time.

      10. Former Academic Librarian*

        You’ve never watched any competitive swimming, have you? The suits are cut like that on the bottom, nothing swimmers can do about it. They aren’t “busting” out of the bottom.

        And I think your comment is just a creepy as what the company did.

      11. TootsNYC*

        she didn’t adjust her suit like that. That’s how it’s constructed.
        It is risky; I had anxiety about things popping out, the moment I looked at it.

        If they decided she was too big a risk-taker for them, that’s totally OK for them to decide.
        It’s the shaming and scolding of her on their Insta that I have the hugest problem.

      12. Not Me*

        If you think that picture is “porny” boy are you going to be surprised when you see actual porn!

      13. Dahlia*

        A person percieved as a woman’s body is not “porny” for existing. It’s underboob, dude. She’s not doing sex acts.

        Also, like. The idea that being a sex worker means you shouldn’t get a job is pretty terrible too.

        1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          I agree. That suit is a bit spicy for my taste but it’s not my body, and people have the right to do what they want with their own bodies. I don’t think that using your body for *gasp* sex (whether for fun or fun and profit) is an especially shameful thing.

      14. Arts Akimbo*

        Underboob bathing suits are very much a normal thing. It’s just a one-piece with a cutout panel for midriff and the lower part of the breasts. Not porny, and shows no more skin (or even less!) than a regular bikini. It’s just that bikinis normally are low-cut and show a lot more of the top half of the breasts.

    4. Kiki*

      I hate, hate, hate that companies always want their employees and prospective employees to follow them on social media! (I’ll give an exception for LinkedIn because that is what it is for.) I get that it makes sense as a way to build a following, but it ends up as a breeding ground for awkward or bad situations. This letter is a kind of extreme example since they actually posted their slut-shameynes for the the public, but more minor versions happen all the time. If companies don’t want to see anything less than 100% professional behavior and attire, don’t solicit images of employees in their off hours.

      1. Qistina*

        Same! Plus they told her that following the company would give her an advantage over other applicants. So applicants are judged first based on whether or not they follow the company’s social media? What if an applicant didn’t have any social media? Don’t companies care about people’s CVs/skills/achievements anymore?

        My job did ask for people’s Twitter handles in a ‘get to know you’ form which they’d then post in a company-wide welcome email (after I already got the job, obviously). I don’t have Twitter so I simply put “N/A”. No fuss was made. But I did notice a lot of coworkers following each other on IG and FB and some people started asking me for mine. I lied that I have zero social media (mine are private and I never use my real name or pics, so they are not easily searchable) and was generally met with quizzical looks and various forms of “you’re weird”. I don’t care. My social media is mine to share or not. And just because I work with you does not make you entitled to my private life.

        1. LQ*

          I assumed that “advantage” meant you’ll know whether or not you’re this woman so you’ll already know one of the applicants is out of the running. They thought they were doing people a favor by posting that. They thought that the slut-shaming post WAS the “advantage” they were giving applicants. I think they were proud of it when they said to follow them on social media.

        2. Kiki*

          I don’t add coworkers on social media while I work with them (unless we genuinely are friends outside of work). I don’t do anything “bad” on social media, but there are just things coworkers don’t need to know. Also, I’m the youngest person on my team by a solid decade and the only woman, so I think this also helps stave off some potential creepiness.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I don’t either, and any company that insisted I add them or friend the boss or whatever to get a job would be off my list.

        3. Boomerang Girl*

          For a marketing position, it’s reasonable to expect people to have social media accounts and examining their public online presence is legitimate IMO.

          Whether her specific posts show bad judgment is debatable. Personally, I think it’s a good idea not to show revealing pics of yourself in a public forum (which Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn are) and that would be especially true for careers in law, banking, etc. I would allow more leeway in a place like Facebook where you supposedly choose your friends. I would also allow more leeway for marketing than more conservative careers.

          Overall, however, I think posting pics like that one show iffy judgment, but not a dealbreaker because she’s not doing anything wrong in the picture. Shaming her is 100x worse.

          1. Marmaduke*

            The photo was pretty clearly taken in a public space, and her attire is legal and not particularly out of place there. I think it’s odd that you think publicly posting pictures taken in public is a lapse of judgement. If she were posting lingerie pictures from her boudoir photo session, I might still disagree with you but would understand your concern.

        4. mrs__peel*

          “My job did ask for people’s Twitter handles in a ‘get to know you’ form which they’d then post in a company-wide welcome email”

          Oh dear God, no. My co-workers don’t need to see my sobbing about politics, weird jokes, and Star Trek memes.

          1. Qistina*

            Lol. Exactly. When it became a part of my job to send these forms out to new joiners, I’d put (optional) next to this question even though the original form did not give that option and no one else on the onboarding team thought to do so. One person actually PM’d me saying pretty much the same thing you did, and I didn’t even tell him that adding (optional) was an exclusively me thing. If it was someone else handling his onboarding, he’d have given up his handle thinking he had no choice.

      2. Ada*

        The way I read it, it sounded like they dug up and reposted her photo *before* she even followed them, which is even worse, because it means she could have thought “nah, my IG isn’t quite the image I want in the front of their mind” and she STILL would have been shame for… I guess wearing a swimsuit? In a pool? On her own time? I still don’t get how that’s inappropriate behavior, especially in a public pool. Would they have disqualified her if they ran into her at the pool in person?

        1. Qistina*

          You’re right. I re-read the article and it says that when she followed them, she realised that they had posted her pic 14 minutes earlier. In that case, yep, that’s even worse that they dug up her social media and reposted her photo as an indirect way of calling her out (because they knew she was going to see the story) AND as a precaution to other applicants. But yeah, what if they had found no social media but ran into her at the pool in person? Would that be okay somehow? Or still not okay? Where do they draw the line? The mind boggles!

          1. TootsNYC*

            well, the things you choose to broadcast to the wide world are often different than the things you do in your private life. So I can see someone saying, “wearing that in her private life is fine. What bothers me is that she put it out for the broader public to see.”

            (Not that I agree with them on anything they’ve done; just that there IS a difference between wearing a suit to a pool and posting a picture on an Instagram account that can be seen by people you don’t even know)

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Um, wearing the suit to the pool meant she was in public, as it was likely a public pool. She’s gonna be seen by many people she doesn’t know.

            2. Ada*

              But if you go to a public pool, won’t you also be seen by people you don’t know? What’s the difference?

      3. Quill*

        Yeah, at best, they’re artificially inflating their follower count, at worst, this stuff happens. Requesting any contact with a person’s personal social media – facebook, instagram – is out of line unless they’re looking for a spokesperson, in which case you would hope that person has seperate personal and public accounts!

        1. banzo_bean*

          Yeah, in addition to being gross slut shamers the company is also asking job applicants to follow their instagram. It seems a little icky to me, get followers on your own accord not by dangling it in front of job seekers.

    5. MatKnifeNinja*

      The school district I used to work for, looked at social media accounts before hiring. From peons like me all the way up to the big deals at district office.

      Pictures of you at that boozey all inclusive, rocking that killer bikini with empty cocktail drinks all in front of you? My former boss would not hire you. You sitting in your backyard, enjoying some legal recreational marijuana with your friends. Same deal.

      I don’t the luxury not to create a faux FB/IG that has mostly silly cat memes and crafts projects on it. I know teachers who didn’t get hired because of what was on their social media accounts.

      It’s gross and unfair, but it’s either that or bankruptcy for me. I’ve had the faux accounts since 2003. It seems everyone I interviewed with was making judgements aboutb me, based on what was kicking on my FB/IG page.

        1. Observer*

          If you noticed, they said that it’s either that or bankruptcy. It’s easy to ask other people to go bankrupt to fight the battles you’ve decided for them that they should fight.

          Maybe what you should ask it why you have done and can do to push back against that garbage.

        2. Sharkie*

          Or how about we don’t shame people for not taking a stand when their livelihood is at stake? Yes it is gross but people have to eat

        3. Observation :/*

          Very pro-worker to accuse a self-described “peon” as “promoting” something she calls “gross and unfair.” Nice!!

        4. AuroraLight37*

          How are they promoting it? A “peon” generally doesn’t have the clout to push back. Maybe the union might, if there is one.

      1. banzo_bean*

        They didn’t just not hire her though, the company publicly shamed her and reposted her photo. That’s a bit different than saying “X doesn’t seem like a good candidate based on their public persona.” Not that I’m onboard with either approach really.

      2. Autumnheart*

        Not hiring someone is one thing. Putting their picture up on your company social media with a derogatory comment and tweeting it out to all your followers is way beyond the pale.

    6. Elemeno P.*

      Honestly!! I understand being careful on social media, but there’s a line between “posting pictures of myself doing a keg stand” and “posting pictures of myself at a party.” She was wearing a bathing suit in a pool! This is a normal thing to do!

      Somewhat similarly, I remember some story on here a while back where someone looked at everything a prospective candidate had liked on Instagram, and decided not to hire because the person liked somewhat racy photos. A lot of my friends are models and/or do burlesque, so I imagine I am forever kicked out of those companies.

      1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

        Any company that would use that as a hiring criteria is not one that deserves your talents.

      2. DecorativeCacti*

        I’m honestly struggling a little bit with reading all these comments and trying to figure out where that line you mentioned is. I think what this company did is abhorrent, and her picture totally standard.

        However, there was an issue in my workplace recently where the prospective employee’s Facebook profile picture was them naked. Fully naked but covered in such a way you could get away with it on Facebook. I saw that and alarm bells went off immediately; they also said some concerning things in their posts so I brought my concerns to the HR manager and got brushed off. They were hired anyway.

        They are exactly as horrible as I expected, but I’m stuck with them. I have to share an office 40 hours a week with this creepy, rude, horrible human being and no one cares. So maybe I’m just bitter, but I wish someone had listened to me when I was said, “Maybe someone naked on Facebook isn’t the best choice.”

        1. Kiki*

          Yeah, I think it is tricky when you’re researching someone online to know where to draw the line. There are some obvious things (recent violent crimes, bigotry, harassment) but then there are some gray area things that could indicate an issue OR could just be a personality quirk they’ll keep confined to outside work. It’s also an issue when there is a public image component, for example teachers, as brought up in comments elsewhere. People should be allowed to do whatever legal activities they want to in their own time and document it accordingly, but for teachers there is the issue of students snooping and outraged parents. As much as I wish we as a society were in a place to tell concerned parties to let teachers live their lives, I think a teacher with good judgment would try to keep a squeaky-clean public profile (and have an incognito, locked-down private account for everything else).

          1. Qistina*

            Your comment reminds me of an episode of the podcast Radiolab that aired a month ago, about an online newspaper in Cleveland that is working on unpublishing articles, photos, and names they’ve previously published. They’re offering people who’ve had articles written about them on their website the chance of “the right to be forgotten”, and it could be anything from crimes they’ve served time for and are completely rehabilitated from, to being named as a witness in a court proceeding. It’s a very interesting episode.

            Obviously it’s not the same as the woman in #2, but the hosts definitely discussed if “enough’s enough”, i.e. If the crime was committed a very long time ago and they’ve served time for it, should they still be judged for it? It certainly got me thinking about whether one single mistake is enough to punish someone for the rest of their lives. And where to draw the line. Only if no lives were harmed? What if their acts “only” caused an animal to die? What if it was “just” property? What if it was public urination?

            Last year a woman from the overseas office of my old job was convicted of stalking and making gross allegations about her ex boyfriend, who worked in the same company. She’s in jail now but his name and photo are splashed online absolutely everywhere. Me being proudly ungoogleable, it truly gives me the heebie jeebies. He’s the victim in this case and yet the story will follow him wherever he goes. Rightly or wrongly, he is going to feel ashamed of what happened, but because anything posted online is basically forever, he won’t be able to escape it!

    7. GreenDoor*

      IN the articles I read, it sounded like the candidate still asked to be in the running for the internship though! I wish someone would point out to her that what Kickas* did with her picture is a Huge Red Flag. I also wish it was pointed out to her that the fact that they ask candidates to follow their social media (which inevitibably gives them access to the candidate’s social media) is also a Red Flag. This employer clearly has problems respecting boundaries and the private lives of people. Why would this gal still want to be in the running for a position there??

      1. The Boy Out of the Bubble*

        The articles I’ve read quote the company CEO saying she’s still in the running/not disqualified, not quoting the candidate as saying she’s still interested.

  5. Clementine*

    For LW#1, even if there’s no other motivation to do the right thing, think how bad it will make you look if you report on a colleague who has a chronic or terminal illness and is restructuring her life to face that reality.

    1. Marmaduke*

      At one point, I was on leave for severe PTSD and part of my treatment involved moving and selling certain furnishings connected to the underlying trauma. There were rumors. A few weeks after I returned to work, the story somehow got out, and those who’d made allegations didn’t feel great.

      I highly recommend approaching the situation with an over abundance of goodwill. You don’t want to be the person who was shaming someone for the way they coped with illness.

      1. pcake*

        I had severe burnout, and the rumor mill came up with a winner – the word got out that I had died. When I went back to work a month later to pick up some stuff, imagine my surprise at the complete and utter shock from coworkers. Two of them threw themselves at me, hugging me like they’d never let me go; one cried right there on the floor where customers were.

        I was SO confused until someone explained that everyone (below the owner, who knew I was alive because he was negotiating for me to come back) believed I was dead.

    2. Traffic_Spiral*

      Yup. You aren’t going to get points for narc’ing even if you are right, and you’re gonna look like a real asshole if you’re wrong (which you probably are). Just mentally stuff all of this into a room called “None of My Business,” shut the door, and Hype-Dance away.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        That’s a little harsh. There are people who fake or exaggerate illnesses and injuries to get out of working, get an insurance payout, etc. (I used to work in insurance and saw many such people file exaggerated bodily injury claims) – the problem is, we don’t know that that’s what OP’s coworker is doing, and neither does OP. And OP wrote in for a gut-check presumably because she didn’t want to go off half-cocked and report her suspicions to their shared manager in the event that she was in fact wrong about her assumptions. Therefore, I don’t think she’s a bad person for asking the question.

      2. AnonAndFrustrated*

        Whoa. I agree that sometimes it creates great resentment to be working with someone else who is lazy and scamming the system – there are lots of those people out there and they don’t care one whit that they’re stealing company time and making life harder for all their coworkers who are doing their jobs. But it sounds like OP1 doesn’t know that for sure, and if she’s not sure, she can’t accuse definitively, she can only ask questions. Which is what she did by sending the post. If it turned out the coworker was an awful person and taking leave when she didn’t really need it, just to use for personal gain without thought to the company, then the OP would be right in questioning what’s going on. Without all the facts, it’s hard to know what’s really happening, and not useful to label the OP with such a negative view.

  6. Linzava*

    OP #2,

    I couldn’t resist clicking the link and was shocked to find the company in question’s CEO is a woman and the company’s mission is heavy on female empowerment. This one’s a head scratcher. I’m so happy the applicant stood up for herself.

    1. Essess*

      I would send a message to the CEO and the company’s legal department and ask them if this type of inappropriate posting was approved by their company and that you want your image removed from their site. They’ve already made it clear that they are going to blacklist you so you have nothing to lose by making sure that the authorities in the company know what their HR is posting publicly.

      1. CeeKee*

        Oh, the CEO was texting directly with the applicant, and responding to her demands that the photo be taken down with condescending non-answers like “Best of luck!”

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Best of luck?! No, how about best of luck to you and your legal team when I send your asses a cease and desist notice?! If I was the applicant, I’d be making these people’s lives a living hell right now for this.

        2. Essess*

          Since other comments on this page say that the photo was altered to enhance the bust area, she can definitely get a lawyer involved since they are using a photo that she took. The fact that they modified it now changes it away from expected IG usage (something being shared along), to a violation of her copyright by manipulating her photo.

    2. Bowserkitty*

      The best part was reading the linked article about it and discovering the company’s own Instagram account included a photo of their female employees….IN SWIMWEAR.

    3. What The Fork Is A Chidi*

      According to tweets I’ve seen in articles, all or most employees are women. Also, the CEO responded that the picture didn’t disqualify the applicant (-_-) so they were shaming her but still willing to hire her so that evens it out right? (Read that last sentence with a major amount of sarcasm)

      1. EPLawyer*

        Women are hardest on other women.

        I have actually stopped judging what women are wearing, how they wear their hair, etc. We’ve got to stop making it all about the looks if we are ever to move forward.

        1. FiveWheels*

          Agreed. Men at work who make personal comments about my appearance (whether positive or negative) = only one, ever. Women who do it =almost all of them.

          1. banzo_bean*

            Meh, I think maybe women are a bit more aware of how hard they’re being on women and for men it travels under the radar. I definitely know men at work who develop biases against women based on appearance, they’re just more reticient to admit it.

          2. What The Fork Is A Chidi*

            Had this happen to me as well. I don’t wear make up, don’t wear heels and not a fan of skirts and dresses and no men has ever told me that I should wear more of those things or that I would look better if I did. Only women

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Same here. Took me years and I was pretty awful in that way growing up; as was the culture back then. I got my first wake-up call at 22, when at my first job out of college, I was assigned a bed in employer-provided housing in a room with two other women. One worked with me, and was also a fresh college grad at her first job, so for the first few months, she and I would walk together to work and back, a 30-minute walk or so. (Then I stopped walking together because I couldn’t take that woman anymore.) First thing out of her mouth when I met her: “I’m not like other women. I have a man’s mind. I think like a man.” Then on our walks, she would comment on every woman we’d pass on our way (it was a place with strict hours, so think a LOT of people walking down the same road at the same time) and comment on her clothes, body, the way she walked, whatever, she would just tear that woman to shreds and go straight to commenting on the next one. At no time did I ever hear her make a positive comment about any of those women. Not once. As naive as I was at 22, I soon was like, “wait a minute. Men don’t think like that! What is she talking about?” I did not know back then that “I’m not like other women” is an immediate red flag. She was the first to show me. I had probably said or thought that about myself on occasion before I met her, but she really opened my eyes to how gross it was.

    4. CeeKee*

      I think they’re heavy on co-opting the language of female empowerment in order to burnish their brand.

    5. Lizzy May*

      The patriarchy messes with men and women both. Women are so exposed to misogyny that they can easily internalize it.

      1. Kiki*

        I think sometimes it can be harsher from women because women internalize “the rules” and then are really frustrated when they see someone not following them. I know I was that way in my teens because I lived in a very conservative area. It took leaving the area for college and realizing I can live life however I want (and therefore so can everyone else) to chill out about it. So much happier now!

    6. Perpal*

      I’ve found many stories about people who claim to be ardent “Feminists” being super nasty to women on an individual level.
      To make matters more complicated, there’s many kinds of feminism – I’ve found that some seem to think women should adhere to old school male ideals rather than accepting that it should really be about choice and it’s ok to choose to be a mom, or be into fashion and makeup etc.
      There was the kerfluffle criticizing how female scientist obits mentioned more often domestic qualities than male scientist obits. I had to ask; does that mean the female scientist obits are WRONG, or that the old male ones were too one sided? I certainly value family and would want that included on any summary of my life!

      1. 2 Cents*

        At my OldJob, the woman in charge of Hr matters was the worst to me in the lead up to my maternity leave. And she had two kids herself, but back in the Stone Age, so she didn’t like that I was “getting paid not to work” (aka paid maternity leave to recover from a c-section!), then hassled me for stealing company time and resources for having the audacity to pump at work because I was breastfeeding.

        Tl; dr, there are shit people of every gender.

        1. Linzava*

          Ew, that’s terrible. The worst boss I ever had was a woman. A friend, when defending this boss told me that older women had to fight harder so they’re harder on young girls, my response was that that’s not a good excuse for being a terrible person.

          I don’t feel unequal to men, I’m not about to bend over and take it from someone who does.

          1. 2 Cents*

            Yeah, the whole “I had it rough so I’m going to make sure you have to struggle too” has always confused me as a way to celebrate making strides forward.

        2. Perpal*

          Yeah that’s awful.
          There seems to be two opposite reactions to bad experiences; “i put in my dues and so should you” vs “i hate that it happened and want to eliminate it for the next gen”

      2. Quill*

        Not to mention self proclaimed “feminists” have often been of the “feminism for white, ablebodied, straight, cisgender women” types…

        1. Perpal*

          Experiencing one form of discrimination does not make one immune towards perpetrating other forms of discrimination, as we see so often between people of different race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomics, health, etc.

    7. Gazebo Slayer*

      Reminds me of the now-fired founder of Thinx, a woman who made a lot of loud noise about female empowerment and then got busted for sexually harassing her female employees.

      1. The Original K.*

        Same with the Nasty Gal founder and the CEO who replaced her; there were lots of lawsuits alleging that she fired pregnant women for being pregnant, that the culture there was horribly toxic, and that the (female) CEO was vengeful and bitter when people quit or spoke negatively about the company.

        The notion that women all want other women to thrive and are supportive of other women is patently false. I’ve seen women throw each other under the bus in spectacular fashion.

        1. 2 Cents*

          Yep yep yep! Let’s stop with “well, CEO is a woman so she’d obviously act better.” Nope!

          I have a male OBGYN because the two female ones I had were both horrible in their own ways, including hurting me then NOT believing me that it hurt. Because, you know, they were women and the procedure didn’t bother them when they had it done *eyeroll*

          1. yala*

            Oh hey, I had the same experience! She was downright nasty and brusque.

            The male OB-GYN (recommended by a friend with similar issues) was very patient, and when some things were too much for me, he found alternate methods.

      2. Dahlia*

        If I’m not mistaken, they also did a whole lot of talking about being gender inclusive and then severely mistreated trans models they worked with.

    8. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I’m not even surprised. Didn’t research the company, but the caption they put on the photo had a Regina George vibe to it. It’s hard to explain, but the way it came across to me was, the only way someone would punch down that hard would be if they wanted to also make themselves look good. “See this jezebel? I’m not like her. Pick me.”

  7. Rusalka*

    OP #5’s Manager: “I’m going to need you to plan, coordinate, and PAY FOR YOUR OWN (?!) pizza party, mmmkay?”

    This is the opposite of motivational.

    1. Dan*

      That’s where I’m at… pizza I have to pay for at work isn’t a pizza “party”, it’s pizza “delivered”.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Yes. This is not a “party”, it’s “coworkers ordering their own lunch together”!! The manager should have paid if THE MANAGER wanted to throw a pizza party for their employees!

        Flames! On the side of my face!

    2. tamarack and fireweed*

      Yup. The OP has less of a coworker problem than a boss problem. If the boss wants them to organize a pizza party they have to open the petty cash or hand over a company cash card.

      1. persephoney*

        If it’s being led by the boss and presented as a treat for good work or for team building / morale boosting it really should be catered by the company. I’ve worked for lots of charities, which have a similar culture around discretionary spending, and any time it was presented as a treat or reward the cost was covered by the company, because otherwise what is the reward? I don’t see having to spend extra time with colleagues at my own expense any sort of reward, quite the opposite, in fact.

        We used to have semi-regular ‘Friday Pizza-days’ where we’d arrange a pizza delivery at lunch out of our own pocket and people could opt-in /out but the bosses were not in any way involved (unless they wanted to opt-in as an individual, of course).

        1. Allypopx*

          Yes. My coworker and I do delivery Friday and swap off paying. If my boss wants in (which she’s welcome to) she venmos whoever is paying since she’s not in the quasi-official rotation. THAT’S fine.

          ASSIGNING someone to coordinate and *pay upfront for* a pizza party for the department is not cool.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          That’s not how it works in government offices – taxypayer money is not used to provide parties or perks to employees. I’ts not a culture of spare discretionary spending, it’s that there are rules for how public funds can/cannot be used. There are rules that address the inclusion of embedded contractors, too.

          Even if technically allowed by regulations, most are discouraged from having the government pay for fear of people coloring outside the regs or public blowback if someone’s Insta goes viral. Some fed managers pay for things like this out of their own pocket; potlucks are fairly common.

          The government is a different animal. My husband pays for part of his “holiday party” every year, but his team is low-key and tends to either do potluck or a group lunch to the local wing joint.

          1. mrs__peel*

            Sure, but it’s pretty chintzy for a manager to call something a “party” and expect it to seem like a reward while demanding that their employees pay for it themselves.

            In my experience working in a federal office, it was common for the higher-paid staff members to pay out of their own pockets for occasional treats for the lower-paid staff (e.g., the judges would pay for holiday catering for their legal assistants and paralegals). We did informal potlucks and things as well, but they weren’t presented as rewards for a job well done.

        3. Environmental Compliance*

          It should be, yes, but many gov’t offices are not allowed to have any sort of budget for something like that (this would be considered a misuse of tax funds by many), so it would come out of the boss’s pocket directly.

          1. PennyLane*

            That explanation definitely makes sense, but then it should have come from the boss’ pocket if it’s something they wanted to do. Otherwise, as many have stated, it’s just them buying lunch together while spending said lunch hour at the office with coworkers which is certainly not a “party” no matter how much you may like your coworkers.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              Of course. I was explaining Persephony. While it doesn’t technically come out of taxpayer funds, there’s the perception that it is. In none of the gov’t agencies I worked in were we allowed to use ‘agency money’ to do this. However, all of my bosses would spot it from their own pocket if they wanted us to do it. Otherwise, it was definitely not a party and it was a we’re-all-getting-lunch-together thing.

            2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

              It’s not a party so much as a group order, and I’ve worked places where placing a group order, and paying for your share, is pretty common.

      2. Doopersoop*

        I work in a government office and I refuse to put something on my own personal card for reimbursement. I’m not that high up. I’ll always use my boss’s card for reimbursement, especially if it’s something he has tasked me to do. This letter had me noping out of the whole situation.

      3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        While that may be true, it doesn’t make it less sucky. Something phrased as a “party” should not be paid for by the employees. All they’re doing is ordering lunch together.

      4. Governmint Condition*

        It is correct that in many government offices in the U.S., this is how it works. In fact, in some places the boss can’t just pay for it himself, even if he wants to. It would be considered a benefit not specified in the union contract. For example, if the head of llama grooming bought pizza for his team, employees in alpaca social services, at the same salary grade as the llama groomers, could then demand that their boss buy pizza for that team, and an arbitrator would have to agree.
        As to the situation in the letter, in our office we would just end up collecting an extra dollar from everybody. Few, if any, would complain.

      5. sunshyne84*

        Yes, amongst the employees. Today we are having pizza for my team and the supervisor paid. If the whole office was having pizza, I’m not sure exactly where the money comes from, but we don’t pay. On the holidays, we either bring a dish or we pay to help with decorations and plates and sides while the company buys the meat.

    3. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

      Imma not getting the “party” part of this.

      The OP should not be out money but the entire set up, including the OP putting it on her **credit card** is nuts.

      1. No Tribble At All*

        I’d put it on my credit card for the reward points — but I have the budget to deal with a late reimbursement. No reimbursement at all is absurd.

    4. doreen*

      It’s totally not a pizza party. It’s “someone decided to order pizza, who’s in?”. I’m not clear on who referred to it as a “pizza party” ( manager or OP) and exactly how, but I wonder if that’s why Rupert isn’t coming up with the money. Because if I was told there was a “pizza party” at work on the same day , I would assume my manager had already ordered and paid the pizza and wouldn’t think I needed to tell anyone “I decided to go to X for lunch”. The idea of a manager planning something I’m supposed to contribute to, that I have no say in ( maybe I would have voted for Chinese) and that I find out about the day of is completely alien to me- and I’ve worked in government for 30 years.

        1. Life is Good*

          Maybe this was coworker’s way of passive/aggressively protesting the whole pay-for-your-own lunch “party”. I have to agree that I don’t get why this is called a party. The boss asked OP to organize it, then cover the cost and get reimbursed by coworkers????

          1. Observation :/*

            This seems farfetched. Why would you agree to attend, then back out as a show of protest? Seems like most people would not understand what you were getting at.

          2. Observer*

            That would be a totally jerk thing to do. I get protesting, although I’m not sure that it’s where I would waste energy, since he did have the option of just not agreeing to order. But an unvoiced “protest” that only winds up costing another person money is just garbage. It’s worse garbage than the whole non-party “party”. Which, to be clear, is also garbage.

        2. doreen*

          I’m not saying he’s right to do that- only that I can imagine someone hearing “pizza party today” , tuning out for the rest and sort of vaguely signifying agreement without even realizing that he was agreeing to $X per person. The OP shouldn’t be out the money in any event.

        3. Tequila Mockingbird*

          I belong to a running group that recently ordered personalized jackets for everyone. My friend is the group’s haberdasher and was in charge of placing the orders and collecting the money. After she placed the group’s order, two people backed out and said they didn’t want jackets after all, but it was too late to rescind their individual orders (the vendor was in a different country), so my friend told those two people sorry, you’ve got to pay for your jackets or our group loses money. Luckily, the two people coughed up the cash and there was no drama.

          This really isn’t rocket science. You order something for yourself, and someone else pays for it, you’ve got to pay them back. It’s a matter of integrity. Changing your mind at the last minute-after the order’s already been placed and someone else is holding the bill-is not cool and is frankly immature. Be an adult, apologize for inconveniencing them, pay them back, and do better next time.

    5. WellRed*

      Right? The manager certainly has the art of delegating (or passing the buck) down cold. I’m also wondering though, how much money we are talking about. Can’t the manager give her the $5 from petty cash to cover the coworker?

    6. PennyLane*

      Exactly what I was thinking! If the manager wanted to have a pizza party for everyone, they (or the company) should be paying for it.

      Also, I can’t tell from the wording of the letter, but I wonder if people assumed it was something being bought for them as a treat and maybe the person backed out after realizing they were just buying their own pizza.

    7. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

      Ugh I am sorry this happened the OP, but hopefully they will never ever pay for anything like this out of their own wallet again. If the boss wants this done they need to front all of the cash or a credit card themselves.

    8. EngineerMom*

      Yeah, I was puzzled by that, too. If this is a department pizza party, presumably that comes out of the department’s budget, or the manager picks up the tab personally.

    9. Glitsy Gus*

      I had an office where we would do this on occasion. It wasn’t really phrased as a perk, though, more just a convenient way to get food and then we all take our break together rather than scattered times so it was a more social thing.

      That said, everyone pitched in the money BEFORE the order was placed to avoid this exact scenario. I really hope OP gets reimbursed, but I would highly recommend having everyone put in the money before the order if your team decides to do this again. That or make it clear you can’t front with your credit card, someone else needs to.

  8. nnn*

    For #1, even if it were any of your business (which it isn’t), and even if you were interpreting the situation correctly (which we have no way of knowing), it would be a self-resolving situation.

    If someone is abusing disability leave and the employer decides to take action, what action would the employer take? They’d probably dismiss the employee. But, because disability leave is complex, they couldn’t dismiss them right away – they’d have to prove that they’re abusing the disability leave, which would take time.

    So the outcome would be either the employee is dismissed after a period of time, or the employee isn’t dismissed, and either stays on disability leave or eventually returns to work.

    You suspect this employee is not planning to come back from disability leave, which would mean she would be leaving after a period of time. If your suspicions are incorrect, she will either stay on disability or eventually return to work.

    Regardless of whether you speak up, the ultimate outcome would be the same. The only thing that would be changed by your speaking up is you’d run the risk of looking petty and vindictive, and, if your employer chooses to act on your comments, they’d open themselves up to, at a minimum, a complex legal situation.

    1. NPOQueen*

      Disability leave is so hard to get. I was on FMLA and then short term last year, and I had to provide paperwork from three different doctors who all independently confirmed my diagnosis. I also quit rather than returning because I had a coworker harassing me about my leave and how I was taking advantage of the system. Because disability is usually provided by an outside insurance company, they are especially rigorous in checking on your condition. Just because you are disabled doesn’t mean your life stops. Plus she has a family? These things don’t magically pause just because you’re ill.

      Go with your original feeling, and if you still believe it’s abuse, like you said, karma will come for her. Karma comes for us all.

  9. BonzaSonza*

    I have a close family member with an invisible illness. It’s real, and debilitating, and entitles her to a disabled parking permit (among other things), but because she is in her 20s and doesn’t use a wheelchair she is subjected to verbal abuse by ignorant members of the public on an almost weekly basis.

    I also happen to work in disability insurance industry and have a better than average understanding of the kinds of things that can impact functional capacity.

    The nature of this person’s illness is none of your business. None. I’m also dismayed by the casual dismissal of the stress/exhaustion. Mental illness is just as real and debilitating as physical illness, but has terrible stigma attached and is another ‘invisible’ illness. You wouldn’t shame someone for having cancer but you do shame mental health problems as abusing the system?

    Finally, did it what occur to you that they may be forced to seek their house and assets to pay the very real expenses of health care?

    It’s possible to still have compassion for people you dislike, and even if you can’t do that you can still refrain from making a bad situation worse for them.

    1. Fae Kamen*

      I’m with you on all of this, but just want to add that there is indeed a lot of shaming and dismissiveness around cancer and other physical illnesses and disabilities. To the OP (and everyone): Ability is not black and white, and health is not an on/off switch. People may be able to do some things but not others, or in moderation but not a lot, or in certain situations but not all, or with a lot of effort but not all day. Trust that people know their bodies, their minds, and their wellness better than you do. When you eventually become disabled or sick—inevitable if you live long enough—you may start to resent rigid and simplistic judgments about what you should or shouldn’t be able to do.

      1. BonzaSonza*

        I agree with your comments too.

        I meant to highlight that someone who is diagnosed with cancer is considered unlucky, whereas someone with crippling depression or anxiety is not. They can face silent judgement, be asked why they can’t ‘snap out of it and smile’, or that it’s somehow their own fault they can’t cope.

          1. ThatGirl*

            yeah, first people want to know what kind, then they’re happy to tell you what you did to contribute to that diagnosis.

            1. Quill*

              And it’s usually diet based! Because apparently *checks notes* women are supposed to live on kale.

          2. Gazebo Slayer*

            Yeah, they get a lot of crap about how they aren’t positive enough and how their negative thoughts and feelings caused or are worsening the cancer. Gross.

        1. WS*

          No, sorry, as a cancer survivor I can tell you that we do get all those comments as well, plus being told that it’s our own negative thoughts that gave us cancer, and then not being positive enough is stopping us getting well! It gets worse when the cancer is gone but you’re not 100% better and Insta-worthy. Sometimes people suck, and comparing one group to another is usually just going to expose that, rather than showing how much worse one group has it.

        2. Asenath*

          Some people don’t hesitate to tell cancer patients that they’re responsible for their own illness because of something they did or didn’t do or eat or drink. Nosiness and rudeness about illness is commonplace.

        3. MatKnifeNinja*

          Even with cancer, you still get blow back from dirt bags.

          My coworker (who I commented about above), was off a second time after the initial surgery. Partly because she was wore out going to chemo. She said she could have went to work. That wasn’t what was keeping home. It was her colostomy bag issues. Her stoma was in a spot the bag had trouble staying on. It was an odd shape. Had allergic reactions to the adhesives. It was an absolute night mare.

          Nothing like having 16 oz of liquid stool go everywhere because the bag wouldn’t stay stuck.

          Eventually, it all worked out, it just took much longer than most. Lots of fine tuning this and that.

          My friend said, she got cancer but none of the pity benefits of having cancer, because she didn’t look “sick”.

          Mental health issues are always solvable by boot strapping, and not being a drama llama. (eye roll)

        4. BonzaSonza*

          I was intending to comment on the OPs dismissiveness towards mental health as a reason for needing medical leave (and the general trend of blame/shame at a society level), but it has come across badly.

          I used cancer as an example as it’s something that generally provokes compassion and sympathy.
          I understand that’s not always true and it was not my intention to come across as dismissive of people’s individual experiences with cancer. I’m sorry if I’ve offended anyone.

          1. WS*

            It’s cool – not offensive at all. Mental health issues do indeed carry a lot of stigma, but unfortunately people can be awful about absolutely anything!

        5. Fae Kamen*

          Yep, I was responding to exactly that: people with physical illnesses do face the treatment you associate with mental illnesses. Others have already weighed in here so I won’t belabor the point, but you might enjoy Illness as Metaphor by Susan Sontag.

      2. LittleRedRidingHuh...?*

        THIS!! In capital letters.
        I’ve been in this situation. Freshly abandoned by my partner, 2 children under the age of 5, debilitating back pain due to a fractured vertibrae and fibromyalgia. Looking at me, you’d never see the amount of pain and mental anguish I’m in on a daily basis, but it’s real oh so real for me.
        Was on almost 3 months disability leave, pain “adjustment” therapy and rehabilitation. And then my employer fired me, because I was still in the probation time (6 months) and they had to cut their losses (logically I understand the decision, but this dragged me down so much more) I had to sell everything that wasn’t bolted down to make ends meet. And then the vultures came to feast. 2 ex colleagues made it their mission to discredit me by telling anyone who’d listen, how I was faking my illness and taking advantage of the system, because (and I quote) she does not look sick, she still has the time to sell her shit online and her kids aren’t even looking disheveled. Can’t be all that had if she manages this well.

        I mean Wtf?!?!

        1. Birch*

          I’m so sorry you had to go through that! This is part of what prevents people from being more open about their illnesses and even seeking help sometimes–that idea that you have to perform being at rock bottom in order for anyone to take you seriously that you’re struggling.

          I also hope OP realizes that coworker’s life, health, and kids are more important than her job.

          1. LittleRedRidingHuh...?*

            Thank you for your kind words. Means a lot! :)
            And I too hope OP sees every comment made by people who live thru this every day and maybe does a ” thought readjustment”.

      3. Invisible Disability*

        Yeah, exactly. When I was suffering from debilitating anxiety/depression/PTSD, I couldn’t work because being stuck in one place in my head trying to do intellectual work exasperated my currentondition, but I would spend hours at the gym because the endorphins from exercise were one of the only things that gave me relief.

        I was always terrified that someone I knew professionally would run into me at the gym and give me a hard time and spread rumors.

    2. stampysmom*

      I also have a handicap permit and look just fine (when my arm is covered). My problem is that I lost my shoulder ball and upper humerus to bone cancer along with my deltoid and some other muscles. I’m not a candidate for a prosthetic shoulder. So all is fine except in winter where I simply CANNOT fall or risk major compromise to what’s left. When its very icy and I’m forced to go out I will park in the handicap spot. I’ve definitely had some looks. Luckily no one has said anything.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      A relative of mine has a handicap permit and has for a long time, because she has multiple health conditions and tires very easily. It isn’t always possible for her to park further away. By the time she is finished with her errand, in a very large lot, she may be too enervated to make it back to her car. They don’t just give those things out like candy to anyone who asks. If someone has one, they probably have it for a reason, and that isn’t my business.

      I am lucky to be perfectly capable of walking to the back of the lot, so it doesn’t bother me at all to park there. There are often small advantages to it. Not being close to any other vehicles that can ding your door, a mini workout, and when I went for fish and chips at the mall in boiling hot weather last Friday, one of only three spots that had any shade. :)

  10. gracak*

    LW 1, I am on permanent total disability with the SSA. It is not easy to get, and it took four years, dozens of doctors appointments, and a hearing in front of a judge to get that label.

    I hear all the time people comment on how I can do what I’m doing if I’m “supposedly” disabled. I’m not in bed all the time. In eight years, I’ve had to move, I’ve had to go to court, appointments, travel. The way I tackle those things is different and they take me longer because I have to rest a lot. People see me out on good days, but no one is there to see the days I can’t leave the house. It’s confirmation bias. Since I’m only social when I’m feeling well, people only ever see me looking well. But the idea that someone has to look sick and act sick to be sick is an ableist view.

    People with chronic, or shorter term health issues often deal with being told they don’t seem sick enough. IF someone is abusing the sick leave program, what’s the worse that can happen? Your employer loses some money. Perhaps they aren’t being totally fair and ethical. But none of those things affect you directly, and there’s always an element of trust with giving sick leave.

    But think of what’s at stake at assuming someone is lying or faking or exaggerating when they aren’t. To someone already suffering, struggling (health, but often also socially, financially, etc) that they would pretend to have this awful thing happen to them to score a free vacation is a really serious and horrible thing.

    I have had so many people say that about me (including coworkers at one point) and it really drove me to tears. I would have given anything to have my health back, to be able to work and earn money, to go back to normal life, and to have people deny my experience that way was salt in a wound.

    You might check out “ableism” because it deals with some of the ways that people can talk to and act around people with disabilities (short and long term) that are no more fair than talking in an ageist, or racist, or classist way.

    1. tamarack and fireweed*

      Excellent answer, I think.

      There’s just so much more potential to do harm in case you’re falsely insinuating someone is taking advantage compared to the good you do when you catch someone out who really is faking it.

      Restraint and discretion are key tools here.

    2. Harper the Other One*

      I agree – I would rather see one ACTUAL faker get compassionate treatment than ALL of the people who need the leave be viewed through suspicious eyes. Sooner or later things will catch up to the faker, but you can never undo the stress it causes to people who are already working harder than you can imagine to keep the day to day routines of life going.

      1. Tisiphone*

        Same.

        Why is it our culture is so invested in making sure that people can’t have nice things unless judgemental busybodies approve of them? It results in nobody having nice things.

        Please, LW#1, be kind, compassionate, and don’t add to their already considerable stress.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        This–and looking at it suspiciously may mean someone else doesn’t get accommodations they truly need, or they’re questioned when they shouldn’t be. That’s one reason I get so mad at people who sell those fake support animal items so some selfish dip can drag her nippy, ill-mannered Pomeranian every damn where.

    3. Observer*

      I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with all that.

      I’d just point out that the the likelihood of an employer facing a significant loss due to someone faking a disability is low enough that it’s really not something that most people need to even think about. Yes, there are some exceptions, but none that even remotely apply in a situation like this.

      Which makes the impulse to start yelling “fraud” so much worse.

    4. Blueberry*

      Thank you so much for this illustrative comment, for sharing your experiences with us. I wish you as many good days as possible.

  11. TFlenderson*

    #2 — A former boss of mine rejected a candidate because boss found a bikini pic on candidate’s Facebook, and told her that was the sole reason for rejection.

    1. Not Australian*

      The candidate was probably grateful not to have got involved with such a small-minded employer, though.

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        She woulda been more grateful if she didn’t have to wade through all those shits in the first place just to get a job that pays the bills though, I’ll bet.

    2. MK*

      That sucks, but judging a candidate on their social media, even unfairly, is something that happens. But posting that photo as a ”don’t” warning to other candidates?

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        I think saying “oh it’s unfair but it happens” is kind of a cop-out, though. If we all said that about every shitty thing that employers do, nothing would ever change. Of course everybody can’t fight every battle, but when an employer does something as blatantly shitty as rejecting a qualified candidate over a bikini picture that they went looking for, why should everyone just shrug and go “oh well, that sucks”? If companies that do shitty, unfair things never get any pushback, they’ll just keep doing them.

        1. Jax*

          Companies routinely disqualify applicants every single day for all variations of unprofessionalism. This situation was egregious in that the employer solicited Instangram followings then publicly shamed an applicant. But typos or poor grooming or racist Tweets or a reputation for burning bridges etc get people removed from consideration every day.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            100% agree. Had this company chosen to (privately) pass on her application because of her photo, that would have been their prerogative. Where they effed up royally was by trying to publicly ridicule her over a photo they solicited and looked for (not to mention then cropped, resized, and captioned it).

            1. NoNoNoNo*

              Yep. And I really hope a photo of someone wearing a bathing suit in a pool is not being compared to racists tweets…

          2. Observer*

            That’s true. But that doesn’t really apply to a picture of someone in a bikini at a pool. I mean, yes, an employer CAN do that, and quite a few do, but it’s ridiculous.

          3. EventPlannerGal*

            It is not unprofessional to post a photograph of yourself in a swimsuit on your own Instagram. I also very much hope you realise how messed up it is to compare a swimsuit photo to expressions of racism.

        2. Colette*

          What do you see as the alternative?

          There are lots of reasons why people get disqualified. If they are unreasonable (e.g. a swimsuit photo on social media unrelated to work), people who already work there can push back, but that’s about it. There can be a lot of nuance that make a significant difference in these stories, and it would be difficult to legislate a solution (for example).

          1. Traffic_Spiral*

            I don’t think it’s the sort of thing you have to have a law on – or at least, not a new law (basic sexual harassment/discrimination laws might cover this). It was handled perfectly – publicly named and shamed, now everyone’s learned a valuable lesson.

          2. EventPlannerGal*

            At no point did I suggest legislation and I’m not sure where you’re getting that I did. What I’m saying is that if the public reaction to these stories is “oh well, sucks but that’s how it is”, then it will indeed continue to be how it is. The strong public reaction against this company in this instance is a good thing, and I’m glad to see that most other people aren’t reacting as though this is just “how it is”. It’s not and it shouldn’t be.

        3. Mike C.*

          Yeah, it’s a total cop-out and I’m getting tired of people continually posting that comment. You shouldn’t normalize bad behavior.

          1. EventPlannerGal*

            Exactly. We should be holding companies to higher standards, as has mostly been happening with this incident, not just saying “oh well, it’s unfair but that’s how it is!”.

    3. MatKnifeNinja*

      My teacher friend lost out on two jobs due to her Cancun honeymoon pictures on Facebook.

      Both interviewers told her that.

      And they weren’t panties on me head, hammered to oblivion images. Empty booze glasses on table and silly images with spouse should not make people clutch pearls.

      1. Talia*

        Teachers tend to get stricter rules about that than everyone else– it’s not fair or right, but the country’s distressingly puritanical moral streak seems to unload itself extra heavily on teachers.

        1. Rob aka Mediancat*

          A good friend of mine, a teacher, has no public social media accounts under her own name for exactly this reason — this way she can publicly post on social issues and about her outside hobby that some folks in her district likely wouldn’t approve of. (On the order of her being a professional poker player, or a pro wrestler, though neither.)

      2. Quill*

        My advice for teachers is to never, ever, ever list things on social media under your full name. If it isn’t the district snooping it will be someone’s disgruntled parent after you told their kid that their essay matched a sparknotes entry word for word.

        (And most of the teachers I know go by first + middle, in some cases first + maiden name.)

    4. irene adler*

      This begs the question, are current employees let go because of pictures they post on social media that boss decides are not professional? Is this policy stated in the employee handbook?

      Only difference between an employee and a job candidate is how well the boss knows them. So they could be turning away an awesome employee over ignorant prejudice.

    5. Glitsy Gus*

      Any time I start job hunting I go through and double check all the privacy settings on my social media are as locked down as humanly possible. I know not everyone can do this, if you are looking for a media job or something where your online presence is something to be taken into account you need to keep at least a degree of openness, but my desk job isn’t media related at all so I don’t want it to even be a factor.

      That sucks your former boss did that. It isn’t right and it shouldn’t happen, but I also cover my butt online because I know the current world I live in is not as fair as I want it to be.

  12. CmdrShepard4ever*

    OP 4: unfortunately when dealing with East and West coast employees there is only a small window of overlap time to have meetings/calls. Assuming a 9 to 5 schedule for both east and west coast people then: 9am west coast time is 11am east coast time, and 5pm east coast time is 3 pm west coast time. Earliest meeting should start is 9:00pst/11:00est. The latest a meeting should start is 2:00pst/4:00est. Assuming an hour meeting. Possible meeting times is 9:00 to 2:00 pst, aka 11:00 to 4:00 est, that is a 5 hour window. Most people take lunch between 12 to 1, some as early as 11am or as late as 2pm.

    If you exclude lunch times. For West coast that means only meeting times would be 9:00pst/11:00 est to 11pst/1est (2hr block) or meetings at 2pst/4est (1hr block) so the east coast lunch time gets screwed over
    For east coast people it would mean meetings at 9pst/11est (1hr block) or 12pst/2est to 2pst/4est (2 hr block) so the west coast lunch time gets screwed over.

    If you try to protect both west coast and east coast lunch time that means only meeting time would be 9pst/11est to 10pst/12est (1hr block) or 2pst/4est to 3pst/5est (1hr block). Only giving two possible meeting times for multiple people across timezones is usually not feasible.

    If you can take lunch before or after the lunch meeting. I occasionally have working lunch meetings, when I do I always take a lunch break on top of it. I am hourly so I’m in a slightly different situation then you Im guessing you are exempt.

    OP 5: I have been in your shoes before. Not at work but in my personal life. Now I don’t usually pay for group stuff in advance, and will only book/pay for stuff once I have the money from everyone. My suggestion for next time is to figure out the price per person and collect before placing the order.

    1. Approval is optional*

      The LW says she is still taking west coast meetings though -‘I’m simply declining any requests for a lunchtime meeting with the exception of our west coast colleagues…’. It’s non-critical ‘local’ meetings she’s started declining.

    2. Maria Lopez*

      There is a three hour difference between east and west coast, so 9 AM west coast is 12 PM east coast.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        You are right my mistake, I think that makes it even harder then. I am on central time. I have had to schedule several meetings between myself and coworkers on PST and EST it is a pain trying to consider everyone’s schedule.

        Assuming a 9 to 5 schedule for both east and west coast people then: 9am west coast time is 12am east coast time, and 5pm east coast time is 2pm west coast time. Earliest meeting should start is 9:00pst/12:00est. The latest a meeting should start is 1:00pst/4:00est. Assuming an hour meeting. There is no meeting time that doesn’t interfere into someone’s lunch time. Most people go to lunch between 12 and 1, I usually go at 1pm, but sometimes I have taken lunch as early as 11am or as late as 2pm.

        If you exclude lunch times. For West coast that means only meeting times would be 9:00pst/12:00 est to 11pst/2est (2hr block) so the east coast lunch time gets screwed over.
        For east coast people it would mean meetings at 11pst/2est to 1pst/4est (2 hr block) so the west coast lunch time gets screwed over. There is no meeting time that doesn’t interfere into someone’s lunch time.

        If you expand the work day to be 8am to 6pm for everyone that means you can schedule a meeting at 8pst/11est, or at 2pst/5est, that is only a 2 hour block when it does not interfere with most common lunch time.

        Someone did point out that OP is still taking west coast meetings during lunch, that is good. But sometimes even with people on the same timezone in a small office (about 6 people) we have to schedule meetings during lunch.

    3. TechWorker*

      Ha I am Europe based and work with a load of folks on the east coast, I wish they had anywhere near this amount of consideration. (Re: ‘the latest a meeting should start in 4pm). 5pm meetings – fine. 6pm – annoying but doable. 7pm – now standard one day a week. As happened yesterday, a 6.30 that just gets turned into 7.30 last minute.. massive pain in the arse… but obviously 11.30am a very reasonable meeting time for them… :p

      1. Doc in a Box*

        Yeah, transcontinental or transatlantic meetings are terrible to schedule. My brother (US East Coast) was working on a European project a few years ago and had meetings at 4AM about once a week!

      2. Avasarala*

        I’m in Asia and we work with the US. We regularly get called in to calls 10pm-2am, or 6-9am. I wish they had anywhere near this level of consideration. They don’t even try to keep the meetings extra focused or let us sign off early and we are too polite to just do it. Sigh.

        1. Antilles*

          I don’t know the cultural context involved here, either with the country or your specific multinational company, but could you simply ask?
          I’m regularly on conference calls here in the US and it’s extremely common to have someone either request to shift the schedule around (“Just a heads-up, I can’t stay for the whole meeting, so I’d appreciate it if we could move the discussion of sales strategy earlier in the schedule”) or just announce that they’re signing off once their part of the conference call is dealt with (“Okay, now that we’ve finished the teapot survey discussions, is there anything else you guys need me for? If not, I’m going to drop off.”).

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            This is how we do it at my multinational company. People hop on and off calls all the time if it’s too early when it starts or too late. In fact, next week, I’m going to be on calls from 9-10pm and 10:30-11:30pm to accommodate the schedules of my Australian and Singaporean colleagues. Sometimes it’s just really difficult to get everyone during their individual, optimal times.

          2. Avasarala*

            The Asia team doesn’t have the cultural background to interrupt a meeting or ask everyone to reschedule for something personal. And the US team doesn’t think to tell them it’s OK to do that. Once the Europe representative dropped off mid call and the Asia team was amazed! You can just do that?! (Here, I would never interrupt a meeting with people higher than me to say “I’m done working now”, that would come across very cavalier and selfish and obtuse.)

        2. Lora*

          This. I’m in the US and regularly have 9-11pm teleconference meetings with Asia, so I feel your pain. At one point people were trying to call me at 3am for questions that were definitely not, “what do we do if the place has burnt to the ground and everyone’s dead?” level of urgency, and my boss had to explain to the site managers that if it’s that important they can call my counterpart in Europe who has only 6 hours time difference.

        3. Gumby*

          I used to have a weekly 10:30 p.m. meeting with some people in India. When I asked if we could move it an hour earlier, I was told no because it would be inconvenient for them. They worked for a contracting company that my company hired so I probably could have pushed back by going up a level or two but I decided to just accept that bit of ridiculousness. (10:30 p.m. here is 11 a.m. there. But it was just toooo hard for them to be ready for a meeting at 10 a.m. I’m still annoyed at that. And it was almost 10 years ago.)

          1. JustaTech*

            My SO had a team in India that did all of their testing. For testing the 12 hour time difference was great, but setting up meeting times was a challenge. No matter what it’s early for one group and late for the other, so for a while it was the US team calling in at 8pm, then it was the India team calling in at 9pm.

      3. Colette*

        I’m on Eastern time, and in a past job, I worked with people in Scotland and in California. Most meetings happened between 11 – 1 my time, which was annoying but understandable since that was the overlap time for those 3 time zones.

      4. Leo*

        Yes! my life for seven years in tech so far. But add west coast too. Meh – it kind of sucks but it comes with the territory. I’d far rather be living in Europe.

      5. JustaTech*

        I’ve had the East Coast office weaponize the time difference to avoid having West Coast people in on a project. “Oh, the only time we could possibly have this meeting is at 9am Eastern.”
        They sure were surprised when people called in from home in their jammies.

    4. Zip Silver*

      Yeah I’m questioning OP’s lunch schedule here. If she’s as high up on the pecking order as she says, why aren’t her lunch hours flexible? I’m middle management and I basically set my own schedule.

      1. doreen*

        Maybe her lunch hours are flexible as far as the employer is concerned – but maybe an 11 am or 2 pm lunch doesn’t work for her personally.

      2. EPLawyer*

        When I was working for someone else and salaried, I just took lunch when available. Okay sometimes it was 3 pm. but I took it. If OP is using the time to run errands and make calls, those can happen at any time of the day. Then eat during the meeting, or fit it in as usual.

        Of course I supprt all pushback against unecessary meetings. If it can be done in an email, no reason for everyone to troop to the conference room to talk in person.

      3. Lily Rowan*

        Sure, I set my own schedule, too, but I’m pretty beholden to meeting schedulers. But I almost never have meetings straight through from 11-2, so there’s always time for lunch somewhere in there.

    5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I work on the east coast, and we have people all over the country. I don’t like lunch time meetings either, but sometimes it’s inevitable and I just have to suck it up and deal. Not to mention depending on the day, I could go to lunch at noon, or sometimes as late as 2. As someone who has to schedule a lot of meetings with people who are really busy, it’s a job in and of itself. I think this is just something OP needs to accept…or find a new job that has more of a rigid schedule for everyone.

    6. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

      I wish I only had to deal with scheduling with people in the Americas…try having teammates in Europe and India. We alternate who gets screwed by times and try to block off one or two days a week this might happen to make it more fair, so no one has to get up insanely early or stay up insanely late all the time if a call is absolutely necessary. But it seems a little excessive to have a large joined up, hourlong meeting every day. We also changed this so we have a big meeting less frequently (2 times a month max) so it’s less pressure for everyone to be present for every single thing. But definitely take an hour when these meetings are over. If you find there is no hour between 11-2, talk to your manager about why this is all actually necessary, or if it’s just that no one is pushing back. They have to give you a break, by law.

    7. Probably Taking This Too Seriously*

      I worked at a company with a similar set up (and it was worse, because we had offices with all US continental time zones) and I just learned to either bring a salad to a meeting or eat at 11:30 or 2 or whenever I could find a free moment. I think it’s just part of the job in this set up. But this post makes me grateful for my new role where that never happens!!

  13. tamarack and fireweed*

    OP#3 – yeah don’t do that. I’ve been on the interviewer side of situations where I felt like I had to wrest control of the interview from the candidate constantly. Even for an otherwise excellent candidate that would be deeply orange flag.

    This is not to say that in the hands of a superb conversationalist the technique might not be a way to open a smooth conversational situation that’s a pleasure for everyone. But even then, reflecting back on how the interview went, I’d be wondering if the warm afterglow wasn’t masking something.

    (This said I have never hired and will never hire, say, sales people. Maybe it’s different if you hire for a role where putting the negotiation partner at ease is a major requirement. I hire geeks and nerds, like myself.)

    1. Zip Silver*

      Being conversational isn’t really terrible overall, although it definitely depends on the position you’re interviewing for.

      Similar to OP’s question about being the questioner, the best piece of sketchy interview advice that I’ve always followed (and is 5 for 5 on being successful for me) is to take a shot (singular, don’t get drunk) of whiskey about 20 minutes before walking into an interview (and have some coffee to cover the smell) so you’re calm and chatty with your interviewers, rather than being a nervous Nelly. YMMV

      1. Observation :/*

        Is this a joke? Anyway you should not have coffee OR whiskey breath during an interview, so ???

    2. CM*

      I think it’s a good technique for the END of the interview when they say, “Any questions?” Then you can show that you’ve done your homework by saying, “I noticed on the company website that …” and asking a question about that. But I can’t think of a single good question that would need to come at the beginning, except for maybe, “Before we get started, could you show me to the restroom?” As an interviewer, I’d be put off by someone trying to take control like that.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I preach constantly that interviews are two-way streets, but there are still conventions about how they’ll unfold. As an interviewer, I’m inviting you to a meeting because I have a slate of questions for you. In most cases, it’s going to come across strangely to try to blow up the agenda for how I’ve structured the time I’ve invited you to participate in.

    3. Consultant Catie*

      I also feel like all of these “interview tricks” are like “diet tricks” – there’s really only one way to accomplish your goal, and that’s to put in the work – be a good candidate, eat a balanced diet, exercise in the way that’s best for your body, etc.

      1. Dahlia*

        I’m darkly snickering at this. There’s some irony in being told you’re just doing it wrong when the actual data says it just doesn’t work and it’s not in control. There’s a metaphor there.

  14. Beatrice*

    #4 – I block the lunch hour off on my calendar. I rarely accept meetings during that time, but the exceptions are usually in one of the following situations:
    >The organizer is above me on the org chart and my attendance seems to be necessary.
    >The organizer is in another time zone (especially if they’re fair about picking times that aren’t in their favor sometimes)
    >The topic of the meeting is exceptionally urgent. (Everything is urgent around here – so I define urgency in this case as ‘this level of urgency might happen once a month at most, more likely once every two or three months.’)
    >The topic of the meeting is a problem that I or someone on my team caused or are responsible for correcting.
    >The meeting is 4 hours or more, and that length of time is necessary, and the meeting itself is necessary. In this case, if lunch is not obviously provided, I ask about it, unless there are clear budget reasons why it wouldn’t be provided. If someone is just being stingy about it and I have influence to wield to deal with that, I use it.

    Also, if the meeting doesn’t meet one of the above criteria, and I am one of the most senior/influential people invited, I take on the task of speaking up about it and asking the person to find another time that is not the lunch hour to meet. Someone senior to me did that to a serial lunch-scheduler back in the day, and I am still grateful and make a point of doing it myself where I can.

    1. SarahKay*

      Beatrice, you’ve very neatly summed up what I came here to say, and how I treat lunch time and meetings scheduled then.

      OP#4, it obviously depends on how visible your calendar is – ours just show Busy/Tentative/Available/Out of Office, but not what/who we’re Busy with. So, I just created a recurring meeting called “Lunch”, for myself only, at lunch time every day.
      Like Beatrice, I’ll accept meeting invitations where there’s a good reason to do so; otherwise I just politely decline saying that I’m already booked at that time. I may also add something like “I make sure to keep my calendar updated, so just check for a time slot when I’m showing as available and I’ll be able to accept.”
      I do also benefit from having the option to take lunch whenever suits me, so sometimes I’ll accept a meeting invitation and then just move my Lunch entry back an hour. If that’s an option for you then that may help, but I know it can vary as to how flexible offices are – and doesn’t help at all if you’re invited to a three hour meeting from midday to 3pm!

      1. Colette*

        If your calendar does show what you’re doing, you can mark it as private (assuming you use Outlook).

    2. Trout 'Waver*

      The fact that OP4 describes the meetings as rambling and inefficient and always go over is enough to not attend, in my book. My personal criteria for meetings I will attend are one of the following:

      1. Are called by my boss, or anyone at the VP or executive level.
      2. Have a clear purpose and agenda articulated in the meeting invite and I can help that purpose.
      3. Are called by people I know to run meetings well.
      4. Are called ad hoc to address a crisis that must be resolved immediately and I can help resolve that crisis.

      I don’t care so much about lunch because I just take my lunch before or after the meeting if required. If it goes several hours, including the lunch hour, I’m senior enough to have lunch provided and will readily do so.

      Honestly, as a senior manager, I think OP4 has the standing to ask for an agenda and then decline the meeting if no agenda or a “discuss X” agenda is provided. OP4 also has the standing to get up and leave if the meeting runs over.

      1. Beatrice*

        Yep, right on. If the person has a history of not using meeting time wisely, I’m not giving them my lunch time.

        I work in an extremely meeting-heavy environment. If I don’t take lunch between 12-1, I might not get another chance to eat. I don’t actually mind missing the occasional meal, but it’s a slippery slope and I’ve learned to be choosy about when and for whom I will do it. I also try to be mindful of the example I’m setting as a leader. I don’t want my team missing breaks more than rarely.

    3. Ro*

      Yep! That’s exactly how I handle it too. If a meeting request doesn’t fit any of those criteria I politely suggest an alternate time. And if they doesn’t work I may beg off of the meeting. Luckily that almost never happens. We’re a global company with high workloads so people here are generally good about rescheduling. I don’t even have to mention why I need a different time.

    4. a1*

      I’d add another criteria – they meeting involves a large number of people where coordinating schedule to find just one spot free is very difficult. If someone is trying to get 15 people into one meeting, and they all need to be there, finding a spot that works for everyone can be very hard. Some people may even need to rearrange their schedule for that. Asking to change a meeting like that needs a very good reason and “I’ll have to take lunch/pick up dry cleaning an hour later” isn’t it.

      1. Beatrice*

        Yep, I make exceptions for that one sometimes too, but it really depends on the situation. If they’re pressed for time because they should have scheduled the meeting two weeks ago and it’s only hard to find a time because they’re scheduling one day in advance…I’m not sympathetic. And if they’re being hardnosed about that particular time and not accommodating by doing things like setting a call-in number, sending information in advance about the agenda and a clear objective and providing any reading materials I can peruse to be better prepared and shorten the meeting, or if they’re obviously overlooking alternatives like having separate conversations with marketing, sales, and accounting instead of having everyone in the same room…I’m less inclined to accommodate.

    5. Happy Lurker*

      Beatrice and Trout Waver are spot on. I also saw that the poster said the meetings were rambling and inefficient. This is probably the biggest problem. I hate sitting and listening to people blabber on but to add the discomfort of my stomach growling and a hunger headache. I would absolutely continue to do what you describe in your letter OP. Protect your time. Wasteful meetings drive me nuts! Good luck.

  15. Wren*

    I think the thing I’m most confused and annoyed about regarding OP#1 is that I can’t find a single mention of how her disability leave is impacting OP#1 in any way. I can almost forgive some resentment if there were talk of repeated missed meetings, everyone forced to take on too much work, or projects being delayed. But I’ve read the letter four times now and all I can see is someone being bitter and nosy for no reason. As someone with a lifetime disability/chronic illness, that attitude makes me feel kind of sick (pun unintended).

    1. TechWorker*

      Plus it just makes no sense even if OP does have the full picture? If her colleague is off work with stress and exhaustion then (especially if that stress and exhaustion is work related) selling some furniture on eBay is not even remotely related or even remotely as taxing as working a full day! It’s like saying ‘well I saw her in a supermarket so she can’t be stressed’ – it’s not the same level of task…

    2. Quandong*

      I think LW1’s dislike and disapproval of their coworker is so strong that LW1 actually can’t contain it, hence this letter to Alison. I hope LW1 gets a shock reading the responses and takes a good hard look at themselves.

      1. AnonAndFrustrated*

        Sometimes we like and disapprove of fellow coworkers because they’ve given us ample reason to do so. People who do scam the system, steal company time, perform 10 hrs of work per week for 40 hrs of pay, sleep at their desk, spend hours in the bathroom, take time off without using leave for it…so many of those people exist in the workplace and they are morale/trust busters for everyone else. And they often seem to just get away with all of it most of the time due to bad managers. So I do sympathize with OP1 on some level. It’s frustrating to be in that position.

        1. Don’t get salty*

          As we’ve heard many times before here, the issue is usually bad management; the individual is just a red herring. And filing false accusations for any reason makes you just as bad an employee.

  16. MamaSarah*

    I think the big red flag here was being ask to provide a link to your personal social media…what I wear on my personal time is not my employer’s – or perspective employer’s business. And mastermind? Rebellious? Ballsy? Ass handed to them? None of this language is concise or “professional”. I felt like I was reading an some extreme sports blog.

    1. YetAnotherUsername*

      There are many confusing things about this story but the thing I find most confusing is why a woman – led business thinks “ballsy” is a positive description.

      Balls are so weak. The slightest tap and they will bring down a big strong man. They’re literally the weakest part of the entire system. Calling someone ballsy should really be considered an insult!

      1. SarahKay*

        I’ve always love the Judi-Dench-playing-M line from one of her earlier James Bond films, when someone suggests she doesn’t have the balls for the job and she replies “Perhaps, but the advantage is I don’t have to think with them all the time”.

          1. AuroraLight37*

            I stopped being interested in Bond movies after Fiennes took over the role. Judi was too perfect for it.

    2. CJ*

      Not that it matters as far as what I think about the employer being an asshole, but a picture in which you just happened to be wearing a swimsuit and a swimsuit picture are not the same thing.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        I’m confused on what the difference is? By swimsuit picture do you mean a picture of just a swimsuit by itself?

        1. Parenthetically*

          I don’t know what CJ has in mind, but in my mind the photo Ms. Clow got shamed for was pretty clearly just a casual snap of her on vacation, in a pool. It wasn’t cheesecake, it wasn’t her posed sexily, giving bedroom eyes to the camera, and then photoshopped to InstaInfluencer perfection. It was extremely un-Kardashian. It was just a photo of her on vacation, in which she happened to be attired in a swimsuit.

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            Not to imply that you think this, just a general comment. But even if it had been a “swimsuit picture” there is nothing inappropriate or unprofessional with taking some pictures like that. If anything the Kardasians are or have hired brilliant marketing people. Instagram besides being a social media platform is also a huge marketing platform. Someone knowing how to build their instagram channel and get followers shows off their marketing skills.

            1. Parenthetically*

              I generally agree, though I think that with those kinds of pictures, you sort of have to know your audience, so to speak, when applying to other roles. I just don’t think Ms. Clow’s photographs fell into that “deliberately sexy/provocative” space at all! (This whole kerfuffle reminds me of that Twitter thread from awhile back where Boss Man called a woman with a perfectly normal headshot on LinkedIn “slutty” and “DTF” and it turned out it was basically because he found her hot. Ms. Clow is super pretty, and looks good in swimsuits. So of course everything she does is at least potentially unprofessional.)

  17. Barbara*

    OP #4. I’m confused because lunch can be anytime between say, 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Are people booking meeting during this entire window?? Mark down your lunchtime as a meeting and say you have to take it then. Good luck.

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      I mean, in a lot of jobs it can’t be. If the OPs company has set lunch breaks for coverage reason, for example – which would really just make her colleagues more inconsiderate.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        Only going off the OP’s description, she’s a manager or above. It’s rare in that case that there would be a set lunch break.

        I’m probably going to be unpopular with this next bit…

        I think the OP needs to readjust expectations here. I’m assuming these aren’t 1:1 meetings but larger meetings. If that’s the case then I don’t think it’s reasonable to make X number of people schedule around your lunch preferences. This is just one of those things that happen when you reach a certain level. By all means take a lunch. It’s a trade off… yes you don’t get lunch at 12-1 on the dot anymore, but you’re likely also not being watched as you walk in the door to make sure that you are their at 8am precisely or are unable to leave until 4:30 on the dot. In other words, it’s up to you to make the day work for you and your employer.

        Each company is going to be different, but there are only so many hours in the day that you can schedule these. I operate in 2 different time zones, luckily it’s east and central so it’s not as bad as could be, but that still only leaves 6 hours in a day if you are trying to schedule something during core hours. Then you take into account the schedules of those involved and meeting timing becomes a exercise in madness. So yeah, do I feel bad if I schedule a meeting between 11-1, yes, but I do it anyway because there’s no choice.

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          I 100% agree with this. As a PM, I schedule lots of meetings. I’m on the east coast and my company employees people all over the US, so if I need CA people in the meeting, I’m limited to certain hours. Sometimes your job won’t allow you to work an exact 9-5 with a lunch from 12-1 – the work dictates that. And as you said if you’re in management, you need to be even more flexible.

    2. TechWorker*

      Yes in theory it can be but lots of companies have a shorter standard. We have a general rule of avoiding meetings between 12 and 2 – but if an 11.30 meeting overruns then the guy who normally takes his lunch at 12 on the dot takes it in good grace. Likewise people who prefer to eat late just.. shift their lunch a bit earlier when they have a 2pm meeting. It’s not impossible.

    3. Dana B.S.*

      Or even leave a little early/show up a little late if you do have non-stop meetings throughout the day to get your oil changed, pick up prescriptions, buy detergent, or whatever.

      1. Dana B.S.*

        To add – not to say that is this is accepted in you company culture. However, if you haven’t tried deviating from the standard hours at all and just assume that it’s unacceptable even though you don’t know what your peers do, then it might be worth trying or at least asking about it.

    4. atalanta0jess*

      This is what happens in my company – people have meetings all day except 12-1, and then someone will book them 12-1. So its not that you can’t take lunch at the specific time you want….it’s that you literally have no time to take a break.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        When my former boss tried to do that to me, I told her I cannot do that because I’d have zero time to eat or even use the restroom, so I needed her to move the meeting. She moved it, and I’ve been guarding my time to ensure this never happens again going forward.

  18. Marzipan*

    #1, when I had a period of time off work due to significant stress and depression, I was petrified of leaving the house in case people from work saw me and thought I wasn’t really ill. (In my case nobody was in the least bit likely to do that; I was just skewed in my perceptions because I was quite unwell.) Occupational Health had to spend considerable time coaxing me to do what they wanted me to do to help me recover, which was decidedly not just shutting myself in the house and never emerging.

    All of which is to say, it’s perfectly possible for a person to be too unwell to work and at the same time to be able – and indeed encouraged – to be doing other things. You are being That Guy, and you should really stop.

    1. Lalla*

      That actually happened to me!!! I had a meltdown in my office on a Thursday, a bit of a panic attack. I went home and was too shaken and scared to get out of the house for almost 2 days. On Friday night my boyfriend took me by the hand and convinced me to go to a festival in my city. I managed to forget my work problems for a few hours, then my anxious feelings came back and we had to go home. Again, my weekend was an anxiety mess… When the following week I found the courage to tell my supervisor I wanted to cut my contract short because of my emotional state, I was told that I looked really happy and relaxed when she saw me at the festival and that I could not take days off simply because I “didn’t feel like coming to the office”.

    2. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

      when I had a period of time off work due to significant stress and depression, I was petrified of leaving the house in case people from work saw me and thought I wasn’t really ill
      I got exactly this kind of push back because someone did see me leaving the house. What they failed to take into account was I was leaving the house to go to the doctor

      Small minded people with not enough going on in their lives, so they have to invent drama out of yours.

      1. Oxford Comma*

        Same. I got grief for being seen going at the supermarket which happened to be where my pharmacy was.

        The attitude seems to be that if you’re not gushing blood and/or visibly writhing in pain, you must not be sick and should have come into work.

        It makes me so mad.

    3. Liz*

      I had the same reaction, while recovering at home from pancreatitis. But after spending a week in the hospital, and another few days home, feeling blah, I HAD to get out of the house. I went out for like an hour, and was terrified the whole time someone i worked with would see me and “tattle” yet, i wasn’t quite ready to go back and work a full day, but certainly able to get out and get some fresh air!

    4. Quill*

      My aunt spent multiple months recovering from a concussion and caught flak for being in public spaces – she couldn’t go to work because she could not drive or look at screens, or concentrate for more than an hour at a time, she was perfectly fine to be driven someplace to get takeout!

      (She was on worker’s comp at the time so that made the baseless scrutiny worse…)

  19. mark132*

    #1, if it’s through worker’s comp you can report it directly. Though the amount of “evidence” you’ve collected isn’t worth reporting IMO. I know worker’s comp will investigate. A private investigator parked in front of our house once because they were investigating a neighbor for fraud. The PI knocked on our door and told us that he was doing so we wouldn’t call the police on him. Our neighbor was pissed we didn’t tell them. (My wife and I got over their outrage pretty quick, I personally had my doubts on how disabled he was. I didn’t report him, but my wife and I didn’t feel the need to warn him either).

    1. Marzipan*

      There is literally no evidence. The ‘evidence’ cited by #1 is:
      – She has a child
      – She may be selling her house
      … neither of which in any way indicates the she isn’t affected by significant health problems.

      (#1, just to be clear, I am not suggesting you seek more ‘evidence’.)

    2. Anonny*

      Or you could… leave it alone? Abled people are spectacularly bad judges of disability and quite frankly, hassling disabled people because they don’t match up to your (uninformed) opinion of what a disabled person looks like makes you a complete hole.

    3. London Calling*

      Dear Mark132
      I have a blood disorder that according to the law in the UK, means I have a disability. I don’t use a wheelchair, limp, have a stick, need shortened hours at work or demand the seat in the train that’s set aside for the disabled and pregnant, and I work 12 hour days. Looking at me you’d say that there’s nothing wrong with me, except that I’m on medication and have to make regular hospital visits to a haematologist for the rest of my life. Nonetheless, the law says I have a disability. it is utterly, utterly depressing to read your comment and know that there are people out there who think they are qualified to comment on how disabled someone is.

      Depressing but not at all surprising.

      1. doreen*

        I think that must be one of those “separated by a common language” things. Because in the US , “disabled” doesn’t simply mean that you have a condition that requires medication and medical attention for the rest of your life – if it did, a huge proportion of the over-50 set would be “disabled” . In the US ( in ordinary usage) , it means the condition causes some impairment that limits senses or activities – I’m not disabled simply because I’ve been diagnosed with diabetes or high blood pressure or coronary artery disease. It’s possible that any of those conditions might limit my activities – but it’s also possible that the only effects they will have on my life will be to require me to take a pill or two , improve my diet and get more exercise.

        Now I don’t know exactly what Mark132 saw, but typically when I’ve seen worker’s comp fraud investigated , it’s not a matter of the person possibly having an invisible disability. Worker’s comp means that the person can’t work due to a job-related – and the fraud cases I’ve seen are typically a person who is unable to work due to a physical limitation ( for example, they can’t lift more than X lb, which is a job requirement) who is then found to be engaging in some other activity in which he regularly lifts more than X lbs. If I know my construction worker neighbor is on workers comp for a back injury, and I see him building a brick patio in his yard, I am going to have some thoughts about whether he’s really disabled to the extent of collecting workers comp – and if he gets outraged that I didn’t warn him about the investigator , I’m definitely leaning toward fraud.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Exactly. I used to work with injury claims as an insurance adjuster, and yes, there are people who flat out lie about being injured/ill or who exaggerate a minor injury/illness to get longer paid leave from their insurer. However, OP doesn’t have near enough compelling evidence to speculate that her coworker is one of these people – that’s the problem with this letter. All of her examples are specious and the fact that she personally doesn’t like this colleague is what’s coloring her view of the situation.

        2. London Calling*

          Hi doreen, this is what it says under the UK act
          The definition is set out in section 6 of the Equality Act 2010. It says you’re disabled if:
          you have a physical or mental impairment
          that impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities
          Some impairments are automatically treated as a disability. You’ll be covered if you have:
          cancer, including skin growths that need removing before they become cancerous
          a visual impairment – this means you’re certified as blind, severely sight impaired, sight impaired or partially sighted
          multiple sclerosis
          an HIV infection – even if you don’t have any symptoms
          a severe, long-term disfigurement – for example severe facial scarring or a skin disease

          So it might affect your daily life and it might not but it still counts as a disability and crucially, protects you from discrimination at work. Mine comes under the automatic disability clause, but as I said to my manager, just because the law says I have a disability doesn’t mean I have to act like it. Mark doesn’t actually say what the neighbour was being investigated for, so I’m not making any assumptions, I just found the whole ‘let’s report someone for fraud when we don’t know the whole story about why he’s being investigated’ to be deeply dispiriting. After all, just because someone is being investigated for something doesn’t automatically make them guilty of it.

        3. chronicallyIllin*

          I am in the US, am diabetic, and am legally disabled because of that. I am not on disability benefits, and would not be entitled to them (for obvious reasons).

          Let me explain:
          You are almost certainly legally disabled for your diabetes and there are certain legal accommodations that you’re entitled to, both as an employee and as a guest in public spaces. You are allowed to test your blood sugar in almost all public spaces, and you have to be allowed to inject insulin almost anywhere you need to. They can’t even request that you do those things in the bathroom. You have to be allowed to bring food with you in any location, including movie theatres, music festivals, theme parks, etc– other locations where normally outside food is not allowed.

          A potential employer can’t decide not to hire you simply due to your diagnosis. (With the exception of some safety-critical positions, where even a minor risk of a diabetic episode is too dangerous- this does not include paramedic/doctor positions according to legal precedent.)

          Legally being disabled is not the same as being on disability benefits/SSI. It simply says that you have a condition that affects your life in the way you describe- one or more major life activities must be affected, which IS true of many diabetics, if not you personally

          This is not a case of “separated by a common language” this is a case of “you don’t know the law”.

          1. doreen*

            Sorry, but it’s not that I don’t know the law. An employer or a place of public accommodation can’t discriminate against me because I’ve been diagnosed with diabetes – but that’s because the ADA protects both the disabled and those who are perceived to be disabled. I was very specifically speaking about ordinary usage , not as the word “disability” might be defined under a particular law. When you say “It simply says that you have a condition that affects your life in the way you describe- one or more major life activities must be affected, which IS true of many diabetics, if not you personally” I’m not sure how that differs from what I said. After all, you acknowledge that my diagnosis might not affect any major life activities , and in fact it doesn’t – no self-blood sugar testing ( just an A1C test 3 times a year) , no insulin, no need to eat on a strict schedule, no medications ( for the diabetes). I certainly didn’t say those diagnoses could never result in disability – only that they might not.

            1. Pineapple Incident*

              I think what they were getting is more about the potential need to request accommodations now or at any point in the future, if you’re diagnosed with a particular condition. As an example, I have Crohn’s, which is a type of autoimmune inflammatory bowel disease. There is no cure, and I’m well-managed/don’t look sick since I’m doing well, but technically there’s no knowing when that may change. Having the characterization that this qualifies as a disabling condition helps me in the case that I may need to request accommodations in the future.

              Obviously the wording could be better, I think that since this is a deeply personal issue we’re all a little on edge reading the varying views since anyone with a chronic illness has certainly had someone criticize them to an unjustified extent.

    4. Harper the Other One*

      Please don’t recommend people report “suspicions” like this to worker’s compensation. Idle speculation does not warrant a report.

    5. MsChanandlerBong*

      Please rethink your attitude toward people with disabilities. Unless you are the doctor who treats a person, you know nothing about their medical condition, and they don’t deserve to have you casting doubt on them as if you’re some kind of medical detective on a mission.

    6. Anon this Time For Reasons*

      I hope and pray that no one you love or care about ever gets an invisible disability like the one I have: lupus.

      I recently saw an episode of the show Mom, which features a character in a wheelchair. He finds out that his girlfriend had stolen and copied his handicapped parking placard because she was cited by the police for using it to illegally park in a handicapped space. He then mentions that he doesn’t even use the placard–because his wheelchair is easy for him to get around in and that those spots are “for people who really need them.” And then he said something like, “When someone who really can’t get around goes to the grocery store–that’s their WHOLE DAY. If that spot isn’t empty, forget it, they can’t do it.”

      So yeah: when I go to the store, sometimes that’s my whole day. And you wouldn’t look at me and think “She’s disabled.” I go anyway, because selecting and buying my own food–and showering and wearing nice clothes instead of pyjamas, and cooking a meal, and getting the mail in, and walking to the library,–those are things that make me feel like I’m a person who can take care of herself. Because I can. But sometimes: that’s my whole day you’re seeing.

    7. Lehigh*

      Yes, Worker’s Comp will investigate if there is blatant evidence, i.e., the employee medals in a footrace while out of work for an injury to a leg or foot. In my experience that’s the kind of probable cause they are looking for. And remember that Worker’s Comp is specifically for injuries or illnesses caused by the employment, for which the company is wholly liable (typically it does not use up employee sick leave, etc.), and therefore the scrutiny is likely to be higher.

      I sympathize with the frustration that comes with feeling someone is “getting away with” something, but I don’t think there’s really any evidence here. Just a gut feeling, I’d guess, and that’s nothing to go on. OP, I don’t think the coworker who brought this to you is doing you any favors. He/she seems to be upsetting you for no reason.

    8. mark132*

      You all are certainly entitled to get as self-righteous with your replies to me as you would like. But first abuse of workers comp costs the system billions of dollars a year, and takes the assets needed by others. Second, I actually discouraged the OP to report this due to their lack of evidence.

      And as much as you may or may not like it, If you have reasonable evidence of fraud, It’s is ok to report it. Fraud costs all of us money.

      1. Observer*

        Except that the OP doesn’t have a shred of evidence. NONE. So why are you even bringing it up?

      2. Aspie AF*

        Are you just as hard on employers with regards to flexibility and accommodation, then? Given that burnout has recently been recognized as its own medical condition, the power imbalance between employers and employees would point to the most impact coming from addressing the employer side.

      3. NerdyLibraryClerk*

        There’s also no indication that the coworker in letter #1 is on workers comp, so bringing it up seems…odd. Okay, so there’s (according to you) billions of dollars of fraud in a tangentially related thing. What does that have to do with anything?

        Or do you think that there’s billions of dollars in fraud in all the ways a person can be out of work?

    9. Wandering*

      I live in snow country. A PI let me know he was investigating a neighbor, also to keep me from calling the cops. Neighbor was driving his truck with a plow blade to clear his own driveway so his wife could go to work. PI thought that 5 min task was “very suspicious!” Crazy.

  20. Marmaduke*

    Ironic that in trying to present an object lesson in the damaging effects of unprofessional Instagram content, the company in L2 became on object lesson of it instead.

  21. Dan*

    #1

    The older I get, the more I cling to this rule: “If you can choose to mind your own business, and nobody will get hurt, then please MYOB.”

    1. Consultant Catie*

      Agreed! And also – you can’t un-ring a bell. If you report now and you were wrong, think of the all harm that can be done. Not only to the person on leave, who is the most important person to protect in this situation, but thinking selfishly, the harm you can do to yourself and your reputation.

      If at some point, something truly report-able comes up, you can handle it then. (To be clear, I don’t think any of the circumstances in #1 rise anywhere close to the level of report-worthiness.) I’m always a fan of the principle, “If you’re not sure whether you should say something, wait a while.” You can always bring it up later, but you can’t un-bring it up.

  22. Lena Clare*

    Ooo no5 – what is up with people who do that?
    I think this is a universal thing too, but going out for meals with large groups of people, there’s always someone or maybe a couple of people who don’t pay enough – it’s infuriating!
    Absolutely ask for the money, and if they won’t pay then escalate.

    1. Asenath*

      A work group I am in has a tradition of going out to lunches together on occasion. We all pay our own way. Once we went to a place that had a rule that you had to pay for the number of meals you had booked – we didn’t realize this until one of the group cancelled at the last minute. The rest of us had to pay her share, and she didn’t reimburse use. The lunches go on, although we usually choose places with a different policy just in case one of us needed to cancel at the last minute, but I’ve always thought that the co-worker’s refusal to pay was a bit odd. But this sort of thing happens when you have a large enough group – there’s always someone who has a different idea of responsibility.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Well, why should she have paid for a meal she didn’t eat at a restaurant with a policy none of you knew about ahead of time? Your situation is not remotely like the letter writer’s – she explicitly stated to the colleague that everyone was paying their share, he said yes, and then flaked when the food came. But your coworker wasn’t told about said policy, she didn’t agree to pay her share of the tab and then backed out. It’s totally different, and I wouldn’t have given you guys a dime either if I was your coworker. (Now, if she had known the policy, it would be a different story.)

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Which is why I refuse to go out to eat with a large group of people unless I can get my own check or the company is footing the bill. I don’t have time to deal with that foolishness.

  23. Rexish*

    #2 Rant: I’m really getting tired of reading about how employment controls persons entire life. There are in my opinion ridiculous rules in offices like no tattoos, no certain hair colours, no certain jewelry, no too much make up, have to wear enough make up, strict rules on what you are allowed to wear, braids send the wrong mesage, visible bra straps are a crime and the list goes on. Then on a work related thing that is not actually work you have to wonder if people will judge you for your tattoos. You need to consider the type of swim suit you wear and what is the appropriate ammount of drinking, how will alone time with a colleague look to others and this list goes on. And then eve in your personal life you aren’t allowed to publish holiday pictures, need to consider promoting anything, needing to think how any actionmight affect your employment. And then comes the big things. Need to carefully think about marriage, kids, no kids, pregnancy, hiding pregnancy and all of that due to employment.
    I’m annoyed. I’m starting to dislike the work “professional”. End of rant.

      1. Rexish*

        Exactly! I was thinking the same thing when thinking of examples. And sad thing is that I didn’t even have to think that hard.

  24. All Outrage, All The Time*

    OP1 – I was off work for two years on a part disability payment. During that time I sold off most of my possessions and sold my house. Why? Because I ran out of savings and my disability payment wasn’t enough to pay the mortgage and my other bills. I sold almost everything I owned because I was BROKE. I lived in my van for a few months while I looked for work (I eventually lost my job as I had an accident resulting in an ankle reconstruction that took 3 months before I could put any weight on it). You probably wouldn’t have seen the people I had to pay to help me get my house ready to sell. The house also had to go because it had stairs that things that were no longer going to be accessible to me post my spinal surgery. Stop being judgy and nosy. You have no idea what is happening in people’s lives.

    OP5 – If you have to do something like this again, get people to give you their money up front. Take around a sign up sheet and get cash off them in advance. Is your boss Michael Scott?

    1. Arts Akimbo*

      Ha, yes! Telling Dwight to pay the pizza kid while glossing over any conversation about reimbursement.

  25. SleepyKitten*

    OP #1, it’s possible to be able to do a lot of stuff that isn’t working when you’re sick or disabled. It’s probable that when you’re on long-term sick leave, you’ll have to do some complex and time-consuming stuff that isn’t working. Sometimes, you have to move house while ill, and sometimes that means you have to stay on sick leave to move house because you can’t handle both doing all the housing logistics and working.

    There’s an assumption that if you can possibly make it into work, you should be working. But that isn’t sustainable. If I was in work every time I could ever possibly make it in, I would never have any energy left to keep myself fed and in clean clothes.

    1. atalanta0jess*

      This is so important. The ability to do each thing in isolation is different than the ability to do ALL THE THINGS in the same time period. And one CAN take a leave of absence from work. Taking a leave of absence from life is harder. So if you only have a limited number of things you can do, you have to triage. It is allowable for work to get triaged out. That doesn’t mean you’re faking. Work doesn’t have to be your #1 priority above all else, and OMG if you had energy to walk to the bathroom you surely could have worked the checkout stand for a bit, couldn’t you??!?

  26. Squirrel*

    For letter #2, the candidate was chided for her bikini pic not being professional by a company that has “Kickass” in its title. Perhaps that’s a bit ironic to criticize someone else’s professionalism?

    1. Willis*

      Not to mention the irony that these business “masterminds” had to shut down their website and social media. Sounds like they make some smart business moves, alright. The whole company description sounds like it has all the legitimacy of a pyramid scheme anyway.

  27. Uldi*

    #1: Stress casualty, and its associated stress leave, is a real thing that exists. What was once mainly used to describe military personnel reactions to combat is now being recognized in many high-stress jobs. Heck, I was introduced to it back in April in an article about a certain major video game development company and the crunch that came with its most recent release; just to relate a bit of what happened: company spent five years not really getting anywhere, then crunched the last 18 months to make an entirely new game in an entirely new genre (for this company) for an entirely new fictional universe after doing much the same for the last release 2 years before this one.

    Immense stress can make a person unable to work, but still able to function otherwise. After all, if the primary cause of the stress is work, not working eliminates that stress. So, I’d just take Alison’s advice and mind your own business, to be blunt.

  28. One of the Sarahs*

    OP#1: Everyone else has covered a lot, but I have a suggestion for you, to make things easier for you: put yourself on an information diet about your co-worker, actively limit what you know.

    If you’re following her social media, stop it now – put her on mute, or unfollow her. If colleagues are gossipping to you and telling you stuff, politely change the subject – you don’t need to hear it.

    Right now, all this information is making you stew, and giving you unkind and probably unfair thoughts, as everyone above has explained. It’s not good for you, and there is absolutely no benefit to you, or to your workplace, to have you trying to instigate investigations. As someone said upthread, if she’s planning to leave, that’s what you want, right?

    So cut off the information flow, regain your perspective, and you’ll feel much, much better.

    1. three fennec foxes in a trench coat*

      This is a kind, compassionate and realistic perspective I hope OP finds valuable. +1000.

  29. Needaname*

    OP#1, as a manager, I would be unimpressed and put off if you brought to this my attention. I would worry about your professionalism, not the person on disability. I would also question, and look into, whether you were contributing to a negative workplace culture. “Heard from a peer” means you were gossiping, right? At any rate that would be my impression. Strongly recommend putting this out of your mind, concentrating on your own work and resisting further temptation to talk about this workmate.

    1. Bagpuss*

      Good point.
      It’s also worth LW#1 bearing in mind that her (and her co-worker’s) managers are likely to know more than she does about why her coworker is on disability leave.
      Some years ago, we had an employee who was taking a fair amount of sick leave. I did have one other empoloyee who came to me and to another senuior person to say she “thought we should know” that that person “wasn’t really ill” because she had seen them at the swimming pool on days they were off.
      The person she was accusing of lying had been diagnosed with MS and explicitly advised to swim (or possibly do water based exercises, I can’t now recall) and was attending sessions specifcally designed for people with MS.
      The employee did not want their coworkers to know about their diagnosis but had disclosed it, and provided appropriate information, when asking for accommodations (including the intermittent leave) as adjustments for their disability.
      their being off had zero impact on the employee who accused them of cheating the system, and it just reinforced that person’s reputation as a spiteful busybody.
      (the person who ‘reported’ it was the same person who came to me to tell ne I should knwo my assistant was somtimes 10 or 15 minutes late coming back from her lunch break. (which she was, but since she was very good at her job, always got eveything done in a timely way , was always willing to stay on if we had an emergency, and
      was often 10-15 minutes late in stopping work and leaving the office, too, so it was something which I was well aware of and absolutely fine with. And which would have been absolutely none of her co-workers business even if it had been a problem!)

    2. Consultant Catie*

      +1. OP#1, even if you don’t care about the person who’s out on disability, think of the damage you could do to your own reputation and job standing if you bring this up to anyone.

  30. Alice*

    #2, I’m hoping this is a one-off and no other company is insane enough to do that. And it backfired spectacularly like it deserved, so there’s that. But just in case some other company does that, and just in case they refuse to take down the reposted photo: using someone else’s photos on Instagram is against their TOS and the candidate could’ve submitted a DMCA report to Instagram to have it removed.

    It’s a bit stupid because if you report the company’s post as bullying Instagram might or might not do something (it probably won’t) but if you say “it infringes on my copyright” (= it is a repost of my photo) they will take it down. I’ll post a link with the instructions in a comment. Most other social media websites have similar ways to report stolen content. I’m hoping nobody needs the information but, with online bullying being what it is, if there’s ever someone using your photos to harass/shame you this is the fastest way to get the photo taken down.

  31. 1 Non*

    Alison, would you consider removing the link to Barstool? Ironically given the content of the letter, they have a huge history of misogynistic abuse and are not somewhere readers of this site probably want to support with clicks!

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        Yup. “Choosing not to give money or viewing traffic to someone” =/= “censorship.” At best it’s a boycott.

    1. Justin*

      The writer even makes a big point of saying, “Yeah, and we’re better than them because OUR CEO is a woman and we walk the walk,” too, at the end of the article. And it’s like, dude. No.

      1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

        Don’t forget the “I was sent this and of course I looked because there were boobs!” At the beginning.

    2. Holly*

      Barstool has no “right” to be featured on this very popular website. Not featuring it wasn’t censorship, removing it won’t be censorship.

    3. Asenath*

      I agree. Put a warning, if needed, and surely then any reader can decide themselves if they want to read it or google for some other report on that situation.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yep, just replaced it with a link to a different news story about it. I looked for one yesterday when putting the post together and didn’t find others then but it looks like the story has gotten more coverage since.

      1. JKP*

        I think it’s ironic that the new link features a video before the article “bikini trends no one asked for” that literally starts with the same bikini the woman is wearing in the IG picture as an example of a bad bikini style.

      2. Dana B.S.*

        I like that the new article shows the whole picture. The way the company cropped the photo made it look way more risque than it really was.

  32. Amy*

    I find if I wait until 2pm, I can easily take 60 minutes, sometimes even 90, for lunch.

    In the flow of my company, it’s the quietest time. It’s not my natural lunch schedule but it works. Tying myself to a 12pm lunch eventually felt futile because of how busy the time of day was. I also work on the East Coast with a lot of West Coast employees. There’s often quite a flurry during the West Coast morning (East Coast lunch) as employees there are starting the day with 9aM meetings.

    Just accepting the pattern has been helpful.

    1. hbc*

      Yeah, I’m pretty supportive of having some time in roughly the middle of the day to decompress and eat. But there’s number of people seeming to regard it as The Lunch Hour, like there’s a universal time that’s agreed upon to eat and it can’t be moved, and I don’t think you can get very far that way. It comes off as…precious.

      I think OP would be better off in looking at what’s really necessary. My guess is that it’s something like a half hour for lunch between 11 and 2 and another half hour sometime during normal business hours to make personal phone calls. Then she can say “Sorry, I can’t do Tuesday at 1:00 or I won’t have a lunch at all” rather than being inflexible with a blanket ban on 12-1.

    2. nonymous*

      I generally view working lunches to mean that no one will give you side eye for eating during the meeting, and maybe the logistics (e.g. no computers present) are attuned to having food out. If OP is hourly, she is entitled to a “meal break” that does not include work commitments and if she is salaried she can choose to take a break some other time in the day. Note that I use the term “meal break” to mean the long break guaranteed by labor laws.

      I wonder if OP is seeing the “working lunch” meetings as something she has to do in addition to her normal 8hr day? If they need her to be available for 9 hours M-Th, I suggest changing OP’s hours so that Fridays are short day, or if the lunch meetings are so important, maybe she should have a later start time. When I worked graveyard, I loved running errands at 8A – no lines and customer service tends to be more upbeat.

    3. TK*

      Completely agree Amy and hbc. It’s unrealistic to assume you’ll have time during a workday to leave the office and run errands, and it’s impossible to respect the lunch times of all time zones – no meetings would get done. Taking an off-prime lunchtime and just taking a reasonable amount of time (i.e. not a full hour) is the best way to retain “lunch” if that matters to you. I’m a fan of eating food at my desk and just taking a few minutes to read personal texts and emails.

      Obviously this advice is only good for salaried workers, not hourly. Salaried workers shouldn’t really have an expectation of a “sacred” lunch hour.

  33. HeLa*

    I wish people would remember that you can be sick enough to need leave from work, without being so sick that you’re in bed every minute of every day, unable to function.

    Additionally, feeling the need to monitor your behaviour and act ‘sick enough’ for people to see your illness as legitimate, can add so much stress to your situation that it can make your health complaints even worse.

    1. anonagain*

      I agree. Joletta Belton has an excellent blog post about the difficulty of trying to get better while also needing to prove that you are sick: https://www.mycuppajo.com/get-better-prove-pain/

      It is very hard to get better (whatever that means in your situation) if everything you do is seen as proof that you don’t need support anymore.

  34. Knitting Cat Lady*

    Two years ago I was on long term sick leave for a very severe depressive episode.

    I needed to find a new flat because living on the fifth floor (sixth for Americans) when you have fantasized about killing yourself via jumping is not very healthy.

    I started looking as soon as I was released from hospital and found one while I was still attending day clinic.

    Searching was hell, I started crying at the drop of a hat all the time because everything overwhelmed me, but I still had to get it done.

    There was no alternative.

    You just have to deal when you’re disabled.

  35. LQ*

    #4 Block the time. Hopefully folks are using a shared calendaring thing (yay outlook/google calendar) to schedule and if you just block it off it will make a big difference.

    Block it as busy not tentative too. I will block off times with an x and mark them as busy, but let folks who I’m willing to adjust for know that they can ask about those times. Which lets me pre-triage my schedule a bit.

  36. Koala dreams*

    #1 There is leave from work, but that doesn’t mean you can take leave from your other responsibilities, such as taking care of your children or your house. It’s great that the children have school to go to, then the mother has a few hours a day to rest or go to appointments. Often when you are ill you have limited energy, so it’s impossible to work and also do daily living activities. People are not robots.

    #2 It’s very unprofessional to post a picture online without the permission of the photographer and the person in the picture, even more so when it’s a swimsuit picture. The company is in the wrong already before we get to the shaming issue, which is serious in itself.

  37. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

    #4

    Sooooooo, corporate cultures vary of course, but generally, a senior manager’s time is considered flexible, both ways. You aren’t required to take lunch at a specific time and you are flexible with your own time preference for lunch. (The term “lunch break” is not something I am used to hearing a senior manager use. ) Would re-framing your thinking to “I will have one hour for my lunch and errands, somewhere between 11 and 2” be helpful at all?

    The problem with declining meetings is that there is a cost to every meeting you decline, so you have to discriminate. Sometimes the cost is negligible and easily offset by you getting your damn time back. Sometimes the cost is much larger (ding to goodwill, loss of knowledge imparted, loss of ability to give input, etc.).

    I am a both old and bossy senior manager. I generally accept any internal meetings that request me, but I also calculate how much time that meeting is worth to me, and start the meeting by letting people know when I have to depart (people know I am very busy so this works). It’s usually half an hour and items that involve me, or that people want my specific input on, are pushed to the top of the meeting and the pace goes quickly.

    Suggesting you consider additional ways to get everything you want/need and also keep up with involvement.

    p.s. sounds like there are too many damn meetings! my sympathies!

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      That’s why I’m confused; if the LW is that senior, I’d be surprised that a true “lunch hour” applied. Time is generally more flexible, in my experience.

      I have a few co-workers who never got out of the non-exempt mindset. Despite having a flexible schedule, one of them insists on her lunch hour. It has to be one hour and she must take it every day at the same time, to the point where it’s caused some tension. Maybe that’s at play a little here?

      Mind you, I think everyone should take a break during the day for a meaningful amount of time. I’m just used to having to shuffle the time around. I am the queen of the 10am errand, for example.

    2. Lynn Whitehat*

      Yup. I’m in a similar situation, due to time zones. Also in a personal situation like yours where the wheels would just fall right off if I did not reliably have an hour during the day to do MY STUFF. Lunch is not about food, lunch is about freedom and self-determination! Suggestions:

      1) You might be able to eat during the meetings if they are obviously at lunch time in your time zone. This can actually free up *more* time to do your stuff during the work day.

      2) Doctor’s offices, pharmacies, etc tend to be open the whole work day. In fact, 12-1 tends to be the worst time to reach them because they’re all on *their* lunch breaks. (Why don’t they stagger so they’re available at the time the most people can reach them? I guess they have correctly calculated that we need them more than they need us. But I digress…) So do your personal errands some other time during the work day.

      3) If you’re a senior manager, can you try to get a culture change going so that meetings are run better, and only include people who need to be there? You’d be doing God’s work.

      4) While #3 is still in progress, can you at least insist that people not waste *your* time with poorly-run meetings that you didn’t even need to be at?

  38. Kate Daniels*

    #3. Ugh, that’s a terrible idea! We’ve had interviewees do this, and it’s so transparent that they want to deflect answering questions. It comes across as obnoxious and annoying. If hired, would they constantly try to “shift power dynamics” with their boss? Would not recommend this approach.

    1. Rex Manning*

      “If hired, would they constantly try to “shift power dynamics” with their boss?”

      I commented below with a similar experience and this is the exact question we all asked ourselves when we dealt with the same type of guy in his interview. No one on the team was interested in working with someone who felt like they had to “control the situation” or be constantly angling to put themselves in a position of power over others. It may have worked for that LW #3’s friend, but all it made us want to do was run in the opposite direction.

    2. NoviceManagerGuy*

      And looking at a large company’s website is absolutely worthless. My employer does a bazillion things, almost nothing of what our group does is on the website because it doesn’t usually look cool, and it will not help you to talk about random stuff some other part of the company does. It just wastes everybody’s time.

  39. Rebecca*

    #1 – I can imagined being stressed and exhausted working someplace where I had to worry that if I was on sick leave one of my coworkers was spying on me and planning to tell my manger I was faking. Your coworker could have cancer, and is undergoing treatments, and her husband got a new job, better pay, benefits, etc. and they need to move. Maybe they’re going to a better school district for their child. There could be a thousand reasons, and none of them are your business. If her absence is directly affecting you and the ability to do your job, go to your manager and ask for help. And maybe re-examine how you and others at your company treat people when they are out sick or take other leave.

    #4 – Another option would be to order lunch delivery, take a lunch and eat at your desk while the meeting is going on, ask at the beginning, are there any action items for me, and beg off…that way, you could eat something, be alone in your office, then have time for phone calls, to get out, etc. I also agree with blocking off certain lunch hours on your calendar several times a week. If your meetings go the way the ones I always have to attend go, most of them are just pro forma check ins for the sake of having a meeting. Go forth and make calls!

    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      #4 – One more option in case you can’t arrange 100% meeting-free lunch hours: Stock up on easy-to-eat-at-your-desk foods (protein bars? crackers & cheese? yogurt in the company fridge?). Same situation, but at least you won’t starve during the meeting.
      And +1 to the other suggestions of “take your lunch break after the meeting.”
      I know about trying to balance work and a complicated life away from work. Sending you moral support. :-)

  40. Ginger*

    #2 – even more outrageous when you see the company had photos of women in bikinis on their (now private) Instagram page.

  41. Doc in a Box*

    #4: I am in a field (academic medicine) where lunchtime meetings are usually the only time people can commit, because clinics usually run 8-12 and then 1-5. My usual approach if it’s a phone meeting/conference call is to buy or bring a smoothie and sip on that during the meeting. (I don’t share my screen.) If it’s an in-person meeting, most of us bring a sandwich or a granola bar to munch on. It’s not ideal, but then, very little is in the world of academia.

    1. AnonoDoc*

      And then we all show up at 12:30 (if we are lucky) because clinic always runs late, and we are on our laptops during the meeting trying to deal with the 50 patient phone calls that came in while we were seeing patients…

  42. Flawlessly Flawed*

    OP 1 – it is absolutely none of your business but some food for thought… I work for a large employer (20k + employees) and one of our employees took their own life last week on campus, in the middle of the workday. I do not know any specifics of their situation but people with your mindset likely contributed to them not getting the help they needed. Disabilities come in all “shapes and sizes” and if you cannot show your coworker compassion, then please stay out of their business. If you are overwhelmed with the additional workload, then bring THAT up to your boss. There is a meme floating around the internet reminding everyone that you never know what struggles someone may be dealing with in their personal lives, so always be kind. You can’t ever be wrong in being kind.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Wooooww – that’s horrible about your colleague. I hope your company is offering grief counseling to everyone.

  43. JustMyImagination*

    For LW3, I was given this advice but with one specific question; “how will your role and this role you are filling interact?” A recruiter gave me that advice so that I could then frame my answers accordingly. For example, people I would be managing would relate to situational examples that may be different to the ones I’d want to use when talking to my boss or big boss. He also cautioned that the interviewer had to give me the opening or for it to flow naturally with the introductions. It was not meant as a control tactic.

  44. hbc*

    Wow, what a winning company #2 is.

    a) They game their Insta followers by implying applicants won’t be successful unless they follow their company. Because if it was really about screening for applicants more interested in the company, then the hiring team should have waited to see who followed on their own accord. I guess they didn’t want to pay for bots.

    b) They find something they deem unprofessional, so they post it on their professional page. Will they also post dirty jokes that no one should ever, ever share, or share something about passive aggression being toxic to the workplace, inspired by “You Know Who You Are”?

  45. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    Dear OP #1: When you’re in the office, possibly shouldering extra work because a co-worker is on disability with no clear return date, yes, absolutely that can be frustrating for you. And the stress and the uncertainties are no fun. I’ve been on that side (the coworker still at work side) now a few times at this job.

    It’s also no fun for the person at home trying to sort out their life. I acknowledge I’m annoyed with them because my feelings (and extra work) are also real but I have to remind myself constantly that these people are also suffering and the bottom line is, I want them to get well so that when they come back, they do so as productive coworkers. What their exact issue is, is truly none of my business.

    It’s not easy to get disability. At my place, you have to first use up all your sick time, then apply for EI and then when that runs out, that’s when you apply for the LTD. That’s a lot of steps, and visits to doctors or therapists, or both. Meanwhile, EI only pays out 55% of your salary and I have no idea how much the LTD pays out.

    Our EAP at work has been championing mental health, in particular a program called “Not myself today.” I think it’s great.

    Because so many people don’t get it – there’s a family tradition of never showing that you’re suffering. Or you’re too proud to ever “let that happen to you.” Or you’re one of the lucky ones that never seems to suffer from a mental health issue and just cannot fathom, understand or even have a little empathy for the issues of others. For a lot of people, mental health issues are very real.

    There’s one person at work where it was speculated where he was faking it because he posted on FB photos of him living it up at raves. Was he faking? I don’t know. But I do know when he returned to work after a long absence, he looked like crap, underweight, and it wasn’t long before he went back on leave. He was not yet well and not ready to return. Another coworker on leave also had a pic on FB of her enjoying drinks before going on a beach vacation, all smiles. She got a lot of flak and had to post a comment about people making undue comments. She’s back at work…and looks like she’s still got a long way to go.

    It will be hard but let it go. Until you walk in their shoes, you have no idea. You don’t have to like the person but do try to understand that rumours don’t help at all.

  46. Penny*

    OP1, people like you are the reason I was afraid to leave my house and be seen in public when I was on short term disability.

  47. Samsally*

    OP2;
    It’s been elaborated on that the company was being vile, but has anyone mentioned that they were breaking Instagrams terms of service regarding copywrite? (I haven’t got the chance to read all 100+ comments, sorry!)

    I recently reported a few stolen pictures and Instagram took them down in a few days, I really hope the woman thought to do that. It was her picture posted without her permission, after all. At the very least she could get it down.

    But yeah seriously what a terrible thing for them to do.

    1. One of the Sarahs*

      I love the reality stars who invoice media for £200 every tome they steal an IG photo and use it without the hyperlinking!

  48. Heather Kangas*

    OP#1 is paying too much attention to someone else. Do you know how hard it is to even be healthy and work with a family? I am all for this even if she is abusing it. Why?Because in the US, we do not get paid family leave and most employers do not offer any paid leave that is long term. Most of the time, you are subjected to submitted for short term disability which can be denied on several technicalities and you can use FMLA (unpaid leave) for taking care of others.

    1. RedLineInTheSand*

      My short term disability was denied while I was out for mental health earlier this year. I was suicidal. My mom came from out of state to stay with me and keep me safe. I’m back at work now, but I don’t have the where with all to fight their decision, even though I could appeal. I just don’t feel like I’m up for a fight.

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        Completely understandable – that kind of challenge takes an immense amount of energy out of a person.

        I’m glad your mother could help you during that time and hope things are improving for you now. Sending you all the good thoughts and I hope many good things come your way.

  49. LQ*

    OP #1
    I recently had an employee out on FMLA (not disability, but close enough for this conversation certainly). She was moving around plenty. She came into the office a few days to have lunch with coworkers. She apparently made a seriously epic fantasy football league set up. She took care of her husband, kids, kids friends, dogs, home, and other stuff I’m sure.

    If someone who did or did not report to me had come to tell me any of this I would have been horrified at their behavior. I would have shut it down and hard. And I would have absolutely changed my opinion about the person who thought that this was appropriate behavior. That person’s name would be mud to me for a very long time. Even if you don’t know the circumstances of what is required for this kind of leave at your company you need to know that this is very inappropriate to bring up and if you did bring it up, the person whose judgment would be questioned is yours.

    Good news, you asked here first and can learn quickly from this!

    1. WellRed*

      “She came into the office a few days to have lunch with coworkers.”
      I don’t think this is the best idea but maybe that’s just me.

      1. Observer*

        It’s a bad idea – but only because of busybodies who have no clue (and are generally uninterested in getting one).

        1. skunklet*

          ^^ this is correct, too. we have a coworker whose son has cancer, so he has FMLA for hospital visits, appointments, etc..

      2. Colette*

        That depends on many things, including why you’re on leave, how close you are to your coworkers, and what would be most beneficial in your particular situation.

  50. Paperdill*

    Regarding Letter Number 1:
    It is so bizarre this letter should pop up today as I have just spent the last 2 days writing and rewriting (and eventually deleting because I decided it was just too stressful) a similar letter, but from the colleague’s side of the story.
    I am currently taking, on the advice of my doctor, a few weeks leave from my 2 days a week job due to stress/anxiety/depression. I have 3 young kids who will be at day care/school for the days I am on leave so I can have a bit of a break from them and work. I was considering, though, volunteering for an hour or so at my sons class on these days off, seeing as I would finally be able to do so, without work or other kids preventing me. I really enjoy doing things like this for my kids and it will alleviate some of my “terrible mother” anxiety, but I was worried about the optics of it, seeing as I am technically on sick leave. I work as a community nurse, so it’s not unlikely colleagues or clients might see me on the street or at school.
    So, on the one hand I want to tell OP1 “You don’t know this woman’s whole story – just let this be”. But on the other hand, I am now even further questioning myself and whether I should just lie low at home throughout my sick leave rather than do things to actually make myself feel good?

    1. Jennifer*

      Do it! When I take a mental health day sometimes I go to the park or do other things that make me feel good. I used to have intermittent FMLA leave due to anxiety. If someone sees you out and has questions tell them to mind their face. You are taking care of yourself which is what sick leave is for.

    2. Llellayena*

      OMG do the things that make you feel better! Doing them will help your health (mental or physical) improve faster which means you might return to work sooner (or at least not delay the return further). Sitting at home anxious about not helping your kids and what image of “being sick” you’re projecting is not going to help anything.

    3. irene adler*

      Do what will make you feel good. And don’t give it any more worry.

      Then refer any “poo-pooers” you might encounter to this site. And to us. We’ll set ’em straight!

    4. Observer*

      Please do the things that make you feel better. That’s what your leave is for!

      Your bosses know what you are out for, so they know that doing this does not “abuse” their leave. That’s all the really counts.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      That’s the thing, your volunteering would be therapeutic to your condition that’s keeping you away from work, so you should absolutely do it. You’re a nurse, I’d hope [but I know that a lot of medical professionals still don’t “get” let alone “accept” mental health issues, so that’s why I say hope], that your colleagues would understand the situation here.

      It’s the age old story of people getting bullied and called “liars” about their illnesses when they do things like grocery shop while on sick leave or whatever. So many people still have that “If you’re sick enough to be out of work/school, you better be on your death bed.” Yuck.

  51. Kix*

    OP#1: OMG, butt out. This has nothing to do with you, it’s not your business. Focus on your job and stop sniffing around into her private affairs unless her short-term disability is coming directly out of your pocket, and even then, just stop.

    This one hit a nerve because I had a person on my team (who has, thankfully, found other employment and left us) who did this all.the.time. I told my superior that if this person spent as much time on her actual job as she did focusing on other people’s business, she would be a star employee. Unfortunately for me, he wouldn’t step up and deal with it, and I had no power then as a work lead to formally manage it.

  52. Jennifer*

    #1 Girl, mind your business. Watch some Netflix or find something else to do other than worry about things that are none of your concern.

  53. Zephram Cochrane*

    #4…

    At least your employer actually allows lunch. Mine “encourages” everyone to work through lunch (including having meetings). Those who use their lunch time for — gasp! — lunch much charge an hour of PTO.

      1. Dana B.S.*

        Depends on the state. Federal law does not require lunch breaks and many states don’t have any laws for it either. And many states also offer no laws relating to PTO, so companies can require the use of it whenever they want – down to being 10 minutes late for work if they want. But just because something isn’t illegal doesn’t mean it’s a good thing to do. It’s especially petty if it’s exempt co-workers. At least the non-exempt will get overtime pay at some point.

    1. Tobias Funke*

      Next time some ultra efficient martyr who totally doesn’t require food or breaks and thinks it’s super lazy and entitled that others want lunch pops up, let’s all agree to point them to this comment.

  54. Sharrbe*

    LW1. I once went on short term disability and soon after had to move. My partner unexpectedly moved out of the house, and left me to manage two apartments whose tenants turned out to be nightmares (partner was the one who handled all landlord issues up until then). One of the tenants was continually harrassing me to the point where the police had to be called. Because I had to get rid of the stress the building caused, I sold it and moved. Life doesn’t stop just because you’re on medical leave. It would be great to have a guarantee that when you’re recovering from surgery, dealing with mental illness, going through chemo, etc. that problems will automatically go away, but they don’t. You have no idea whats going on in her life. By all means, make her life more complicated by inserting yourself into it without knowing her full story.

  55. foobar*