do I have to work from home when I’m sick, replying-all to welcome messages, and more

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

1. My coworkers just work remotely when they’re sick — do I have to too?

Almost a year ago I started working for a new department where we can work remotely. At first this was a blessing, but lately I have been wondering if it isn’t a bit of a trap.

At my previous job, I stayed at home if I was sick and I returned when I could commute to work and work a full day. But now, the attitude seems to be that if you can work your fingers, you can work, and if you can’t work all day you can still work until you can’t. I’ve twice worked with a fever, my manager tends to announce she has a fever then work anyway, and we have upper management rumored to be working on bed rest.

So, where do you draw the line now? Working from home does make it possible to work through an illness I previously would have stayed home for (like flu or fever), now that i won’t infect my coworkers or be hindered by a commute, and it’s pretty clear my manager expects me to if there is work to be done. Most of my coworkers work a lot of overtime and when ill. But I’ve also known enough people who made themselves seriously ill working though illnesses that started out minor, and I worry what it will do for stress later on if we can never rest. But I don’t know how or where to set these boundaries anymore or if I’m even right to want to take sick leave when I technically could push myself, when others push themselves.

Sometimes there’s a difference between being well enough work and being well enough to come into work. When you’d be okay working from your bed in sweats but aren’t up to commuting, sitting at a desk all day, and interacting with coworkers (or where you don’t want to infect other people), sure, go ahead and work from home if you’re up to it, especially if you have urgent deadlines. But if you’re too ill to do that comfortably — or where you could do that but feel your health would be better served by resting — that’s what sick leave is for.

It sounds like your company culture is messed up around this. But it’s worth testing out what happens if you simply announce you’re taking a sick day and won’t be checking email or working until tomorrow. It’s possible that it’ll be fine! Sometimes in a culture like this, some people have unhealthy habits themselves (like it’s working while sick or checking emails round the clock) but accept it when other people have healthier boundaries. So don’t assume it’ll be frowned on until you test it out and see what happens.

If you do get pushback, at that point you can speak to your boss about it (“I need to be able to rest when I’m sick or my illnesses tend to last longer or turn into something worse, and I want to be able to use the sick leave that’s part of my compensation package for that”) — but there’s a decent chance it won’t come to that.

2. Asking for week off every month in the summer

What do you do if you are in a serious long distance relationship and would like to ask for time off (unpaid) every month (around a week or less) over the summer? I am a bank teller.

That’s a lot of unpaid time off to take. Since you’d be taking it unpaid, I assume that means it’s not coming out of your accrued vacation time and instead is on top of that. It’s possible that an employer would agree to that if you’re highly valued and have been there a long time, but it’s a big request … and in a teller job, they’re going to need to find coverage for while you’re gone, which makes it harder to accommodate.

If you’ve been there a while (i.e., definitely not in your first year, and probably not in your second either), you could ask … but you should frame it as “is there any way we could work this out?” so it’s clear you get that it might not be feasible.

3. Replying-all to welcome messages for new hires

We just had a new remote team member join, and my grandboss sent out a welcome message. A lot of people replied to all to say hi/welcome, and I’m torn — standard etiquette calls for avoiding reply-all, but I’m feeling like this might be an exception? For stuff like welcome messages and celebratory emails about accomplishing a big milestone, is it better to reply-all to partake in the communal spirit?

I’m tempted to send the new person an individual email saying “welcome,” but it kind of feels like being at a party where everyone has raised their glasses in a toast to the new person, and I’m going up and whispering “Welcome” in their ear like a weird creep.

Either way is fine! Personally, I feel like the reply-all welcomes are sort of performative, but I’m pretty sure other people feel like they contribute to a sense of overall warmth and celebration. In any case, reply-all welcomes are clearly a thing that’s done in your office so it’s fine to join in. But it wouldn’t be creepy to send your hello directly to the new person either. (And you probably wouldn’t be the only one doing it that way — you just don’t see those, by design.)

4. Boss made a series of weird allegations against me

I just got out of a meeting with my manager where some very odd allegations were leveraged against me. I was asked if I had ever urinated in a chair at my station, if I had ever used a derogatory slur for gay people towards another employee, and if I had ever called a specific coworker after hours asking if he was gay. I don’t even have this coworker’s number to call him. This is beyond mortifying because I’ve never done any of these things and I’m unsure what my next step should be. Help?!

The only possible response here is to go back to your boss and say something like, “I was so taken aback in our meeting the other day that I couldn’t fully respond on the spot. But I’m stunned that you think any of this about me — I don’t use slurs, would never harass someone for being gay, and didn’t urinate on a chair. I’m horrified that this is coming up. What has gone on that has made you ask about these things?”

5. Should my resume have a self-employment end date when I’m applying for something part-time?

Last year, I used a highly-recommended local career service to help update my resume and LinkedIn profile. Overall, I was pleased with their work. However, one suggestion made seemed odd to me. I’d love your (and your readers’) take on it.

I have been doing contract marketing consulting for the past three years and it’s listed (as “Self Employed”) for my current position. I mentioned I was going to apply for another part-time contract and she suggested listing an end date “to make [me] look available.” When I pointed out that I had other clients I’d still be working for, she replied, “Keep it open as a side hustle! But look available and ready to kill it for the new place, even if it’s only part-time. Could open up into full-time at some point, you never know. It’s okay to show them what they want to see in this instance.”

I did not follow this advice and left the end date open because it seemed weird and a little dishonest. I ended up not applying for the contract but do wonder about future applications. Is this strategy a good one that I need to accept and employ?

No, that’s weird advice. There are some employers out there who only want people with completely free schedules for part-time work, but that’s an inherently unreasonable position and, unsurprisingly, they generally turn out to be unreasonable employers. Good employers won’t care or will see it as a good sign about the demand for your work.

Besides, if you’re going to take the contract, you don’t want to find out afterwards that they have a problem with you continuing to do other part-time work.

And really, people apply for work while currently employed all the time! It’s normal, and it doesn’t indicate they’re not going to be fully available for a new job if they take one. If an employer is unclear about your plans, they’ll ask.

{ 358 comments… read them below }

  1. Thulcandran*

    My instinct for #4, albeit without much context or tone, is that the co-worker reported some truly nasty harassment, and the manager is just going down a list asking each employee if they did it. Not a great way to get to the bottom of an issue, but I can see a clueless or apathetic boss doing it.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Yup, or someone else anonymously reported these things and the manager is asking everyone on the team to find the culprit(s). I’d ask for clarification like Alison suggested, but I’d also want to know if I was the only person questioned because if so, then yeah, that’s weird as hell.

      1. Stormfeather*

        It seems kinda weird as an anonymous complaint – either the complainer is the coworker the LW supposedly called, or it seems like it’d be pretty easy to get to the bottom of it by asking them!

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          True – it could have been the coworker who was asked if he was gay who said something to the manager, but didn’t name names and now the manager’s asking everyone. Or maybe the coworker did finger OP for some random reason or someone else made these things up and told the manager – people with nothing better to do stir shit up at work all the time. I’ve seen it happen where someone will accuse someone of something they didn’t actually do because they love being in the middle of drama. That’s why it’s important that OP circle back to the manager and get clarification as to where this was all coming from. If OP is to be believed (and Alison asks that we do in fact start from the premise that the OP’s are telling the truth when they write in), then she didn’t have anything to do with this and someone’s either lying specifically about her from whatever reason or someone’s lying about people generally in the office, and OP was just one of many who was questioned.

          1. Artemesia*

            Critical to know if these are specific allegations. A second visit with the boss where you express your amazement that such ridiculous charges could possibly be levied against you and that you want to know if everyone was asked these questions or if someone has attempted to tarnish your reputation?

            1. Tinuviel*

              As in Agatha Christie’s short story The Four Suspects, the real shame with a crime where you don’t know the culprit is not just victim, but the innocent people whose reputations and livelihoods are harmed by the suspicion. This is a horrible thing to be accused of, and I would hate to see OP suffer until the true culprit is caught.

              1. Engineer Girl*

                This is a great point. Many times people try to minimize the devastating impact of the incident. The reality is that there’s a huge amount of collateral damage.

                Erosion of trust between the manager and employee.
                The employee thinks “how could you believe such a thing!” of the manager.
                Employee trusts manager less because manager questions them.

                The manager now wonders if the employee is really trustworthy if they are being accused of such things

                Many HR departments have a “where there is smoke there is fire” attitude and assumes that the accused employee really is doing something bad (just not getting caught). From that point on the employee is on HRs short list. Many times the employee receives extra scrutiny and gatekeeping for raises and promotions.

                Rumors get started by bystanders

                The employee is now fearful of future accusations.

          2. Quill*

            My guess is that they’re not going through the whole department, they’re going by what they could narrow the pool down… likely location (for the chair) and gender (if it was possible to tell over the phone when the coworker was called.)

      2. Jdc*

        Sounds like a meeting I had with HR once. Apparently someone told them I had lifted my skirt under my desk to show a guy who worked there. One, my desk had a panel so even if i had done so no one could see anything. I could be nude from the waist down and no one would know. Second, wtf!! I barley could respond. About 30 mins later she came to me and apologized for even mentioning it as it was absurd. I was the only young woman there amongst mostly middle aged women and that alone made them surly toward me. If i even spoke to a man in the office for business reasons i apparently was sleeping with him. Never mind it later came out that the gossip was the one sleeping with a bunch of men there. Don’t miss that job.

        1. Veronica*

          The one who made the accusations was the one doing the bad things.
          Politicians do this too – they accuse the opposing party of doing the things they’re doing themselves.
          Maybe this would help OP understand what’s really going on, if she can find out who the accuser is.

        2. CatsAreImportantToo*

          At least you got an apology!

          I was once accused by my manager and my managers manager of sleeping with a (married, older) coworker because we were friendly. And who cares right? Except that the employee told them that he and I were leaving multiple times throughout the night from our workstations to go have trysts in the parking lot. It could have all been shut down by the fact that 1) we were never in the same place at the same time except for our assigned highly visible workstations with multiple other employees, and it’s impossible to just sneak off 2) it would take 10 minutes to walk to the park lot, 10 back, plus however long the indecency lasts, which is more than our 30 minute breaks were 3) our breaks were scheduled, and never at the same time 4) there were cameras in the office which would show we were never gone at the same time 5) we had to use badges to go through any door, of which there are at least four two the outside lots. All of these things could have been checked before interrogation, but instead we were both interrogated and THEN those things were checked ANYWAY.

          I hated that job.

          1. Jdc*

            Oh ya. I did date someone in the company later on, different buildings let alone departments. We never worked together. We apparently had sex in the parking lot. My response was “oh no he lives just up the street. We go there”. People are ughh

      3. Flash Bristow*

        This. It reminds me how, at primary school, we were all called into a Very Serious Assembly, told about some graffiti and that we would be leaving the hall one by one via a question session.

        When it was my time to attend, they simply said “we know you didnt do it, but you understand that we have to ask everyone equally. Anyway, we know that you can spell dickhead”!

    2. Bilateralrope*

      Let’s assume that all the managerknows is that someone urinated on the chair, the person who heard the slur and the coworker who was called after hours couldn’t recognize the person’s voice. What other options would the manager have ?

      1. TechWorker*

        Or the company is large enough so that the person being harassed knows what office the person who did this stuff works in and what they vaguely look like but not their name?

      2. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

        Asking everyone is only going to a get “it wasn’t me, honest guv” from the perpetrator, and cause stress for everyone else.

        1. Bilateralrope*

          When something similar happened to me, it was one person doing a lot of personal browsing, mainly YouTube, on the work smartphone 4 of us shared. All four of us were initially under suspicion. Sure, the perpetrator denied it when asked. But the rest of us started logging how much data the phone said it had used at the start of our shifts, which quickly identified the perpetrator. We weren’t told to do so by managment, we just decided it was a good idea amongst ourselves.

          Sure, outright accusing the letter writer is not the best way to do it. But letting everyone know what happened might get someone to do or say something that help identify the culprit(s).

          1. nonymous*

            Imo the ideal way to handle this sort of stuff is to come from an assumption that staff is following professional norms and gather documentation to investigate further. For example, one possibility would not be that an individual was doing personal YouTube watching, but that something is running in the background unbeknownst to the user – and your logs would help pinpoint that scenario. Honestly, even if I were looking at staff, my first thought is that someone didn’t know policy or that they didn’t realize that usage would be tracked and asking everyone to start logging data usage would allow them to stop quietly. Depending on the offender’s other performance, that might be a preferred option.

      3. Asenath*

        The boss might have no options – it’s not unusual for wrongdoing to be impossible to prove, because the wrongdoer is either lucky or clever. Barring actual evidence, which may not exist, I can’t think of an option – ask everyone in the office personally if they did it, spreading suspicion everywhere and solving nothing? Asking someone based on rumour or innuendo, which limits the spread of suspicion but makes it harder for that person – and remember, if she’s innocent, in this scenario, she can’t prove her innocence because there isn’t clear evidence pointing at anyone.

        And if there is evidence as to who committed these acts – and what a weird combination of acts, urinating in a chair, which could be an accident, and verbal insults and harrassment? – and investigation is needed so the real culprit(s) can be identified properly.

        1. Kimberlee, No Longer Esq.*

          Yeah, this is where I come down. Clearly, these are specific allegations. And I think that if they really suspected OP, they would have put them on paid suspension or had them WFH during the investigation or something like that. I think OP should presume that there’s been an accusation but that the perpetrator is unknown (or is multiple people) and that they should chill out and operate normally unless and until it’s made clear that the actual accusation was leveled against OP specifically.

      4. Massmatt*

        Well, if there is really so little to go on, how would the victim have known the slur and call were from someone at work? That seems like a leap.

        But more to the point, what is the point of asking these questions? Is the boss really thinking a culprit would break down in his office, sobbbing “it’s true, it’s all TRUE!!” as on Perry Mason?

        Without an explanation this is bizarre. After being asked questions such as these I would assume I had no trust with the boss and start looking for another job.

        1. Asenath*

          What might have happened is that the victim got an anonymous call, gossip #1 speculated that the caller might have been a co-worker, gossip # 2 said “I bet it was! Maybe that person in account who seems unfriendly” and on it goes.

          I agree that being asked such questions pretty much ensures that I would decide that the boss will never believe in my innocence no matter what I say or do, so I’d start job-hunting.

        2. Yorick*

          I think the slur is supposed to have happened at work? And so if you got a call, you might suspect the person who is rumored to have said a slur at work?

        3. Jax*

          I’m alarmed. The accusations on their own seem to border on slander or defamation of character. This cannot just be fine or professional to do to employees without any explanation or resolution. What? Is this accusation forever in notes about OP? Can such far-out offensive accusations being used in this way by a boss in themselves be considered a form of workplace harassment? This just seens to be crossing all sorts of lines.

          1. Ico*

            The difference in tenor in this comment section is amazing when it’s the OP that’s been accused. You can’t be upset with a company that doesn’t investigate allegations made with little evidence, then be shocked and think it may be illegal when they do. Asking the accused is probably the most baseline investigation possible. Would you rather they have ignored it if the harassed person couldn’t provide more “proof”?

            1. Jennifer*

              Investigate is one thing. Making an accusation is another. The manager, or someone much more qualified, should have done the investigation to narrow it down before confronting the OP.

            2. SomebodyElse*

              Agreed… this is so odd. The company has a responsibility to investigate. And that’s a good thing!

              Yeah it’s not great being one of the targets of the investigation, but it’s not like creepy people wear a big red “C” on their jacket or “G” for guilty.


          2. Wintermute*

            There’s nothing remotely illegal or legally questionable here. In fact the employer has a legal DUTY to investigate because of the slur used (possibly, depending on state, still best practice) and if they have any information to suggest the LW was involved they are doing the right thing by asking.

            Slander would require them to be telling other people, and would require, at minimum, reckless disregard for the truth or them to know it was untrue, if they, presumably, have some evidence pointing to the LW then that couldn’t possibly be the case.

            Harassment is a specific thing, and this isn’t it. In a workplace sense it would have to implicate a protected class in most places, but at minimum harassment has to be repeat or pervasive. Asking a perfectly legitimate question about founded concerns is not harassment.

            It is, indeed, perfectly fine to do to anyone, whether it is professional is a different question but to be honest they may not have much of a choice.

        4. MK*

          Actually, inquiries like that may well be successful. People often think they will never be suspected and then break down at the first questioning. Others are so clueless they don’t see what they did as a big deal and try to laugh it off.

      5. TexasThunder*

        Hire a professional investigator.
        It sounds like they don’t know what they are doing.

      6. Jennifer*

        The phone call came from a phone number. I don’t know the legalities of this but if possible HR could check the number the call came from against the number on file for the accused.

          1. Jennifer*

            But it’s a start and much better than just randomly asking everyone. If someone else called on OP’s work phone, and they have the date and time of the call, they can check employee badge swipes, CCTV footage, etc. and see when the OP left work and who was still in the office at the time of the call.

        1. The internet is awful*

          Numbers can be faked and spoofed. I got a scam call from my own number once. There are apps and websites that will do it for free.

    3. JSPA*

      Or more worrisome for OP, it’s

      a) the actual perp covering tracks by fingering OP randomly
      b) someone with a vendetta against OP making it up out of whole cloth
      c) case of mistaken identity

      Without freaking out (hard though that may be) it’s worth pointing out to the boss that these possibilities would be enough to keep any innocent person up at night, and that a little reassurance would go a long way, here.

        1. Sharkie*

          Not to derail, but I have seen C play out a lot ” Oh the brunette in accounting said it” Or “the guy wearing the red tie on Tuesday” . This is a horrible situation.

      1. RC Rascal*

        My hunch is the OP is being targeted for this investigation, either by the perp or someone else with a vendetta, as JSPA suggests. OP is right to be very worried here.

    4. Sharkie*

      Yes this. OP document everything now. Leave paper trails. Write notes. Do everything that you can do to CYA. I had a boss do something similar to me, but would not back down even after coworkers (at my level and above my level) went to bat for me and told my boss none of his allegations were true and I was in fact in another state at the time. Someone got it into his head that something happened and he didn’t have the skills to get to the bottom of the issue. CYA.

    5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      It’s odd that it was reported but not for a specific person though. If I don’t know who the culprit is, how am I supposed to discipline them?

      1. MK*

        Well, you (or HR) are supposed to make some inquiries. Which I would hope you would do in any case, as opposed to just discipline an employee immediately.

        A likely scenario is this: a (possibly) gay employee is being harrassed by someone who called them after hours with a slur (maybe the caller identified themselves as a coworker) and urinated in their chair (uhhh). They inform their boss, who starts digging and finds out someone also used a slur in the office, or maybe someone else tells the person being harrassed it happened. If the OP’s interview is part of a larger investigation, possibly the boss is talking to everyone in turn. If the OP’s is being targeted specifically, it could be a number of things: maybe the coworker thought they recognised the OP’s voice or someone else told the boss the OP was the one using the slur.

        1. SomebodyElse*

          The only thing that doesn’t go with this theory, which I totally agree with btw, is that I read it as someone urinated in the OP’s chair.

          Maybe I got that wrong?

          1. Sharkie*

            I interpreted it as someone in OP’s area urinated on a chair. If they all have the same chairs it would be very easy to switch them.

    6. Jennifer*

      How could that be possible? If someone called you a slur, wouldn’t you know who did it? If you call someone, isn’t there a record of it? These are very serious, very odd allegations that seem to have materialized out of the blue. My instinct is that the OP is being set up for some reason and this manager isn’t very good at investigating.

      The urination is the only thing that would be difficult to prove.

      1. juliebulie*

        It’s very easy to hide your phone number on Caller ID when you make a call, or even spoof someone else’s phone number on Caller ID.

        1. Jennifer*

          Yes, I know, but there’s no indication that they even checked. I’d at least do that before I made an accusation.

          1. Krabby*

            You keep saying that it was an accusation, but it really wasn’t. OP specifically said that she was asked if she had ever done those things, not told that she had done them. It’s very different.

            1. Jennifer*

              Nitpicking aside, I don’t think it’s that different. If someone asked me if I’d done those things when I was innocent and they had no evidence to back it up, I’d be extremely insulted.

      2. Mia*

        Idk that you would necessarily know the culprit is someone was just randomly calling your phone to harass you. I got some really gross, homophobic voicemails years ago after being outed and I still have no clue who it was.

        1. Jennifer*

          Then why would the person go to the OP’s job with these allegations if they had no idea who called them?

    7. Goldfinch*

      I don’t even understand how these things are related. “Someone harassed me, and also, they’re incontinent!”

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        LMAO! Yeah, that is a very bizarre connection. This whole situation is crazy – OP, please follow-up with your manager and let us know what’s going on.

      2. Jennifer*

        Was the accuser’s desk the one that was urinated on, maybe? I don’t know. But yes it’s weird.

        1. SomebodyElse*

          That’s what I am confused about.

          Honestly at the end of the day it probably doesn’t matter. Something is being investigated and the OP was asked questions. Totally reasonable to go back to the manager and ask some follow up questions (depending on the relationship with the boss, I’d probably start with the WTF?!?). Otherwise there’s not too much the OP can do. Hopefully whoever did it is discovered or it’s found to be a false/untrue allegation.

          1. Catlady*

            I once worked in an office where an intern made accusations that some of my (admittedly bullying) co-workers were using the internal messaging system (visible to all of us) to bully her. She’d printed out reams of messages to prove it. But none of the messages were actually related to her at all. (I think they referred her to the EAP for mental health.)
            It’s possible the manager is investigating Something that never actually happened.

      3. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

        I am sure there is some overlap on the Venn diagram of ‘homophobic bully’ and ‘pees on office chairs on purpose’, but there must be a lot of each type who would be utterly embarrassed to do the other.

        Why is the boss assuming that it’s malicious peeing anyway? Far more likely it was an accident.

        1. LilySparrow*

          There is, however, a lot of overlap between “people with poor boundaries & impulse control” and “people who tell lies and call names.”

      4. Adultiest Adult*

        You win the comment section today! I am laughing so hard I am crying over here… I hope this is all some kind of grand misunderstanding, because absolutely none of this makes sense.

  2. AudreyParker*

    #5 From what I understand, the LinkedIn algorithm favors the currently employed, and so do many employers. Even if you didn’t know you’d continue working for existing clients, I’d leave the current position open for those reasons alone — the fact that you DO know you have clients you are currently working with is even more reason to do so. I have never heard of any hiring manager or recruiter perceiving it as a good thing for someone to “look available” unless perhaps they’re hiring immediately for a temp role. That career service sounds a bit suspect if they truly think that’s the case AND worth fudging your LI profile for!

    1. Mel*

      Yes, when I was unemployed for a few months I used my freelance work to fill the employment gap on my resume. I didn’t want to look less employable by already being unemployed!

      1. LW #5*

        Yes, my initial thought was that this flies in the face of “it’s easier to get a job when you have a job” advice. I appreciate the validation since I was out of the job hunting mindset for so long. I question a lot of what I do/don’t know, especially with LinkedIn which is foreign to me sometimes.

        She and I did all our communication by email so I wonder if she just misunderstood something? The rest of her work was really good and made sense.

        The company has a part-time position open that I’m considering applying for! I’ll for sure write in with an update if I do. :)

        1. Allypopx*

          There’s soooo much conflicting information on hiring practices that it makes sense that an otherwise excellent recruiter might have one weird blindspot or atypical practice. This does seem like a particularly strange one, I would expect something more like still thinking a resume objective is crucial or something. But I’m glad you followed your instincts on this particular point!

        2. Goldfinch*

          I’m in a field prone to freelancing and temp-to-hire, and the resume/networking advice I’ve received has ranged from neutral to downright idiotic. Many people just can’t get out of that 9-5/40 mindset, and contract work with defined end dates just looks like job hopping to them.

          If you’re struggling to use/understand LinkedIn for your field, I encourage you to explore the “company” category of ‘Self-Employed’ on the site. It’s one of the most popular categories chosen to define freelance jobs, so there are plenty of examples from power users on how to navigate this particular specialty.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      To be “optimized” on LinkedIn, you need to have a “current” job/no end date. This is a perfect place to have your freelance work … including some info and invitation for new business.

      And it should be on your resume so that you can have the conversation about where it would fit with a potential new job. “Oh, I’ve always done a few gigs when I’m working, it gives me a project to do in my spare time.”

      You do that work. It’s part of what you’re bringing to the table.

  3. LorLor*

    #4, I had a member of my team once accuse me of lying about an utterly ordinary task to him and it really shook me. But then it quickly became apparent he was having a psychotic episode and had made other strange accusations against others – up to and including emailing the international CEO complaints about problems in our branch (even though he was in an entry level position with very little visibility of what was going on). Your email reminds me of that whole weird time. Very unsettling.

    1. I coulda been a lawyer*

      I used to have an employee who made stuff up randomly all the time. One time she smeared yogurt on a chair and told the top exec she saw a specific male employee pleasure himself onto the chair. Fortunately for him, she didn’t know he had left an hour earlier for an out of town trip. Once she announced in the break room that one of the supervisors was pregnant by their boss; all supervisors were either post menopausal or happily married or both. Just liked to stir pots.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        I hope you fired her. What she did was evil. She also interfered with someone’s employment!

        That kind of behavior can destroy an office. How can you work if you have to spend all your energy watching your back?

        1. Lora*

          I always wonder what on earth brought these people to behave like this and think it was normal or acceptable, too. Did someone demand they get a job and they’re deliberately trying to get fired? Did they have some sort of really bizarre home life that encouraged such things?

          Used to have not one but two co-workers who were members of some kind of weird church, and they were caught going through my purse looking at my credit cards by a third co-worker. When the manager demanded an explanation, they said they looked at all the Unbelievers’ personal things in case they said 666 on them anywhere, so they would know who they should shun and try to perform an exorcism. I wish I was kidding about this. The manager thought this was a totally acceptable explanation because “they have a right to freedom of religion”.

          1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

            Wow. I love when people use “freedom of religion” as an excuse for everything. Yeah that’s not how it works.

          2. Allypopx*

            Sounds like a manager worried about getting sued for religious discrimination tbh. Not sure what they would have done if your identity got stolen and they had enabled someone to rifle through your wallet though…

            1. Fortitude Jones*

              Right. I would have paid to have my credit monitored if I was the poster, then slapped my company with the bill to reimburse me since they allowed someone to potentially steal my credit card information.

              1. Lora*

                People are weird like nobody can imagine. I had already given my notice at that point for many totally different reasons (the whole place was not Hellmouth level weird but still pretty weird) and I just made a mental note to leave ALL my personal items locked in my car with my keys in my pocket at all times and waited out my last few days.

                We should save it for a Friday open thread, but there have got to be a ton of “you will not believe the weirdos I have worked with” stories outside of the Hellmouth. I will never understand why managers don’t come down like a ton of bricks on it, either, it’s such a horrible time-suck and waste of energy.

                1. Clorinda*

                  On your way out, did you write 666 on a bunch of sticky notes and leave them in a variety of unexpected places?

                2. 777*

                  Even I, as a religious person, would indeed have done what Clorinda wrote: I’d be writing 666 on post-its and would past them on their screen or desk right before I’d leave for the last time.

                  There is a big difference between being a religious person and going through someone else’s private stuff.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              That manager needs to be hit with a clue-by-four. It’s not religious discrimination to require your employees to stay out of other people’s personal belongings.

          3. Angwyshaunce*

            I despise hearing about “freedom of religion” as an excuse for these kinds of behaviors. A person’s rights end where another’s begin.

          4. Barefoot Libraian*

            I had one of a very odd fundamentalist Christian lady working with me years ago who lodged a complaint with HR and the manager that another (also Christian) coworker had fairies on her desk and computer background. She thought there were demonic and wanted the coworker to either remove them or move her desk somewhere else so she wouldn’t have to sit next to them.

            Needless to say she had issues with a lot of other really normal things. She was eventually fired for performance issues but made that particular coworker’s life miserable for months.

            1. LunaLena*

              I’m surprised National Count Your Nipples Day isn’t a thing already… everything else seems to have its day nowadays.

          5. Gatomon*

            I have a cousin who displayed this behavior growing up and it always ended up with the rest of the cousins and adults taking her side and showering her with love and pity and demonizing whoever the “perp” was, typically me. Bad home life would definitely be a big factor. But last I heard she wasn’t able to hold down traditional work, so I don’t think she’s anyone’s work nemesis.

            Once I got #666 at the dealership for service and they hustled me out of there so fast like my car was the Antichrist’s personal conveyance! I kept the car tag on my fridge for a while for laughs.

            1. What was I doing SQUIRREL!*

              Back in the days of landlines I had a coworker who had the phone number ###-666-1313. They said that when they were getting the number set up, the operator paused and said, “I don’t think you want this one”, and their response was “actually? It’s awesome and I’ll take it.” They were an interesting character.

              1. Curmudgeon in California*

                Ooooh, cool! That is an awesome number, unlikely to be called by missionaries ands preachers.

              2. SarahTheEntwife*

                As someone who is amused by numerology and is terrible at remembering their own phone number (I never call myself!), I would take that number in a hot second.

          6. Atlantian*

            I once worked a retail job with a coworker who refused to handle anything with 666 in the UPC or Item Code or Location number. Everyone else complained because she would just leave the ones she refused to handle behind for everyone else to deal with. She would also call a manager to take over on the register if 666 came up as part of the total, or tax, or anywhere else on her screen. She got away with that. It wasn’t until she was caught undercharging someone for a thing which had to be measured and was priced by unit so that the amount was not 666 that she was fired. Not for refusing to do her job, but for essentially stealing.

          7. Decima Dewey*

            Their right to freedom of religion does not include a right to go through someone else’s purse.

          8. Curmudgeon in California*

            Ugh. Just ugh.

            I wish people would get it through their heads that “religious freedom” does not give them the right to interfere in the lives of others, is not a carte blanche to impose their “morality” on others, and certainly doesn’t entitle them to obedience from others because they believe others should do/not do certain things.

            No one’s “religion” gives them a right to touch my stuff or my person. Period. It just doesn’t work that way.

      2. JSPA*

        That’s so far beyond “pot stirring” that I’m amazed she had the job long enough for two such instances (but fear from the tone of the post that there were more, beyond).

      3. WellRed*

        Hope she was fired. She’s crossing into sexual harassment there wasn’t she? Pervy and weird, though.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          I would have filed a complaint had I been the male coworker – that’s an incredibly sick and demented thing to lie about in the workplace.

          1. Arts Akimbo*

            Right, and for me it’s beyond just the lying– think of all the cognitive steps it would take someone to perform the action of thinking up the lie, then thinking to spill yogurt everywhere, then getting the yogurt, then spilling it, then telling the lie. Like, there are SO MANY points during that process where a person has the opportunity to go, “Hey, maybe this is a bad idea that I should not continue with.”

    2. Poppy the Flower*

      Yeah. I had a similar reaction. One year in elementary school we had a teacher use increasingly severe and odd punishments, go on extended lectures about either trivial or totally random point, and make really strange accusations against students. A few weeks before the end of school she was hospitalised for a psychotic break. This reminds me a little of her. There are definitely other possibilities like an awkward way of asking around about who did this.

      1. Nita*

        No kidding. So she was “teaching” almost the entire year, and no one stood up for her students? Those poor kids.

        1. Veronica*

          There are lots of bad teachers where nothing is done. I still remember how bad my 2nd grade teacher was.

          1. Anonymosity*

            One of my elementary school teachers physically and emotionally abused me, and not only did no one do anything but the librarian was in cahoots with her. I never told my parents until years later. In those days, teachers were big-time authority figures, and if you got in trouble at school, you got in trouble at home too. Plus, every day, when my dad dropped us off, he’d say “Obey your teachers,” so I guess I thought they wouldn’t believe me.

            Later, I found out she picked a kid in every class as her scapegoat for the year. No one ever did anything and she’s now retired.

        2. Paulina*

          I expect most kids don’t know what the rules are, and also don’t know what to do. Students get told what the regulations are on their own behaviour, but not those on teachers’ behaviour. And the other teachers aren’t there in her class, even though someone who’s having a psychotic break should have that noticeable outside of class too. Unlike a certain sadistic teacher I had who was, for a while, very careful to only pick on kids who didn’t have much support, and while the rest of us were concerned, there was enough of a gray area on punishment that we didn’t know he was actually way outside it.

      2. bearing*

        This happened to me as a child! Our elementary school had a terribly mean art teacher. When I was in 5th or 6th grade I remember her scrawling a big F right across my artwork for not following directions. She yelled, too. My little brother used to get a stomachache once a week on the day his class would be going to the art room. And then: she suddenly died of a brain tumor.

        1. Quickbeam*

          That’s horrible in so many ways…how hidebound our schools systems can be on disability coverage and yet no intervention when kids are being treated badly.

  4. The Bimmer Guy*

    Wow, to LW No.4. Please write back with an update when you get to the bottom of this. My guess is that someone—or several someones—piped weird rumors into your boss’s ear about you, or they heard them in passing.

    1. I don't know who I am*

      This is so incredibly strange – I would love an update too if you ever find out what this is about LW.
      Please do speak to your boss. Anyone would be thrown by such strange questions/ accusations

    2. Asenath*

      I’d wonder about rumours, too. I had a very educational experience once when a group was convinced that one member was a petty thief, a few things went missing. The poor accused person denied it, and wasn’t believed – and the missing objects turned up, misplaced, not stolen. It all started with someone missing something and speculating what happened to it and gossip took off from there.

      1. Jax*

        There is a professional who — almost every time he travels to speak — posts Tweets indicating he thinks someone (“room service, maybe?”) ate one of his sandwiches or, I am not making this up, stole his pajamas. He always jumps first to these crazy scenarios when, so far, he’s realized 1. he scarfed down one sandwich after returning to the room late after a few srinks and 2. his pajamas were on his bed, at home, unpacked.

        1. BlueWolf*

          Reminds me of the great breakfast sandwich caper. A police officer said he got a breakfast sandwich from a fast food place, put it in the fridge, went to eat it later and found it had a bite taken out of it. He freaked out and said the fast food restaurant must be anti-police and blah blah blah. After investigating, they found that he had actually taken a bite out before putting it in the fridge and just forgot.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            Honestly, this is something that never makes sense to me. I misplace things on occasion. I forget things. It’s human. But never have I gone to look for my glasses and immediately thought “COWORKER STOLE THEM” over “aw hell, now where did I set those down?”

            There’s just so many logic leaps to get to “someone stole/tampered with XX!!!” first. [Generic your] life is not that interesting that *everyone* is out to get [generic you] in some conniving way. Newsflash – there’s a good chance nobody but you cares about that sammich in the fridge, or your PJs, or the fact you tripped walking to the parking garage. We’re all too involved in ourselves to notice those types of little things.

            This is something that breaks my brain if I think about it too much.

    3. Allypopx*

      Yes please update if you figure it out! I feel like there’s a loooot of interesting backstory here.

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I agree on the rumors possibility. I went to lunch with a few co-workers once, and while we were sitting at the light we witnessed an accident. The 2 guys I was with got out to help and I drove the car to a nearby parking lot, and stood on the corner waiting for them to come back. When I got back to the office, several people came up to me and asked if I was ok because they had heard I was in an accident. Apparently a few people saw me standing on the corner and made assumptions.

  5. MollyG*

    #4 My advice is to update your resume and get out as soon as you can. There is someone at your company that is out to get you, and it does not appear that your management supports you. Using anti-gay slurs is a fireable offense at many offices, and whomever is accusing you is not throwing softballs. I have been accused of things that I have not done also, and it did not end well. Leave on your own terms, for it is unlikely to get better.

    1. TechWorker*

      I would find out whether OP is the only accused first. If (as suggested above and which was my thought on reading it) they have an accusation but don’t know who the perpetrator is then quitting would be an overreaction. (Okay you might judge a boss who accuses everyone rather than asking about it – but it’s not clear what tone was used here…)

      1. Engineer Girl*

        Many investigations will discourage you from your own digging. It’s reasonable to ask the manager but not the other employees.

        1. Tinuviel*

          It also might be mistaken for the guilty party trying to find out who ratted them out or retaliate against their victim for telling on them. I’d go no farther than “Have you heard about this? How awful.” and let the managers figure it out.

    2. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

      I didn’t get the impression that her manager was unsupportive – only that they were investigating allegations of fireable (and frankly weird – who pees deliberately on an office chair?) offenses.
      Nothing in the OP’s letter suggests that her manager agrees with or believes the allegation, and she doesn’t mention that the manager responded to her denial with suspicion, or that there was any follow up at all beyond leaving the OP shaken by the accusations. You can have a fully supportive manager and still be completely thrown by unfounded dirt thrown at you.
      OP – please write in with an update as soon as you have one.

      1. WellRed*

        A fully supportive manager would have supplied some context for the questions so OP wasn’t bewildered.

    3. JSPA*

      Eh, I’ve seen circumstances where they’re documenting that someone has had a break with reality (or more specifically, documenting that they’re making a slew of false accusations, due in that case to an “episode.”)

      In the movies, people having a break with reality go straight to “personal messages from Elvis and Jesus and aliens.” In the real world, it can be “Landie whispered to me that they hid the stapler on purpose” and “Solana’s been crank-calling me at night from different numbers, but not saying anything.”

      Basically, if the handbook calls for treating the accusations as potentially credible, until such time as it’s clear that they’re not, they don’t pull the accused in and say, “we think someone has a problem, and that it’s not you, but we still have to ask these questions.” (Which is how it used to be handled, often as not.)

      1. JSPA*

        To be clear, the idea of having a set policy is to avoid pre-judging situations or people, to treat all parties with respect, to make unacceptable behavior stop, and to maintain privacy so that someone in need of help can at least potentially get help and return to the workplace without torpedoing their career–but also avoid scarring for anyone unjustly accused).

        As someone else was criticized for bringing up this sort of situation: we can pretend it doesn’t happen, or we can have policies to mitigate the damage for EVERYONE INVOLVED, when it does. I would hope we’d all prefer the second option.

        I don’t know what the best such policy is; but “pretend it doesn’t happen” isn’t it.

      2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        We had a senior citizen woman at work who was a regular customer. One day someone told me, “Oh that lady, she’s crazy. She couldn’t find her glasses and so she called the police because she thought someone stole them! She did that when her car keys were missing too. Isn’t she wacky?”

        Thinking missing household items were stolen by a burglar is an early symptom of Alzheimer’s. Put something down, forget where it was, obviously someone broke in and took it. It’s quite sad, I hope she got the help she needed.

        1. JustaTech*

          That happened to a neighbor of mine too. She already seemed odd when she moved in (first thing she said to us was “did you know there’s a sexual predator in the area?” Uh, hello to you too?), and it got measurably worse over the year she lived in the townhouse. She ignored an alarm that went off for a month (trying to tell us that our shared fire alarm wasn’t working), but called the police at Christmas when she thought she heard people in her house. She also claimed that her dog would eat anyone who tried to mess with her. (He seemed like a nice dog but after that I left them well alone.)

          After she left I learned that she had been moved to a memory-care facility with advanced dementia. It was sad, but I was also glad she was gone and we didn’t have the cops flying up to the house scaring the dickens out of us.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          My neighbor has done this; he decided I’m somehow going into his home and stealing stuff. He hasn’t been well and has gotten sloppy, with the predictable result that he misplaces things. I posted about it last year when he threatened to come over with a shotgun and get his stuff back. The police got involved and took two weapons from his house. (I don’t know if he got them back.)

          I thought it was only a temporary thing, since he’d been ill, until a couple of months ago, a cop showed up on my doorstep who obviously didn’t know about it. I explained, but next time, I’m just going to get my wallet and give them the original incident number and tell them to go look it up.

          I don’t think that’s what’s happening to the OP, however. I think someone is making trouble.

    4. (Former) HR Expat*

      I wouldn’t pack my bags just yet, OP. This could very well be a case of the manager asking several people. At this point, you just don’t know. If you do circle back with your manager, per Alison’s advice, be prepared to not get too many details. The manager may say they’re talking to several people, just you, or they may say that they can’t say anything at all.

      For what it’s worth, the manager should have given you context why he’s speaking with you, what this means, and also what will happen next. Also, please don’t assume that your manager will forever have a negative impression because of this. They may just be checking a box.

    5. Jedi Squirrel*

      I think there is a tendency among the commentariat here to jump to “find-a-different-job” mode entirely too fast. We just don’t have enough context to support the idea that someone is out to get OP. In fact, we never have all the context, just what OP wrote. (And I presume Allison does a bit of editing, as well.)

      Sometimes moving on is warranted. But sometimes odd situations come up at what are otherwise good workplaces. We just don’t know. Allison’s advice to get some context for this is solid. (And really, as others have pointed out, a more nuanced approach on the part of the manager would have provided some context.)

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Yeah, I don’t think OP should be thinking about job searching yet. The boss didn’t write her up and, so far as we know, no further action has been taken against her since this talk. The manager certainly blundered the conversation because OP should have been given context for why she was being questioned, but I don’t think this rises to an egregious level to where she needs to GTFO as soon as possible because the manager is trying to destroy her reputation.

      2. Former Govt Contractor*

        I am surprised at how minor some of things are that generate these comments on AAM. Some of us are a little dug in, you know?

      3. A*

        Yup. This is exactly why I don’t write in (although still love it here!). I’m in a remote area with few job opportunities, and I work in a very specialized position only found in companies of a certain size. I took my current job because I LOVE the area it allowed me to relocate to. I’m so happy I did – but it does mean that I no longer have the option of just moving on when/if things get dicey the same way I could when living in a city where there were always other opportunities.

        Every time recently I’ve been tempted to write in, I stop myself because they’ve all been situations that touch on ethics, and the response from the commenters will most likely be overwhelmingly ‘move on/even if you resolve this you shouldn’t want to work for that employer anyways/staying will make them think that behavior is ok/OMG THE POINT OF THE MATTER’. I’m sure Allison’s response would be helpful so long as I mention that I’m not interested in leaving my current job, but a large benefit of writing in to AAM is also getting constructive feedback from the comments.

        In this case, I agree with Allison’s advise to get context – who knows what the situation is, and who knows if OP is interested in or even able to change jobs.

    6. Junior Assistant Peon*

      At least they told you what you were accused of. I got “you offended somebody, but we can’t tell you who it was or what you did because of anonymity” which made it impossible to defend against. I had many incorrect guesses about who might have complained and what I might have said to trigger it. I found out much later that someone had overheard a piece of a conversation and took something I said out of context.

      I was paranoid and walking on eggshells for the rest of my time in that workplace. I agree that getting out is the right decision. At least these people told you what you were accused of so you can say “I didn’t pee on the chair/make prank calls/etc.”

      1. (Former) HR Expat*

        We don’t even really know that the OP was accused of doing these things, since the manager didn’t give any context. It might be that the manager is accusing them, it might be that the manager is asking everyone. I don’t think we can jump to that conclusion.

    7. Holly*

      This is a bit extreme. I have litigated employment cases where one employee says “X person hacked into my computer and stole all my documents!!” and it was pretty easy to figure out that, no, that did not occur, and nothing happened to the accused colleague. Weird stuff happens at work. People are weird. No reason to overreact yet.

  6. Fortitude Jones*

    OP #1: I work remotely full time precisely because I have some chronic illnesses I could no longer really manage while going into an office everyday. I have yet to get really sick five months into my new gig (knock on wood), and I have almost a week of sick leave accrued already, but if I were to get ill again like I sometimes used to when I worked out of an office (which often resulted in me running back and forth to the restroom every half hour), I think I’d still work through it but I’d give my manager the heads up that if I have any calls that day, those won’t be happening because I’ll be indisposed. I know that a lot of my other coworkers who are ill opt to stay home from their office and work from home, so it would be out of the norm for me not to as well.

    The only time I can see myself not working while ill is if I’m puking my guts up, running a fever, or in so much pain I can barely get out of bed – basically, something severe has to happen for me to call off now. If that happens, remote ability or not, I’m sending an email to my manager telling him I’m out for the day and will be using my sick time to cover it. Those situations require a lot of rest to get better, and I’m not killing myself for somebody else’s benefit.

    1. OP1, a tired hobbit*

      thank you, the reasons you described is why remote work is so good, I’ll take the advice seen here and set a new boundary about ill and too ill to work :)

      1. WellRed*

        I’ve remote worked with a cold or pink eye, even then it was maybe a half day. I would not work with anything more severe.

        1. WellRed*

          By half, I mean rest of day off, not went into office. I’m no sick day martyr and no one wants to listen to me cough.

      2. Fortitude Jones*

        Good luck! I’ve found that most people are reasonable about this (except for the ones at my last company, which is why they’re now a former employer, lol) and don’t expect folks to actually work from home when they’re really ill or badly injured. I think just being upfront when you do work remotely about what you can and cannot do should be fine.

        1. Liz*

          I generally don’t get sick very often at all, even a cold, knock on wood, but my rule of thumb is a cold, or maybe something that won’t really keep me from working, but might be uncomfortable being in the office, i can work from home.

          But if I have a fever, massive sinus headache, etc. i’m home and not working. I used to have a boss thought who thought sick = work from home, because SHE did, even with the flu, pneumonia, etc. Nope, sorry. not happening. Don’t care what you do; i have the flu or pneumonia, i’m home, IN BED. not working.

          1. Kyrielle*

            This. If I feel well enough to work, but not well enough to be in the office, I work from home. If I feel fine but may be contagious, I work from home.

            If I don’t feel well enough to work, I will not be working. (I’m a software engineer, so this is two parts – first, I need to be resting and recovering. Second, trying to code if your brain isn’t working right because you’re sick is a textbook definition of “bad idea”.)

      3. Ophelia*

        I agree with this, OP – I work remotely full-time, and that generally means I do work when, say, I have a cold–but if I’ve got a fever, or a stomach bug or whatever, I call out sick, and I mean it :).

      4. SomebodyElse*

        I think that’s a good plan.

        I, too, use WFH days as can’t drag myself into the office, but can keep up with email and sit on conference calls days. There are some days though that I’m not even up for that. I want to sleep or sit in a vegetative state in front of the tv. Those days I take a sick day without guilt.

        Then some days I’ll take a sick day and still attend an important meeting or keep an eye on email, but not feel bad if I don’t.

        All of the above is my choice. I like not having to use a PTO day for the days that I just don’t want to work in the office. I like to be able to take a PTO day and walk away from work for the day. If I’m able to I’m fine with the PTO day where I take one call/meeting just to keep from having to reschedule.

        I think it’s a rare thing for bosses to think of any of this as bad unless they are already not a great boss to begin with.

      5. Mama Bear*

        I used to work for a company that encouraged people to work from home rather than (example) bring a cough into our open office. If you are too sick by your standards to work effectively, then take a sick day. If you are well enough to move a few electrons or call into a meeting, then you were welcome to do as much as you could. It helped because 1. open offices are germ factories and 2. we didn’t have a ton of PTO/sick leave so we could use a remote day in lieu of burning leave. I’d also lean toward vague when describing symptoms because there’s always going to be a “hero” who muscles through on their deathbed, but that doesn’t need to be you, too.

      6. Curmudgeon in California*

        I’ve done that. If I just want to crawl into bed and sleep, I’m use sick time. If it’s just contagious but minor, I’ll do actual work. Sometimes I’ll work a half day, take sick time half a day. If I’m not able to brain, I take time off.

    2. Shoes On My Cat*

      Great advice, especially as you’ve been/are there! And I hope you start going longer between bouts now that you can stay home! (Ya know, like a year or so!)

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Thank you for the well wishes! I had a relapse of my (still undiagnosed – ugh) stomach issue yesterday, which was disappointing because I hadn’t had this problem in months – but then I got excited because it hadn’t happened in months, lol. I think working remotely is definitely helping (doctors speculated my stomach issues were due to work stress and having to go into an office I hated – I could see that as a possibility now).

    3. Mel*

      Same! I have fibromyalgia, and I’m grateful that we worked out my working remotely. On bad pain days, I’m not up for going in, but rather than having to take unscheduled leave, I can do my job from home. If needed, I can take a break for a bit for a nap and work the remainder of my 8 hours after I rest. I only have to take leave when I’m flared up so bad I can’t think. I don’t like working remotely all the time, as I’m less productive, partly thanks to internet lag. But it’s a godsend when I need it.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        I do the nap thing as well when I’m really out of it, or I tell my manager that I’m sleeping in and will be logging on at noon (he seems to be okay with that).

        I’m glad you and your management could come to a nice compromise for your situation!

    4. Very anon*

      I’ve been struggling with this and what I came up with is that when I get sick, I ask myself if I was scheduled to come into the office, would I have called in? If the answer is yes, then I let my boss know that I will be taking a sick day.

      If my physician put me on bed rest, I would not be working. If I have a fever, that’s my body letting me know there’s a problem and that it should not be business as usual. If I’m in pain, also my body letting me know that there’s a problem.

      How productive can you be if you’re vomiting or battling a fever? How accurate are you? Are you going to be spending a lot of time cleaning up the mistakes you made when you were sick?

      I work to live. I don’t live to work.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Yes to not working with fever, pain, etc. But “bed rest” can mean a lot of different things. I was told to go on “modified bed rest” for the last three months of my pregnancy. I didn’t have to literally stay lying down in bed all day, but I was to stay home and take things as easy as possible to avoid triggering preterm labor (whether this is effective and a reasonable thing for physicians to prescribe in cases like mine is an entirely different story about which I have many opinions that are not relevant here). The only thing wrong was some test results – I felt totally fine. So I worked remotely, I would have gone (even more) stir crazy had I not been able to log in and do some work over those months.

        1. Very anon*

          Re: bed rest, I was thinking of a friend who was put on bed rest. High blood pressure was a huge concern. The job was very stressful. Other things going on, etc. Work was really not an option. So I take your point. Not all situations are equal.

    5. Quill*

      I’ve been using WFH when my tendonitis acts up – saves me an hour of car related ugh those days and means I can work lying down!

    6. Chinookwind*

      I think there is one other reason why someone may choose not to work remotely when they are ill – your head is not clear enough to do the work correctly.

      I remember having influenza but not realizing it until someone caught some mistakes that no clear thinking person would make and that were completely out of the ordinary for me. Sure, I was capable of working, but the amount of time spent fixing these errors when I returned was not worth the time initially spent doing the work. Everybody would have been better served if I had just gone home sick when my head started feeling muddled instead of pushing through the rest of the day.

      1. Gatomon*

        This! I can be sick such that I could feasibly work, but the mistakes are the big issue. At best I find it down the line, and at worse I muck up a change that shouldn’t have been service affecting and take down part of our network. I would rather lose a day or two of my productivity. It’s more time consuming fixing my mistakes down the line since it creates more work for others and urgency. If something really needs to be done, one of my coworkers can do it. I’m not irreplaceable.

        1. NoviceManagerGuy*

          Yep, a few days of fixing my code after working through a fever and I don’t do that anymore.

    7. Turquoisecow*

      When I worked in an office there were probably some days where I felt like I was kind of sick but I went into work anyway because if I’d stayed home I would have sat in bed, maybe napped a bit, played on the computer, watched tv. Going to work meant sitting at a desk all day, not doing much physical, so I felt I could power through and I did. I also figured if I started to feel worse, I could leave early. If I had a bad fever or was nauseous or actually vomiting, I’d stay home, but for minor illness I went to work.

      Now that I work from home, part time, and don’t get any sick time, I just work from bed if I feel particularly awful. Since I’m part time my hours are supremely flexible and most days it doesn’t matter what hours I work as long as I get things done and get to (or near!) my goal hours for the week. I haven’t actually *not* worked a day I intended to yet.

  7. Tinuviel*

    #1 There was a letter a little while ago about taking sick leave but then secretly (wink wink) working from home during that time. I wish that letter writer could read your letter, because this is what happens when you blur the lines of expectations of working while sick. People should be able to work from home without feeling like they’re playing hooky, and people should be able to take a sick day without feeling like they have to work.

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      AGREED. There is definitely gray area where you are not 100% but can still work, but there is also such a thing as being too sick to work.

      Bosses who encourage you to power through the first are a little irritating, but I get how we got here. A broken ankle or mild cold are good reasons to stay home for a couple of days, but you probably don’t need to be totally offline.

      Bosses who expect you to power through the second, or who act like the second doesn’t exist, are to be avoided.

      Although note, I don’t call working from home because I don’t feel 100% a sick day. I call that working from home. During a sick day, I am too sick to work.

      1. TechWorker*

        If I’m in the gray area of ‘too sick to come in, but not really too sick to work’ then I would usually take half a day sick leave and work from home ‘slowly’ the rest of the day. That way I can nap and not worry too much about getting a full days work in, but also don’t have such an email backlog when I come back to work!

        1. Clisby*

          That’s what I did (both when I worked in the office and later, when I was 100% remote.) There were plenty of times I was sick enough that putting in a solid 8 hours was not going to happen, but that 4 hours (with naps interspersed) was perfectly doable.

      2. WellRed*

        Oh good point! It’s not a sick day if you’re working. That’s like… paying the company for the privilege of working

      3. Massmatt*

        But the default really needs to be with the employee calling in sick, they should resist getting pulled into a “how sick are you, REALLY” conversation.

        Sick leave and vacation time (increasingly the same thing!) are part of the employee benefits, IMO a boss that side-eyes someone for taking a sick day, or expects them to work during vacation, is really not that different from someone who says “you can go pick up your paycheck, if you NEED it, if working here were not reward enough!” except we mostly accept the first.

        There are exceptions for people that abuse policies for sick time as with anything but overall sick time is sick time, it means I am not working.

      4. Normally a Lurker*

        I got the flu pretty badly my first year at my current job. I was out for over a week. By the last few days, I was SO stir crazy. Not well enough to actually work a full day, but going out of my mind for lack of things to do.

        WFH was actually a god send bc, at the time, I was working on a long term project that came in bite sized pieces. So I would just work for however long I could before I felt bad again and then took a nap. Ended up working like.. maybe 10 hours the time? And no one actually expected me to. So like, best possible outcome. I got a little bit of work done. Kept a day of sick leave, plus a few hours, got some work done, had something to combat the boredom, and also, ZERO expectations I would get anything done while I was gone.

    2. OP1, a tired hobbit*

      I might search for that. Yeah bosses don’t really officially cover working while ill, so I’ve tried to read from my co-workers behaviour how I should be acting before giving up and just writing here! which I’m glad I did because I got good advice :)

      1. Lily Rowan*

        I’m exempt middle management, and when I call in sick, I do generally keep an eye on email and reply to anything easy or urgent, but I’m definitely not working-working. But I would not force myself to do that if I were too sick to!

        (Also sometimes I waste work time on the internet….. so giving them a little off-hours time back feels fair if it’s not a huge burden.)

      2. M. Albertine*

        I use WFH when I could probably power through a whole day at work, but it would be detrimental to my recovery to do so. I actually just did this: I came down with a cold over the weekend with the peak sickness on Sunday, so I let them know Monday I would be WFH in the morning, but unavailable in the afternoon (so I could nap). I got my essential tasks done and stemmed the tide against email, but still got enough rest to be 100% – or to be honest, 90% – on Tuesday.

  8. Grand Mouse*

    #2- I am also in a long distance serious relationship so best of luck! My feeling is this won’t be feasible. I have certainty wanted more time with my bf.

    So a compromise might be that you switch off seeing each other, and the one staying works all or most of the days. When my bf visited me, I took some days off and worked some days. I ended up being sick almost the whole visit so I woulda had to take the time off anyway! But when I went back to work, I still had my bf to return home to.

    My feelings about 1 (and 4 especially) is “here lies dragons”. I would not be surprised if there are serious underlying issues that force the OPs to move on, hopefully on their own terms. For 1, I hope Alison is right that you can decide to take sick leave and not get pushback. I just don’t see a good outcome for 4. The best case scenario for 4 is that someone has a bug in their ear and will be settled by the correction.

    Hoping for updates!

    1. Tinuviel*

      Agreed on #2. If you can’t take the time paid (ie use your regular vacation time) I don’t think they’ll be extra excited for you to take it unpaid. Yeah they don’t have to pay you but you’re also not there, and usually when you’re not on vacation you gotta be at work. And they’re not going to be sympathetic on this reason either.

      I did as Grand Mouse did, where you switch off visits and have your S.O. to come home to after work. It’s the best option in a bad situation. And S.O. can sometimes meet you for lunch!

      But also your letter says “just for the summer”…what are you going to do/what do you do the rest of the year?

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        My mind jumped to an SO with a summer position. (Seasonal contract, internship, post-doc, etc.)

        1. WellRed*

          If that’s the case, better to suck it up, don’t ask for the time if you don’t have it. Summer is pretty prime time for others to want time off, as well.

          1. fposte*

            I think this is a really important point. *Lots* of people would like that time off. Even if they have such a policy, it’s not likely that one employee would be the favored one for every summer month–the OP would have to stay to cover for the other employees who took the time off.

            1. A*

              If one of my co-workers had this arrangement granted, I would immediately make up an imaginary long distance relationship and request the same. That sounds like an AWESOME deal!

              …on the flip side. This is the kind of thing that really can only be granted to so many people (assuming they don’t want a staff of 100 to fill 6 roles at any given point), so that might be a challenge. I would be livid if a co-worker had this approved, and I was denied – especially if it was due to my co-worker’s romantic relationship. Sick child? Sure. Romance? Only if everyone else can also take advantage for whatever reasons they have!

        2. Antilles*

          That was my thought too. And for a limited-time summer position, the answer is absolutely going to be no – so much to that simply asking for this much unpaid time would raise eyebrows.
          Such positions usually don’t come with vacation because you’re intended to be there for only a fairly short time. You can usually get some flexibility on small things – a couple of unpaid days off, flexibility to leave early on July 3rd, etc…but asking for one week off per month is a huge ask, basically equivalent to cutting out 20-25% of the time.

      2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        I worked with someone who managed to negotiate a six week unpaid leave each year for something personal. He had a regular work schedule no one wanted and as a result was impossible to cover, so they decided it made more sense to suck it up and cover it for the requested sabbatical, rather than risk him quitting and have to cover it permanently.

        It really depends on the situation: how well staffed they are, what their attitude towards taking time off is, how flexible your boss is, etc.

    2. Lynca*

      I was in a long distance relationship for 14 years. We’re married now. Taking that much time off every month in the summer isn’t going to be viable for a bank teller or a lot of other jobs. Taking a lot of leave (regardless of paid/unpaid status) like that is going to cause a strain on the branch which if it’s a commercial bank, likely already understaffed. Like Alison said you would have to be a valued employee, have a lot of goodwill, and bosses willing to work with you.

      One of the things I looked for in a job was that I could take large chunks of time off for visits. Even then I couldn’t do it in the first two years of my job because I had to earn enough PTO. He was overseas so I had to take several weeks off at a time when I visited. Same was true for him when he came to see me.

      I get wanting to spend as much time with your BF as possible. But that’s not always possible because we have to work and you do have to find a way to cope with that limitation together.

      1. Daffy Duck*

        I was in a long-distance relationship for 4 years (married to him now for over 30 years). If this is because BF has a summer job someplace else – I would say suck it up and spend your time with phone calls, skype, and texting. Asking to be gone 1/4 of your job is huge, so huge that your boss may find it is easier to hire another bank teller than coverage for your unpaid time off.
        If this is a permanent/multi-year job on his part – I would suggest just moving to the area and finding a new job if you want to be with him all the time. But really, there are many, many professions where spouses are not in the same town much of the time: military deployment, long haul truck drivers, sales with large territories, etc. That doesn’t even touch the professionals with the “two-body problem” where jobs are hundreds or thousands of miles apart. This isn’t a relationship breaker (with either your BF or job) unless you want it to be.

    3. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I’m wondering based on the LW’s phrasing, if they only want one or two days a month adding up to about a week total over the course of the summer? That would be far less onerous and more likely for the employer to agree; if they’re truly asking for a week or more off each month, I don’t even think it’s worth asking about.

    4. sparty07*

      One thing my wife did when she was a nurse was tweaking her schedule so she only had to take 1 or 2 vacation days to get 12 straight days off (different when you work 3×12). If you can work M-Th, and then W-Sa with a vacation or unpaid day off to get to your 5×8 shcedule you would have close to a week off.

    5. CMart*

      I think that compromise is a good one for #2. I also don’t know much about bank teller positions. In my mind I always had them on par with retail/hospitality jobs. Shift work, hourly, no or limited benefits like PTO etc… And in those kind of jobs I can see a little bit more wiggle room in taking chunks of time off like that. Some of it can be officially sanctioned by requesting not to work, but otherwise you can wheel and deal for shits with your coworkers.

      At that point it’s more of a perception thing than a permission/logistical one. But I’m perhaps mistaken about the nature of teller work.

  9. Engineer Girl*

    #4 – so many possibilities!

    • Someone is being harassed and they have no idea who. They are doing a lane scattergun approach at finding the culprit.

    • You are being targeted for a firing by corrupt or incompetent HR/management

    • you are working with someone with mental issues that targeted you for their drama.

    Alison’s approach will work for any of these. Watch how your manager reacts when you ask the questions. That will give you some hints. I’d also ask them if there are cameras in your office (many have them) as that could help find the urinator.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        No. They are based on my own awful experience of being targeted by someone with mental issues.

      2. Engineer Girl*

        And by the way, mental issues can incorporate narcissism, psychopath, cluster B disorders as well as issues with medically based issues.

        If you’ve ever been the target you know that certain individuals have no problem with wild lies.

        1. Knitting Cat Lady*

          I’ve been targeted by quite a lot of people.

          And grouping personality disorders in with everything else is awful.

          Some people get off on hurting others. They are sadist. Some might have a personality disorder, some might be mentally ill, but most of them are just assholes.

          And asshole is not a mental illness, it’s a result of bad role models.

  10. AcademiaNut*

    For #1 – I work in a job where they handle this pretty sensibly. If I’m sick enough that I can’t work well, or just want to crawl back into bed and sleep it off, I take a sick day and I don’t work at all or read emails. If I’m feeling a bit cruddy, but would work better at home, or if I have an illness where I can work just fine but can’t get to the office (sprained ankle, end part of a gastrointestinal illness) I’ll work from home. If I didn’t have the work from home option, I’d probably take a couple more sick days a year, but would also end up hauling myself into work when I would otherwise work at home.

    The balance can vary for different people, though – someone with who has more demands on their sick leave than others (small children, a chronic illness) may want to work through minor illnesses and save the sick leave for more urgent matters. The bedrest example is one that might not be a bad thing – if someone’s on extended bedrest for a difficult pregnancy, it gets really, really boring very quickly, and can eat up leave that’s needed post birth, so they may well actively want to and be able to work.

    1. NYWeasel*

      Was coming to post something similar.

      If I just shouldn’t be in the office: “I’m not feeling well so I will be working from home. Best way to reach me is X.”

      If I’m too sick to work: “I need to take a sick day today, and will not be able to check my email. If you need immediate assistance, please contact Jane. Otherwise I will get back to you when I’m back in the office.”

      1. BadWolf*

        Similar to my office, we can work from home if needed. So sometimes it’s “I think I’m coming down with something, so working from home to avoid spreading it” or “I’m unwell and will be out today ” or “I feel better, but sound worse so will work from home and save you all from my coughing and nose blowing.”

    2. WS*

      A staff member I worked with was in a serious accident and broke both legs, among other serious injuries. She had major surgeries and took four months off completely – but after that she was still not mobile and had medical appointments to schedule but was very bored at home, so she came back to remote work. She was initially scheduled part time, but found that she was able to do full time because she didn’t have a commute and could work a few hours at a time around physical therapy. This was perfect for her.

    3. JJ Bittenbinder*

      I was going to say the same thing re: bedrest. In many instances, there really aren’t any symptoms to manage, just a requirement to remain horizontal, so work isn’t taxing in the same way that it is during, say, a migraine (I saw OP #1 mention a migraine elsewhere). Migraines for me (I know they vary greatly) mean that screen time or even enough light to work by is going to be really painful and not productive, so I’m likely to use actual sick time for at least however many hours it takes until the severe pain and vomiting pass. For something like an upper respiratory infection, I usually work through because my ability to see or concentrate are not compromised.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Yeah, I was on bed rest for three months before I had my twins. I felt totally fine physically (I mean, very pregnant, but nothing that would interfere with the ability to work at a computer), but I was told I was at high risk of preterm labor so I was an anxious mess. Having the ability to do work was a huge help to my sanity and distraction from reading internet message boards about NICU treatments for babies born pre-term at whatever stage of pregnancy I was that week. Fortunately I was in grad school and so the mediocre research I did that semester only really affected me and didn’t drag down coworkers, but I really appreciated my advisors making it possible for me to continue as much as I was able.

        (After all that anxiety and far too many doctor’s appointments, my twins were born at almost 38 weeks.)

    4. It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s SuperAnon*

      My experience exactly too. I had a nasty virus a few weeks ago, but my project at work blew up at the same time so I wanted to stay on top of things. I took 1 full day off to sleep and recuperate, then spent the rest of the week WFH on and off so I could blow my nose as often and loudly as needed without disturbing anyone, and adjust my schedule so that I was working when I was actually productive. When I explained this to my boss and project managers, they both appreciated me staying home and keeping my virus to myself, and also reminded me to use sick time as needed.

      It’s hard in a job where you can be connected all the time to unplug, but I think most people understand that you use sick days and don’t work remote for a fever or flu(!!!)

    5. miss_chevious*

      We have the same understanding in my department — minor illnesses are “work from home” so you don’t have to commute and can nap and don’t infect us, etc., but if you’re seriously ill, take a sick day and rest and recover.

    6. Jenn G*

      I’ll add my bed rest experience – I’ve worked from bed rest twice, once in a pregnancy and once with a broken leg. These were both very different experiences from being sick, both in terms of length of time and also in terms of what I could and couldn’t do (especially once I recovered from the leg surgery.)

    7. Cedrus Libani*

      It’s the same in my office. If you’re actually too sick to work, you send out an email saying so, and you take leave. No one will question you on it. But if it’s just the sniffles, you might as well work from home. I’m young-ish and healthy, so I’m able to work through a minor cold – but the one time where I basically said “I’m going to bed, see you Monday”, there was no push-back.

  11. All Outrage, All The Time*

    OP3 – I would not use reply all for these emails, or for basically anything. I doubt the new person is looking to see who responded and how. Stick to emailing the person concerned and stay out of the hell that is reply all.

    1. Oxford Comma*

      I always just email the new person and welcome them on board, saying I am looking forward to meeting them, working with them, etc.

      No reply all.

    2. Colette*

      Agreed. When someone uses reply all for that kind of thing, I either assume it was a mistake, or that they want to be seen to be welcoming someone.

    3. Stripes*

      Outlook has an option to move all future emails in a chain/conversation to junk. It’s a lifesaver.

    4. (Former) HR Expat*

      Agreed. My company has the reply all culture to welcome people and congratulate each org change/promotion. It’s exhausting knowing that everytime something is announced, I’m going to receive 100+ reply alls to this. I refuse to take part in the shenanigans.

  12. The Rat-Catcher*

    OP #3, I think this might fly in a smaller office more so than a larger one. My org has thousands of staff and the retirement announcement for someone you don’t know followed by 25 reply alls from other people you don’t know is just clutter. But I also worked in an office of 7 where reply all might generate the kind of positivity you are describing.

  13. I coulda been a lawyer*

    OP#2, I have never worked anywhere that would permit even one entire week of unpaid time off for anyone other than a brand new employee without accrued leave. And even then it was only for something outstanding, like their own wedding or a family death on the other side of the country. Even my part time seasonal jobs have a required minimum number of days you have to work.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      I’ve seen it happen for relatively unusual vacation things – a once in a lifetime extended vacation, for example – or negotiated by a new employee based on plans made before taking the job. I’ve also seen it in FMLA type situations, when someone takes an unpaid leave of absence due to illness or emergency. But yes, I think it’s extremely unusual otherwise.

      I work in a branch of academia where long distance relationships are very common (so common that “where does your partner live?” is not considered a weird question). A typical arrangement is to be able to visit the partner (or the partner’s institute) for a period of a week or two, but to work remotely during that time. Other than that, people very carefully plan out their vacation time and money, and Skype a lot. Arrangements could be make for an emergency (like an ill partner overseas), but regular unpaid leaves of absence are not done.

      For the OP, the main issue I see is coverage. Summers are a popular time for vacations, so it’s very possible that getting an extra 3-4 weeks off will simply not be possible without putting an undue burden on coworkers.

    2. Smithy*

      I have a coworker who is work from home for a whole week once a month so she can physically be with her partner. If there is a robust work from home policy, I think it’s easier to negotiate than with jobs where you need to be physically present in the office and would be looking at taking the time unpaid.

    3. IheartPaulBuchman*

      It’s actually something that happens here (Australia). My husband’s office allows ‘purchased leave’. Basically you reduce your annual salary to a pro rata rate based on the number of weeks you will work (the person earning $52000 with 4 weeks of paid leave organises to be paid $50000 over the year and takes 6 weeks of leave, during which they are paid the reduced salary same as any other week). Some employers (government for example) also allow extra leave to be taken at half pay.

      This is seen as a win-win, the employer reduces overheads and the employee gets extra holidays. It’s usually used as a one-off for an overseas holiday/maternity/transitional retirement etc.
      Normally it is negotiated to be taken in the quiet period when coverage is unnecessary or done by lower paid staff. It is perfectly workable in many industries- though not all.

    4. Emmie*

      I read this as one week off every month over the summer for a total of three weeks during the summer. It is unlikely that the employer will grant this. It sounds like OP wants to see their partner more frequently. If OP’s job gives no vacation time, I recommend discussing extended unpaid weekends (taking 1-2 days off) 2-3 times during the summer unless this is a seasonal job.

  14. Soupmonger*

    #2: you may be thinking that if you take unpaid leave, your employer isn’t paying you, so your absence costs them nothing. You’re wrong. They still have to find cover for your shifts, plus you retain holiday you still need to be covered for. You should definitely not ask for a week a month – that’s a ridiculous amount of time off for an employer to cope with.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      There’s additional stuff to consider too. In many places dropping to 32 hours a week makes you part time and ineligible for full time benefits.
      While taking a week off isn’t technically part time, the total working hours per month drops to that level.
      It would be a hard no from me if I were the manager.

      1. MK*

        Taking tine off, paid or not, does not make you part-time, an I have never known this to depend on how many hours you work in a month. There is really no point in bringing up bizarre eventualities to scare the OP.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          I’m not trying to scare the employee and it’s a ridiculous assertion. The reality is that companies define part time and full time differently (there isn’t really a standard). Some companies define it by hours per month. Some by week.
          The important thing is to check so you can make an informed assessment.

        2. Monican*

          I think Engineer Girl brings up a good point actually. At my employer, this would not be approved because the amount of money that my employer pays towards my benefits depends on the assumption that I work (or take paid time off) for a total of 40 hours every week. Part time employees receive a smaller benefits package because they are assumed to work fewer hours. This isn’t bizarre and OP should be aware that this could be a reason that her employer uses to deny her request. 

          1. Sarah N*

            Yes, when my husband took unpaid leave after our daughter was born, he wasn’t considered part time but he did have to pay back the portion of his health insurance premiums that would otherwise be covered by his company. So it absolutely can impact your benefits and mean you’re not just not getting a paycheck but you’re actually writing a check to your company.

        3. doreen*

          Employers with part-time workers often treat benefits differently than companies with only full-time workers. For example, employers with part-timers may offer PTO at a rate of so many hours PTO per 40 hours worked, while companies with only full-time workers may give so many hours per month or year or pay period. Companies with part-timers might offer leave or other benefits only to those who worked at least X number of hours last year.

          Even laws may treat someone as full or part-time based on the number of hours per month – for the ACA, a full-time employee is one who averages either 30 hrs per week or 130 per month.

        4. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          It does indeed happen; I once had a colleague who didn’t need the money from her job so she would regularly leave 2+ hours early every day, and after several weeks of this happening her manager had to tell her she was at risk of being classified as part-time and losing her health insurance. It’s possible the company didn’t legally *have* to do this and just wanted her to stop leaving early, but they also legally are not required to provide health insurance to someone who doesn’t work an average of 32 hours/week.

        5. Oh So Anon*

          It’s not necessarily that bizarre. FWIW, this is how things worked for retail employees at a certain large coffee chain with a green logo around a decade ago and I can think of a couple long-term care facilities around here that do something similar. It’s unusual in circumstances where there are relatively few part-time or seasonal workers, but it is something that happens in service jobs or other settings with primarily hourly employees, both in Canada and the US.

          The difference is that, after a certain point, these employers treat “unpaid time off” for hourly PT employees as not being available for scheduling rather than actually being on PTO.

    2. Xavier89*

      Yeah it’s a really tone deaf request imo

      I think they would be better off saving their vacation time (hopefully they get some, I’m not sure if bank tellers typically do) and going on a two week summer vacation or something like that

      1. annony*

        It they get no PTO it becomes much more reasonable to ask for unpaid time off. That is really the only time I have seen it approved. Even so, three weeks would be excessive even if it isn’t in a row. One week is probably the better ask.

    3. Budgieman*

      A cautionary tale.
      I had a friend years ago who wanted to take six weeks to travel after being in a corporate IT job for about 18 months. His manager said “You have allocated leave for a reason, and we plan our staffing level around that. If I can do without you for an extra six weeks, then I can do without you permanently”
      Said friend, being young and stupid, ended up resigning to take his trip, but was never able to score a job in IT again…and has spent the last 25+ years doing poorly paid grunt work.

      1. Allypopx*

        I think “you’ll never work in this town again!” is probably a rare and extreme outcome (I’m sorry for your friend!) but the manager in this story does have a point. OP, you were hired with the expectation that you would fill x amount of needed hours for the company, usually where x=your weekly average of hours*weeks of operation-your allocated vacation time. Asking to take significantly more than that generally throws off more on the backend than you might be aware of from your position as a front-line worker.

        You can still ask! But definitely ask with the understanding that the answer might be “no” and a tone that conveys you understand it might cause the company a hardship.

        1. Budgieman*

          I may not have been completely clear. It wasn’t a threat, it was setting the level of expectation in a manner that provides a legitimate reason for denying the request.
          The real reason it cost him his career was that he was not the sort of person who interviews well in the first place, and was lucky (IMO) to have the job based on a work placement during Uni, and not on the standard job application process. So he takes a bunch of time off, travels, comes back, and then tries to find a new job, with limited experience, poor interview skills, and a sizable hole in his resume without adequate explanation, and it was a disaster.
          Had he stuck with it, he would have been building his experience, and given himself a much better chance at continuing in the industry.
          25+ years on, I know he regrets that impetuous decision to leave, as he now recognises that he would have had plenty of time to travel that he can now never afford to do.

          1. Oh So Anon*

            So that’s kinda burying the lede a bit. What your friend did isn’t super uncommon among entry-level workers, and those who are able to interview well can recover from a situation like that. Heck, it’s possible to resign from a job for a bucket list trip without torching one’s references, even. Unfortunately that’s not what happened here, but this is kind of an extreme outcome.

      2. Fortitude Jones*

        This is the mentality of C-level management at my current company and why most of my colleagues only take vacation in one to two week increments (even though most of them work in Europe) even though they have much more time than that banked.

      3. Lady Jay*

        Echoing Allypopx, I’m not sure about the relevance of this story. Especially for positions like “bank teller” (there are a lot of bank tellers in any given city, it’s not hard to find job openings), if OP decided to take some time off to be with her SO, she would almost certainly be just fine.

        My sense is that OP is torn between work and family right now–that’s a tough spot to be! If you want to maintain good relationships at work, then yes, you probably do need to stick around during the summer, regardless of any LDR. But if you decide that your family is more important, which is fine, you probably don’t have room to stay around at work.

        You can always ask, of course! But keep in mind that the answer may be No.

      4. Goldfinch*

        Twice in my life, I saved up all my PTO to use in one shot for an epic road trip, and I was downsized from both companies within a month of returning from my vacation. My entire career (and retirement funding) was severely derailed. I will never again take off more than two weeks at a time.

    4. annony*

      There is also the cost of benefits. They are probably still paying for insurance premiums and other perks during that time.

  15. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

    #1: I work in an office where the official policy is that if you’re too sick to come in, but feel up to working, stay home and work from home. If you’re too sick to work even from home, take a sick day. It’s seen as an extra benefit because you don’t need to use up your sick leave for minor things (ours rolls over from year to year, so it basically becomes a short term disability/paid parental leave bank if you don’t use it as regular sick leave and build a bunch up – it’s not abnormal for people to have over a month of sick leave banked if they’ve been here a while).

    In practice, I probably work days I would have called in sick in other jobs, because there are times when I am well enough that it’s worth it to me to not be behind when I get back so I’d rather work from home. I’ve never had anyone complain when I take an actual sick day instead, though. With luck, your office is similar, although I know some places don’t really believe in “too sick to work” for some reason. (If I have a “all I want is a dark room with my eyes closed” headache, I am NOT getting on a computer screen from home all day, but the culture-setters in some offices must not get those kinds of headaches or other such issues.)

    This year, one of my co-workers has a compromised immune system due to cancer treatments, so I’ll probably work from home on a lot of “mild sniffles and a sore throat” days I’d otherwise go to work. I’d certainly be frustrated eating away at my sick leave for those, so it’s nice that I can both keep her safer and not lose sick days rather than try to weigh how contagious I am versus how badly my sick days are eroding.

    1. TechWorker*

      I too see it as a perk – not so much about using up sick leave because I’m in a country with way more generous statutory sick leave – but because the sickness barrier for ‘work from home’ is so much lower than taking the full day off is. I can wfh if I’m just a bit sneezy, or a bit headachey, and recover more quickly without the concern of having to take the whole day off. It’s definitely harder for those in jobs where wfh isn’t a thing!

    2. OP1, a tired hobbit*

      Yeah my manager is never “too sick to work” but like Alison said, maybe she isn’t expecting the same from me, I’ll just have to try and see when I get sick next time or a migraine hits.

      I work in europe, so my sick leave policy is quite different, where the 1st day of illness is always unpaid, but the rest is partially covered and unlimited so I don’t have that same save motivation

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Being in Europe is significant IMHO because it means you can’t be fired for not working when you’re sick!

      2. Guacamole Bob*

        One thing to keep in mind is that maybe your manager just doesn’t get very sick very often. A few months ago I had a stomach bug that totally knocked me flat, and I realized that it had been quite a few years since I was so sick that getting out of bed was a real effort. I’ve had plenty of colds and lower-grade stomach stuff, but very little that would keep me from at least logging on for a bit to triage email.

        I also find that my feeling about my own illnesses changed when I had kids – little kids still need you to drag yourself through your day, and they use up a lot of sick time themselves, so I think there’s more of a tendency to de-prioritize your own rest and recovery needs as parent of young kids. And the stress of catching up after taking sick time started to feel worse, since there were more chores in my personal life that were also getting postponed when I was sick. So I started working through being sick more often, even though I recognize it’s not really a good idea.

        (And my apologies to all my grad school classmates for the time I left the health center with my pneumonia diagnosis and went to class instead of going home. Even more for the fact that I had to leave the classroom to handle a coughing fit that got so bad I threw up in the bathroom. But it still… didn’t really occur to me that going home was an option? My small children were being cared for at home so it wouldn’t have been restful, and it was a once a week three hour lecture with a beloved professor.)

      3. Very anon*

        Chronic migraine sufferer here. When one hits me, I need to curl up in a fetal ball in a dark room for hours. Is your manager one of those people who thinks they are just nasty headaches you can cure with some over the counter remedy?

      4. BadWolf*

        The “never too sick to work” can be tricky — but you should still feel out if that’s just their personal thing or if that’s what they think of everything.

        I had a coworker who worked through everything. Major surgery and on narcotics? No problem. After that, I mentioned to my manager that I just wasn’t as robust as said coworker. My manager immediately responded that he didn’t expect other coworkers to act like Surgery No Problem Coworker. Which was nice to hear, but I only heard that when I asked about it. And it was a healthy lesson in that sometimes the job will just suck out everything you offer. You have to draw your boundaries, your manager won’t magically do it for you.

        1. miss_chevious*

          My strategy is to take the day and see how the manager handles it, as I haven’t had good luck with asking directly about sick leave/PTO in that everyone says they support it, but in practice doesn’t set that example.

          It’s also not a kiss of death, necessarily to be out of line with your manager or team culture on this issue. I am one of those managers who believes that sick leave/PTO means that you are OFF and should not do any work — we aren’t brain surgeons and we have coverage for your absence — and I act accordingly and am still considered a high performer and am rewarded for my work. Other people at my level have mentioned to me that they try to be more rigid about their PTO/sick leave and that of their reports as a result of my stance on it. Of course, this depends on your workplace/team being reasonable, which mine is (despite their workaholic natures :) ), so you have to feel it out a bit.

          1. Oh So Anon*

            Just out of curiosity, how do you feel about your reports working from home if they’re too sick to come in but not too sick to be functional?

            1. Tinuviel*

              Not me, but personally I don’t see/feel a large difference between those. For a situation like bed rest during pregnancy or broken leg sure, but if you have a cold or something? If I don’t feel good, I don’t feel like working and find it distracting to work while sick. Maybe people who get sick different from me feel differently, but if I was in charge, I’d give everyone enough sick leave that they could fully turn off whenever they felt sick.

      5. Twenty Points for the Copier*

        I’m self-employed and work mostly from home and I’ve found in the years I’ve done this I’m very rarely too sick to work. Maybe 4 or 6 hours instead of 8 hours working, but it’s very rare to have a true sick day now that I don’t need to worry about commuting or infecting others.

        However, if I had a fever that impacted my thinking or was totally wiped out and needed to rest all day (or were in the hospital/on medical that impacted brain clarity/etc), then I absolutely would take the day off. The bar for what is too sick to work may not be a sign of a bad environment – it may just be that the bar is legitimately much higher for most people when working from home is an option.

    3. Fortitude Jones*

      ours rolls over from year to year, so it basically becomes a short term disability/paid parental leave bank if you don’t use it as regular sick leave and build a bunch up

      My current company’s sick leave policy is the same, so that’s why I will rarely (if ever) use my sick time – in the event that I do get too ill to work for a couple weeks or more, or if I get in an accident, or decide to have a child/adopt, I’ll have the time saved to use alongside my FMLA to ensure I’m paid for the time off when my short term disability and/or parental leave is up.

    4. Bloopmaster*

      As someone who also has a compromised immune system and is eyeing the beginning of cold/flu season with dread, I am delighted to hear that so many offices allow staff to WFH with minor illnesses and colds (without using sick-leave) and that so many workers take advantage of this. Thanks for helping the rest of us stay healthy! I was overjoyed when boss and grandboss sent a co-worker with a cold home this week to telework, so I (and others too) could avoid the germ exposure. Its fantastic when there is a culture of not coming into work with contagious illnesses (as long as you can also use sick-time freely when you don’t feel up to WFH)!

      1. Oh So Anon*

        Absolutely. I’ve worked at a place where working from home while sick was somehow seen as “gaming the system” (despite having a WFH policy), but taking any of our five sick days was frowned upon. I’m one of those “never too sick to actually work” people but it isn’t uncommon for me to get a case of the flu that low-grade messes me up for a long time.

        I talked to my manager about this and she treated me like some awful liability who was trying to get out of being in the office. It didn’t seem like it made sense for anyone involved for me to burn through sick days and then short-term disability for a non-incapacitating illness, all while not getting any work done and unnecessarily inconveniencing everyone. I still remember her response when I asked about what: “Well, how does everyone else handle it? Why can’t you just do what they do?” I figure she just wanted an excuse to shame people for illness and mark them as poor performers for being human. So awful.

      2. JustaTech*

        WFH has been a great blessing to my group at work for one of my coworkers who has a compromised immune system.
        Before we had WFH, and while one of our other group-mates was a contractor with no sick leave we had a few pretty uncomfortable moments where contractor had a cough/runny nose, but it was probably allergies, but no one was sure and immune compromised coworker wanted the contractor to go home.
        But if the contractor went home she wouldn’t get paid, and people need to make rent.
        They argued, then stopped speaking to each other before I got frustrated with both of them and said to the coworker with sick leave “she can’t take a sick day so why don’t you take a sick day now?”
        It was a terrible solution (contractors need sick days!), and if either of them had been able to WFH the whole thing could have been avoided.

  16. Jess*

    #1: in cases like this I like to follow the sociopath’s rule of ignoring unspoken rules. If you are supposed to work on your sick days it is up to your manager to explain that to you in words, whilst facing the full weight of how absurd that is.

  17. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    For #1, there’s a very useful middle ground where you log on at home in the morning, firefight your inbox, then go back to sleep. If the culture is that you work through anything less than a coma, you’re still “working” and others aren’t significantly impeded by your absence, but you’re also giving your body a chance to recover.

    Agree with all the other posters saying this is very much a cultural thing and you should seek clarification, but just wanted to remind you that there is a middle ground between “do no work, wholly absent” and “do all the work, as if not absent”.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      Yeah, sometimes checking your email a couple of times and responding to time-sensitive stuff or finishing up a small task or two can keep things rolling in a way that feels useful and still allows lots of time for rest. It’s not something that should be expected if you have a migraine and can’t look at a screen, or if you’re seriously ill and feverish and whatnot, but for the run-of-the-mill bad cold it reduces stress for both me and my colleagues.

      My sick leave is by the hour, so it’s not unusual for me to work for 1-2 hours and take the rest as sick time on a day like that.

      1. EPLawyer*

        My rule of thumb is “if I can’t look at the screen/can’t remember what day of the week it is” I don’t law. Anything else, I try to at least hit the priorities and then sleep.

        Unfortunately some places have the culture of “power through no matter what.” If OPs boss is never too sick to work from home they might not understand that some people physically can’t.

      2. Guacamole Bob*

        Another thing to keep in mind is that it’s really hard to judge how much work someone is doing from home when they’re sick unless you’re talking to them about it. I’m sure coworkers have thought I was putting in at least a half day when they got an email from me at 9 a.m. and responded to something else at 1 p.m., but in reality I took a two hour nap and watched some TV in between.

        There are ways to tell whether someone who works from home regularly is pulling their weight, and managers who have concerns can get into the specifics, but with the kind of work flow in many offices a coworker is unlikely to be able to tell how productive someone else is on any given morning of working from home.

        So in your office culture you may need to be very sick to hit the “I’m not even checking email once” bar, but coworkers may be using tons of flexibility with the work from home arrangements to mix rest and work.

      3. Clisby*

        Or, sometimes you might feel bad enough that you can’t really concentrate on some important high-priority thing, but can knock out a bunch of more rote stuff that’s going to have to get done anyway.

  18. Asenath*

    I’m always astonished by the number of commenters who are able to work at home! That’s never been an option for me. I also wonder about combining it with illness. Sure, I suppose it might reduce infection in the workplace, but maybe not by much because with some illnesses you’re infectious before you have symptoms, and you can have symptoms long after you are no longer infectious. But honestly, although I would have liked to work from home just for convenience, especially in bad weather, if I’m sick, I don’t want to be working and I really don’t think working while sick would really mean I was able to get much work done, and done well, or that I would get the rest I need to recover.

    1. OP1, a tired hobbit*

      I think it comes down to office space being an expence they want to cut down on in a lot of cases. Open offices have become very popular, and if you ‘allow’ remote work you can reduce costs by renting less space, e.g. if you have 100 employees maybe you only rent a place with 80 desks on the assumption that 20% of you workforce will be on leave/ill/working from home. It’s sold as a perk but it often benifits the employer more

    2. doreen*

      That depends on what kind of sick you are – sure, with some illnesses I wouldn’t be able to get much (or any) work done. But there have been times when the main reason I didn’t go to work was the lack of access to restrooms during the commute – I would have been able to work from home just fine.

      1. Jdc*

        Been there. After three stops trying to just get up the street to get on the highway I just gave up, went home and called in.

      2. Fortitude Jones*

        But there have been times when the main reason I didn’t go to work was the lack of access to restrooms during the commute

        This was me, and I was walking to work, which made it worse. I used to have a 15 minute walk to and from work every day, but five or six minutes in, my bladder and/or bowels would try to give up on me suddenly and there wasn’t a restroom in sight. There were some restaurants/coffee shops and stuff I passed on the way, but some of the smaller places don’t have restrooms or if they did, you had to buy something first in order to use it – that gets expensive, and I wouldn’t always be able to wait in line that long to pay for something I didn’t actually need.

    3. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      Maybe it’s time to ask to see if it’s possible! Or if in a union bargain it.

      In my union shop, the project managers can all work from home and do so (sometimes feeling not 100%, keeping germs at home).

      The support staff, due to the collective agreement and corporate culture, do NOT work from home and are in fact not allowed to work from home. When the employer rolled out laptops for everyone and removed all the desktop computers, there was a huge uproar from the support staff fearing that they would now be expected to work from home. That fear never materialized but as the months go by, some support staff are now wishing they could work from home sometimes, especially when daycare falls through or when, say, the weather is bad (we have a lot of cross-border (from one province to another) travellers). And the answer is still no.

      I’d like to think that one day the employer will come around and allow support staff to work from home on a case by case basis (exceptional circumstances (contractors, daycare, senior care) or a perk to high performers since there’s no merit raises or bonuses as in a union shop we all get the same raise) but we’re not there yet. And the challenge would be to enshrine this perk in the collective agreement in such a way to reduce grievances.

      1. doreen*

        There are always going to be some people who can’t work remotely – and in a lot of places, that’s going to include the support staff. I don’t know what the support staff in your office does, but in mine, they cannot do any part of their job from home. I mean, they could type reports at home- but then there’s the issue of getting the handwritten reports to them so they really can’t.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Yeah, my job is something that can’t be done remotely. I can’t exactly Skype in for story time or my shift at the customer service desk. I’ve had two work from home days in my entire 18 years in this career path. I’ll admit to being a little jealous of people who have that as an option, but I knew what I was signing up for when I took this job.

      2. Asenath*

        I’m union, and that might be part of it – not in the contract – but people don’t even seem aware of it as something that might be done. Which in a way, is a good thing because it does enable good separation of work and private life. No one calls me with work when I’m at home. But the idea has been in the back of my head – I’m not going to argue for it now as I’m counting down to retirement, so I’ll be gone before any decision would be made! But I’m support staff, and 99% of what I do could be done anywhere with a good internet connection and off-site access to my work files. And access to my work phone number, but that’s less important. There are a handful of events a year that I need to actually show up for in person. Most of my work is getting information in, doing something with it, and sending the results back out again, or filing them appropriately (electronically, so I don’t need physical filing cabinets(.

      3. Oh So Anon*

        Offering WFH based on non-operational conditions can be an extraordinarily dangerous practice. You end up potentially legitimizing managers making judgement about their reports’ personal lives and whether their circumstances are “worthy” of being accommodated with WFH. Restricting WFH to high performers might have fewer issues, but it’s not unthinkable that a manager who is inherently anti-WFH may abuse that through the performance evaluation system.

        In some ways, being in a union shop makes this even more challenging because managers get held to policies they might be uncomfortable with because of a collective agreement. I’ve seen this go badly enough in non-union shops where there has been some degree of managerial buy-in that I dunno what to tell you.

      1. Clisby*

        Not necessarily applicable to you, but with what seem to be advances in telemedicine, is it likely medical professionals will have more WFH opportunities in future? (I realize this doesn’t apply to a NICU nurse, or an ER nurse, of course.)

    4. CTT*

      But like Alison said, there are different kinds of sick. The last time I was home sick, I worked through it because I had a really sore throat and could barely talk; because it was allergies I was totally fine to work, I just didn’t want the hassle of explaining to people I couldn’t talk. But the time before that, I had the stomach flu and didn’t touch my work email once. There are different variations on what it means to be sick.

    5. Bagpuss*

      I think it depends hugely on the job and on the illness.

      My job involves dealing directly with clients so most of it I can’t do from home, but there are generally some things which I can do and of course I can deal with e-mails if necessary.

      I wouldn’t normally work from home if I were ill , but there have been days when I have done some work when I was recuperating but not yet well enough to go in – for instnace when the enrgy needed to get dressed, washed and rive to work would mean that I’d be wiped out before I got started, but if I didn’t expend enrgy doing those things I could log on and check e-mails, answer questions and let my assistant know what I needed her to do.

      It’s not anything like as much work as I would get done *at* work, but it is better, both for my assustnat and other coworkers, and for me when I return, than if I do nothing at all.

    6. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I know I’m very fortunate to have the flexibility to work from home. Thankfully I have the type of job where all I need is wifi and a phone and I’m set, and a boss knows that I get my work done without her watching me all day. I don’t get sick often, but my WFH policy is based on how sick I am. If I’m contagious but not feeling too bad I’ll work. But if I have a fever, am constantly running to the bathroom, or just feel completely awful, I’m out. It sounds like OP works with a bunch of martyr types which is unfortunate, because even if OP needs a legitimate sick day, they’ll probably be seen as a slacker. If I were OP, I’d have a conversation with my manager and ask for expectations instead of observing what others do.

    7. Quill*

      I always was when I worked in labs, and now I’m in regulatory! A decent portion of my work these days is emailing people.

    8. Budgieman*

      I’m in IT, and almost all human interaction is done over the phone or email. I WFH 4 days per week, and stick my head in the customer’s office once day per week – and schedule meetings accordingly.
      My job means that I can work anywhere at any time, but the disadvantage of that is that I can work anywhere at any time. It can be hard to switch off, even when sick, and I tend to work longer days as a result.
      (But on the plus side, I love my daily commute from my bedroom to my study)

    9. Lora*

      One of the things I like about CurrentBoss is that I can work from home and he really does NOT care as long as I get the work done. PreviousBoss was a great guy to work for, but preferred people where he could see them.

      When I worked in the lab all the time, my favorite places to work were in the BSL-3, Cell Line Master Banking and Nuclease-Free rooms (i.e. labs with extremely restricted access) because nobody would come in and interrupt me, pester me about low-priority things, drop by to socialize while I was in the middle of something that needed a lot of focus, etc. I was extremely productive, got a lot of work done, was always one of the highest performers in the group, could churn out data like crazy. Even when I wasn’t working with anything particularly delicate that required those rooms, I would go there just to write up reports and methodologies.

      I get maybe two hours of productive time in an open office, at most, in any given 8-hour time span. The only reason I get that much is due to noise-canceling headphones, and people feel free to wave their hands in my face if they see I have headphones on and they feel ignored. I can post signs, set IM notification to Do Not Disturb, block off my time on Outlook, bark at people that I am working to a very tight deadline with something big due TODAY and they need to leave me alone, all of that, and it does absolutely no good, I will still get interrupted 20+ times daily.

      It is absolutely to save money and cram more people into a small space, but in real life we need to send everyone who isn’t in the lab or on the actual manufacturing floor, to work from home as much as possible. Only have a very small amount of office space available, period, for the handful of people who absolutely cannot work remotely.

  19. Perfectly Particular*

    #1 – our office has a similar culture, where no one really takes a sick day unless they are literally too sick to sit up. I don’t mind doing a little work while sick, but I am definitely done working by the time my kids get off the bus (2:30) Between being sick and having chatty teens/tweens in the house, I’m not able to concentrate any more at that point. This seems to be completely acceptable, and sick time is not taken for a day like this. I think this is similar to what others have said – make it known that you are working a bit, but don’t kill yourself.

  20. Seeking Second Childhood*

    OP4, it’s time to grab a few months worth of phone history. Back in the landlines days, someone I knew was accused of making harassing phone calls. That co-worker was out of his local calling area, and my friend kept records of paid bills for over a year so it was clear he’d never dialed that number. (The nearest nighttime pay phone was not walking distance, and his wife was a very light sleeper.) I’m not sure how this plays out in cell phone days, but thought I’d mention it.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Yeah, I’d definitely be getting my phone records in hand if I was the OP in case this accusation doesn’t die on the vine. If I need to defend myself, I always make sure to have receipts.

  21. Jdc*

    The advice for LW 1 is spot on. Some illness I can work through. I’ve pulled my back before and couldn’t get to work if i tried but I was also lying on the couch all day bored so working from home would’ve been ideal. On the flip side, when I have the flu, I am behind non functional. I’ve heard of people working through the flu but I don’t know how. I can barely walk. I’m almost 40 and have had to get my mom to come help me I get so bad. I also have sent some incoherent emails when that sick thanks to a fever, so working would not be an option.

    1. Clisby*

      Sometimes people use “flu” pretty loosely – I’ve heard people say something like “I had a touch of flu for 3 days” and I’m mentally eyerolling and thinking “If it lasted only 3 days, it was NOT flu.”

      1. Jdc*

        Good point. The flu you aren’t moving from bed. I also eye roll when people say that. If you had the flu you’d be down for days if not longer. On that note here’s to hoping we all don’t get it this year! I already got my flu shot! I’m kind of ocd about having all my vaccines as an adult, which served me well last week when I stepped in chicken wire and needed stitches!

  22. quirkypants*

    LW2, agree with a lot of the other posters. It could come across as time deaf.

    Honestly, of you’re new (6 months or less) it would probably be a hard no unless there were serious extenuating circumstances. A year of tenure or longer and I’d likely try to make 1 or 2 week IF you are a valued employee. Chances are I’d have trouble doing that every month.

  23. Amethystmoon*

    #4 could be a case of someone leaving their workstation unlocked accidentally at night and someone else taking over their computer, or finding a written-down password nearby. Change your password, don’t put it anywhere people can find it at work, and make sure computer is locked when you are gone. IT may be able to assist if the phone call was made from someone else’s cube.

    If there are security cameras, surely security can help with this too.

    1. Environmental Compliance*

      I would hope that the first thing the management would have done is checked security cameras for something physical, and check with IT for any digital data logs. That’s our SOP onsite. Until we’ve done the background investigating, we’re not calling anyone in to ask questions.

      Definitely lock up your work passwords, OP! This situation feels weird to me.

      1. Becky*

        I work at an airport so it’s not that simple. But I think it’s all been resolved. No ones said anything to me since.

  24. hbc*

    OP2: I think you can ask, but you need to make clear before you ask that this is not an expectation but just a “hey, I know the answer is probably no, but if this works for you….” I’ve definitely worked places where this would be fine–summer is slow, we save some money on salaries, what’s not to like? In fact, I was an intern at a credit union that brought in a ton of summer interns (kind of as a benefit to the people in the org served by the CU since we all had to be children of employees), and coverage would have been no issue.

    But I would really think through what message you’re sending. If summer’s already a hard time for coverage, you’re going to look like you haven’t given any thought to the impact. If you’re long-distance all the time, will requesting this for summer make you look like you’re more about the vacay? If you’re just long-distance for summer, will you come across as somewhat needy that you can’t go a whole month apart? These things probably don’t matter much if they’re happy to give the time off, but people get a lot more judgmental when you ask for something that’s way outside the norm.

  25. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #1 – I would have a chat with your manager and ask what the expectations are at your company. I rarely get sick, and when I do it depends on the level of sick as to whether I work from home or not. If I have something keeping me in the bathroom, have a fever or generally feel like I’ve been run over by a mac truck, then I don’t work. But if I have a head cold, or something else that isn’t severe but contagious, I will work from home. If your company provides sick time, you’re entitled to use it.
    #3 – I hate hate hate reply-all emails when an announcement is made. While most may not be doing it because of this, it reads to me like sucking up to the higher ups. I’d only send it to the person who’s being welcomed or congratulated if I wanted to send anything at all.

    1. Massmatt*

      If memory serves me right there was a letter from someone with a boss that expected everyone to chime in on a reply all, I can’t remember if it was a welcome to the company email or what. But the boss was keeping track of who hit reply all and scolded those that hadn’t. Weird.

  26. Agent J*

    OP #1: Are your vacation and sick leave coming from one PTO bucket? At my current job, people work from home when they’re sick to avoid using their PTO days on sick leave to save them for vacation or personal days.

  27. SLR*

    #2: as a long distance relationship haver with a full time job, I get it. It’s hard, you want to spend time with that person, but work is a thing you have to ‘get around’. Here’s the thing though. You have that job which is literally enabling you to have this relationship, i.e. your paycheck ensures you can afford the travel costs, air, driving, hotels, whatever. Asking for a week a month over the summer is beyond excessive & honestly a bit immature. My firm has summer Fridays, so I was able to leave the office early during the summer to go see my long distance love. When it was especially light I took the day & flew out on Thursday after work. Summer is essentially 15 weeks; you’re asking to be away from work at least 4 of those weeks. Regardless of PTO available, that’s A LOT of time away for personal pleasure. This isn’t FMLA or health related, this is literally your pleasure. Of course you can ask, but prepare to hear a resounding no.

    My SO also has made trips to see me when I couldn’t work out a trip to them. Which brings me to this, one of the things that makes LDRs work is consideration. My question to you is: why is the onus on YOU to take a week a month off & not your SO?

  28. Lizzy May*

    #2 I have a history of working as a casual bank teller. While I was in college, I worked as a casual teller in the summers, bouncing between a few branches to cover holiday hours. A teller would take time off and I’d work there for a week or two. So I don’t think this is an impossible ask, but you need to know what sort of holiday coverage exists at your bank. You also need to know how busy your branch is in the summer. Some branches are dead in the summer, some the same volume and some even busier. If you’re one that gets quieter in the summer, it becomes an easier ask. I still think three weeks unpaid is a big deal but there might be supports in place to do some of that time. Know the culture of your workplace and be willing to be flexible and you might have a shot.

  29. BronzeFire*

    OP #2, my husband is in the military, and when we were dating we’d go 3-15 months without seeing each other (in person- we still had video calls most of the time). When he was on the same coast as me, I’d take a week off to go visit him once or twice a year and he’d do the same. My employers were always very understanding. But I think one week every month in the summer would have been too much to ask, especially in positions that required coverage. Particularly since my coworkers also had big summer plans. You might feel like the health of your relationship is more important than their stuff, but other people get to have lives and take time off, too. You do not want to be the reason your coworkers didn’t get to go do their thing; you will not come back to work in a happy environment.

  30. Oh No She Di'int*

    #4 Another possibility I haven’t seen mentioned yet is that OP has been mistaken for someone else by a coworker who doesn’t know her very well. Obviously this depends on the size of the workplace, how long that person has been working there, etc.

    In one of my first jobs, there were two guys whom I simply could not tell apart for months. Objectively they didn’t look alike, but they had similar manners and senses of humor and they were both in the art department, so I just couldn’t remember which one was Fergus and which one was Mike. I was a receptionist, so that caused problems. When people would come to the front desk and say, “Is Fergus around?” I would shrug and say, “Between Fergus and Mike, one of them is at lunch and the other one is still here. But I don’t know which is which.”

    1. Massmatt*

      I think if someone called me an anti gay slur or I witnessed them pee on a chair (?!) it would tend to jog my memory of which person it was.

      The monkeys are behaving badly in this circus.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        I’d certainly put in more of an effort to tell Chair-Tinklin’ Fergus apart from Perfectly Reasonable Wakeen than I would to tell apart other people, but I am another person who has trouble telling people apart and it’s not really that simple. If people look broadly alike (same hair color and length, same general body shape), they tend to to blend into a mass of “people who might be Steve or might not be” for me until I spend a substantial chunk of time with them and make a deliberate point to notice their individual physical identifiers (which will probably require me to spend a lot of time talking to them and looking at them, which I really don’t want to do with someone calling me slurs at the time or peeing on a chair). I’ve put in a lot of effort in this area over the decades and I am much better at it than I used to be, but I still have some people who are in the “at least one of you is Steve, but probably not all of you are” bucket even though I’ve known them for over a year.

        For a pop culture example, it took me multiple episodes to be able to reliably distinguish Brandon from Dylan on Beverly Hills 90210 back when I started watching it. An increased focus on diversity in TV casting over the decades has been really helpful for me, since I didn’t have this problem watching, say, Stargate Universe.

      2. ellex42*

        In my last job, between 3 slender white women in their mid-30s, about 5’5″ in height, with long, straight brown hair, the only one I could regularly identify was the one who habitually wore a necklace with a little owl on it. The fact that they all had very common names didn’t help (I don’t know why uncommon names help me identify people, but they do). On the other hand, the tall, elegant blonde with a straight bob was easy to tell apart from the shorter blonde with fluffy hair and a bubbly personality.

        It’s hard to explain face-blindness to people who don’t have it, but it really does take time and extra effort to tell people apart. Especially in a workplace where you mostly work on your own…which has always been the case for me.

      3. Veronica*

        Yes, I’ve had that too. Watching the TV show Dynasty way back when, there were four young men who looked like mannequins, and the only one I could differentiate had lighter colored hair.
        I’ve gotten better at this too. I once knew a woman with sisters and for the first few months I got her sisters mixed up. When I reached the point of recognizing them I realized they didn’t really look alike. For me it’s something else – distraction? Anxiety? that makes me miss details.

      4. juliebulie*

        I mostly tell people apart by their hair. (Mostly in movies, but sometimes in real life too.) If multiple people are roughly the same size and shape, and have approximately the same hair cut and color, I’m lost.

        If I’m watching a movie, it’s frustrating. In real life, it’s embarrassing.

        Even so, I think if I saw one of those same-hair people doing something outrageous, I could probably pick him or her out of a lineup alongside the lookalikes, even if I can’t remember their names.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          I do that too! Nice to know I’m not alone.

          There have been occasions where an acquaintance significantly changed her hair, like dyed it a new color or got a drastically different cut, and I didn’t recognize her at all until she started talking.

      5. Gazebo Slayer*

        Looking at the comments above, I am so glad to know there are other people who have trouble telling others apart too! I suspect in my case it might have something to do with my Asperger’s and nonverbal learning disability diagnoses.

    2. Earthwalker*

      This. I had a remote coworker tell my boss that I had totally screwed up a project and should be removed as its manager immediately. Boss was foaming at the mouth as he chewed me out and demanded I ask help from a more senior colleague. Senior colleague discovered – and reported to the boss – that I had done nothing wrong and the project was under control. It turned out that the remote coworker had mistaken me for the last project manager whom I replaced. Ex-project-manager had had some trouble with the effort (for no fault of his own; even he didn’t deserve the chewing out that I got in his stead.) It certainly showed me how much trouble one can end up in over nothing more than mistaken identity. (Side note: when the boss realized he’d made a big mistake, he did not apologize but instead avoided me for weeks out of embarrassment. If your boss doesn’t apologize when they realize the error, you might want to consider what that tells you about them.)

  31. Narvo Flieboppen*

    #5 reminds me of when I applied for a part time position at a local office supply store with a tech support dept. They were advertising for a 15 hr per week tech support job (non-customer facing), which I figured could probably fit around my full time job.

    Spoke to the store manager, who was keen to hire me after seeing my resume. He let me know the job required open availability 7 days a week, so I’d have to quit my full time job. BUT, if I worked out well, there was a good chance than in 3 – 6 months I could go full time at their store! At only 3/4 of the pay I was making at my current full time job! WOW!!! How about no? No works for me.

    The store manager tried to persuade me for months, both following me around the store when I was there, and calling me at home. I finally lodged a complaint with their corporate office about it and have neither seen nor heard from that manager since.

    But yeah, you want to offer 15 hours a week of paid work but also require that I’m available at your whim for 84 hours a week? Hard no. And good luck finding quality staff that way.

    1. Sharkie*

      Yep, this is my experience with retail. Why advertise part-time and flexible schedules if you want someone who has full-time availability???

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        As someone who’s been on the receiving end of some similar requests, it’s because the employer wants all the flexibility for themselves and none for the employee.

    2. Allypopx*

      Yeah no if they actually wanted you that badly they would have worked around your schedule, not given you a ridiculous – and not at all tempting – empty promise of an eventual position.

  32. CupcakeCounter*

    We are encouraged to WFH when “coming down with something” that wouldn’t normally cause us to stay home but would contaminate the office or when we have that nagging cough at the end of the illness that is disruptive to others but otherwise you feel fine. The time in between when you feel like death warmed over?? Sick leave.
    Usually the people who follow this practice don’t get as severely sick because WFH is more restful than getting up, getting ready, commuting, etc… For me depending on when I get sick, being able to WFH usually helps me get better faster because I’m not worrying & stressing about getting back to hit X deadline or pushing myself to work an extra day before staying home.

  33. Sharkie*

    OP 1-
    This is ridiculous. Set up clear boundaries now so when you are really sick you can rest and recover. I am curious if upper management working on bed rest is causing your boss to adopt this mindset. My friend is currently on bed rest and she is still somewhat working (maybe 10 hours a week and within the rules of her leave) because A. She gets bored super easily B. It gives her something to do and helps her feel like “normal” and C. She was getting emotionally attached to daytime tv. I wonder if it is that situation going on but middle management interpreted it differently

  34. joriley*

    “it kind of feels like being at a party where everyone has raised their glasses in a toast to the new person, and I’m going up and whispering “Welcome” in their ear like a weird creep.”
    I just want to say thank you for this, LW3. It’s already made me laugh at my desk.

    1. TechWorker*

      +1 I enjoyed this a lot too!

      FWIW I don’t think it’s creepy, it seems way less performative :)

    2. juliebulie*

      I laughed too, but as someone who gets too much email, I’d prefer you made the private reply.

      And it’s really not like creepily whispering in their ear, unless you blow in their ear too. Think of it as the difference between coming up to someone and saying hello to them personally, vs. yelling hello from a distance.

  35. Existentialista*

    #5, in fact, I’ve always heard that employers strongly prefer candidates who are currently working, so that’s another reason to keep your consulting work on your resume, from “whatever-date to present”.

  36. Rewe*

    #2 I’m in an LDR so I totally understand (if all goes well it’s only 1 more month). I know a lot of people posted above with advice. My advice is to ask in general about policy regarding unpaid leave. Don’t mention taking one week off every summer month but just a general feel. That will tell you if asking any days is appropriate.

    My company actively encourages everyone to take 1-4 weeks unpaid holiday to make savings. Our manager doesn’t encourage to take full 4 weeks in a row (especially if you are not a new employee taht doesn’t have PTO) but you would be allowed to divide it.

  37. AndersonDarling*

    #1 I’ve worked from home while sick because I don’t want to use up my few PTO hours. When you only get a few days of PTO, you really have to decide if you want to use one for a headache, cold, or an actual vacation. I’ve been pretty ill and put in an hour of work, taken a nap, then checked email, taken another nap, and then put in a few more hours of work when I felt up to it.
    That could look like a toxic situation, but I’m in control of it and am choosing to keep working so I can save my vacation day. If I couldn’t manage to put in at least 4 hours, then I would use a PTO day and truly rest and no one would care.
    But I really like that I can work from home when I just have little illnesses, like a stuffy nose or a little stomach bug. I don’t have to get up, get dressed, make a lunch, drive to work, and I have easy access to the fridge, bathroom, and comfy blankets. Back in the day, these things weren’t even considered “sick” and you were expected to come into the office and not let anyone know you were unwell. But since co-workers are now saying “I’m working from home because I’m sick,” it seems like people are sick a lot more and being forced to work. But they are feeling poorly the same amount of the time, but they have the option to stay home for the little illnesses as well as the big ones.
    I doubt that the company expects people to work through debilitating illnesses. Unless someone is in a very toxic situation, the employee makes the decision to use PTO or work from home and the manager trusts their decision.

  38. blink14*

    OP1 – Set up boundaries clearly and early on. This is my usual approach when sick and the sick time is unplanned: I alert my manager that I am ill and staying home. If I feel up for checking email throughout the day, I include that information. If I need to truly rest or am not really capable of reading emails, I will say something like “I’ll check in later in the day to let you know how I’m feeling”.

    If something is urgent and am able to complete task, I will do it as soon as I’m able and then indicate I’m taking the rest of the day off. In the past I’ve had illnesses that require being out for more than a few days, as both a precaution to not infect anyone and to get extra rest, and in those cases I will sometimes work a half day.

    What you don’t want to do is set the precedent that even if you are seriously ill, you will be working. Setting your “sick rules” early on will set an expectation with your manager and your co-workers as to how you’ll handle working while having a cold vs. something more serious. I do think it’s much more common for higher up employees to work from home while ill (my boss does this), but they should not have that expectation from you, as a good manager and employer.

    1. blink14*

      *Edit – for longer periods of time out, I will take full sick days and then work up to a half day from home.

  39. Exhausted Trope*

    Slack-jawed right now about #4. I tried to imagine myself being put into that position and failed. Just… WTH?!

    1. CastIrony*

      My best friend was accused of peeing in bottles and putting them down a communal garbage chute (She lived in the dorms.) when she was in grad school once. Our reaction was the same as yours.

  40. Cucumberzucchini*

    OP2 – I worked as a bank teller and banks aren’t exactly known for being accommodating of staff, especially tellers. Even taking unpaid time off still leaves the branch understaffed, they have your position for a reason. There are tellers that can float from branch to branch, but at the bank I worked at they typically were borrowed from other branches when multiple people unexpectedly were out, leaving that other branch also understaffed.

    Maybe look for another job with more flexibility? I just don’t see a bank allowing for that time of unpaid time off.

  41. LW3*

    Thanks for the comments! I mentioned it to my grandboss and she said, “I actually thought about Bcc’ing everyone to prevent reply-alls!” So message received and reinforced – I will avoid that reply-all button!

    1. valentine*

      I will avoid that reply-all button!
      Tidings, for you have increased the net good on the planet.

    2. Environmental Compliance*

      I like your grandboss.

      I will admit that I will side eye those who abuse the power of Reply All. Looking at you, coworker who likes to reply all to a generic announcement email to say ‘thanks!’ or ‘gotcha’!! (and whoever thought it was a great idea to send out an email to *every single person in the facility* not bcc’d and ask to *confirm their emails worked*…. 293487392 reply-alls later, and I was about ready to just give up, turn off my computer, and go home)

  42. Jennifer*

    Re Working from home.

    This is the downside to having the ability to WFH. If I tell you I’m sick – I’M SICK. It means I don’t want to work. If I want to WFH, I’ll tell you I want to WFH. Though there are advantages to staying home during the day, you are still working, not resting. Sometimes you also may just need a mental break from the work. Plus, I know that there are people who work for companies that are weird about WFH and so when tehy are sick and not able to work, they say they are WFH and maybe return a couple emails then rest most of the day so they don’t get crap from their boss.

  43. EddieSherbert*

    OP 1, my department has a similar culture (that mostly stems from my manager) where people work from home when they’re sick. My manager and most of coworkers also check their email at all hours and work while they’re on vacation, etc. And quite frankly, every time my manager gets sick with anything, they’re out “working from home” for at least a week and will still reply to an email from our office overseas at 2AM! I’m pretty convinced they make it harder for their body to recover.

    With some casual asking around (not meant to be gossiping or anything), I realized that was not the norm for the company or expected during my first year here. So I set some boundaries and it’s been totally fine for several years now! My cell number is readily available if someone needs me outside of office hours and they all know that, but I’m not checking email in the evening after I go home. I use my sick days.

    During one of annual reviews I mentioned it as well. Basically a, “hey, so I know you typically check your email in the evenings. I choose not to do that after hours, knowing that everyone has my cell if there’s an emergency. From my perspective, that seems to be working fine but I wanted to double check with you”… and then same question for sick days.

  44. Jennifer*

    I’m not a fan of the reply all welcome. Or reply all in general. Let’s not clog up the new guy’s email with a bunch of one-word messages. People do that so they can appear welcoming in front of their coworkers and bosses. If they are on your team, the best thing to do is let them settle in, then introduce yourself warmly in person when you bump into them in halls or the kitchen.

  45. fhqwhgads*

    LW3 something I was pondering myself this week about these welcome emails: where I work they tend to say something like “join me in welcoming so-and-so”. I think that contributes to some folks replying all, others are doing it out of habit, and some others are probably being performative. I’d take it one step further and say the request that you welcome someone is small talk and not a real command, much in the same way “how are you?” is not a real question. It’s just a social contract. So unless I have something particularly interestng or notable to say to the new person (maybe the welcome email mentions they love ProfessionalSport! and I also love ProfessionalSport! I might reply directly to them with a welcome and a comment on that) but otherwise, not only is it not necessary to reply all, it’s not even necessary to reply. The welcome emails let you know new person is there and opens the door if you want to say something, do, but otherwise your obligation is to welcoming to the person in general. You don’t have to participate in the emailing about just cuz.

  46. AnonAndFrustrated*

    #1: Way too many people go into work sick & then infect many others around them, even when that person could and should have used sick leave to stay at home. It’s one of the reasons why we have such bad flu seasons every year where tens of thousands die from it, because greedy companies either won’t give ample (or any) sick leave to employees or stubborn employees refuse to use it (and parents send their sick kids to school where they then infect other kids, who infect all their family members)… I say if you’re really sick & have sick leave, use it, stay home, rest and/or go to doctor if needed.

  47. knitcrazybooknut*

    #3, I was shocked and, honestly, horrified when I realized that my current department regularly sends out emails congratulating people for good customer service feedback, anniversaries, achieving a particular task, etc. AND THEN PEOPLE USED REPLY ALL TO RESPOND AND ADD THEIR COMMENTS.

    For me, this feels performative, as someone else said, and like a complete waste of time. I think the intent is team-building, visibility for others who work in completely different arenas, and just general cheerleading. I don’t hate it now, and it can feel nice when someone recognizes you. It’s not so often that it’s not manageable. Your office culture may include something like this, so you may need to adjust to the norms. Sometimes I’ll send out a generic reply all, and follow up directly with the person saying something meaningful and specific that I appreciate about them. It just depends on the situation.

  48. Marissa*

    OP4, there’s been a lot of theories posed about what this could be. I want to emphasize that one of these possibilities is that someone is harassing your coworker. I love Alison’s advice, and I would caution you to keep in mind that your coworker may really be hurting here, and while you take steps to protect yourself take care not to accuse him of lying or lash out against him out of frustration for being in this awful situation. Even as an innocent party, you could hurt your reputation if you react poorly to a person being harassed. Remember, you are on defense, not offense. Hopefully the truth will come out soon.

    1. Autumnheart*

      That’s where I fall. I think it’s a pretty fair deduction that if the manager is going around asking people if they called a coworker a gay slur or pissed on a chair, that someone reported being called a gay slur and having their chair pissed on. This is a terrible way to investigate harassment, though, since it basically gives the perpetrator a heads-up and now they’ll just be more careful about their harassment, while the department’s morale tanks as employees wonder if they’re being targeted for firing.

      1. Becky*

        So it turns out someone misread an email stating I was a witness to the slurs being used and that’s why I was accused. L

  49. Morning Glory*

    OP1, we have a similar flexibility around remote work that seems to encourage working while sick because it removes the responsible employee ‘not wanting to infect people’ excuse. . If I need to take a sick day to recover, I tend to frame it as a quality control issue, like I was too sick to think clearly and worried about causing damage to projects by making mistakes.

    For me, it’s typically an anxiety thing about not wanting people to think I’m slacking off, so that framing helps me feel better about the situation.

  50. Earthwalker*

    #1 My company had an unwritten policy that WFH meant that you were too sick to come to work and would do your job from bed. I tried to do that and discovered that when I’m feverish I make such stupid decisions that I’d end up spending twice the time undoing the mess I’d made after I got better. I learned to tell the boss when I was too sick to be smart.

  51. boop the first*

    2. A season is three months, isn’t it? So isn’t this three weeks of vacation? I’m not sure why that qualifies as a lot of time off. I typically work in low-value retail kind of work, and even then I was usually entitled to two weeks per year. I never actually took it (lol) but if a retail worker can get two weeks, I don’t see why a bank employee can’t get three. My husband has EIGHT. Just ask.

    5. Good luck! Honesty is best because it has to work out for everybody, and if you keep the side clients a secret, the new job will start to suck up all of that time they THINK you have. I switched to part time jobs since starting the side hustle, and EVERY TIME, the part time job would schedule me 40 hours/week, no take-backsies. And they would staff it in such a way that there was no one left to take up all of these extra hours. So I’d have to quit, find a new part time job. And then THAT job would schedule me 40 hours/week with no option of going back, and then I would have to quit AGAIN. It’s all so very tiring to the point where I’m literally unemployed with no useful income because I’m sick of being lied to and can’t handle the new-job anxiety every year only to get screwed a mere month in.

    1. Clisby*

      I don’t think the point is that 3 weeks is such a lot of vacation; it’s that summer usually is a time when there’s high demand for vacations, so the employer has to balance that out among all the employees, taking into account how much coverage is needed. In some jobs, summer is downtime, in others it’s busier, in others it makes no difference. I have no idea where bank tellers fall in this. Most places I’ve worked, anyone who wanted to take off the weeks before and after Christmas would have gotten some serious side-eye. Not because there’s anything inherently wrong with it – but employers need to be fair to all employees in parceling out vacation times.

  52. The internet is awful*

    Sounds like OP#4 may be a victim of a new game of “anonymous reporting via the internet.” I had this happen to me once–someone I sold an item to on Craigslist went to great lengths to harass me when I wouldn’t undo the deal on a months-ago as-is sale. I didn’t get the “urinate in your chair” question but I was called in asked if I had been posting racial slurs to FB because this clown made a fake account and used my picture to try and get me fired. It didn’t work, but it caused me grief, and I probably have no recourse against this nut.

  53. CynicallySweet*

    My office allows this, and there is something I’ve noticed. I tend to wfh when I’m sick, just because I usually can. The advantage to this is that: when I actually do call out, or need to take a sick day, no one questions anything about it. My boss isn’t one to go into the # of sick days a person is taking, but her’s is. And while I know I have co-workers that have been talked to about the amt of sick leave they’re taking (mostly terrible I know, a couple of cases I agreed w/) I’ve never been asked, and I’ve actually used a lot of sick leave this year.

    1. Oh So Anon*

      Agreed! I’ve worked at a place like what you describe, and it ended up being a good situation because it placed trust in employees to know what they were capable of. In situations where someone isn’t feeling well enough to safely handle a train commute or they need to be really close to a bathroom but can otherwise get work done, it’s really helpful. The boundaries issue is going to be a challenge regardless of your sick day policy, because there will always be people who drag themselves to work (either physically or remotely) when they’re near death, but cultures like this usually operate on the idea that adults are capable of reasonable judgement unless proven otherwise.

      It’s preferable to a “if you’re sick, you’re sick” policy where you can wind up at risk of being treated like some garbage malingerer.

  54. Fiddlesticks*

    If I were OP#4, my next action wouldn’t be to go back to my manager – because personally, I believe no decent manager would ask an employee offensive questions like this without giving very strong and reasonable explanations AT THAT TIME about why those questions are being asked. I would be straight out of that manager’s office and on my way to HR to file a complaint.

  55. LilySparrow*

    #4 It seems to me that the most urgent question here is *which chair*?

    Because if somebody is peeing in the office chairs, you don’t want to accidentally sit in it!

  56. Ann O'Nemity*

    For #1,

    When I email my boss and direct reports to let them know I’m staying home, I also tell them how much work I’m planning on doing. So I might say:

    (1) I’m very unwell so I’m staying home. Call if something urgent comes up, as I won’t be checking emails. (full day PTO)
    (2) I’m unwell so I’m staying home. I will periodically check emails and work on a few things from home as I’m able. (partial day PTO)
    (3) I’m not feeling great so I’m working from home. I’m planning to call into the XX meeting at 2 pm. Feel free to slack or email me; I’ll be logged in. (no PTO)

  57. MissDisplaced*

    I will often work while sick if I’m working at home. But this is generally colds or stomach troubles, not like flu or pass out sick.
    If you’re sick enough that you just need sleep and rest, I think you need to say that. “I’m taking a sick day and going back to bed and won’t be available.”

    At most places this ought to be accepted.

  58. Becky*

    So I’m Letter Writer Number 4. Things have gotten interesting. I never had to talk to my manager again because it turns out (as I knew all along) I didn’t do it. Contacted my union rep who talked to them. Turns out what happened was I was listed as a witness to Coworker B using homophobic slurs against an employee of another airline (I work for a regional airline) and Coworker A reported B. I talked to A who explained it to me who said that B also called A to determine if they were gay. We all thought B got suspended but they may have gotten fired. Still no word about the chair incident. A isn’t sure why I got accused when they specifically mentioned in the email I was only a witness to the slurs being used.

    1. Marissa*

      I’m so glad you were able to trace back to the source and clear up the mistake! What a pain to get pulled in, but it sounds like you handled it very well.

  59. random employee*

    At one workplace, they didn’t want you working from home. You had to take a full PTO day if you called in sick. But they were swamped and asked me to work on something when I had a bad cold. I worked over half a day on that. They still charged me for a full 8 hours. I would have been ok with being charged for a half day. When I challenged my boss on it, she said, “well at least you got to work in your pajamas”. That was one of the reasons I started looking for another job and left that place.

    I reply individually to welcome/congrats emails. We work staggered hours in my job. It annoying to come into dozens of replies. But I do want the new person to feel welcome. If it’s in my office, I can do it in person. In other offices, like someone said, a nice, individual email about how you look forward to working with the new person

  60. Laura*

    OP #1 – If I called out for a sick day, I would not be expected to work from home. Yes, much of the work I do as a medical receptionist involves using a computer. However, working from home on a personal computer might be problematic since there wouldn’t be a way to safeguard confidential patient information. Also, employees at my company are urged not to check email outside of work hours.

    OP #4 – those kinds of comments/questions/accusations in a workplace environment would make me very uncomfortable. It wouldn’t matter if they came from a coworker or supervisor.

Comments are closed.