new hire was in jail on his first day, I’m drowning in work, and more

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

1. New hire was in jail on his first day

My company hired a new person on my team. He was scheduled to start on a Monday but pushed back a week at the last minute. The rumor around the office was that his flight home that weekend was canceled, but he didn’t notify our boss of it until minutes before he was expected in.

Next Monday he didn’t come in, and no one could get in touch with him. We eventually discovered that he was in jail. He claimed he was pulled over on the way to work for a traffic violation, then found out he had an outstanding warrant from a traffic ticket mix-up over ten years ago. Unsurprisingly, when he did make it in later that week, he was immediately fired.

I’m wondering how reasonable it was to fire him. A responsible, organized friend of mine also got in trouble from a traffic ticket she was never notified of, so I know his story isn’t impossible and doesn’t mean he’s a bad person. On the other hand, missing your start day because you’re in jail is never a good look — doubly so after he pushed back his start date the first time. My company has a very open culture so I would have some room to encourage us not to put inappropriate weight on what is often a very flawed legal system.

This is one of those things you’d probably get more grace for when you’ve worked there a while and are a known quantity but is more likely to be held against you if it happens on your first day — because as a new hire, your employer has far fewer data points on you and so there’s less counterweight to the alarm of the arrest and jail.

When you combine it with him already pushing his start date back a week because of shady-sounding circumstances (not telling your boss until minutes before he was expected in), that combo from a new hire is going to be really hard to get over.

If the first part hadn’t happened and it was just the traffic arrest, then yes, it would be worth using some capital to stand up for the guy if you’re in a position to. We don’t want companies automatically pulling job offers or firing people because of minor mix-ups or assuming being jailed is the same thing as being guilty. In this case, though, I can see why your company felt like it was too much when combined with the first week.

2. I’m drowning in work

I’m an analyst, previously a team lead with two junior analysts. Both of the junior analysts quit a few months ago, and haven’t been replaced. One position was eliminated, and our CEO keeps shooting down candidates for the second, so I’ve been on my own for over four months with no relief in sight. During that time, we also switched software platforms so all of our old reports have to be recreated in the new system, there have been a host of problems with the conversion, and basically everything takes three times longer than it used to (if we can do it at all). And as the sole remaining analyst, all the requests and problems get dumped on me now, plus a whole lot of clerical work that I hate.

I have always been a high performer but am now reduced to putting out fires — and only the really big fires at that — because I’m trying to do three jobs and learn new software and create new processes … you get the picture. My boss has been very good about setting priorities and keeping the rest of the C-suite off my back, but every time I open my inbox, I feel sick about the number of requests I’m ignoring. Most people are pretty understanding, but they all need the things they’re asking for and I can’t deliver.

I’m so tired of telling people “I’m sorry, I don’t know when I can get that to you” and I feel like my reputation is in tatters. I’ve started looking for a new job, because this isn’t sustainable. How do I remain professional at work when what I want to do is crawl under my desk and hide?

Instead of saying “I don’t know when I can get that to you,” start giving more information! Say something like, “We’re down from three people to just one right now so we’re triaging all requests and focusing mainly on XYZ. That means that realistically I can’t say when this will come back to you. If you need it prioritized, you could talk to (manager) and see if we can bump something for it.” This has the advantage of (a) explaining more about the situation and (b) potentially creating more pressure up the chain for new hires to be made.

Also, keep a running list of everything you’re not getting to, including all of these requests, and give it to your manager weekly. Having it organized and written down could make it easier for her to press the case for hiring. (You might also let her know that you can’t see staying in this situation for long, which could help her light a fire above her — but only if you trust her to handle that well.)

But most importantly, it’s crucial to shift your mindset from “all this work needs to be done” to “I am here to do the work of one person, and the company has decided it’s okay with the other two-thirds being on hold.” And maybe, “All I need to do with the other two-thirds is write it down on a list so it’s captured for someone in the future.”

Read an update to this letter

3. I sent an email about my coworker’s embarrassing moment and it ended up on Twitter

I attended a meeting at work where one of my coworkers, ahem, “broke wind” during a big meeting. I thought her recovery was remarkable, so I wrote an email about the incident to a friend who was not there. I sent the email to the wrong person (not a coworker), who proceeded to tweet it out to her followers for laughs. It got 39 retweets and 187 likes! I didn’t mention her last name or the name of the company. Should I tell my coworker what happened, or just hope she never hears about it? Here’s what I wrote in the email:

“Jane farted during the presentation to the Exec Committee, and I had a front-row seat. And of course this would happen in front of the whole team in the main conference room. She stood up, introduced herself, and let one rip. Of all the things!!

NEVERTHELESS, SHE PERSISTED. Instead of dying of embarrassment, she said, ‘Oh, wow. Excuse me! I wanted to finish with a bang, not start with one.’ Everybody laughed! Carl said afterwards the presentation was terrific and thanked her for ‘a memorable morning.’ I told her later that she was my new hero. This is what you miss when working from home.”

She is a hero for the ages. I am extremely impressed with her.

Is she the type who would appreciate the tweet? Or be embarrassed by it? I don’t think you have to tell her, but it might be worth contacting the person who posted it and asking them to take it down. (Of course, now it is here, but we’re not Twitter and also I changed some of the non-essential details in it to lower the chances of identification.)

Read an update to this letter here.

4. “Is this employee eligible for re-hire?”

As a manager, how do I answer the reference question “Is this employee re-hirable?” for former employees? I’ve been asked this a few times by reference checkers. My business is small, less than 10 people. Generally, when an employee leaves, they are replaced within a few months and I have no openings. Is this question a general one? As in, if circumstances allow, would you re-hire this person? Or is it specific in that you would re-hire them tomorrow? I’d like to give my former employees a good reference.

No, it just means “if you had an appropriate job opening, would you consider this person for it?”

The wording stems from how many companies will record exiting employees as either “eligible for re-hire” or “ineligible for re-hire.” Employees might be marked as “ineligible for re-hire” if they were fired for misconduct, in case they apply in the future and the person considering their application doesn’t know the history of the top of their head. So when reference checkers ask this, they’re asking, “Would you be open to hiring this employee again if you had a suitable opening, or is your company not willing to work with them again?”

5. Asking people to apply without making them think the job is theirs

Recently we had a vacancy at the small facility that I manage, in a position with a really strong but small local network. I’ve reached out to several strong candidates asking about their interest in applying, and letting them know I would welcome their application. This includes one of our part-time staff with over a decade’s experience who may want to transition back to full-time.

How do I share my confidence in their ability to do the job, without making it sound like they are a shoo-in candidate? I’d hate for these people in my network to feel isolated after applying by request, but then not be chosen. But obviously as site manager, I want to find the strongest candidate pool that we can.

You would think that people would know that being encouraged to apply doesn’t mean they’re a shoo-in — but a lot of people are surprised or upset when they don’t end up getting the job in these circumstances, so you’re right to want to set expectations appropriately. I would say something like, “We’re talking with a lot of people, but I think you could be great and I’d love to have you apply if you’re interested.” Or, “I should be up-front that we have a pretty rigorous assessment process, but I’d love to talk more with you about it.” Really, anything that tempers it a bit and makes it clear it’s not just “you apply and the job is yours.”

Also, if you do end up rejecting any of these people, make sure you either call them or send them a personalized note rather than using a form letter. That will give you a chance to contextualize the decision (“we had an unexpected number of really strong applicants,” “this is no reflection on my confidence in you,” etc.) and ensure they don’t feel a disconnect between the personal outreach on the front end and a form letter later on.

{ 336 comments… read them below }

  1. Zidy*

    #2 – I’m pretty much in the same boat although, it was only two of us and I was the junior. Couple things that helped me from losing my sanity as I took on the work of two people, half of which I’ve never done. 1) Loop in your boss, proto. Trust me, if she’s keeping people off your back, she already has an inkling. But you need to let her know how bad it is and then talk about strategies to handle it. For example, I make sure he’s aware of everything I get asked about and if anything comes in that takes more than X amount of time, he can make the call if this new request is important enough to bypass everything else on my plate or if it’s can wait or if it just isn’t something we can do with just me handling the workload. That makes him, not me, the gatekeeper and the one people need to argue with if they want a significant amount of my time. And that X amount is flexible depending on current needs and he relies on me to know my limits. 2) Allison is right, be honest about why you can’t always get to something! People will get it and you won’t be seen as flakey if you can’t get to something immediately. Plus, those few times you can put together something really quick because you already have the data or something close to it? You can seriously impress people. And it really does help in getting the other position filled, because people will go to your boss and ask about it, mention they have wishlists for when they hire somebody else… 3) Hardest of all, try to have a good or at least matter of fact attitude. People will take their cues from you. If you’re acting like all dour and stressed out, they’ll assume you don’t have it together, no matter what you say. But if you act that of course they will understand that you don’t have the bandwidth and you’re still calm and put together, they’ll come away confident that this is just circumstances beyond your control but you otherwise have it handled.

    Good luck! It’s rough, I know.

    1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

      OP2 – I’m going to repeat a phrase that is right up there with “Have you tried turning it off and on again” in terms of stock/cliched quotes for work. It’s *not* one of my favourites, but it’s one that has been repeated to myself and my hubby multiple times by outside friends/family.

      Everyone gets 24 hours in a day – you can only do what you can do.

      I’ve always thought this was a dangerous phrase because it can encourage 14-16 hour working – this is *WRONG* – do NOT start slipping towards 14-16 hours. Stick to 8 hours (slip to 9 or 10 ONLY if it’s a big, urgent, so critical the company may fold project and you have your manager’s full support and will be compensated in some way (e.g. a longer lunch break when the project is over)), and make sure you take lunch in the middle.
      You can’t magic extra hours out of thin air – if you are now doing the work of 3 people, that’s every single one of those 24 hours accounted for just on work and that is unworkable, so… don’t try.

      It sounds like your boss knows what’s happening and is supporting you, so what’s needed here is a mindset shift.
      You can only do what *you* can do.

      1. Alice*

        This, so much! I was the second analyst in this situation, so I “only” had to do the work of 2 people, but it was so bad! I started working increasingly longer hours and skipping meals just to try and stay on top of it, and it got to the point where I made myself seriously ill. Please do not ever get to that point. It’s really bad to say this but sometimes you have to stop caring about work so much. I felt like a failure the first time I left at 5pm (actually went home and cried on the couch) but eventually I got to realize that if my company did not care enough to replace the empty position then I shouldn’t care so much that things were not getting done.

        Do what you can during the working day. Work with your manager to prioritize what’s getting done first, what’s getting done later, and what’s getting done never while you’re short staffed. (It’s absolutely important to recognize you can’t do everything, because if you keep mentally labeling things for “later” you’ll get the endless backlog that’s currently driving you mad.) But at the end of the day you’re not a miracle worker and you can’t fill three positions on your own.

        FYI I’m now leaving the company and management is *still* waffling about replacing me — more than a year after the first person left. I wish my coworkers the best but I wouldn’t want them to run themselves ragged trying to fill my role if I’m not replaced quickly. This is management’s failure, not theirs.

        1. EPLawyer*

          “that if my company did not care enough to replace the empty position then I shouldn’t care so much that things were not getting done.” This is gold right here.

          If the Company truly needed that work done then they would hire someone to do it. Since they think only enough work to be done by ONE person is critical to the functioning of the company then that is what you do.

          You cannot care more than the company does.

          1. Massmatt*

            Yeah this really seems like a critical failure by this company. From what LW says she is solely responsible for many critical functions and this on top of creating new processes on a new system.

            If your company can’t or won’t hire someone then either they can devote more resources to this area (I.e. temporary assignments from other departments to help) OR the functions just aren’t important to them. It sucks when employees care more about the work than management does but it’s sadly not uncommon.

            1. AnnaBananna*

              Yep, at the very least they should have brought in a clerical temp. And the fact that the OP is getting so much accomplished? It’s actually working against the case to hire anyone else. This is definitely a ‘stop caring’ time until they start caring.

              1. Kat in VA*

                The single point of failure is a bad system. What if OP got seriously ill with the flu or had to take a few weeks off due to family concerns?

        2. Big Bank*

          I like this advice better (sorry Alison). I have a negative reaction when the advice for struggling employees is to “catalogue everything”. I get the underlying idea is to hand to someone who can help you delegate, but that has never been my experience. It typically is used as a deflection (ie prove you’re really overladen) and nothing is done with the info. So I end up with no help and an extra assignment I don’t have time for in tracking everything. Right now for example I have an assignment on my team we’ve stated to management is unsustainable months ago. Now we keep daily metrics on it per there request, and there’s no solution in site. So an extra 5 minutes a day was added for our trouble of escalating.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            In this particular case I read the idea of writing everything down as more to leave documentation behind since they’re looking to leave. I think it’s worth leaving good documentation to help go out on a high note and make you more likely to get a good review in the future.

            1. Seawren*

              I’m trying to document all the new processes, which at least helps me remember what I’m supposed to be doing.

          2. Seawren*

            LW2: I tried writing everything down but ultimately wound up with 97 hours of urgent requests, 150+ hours of important stuff, and didn’t get to the rest. My biggest challenge is balancing high priority strategic projects with clerical and admin work that are seen as low value but actually help keep the lights on. I’ve tried passing those off but was told other departments (who depend on them getting done) are too busy.

            1. 2 Cents*

              Please, cut yourself some slack!

              I’d frame all of those “keep the lights on” tasks as just that to your boss (though she probably already knows) and can give extra pushback on nose departments. “Seaweed and I can either do xyZ or ABC, but not both until we hire more help.”

            2. Eukomos*

              Let some of those “keep the lights” on tasks crash. It’s not your job to save the CEO from his own foolishness, and he won’t internalize how important these tasks are until he sees the results of their not getting done.

              1. AnnaBananna*

                Agreed. And a good leader of a dire department pitches in too. Why isn’t OP’s boss taking care of these ‘keep the lights on’ tasks? It all rolls up to her anyway. She should care about this even more than the OP does.

          3. That Girl from Quinn's House*

            Yes, this. I was in a different situation (someone triple booked the llama barn when I was massively understaffed. I had half the number of trainers I needed and on top of that, if I’d said yes to all of the bookings, I’d have people three-up on each llama which is just impossible.)

            I went to my boss repeatedly and said we did not have the space or capacity for these groups and we should not book them. Then when we booked them, I said we should not confirm them. Then once she confirmed them, I said we should call to cancel. I made a schedule of the people we had space for, and it was thrown out and a second parallel one was made so it looked like we had space when we didn’t.

            WELL, all three groups showed up to the barn and got stuck standing around while I got screamed at. I called my boss, her boss, and HR and no one would listen, and then I left.

            1. Mr. Shark*

              Wait…what’s the rest of the story? “…and then I left.” You left while the three groups were there? You quit? What happened?

          4. HarvestKaleSlaw*

            It is also the advice given to people working for micromanagers – assuage your boss’s anxiety by reporting on everything, at every step. This absolutely works to keep an anxious boss happy, but it takes a tremendous amount of time to document and report everything you are doing.

            A lot of the time, documenting and reporting is good advice in that it does something useful – but it’s tough advice to follow unless you have lots of spare bandwidth.

        3. Goliath Corp.*

          Ooh, yeah, this! I did the same thing and ended up having to go on medical leave for most of a year. You don’t owe your company your health.

      2. TootsNYC*

        another piece of wisdom I was told by a process whize and often repeat to others and to myself:

        Make it visible.

        Do not work extra hours to cover a shortage in people, at least, not open-endedly.
        The company and the executives who make staffing decisions need to clearly see what is happening as a result of their decision making.

        Do not obscure it. (and especially not by sacrificing yourself or your life)

        So tell people the reasons you can’t do things. (and make it be your boss’s decision: “Boss needs me to get this report ported over today–it’s got long-term efficiency if it’s done now” but also give any reasons that will make it clear you’re a good prioritizer in general, even if you’re not doing their task)
        Tell people it’s because “one spot was eliminated, and we keep getting shot down on hiring a second.”
        Tell your boss ALL the requests you are not able to do.

        1. Seawren*

          LW2 here: Thank you, that’s really good advice and something I need to do more of. I have about 30 people asking for things, and they all assume their project is the only thing I’m working on.

          I have been limiting the amount of overtime I do (fortunately work-life balance is important here, so we’re not expected to work evenings and weekends) but it’s so easy to fall into the trap of trying to finish one more thing, then one more …

    2. Kim*

      Great comment!
      It’s also important to try and remain calm because this will help. It may sound logical that, when you have a lot on your plate, you want to get stuff done quickly but this will backfire on you, as you may need to correct mistakes later that were made due to time constraints, only to be confronted by the fact that you don’t have time to fix your mistakes.

      Try to take some time to reasses your priorities, even if that means that a couple more tasks will remain undone. Alison’s advice is spot on.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Absolutely! You have to remember that people outside your department don’t know what is going on, or they may have forgotten that you are understaffed or in the middle of a software transition. They just need to be reminded and told what to do if they have an urgent request.
        This is actually a great opportunity to make some stronger connections by keeping people up to date on the status of their projects, even if the update is “Sorry, CEO project came in so I don’t know when I can get to your new report.” I’m an analyst and when I was dealing with a transition and 10 fires, it was my time to shine. It may sound overly optimistic, but I was able to show how responsible I was, how I could prioritize, and how well I could communicate during such a rough patch. Even if I couldn’t get people’s projects done, 99% of the time, they understood and appreciated the honest communication. (I tossed the 1% off on my manager to toss to the CEO.) After the fires were put out and things returned to normal, I had a better relationship with the managers in the org.

      2. boop the first*

        Yeah, this overwhelm happens a lot in low wage jobs in particular… at one, when I first started, we had a lot more staff and the bosses were happy, which made me happy to bust my ass for them. When the staff started dropping off, and the bosses stopped replacing them, and shelves started emptying…. bosses were less happy and became more punitive. Scolding me after I’d just skipped months of morning and afternoon breaks in order to pick up the slack isn’t very motivating! If they actually cared about supermarket shelves being full, they wouldn’t have reduced shifts to end at 2pm instead of 9pm. So why should I care too? Calmness was KEY.

    3. Seawren*

      LW#2 here: my boss is fully aware, and super supportive, fortunately. His boss, sadly, doesn’t get it, and is on his case constantly because the department (me! just me!) isn’t performing satisfactorily. Thank you for the reminder about attitude – I’ve been trying to stay calm but there are days when it’s tough.

      1. Zidy*

        Glad to hear your boss is aware – that’s definitely a big step. The other thing I’d say is remember that his boss being on his case is his problem to deal with, not yours. You can’t solve that, you can’t do anything about it, all you can do is the best job you can do and as long as your boss knows that and is willing to do what he can to shield you and help you prioritize the important stuff, that’s all you can do.

        Good luck in whatever you end up doing. And if you do decide to jump ship, it’s not a reflection on you or your work ethics/professionalism. It’s on them for putting you in the situation :)

    4. Door Guy*

      I’ve been in that boat as well. A 100% doubling of my work load when my counterpart was promoted and I was told they’d “look into hiring a replacement when the busy season starts, the other supervisors and gm can help you”. For 6 months I dealt with it as best I could before they even started taking applications to fill the position, and then it took 1.5 months before they started interviewing.

      They said I’d have help, but as most of our work was “on location” they were limited on how much they could take as they all had their own work to do. I had a territory that was over 300 miles wide and nearly that tall, with 27 technicians scattered throughout that I needed to get on site with, audit their work, and ensure they were being safe plus roll up to finished jobs and perform a quality inspection. One supervisor lived way too far away to even attempt to help, one lived almost 2 hours away and did help where he could along that edge. The GM, despite living in the middle of my territory, kept saying he’d help, and then something would always come up. His best record for a month was helping with 5 of my required 127 quality post roll audits.

      1. Feline*

        I am in this situation now. There used to be 3.5 of us on my team. Attrition and layoffs have left just me, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. I had a major health crisis last winter that somehow managed not to kill me and I am still recovering from, possibly kicked off by my stress level. I have kept going when it was medically unwise, but there was a point I couldn’t. When I finally broke down (embarrassingly literally) and told my manager I couldn’t handle the work, she immediately lifted the immediate difficulty off my shoulders. I avoided another trip to the hospital and have continued to carve away at the mountain of work.

        LW2, I know asking for a life ring is hard. Saying you can’t get your assigned work done is harder. But if you need it, ask your manager for the immediate help you need. Being crushed by a workload like that is no joke.

      2. Saltylady*

        If you are given and impossible task, that removes the pressure once you tell everyone its not possible with the constraints I have of time , personnel and budget . However if you are given a project and you have it 95 percent done and it due tomorrow , than you are under pressure because it is so close and do able and you want to succeed . If your job does not acknowledge they are setting you up for failure it s hard on you but you cannot let them drive you into the grave !

        1. Nessa*

          I am also suffering from being overloaded with work, but not due to anyone leaving. Our small team of 9 (with 3 part-timers) has over 100 open projects. My task list alone consistently hovers at just over 100. We’ve been crunching the numbers recently and according to the amount of work we can actually get done, we SHOULD have only 40-70 active projects at a time. The numbers tell us we have 10 weeks worth of work on our shoulders right now.
          Even with all this, my boss still seems to think it’s a productivity issue. He’s been in the business for over 30 years, and the rest of us have only been here a year or less (I’ve only been working here a year and am already the most senior employee — turnover is another big problem). If it were really a productivity issue, then surely, it wouldn’t affect the whole team near equally. My boss’s numbers are not significantly better than the rest of us.
          I’d like to find a way to convince my boss that we need to hire more people or start turning away work. We’d rather spend more time and effort on fewer projects because it’s become overwhelming to all of us and clients end up slipping through the cracks and becoming terribly upset at us when their projects aren’t finished when my boss promised they would be. Boss also has a bad habit of promising more to the client than we can reasonably deliver. We tell them 3 weeks and he turns around and tells them we can get it done in 1. Then when it’s not done in one, the rest of us get berated by angry customers who told us our boss promised them.
          And despite our fancy new system, it’s hard to keep track of 35 different projects at a time. People are angry, clients are threatening to pull out their business and it’s upsetting to those of us who want to keep our customers happy. We have no time to give our customers the attention they deserve. The way we do business just drives me up the wall. I had to spend half my morning just doing damage control.
          Ugh. I’m done ranting… but I’m at the point where I’m considering looking for other work. According to a former coworker, it’s always been like this. People come and and get overworked until they quit within a year or so. 60% turnover rate is ridiculous.

  2. Bowserkitty*

    OP3 – I love this woman. Her sense of humor almost sounds like she would appreciate it a bit but you never know.

    “nevertheless, she persisted” is also used *chef kiss* most appropriately!

        1. MJ*

          “…I sent the email to the wrong person (not a coworker), who proceeded to tweet it out to her followers for laughs.”

          I would say that’s mocking the woman.

          1. Catherine Tilney*

            I read it as the tweeter thinking it was a funny story and wanting to share it. No mocking – they’re laughing at the situation, not the person.

            1. Jim*

              They should make “Jane” the CEO of that company! She’s terrific. Yeah, she seems like she might find the email mixup funny, as long as her identity was not revealed. The co-worker should apologize profusely and offer to take her to lunch — although maybe not at a Mexican restaurant.

            2. Falling Diphthong*

              And thought OP was broadcasting the anecdote far and wide to everyone in their network, rather than intending a one-off anecdote to a close friend.

              1. EPLawyer*

                “It got 39 retweets and 187 likes! ” In the world of social media, this is barely got noticed. You have to be in thousands for it to be viral.

                The person who posted on social media was wrong. But it hardly covered more people than probably got told the story at the water cooler.

                1. fhqwhgads*

                  It’s true that tiny in the world of social media but if there’s high overlap between the tweeter’s circle and the OP and/or the subject’s social circles it’s a different sort of impact than if it went, say, nationally viral.

            3. Steve C.*

              Not just at the situation, but at a joke Jane told at that moment. That’s almost the definition of laughing with, rather than at, someone: the take away is “Jane is so witty and graceful under fire” not “Jane has gas.” (Which is why the ability to use humour in embarrassing situations is such a powerful face-saving tool.)

              1. MistOrMister*

                Yes to this! I have been chuckling about this for 5 minutes but it’s totally because of how Jane responded. Just hearing “someone farted in a meeting” might be amusing for a short time depending on how it’s told but overall, you feel sorry for the poor passer of gas. But Jane’s response is so perfect that it just tickles you pink.

                Thay being said, my niece and I were once in a yoga class where someone farted and we laughed like hyenas for probably 10 minutes. I still feel bad for that poor lady. It was just so unexpected and we tend to feed off each other when we’re amused so every time we got under control we’d look at each other and start up again. Sometimes you really cant help but laugh at the situation even though you arent laughing at the person. Not to mention, we would have laughed just as hard, if not harder if it had happened to one of us.

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      I mean, I hope she would appreciate it as it’s been shared with OPs friend, OPs friend’s followers and now every person on earth who reads Ask a Manager…

    2. Massmatt*

      She IS great, but the LW was wrong in emailing it to the wrong person and that person was wrong to tweet it with identifiable info without clearing it first.

      This is the kind of story that can quickly get condensed from “Jane was awesome under stress” to “that’s Jane, she farts in meetings” or other gossip that can detract from her reputation rather than enhance it.

      2 gaffes here, not including the fart.

      1. Angwyshaunce*

        Your second point echoes my sentiment as well. This “friend” publicly posted a private email, obviously not intended for them, without permission … just for “laughs”. This person sounds like they may be starved for attention on social media. I’d be wary of people like that.

      2. Middle School Teacher*

        I actually think OP3 was kind of wrong for emailing it at all. If I were Jane I would be mortified to learn someone emailed this about me.

        1. Jennifer*

          As someone pointed out above, everyone in this meeting likely told someone else about it, who then told another person, and on and on and on. That’s life sometimes. Something else outrageous will happen at work and the chatter will die down. All you can do is laugh at yourself, which is a lesson Jane has learned.

            1. Jennifer*

              It’s not the best excuse, but it’s life. I highly doubt the OP’s email was the only one that was sent out either.

          1. DJ*

            True, but I do feel like there’s a difference between relating an anecdote in person and committing it to writing by sending an email that, as happened here, can then be passed on to countless others. A verbal anecdote tends to have a more limited lifespan.

            Just speaking from my personal preference, but I would be a little annoyed to find out someone wrote any email about something embarrassing I did whereas I wouldn’t mind so much if they’d just told the story to someone else verbally.

            1. Jennifer*

              Like I said above, I highly doubt that was the only email that went out. Maybe not even the only social media posting. When something like this happens, you have to accept that there are people out there talking about you and find a way to laugh at yourself and move on.

        2. Julia*

          Yes, just because Jane came up with a (great) joke doesn’t mean she wasn’t mortified on the inside. But I have to admit that “nevertheless, she persisted” in the context of farting almost made me fall off my chair laughing.

      3. Boomerang Girl*

        Agreed. And if I were OP3, I would definitely be cautious about what I say or email to that particular friend

  3. many bells down*

    I swear I’ve seen that first letter, but by the employee, somewhere else. Although I don’t remember her being fired so maybe not?

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      Something sounded familiar to me about it as well but I thought I remembered it coming from a coworker – maybe something in a comment on a post about no shows and someone had a story about some guy turning out to have been in jail?

    2. Jack Russell Terrier*

      I think it’s bringing back the AAM one about the co-worker who was in a fight. I can’t find the link at the moment. I had a pause before I placed why it sounded familiar.

    3. Door Guy*

      I’ve seen it and similar things happen in real life. I’ve had a new hire who got a DWI 2 days after he got out of training (automatic dismissal due to clean driving record required as we drove company vehicles).

      A worker still in his probation period ended up in jail over a holiday weekend and while he didn’t get fired, when he got out on bail (it was a more serious charge than a traffic incident) he was not allowed to leave the state, but he lived in a different state than the office so couldn’t physically come to work and ended up in a voluntary dismissal (with a promise of his job back if he was cleared of the charges).

      Most recently, a worker who got pulled over for a minor traffic incident the day before he was supposed to hit the field and discovered his license had been suspended due to an unpaid ticket. He claimed he had no money (he got pulled over on the way back from the casino…) and would have to wait until payday in 2 weeks when he got his last training check to get his license re-instated. He then proceeded to ignore all contact from the office for the next 2 weeks and we had to do all communication through his buddy who got hired at the same time, just to find out that he got his license issue resolved a week earlier than he told us he could and just didn’t come to work. Our office admin finally got him on the phone, told him that they had to re-run his driving record and that when it came back a pass he would get a call and be put on the schedule immediately. Record came back pass, couldn’t get in contact again, put him on the schedule anyways and once he had 3 consecutive no call no shows they fired him.

    4. ThatGirl*

      I had a co-worker not show up because he was in jail on domestic battery charges. Surprisingly, that was not what got him fired. But he also wasn’t brand-new, just starting at that point.

      1. AnonAndFrustrated*

        How can that not be what he was fired for? Isn’t domestic violence/assault a fireable offense in most of it all places?

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It’s not. Tons of people shrug DV charges off as “must have been a misunderstanding.”

        2. ThatGirl*

          Probably, and I’m sure they would’ve been within their rights to fire him, but they did not – for what reason, I don’t know. That said, what he *was* fired for was deliberately damaging another coworker’s car in the parking lot (caught on security camera) and then lying about it.

        3. LilySparrow*

          Was he in jail pending trial/bail, or convicted & sentenced?

          If you’re firing people for no-shows or general optics of being arrested, the nature of the offense doesn’t matter. But if you’re firing based on the nature of the offense, you shouldn’t fire someone unless they are found guilty (or plead guilty).

        4. Door Guy*

          Because it’s a charge and not a conviction? So he’s been accused but not yet tried in a court of law. Innocent until proven guilty.

          *Please do not take this to mean I approve or want to diminish anything related to domestic violence. I take a stance against the “Court of Public Opinion” where just being accused immediately sets the mobs out calling for the blood of the offender. I’ve seen first hand people who have had their lives destroyed at the HINT that they did something wrong, because they were arrested as part of an investigation but even though they were never charged, never convicted, never spent a minute in a courtroom, the community still labeled them as GUILTY, that they just “Got off” or “Got Away with it” regardless of any facts.

          1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

            This is how employment law operates in many states. You cannot fire someone until they are convicted, though depending on the nature of the charges and their job, you can suspend them. (Ex: you could suspend a delivery driver for a DUI, but not a receptionist.)

  4. Engineer Girl*


    First offense:

    but he didn’t notify our boss of it until minutes before he was expected in.

    Second offense:

    Next Monday he didn’t come in, and no one could get in touch with him.

    The lack of communication, especially in the first incident, shows a real lack of judgement.
    This is especially important at a time when you’re trying to make good first impressions.

    1. Heidi*

      I guess jail is one place where he truly wouldn’t be able to call in to work. He needs to use his call to get a lawyer. The first one is weird, though. If his flight got cancelled, why did it take a whole week for him to get a different flight home?

      1. JKP*

        See, I read it as just a rumor that his flight was canceled. It’s entirely possible that pushing back the start date by a week the first time was because he was arrested and trying to settle things before going to jail. Maybe he thought he would be out before Monday, but then was still in jail a week later and thus unable to call in again.

        1. Marzipan*

          Yes, I also figured the first week’s absence and the second were potentially all one connected thing.

        2. Jenny*

          It seems fishy. Traffic arrests usually don’t result in being held that long. The judge I worked for wouldn’t even ask for bail for those.

          Honestly the first call in alone, even he was telling the truth, was bad enough to pull the job. First day is a LOT of work for a manager and getting minutes notice (when a cancelled flight you would have known at least hours before) is completely unacceptable.

          1. Thatoneoverthere*

            Many times cops don’t want to deal with bringing some into jail for a simple traffic violation. My guess was this guy was likely in jail the whole time for something unrelated to traffic violation.

            1. Anon for This*

              I posted my story below, but it really depends on the judge/court. I spent more than a day in jail because of a mix-up with a ticket.

              1. MatKnifeNinja*

                Detroit lock up for a traffic ticket violation? No.

                My city where the biggest thing happening is a bike being stolen, you bet! They put people in lock up for 1st offense shoplifting here.

                1. Jennifer*

                  It could happen in a major city too. It depends on the cop, judge, court, and sometimes race and class as well.

              2. Jennifer*

                There are people who have spent months in jail just because they couldn’t afford bail, even for minor offenses. I agree, that this is a possibility.

                1. JM60*

                  It’s possible, but unlikely.

                  Besides, there are phones in county/city jails, and inmates are typically allowed to use them more than once over the time period of a week. I have a hard time believing that he couldn’t get anyone to contact the OP on his behalf.

                2. JM60*


                  I’m aware that the US justice system has many flaws, but the “one phone” is mostly just a thing on TV. It’s unlikely that someone could sit in jail for a full week without any way of getting word to the employer, either directly or through a friend/family member.

            2. Lavender Menace*

              Maybe sometimes, but some cops are definitely petty enough to do this. My husband spent a long weekend in jail over an unpaid traffic ticket (and it was truly just an unpaid traffic violation).

          2. I coulda been a lawyer*

            We had a guy like that who made similar claims. But the “minor traffic ticket” was a current aggravated DUI, felony assault, and resin arrest. Charming guy.

          3. Fae*

            There is a small town outside of the small city where I grew up that gets it’s entire budget paid for by traffic tickets. I mean its ENTIRE BUDGET. My cousin got pulled over there once (went through a yellow light) and when the cop pulled his info found that my cousin had an outstanding warrant for an old ticket from somewhere else. My cousin had to call his wife an get her to take care of the old ticket (which he had already paid and had a receipt for it was just an error in the system). After cousins wife took care of the old ticket and the arrest warrant was dropped they STILL wouldn’t release him until he paid for the new ticket and they charged him court fees (he had been seen by a judge on the same day as the arrest). My cousin didn’t have the money ($250, this town has huge fines) so he ended up staying a until the next day when cousins wife was able to borrow the money from my parents.

            1. Massmatt*

              This is a scandal that got some coverage for a while but has receded into the background. Traffic stops and other fines are the major source of revenue for many small towns. One article I read quoted a police chief saying “if you can’t find a violation to charge for, you’re just not looking hard enough” which was chilling.

              1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

                A recent article in the magazine Governing tells of smaller towns where over 93% of their entire budget comes from fines. Not taxes. Fines. That is terrifying.

              2. River Song*

                There is an episode of Last Week Tonight on this (titled Municipal Violations) that is really worth the watch.

            2. Door Guy*

              I’d have your buddy check with a lawyer about those fines. I lived in a city with pretty outrageous fines as well and they had a class-action lawsuit brought against them for fines in excess of the state maximum.

              I got $64 back on a $100 ticket because of that.

              I also once got hassled by an officer because I had an expired Minnesota drivers license while driving in Minnesota. Except I lived in North Dakota at the time and hadn’t had a Minnesota drivers license in 8 years and was just on my way to visit my parents.

              1. Quill*

                First year I had my own car I didn’t buy a renewal sticker because no one had ever told me you had to. Not driver’s ed, not the car dealer, nobody. What’s worse is I hadn’t put my new insurance in the glove box yet (it expired like, 2 weeks ago,) but fortunately the local deputy who pulled me over took “I have an expired what now?” well enough to only charge me for the insurance violation.

                The only other time I’ve been pulled over I was trying to get my parents’ arthritic pickup truck over a minor hill and my breaks made a lot of noise… and all the cops were on watch for erratic driving because it was a heat wave. I had to have the guy smell every container in my car to prove there was no alcohol and I was only sweating like a pig because the AC was broken. I was let go with strict instructions to go home, drink as much water as I could stand, and not go back out. (Helped that I was 6 blocks from home when I was pulled over.)

            3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              They finally cracked down on a town for sitting in their speed trap daily to get traffic violation quotas.

              It reminds me of the “Nothing But Trouble” movie with Dan Aykroyd. Don’t spread in small towns, they’ll get you, my pretties.

            4. noahwynn*

              I know Oklahoma (and I’m sure other states too) have passed laws limiting the percentage of revenue that towns can collect from traffic violations for exactly this reason. I then saw a YouTube short documentary about another town that was trying to get around this by instead collecting absurd amounts of revenue by focusing on code violations and even adding things like “all window covering on front of home must match” to the code.

              1. JM60*

                I think that limit should be set at 0%. Any fines shouldn’t benefit those introducing or enforcing the fines. They should go elsewhere.

          4. Sam I Am*

            If you are poor, you are far less likely to be released, for a myriad of “reasons”… but they can easily be condensed into “too poor.”

          5. Kesnit*

            It’s possible it was a traffic issue, but he was being held because he had failed to appear in court all those years prior. (Yes, FTA is a separate charge and can land someone in jail.)

            1. Temporarily Anon*

              Kesnit is right. He could be in jail not for the traffic violation but because there was a warrant out for his arrest for the failure to appear from the earlier ticket. This often can be a mixup where the person already resolved the ticket but the system doesn’t show it. This happened to my friend’s husband and he wound up in jail for several days, despite my friend having the resources to hire an attorney and post a bond, simply because of the timing and red tape of that particular jurisdiction.

              1. DataGirl*

                Something very similar happened to my husband. He paid the ticket but paid late, and didn’t realize because of this that they had tacked additional fees on top of the ticket. Since the additional fees weren’t paid (as he didn’t know they existed) a warrant was issued. When he was pulled over months later in a small town he was arrested and I had to leave work to bail him out and pay all the extra fines, plus they towed his car so we had to pay a small fortune to get it out of impound. Thankfully he was only in jail a few hours but if I hadn’t have been able to pay everything he would have been stuck there.

          6. Sarah N.*

            Especially if it really was a flight cancellation issue! There is no way that a person does not have only a “few minutes” notice when the issue is that they are far enough away to need an airplane to get to work. Even assuming a short 1 hour flight, when you account for that plus navigating the airport and driving time to work, even a very last minute flight cancellation should give the person 90 minutes to 2 hours before work to be able to call and give notice.

            1. Helena*

              That does assume there was somebody in the office to take the call – I’m visualising a Monday morning start, and a weekend flight cancellation.

              Yes, co-worker knows on Sunday night that he won’t be in work on Monday morning. But does he have any way to inform the boss before 9am when the office opens?

              A week delay sounds a bit piss-taking though – presumably there is more than one flight a week, or he could hire a car/take a bus.

        3. JM60*

          Attests over unpaid tickets are usually just long enough to haul you to court so a judge can decide what to do next. If he was really in custody for that long, it probably wasn’t over a ticket. Plus, they typically allow inmates to make more than one phone call in that time period.

          1. PhyllisB*

            Engineer Girl, theoretically, you can get someone to call for you, but they don’t always follow through. My son was in drug court a few years ago and had to go for periodic drug testing.
            One day he went in on his way to work and then was headed to work (3-10) so didn’t expect to hear from him the rest of the day. At 6 o’clock his boss called wanting to know if Son was all right because he never showed up for work. It was a horribly rainy day so I was concerned. First thing I did was call the jail; local and the one where his original charge was made. They said he wasn’t there. Well, I panicked and started calling hospitals. No one wants to give info on an adult and I had to do some begging to get them to check. He wasn’t in any of them. Then I got really concerned and was considering going out in the rain to search for him.
            One of his co-workers Knew People in the area where his charge originated so she got on the phone to get info. Sure enough, he had been taken in for missing one of his drug tests. He had requested the testing officer call and inform us so we wouldn’t worry and we could notify his place of employment. He promised to do so, but….didn’t.
            So just because they CAN call someone doesn’t mean he was allowed to. It was two days before Son was allowed to call us.
            I let them have it the next time I talked to them. They were very apologetic and promised it wouldn’t happen again.
            On a side note: he didn’t get fired because he had been there a long time and was a good worker, but I would have understood if they had fired him.

            1. PhyllisB*

              *I mean I let the people at Drug Court have it. I told them I understood why he was sent to jail, but no phone call let us all worried that he was dead in a ditch somewhere. (Stormy weather. Almost tornado conditions.) They agreed with me.

        1. Grand Mouse*

          I always wondered how that was supposed to work! I don’t have a lawyer on retainer so I guess I’d have to call around a bit? (no idea what I’d do but let’s hope I don’t have to find out). and then if I contact a lawyer I can’t call anyone else so my mom and boss would worry I was dead in a ditch somewhere?

          1. EPLawyer*

            Attorneys have their cards posted at the jail. No seriously. Or they get a name from another inmate. They used to have phone books at the jail that people flipped through. Or you call a family member to have them find an attorney since the attorney wants a retainer before showing up and the arrested person can’t really pay right then.

            Topic: Given this guy’s track record and he hasn’t even sat down at his desk, it’s better to cut your losses then “see if this is just a one time thing.” Then have to write AAM in 6 months and ask how to get rid of this person after their probationery period.

          2. LilySparrow*

            Or you call your personal emergency contact (spouse, parent, sibling, BFF) and have them find a lawyer.

        2. Bagpuss*

          I don’t know how it works in the US – in the UK, there will be a ‘duty solicitor’ who is on call for anyone who needs them. It works on a rota system so all of the local lawyers who deal with criminal cases will be on the rota, and the police will have the details and the contact numbers which are provided to anyone who is arrested.
          Obviously there’s nothing to stop someone calling their own lawyer, instead, if they have one already.
          I think the police will also notify your family (or whoever) if you ask them to.

          1. Jemima Bond*

            Yup – in the U.K. your rights are both/separately to legal representation (duty solicitor if you haven’t got one you know already) AND to have someone informed of your arrest (and thirdly to consult certain legal codes of practice). The caution (re not having to say anything but…etc) is separate and comes first, and must happen asap on arrest but the three rights I describe may be explained in custody (when you’re booking in). Oh and if you’re a foreign national you have an extra right; to have your embassy informed if you wish.
            It may be slightly different in the US but in my extensive experience of watching Law & Order (!) I cant see why you couldn’t ask your lawyer to call your mum or your office or whatever. I’m more surprised you can get banged up for several days for a 10yo traffic offence that isn’t ostensibly a serious matter tbh – here that offence would have to involve someone being seriously injured or something, not like your number plate’s obscured or you were doing 40mph in a 30.

            1. Bagpuss*

              I wasn’t surprised, becuase I know that it is a thing in the US, but it seems really strange to me, too.

              I don’t know whether or not the presumption of bail exisits in the US or if it is that bail usually involves being able tio put up significant sums in collateral to be able to get it, which makes a difference.

              (For non-UK people, here there is a presumption that you will get bail, excepot where the charge is murder (and piossibly terrorism or high treason), so the onus is on the Police to justify it if they don’t think someone should be given bail.

              The most common reasons fornot giving bail are where there is reason to believe that the person aretsed will commit further offences, intimidate or interfere with witnesses or abscond. And often that may only be a short term thing – for instnace, someone who has no fixed address mght not get bail immediately but their lawyer will probably then be able to identify a bail hostel they can go to and then reapply for bail on the basis they do now have an address .

              Bail is often granted subject to conditions – again, not to contact the victim/complainant or any witnesses is a very common condition, and they might aso include things such as a curfew, restrictions on where you can go, or requirements to report to the police station regularly (football hoolgans are sometimes given conditions which require them to report in on match days, which stops them being able to go to a match when they have been banned, for instnace, and is much easier to police than trying to spot them in the crowd at the football ground!). Financial consitions are possible but unusual.

              Someone who has ben refused bail by the police has the right to apply to the Court for bail
              (As a very very baby lawyer, I once had to do an application to a Judge for bail – my boss told me not to worry when it was refused, because it would be (the client had a long record of committing offences while on bail, failing to show up to court etc) but that the client had insisted we apply.
              Which made it rather awkward when the Judge unexpectedly granted bail, as I had no idea what I needed to do next, to actually get him out of custody! I seem to recall that he then, true to form, was arrested a few days later having failed to keep to his bail conditions..

              1. Lynn Whitehat*

                Yeah, we usually have bail in the States too, unless you’re accused of murder or something. Maybe he couldn’t make bail? Or maybe it was a bureaucratic screw-up like posted above.

              2. Horseshoe*

                The problem with bail is that it has to be paid in cash. My brief experience with this is when a friend got arrested in college for peeing in public and underage drinking. Because it was two charges, the bail was something like $750, and we didn’t have that much cash on us, so we had to pay like $100 to a bail bondsman to get the rest that night, and that was for an extremely minor infraction.

                I don’t know what bail normally is, but I remember it seemed very high for what seemed to us like a very minor offense, and people often don’t have the cash available.

                1. SarahTheEntwife*

                  The amount of bail is *extremely* variable and is…problematic for pretty much the reasons you’d expect given the rest of the US criminal justice system.

                2. Bagpuss*

                  Yes, I think that’s the big diference betwen the UK and the US – mostly, here, you don’t pay anything to get bail.

                3. pleaset*

                  In the US, bail is supposed to ensure the person shows up for trial. But it’s often set at levels too high for the person to pay to force them to plead guilty rather than go to trial.

                  And by “too high” in some cases that’s amounts of money that might not seem high to upper-middle class people, but are insurmountable for poor people. The system is set up to force convictions without trial.

              3. Beaded Librarian*

                Nail Hostel that’s an interesting concept that I think I like. Here we just keep the homeless in jail for stupid things. Or at least it seems like it.

            2. LizB*

              Most people who get arrested in the US and need a public defender are only going to see that person very briefly before court appearances, so there won’t be an opportunity to ask them to call anyone. And if you end up in jail in the US, and you’re poor, you’re probably staying there for a serious amount of time. There’s a decent percentage of people who plead guilty and do jail time for things they maintain they didn’t actually do, because they know they won’t be able to post bail, and if they fight the charge in a trial they’ll be away from their family for much longer than if they just shut up and take a shorter sentence.

        3. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

          I know nothing about those things, but it seems weird to me that they would not let him call his family and workplace to let them know where he was. Unless he was arrested for murder, maybe, but then the OP would have heard about it in the news.

          1. Kesnit*

            It costs money to make a call. If he didn’t have any cash when he went to jail, he likely would not be able to call anyone.

          2. pleaset*

            “it seems weird to me that they would not let him call his family and workplace to let them know where he was”
            It may seem weird to you, but the criminal justice system in a lot of places in the US doesn’t give a sh*t about inmates. I mean, we could say it seems weird they don’t let inmates have needed medicine, so the inmate dies. But it happens all the time.

            1. Alton*

              Yeah, and the way things are supposed to work doesn’t always happen in reality. If the facility is understaffed or over-crowded, for example, that can affect how smoothly things run. Also, people may not have access to a phone if they’re in a holding cell.

              As an additional complication, calls from jails can be collect calls, or otherwise require you to accept the call before it’ll go through. So this means that inmates can’t always leave voicemails. I had an issue recently where I had a couple missed calls from a jail, and I had no idea who was calling because all the message was was a recording asking if I would accept a call from the unnamed inmate. I couldn’t think of anyone who might be calling me from jail, so I assumed someone had the wrong number, and I felt bad that there might have been someone who thought they were calling their lawyer or a friend and didn’t know they had the wrong number.

        4. Massmatt*

          Not to mention, the person you call can be told several people to contact, you’d think your new employer would be among them.

      2. TV has strange rules*

        One phone call is a myth. You get all the phone calls you want, of course, you are limited by the number of phones, limits on time spent on calls, etc.

        1. Heidi*

          Me watching a show set in my field: Absolutely none of this would happen in real life.
          Also me, but watching a show outside my field: Law and Order is teaching me everything I need to know about the law.

          What an interesting thread this turned out to be. I feel like I’ve doubled my knowledge about how jail works. But to circle back to the original question, I guess OP1’s employer could have given him a second chance if they really needed someone for the job, but it’s also reasonable to avoid the risk of this being just the tip of this guy’s iceberg of issues.

      3. JessaB*

        Unless you live completely alone in the world, one of the things you do when you contact someone to tell them you are in jail (whether family, bondsperson or attorney) is to please request that they put in a call to your office and let them know. Of the three choices the least likely to be nice and make the call is the bondsperson, but the ones I’ve known would do it for you if it was easy to make the call and they didn’t have to jump through hoops. Particularly since they’d prefer you didn’t get fired so they can get their money.

      4. Artemesia*

        I am guessing that both incidents were related — he was dealing with the arrest the first week and then couldn’t get out of jail that second week. The missed flight was a ruse to not having to admit to the arrest. I’d not fire him if on investigation the story was accurate — it was somehow related to a crime you could live with or if the charges were dismissed. I’d fire him if he was guilty of something more serious that would be a problem for you. I am thinking the communication fails were related to not having phone access because in jail and not knowing how to deal.

    2. MatKnifeNinja*

      Ever been in jail? They take all your stuff, including your cell phone. How many people know your new bosse’s number verbatim, let alone remember any number?

      I’ve been pulled over for driving while poor in a very $$$$$ suburban area. I also had a similar outstanding ticket from a zillion years ago.

      Between the brake light I didn’t know was out, and the ticket, I could have done overnight in jail. By the grace of God the police officer let me go with a huge warning after he ripped my car apart.

      I’ll give the first incident, that wasn’t cool. Nothing he could have done in the lock up.

      People think traffic pull overs will never happen to them. My city’s police department is making tons of money pull people over and finding weed infractions or hanging around bars/restaurants and nailing people blowing a 0.09 on the breathalyzer. Neither of them are the crime of the century, but a lot office peeps who work in this city, get an overnight in the lock up.

      (My local paper publishes all traffic pull overs that wind up with the person going to jail, with car type, venue etc)

      1. VictorianCowgirl*

        I agree with your sentiment, but not with your examples. How is driving while intoxicated not one of the main crimes of this century? I have personally known 4 people who have died as a result over the years, two being children, and I bear permanent physical damage from a drunk driver as does my Mother, so minimizing this public safety hazard isn’t appropriate at all, and those cops are doing a great thing. 0.09 is very much too intoxicated to drive as it is almost twice the legal limit of 0.05.

        1. Kesnit*

          “0.09 is very much too intoxicated to drive as it is almost twice the legal limit of 0.05.”

          Where I practice, the legal limit is 0.08., so 0.09 is barely over the limit

          I don’t think MatKnifeNinja was saying DUI isn’t worth prosecuting. However, DUI is a misdemeanor (so long as there aren’t other factors, like really high BAC or killing someone). Compared to most other crimes, DUI is minor.

    3. TootsNYC*

      but he didn’t notify our boss of it until minutes before he was expected in.

      Except–if you got arrested or had traffic trouble over the weekend, mightn’t you think that you couldn’t reach the boss over the weekend, due to the office being closed?

      You’re due at 9 a.m. You know you won’t make it. But you want to talk to the boss (or someone) in person instead of leaving a message or sending an email, so you call at 8:55.

  5. NeonFireworks*

    I was contacted by a colleague at a small, prestigious workplace and asked to apply to a high-profile job there a few years ago. I knew it was no guarantee of anything, but here’s how it went: I was not hired, not interviewed, and not gotten back to at all. I know that my application was received and others were interviewed. I am now no longer receptive to the idea of ever working for this company, however renowned.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      Did your colleague have any influence within the hiring process? If not, I’m not sure there is much offense here. Now if your colleague was part of the hiring committee it would be a different story.

      1. Dan*

        While the *colleague* may not warrant any offense, a good company treats referrals well. At my last job, a lot of employees would refer people to other jobs within the company, and a lot of times, they’d just hear crickets. That irritated my coworkers a lot.

        A good company knows that employees risk a little personal capital with a referral, and makes an extra effort for those referrals, even if they don’t result in a hire.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          I agree that they should take referrals seriously. That said, mistakes happen.
          I’d let colleague know what happened and then see what the explanation is. Placing the company in the not now, not ever list takes a greater offense than that for me.

            1. Dan*

              To that particular point… I felt the same way about my OldJob. Sure, people can make decisions based on whatever info they want, but I’ve always thought that judging a company based on their initial HR interactions (e.g., recruitment, interview process) alone was always short sighted. Sometimes people say, “If it’s bad now, just wait.” The reality is for rank and file employees, once you’re on the payroll, HR is mostly out of the picture .

              That said, if the hiring manager jerks you around, *that* is cause for concern.

              1. Fikly*

                To a point. Once you’re an employee, if you ever have an issue where HR needs to get involved, be it benefits/pay to harassment, if HR was bad during the hiring process, they’re likely to be bad again.

                On the other hand, I recently had a first interview with HR, almost decided not to move forward, then had a second interview with actual people who worked on the product/the team I would be working on, and found their ethics much better and liked the company more. I still decided to decline the position (I was being recruited) but I was glad I stuck it out to hear what non-HR people had to say.

          1. Massmatt*

            I worked for someplace like this, they promoted their employee referral program constantly but everyone considered it a sad joke, no one who referred people ever heard anything and few if any referrals got interviews, and these were people with experience and skills we ostensibly needed. This wasn’t a mistake, it was bad policy.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            Is a suggestion to apply always a referral, though?

            I got my current job when a friend who already worked here told me the position was open and that I should apply, but we had never worked together and, while she knew that I’m generally a pretty reliable person, she would not have had grounds to make what I would consider a referral or recommendation. I got the job because they liked my application and gave me an interview, which I apparently nailed. The fact that she thought I’d be good at it in no way guaranteed that the actual hiring committee would like my application.

            1. Dan*

              My org has a *very* clear internal distinction between “referral” and “suggest you apply.” If someone from my org tells you to apply through the external jobs website, it’s a “suggest you apply”. You can say whatever you want in the cover letter about how it came to be that you applied for the job, but everybody on the inside knows it was a suggestion.

              If someone from my org says, “please send me your resume directly, I’ll submit it for you”, that’s going into a specific referral system and is tracked that way.

              Do we make that clear to the external applicants? Probably not.

        2. Jojo*

          Yes, I will not refer anyone to my own company anymore, even though HR begs us to both do that and maje job openings known. They have embarrassed me beyond words in how ridiculously rudely they have treated referrals of my own.

        3. Huddled over tea*

          From a different perspective – my company no longer has a referral system, because when we used to have one, a good number of people would recommend non-qualified friends and family and then get mad when they weren’t given interviews or considered

        4. Door Guy*

          I hate when I refer people that I KNOW would do well in a job, they have told me they want to find a new job, I know that the job I’m referring them to PAYS better than their current job by a decent amount, and they blow off the people hiring (and this is after contact has been made, not like I told them about it and they never applied/got in touch). I put my reputation in the company at risk because of it as well.

          The one that bothered me the most was I had a coworker promise me that I’d let her know if a job opened up, she was desperate to get out of her current situation and I knew that a similar position that paid $3-4/hr better for a lighter work load (and shorter commute) was going to be opening up relatively soon. Less than 2 weeks after we had that conversation, the job opened up and I let her know immediately and she said she’d apply as soon as she got home. She applied, the CFO of the company (who was doing the first round of interviews as they’d be reporting directly to him) asked me about her as she’d listed me as a reference. I told him the truth that she was a good candidate with examples of what I knew of her work (she rocked at her job, but she wanted out for the same reason I got out, overloaded and toxic environment for garbage pay). She then…ignored all further communication and the interview never got set up and by time she reached out again we’d already completed 2nd round of interviews and made an offer to someone else.

          I talked to her a few months after that and apparently she was apologetic and blamed it on being so busy, which could definitely be a factor as right as I was leaving they unceremoniously dumped a huge project in her lap with no advanced notice and a crazy tight deadline and she still had to do her already stretched thin duties. Apparently, she was bringing work home with her at night just to get it done (and not even recording time because she wasn’t allowed to get overtime) and spending huge parts of her weekends doing work. I also learned that our old manager had gotten hold of her ear and poached her away to work only for him right around this time as well (same company, different department. Basically doing JUST that big project that had been dropped on her and no longer having to do any of her previous duties)

        5. NotAnotherManager!*

          Exactly – our HR has a policy of always contacting referrals, even if it’s just to say that we’ve filled the position or are moving forward with other candidates. It (understandably) leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths when they are ignored entirely, and no one wants to do that to a employee who’s taken the time to make a referral or the candidate. (If HR has someone who is repeatedly referring unqualified candidates, too, that will be addressed. There is a hiring bonus for referrals, and it’s pretty clear who’s thinking this-person-is-a-good-candidate and who’s thinking $$$$.)

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I think one thing for OP to consider is how many people she is talking to about this job.
      Talking to several people almost feels unfair here. For myself, I am most comfortable telling one person about the opening. This person is the person I think is the best choice of everyone I know.
      It could be that there is more than one opening for the same position. I have not encountered too much of that usually the employer is just hiring one person. So I tell one person and I let them know that I have no idea who else is applying nor do I know how many applicants there are. Disclaimers are helpful for the potential applicant to gauge whether or not to apply.

      1. LW #5*

        Normally this has been my go-to for this situation but in this case I spoke to 3-4 candidates because they all had some situation in which I wasn’t sure they would accept the job if offered (not wanting full-time, bad time of year to transition, pay cut, etc.).

        But that sense of unfairness is also definitely there and why I wrote in. It definitely felt like a balancing act.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          I don’t think there’s anything at all unfair about telling more than one person to apply if you genuinely think they could all be good fits for the role. You couldn’t possibly know who is “the best choice of everyone I know” until you interview them–that’s the whole point of the process!

          Personally I like the wording I saw other commenters recommending of telling someone you think they should consider “throwing their hat in the ring.” I feel like that is pretty clear that you’ll also be looking at other hats.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s absolutely fine to talk to multiple people about the job! That’s what recruiting from your networks means! You don’t know who will be the best candidate, who will be interested, etc. There’s nothing wrong with that.

        3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          I have told multiple people about an opening for a similar set of reasons. None were unhappy where they were, all would have been good at the job if they were interested, but it wasn’t so “WOW!” that I expected anyone to get too excited about it. Ended up one did apply but decided not to take it when offered. No harm, no foul since it would have been lateral

      2. Kendra*

        Cherry picking who to tell about a job opening like that has the potential to get you into some weird territory with the EEOC, especially through unconscious bias. If, over time, your candidates (and, therefore, eventual hires) all seem to be from one particular racial or ethnic group, or a specific religion or gender, you have a problem. In general, the more breadth and diversity you have in your candidate pools, the better chances that you’ll find good hires who are also representative of many different backgrounds. Plus, you never know everything about a candidate going in, which is one of the reasons we bother to do interviews. They’re a great way of getting context and additional information that might completely alter the picture formed by a written application or resume, or even knowing and having worked with the candidate before.

  6. Engineer Girl*

    I like the term “through your hat in the ring” as an indicator that there is a competition going on and anything can happen. You can append that with “no guarantees” and “good practice for job searches”. That hints that the candidate may be a long shot but that it’s still worth the effort. It’s especially good for Jr people so they can grow their network and gain confidence.

    And yes, if you recruit someone you owe them a debriefing.

  7. mark132*

    OP2, if “crucial requests” have gone be unfilled for months especially sincc3 reports are typically more time sensitive. It’s possible they just aren’t that important. I’ve got tasks that were in my queue for years that just simply got closed. It might be the reason this other position isn’t hired is simply because the most important requests are being handled so they don’t want to actually hire.

    1. Seawren*

      LW2 here; there’s definitely some of that, but there’s also a lot of shouting (in my boss’s office, thankfully) about how major initiatives are being delayed because I’m not delivering. I’m usually pretty good about sorting out what’s really important ( I’ve been with the company over 10 years and have a reputation as a mind-reader, which makes it extra painful now when I can’t deliver) and right now, I can’t get to even half of the mission critical items.

      1. Door Guy*

        It’s always disheartening to see that item in your inbox that NEEDS to be done, but doesn’t need to be done THAT DAY, and you have something that does have to be done that day or else come through, so you say “Tomorrow” and then you get another vital urgent that day and it becomes “The Next Day” and so on until it’s now overdue but there’s nothing you could do because you HAD to be doing those other things as well and you’re just one person, but the person/team that needed that one item is now in a bind regardless.

        Personally, I just stopped doing certain things because I kept getting pulled in other directions (literally, as I had to go to job sites). The management above me all threw a fit but they never wrote me up, we just got passive aggressive emails after reports came out showing that I was way behind on those items.

      2. smoke tree*

        Ugh. This is a really hard position your company has put you in, particularly for someone who cares about doing a good job. It might help to try to see it as much as possible as a lack of resources issue, to emotionally distance yourself from it. If your company refuses to supply, say, a printer (or fill two vacant positions, or provide workable software), they can’t be surprised if printing doesn’t happen. But I realize that’s much easier said than done, and it’s just a crappy place to be in.

  8. Don’t get salty*

    #2: I definitely can identify with how you feel. A few years ago when my organization went through a restructuring, they underestimated how many people they had available to do the different types of projects we had. That resulted in each group being understaffed because we were used to everyone covering for each other. We were already short by about half of the staff needed when the remaining people in our group started leaving one-by-one due to the ever-increasing workload. It got to the point where two or three people were doing the work of about 20 people. I was one of those two or three remaining.

    I started to work myself to exhaustion to try to get everything done, to the point where I had multiple projects happening simultaneously with no reports written. I learned over time, that all this work I had taken on, and all this burden that I placed on myself, was not appreciated at all by the people who were expecting the finished product. I was constantly harangued, nagged and scrutinized because my work product was past due.

    It wasn’t until I decided to speak up for myself, and communicated to management that I was drowning in work and had a backload of approximately six months, that things began to change. It didn’t help that my management didn’t take it upon themselves, until very late in the process, to do an assessment of who was assigned projects. It was after this assessment that everyone found out that there were two other locations that were bored out of their minds because they had nothing to do.

    1. Door Guy*

      Wow…and I thought my “Upper management lumps rural offices in with metro offices and expects them to operate the same” was bad.

  9. Unam*

    # 1 – I understand why they fired him, but why make him come in to do it? Presumably he had no company property to return, so if they knew he wasn’t going to be working there they should have let him know so he could continue his job search straight away.

    1. Bagpuss*

      Maybe they wanted to speak to him to give him the opportunity to explain what had happened? Perhaps they were leaning towards firing him but wanted to see whether there was anything that would justify keeping him on – it’s not clear how much of an explanation they had had before that, OP suggests that there were various rumours going around and it doesn’t sound as through they know how much information he had given before turning up.

      It could also be a case of following procedure – if he had officially been employed, then there may have been a policy that you have a face-to-face meeting with an employee before firing them, even if in this case they hadn’t ever actually started work.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      I suspect that they wanted to get his side of the story first. Which is the fair thing to do. When they found out the “why” part it was oh, no no no no.
      The issue wasn’t jail so much as not bothering to contact them when he could have/should have. He wasn’t in a coma in the hospital.

    3. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      It could be that they thought he had ghosted at that point and didn’t expect him to show up, so when he did they were all, “Oh it’s you! Thanks for showing up but I’m sorry, you’re fired.” or they could have a policy that if a person has never actually worked any time for the company, he technically isn’t really employed by them, so doesn’t need to be “fired”. He, presumably, never filled out the paperwork to begin employment — W2, benefits enrollment, signed the offer letter, etc.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        This is what I assume happened.

        It’s so incredibly rare that someone would ghost and then suddenly show up acting like they still had a job waiting for them.

        I’ve never had it happen before. People have pulled the “Oh I need to move my start date back to X.” and we say “Okay, that works for us.” and they don’t show up, then it’s clear that it’s a no-go. They are never to be seen or heard from again. So I don’t waste time trying to call them at that point, I wish they’d have the nerve to show up. It wasn’t even a firing in the end, it was a removal of the job offer, since I’d put a bet on the fact he never filled out any of the new hire forms to even remotely suggest he was employed there.

  10. Anono-me*


    Please consider talking to your almost employee to find out what he has to say about the situation.* Especially, especially if he is not a person of privilege.

    While water-cooler gossip says that the almost employee missed the first week of work due to a travel delay, it may be that he was already in jail. He may have waited to call and tell he was released or at least temporarily released. (I’m sure no one wants to start off by asking their brand new employer to accept a collect call from a prisoner at the local jail. )

    * Please also review the actual charges against this almost employee and check any other resources you have. He may be someone like your friend or he may be someone who has done some upsetting things, but talks a good game.

    1. Busy Bee*

      What is the purpose of all this investigating of someone who is not a colleague intended to accomplish, exactly? OP has no role in this, nor standing to contact this person or to “review the actual charges”.

      How does this advice help the OP?

      1. Veronica*

        Not necessarily the OP herself, but it might be useful for the employer to look online and see what the employee was charged with, to see if it matches (or nearly matches) what he said. Then employer would know whether the fired employee was truthful, and if they ever had to have contact with him again, it would inform how they deal with him.

    2. Colette*

      This is way more involved than an employer should be – employers should not be evaluating charges and making judgment calls about how serious/well-founded they are. They simply don’t have the expertise, and have no way to get more information. The legal system, as flawed as it can be, is built to dot hat.

      But also, if he was in jail for 8 days, he had plenty of time to let them know in advance of his (delayed) start date that he wouldn’t be there.

      1. Oh No She Di'int*

        Right. So here’s the thing in my opinion: I’ve noticed that with some employees, it’s “always something”. This seems to be one of those employees. It doesn’t make them bad or evil people. It simply means one has to make a calculation as to whether one has the bandwidth to deal with that employee that’s constantly going to have some drama. The drama never appears to be his fault, yet somehow it always seems to happen to this person.

        When a person has 2 major incidents by Day One, you’ve got one of those employees on your hands.

        This assessment in no way speaks to the legal aspects of firing. But it does address the day-to-day realities of management.

        1. LilySparrow*

          Yes. Some people’s lives are so chaotic that they aren’t in a position to be a reliable employee.

          Doesn’t matter whether all the stories and reasons are true. Doesn’t matter whether the problems are of their own making, or totally beyond their control. Maybe the chaos is a temporary situation, but timing is everything in finding/filling a job.

          Managers/employers aren’t there to judge someone’s worthiness as a human being. And they (mostly) aren’t there to provide life rehab services. They are there to run a business and get work done.

          Employees who create more problems for the employer than they solve are not good employees. That’s why a track record of many problems solved outweighs a few problems created.

          But when your record is problems solved =0, problems created >1, the employer has good reason to cut their losses.

    3. Antilles*

      The problem is that none of this would change the employer’s response in this situation – the response to “missing a week of work with near-zero notice and no explanation, then follow up with a no-show/no-call” is going to be firing almost no matter what the actual truth of his situation is.

      1. Sarah N.*

        I agree, absent an explanation that is literally something like “I was in the hospital in a coma,” I think almost any other explanation doesn’t matter? This isn’t a long time employee that the business knows to be reliable.

    4. Anono-me*

      My understanding of the situation is that OP#1 is neither the employer or the HR Manager. OP#1 wrote in because she is considering expending some political capital in an attempt to help out this almost employee /coworker because she is concerned that according to water-cooler gossip he is essentially being fired for having really crappy luck.

      I still think that OP#1 should quietly find out more about what really happened before deciding to spend political capital helping someone she doesn’t know. Water-cooler gossip is notoriously unreliable. Maybe this person got caught up in a system that is really hard to deal with if you are not a person of affluence and privilege. Or maybe this person is a horrible person who talks a good game. Before OP#1 makes any decisions she should find out more about the true situation.

  11. cierta*

    OP #3, you’re saying you accidentally sent an amusing-but-gossipy email to the wrong person, and that person put the content on twitter?! I think you want to be much more careful checking who you’re sending email to in future, and also be more careful what you trust the tweeting-person with in general.

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      I think wrong person meant, I sent it to a friend but that friend turned out to be the wrong person to send it to bc they shared it.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I read it as she intended Jane Smith, but autocomplete put in Jane Jones. Because Jane Jones barely knows OP, she interpreted the incident as something OP was spreading far and wide to everyone she knew, so fine if Jane Jones also did that.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              One of my favorite letters was the person whose “Yo beyotches suuuuper drunkenness woo” emails were going to boss-Sara, when she had intended friend-Sara. The boss delicately murmured that she didn’t even open them, based on the odd subject line.

    2. Jennifer*

      I’m sure she is careful about who she sends emails to, but mistakes happen. She probably feels bad enough without us pointing out the obvious.

  12. The Wall Of Creativity*

    OP #3 I remember one of my kids farting in front of his great grandmother. He must have been only 2 or 3.
    “Joffrey, what do you say when you do something like that?”
    “Um, I’ll name that tune in one?”
    My proudest moment.

    1. Pamela Weasley*

      Apparently when I was around that same age my grandfather had bought me something in Manchester and was going on and on about it. I, having no idea what that might signify, farted and said, “I got that fart for you in Manchester.”

      My grandmother, normally very prim and proper, thought it was hilarious.

  13. Myrin*

    #3’s Jane sounds amazing but I’m seriously baffled by what the Tweeting Tom was thinking – if I got an email that clearly wasn’t meant for me (and it’s not even clear to me whether this was just another person in OP’s contacts or whether she mistyped the address and sent it to a completely random, unknown person), even if I found it outstandingly hilarious, my first (or second, or third) action certainly wouldn’t be to publish it on social media for the luls. Some people’s thought processes are very foreign to me, to say the least.

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      The email was intended for the person who got it. OP was sharing an amusing thing that happened at work. But the person who got the email loved the story so much, they posted it in Twitter. OP did not intend the story to be made public.

      1. Femme d'Afrique*

        I don’t think so. The OP wrote, “I wrote an email about the incident to a friend who was not there. I sent the email to the wrong person (not a coworker), who proceeded to tweet it out to her followers for laughs.

        From the looks of it, she meant to send it to a coworker (i.e, the person who wasn’t at the meeting) but sent it to someone else entirely.

  14. Llamalawyer*

    OP #1- criminal charges, in most places, are easily accessible to the public. It would be easy to verify his story. I’m wondering if the higher ups already looked into it or had their attorney look into it. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was in jail for something else and made up the story about the traffic ticket. On the other hand, as mentioned by a previous poster, if he was a person of color I would look into it in much more detail given our current client.
    In any event, I am hoping some things happened behind the scenes that you weren’t privy to…

    1. remizidae*

      Can you explain exactly how you would verify the story? Including if charges were never filed? Seems like good information for all employers to have.

      I wouldn’t mind having an employee who went to jail over a traffic ticket, but he has every incentive to lie if it’s something worse, and the police aren’t necessarily going to tell you, a third party, what really happened.

      1. doreen*

        I know it can’t be done everywhere, but where I live, I can look up any active case with a future appearance on a public website and see what the charges and next court date are. I can’t look up a case where charges were never filed – but all actual arrests have an initial court appearance within 24 hours and any decision by the DA’s office to decline prosecution would happen within that first 24 hours.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Most city jails have incoming bookings listed.

        It’s how the tabloids and local magazines aimed at exposing criminal miscreants to their communities get their mugshots and charges.

      3. ExceptionToTheRule*

        Google “[your state] courts online” – you’ll generally be able to get charging information on criminal cases. City/County jails have websites. All this info is public and there for the googling.

        You can also go to the police department and request documents from the records sergeant. While you may pay a copying fee and some names may be redacted, all of this information is public.

        1. Jenny*

          This is literally what we would do on extradition requests (state to state). I once called a prosecutor and said “So I know you want to extradite this guy for this traffic violation, but he was just sentenced to life in prison in [other state] and judge wants to know if this is really worth the time”. We didn’t have special access to other court records, we just knew how to look them up.

  15. Bookworm*

    #5: Be honest. If you’ve had several strong contenders, say so. I recently had a somewhat similar experience where I had a phone screening that led me to think I would at least be brought in for an in person interview–asking me what my schedule was like/best times to come in, what other jobs I was applying for, etc.

    Again, it was far too early to possibly expect I’d get it but it seemed like a really positive first step.

    I never heard back. Followed up with an email 2 weeks later (interview fell in the week prior to a federal holiday) and that was it, no response. So at minimum, be honest and do let them know if they don’t get the position (I’ve had experiences where I DID have connections and never heard back either!). A personalized note will go a long way, too.

    It doesn’t have to be elaborate at all, but a form letter would me (as the candidate) feel that there wasn’t much interest or effort at all–so why network? I’ll just be “bothering” this person again.

    1. LW #5*

      Thanks for the insight. Luckily once HR does the initial screening of resumes just to ensure they are qualified I become in charge of contacting candidates for our panel interviews. That one step is one our municipal government doesn’t regulate so I can be sure to make personal calls or emails.

  16. SigneL*

    #4: Several years ago I had to fire an employee for cause. He used me as a reference (no idea why), and I used “he is not eligible for rehire,” rather than go into details. In my experience, “not eligible for rehire” is usually code for “fired for cause.”

    1. Laura*

      I was fired from a job years ago but I’m eligible for rehire there. I had moved from llama groomer to lion trainer which despite being animals are very different jobs. So they might rehire me to work with the llamas where I had great reviews but the. I got over my head.

    2. RabbitRabbit*

      Years ago I had a former manager who was enraged at the high turnover rate in her department, so she would automatically flag all employees who left as “ineligible for rehire”. Thank goodness after my departure, I’ve put a few managers in between us to leave some buffer.

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          I know, right? I transferred to a different department at the same institution, so I could always leave the institution and return later, but people who left entirely might find themselves stonewalled out if they wanted to return.

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        I had a former manager who had learning disabilities who struggled to fill out forms correctly. After she left, I got promoted into her position, and I had to go through the personnel exit paperwork files for some reason…and found out that she’d checked the wrong box on some of them!

        Like it would say, “[X] ineligible for hire” and then scribbled over other printing on the form “Fergus was a fabulous employee, I wish he wasn’t moving away, I’d keep him forever!”

        Now that these forms are all digital in ADP, Workday, etc., and I’ve seen how many people struggle with those portals, I imagine this is a lot more common than it seems.

    3. Antilles*

      I agree, but with one caveat on ’cause’: The “not eligible for re-hire” list is usually not used when the employee is fired for a work-related ’cause’ – more than a mere failure to meet sales targets or insufficient technical skills or similar ‘not quite competent enough for the job’.

    4. LizB*

      At my large-ish company, in the paperwork you do to officially end someone’s employment, you have to pick a reason they’re leaving from a dropdown (new job, personal reason, school, fired for cause, job abandonment, etc), and then based on your selection it autofills whether they’re eligible for rehire or not, and that info goes into HR’s central system. Anything that is voluntary – so, the employee’s choice to leave – means they’re eligible. I’m guessing a layoff would also mean they’re eligible, I’ve never had to deal with that.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I just posted related to this below, but when I was laid off from a large company, one condition of accepting severance was that I was not allowed to work there again. Which struck me as odd at the time and still does, but I agreed to it for various reasons. But technically it means I’m not eligible for rehire even though I worked there for almost 9 years with a stellar reputation.

        1. doreen*

          It doesn’t really strike me as odd- but that’s probably because I had a government job where to avoid actual layoffs, they had a “buyout” – people were offered a certain amount of money based on their time in service to resign, but they had to agree that if they returned within a certain number of years, the money would have to be repaid.

          1. ThatGirl*

            Repayment of severance makes sense, or a block-out of time for which I could not work for them again, but this was a total and complete ban. It’s been over two years now. I can’t even freelance for them. (This is no great tragedy, but it doesn’t make a ton of sense to me.)

            And buyouts are something different; I can certainly also see not allowing re-employment if you accept money to leave.

            But in both of those cases, I’m not sure how you would answer the “eligible to rehire” question, since it wasn’t for performance reasons.

      2. Christina*

        As a line manager in the UK, this question is asked during reference checking too, and you have to tick yes or no, but if no, the form usually then says “Please tick if this is company policy”. I think that option should always be available to save unfair assumptions, or maybe a box to provide further context in your own words.

    5. jimmy john*

      As someone who recently found out that a former employer had placed them on an “ineligible for rehire” list due to a misunderstanding, is there any hope that I can write a clarifying letter to that employer so future reference or background checkers won’t think that I was fired?

    6. MaureenSmith*

      OP#4 here:
      Thank you to everyone for the clarification. I’ve had employees that did good work and would love to have back. One who were fired for insubordination, stealing, etc. And the usual mediocre ones. Not being an HR professional and not receiving many reference calls, I was unsure how to answer this question for the mediocre to good employees. I want most of my former employees to move on and do well in upcoming jobs.

      I found the phrasing of the question unclear and originally assumed it was asking if I’d rehire that person tomorrow to fill an active opening.

    7. Lime Lehmer*

      At my large private Teapot University you can be marked “ineligible for rehire” if you don’t give adequate notice, ie a month for Exempt and 2 weeks for non exempt. It is up to the line manager’s discretion, but generally not used for this reason.

      1. J Kate*

        That’s an automatic (and the most common) reason why someone is marked ineligible for rehire where I work. It’s rare that we can make an exception and there have to be extenuating circumstances like sudden, severe illness or something like that.

      2. MistOrMister*

        Same for my office. If you give less than 2 weeks’ notice or don’t work your entire notice period. They put you as not eligible for re-hire. I knew someone who moved up their last day so they could attend a sporting event who was irked that doing so made them not eligible to come back. I didn’t understand why they were upset as the rule is very clear.

    8. Door Guy*

      Not always. My last employer used it for basically anything except “putting in your 2 week notice AND working to the conclusion of it” So if you quit with no notice, not eligible for rehire, if you put in 2 weeks and then decided “f* it” and turned everything in after 3 days, not eligible. The only exception to that (that I ever saw) was medical reasons.

  17. Delta Delta*

    #1 – Seems like there’s either a) shadiness or b) a series of very unfortunate coincidences that happened to this new hire.

    Many states have fairly recently (last 7-10 years) moved to more fully automate their court and DMV records. You’d be astounded at how many states did everything on paper, even 10 years ago. As systems have changed, old tickets, warrants, suspensions, etc., have popped up and have surprised people. I’m a lawyer, and ran into a woman in a local courthouse one day about 5 years ago. She was trying to clear up a suspension notice and learned it was from a ticket she got in 1982. She didn’t remember even getting the ticket, let alone whether she paid it. This wasn’t in a jurisdiction where something like this would generate a warrant, but some states have that. Sometimes people have existing warrants and don’t know – and the only way they find out is if they have contact with police who run a background check, and then are required to make an arrest on the warrant.

    So, it may very well be that this person had a similar situation and legitimately didn’t know about this issue, and that it popped up at the worst possible time. I think OP can give this person the benefit of the doubt.

    1. JDC*

      I had a many year old parking ticket for $20. I never received it, blew off, someone took it, who knows, and never received mail regarding it. I then moved from CO to. CA. At this time every state was not linked but those two were. I found out when i was pulled over one day. Luckily the warrant was non extraditable. I contacted the courts and eventually spoke to a judge. He was beyond mad that there was a warrant over a $20 parking ticket. He couldn’t just get rid of it so had to suspend my license for 24 hours and only made me pay the original $20. I can’t even imagine it i was in Colorado and was arrested for it. Ridiculous system going on there. And my address on my registration was always up to do except the week between moving and getting to the dmv in CA, which is not even near the time I received the ticket anyway, it had been issued years prior.

    2. remizidae*

      Don’t give him the benefit of the doubt until you see some proof of his story. It’s *possible* it was just an unpaid traffic ticket. It’s also possible the jailed employee was in there for something much worse and is lying through his teeth.

    3. JessaB*

      I once got a letter from DMV in New York reversing a suspension of my Licence that I had never been informed had been suspended in the first place (thank goodness I’d not gotten pulled over in the interim.)

      The cause? Failure to report an accident. The accident, the only time possibly in history that a driver spun out on ice, and hit a parked car, t-boned it. It was actually a police car that I hit. And the city admitted fault and paid to repair my car.

      The reason they paid? A lady skidded on the ice and got scared. A guy pulled over, helped the lady to a bench nearby and got in her car to move it off the road to safety, and someone came over the hill spun out and nailed him in her car. I came over the hill hit the same patch of ice, spun into the parked cop car and asked the policeman since this was the third accident, why there was nobody at the top of the hill waiving traffic off? He cringed, went red, called the Sergeant and they took the blame.

      So we got a really good laugh about it, obviously someone had done some kind of paperwork audit of suspensions and actually checked the facts of the accident and said “How do you fail to report an accident when the other party was the NYPD?” but I could have easily ended up in jail if I’d gotten pulled over during the suspension that I never knew about for an offence I never committed in the first place.

      So yeh traffic stuff…I watch a show called Caught in Providence about a traffic court judge and every episode or two there’s someone who has come in for a new thing and lo and behold a bunch of five hundred year old tickets show up on their record.

    4. Door Guy*

      I posted more of this elsewhere in the comments, but my former employee with the suspended license found out it was suspended when the officer pulled him over.

    5. Sarah N.*

      I could give the benefit of the doubt on the arrest, but this person had TWO no-shows on their start day! That makes it way less easy to give benefit of the doubt.

  18. Fabulous*

    #2 – I haven’t read the comments yet, but I love Alison’s advice of providing more details on why there is a backlog. I would actually go one step further and set up an OOO with that message (or if there is another way to do an auto-reply without showing as OOO), so that all incoming requests are sent the message as well. One less thing you have to manually take care of!

    1. Seawren*

      LW2 here: that’s a great idea, I am going to try an auto-reply message. At least that will ease my guilt over not getting back to people.

      1. Gumby*

        I might link to the tracking spreadsheet of all of your outstanding requests in said autoreply. If the spreadsheet is on a shared drive somewhere and you update it, say, twice a day as new requests come in, then people can not only see the scope of the problem but also where their request falls in priority. (I would do a real prioritization of the top 3 to 5 tasks on your list and then just assign a rough prioritization level to the rest until they rise to the top.) [Some columns for the spreadsheet: request short desc, requestor, date received, rough estimate of effort, priority level.]

        I’d also move the completed tasks to another tab so you are maintaining a record of your accomplishments. Both so others can see that you *are* doing things, and so you can look at what you have accomplished which will probably put you in a better frame of mind than just looking at what hasn’t been done yet. Take a break to marvel at the 295 completed tasks instead of stressing about the 12 still waiting on your to do list.

  19. Anon for This*

    The exact same thing happened to me. I was set to start work on a Thursday, but a constable showed up at my house on Wednesday with a warrant for my arrest. I had previously received a ticket by mail with a letter from the court listing the amount owed. I purchased a money order for that amount, mailed it via certified mail so I would have proof it was sent/delivered by the deadline, and filed the money order receipt in case I needed it in the future. It turns out there was some additional fee that was not added to the amount listed in the letter, so the local magistrate issued a warrant for failure to pay the entire amount due. In an extraordinary waste of taxpayers’ money, I spent about 26 hours in jail. Fortunately, the constable let me use his cell phone on the way to the jail, so I was able to call and ask my new boss if I could move my start date to Monday.

    1. Quill*

      That’s a series of unfortunate events.

      I know someone who got their court summons for a ticket the day after the court date. Postmarked that late and everything. Fortunately they were able to prove that they hadn’t been properly notified.

  20. HJG*

    I work for a company that aggressively stack ranks and manages out underperformers and “is the employee eligible for rehire?” Is now a question that gives me hives! Because at my company they aren’t, even if it was just a case of bad role fit and it is a huge bummer.

    1. new kid*

      Yeah, I sort of hate how that’s used in hiring decisions because it’s assuming all employers use that language in the same (sane) way. I worked at a huge multinational corp early in my career where it was up to the manager to determine each employee’s rehire eligibility and it was completely arbitrary. The department head for my division marked ‘ineligible’ for literally anyone who had the audacity to quit (even with proper notice, etc) because he took it personally and thought essentially ‘why would I ever rehire someone who already quit on me once?’

    2. hbc*

      Hmm, I bet you could dodge the exact question and tell them what they actually want to know. “We’re a bit draconian about our rehire policies here, but he was a hard worker who didn’t do anything illegal or immoral. I’d personally be happy to hire him for X or Y type of role again.”

      1. H.J.G.*

        I like this language! The only time I had to answer this it was in an emailed reference, so I was super stressed because over the phone it would be so much easier to explain how my company handles this stuff and that it’s not a reflection on the employee, who I was certain would be an excellent fit for the new role. But will definitely file this script away if I wind up having to answer that question again when the answer is technically “no”

  21. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #2 – it seems your manager is aware of the amount of work you have on your plate, but have you had a conversation about how it’s affecting you personally? Do they know that you’re getting burned out and you won’t be able to sustain this for much longer? I think that’s the first step if you haven’t already done so. And if you have, you’re only one person. I know it’s easier said than done, but you need to stop making yourself feel guilty for not being able to do the job of 3. And I agree with Alison about providing more detail about why you can’t give someone a time frame of when you can get something done.

    At my last job, I was a 2nd tier support specialist for one of our new applications. 2 of us worked out of a queue and there were always about 200 tickets in it, even though we were constantly getting them closed. I was working 10 hour days, then going home and working for a few more hours just to put a dent in the ticket count. But I was losing it, so I went to my manager and told her how much I was working and how it was affecting me. Within a few weeks she had a team of 3 temps in the office helping us. This may not be the solution for your company, but what’s going to happen if you leave and they have zero analysts?

    1. Seawren*

      LW2 here: my boss is very aware of how much work I have, and has actually been covering some of the other analyst’s work out of desperation. Unfortunately, our company has a strong focus on “hiring right” and will leave positions unfilled for months until they can find the perfect candidate. We’ve requested temps a couple of times and been shot down.

      I fall asleep at night thinking about what happens if I leave :-)

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        In that case, I’d definitely continue with the job hunt. Your manager sounds like they have your back but the company doesn’t seem to care. Good luck!

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        If you leave, your company’s upper management will have made their own bed and it will be their responsibility to figure out what to do. Absolutely none of this is your fault.

  22. HigherEd on Toast*

    OP 1: It’s definitely the combination of pushing the start time back a week plus the arrest that would weigh heavily on me. In fact, I think asking to start a week late at the last minute would worry me more than the arrest (assuming that the arrest really was for a traffic ticket and not something violent or related to his previous workplace). Police make lots of mistakes, especially with a candidate of color, but the last-minute notice, if not the week’s delay, is on him. It might be that I’ve just had unfortunate experiences, but I’ve found in both people I worked with and people I’ve helped hire that asking to push back dates or deadlines at the last minute was a trait that carried over from interviews or first weeks to the rest of their career there. It ended up costing at least a couple people I know of tenure, because they never submitted the necessary documents and asked for help only weeks or months AFTER that deadline. I think the combination of those things was probably just misfortune, but I understand why your company decided to pass on this guy.

  23. SarahTheEntwife*

    #4 I have a similar problem in that I’m called as a reference for former student employees who technically speaking are not eligible for rehire since legally we can only hire current students. But I just explain that if they were still a student, I’d absolutely rehire them (or not, which is awkward, but I think I’ve only had that happen once). And for particularly outstanding students, it’s a nice chance to say “Well, the position they were in was just a work-study job, but I’d be thrilled to consider them for a permanent position”.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Given your set-up I think that’s perfect, and gives the reference checker the information that they need.

  24. Jamey*

    This isn’t exactly what the letter is about but it did make me think of it…

    I’m a speaker at tech conferences. Some conferences just straight up invite certain speakers to attend and present, while others have open CFPs where speakers apply and are either accepted or rejected. So when an organizer specifically reaches out to me and asks me to apply to their CFP, yes it’s annoying to me if I then don’t get selected. It feels a little like, if you want me there, just invite me! If you reach out to ask me to apply and then reject me, it feels like disrespecting my time and acting like you had interest in me specifically when you just wanted to drum up general interest for your CFP.

    Again I know I’m talking about a different situation that the letter writer! Just my 2 cents though.

  25. Oh No She Di'int*

    #5 My best advice is overcommunicate, overcommunicate, overcommunicate! Make it extremely clear that the candidate will be in an open competition against other candidates. In my experience, they will either willfully (not to say maliciously) ignore gentle nudges or take them along the lines of: “Oh, I officially have to say this to you but–wink, wink–the job is yours.” You have to be very direct and very clear that they are simply applying for a job just like anyone else. Only after much insistence will they actually hear that and understand what it means.

    1. sara*

      Agree with this! I was asked/encouraged to apply for a job, but in my case it was by someone I know who’s on the HR/internal recruitment team. She connected me with the hiring manager and coordinated all the interviews etc. and was super clear that she thought I’d be a good fit overall for the company, but that the role/team had really specific requirements, and that the company had a really rigorous hiring process. I didn’t end up getting the job, and I also came to the realization that I wouldn’t accept it because the specific skills/tasks for the role are outside the direction I want to go in my career.

      I think if it had been someone closer to the team I was applying to join, that level of clear communication about the process, steps, etc. would have been even more necessary.

  26. agnes*

    #2 —Absolutely do what Alison suggested. If you manage to keep the balls in the air, even imperfectly, then your boss has no incentive or pressure to get you some help! I have seen this happen far too frequently….somebody leaves, work still manages to get done–even if poorly— and so management thinks everything is OK. They don’t fill positions and people burn out, and they act all surprised when someone quits or files a grievance or takes FMLA for stress. Don’t let that happen to you. Good luck.

    1. Seawren*

      LW2 here: There are soooo many balls lying all over the floor right now, it’s a tripping hazard. I am putting some pretty hard limits around how much extra time I’m working, but the stress is harder to shake.

      1. Veronica*

        Try to disengage completely from thinking this is your responsibility. Get into a state of mind where you go to work, do your best for 8 hours and that’s it, done.
        This is not your responsibility. It’s management’s job to make sure there are enough people to do the work, and they’re not doing that. This is their stress, not yours.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Go to the library and get a CD (or download the audio to your phone) of guided breathing for relaxation and play it as you’re falling asleep. It’s what I do when work stress is too much, and it really does help.

  27. Holy Carp*

    OP#3’s story sound like one I heard years ago where a guy stood up on stage in front of a large audience of business professionals and suffered a similar fate. His fart was heard by the entire audience, but he had the wherewithal to immediately challenge everyone present to produce a louder fart.

  28. Anon for this*

    Commenting on #1 to confirm that, to me, the new hire’s story checks out. Anon because this happened to a friend and I don’t want his identity to be tracked down from this story. He’d gotten a traffic ticket for a busted light or an expired tag or something of that nature, on his old car that he was in the process of selling. He then put the ticket in the glove compartment and forgot about it (don’t ask me why). He then sold the car with the ticket still in it. Fast forward a couple of years and this friend witnessed a fairly bad accident, pulled over to the side of the road, got out of his car, and started helping with the accident, calling 911, helping direct traffic, things of that nature. Then they asked him if he’d be willing to be a witness and sign the form, he said sure. He gives them his driver license, they run a check on it, oops, we apologize sir, we have a warrant out for your arrest for a ticket from three years ago! A clean, wholesome, upstanding citizen, now with this one bizarre arrest record.

    I also had another friend tell me about how he’d spent several days in jail in another city (don’t recall the details) and he mentioned it that his biggest worry was that he’d get fired for no-showing for work, because he could not call work from where he was, and obviously, they could not call him either. So that again checks out. A pretty awful stroke of bad luck for this to happen on someone’s first day at a new job (and after he’d already pushed it back a week) when no one knows yet whether this person’s word can be trusted, but otherwise the story sounds more than feasible.

    1. beckysuz*

      The thing is that the cop doesn’t have to arrest you. I got pulled over for a busted tail light years ago later at night with my young daughter and my dog in the car, and that’s how I found out I had a warrant for failure to pay a minor traffic ticket from two years prior(for a rolling stop). The officer told me that while he could arrest me for this, since my record was otherwise spotless and my small child was with me, he would let me call someone to pick me up and I had to pay the ticket. I’m glad he was kind enough not to traumatize a 7 year old for a traffic violation, but I also realize that my being white probably contributed greatly to that. I don’t think anyone should be arrested for not paying a ticket.

      1. Triple Threat Diversity Hire*

        Good for you I guess, but I’m not sure what the point is. Sure, they don’t have to arrest you, but the fact is that they *can* – which is what the topic of discussion was. Your situation doesn’t have any bearing on the candidate’s.

      2. JM60*

        If you have an arrest warrant, cops generally have to arrest you (at least in America). An arrest warrant is an obligatory order by the judge. If you don’t have an arrest warrant, then cops usually aren’t obligated to make an arrest (though I think some states have laws mandating arrests for felonies).

    2. AnonAndFrustrated*

      But it’s not really bad luck if the person could have just prevented the arrest by paying the ticket(s) in the first place & not ignoring or forgetting about them. I’d expect a new teenage driver to do that perhaps, but not an adult.

      1. M&Ms Fix Lots of Problems*

        True, but we also don’t know how old the just fired candidate was. Theoretically they are just out of college, and the forgotten ticket was from their teenage years (in the sense of anything being theoretically possible).

      2. Artemesia*

        Or it was a parking ticket and it blew away or got grabbed by a passing jerk. Or you paid but somehow they didn’t properly register it or as in the example given earlier, the bill included everything but one small additional charge that you didn’t know about. Mistakes happen and when you are arrested you don’t have the wherewithal to contact people always.

      3. Anon with the friend story*

        I mean, I would probably not lose a ticket like that, but “you would not be sitting in this jail right now if you had paid your busted-taillight ticket three years ago!” is taking the idea of personal responsibility a bit too far, IMO.

        Also let’s not forget that he wouldn’t have gotten arrested if he hadn’t decided to help out when he saw an accident, and to sign a witness form.

      4. smoke tree*

        Sure, but getting arrested still seems like a disproportional consequence, no? I’m sure most people have done something like this from time to time.

  29. WantonSeedStitch*

    I recently expressed my interest in an open position up the ladder at my current employer. I mentioned this to my boss, and he was visibly enthusiastic. He said he was very excited that I was interested in the job, but that it would be “a competitive application process,” which I think was a good way of letting me know that I would have to work to get the job, but that he believed I was a reasonable candidate for it.

  30. ThatGirl*

    What I’m vaguely curious about is what the last company I worked for would say about me. I was laid off; my whole department was gutted and our jobs were outsourced. I was well-liked and respected there and actually had a (different) former manager try to bring me back later in a temp role, but the problem was the severance agreement; by signing it and taking the severance I agreed that I would not be eligible to work there again (without express written permission of the CEO, I guess). And I agreed to it, of course; I wasn’t terribly interested in the other open positions upon my layoff and it was a long commute so I decided I was better off looking closer to home.
    But all that said, despite my stellar performance and generally great reputation there, I guess I’m not eligible for rehire?

    1. Bagpuss*

      I would hope that anyone giving a reference would explain that – was it a total ban on working there again, or time limited? I would have expected it to be time limited to avoid a situatin where domeone takes the severance and is then immediately hired back in a different role, but if not, maybe when you let your refernece know they may be contacted, ask them to make clear, if asked that question, that you were not dismissed or fired for cause but that the companies severance rules mean people who are laid off can’t be rehired, however good they are.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Total ban! I could certainly understand time limited. And I certainly explained to my current job that it was a layoff, plus I know my references spoke very well of me – I assume my employment period there was verified, I have no idea if they asked if I was eligible for rehire.

        It’s not something I ever expect to be a big problem, but I do wonder how that company would answer.

        1. Autumnheart*

          Call ’em up and say you’re calling to confirm employment for Whatever Inc, and ask if ThatGirl is eligible for rehire.

  31. 1234*

    OP #5 – I’ve been asked before (via personal phone call) by a Grandboss to consider applying for Manager Role as Manager was leaving. I didn’t want Manager Role and politely told her so but I think the way she worded it was “You show great potential and I’d like you to consider applying for Manager Role. Note that the interview process includes XYZ with a final interview with Other Decision Maker Who Isn’t Me.”

    1. CM*

      This is a good point, because I think there’s a difference between inviting people to apply when someone else is making the final decision and when you, yourself, are making the final decision. In the first case, it’s pretty easy to set an expectation that this is basically the same as applying to any other job with a recommendation from the inside — in the second case, I think it invites a lot more questions about why you’re reaching out to someone personally if you AREN’T expecting to offer them the job. In that case, it sounds like you’re inviting people in your network to do a dance for you so you can judge them, and that’s weird.

      1. 1234*

        Not necessarily. Before she even mentioned it, I already knew that Grandboss didn’t have final say. Departing Manager left on good terms and told me what the hiring process was like. It involved an interview with the clients that Company serves and CLIENTS had the final say. So, as much as Grandboss may have liked me, if the CLIENTS didn’t, I wouldn’t get the job (if I had applied and even liked internally).

  32. hbc*

    OP1: The ticket violation story sounds reasonable. The flight cancellation sounds possible (but not ideally handled as far as notification.) The two incidents within one week plus the bad communication is giving me flashbacks to the guy we just fired who constantly had problems that were never his fault. Any one incident in isolation was fine, but then there were the lost tickets in other cities, the “I thought I told you I was going to be off,” the paycheck advance to get his kids a cool Christmas present (which we made clear was a once-every-couple-years thing) followed by a request *two* weeks later for an advance to keep him out of jail for something or other.

    Even in the most charitable version of events where this dude has gone a decade without anything like this happening and lightning struck twice in a week, he certainly didn’t follow up on the first incident like someone who cared about the impression he made. For most people, this is a situation where you’re tripping over yourself explaining: “I’m so so sorry, my flight was cancelled and I thought I could make the next one and then when I tried to find the company phone number there are a million Smith Co.s and my phone died.” Instead, you’ve got the rumor mill supplying answers.

    Bullet dodged.

    1. Artemesia*

      yeah — my experience to is that with some people ‘it’s always something’ sometimes because they are screw ups and sometimes because they have a run of bad luck. I would assume that both of his incidents were the same i.e. the missed plane was the first arrest and the second miss was because he didn’t get cleared up and out of jail as soon as he expected. I would want to know WHAT the arrest was for before firing him.

  33. Quill*

    1) Between the last minute flight thing and the ticket, I think your company saved you from having to write into AAM six months later about future nonsense.

    3) Jane is a legend but also I cannot imagine a situation in which you will ever be able to comfortably share an elevator with her again, whether you tell her or not.

    1. Close Bracket*

      I cannot imagine a situation in which you will ever be able to comfortably share an elevator with her again

      Oh yeah, farts in elevators are the worst. Unless it was you, and you are getting off. Then they are the best.

  34. Jennifer*

    #1 I am so thankful that you are aware that our flawed legal system leads to many innocent people being thrown in jail for the “crime” of forgetting about a traffic ticket. Sometimes the ticket isn’t even forgotten but there was a screw up with the courts regarding payment.

    I think it’s possible that this guy was already in jail on his original start date but was too embarrassed to say anything about it, then wasn’t able to come up with the money to get out of jail as soon as he thought. I feel bad for him but understand why he made a bad impression. I hope people at your job are more understanding in the future.

    1. Chris*

      Years ago I got a notice in the mail that I had an overdue traffic tickets, multiple tickets for all kinds of crazy stuff that made no sense to me. Things like expired tag, wrong plate, no safety inspection, wrong way parking, parking in font of a hydrant, and a few others that in no way did I do or would ever do. They were way overdue with all sorts of fees totaling well over $2000. The notice showed which cross street they were issued, it was completely on the other side of the county on a block I had never driven on in my life.

      I went to the traffic bureau to figure out what the hell I was looking at, it turns out that someone had taken the old registration out of a car I had traded in at a dealership when I bought my new car two years earlier and had put it on their car illegally.

      I almost had to eat it on that, and had I not gotten that notice or had not been living there anymore, there would have been a warrant out for my arrest.

      So those kinds of mix ups do happen and screw people, it almost happened to me

      1. Arctic*

        And even if that had been a legitimate $2,000 you owed states aren’t always good about providing notice and no one ever deserves to be locked away for owing money.

    2. AnonAndFrustrated*

      But it’s also easy to just do the right thing and pay legitimate tickets on time instead of ignoring or forgetting about them. That’s what law-abiding citizens do. If you don’t have the money to pay for tickets, then follow the law when driving and don’t blatantly violate it. If you don’t have the money for insurance and registration, you really shouldn’t be on the road driving that car.

      1. Jennifer*

        1. You are incredibly naive if you think that certain populations aren’t targeted and pulled over when they aren’t violating the law. I just watched a video of a guy that was pulled over after being followed by the police for 10 minutes because he had a pine tree air freshener hanging from his mirror. I know someone else who was arrested when she had insurance but the new insurance carrier failed to update the state. The cop refused to look at her documentation.

        2. You are also naive if you don’t think that the courts screw up and neglect to update their systems when a ticket has been paid or fail to notify people in a timely manner of court dates.

        3. Low-income people have to get to work too. Sometimes they live in areas with no public transit and have no way of getting to work except by car. That may mean that they get a ticket and have no way of paying it, or struggle to make insurance payments or pay tag fees.

        Do some research today. I think it might do you some good.

        1. AnonAndFrustrated*

          Please stop calling me naive. I used to work for a law enforcement agency so I’m well aware of how things happen in the real world. I realize people and agency offices both make mistakes sometimes. However I’m not supportive of uninsured people driving around who may hit me or cause an accident and then they get off scot free without having to pay anything while the rest of us have to absorb all the costs AND our insurance premiums (for those of us paying them) also go up as a not-so-nice bonus. Those people who cannot afford auto insurance need to find other ways to get to work rather than being on the road. Why do they get to drive around with suspended or no licenses, no registration, no insurance, non-working safety features on their cars, causing dangerous situations? That’s not fair to the rest of the people who do what they’re supposed to do, follow the laws, and operate safe, insured vehicles.

      2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        So, “law-abiding citizens” should just know which towns not to drive through because they *will* be pulled over for something, by a police department that is betting that paying the fine is cheaper than taking time off to come back and argue it, in front of a judge whose salary is paid from those traffic fines?

        “Shouldn’t be on the road” in a lot of places means “shouldn’t be able to work.” The people who shouldn’t be driving–as a matter of public safety–are the ones who drive dangerously, not the ones who can’t afford to pay the ticket for a busted tail light. A lot of places will wave off hitting a pedestrian because “I couldn’t see him” is taken as an adequate defense, not as “why were you driving fast enough to kill someone when you knew the sun was in your eyes?”

        I don’t drive, which not only limits where I can live, it means that I care a hell of a lot more about whether someone is paying attention to pedestrians than whether they paid for a parking space. The law in a lot of places doesn’t.

      3. Mid*

        I just discovered I owe almost $2,000 in accumulated fines/fees from a toll road I never took. Because I was 13 at the time I allegedly drove through the toll. But there are 10 years of late fees stacking up on me.

        What did I do wrong here? Was I an irresponsible citizen?

    3. JM60*

      It’s *possible* that he was in jail over unpaid traffic fines, and not something more serious. It’s *possible* that he was in jail for it for over a week. It’s also *possible* that he was unable to contact the employer during that time (in spite of the “only one phone call” just being a TV thing). However, the odds of those all being the case, especiallywwith the bad timing of when he was scheduled to start, are low.

      If he had been a long standing employee with no previous problems, it would make sense to assume that this is just a short term issue. But when starting out, it makes sense to get rid of him now.

      1. Jennifer*

        “However, the odds of those all being the case…are low.” Based on what? Suffice to say, we’ve had very different experiences with the police and the criminal justice system as a whole. You seem to assume that most people that go through it are treated fairly, but I don’t think that’s the case.

        I did say in my original comment that I understand why he made an initial bad impression and why the company let him go, I just wouldn’t write him off as a Very Bad Person without more information.

        1. Jenny*

          Even if that all was true, the person lied and called in at the last second. If that was the case and they had been open from the beginning, the situation might have been salvageable. But at this point, you have someone who has flaked twice in a start date.

          My guess is had they not fired him, stuff would just continue coming up.

          1. Jennifer*

            Well, a lot of people don’t want to tell their employer that they are in jail, especially on what’s supposed to be their first day. Go figure. I get lying isn’t ideal but put yourself in his shoes.

        2. JM60*

          My comment doesn’t assume he was treated fairly by our justice system, nor did I say anything about him being a bad person. He could’ve been treated unfairly, yet have lied about the reason he was in jail and/or had a way to contact the employer.

          I base my assessment of likelihood partly based on the fact that: A people sometimes lie (your comment which I was responding to even suggested he was lying, just in a different way), B most people locked up only for unpaid tickets are held less that 72 hours, and C most people in jail are able to contact their family within a week (and they have to provide enough contact before that to get representation). Are there people who are unlucky on A, B, and C? Yes! But with each one of them, the odds of getting unlucky on all goes down.

  35. Ted Mosby*

    Is anyone else suddenly scared that you have an outstanding traffic ticket from ten years ago you were never notified of? Because I think I just developed a new fear- I would not do well in jail!

    1. Jennifer*

      I was terrified when I got pulled over a few months ago for a minor traffic violation that this was going to happen to me. I guess now I know that I don’t have any outstanding warrants. In my state, if you have a suspended license it’s also an automatic arrest.

    2. Arctic*

      Hopefully, you would have found out when you renewed your license most recently.

      But that isn’t fool-proof. Some states are terrible at updating their warrant management systems. And won’t even load an active warrant for years after the fact. Especially for minor offenses.

    3. Donkey Hotey*

      It happened to a friend of mine. Come to find out, our state (Washington) has a database where one can check anonymously about the status of one’s driver license, voter registration, and oh by the way, outstanding warrants. Poke around. I’m sure you can assuage your concerns.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Especially since sometimes it’s a ticket you actually paid…but they didn’t attach the payment in the system correctly. Yikes!

      But you should be able to check your license out on various websites. They will suspend your license first of all. Which right there is a way to go to jail if you’re driving without knowing it.

      Keep your license and registrations always up to date, you should be okay. It’s when you skip out on that stuff, usually because it costs money of course, that you start getting into those murky “Wait there’s a warrant out for me?!” kind of thing.

      I’m reminded of the Real Housewife that was told to not show up at a court date because they thought their request for a change of date was processed…when it wasn’t. So a warrant was put out for her arrest. Thankfully since she’s “famous” everyone and their dad knew about the warrant. Most of us don’t have the paparazzi or nosy snobby neighbors taking care of our research though.

    5. noahwynn*

      A coworker received a speeding ticket on the way to her dad’s funeral in another city. She stuck the ticket somewhere and forgot about it.

      Almost 2 years later, while going through a divorce, she was pulled over for an expired tag. Her husband always handled the car tags and insurance. So, not only was her tag expired but she had no valid insurance paperwork in the car either. Then when the officer ran her driver’s license it came back as suspended with a failure to appear for the speeding ticket. So, she was driving with a suspended license, an expired tag, and no proof of insurance.

      I have no idea how she managed to not go to jail that night besides the fact that her child was in the car with her. The officer followed her home to make sure she didn’t drive anywhere else. She had to go to court to take care of everything.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Oh wow, she didn’t go to jail and she didn’t get the car impounded. That’s even crazier honestly.

        They wouldn’t haul you in around here unless there was a warrant for arrest but they would impound your car immediately. Kid or no kid, they’d probably take you home or at least get you somewhere that you could get a cab/uber home but yeah, no that car is being impounded.

    6. AKchic*

      I’ve had my license suspended and not known about it for over 2 years. Driving the whole time. All because the DMV didn’t check a box after I was involved in a car accident. I sent all the required documentation (twice, because they didn’t get it the first time, even though I sent it certified, and got their signature for it back; they still claimed that they didn’t have it – I made sure to do so again with a copy of the original certified delivery signature enclosed as well).
      They “forgot” to mark that I had insurance during the accident, so my license was suspended for 2 years and I was never notified. I wouldn’t have known at all if my company hadn’t wanted to put me on their insurance as a possible driver for emergencies. The DMV tried to make me have SR-22 insurance for not having insurance at the time of the accident (I did have insurance) and for driving without a license for two years (I didn’t know, and nobody made me aware of it!). I had to fight it.

      I gave up trusting my state’s system well over a decade ago.

  36. Jennifer*

    Re: Flatulence

    Jane is my hero! I would have crawled under the table and stayed there for the duration. I’m sure she wanted to die but nevertheless, she persisted!

    Also, OP – you are hilarious!

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Perhaps! But some of us find farts hilarious =X Especially such a well timed [read, bad timed] one. I’ve never been ashamed or humiliated by them myself.

      I feel like Jane and I could be kindred spirits.

      1. Jennifer*

        I wish I was more like that. If I’m home or with friends, it’s funny, but at work or around strangers? I’d die. DIEEE!!!

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          My overall response is “What, you don’t fart? That seems very uncomfortable!”

          But I was never going to be given “proper lady” points at any time. I also struggle to cross my ankles or not shoveling food into my mouth like a total heathen child.

          However being called upon in a classroom setting or public speaking will send me into a deep spiral of panic attack. But farts, farts lighten the mood, lol.

          1. Jennifer*

            We are on the same wavelength on the “never going to be a lady” thing. I guess farts were the only place all my mother’s lectures sunk in.

  37. Lisa*

    It really irks me that the person who received that email had to immediately go running to their social media to post the contents of an email that was sent to them by MISTAKE.

    Jane was awesome in her recovery, but still, the email was sent to you by mistake, it was not an invitation to blast it all over the internet, regardless of the outcome.

    I would be rightly pissed at the tweeter for this, but that’s just me.

  38. It’s funny, but...*

    I think the letter is just someone trying to share a funny story and not a real request for help.

    #3 was posted on twitter a year and a half ago with almost no likes or retweets.

  39. Arctic*

    I definitely would not consider being in jail as meaning someone automatically did something bad. Not only “innocent before proven guilty” (and jail is a pre-conviction holding cell) but people get detained for a lot of petty, silly things. Getting picked up on an old warrant for unpaid fines related to traffic violations is entirely plausible. Happens every single day. Many aren’t able to make what seems like pretty low bail (cash only, remember). It’s why there is such a strong movement to get rid of bail for non-violent offenses (and even some minor technically violent offenses.) And many judges will let it slide if you can’t make jail but you have to get in front of a judge to do that. And sometimes things fall through the cracks.
    BUT an arrest isn’t some mystery that no one can ever uncover. Arrest reports are public records. Most police departments publish arrest logs. It is very possible your employer looked into it and knows there is more to it than an old warrant for a minor violation. And is protecting his privacy and not sharing that. So, even though I feel very passionately that the mere fact that someone was detained doesn’t mean they have done something worth firing them over, I also think it’s best not to get too involved unless you know the whole story.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Hear, hear!

      If you’re picked up on the weekend, you’re often detained for longer as well waiting for a judge to start court, then there is a backlog of cases in front of them depending on the size of the community and activity.

      You also don’t release all the information on a management side when this thing happens. This all sounds like rumors buzzing around and sensationalism. So I’d just keep myself out of it because you really don’t know what’s going on.

      I’ve had people end up in jail, usually not the first day thankfully. We always work with them because replacing someone who is going to make bail and probably beat the charges [or if it’s a traffic violation, they’re just going to get themselves a payment plan or whatever], why would I fire them? We hire people with records because it’s part of how they become or continue to be productive citizens, throwing them away because of some mistakes they had along the way is bogus.

  40. CatCat*

    Re #5: Also, if you do end up rejecting any of these people, make sure you either call them or send them a personalized note rather than using a form letter.

    Not loving the call them idea. Do many people appreciate being caught on the phone with a rejection? I absolutely do NOT.

    However, I totally agree with the personalized note. If you would consider them for a job in the future and would want them to apply again for a future opening, definitely say that. I received one such note and even a personalized, follow-up letter a couple months later letting me know about another opening and encouraging me to apply. Definitely appreciated the follow through.

    1. LW #5*

      I suspect the call vs letter is particular to the person. Some of the people in my network I talk to regularly in person, so waiting to send an email/letter seems off for our relationship. I do think it is good to remember though that either way these people will need time to process any rejection and reminders that they are still well thought of later.

  41. Liz*

    #2- I feel for you. Once, I worked at a small office branch for a much larger company. There were just three of us in the office: myself and another support staff, and our boss. When the other support specialist got another job, he gave five weeks notice. It took three full months following his departure for them to finally get a replacement. Since it was just my boss and I, we had to share coverage of an office that was open 52 hours a week. This would have been tight, but doable, except my boss would come in late and leave early. She constantly complained about how over worked she was, and would text me in the morning at least once a week to say she was sleeping in, etc. She wasn’t even out of the office for appointments or work related things, she was usually getting her hair or nails done or meeting a friend. Meanwhile, I was fried, never knowing when I could take my lunch and was facing a lot of pressure from the other offices that didn’t really understand our staffing problems. There were so many people that interviewed to fill the position, but she found every reason to reject them. In the end, I found another job by the time she had found someone she wanted to hire.

  42. Donkey Hotey*

    #3 – A simple way to gauge how Jane would feel about the Twitter is to simply compliment her on it sometime.

    For example, I overheard a co-worker deliver a zinger of a reply to a snotty co-worker. Told my wife about it that night and she almost fell out of her chair laughing. So, a couple of days later, I told the co-worker about how impressed -I- was at his zinger. He took it well, so I then told him that I’d shared it with my wife, and he was ok with it.

    1. Donkey Hotey*

      And, at the risk of moderation, I’ll post the zinger separately, with the addendum that I work in an engineering shop.

      CW1: Hey, what’s the (measurement of the) offset for this part?
      CW2: If it was up your butt, you’d know.
      CW1: (completely unphased) So… about an inch, then?

  43. Rainy*

    OP1: This happened to me with a new employee at a company I worked for over 20 years ago. I was leaving to go back and finish my degree after working there for about 3 1/2 years. I gave about 4 months’ notice and my boss told me to hire my replacement. The first person I hired could start the next Monday, so Monday morning I waited, and waited, and waited, and when she was half an hour late I called her number, no answer, I waited another hour without her calling or showing up, and then I called the second person on my list, asked if she was still available, and she started the next day.

    I spent two days training her and on Thursday morning got a call from the original hire, who said “Hey, sorry about that, I ended up in jail over the weekend and no one would bail me out. Can I start next Monday?”

  44. Garland Not Andrews*

    OP2: So that you don’t have to write a new email on the fly for each response, write out a generic response (can be customizable) in Word and save it where it is easily accessible, then just copy and past into the reply email. I do it all the time for regularly occurring situations and it saves a ton of time.

    1. LGC*

      She doesn’t even need to use Word – Outlook supports templates and quick actions, and I think Gmail has similar support.

  45. 30 Years in the Biz*

    In regard to the question from OP4 and employees eligible for re-hire:
    Has anyone had experience with the termination, layoff, or leaving of an employee classified as “Regrettable” vs. “N0n-Regrettable”? This seems like some type of HR code to me. Is this a real term? How is it used?

  46. Galactus*

    From the people who “had a front-row seat,” to the people who heard about it through gossip, to the people who read about it on social media, and now here at Ask a Manager, Jane may have produced the most widely discussed fart ever (leaving aside fictional ones in various comedies).

  47. Not Rebee*

    #2 – keeping a list of the backlog is really common for software engineering teams, for example, and those that work on a sprint-based system tend to evaluate the sprint based on what is in the backlog. The way it was explained to me is basically that all requests go into a single bucket. You define the length of the sprint, and one person (your manager, I guess) defines what will be accomplished in the sprint. Unless it’s an emergency (hotfix), any new item that comes up during the sprint goes into the bucket and does not get worked on that sprint. The entire bucket gets evaluated and prioritized at the start of every sprint, so it’s constantly being looked at and re-prioritized.

    Piggybacking off of Allison’s suggestion, you could absolutely have a standing meeting on Monday morning with your manager where he tells you what to do that week (and run a one week sprint). You could even have him number things from highest to lowest and just finish as many items as you can, with new items getting added to the bottom of the list unless your manager says otherwise. And every Friday at the end of the day, you can send him a new list with what is still outstanding so he knows what needs to be prioritized for you by Monday morning.

    1. Seawren*

      LW2 here: that’s a great suggestion, thanks! I am going to give that a try – at least it will up the visibility on what’s not getting done.

  48. TV*

    #1 sounds reasonable to me. It happened recently to my sister. One day, one of her coworkers was a no show. No one knew where he was and messages to him were not being answered. My sister was getting kind of worried but sort of had a hunch so she checked the intake at the local jail, since it is available online and he had previously been arrested. There he was! He was taken in the night before. My sister ended up discretely telling management so they wouldn’t waste their time doing a welfare check. Turns out, he had a warrant out for failing to show up to some court thing related to his arrest but it was from at least a year prior. The police came to his house at 7pm and told him he was going to jail that night and I guess he thought he would be able get out before work the next day so he didn’t call his manager. He kept his job and maybe faced some minor repercussions for not calling in until the afternoon, as he was let out of jail just before lunch.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      One of my jobs was so close knit that we would know without someone calling in if they landed in jail. So if Johnny didnt show up one morning, we asked his buddies if they knew where he was or if we should call for a welfare check? And then we get a “Oh Johnny got a DUI this weekend, so he’s still in lock up.” or “What? no, he should be here!” and go from there.

      Yeah nobody lost their jobs in most cases but if someone wasn’t there to vouch for him and he wasn’t an established employee, they’d be cut loose immediately.

  49. John Vinall*

    #4 – “doesn’t know the history of the top of their head ”

    I don’t like being “that guy” who points out typos (that’s a lie, I totally do) but this one made me laugh a lot at my desk.

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