the family I work for won’t pay me under the table anymore, I was rejected for being late to an interview, and more

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

1. The family I work for doesn’t want to pay me under the table anymore

I’m 22 and receive social security disability benefits due to a legitimate disability which makes it impossible for me to work. However, once or twice a month I babysit for a single dad who I’ve known forever. The kids are great, and they’re asleep 90% of the time. The dad knows about my disabilities and that I receive benefits. But now he wants to pay me over the table and give me a tax form because he doesn’t want to get in government trouble. I’ve done research and I’d lose 50 cents for every dollar I made after the first $85. I’ve also spoken to lawmakers, a friend who is a lawyer, my therapist, my doctors, and my rabbi, who all say that this is a perfectly ethical thing to do to supplement my very low benefits. Other disabled people have told me that the government probably expects disabled people to work a bit under the table so they can justify keeping our benefits at the bare bones level.

I have to tell the family now that I can’t work over the table and I’ll miss them, but this stinks. It was my cushion that enabled me to do extravagant things like buy fast food once in a while or turn the heat up past 64 when I’m freezing cold. Why do privileged people not see that there is an entire underground economy in the U.S. and that some people rely on it to survive? Why are their ethics more important than my needs?

First, I’m sorry you’re in this situation; it’s hard and you’re understandably frustrated.

It’s not about your client’s ethics being more important than your needs, exactly. It’s that it’s not unreasonable for the person paying for the work to want to do that without breaking the law. He risks getting in a lot of trouble for paying under the table — it’s illegal, and it can result in fines and tax evasion charges. Being found to have paid under the table also can torpedo people’s careers in some fields, especially if he needs to get a security clearance, holds a professional license (especially in fields like law or finance), or might want to hold a position of public trust some day.

That doesn’t solve your problem, I realize, but hopefully it helps you understand where he’s coming from. Hang in there.

2. Interviewer rejected me because I was late for the interview

I had a job interview that got rescheduled because they had a snow day that closed their office. The rescheduled date was last week on Monday. I was really excited for the position and felt it was a great match for my experience and skills, and I had killer reference letters to attest to this.

It was hard to find parking and was still icy and snowy from the week before. After it was clear I wasn’t going to be as timely as I had hoped, I texted the manager I had been communicating with that I was just parking and would be there in a few minutes. (It was 1:07 pm, with our interview scheduled to start at 1:00 pm.)

I arrived about 1:10 and she and two other staff were waiting for me in a room. I apologized briefly (but didn’t want to focus on that) and what I heard in reply was. “Oh, it’s okay.” The interview went well and was well organized, thorough, and professional. I followed up two days later with a thank-you email.

But I heard back that being late had more or less eliminated me and clouded my other great qualities and that timeliness was very important for the position. I’m surprised and thought it was weird they didn’t bring that up in the interview. What do you think?

I don’t think it’s weird that they didn’t bring it up in the interview because it’s not necessarily something that requires discussion (and a lot of people wouldn’t know how to address it on the spot in a way that didn’t feel uncomfortably confrontational). Plus, they might have wanted time to think about it and decide how much it mattered to them first.

I do think penalizing you for being 10 minutes late if it was very icy and snowy was excessive; even when people plan for bad roads, they can’t always predict the weather impact with perfect precision. But I suspect not texting until you were already seven minutes late was the issue (as opposed to pulling over to contact them before the interview was scheduled to start, so they weren’t sitting there waiting and wondering if you were going to show).

3. How can I help my coworker be less helpful?

I have a coworker who is very helpful. We work for a small company, small enough to have near-daily contact with the company owner. My coworker was told by someone awful, since fired, that her job included kitchen cleaning. The leadership team has told her it is not her job, and suggested a chore rota to spread the effort … but she can’t seem to leave even the tiniest messes or things out of place. She cleans after the janitorial people are done because they don’t do things to her standard. Which is fine, as long as I don’t have to hear about it. They’re very inconsistent, “don’t remember to run the dishwasher, yet put in two pods somehow” sort of inconsistent, so there’s always something.

The company owner is, admittedly, a massive neatnik who asks that the chairs in the lunchroom be pushed in, sends emails about toilet lids left up, etc. He’s not awful about it, but has made it clear that he has preferences.

She makes a mean cup of tea. I make a poor one. She offers to make my next cup, then tells another coworker she HAS to make my tea.

She can’t tell the owner no, even when it is the right thing to do. He brought in a canary for the office, and she’s frantically researching how to care for the thing because it’s in her space!

She’s a friend, so I really want to help her figure this out. Do you have some language I can use for “stop saying a task is no problem, if it is”?

Is she asking for help or complaining to you about the situation? If not, I’d leave it alone — it’s hers to manage. But if she’s telling you she’s unhappy about it, then you can say it pretty much like you said it here: “I think you’re getting stuck with this stuff because you decide on your own to do it or say it’s no problem when you’re asked. If you’d rather not do it anymore, the easiest solution is to stop volunteering.”

But I’m skeptical that’ll have much effect on someone who “can’t seem to leave even the tiniest messes” and who cleans up after the janitorial staff, despite having been told this isn’t her job. By all means, say something once if you want to help. But from there, it’s hers to sort out herself — which she might not actually want to do.

One thing you should do, though, is stop letting her make your tea. You’ve seen she’ll add it to the things she feels obligated to do, which means it’s contributing to the problem you want to help her solve.

Read an update to this letter here.

4. Do I have to wear high heels to job interviews?

I’m job seeking after taking some time to finish my grad school thesis. I am starting to get a few interviews for communications and marketing roles I would love, but my confidence has been knocked somewhat by suggestions from my fairly conservative family that my not wearing heels makes me look unprofessional. I plan to wear simple black loafers to interviews — they’re a mid-range designer brand — and rarely wear heels in real life. They hurt, I can’t walk in them, and I would never ever choose to wear them over flats. I’m also a bit annoyed at the implication a woman needs them to look ‘right’. Am I being too stubborn on this? Do I need to give in, take a painkiller and buy a pair of shoes I will rarely wear after I secure a role? Is this a double standard not worth the fight?

Nope, you’re fine continuing to wear flats. Your family sounds like they have outdated (and sexist and perhaps somewhat ableist) ideas of professional dress.

5. Mandatory all-day meeting the Sunday before Thanksgiving

Am I overreacting or is it kind of a jerk move to hold a mandatory all-day company meeting on the Sunday before Thanksgiving? Not only have I had to scramble for childcare, I lose a valuable day getting ready for the holiday and all the company coming into town. And we don’t get Friday off either. It’s not just me, is it?

I don’t know that I’d call it a jerk move, but unless there’s some reason why the date was unavoidable, it’s not a great day to choose. If multiple people pushed back and your company refused to budge, or didn’t at least say they’d heard the feedback and would avoid the date in future years, that’s particularly annoying. (If no one spoke up and instead were all just silently irked, I’m less inclined to blame your company for not realizing the problem.)

{ 958 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Because there’s a lot of confusion about these points below, here are some clarifications:

    * In most cases in the U.S. an in-home babysitter is legally considered an employee, not an independent contractor. This is because the family controls how the work gets done and the other factors used to assess whether someone is an employee or not. (The same reason that, say, a waitress is an employee and not a contractor.) Legally speaking, an adult, unrelated babysitter cannot just “choose” to be a contractor or to be paid under the table. It still happens, of course, but it’s not legal (just like it’s not legal in other work contexts).

    * If the babysitter earns $2100/year or more, the family is required to issue a W2 and pay payroll taxes. They are exempt from this requirement if the babysitter is a minor or, in some narrowly defined situations, a close relative (which is why it’s not an issue for teenage babysitters), or if they pay less than that amount annually.

    * The babysitter is required to report the babysitting income on their taxes, whether or not they receive a tax form from the employer.

    * The OP is almost certainly worried about having the income reported because it would affect her disability payments, since the law restricts how much you can work before it reduces your benefits.

    Source for the tax stuff: IRS publication 926

  2. Blue*

    Genuine question, has anyone ever gotten in trouble for paying a babysitter a couple hundred bucks a month in cash? That seems…pretty preposterous to me, and like the minuscule risk doesn’t outweigh the actual harm this is doing to an actual human being trying to survive in a profoundly oppressive system. It’s possible that things have changed since my teenage babysitting days?? But I have just literally never heard of something like this being a problem, and i do a lot of freelancing so I know a non-zero amount about weird tax rules.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There have been high-profile cases of people’s nominations for high-level government positions being pulled (or them having to withdraw) because of not paying taxes for household help. It’s something that people are routinely vetted on now for certain positions.

      Now, is that just for a few hundred dollars a month, as opposed to full-time help? I don’t know if that’s ever been the case. But I can understand someone not wanting to break the law. And again, there are fields where this is a bigger deal than in others.

      1. Blue*

        That’s what I was getting at – there seems like a material difference between paying a full time nanny under the table vs giving cash to a friend for helping watch your kids. Thanks for the response!

        1. Felix*

          It’s interesting that of all the people she talked to, an accountant wasn’t one. That’s where I would go to get clarification.
          But like a lot of people in the comments, I also had a WTF reaction to this. I’m in Canada, so these form numbers I’m seeing mean nothing to me, but I feel like the burden would be on LW to report it as miscellaneous income (and only then if it’s a significant amount), not on the “employer”. I’ve never heard of such a thing for a casual babysitter.

          1. aelle*

            I’m in Germany and it is a thing. It seems to be more about insurance than tax fraud – if you employ someone under the table in your home, they don’t have workplace insurance and you can be liable if they have an accident.

            1. noname*

              Yes, but in Germany, there’s an “occasional work” Limit – the teen who babysits occasionally, thus that their yearly income doesn’t exceed x Euros, doesn’t have to pay income tax on this, it’s not considered required Health insurance Job etc.

              That’s because the law doesn’t want to punish occasional neighbour help: mowing lawns, Babysitting etc.

              It’s only doing yardwork, Babysitting 8 hrs/ day that makes it a Job that Needs reporting.

              I don’t know how the laws in USA are, though.

              1. Hamburke*

                It’s $600 in a year in the US. After that, businesses are to send 1099s and file 1096s with the IRS. It’s more murky when it comes to individuals but if they want to claim the childcare credit, it has to be above table. This is likely what is happening – the parents aren’t thinking about the LW’s financial position, but their own tax situation. But, good luck finding someone else to care for children overnight for pennies and pay taxes above that.

                1. Natalie*

                  $600 is not a limit for the person receiving the income – assuming you have a filing requirement, every dollar of income has to be reported even if you did not receive a 1099.

                2. doreen*

                  It’s really unlikely for it to be about the credit – the man is probably getting near the maximum child care credit for what he pays for the childcare that allows him to work.

                  It’s much more likely to be some combination of “don’t want problems like losing my job or a scandal if I get caught” and something I don’t think I’ve seen mentioned- if a W2 is required for more than $2100 in income , maybe the Dad hasn’t been willing to pay her under the table. Maybe it’s just always been that he paid her less than $2100 a year and is now anticipating having her babysit more frequently.

                3. Falling Diphthong*

                  Ah, that’s a good point–the employer’s taxes. The employer probably wants to use a pre-tax account to pay for childcare, and that can’t be under the table.

                4. Boop Beep*

                  This is incorrect. I think the number is $7500. But of course, it’s better to get information from a tax lawyer than internet randos.

                5. Andream*

                  Alison wrote above that the babysitter has to make 2100 or more per year. Depending on how much she is getting she may be right around that time. I don’t think the dad would quibble if he was only giving her less than $50 a month. I think that the dad is making sure that everything is covered on his end, especially if he is going through a custody issue or anything with the courts or government agencies.

              2. wittyrepartee*

                Yeah, it’s unusual in the US for babysitting a few times a week. I’m not sure what the legalities of it are, but I was paid under the table for picking up a kid from school every day for a few hours. It’s just not that unusual.

                It might be that they’re a politician or want to use some sort of tax deduction or pre-tax income.

              3. gracak*

                There is a work limit in the US. Where I am, it’s $1000 if you are on disability benefits.

                There is a lot that doesn’t make sense about the letter writers situation to me. I am also on disability. In Illinois the minimum you can receive is $740 and you are allowed to make incidental money. I also know that you don’t have to report income or file taxes if you make under 13k a year, so if I make a few extra hundred dollars a month, I am well below the limit.

                That is SSDI (Social Security Disability Income). Now for SSI (Social Security Income) is income based for people who are low income and is meant to be short term. You are not allowed to make anything while on that, or it comes out of your benefits.

                I will say if OP is on SSI and not SSDI, if the social security adminstration finds out she was earning money under the table, they can permanently discontinue her benefits and make her pay back what she collected under false pretenses.

                Do a lot of people do it? Possibly. But I hate the idea that “everyone does it” and you have to do it to just to keep things fair. Because I had to fight SO hard for benefits, because I was always working against the assumption that I was trying to scam the system or hide income. When people do collect money under the table, they justify how hard they make it to get benefits and how it can take someone to earn them (four years, in my case, while I was completely disabled with no other income).

                “Everyone” works under the table in the same way that “everyone” steals supplies from the office and “everyone” lies about their weight on their drivers license. But working under the table and hiding it actually hurts the people who do truly rely on SSDI, and gives reason for those people who are trying to cut it saying that no one really needs it, since no one is really honest about their income.

            2. Anon Here*

              There are a lot of ways it can come up. “Single dad,” is a clue (though could also be irrelevant). If he gets any kind of benefits himself, including child support, or even private grants or scholarships for the kids, he might need to document all of his childcare expenses. For some benefits, you have to document literally all sources of income and all expenses. They want to see everything. It kind of makes sense because they don’t want people collecting benefits while running secret businesses, but stories like this one are an obvious down side. And it wouldn’t be fair for LW to ask. As a benefits recipient themself, I’m sure they understand how sensitive and private this topic is.

              1. AKchic*

                Yep. Single dad is what stuck out for me as something that might mean he could need documentation for daycare assistance, daycare credit (through work), or even plans on using it for his own taxes (whether he qualifies for EIC or not, he can still try to use his childcare expenses for a deduction).

                And yeah, of all of the people to talk to, why wasn’t an accountant one of the people LW1 spoke with? All of these other people aren’t involved in the financial/legal aspect of the issue; just the morality of it, and would obviously say “well, yeah, if he wanted to help you out, he would do this for you”; but he’s not obligated to hurt himself or his own family situation (financially or otherwise) in order to help the LW. He may be scraping by, himself, and not discussing it; and not paying under the table is how he helps qualify for additional tax credits to pay for a few things that get the kids into extra-curriculars, or pays for a few things that make them appear a little more well-off than they really are.

                1. RaeaSunshine*

                  “he’s not obligated to hurt himself or his own family situation (financially or otherwise) in order to help the LW”

                  Exactly. I feel for LW, but it is not this guys responsibility to potentially martyr himself and his family in order to allow LW to retain their full benefits. Is it a little surprising given how common babysitting is paid under the table in the US? Sure. But also 100% reasonable.

                  Also, not for nothing – but given how much time and energy LW has already poured into this, it might be worth considering if they could manage a work from home gig to move away from reliance on benefits. Not because there’s anything wrong with using them – that’s what they are there for! – but to minimize the risk of their life being negatively impacted by slight changes such as this. If you’re capable of consulting with multitudes of people on something like this, you probably also have the skill sets and ability to manage certain research positions etc. Not trying to be pushy or anything like that, just a thought!

                2. boo bot*

                  “why wasn’t an accountant one of the people LW1 spoke with?”

                  Just as a guess: she can’t afford to consult an accountant, unless she happens to know one personally who’s willing to give advice free; plus, the under-the-table arrangement might not be something she wants to bring to any kind of tax professional.

                  This has been, Literal Answers to Rhetorical Questions! You’re welcome and/or I’m sorry. ;)

                3. Zillah*

                  @ RaeaSunshine – I know that you mean well, but it’s very that the OP is familiar with the concept working from home and would not be in this position if they had another option. They didn’t write in for advice about this, and it can be really frustrating when people give unsolicited advice like this.

            3. Ellen N.*

              In the U.S., your homeowner insurance generally covers workers compensation for domestic employees regardless of whether you are paying them under or over the table.

            4. Super*

              In my US state, one has to start withholding for that person’s retirement\medical at $2,000 a year. Which in my city, $20/hour for babysitting, is only 100 hours of work.

            1. Kim*

              Or they don’t have one among their friends/acquaintances.

              LW, I’m sorry your benefits are so low. If one more final conversation doesn’t help, then it unfortunately must be time to leave that family as a babysitter. I hope your circumstances change for the better.

              1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

                No, the proper solution would be to increase LW’s rate so that the net amount is more or less the same.
                Then all is above board; the family would have to pay more but could claim credits (I assume, I’m not in the US).
                If the family would not continue under those conditions – that would be understandable (but morally wrong, in my opinion).

                1. ThatGirl*

                  SSI/Disability payments don’t really work like that, though – if she makes too much it will affect her ability to continue getting benefits at all. My brother is on SSI and the rules are ludicrous; the government essentially wants disabled people to live in a state of poverty dependent on family members.

                2. Anax*

                  Agreed with ThatGirl. For some numbers –

                  Social Security Disability Insurance only kicks in for people who have PREVIOUSLY been able to work. If someone has been disabled since childhood or early adulthood, they only qualify for SSI.

                  SSI means you can only have up to $2000 in total assets, plus a car worth $4500 or less (which in the US, means a very basic car which is at least ten years old).

                  (This is part of why some folks on disability will have “”luxury”” items – if, for instance, they’re given $100 for Christmas by a relative, they may need to spend that IMMEDIATELY or lose all benefits.)

                  It also means you must make less than $735 per month. Rent alone, for a one-bedroom apartment, in the most affordable city in the US (Phoenix, Arizona), is about $1171.

                  (Government housing assistance exists, but in many places, the waitlist to get assistance is 3-6 years long, or completely closed. Similarly, food stamps are a maximum of $194/month for a single person – generally less – and they can’t be used on food which is ready to eat or basic hygiene items like toilet paper, toothpaste, and tampons.)

                  tl;dr, US law is VERY draconian and nearly impossible to comply with.

                3. Natalie*

                  Plus, qualification for tons of state/local aid programs is based on already having been qualified for disability (or similar forms of aid). Being paid enough to make up the loss of the disability check itself won’t cover bus discounts or heating assistance or what have you.

                4. Lucette Kensack*

                  But presumably that would leave Single Dad paying far more than the going rate for babysitters — at that point, its in his best interest to hire someone else that he can pay a market rate.

                5. AKchic*

                  To add on to this – and even though your benefits are technically accumulative; they also aren’t.

                  Example: Let’s say you are a single mother of 2 children and you end up on SSI/Disability. You were already on housing assistance prior to getting on disability (make it easier for this example).
                  So, you get $554/mo in disability payments. You could have gotten $1400/mo from the state in cash assistance (capped at 60 months lifetime “benefits” prior to your disability), but because of your disability check, you now have “income” and lose a portion of that, and because income levels are tiered, you only get $780/mo from the state in cash assistance. Also, food stamps (SNAP) should have originally been $350/mo, but because you have an “alternate income source”, it has dropped to $187/mo.
                  Luckily, your housing assistance caps your rental payments at 1/3 of your cash income each month.

                  Oh, wait… you have two children. Child support “income”. Each state is different in how they calculate that. If you receive cash assistance in Alaska, the state takes it from you. They consider cash assistance a “loan” and your child support payments are forfeited to them for the duration of your time on cash assistance. Other states will count it as “income” and recalculate your “benefits” accordingly (hope you get paid your child support on time). I don’t know of any state that doesn’t count child support at all, anymore. Even if you are just on SNAP, child support is or can be counted as a source of income. Which can seriously hamper things if you rarely receive child support.

                  The whole point seems to be aimed at making the process as difficult as possible so either the families go back to their larger family unit for support, or they do *whatever* they can to get out of the system as quickly as possible (and in many areas, there are so many rules, regulations, guidelines, and general… hoops to jump through, that the idea is to ensure that most people are dropped from the programs for failure to comply).

                  Sorry. I have drifted. This is a hot-button topic for me.

                6. AntOnMyTable*

                  @Anax – I agree $735 is very difficult to live on but your numbers are odd. Phoenix is definitely not the most affordable city in the US. And as someone who lives in Scottsdale (which has more expensive housing that our neighbor) you can find numerous 1 bedroom places in decent neighborhoods for less than what you reference. Someone making $735 still couldn’t afford to live in their own but I think it is helpful when giving specific numbers to try and be realistic.

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

                That was my thought, since it’s a single dad I’m guessing a disgruntled ex could be a problem and raise hell if they found out, and reporting it is easier to him in the long run.

                1. Anon Here*

                  Or the ex / ex’s family could accuse him of leaving the kids at home without a babysitter. Maybe he needs to document that he’s taking care of them.

          2. Asenath*

            Also in Canada – a surprising number of people pay their baby-sitters (including day care in the parents’ home during the day) under the table. Some workers, like LW, prefer it, but they do end up at a disadvantage long-term because they aren’t eligible for some government programs when their work ends, such as EI and CPP (although they can get OAS, but living on OAS, well, not easy), and if I remember correctly from when this was an issue in the lives of my friends and their child care workers, they don’t get workers comp either. Now, obviously, doing a bit of babysitting once in a while is different. No one seems to worry about paying the neighbour to watch their children for a couple of hours every few weeks. But being on benefits makes the whole thing a bit risky for both parties. I’ve worked when I was collecting EI, and I was very careful to report every penny, as painful as that was, because not only was it honest by the rules of the program, in the admittedly unlikely event I was reported for earning money I didn’t report, I would have gotten in serious trouble and had to pay up – my employer might have too, but I wasn’t worried about that. I was worried because it was also my responsibility to comply with the rules, and my problem if I didn’t. This may or may not be the case in the US.

            1. Humble Schoolmarm*

              Yes, my parents paid my grandmother over the table for full time childcare until I started school and part-time until I was a teen. They did it that way because my grandmother never formally worked outside the home and those years of “official” earning allowed her to earn a bit of CPP (Canada Pension) to supplement her pretty meagre old age benefits (OPP) and survivor benefits from my grandfather until her death 20 years later. The other side of that argument, of course, was that the CPP benefits weren’t really enough to live on either.

              1. Quill*

                Unfortunately it sounds like OP’s eligibility for benefits could be affected if they’re paid over the table, unlike your grandma…

                1. Humble Schoolmarm*

                  No, you’re right. All other things being equal there is some long-term benefit to keeping things above board, but all things aren’t equal if OP is facing a reduction in benefits.

            2. Danielle*

              I also think that in Canada, if he can provide proof of childcare expenses, they can sometimes be written off as a tax deduction, depending on his circumstances and the jurisdiction. I had a friend who had to change child care providers when her provider decided to work “under the table” and not issue receipts. She needed the receipts in order to prove the expense, so it works both ways.

          3. Clisby*

            I think the burden is on her to report it as income; but at least as I understand it, the employer is required to pay part of the Social Security/Medicare tax on that income.

          4. Quickbeam*

            There is a staggering problem in the US with disability fraud. Both with SSDI and worker’s compensation. I’ve been in the field of medical fraud for decades. You only need to see one person who is “totally disabled” roofing their house or dropping a new engine into their car to understand why the laws are what they are.

            OP#1 could probably use some accounting guidance to work within the rules of SSDI. But the rules are there for a reason.

            1. Aquawoman*

              Nope, I’d need to see a lot more than one person abusing the laws to justify putting a dehumanizing burden on people who are already burdened and treating disabled people like presumed criminals. I used to review ALJ decisions for the courts and I can’t tell you how many of them suggested that if a person could watch TV all day and go to church on Sunday, that somehow meant they could hold down a job (I guess one of those TV-watching jobs that are everywhere). In the wealthiest country in history, I’d be willing to deal with a little waste if that was the cost of protecting people who need protecting.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Amen. We have counselors advising people not to work too much because they will lose their “free money”. wth.

              2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

                With due respect to your experience and knowledge, I’d agree with Quickbeam that it’s more that “a little” waste and fraud. And those fraudulently taken dollars are money that leave less for genuine assistance.

                However, it sounds totally nuts and dehumanizing what people have to go through to get assistance when they can’t work.

            2. ThatGirl*

              I understand you come from the POV of working in medical fraud but disability has many definitions, someone could be able-bodied but unable to work for other reasons (mental illness can also be a disability). The rules are byzantine and don’t allow people with disabilities to work even part-time and still keep their benefits or even save any money – this is the problem, not a few cases of fraud here and there.

              1. Anax*

                +1. Thank you, ThatGirl.

                The presumption that folks with invisible disabilities are “faking” also makes it really difficult to find appropriate treatment and accommodations, which means many disabled folks are unable to work/perform to their full capacity – which is again, a systemic problem, not fraud on the part of individuals.

                (Like, jeez, apparently I can’t sit near windows anymore. Thanks, body.)

                1. Yossarian*

                  Anax, can I ask where you got the above figure of Phoenix Arizona being the most affordable city when a one bedroom costs $1171? I live in Kansas City, Missouri and there are 3 bedroom houses you can rent for $85o a month. Not trying to derail this conversation, but I couldn’t reply to the above comment for some reason, there was just no reply underneath.

                2. Anax*

                  Yeah, this site’s software only allows so much nesting!

                  Sorry, that was my fail! I meant “major cities”, as listed here:


                  Missed a word, whoops…

                  That’s in-line with the median one-bedroom rent in the top 100 cities, which is around $1237, per

                  It’s median, so certainly, cheaper housing is available in many areas! I was trying to give a ballpark for the non-US-based folks who don’t have any baseline for US costs, but the range within the US is fairly broad.

                  (Moving to a cheaper locale might be possible… but would cost capital to do, probably affect disability qualifications and paperwork, and certainly would move one away from any supportive family.)

                  (Though oy vey, I’m jealous of your rental prices! I’m in the Bay Area and I haven’t heard of a three-bedroom for less than $3000. That rent, ack!)

              2. Jules the 3rd*


                Also, 1 time work may be doable, where longer-term work is not; I know a hair dresser who was hit by a car and has spinal bone spurs, who can change the oil on his car every three months or help a friend with a larger car job, but can not spend 6 – 8 hrs / day standing, especially with raised arms, without significant pain. He does not have the skills or temperament to be successful at an office job.

                *Many* manual laborers have structural damage that prevents full-time work, especially by their 50s. That’s 10 – 15 years before any SS kicks in.

                1. RaeaSunshine*

                  This! One of my close childhood friends was on disability benefits for several years and would constantly have to defend himself because people would be *shocked* when he… went grocery shopping…. repainted his porch… walked around the block etc. What they didn’t know is that he would have to rest for *significant* amounts of time before and after these excursions in order to have the energy. They only saw snapshots of his life, and assumed.

                  Luckily he has since found a work from home position that allowed him to get off benefits, but that obviously doesn’t work for everyone depending on temperament, skills etc.

                2. Fish girl*

                  Yep, exactly! My husband is disabled (due to a few different medical issues) and receives SSDI. He might be able to work if a) he received enough flexibility/sick time to take off work for his 3-4 appts a week and for his actual bad sick days and b) he worked a desk job.

                  Unfortunately, he’s never held a desk job before, so no one will hire him (trust me, he applied to everything under the sun, worked with so many recruiters, was in a specialty job program designed to get him a job, applied to temp companies, etc). Especially when they see his resume is full of previous jobs like Lion Tamer, Bungee Jumping Instructor, and Helicopter Pilot (an exaggeration, but pretty close to the extreme nature of his old jobs). No matter how much he reassures them that a calm, sedentary desk job is exactly what he wants, they don’t believe him. And he doesn’t have the qualifications anyway.

                  And even if they would hire him, they (quite reasonably) wouldn’t want a new admin assistant who had to take off 3 times a week, every week.

              3. biobotb*

                Plus, based on what other people have outlined here about income and assets (and how incredibly low these limits are), someone who needs benefits would probably be unable to pay anyone else to do these kinds of projects. Seems like they’d have to do it themselves, no matter how much they’d pay for it (physically) later.

              4. Jaybeetee*

                It also doesn’t factor in the nature of a lot of chronic illnesses/disabilities. People can have good days and bad days. I’ve heard plenty of people talk about days where they feel pretty good, they get a lot done, etc etc, then they’re knocked over for several days after that. (This argument also comes up a lot when busybodies harass people over their disabled stickers on their cars because “they don’t look disabled.” Like, just because someone is mobile on a Sunday, doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily be mobile on a Monday?)

                Then there are other types of hidden disabilities. I have an acquaintance who had an aneurysm some years ago. He’s perfectly able-bodied, and you wouldn’t necessarily know anything was up just from talking to him. You’d have to spend more time with him to see the cognitive gaps, memory problems, etc, that would make full-time work difficult for him.

                Getting on disability (in Canada where I live, and in the US as I understand it), is not a fast or easy process, and you really make very little off it. I doubt there are many people out there willing to jump through those hoops for a monthly pittance if they don’t actually need it.

              5. Not So NewReader*

                Adding, people can’t have “good” days. If they aren’t in sheer misery every single day then, clearly, there is no medical issue.

            3. wittyrepartee*

              Yeah, and then you meet a woman who’s pregnant and working a job where she has to stand every day despite excruciatingly painful varicose veins. Because she’s not “disabled enough”.

              1. Another JD*

                To qualify for disability benefits, you have to not be expected to be able to work for one year. If the varicose veins were pregnancy-induced, then the condition wouldn’t be expected to last a year and she wouldn’t qualify.

                1. Em Dee*

                  You can have pregnancy-related health conditions that qualify you for disability. If you’re on bedrest for a pregnancy-related condition, it would be very unreasonable (although not necessarily above what conservative government policies would state) to say she could still work like a perfectly able-bodied person.

                2. Double A*

                  Actually the only way you can get any coverage for maternity leave in California is that pregnancy is considered a disability after 8 months, and then 6-8 weeks after the birth depending on the type of delivery. Not sure about other states. My short term disability insurance is what covered my maternity leave.

                  But short terms disability and SSDI are totally different beasts.

                3. Koala dreams*

                  I don’t think anybody has suggested that? The suggestion was that painful varicose veins would count as a disability.

                4. Late to the game*

                  It is considered a disability, in the majority of the country, as a way to make our ridiculous system work a teensy tiny bit for pregnant and post postpartum women.

            4. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

              The rules may be there for a reason, but that doesn’t mean they are there for good reasons. The logic of “make a hundred disabled people miserable to avoid one able-bodied person defrauding the government of a poverty-level income” is that decisions are being made by people who, at best, don’t care about the hundred disabled people suffering, and at worst think that poor and disabled people deserve to suffer.

              I would far rather see my tax money be spent to pay rent for a disabled stranger–even if 1/10 of one percent of it went to people committing fraud–than have a larger chunk skimmed off to pay the salaries of able-bodied bureaucrats who are encouraged to make it difficult to get disability benefits. I’d rather the money be spent paying for housing for a disabled stranger, instead of renting offices where people decide whether someone is “disabled enough” to be given that pittance.

              Maybe I’m being selfish: as an average American, I am much more likely to become disabled than to become a fraud investigator.

              1. Zap R.*

                “The rules may be there for a reason, but that doesn’t mean they are there for good reasons. ”


              2. Lunita*

                Agreed! I’m not sure I agree that fraud is “staggering” and I would rather focus on improving our system for those who need it.

            5. Atalanta0jess*

              I don’t know how staggering the fraud problem is. I do know there’s a staggering problem in the US with people who have true disabilities being unable to receive benefits that would allow them to live decently. And laws that disincentivize moving off disability, because it’s so hard to get. And a system that is dehumanizing and frankly impossible for so many people to navigate. The number of parts of this system that make me exclaim “How are people supposed to LIVE??!” is staggering. (see: resource limits; disincentives to work, such as this one; the difficulty of getting on disability in the first place, especially with disabilities that make it hard to navigate the system; the fact that you have to wait TWO YEARS after a disability determination to get medicare coverage.)

              I don’t know about you, I’d rather give people money who don’t truly need it than have disabled people living on the streets because the system is so terribly unsupportive. That’s really backwards.

              And honestly, it’s damn hard to tell from the outside whether someone is “really” disabled, so please don’t make comments encouraging people to do some kind of arm chair evaluation. That’s a really ableist activity to engage in, and it’s quite horrid to encourage people to do so.

            6. Jessen*

              So what I dealt with for several years:

              – Mental health related, meaning that I didn’t have any physical limitations nor any obvious signs of disability

              – Came and went unpredictably. I had days where I’d be just fine, but I couldn’t predict or control when they were. Can’t hold down a job when you don’t know til day of if you’ll be able to work or not.

              Also, part of the problem is the limits aren’t at all kept up with cost of living. So you’re ending up with people who legitimately can’t afford to see to their own basic needs, but if they try to get them met some other way that’s a reason to cut their benefits.

              1. Anax*

                Solidarity, that’s both very relatable and very frustrating.

                I have some weird disabilities which probably sound fake – like, wearing a polo shirt will make me unable to talk, and sitting near a window makes me faint. It’s, uh… fun.

                I’m really grateful to have a job I can do, and a workplace which is willing to accommodate me, but I know I’m very lucky to be in that boat; I would be unable to do a manual, retail, or customer-facing job.

            7. Ellen N.*

              Disability fraud is a separate problem from the extreme limits on people who are collecting disability to work.

              Fraudulently collecting disability is a crime and should be treated as such.

              Doing work that one is able to do despite one’s disability isn’t criminal behavior; it’s being a productive member of society.

              Babysitting is not comparable to roofing or working on a car.

            8. NotAnotherManager!*

              It seems to me that the solution to the problem you’re identifying is to make the vetting process and requirements more rigid, not to keep people who are truly disabled living in poverty and unable to own a vehicle with current safety features or amass savings.

              I’d also wonder how many of those “totally disabled” people performing manual labor have a mental or intellectual disability that doesn’t prevent them from doing heavy lifting but does prevent them from holding down a job that pays a living wage. My intellectually disabled brother-in-law could help roof a house or work an engine pulley with supervision, but no amount of job training and therapy – assuming they were available in his rural community and he could afford them, neither of which is true – will ever have him able to work outside the food service industry (from which he’s been fired repeatedly because even basic, multi-step instructions and reading are quite difficult based on his specific brain makeup). Guess we’re lucky he has some visual hallmarks of his particular disability so he doesn’t “look normal” to the assessors?

              The laws are what they are because some people seem to think that, by making living while disabled miserable and difficult, it will discourage fraud. The fraudsters are still there (and will always be there), and the disabled are the ones who pay the price.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  It took me AND my husband working together a total of 8 hours to fill out the application for disability. (Sixteen hours of work total.) Because he was, uh, disabled, we had to spread it out over days so he could keep participating in the work of applying.
                  Then he had to do interviews. Meanwhile, he had to go to the doc periodically to get a signed statement saying, “Yeah, he still has 8 breaks in his spine. No change from 3 weeks ago.”
                  Common sense has died.
                  If you don’t feel like shit about yourself, you sure as heck will after you have gone through this.

              1. Oaktree*

                The vetting process and requirements are already quite stringent, and the bureaucratic process for accessing disability services/payments is byzantine. I don’t think we need to advocate for making it harder for disabled people to collect disability. Unless I’m misunderstanding you…

                1. NotAnotherManager!*

                  I think that people who want disability to be byzantine and impossible to receive as a deterrent to applying for it. If there are able-bodied people bilking the system (which I personally believe to be a vastly overstated problem, much like voter fraud), then there should be a process to identify that rather than assuming the majority of people who need disability are out to scam the system and keeping them penned into poverty and unable to inherit grandma’s non-clunker car. So, when I say, “vetting”, maybe “actual fraud detection” would be a better choice of words. I also think that there should be some sort of system that allows people to work what they can – part-time/low-wage/whatever, without kicking them out of the SSI/SSDI system.

                  I’m not a stranger to the SSI/SSDI world. I’ve worked on a number of pro bono disability appeals over the years, and the macabre joke is that they turn everyone down the first time. As I noted above, my BIL is on disability, which he only got on appeal after my in-laws shelled out for a lawyer, which is not an option for a lot of people. One of my children is also developmentally disabled and will likely require SSI, and, the trusts or other hoop-jumping required if we want them to survive without sibling assistance after we’re gone is insane. If I want them on Medicare, I have to apply NOW, while they’re in middle school, to have any hope of their being at the top of the waitlist by adulthood.

                2. aurora borealis*

                  I know of 3 people first hand (including my ex-husband) who are/were absolutely committing disability fraud. It is not that hard to do and it is rampant. The victims here are the people that actually need the assistance. It is being stolen by the people committing the fraud. I firmly believe that the vetting process needs to be harder- to start with, the doctors and health care ‘professionals’ that are signing off on the paperwork to make their own money. I really think that is where it needs to start. SSI usually takes a minimum of 3 tries before being approved- if you can afford a lawyer who will push your claim through (even a fraudulent one) it’s quicker than that. But begin with the doctors who are signing the claims, prescribing the pills and passing it along. PS- this is just ONE reason my ex is my ex.

                3. Irinam*

                  A borealis- you must not have experience with the process in any way. In the US, benefits are too hard to get as it currently is. Also, the fraud people are talking about is not rampant. The ‘fraud’ also primarily refers to someone trying to make a business out of taking the government benefits and $$, not individuals getting a particular benefit.

                4. aurora borealis*

                  Irinam, you can assume what you would like to, but I do have experience, I have seen people defraud not only the SS system, but also charitable foundations, and yes they make a business out of it. they don’t want ONE benefit, they want ALL of them. I am in the US and I watched it happen. If you believe that the system is too hard to game and it is not done and people don’t do it maliciously, you are sadly mistaken.

                5. aurora borealis*

                  the sad thing is, and I said this earlier, the real victims here are the people that actually do need the benefits and the people stealing them for their own gain should be prosecuted as thieves.

                6. NotAnotherManager!*

                  I don’t disagree about cracking down on fraudsters, but, in your own post, you acknowledge that it takes three shots at SSI to get it. That is an incredible amount of time for people who may be starving or homeless to wait for a bureaucratic process. And yes, people who claim unfairly ARE hurting the disabled, but making the already tough-to-navigate, slow system even harder for the disabled just compounds that injury.

                  I am well aware fraud exists, and my spouse is from an area of the country that has been profiled in the WashPo repeatedly for how there is no accessible healthcare and people put more effort into getting disability than a job. Welfare/disability is the second leading form of income, immediately behind working for the federal or state government. However, the ills of that area will not be solved by making it harder to get benefits. That’s punishing the disabled for a failure to address the systemic issues that create generational reliance on government assistance.

                7. aurora borealis*

                  NotAnotherManager- I’m not suggesting to make it harder on the process. I am just trying to make the point that there are those that will willfully steal those benefits from people that need and depend on the benefits. I am saying that some of the doctors that are just as bad need to also be looked at and punished for their part in the theft. In the cases I know personally, these same doctors are known, very openly, to do this and also prescribe opioid medications to the same people. There is no defense for either action, and I personally, feel that they are the start of the problem and need to be held responsible for their actions as well.

            9. Lurker*

              Fraud is absolutely not a staggering problem. Every statistic I’ve seen shows it’s a very small number, combined with some people who are borderline disabled and then have a few good days that they’re punished for, or is getting better but not quite ready to attempt to go back into the workforce yet.

              And those rules, especially for SSI – which the OP is on, not SSDI – are outdated and many haven’t been changed since the 80’s. That $2000 limit in assets, for instance. It’s a horrible system that badly needs an overhaul. SSI, btw, is currently $771 a month. That means you have to live on $9,252 a year. Any gifts (including things like gift cards for food), cannot exceed $85 a month or you lose money from your monthly income. You have to be careful about what charities you use, because many of them are not exempt from this calculation.

              And you really think people commit “staggering” amounts of fraud in order to live on $9,252 a year?

            10. Jaydee*

              Disabled (for the purposes of Social Security Disability and SSI) means “unable to engage in substantial gainful activity due to a medically determinable physical or mental impairment or combination of impairments that have existed for at least 12 months, are expected to exist for at least 12 months, or are expected to result in death.”

              Let’s be clear:
              – Taking care of your own kids is not substantial gainful activity or proof that you could hold down a job taking care of other people’s kids
              – Taking basic care of your own home (making simple meals, cleaning up, doing laundry) is not substantial gainful activity or proof that you could hold down a job doing similar activities in the competitive job market
              – Fixing your own car or re-roofing your house are not substantial gainful activity or proof that you could hold down a job doing either of those things

              Not all disabilities are visible.
              Not all disabilities are physical.
              Not all disabilities are the same every hour of every day.

              You can be considered “disabled” for Social Security Disability/SSI purposes even if you can do some amount of work. It just can’t be enough work to count as substantial gainful activity. And, if you are on Social Security Disability, there are entire work incentive programs to help you find work that you can do and return to the workforce.

              The process to be approved for Social Security Disability/SSI is so long and so arduous that the fear that people have of losing those benefit once they have them is absolutely real and legitimate. And the stigma – the judgment – that people have for someone who “looks able-bodied” and is “milking the system” is disgusting.

            11. emmelemm*

              One bad apple, in this case, should not spoil the whole barrel of *human beings who really need that support*.

            12. gracak*

              There is a work limit in the US. Where I am, it’s $1000 if you are on disability benefits.

              There is a lot that doesn’t make sense about the letter writers situation to me. I am also on disability. In Illinois the minimum you can receive is $740 and you are allowed to make incidental money. I also know that you don’t have to report income or file taxes if you make under 13k a year, so if I make a few extra hundred dollars a month, I am well below the limit.

              That is SSDI (Social Security Disability Income). Now for SSI (Social Security Income) is income based for people who are low income and is meant to be short term. You are not allowed to make anything while on that, or it comes out of your benefits.

              I will say if OP is on SSI and not SSDI, if the social security adminstration finds out she was earning money under the table, they can permanently discontinue her benefits and make her pay back what she collected under false pretenses.

              Do a lot of people do it? Possibly. But I hate the idea that “everyone does it” and you have to do it to just to keep things fair. Because I had to fight SO hard for benefits, because I was always working against the assumption that I was trying to scam the system or hide income. When people do collect money under the table, they justify how hard they make it to get benefits and how it can take someone to earn them (four years, in my case, while I was completely disabled with no other income).

              “Everyone” works under the table in the same way that “everyone” steals supplies from the office and “everyone” lies about their weight on their drivers license. But working under the table and hiding it actually hurts the people who do truly rely on SSDI, and gives reason for those people who are trying to cut it saying that no one really needs it, since no one is really honest about their income.

            13. gracak*

              That’s hard to hear. I’m on SSDI after a worker’s comp injury, and eight years after the injury I’m still in court trying to get my medical bills paid. No disability was paid to me. It took me four years to get SSDI, and I get $640 a month.

              I have never lied or hid money. I am desperately poor, and very sick all the time. I know everyone thinks I lie, and that has added years to the process of getting help.

              But I also cannot find data that shows that fraud is that common. I know it happens, but I’ve read the rates are very low (of course they are, it’s so impossibly hard to get ANY treatment even when you are desperately sick) but the bulk of money spent is spent trying to ferret out those few cases.

              I know everyone hates the idea of people getting things for free when it’s not deserved. But I think a whole lot of people don’t get the held they desperately need in order to catch the few who don’t need it.

              Which is why hearing the “everyone does it” argument frustrates me so much. It’s perpetuating the idea that anyone on benefits is scamming. I’ve ended friendships with people over the fact that they think it’s cool to hide income while receiving SSI or SSDI. And I’ve broken down in tears over people who ask me why I don’t just go drive for Uber or get a babysitting gig if workers comp isn’t paying me. If I could work, I would. But I can’t.

            14. Kat in VA*

              /this is a long reply

              This “there’s some bad ones so they’re likely all bad” mentality extends to folks on pain meds. I’ve had three spine surgeries in the space of two years. My spine continues to destroy itself – a condition that normally takes decades is happening within months (adjacent segment syndrome). I take a relatively low dose of opioids so that I can, you know, function on a regular basis.

              But because some – again, not all – folks abuse opioids and some even die from that abuse, we are all junkies and are treated accordingly. I see a pain doctor once a month. Randomly drug tested whenever. Use one pharmacy. Have a supply of meds that is counted out and prescribed to the day. Doc on vacation? Long holiday weekend? Hurricane? Too bad. Tough it out. I am regularly hassled to enroll in a complex case management program where “alternative measures” are tried (and your meds reduced accordingly) – because acupuncture and aromatherapy work so well on disintegrating bone and popped discs. The only solution for me is ever-increasingly more complex, painful, and expensive surgeries and likely, more pain down the road. I’m responsible, have a full time job, manage a family of six, pay taxes, do everything I’m supposed to do.

              But because of those bad apples, I’m treated just the same as if I was a junkie visiting multiple doctors and multiple pharmacies and stealing pain meds from grannies to get my kicks. (I wish. I wish I got high off my drugs. They dampen the pain down to a dull roar that never, ever goes away.)

              Which leads me to…

              …the same attitude toward SSDI and worker’s compensation. My husband’s back was destroyed by unskilled laborers on the job. He had MRIs, X-rays, CT scans, too many steroid shots, a Racz catheter, and more than one doctor’s opinion, all documented, that he needed surgery. He is legitimately documented as 33% disabled.

              He was also treated like he was scamming the system and even though his settlement resulted in one surgery and lifetime medical, the second we left our home state, Comp began denying treatments that they agreed to, refusing to pay doctors outright (resulting in one case of a +$6000 bill we had to pay out of pocket) – which graduated to not returning calls, letting his case sit, “transferring” it to other workers, then being “unable to locate documents” and just about everything you could think of to make him give up on the medical. Since I was a SAHM at the time, I fought them for two years and then they ultimately got what they wanted – we gave up.

              So be careful when you ascribe the bad behavior of some to all, lest you cause unnecessary difficulty and suffering.

              1. BWanon*

                Oh my goodness, this is horrifying that anyone has to go through something like this. I’m so sorry.

                1. Kat in VA*

                  Just wanted to say thank you for replying. I didn’t expect a reply and that post got a whole lot longer when blown up with my righteous indignation.

                1. Kat in VA*

                  Thanks for replying. We’re in a good place now – well, as good as we can be with my spine falling apart and his no better (he ended up with a second, much more involved lumbar surgery a few years ago).

                  Mine was more a cautionary tale about blanket assumptions. Everyone’s story is unique.

            15. Jennifer Juniper*

              You’re forgetting the people who are disabled for reasons other than mobility issues. Someone can be totally disabled because they’re mentally ill. I have five doctor-diagnosed mental illnesses and am waiting for the appeal for my SSDI claim to be decided. I am physically healthy, but unable to handle typical workplace stress without having obvious and distracting meltdowns.

              1. Kat in VA*

                Also true. I have horrendous, very visible (under my hair, which is long) scars that can be seen by anyone if I lift my ponytail up. No one can doubt that I’ve been through some shiz.

                In your case, the invisible disability can be even harder to prove – even thought you’ve got doctor’s assessments out the wazoo. Some people only see what they want to see and think what they want to think.

            16. Relly*

              I’m really not meaning to pile on here, but I wanted to respectfully share a difference of opinion.

              Our criminal justice system functions in the premise that it’s better to let ten guilty people go free than to imprison one innocent person.

              I would rather let ten scammers slip through the cracks than have one legitimately disabled person be denied benefits.

            17. FrivYeti*

              Hi Quickbeam,

              Maybe you should realize that disability is more complicated than you think it is. I have friends who could absolutely roof a house – if they didn’t have to do anything else for a week afterwards. But it’s hard to get a job when you have migranes keeping you in your bed for two weeks out of three, and worse when you’re not allowed to do anything on the one week that you’re capable of it because a small-minded person is going to accuse you of not really being disabled.

              The biggest problem with disability rights and disability benefits is the assumption that a person’s best day is equivalent to their average day, or that their best day is sustainable. Maybe you should consider that the snapshot that you see is not reflective of most peoples’ lived lives, instead of assuming that most people are evil at heart.

            18. Elisabeth*

              But a disabled person doesn’t necessarily feel exactly the same everyday. If someone has chronic pain or migraines, for example, they might be able to work on their car on Monday and then spend Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in too much pain to get out of bed. If you can’t work consistently, you can’t hold down a job. Or somebody with a mental condition like dementia or brain damage might be able to perform familiar tasks around the house with supervision, but not be well enough to navigate a work environment.

              I’m not arguing that fraud exists, but I don’t think seeing somebody on disability doing physical work proves anything beyond that they could do that type of physical work on that day.

          5. Ellen N.*

            It doesn’t sound like the letter writer can afford to consult with an accountant. Also, the letter writer correctly understands the rules.

          6. banzo_bean*

            I worked in an accountants office and to cover our own behinds whenever someone asked about paying babysitters/other household employees the answer always had to be that they should pay them legally and file the correct forms. Even if we felt it was probably legitmately an non issue for the client to continue paying a college student to watch their kids for 4 hr/week unpaid.
            They’re accountants, they’re going to tell you what you should do not what you’re likely to get busted for.

        2. wittyrepartee*

          Yeah, this was my reaction too. It’s a little precious, in my opinion, to be doing this when it makes the disabled babysitter’s life worse. I wonder if it gets him a childcare tax break…

          1. Ellen N.*

            The person whom the letter writer babysits for may be concerned about more than consequences of paying a domestic employee under the table.

            In the eyes of the law, the letter writer is committing disability fraud. I believe it may be illegal to knowingly abet disability fraud.

            1. une autre Cassandra*

              Exactly. There’s plenty to rage against in this situation but the single parent trying to follow the law isn’t really the appropriate target. It’s a much, much bigger problem. :(

              I hope the best for the letter writer, whose frustration is entirely justified.

              1. RaeaSunshine*

                Exactly. I don’t understand putting a moral or ethical obligation on the dad here in relation to LW. His moral and ethical obligation is to himself and his family, he doesn’t need a reason to decide to stop doing something illegal. It’s unfortunate that it negatively impacts the LW, but that is a different situation.

        1. PhyllisB*

          Back in the sixties my mother got in huge trouble for not paying payroll taxes for our housekeeper. It came to light when the lady retired and filed for Social Security. I was rather young and don’t remember all the details, but I know she had to pay a big fine.
          When I had children and wanted to hire a housekeeper the first thing I did was get a tax ID number and instructions on how to do this correctly.
          My problem was, no one wanted me to take these deductions from their pay. Or, they wanted wanted me to pay them the full amount and then pay taxes and SS extra. Um, no, that’s not how it works. I had several quit when I refused to do that.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            My mother-in-law made a point of wading through the paperwork and paying the housekeeper aboveboard, precisely to avoid the “but I worked all these years, why don’t I have social security?” conundrum. And housekeeper did eventually need disability, so good thing she’d been paying into the system.

          2. Perbie*

            I do do the latter, but i wanted my nanny to get at least $15/hr take home pay*, and didn’t feel like figuring out how to do it with formal witholding; so I just pay extra at the end of the year and pay “both shares” that way (since if you withold it’s like, half employer half employee? I think?).
            * starting pay; has subsequently increased with more kids, inflation, etc, now $17.50/hr

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Wet blanket here: If you are paying her share of the taxes for her then that is probably income to her in the eyes of the IRS.You may want to check on this.

          3. L*

            To me that sounds like the take home pay wasn’t enough, not like people are being unreasonable about what you’re comfortable with legally.

        2. LQ*

          Strong disagree on this.
          I think there are more easily passive-aggressive ways to fire someone without actually saying it. If you want to avoid confrontation you do what a lot of retail places do. Just schedule less and less and less and don’t say anything about it.

          Talking about taxes is way more confrontational than just not calling to schedule. And the only person who is going to do this is a super nonconfrontational person. So no. Not a secret firing.

      2. JKP*

        I thought there was a minimum amount you had to be paid before they were required to 1099 you? And would a once or twice a month babysitter really be a W2 employee?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          For 1099s, the threshold is $600+ a year … but as I discovered below, it really is a W2 for babysitters, not a 1099. You’re legally required to use a W2 if you pay them $2100/year or more.

          1. JR*

            Yes, this to the $2100. So if she’s babysitting once or twice a month, making let’s say $100 each time (which is probably a high estimate, unless it’s an all-day thing), she’s just below or right around the limit. So I wonder if they can agree that they’ll track her earnings and she will stay under that annual limit?

            On a related note, we pay our nanny over the table (because she’s well over that $2100 figure – we don’t pay our occasional babysitters that way because they’re below it). As a result, I know that we need to pay at the top end of our local range. It would be totally normal for LW to say that, if she’s being paid over the table, her rate is $X+Y instead of $X. That said, that calculation is usually based on what will make the babysitter whole (or close to whole) after accounting for taxes and might not be enough to compensate for lost benefits. And of course, $X+Y would still need to be inside the local range of typical babysitting rates.

          2. Rockin Takin*

            I was a part-time nanny for a family who lived on an air Force Base (dad was a pilot). I filled out a W2 and did all the tax paperwork. They had a time sheet for me and everything.
            Since my dad was retired AF I was able to get on/off base w my own ID, but I assume they needed everything above board because he was in the military and I had to explain why I was there to the guards sometimes.

            I also did a couple babysitting gigs for one lady on base, though, and she just paid me cash because I worked for her once maybe every couple months for less than a year.

            My other nanny job also required W2 though, because the children had special needs and the family used a state program to help cover the cost of my employment. I even had to get fingerprinted and everything.

      3. Annie*

        I’m assuming this is in America. I don’t know anything about America but here in the UK many many disabled people have had their benefits stopped or received sanctions for working cash in hand.

      4. everydaycrises*

        Not only that, but this is a single parent. It could be something he is worrying about, not just the financial implications but what it could mean for his children if he gets caught (Yes, all very unlikely, but that isn’t how worry works.)
        If it is something he is losing sleep over, it is perfectly reasonable for him to say he can’t continue.

        Get angry at the system, your representatives, not this guy who has no power. This is literally why things continue to be bad, we’re not putting the blame and anger in the right place.

        1. Dagny*

          It’s also possible that he needs to accurately report to the court how much it costs to raise the children (for purposes of child support or alimony), and not having any evidence that he’s paying a babysitter is a problem for him.

      5. Anonforthis*

        I have to do a financial disclosure (outside income, gifts) and it’s only over a certain amount. I think they actually listed occasional low income babysitting and dog sitting as something that doesn’t have to be reported in the training they gave us.

        1. BB*

          Speaking of gifts though can’t this be classified as a gift to a friend (they’ve known each other “forever”)? Meanwhile LW is doing an occasional favor by babysitting. Are there limits on the frequency of cash gifts for tax purposes? My parents babysit my niece unpaid, but my sister in turn may provide them monetary gifts occasionally as thank yous. If the dad provided payment in gift cards instead of cash does that change the classification?

      6. Abogado Avocado*

        I have done criminal defense work and every day people receiving public benefits are prosecuted in felony court for working under the table AND for falsely swearing that they’re not doing so. This may seem like petty crime to some in this forum, but prosecutors — both state and federal — do not consider it so.

        There are many opportunities to lobby our lawmakers (both state and federal) to provide public benefits that allow more than mere survival. Please don’t just inveigh against what you consider to be unjust law; work to change it.

        1. Jules the 3rd*


          Ways you can do that work in the US, that aren’t super hard:
          1) Find your representatives by googling “Common Cause Find Your Representatives”
          2) Call 1 rep, once a month, with your top 1 – 3 issues
          3) Send 1 postcard or letter, once a month, with your top 1 – 3 issues / suggestions
          4) Tell your friends you’re doing it, and they can too, and maybe even coordinate a top issue
          5) Votey McVoteface – every election. Every single one.

          I’m told that physical letters get the most attention, and for state reps, even 3 letters on the same issue will get them started looking at it. For US reps, you need about 20, for US senators about 100. For calls, you need about 10x each of those. For emails / fb posts, about 100x . (source: US rep employees, who are guessing about the Senator response threshold but know the state levels well; about 5 years ago).

          1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

            The numbers may have increased since the 2016 election. My state rep answered one of my emails with a form letter saying that she was sorry not to be able to get to my mail right away, but her volume of constituent email, phone calls, etc. had increased dramatically in 2017. This does *not* mean don’t call your representatives, it means you may need to get more of your friends to get involved.

            Also, if you want quick action, on anything, postcards are better than letters, at least at the federal level–*all* mail sent to members of Congress is still being taken to a special office and opened carefully, to check for anthrax spores or other harmful powders), which adds a couple of weeks to the processing time.

        2. gracak*

          The risks just aren’t worth it. You will have your benefits cut off permanently, and you will have to repay what you received wrongly.

      7. LQ*

        In the US (this varies from state to state) if you pay more than a certain amount (which is really low, a few hundred a month would hit it) per quarter you have to report it to unemployment and folks have not gotten jobs because of not reporting.

      8. Bonky*

        I’ve a friend in the US (I’m British) who had a high-level government position in a previous administration – and his SISTER was pulled up on a background check they ran on him, for doing something very similar to what OP is doing. Before he was able to take the job she was asked quietly to fix the situation.

      9. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        Worth noting that we don’t know what the future holds. It might be the case that in the future having broken the law in what was thought to be a small way is viewed differently.

        I don’t think it’s appropriate to get mad at someone for their not wanting to break the law.

      10. SaffyTaffy*

        When I acted as a character witness for a friend/ former colleague’s security clearance, I was specifically asked if he had ever paid anyone under the table. (I mean, I was asked other stuff, too. Like if he had ever gotten in an argument in public, if I would trust him alone with my child, if I had ever seen him drunk).

      11. Guacamole Bob*

        I long for the days when this type of thing was actually enough to cause problems for nominees for high-level government positions. It seems sort of quaint, now.

        1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

          Hahaha. Don’t worry, if the party in power in the US switches it’ll be more of a thing again.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            selective enforcement, yep

            though at least we’ve (mostly, maybe) gotten the physically abusive top level people fired…

      12. SC*

        There are also lots of low-profile cases of this happening. My boss used to work at a federal agency, and he said that taxes were the #1 reason people got rejected.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I’m finding #1 a little odd, also. I don’t know anyone who issues a babysitter a W2 (although I have seen it done for au pairs/nannies or housekeepers, which makes more sense to me).

      But Alison is right that there are all sorts of professions in which failing to abide by labor laws around this type of thing can come back in really severe and scary ways. It may be that for whatever reason, the dad is now more fearful of the (rare but serious) possibility of enforcement and is essentially making a risk assessment based on that fear. It’s an awful situation for OP, as well, but I suspect this is more about genuine fear than abstract ethics.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m wonder if the dad is really proposing a W2 or a 1099 — people confuse them all the time. A 1099 would make more sense. (If it’s a W2, he’d also need to pay payroll taxes for her, so I’d bet we’re really talking about a 1099. I’m going to email the letter writer to see if she can clarify and meanwhile I’m going to change it to “a tax form” in the post so we don’t derail on something that might not be correct.)

        But there are indeed people who use tax forms for a few hundred bucks of household help a month. My mom is one of them, with her biweekly cleaning person because, as a CPA, she feels like she has a professional and ethical obligation to strictly follow tax laws.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Oh, then I definitely agree! I’ve seen more people suggest 1099s than W2s for non-full-time home staff, and I agree that that would make more sense from a logic perspective.

          All that said, you’re right that the nature of the filing doesn’t really change the advice for OP or the potential fears of the (soon to be former) employer. It sounds like the employer is really worried about the consequences of enforcement, and even if those consequences may seem remote now, they may become more germane or more serious over time.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Hmmm, I’m now reading about this, and am seeing that because babysitting is a personal service rather than a business expense, you wouldn’t give a babysitter a 1099. It’s a W2 (if you pay them at least $2,100 that year) or nothing (if it’s less than that). I’m outside the limits of my expertise on the tax ramifications of this clearly. Apologies for the wrong info!


          But I don’t think any of this changes the ultimate takeaway — which is that the dad’s concern about the potential risk is understandable.

          1. Would Be Tutor*

            I had never realized any of this at all … I guess if I started tutoring I *would* in fact need to have it be reported on my taxes.

            1. Sally*

              I do some tutoring through an online company, and if I earn $600+(might be a different amount now) in any given year, they report it, and I have to pay taxes on it.

              1. rudster*

                I would be careful about possibly equating “didn’t get a 1099” with “don’t owe taxes on it”. Whether they issue you a 1099 has nothing to do with whether *you* owe taxes on the amount – that is dependent on your personal tax circumstances. The $600 is simply a reporting threshold for the employer.

                1. Oryx*

                  This. I do a lot of freelance writing across various publications. Even if I don’t get a 1099 from them, I’m still required to report the income.

                2. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  @rudster You are correct they are different, but if OP 1 is paid less than $2,100 a year then the single father is not required to issue a W-2. Now if OP 1 does not report it on their taxes that is all on them, but since the father followed the law they did nothing wrong and could not get in trouble.

          2. Director of Alpaca Exams*

            I just hired a part-time nanny (20 hours a week) and I’m having to essentially operate as a small business in order to do it legitimately, including:

            – Getting federal and state EINs.
            – Verifying that she can legally work in the U.S.
            – Setting up payroll. I’ll probably end up paying $1000 to a payroll service specializing in home-based employees because I don’t want to risk messing up the taxes. I took out a loan to pre-fund an account with a year’s worth of her salary, quarterly taxes, etc. so she and I never need to worry about her paychecks bouncing.
            – Getting worker’s comp insurance, since my renter’s insurance doesn’t include it.
            – Drafting, negotiating, and signing a contract.
            – Learning about my state’s labor laws, paid leave laws, etc. (We’re paying well above minimum wage, so that’s not an issue.)

            It’s a lot of work! Our nanny would honestly be just as happy to get cash in hand. But I’m a super-lefty who thinks paying taxes and providing worker protections is generally a good idea, I want to be able to use my dependent care FSA to offset the costs of childcare (which I can only do if those costs are documented and aboveboard), and I want to adopt and foster kids and need to have all my financial ducks in a row for that. LW #1 has all my sympathies—the U.S. rules around income and assets for people getting disability benefits are horrifically draconian and really designed to keep disabled people in poverty, and it absolutely sucks to be caught up in that—but there are plenty of reasons for a parent to go the legal route for hiring a sitter, even if it’s not ideal for that sitter.

            One additional note on the threshold for W-2: it’s $2100/year or $1500/quarter. The new nanny is starting later than we’d hoped, so the temporary sitter we’ve been paying in cash for the last two months is going to just squeak over the $1500 threshold and that means we need to learn how to retroactively put her on payroll and pay her taxes and get all her paperwork and oh god this is why I’m hiring a payroll company.

            1. LQ*

              In addition to workers comp make sure you check your state’s unemployment regulations too. Your payroll company should take care of it for you if they are any good, but definitely check on it. As well as local sick leave laws which if you are in a large city can be a lot stronger than the state laws on sick leave.

              1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

                We’re using GTM, which includes UI. My partner was on UI for a year and a half back in 2008–9 (now making over $100k/yr because UI kept a roof over our head while he looked for a job) so we are very serious about funding it for people who might need it.

                NYC requires two days of paid sick leave, three paid vacation days, and one day off a week. We’re giving our nanny considerably better than that because we’re not monsters.

                1. Peter*

                  NYC requires two days of paid sick leave, three paid vacation days, and one day off a week

                  How do you give your nanny considerably more than 6 days off per week?

                  Is this me from Britain not understanding that the first two limits are monthly (including public holidays presumably) or possibly annually?

            2. Guacamole Bob*

              We went through all this when we had a nanny for a while. It’s a total pain in the neck even if you use a payroll company. I never want to do it again and we stick to once-a-month instead of biweekly housecleaning in part to avoid having to do all the paperwork. (I feel bad keeping her under the paperwork limit, but I think she, like LW, likes being paid without tax forms and what she does for her taxes is her business. I’ve thought about switching to a service, but paying an individual directly means the person actually doing the work is getting a much better hourly rate from us than a service would pay its employees, and probably has better working conditions overall based on what I know of housecleaning companies.)

              I think a lot more people would pay over the table if doing so were easier and more straightforward. As it is you end up stumbling around poorly-designed government websites trying to figure out if you need to register with the state unemployment system and whether that’s something your payroll company can handle for you, and worrying that by trying to do it right you’ve increased your chances that someone will notice that you’re doing it wrong.

              1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

                “I think a lot more people would pay over the table if doing so were easier and more straightforward. ”

                Yup. We paid our nanny over the table, but it’s a chore.

                1. k*

                  Exactly. I’m still scared that I might have messed up some form somewhere with the nanny we paid, with W2 and everything, two years ago. Unemployment indeed was a special pain because there was federal and state, and it was confusing. And then our nannies had difficulty filing electronic returns through H&R because I didn’t have a state EIN, just a federal one; I spent a fair bit of time with the state department of revenue confirming that I didn’t need the state number and I’m sure I’m right on that part at least, but the electronic form wants a number for the state….

              2. Director of Alpaca Exams*

                We went with a worker-owned housecleaning co-op so we didn’t have to do employer paperwork but we’re confident our cleaner is getting a fair shake.

            3. Quill*

              “Verifying that she can legally work in the U.S.”

              Oooh, that’s another can of worms for OP1. It’s very possible that if their employer goes this route it would eventually get back to disability benefits that they were “working,” and therefore either fit to work or “you clearly don’t need full benefits if you can work one day a week!”

              OP, you need both an accountant and any of that lawyer friend’s coworkers who know about disability and employment law.

              1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                Verifying someone is eligible to work, usually just means they have and show you proper work authorization such as a US passport, SS card (that does not say “not valid for work authorization,” legal permanent resident card, or other USCIS document stating someone is authorized to work. Normally you just sign a USCIS form stating what documents the person shows and that someone personally verified the documents. You don’t even have to keep copies of the documents, but most companies will just in case they ever get audited.

                The federal E-verify system is not required for most people. I think the US government and some state governments require it of their agencies and/or contractors, but someone hiring for a personal service would most likely not have to use it.

                All that to say that verifying work authorization would not likely get back to SSA.

              2. Aitch Arr*

                They’d just need to fill out an I-9 and have the employee show proper ID(s).

                E-Verify is not likely to be used, unless the payroll company provides that as well.

            4. gracak*

              And the nanny might not realize it, but working under the table means you’re not paying into your social security, which means less money if you become disabled, no unemployment, and no protection if you get hurt at work.

              The benefits are FAR outweighed by how bad it can be if something goes wrong. People scoff and says they will never see their retirement benefits anyway, but my parents generation are also retiring and I can’t believe how many of them don’t realize that they won’t get any social security benefits to speak of if they worked under the table their whole lives.

          3. Confused about this*

            I apologize if this is somehow an obvious question, but why don’t I need to file a 1099 when I get a contractor to work on my home, a plumber, a company to prune my trees, etc.? Some of those cost over $2100 over the course of a year.

            1. Sarra*

              The contractor is running their own business, and they take care of all the tax implications on their end. It’s like going to the barbershop, or using a real estate agent – you pay their business instead of hiring them as an employee.

              1. Clisby*

                Yes, it’s the same as the difference between hiring an individual to clean your house and paying in cash, and hiring a cleaning service that handles the tax withholding, issues W2s, etc.

              2. bearing*

                Aren’t a lot of self-employed housecleaners also going to count as contractors, though? I feel like there’s something gendered here about an independent handyman, plumber, or tree-pruner being assumed to be above-board “contractors” while babysitters and housecleaners seem to fall into another category.

                1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  If the babysitter and/or housecleaners have set up their own incorporated business, then you would just pay the business the agreed upon rate you cut a check to Babies LLC for $75 (rate of $15 per hour for 5 hours.) Then Babies LLC (owned by Jane Smith), who has technically hired Jane Smith as an employee, is the entity responsible for paying payroll taxes. The same would if Jane Smith was incorporated as Cleaners LLC.

                  Most contractors have incorporated a business of some sort, so you are not technically hiring “Joe Plumber”, you are hiring “Joe Plumber LLC.” But if the “contractor” had not set up a business and was just working as themselves then if you paid them over $600 you would most likely be required to issue a 1099.

                2. Adric*

                  I’d say a big part of that is the handyman/tree-trimmer type stuff tends to be one offs. They’re only coming out when you specifically call for them, rather than being expected to be there daily/weekly.

                  I would assume that a regular lawn care/gardening service would have similar issues with housekeeping/babysitting.

                3. Librarian of SHIELD*

                  I’ve seen several independent plumbers or landscapers who have filed small business paperwork, but I’ve never known of a babysitter who did. There’s a difference to how society views those kinds of jobs, and I think that plays into whether a person is likely to consider creating a business for it.

                4. Grapey*

                  No, self-employed has a specific legal meaning. It doesn’t mean ‘single person working under the table’.

                  In my experience more people want their ‘independent contractor’ to be insured so they don’t get ghosted without recourse if the handyman royally screws up. Or a tree limb falling on their head and suing to cover medical costs. It’s not that they are ‘assumed’ to be above board, but that people actively seek out above board companies for higher risk work – which is usually done by men.

                  Lots of people obviously don’t think babysitting and housecleaning are that risky for those workers.

                5. Natalie*

                  CmdrShepard4ever, that’s not correct – if the work you paid for triggers a 1099 requirement, it doesn’t matter if the recipient has incorporated or not. 1099s are only issued for payments made in the course of conducting your own trade or business, not for personal services.

                6. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

                  When I worked as a pet sitter, I ran my business as a sole proprietorship and filed a Schedule C on my personal taxes, along with a variety of tedious state and municipal forms. (An LLC would have been a better idea, but I found the process for starting one overwhelming so I didn’t get around to it at the time. I have since closed the business and gone back to having a regular job, and don’t need any advice about how to form an LLC at this time.)

                  Honestly, I was never entirely clear on the whole contractor/employee/business split and if I got it “right” but I figured if I was reporting the money as income on my taxes I was at least showing good intentions. (And since my business involved services, had no inventory, and I didn’t try to deduct any expenses for it even though I probably should have, I figured my audit risk was pretty low.)

                  I’m never sure when hiring someone like a landscaper or a house cleaner how much checking I’m supposed to be doing to make sure that they have a “real” company. I mean, I assume people do, because I did, but I’m not actually sure how much verification I’m expected to do. (I don’t verify that the local coffee shop is “really” a business before buying coffee there either, so there’s clearly a line somewhere in terms of what people are supposed to do to verify.)

                7. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  @natalie Thank you for the correct. So if I hire someone like a plumber, handyman, painter, to preform personal services in my home (over $600) I would never have to issue a 1099 regardless of if they conduct business as a sole proprietor or an incorporated business? That is good to know.

                8. Jeffrey Deutsch*

                  Yes, a self-employed housecleaner is an independent contractor.

                  Businesses (including sole proprietorships), not individuals, issue 1099s. So if you have a self-employed person, say, cleaning your house (not your business premises), you don’t issue either a W-2 or a 1099. No W-2 because they’re not an employee and no 1099 because you’re not a business.

                  NB: You can’t just decide the people you pay are independent contractors; there are several tests. If you provide most or all of the tools and supplies, if they can’t bring along their own assistants, if you reserve the right to give specific instructions on not just what they do but also how they do it*, if you’re their main “customer” (and/or if you restrict their other customers), they’re your employees.

                  [*] The big thing for babysitters. How many parents just say “Here’s our kids, just take care of them ’till we get back”?

                9. doreen*

                  It’s not that babysitters and housecleaners can’t be contractors/self-employed – they can be , but often aren’t.
                  For a babysitter to be a contractor/self-employed , the babysitting would have to be different than described in the letter. For example, if I took care of two children from different families after school , at my home and with my rules/methods* , I would be self-employed. IOW, it would functionally be like a family day care, but smaller ( and I picked 2 children because where I live, no registration/license is required for 2 children). If I babysit for multiple families, none of which pay me more than $75/month , I won’t become an employee of any of them.

                  * For example, I know someone who didn’t want her child to have an afternoon snack. The self-employed babysitter took the position that she wasn’t going give some kids a snack and leave one out , so that person needed to look elsewhere for childcare. The babysitter would just fill the spot with a different child.

            2. Lucky black cat*

              If it’s anything like the UK, the answer is: because they are already operating either as a self-employed freelancer or company. You can’t employ them because you’re taking out a contract with an existing business.

              Whereas if someone isn’t freelance and is working in your house, that’s very different – especially if they only work for you and not a variety of people.

            3. Natalie*

              With possibly some rare exceptions, individual taxpayers don’t issue 1099s – they’d issued by businesses (including sole proprietors) and organizations to document certain business expenses – they’ll be deducting it, so the recipient has to pay on it.

          4. Christy*

            Based on reading this, though, I think there’s a case that the OP is self-employed and so in fact does not require a W2 or a 1099.

            1. MK*

              In that case, though, the OP would have to file for her own taxes (or do whatever a self-employed person in her country/state has to do to operate legally). As she apparently has no intention of doing that, in case the authorities start investigating, the family might find themselves in trouble anyway, or at least have to go through a lengthy process to clear themselves. And the whole issue is to avoid legal hassle, I am guessing they won’t be reassured.

      2. Half-Caf Latte*

        We tend to be pretty conservative about who we hire for lots of household work, preferring to hire bonded/insured individuals or companies. This absolutely costs us more. Folks on the local facebook group judged us when we asked for bonded/insured housekeepers, and many of the people offering the services had no idea what we meant.

        Both the tall Americano and I are licensed by professional boards with moral/ethics requirements, and work in fields that people assume means a much larger paycheck than we actually see. We also have a nice home in an upscale neighborhood, and have a (perhaps irrational) fear of folks adding it up to equal an easy target for an injury lawsuit.

        I doubt this is the exact scenario facing the OP, but I’m sharing it to give some context to why people might choose to pay above the table.

        1. miss_chevious*

          Yeah, I’m a lawyer and insist upon the same thing. I also firmly believe that the system is there to protect workers, as well — I don’t want to take the chance that I am contributing to the trafficking of domestic workers when I hire someone to clean or do repairs.

    3. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Yeah, it was very weird to me that this guy wanted to go through the trouble of issuing a W2 (?!) for babysitting services. Surely that’s treated like any other cash business, i.e. it’s up to the person earning the cash to report that on their taxes. (I’m in Canada, so maybe that’s different in the US, though.)

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Ah, that’s not how the law works in the U.S. An employer has to issue a W2 to their employee if:
        1. The employer withheld income, Medicare, or social security tax for that employee (even if the employee only worked for 1 day that year);
        2. If the employer would have withheld income, Medicare, or social security tax, but the employee claimed an exemption from withholding on their W4; or
        3. If the employer paid someone at least $600 (regardless of the form of payment), even if the employer withheld no taxes.

        It sounds like OP was making more than $85/month, which easily triggers the requirement to issue a W2. The penalties for failure to issue a W2 can add up, but for small employers like OP’s scenario, folks are often more afraid of the secondary consequences of failing to file.

        1. Turanga Leela*

          Can you share a source on this, PCBH? I’m seeing $2100 as the threshold for W-2s on the IRS website.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I was relying on this:

            But your and others’ comments made me go back and double check, and I missed the provision re: household employees who are paid in cash (which I think applies to OP, maybe?). For those folks, you’re right that the threshold is $2,100 in cash wages per year. So if OP is earning less than $175/month, it may be worth following up with (i.e. “educating”) the employer to clarify that there’s slightly different criteria.

      2. Red Pajama*

        I’m not sure that’s true for babysitters. According to H&R Block:

        If a babysitter or nanny is self-employed, you don’t have reporting or withholding. The babysitters still must report their income to the IRS. However, you don’t need to issue a Form 1099-MISC to the babysitter. This is because you aren’t paying the babysitter in the course of your trade or business. Payments to babysitters are usually personal in nature.

        If the babysitter is your employee, you must provide a Form W-2 if one of these is true:

        You paid the employee at least $2,100 in 2018.
        You paid the employee wages of any amount, and you withheld federal tax.
        If you meet one of those rules, you must issue a W2 regardless of the age of the babysitter.

      3. Felix*

        I’m Canadian too and was thinking the same thing.
        Could LW not just claim to be self-employed, so that her “boss” is really a customer to whom she is providing a service in exchange for cash, rather than being an employee of his?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Not with the way the US laws work on this. But the issue isn’t *how* the income is reported; it’s that it’s getting reported at all, which could jeopardize her disability benefits because there are limits on how much you can earn while still collecting disability. (At least I assume that’s the concern.)

          1. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish*

            The issue is that she is receiving income at all. Whether it’s reported or not, she is required to report it on her tax return (in the US.) Being paid “under the table” doesn’t change anything about that, it just makes it less likely that she’ll be caught.

            1. gracak*

              You’re not taxed on government benefits and you don’t need to file a tax return at all if you make under 12k in a year and you’re under 65.

              The problem is that if she is on SSI benefits, whatever you earn then comes out of your benefits. If she’s on SSDI (for disability, not low income) you CAN earn up to $1200 a month before it cuts into your benefits. Which is why I’m confused whether she is on SSI or SSDI.

              I would suggest she actually talk to someone at the social security administration about it, and get the facts.

          2. boop the first*

            It’s absolutely a concern, but if it was THE concern, she would have mentioned it. She only seems upset that she has to share a portion with the government.

            1. Natalie*

              I don’t believe so. This sentence: “I’ve done research and I’d lose 50 cents for every dollar I made after the first $85.” is referring to their disability benefits getting cut, not to taxes.

        2. Lucky black cat*

          You can’t just claim to be self-employed! You would have to actually BE self-employed to get away with that!

          1. londonedit*

            Yes, and (in the UK anyway) being self-employed means doing a tax return and declaring all of your income, which presumably is precisely what the LW wants to avoid doing.

          2. Bree*

            In Canada, I think you can just report self-employment income on your taxes to a certain threshold. Once you cross it, it gets more complicated.

            But this wouldn’t necessarily help the LW with the benefits clawback problem.

        3. Colette*

          I don’t think you can do that in Canada, either, since the employer is setting your hours and otherwise deciding when and how you work.

    4. Reluctant Manager*

      A freelancer may have some kind of contract, which may include saying that you’re not entitled to benefits. This may be splitting hairs, but I suspect this would be a situation for a 1099, with a reporting threshold of about $600. Any other sitter would be in the same boat of having takw-home pay affected–so maybe your fee just went up to cover the taxes.

    5. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      So… I just had a kid. I haven’t had to hire a babysitter for a one off night out yet, but when I do, cash will be ok? This is freaking me out that now I need to figure out tax stuff.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        You should be fine as long as you’re not paying a single babysitter $600+ per year.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Which is a fun game where I live – babysitting rates are such that a standard evening out with two kids is about $100, so it’s necessary to have more than one sitter, if you want to go out more than once every other month.

      2. Grapey*

        You will be fine as long as you don’t seek reimbursement from a pre-tax childcare spending account set up by your employer.

      3. RaeaSunshine*

        Right?!? I’m still 100% single and childless and reading this thread has made me feel anxious and like I need to start researching ASAP!

        This is why me and my close friends that are new parents have a deal where I provide ‘free’ childcare a few times a month, and they feed me ‘free’ dinner 3-4x/week when I’m over there hanging out. We all got sooo overwhelmed by the process and paperwork, that this was easier. I will gladly accept food instead of cash if it will allow me to avoid this process!

    6. Kisses*

      I can’t get over that myself. Once or twice a month?? Aren’t nearly all babysitting jobs based under the table so to speak? What do you do for the neighborhood 13/14 yr old who makes a few extra dollars babysitting? They wouldn’t even need to file taxes, and when I had my first job at 17 I didn’t even need to report it through my parents (at the time) since it was under a hundred a week.

      1. Pretzelgirl*

        I find it strange too. I babysat all the time in my teens, in college and early 20s. Now we have a sitter come once or twice a month too. I seriously cant imagine asking her to fill out tax paperwork. At the end of the day it almost doesn’t seem worth it.

        I can totally understand if you have a full time nanny or sitter. I had a friend that was a nanny for a family that had their own business. They just put her on the payroll to have taxes easily taken out.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          Also just because people don’t usually report it, does not mean you were not required to by law. Speeding is a perfect example, almost everyone does it at some point, but it is still against the law. As others have pointed out, you do not need to issue a W-2 if you pay the babysitter/housecleaner less than $2100 a year. But almost everyone is required to report any income they make on their taxes. Usually if you make less than the individual exemption you are not required to file a tax return.

          But once you make more than that and are required to file a return, you are supposed to report all income even if it did not generate a W-2 or 1099. Do people under report cash payments of course all the time, is it likely that they will get caught, probably not unless you are under reporting by a huge margin. But this is why money laundering is such a big deal, people who make money on the black market need a way to report and be able to spend that money.

          1. Natalie*

            Usually if you make less than the individual exemption you are not required to file a tax return.

            Relevant, the big exception to this is self employment income, where the filing requirement starts at $400.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              Is it $400 total income or from a single self employment income stream?

              If I make $300 from my self employed snow removal business, and $300 from my laundry pick up and drop off service, would I still have to file?

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I was under the impression that it’s cumulative, but this is probably a better question for a CPA. I’m also a little worried we’re derailing?

        2. Dahlia*

          This is only an issue if you pay one person >2100$ per year ($175 per month)
          If you pay less than this per year, you can just pay cash no issues.

      2. blink14*

        I think the problem is that she is on disability – an average teenager babysitting wouldn’t have to deal with it, or someone doing a side job while employed full or part time (1099 could come into play).

      3. Librarian of SHIELD*

        A teenager babysitting on weekends as their only employment is almost certainly not earning the minimum income that would require them to file a tax return, so I don’t think that’s worth worrying about here.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I babysat, but I don’t think I ever earned more than $2,100 from a single family (although there were years when I made around that or higher from overall babysitting). So I suspect most families that employ 13-14 year olds, never get near the W2 threshold for each individual babysitter.

      5. Grapey*

        If one needs to track childcare expenses for any reason (child support, flex spending account from an employer), it has to show to whom the money goes.

        Like if I pay $5 for Advil and want it reimbursed by my pre-tax health care FSA, I can’t just say “I paid $5 cash for legit health needs, I pinky swear, why do you need a receipt?”

    7. Bree*

      This was my immediate thought, too. And if it’s genuinely normal babysitting once or twice a month, I can’t imagine it even causing much of an optics issue. At least to my knowledge, the norm for this kind of work is not to bother with that kind of paperwork for such a small amount. I figure it’s what most parents are doing without even realizing they should be doing anything else – it’s just that the LW in question may be under extra scrutiny because she receives benefits. And that’s not fair, and doing real harm.

      If it were me I’d keep paying in cash, and weather the very minor storm in the unlikely event it arrived.

      1. MK*

        The storm may not be minor, and its arrival not as unlikely as you think. I think it’s interesting that the father in now insisting to pay over the table after the arrangement has apparently been going on for some time. The OP (rather uncharitably) takes it for granted that he just got an attack of inconvenient and irrelevant ethical qualms, but it’s much more likely that he was warned he might be under scrutiny, or that he could get into real trouble if it was revealed, etc.

        1. Quill*

          To be fair to OP, what he’s suggesting doing could result in OP’s benefits being taken away entirely: from OP’s perspective trying to move this to over the table income is putting their health and safety on the line due to his response to a less life threatening issue.

          1. fposte*

            But he’s not responsible for the OP; he’s responsible for himself and his kids. It’s not his obligation to keep taking on risk for the OP. I understand she’s in a really tough position, but “please be sketchy for me” is a request to which it’s okay to say no.

            1. Quill*

              Yes, it’s just that I see people coming down on the OP, who is allowed to have emotions about this situation, as being uncharitable about this. People do not write in to Allison because they are asking for advice on something that has no emotional impact on them.

              People have been FAR less snippy here about employees who wrote in because they knowingly broke rules and were fired, then wrote in full of self justification about how it wasn’t *that* bad, than they’re being about this person trying to cobble together enough money to survive.

              (See the frankly numerous comments about “wants to work tax free” and “you need to do xy and z via governmental program that may or may not exist in your state,” that completely miss the point that OP is 1) already an expert in navigating disability benefits for their state and medical condition by virtue of actually accomplishing the task of getting on disability, 2) Facing a very real possibility that either the loss of this income or the switch to having it reported to the government could be disastrous to their health or their ability to live independently.)

              TLDR: having empathy requires knowing that it’s both okay to ask for help and that it’s also okay to not give it, which you’ve demonstrated but some other commenters have not.

              1. A*

                Sure, but I do think that it’s important to note that in this case ‘asking for help’ translates to asking someone to continue illegal behavior they have expressed interest in stopping. Is it genuinely ok to ask something to make that sacrifice, especially if backed by a sense of entitlement to a certain response? I don’t know. I don’t think it’s as clear cut.

              2. Engineer Girl*

                It seems to me that the OP was angry (Vs disappointed) at being told “no”. That means a bit of entitlement toward “yes”.
                All good things come to an end. That’s how life works. Instead of being grateful for this time of extra income OP acts like she deserves it continuing.

              3. Avasarala*

                I really feel for OP and am in favor of a universal basic income system that allows all (including people with disabilities like OP) to work or not, as they choose to and desire.

                But she sounds resentful that someone’s need to follow the law hinders her (“Why are their ethics more important than my needs?”)–really he needs to follow the law as well, and she has no right to demand that someone break the law and risk their own family’s wellbeing. This isn’t jaywalking. OP has my sympathy, but not the moral high ground here.

          2. Ain't Miss Behavin'*

            And from his perspective, he risks putting his family’s legal and financial well-being, thus potentially their health and safety, on the line because she wants to work while collecting disability benefits without being responsible for the tax burden. This is not his circus to manage.

          3. A*

            Why on earth is that put on the Dad? It is not his moral, ethical, or otherwise obligation. He has every right to, and understandably so, decide to stop doing something illegal. Shouldn’t have to have a reason, and LW’s health concerns are irrelevant to that. I feel for LW, but their circumstances don’t lock others into illegal activity.

            In this case – hate the game, not the players.

      2. Bree*

        Addition: I’m in Canada, and I’m gathering penalties on this may be stricter in the US. Still never heard of anyone going through all the trouble for an occasional babysitter, though!

      3. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’ll throw in another possibility : if it was a nasty, contested divorce, he could be doing this in response to issues with his ex. Who could be trying to reduce child support claiming he’s not spending that much. Or claiming the woman spending all that time there is a romantic partner not childcare. Or trying to get him into legal/tax trouble to reopen custody decision. I’ve seen some awful behavior from splitting couples, even without being a lawyer.

      4. CL Cox*

        People have had to withdraw consideration for government positions due to not paying payroll taxes on hired help. Regular, everyday people have had to pay heavy fines and face real jail time over it (and there are many professions where it will cost you your job – tax fraud is a federal crime, so if it requires a clearance, licensing, or bonding, you will lose your job and most likely never work in that field again). It’s not a minor storm by any stretch of the imagination.

    8. Emily Elizabeth*

      I actually don’t think OP needs to be paid over the table, and the dad just may not realize it! I’m a preschool teacher and have worked as a professional babysitter and nanny before. I’m not a lawyer or accountant by any means, but from my knowledge and experience, you only need to pay taxes (on both sides) if the family pays you more than $1900 a year, and/or if you work for them in a regular nannying “employee” role (eg set hours and responsibilities, time off, benefits). Once a month babysitting is unlikely to fall into either category. I would recommend talking to the dad and seeing what his motivation is for paying over the table. I babysat once a week for a first-time parent who tried to put me on her taxes, but it was just because she thought it had to be all by the book, and once I explained the tax minimum (and that she was only going to end up paying me a few hundred by the end of the year), she was happy to keep paying in cash, knowing it was legitimate.

      1. Natalie*

        Yes, the actual dollar figures are very relevant here – for 2019 it’s $2100/year or $1000 in any quarter. So it really depends on how much money the OP is earning.

        1. Kes*

          And also, if the amount is only slightly over, it may make sense to figure out how to make it not be over rather than doing extensive tax setup which will cost OP benefits, or her just stopping work. Even reducing her rate slightly might be better than losing all that income, or maybe occasionally he uses a different backup babysitter to keep OP under the limit

      2. annony*

        That’s what I was wondering. I have never heard of issuing a tax form for babysitting once or twice a month for a family friend. Unless it is an extremely long day I don’t really see how it would be enough to trigger that requirement.

      3. Librarian1*

        I think you’re supposed to report any income you earn, regardless of amount, on your year-end tax form.

      4. gracak*

        But you weren’t on SSI benefits at the same time. They want you to report everything, even an extra $20 for babysitting.

        If she is on SSDI however, she can earn some side money without it lowering her benefits.

      5. Darcy F*

        Yeah, I find myself thinking that the dad both doesn’t understand the legality of the situation, and may not understand the effect on OP.

    9. The Original K.*

      I had the same thought you did, @Blue. I’m on the older end of the millennia generation and was a one-girl babysitter’s club in my tweens, teens, and early 20s (lots of different families, never full-time nannying – I was always a student). No one gave paying me cash a thought; it was just how it was. I had my first over-the-table job when I was 15 but I was babysitting regularly years before that.

      1. Anne of Green Gables*

        I like the “one-girl babysitter’s club”–me too! I did a ton of babysitting from age 13 through graduating college, most of which fell in the 1990s. I was also always paid cash. (Or checks!) Lots of families, so no one family would have made the current threshold, though I don’t know what it was at that time. I did have a regular thing during the summer with two mornings a week each with 2 different families, but it’s highly unlikely I hit any threshold at those wages. I had a job with regular forms & reporting starting at age 17 but my baby sitting money was never on any forms.

        1. The Original K.*

          Yeah, as I’m thinking about it, it may be that I didn’t hit the threshold with any one family in a given year since there were so many. I baby-sat for some families for many years (like from middle school until I graduated from high school and went off to college), but it was always weekends, sometimes longer days in summer but never all day every day.

          I’m going to ask my friends with kids about this. I’ve been with some of them when they’ve paid their weekend night babysitters and they’ve given them cash or checks.

      2. blackcat*

        I did this, too, but definitely reported the $$ in “other income.”

        The one time I regularly cared for a kid and the parents decided to (retroactively) do it above the table in order to claim a tax credit, they declared that my pay was actually my pay + both sets of taxes (since they didn’t withhold. The amount was low enough that they did not have to issue me a W2, but they did pay the employment taxes.

    10. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Yes I thought it was odd as well, but if he works for the government they have very strict guidelines and if he has security clearance, he may not want to risk losing that and/or his job.

      Regardless, OP is being unfair by blaming him for her hardships. Yes what she’s going through is difficult, and I can understand her frustration, but calling him privileged and making him responsible for for her problems is not okay.

      1. Jennifer*

        I agree with that. Just because he’s in a different situation from her doesn’t necessarily make him “privileged.” Who knows what anyone is going through? Plus, he doesn’t make the laws.

      2. Alice*

        The fact that our society forces the OP to live in destitution and shiver at sub-64 degrees because she is perfectly willing but unable to work is what’s unfair. I would not feel right condemning any reaction of hers whatsoever to that.

        1. A*

          What? Being a victim of extremely unfair circumstances and societal flaws (which I definitely do think LW is) does not translate to a complete lack of accountability for your reactions. Especially when directed at others. I don’t understand this perspective at all. I’m assuming I’m misunderstanding!

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I don’t know very many people who when challenged by wild unfairness that would have perfect reactions to everything at all times. And I am not sure that forgiveness and understanding from others removes a person’s accountability. I think that a person can be forgiving and understanding and still carry the expectation of accountability toward another person.

            Personally, I would say that I have failed in this regard in that I have been in tight spots and had reactions that I probably would not have had if I were not in a tight spot. By luck/good fortune/whatever, people have managed to find it in themselves to understand why I reacted the way I did.

            I believe that the forgiveness and understanding we give is the forgiveness and understanding we will get coming back to us. And all of us are one medical diagnosis away from being the OP.

            As far as OP is concerned she is trying to figure out how to handle this situation. She did ask for the advice of a wisely-chosen third party (Alison). Something that I am a big fan of and often recommend. That to me says that OP is trying to find a legit way to handle the problem.

            Honestly, I have no idea how OP is managing all she has to manage. Just regarding the 64 degree house, where I live in subzero weather that means the house is probably around 45 degrees or lower. You absolutely cannot run your heat that low in my area without having serious problems. Prolonged exposure to cold can be demoralizing to the point it breaks a person’s spirit, it breaks them at their core. I can’t imagine what prolonged cold plus health issues would do to a person.

      3. Dahlia*

        Saying someone is privileged is not morally insulting them. I have white privilege because I’m white. That’s just a fact.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I am privileged because I have a job. It’s really easy not to think about all the different ways we are privileged.

      4. Penny Parker*

        He is not responsible for her problems but he is definitely “privileged”. Any middle class person is indeed privileged. Most of those commenting on this board are indeed privileged. Look around at the world and realize what a small percentage of the world’s population has all of the benefits the middle class has, and you will clearly see your privilege then. One of the things which drives the resentment of the poor towards the middle class is your outright REFUSAL to recognize how privileged you actually are!

        1. Teri*

          Then of course there are those that just basically resent anyone who is doing better than them, and choose to couch it in the whole ” privileged” debate… with privileged now being used as an insulting term. Just because the person offering the babysitting job can afford to pay a sitter does not make them privileged.

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I mean, he is privileged. But the issue folks are concerned with is that OP may be attributing a particular “ethical stance” (in this case, compliance with federal tax law) to that person’s privilege instead of understanding that he may have other, legitimate, non-class-privilege-related reasons for his change in conduct.

      6. Atalanta0jess*

        Oh my GOD. It’s not ok to call him privileged? Are you serious? It’s not ok for a young woman living on a pittance of disability pay, who can’t afford to turn her heat up above 64 degrees, to call someone who presumably makes a middle class income privileged?

        That’s truly inane. She is correctly naming the fact that the person who employs her for domestic labor has more financial privilege than her. (And also gender privilege, and probalby also able bodied privilege).

        When it becomes “not ok” to label privilege where it exists, we are unable to examine social dynamics or work against inequity. Please don’t discourage people from naming privilege. Doing so reinforces biased structures that keep marginalized people down.

          1. Atalanta0jess*

            Not the point, my friend. Really not the point. Who do you wish to support with your comment here? People who wish to sweep class dynamics under the rug? That’s not a good look.

            1. Janet, Sower of Chaos*

              This is advice column fan fiction. We have no idea how much money he has, or how precarious it is, or what pressures he’s under. All we actually know about him is that he occasionally hires a babysitter (while he goes out to do coke in the bathroom of an exclusive club? while he works extra shifts in the salt mine? who knows?) and is concerned about legal trouble. The LW calls him “privileged” but he or she might not be privy to all his hypothetical troubles. We don’t even know that the LW is a woman! Alison’s generic “she” is her personal style guide, not data.

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          Yes I am serious. Why is it his problem to resolve because she’s in a dire financial situation. Blaming him for her situation is NOT OKAY, and calling him names and shifting the blame is NOT OKAY. I don’t care if he’s a freakin Rockefeller, she’s placing fault at the wrong feet.

          1. A*

            Ya, I don’t disagree that the Dad is most likely privileged, but I fail to see how that is relevant. He has every right to stop doing something illegal!

    11. Quill*

      It probably depends on the level of scrutiny the person is under.

      So far as I know, most minors who babysit are paid in cash and there’s no record of transactions, but most minors who babysit aren’t doing it for someone who might be under increased scrutiny because of their job.

      Then there’s whatever complications might arise for OP’s benefits if whoever is in charge of their disability benefits discovers that they’ve been, heavy quotes here, “working,” but it doesn’t sound like that factored into their boss’ decision.

      1. Jennifer*

        I’ve heard of politicians getting in trouble for hiring full-time employees who were undocumented immigrants and paying them under the table, but not for having a teen babysit once or twice a month and giving them a few bucks.

        1. Law Office Anon*

          But she’s not a “teen” babysitter. She’s an adult receiving disability benefits. There is the potential here for some serious blowback on both of them, which OP is rationalizing away with “but I need the money” and “a bunch of unrelated people think it’s fine!”

          1. Jennifer*

            Either way, she’s an adult doing a favor for another adult. I think it’s ridiculous to give her a tax form. If the dad is so worried, I suggested maybe taking her to dinner or doing other things for her that she normally doesn’t get to splurge on above.

            1. Roscoe*

              Its not a favor though. She is doing this to get paid. If I’m painting my neighbors living room, and they pay me, its not me doing them a favor

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              How is she doing a favor when she’s being fairly compensated? This is an employment relationship, and it’s odd to characterize it as a non-commercial relationship. Based on OP’s letter, it doesn’t sound like they’re friends or even social acquaintances outside of their commercial relationship. Taking her to dinner does not address the dad’s potential non-compliance with tax law.

              1. doreen*

                She says she’s known him forever, so that sounds like they are at least acquaintances. But the “taking her out to dinner” (or other gifts) thing is risky if the dinner/gifts are tied to her babysitting and he’s under scrutiny – people often don’t realize this , but you are actually supposed to report barter income and payments. Which still might leave the OP in the same position

            3. M Bananas*

              If LW is getting paid then they’re not really ‘doing a guy a favor’. Its not really helpful to mis-characterize the situation or minimize the dad’s concerns.
              Also, taking LW out to eat is effectively choosing for LW what to spend the money on. What if LW needs to turn up the heat instead? What if LW decides instead to open a savings account with the babysitting money for emergencies?

              This really sucks LW, I’m sorry this is happening to you.

              1. Quill*

                What if LW needs to keep the money in their mattress to pay for a medical need /treatment that their benefits would never cover, or would take multiple years to approve?

                If it truly was a “favor” treating LW to a nice dinner would be appropriate, but the way it’s been going it’s part of their basic survival income.

          2. Quill*

            Yeah, there isn’t a way to go forward with this that doesn’t have legal or financial risk for either of them, whether above or below the table.

            And OP is, understandably, crushed.

    12. Mia*

      Yeah, I had a real WTF reaction to this as well. I made about $100 a month babysitting as a teen and it was always under the table. That was the norm in general in my area.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        But did you make $100/month from a single family? The total amount earned, as well as the number of families/people paying for those services, make a difference in whether the W2 requirements come into play. If you were like me and all the other kid-babysitters, we either (1) earned nowhere near the required amount to trigger a W2, or (2) didn’t earn anywhere near that amount from a single family.

    13. Jennifer*

      I thought the same. I babysat off and on when I was a teen and no one ever asked me to fill out tax forms. If she were a full-time nanny or a maid that would be totally different. My dad didn’t make the kid that came by to cut the lawn fill out a form either. It’s really just doing a favor for a friend.

      What if they did a barter system? Like she babysits, he buys her a dinner out since that’s something she splurges on, pays her heating bill, or does something for her around the house?

      I do get where this dad is coming from but I think he might be overthinking things a bit.

      1. StregaMama*

        Unless, as has been posited elsewhere, he needs that level of documentation to access his benefits – like childcare FSA’s, work-sponsored assistance programs, tax credits, etc. It absolutely sucks for OP, but for all we know it sucks for the parent as well.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Barter is also taxable.

        One thing I see is OP can look for a Time Bank in her area. Their exchanges are not based on money. They exchange in units of time. So OP baby sits a massage therapist kid for an hour and gets a one hour massage in return. That is a simple example of how it works. Because you can put your hours in an account, you can use your hours with anyone in the same Time Bank.

        Time Banking is not taxed by the IRS because how do you figure it out the dollars to be taxed when there are no dollar amounts involved.

    14. Roscoe*

      I’m not a parent, however I don’t think its fair to say the minimal risk is worth it. There are all kinds of reaasons that it isn’t. Does it suck for OP? Sure. But the system isn’t the fault of the people paying her. You shouldn’t expect them to accept risk because her situation isn’t great.

    15. Mrrpaderp*

      Dad probably has to report childcare costs to a lot of sources – the Court (for child support reasons), the IRS (for childcare-related deductions), his employer (if he’s taking advantage of a flex spending account), not to mention his ex if she’s in the picture. I’d bet his lawyer found out he’s been paying for childcare under the table and advised him to stop.

  3. professor*

    regarding LW1: who on earth is giving W-2s to someone who babysits at most 1-2 times a month? Most people hire teenagers for that anyhow….

    and I was not aware that the Sunday before Thanksgiving was a thing, you know, more so then any other Sunday? I mean, an all weekend day retreat sounds awful, but….

    1. Perpal*

      technically if you’re paying anyone over like, $400 a year in the US you are supposed to pay taxes etc (unless they are a legal entity – independent contractor type). It takes a little bit of figuring out but isn’t extremely hard.
      The disability system is crappy and actively discourages people from working for pretty much the problems mentioned above. But, breaking the law is also crappy?

      1. Red Pajama*

        You don’t actually have to pay taxes for “household employees” if you pay less than something like 2,000/year to one person. It seems like maybe OP could arrange with dad not to work more than that. (Not a lawyer, but a hirer of both part-time, paid-in-cash babysitters and taxable nannies.)

        1. Perpal*

          Yeah my number was off; it seems like LW1 could either work less than that, or ask to raise rates enough to compensate for the difference in doing things officially

          1. Lioness*

            The issue isn’t losing that amount of specific pay that raising the rates will offset. The issue is she’d lose benefits from the reporting.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        To be fair, the SSDI system actively discourages people from working because that’s the purpose of the program—to cover folks who can no longer work due to a severe disability and who do not qualify for retirement benefits.

        The problem is that—like nearly all federal safety net stipends or insurance payments—SSDI is underfunded. As a result, it often compounds poverty for folks who need assistance from those safety nets to survive (although, in most cases, those payments are better than $0 and can often be the difference between life and death.)

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          People on SSDI are permitted to earn up to a certain amount of money without it causing an issue with their benefits. I have a friend who receives SSDI and it’s not enough for her to survive, so she works part time for an employer who is willing to schedule around her myriad of medical appointments.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            That was what I thought. I’m basing all my info off random Dave Ramsey calls, but I thought I had heard people call in who said they can work but have to earn less than $12,000-16,000. Babysitting a few times a month doesn’t sound like something that would exceed that, under or over the table. (Just looked it up now, and I found $1,070 per mo was the limit to qualify for SSDI, but the source did say individual situations vary.)

            1. nonegiven*

              SSI is needs based, so there is a limit to what you can own, like $2k and a beater worth less than $4500. But I thought you could earn up to $7xx before losing benefits.

              1. Hopeful Future Accountant*

                As someone currently on SSI – I am not allowed to have a job at all because for every $2 I earn, I lose $1 of benefits. The most you can get from SSI if living at home (which I do) is $500/month. If you live on your own, it’s $900/month ( which must cover everything from rent to groceries to any other expenses you might have).

                In conclusion: it’s a shitty system that makes it impossible for people who might otherwise be able to work a few hours a week but still need to assistance to afford necessities. (We then get bashed on by able-bodied people for not working and depending on government benefits anyway).

        2. MJ*

          There is a big difference between SSDI and SSI. Both are for people who are or become disabled and are unable to work.

          SSDI is a program for people who have worked for a set number of hours and paid into the program via Social Security deductions. The more you’ve worked and paid in, the more your SSDI payments. With SSDI, you can work and earn up to $1220/month (for 2019; $2040 if you’re blind) with no change to your SSDI payment. However, if you make more than that amount (called a ‘substantial gainful activity’) it’s assumed you can go back to full-time work and you are taken off the SSDI program. (Should things change, you can reapply.) [There’s also SSDI for dependents but that’s a different ball of wax.]

          SSI is for people who either a) did not pay enough Social Security deductions or b) have never been able to work AND who are living at or below poverty level. SSI income is fixed at a max of $771/month (2019). Because SSI is designed for the poorest people, the work restrictions are different. As LW #1 mentions, after the first $85 of work income, the SSI payment is reduced by 50 cents for every dollar earned. This is difficult but most people on SSI usually qualify for other (usually state-based) help such as Section 8 housing, SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid, and utility assistance.

          Side note: Everyone (in the US) should be aware of their Social Security status. You should get regular letters – and you can find it online at ssa dot gov – telling you how much you’ve paid in and how much you will get when you retire, and how much you’d get if you have to apply for SSDI, which is a percentage of the retirement amount.

          1. Kimmybear*

            Does SSA still mail letters? I thought they stopped a few years ago. I get an annual email to go check my account.

            1. Shadowbelle*

              Probably depends on whether you have agreed to receive info by email. I get letters. SSA doesn’t have my email address, which I change every couple of years anyway.

          2. gracak*

            Thank you. I suppose OP is on SSI not SSDI, though disabled, because they didn’t have the work credits.

            I am on SSDI and BARELY scrapped by with enough work credits because I started working when I was 15. My last job was as a teacher, and you don’t pay into SSDI as a teacher, just into your pension, so none of my earnings counted towards that. So, so, so glad I started working so early.

        3. BeckySuz*

          It’s not nearly enough to live. My brother is on disability and gets $700 a month. He genuinely cannot work as he has severe physical and mental limitations. Thankfully he lives with my parents. But I already know that when they pass I will probably “inherit” him. Of course I love him and want to help but really even if he could manage to live alone he would never be able to. $700 a month would never be enough to live on. I cannot imagine what people do when they don’t have family to rely on. It must be very scary

          1. Law Office Anon*

            My SIL is one disability and gets $700 per month. She also gets housing for $1 per month, she pays $5 per month towards her utilities, receives unlimited free public transit rides as well as free cab rides to doctors appointments and receives SNAP and free healthcare. She’s not living high on the hog, but she’s also not living solely on $700 per month.

        4. Quill*

          Also the benefits haven’t kept up with inflation or especially the cost of medical care inflating… and there’s continuous pressure from politicians to reduce the number of people getting a “handout.”

          1. MJ*

            Which is infuriating. There’s this bizarre myth that to qualify for SSI or SSDI you just get a doctor to sign a form and *poof* you’re magically accepted. The truth is that around 80% of the people who apply are rejected on their first application. Most people have to appeal at least once, and with the very rare exception of a judge taking bribes, that’s not an easy hurdle, either.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Agreed. SSI and SSDI are not easy to obtain, and it can take 10+ years (during which you’re not receiving benefits but also can’t work) to wind through the appeals process. I’ve seen cases go through all the levels of the administrative appeals process, only to wind up pending for 5+ years in the federal courts, where the standard of review is very deferential to the agency. If you’re one of the rare people who can obtain an attorney, pay for ongoing representation and survival, and stick it out that long, you then have the chance to be paid a pittance for the entire time your appeal was pending.

              The entire thing is infuriating because on top of the Kafka-esque waiting game—which is incredibly stressful and terrifying if you actually qualify for benefits—the amount of actual benefits is never enough money for people to survive, even in low-COL areas.


              1. nonegiven*

                You don’t pay for ongoing representation, the disability lawyers get paid from the back disability payment they get you.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Is that really the most important takeaway from what I’ve written?

                  SSDI/SSI attorneys usually get paid from an EAJA petition after winning the appeal, but EAJA rates are often well below the actual cost of representation. Additionally, there are ongoing costs during the application and appeal process, and some SSDI/SSI attorneys will ask clients to contribute to those costs during the pendency of litigation.

                  And even if the attorney recovers fees through a contingency agreement, that further depresses the total amount of disability benefit that goes to the claimant. Which increases the claimant’s vulnerability. Which is functionally the same as bearing the cost of ongoing representation. Which was my primary point and frustration: That we have a system that does not work well for the people who need it most.

            2. Quill*

              Yeah, I lurk disability twitter because of the high overlap with queer, creative, and mentally ill twitter, and I’ve learned a shit ton about how much more work it is to get on disability than to be an office worker on a slow day, and how every election in the US is a crapshoot as to whether you’ll be able to vote due to accessibility issues, voter ID, and mail ballot rules in your home state, and whether the candidates in question are running on a “spend no money on anything that helps people stay alive, because our country voluntarily went into debt to pay for wars and not taxing the rich as much” platform.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Same. It seems like mandatory meetings on Sunday are a sucky thing to do. If it were the Sunday of the holiday weekend, then I’d agree that it’s objectively worse. But I’m having a hard time understanding why the Sunday before the holiday is particularly worse than any other Sunday where there are 2+ days between that Sunday and the holiday.

        1. Kimmybear*

          Because if you don’t get it done on Sunday, you end up at the grocery store at 10pm on Monday like I did last night. At least I bumped into several other working parents I know. :)

          1. Quill*

            Oh, if I’d been smart I would have gone shopping last *FRIDAY,* but as it was, I was standing in line at the grocery store cradling a spaghetti squash and a bag of cranberries while people who couldn’t see over their carts glared at me for being in line ahead of them without even the excuse of having a turkey in my basket. (I am traveling for thanksgiving.)

        2. Antilles*

          Unless of course you don’t live in the same town as your family, in which case it’s pretty easy to understand why having Sunday to run errands, clean the house, etc, would be useful to prepare before relatives start showing up in your guest room on Tuesday/Wednesday…or if you’re traveling yourself to prepare before you leave town in a mad rush on Tuesday/Wednesday.

        3. Liz*

          For me anyway, the weekend before any holiday is my time to get most of the stuff done, shopping, cleaning, any food prep i can do that early, done. Rather than having to work all day, and then come home and do it.

          personally, ANY Sunday is going to suck for me, but the one right before a holiday? even more so.

        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I’m realizing now that I’m anal-retentive about Thanksgiving prep, which has skewed my perception of the relative hardship of Sundays :)

      2. Artemesia*

        It is a total jerk move to have an all company meeting the Sunday before Thanksgiving — doing any meeting on Sunday is jerkish, but before a holiday when lots of people are preparing for travel or visitors — especially jerky.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          IDK, I had two coworkers who had to drive to BFE Kansas on Sunday for meetings yesterday and are driving back today. One is from the Denver office, so I’m sure that will be a delightful drive back for her. M-W are work days, though, so it would be hard to argue to get out of unless you had taken the whole week off, I imagine.

          1. Blarg*

            Ooof — driving to Denver today is not going to be fun. Hope they are careful and safe and maybe even wait til tomorrow.

      3. JKP*

        I imagine if you’re cooking a big Thanksgiving meal and hosting a bunch of people at your house, and you’re working Mon-Wed, then Sunday is your last day to shop and prep and clean the house and prepare everything for the holiday.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I took three days vacation to get 9 days out of the office and could see someone doing the same to travel to distant relatives.
          It also sucks for someone with a long work day who is hosting.

      4. Beth*

        Since Thanksgiving is a mid-week holiday and most people work through the day before, the weekend leading up to it is often when people get shopping out of the way, make whatever dishes can be prepared in advance, decorate, prepare for travel, etc. I can see the argument that it’s a little worse for a mandatory meeting than your average weekend (though really, people have lives to live every weekend! Asking people to come in on Sunday when it’s not part of their usual working hours is a jerk move regardless).

      5. Upstater-ish*

        If you’re the host there is shopping, cleaning and food prep to be done. Out is town visitors might be coming. Or maybe you just want one last day of rest before the season begins.

      6. EPLawyer*

        I would be irked at ANY Sunday. That’s not a regular working day. If it is a mandatory meeting, schedule it during working hours. If you can’t schedule it during working hours, the company should ask itself how necessary is this meeting?

        My husband works maintenance at a factory. They shut down twice a year for big maintenance, replace equipment projects. The winter shut down starts the day before the Thanksgiving. So this week he works his regular 2-10 p.m. shift on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, he works 12 hours (6 am to 6 pm) on Wednesday, is off for Thanksgiving, then goes right back to work on Friday for 12 hours and continues the 12 hours for at least the next 10 days with no days off. Why they couldn’t start shutdown on Friday I have no clue.

      7. So glad I'm out of there*

        Many families I know do two Thanksgivings, to be able to get to both sides of the family. The first Thanksgiving is often scheduled for the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Those are the lucky ones – I know one person who goes to four different Thanksgivings on the actual day (they don’t eat a full meal at each one obvs; they make an appearance at each with a 4 year old and 8 year old in two. It sounds horrible to me, and in their place, I would *beg* to have two Thanksgivings moved to the Sunday before :-)

        1. Quill*

          Nope, nope nope! I’m a veteran of dual thanksgivings all my childhood. Dad’s side of the family is on the way to mom’s, we would always end up having lunch – at 3 pm because no one has ever realized that the turkey has to rest for about an hour after it comes out of the oven – on dad’s side and “dinner” at mom’s side when we got to my grandparents’ house at like 8 pm.

          The real celebration on mom’s side was black friday, when the adults would get drunk on wine and watch football or argue politics over leftovers, and the cousins would, depending on the weather, play kickball or create such classic eight plus hour games as “monopoly, but you can take out loans because one of us knows how to work this weird old accounting slide rule grandpa had & the baby of the family always cries when he loses first,” or “Historically accurate Risk.”

          Four thanksgivings? those poor children have been in the car for far too long and don’t know anybody well enough to care that they’ve seen them.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          Yep – we visit both sets of grandparents over xmas, but it doesn’t work out for us to do that at tgiving, so we just got back from one set yesterday.

          It would also suck for people who were trying to take the whole week.

      8. nonegiven*

        If you’re working full time, that is prime ‘getting the house ready for guests and precooking as much as possible’ time.

      9. Sulan*

        All the schools in my area are off for the whole week of Thanksgiving, which means a lot of families leave to travel on the Saturday or Sunday before Thanksgiving. Plus, most people are at least bringing a dish to Thanksgiving – having your weekend cut in half makes it much more difficult to do things like grocery shop.

    2. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I had to read the letter twice because I was sure they meant the Sunday after, which could definitely be annoying if they’re cutting into what might be a four day weekend for a lot of people.

        1. Caramel & Cheddar*

          I figured at this time of year it was more likely to be an American asking since we had our Thanksgiving last month. :)

    3. Natalie*

      In addition to the dollar limits mentioned, there are some exceptions for household employees under the age of 18, provided that the work isn’t their principal occupation (if they are a student, for example). So for many people it wouldn’t apply at all, and others just don’t know.

    4. kittymommy*

      Yeah, I don’t get the “Sunday before Thanksgiving” either. I would think the issue is more a Sunday rather than which Sunday. If it’s not uncommon/outside of norm for the company to have Sunday meetings then what’s the big deal? Most people I know who travel (unless they’re doing a whole week thing) are leaving tonight or tomorrow for the holiday. Really I’d think the Sunday after Thanksgiving would be more of an issue than before.

      1. Quill*

        For the host, the weekend before is also a nightmare zone. Especially if they have kids – a lot of districts have weird hours the three days before thanksgiving, with either wednesday off or a half day for parent teacher conferences.

        Granted, it’s worse when the primary cook is a teacher, but this is how my brother and I got put in charge of prepping the sides that absolutely couldn’t be made the week before thanksgiving: It was hard enough to pry everyone into the car with the right food by 10 AM on thursday to make it to an alleged “early thanksgiving dinner” on my dad’s side at noon that they always said would be ready by 2 pm, but never was.

      2. Archaeopteryx*

        Yeah, I can see someone who’s had the experience of hosting Thanksgiving for a lot of people being inconvenienced by having an event the Sunday before, but it’s not “a thing” in such a way that people should know about it, or reference it as an obvious day to not schedule anything. Like, if you told a random person that story, I think about half of them would need a second to figure out why the Sunday before Thanksgiving was particularly bad. The main issue seems to be that they feel the need to hold a meeting on a Sunday.

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          I volunteer with a non-profit that holds a lot of weekend meetings (since we’re all volunteers, so those of us who aren’t retired are doing this in addition to our day jobs), and we had one on Sunday. No one cited “Sunday before Thanksgiving” as an issue, but that could also be because we’re so used to Sunday meetings by now and this month had obvious no-gos for every single other weekend. (Organization/field-specific ones for the previous weekends, and we didn’t want to ask people to come to something on Thanksgiving weekend itself.) It wouldn’t surprise me if that’s why at least one person wasn’t there, but it didn’t seem to be a major point of concern.

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, your family’s shoe-related sartorial advice is off for a wide swathe of jobs. It sounds like your loafers are sufficiently formal/professional, and there’s no need to torture yourself by wearing heels (especially since I suspect the discomfort may affect your confidence in the moment).

    There are certainly some workplaces and some fields with more . . . problematic norms regarding women’s shoes. But there’s nothing inherently unprofessional about flats (unless they’re like, Crocs), especially if properly maintained.

    1. Seal*

      A few years ago I interviewed for a university administrator position in January in the Upper Midwest. Because it was very cold and snowy, I wore a wool pants suit and ankle boots with a low heel. I certainly wasn’t going to wear actual heels in that weather – people would have thought I was crazy! I like to think that my sensible footwear got me that job.

      1. Aquawoman*

        I saw people wearing snow boots TO COURT in Chicago in the winter, so yeah, I think actual professional shoes are fine. Also, I’ve interviewed 12-15 people in the last month and I cannot tell you what a single one of them was wearing on their feet

        1. Loosey Goosey*

          Yep. Chicago-area attorney. I’ve worn duck boots to court and no one batted an eye. (You definitely have to know your court/judges, though! Some would care.) I also don’t wear heels to interviews and I don’t think it’s ever affected my chances.

    2. Mina, the Company Prom Queen*

      Yes, I never wear heels. I’ve interviewed successfully wearing dressy, professional looking ballet flats with pantsuits. Professional looking, dressy loafers would work too. I’ve also worn one-inch kitten heels, which might work for those in fields where women’s footwear expectations are more along the lines of wearing heels.

      1. lilsheba*

        I never wear heels either. They are NOT necessary for anything. They hurt, they cause people to fall down, they cause damage to your feet and back, they are not worth it.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I don’t either; I used to wear them, but after I hurt my back, I just can’t anymore. I have some dressy leather walking shoes (Romikas that were not cheap) and I love penny loafers. Nobody cares as long as I’m not wearing trainers or something.

        I’ve even worn the Romikas with a dress and tights and got zero flack for it.

    3. Al who is that Al*

      I have a sideline business in Deep Tissue massage, I will always have more clients than I can possibly handle and possibly the main factor is ladies wearing high heels. The damage they do to the lower back and shoulders over the years is scary.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        High heels throw your back and butt out of alignment. It’s really torture on the body’s frame.

    4. Mel_05*

      I’ve definitely interviewed places where I think not wearing heels would have hurt my chances.

      On the other hand, I’ve also fallen on my face in the parking lot, in front of my interviewers because I was wearing said heels, so… being able to walk confidently probably makes a better impression.

    5. Little Pig*

      I just got multiple job offers from the few top companies in a quite conservative field. I interviewed in a navy skirt suit and pointy black flats (not the ideal color combo, but I didn’t have time to find anything else). Can confirm that not wearing heels didn’t matter.

      1. EPLawyer*

        If I’m down to your color choice combination, unless it is something horribly clashing, or your choice of professional looking footwear, I am just looking for a reason to reject you.

        Professional dress means a suit (yes, a suit, can be pants, skirt or dress), and clean, nice shoes. That’s pretty much it. Oh and a shirt that covers the important bits, and is not see through.

    6. Feline*

      I have never interviewed in heels. My feet are so bad, I can’t wear them. Professional-looking shoes appropriate to the rest of your outfit will do fine. I’m not terribly in touch with fashion, but I pair ballet flats with skirts and loafers with pantsuits. My philosophy is be tidy and impress interviewers with knowledge, not clothes.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        A lot of times it’s a question of “when I look in the mirror, does anything stand out as particularly odd?”

    7. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      OP4, I have hired dozens of people. I cannot recall any of their shoes. What I do recall are their qualifications, their experience, their references, and how they interacted during the interview.

      If your shoes are the determinant for getting hired, you don’t want to work for that company or for that boss.

    8. Catsaber*

      Agreed, I hate wearing heels so I wore a chunky clog-type loafer to my latest interviews – like Danskos. I had a pair of very minimal, smooth black leather ones that were very boring and unnoticable, but gave me the height I needed so that my pants wouldn’t drag on the floor. They were professional and paired well with the outfit, and super comfy!

      1. Amy Sly*

        I love Danskos. I have them in clogs, ankle boots, knee-high heeled boots, heels, ballet flats …
        Fun note: all the chefs in Ratatouille are wearing Dansko-shaped clogs. Collette has the backless version, while the waiter has wingtips and Linguini has Chucks.

    9. LCH*

      not to mention if you wear shoes you can’t walk in to an interview, it will be obvious and might make it look like you lack common sense? like when young women first start wearing heels and look ridiculous staggering around (hi, it was me).

      1. Quill*

        When I was a teen and could wear heels to school dances, my dad joked that the school could save a lot of money by having more dances so all the girls floundering across the grass out front with their heels punching holes in it could aerate the lawn.

      2. AuroraLight37*

        Yes, exactly. I never wear heels, and if I suddenly broke them out for an interview, I’d probably need a walker- or a small sled with a team of pretty sled dogs to pull me around. Just picture me on a teeny sled mushing into an interview with my Samoyeds. I’m sure it would be a memorable interview, but not necessarily a winning one!

    10. Quill*

      I, personally, have never worn heels to an interview.

      … I have enough trouble walking in non tennis shoe flats, but at least I’m not guaranteed a limp in my interview shoes anymore.

      Then, the day before I start I let people know that medically, I can only wear tennis shoes with any consistency. (Technically I could also wear hiking boots or steel toed boots, but neither of those work as well in an office, and the norm I want to establish is “Quill’s shoe choices are between her and her doctor.”)

    11. Ama*

      My office is business casual and the only times we go full business dress is when we are hosting events and the staff are on their feet 8-12 hours a day — suits with nice loafers or dresses with nice flats or low heeled dress shoes are pretty much the standard uniform on those days. I can count on one hand the number of coworkers I’ve had in six years that I’ve seen wearing heels at work (and one wore heels every day so that was what was comfortable to her).

    12. Goldfinch*

      It really is so industry-dependent. I would look like a clueless noob if I showed up to an interview in heels, since I would probably end up touring (or at least walking through) a facility that requires PPE.

      1. Amy Sly*

        I’m in a job where most people are in PPE, and while it’s not required for my job, the interview did specifically state “Do not wear heels.”

        1. corporate engineering layoff woo*

          My last job had a reminder sent out “all people, including guests, are required to have a minimum of closed-toe shoes on the production floor.” Don’t make EHS unhappy with obvious problems.

      1. N-SoCal*

        I’m guessing that the family wants to claim child care credit which would need LW1 to be paid correctly.

        1. Ginger*

          That’s an interesting point.

          If the father has a workplace childcare benefit, it needs to be all documented in order to utilize it.

        2. mlk*

          I doubt this. IRS allows $5000 of pre-tax deferral for dependent care that enables someone to work, if a company has a dependent care flexible spending account (FSA), If there’s more than one kid, he likely burns through that with regular after-school care in under 6 months. I know I do.

          Note on the FSA admin or whomever needing accurate info on the care provider: my dependent care provider labeled reimbursements with the name of our first care provider for over a year after we switched providers. In fact, I think they still are, and it’s been over 3 years.

    1. Natalie*

      Whether a person has to report money paid will depend on a number of factors – what kind of work the worker is doing, whether they’re being paid by an individual or business, even whether they’re being paid by cash/check or credit card (1099s aren’t used for credit card payments). As with basically everything with taxes, there is not one answer to this question.

  5. Mike C.*

    Forcing someone to come in on a Sunday when they don’t normally work Sundays is a jerk move regardless of the time of year.

    1. !*

      Yeah, I am wondering what kind of company has *mandatory all day* meetings on a Sunday, and, it seems, without another day off during the week?

      1. LW #5*

        #5 here, and the “other day off during the week” we get off instead is Thanksgiving. That’s partly why I’m annoyed, because it feels like we basically lost a holiday. I think he decided to hold it this Sunday with the logic that “well they’re getting Thursday off so it’s reasonable to have them come Sunday.”

        And nobody usually works weekends in our company. We have a standard office workweek. Not retail or hospitality.

        1. Annon for this*

          What a jerk move – the Sunday meeting takes the place of the Thanksgiving work day, so no overtime.

        2. Kat*

          I totally disagree with Alison on this one – imo it IS a jerk move, and I’d be p!ssed. In fact, I would likely say I couldn’t make it.

      1. Upstater-ish*

        Would you say the same if your normal day off and the meeting was scheduled for that day. Outside of religious reasons there is nothing special about Sundays

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          Well, clearly “this work day is just for meetings” is different from “give up one of your days off for meetings.”

        2. Mike C.*

          So you seriously don’t understand the concept of the standard work week in the United States? You’ve never heard of the weekend?

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            It’s hard to determine the appropriate level of outrage since OP#5 didn’t state an industry, just proximity to the holiday. The “standard work week”, assuming you mean working 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday is almost entirely a white-collar worker construct and being called in on a Sunday is only wildly offensive if it’s an industry where weekend work is atypical. I feel like this comes up every time there is a discussion about working holidays or anything outside professional-office-centric viewpoint.

            Hell, I work for a law firm, and the client whole team being asked to come in on a Sunday before a big court filing, hearing, or trial would be standard operating procedure.

        3. Joielle*

          I mean, if it’s retail or a restaurant or something where everyone has a different “normal day off,” then an all-staff meeting will have to be held on someone’s day off. That’s unavoidable. But in an office where everyone has the same days off – i.e. the weekend – then it is a dick move to schedule an all-staff meeting on one of those days, when there are five other days to choose from when everyone will be in the office.

        4. WellRed*

          Oh, Sundays are very special. Sleep in a bit, big breakfast linger over the Sunday paper with my coffee. Don’t go to work.

        5. Alton*

          If it was a day that I generally had off, yes. It bothered me when I had a Thursday-Sunday job and they’d try to get me to come in last-minute on a Monday or Tuesday. When people work a consistent schedule, the expectation of having certain days off can be important to their routines.

          Plus, since school is typically Monday-Friday, unexpectedly having to work weekends can impact parents who may have to then arrange childcare.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      I agree. The LW’s focus on the Sunday before Thanksgiving is really confusing me.

      Being forced to come in on a weekend day when you do not work weekends sucks any time of year.

      1. DJ*

        I kind of wondered if the LW is taking the whole week off? I could understand being especially frustrated about working the Sunday before Thanksgiving if they’re not going to work Mon-Wed. Also, I’m a little confused on which Friday they have to work…the Friday before Thanksgiving or after? If they have to work the Friday after Thanksgiving, I could understand being even more frustrated that they schedule a big meeting right around the holiday, but in that case I’d probably be more annoyed at having to come into work on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

        But also hard agree on the fact that having a meeting on the weekend is a no go (assuming this isn’t a job where you normally work weekends).

      2. Aquawoman*

        Because people have guests and a big meal on Thanksgiving and want to grocery shop/meal prep/clean the house? Asking that question kind of goes along with discounting women’s unpaid labor.

      3. JustaTech*

        Because it’s the optimal day to do your grocery shopping and buy a frozen turkey to be sure that it will be thawed in time for Thanksgiving dinner.

        Food Safety!

        I mean, I’d be pretty irked about having to come in on any Sunday, and at least it isn’t the Sunday *after* Thanksgiving (busiest travel day of the year), but if you were planning on having that day to shop, and you don’t get, say, Monday off to make up for it, yeah, that’s going to throw off a lot of folk’s planning.

    3. Daisy-dog*

      Depends on their industry. If there’s a big Black Friday event coming up or something else that makes the next several weeks busy, then I can see the reasoning. We would have Sunday meetings in my retail jobs and I can see it fitting for hospitality jobs as well. We’d have people who wouldn’t show up (like our signage team who only worked Tues/Thurs mornings), but it usually worked out if we told everyone far enough in advance.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        If you work retail and are scheduled to work on Black Friday, I can completely see the benefit of having a mandatory meeting on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. Things are usually slightly slower (except at supermarkets) and more employees are available. All-day mandatory, though, is a little much.

        1. Daisy-dog*

          Yep – just because it’s acceptable for the industry doesn’t mean it’s reasonable or employee-friendly.

      2. JM60*

        Even then, it should be announced well in advance (if possible) so people could plan around it. The letter gives the impression that it was only announced just recently.

    4. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      Yup. I had a job where we were open 7 days a week and I wouldn’t have scheduled a meeting the weekend before Thanksgiving. Even though we had a normal service schedule as far as a customer could tell, the staff schedule was often irregular and full of substitutions. It just was easier for everyone to avoid it altogether. Set people up for success, not failure.

  6. A-nony-nony*

    #1: Not in the US, so not sure whether this works or not, but could she not just up her rate to cover the tax she’s now paying? “Increased cost of doing business”.

    1. JKP*

      The issue is that having income from another source could jeopardize her disability benefits. Sometimes in these types of cases, earning $X doesn’t mean that you simply lose $X in benefits, but could mean that you lose all your benefits, considerably more than the $X you’re earning elsewhere.

      1. Quill*

        Or they reduce your benefits by the max amount that you make per month, so you end up making less overall… and the benefits aren’t enough to live on to begin with.

      2. Audiophile*

        It is not true that you’re not allowed to work at all, it will depend on how your disability is classified (partially or totally disabled) and your state’s rules around disability insurance benefits.

        So for instance, when a friend filed for disability, she was told she could work while her case was being reviewed and that the salary made during the time would be factored into her disability benefits payout, once approved. And that if at some point she was able to return to working full or part time, the amount of benefits she received would be impacted by that.

    2. Sally*

      I think the main issue is that she isn’t legally supposed to be working. If taxes were paid, it would be clear that she was working.

      1. Mommy.MD*

        THIS. Her whole benefit is at risk. The state agency could use the argument that if she’s well enough to babysit she’s well enough to work. She can’t have any reported income.

      2. Natalie*

        Well, she’s likely allowed to work a certain amount. It’s just that all of those dollar figures are set incredibly low. The LW could easily be receiving the maximum disability benefit and working the maximum allowed amount and still be destitute.

        1. yala*

          In the US I think the limit for what a person on disability can have in assets is $2000.

          One penny over and they cut you off.

          It’s brutal and stupid.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            That’s assets rather than income, but yeah. The entire US policy regarding how we treat people who are unable to work is ridiculous.

          2. Quill*

            For context, $2000 is less than the amount I would need to pay for new orthodics, and the disabled often have to pay out of pocket for mobility devices if they need them.

            1. Kat in VA*

              Out of curiosity – could not a motorized wheelchair (which can go well over $2000) then be considered an asset?

              $2000 in assets is NOTHING.

  7. Aggretsuko*

    Hah, we’re having a job interview the day before Thanksgiving, and we’re not allowed to leave even an hour early from work. Blech. Then in my volunteer job, I have to work all night. Blech again!

    I don’t go far, mind you, so it’s not like I need to fly to another country or whatever. It’s just annoying.

      1. Scout Finch*

        The cat rescue that I support depends on volunteers to clean litter boxes, feed, water & care for 70+ cats every day of the year.

        Without those volunteers, we cannot help these cats. If a volunteer calls out, we scramble to get a replacement.

        Just because a job is not paid does not mean that it is not important.

  8. Grand Mouse*

    I do feel really bad for LW 1. I tried to get on SSI and the amount they pay is… pathetic, esp with all the hoops you have to jump through, delaying your benefits for months to years if you ever even get it. For something like 600$ a month

    It is realy frustrating that the dad is changing to paying over the table. I understand he wanted to cover his ass but that leaves you in a bad position. The government is… really stingy and restrictive about benefits so you could get in trouble if they found out, tax forms aside. Possibly could mean trouble for past payments.

    I wish I had a good answer for you.

      1. Dr Wizard, PhD*

        Without getting too derailed on people’s individual situations, I’d like to note so people are aware that there’s a difference between SSI and SSDI.

        SSI is qualified for based on disability status and low income, whereas SSDI requires a work history where you paid Social Security contributions for a certain number of years.

        SSDI pays an amount based on what you earned before you became unable to work due to disability.

        SSI pays a bare-bones amount. The *maximum* SSI payment amount for an individual (without disabled dependents, etc) was $771 a month in 2019.

        So OP’s figure of $600 a month is very plausible, and receiving ‘many times that amount’ on SSI just doesn’t happen.

        The situation of someone with years of work history in jobs eligible for SSDI might be very different.

        1. Retired Accountant*

          I think this is an important point. The limits on allowable earned income are much more draconian for SSI than for SSDI too.

        2. Quill*

          $600 a month doesn’t cover rent… jeez, I don’t think it covers both food and the gas to go grocery shopping some places… (Especially when you consider that it’s very possible someone who got the government to agree they were unable to work at 22 is more likely than most to need more expensive pre prepared or ready to eat food due to being less able to cook… or have dietary restrictions…)

          It’s actually far worse than I thought.

          1. Maya Elena*

            It might be a bit better than that, because someone on SSI is also also likely to qualify for Medicaid and SNAP, and potentially state- or local-level assistance with rent, heating, telephone, or other expenses, which defrays some of these costs. That said, there might be claw-backs involved when these benefits interact, but it might be a bit more money total than that.

            1. Quill*

              Yeah, but overall? As a single healthy person with no accessability or diet needs that actually impact my housing and bodily maitenance, even $800 a month and SNAP (which you can’t be on long term, iirc) would be ludicrously insufficient for living in my area without taking any medical costs whatsoever into account. And I don’t live in a big city.

              For context, $800 a month is the equivalent of someone with a 40 hour a week job making $5 an hour. Even $1000 a month fails to make it to the current national minimum wage, which is not sufficient to live on.

              To make a “living wage” (equivalent to about $20/hr), OP would need to recieve at least $3200 a month in disability benefits, which is $1200 more than they’re currently allowed to have as assets. To make the $15 that people are pushing for as the new minimum wage, OP would need monthly benefits of %2400 a month.

              … I have no conclusion here other than YIKES this system is broken.

              1. fposte*

                Section 8 housing factors in there–most folks with SSI would need it. It looks like the waitlist in most areas is at least a year or two, and some areas have closed their waitlists.

                That people in need have to negotiate so many different systems with complicated moving parts is just criminal.

                1. Quill*

                  It’s almost like Reganomics was heavily inspired by the eugenics that Regan’s generation grew up with…

                2. Thany*

                  Section 8 is in high demand for urban areas with a high homeless population. The waitlist in my area is 8 to 10 years.

              2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                But you are forgetting to figure in the subsidies that are given to people with SSI. That’s why they’re given such a cruddy gasp worthy amount.

                Their rent is on a subsidy, so they aren’t paying the full amount in the end. The government is backing up that extra.

                All the people I know on disability are on subsidized housing. That’s the point of that low income housing in the end is mostly for those who are on assistance programs, less so the able bodied people who are sickeningly underemployed and underpaid.

                But you’re right, the system is broken AF.

                But just remember the OP is using this extra cash for increasing the heat and fast food. It’s not to actually pay rent or buy groceries, so her benefits does cover the very basic shelter and food! I believe everyone deserves better but just saying that it’s hard to wrap your mind around the benefits structure without seeing it from the inside out.

                1. Jules the 3rd*

                  Tried to help someone get local low-income housing; 2 year wait list. I gather that’s common.

                  Yeah, broken.

                2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

                  The people I know who get disability benefits aren’t in subsidized housing, unless you count “his friends let him move in for free because he can barely afford food, never mind rent”*; “I’ll pay your rent this month, as a gift” [because I know you’ll never be able to repay it]; and “my mother helps pay the rent on my tiny apartment” as subsidized housing.

      2. MK*

        I have no idea how it works in the US, or wherever the OP is, but keep in mind that “disability benefits” can be used as an umbrella term for all sort of things. In my country, there is the bare amount that everyone who cannot work at all gets, but then it gets complicated: people who had worked for significant periods prior to their disability collect benefits based on their contributions, people who are disabled due to a workplace injury get sums from a specific insurance fund, etc. Also, there can be variations depending on your particular condition, with the money coming from grants from the EU or charities (National Society against Cancer X or the Alzheimer Society and the like) or even from private donations/bequests that are designated to help people with specific disabilities.

    1. noname*

      The blame however, goes to the Government for making such stringent rules instead of more relaxed, adaptable ones.

      The dad has good reasons not to want to get into conflict with the law; the law is badly made in this case.

  9. phira*

    I’m with LW1’s rabbi: if the law is unethical then it is unethical to follow the law. Which doesn’t change Allison’s advice (which is that there are personal risks that this single dad is taking by paying under the table); the system itself is bs and neither of you should be in this position.

    LW2: I think that not contacting them until after the start of the interview was your mistake unless it would have been 100% impossible for you to have done so as soon as you realized it would take you a while to find parking. You can imagine that they might have figured that by 12:50pm, you knew you’d be late and could have told them so then, and instead you waited until after the interview start time. Granted, I agree with Allison that they’re being unfairly inflexible here, especially given that you had your original interview canceled due to weather (when you might have, say, taken the day off work or arranged childcare, etc., made a lot of accommodations for that), but they couldn’t give you leeway of 10 minutes when they had to have been aware of the way the same weather had impacted driving and parking.

    LW4: I rarely wear heels to interviews, or if I do, they’re heeled boots that I can walk in comfortably. In the end, no one notices my shoes at all, and I’m not awkwardly shifting throughout the interview.

    1. Lena Clare*

      if the law is unethical then it is unethical to follow the law

      I’m not too sure that’s the same thing as saying “in this case it’s ethical to break it”.

      Also, that’s really subjective.
      In my opinion, it’s never ethical to break the law. I’m not sure what the answer is, though.

      OP, I’m so sorry you’re experiencing this. The government is indeed stingy and ableist. I hope things improve soon for you.

      1. Grand Mouse*

        Hope this isn’t too political, but I am thinking with cases like not reporting an undocumented worker would be against the law but also super unethical to do.

        1. Shad*

          Not following unethical laws was also a huge part of how the civil rights movement operated. Of course, they also disobeyed unethical laws while fully prepared to accept the ramifications of that disobedience.

            1. Quill*

              Yeah, off the top of my history studies I can think of situations where laws were made specifically so that people could be legally targeted for imprisonment or even death by the government, and made reporting those people mandatory. That’s a law you have to break, as is any other law that is designed to make you complicit in harming other people.

          1. Perpal*

            Civil rights movement very ostentatiously disobeyed unethical laws to draw attention to the need to change them

            When personal gain is part of the equation ethics get muddier

            1. Shad*

              Yes, because trying to support oneself to live independently is such great personal gain.
              Of course it’s up to the person disobeying whether it’s ethical and worth the consequences of disobedience, but I personally find claims of personal gain to be a bit disingenuous at the level of income we’re talking about.

              1. Perbie*

                I’m just saying can’t really compare with the civil rights movement unless the goal is to break the law, get arrested, and force change.

                1. Amy Sly*

                  Exactly. Civil disobedience requires people to be seen suffering the consequences for unjust laws. If you aren’t prepared to take those consequences to shame others into changing those unjust laws, you’re just breaking the law because you don’t like it.

        2. Perbie*

          Is one really legally mandated to report an undocumented worker? I didn’t think so, but could be wrong. One is legally obligated not to employ people illegally, though. (Circular logic but applies to “undocumented” workers since the lack of documents make it impossible to legally employ them)

          1. anon for this*

            No, reporting is not required. The way I was told how it worked when I was at a retail store (aka an above board place to work that took taxes out of paychecks):

            Undocumented employees applied with stolen/made up tax IDs which were not verified at the time of hiring. (They did not need to be.) Our employer would get yearlyish notices from the IRS basically saying ‘please verify the person with this tax ID’ due to facts that don’t add up, like someone reporting income from CA and MA at the same time. The undocumented employee obviously can’t verify it, and our employer terminated them. No reporting to any other agencies.

            Whether or not the employer verifies it in the first place is up in the air. I just care that they’re reporting their taxes.

    2. aelle*

      It’s one thing to have no ethical issue with breaking the law, and another to consider that others should have no ethical issue with breaking the law for your benefit. I can see how friends and mentors can tell OP1 that she shouldn’t feel guilty for working under the table. That doesn’t mean OP1 can expect one specific person to provide her with said under-the-table work.

      1. Natalie*

        I don’t think the LW’s rabbi or anyone else are saying the dad should be obligated to break the law on the LW’s behalf, just that the LW himself/herself is ethically absolved.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Hoping I’m not the only gamer on here now thinking “chaotic good, lawful good, chaotic good…”

      1. Agnes*

        There are also two laws here. One is that you can’t pay people under the table. Most of this would consider this an ethical law under most circumstances; it’s protection for the worker rather than the reverse. The other is that you can’t work when you’re on disability. This is dicier, but the basic principle that disability is meant for people who can’t work is not necessary a bad one, either. The issue is that disability isn’t paying enough to live on.

        1. Perpal*

          The other issue is also that disability laws are fairly all or none, when it’d make much more sense for it to be a sliding scale or to fluctuate with good months and bad months…

          1. doreen*

            Apparently SSI is not all or none – the LW says “I’d lose 50 cents for every dollar I made after the first $85” . If she made $100 over that first $85 she’d lose $50 worth of benefits, leaving her a total of $135 ahead ( 85 + 50). Now that’s not a large amount of money, but there are other programs where you either lose benefits dollar for dollar or lose benefits altogether once you pass a certain threshold.

            1. Perbie*

              Idk last i checked there are weird thresholds and it’s entirely possible to lose more support than you make if not careful

    4. Glomarization, Esq.*

      if the law is unethical then it is unethical to follow the law

      OK, but the IRS can put people in prison. Where is the single dad’s child in this equation, now?

      This problem isn’t so black and white. The law puts the LW and the dad in a terrible position.

    5. Maggie A Standley*

      Thks for the feedback! Yes, I should have, could have pulled over earlier and wrote that text! Honestly i was stressed and figured it was better to keep driving and find parking…and felt relieved once I found it, as opposed to “wasting time” to pull over and text. Now, i see that would have been the wiser route! I wanted to find parking and then let them know, i will be there in a few minutes! I wish they would have articulated in the detailed job description, skills and experience required that timeliness was crucial for the position. Perhaps it’s understood, and a kick in the derriere to leave lots of time when arriving to new places for interviews :)

  10. All Outrage, All The Time*

    OP3 – stop letting her make your tea. Here is how to make tea.

    Step 1. Use boiling water. Best option, from a kettle that has just boiled. Second best option, from the instant hot water tap most offices have in the kitchen. Don’t use water from a pod coffee maker, the regular hot water tap and under no circumstances heat the water in the microwave. For tea to taste it’s best, it water needs to bubble in order to be properly oxygenated.

    Step 2. Best option, use loose leaf tea in a teapot. Heat the teapot with hot water first, empty that water, then place one large teaspoon of loose leaf tea per person, and one for the pot, into the teapot. Then add boiling water. Let steep for a few minutes. If adding milk, put it in the cup BEFORE the hot water. The milk proteins stop the tea brewing process. Feel free to add more boiling water to your existing leaves in the teapot if you want another cup.

    Second best option, use a teabag in a cup. Place the teabag in the cup and then pour on the boiling water. DO NOT FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS PRECIOUS PUT THE HOT WATER IN THE CUP B E F O R E THE TEA BAG OMG PLEASE DON’T DO THIS.

    Put the milk in AFTER the tea bag and hot water has finished steeping (as soon as you add the milk the tea stops brewing so if you add it first or too soon you’ll have a cup of tea that is too weak). If it’s black tea or green tea, feel free to have a jolly good jiggle of the teabag a few times. If it’s herb tea, I might leave it in my cup for about five minutes with a saucer on the top so it doesn’t get cold.

    Best of luck with your future tea endeavours.

        1. Sleve McDichael*

          Don’t let the gatekeepers intimidate you! Tea is very simple to make.

          Just take your teabag, put it in the cup, pour boiling or just boiled (in whatever way) water over it and let it turn light brown, then take out the teabag and add some milk if you want. Done.

          If you do it a couple of times you will learn how brown you like it. And if it’s too brown, try again! Ordinary teabags are a few cents. Ditto for the milk, but if you’re really not sure, try pouring milk until it comes back up in a little ‘bloom’ after hitting the bottom. Plain tea is really hard to get wrong and people just learn preferences over time, but a beginner won’t be able to taste the difference.

          And I say all this as a person with a drawer full of different teas and tisanes, a tea timer, a thermometer and two Spode teapots.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        srsly. Boil the water first?

        I know I’m a heathen, but I just put water in the microwave until it boils, then pour over an herb tea bag. It’s good enough.

    1. Needing chocolate.*

      I’ve been trying to learn how to make a good cup of tea. The British seem to have it down perfectly. I was hoping since my family was from there, I would have it in my dna, but apparently not. I tend to use honey in my tea so just learned not to put honey in boiling water. Weird that I’m googling how to make tea.

      1. Batgirl*

        It’s not DNA, it’s parental nagging. I get compliments on my tea from everyone else, including the office tea critic, but my dad was still telling me to “introduce the bag to the water” when I was 30.

        1. Close Bracket*

          Oh yes, I learned that tea enjoys a hot bath, not a hot shower. Funny how that’s totally the opposite of what All Outrage, All The Time suggests. ;)

      2. anone*

        The Chinese arguably do it better than the British. Benefits of a couple more thousand years of practice and all.

        Also a good cup of tea is one you enjoy, however it is made. Find a way you like and go with that.

      3. Rexish*

        My bf is British. I’m not. He dind’t know that loose leaf tea excisted before he met me. He is a smart guy so I’m not sure how he thought that tea bags are made. He was very confused when I made a cuppa with a teapot and loose leafs; miracle machine he had never seen before.

          1. Rexish*

            Really? Every cafe in the UK where I have tea brings it in a teapot. Usually tea bags in it but sometimes with loose leafs

            1. Batgirl*

              You’re right; a cafe owner won’t know your tea preferences so you steep it yourself at the table. Adding your own milk and sugar.

      4. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Also? Really limey water just doesn’t make good tea. We have a friend who is a French chef, and visited him after he moved home to Bordeaux. He recommended I use bottled water for my tea: “Our water makes great wine, but not so good tea.”

      5. ThursdaysGeek*

        You can’t make a good cup of tea if you’re buying teabags from most brands available in the US. They simply don’t provide good tea. It’s harsh and tannic. If you get British, or Chinese, or Sri Lankan, or any of the good teas, it’s very easy to make a good tea. If you start with floor sweepings in a bag, you’ll get something nasty, no matter how carefully you make it.

        I use Dilmah and boiling water. That’s all it takes to make it good, it doesn’t matter how it gets to a boil, or what goes in first, or how long the tea bag seeps. If you start with quality, it’s easy.

    2. Batgirl*

      AOATT has the steps down really, especially the not putting water into an empty cup (that would never occur to me!)

      The only things I would add to making sure hot, hot water is poured into it, is that you want to stir and agitate the tea bag enough. Stir it into a spin while you go fetch the milk. Stir it in the counter direction when you get back. Lift it and make sure the liquid dribbling out is dark. Squeeze it slightly against the side.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Huh. My grandmother with English parents told me never squeeze the teabag. I suppose that could be because of improvements in teabag technology. Or terror of toddler tea trauma.

        1. londonedit*

          Squeezing the tea bag is essential! You can even buy tea bag squeezers (like little flat tongs with holes in them) that allow you to fish out the tea bag and give it a squeeze as you take it out of the cup, just to get the last bits of tea flavour out (and so it doesn’t drip everywhere).

          I don’t drink tea (I know, they’ll be coming for my British passport any minute) but I was taught how to make a good cup of tea (and a good gin and tonic) as a child, and giving the tea bag a bit of a squeeze was definitely part of the process.

        2. Batgirl*

          Older ones were prone to bursting and people left the last inch in their cups undrunk as dregs as a matter of course.

        3. annony*

          If you oversleep your tea, squeezing the tea bag will make it very bad. If you keep an eye on the clock, squeezing there bag makes it more flavorful.

        4. Daisy-dog*

          There’s a great episode of Good Eats that explains tea. If it is a lower quality brand, then you never ever want to squeeze the bag. They put a lot of tea leaf dust in the bag that would eek out and make it start to taste bitter. A higher quality brand uses less dust, but you may still want to avoid squeezing depending on how naturally bitter the flavor is.

    3. Marzipan*

      Bear in mind also that teabags are generally designed to brew more quickly than loose-leaf tea, so adjust your timings accordingly.

    4. Tau*

      This is good advice. I will additionally advise that if you are using loose tea, you can buy empty teabags with metal clips or reusable cloth teabags that will let you remove the loose tea once it has finished steeping in order to avoid the Overbrewed Tea Of Death second cup problem. (Also tea strainers, but I haven’t had great experience with them – it seems like you end up with tiny tea particles everywhere in your tea, which is a texture experience I don’t care for.) But, like, I’ve always found loose leaf tea to be waaay too much hassle at work, so probably we’re talking about teabags here anyway.

      But yeah, the #1 tea brewing problem I know of is that the water needs to be actually boiling hot, hotter than what you need for coffee. Apart from that, it’s a fairly straightforward process.

      1. Koala dreams*

        You can also buy empty teabags that you throw away in the compost afterwards (or in the trash, when you don’t do composting). They come in different sizes and are usually sold in fancy tea stores.

    5. Obelia*

      Generally agree except that you need to take the teabag out of the cup before adding the milk. Here in the UK this month the prime minister failed to do this when making a cup of tea and it made the national news (no really).

      1. Obelia*

        PS that could be implied from the original (excellent) advice but thought it was worth mentioning in the circumstances!

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I’ve gotten tea with the bag left in. When I took the last drink, the tea bag came unstuck from the bottom and hit me in the face —*plop* It was not pleasant.

        Loose leaf is superior, but for an American, I make a damn good cuppa, even with a bag. :)

    6. Cambridge Comma*

      I do love a loose leaf Lady Grey or Lapsang Souchong but you can make a perfectly decent cup of tea from a Tetley’s tea bag in a mug and it doesn’t matter when you put the milk in (of course, no milk for Lady/Earl Grey).
      You’re right about using just boiled water from a kettle.
      Read the recommendation on the package for how long to brew the tea and set a timer (with time, you’ll be able to recognise from the colour when it’s done).
      The amount of milk is a personal thing so experiment until you find the right amount for you.
      Try different brands of teabag. Many people like Yorkshire Tea, for example.
      And make your coworker a cup once in a while.

      1. Angus McDonald, Boy Detective*

        I don’t drink tea, but I grew up in Yorkshire (God’s own country!!) so I am morally obligated to say Yorkshire Tea is the best brand.

        1. UKDancer*

          I also grew up in Yorkshire before moving south and this is quite correct. I will always say it’s the best brand.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I’m fond of Yorkshire Gold and Twinings Earl Grey for bags. For loose leaf, I spoil myself with Fortnum & Mason. You can get that here at Williams-Sonoma, but I prefer to buy it from their actual store (when I can get there). It makes me feel fancy. :)

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            I got some Yorkshire Gold because of recommendations here and I … was glad when it was gone. It got tannic in a way that Dilmah never does. But maybe it’s like Red Rose – I’ve heard that Red Rose in Canada is very good, and the US apparently gets the floor sweepings with the same brand name. So maybe I got some that was marketed to the US, where they figure we don’t like tea much, so why send the good stuff anyway.

          2. Brittasaurus Rex*

            For loose leaf, give Harney & Sons a try, as well as David’s Tea. They also stock teabags. They’re both very high-quality, though shockingly not British; Harney is based in New York and David’s is Canadian.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Back in ’99 we (US citizens) had a trip to Australia and New Zealand, and the quite decent Tetley tea one could purchase at any railroad station was a revelation.

        Here in the US, though, Tetley is the tea made from old socks. I have never shared the Starbucks anger because in my experience they gave me decent tea–also hot chocolate–while the mom and pop coffee shop of that era gave me a cup of tepid water and directions to the Tetley tea bags and packets of diet Swiss Miss.

    7. Koala dreams*

      That’s correct for black tea. For green tea, you need to take the hot water before it boils, when the bubbles are still small, otherwise the water is too hot. (I often end up boiling the water and then leave it to cool for a few minutes…) Also, for green tea, it is said that the second brewing tastes the best. So save your tea bag for a second cup.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Side note for readers. There’s a lovely sequence about making tea Japanese style at the start of Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky by Sandra Dallas. (It’s about WWII internment. I choked up so badly when the Japanese-American girl realized what was happening that I still haven’t finished the book. But then my 6th grade teacher was Japanese-American of the same generation, so it’s personal to me.)

    8. !*

      Pretty much exactly how I make my tea, kettle at home, hot water tap at work. I only drink Earl Grey as well. Love my tea!

    9. Mainely Professional*

      I learned recently that in England basically everyone uses an electric kettle, and because ya’ll have 240V they boil twice as fast as US 110V. Most casual tea drinkers in the US have a stovetop kettle, which my English friend found QUAINT. I became a professional tea drinker and got an electric kettle after accidentally burning out a stovetop one.

      That said, every time a Brit in a movie or tv says “I’ll put the kettle on” they don’t mean putting it upon the stove, they mean switching it on! Mind. Blown.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’ve been debating spending counter space on one because it would make tea easier and help me cut down my caffeine intake.

        1. Stephanie*

          I love my electric kettle! I use it to boil water both for tea, and for my French press for coffee. It’s much quicker than a stove top kettle, and definitely worth the counter space.

        2. fposte*

          I love my electric kettle! Like Batgirl, I use it whenever I need boiling water for a recipe as well as for tea.

        3. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I use my electric kettle for oatmeal as well. Boil the water, pour it over your oats, cover the bowl for a couple of minutes to let the hot water really soak in, and presto!

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            LOL. Also good for killing ants and weeds. Just pour that boiling want right on the plant or right into the crack in the pavement.

      2. UKDancer*

        It’s funny but my instinctive reaction is “yes of course, how else would you make tea.” I live in London and everyone I know has an electric kettle, they’re a core part of life for most people. When you move house you always pack the kettle last so you can make the removal men a cup of tea on arrival.

        I know one person who uses a kettle on the aga but she’s an outlier and lives in a farmhouse in Lincolnshire with an old fashioned range. If you ask an English person for tea in their house it will almost certainly come from an electric kettle.

        Obviously in offices there’s more likely to be a hot water boiler for the tea (mine has these) but that’s more practicality as it has to serve a greater number of people.

        1. londonedit*

          My parents have an Aga and years ago we bought my mum a nice kettle for it – looks nice but no one ever uses it because it takes an actual age to boil the water. Which the electric kettle can manage in about 60 seconds.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I have an electric kettle (variable temp) at work, but I use a stovetop kettle at home to save counter space.

        3. MsSolo*

          95% of British households have an electric kettle (and it says something about me that that’s a stat I know off the top of my head!). I can understand not drinking tea, but I find the idea of boiling water for pasta or rice in the saucepan a bit disconcerting too! A minute and a half and it’s boiling in the kettle, ready to start cooking immediately.

          1. Glitsy Gus*

            I’m not anti-electric kettle, but with my current situation I’d rather just have a kettle live on the stove than lose the very tiny amount of counter space I have to yet another appliance. Once I get a bigger kitchen, I’ll be all over it. Until then I can wait an extra minute or two for my tea.

        4. iglwif*

          I’m in Canada, and everybody here also owns an electric kettle. In fact, it’s often the first small appliance you purchase when you move out of your parents’ home. Pretty much essential for tea, but also useful for coffee (French press, pour-over), instant ramen, hot chocolate, instant oatmeal…

          Electric kettle in small offices, hot-water boiler in large ones. (The teabags provided in offices, like the coffee, are often cheap and dreadful, however. When I worked in an office I always brought my own loose-leaf tea and made a pot at a time.)

          1. Humble Schoolmarm*

            Wait, what? But how… People don’t own electric kettles in the US? Wow! I learned something new. Off to drink a hot beverage, eat some timbits and ponder life’s rich tapestry.

            1. nym*

              I am in the US, I own an electric kettle which I use daily for tea… and I am an outlier. Many of my friends have never seen an electric kettle before.

              And at work, we have a 1.7L kettle in the kitchen, none of this “hot water boiler” of which you speak. There’s maybe three of us that use it regularly out of about 60 on my floor.

      3. Snow*

        This also means that for years British power companies had to be prepared for surges when popular shows ended as everyone went to make tea and millions of kettles went on at once but they phased it out now with more on demand power.

      4. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        I bought an electric kettle for my office, because I liked the one my English boss had in her office so much. So handy at work! Not just for tea, but for cup o noodles, hot cocoa, pourover coffee.

      5. Elizabeth West*

        I have an electric kettle, and so does my mum. She has a Smeg now and her old one is in the space where I am. I use it every morning (that one is in better shape than mine).

        I wonder if, when I find a job, they’d let me have a kettle…

      6. Tuppence*

        This explains why my American husband always boils the water for pasta in a pot rather than the electric kettle! It even feels quaint to say “electric” kettle, since that’s the default here in the UK.

      1. londonedit*

        Neither do British ones unless they’re particularly posh, but a lot of office kitchens here now have boiling water taps or dispensers instead of electric kettles. Basically, to make a proper cup of tea, you’ve got to use actual boiling water and not microwaved water or water from the regular hot tap.

        1. only acting normal*

          The boiling water tap in our office kitchen broke last week… the horror, the horror. Then someone brought out an emergency kettle and order was restored. It was dicey there for a minute.

          1. londonedit*

            Because the water needs to be boiling when it hits the tea. And microwaved water always tastes weird.

            1. Quill*

              Not to pedant, but that sounds like a problem with the local water rather than the microwave… probably having to do with minerals or water softness/hardness…

              1. Goldfinch*

                The science-y reason is because microwaves heat unevenly, so while the average temperature of the water is “hot” the water isn’t actually at the precisely correct temperature throughout the entirety of the liquid.

                That said, I am a former waitress, and thus have no patience for people being precious over either tea or beer.

                1. Quill*

                  Water is an EXCELLENT conductor though. I can see solid foods being unevenly heated (I purposefully unbalance the spinning plate in my microwave so it distributes more evenly) but with water, especially if you’re not getting the weird “boils but does not bubble” effect, I don’t think there’s going to be a practical difference.

                  There’s probably more variation based on the type of soil the tea leaves grew in and the health of the original plant than there is on your +/- 1 degree from boiling water that you then POUR into another vessel, effectively mixing it.

                2. Lunar Caustic*

                  Never boil water in a microwave! It has the potential to superheat the water, where its temperature rises above the boiling point without bubbles forming. Then when you disturb the surface of the water, the bubbles are released all at once and you get a faceful of boiling water spraying everywhere.

                3. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

                  To safely boil water in a microwave, put a plastic spoon or a plastic or wooden chopstick in the cup. This disrupts the surface of the water, so you don’t get the superheating problem.

          2. iglwif*

            Other people have noted other reasons, but also, boiling water in the microwave takes FOREVER in my experience. (Maybe bad microwaves? But when I’ve tried to do this when a recipe calls for it, I’ve almost always just given up and heated the water in the kettle instead.)

        2. Alton*

          In my (US) office, we have a water cooler that has a tap for hot water, but it’s not hot enough to make tea. It’s kind of a useless temperature that’s too hot to drink but not hot enough to steep tea. I guess it’s sufficient for some powdered coffee or hot chocolate.

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            We have this too. It’s a great temperature if you’re making hot cider from a packet, but my tea is never quite right.

      2. nym*

        My parents have a separate tap in their kitchen, but it’s not hot enough! The water comes out at 180F (about 90C).

        I bought a collapsible travel kettle to take with me when I visit them so I no longer have to microwave my water or boil it in a saucepan. It’s also amazing for work trips, no more keurig-flavored too-cool water for my morning tea!!

    10. RecentAAMfan*

      I know of a woman who, having immigrated from Eastern Europe, discovered teabags for the first time, and was delighted to discover, as she TORE OPEN THE TEABAG, that it contained the perfect amount of tea for a single cup.

    11. EPLawyer*

      I just want to say, you can use a pod machine for tea making. Don’t scream, hear me out. We got a Keurig because I like tea and my husband likes coffee. Rather than having 2 machines, we got the Keurig. I discovered, if you put the tea bag in the cup, then put an EMPTY reusable pod in the machine, it runs the hot water through into the cup. Just like pouring the boiling water into the cup. The bag is properly aerated. You can also do loose leaf tea this way with the tea diffuser in the cup.

        1. KarenK*

          Me, either. Before I got my electric kettle, that’s how I’d make a cup of tea. Boiling water for tea, or whatever you need boiling water for, is much easier and safer with the kettle. I received my as a gift, but when it dies, I’ll definitely replace it. The auto-off feature is wonderful when you get old and forgetful, like me.

      1. MsSolo*

        But it’s not boiling water – at least, not if it makes decent coffee, which shouldn’t be made with boiling water. A keurig will make tea, but it’s like the tea you get on a train, weirdly flat and bitter instead of rich and malty.

    12. Phony Genius*

      The British have an official standard for making tea. It’s called “BS 6008: Method for Preparation of a Liquor of
      Tea,” if anybody’s interested.

      1. noahwynn*

        Ireland objects to the ISO standard because it doesn’t call for preheating of the teapot. I wish I were joking.

    13. Quill*

      “under no circumstances heat the water in the microwave.”

      I know based on this that you’re probably a brit and this will go unheeded, but… there is no functional difference in how you heat water in a microwave and on a stovetop if you’re not using a brand new pyrex. Microscopic dents and abrasions in the glass, (usually caused by normal dishwashing) will cause the microwaved water to bubble while heating, and you can always poke suspiciously still water with a spoon or chopstick prior to putting it in a kettle or putting a bag in it.

      From a chemical standpoint the temperature of the water is going to be more important to whether the tea gets bitter or not – I’ve been trying to get my mom NOT to boil green tea for literal years. (It’s still an improvement on “sun tea” which was lipton in a mason jar in the sun for 6+ hours. That stuff was vile.)

      1. definitely*

        Testify! Except if you use the suspect office microwave that no one ever cleans and the steam from your boiling water loosens all the crud on the microwave walls – then you might get funky tastes in the water. Otherwise, the water molecules don’t care how they get heated.

        1. Quill*

          Yeah, I’ve blown up enough agar in lab microwaves (Not for food use!) that I’m pretty inured to looking into a microwave and seriously considering what the heck is living in there, but I still only microwave tea water at home, and use work’s hot water machine.

      2. Environmental Compliance*

        I just wanted to let you know that I now have a mental image of ‘suspiciously still water’ that someone pokes with a stick and a tiny angry little water monster pops out screeching.

        As you can see, I’m accomplishing a lot at work today.

      3. Amy Sly*

        The closest I’ve come to “sun tea” was for a Christmas dinner when I didn’t have iced tea ready, so I brew up a pitcher of hot tea and then stuck it outside in the snow to cool off.

        1. Quill*

          That’s a normal response to needing iced tea.

          My mom’s early 90’s knowledge of the tea brewing process, on the other hand…

    14. LW#3*

      Thank you! I had made a cup (it’s loose leaf), and it was awful. She saw my face, I told her I don’t think I like this tea, and she offered to make the next cup. At lunch I heard the HAVE to comment and said nope, not ever again! I am genuinely trying not to give her anymore crosses to bear! I was apparently using too much of that one.

      I always put the tea bag in first when using bagged tea, but I do not know why I do this. :)

      Thank you!

      1. Batgirl*

        LW, tea bag in a mug is much easier to learn than loose leaf in a pot because you can ignore steep times etc and just use your eyes. Stir until you get a dark dribble when you lift it, then just a bit of a squeeze and you’re done.

      2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        It might be a matter of how long you and she steeped the tea: different teas taste better with different amounts of time. You might have to experiment. Three minutes or so will work for a lot of teas.

        Some tea companies put instructions like “brew 3-4 minutes” on the package–which is great unless it’s Bigelow, which labels *all* their teas with the same instructions, meaning some of it will be overbrewed.

        (I steep the tea for about 4 minutes for Assam, 3 for Darjeeling or my husband’s Lapsang souchong, somewhere in between for orange pekoe.)

          1. Batgirl*

            That really is a matter of preference. My dad of the teapot-era would love the strength. I would consider it to be acceptably brewed but slightly stewed and tepid.

            1. iglwif*

              My FIL z”l used to put three teabags in his teapot in the morning, drink his first cup of tea, and then keep reheating this punishingly strong tea in the microwave all day. You could have removed paint with this tea, I swear.

          2. knead me seymour*

            Meanwhile, some of us enjoy the slightly overwhelming flavour that can only be reached after a full eight minutes.

        1. Quill*

          Bigelow teas are terrible no matter what you do to them, I’m not sure the label is making a difference here. :)

          (Salada and lipton are worse though!)

    15. Kat in VA*

      I’m a heathen savage. I make my green tea with the Keurig. *shrugs*

      However, mess with my salsa recipe and we shall have words.

  11. Sarah*

    Yes, your paycheck is decreased when paying taxes– that’s how taxes work. I would have been out of debt a long time ago if I didn’t have to pay taxes. But that’s just what comes along with the territory of working, even occasional babysitting. I agree that there are good reasons for your employer to not break the law.

    1. Jen RO*

      I think OP is saying that she will lose her disability payments completely if she gets paid over the table for babysitting, therefore her only income would then come from babysitting twice a month.

    2. Zillah*

      This feels pretty unkind; it’s clear that the OP’s issue isn’t just not feeling like paying taxes.

      1. Sarah*

        The letter reads as if the issue is about paying taxes. I am not sure how the US disability system works, but if he would lose disability benefits for working, then that is a pretty terrible system. I support disability payments, every society should take care of their disabled and sick.

        1. annony*

          The amount she makes would almost certainly be less than the deduction, so she almost certainly wouldn’t owe taxes on it. The US disability system does cause you to lose benefits if you earn income.

        2. Alton*

          Yes, losing benefits if you earn income is a real problem in the US, and that’s what the letter writer is concerned about. The amount that will cause people to lose some or all of their benefits usually isn’t enough to actually be able to support themselves.

    3. Diamond*

      She’s not necessarily losing money off the babysitting income, she’s losing money off her disability payment, to the point that it would not be worth it/financially viable to work any more. It’s a terrible system because many people on disability may be capable of working a little bit, but are discouraged from doing so because their support payments would get docked. So they have to choose between not working at all and living on a tiny disability pension, or putting in all the effort of working as far as they are capable and getting only negligible returns.

      1. Mommy.MD*

        You don’t have the legal option of working on disability. She would lose her entire benefit. This isn’t like taxation on retirement income. She can’t show any income.

        1. Product Person*

          “You don’t have the legal option of working on disability.” Are you sure? That goes against what the OP said:

          I’ve done research and I’d lose 50 cents for every dollar I made after the first $85.

        2. Diamond*

          What she wrote sounds like her disability payment starts getting docked if she earns over $85 (per week?). Which is how it works where I live too.

      2. CM*

        +1 I’m in Canada, but this is the problem with our disability system, too. It doesn’t pay enough to support someone (especially someone with extra medical expenses) but, if you try to top off by working part time, you’re worse off than if you did nothing. It’s one of those social safety nets where the only way you’re allowed to use it is if your life stays as shitty as possible — that’s not really lifting people up.

        1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

          Well, and add privilege.

          What if you are in all of those circumstances, but if you come from a solid family who is able to be helpful? Your life quality is entirely different from someone who wasn’t born to a family who can help out with a place to live and basic expenses taken care of.

          I think of this ALL the time. My adult son is autistic. He is not on disability but works fast food 20 hours a week. We’re able to support him and he has a nice life. He saves his money, pays for his own health insurance through the ACA, goes out with friends on the weekend.

          ALL the time I think about my sweet, wonderful son and what if he wasn’t born into a family able or willing to take care of him and how totally different his life would look. So I read a post like OP1’s and think good lord, when can we focus on doing better for our entire extended family, our fellow human beings.

          I’m sorry for your trouble, OP.

          1. Quill*

            Yeah, the only way to have quality of life as a disabled person in america is to have a support network that has their own extra money or resources, and a lot of disabled people end up losing that at some point due to either parents aging / becoming disabled themselves, the economy, or people becoming less willing or able to help support them.

            When you add in another axis of oppression it gets a lot harder to have that support network.

            1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*


              it’s a journey, isn’t it?

              I am grateful every single day that we have resources to be helpful. I have to work until I *die* to make sure he has everything he needs for the rest of his life :) but also grateful that I have the chance!

      3. Harper the Other One*

        This is my biggest objection to most disability support payments: the assumption that disability is all or nothing. When people are able to work in jobs like babysitting which are few and far between, they should be able to do that without taking a financial hit. Frankly, disability stipends are so low that in most places people should probably be allowed to earn as much as their payment before their payment is reduced at all.

        1. Diamond*

          It’s ridiculous. There is a lot of middle ground between ‘totally capable of working a 40 hour week’ and ‘literally cannot work a single hour’. A lot of people just need a helping hand to meet them halfway, but that scenario apparently doesn’t exist where disability criteria are concerned.

  12. Sally*

    Back in the day, when I was looking for a job after I moved to New York, I would change my sneakers for my heels in the elevator on the way to the interview. I probably didn’t need to wear them even then, but I thought I did. But I definitely wasn’t going to walk around NYC wearing them!

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      I still remember the film “Working Girl” in which Melanie Griffith and Joan Cusack do this.

      1. voluptuousfire*

        I still see older women commute like this. :) They have the purse, the briefcase AND the bagged lunch. It’s a riot. Most younger women use either a larger tote or a backpack and leave a few pairs of shoes under their desk.

        1. Sally*

          Since I was interviewing, of course I had to carry the shoes with me. But at my current full time job, I have a shoe rack under my desk, and it’s full of shoes!

          We moved to another building a couple of months ago, and I was worried my shoe rack wouldn’t fit under the smaller desks, but – thank goodness! – it fits.

        2. soon 2be former fed*

          Older woman here. Used a large tote and kept shoes in the desk drawer when I commuted. Age based assumptions are rarely accurate, and I detest them.

  13. Gaia*

    If I had to wear heels to get hired, I wouldn’t have ever been made an offer.

    There are some outfits that tend to look more polished with heels, but there is no outfit that can’t look great in flats, too. Also: if you’re uncomfortable in heels it will knock your confidence and impact your interview. Wear flats. You’ll be fine.

  14. Needing chocolate.*

    For the person on SSDI. You are allowed to work while on it, but the limit is $1200.00 before taxes a month. If you are blind, it’s $2040.00. If you go even a little bit over it, it means to them you are able to do a full time job, so you have to be careful. I’ve been on SSDI for years and work part time, which is all I can do with my back. I would rather be able to work full time and not have this pain. SSDI does keep you poor even if you work part time, but do what you can. Goodluck.

    1. Geek history*

      Everything depends on whether they get ssid or ssi. Unless they used her parents income, it’s most likely ssi since she wouldn’t have built up the tax credits. I’d advise her to not take anyone’s word here since every disability case is different and each state has different hoops they make you jump through.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, she’s describing the SSI formula. It’s a pretty Byzantine system so I can understand why people don’t automatically know the difference. (Wait till you have to figure out Medicare!)

        1. History Geek*

          Oh it’s super fun! So fun. See on SSI you auto get medicaid. Which only covers a certain amount of things. Need dental or physical therapy or a lot of other things? Time to jump through the medicare wavier program hoops. I’m in the middle of it and pretty much only both my insurance and my doctor yelling at the state that I could loose moblity if I don’t get physical therapy as gotten the state to move faster than a snails pace. The system is set up to pretty much punish those that are disabled, especially those that didn’t “earn” enough before becoming so.

          I don’t blame the OP1 for being scared about loosing her benefits. It can be years to get on SSI to start with.

  15. Marlene*

    #1 Parents can claim up to a certain amount per year in childcare costs on their own taxes, or pay from a pre-tax dependent care savings account. The savings account is, I believe, a use-it-or-lose-it benefit, meaning the money must be used by the end of the year or some or all of the funds are lost. Either way, dependent care tax benefits can significantly add up.

    To get the tax benefits, parents must provide the IRS with the baby-sitter’s tax information.

  16. ENFP in Texas*

    “Why are their ethics more important than my needs?”

    This sentence really rubs me the wrong way. Basically you are asking someone else to break the law for you, putting themselves at risk for your benefit. Why are your needs more important than their staying out of trouble with the IRS?

        1. KD*

          It’s also unethical to put pressure on someone to break the law (including guilt tripping them about how they are depriving someone with a disability from meeting their essential needs when he doesn’t “owe” her continued employment as a babysitter) and potentially get themselves in trouble and/or go to jail.

    1. Loose Seal*

      When one is worried about being able to have heat higher than 64 degrees, it’s tough to be concerned about someone else’s ethics when it seems to you like they are just being suddenly over zealous about taxes. OP is just trying to *live* and when you are just eking out an existence, petty little things like taxes don’t matter much to you.

      (I know people will say that other people’s taxes are paying her disability so taxes are important but those people should be clamoring to their reps to spend their taxes more wisely so people like the OP don’t have to suffer day-to-day.)

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Yes, this. This is one step removed from the classic question of whether it’s ethical to steal bread when you’re starving.

        1. EPLawyer*

          It’s like this, it may be ethical for you to steal bread because you are starving. But is it ethical to ask someone else to steal bread for you because you are starving? I would posit it is not.

          The problem is the law and the amount of benefits. Not the dad who needs the babysitter.

          1. CMart*

            Agreed with all of this. Especially if you add in the layer “is it ethical to ask a single parent to steal bread for you?” There’s a child in this situation who is depending on their dad to keep his job, not put them in legal and financial peril by breaking the law etc…

          2. Quill*

            If you can’t physically steal the bread yourself it’s ethical to ask! It doesn’t mean that the other person is obliged to take that risk though. The other person gets to weigh the potential risk to themselves and their child, it’s not on OP to pretend that they’re not hungry.

            Ideally you’d have multiple people you could ask and the person with the least to lose if they got caught would take the task on…

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

          Shouldn’t stealing be an absolute last resort after all other options have been exhausted and there only left a choice of steal or starve? Shouldn’t she have an ethical obligation to find a legal way to get bread? Could she be require to ask the network of people like her rabbi, lawmakers, a friend who is a lawyer, therapist, and doctors to GIVE her bread without her stealing it, or demanding someone else steal it for her? If she wants to jeopardize herself by not reporting income, and she and her network don’t think there is an ethical violation with that, they can help her find another simple source of under-the-table income, and can leave this man and his family out of it.

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        Right, but I think that the point is that while (very understandably!) to the OP this appears like a “my essential needs vs his optional ethics” issue, not breaking the law could be an essential need for this guy. It might not be an issue of him suddenly developing some ethical qualm, it’s possible that being discovered to be paying her under the table could have serious consequences for him. But to the OP I don’t think that distinction is very important as it results in the same thing either way.

        1. nonegiven*

          I think having money left in a dependent care FSA near the end of the year is probably his motivation.

      3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yeah, this. Like, in isolation that’s kind of a yikes question, but given the OP’s context, I find it pretty understandable.

    2. Allypopx*

      Any first year ethics class will distinguish between ethics and laws, or rules. He has a legitimate fear of consequences, as the OP does. It’s not just something he feels bad about.

      That said, I completely understand why the OP is so frustrated and have all the sympathy in the world. Living on disability can be very rough and unforgiving.

    3. Person from the Resume*

      Yes. The way this question is worded the LW is placing the blame on the father for not continuing paying her under the table for her now reduced circumstances.

      It’s the fault of the shitty “social safety net” which doesn’t pay people enough to live comfortable and also doesn’t allow them to supplement their disability benefits with work.

      The LW is suffering but she’s misplacing her blame and anger and that very rubbed me the wrong way. That father is completely justified to not want to break the law any longer for the LW’s benefit. It’s not his fault the system sucks for the LW, and he shouldn’t have to take the misplaced blame for the broken system.

      1. Allypopx*

        Yes, absolutely, and in a more lucid and calm place OP probably knows that. But I also get the reaction. I’m sure OP feels like they’re getting kicked while they’re down and the person in front of them is the easiest to assign that hurt to. I’m not saying it’s right, but humans are emotional and fallible beings and it’s understandable.

    4. Lehigh*

      Yeah, that bothered me, too. The OP even mentions that she consulted with others, including her rabbi, and got reassurance for her own ethical behavior in the situation. It sounds like the dad has not gotten similar reassurance (to his satisfaction, and if this is indeed about ethics rather than risk–which I’m not so sure about.)

      On the other hand, while I disagree with the framing, of course I do see how it feels awful to be in the OP’s circumstances.

    5. Miranda Priestly’s Assistant*

      The OP is in a really tough place and I understand their mindset. Of course, I also support the employer not breaking the law. The issue isn’t the OP or the employer – it’s the very shitty welfare system that put both of them in the situation. How stupid is it that the government provides disability benefits that preclude them from working…but then not even provide enough for them to live on?

      1. Perpal*

        The way assistance programs can encourage the cycle of poverty is a huge problem (to be clear, the problem is not with the goal of assistance, but with the current execution in the US)

    6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s pretty much just displaced anger at a broken ugly system in the end.

      It feels hopeless and empty to just hate the government, hate that funding is constantly stripped by politicians trying to line their own pockets, etc. Those people are figments of the imagination to the day to day mindset, they’re just up on that shiny hill. But the OP knows the guy who’s now “denying” her access to additional funds due to the laws and regulations put into place by crooked criminals in politics.

      It’s easier to say “I hate you, neighbor. I see you. I know you. I hate you.” than just focusing on the real culprits out there.

      I kneejerked a bit at the comment as well but when someone is held down by society due to their physical limitations, it really plants these kinds of seeds of disgust towards people who are just trying to do the legal thing because they’re worried about the consequences that they may face.

    7. knead me seymour*

      That’s a pretty uncharitable read. I think the LW’s sentiment is that it must be nice to have the resources to take an ethical stand. I’m sure the LW would rather not have to work under the table as well, but it’s either that or freeze. Obviously that’s not really the employer’s fault, and as Alison says, he may have other concerns besides ethics, but I think it’s a totally understandable feeling.

  17. Anono-me*

    OP #1 -Can your lawyer and Rabbi and other friends recommend you for other baby sitting or in home pet care jobs?

    I don’t think your friend is going to change his mind about the tax forms. (No matter how many people think that he should.) So looking for a different solution might be it better use of your time and energy.

    Also, I suspect that your former employer was probably paying you lower than the average babysitting rate if all an overnight gig for multiple kids let you do was buy a combo meal and turn the heat up a few degrees occasionally. Friends who live just outside of a bigger city and have one young ‘un say the going rate is atleast $15/hour +tip. So an overnight from 8pm to 8 am would be $225-$250. ( I actually give them an evening of free babysitting for the holidays.)

    Good luck with finding something.

    1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      I didn’t read LW #1 as being about overnight sitting; more likely it’s something like “Can you be here from 7 to 11 while we go out to a movie? Put the kids to bed at 8 and then feel free to hang out and watch TV or whatever won’t wake them up.” I’d pay $20/hr for that, but I’m in a large city. It should certainly be at least $15/hr.

      1. Quill*

        When I was a teen in the early 00’s, we considered anything less than $10 / hr for one potty trained kid, and at least $5 for any additional child, to be insulting pay, unless we were basically volunteering our services to help someone out. For children who didn’t use the bathroom themselves it was definitely higher, but tutoring, at about $20/hr, was where it was at.

        It doesn’t sound like it’s gone up too much since then, regional differences aside.

        Most places list $20/hr as a current living wage, but it’s hard enough politically to push for $15…

        OP, please do check that you’re making current babysitting wages before you ask your rabbi to hook you up with other clients.

        1. Perpal*

          ? $20/hr as the living wage? That seemed high to me, I found this widget:
 – “living wage” varies a lot by how many people one is supporting which is… hardly surprising. But looks like it varies between $10-50 in my area alone depending that. Kind of hard to base a min wage around that kind of variance.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      You get above minimum wage for babysitting?!

      I’m a geezer, and I was lucky to get $1/hour for babysitting, and that was when minimum wage was close to $3/hour. As a teenager babysitting, we were never offered anything close to minimum wage. That’s why they hired us kids for babysitting, mowing lawns, hauling wood – no hassle like taxes, and we were so much cheaper.

  18. Lucky black cat*

    LW1, I really feel for you but I think you’ve been given very unhelpful advice by the people you list – because they’ve been answering the wrong question.

    This isn’t a test of whether it’s ethical for you to do this work under the table. It’s not a test of whether it’s fair that you struggle financially. It’s not a test of whether you need the money. What you should do, and what you need, obviously feels personal to you but it’s not the determining factor.

    The real question is whether it’s ok for someone to decide they aren’t comfortable breaking the law, or if that’s their choice to make. Not whether it’s ethical for you. Not even whether it’s ethical for them. But whether they have the right to make that choice – which they do. And nobody is obliged to give you work, even though you really need it.

    How would you feel if you made a decision about something that didn’t feel ok for you, and someone said: “well everyone else says this is ok so you shouldn’t have a problem with it.” It doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks. They don’t get to make his decision for him.

    1. Christy*

      Yes! I was trying to figure out how I would articulate this idea but you’ve already done it! OP, it isn’t a question of his ethics versus your needs. It’s kind of like any relationship—it worked under certain terms (under the table), then one party decided they couldn’t continue that way any longer, and now the other party has to decide if it still works for them.

      And it stinks! But honestly, this one dude isn’t the problem here. The entire disability insurance system and how it keeps people with disabilities in utter poverty is the problem.

    2. hbc*

      Yeah, as much as I sympathize with the OP’s situation, the dad has the right to act on his own ethics and decide that the rules are more important than helping a friend out. I’m guessing OP has some lines that she’s not willing to cross–maybe violating her lease and risking her living situation to let a homeless friend crash for a while, or being a fake reference to help a friend get a job that would pay the bills.

      Even if he just wants to report the payments so he can claim the child care credit, he has to look after his own interests too.

    3. Maybe we can do someting about it*

      I have a suggestion: why not all Americans reading this and thinking a system that penalizes a person with disabilities trying to supplement their meager disability income with the limited work they CAN do sucks, write to your representative to ask for change?

      1. DJ*

        Good suggestion. It’s never going to hurt to at least try to advocate for some change. The system as it is currently sucks and it makes it so that people on disability have to remain in poverty in order to continue receiving benefits.

        1. EliseA*

          Both a house bill (HR 4280) and a senate bill (S. 2753) have been introduce that substantially increase the asset limits and the earnings disregard for individuals who receive SSI. Both are generally called the SSI Restoration Act.

            1. Little My*

              Thank you, Alison! Grateful, as ever, for this site, your comment section, and the guidance you provide. Done and done

      2. Butter Makes Things Better*

        Sent letters to my rep and both my senators! Thanks for the suggestion. For anyone who wants to write in, here’s a brief template you can use and, of course, improve as you see fit.

        Dear Senator/Representative ________ —

        My name is ________, and I’m one of your constituents living in ________. I’m writing today to urge you to support the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act (HR 4280 OR S. 2753). It’s imperative that we help people on SSIs live above sub-poverty levels by increasing the asset limits and earnings disregard for such folks. This is an issue of grave importance to me and the eight million people whose hands are tied by the current, untenable standards.

        Thanks for your time, and as always, for your service —

        1. Little My*

          Thanks for making it so easy, Butter Makes Things Better! Tweaked it to my needs, but this helped a ton.

    4. Koala dreams*

      I think this is the key to the question. It feels really unfair to lose your job in the middle of the winter and not be able to pay for heating, but that’s the reality of this kind of job. The babysitter agreement worked as long as it worked, and now it doesn’t. Just as with any job, nobody owes you a job because you need it.

      1. Amy Sly*

        Yeah. It’s not fair I have student loans bigger than the average mortgage and no way to discharge them in bankruptcy. It’s frustrating as hell that a decade after graduation, I still haven’t managed to acquire salaried work that uses my law degree. But I can’t imagine anyone here would sympathize if I started suggesting managers ought to hire me instead of more qualified applicants, much less if I suggested they should break the law on my behalf!

        I’m sorry life sucks for the LW. But her employer isn’t wrong to insist on following the law.

  19. Anono-me*

    Op#4. An office canary? Really ?

    I know several people with bird phobias of various degrees. I think that it is more common than most people realize due to stigma. Also some people with certain respiratory issues need to avoid indoor birds.

    1. Delta Delta*

      Strikes me as odd to bring a bird into an office with at least 2 people who are described as being very neat and tidy. Birds are pretty messy.

      1. 8DaysAWeek*

        Exactly. And what happens to the bird on the weekend or holidays? Does someone take it home or does someone come in each day to take care of it?

        1. Quill*

          We had a school rabbit that did fine over the weekend when I was a kid (unlimited water from container, multiple servings of food left in separate bowls, natural lighting, cage cleaned friday and monday,) but there was a rotation for rabbit sitting over any holiday longer than 3 days, among both students and staff. Let me be clear that this was not a GOOD situation for a rabbit, in retrospect, but the people in charge of those decisions thought it was adequate at the time.

          I’d imagine they’re doing similar for the bird, not that it’s a GOOD situation for the bird. The rabbit at least got to roam the school free during school day afternoons.

      2. UbiCaritas*

        Seriously – with all the problems cleaning the office kitchen, are they really going to keep the birdcage clean? (I know a bird is a living creature, but I’m wondering who is going to have to clean the birdcage?)

    2. What’s with Today, today?*

      The Texas A&M Chancellor brought a bunch of parakeets into his building and released them. It…didn’t work out. The article is in Texas Monthly or the Texas Tribune, I forget which.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Bird feathers always shed so their space needs better than average ventilation or its a hazard to anyone with lungs. Even if they’re not allergic.
      Google “bird fancier’s lung”. I’m sure it takes more than one canary if you’re not immune-compromised, but personally I wouldn’t want the exposure anyway.

    4. WellRed*

      This whole office sounds weird. A…bird? And this struck me:

      “The company owner is, admittedly, a massive neatnik who asks that the chairs in the lunchroom be pushed in, sends emails about toilet lids left up, etc. He’s not awful about it, but has made it clear that he has preferences.’

      OP, he kind of is awful about it. Emails about toilet lids? Does he not have actual work to do?

      1. LW#3 (Thebirdoffice)*

        Oh, things are definitely weird here! (We have an office canary???!!!)
        The owner is at least self-aware to a point. He says things like the bit about the toilets with a comment along the lines of “I know it’s weird, but it’s my company, and this is how I want people to see it.”

        It’s weird, but it’s like he walks by the bathroom and sees the lid up a couple times in a week and sends an email because he’s in a mood. He’s not going in after each of us to figure out the culprit(s)!

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      I can’t get off “canary in a coalmine” and assume there is some sort of dark alarm system at work here.

      1. Allypopx*

        That’s exactly where my brain went.

        Alternatively, some kind of magic brewing that involves canary feathers.

    6. LW#3 (Thebirdoffice)*

      Yep, the company owner keeps canaries at home. This one wasn’t getting along with the other birds, had got some feathers picked out, etc. so Owner brought him here. I think he was hoping one of us would adopt him, as we are all quite obvious about being animal people (I bring my dog in occasionally, as does another co-worker, though we keep them in our own spaces!)

      My friend sits in the front of the office and is therefore sharing space with the poor thing. She actually asked him to take the bird home yesterday as bird wasn’t doing well when we came into the office…..but bird is still here.

      Based on the comments here, I’m going to lean on my boss. I have resp. issues and I am not afraid to explain the potential for issues. My boss doesn’t love birds either and may be able to apply pressure.

  20. Maria Lopez*

    OP2- That is a bunch of bunk they told you. The reality is they probably had a few candidates that fit the job better than you, so they made up the lie about being 10 minutes late was the reason you didn’t get the job.
    Really, they canceled your interview and rescheduled it and don’t see the irony of what they said? I can also see why you might not have called immediately, because it sounds like road conditions weren’t conducive to you being on the phone.
    I think that it is probably for the better that you didn’t get this particular job.

      1. Maria Lopez*

        It is helpful in the sense that OP can put this in perspective. It may not be what you would want to hear.

        1. Jana*

          It’s not helpful because it’s based on stuff you have made-up and not on reality. That’s not about it not being what someone wants to hear, it’s about you just making stuff up and deciding to present it as fact instead of merely your own supposition, which is all that it is.

          Nothing in the letter substantiates your imagined scenario here. Why would you assume an employer would bother to make up a lie about the late coming being the problem when they could have gone with the usual generic “stronger fit” candidate and been honest? Do you always assume that people are lying for the hell of it? Do YOU lie like this and so you just assume everyone else is as corrupt and dishonest as you are? Or are you a habitual fantasist and you cannot help making up imaginary scenarios based on nothing real?

          1. Maria Lopez*

            Well, that is about as ugly a comment as I have ever seen on this site. I hope you are not as unpleasant in real life and don’t make such ignorant suppositions as you have here.
            Employers have been known to lie to job candidates, and realizing that fact does not mean that I myself am a liar, but just someone with a lot of job experience and an understanding of how toxic some people and work places can be. All replies in the comment section are suppositions with a bias toward the commenter’s experience in the real world, so just because your suppositions don’t fit mine does not mean yours are more valid or even more based in fact. Nothing in your reply substantiates your wild and baseless accusations about my character or integrity, but does show your own thought processes.

        2. Lucky black cat*

          The fact they rescheduled the interview isn’t a useful comparison, as I assume they told her beforehand.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            They rescheduled the interview because the office was closed for snow and ice. I don’t understand what ML thinks should have happened instead. Let OP interview herself outside the locked doors of an office building in the snow?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I mean, that’s possible, but it’s not so likely that you should state as as likely fact. Employers are used to rejecting people — most aren’t going to blame it on the lateness if that’s not the real reason, since that’s actually a more awkward/confrontational conversation than a generic rejection would be.

    2. Colette*

      To me, being that late (and not notifying them in advance) means that the OP left later than she should have for the conditions. If she was planning to be there ten minutes early (which is a good time to aim for) and allowed for the road conditions, she should have been looking for parking at 12:50, even if she didn’t factor the “looking for parking” time in to her plans. But she didn’t get in touch with them until almost 20 minutes later. If she’d texted at 12:58, they may have had a different response.

      And if the job requires you to be on time, being that late when you are trying to make a good impression doesn’t bode well for your ability to show up on an average Tuesday.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Agreed. The OP being late isn’t as troublesome to me as alerting the employer AFTER the interview was to have started. I’ve had candidates call me because they ran into traffic snarls like a water main break, a funeral procession, a drawbridge, or a train derailment – all outside their control. But they let me know about it before the interview was supposed to start. If we were tight on time, I simply rescheduled. If not, we carried on when the candidate arrived.

        I live in a major metropolitan area and never leave parking to chance – Spot Hero and Park Whiz make a difference. If the OP chooses not to use those apps, or doesn’t need them because street parking is the norm, then hoping for the best in finding parking means tacking on even more time to your commute.

        1. Colette*

          And in the OP’s account of the situation, there was nothing unusual that delayed her – there was ice and snow left over from a previous storm (i.e. it was winter), but that is something that is predictable – unlike a water main break, or huge accident.

        2. Gets the worm*

          This — or even more than 10 minutes early. As a working musician (among other things) I operate on the principle that being “on time” is actually being late. If it really matters (like my gig, or your job interview) you want to plan to be there ridiculously early. I plan for two disasters — if no disasters happen, I’m ridiculously early. If one disaster happens, I’m still early. And if two disasters happen, I’m still not late. Three disasters — oh well. The point is not to plan on things going even reasonably well, with regard to travel time.

      2. Quill*

        I work in the midwest and have definitely seen snow where the only way to arrive guaranteed on time is to be prescient, but you also have to tell the interviewer the MINUTE you safely can once you suspect you’ll be late.

      3. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        I agree. My job requires frequent client meetings in all sorts of unfamiliar locations, and it’s on me to look up the location and parking situation beforehand and make sure I give myself enough time to park. I know most “normal” office positions don’t require that but I just couldn’t imagine being late to an interview with no warning and not having it impact your candidacy.

      4. Jen S. 2.0*

        This. I am not a punctual person in any arena of my life, and even I have never been late for a job interview.

        Texting** at 1:07 means that you knew long before 1:07 that you were going to be late, but you didn’t attempt to do anything about it until well after the interview should have started. If you weren’t entering the building at 12:50, you were already late, but you apparently didn’t think it was a problem until 1:07.

        A lot of things have changed and evolved and relaxed about job searching over the last 15 or 20 years, but the acceptability of being late for the interview is not one of them. That even applies to being 10 minutes late in the snow. If the weather was that bad, you should have rescheduled.

        **Moreover, texting at all when you are late for a job interview is … weirdly casual and informal to me, even if you had been communicating with the person by text previously. I have a hideous vision of someone sending a text saying, “prkng in sNOw be rgt up lol haha.” But that’s overshadowed anyway by the tardiness of the text.

    3. Gaia*

      I don’t know about this. I’ve used lateness to an interview as a deciding factor between two otherwise solid candidates. OP was not only late, she was late before she even contacted them. That, to me, is the issue.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        This. Being late is not necessarily a deal breaker. Not letting people know until you’re *already* late is a problem.

      2. Malarkey01*

        To me, texting after you were already late makes a huge difference. Full disclosure for jobs I interview people for I would expect them to be in the building by 12:50 for a 1:00 interview to make sure they could find the office, had time for a bathroom break, or just to catch your breath before starting. So showing up at 1:10 means you were not setting yourself up for success. I know delays happen, but whenever I’ve been the interviewee I’ve planned to be in the general area 30 minutes early (not in the actual building but a coffee shop next door or in my car in the lot.) Calling after it started makes it seem like you didn’t have any buffer on the day that you are putting your best foot forward. If you’re late to an interview I’m very nervous about your timeliness in a less important day to day.

    4. Perpal*

      Unlikely. Maybe of OP was stand out better than other applicants the lateness would have been overlooked. Now that I’m starting to be in a position to rank people, though, and staring at a list of well over 10 phenomenal candidates for 2 slots (whittled down from 100s of applicants), any little thing, even reasonable things, can be the difference. Not to be paranoia inducing because you just have to do your best but it’s quite possible they had enough other people who weren’t late and seemed just as good that that was the deciding factor. (and as allison said, if you are for some reason in this situation notify folks as early as possible, ideally before your start time!!)

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        This too. OP 2 wants their good fit for the job to overshadow their tardiness, but it’s very likely there were 5 people who were equally good fits, and 3 of them were on time to the interview.

    5. Maggie A Standley*

      Yes Maria Lopez, i too am thinking it’s probably better I didn’t get the job-
      and part of me doesn’t even want to go there- yet, i was probs about 20 years older than the 4 other staff in the interview…with tons more experience working with at-promise youth.
      Indeed, the road conditions weren’t conducive to pulling over- thks for the feedback!

  21. Lucky black cat*

    #2 I think it’s almost certainly the fact that you texted after you were already late, rather than calling before.

    Nobody can always be on time. That’s not what timeliness means. It means being on time when you can, and being conscientious when you can’t – and texting that you’re just parking is way too casual in an interview situation, sorry.

    Better luck next time.

    1. Mx*

      Yes but texting/calling while driving is dangerous. She would have had to stop the car somewhere to do that and be even more late.

      1. Maria Lopez*

        That was exactly what I was thinking when OP described the icy conditions. Even with bluetooth and hands free, being on the phone is a distraction from driving safely in that kind of weather.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I can’t be the only person who thinks it would have been better to pull over at 12.45 and call ahead, even if it made you more late overall.

        Also, at the risk of nitpicking, since most people arrive at least ten minutes early to interviews, LW may already have looked half an hour late to the interviewer.

        It’s sometimes said that the difference between on-time people and late people isn’t necessarily when they arrive, but when they realise they’re late. Your on-time type keeps a running tally of how far is left, and feels late once that exceeds the time remaining before the deadline. Your late type doesn’t feel late until the deadline itself.

        I have to agree with other commenters that it was the timing of the call, rather than the timing of the arrival, that marked LW down. It’s a sucky situation to end up in but hopefully one avoidable in future.

        1. only acting normal*

          I keep picturing all the places I’ve worked, where 15-20 minutes away is on a motorway where it’s illegal to stop your car, or it’s in the centre of a busy city where just pulling over (without finding a non-existant parking space) means stopping where you’d hold up traffic.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            So, exactly the kind of roads you’d allow lots of extra time to navigate on your way to an interview?

            I realise how snarky that is. Interview timing can be as nerve wracking as the meeting itself!

        2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          Yeah I’m always early because I always add extra time for unforeseen circumstances. If the weather was crap, I would build in extra time for all of that, but I’m a planner. I realize not everyone is like this, but for those who aren’t, you need to accept the consequences if you end up being late for something important.

        3. CheeryO*

          LW just needed to leave earlier. It’s unfortunate that they weren’t given more flexibility, but they were also pretty cavalier about being pretty late for an interview. Residual iciness on the roads isn’t really a good excuse in most places.

          1. Colette*

            Yeah, I’d have more sympathy if the storm were the same day and the OP had made an effort to leave early – but “ice and snow on the roads from the last storm” is synonymous with “winter” here, and I wouldn’t be thrilled with someone who arrives late half the year.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            I think this is like spelling everything correctly on your cover letter. Prospective employers use your cover letter and resume to judge things like attention to detail, and when you arrive for the interview to judge timeliness. The excellence of your various excuses for those things isn’t interesting.

            I’m reminded of an awkward conversation with my mom who was put down as a reference by relatives who had rented her house. She explained earnestly to the prospective landlord that they had only paid the rent late when they had a good reason. And I thought “…. you know, Grandma isn’t going to lie, and the would-be landlord deserves the truth about the likeliness of late and nonexistent rent from these people. So hands off, mouth shut.”

            The less people know about you, the less interest they have in the extenuating circumstances that kept you from managing a basic aspect of the potential relationship–they have other options.

            1. Jen S. 2.0*

              Ha, a friend of mine and I have a running joke about how showing up 10 minutes early with no typos in your materials puts you ahead of about 75% of the pack.

              1. Maggie A Standley*

                good advice! It was interesting, that while the interview was very thorough and professional, no one had my resume/cover letter/ref letters in front of them…

      3. Lucky black cat*

        Yes and that’s what she needed to do.

        If she couldn’t, her message needed to acknowledge that eg I’m so sorry I couldn’t let you know before. That might have made a difference and it’s what I would expect if I was the interviewer. Unfortunately the message she did send sounds too cavalier.

      4. EventPlannerGal*

        Even if stopping had made her more late I still think it would have been worth the trade-off – in terms of making your first impression it just appears politer and more considerate to let people know about lateness in advance than to explain it after the fact. I think most interviewers would expect a candidate to arrive 5-10 minutes early anyway, so by the time the OP texted the interviewers had probably been sitting around for 15-20 minutes wondering if they were going to turn up, if something had happened etc, and that just turns the whole thing into a much more memorable incident than a quick phone call explaining they’d be late would have done.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Exactly – so you prevent the “do we think she’s still coming? how long do you want to wait?” conversation between the interviewers which will sour their opinion of you. If they know you’re running late, they can choose to check email and use the bathroom and get coffee or run down to the sandwich shop. If they don’t know, they twiddle their thumbs wondering how often you flake.

          I think this is a situation where it’s better to be late by a forewarned half-hour than an unannounced fifteen minutes.

    2. Koala dreams*

      In many places it’s not legal to call while you are driving. You’ll need to park the car first. And that’s for good reasons! So I think the choice to park the car first is a very safety-focused choice, and it’s just bad luck that the employer didn’t see it that way.

      1. Lucky black cat*

        As I said above she needed to acknowledge that.

        I’m floored that anyone thinks I was suggesting she text or call while driving. Obviously that’s not what I meant.

    3. Lily Rowan*

      I also wonder about the tone of OP’s message — “I’m just parking” vs “It’s taken me a lot longer to find parking than I expected, sorry!” The first sounds like you just got there after not leaving enough time, where the second at least suggests you tried.

      I was late to a job interview once after my cab never showed up and then there was construction on the road. To be fair, I was a passenger, so calling was no problem, but I called in a semi-panic a few minutes before the interview time to let them know — and especially to let them know I cared about promptness. I did get the job.

      1. Witchy Human*

        I think you handled that exactly right. Your best bet for something like this is to apologize, take responsibility, indicate that it’s not the norm for you, and move on.

        It’s also your best bet for getting off with a warning instead of a traffic ticket. Yes, I did do that, it was stupid, I do really care about being a safe driver, I’m sorry.

      2. 1234*

        I ran late TO work about 2 weeks ago due to:
        – A car accident that happened while I was already on the road on the way there (the accident looked like it JUST happened because I saw the cars pulling over to the side as I drove past them)
        – On the same stretch of road further ahead, it looked like a car was stalled in the middle lane? Either way, the police had parked their car behind this car and lit some of those flares.

        I texted the manager about 20 mins before my shift started with “I am running about 10 mins late. There were 2 accidents on the road” and she was very understanding. I think this is due to the fact that I gave a time frame of an expected arrival time and mentioned the reason that I was running behind.

        If I had just said “There’s a lot of traffic and I’m going to be late,” she probably would’ve suggested that I leave earlier/plan better etc. but she just said “Ok, thanks for letting me know”

        1. Maggie A Standley*

          Yup 1234- be more explicit! thks, and i figured they would be busy and wouldn’t really want to know/process those details, as if sometimes for my small biz, and i’m interviewing someone I don’t need all those details…and perhaps to me 10 minutes “late” is a much smaller thing than to others- i’m getting that here on this forum. Well taken, as i’m re-entering the working for others world after having a small biz for 18 years- and having lived and worked in Europe and Africa where time and timeliness is a bit different. Appreciate the input!

          1. 1234*

            I hope you’ve found another job since this was posted!

            While I told people on AAM the details of what happened, I texted the manager “2 accidents on the road” rather than the whole story. :)

      3. Maggie A Standley*

        Thanks Lily! next time, i will leave more time and if needed, i will call before the start of the interview. Congrats on getting the job!

    4. Maggie A Standley*

      Lucky Black Cat-
      btw, love your digital name here! and have a lovely Lucky black cat named “Oubie.”
      Thing is, the manager of educational services I had been in communication with, took it to a casual level, when their office decided it was a snow day and texted me that morning.
      I was working that day- so in my world it wasn’t closed. However, she did text me before the start of our interview :)
      thks for your feedback! In the future I will be sure to leave more time and/or if unavoidable email or text or whatev Before the start of the interview! What i find irritating is that if “timeliness” is an issue for the position, why waste not only my time, but the 4 staff members’ time in then conducting an hour long in-depth interview? That’s 5 hours of valuable timeliness!

  22. wibble wobble*

    I wear almost exclusively 5 inch stilettos in my professional life (finance, insurance, and telecommunications fields). The one thing I judge interviewees for? Wearing heels when they are clearly uncomfortable and/or wobbling around like a carousel.

    There is absolutely no need to wear heels to look professional. As long as the shoes aren’t clearly athletic wear / have rubber soles (with exceptions of course for those who need medical accommodations), and as long as they’re clean and in condition, wear whatever you want!

    (Oh also, no nightclubbing shoes – seriously had one candidate show up in a boob tube and platform glitter shoes that she could not walk in.)

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      >rubber soles
      Please econsider that evaluation. You can’t know from looking if there’s a medical need. You can’t see sciatica, occasional bouts of vertigo, or bad ankles.
      The shoes I wear to work at my Fortune 100 company are black leather, highly polished, and very professional looking with slacks. They have rubber soles. In fact, the heels I’ll be wearing to a company Christmas party also have rubber soles. They’re marketed to nurses, and work great for those of us with a tendency to trip like a John Ritter character.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        I love those shoes, and they are now my main professional choice (business casual, also Fortune 100, shiny black). They don’t *look* (to me, at least) like they’re rubber soled.

      2. JustaTech*

        *checks shoes*
        My nice leather knee-high (flat) boots have a rubble sole. In fact, I think almost all my shoes, from my good conference shoes to my running shoes to my “nice” heels have a rubber sole.
        I used to have a pair of boots with a smooth leather sole, but after I nearly wiped out in the bathroom at work I got rubber soles added. I walk fast, so I need a bit of traction. And I’d rather be quiet.

        I think wibble wobble must mean something else by “rubber sole” than what I’m thinking.

    2. Anononon*

      This comes across as a very unfairly judgmental comment. I’m sure/hope you’re being hyperbolic and speaking only to the instant topic, but to say that you ONLY judge people for wearing uncomfortable or unsteady shoes essentially means that you specifically only judge women attempting to conform to societal standards. That’s an issue.

      It’s also interesting that you state no nightclubbing shoes when there are a good number of people out there who view five-inch stilettos as unprofessional based on the heel height and style alone.

      1. Blarg*

        +1 — interviewees may perceive an office norm and wear heels despite unfamiliarity and *that* will get them dinged by this interviewer?

        And I say this as a person who loves wearing heels and wants a job where it is practical.

      2. Close Bracket*

        “you state no nightclubbing shoes when there are a good number of people out there who view five-inch stilettos”

        lol, yes, I picked up on that. I’m not going to judge someone for liking 5-inch stilettos. I’m definitely giving side-eye for not realizing that 5-inch stilettos could be viewed as club shoes.

    3. Quill*

      “with exceptions of course for those who need medical accommodations”

      As with the interns and the dress code, I’d like to note that not everyone has medical documentation of their need to wear shoes that are actually designed to not mess up your feet, legs and spine, and that we need to normalize, especially for women, that wearing whatever you are most able to be active in is appropriate foot attire for the office, barring actual safety need for restrictions like “shoes must be closed toed.”

      Secondly, you’re both judging people for gendered expectations that they’ve internalized (men do not, as a rule wear unstable shoes in order to look ‘put together,’ but it remains a cultural expectation for women that doing so can help the first impression that they make on people,) but also their physical ability. I, for example, am likely to be unstable in whatever shoes I wear, and I can’t predict WHEN this will occur.

      I strongly suggest that you rethink how you judge interviewees based on their gender and your assumptions about their medical needs.

          1. Quill*

            The brief “barefoot running” trend occurred when I was in college and I got mad enough about it (in a way tangentially related to my classes at the time, since there were “barefoot running” shoes and we had just done a unit on industrial waste in a global economy, courtesy of how Nikes are made) that I made slides.

            I also suffered through both ballet flats and “stage heels” in high school when I did theater, and was told by the director that basically if I couldn’t wear those I couldn’t act (in a high school performance! where boys were allowed to wear any dress shoe they could justify in costume!) and I’m still bitter about it.

            Seriously, if I’m doing shakespeare no one can even see my feet, the skirts are that long, and there was ZERO reason to put me in theater heels to do a cameo and a set transition in a scene from Our Town! I also slipped in mashed potatoes (previous scene was about Hellen Keller) and discovered that you can pull an oblique that appears to affect your muscles from collarbone to pelvis. Still bitter about those $80 shoes for one performance.

            Fortunately for all the people who came after me, I made it VERY clear to my director that those heels were a sexist safety hazard and we got back to a more reasonable shoe policy for most people. Still don’t think I’d be able to get accomodations for my current medical need to only wear athletic shoes though.

          2. yala*

            Lord have mercy, the first time I got a pair of those was for a job where I walked over a lot of cobblestone.


        1. Filosofickle*

          Good god, minimal ballet-type flats are the WORST. No support, which my bad back and plantar fasciitis object to.

          I also really can’t wear heels anymore, so I’m glad tennies & ankle boots with dresses have been in lately. And I’ve been reclaiming other types of flat shoes like oxfords and loafers. I end up in pants mostly to business meetings so I can wear walkable shoes. (I live in a high-walking area, so all shoes have to be good for reasonable distances, or I have to carry and change.)

          I’m so relieved to finally be reaching my DGAF stage in life. I’m not willing to wear anything that hurts anymore, period.

    4. Little Pig*

      I’d say that wobbly heels fall in the same category as timid, self-conscious body language. They have no direct relationship to competence, but they don’t engender confidence either. So I try to stand up tall and look my interviewers in the eye, and I also wear shoes that I know I will be able to walk in. I expect applicants to do the same.

      For a very young applicant, I might cut them some slack if they couldn’t walk in their heels. For anyone older than maybe 24, I respect them enough to trust them to make responsible decisions. That includes making an independent, adult decision about whether they should wear high heels. Wearing heels to an interview is not a particularly strong societal norm (as evidenced by the many commenters who wear flats) and it’s infantilizing to suggest that women are not fully capable of deciding which shoes to wear.

      Whether or not you agree, it is wise to assume an interviewer holds this opinion and dress accordingly.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        Agreed. I actually do have a job where heels are expected pretty often, and I think for me it’s a judgement thing – if you can’t walk in heels to the extent that you’re wobbling all over the place, turning ankles, can’t walk confidently etc, to me it shows poor judgement to do that when you want to make a good impression. It’s better to do the “wrong” thing unobtrusively (eg wearing flats and walking confidently, wearing a put-together outfit etc) than attempt the “right” thing and fail very visibly. And as you say, the type of job I have is a bit of an outlier; no other job that I’ve ever had has expected heels, and even here it’s unwritten and not expected all day every day.

        (And FWIW, if you’re applying for a job where heels actually are expected, you will also be expected to be able to walk in them without falling over.)

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      I think that judging interviewees on their footwear rather than their qualifications is not a great practice in general, nor is assuming you know who does and does not require an “medical accomodation” exception to your no-rubber-soles judgment. Unless the job requires an ability to strut like a runway model down the hall, I guess.

  23. Lisa Large*

    Sorry LW1, if you are able to watch 2 children, while disabled, you are able to work. There is a program through SSDI called Ticket to Work that legally allows recipients to perform some work and still receive benefits.

    1. Lena Clare*

      This feels like trolling. Watching 2 children who are asleep is NOT the same as being able to work full time. Even watching 2 children as a full-time job is not the same as babysitting.

    2. nêhiyaw ayahkwêw*

      WOW. No. Absolutely not.
      You have no idea about LW’s disability or what aspects of it prevents them from working. Take your ableism somewhere else.

    3. ComfortablyNumb*

      What an absolutely ridiculous comment. I have a spinal cord injury and receive benefits (in the UK, where it’s possible to work and receive disability benefit). I know a ton of spinal cord injured people since my injury, and nearly everyone either doesn’t work or works only part-time. Doing something for a few hours a month is not remotely the same as working full-time. Fatigue is the biggest difficulty with spinal cord injuries and many other disabilities. It’s impossible to know what that level of fatigue is like if you haven’t experienced it before; I had no idea before I became disabled. People think I just walk with crutches and use and wheelchair and everything else in my life is the same, but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s exhausting, bone-shatteringly so, being disabled for many people and you assuming what someone can do based on limited information is ableist in the extreme.

  24. Ruth (UK)*

    Maybe some of these confused me more cause I don’t know about American norms so maybe that makes them seem weirder to me…

    1. I have honestly never heard of babysitters being formally employed and paying tax (unless they’re a full time child minder, au pair, or something more than a babysitter)
    4. I’ve never worn high heels in my life except maybe some one off attempt as a teen-ager. It would never occur to me they’d be necessary to interview in.
    5. I thought Thanksgiving was a holiday that fell always on a Thursday so I was thrown by the Sunday before thing unless it’s going to fall on a Monday (?) (But then the OP mentioned the Friday as being the day they wanted off work for it and I got lost)

    1. ComfortablyNumb*

      Re:the Sunday thing – for those who work Mon-Fri, with Thanksgiving falling on a Thursday it means that they’ll have less time for preparation. It would be a 1-day weekend followed by a 4-day week followed by Thanksgiving itself. Lots of Thanksgiving dishes need to be prepped/made ahead so I definitely understand the annoyance at missing out a day for cleaning, shopping, prepping.

    2. londonedit*

      I was confused too but I suppose it’s like how Christmas Day this year is a Wednesday, so a lot of people will be working on Monday 23rd and maybe even at least the morning of Tuesday 24th, so they’re probably planning to use the 21st/22nd as last-minute shopping and prep time. And then if their boss said oh, by the way, there’s a mandatory all-day meeting on Sunday 22nd – when they don’t even work Sundays as part of their usual schedule – I can see how they’d be seriously cheesed off about losing one of those days. I mean, I’d be annoyed about having to go to work all day on a Sunday too, let alone a Sunday that I’d set aside specifically for something else.

    3. Gaia*

      You’re correct, it is always the 4th Thursday in November. Because it is such a massive undertaking, however, many people make parts of the meal the weekend or days before.

    4. Batgirl*

      As for 1, don’t you remember the row years ago when two Aylesbury detectives were job sharing and baby sitting for each other? Even though no money changed hands the reciprocal arrangement fell foul of “childcare for reward” regulations and was branded illegal childminding.
      When money does change hands it’s considered employment like any other. Otherwise all nannys would call themselves babysitters.
      So our regs are even more stringent because even free favours have been an issue in the past.

  25. Engineer Girl*


    I’ve done research and I’d lose 50 cents for every dollar I made after the first $85.

    I’m confused. You would earn less than before, and maybe it isn’t worth your time. But you’re still coming out ahead and earning money. Why would you quit just because it’s above board?

    While I sympathize with the disability, I also think it’s unfair to expect another person to assume big risks for your benefit. The IRS is not to be trifled with! And as Alison pointed out it could also affect the father (or mother’s) ability to get and keep jobs.

    OP, I’m sorry that you are in this position. But right now you are only looking at your own needs and wants.

    1. rudster*

      She would quit precisely for the reason you stated, it would probably endanger her benefits and not be worth her time. If the marginal earnings are not worth the total marginal cost (including lost benefits, stress, and other intangible costs), I would hesitate to describe that as “coming out ahead”.
      Yet another benefit to implementing a Universal Basic Income (UBI) in lieu of a virtual myriad of benefit schemes. Among other things, there is no tax penalty for marginal employment.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Wholehearted +1 to basic income. It would make such a difference for anyone on the margins.

        1. Anon for tax reasons*

          LW1, I know your letter is mostly focused on your employer’s liability if they pay you under the table, but have you considered your own?
          My brother and his wife are both disabled, and they have minor children. Because their disability payments don’t begin to meet the poverty level for a family of their size, they’re on a variety of other aid to supplement. They live hand-to-mouth in a rural area and they sometimes work under the table so they can do wild, spendthrift things like pay for their kids’ field trips or pay their car registration. It’s hard to say how much income they get this way, but it’s not much.
          My brother ended up in a conflict with an extended family member, through no fault of his own, and the family member’s immediate reaction was to threaten to report him for tax evasion and welfare fraud. Either the report was never made or the authorities didn’t listen, but my brother could have lost everything. He spent weeks wondering where to send the kids if they couldn’t care for them anymore.
          Don’t put yourself through that sort of stress. Your benefit situation will be different than my brother’s, but get someone knowledgeable to help you understand what limits are in place and how best to minimize your risk.

    2. londonedit*

      Yes, exactly. My mum has a hobby/business now she’s retired, selling a handmade product. She makes basically zero money because she doesn’t factor in her own time, travel costs, etc, and for that reason when she first started doing it, she wondered about whether to bother declaring it all properly. On the one hand, it hardly seems worth reporting an income of £100 here and there, but on the other hand if she didn’t report it, and HMRC found out that she was running a business (albeit not a very successful one) then she’d be in all sorts of trouble. So she registered herself as a sole trader and she fills out a tax return every year with her £1000 of income or whatever, and obviously never pays any tax on it because it’s all well below the thresholds, but it’s better to keep it all above board just in case.

    3. MarsJenkar*

      Are you sure you’re not misinterpreting what the OP meant? The way I read it, OP wasn’t saying their income above $85 would be halved. They were saying they would actively *lose* money past that threshold, between payroll taxes and loss of benefits. By the same math, $255 would be a net *loss* for OP unless the loss floor is before that point–and we can’t assume it is without more info!

      So no, we can’t assume the OP will come out ahead.

      1. Asenath*

        That’s not how I interpreted it. She’s saying that after she earns $85, she keeps only half of her additional earnings. So if she earned $100, she’d keep $85 + (100-85)/2 = $92.50. Because of the way she expressed it, I thought she didn’t mean that she’d lose it through taxes (which are probably low or nothing), but that the program she’s on claws back half of what she earns over the $85. That’s not an unusual arrangement – and there’s often a maximum limit too.

        1. Retired Accountant*

          The SSI benefit is reduced by half of earned income excluding $85. So from OP’s perspective, her (Pretax) cash flow was her benefit plus the cash babysitting payments, now it is $85 plus half of her benefit plus the cash babysitting. So she is definitely worse off.

        2. DJ*

          Yeah, I’m pretty sure her disability benefits would be reduced by .50 for every $1 over $85 she earns. So if she earned $100 her disability benefit would be reduced by $7.50, which amounts to the same thing you said.

          Although, I kind of don’t think that accounts for taxes, which she would also be paying. I’m pretty sure she would have to pay social security tax and medicare (since everyone has to pay that, as far as I can tell), though the state and federal taxes likely wouldn’t be owed (though I’m guessing this is the case, but if the employer were to take out taxes, she would be out that money too until she gets a refund) because she’d be below the threshold.

          I could easily see how it wouldn’t be worth it anymore, especially if she’s not making a ton of money on this (plus the more money she’s making the more it endangers her benefits).

          1. Andream*

            Plus it can be a big deal trying to get those benefits back. Let’s say she does the tax form. then the situation changes. The family doesn’t need her anymore, or she has to move elsewhere, whatever. So now she’s not getting that income. It can take months for all the red tape before she may get her full benefits back. And that’s not even a guarantee. They may look at her and say, Oh well you were working for this family, you can get a job again. But in reality, she can’t because any real employer (i.e not a family who needs occasional babysitters) will not like to employ someone who can’t work on a consistent schedule (which can happen when you are disabled. you have good days and bad).

        3. CMart*

          The loss of benefits can often be greater than the income earned. I don’t know exactly what the penalties/guidelines are, but here’s a hypothetical wherein they will, indeed, be losing money. Not the 50 cents for every dollar figure because I don’t want to speculate on the math there, but just something as simple as recognized taxable income:

          So let’s say OP gets $500/month in benefits, assuming they earn no more than $85/month in additional income, and for every dollar above that their benefits get reduced by the same amount, but now they also have to pay taxes on that income.

          Income tax is probably refundable at that low threshold, but FICA is not. Let’s say they make $86 in babysitting money. Suddenly instead of $586, untaxed, they’re making $585 – 8 cents (because now they’re getting $499 in benefits + $86 in wages), not to mention the income tax being withheld that they won’t get back until they filed their tax return.

  26. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    I have never, ever worn a pair of heels for a job interview or a job. It’s simply not a necessity (and frankly, in some of the roles I’ve worked in, it would be unusual to wear anything that ‘dressy’. Lots of women where I am now wear ballet flats, brogues or ankle boots with dresses or jeans, and a pair of Mary Janes with a small heel would invite a ‘ooh! you’re smart today’ comment!

    The most important criterion for interview shoes is comfortably smart.

  27. Loose Seal*

    #1. Have you looked into the Ticket to Work program offered by Social Security? I’ve been on that program for a couple of years now. Full disclosure: I still haven’t found a job that will work with my disability but you might have better luck since you seem to want part-time work. They also will hook you up with a financial specialist free of charge to help you determine if accepting specific jobs will effect you benefits and/or tax situation.

  28. The Meow*

    OP2: Almost all of the applicants I’ve interviewed have arrived early. Some VERY early. I’ve even had applicants arrive 2-3 hours earlier and wait around the building because they didn’t know what the traffic situation was going to be like. So even if someone is a few minutes late their tardiness does stand out.

    A few minutes late in bad weather doesn’t (usually) disqualify you…but employers would generally look out for how you deal with the lateness. If an applicant seems cavalier it’s obviously a red flag that they don’t respect other people’s time or understand professional conventions. If you’re appropriately apologetic and call in advance to let them know, it wouldn’t be a big deal.

    By the way, I’ve noticed that latecomers generally do not call in advance. If you’re half an hour away from a 10am interview that starts in two minutes, call and let people know! It’s basic professional courtesy.

    1. Mommy.MD*

      Agreed. I’ve gotten to any interviews more than an hour early just in case of an eventuality. It’s like leaving for the airport. You allow extra time just in case. Arriving late and not calling ahead makes the employer worry that this will continue if they employ you.

      1. Quill*

        I mean, it depends on how early you are able to leave other commitments, but yeah, travel time usually leaves me with at least 15-20 minutes to kill prior to an interview, even if I have to spend part of that getting buzzed in to an office complex.

        The one time I was late to an interview (for a job I actually got!) I was delayed for half an hour by a train, which would have put me, according to my gps as the caboose came into view, arriving with one minute to spare, which is not enough to park. Because the interview was via a recruiter I didn’t have the number of anyone who I would be interviewing with, so I googled the company’s front desk and asked them to relay the message that I’d possibly be late due to train.

        My future grandboss, who interviewed me, told me she was impressed with my resourcefulness and commitment to punctuality. (It was in an r&D lab, where those are important.)

    2. londonedit*

      I definitely think it’s less to do with the actual lateness, and more to do with how someone handles being late. I’d always factor loads of time in when I’m going to an important appointment or an interview (having half an hour to sit in a cafe and go over your notes is really helpful, anyway) but sometimes things happen and people can’t help being late. I get that OP was driving, but taking an extra two minutes at 12:45 to call the interviewers and say ‘I’m really sorry, the roads are horrendous because of the weather, I’m on my way but I won’t be there until closer to 1:15’ probably would have gone a long way. People expect interviewees to turn up 5-1o minutes before their interview time, so by 1:07 they were probably thinking OP wasn’t going to turn up at all. OP might know they’re a conscientious sort of person who’s only ever late in a dire emergency, but the interviewers don’t know that, and the only information they had to go on was ‘This person was late to the interview and didn’t bother to let us know until after we already should have started’. Maybe they are real sticklers about time, but equally maybe they were just frustrated that OP didn’t manage to call ahead and let them know.

      1. Maggie A Standley*

        Thks- appreciate it! I think i read/understood poor advice/guidance in the past of not to shine too much light on being 5-10 mins late. From all comments, I’m gathering, it would have behooved me to indeed be more explicit about why I was running late and why I was “just parking,” I didn’t mean it as light, more as – i will be right there, whew! just found parking, roads are still a mess out here and should have left more time.

    3. Aphrodite*

      What I learned early on from a professional coach was to plan to arrive maybe 15-20 minutes ahead of time, find a place to park that is down the road or around the corner where you absolutely know you cannot be seen from any window in the building where the business is. Then wait. Brush your hair one last time before you start up the engine and arrive at the door five minutes ahead of time. (If you weren’t sure how traffic was and/or you hadn’t been there before, she also suggested driving it a week or so before just so you knew exactly where to go.) It has worked for me every time.

    4. Bagpuss*

      Yes, whenever I interviewed I would aim to be early to ensure that I have plenty of time to find the building, find somewhere to park, allow time for any hold ups and so on. So while it is possible that LW2 did all of that but was still late, it doesn’t create agood impression.

      I do think also that while of course it’s not safe (and may not be legal) to make a call when driving, I think in most cases you get a bit of warnign if you are running late – i.e. you know you are still some distance asay and that you are driving more slowly than normal due to the weather, there is usually going to be somewhere you can pull over to make a quick call.

      I think it’s likely that would have made a difference.
      Also, regarding the specifc question about whwther it is odd that timliness wasn’t mentioned, I don’t think it is particualry od that it wasn’t raised – after all, if it is brought up, most people are going to say that yes, they can manage thir time and be on time, so judging by what you actually did rather than what you said doesn’t seem to be completely unreasonable.

      1. Maggie A Standley*

        Thanks! What i meant is , if timeliness is an issue, which means to me, using your time wisely- why then go on to have an hour interview with 4 staff members, wasting in essence, 5 hours of time total…if that was a deal breaker for them. Perhaps they did need to think of it and my underestimating of time to park- without stopping to contact them at 12:50 pm as opposed to 1:07 was the deal breaker-

        1. Bunny*

          An hour long interview isn’t a “waste of time”, though? If they have a position they need to fill that time – 4 hours in total *to the company* to determine your worth is extremely useful time. Until you walked through the door and interviewed, they wouldn’t have known how good a fit you were.

          Possibly, having been late, you would then blow them away so spectacularly in the interview that they’d decide those 10-15 lost minutes were worth it. Possibly they hadn’t yet interviewed the candidates who were *as good as* you turned out to be but who also turned up on time. Possibly you couldn’t get into it while on the road, but on arrival you’d give them a reason for the lateness that would put it all into perspective.

          The fact they continued to complete an interview for you once you did arrive is a sign they would have been open to overlooking the tardiness issue under the right circumstances, which seems only fair. And surely if you’d gotten there late, having gone through the stress of trying to make it on time, to be told on arrival “thanks but no thanks” without even a chance to present your case that would’ve been a bit of a shit-sandwich to try to force down.

          I know it sucks to know that something partially outside your control took you out of the running for a role you wanted, but the fact is it’s probably, as people have said upthread, more your handling of the tardiness than the tardiness itself that knocked you out. And that’s worth knowing and accounting for, because it’s something very likely to come up in future interviews with other locations.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      Last night, spouse’s overseas visitors announced their plan to drive from Boston area to a New York City airport on Wednesday afternoon. Locals explained that they probably needed to build in a number of hours of extra travel time.

  29. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

    For OP1, the family only has to withhold taxes if you make over $2,100 per year from that job. Otherwise, it’s not required. 1-2 babysitting jobs a month may not be enough to push you over the limit.

  30. Overagekid*

    Is it just me that thought making a “mean cup of tea” meant it was good?
    Maybe it’s a location thing

    1. Viridia*

      Yes, that’s what it means, and how it is being used in the letter. The OP makes a poor cup of tea, and the colleague makes a good one (a “mean cup of tea”). Hence why the colleague offers to make the tea and the OP lets them – the tea will be better.

    2. Ribena*

      It does! I ink the LW means that her colleague makes great tea and she makes not so good tea herself.

    3. londonedit*

      That’s it – the coworker makes great tea, OP doesn’t, coworker discovered this fact and took it upon themselves to add ‘Well I suppose now I’ll have to make OP tea every day seeing as they can’t do it properly themselves’ to their list of ‘helpful’ self-appointed tasks.

  31. Blisskrieg*

    My adult child is on disability in the US. I am genuinely confused because I thought I was told by a few people, including her disability attorney who helped to secure the benefits, that they could find a part time job up to a certain number of hours each month without affecting benefits. My child has not been able to do so as of yet, but I always held this out as hope for future growth…

    1. Delta Delta*

      I always understood this to be the case, as well. That way people who are disabled can do some work but also still receive basic support. It seems like OP would be well served to talk to a case manager or an accountant or other specialist who knows this actual topic to give her real advice. It may be that what she was doing was just fine.

      1. Blisskrieg*

        Agreed. I thought more about it, and the SSI office actually referred my child to the OVR (Occupational Vocational Resource) office, which assists in finding jobs that are a good fit with the disabilities. This was AFTER the SSI approval.

        I was also excited this year to learn that there are now ABLE accounts (may be state rather than federal) which allows people on SSI to set up a savings account that does not penalize against the asset cap. the money in these accounts can be used for a list of necessities like housing.

        1. corvidlover*

          Most states now have ABLE accounts available to people with disabilities, and if you’re in a state without the accounts, there are states that offer accounts nationally. is a great resource.

          LW1, if you see this, an ABLE account allows you to save $15,000 a year without it affecting your SSI; if you are working, you can save up to an additional $12,140 a year. It could really help your situation.

          1. Blisskrieg*

            Corvids are the BEST. Just had an opportunity to see real honest-to-goodness ravens (not just crows) recently. Was amazed by how huge they are and how they sounded like frogs!

    2. Asenath*

      There’s often a cap on outside earnings – it sounds like in this case, OP can earn up to $85 ( I don’t think she says if that’s per week or month or some other period), and after that point, some of what she earns goes to the program. But yes, she should certainly consult directly with her benefit program if she hasn’t done so already.

      1. DJ*

        FYI for anyone interested, I found that same info in this document: on pg. 14. It looks like it’s per month based on that info. I would assume OP has done her due diligence re: her options, but if not, it definitely wouldn’t hurt to consult with the program directly (maybe not mentioning her existing income, but just in a general “what are my options for earning money?” way). Also, to be fair, most of that document does seem very “we want you to work so that we don’t have to pay you any money”.

  32. Delta Delta*

    #2 – eh, I’m not going to pile on about whether or not OP should have called sooner. As a resident of a place where weather can be weird and unpredictable (snowing in my town but not the next one, etc), I’m pretty willing to give some leeway for weather. And honestly, the interviewers here were probably willing to do the same, given the road and weather conditions around the interview time. But if it came down to them liking Jane and Lucinda as final candidates, and Jane was on time but Lucinda wasn’t, that might be enough to tip it to Jane. It really might be that simple.

    1. Amethystmoon*

      Maybe it’s just me, but I always leave an hour early for interviews, even if I know it would take me 30 minutes to get there. You never know if there will be a car accident, road construction, parking issues, etc. I make sure my phone is charged up so I can at least do something while I wait.

    2. Batgirl*

      It might just be a mismatch. If OP, with her knowledge of the circumstances/climate thinks it’s an unreasonable and nitpicky attitude then it’s good she didn’t end up working there. Interviews ARE different, but only OP can know if this should have been understood as one of those things.
      Conversely I was once half an hour late in an emetgency with no signal to call in and the interviewer said it was NBD.

  33. Carlie*

    People get so specific about tea. I’m pretty sure that most “required” tea steps wouldn’t hold up to a blind taste test – with some it’s on about the ritualiatic level of chanting magic words over the cup. Heat water to your preferred temp by any means at hand, put the water and tea together, let steep until the hot leaf water reaches the color you like, remove the leaves if you want to, add whatever else you want, drink the tea. It’s really not that hard.

    1. Bagpuss*

      You’d be surprised. The temp of the water absolutely matters for real tea (herbal teas are different) and a llot of the other steps are ensuring that it is hot enough – putting water into a cold vessel cools the water so it maynot be as hot as it should be.
      I know a lot of people who *can* tell by taste whether the tea was brewed correctly or not.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I mean, in this example it’s the person making and drinking the tea who detects a significant difference between tea she makes (bad) and tea someone else makes (good). I certainly notice the microwave difference, though not enough to skip tea when staying somewhere with no other options.

    3. Quill*

      Some of the heating methods may be inadvertently removing water quality factors, though. Think of lime scale!

    4. Batgirl*

      Erm…. boiling water is a specific temperature. You can’t make tea with non boiling water that isnt vile dishwater.

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        Black tea, yes. Some greens and some white teas optimally brew at a lower temp, like upper 170s-180s. Any hotter kills the subtler flavors of those leaves.

        If the tea is black, though, let its water be the same temp as the fires in which it was forged! :) I view black tea that is steeped in too-cool water as tea abuse.

    5. Koala dreams*

      There is a taste difference but making it wrong doesn’t make it undrinkable, just different. I like drinking tea but I don’t follow all the rules if I make tea just for me.

  34. Holly*

    #4 Wearing heels will probably increase your chances because many staffing agencies in particular ARE sexist. It’s not a requirement but it will likely improve your stock.

      1. Quill*

        I mean, I’ve had a lot of recruiters tell me condescending and sexist things about my applications, so I’m not surprised…

        There really needs to be something like an Angie’s list for recruiting companies. “One star, they spent the call about prepping for the interview trying to coach me about eliminating upspeak instead of telling me about the job, told me to wear heels and ‘modest’ attire, and don’t provide any health insurance opportunities for contractors.”

        1. Holly*

          I wonder if most people hiring are sexist, but recruiters feel safe telling you sexist things outright because they think it’s helping you. Or… do staffing agencies just somehow attract scum?

          1. Quill*

            I’m gonna go with staffing agencies attracting scum, because I firmly believe that corporate cultures that emphasize commissions come pre-disposed for sexism and racism (because your sales results can be influenced by your demographics, and then assessed with bias due to your demographics,) especially if the pressure is on to get fast turnaround / a lot of clients in the roster.

            But also the way contracting via recruiters undermines a bunch of other workers’ rights (getting away with not offering health care or pto on both the client corporation and often the contracting agency,) I would not be surprised if the race to the bottom in terms of compensating actual workers had some sexist roots. Especially in my industry – I’m in STEM and the bias towards “men are managers, women are techs” has been pretty apparent even when you control for age difference.

    1. Amethystmoon*

      I wear kitten heels to interviews. Nothing bigger. I wouldn’t be able to walk in stilettos, for example. But I’m also in office support, so we’re not expected to be wearing anything like huge pointy heels.

      1. Allypopx*

        Yeah kitten heels I can get behind but there’s no reason you can’t look polished and professional in flats as well. I would in general take most advice from recruiters with a grain of salt.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          Especially with the amount of flats now that really look like heels without the heel. You can get the same styling.

          I think I’ve had heels that have looked like all of the below….but with heels.

 (those are more of a kitten wedge, to be fair)

          There’s not really a logical reason to require heels over just requiring dress shoes.

        2. Environmental Compliance*

          I just put in a comment that has links to shoes that I was favoriting as new dress shoes for interviews, it’ll go through moderation, but a heck of a lot of flats now have the same styling as ‘dress heels’. Same look, same materials, the only difference is lack of a heel. Still professional, IMO.

  35. Helena*

    OP 1, with the caveat that I’m not a lawyer or an attorney… Why not set up an Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) account and have your single dad friend put the money in there? Contributions to an ABLE account don’t affect your eligibility for SSDI; that’s the whole reason they were created. I also don’t think the IRS counts ABLE contributions as being an employer-employee relationship, so it would side-step the whole tax form problem.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I think he wants to use pre-tax dollars to pay the babysitter, which means the babysitter needs a tax ID.

      1. Helena*

        In the comments above, Alison says the original letter said W-2, not tax form, but she changed the letter to avoid derailing on the finer points of 1099 vs. W-2 for babysitters. For a Dependent Care FSA, you can use an individual’s SSN as their ID and get reimbursed, so LW 1 wouldn’t need a tax ID.

      1. Helena*

        If the dad has a dependent-care FSA, he would pay the LW with post-tax dollars and then reimburse himself out of the FSA with pre-tax dollars. Most FSAs have a debit card as well, but it can be unwise to use it because you risk overdraft fees if someone mistypes the bill.

        But from the original letter, I don’t think there’s an FSA involved here.

  36. hbc*

    OP2: This is going to sound nitpicky, but I think the way you addressed the lateness is the problem. Not just the timing of notification, which others have covered, but the (lack of) context you gave. “I’m parking now, I’ll be right there” or something along those lines would make me think that you just arrived at 1:07 and were pulling straight into a parking spot. “I finally found a spot, I’ll be right there” would at least make me think that you arrived on time but didn’t realize that our parking was so limited.

    And then if your apology was too brief when you arrived, it might look like the Late Person pro forma apology rather than this being a rare event where your normal good planning hit every possible snag. Being late is a minor ding, but appearing to be casual and comfortable with it is a bigger problem.

    1. Allypopx*

      I agree. If you tried to be breezy about it you may have come off as overly casual about the lateness. I would just take the note and be more diligent next time about letting your interviewer know as early as possible and with proper apologies if there’s a delay.

    2. Environmental Compliance*

      I agree. If that’s all that OP said about the lateness, it does come across very breezy. A text prior to 1PM (I’m assuming here that OP attempted to show up prior to 1PM, and could have found a quick spot to pull over to text, and that 5 minutes prior to arrival they weren’t on a highway), or at least a “I’m so sorry, I’m having trouble finding a place to park, but I will be there as quickly as I can” type text when they did text would have gone a long way. Doubly so if when OP arrived to the interview, they walked in with a “So sorry again, parking was pretty hard to find in this weather! Thank you for your patience!” or something similar.

      1. Allypopx*

        ^ “thank you for your patience”, acknowledge the imposition on their time, show you don’t take it for granted and understand the inconvenience. Big detail.

  37. Environmental Compliance*

    Fun fact: after I got hired at my current job, one of the interviewers (a coworker) told me that they were impressed I showed up in Not Heels. I showed up in steel toe boots because they had mentioned a facility tour, and it’s a manufacturing facility, so logic led me to wear my steelies.

    I have worn heels to exactly 1 interview and that’s because I couldn’t find my flats (still can’t find them, I’m blaming the resident house gremlins). If you are generally polished and they are still dressy enough flats (like, not scuffed up old sneakers or Crocs or something), IMO no one notices. TBH, as someone who does not like heels, if it mattered that much to that company that I was wearing heels, I wouldn’t want to work there. My flats are styled just like a basic pair of black pumps, but they have no heel.

  38. Jcarnall*

    LW1: My father – entirely unintentionally – managed to get someone into legal trouble by paying them “under the table”.

    My parents bought a large house about five years before all of their kids moved out. The top floor was effectively a self-contained flat. So they rented it out to a couple who were family friends. My parents were getting on in years, and had for several years employed two cleaners – mother and daughter – to do a weekly clean of the whole house, including the top flat, and they continued to do so, since my parents had confirmed with the couple who lived there they’d be OK with effectively getting a weekly clean included in what they were paying for their rent.

    My dad filled in his tax return, and declared the proportion of the money he paid to the cleaners for cleaning the top flat, as a business expense. He didn’t think to let the cleaners know he’d be doing that.

    Turned out the daughter was claiming benefits. Her mother was a professional cleaner, her daughter helped out her mum when she was able – she couldn’t have held down a full-time job, as we found out, but had good weeks when she could do light housework, like cleaning a family home with no children. We’d known the two for years, and my dad said ruefully that if he had been fully aware of the situation he would just have put down the mother’s name as the cleaner, but as far as he knew, they were a legit professional partnership and it didn’t matter which of them came in to clean.

    The income tax people passed the information on to the benefits people and shortly afterwards the daughter was catastrophically sued for “cheating” on her benefits by not declaring that sh was able to work and earning.

    I think the whole thing was an utter mess and not worth the amount of effort expended by the government to claw back the small amount of money they felt a woman living on a shoestring shouldn’t have been entitled to have. But nonetheless: that’s what happened, and the person hurt worst by it in the end was the young woman who’d done some light cleaning once in a while when she was able, got paid minimum wage for doing so, and really didn’t deserve this kind of crap descending on her head.

    I’m on your side, LW1. I’ve done some occasional babysitting, been paid not that much, and generally had a clear understanding between myself and the parents that this would be a cash transaction with no paper records. And I don’t think there was anything wrong with that – I think government efforts to track down tax and benefit cheats should have a lower limit below which it is just not worthwhile, when some people get away with hundreds of thousands in tax fraud because the government chooses not to expend their resources in pursuing the rich and instead spending more money on the chase than they claw back in the results, pursuing the minute efforts of people on the dole to earn enough extra to be able to enjoy some small comforts.

    BUT , one thing is sure: the understanding has to be clear and mutual. Otherwise, the person likeliest to get into the worst trouble, is you. Sorry.

    In the UK, it would be legal for you to receive cash presents without this being a tax declaration matter – under a specific limit, which is something like three thousand pounds. If you’re friends with this family, is it possible that some arrangement like that could be made – “we’re not paying her, she babysits our children for free and we make her a present once in a while”?

    1. Andream*

      My mom had a similar situation to the girl. I was pretty little at the time but if I remember correctly she was on temporary disability (not SSI but something else) for a work injury. She essentially got whiplash from a handicapped client grabbing her. She threw her back out (a previous injury had fused a few of her vertebrae together so it affected her more than someone without that injury). What we got was pathetic. It was minimal and hardly covered the rent. My grandparents helped out with other bills, and luckily we were able to get food benefits. We lived right across from the school and they were looking for someone to essentially babysit a group of kids for like 2 hours. It was like a daycare type of thing, but all the kids were between 2nd grade and 8th grade. She just had to make sure they didn’t burn the building down, and that they got onto the correct bus. It was only a few days a week. she worked like 5 hours a week. A neighbor, who had some problem with us, called the county stating that she was working a full-time job. They did a big investigation, but since it was at the school, there was a very clear paper trail and she was in no trouble.

      The US disability program needs to change with the times. There are so many disabilities these days that you could work a few days a week or that you could work when your feeling well, but there would be no way you could work a full time or even a part-time job because you can’t reliably be there. one day your fine and the next you are out for a month because you can’t get out of bed. They need to realize that people need these smaller jobs that are flexbile to live. $700 a month would cover most peoples rent and that’s it.

      1. PlanAhead*

        I think that SSDI does provide for this in that there is a threshold of monthly income that an SSDI participants needs to make prior to having issues with the SSDI (I want to say around 1200 a month). To be fair, it may reduce your SSDI that month.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        If she was injured by a client, was it through workers comp by chance? They are ruthless with their claims and they will send PIs to track people if they think that they’re working while classified as temporarily disabled.

        The Bureau of Labor and Industries sends out large detailed articles when they “bust” someone found to be working. Usually it’s clearly someone who has a meager income, so I know that their benefits are super low like your moms was. But they’ll go for every penny back and interest if they try.

        This goes deeper than just the government in the end, it’s the awful insurance system. Each one wants your premiums, at as much as they squeeze out of you and doesn’t want to pay a cent in claims they aren’t forced to.

    2. Thurs