should I ask to be paid to attend the holiday party, how do people call in sick, and more

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

1. Should I skip the holiday party unless I’m paid to attend?

I work at an great (so far) organization where I am for the most part thrilled with my job and boss. I am acquainted with my coworkers and we have very professional relationships. I’ve been there about six months and received rave reviews regarding my work.

Recently, HR sent around an invitation to this year’s holiday party. It is after hours and I found out from the HR manager that we are all expected to attend. I am part-time and hourly; the “after hours” part of this is four hours after my day usually ends, and I would not be paid for the time spent.

Should I just suck it up and go, show that I’m friendly and a team player, demonstrate that I appreciate the job and the organization? Or skip and explain to my boss that if they want me to participate in things like this, I need to be paid (or salaried!) and have my time respected? Where is an appropriate boundary?

I hate parties and social gatherings and making small talk with people, and would prefer to keep professional relationships collegial but not friendly, so I’m definitely biased and will not be great at finding the appropriate boundary.

Technically, if the party is truly mandatory and you’re hourly, they need to pay you for your time there. In reality, refusing to go unless you’re paid will come across as not engaged with your work or teammates, nickeling and diming the company, not appreciative of the company’s hospitality, etc. That’s BS — wanting to follow the law shouldn’t get you marked as any of those things — but managers often think of holiday parties as the company doing something nice for you and will see “pay me to go” as similar to “thanks for this gift of chocolate, but I’ll need to be paid for my time eating it.”

What’s more likely, though, is that they’re not going to call the party “mandatory” even if they frown on you not attending. Frankly, in either case you can probably get out of it by explaining you have a conflict with the time that you can’t move (a family obligation, travel, etc.). Before you do that, though, it’s worth considering whether there are political benefits to attending or a political cost to declining … but if you don’t want those benefits / are okay with that cost, then you can come up with a conflict.

Generally, though, if it’s a company you’d like to build your career at (and it sounds like you’ve been happy there so far), it’s smart to suck it up and go (and just stay for an hour or two).

2. How do people call in sick these days?

I’m curious about how people call in sick one-fifth of the way through the 21st century. Do people still dial their boss, pray to get their voicemail, and fake a sick voice? Or is it more common that people just send an email that basically says “Sick. Not coming in. Not checking anything. Just wallowing in my own misery and bodily fluids.”

I’m old enough to remember that my first employers didn’t even have email, or if they did not everyone had them. Even in my first “grown-up” job where we did have email, if I was going to be sick I was expected to call, but things are different these days. I’m not even sure I’d know what number to call if I did decide to tell my boss I’m sick, and I gave up talking to managers on the phone years ago.

I’m certain that it depends on the job to some extent. You would expect a dishwasher at a restaurant to call … or would you? What’s the norm these days? Do people still call or has a sick day been relegated to email/chat/text/carrier pigeon?

It varies wildly. There are still jobs where you’re required or expected to call, despite everyone there having work email. In theory, that’s because they want you to actually speak with someone (to ensure the message doesn’t sit unnoticed in someone’s voicemail and/or so that person can ask for relevant details like when you’ll be back in), but in reality I suspect some of it is that they think it’ll discourage you from faking. But there are lots of other jobs where emailing is fine, and others where texting is fine. It just depends on your office norms. (And of course, the more senior you are, the more freedom you typically have to choose your own method of notification.)

3. My son’s employer hired a felon

My son’s employer hired a newly released felon to work in his department. I am fit to be tied. The employee was a druggie arrested for distribution 20 years ago. Does my son have to work with this person? Can my son asked to be moved to a different department?

What is it about someone who sold drugs 20 years ago that’s causing this level of alarm for you? You don’t mention anything about him being violent or dangerous or posing a risk to coworkers. And I can pretty much guarantee you that you yourself have interacted with people who sell drugs and you just didn’t realize it.

People serve their sentences, get released from prison, and go back to work; that’s how our system is designed to function. And your son’s employer presumably screened him and decided he doesn’t pose a risk to the company or its employees.

As for your question: “I don’t want to work with the stranger you just hired” isn’t typically something people change departments over. More importantly, though, does your son care? This is his to handle however he decides to; it’s not something you as a parent need to get involved with, even behind the scenes.

4. I was removed from a Slack channel by a client who’s become antagonistic to me

I work as a consultant in academia on a project that uses Slack. My job is to give feedback on the project, from an outside perspective. I don’t have a boss or manager, but there is a hierarchy with people in charge. There are four people in charge, and they are fairly close. We had all gotten along well until recently.

One of the people in charge, Paul, and I have had some personal issues. He and I were close friends, and he no longer wishes to be friends with me (long story). That’s fine but he has been antagonistic towards me. He snaps at questions I ask, which have been as benign as asking when the group is meeting. Any critique I offer is met with defensiveness.

Most recently, Paul removed me from a Slack channel that involves one aspect of the project. The channel is somewhat infrequently used but was picking up steam again. I don’t know how important it is for me be a part of this channel. I don’t know why he removed me without warning. It feels petty but I don’t know what to do and whether this is a sign of more issues.

What should I do in this situation? In the past when I’ve asked Paul about whether there are any issues with me, he denies there are issues between us. I’m not sure how much the others involved notice. I don’t know how to talk to any of them about this, because I’m the newest person on the project and Paul has been credited, rightfully so, for the success of the project.

It’s fine if Paul no longer wants to be friends, but it’s reasonable to still expect him to interact professionally with you — and often the best way to signal that is to just go ahead and act normally yourself. In this case, that would mean contacting him and saying, “It looks like I was removed from the XYZ Slack channel. Since we’d been starting to use it for things like ABC, which was helpful to me, could I be added back on?”

That might solve it. But if it doesn’t, and if you start noticing additional issues, you might need to talk to the others about what’s going on and whether there’s a way for you to move forward with your work. If Paul is determined to obstruct you, there might not be; he has a lot more power here than you do, especially since you’re an outside consultant on a project where he’s in charge— but that’s a conversation you’d need to have if you start noticing more signs of problems.

And really, it might be a conversation worth having with Paul now. He’s being antagonistic and defensive. Does he want you to continue to work on the project? With this particular power structure — outside contractor vs. insider who’s running the project — sometimes it’s better to just call the question.

5. Explaining my references are many hours ahead of us

I currently work for an American company in an overseas location. I’ve made the decision not to renew my contract when the option comes up next summer — no job issues or anything, I’m just ready to move back to the same continent as the rest of my family.

My question has to do with references as I begin a new job search. I’ve been here for five years and have colleagues and managers who would be happy to give me good references, but how do I indicate to prospective employers that there will be a significant time difference? Email is the easiest option in this scenario, but I don’t want to put anyone off by not offering phone numbers. The coworkers they would be contacting have U.S.-based phone numbers via the internet, so extra costs would not be an issue, but what is the best way to inform reference-checkers that the people they will be calling will be at least eight hours ahead of them, and so they should time their calls accordingly? I’m also not sure what to do with this information as far as online applications go — some of them have very rigid form layouts that don’t offer room for explanations.

When you’re offering a written reference list, you’d just note it like this:

Jane Smith, director of client relations and my manager at LlamaWorld from 2015-2018
* phone number (note she is located in Kenya, eight hours ahead of us, so email may be easier)
* email address

I wouldn’t worry too much about online applications with no place to include that note. Typically they’re not contacting references before they interview you (generally reference checking is a finalist stage thing), so you’ll have time to explain it to them if you move forward in their process. There are some exceptions to this, but they’re weird and rare.

{ 697 comments… read them below }

    1. just a random teacher*

      I’m expected to mark absent days in an online absence manager rather than call/email, but that system also takes care of booking a substitute for me, so I’m not sure how common that kind of absence management system is outside of education.

      1. Liane*

        When I worked for Humongous Retailer, there was an automated phone number for absences/tardies. You had to call in each day and would get a reference # for your manager. The system then transferred you to your store, where you were supposed to talk to a salaried manager. What usually happened was that IF anyone answered they would take a message. Managers could look up & print out the store’s call in list, so “talking to a live manager” was an unnecessary hoop anyway.
        So I would go back to bed if no one answered right away. If a manager asked me later on, I would tell them, “No one answered, do you need the number?” & the usual answer was “No. Glad you’re feeling better.”

      2. Humble Schoolmarm*

        There was some move towards booking our own substitutes where I am, but it never became official policy, I email my vice principal if I need time for an appointment (so longer notice) or text if it’s the day before.

      3. Lurker*

        Another random teacher – we use an online absence manager as well, but just started with the program last year; before that, we were expected to call an absence line and leave a message on the voicemail.

      4. Workallday*

        I’ve worked at the same job for 30 years. For the first 20 years employees had to call and speak to a scary guy when they needed to take the day off. Any time anyone had to take the day off, no matter the reason, he always answered with a sarcastic “ok” that sounded like he totally did not believe you. Maybe that wasn’t the case, but it sure sounded judgy to all of us. Now we just text our various departments.

        1. uh*

          Me: Boss, wont be in today, sick.
          Boss: You don’t sound sick.
          Me: Well I have a hole in my cornea and I can’t see. I have to do eye drops every 15 minutes.
          Boss: Uh take tomorrow too.

    2. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I’ve only ever emailed in sick in the fifteen years I’ve been working in an office setting. I usually email my boss, the person I share a cube with, and anyone I might have had meetings with. I’ll usually just put them all on the same “feeling under the weather, won’t be in” email because that’s easiest and I don’t have any confidentiality concerns around who I’m meeting with, etc. It occurs to me I don’t even know my boss’s phone number and wouldn’t be able to call him even if I wanted to!

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        I could call in sick, I suppose, but I generally email. For an unexpected sick day, I send a message saying something like, “I was battling a cold all weekend and it’s still winning by a lot, so I’m taking today off to sleep. I don’t have anything due that can’t wait a day, so I’ll catch up on everything tomorrow.” (or “I’ll be on the 2:00 call, but I’ll try to stay mostly muted so no one hears my nose-blowing.”). I don’t usually go into too much detail, because it’s not really anyone’s business WHY I’m too sick to work, but I’ll mention when I expect to be back. I used a cold as an example, but I’d be just fine saying “I’m not feeling well today,” which could cover food poisoning, a migraine, a terrible infection, the flu, whatever.

        For a pre-scheduled appointment, I’ll often mention it in passing, and then send a message at the end of the day before saying something like, “As mentioned, I’m taking my mother for her cataract surgery tomorrow, so I’ll be offline. I’m back on Thursday.” or “I’ll be at the dentist tomorrow afternoon, so I’ll be out after about 2.”

      2. Midge*

        I know what you’re getting at with the “nickel and diming” comment, but as an hourly worker I have to say that nobody calls it nickel and diming from the other end, when employers expect extras here and there for no compensation. That is messed up.

        Even with well meaning employers, management often doesn’t think of the effect on hourly employees when they do even positive things like “giving” extended lunches, etc. It leaves the hourly employees to *have to* ask what they are supposed to put on their timecards. We don’t like to have to do it, but are often forced into it because we literally don’t know what to do on our timecards. I’ve experienced this at more than one employer, and it makes me feel so small to have to ask. People who have to clock in and fill out timesheet with exact arrival and departure times are being nickel and dime by their employers, though we use nicer words for us. Please have more *empathy* when it comes to schedule changes, parties, etc., so we don’t have to be the ones to ask and look bad.

        1. Hush42*

          I don’t think that it makes hourly employees look bad to have to ask what to put on their timecards- it’s a reasonable question if the schedule change is out of the norm. That being said- at my company if there’s a company provided lunch that ends up running longer than the hour their allotted then managers just correct time cards to have the lunch be for just the standard hour- even if it was an hour and a half or two hours.

          1. Western Rover*

            At my daughter’s employer (which is also my employer, but I’m exempt), employees don’t clock out for a company provided lunch, even if there’s just eating and no lecturing or anything going on. Presumably this is because the time is not entirely their own?

            1. Amethystmoon*

              My company typically says if the lunch is a company lunch (such as the one we get for the holidays every year)/work team lunch, it’s considered a work meeting and we would just put our normal lunch break on our timecard. This is even if the team goes out to eat. But not every employer is that nice.

    3. nnn*

      We email sick day notices, with information about what, if anything, needs to be done with our workload, copied to all applicable people.

      When I started in the early 2000s, we were instructed to call. But that proved inconvenient because you had to convey all the instructions about what needs doing with your work over a voicemail message. So as soon as the younger generation of workers developed the social capital to do so, we just started emailing our sick notices, and eventually the whole organization followed suit.

      1. Renata Ricotta*

        This is what I do at my law firm. If I have no meetings, the partners I work with are traveling, or something else that means there aren’t really “applicable people” for that day, I sometimes just put an internal OOO message up saying I’m home sick and responses may be delayed. I tell my secretary via email or text so he can direct any external incoming calls to the right people or forward them to my cell.

        BUT, I have unlimited sick time, no formal boss, and almost always work at least a little from home and keep an eye on email during a sick day, and people will call my cell if they need anything while I’m napping or running to the pharmacy or whatever.

      2. Lizzy May*

        Something similar happened in my current job. When I got there people were calling but because we didn’t have an on-site manager and because we support people who are often on the road, it meant several calls and oftentimes notices were getting missed. I emailed the first time I was sick so that I could loop everyone in at once and it stuck. It’s just easier for everyone.

      3. Mama Bear*

        We mostly do this, too. It’s easier and if, say, you know at 2AM that going to the office isn’t happening, you can email that and stay in bed/rest. I appreciate the option. Years ago I got the worst food poisoning I ever had and timing the call to my nosy boss between trips to the restroom was less than fun.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Of course, if your boss has their phone set to ping when email or Slack arrives…

          I use my phone as an alarm clock, and so I get those middle-of-the-night notifications because I’m too lame to turn them off. I personally cna cope, but I wonder someitmes if my own boss is annoyed.

          But yes, email lets you convey a lot of info to a lot of people.

          1. Elly*

            And this is why scheduled ‘do not disturb’ exists! You can set it so that anything you really need in the middle of the night still goes off (alarms, phone calls), but things you don’t are muted (whatsapp messages from drunk friends, and sick staff letting you know they won’t be in; those weird 2am LinkedIn notifications).

            Anyone in the 21st century complaining about middle of the night phone notifications needs to sort themselves out – with non-immediate methods of communication (such as text or email), it is my responsibility to ensure I’m not disturbed, rather than the responsibility of other people to avoid messaging me at a time convenient to them.

            1. Meagain*

              my dnd is from 10-10 every day. Only 5 people are allowed to call through those times. Two created me, one I’m married to, and the other I shared a room with growing up. The other is my nephew but if he called, all of the above would be dead and he would have just realized it three says later.

    4. CastIrony*

      I was amused at the part where OP #2 asked whether a dishwasher at a restaurant was still expected to call in if they weren’t going to make it.

      In the cafeteria where I work, I would have to call the kitchen directly and tell the cook on shift, and then I or my supervisor will find coverage for me (I should do it, but sometimes they’re nice on this issue; that’s another story for another day)

      1. Ludo*

        I hate when retail/food service expects non-management employees to find coverage

        That should be a job for management

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          In my first teaching job, we were expected to find our own subs. It was ridiculous because we had a short list of approved subs to call – so when you were sick you’d call person after person and get the answer “oh, I’m already subbing for your coworker tomorrow.”

          1. Quill*

            I remember waking up at 5:30 AM to my mom doing battle with the automated phone system of Subfinder in the morning from when she subbed. (For same day you had to dial in with your ID and it would give you your requested days and then “open” days from last minute call ins, first come first served.)

            Few things are less appealing to a sleepy ten year old than finally managing to fall back asleep around 6 AM after the landline stopped beeping from where my mom had to punch the actual buttons on it, then being shaken awake not ten minutes later with “we’re going to school half an hour early, get up NOW.” (Our school technically started at 7:30, meaning that people were being dropped off from 7:15 to the exact moment, and depending on whether or not the teacher in question had outdoor duty that morning, a sub might be required to arrive at 6:45. It was a daily miracle to get everyone awake and ready by 7:05 to begin with… and there were only two of us! Would have been a thousand times worse if mom had ever accepted spots at the school that started at 7 am, but it was crosstown and she couldn’t drop us off at school before 7…)

            1. just a random teacher*

              My main subbing phone system issue was that it would start night-before calls while I was out driving quite often (I used to take my grandma to dinner a lot). The system would call you and you had to press buttons or you’d miss out on the potential job. (It had a “pause for two minutes” option, but that required you to…press a button.) I never did find a hands-free solution that would let me press buttons by voice, so I missed out on a lot of subbing jobs if I couldn’t pull over quickly.

              There are some things I miss about subbing (for one, it’s nice to be able to take a job knowing that if things go badly, it’s only for one day and you never have to do it again), but I do not miss the stress of incoming automated phone calls disrupting my evening and morning.

        2. Kathlynn (Canada)*

          Yeah, currently company’s policy is that it’s management’s job to find coverage or cover the shift themselves. Some managers ignore that and still require employees to find their own coverage. Which is hard since we don’t know everyone’s availability or phone numbers (yes we have a page at work for phone numbers, but not all of them have written their numbers there).
          I’ve also called in and had the person I talked to claiming that I was faking it because I didn’t sound sick. I’d gone home early the day before for the same thing. It was stomach bug that swept through the whole store. Because I couldn’t get ahold of my manager to call in sick or find coverage.

          1. Eurekas*

            The list of phone numbers at my retail job is six months out of date–half the people on the list no longer work at my store/for my company. And none of our new hires are on it yet.

            I usually work starting at 5 am, so if I were sick, I’d text my manager (I do have her number) and probably call the store later in the day–it’s courteous to let the department know, and higher level management want to be in the loop/demand sick notes from doctors, etc.

            When I was in a car accident on the way to work this summer, I was “lucky” enough that it was a midmorning thing, so I just called the front desk and was connected to my then manager.

            1. Kathlynn (Canada)*

              exactly. the older list of numbers had been up for about a year, with many former coworker’s number or outdated numbers on it. but the new manager told everyone to add it to the back of the communication book.

        3. Daisy-dog*

          It should be. I worked in a store that required it, but if someone called in sick to me (I was in a non-exempt supervisor role), then I would tell them that I would find coverage unless I was in the middle of shipment. It was just so unfair!

        4. Gazebo Slayer*

          Richard Hershberger made an excellent comment on yesterday’s “$90 fine for lateness” post about how many companies have a hierarchical distinction between how they treat people they consider “human beings” versus how they treat people they consider “meat puppets” and I think that applies here.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            Very much so. When the employee is considered to be a human being, the response to the sick call is “I hope you feel better soon.” When the employee is considered to be a meat puppet, this employee is at best being an inefficient meat puppet, and at worst is assumed to be faking it. This is related to the curious reality that “human being” jobs tend to be jobs that need to get done, but not necessarily this instant, while “meat puppet” jobs tend to be ones that need continuous coverage. The employees with the most immediately critical job functions get treated the worst, in part because their job function is so critical.

            1. Squidhead*

              As a professional meat-puppet (registered nurse in a hospital), you are absolutely right. When we call in, we have to call the scheduling department. Their first question (after your meat-puppet ID number) is “do you expect to be back for your next shift?” I mostly get it: they are required to stick to a script and I’m sure the questions had to be approved by the 2 or 3 different unions representing direct-care staff, but it definitely reinforces the meat-puppet feeling.

        5. Door Guy*

          Back when I still worked food service, I was miserably sick and when I called in 8 or 9 hours before my shift, was told I had to find my own coverage. I had to copy down all the phone numbers and then try and call people. I spent the entire time I should have been resting being stressed and freaking out because I couldn’t get anyone to answer the phone much less agree to cover for me. 1 person said they could if I couldn’t get anyone else, and then didn’t answer again. (She later told me I should have texted her…I didn’t have a texting plan on that phone)

          I drug myself in and tried to convince my coworker with the shorter shift to switch with me (he had a 3 hour shift, I had a 7) and he “Had 2 weeks of homework to do”. Worked my whole shift, woke up the next morning and still felt like garbage because I hadn’t gotten a chance to rest and recuperate. Tried AGAIN to get someone to cover, again no one answered. Showed up just to be told they got someone from a neighboring location to come in for me, but never called to let me know…Thankfully I had the next 3 days scheduled off.

      2. CMart*

        Yes, restaurants (and retail I suspect) are different beasts. At the restaurants I worked we usually would just find someone to cover our shift ourselves and not even deal with contacting management – the advent of online/phone app scheduling made this amaaaaazing – other than to inform them that So and So would be coming in, not me.

        But if you weren’t able to find coverage, you were expected to call ASAP – preferably when the first manager showed up to prep in the mornings. And you really were expected to only call off without coverage if it was a genuine emergency.

        The longest night of my life was when I started miscarrying at 2am and as soon as the clock hit 6am I just redialed the restaurant over and over until someone picked up. I still really resent having to do that. I wish I could have sent an e-mail or text.

    5. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I have to physically call with my current job, but it’s so that the leads for my shift know how many people they have on shift that day to spread the assignments out to. We tend to get lots of emails, so an email saying I’m off sick could easily get burried and lost and leave the lead wondering where “Jim” is today.
      In previous jobs I have been able to email the boss/shift lead and let them know I’m out sick.
      I think it really varies by job/region/supervisor preference.

      1. Lynca*

        Also state gov. agency, we have some flexibility as to whether we call/text/email based on the supervisor’s preference. Currently mine are all fine with texting/emails but I have had supervisors (and know of others) that are really rigid that you have to call and talk to a supervisor.

        I only need to share that I’m taking sick leave and letting them know about anything that needed coverage. No gruesome details needed.

      2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        I’ve been texting while sick for a long time now, I figured it would be more common than I’m seeing.

        1. Windchime*

          That’s what I do, too. If I’m up to it, I may also email the team but that’s a pretty big hassle because I have to connect to the VPN, remote into my workstation, etc. So I usually text my boss and my two immediate coworkers, and then go back to bed.

      3. Angwyshaunce*

        I also just send a text to my boss, and confirm that I have nothing urgent going on that day.

      4. ThatGirl*

        Yeah, I just text my manager, and potentially my co-workers just so they’re aware. I took a mental health day in October and just said “feeling crappy, gonna take a sick day” and that was that.

      5. aebhel*

        Yep. I text my boss and let him know if there’s anything that needs coverage. If I don’t hear back from him, I’ll call in directly to make sure someone knows I’m not coming in, but that’s it.

        (Librarian at a mid-sized public library here)

    6. Princesa Zelda*

      In most of my jobs in food service and retail, I had to call the store directly and let them know. With NationalChainGrocery and ThemePark, I also had to submit an online form for records and give my manager the reference number. With my last boss at NationalChainGrocery, she preferred I texted instead of called.

      In my current public library position, I just text my boss and he tells me to get better. :)

      1. Feline*

        My sister’s ThemePark position required employees to call and speak to a human when calling in sick. Leaving voicemail was not acceptable. It was basically a culture of suspicion.

        In my office job, email is the norm. I try to forward the notification I send the manager to teammates, but not everyone does that, leading to confusion about where they are.

        My boss doesn’t tell anyone; she just marks her calendar as out of office and expects everyone to proactively check her calendar to discover she is out. I don’t recommend her approach.

    7. Gaia*

      I text my boss. And when I managed a team I let them know texting was easiest for me (but I’d accept any mode that worked for them). I’ve worked places that require a call to a recorded line that HR manages (and then notifies managers). That always seemed odd to me and I usually skipped it.

      1. Gaia*

        The text usually just says “out sick today. Be in tomorrow. Can you let X know I’ll missY meeting”

      2. Daniela*

        We currently have the recorded line/ HR informs manager rule too. Which is horribly unhelpful for my teammates (who are peers, not managers) because they are not notified, and our manager comes in 2 hours after everyone else.

    8. Emma*

      Everywhere I have worked the sick leave policy always stated you had to call your line manager before a certain time of day. In truth everyone either emailed or text. I have only had 1 manager who insisted on calling me when I was ill.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        On the few occasions I have phoned in sick , I got through to either a co-worker or my line manager, and if the line manager wasn’t in, I would ask to be transferred to HR.

    9. Ophelia*

      I am a secretary so I shoot a text to my boss (department manager) and my office manager (oversees secretaries). The company itself requires me to enter my time out via a event portal. So I do all three – I will typically put my time in first, then shoot the texts off.

      At previous companies, it was just a simple text to my manager.

    10. AnonymousNurse*

      My workplace has a office that’s dedicated to staffing the entire hospital. So if I need to be out sick, I have to call in sick to that specific office, not to my manager. Then that office will let each specific unit know who is expected on shift and who called off sick. It’s nice to talk to a neutral person who will just mark that you’re sick, rather than your manager who might get frustrated about the staffing repercussions of your call off.

    11. FaintlyMacabre*

      A former workplace found it best when I called my sister and she told my boss in person.

      …..However, this was because we worked the same job on different shifts and could organize our coverage between ourselves. This is assuredly not the right way to go about it in most situations.

    12. Urdnot Bakara*

      i text my boss, wait until he responds first so i know he is aware, and then i send a short email to the rest of my teammates letting them know i’ll be out and how to contact me if applicable.

    13. AcademiaNut*

      We have a unified online system for travel, leave and sick days. We enter the information, it’s passed to our supervisor, and the out of office page is updated. It’s great – you can check and see that someone is out of the office that day, and whether they are on leave, domestic travel, or international travel.

    14. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      White-collar job. I email my boss and anyone else who would expect to hear from me that day, usually in one email. It’s pretty informal. “Hi all, I have a horrible cold and my brain is mush, so I’m out sick today. Sonya, I know you’re waiting for my approval of the exam findings. I will get you those tomorrow by 3 p.m., and if I’m sick tomorrow too, Dan can sign off on them. Nicole, you’re going to have to go ahead and send out the TPS report without my input; I’m sure you’ve got it covered. Once I send this, I’m closing my email, so if you need me urgently, please call or text. I’m going to go chug some soup and stare at the wall.”

      I use a subject line like “DoAE out sick 3/18” or “DoAE personal day 5/22” to make sure it’s clear a) that I’m out and b) what kind of leave I’m using. I keep a spreadsheet of my paid leave, and my boss keeps a spreadsheet of paid leave for everyone who reports to him. At the end of every year we check that our records match and it’s good to have a digital trail in case of any confusion.

      I mostly WFH, which is another reason to be very clear about whether I’m working. I save my sick days for days when I really can’t think clearly enough to do my job.

      1. WinStark*

        I have one of the names in your post, so I had a brief “WTF are they talking to me?” stomach drop! LOL

    15. MistOrMister*

      At my current office you’re expected to call the manager’s work line. It’s perfectly acceptable to leave a voicemail though. They do it this way because the manager sends out a daily attendance list. If the manager is out, then whoever covers them checks their voicemail to see who is calling out that day. I wish we could email or text though. When I’m praying to the porcelain gods, the last thing I want to do is call my boss to say I feel like crap and am staying home.

      1. Do I need a hard hat for this?*

        Haha! Exactly! Sometimes you’re just NOT in a good way and talking is the last thing you want to do. I’m very lucky it’s no problem to text my boss.

    16. Kimmybear*

      As others have said, we usually email boss, team and anyone we are working with on current projects. Sometimes that means 2 additional people, sometimes 10. Saves the headache of having to let individual people know. What varies significantly is how much work is expected while you are home sick. I stink at resting when I’m home sick and usually put in a few hours each day but most of my bosses left me alone unless something was urgent. One boss though was repeatedly texting a colleague who was in the hospital!

    17. Mark Roth*

      Teacher Here: We have a service that handles substitutes. It has a number, but I haven’t used it in years and probably two or three iterations of service providers. It has a simple online portal that we can sign in to, put in the day(s) missed, and even leave directions for a substitute teacher. Very simple to use for anyone with a little bit of computer savy.

      My wife could easily email her boss and be done with it. I am not even sure she has a fixed limit on sick days. But, for whatever reasons, she is actually required to make a phone call and either leave a message for her boss or speak to someone in management.

    18. Jennifleurs*

      At my old job you had to ring in (and it had to be you, no one else) between half 8 and 9. HR would then ask you a list of invasive questions including exactly what was wrong with you, what medication you were taking, whether you’d seen the doctor, and whether you thought you’d be back tomorrow.

      When you did return, you’d have to fill out a return to work form, even for just one day off.

      You also weren’t paid for the sick time. This was an office job, believe it or not.

          1. Kat in VA*

            I would be tempted to give them the gory details of a stomach ailment and then tell them I was taking opium to stop things up.

            None of their damned business. I’m sick, that’s it.

        1. Kathlynn (Canada)*

          yeah, the only reasonable question would be “are you on any meds that effect your ability to work?”

    19. Marlene*

      We have to call our boss and leave a voice mail. I don’t put on a sick voice or give details. I say something like, “Hi, this is Marlene. I’m not feeling well today and won’t be in. Thank you.”

      As a courtesy, I follow up with an email stating the same thing.

    20. I❤️Spreadsheets*

      Where I used to work you were expected to call in and speak to a manager. Working in childcare means that we need to have a certain ratio of adults to children and on a busy morning I often wouldn’t be able to log into emails until after the nursery had opened which then meant added pressure to find an email saying someone wouldn’t be in!

    21. Eng*

      Salaried office job, I post in my team’s slack channel and usually remember to “request” the day in our tracking system and more rarely remember to use the “sick” slack status. I go back to bed without waiting for any kind of response.

      1. Jamey*

        Yep, pretty much exactly the same. I can “request” the sick day later as long as I don’t totally forget; I just let people know on Slack and deal with everything else later after I’ve had a little more rest.

      2. FoxyDog*

        Same, I work for a small tech company and most communication is done via Slack. Including this. I don’t set the status though, never thought of it. That’s a good idea.

    22. mcbqe*

      In my small, white-collar professional office, any sick staff member usually group-texts everyone (there will usually be less than six of us in the office, including bosses, on any given day) with a brief explanation/apology. It’s the first workplace I’ve had which is so relaxed in this regard – I used to *hate* having to phone in and talk to a manager to cough/splutter/whine/whisper my case…

      1. KayDeeAye (Kathleen_A)*

        We use texting, too – I’m a little surprised that isn’t more common really, at least based on the responses in this thread that I’ve seen so far. If I’m taking a sick day for something planned (e.g., a series of medical appointments – we don’t have to take PTO for a regular appointment, but sometimes I’ve consolidated more than one appointment into a single day, and it’s much easier just to take a full day off and call that a “sick day”), I send an email to my entire team the night before. But if it’s a question of waking up and feeling bad, I usually just text my supervisor and she passes that along to the rest of my team.

    23. londonedit*

      I just need to email my immediate boss. It’s fairly easy for me to work from home, so if I’m feeling under the weather but not horrendous, I’ll drop the boss an email in the morning saying that I’ll be working from home and will hope to be back in the office tomorrow, and then later in the day I’ll update and say either nope, feeling worse, going to work from home again/take a sick day tomorrow, or I’ll say I’m on the mend and I’ll be in the office tomorrow as planned. If I know the boss isn’t in, or I’m not sure if they’ll be in, I’ll include a colleague on the email as well.

    24. Allonge*

      We need to send an email to our boss and HR, who will add the call-in to the internal system we use to track leaves and such. HR wants this in an email (we are a very written word – CYA culture company), but they accepted it in the past when I sent an email for my office mate who called me when she could barely keep her eyes open, let alone turn on a computer and write an email.

      In our team we also have a whatsapp group for emergencies, which we use to flag things to be followed up.

    25. Zip Silver*

      I haven’t actually been sick enough to miss work since I moved out of my college dorm (which I’m sure will change as soon as our kids start going to kindergarten and bringing back all sorts of nasty with them).

      My process is pretty easy though. I’m the manager at our office, so I would just shoot my boss an email (and much like the reference letter, he’s 3 timezones behind me) and text my #2 to let her know that I’m going to be out that day.

    26. Liz*

      In my first job (hotel), you needed cover if you were off, so you HAD to call ASAP, come hell or high water. This usually meant ringing the general manager (sometimes at a ridiculous hour in the morning, on her personal mobile because nobody had work mobiles) and possibly doing the same to colleagues to ask somebody to cover. If other staff couldn’t cover at short notice, the poor GM was expected to.

      New job, no pressing need for cover, is a bit more relaxed. Most people have work mobiles but only recently thought to ask for the numbers to them. Colleagues occasionally forget to turn the voicemail off, and on one such day, I tried to call in, and as such I couldn’t get through. I tried calling our sister site, but the line was busy. I tried my managers work mobile, but it was turned off. Panicking now, and reverting to old job habits, I called the manager on her personal mobile – she answered, half asleep, mumbled that she was on annual leave, and advised I keep trying the sister site. I apologised, and did as she suggested, and eventually got through.

      When I relayed this story to colleagues, and got to the part where I woke my boss up on a day off to call in sick, I was met with looks of sheer horror. (She was fine with it, and she’s no longer my boss but a good friend.) But it made me acutely aware of the difference between the two roles, and that there is no dire need to call in by the earliest opportunity, by whatever means necessary.

    27. Lexin*

      We are still expected to call in sick in person and ideally speak to our manager directly.

      What I do is text first as soon as I realise I’m not going t make it in, and then ring her up when she can reasonably be expected to be in the office and explain in more detail why I’m off. That system seems to work well.

    28. Kate H*

      When I first started, we were allowed to call in late/sick by texting our manager. Now, we’re required to call in through the main company line and either: ask to be transferred to our manager (which only works if your manager has already arrived, and their start times are the same as ours), let the customer service rep know to email those who need to know, or leave a voicemail. The majority of us will text our manager AND call in, so they’re not left wondering if something has happened if they don’t see the email from customer service quickly enough.

    29. Vendelle*

      In my profession it is customary (at least in my European country) to call in. However, the only reason for me to not work would be if I had lost my voice (I need my voice to work). I have now agreed with my employers that I can send them a whatsapp-message to tell them I’m sick. Also, I usually then have to cancel my appointments myself (I do appointment-based work), which I then try to do bij whatsapp as well, because calling 14+ people to tell them I’ve lost my voice and have them say “sorry, what did you say?” every.single.time. would make my voioce only worse.

    30. Best Cat in the World*

      I have to call a specific number and either speak to the duty manager or leave a message (in theory they’ll call back but in practice quite often they don’t need to) and then call another number to speak to an external company that handles our sick calls, records it and then updates our system. If it’s not something that’s got a specific end to it then I have to call back and either update them or close the sickness.

      (In the UK)

    31. Retail not Retail*

      We have to call the sick line and our manager. What’s annoying is it’s supposed to be done within an hour before your shift so if you’re sick all night you best get up at your usual time anyway.

      It did discourage me this summer when my manager was off and I’d have to call a different one because our summer schedule was 6-2

      1. EPLawyer*

        Hubby has to call a certain line and give his employee number. Supposed to be within an hour of shift, but when he broke his leg he just got it out of the way first thing. For that he also called his supervisor directly since it would be an extended absence.

        If I’m sick, I just roll over. If I have appointments, I do contact the person asking to reschedule. For court hearings, I drag myself in then go home to bed.

    32. Midge*

      I can absolutely just email or text my supervisor. In fact, I don’t know his direct line, and email or text means he will get the message before work. (We don’t use phones much at work. He’d see the message, but it would frankly be unusual for me to call.)

      I am one of those people who doesn’t look or sound sick until she is really, really terribly ill. I can be stay at home sick long before it’s obvious to anyone by my voice, unless an illness starts with laryngitis. So I hated ever having to call in for previous jobs, because I felt like I had to fake it even though it wasn’t fake.

      Of course these days I am much more likely to call in sick because my kid is sick, which would be a lot less awkward of a phone call if I needed to notify by phone. And am much more likely to go into work sick because I don’t get enough sick days to cover us both.

    33. Lyudie*

      Email or text, usually email because then I can copy my coworker/team lead who also needs to know I’m out sick.

    34. jen hen*

      My boss is wonderful, and allows me to just text him and say I won’t be in. It’s the first time I’ve experienced this, and it’s very refreshing to not have to worry about what I’ll say or if I sound “sick enough”. I just shoot him a text by 7:30 and I’m good to go.

      I work for a local city government with a pretty nice sick time bank, and taking time of when you’re sick is encouraged. I previously worked in a lot of call centers where the policy was “don’t get sick”.

    35. MsMaryMary*

      I started a new job in October, and somewhere in my new hire orientation it said that we must “make voice contact” with our manager when calling in sick. I asked my manager, and she laughed and said “No, just text me.”

      What I did at my last job and what I’ll probably do now (in addition to texting my manager) is to email anyone I had meetings with or who would be looking for me, and then to set an out of office message.

      I’m a mid-level professional in a white collar job.

    36. Liz*

      I usually just send my bosses an email; something along the lines of “not feeling well, up all night sick, etc, so not coming in today” and its no big deal.

      But I do remember the days having to call in, and actually SPEAK to the boss, or leave a VM, and attempt to sound sick :)

    37. Ranon*

      I text my boss and email my office- text the boss because he gets a mountain of email and is in meetings a lot so sees some but not all of his email, email the office because there’s only six of us and people worry a bit if someone’s not in. Usually I just say “not feeling well and won’t be in today” plus any sort of “please deal with thing/ meeting/ etc.” that was supposed to happen that day.

    38. Thatoneoverthere*

      Now, I just text my boss. Before texting was common place it was always ok (at my place of employment) to call and leave a VM. Most of the time when I decided to call off, it was before anyone was in the office. I did work for a mobile phone company years ago. They took text call offs too. That was before texting was super common, so it was a small perk. Honestly I hate actually having to speak to someone when calling off. I just want to curl up in bed, send a text and pass back out.

    39. CL Cox*

      I work as a school secretary. Teachers have to put their absences into our online system, which automatically calls for subs for the job. If it’s after their scheduled start time, the system won’t let them put it in, only an admin can. This is so the admins know that they need to arrange coverage for the classroom. Support staff also need to put their absences in the system, but they also need to call in, for coverage reasons – we can’t get subs for them, so someone else has to cover their work. For myself, the other secretaries, and admins, we text the principal and each other or call in.

    40. Sneaky Ninja for this one*

      I text. Just a “hey, I’m not feeling well. I’ll be logged on late, I won’t be on at all, I’ll be in/out” I work from home 4 days a week, so if it’s my office day, it might be “I’ll be working from home, not feeling well, but I’ll be logged in.”

      My boss is pretty chill, though, because she knows I get my stuff done and rarely call off. Because I’m rarely sick.

    41. Senor Montoya*

      We have a documented for all to see and obey procedure: call your supervisor and also email the supervisor and the office manager, noting if you have appts and how you want them handled (reschedule, someone needs to meet with X appt, etc); if it’s a teaching day, also contact your teaching partner and the teaching coordinator. If you can yourself contact your appts to let them know you are out, you should, but if you can’t (because you’re too sick to stay awake, or you have a migraine and can’t even, for instance), the office will handle it. We are also expected to put an out of office message on our phone and email.

      I have never faked a sick voice. A reasonable boss knows that it’s possible to sound ok and not be well enough to work. An unreasonable boss doesn’t know it or doesn’t care; that kind of boss can stuff it. But I’m fortunate that I’ve had very few bosses like that.

    42. LQ*

      I work in government with a call center (I’m not personally in the call center). Staff have to call in and talk to a person. At one point there was talk of moving to let folks text, but supervisors are in a union and are not all provided cell phones for their jobs (because they don’t need them) and you can’t require folks to use a personal device (because of all the things that have been talked about here). And if anyone called and left a message with a supervisor who was out themselves that day it could create issues. Hence union vs union call in and speak to a human still wins out. (There are like 10 folks they can call and someone is always here at least an hour early which is partly why it isn’t a huge issue to call and talk to a person.)

      I think this is one of those things where people make a lot of assumptions about how they want to behave without thinking through all the consequences of it. (Like are you going to require all supervisors to have a personal cell phone number that they give out to their employees? Now you have work information on that device, is that device now discoverable? Do you now have to pay for that personal device because someone gave out a phone number to text for a work reason? Before you scoff and say that’s unpossible, ahh, but it isn’t, it’s happened.)

      1. Gaia*

        When I worked for government my whole team was issued cell phones (because our government is wasteful and thought th8s was better than a desk phone – we did not need cell phones AT ALL especially not brand new iPhones) so texting was the best way. I absolutely would not have used my personal phone because of the public records issue.

        Now that I’m back in private sector, I still only use my personal phone for texting sick. But that’s just because when I’m sick enough to miss work, I’m so sick that there’s no way I’m talking to anyone let alone opening up a laptop and emailing.

    43. Trout 'Waver*

      Believe me a someone who fields many sick calls, I do not want to hear about your bodily fluids. Ever.

    44. Environmental Compliance*

      At Fast Food Place in high school, I called in. You needed to talk to a manager only because there were a couple people that would “forget” to let the manager know. They were pretty laid back about the whole thing, though.

      At Lab in college, emails were preferred. Manager was very busy – I think she managed 40 of us in total, along with all supplies etc – and email was easiest for her.

      At State Gov’t Agency 1, I could text or email boss 1, but (second position, same agency) boss 2 required a call in. Just two different management styles.

      At TA position at university, I needed to email a certain group of people (TA manager, the professor, and the TA group for that lecture) and request coverage. If someone in your group volunteered, great, if not, we specifically had 2-4 floating TAs that would cover with at least 15 minutes notice.

      At State Gov’t Agency 2, I actually called in (on my first week – I had gotten horribly sick as in had to pull over on the drive in to puke on the off ramp, fun times) and after I got back the following Monday, horribly apologetic, my boss was super sweet and told me that a text is okay with him, and am I sure I’m feeling okay because we could get IT in to set up VPN and I could watch the training videos from home? (This was my favorite boss.) Second position at same agency, different boss, wanted a VM left with the admin assistant.

      At County Gov’t Agency, text was fine. Very casual office. Usually though Boss would forget I texted her so I’d call the admin assistant and let her know as well. Then when Boss was tearing around the office grumping about where I was or trying to schedule me for random things that day, Admin would remind her I was sick.

      Current Private Company – I email my Boss and text someone in Admin just in case someone comes to my office looking for me, they know I’m out and can let the person know I won’t be in.

    45. Third or Nothing!*

      Most of my sick days are the result of my chronic illness, which doesn’t usually get bad until mid-morning when it flares up. When that happens I shoot an IM to my boss, wrap up any time-sensitive work that still needs to get done that day, and take a half day at lunch. If I have to use a sick day for my daughter, I send him a text as soon as I determine she has a fever, then text my teammate if there’s anything that absolutely has to get done that day.

      We’re a pretty informal office.

    46. Broomhilde*

      I mostly send an e-mail with my boss, mainly because the phone often isn’t covered when I’m sick and boss often comes in late that day. I only call when I know that there is an important, time-sensitive task that has to be done that day.

      But that’s the luxury of being an office lady. Other personnel (which starts earlier and is much more vital to my workplace) has to call in once until 7:30 am, which goes to voicemail, and a second time during the day to let anybody who picks up the phone know when they’ll be back.

    47. Quill*

      Last time I called in it wasn’t for being sick, it was because my car wouldn’t start, but I just emailed “won’t be in due to car trouble, should be resolved by tomorrow, will keep you informed.”

      Of course, I’m contract/hourly, so there wasn’t any fuss with PTO for my boss… all I can say is thank god I didn’t have to pay for the car work because I lost out on enough money by not going in.

    48. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      When I started working as a software developer, I would email to say I’d be out sick.

      In the last few years, I’ve switched to just putting a message in our team Slack channel (I have Slack on my phone for when I’m traveling/at conferences). I’ll also note if I’ll be checking Slack messages or not. (Generally if I’m dealing with an injury that needs to be rested, I’ll check Slack, but if I’m ill, I won’t.)

    49. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      We always text in despite the official rule is to call. Our handbook needs updated in that regard, it’s on my list of minor tweaks (thus not needing to update immediately.)

      I’m not sure about the “hope it goes to voicemail” part. It 100÷ goes to voicemail if you’re calling their desk phone after hours. That’s how I did it prior to email or in my case with a boss who shunned technology, including cellphones.

      We have sick leave law mandating no questions asked and no doctor notes until it’s 3 conservative days. Which is taking a lot of work to educate some old traditions out of some folks. So no need to fake anything.

    50. Goldfinch*

      My company uses an online/app HR system. It’s one-stop-shopping to sign up for health coverage, change beneficiaries, request time off, etc. In practice, I just e-mail my manager for unscheduled sick days and then fill out the formal request after the fact.

      If I were a regular person with a smart phone and good coverage, I would text her instead, but I’m a Luddite with a decade-old dumb phone, living in the boonies with spotty cell service.

    51. em_eye*

      I’m not seeing a lot of people say they text their bosses, but that’s literally the only way I’ve done it. When I worked retail, I’d text the manager on duty (we were all friends), although more often than not the response was “there’s no coverage, sorry, you still have to come in”.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        If anyone quits on the spot after being told that, I applaud them.

        Manager: “But you HAVE to come in, we need coverage!”
        Sick employee: “Did you not hear me just quit? Now you have to find coverage for ALL my future shifts. Have fun, I’m going back to sleep.” *click*

    52. Turquoisecow*

      Since I’ve worked in an office job, I’ve emailed in sick and that seems to be the norm.

      I did have a coworker a few years ago who used to annoy the boss by calling. She’d leave a voicemail, which was fine, but she’d always call back and make sure she talked to the boss in person. She also only called out if she was really sick so he was then subjected to listening to her basically moan into the phone about how horrible she felt and how sorry she was that she wasn’t coming in. She was a low level employee and not working on anything that would be terrible to be a day late, so the dramatic change explanations of her symptoms and how serious they were and etc mostly just annoyed him far more than her being out for the day. If he avoided her calls she would just keep calling until she actually got through.

    53. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

      We have a shared Google calendar. Any absences for any reason are put in the calendar (ex: “Book – Out Sick” set from 9-5, or “Book – Doctor’s Appt” from 1-2). We then request the time we took off using a website time clock, unless we make that time up later in the pay period (we have comp time).

      But we’re a very small office and my boss understands that we’re adults with lives, which I really appreciate.

    54. greenius*

      I am a contractor in an office job at a large company. If I am unexpectedly sick, I have to call the the scheduling office, call/text my rep at the agency, call/text my manager at my placement and call/text the team lead who actually assigns me work.

      I will have to be really sick before I do all that.

    55. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Email + request a sick day in the company’s PTO system, here. No point in calling. No one will answer. This is a 9-5 (ish) office job.

    56. jay*

      we are given the option of emailing or calling, but I usually email because that way I can do it even when I’m too sick (I have a chronic GI illness and so I don’t want to be calling my boss from the toilet!). Also, I know my boss checks his email on his work phone on his commute, so he’ll know before he even arrives for the day.

      My company has a policy where for confidentiality reasons we’re not allowed to say WHY we’re calling out sick, which both makes sense and also sucks — basically, it removes the human/empathy element from the interaction entirely, there’s no “oh I’m sorry you feel that way, I heard a bug has been going around, thanks for not sharing it with the office” or whatever. Like, if I come to work and suddenly come down with a horrible cold midday, my boss can’t just say “you look like you feel terrible, please feel free to go home early” — everything has to be documented and run through our attendance tracking system. Which is fine, because it’s a huge company, but it also comes across as micromanaging and nitpicky and I hate it.

    57. Hush42*

      At my company we just text. If I’m not coming in I usually just shoot my boss a text that says I don’t feel well. Depending on how sick I am I might work from home instead of taking off but I’d still text my boss to let him know. I also text my team to let them know I won’t be in- we have a text group chat that we use for various things including this. If one of my employees calls in sick its typically the same thing- they’ll text me to let me know and text in the group chat to let everyone else know too. Sometimes they only use the group chat- which is also fine with me. I trust them all to handle their work and take off when they need to (because I employ adults not children and expect them to act like it) so all I need is a notification that they’ll be out- no approval necessary.

    58. Alicia*

      My boss likes to communicate by text so I text him, his second-in-command, and my colleagues when I’m sick.
      He doesn’t have time to read his emails, and it might be 1/2 day before he listens to voice mail.

    59. Kiwiii*

      I work somewhere that has a vibe somewhere between a nonprofit and a tech start up and I’m expected to either text or message my manager through our company chat program, and then post in our immediate team group chat that i’ll be out sick and if/when i’ll be available remotely. It’s rarely ever an issue of approving sick time, but rather just keeping people in the loop, warning other people about priorities, and/or asking my manager to attend meetings for me if necessary.

    60. Shadowbelle*

      In my current position, I text my manager.

      Me: Not feeling well, will be out sick today.
      Him: OK, hope you feel better tomorrow.

      Then he emails the team to let everyone know that SB will be out today. All very succinct and convenient.

      Note on Allison’s remark (someone else may have already noted this) “…where you’re required or expected to call, despite everyone having work email.” In order to use your work email, you may well have to be logged onto your work computer. Also, I’m not sure *everyone* has a work email.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        “Everyone” there referred to “in those jobs” — i.e., “even in jobs where employees all have work email, they may be required to call.” Not “everyone in the world has work email” :)

    61. MCMonkeyBean*

      I vote ask your boss! Not necessarily just about calling in sick, but there are lots of reasons you might need to contact them in the morning (or whatever time your shift starts) to let them know you either won’t make it in or will be late.

      I started a new job recently and one morning my cat was having issues and I thought I was going to have to take her to the vet–I quickly realized I had no phone numbers to call and no idea how to get in contact with anyone from work other than maybe sending emails that would probably not be seen until well in the afternoon. Luckily my cat seemed fine after a few more minutes and my husband said he could come work from home to watch her so I ended up making it to work on time.

      Later that week I related that story to my boss saying that I realized I didn’t know what I should do in case of an emergency and we exchanged cell phone numbers.

    62. Jubilance*

      At my company you generally send an Outlook meeting invite, set to all-day and “time free” to your leader and any other relevant parties, saying you’re OOO because you’re sick. We can also use our (unlimited) sick time when our kids are sick too, so people will often note that as well. Generally we also note if we’re going to be logging in at some point for meetings or if we’re truly going to be offline.

    63. Half-Caf Latte*

      Hospital setting:

      Direct care nurses and nursing assistants must call out to the house supervisor at least 2 hours before the start of the shift. Calling the floor does not count, although many will text the charge nurse as a courtesy. 95% of the time the super answers the phone on the first or second try, but if they’re tied up and don’t answer, you need to call the hospital operator and get them to connect you. It’s a bit onerous but there’s clear operational and patient safety rationale behind it.

    64. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

      Even when my office was a bit more old fashioned, I think I usually emailed in, because no one would have answered the phone without me.

      When I started reporting to someone else they seemed fine with it. So I figured it works, why change a good thing?

    65. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      At my work, you called in if you were performing a coverage-based role, to insure your boss saw it and could arrange coverage if you were too ill to arrange your own. If you worked a later shift or realized you were sick the day before, you could text or email and then call to confirm if they didn’t get back to you quickly.

      If you were in a non-coverage based role, you’d just email out as needed.

    66. Polaris*

      Since I don’t have access to my office email from my personal cell, I’m expected to either call in and leave a message, or to text my boss’s cell.

    67. It's Me!*

      #2 our department has a policy where you put a note in the general Slack channel that you’re out sick (so anyone who might need you can see it) and at your supervisor (so they don’t miss it). But one group of workers in our organization has a union and has specific calling-in procedures that have to be followed because that’s what’s in their contract.

    68. Retired and Happy Now*

      #2 Should check the employee handbook to find out if there are any call-in requirements specified there. You may be required to speak with someone, call a special number, etc. Calling in sick the wrong way for your organization has the potential for blowing up on you.

    69. DNDL*

      My workplace has e-mail for every employee, and all of the managers/departments have a voicemail. Also, my boss has a workplace-issued iphone.

      I am still expected to call in and talk to my boss, no exceptions. We aren’t even allowed to leave voicemails–we have to speak in real time with our supervisors. Luckily, my boss thinks this policy is just as ridiculous as the rest of us do. So he tells us all to ignore official policy and just text him a heads up if we will be out. We typically text him + whoever we are supposed to open with so that they are also in the loop.

      God help me if I ever switch locations. The idea that a bunch of working professionals with professional degrees need to pick up the phone and call until they talk to a person is ridiculous.

      1. Half-Caf Latte*

        So I commented above about our onerous but necessary policy. Nurses have professional degrees, the requirement is about the position and the responsibilities/time sensitive nature thereof.

        there are plenty of professional careers where there’s a clear business need to ensure a human has received the message.

        1. DNDL*

          Sure, but trust me when I say my job isn’t one of them. Our leadership has a clear track record of not trusting professional staff, and treating us like children. Hence my boss’s ability to circumnavigate policy. If it was truly necessary to call in, such as in your scenario, he wouldn’t be able to do it. The difference between senior leadership and my boss is that my boss trusts us to be adults.

          1. Half-Caf Latte*

            Oh I do believe in your case it is! I took your statement about working professionals with degrees to be universal, and was trying to point out that it is far from it.

            My nurses can be professional adults whom I literally entrust with lives and I still need them to follow call out procedure.

    70. Oxford Comma*

      Last boss wanted a phone call, although she would accept an email if absolutely necessary.

      This boss doesn’t care as long as you let them know somehow. I normally email.

      If it’s going to be a more lengthy absence, for example, if I have the flu or something, I will call to explain the situation.

    71. Arjay*

      If I’m sick. I usually text my manager that I’m ill, and include any details she needs (nothing due today, can you get coverage for the afternoon call, etc.). She will respond hoping I feel better and asking for any follow ups she needs. If she doesn’t respond in an hour or so, I’ll then either text or email a larger group, in case my manager is out sick too!
      If my absence isn’t sickness related and allows me to be online, I’ll log in, check that nothing is on fire, and send an email then.
      I don’t have work email on my phone, so texting works best if I’m staying in bed.

    72. Nicki Name*

      In my last couple jobs the procedure has been to put a message in the team Slack channel on the day we’re taking, and then update a timekeeping system by the end of the pay period.

    73. Quinalla*

      Generally I just email my office (there are only 8 of us) and let people know I’m sick and what the situation is (if I’ll be online in the afternoon, if I’m so sick I’m not planning on checking email at all, etc.) Sometimes when I’ve been really sick, I just text my boss and let him pass it on.

      If I had an important presentation or something that day that someone would need to fill in for, I would text and if I didn’t get a response, then call. But yeah, I haven’t called in sick for ages, it just doesn’t make sense in my work and everyone sees emails/texts so quickly anyway.

    74. Tupac Coachella*

      I think my unspoken rule over time has been to e-mail if no one would have noticed I was gone, call if they would have. Currently I e-mail in sick. My job rarely, if ever, requires someone else to cover for me, so it’s basically an FYI to my boss that I won’t be there and how I plan to handle anything time sensitive I was supposed to do that day. Calling would delay notification of my absence and complicate things unnecessarily. The only time I ever called was when I was in a car accident on the way to work and knew I had a client who was probably already on the way (and I called the admin, not my boss).

    75. Ace in the Hole*

      I’m in a more blue-collar work environment (solid waste) even though my job is about 75% office work. We have the option to call if we want, but the managers usually prefer texting. The only requirement is that you get in touch at least 30 min. before your shift, and no earlier than 30 min. before operating hours…. they had to make it a rule after some people kept waking the boss up at 3am to call in sick for a 7am shift.

      I think our office-only employees sometimes use email, which is accepted but it’s technically not approved policy.

      1. baby yoda*

        They must not be too strict about timing if someone is scheduled at the beginning of operating hours…At least 30 minutes but no more than 30 minutes before their scheduled shift would mean there’s exactly one acceptable minute in which someone can call out.

    76. Andream*

      I have had everything. My first job out of college was for a call center. If we were going to be late, leave early, or not come in we had to call this number, which was for the HQ someplace else in the country. If someone answered you had to tell them your start time, end time, what time you left (if early) or ETA (if coming in late). They would then give you a verification number. I don’t know why; I was never asked for it before. If you couldn’t get in touch with anyone you would leave a message and hope to God that it was taken care of. I would sometimes try a bit later, but if I’m sick I’m not calling repeatedly. The call center was a bad place to work at and they would fire you for not calling in. Then I was expected to text or call my supervisor to let them know.

      The next job I had was much better. They had a “call in” line and we just left a VM. Everyone was in between 7:45 and 9 so the supervisors would just check the VM.

      The job I have now is the most laid back. If I’m sick I just email my bosses to let them know. I’ve never had any issues with coming in late. I just let them know afterward. I’m the first one here, but my job is not time sensitive (no customers or phone calls, etc) so if I’m a half-hour late it’s not a big deal and I just stay later. they’re really cool with that. The only “problem” was yesterday. I had already worked it out with both locations ( i work for a university in 2 different departments one in the early mornings and afternoons and then the other dept from 10-2 to cover lunches). I had to have a maintenance guy put in a new window, so I knew I wouldn’t be there until 12. It ended up taking much longer so when I was called I said I won’t get there by noon. The office manager at that department thought I wasn’t coming in at all, so she called my other boss and told her I wasn’t coming in. So I was able to get to work at 12:30 and everyone was confused. But it was no big deal.

    77. schnauzerfan*

      Librarian here. It all just depends.
      If you are the opener today, you need to call the operations manager so she can get someone to cover for you… If you are scheduled for early desk coverage (before the OM would be expected to be in), but not the opener, call the desk so they know you won’t be in and then leave a message on the OMs voicemail. If you come in later call OM and leave a voicemail. No details needed, just “under the weather, not going to make it” “or will be in as soon as we get done at the ER” I will also email interested parties if I’m going to miss a meeting or need to reschedule a class etc.

    78. Emily*

      In my office, I will normally text my manager and then call my coworker when she gets in at 7am and tell her. I feel weird sending something like that in a group text.

    79. Leslie Knope*

      Not advice, just a funny story.

      There’s a running joke between some friends of mine where we get an update on the “Oh No! I can’t come in!” Guy. My friend Tim works for a company where his team is mostly remote, but they do like to be in the office part of the time for team collaboration. Most of them follow a schedule of going into the office around 10am or 11am and leaving around 3pm, but they’re online and available from 8am-5pm.

      They have one coworker who will always have some excuse for why he can’t go into the office. I think his record is something like 40 days in a row he didn’t go in. His excuses are golden! Tim keeps us updated because it’s very entertaining! Examples:
      – Day 1: My wife is sick and someone has to take the kids to school and pick them up.
      – Day 2: Now one of the kids is sick, and the wife is still sick, and I’m starting to feel sick.
      – Day 3: Now both the kids are sick, my wife is on the mend, but I’m still sick. There’s a lot of phlegm…
      – Day 4: I’m feeling better today, but we have a problem with our plumbing. I’m waiting on the plumber to arrive.
      – Day 5: Plumber didn’t show up yesterday, but we’ve rescheduled for today.
      – Day 6: Plumber came yesterday, but needed a part in order to fix the toilet. Scheduled to come back today.
      – Day 7: The dog is sick and needs to go to the vet.
      – Day 8: Now the cat is sick and needs to go to the vet.
      – Day 9: I rolled my ankle chasing the cat around the house trying to get her into the carrier to go to the vet.
      – Day 10: Ankle is better today, but I should probably stay off of it…

      Every day there’s an excuse that offers way too much information! I’ve given the short versions above, but sometimes he’ll describe in detail how the sickness if affecting him and why he shouldn’t be around his coworkers. He’ll be online all day, so technically he’s working, but has some reason he can’t go into the office. I believe he sends these updates everyday in an email to the whole team. His team laughs about it and it’s kind of made him the joke of the office. But technically he’s not doing anything wrong because he’s working from home and not falling behind…so what can you do??

      1. MOAS*

        Oh goodness. I would get irked so quickly.

        I had a coworker, lovely person, terrible employee. Always had an excuse for why he couldn’t come in, would frequently call out. Car accident, it’s raining too much, train issues, home issues, etc. Got strep throat 4 times in a year and even though he had proof, everyone was just rolling their eyes and disbelief.

        His being out was a real problem–he met with clients throughout the day. We would scramble to reassign them to a new account manager, or worst case scenario, reschedule them. (Problem with the latter was that we’d r/s the client for another day and he’d call out that dya too! One client was rescheduled 3 times and got super pissed, so we instated the policy that we have to make EVERY EFFORT to reassign them to a new rep for that day). So, the manager/team lead (me) would scramble to find coverage, and the guys’ peers were overloaded
        with more people. Sucky situation all around.

        Eventually he got fired

        1. Leslie Knope*

          Good grief! At least Tim’s coworker isn’t really affecting anyone else. I think if he was he wouldn’t have a job by now! I’m sure you were relieved not to have to deal with that anymore.

      2. prudencep*

        This sounds like a former colleague of mine except he wasn’t online working, he was just off! But it was always a running commentary and way too much detail that people just thought it was ridiculous!

      3. Turquoisecow*

        This reminds me of my husband’s coworker. He’s in tech in a kind of support/operations role so there are times where there’s maintenance going on or a client meeting he should be involved in. This guy works pretty much exclusively from home, which is fine, and has very flexible hours, which is also fine, but there are always reasons why he can’t help out with something in the middle of the afternoon: driving his kid to karate, or to the dentist, or his dog to the vet, or his kid to the doctor. Once he was up on his parents’ roof fixing it, which sounded absolutely unsafe and ridiculous.

        There’s kind of a running joke around the company now that there should be a Mad Libs style fill in the blank for when he’s out, taking his (blank) to the (blank), with joke answers like he’s taking his dentist to karate practice.

        The issue isn’t that he’s doing these things, but that he seems to always be doing these things when he’s needed.

    80. Pennalynn Lott*

      Ugh. This whole thread is giving me nasty flashbacks to the inside sales role I had a World’s Largest Software Co. We had email, text, vmail, and IM available but my [horrible, toxic, emotionally-abusive] manager required that we call her *desk phone* repeatedly until she answered. She loved hanging out with her favorites in their cubes, so she was rarely ever at her own desk. Most of the time, her cube mates would have to yell at her from across the room to let her know that her phone was ringing off the hook.

      I still remember dragging my landline phone into the bathroom with me and hitting redial over and over while I was puking into the toilet. Gods, I hate that woman. I still have regular nightmares about her and I haven’t seen her since May of 2010.

      Today, though, I send an email to my direct manager and any managers whose projects I’m working on, plus my teammates. And then I set my calendar to OOO so no one tries to schedule anything with me. (We’re a global company and very much calendar-driven).

    81. Elly*

      We text. I text my manager; my manager texts me and her manager; my staff text me, or my manager if I’m off.

      I used to have to call in at a previous job – it wasn’t particularly onerous, and you just let whoever answered know you weren’t coming in, then hung up. If you were on to your second day, you would try and let them know if you were expecting to be off longer, but calling in day by day was acceptable. If you hadn’t called in by 10 (we started at 8.30), someone would try and get hold of you – largely because most of the staff lived alone!

      At my current place, if someone hadn’t arrived by an hour or so after their start time, I would probably text them asking if they were ok, but I would really be assuming they had fallen asleep after deciding not to come in. Luckily(?) of my 3 staff, two are married, and the other has a flat mate, so I’m not too concerned that something might have happened to them.

    82. blink14*

      At my old job, I called and left a voicemail – my manager was old and old school. At my current job, which is at a large university but within a small office, I almost always email either the night before or early the morning of (I try for 7-7:30).

      I will also indicate in my email if I’ll be checking my work email throughout the day or if it will be a totally disconnected sick day. Additionally, I’ll include any time sensitive info or tasks that need to be done right away.

      I have several chronic illnesses which have led to me being sick pretty frequently, so I find that consistency with how I notify my office is key. We also are responsible for tracking our own time on a time tracking software, so I make sure to be vigilant about it.

    83. UShoe*

      I actually worked at a company that two years ago reinstated “you have to call your line manager on the phone” for people who were unable to attend due to illness.

      This was because we had a big spate of people working from home instead of taking sick days, which was making the managements ability to track and account for what were “sick days” really difficult. It was also encouraging people to work from home “sick” for things that wouldn’t usually take them out of the office – like a mildly sprained ankle.

      Reinstating the call did actually help reduce sick days, with no evidence of people just coming to work sick – at least it was perceived to have done (remember that tracking promblem?). It just created a slightly bigger barrier to entry as it was a conversation not a one line email. It also meant the line manager could help more – find out any deadlines they had that day, any meetings to rearrange, there was more transparency all round. It’s definitely something I’d put in place in my next management position.

      1. Emily K*

        Was this company counting WFH-due-to-illness as a sick day, and thus also requiring a phone call? Trying to figure out how requiring a phone call to take sick PTO is affected by/affects people working from a remote location.

        1. UShoe*

          Most people were expected to be in the office, but we all worked on laptops due to the need for regular travel, client emergencies etc. this also meant the leadership were happy to be flexible if you wanted to work from home for specific reasons (e.g. plumber coming). Because this is the UK people don’t get a set number of sick days to take it’s just expected that if you’re sick you won’t be made to come to work. But because of the need to be responsive with clients, high workload and tight deadlines people started working from home instead of taking sick days.

          The difficulty was when the management started trying to account for any days lost due to sick leave there wasn’t much of a record because most of the days were work from home days and not recorded. There was also a few specific people who started taking work from home days on the basis of sickness much more regularly than you would expect, and then there was the (incredibly mild) sprained ankle incident and they decided they needed a clear line between sick (you don’t work) and working from home (you’re not sick).

          It was startup to SME growing pains really, but I think the outcome worked well.

    84. Jess*

      I once had a boss who, if I was sick, made me call and leave messages at her house phone, her office phone, her boyfriend’s house phone, her vacation house phone, her personal cell, and her work cell because she never knew from day to day which voicemail she’d check first so I had to call out to every voicemail she could conceivably have access too. All I’d want to do was go back to bed, but first I had to spend half an hour leaving her a million messages.

    85. Ben Marcus Consulting*

      My staff can email, call, or text me. As long as it’s not excessive and it’s before they’re supposed to start working, I really have no preference on that. If they send an email, I’ve asked that they make the subject simply SICK. I have an outlook rule that priorities the message.

      The only preference I do have , just tell me you’re going be out. I do NOT need to know what is coming out of you.

    86. boop the first*

      The only time I’ve ever successfully called in sick was when I had already been out for a few days with something extremely infectious and I was able to predict that I would need an extra day ahead of time.

      The rest of the time, I could never call in sick. Husband would keep telling me to, but… it was impossible? I worked in retail, then a restaurant, then retail again, then a bakery. I was always the first person to arrive and the only person around for hours… who would I call? For most of these years I was literally the only person with a key. So no one would know I wasn’t there until well after opening hours, and no one would be able to get into the building.

      And people wonder why minimum wage workers always work sick?

    87. JC*

      I’m young enough (late 30s) that I prefer that people who work for me email when they are going to be out sick, even though our department required calling before I took the reigns. But I am also old enough that it peeves me irrationally when people text me when they are going to be out rather than emailing. I know it’s not rational but it is my preference.

    88. Heffalump*

      At my current job it’s OK to call in sick by phone or email. I’ve set up a distribution list in Outlook (work email) for my entire workgroup (11 people). I think it’s good manners to let the entire workgroup know if I won’t be in. I also CC the receptionist so she can deal with any incoming calls for me.

      At my previous job (2000 to 2013) people were expected to call their manager. At some point during my last few years there they set up two dedicated phone numbers, one for exempt staff and one for non-exempt, for people to call in sick. The numbers weren’t extensions off the company’s main number; they were entirely different numbers. I don’t know what the rationale was for this.

      It’s been my experience virtually everywhere that once you’ve called in sick, you’re expected to touch base daily until you’re ready come in again.

    89. prudencep*

      I am pretty chilled out so far as my team goes in notifying me of standard absences. Basically my rule is that they need to get a response from me. If they call and we speak on the phone then it’s all good, but if they text or email and DONT hear back from me then I expect them to call, just in case for some reason I’m not available or haven’t noticed my phone. That’s more for my sake so that a) I can notify their teams of the absence and b) if there’s a fire I know for sure that they’re away. It would be rare that I don’t see the message and respond.

      If someone has been off for a couple of days and the doctor has advised they will need to be off longer or something else out of the ordinary then the expectation is to call me. Otherwise, just a simple notification – I don’t need to know what’s wrong, just that someone isn’t coming in, that they’re likely to be back the next day, and if they’re not at death’s door that they would give me a heads up on anything urgent but otherwise I’ll figure that out.

    90. Mrrpaderp*

      I asked this question at the first law firm I worked at. I was told, “You are expected to be available.” I no longer work at that firm.

      Unfortunately, though, this is basically the prevailing attitude in some fields. If you’re able to work from home then it’s tough to completely check out unless you’re very very sick. I’d put on an out of office explaining that I am out sick and my response to email will be delayed. Then I would check email every couple of hours and forward things along to my team if needed.

      And this is a little beside the point – but if you are able to work from home then DO NOT COME IN SICK! There is literally no reason for you to be here infecting the rest of us. Go home!

    91. Oaktree*

      It’s varied widely for me. I’ve worked for employers who require you to be missing a limb and to call in and speak to a person in order for your calling in sick to be valid (hello, minimum wage food service), and once went as far as refusing to let me send a sick coworker home when she was vomiting. (The company’s name rhymes with Smeshy and I would never eat there, mostly because of this).

      Now I work for a big firm and my supervisor just asks me to email as soon as possible before my start time when I’m not well. The company also really, really doesn’t like presenteeism and has a generous sick day policy, so all in all I feel extremely lucky. It’s still a struggle to not feel like I’m trying to game the system by taking a mental health day, even when I really need it (I have depression and severe anxiety). I take very few sick days, but I think I’ve internalized a lot of fear about it from my past jobs.

    92. WantonSeedStitch*

      I work in a non-academic staff position at a university, and it’s most common for people to e-mail their direct manager when they’re sick. We’re also required to log sick time in a tracking system online. Exempt employees don’t have a set number of sick days, but we want to keep track, partly so it becomes clear when FMLA has to take over.

    93. Melissa*

      I’m a non-management government employee. Union. We call in a sick line that’s voice mail only and checked by specific people who are technically below me (meaning, I don’t answer to them). I tell them my name, my supervisor’s name, and the reason I’m calling. Could say I’m out sick and that’s it, but we also use it for stuff like we’re running late due to snow/kids/whatever.

      The out message also gets sent not only to our supervisor but also our unit leads. In part it is a safety issue so they don’t assume we’re in the building in the event of an emergency. We are allowed to keep it brief and not give details (which we can choose to give privately to our supervisor by email, voice mail, or verbally when we’re back). Our union agreement prevents them from asking us for a doctor’s note unless we’re out 3 consecutive days.

    94. SimplyTheBest*

      I work in a small office and we send out an office wide email letting everyone know we’ll be out sick. Then I also text the two other people who are most affected by my absences (we provide phone and door coverage) and if there are certain things I need to inform my boss about, I’ll text her too, but that doesn’t happen as often.

    95. zora*

      I work as an Executive Assistant to my boss, so I just text her directly if I need to stay home sick. It’s her preferred way to communicate so she always responds quickly.

      Then I get on my work email (which I can access on my phone or through webmail on my personal laptop) and send a message to a few relevant people and set up an autoreply. And then I’m done and I can go back to bed.

      I stay in touch if needed for more than one day the same way, by texting my boss directly with updates.

    96. Lea*

      I text my boss. It’s what he does with us when he’s out too. But I mostly go with whatever my current manager prefers. I think I used to leave a voice mail and send a backup email just in case, but texting is much easier and generally gets an immediate response. If I’m at work and leaving early, I will either pop my head in or send an email if the boss is busy.

    97. Buttercup*

      My company recently implemented a way for employees to call out through our timekeeping software – it’s accessible to employees online, and they enter a call out time code and make a note if they want sick or flex time, the centralized scheduling/time processing department gets an email notification and starts the process of getting coverage. Employees are still upset about the advent of the centralized scheduling/time processing department, let alone all the changes that have been made as a result, so it’s safe to say this new functionality is unpopular.

    98. Meghan*

      I’m in retail for a store with ~8 staff total in 3 locations daily. We explicitly discourage email callouts/leave requests unless it’s a couple days in advance of the absence. We’re all on the floor most of the day, and may not see it until after your shift starts and we need bodies in place.

      A text/call to the manager of the day listed on the schedule is good as soon as you know you’re sick, or a message on the main floor landline. But it better be before/at the start time of your shift unless you’re in a hospital or a car accident. Calling in at 2 PM when we needed you physically present at 9 leads to huge hassles. Same with a text to a manager that’s not working that day and may not see your message and forward it.

    99. TV*

      I work in the public sector and my boss accepts text or email. However, if a person on my team was out, the manager would rarely tell us, thinking we all knew already. So I asked for the sick person to send out a group email to coworkers who they might be working with that day and that has worked out okay.

    100. CG*

      My department has a call-in email address that we are expected to contact if we are going to be out unexpectedly for any reason. The admin staff handle the mailbox and enter the employee on the department out of office calendar as being absent. Staff are able to decide if they want a copy of the out of office list emailed to them daily (in a dept of ~500 it can be quite a long list!) or we’re able to view the list online.

    101. Cari*

      We’re nominally to email boss, HR. However when I was down with food poisoning a few weeks ago I texted my colleague and our boss something to the effect of “Food poisoning. Trying to sleep. See you later or tomorrow.” They texted to check in but nothing more was expected. I handled the HR (logging sick day) the following day.

  1. Tim Tam Girl*

    OP 5: I’ve had this situation many, many times over the last 20 years, and I’ve never run into an insurmountable problem with it. I’ve found that most places are happy to sidestep the issue entirely by emailing instead; but my current employer puts a lot of stock in phone references For Reasons, and they and my previous employers were able to coordinate times across much bigger time differences than yours.

    For those online applications that don’t allow explanations, it’s great that your references have US-based online phone numbers: you can enter those in the form without having to worry about country codes, and then if you get an interview, you can give the company a heads-up at that point. If they call before the interview, they’ll get a real phone number so at least that will give them confidence that your references are real (if inaccessible).

    1. Avasarala*

      This is a great question. I was very concerned about how to suggest that due to the time difference and my manager’s poor English skills, it’s best to email… without sounding evasive or shady. Sooo many times I’ve been asked what the + is for, or it’s been rejected as an invalid character.

      And then I have to explain what a reference is to my manager…the joys of working globally!

      1. amoeba*

        “00” instead of “+” works as well, doesn’t it? I always have to give country codes as I’m applying in different countries in Europe and my references are from different countries as well…

        1. Tim Tam Girl*

          It depends on the form: some limit the number of digits to ‘standard’ domestic phone number length, so adding ‘00’ and the country code would put you over the limit. It also requires that the person reading the form recognise that as an international dialling code, and if they’re not used to seeing international phone numbers it may not make sense to them.

          1. Dr Wizard, PhD*

            Reminds me of the days when ordering anything on the internet required making up a ZIP code (usually 00000), because websites just could.not.understand that people in non-US countries did not have ZIP codes.

            (They wouldn’t take postcodes either, which my country also did not have. Five digits or nothing.)

            1. NYWeasel*

              I once had a zip code that started with “0”, ie 06789 which are pretty common in New England. I’ve come across some west coast based websites that wouldn’t accept my zip code bc it was programmed to only accept zips that start with 1, ie 16789.

              1. Anononon*

                That doesn’t make sense. Zip codes start at 0 on the east coast and go up to the first digit being 9 on the west coast (e.g. 90210). Only a segment of eastern states start with 1.

                1. Half-Caf Latte*

                  I think they’re programmed to look for a 5 digit zip code, and don’t count “leading zeros”, which causes the issue. Shipping things to my in-laws I often run into this problem.

                2. Gazebo Slayer*

                  All the New England states plus New Jersey have a leading zero. Puerto Rican zip codes have two! Those companies are throwing away a lot of potential business through stupid programming.

                3. Gazebo Slayer*

                  (Forgot to add: storing zip codes as string data rather than numbers would solve this leading zero problem. All you need is a regular expression to check that they’re in the right format!)

              2. emmelemm*

                As Gazebo Slayer said, this is a “number” vs “string” issue: a zip code looks like a number, but is actually a string! Hence, problems can occur.

        2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          00 doesn’t mark an international number in all countries (though most) so it’s better to put + instead.

          The other benefit is that cell phones and other modern equipment will automatically resolve the + to whatever code is needed for an international call, so you can type +1 202 456 1111 into your phone from anywhere in the world and it will know what to do.

        3. Timothy (TRiG)*

          The North American numbering plan uses 001, not 00, for an international call. That’s why + is better: it works from anywhere. (France used to use 19; in fact, I think they still do, but 00 also works.)


      2. Brass*

        I work in international development and I moved back to the US a couple year ago after several years in Africa and Asia so all of my references were people outside the US. I had similar concerns about the time difference and international calls, but all of my references were contacted by email first and were asked to either fill out of reference form or set up a time for a call. This has also been my experience when I have served as a reference for other people. You will probably be given a heads up that your references are going to be contacted and that’s the best time to mention that they are outside the US.

      3. Ama*

        I will often put “prefers initial contact via email” on my reference list and then only list the email (as otherwise they often just call anyway). I have a former boss who has some mild hearing impairment and he prefers to schedule calls so he can take them in a place where he can maximize the audio quality.

  2. Renata Ricotta*

    For OP #1, I’d think about what the HR manager seemed to mean by “we are all expected to attend.” That to me sounds like it could be more in the vein of “its part of our company culture that these are well attended and it would seem odd if you skipped,” rather than being truly mandatory like showing up to your assigned shift.

    If you end up going, maybe it would help to think about it as a networking meeting for your career generally rather than a “party,” making a point to introduce yourself to people in other departments, find out more about what they do, how the company works, etc. Maybe if you think about it as being a benefit to you rather than the company you won’t feel as chafed about it being uncompensated time.

    1. Avasarala*

      Great idea. When I find myself stuck with someone with whom I seem to have nothing in common, I try to approach it like I’m doing research for my book.

      What is challenging about their job? Do they find they get more done in the morning or afternoon? What do they do to unwind? Oh mountain biking, how interesting, where do you like to do that? Who do you go with? How long do you go for and how do you get back? How do you bring the bike to the mountain? How did you pick your bike and does it have a nickname? What are some jargon terms about mountain biking they didn’t know before but they learned now? Have they ever gotten hurt mountain biking?

      It helps me stay focused and depersonalizes it–doesn’t matter if I don’t personally care about mountain biking, because the goal is to learn about this person and mountain biking so I can represent them faithfully in my book I’ll write someday.

        1. Angwyshaunce*

          This is a common method used by the less socially prone when trying to interact with others. People generally like talking about themselves, so asking questions is a great way to keep an interaction going.

          I don’t think Avasarala was proposing shotgunning questions all at once.

          1. Massmatt*

            I think the key is actively listening and letting that dictate the kind of follow up questions you ask. I’ve done this for years and find that 1) nearly everyone has something they are passionate or knowledgeable about, or something interesting, and 2)If you remember these things it makes it easier to remember THEM, and 3)I pick up a lot of knowledge about a lot of different topics, always a plus.

          2. Emily K*

            Yeah, trust that most people will be so happy to talk about themselves they will not even notice that you’ve asked a string of questions.

        2. Caramel & Cheddar*

          I don’t think the expectation is that these are asked all at once in quick succession, Avasarala is just giving examples.

      1. Salymander*

        This seems like good advice to me.

        I usually set a party time limit for myself as well as party goals. So, at my last party I decided to stay for at least 90 minutes, and I would speak (more than just a hello) to a minimum of 8 people. I would have some sort of conversation with a person I had never spoken with before. I can’t say that I really enjoyed the party, but it was less awful and more productive than in the past. So, not a total waste of time. As I am massively introverted and awkward and not a party person, that is actually a real improvement.

    2. Nancy*

      I’ve never enjoyed company parties, but I’ve usually grudgingly made myself go. I’ve come across two pieces of advice that have helped me to reframe these events to make them more bearable. The first is to have a clear idea of what I want to achieve, whether that’s chatting to a range of people in order to develop contacts, creating opportunities to speak to specific people, finding out more about areas of work I’m unfamiliar with. The second piece of advice is to set myself a time limit. At my work, we usually had a sit-down meal at table with named place settings. And I thought: it’s a dinner, for 2 hours tops, and then I get to go home.

      1. Nancy*

        Another party strategy that has served me well in recent years is what’s known as ‘the Irish goodbye’ (no idea why). Essentially, it’s leaving a party without saying goodbye. It does feel a bit rude (although also liberating), but honestly I don’t think anyone notices, and for me it sure beats hovering around waiting to interrupt a conversation to let people know I’m off.

        1. Asenath*

          I never heard it called that, but I think it’s fairly normal for the kind of largish work party where there isn’t really a host. It would be rude if there was a host, of course, but if you’ve done the normal circulating and greeting of co-workers and boss at a work party, I don’t think you need to find someone (the boss? The person who actually set up the party?) again to say goodbye.

          1. Nancy*

            I agree. I think I’ve probably been massively overthinking it in an effort not to offend any of my colleagues (not that they would have been, I’m sure).

        2. Grace*

          Irish person here! The whole “Irish Goodbye” thing – if you’ve ever tried to leave a party in Ireland, you’ll know exactly why.

          It. Takes. FOREVER.

          If anyone gets even the slightest hint that you’re leaving, you’ll firstly be begged to stay for “one more drink” (which will magically appear in your hand) and even if you manage to wiggle out of that, you’ll be dragged into a seemingly endless loop of saying goodbye to everyone at the party (which are actually full-blown conversations about literally anything other than saying goodbye).

          It’s just easier to disappear!

            1. annakarina1*

              I can attest with my Italian-American family growing up, it felt like it took a half hour before my family would finally leave a family party, from initially saying goodbye to standing around talking a lot in the house to standing around in the driveway talking, and my kid self would already be in the backseat of the car and buckled up, internally whining “Let’s gooo already!”

          1. Witchy Human*

            Really? An Irish friend told me that it’s a little offensive because it comes from the stereotype that Irish people will skip out without paying their bill.

            1. Brass*

              I thought the origin was the Irish who left Ireland during the potato famine. I’ve never heard a stereotype of Irish skipping out on their bill.

          2. Quill*

            My mom’s side of the family is like this and we’re not irish at all… people will be released from the familial grasp only if there are 1) overtired small children causing a scene 2) illnesses 3) compelling distractions such as someone ELSE’S overtired small children.

            (We’re primarily german american, but catholic, so maybe that’s the connection.)

          3. Pebbles*

            This sounds similar to the “Minnesota Goodbye” where you can be standing at the door for 30-45 minutes to get your coat on to leave because the conversation will move to the door and it would be rude to leave while people are still chatting with you. I have tried to set a time I want to leave by and then start making noises about how we “really must be going” about 30 minutes before that. I think my mom is on to me though, because she will choose that moment to tell us about some computer issue she’s having that really needs to get fixed before we go….nevermind if we’ve been there for a few hours prior to that, she only just remembered.

            1. SomebodyElse*

              That’s why I perfected the art of the Minnesota Get out of Dodge… The trick is to start at least an hour before you are ready to leave, then start working your way around to say good bye to everyone. If you wait until you are actually ready to leave you’ll be stuck there forever.

              If it becomes drastic you point to someone else who looks like they are going to be heading out soon and make them the center of attention while you duck out.

              My husband (not from MN) thought I was nuts the first time he experienced this until he figured out how effective it is. (If you ever get a chance look up the How to talk Minnesotan PBS series, they have one for the goodbye thing)

              1. Elitist Semicolon*

                The guy who does the Manitowoc Minute also has a YouTube video on the Midwestern Goodbye! It’s hilarious: “o, yah, I’ll tell Grandma yer mom said to say hi.”

                (I also recommend his “midwest voice translator” video.)

              2. Quill*

                Watching minnesotans try to leave college parties (I was in wisconsin, but reciprocal tuition!) is a spectator sport.

            2. Lucette Kensack*

              Yep, and then they’ll follow you down the driveway and wave until you turn the corner.

            3. fogharty*

              Praire Home Companion had a song about people trying to leave a gathering, having more and more drinks and bunches of rhubarb foisted on to them as they tried to leave.

            4. Bluenoser*

              We don’t have a name for it, but we have the same hour long goodbye here in Eastern Canada. To avoid it, people tend to leave in waves. Once we’re ready to leave, we watch for someone decisive to stand up and say “Well, I/we really must be going” and then we join in the crown of 5 – 10 extra people all rushing for their coats and muttering thanks for a lovely party. Seriously, it’s the most efficient way to make your escape… as long as you don’t start chatting with the people you left with once you hit the sidewalk.

          4. Alicia*

            This is very interesting! I’ve stumbled on a way to speed this up.
            I don’t own a car and I take Uber when I’m coming home late at night. I used to call my Uber and then say goodbye – and this led to rushing. My uber is here in two minutes, bye, see you next time!
            So this might work for those who use rideshare. :)

            I don’t like rushing my goodbyes though – it usually only takes 15-20 minutes – so lately I’ve been calling Uber later in the process.

          5. somanyquestions*

            That’s totally it. The Irish are just so damn welcoming lol, and as a country don’t make a long story short. If you don’t duck out you’re almost the rude one, because you’re making them do so much work after they’ve already been so on point at hosting!

        3. BeckySuz*

          My husband is Irish and he loves an Irish goodbye. I’m Italian and ours are ….not like that lol. An Italian goodbye takes 2 hours and requires making the rounds for hugs and (inevitably) getting dragged into more conversations. He nearly lost his mind at the first xmas party I brought him to. :)

        4. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

          That definitely works well. And if the self-appointed hall monitor tries to call you out on it the next day, make sure you have a vague answer ready.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        It’s weird how giving yourself permission to leave at a particular (early) time makes it easier to enjoy the event, and somehow makes that time go faster.

      3. ceiswyn*

        Hah, if only it were always 2 hours tops.
        A company I worked for once had a Christmas party at a restaurant that turned out to be completely incompetent in every possible way. The first course was served an hour late, and the rest of the three-course meal took another three hours. It was hell.

        1. ceiswyn*

          (Fortunately, the assigned seating had put me next to someone I worked with closely and who I knew was also a massive introvert. Half an hour in, we agreed that we’d both be happier if we gave up on the small talk and just pulled out our phones)

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              Thank goodness for Kindles! Back in the day, I would have a smallish paperback in my coat pocket, but pulling it out and reading it would look weird, so I had to go find a corner somewhere. Now I carry my Kindle. People would still think it was weird if they realized I was reading a book, but they assume I am checking social media or fantasy sports or some such, and that is OK.

      4. Tammy*

        This is great advice. Another thing I do before a company party (because I get social anxiety in large groups of people sometimes) is to make a mental checklist of the people who are likely to notice my presence or absence. I make an effort to interact with those people as early as I can after getting there, so if I have to leave early I won’t feel anxiety about whether they’ll think I wasn’t there.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      “We are all expected to attend” could be the flip side of last week’s “When the partners invite you to a party, you are expected to not go to the party.” A heads-up about what the local subculture is regarding these.

    4. Silence Will Fall*

      OP #1

      Don’t forget Jim “Master of leaving parties early” Halpert’s advice for leaving parties early…

      1. Make a strong impression by having a picture taken.
      2. Say some particular non-sequitur that people remember.
      3. Make note of something unique so you can talk about the party later.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        On a more serious note, if it is a typical drinks and light food type party, (1) Get a non-alcoholic (because you will be driving soon) drink that can pass as alcoholic; (2) make a plate; (3) track down your boss and schmooze for a few minutes; (4) track down your boss’s boss and schmooze for a few minutes; and (5) discreetly leave. You can be in and out in half an hour, though an hour leaves a little more time to be seen. Being seen is, after all, the important thing. Local conditions might vary who you need to be seen by, and different party formats might complicate things, but the constant factor is that been seen to be present is what really matters.

    5. MissGirl*

      It’s also a great opportunity to get to know your coworkers outside the office. My boss’s boss intimidated me. I was a nervous wreck any time I presented or reviewed with him.

      I ended up at his table at our summer party and the discussion turned to how people met their significant others. He told the story of meeting his husband and being drunk. He’s not someone who ever lacks complete control so he was awkward meeting this cute guy.

      While I still am intimidated by him, I’m no longer as nervous because I see him more as a normal person and not the big boss set out to expose my weaknesses.

      BTW my fear has to do with my own insecurities and not his management.

      1. seahorsesarecute*

        I’ve heard that asking an open ended question like “What’s your story?” or, “What’s a question you wish more people would ask you?” means the person can choose what they want to tell you. Someone who wants to keep work and friends separate can talk about their current teapot project, someone who is sick to death of work talk can tell you about their photography class. You won’t be asking someone with private fertility issues how many kids they have, or a recently divorced person about their spouse.

    6. PhyllisB*

      About the Christmas party: someone may have already suggested this (I just jumped on.) What stood out to me was the comment that the party started four hours after her workday ended. Would it be possible to ask to have your hours adjusted for that day so that you can leave work and go straight to the party?
      I realize you don’t want to go at all, but I tend to agree that it would be better to go for just a little while.

    7. Mrrpaderp*

      The more senior I become, the more I realize that being well-liked is almost as important as doing good work. I agree with approaching companies parties as networking events. Come prepared with 3 questions to ask other people (that you can relate to) and 3 things to talk about your own life. I actually love holiday parties for the built in smalltalk – what are you doing for the holidays? Are you traveling? What are the popular kids toys this year? Other questions/topics: What’s been keeping you busy lately (I love this question because it allows them to tell you whether they’d rather talk about work or their personal life). Have any vacations planned? How are your kids/dogs/parents? People also seem to like sportsball if you’re into that sort of thing.

  3. Kat A.*

    I would look askance at anyone who said they would only come to the office holiday party if they were paid. It comes across as a little antagonistic, and it makes it seem as if the employer/company didn’t matter to you. Plus, if they are providing free food and non-alcoholic beverages, then that’s something.

    I hear what you’re saying about the time, but you haven’t been there long enough to have built up enough political capital to ask to get paid (which won’t happen because then they’d have to pay everyone else who’s hourly) or to blow off the event.

    Go and be your most polite or claim a scheduling conflict and make sure you don’t say or post anything that blows your cover.

    1. MistOrMister*

      Yeah, our holiday party is after hours. I really wish it wasn’t, but there you have it. It would never occur to me to ask to be paid for those hours. Ours isn’t the “this is voluntary but you HAVE to go” kind though.

      One thing in OP’s favor – since their usual end time is hours before the party starts it should be fairly easy to work in a scheduling conflict if they don’t really want to go. But really, if OP likes the company and coworkers so much, this is a good time to just suck it up and go. Its not like you have to stay all night at these things.

    2. londonedit*

      Yeah, I’m slightly baffled by LW1’s attitude. It’s not work – in fact it’s something I’m sure the company views as a nice perk for its employees – and saying ‘I’m only going to this party if you pay me’ is pretty far out of line with most people’s response to an evening of free food and drinks. If I loathed my boss, hated my coworkers and couldn’t wait to find a new job, I can see how I might not want to go to the annual work do, but otherwise hey, it’s a party! I like parties! Why not go and at least attempt to have a nice time socialising with your coworkers.

      1. Hekko*

        OP doesn’t enjoy parties, though, so they do not see it as a perk. I absolutely understand not wanting to go back to work four hours after getting off the clock for something one does not like or even downright hates.

        We don’t know what kind of food and drinks are being served. These may be unappealing to OP, too (due to preferences or even dietary restrictions), and then you are left with basically a boring to jarring work event late in the day.

        Scheduling conflict if OP truly doesn’t want to go. Or if they want to suck it up, I’d consider asking to work afternoon that day (which could at least lump together the work-work and party-work time, perhaps save some time on travel).

        1. EPLawyer*

          Oh this is a good solution. At least there isn’t four hours to fill in between work and the party where you really can’t do anything because you know you have to go to this thing. Then there is your excuse to leave early too. Oh, gotta go do stuff that didn’t get done this afternoon.

          I would be more willing to accomodate a change in schedule than paying someone to attend the holiday party. It’s just not one of those things that is done. Unless the party is during working hours, you don’t get paid to attend.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Oh good plan–ask to work a shift that doesn’t give you a double commute! Because night commutes can be tricky & pricy in some areas.

        3. Tisiphone*

          Or better yet, if you have coworkers on second shift who would like to go to the party, offer to work so others can attend. I don’t enjoy these events, either.

          I did this the one time the party fell on a day I have off. My usual shift includes the typical party dates, but that year was different. I volunteered to work and somewhere in my email archive is a department-wide thank you to me and others who worked so others could attend.

      2. Mongrel*

        “It’s not work – in fact it’s something I’m sure the company views as a nice perk for its employees”

        The company can view it however it likes, it doesn’t make it any better if it’s going to be, at best, a royal PITA for the employee whether it’s the scheduling or social issues.

        These are “Mandatory Fun” events and shouldn’t be seen as a perk if people feel forced to go against their wishes, it just makes (me anyway) resentful. The gregarious people often seem to think that once people turn up to these events they’ll realise they were being silly all along and have a good time which is rather patronising,

        1. NYWeasel*

          I love my coworkers, but I *really* need my down time away from the office. I can muster up maybe an hour or so of enthusiasm for being social and then it becomes a chore. Most work events end up with me silently cursing how slow the food service is because I’ve committed to staying “through dessert” rather than having a good time.

          1. Yorick*

            Sure, everyone needs down time away from the office, and some need more. But we’re talking about a once-a-year party here.

            1. Quill*

              December is kind of a poopstorm of other obligations though… even though the party is once a year, everything else is once a year and hopefully with people who you choose to spend time with.

              Also, four hours is an excessive amount of time for total holiday party attendance. Especially when you figure in the fact that it’s in the evening hours when it’s statistically more common for people to have other commitments to things like picking up the kids from daycare, letting the dog out, etc.

              1. Yorick*

                I don’t remember the party being four hours long, but rather 4 hours after OP’s work ends. Even if it does last 4 hours, OP could leave after 1-2.

            2. Curmudgeon in California*


              My job has office ‘parties/events’ at least once a quarter. Usually on premises, and usually just after work hours. They are often cheesy, but have decent food. Not everyone goes, and some people only show up to grab food, wave hi and leave. OTOH, it’s not “mandatory”, as long as someone for your team is there to show the flag.

          2. Alexander Graham Yell*

            One of the perks of my old job was that we needed coverage until about 10 or 11 each night, and the one guy on our team who HATED “mandatory fun” events could volunteer to work that shift and escape the party – and then get a gift card to take his wife out to dinner for his “sacrifice”. It worked out great for everybody, and definitely made me (one of the more gregarious, party-and-chit-chat-oriented people) more aware of how to pitch events to people to try to remove pressure to attend. Letting people celebrate the way they WANT to celebrate the end of the year – that’s the gift/fun/whatever we should be aiming for.

        2. snowglobe*

          While I understand that many people don’t enjoy work parties, especially if it’s four hours after the regular work day ends (!), I think the main point is that the company isn’t viewing it as *work* – they don’t need the staff there to do anything. Requesting to be paid to go is just unnecessarily hostile. It’s a party. Generally, even when people are strongly encouraged to go, most bosses will understand if there is a conflict and someone can’t make it. Make sure there is a conflict.

          1. Taura*

            Except that they’re saying it’s *mandatory*. As soon as something is mandatory, it’s *work*, no matter how enjoyable it is.

            1. Product Person*

              The OP said employees are expected to go, not that it is mandatory. “Expected” could be interpreted as “we plan on having anyone who can attend to be there.” I don’t think they’d penalize anyone who offered an excuse in the form of a conflict. The OP would lose an opportunity to expand her network in the company but if she doesn’t care about that, claiming a conflict should be an easy solution.

              1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

                I’m not so sure – if a manager told me that everyone was expected to attend the party, I would assume that meant it was mandatory, just the same as if they told me everyone was expected to attend a training or a conference.

                When I’ve been hourly, I’ve approached confusion on stuff like this by going to my manager and saying something like, “I saw in the email we’re all expected to attend the party Friday night. How would you like me to put down my hours for Friday?”. Either they would tell me to put down an hour or two (in which case yes, this is definitely mandatory), or they clarify that we were all welcome, but attendance wasn’t required.

                1. Yorick*

                  That wording is better than just saying you won’t go if you’re not paid. But if my report asked me that question, I’d still question their judgment at least a little. It’s a party. If you’re not expected to work at the party in some way, there’s no reason to think you’d get paid for those hours.

                2. YetAnotherAnalyst*

                  Sure, but if I am required to be at the party, then I am in fact working, and I must be paid.

                  If I’m not being paid, then my attendance is optional, and if it’s outside my scheduled hours to be honest I probably wouldn’t go.

                  Is there a way a report could ask for clarification about whether this is mandatory or not, that would not make you question their judgment?

            2. Zennish*

              Yep. IMHO, it’s work time, and no less so because someone finds it enjoyable. There are moments in the regular work day where I’m not in actual misery, but I don’t expect my pay to be docked during that time. (My own experience of office parties however, is that I find them slightly less fun than minor dental surgery.)

              1. Quill*

                I’ve been to office parties where I preferred to be anesthetized… once while watching a movie creatively called “office party.”

                1. Quill*

                  Yes, KoiFeeder. THAT ONE.

                  I had to sit with my boss and my direct supervisor and watch a movie where someone scanned their butt.

                2. KoiFeeder*

                  I’d question who thought that was in any way, shape, or form appropriate for a work event, but I’m so horrified that I’m just going to give you all my sympathy instead.

            3. Jack Be Nimble*

              I’m in total agreement — telling an hourly, part-time worker that they’re expected to attend an unpaid event outside of their normal working hours stinks. It’s still a work event, even if it’s a work party. I am a notorious Party Disliker*, but in my ideal world, all work parties would be completely optional and held during normal work hours.

              Even though I’m the scroogiest scrooge, I recognize that asking to be paid for a party is likely to be out of step with the workplace culture — in the LW’s shoes, I’d either attend for an hour with an excuse to duck out early or just skip it entirely.

              * I don’t drink and have a pretty limited energy reserve due to disability, so work parties are pretty miserable for me! While my situation isn’t universal, I think there are a lot of people in my shoes.

              1. Quill*


                Don’t make me stand at some chintzy cocktail table, my feet can’t take it. I drink very little because meds, and this party has no nice (i.e. fruit dessert flavored) alcohol, which I wouldn’t want to begin with because at the first possible opportunity I am driving home. Before my ankles swell to the point where I can’t drive.

                I’ve been to one excellent holiday party in all the five years I’ve been in the workforce, one that caused me physical pain and which I had to personally plan, and one that caused me mental pain due to the fact that my boss (same job as the one that took me out at the feet and knees), thought taking his employees to an R rated movie of his choosing and loudly declaring how much more functional we were than the office in “Office Christmas Party” was a good idea.

              2. Salymander*

                I worked in a restaurant when I was a teenager, starting age 15. We kept all tips in a common jar, and they were used to pay for a Christmas party. A *mandatory* Christmas party. We did not ever get to keep any tips for ourselves, they were all supposedly spent on this party.

                The Christmas party was always on a Monday (least busy day), and started at 10 pm (after work). It was held at the restaurant, and the food and drinks were whatever was left from that day. So, food was leftovers and alcohol was supposed to be just whatever carafes and opened bottles were left over, plus water and leftover iced tea and coffee. So, not sure why they kept our tips to pay for that (the thieving jerks). As attendance was mandatory, roll call was taken. Party started with a meeting, where wrongdoers were singled out publicly. The chairs were left stacked on top of the tables, so we all just had to stand around listening to easy listening radio on the boss’s boombox. Boss made sure we were appreciative of the leftovers we were eating and the use of the awesome boombox by mentioning them repeatedly. A little leftover alcohol was provided, but every year some of the more resentful members of staff would go rogue and start drinking directly from the beer taps and making entire bottles of wine magically disappear. This always devolved into chaos. Then, everyone over the age of 21 had to be patched up/cleaned/re-dressed (don’t ask you don’t want to know oh the horror) and poured into a taxi at the end of the night by those of us who didn’t drink. When the drunk people were gone, the sober ones had to clean the place up (it was gross) and lock up. So, a small group of 15-16 year old kids were caring for and cleaning up after 30 or so blazingly drunk adults (including boss and boss’s wife), getting home around 3am, and getting up for school a few hours later. And paying for the privilege with our stolen tips.

                I love Christmas. Christmas parties, however? Not so much.

                1. Quill*

                  jesus waitstaff christ on a pogo stick.

                  I don’t know where to start: wage theft? the drunks? the mandatory nature? (Because if anyone not there to trash the place didn’t go they’d have to clean it up themselves, I’m guessing…)

        3. Quill*

          My worst holiday party ever was definitely a “mandatory fun” one. We were a 5 person team that went to Pinstripes at 6 pm (it somehow took us 45 minutes to get there from a 5 pm approximate close of business… my commute was 35 minutes in the other direction but allegedly Pinstripes was “in the area.”) And I could not leave, despite growing overstimulation and pain from having been on my feet half the day already and then being expected to play bocce on concrete thinly veiled with felt, until nearly 11 pm.

          Yes, it took us 5 hours to have dinner and play 1 round of bocce and 1 round of bowling. The ONLY good thing about Pinstripes was that it had never been a smoking allowed establishment, so my smell sensitivity didn’t try to kill me.

          I would have had to stay later but I fell while bowling and started crying from the existing pain, my newly turned ankle, and my increasing feeling of being trapped, and the boss decided I wasn’t having enough mandatory fun anymore.

          Somehow, because I apparently have an unprecedented ability to competently use a GPS and not default to weird back roads, it only took me 45 minutes to get home at 12:11 pm, which is an acceptable bedtime when you’re in college and you cannot get breakfast until 11 the next morning due to that being when food actually opens, but not halfway through december when you have events and holiday commitments that you are, by the way, now limping through because tendonitis and bowling shoes don’t mix.

          God, I hated that job and nearly everyone at it.

          1. Salymander*

            Oh my. How absolutely and painfully awful! I was cringing on your behalf when I read this. What a crappy way to reward employees.

            Also, “the boss decided I wasn’t having enough mandatory fun anymore” made me snort my tea up my nose. Thanks for that! ;)

        4. RS*

          Regarding the mandatory aspect: Is it possible that in this particular conversation the HR manager thought the OP was asking if they, a part-time, hourly employee, were allowed to attend the party? I get that that’s not what the OP asked, or had intended to ask, but that might be what the HR manager heard, and so her answer might have been intended to assure the OP that they were absolutely invited and wanted at the party. Not asserting this is the case but throwing it out as a possible explanation for that conversation.

        5. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

          I agree- it’s not a “perk.” It’s an obligation. That’s why so many people leave early because they “have another party to attend” that night. I like my colleagues but “mandatory fun” is awful.

      3. Ace in the Hole*

        Your reaction makes sense if it is truly voluntary. But there are plenty of reasons someone might strongly prefer not to go to an after-hours work event (even one with free refreshments and socializing)!

        For myself: I’m not a big party person and I am very busy. Going to a party means putting off or making up other obligations, important errands, and schoolwork. It’s not particularly fun and makes the rest of my week more stressful. For other people it might mean arranging and paying for childcare or extra transportation, rearranging hours at their second job, etc.

        If it’s actually optional, then yes… demanding to be paid would be rude when you could just choose not to go. However it sounds like this party is *not* optional – it’s either explicitly required or implied to be necessary in order to fit in and be seen as part of the team. In that case it’s pretty reasonable to expect they will pay you, especially since it’s a legal requirement. I’m not a fan of ever shaming someone for demanding their legally mandated pay.

      4. fhqwhgads*

        If the employer is requiring them to go – and it’s unclear if that’s actually the case here – it IS work. “I’m only going to this party if you pay me” is a reasonable response if the invitation is “you are required to attend this if you work here”. I know socially a lot of people would bristle, because it seems “ungrateful” or something, but if the person has zero desire to go to a party, then what is there to be grateful for in the first place? “Gee thanks for requiring this evening time commitment from me that I would otherwise never willingly participate in”. Sure you can attempt to have a nice time socializing with your coworkers, but if you have no desire to socialize with coworkers in the first place and the company line is basically “well you have to”, “well, pay me” is obviously not the literal way the discussion would go, but it’s pretty much what employment law says should be the case for hourly staff.

      5. Richard Hershberger*

        “It’s not work – in fact it’s something I’m sure the company views as a nice perk for its employees”

        The problem lies in how those two statements mesh so poorly. Some people enjoy this sort of event. Others do not. I am in the second category. I only go if I conclude I can’t get out of it. Ergo: it is work. It might not be work for someone else, but it is work for me. I am a big boy. I go, having calculated how quickly I can get out without harming myself, then suck it up for that period. But let’s not pretend it is a nice perk for me. That just makes it that much more annoying.

    3. Manya*

      “Plus, if they are providing free food and non-alcoholic beverages, then that’s something.”

      Ha! If my company only provided non-alcoholic beverages at our holiday party, there would be a mutiny. Booze is literally the only thing that makes these tolerable.

    4. Tau*

      I have, in the past, paid to go to the company Christmas party. (First job was cheap and wanted us to cover part of the cost of the restaurant.) Anyone asking to be paid to go would have been looked at as if they were from Mars.

      1. Rayray*

        I’m with you. I wouldn’t be too thrilled about an after work hours party. I hate my job, and it’s so nice to get away after work. However, we had a summer party after hours, but it was kinda nice. One of the top guys of the company hosted at his home which was only a 10 minute drive for me, and they catered from a really good BBQ place. Also gave me a chance to chat with people I don’t see often since we’re on different floors and don’t interact in our job duties. It was nice, but I still would prefer work parties to be during work hours. My last job always did a Christmas lunch, and we are doing the same at this place. Christmas season is super busy so it’s nice to have one less thing to worry about.

      2. CMart*

        This is how it is at my current workplace – we’re in a cost cutting/budget conscious stage so spending money on parties is a no-go. There is likely significantly less pressure to attend than it sounds like the OP is getting, but many people (like myself) find the gatherings to be legitimately enjoyable enough that we’re willing to spend money to do it.

    5. Yorick*

      Right, it’s bizarre to think you should get paid for the after-hours holiday party. I think anyone at any level of seniority would seem hostile and antagonistic if they asked to be paid for their time at the holiday party. You won’t be working there, so why would you get paid? (It’s different than the holiday luncheon that happens during work hours, since not getting paid for that time would make you lose money.)

      If you can’t stand to be nice to your coworkers for free for a couple of hours, then find some excuse to not go.

      1. Leslie Knope*

        Exactly. I think the catered food and drinks have a great value – Yay! I don’t have to make dinner that night!

        However, if it’s a long commute back and would cost the person money in gas, bus fare, rideshare, or whatever…then it may not be very beneficial to them. But either way, you can’t expect to be paid for that.

      2. JM60*

        “You won’t be working there, so why would you get paid?”

        Because it’s a mandated part of your job if your employer is requiring you to go. I’m baffled by all these comments saying you shouldn’t be paid to attend. If you’re employer is making you to attend, your employer must pay you for it. Whether it’s fun or not is irrelevant (just like whether or not accounting is fun to you is irrelevant to whether or not you should be paid).

    6. EventPlannerGal*

      Yeah, I find it bizarre to introduce the issue of payment at all. If you don’t want to go that badly, don’t go – make up a scheduling conflict or something. I’m sure that that’s what other people there are doing too. Saying “I’ll only go if you pay me” is going to look so much worse than just not attending.

      1. doreen*

        Unless you are actually working at the party , asking to be paid is going to come across badly. It’s easy enough to have a scheduling conflict – if you don’t want to go and there are no political costs to not attending, then just don’t go. But asking to be paid literally sounds like ” You have to pay me to socialize with these people” – and that will have a cost almost everywhere.

        1. DJ*

          Idk, I’m hourly and if I’m participating in any work event (even a “fun” one) I expect to be paid (and I am). Maybe it’s a difference in work culture, but I would be really annoyed if my workplace expected me to attend something without being paid for it. Though because we have such a mix of hourly and salary employees, my workplace tends to keep most of the parties and things during the work day rather than after hours.

          I guess I can see how it being after hours would make it unpaid, but when I was salaried I was far less worried about some extra unpaid time here and there. Plus I would be entirely unsurprised if some of the salaried workers were likely to cut out of work early because of the holiday party (though that just depends on work culture, so I’ll grant that it may not happen in the OP’s workplace).

          1. doreen*

            I’m not saying the OP should attend on her own time- I’m saying it would be better if she claimed a scheduling conflict and just didn’t go.

    7. Anna*

      My side job has a holiday party, which starts with a part that is mandatory (drinks and speech from the director how great the company is doing) and is followed by a part that is voluntary (food, drinks, fun and games). The people who are hourly are expected to be clocked in for the mandatory part and when that ends, we are told to clock out and we can either stay or go.

      There was some grumbling about the mandatory attendance last year, and our manager quickly explained that we (the low-level, minimum wage, part-time, limited-time-contract workers) would in fact be paid for our time, since the company required us to be there. I find this very reasonable and am glad this is how the company handles it.

    8. Bag humbuh*


      LW1, it doesn’t matter that you’re a super King Kamehameha introvert when it comes to parties. If you like this company and see a future for yourself there, suck it up and go to the party.

    9. Quill*

      The main problem is the mandatoryness… and if I’m reading OP right, there could easily be transportation conflicts, which ad another layer of pain to this setup. Depending on their commute time this could easily mean waiting on company property or anywhere else they can, unpaid, with nothing to do and no real freedom to do it, because it isn’t worth it to drive 45 minutes home, hang out for an hour, and drive 45 minutes back, only to drive 45 minutes home four hours later…

      (Also a 4 hour party after a presumably more than 8 hour because of lunches work day? God I’d hate that. My knees are already trying to escape.)

      1. Quill*

        (Note that OP may or may not have an 8 hour workday that day but this seems excessive even for the full time employees. Clearly the company overestimates people’s willingness to be away from home and interacting with coworkers for more than 12 hours a day… clearly they assume no one has children or animals.)

    10. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, I totally get feeling that way when it feels more like an obligation than a perk, but it’s definitely not something you should say out loud to anyone at work! You really have to either suck it up and go or else if you really feel you wouldn’t go without being paid then just… don’t go!

    11. Artemesia*

      A part time employee who perhaps hopes to be full time some day, or a consultant, had darn well better show up and network and be charming. You can stay for an hour or two and leave but you need to show and make a positive impression.

    12. Andream*

      I can understand where she is coming from, since she there would be a time gap from when she finished work and when the party was. Especially if she has a longer commute to work, this could be a problem. If LW wants to come I think it would be a good political move. I think she should try and work it out with the boss. Maybe she can come in and work later that day so that she works until the party. Otherwise, if she doesn’t want to work or if it’s going to be a problem changing her schedule that day, I think she should just graciously bow out. She can always come up with some excuse.

  4. Director of Alpaca Exams*

    I encourage LW 3 to to learn to see human beings as human beings rather than dismissing them as “druggies” (wow). Since the LW is so opposed to the illegal sale of drugs, why are they opposed to this person getting a legal job? Wouldn’t they presumably be in favor of former dealers giving up their wicked ways? Or is this just a particular case of Not In My (Son’s) Back Yard?

    To name the elephant in the room, it is vanishingly rare for a white person to be imprisoned for 20 years for selling drugs. If the LW is white and their son’s new colleague is not white, it’s also time for them to work on seeing nonwhite people as human beings who are more than their pasts and are just as worthy of gainful, legitimate employment as anyone else.

    Bravo to the son’s company—employment discrimination against people with prison records is appallingly common. I hope the son is respectful and helpful to his new coworker.

    1. Luna123*

      This is everything I wanted to say, and more.

      Also, I hope the letter writer’s son will be especially patient with his new coworker — not only does it take a while to get your bearings at a new job, but this person’s personal life is experiencing some radical changes as well. It’s a big adjustment on both fronts, and it will take time (months at the least, depending on what kind job training/life skills they had access to) to settle in.

    2. Gaia*

      All. Of. This. It is highly likely that the co-worker is not white. For a white person to get 20 years in prison for drug dealing they’d basically need to be running a smuggling ring whereas a POC just needs to have a small amount more than personal use and judge that wants to “send a message.”

        1. bleh*

          Thanks all, for saying what I wanted to say. “Druggie” !? Why not just go with “junkie”? Please try to check your assumptions about people who made money by selling a product you don’t like or understand (nor do I in reality). There may have been no other options in their neighborhood for earning income.

          I hope this person is able to join licit society and earn a living wage at your son’s place of employment without hateful assumptions like these.

          1. Alexander Graham Yell*

            Exactly! The odds of this dude being a POC who was arrested with less drugs on him than most young white finance dudebros I know carry to a party is….uncomfortably high.

      1. Leah*

        Getting convicted 20 years ago is not the same thing as getting 20 years. Read it again. It only says arrested, we have no idea how long this person served.

      2. Polaris*

        Yeah, this. As soon as I read “20 years for distributing” I thought that this person was probably non-white, and had probably been jailed for marijuana distribution.

        1. ...*

          We have no idea what race they are or what they distributed from the letter although I am in agreement with the general sentiment of these comments. The whole point is to serve the sentence and move on.

      3. aebhel*

        Yeah, my dad was arrested multiple times in the 70’s and 80’s on drug charges (among other things), and I think he spent a total of maybe a month in jail. Didn’t stop him from having a long and successful career as a project manager in the defense industry, but then, he’s a white guy from an upper middle-class family.

      4. Temperance*

        Actually, no. It’s more likely that the person with the long sentence is the low man on the totem pole, who doesn’t have enough connections to really sell anyone else out in exchange for a more favorable sentence.

    3. Marzipan*

      #3, I would really encourage you to see the fact that the employer have hired this employee as a positive. To me, it shows that they’re open to the contributions each individual can make, and that they’re being thoughtful about pushing past stereotypes in a way that I would encourage you to reflect on and learn from.

      What, exactly, are you concerned about here? What are you imagining this employee is likely to *do* (other than show up and do their job)? If you can identify what it is that’s concerning you about the situation, it may help you to process it and move past it. Is your son similarly incensed, or is that just coming from you? If he is, then the most helpful thing you can do here is to encourage him to welcome his new coworker and treat them as he would any other – your son needs to act professionally in the workplace.

      1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

        I’d love to know the son’s thoughts too—and how he came to be aware of his new coworker’s background.

        1. MistOrMister*

          I, too would love to know how the son feels about it and how he found out about the previous time in prison. I have no idea if anyone in my office has a criminal background. If they do, sure as heck no one is mentioning it when they go around introducing the new hire!!!

          I agree that OP could really stand to use some compassion here. It is so dismissive calling this person a druggie. Hopefully the coworker is staying sober. Depending on what drug they were using, this could be something they fight for every day. Better that they have legitimate employment than that they be blacklisted from all “decent” workplaces. I know anyone can relapse, but I think it is much more likely to happen to someone who can’t get a decent job and reintegrate int9 society.

          And really, why is OP so mad?? There is no indication that this person poses any sort of threat. Is OP worried the coworker might try to sell the son drugs? That their former life will follow them and the office withh become a slum with everyone doing drugs all day and driveby shootings? I just don’t understand the problem.

          1. BeckySuz*

            Yeah I would think it’s a good thing they are clearly trying to find legitimate employment. Also everything about this letter was just…wrong

          2. EPLawyer*

            “That their former life will follow them and the office withh become a slum with everyone doing drugs all day and driveby shootings? I just don’t understand the problem.” Pretty much. You know THOSE people never change.

            Mom is really worked up over this. I think Mom needs to sit down and examine her own values and thoughts rather than trying to interfere in her son’s employment. Especially the racial aspects of this.

                1. SimplyTheBest*

                  Oh wait, I see now maybe you’re asking if it was perhaps dad who wrote in. I thought you were asking if it was a parent vs someone writing about their own office. Ignore me.

            1. Observer*

              Talking about rush to judgement and stereotypes – why are you assuming that it’s his MOM that’s having a fit? It could just as easily be his DAD.

              1. Not Me*

                Generally if a gender isn’t specified Allison defaults to female when it comes to managers, etc. I think that’s just become the general default for us readers too.

                1. Observer*

                  In a case like this, though it’s really problematic. Especially since this was not just a matter of pronouns but addressing the OP as Mom.

                1. MOAS*

                  I’ve never heard that phrase before so I had to look it up, but why assume it’s a woman who’s being a hysterical, stomping boundaries parent?

            2. Alicia*

              What if the coworker did relapse? What if he did try to sell drugs, or use them?
              If he offers drugs to the son or anyone else, they can say “no thanks.”
              If he uses drugs and it affects his job performance, the manager will deal with it.
              If he associates with violent criminals and they threaten anyone, call the police.

          3. ellex42*

            At my former job, the office space below ours was turned into a methadone clinic. That area has a pretty sizable drug problem. Some of my coworkers pretty much freaked out about it.

            But…our office was locked from the outside. You can’t get in without a keycard. No one was going to be wandering into our space.

            People going to methadone clinics are, by and large, attempting to get clean. Some are just looking for their next fix wherever they can get it, sure, but it was ridiculous to think that anyone was going to burst into our offices looking for methadone. If anyone tried to break in, it probably wouldn’t happen during our office hours, and someone would have to be pretty dumb to miss the extremely obvious signage. There wasn’t even anything in our offices to steal other than office supplies (I mean, yeah, toner is hella expensive, but I sincerely doubt there’s a black market for it)!

            We even had a second entrance so that if anyone wanted to avoid the same entrance the clinic was using, they could easily do that.

            Sure enough, the clinic opened, the people employed there stopped by and gave us a number to call if any of their clientele bothered us, and nothing untoward
            ever happened. We were more likely to be bothered by people looking for the dialysis clinic housed in the same building (and they could be nasty when they found out it was all the way on the other side of the building).

          4. Kiwiii*

            It could be that, if they’re on a team or a group of close teams, that the hiring manager allows those that report to them to see the applications/hiring materials. We do this at current company, and we’ve definitely had a couple vetos this way “I worked with her at X company and she isn’t really representing herself accurately” and “this person’s experience is really interesting, but let’s hand their resume to Y department instead because they’re a much better fit for that” but also a couple people argued for like “oh, she had the same internship Ben did and her degree is in the right thing, even if her experience isn’t really.”

          5. AKchic*

            Distribution does not actually mean the person sampled their own product. The person may not have a drug habit and just chose the business side of things.
            Of course, it’s not really our business to speculate.

          6. Also*

            “I agree that OP could really stand to use some compassion here. It is so dismissive calling this person a druggie. Hopefully the coworker is staying sober.”

            It’s also entirely possible they never did drugs and were just selling; lots and lots of dealers do not partake.

        2. Parenthetically*

          Some folks are just open about stuff like that! I do deeply hope his workplace didn’t feel compelled to “disclose” this man’s history, but rather that LW3’s son found out in normal conversation.

          (My husband works with a guy with a bunch of felony convictions for drug related offenses. He got clean in prison and completely turned his life around. He is super open about his past and wouldn’t hesitate to share his story if it were appropriate. He’s a great guy and a much-loved colleague, both for his work ethic and his contagiously joyful approach to life.

          Needless to say, this lw is not my favorite person right now.)

        3. Unfit to be tied*

          I feel like the son must have been concerned about it – why else would he bring it up to his parent?

          Regardless, I hope this parent (and possibly their son) learn a lot from this experience. It seems his new co-worker could have a lot to teach them.

      2. Tim Tam Girl*

        ‘…the most helpful thing you can do here is to encourage him to welcome his new coworker and treat them as he would any other – your son needs to act professionally in the workplace.’

        THIS. OP3, whatever your feelings are, and whatever your son’s feelings are, your son is interacting with this new hire in a professional situation, and **your son will be judged by his co-workers, including his bosses, on his behaviour toward and treatment of this person.**

        I presume that your son wants a good professional reputation, and that you would want that for him? Then he needs to act like a professional. Full stop.

        (Also, by the way: is your son underage? Because if not, you really really really do not have a say of any kind here. Just something to think about.)

      3. Al who is that Al*

        I teach “felons” IT skills before they go back into the real world. I still don’t understand this attitude of once a criminal always a criminal. Lets face it a lot of us did stuff in our youth or even now which we were lucky enough not to get caught doing. If you are caught, sentenced and did your time you have paid your debt to society (leaving sentencing issues aside) . What this person is saying is that was not enough for them, the convicted person should pay for that mistake for the rest of their lives. So basically they are saying that the ‘felons’ need to keep on doing what got them into prison then, don’t be a tax-paying member of society, keep being a criminal becuase we will treat you as one no matter what. Lumping all jailbirds together as one mass of ‘felons’ is crazy. And refusing to allow someone back into society is even crazier

        1. Tuckerman*

          I totally agree for non-violent (e.g., drug) crimes but I understand concern about risks of integrating violent offenders back into the workforce. “He paid his debt to society” does not mean he is not still dangerous.

          1. Gaia*

            Even previously violent offenders need jobs when released if we hope to ever reduce our ridiculously high recidivism rates. Violent once doesn’t mean violent forever. Each person needs to be evaluated individually.

            1. Tuckerman*

              I agree, but are hiring managers qualified to evaluate the risk? And how much risk is acceptable?

              1. Observer*

                Well, in that case, hiring managers should not be allowed to hire ANYONE without a full blown background check and professional risk assessment.

                At this point the OP gives us no reason to believe that this guy has a violent past or that there is any particular risk. Why muddy the waters and bring it up?

              2. Mockingjay*

                Isn’t that what parole boards do? I’m not familiar with the process, but it seems that these boards consider a lot of criteria, including statements from victims and families, interviews with the prisoner, analysis of their behavior in prison including skills or knowledge attained, job prospects and proposed living situation, and so on.

                Couldn’t a hiring manager reach out to the parole officer as well?

                1. Jamie*

                  It’s a complicated problem and parole boards aren’t infallible.

                  At a former work-place they hired someone recently released from prison having done time for manslaughter. He ended up attacking a co-worker with a hammer over a minor dispute and was arrested again.

                  Yet, plenty of people have been rehabilitated and should be given a second chance. It’s really difficult to weigh the risk especially as managers with no training in doing so. I don’t have any answers.

                  (Fwiw my concern is about violence – in the circumstances of the letter I applaud the company for hiring the co-worker and would have no issues working with someone with his history.)

                2. Atalanta0jess*

                  Not everyone is out on parole either – when your time is served, it’s served, regardless of your current state.

                  That said, I am wildly in favor of hiring people with criminal histories, banning the box, etc etc.

              3. SimplyTheBest*

                What would like people with violent offences to do instead? Not work? Become homeless? Ship them off to their own island? Imprison them forever?

                Also, lots of people are violent and never go to prison.

          2. Shadowbelle*

            But how are you defining “violent offenders”? Someone who stalked and brutalized multiple partners? A burgler who carried a gun with no intention of using, then accidentally did? A drunk driver who caused a death? A gang member involved in multiple violent incidents? A serial killer?

            One can commit a violent offense without being a violent person.

            1. Ari*

              As someone who is worked a lot with violent criminals, I would much rather work with someone convicted of murder them a man who was a serial sexual harasser. Most murderers do not commit murder more than once. Most people who attack women do so repeatedly. I think this poster his priorities are slightly out of whack

              1. Quill*

                I feel like, overall, we’re done a disservice by the media in terms of portraying, for a random demographic example, white male serial killers (hi, dexter) and meth dealers (hi walter) with far more nuance and compassion than we often have modeled for us for people of color with criminal histories that are far more driven by things like making enough money to live & dealing drugs, robberies gone wrong, or self defense against someone abusing them.

                (Locally there’s been a shameful amount of hand wringing over a teen of color who killed a man who had been abusing her and, most likely, other people she knew… the girl is 1) a child who acted in self defense 2) highly unlikely to kill again now that she’s out of the situation, whereas her ‘victim’ clearly intended to continue his long and unlamented habit of sexually abusing teenagers.)

                1. Ari*

                  I know that case. It’s appalling what the media has made of it.

                  The lack of empathy in our culture is astounding. It seems to be reserved for cishet WASP white men.

          3. Not Me*

            ““He paid his debt to society” does not mean he is not still dangerous.”

            Actually, in this respect, it kinda does. If the legal system has seen fit to release the person into society without any restrictions then we as a society should accept them back and treat them respectfully. That means hiring managers too.

            1. Jennifer*

              You have more faith in the justice system, the folks that let rapists go with little to no jail time, than I do.

              I agree with you about non-violent offenders, though.

              1. Not Me*

                This is a site about the workplace, and we’re talking about a person who served time for a non-violent crime being hired for a job. I’m not sure what the point is of bringing up rapists other than to be inflammatory.

                1. Jennifer*

                  Not meant to be inflammatory, just pointing out that I disagree with this statement, “If the legal system has seen fit to release the person into society without any restrictions then we as a society should accept them back and treat them respectfully.” The justice system lets out people all the time who should never be released and unfairly imprisons people all the time. I’d never make a decision about whether or not to hire someone based solely on the opinion of the justice system.

                  Again, I agree with everyone about nonviolent offenders.

                2. Tuckerman*

                  The point is that a lot of us on this site are involved in hiring decisions. And while I’d guess the vast majority of us would agree both extremes 1. non-violent crimes should not prohibit someone from working most job but 2. a child predator should not be a school principal, more likely than not our hiring decisions/situations will be far more nuanced. How do we make these decisions? Where do we draw lines?

                3. Not Me*

                  @ Tuckerman
                  If you’re curious in knowing, as a hiring manager, the best way to decide which types of criminal convictions you can use in hiring decisions I’d suggest talking to an attorney in your location. I’d also suggest some education around bias. How are you currently determining whether or not all of your candidates have done something violent in their life?

                  But my comment, that you’re replying to, was about the non-violent offender the letter writer and comments are discussing.

              2. Irinam*

                Your argument seems to lead down the same path as the OP. Broadening your world view is important. Op has a very small view and is a damaging person.

                1. Jennifer*

                  A non-violent drug offense from 20 years ago is nowhere near a violent sexual crime. I don’t need to broaden my world view. I just don’t have a pollyanna-ish view of the justice system.

            2. LilySparrow*

              The length of a prison sentence is fixed at the time of conviction. If you’ve served it, the justice system has no right to place restrictions on your release. You don’t have to pass any sort of assessment of suitability or safety. You do the time, and it’s done.

              And thank god for that. As flawed as the system is about putting peoole in jail, at least there isn’t a whole other set of subjective, biased hoops to jump through in order to get out!

              But the flip side is that finishing a sentence does not carry some kind of official “seal of approval” that you are at low risk of re-offending.

          4. Iris Eyes*

            I see your point but I have a family member who worked with a murderer, they were a minor and there were extenuating circumstances. As long as the work place isn’t going to cause the same situation there shouldn’t be issues. Or should we discriminate against veterans because they have committed violence?

            (The one downside was that the murderer was able to microwave fish with impunity since no one wanted to confront them.)

        2. Jack Merritt*

          Hear hear

          I still don’t understand this attitude of once a criminal always a criminal. Lets face it a lot of us did stuff in our youth or even now which we were lucky enough not to get caught doing. If you are caught, sentenced and did your time you have paid your debt to society (leaving sentencing issues aside) .

          1. Lyra Silvertongue*

            Apologies if this is your real name. But I am wondering if you chose to use this screen name on this topic because of the young man who was a prison reform activist who was murdered in London on Friday. If that is the case I would urge you to not use that as a screen name; while I agree with your general stance it’s extremely jarring to see the name of someone murdered just a few days ago as someone else’s user name… Again if it’s just your actual name and this is a wild coincidence then fine, but I had to mention it.

        3. TootsNYC*

          “Lets face it a lot of us did stuff in our youth or even now which we were lucky enough not to get caught doing.”

          When I toured Eastern State Penitentiary in Philly, they had an exhibit about sentencing and mass incarceration.

          As one of the exhibits, they asked people to write out a story about a law they broke and never got caught for.

          It was amazing!

          1. Quill*

            Primarily tresspassing…

            Might add some vandalism in there…

            Teen me spent a non-zero amount of time rearranging people’s lawn ornaments and assisting them in migrating to other properties.

          2. KoiFeeder*

            I once accidentally shoplifted something, returned to the store to pay for it, and the clerk actively refused to let me pay for it and angrily insisted that I had already done so to the point of bringing out a random receipt that was not mine and telling me that it was from my purchase (you can probably guess my skin color and perceived gender based on this story alone).

      4. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


        Back in college, the owner of the sandwich shop I worked at had a policy — she’d hire anyone, but one strike and you were out. The hands-down best, most reliable employee there was freshly out of prison for drug offenses, and this was the only job that had been willing to give him a shot. He was determined not to lose this chance, and to move up from there with a shining reference from the owner. I liked him a hell of a lot, and I still think about him almost 15 years later and hope that hard work and determination have paid off for him.

      5. some dude*

        I know lots of people who sold (and sell!) drugs and even more people who bought drugs that were being illegally sold. Most of them are decent people who are productive members of society. Even most of the more stereotypical drug dealers I knew were people in bad situations making the choice between minimum wage selling burgers and slightly more than minimum wage selling drugs. It is a job. A crummy, destructive job but then so is selling cigarettes or lobbying for the coal industry.

        A huge percentage of white collar workers do illegal drugs. Those tech bros and finance bros? Many of them are popping mollies and doing lines, not to mention prescription pills and weed, which is still illegal lots of places. The nice lady at the winery you are a member of? She’s selling drugs, just a legal, socially accepted one.

        We jail more of our citizens than any other free country. The end result is millions of ex-cons who need and deserve legal, gainful employment so that they can contribute to society and not have to resort to crime to get by. Kudos to your son’s employer for hiring someone with a record.

    4. Urdnot Bakara*

      yes, this!!!

      lw3, take a step back and think about the fact that this person spent 2 decades in prison for a (presumably, based on your description) nonviolent crime. and also consider that returning citizens have an extremely hard time finding work because of the attitudes you’re exemplifying, which contributes to recidivism.

      (also, considering that it *is* so hard for returning citizens to avoid stigma when people know about their criminal history… i’m really wondering how you found out about this, and how you know it’s true. i find it hard to believe he’s just telling people in his workplace.)

    5. JKP*

      I worked at a company once that often hired recent felons as part of a program where the state subsidized part of their pay. If this is part of a similar probation program, there were many rules and a curfew that needed to be followed to not go back to jail. Frankly, they were our best employees. Much more reliable when the penalty for no-showing your work shift is going back to jail. We never had any issues with the employees we hired from this program. Whereas some of our non-felon employees were very unreliable and more than one had to be let go for theft.

      1. Katiekaboom22*

        Yes. My father owned a construction company, and had no issue hiring felons. They were usually the best workers, knowing they had parole officers to answer to and didn’t have the luxury of showing up late to work, or randomly calling off.

      2. J*

        Yep. I worked in road construction, and I knew a guy in this kind of program. Every day he woke up before dawn, rode his bicycle to work, and then went back to prison each night to sleep. It was an effort to get them a running start with reliable employment, rather than just dumping them on the street and waiting for them to re-offend.

      3. yala*

        “Much more reliable when the penalty for no-showing your work shift is going back to jail.”

        While I get that in practice this makes for reliable employees, does this strike anyone else as sort of…terrifyingly dystopian?

        1. Burned Out Supervisor*

          Somewhat…I guess it depends on your view of the criminal justice system. Parole isn’t forever, it’s a time when they have to demonstrate that they can be a positive contribution to free society, and there has to be metrics around that. I do think it’s harsh, but when you compare it to the environment in prison or jail…well….

        2. Alicia*

          No. I’ve known repeat offenders.
          A program like this has to make sure they can be good reliable employees. The restrictions are to prevent the ones who aren’t ready/able to function as employees from doing too much damage or escaping prison before they’re officially released.
          I used to hear about prisoners on work release who misbehaved at work or tried to escape. Some are ready to be contributing members of society, and some aren’t.

          1. yala*

            I’m talking less about the program itself, and more about the general observation that the threat of jail makes for reliable employees.

    6. AnonyLawyer*

      Perfectly written, Director. That’s exactly how I feel. It’s so important that we have employers who can see past the old conviction, support the person’s reintegration into the community, and help them with a good job opportunity.

    7. Mainely Professional*

      Just for clarity the letter said the person was arrested “20 years ago.” I doubt this is person who spent 20 years in prison or is necessarily a recent parolee.

        1. Hekko*

          That doesn’t necessarily mean he spent those 20 years in jail. Could have been someone found out he got arrested 20 years ago and what for (it was on news, for example). He may have been recently released after serving time for some other crime.

          But still, he was released. That means he served his time. The employer most likely did their due dilligence in making sure he is not a psychopatic axe murderer dangerous to his coworkers, so let him earn his living and live in peace.

    8. Felix*

      Nobody said he spent 20 years in prison! The letter states he “was a druggie arrested for distribution 20 years ago”

    9. Akcipitrokulo*

      I read it as was convicted 20 years ago and assumed released ages ago… if not, then wow, that’s excessive.

        1. EinJungerLudendorff*

          Land of the free, home of the brave

          I hope they can rebuild their life, or what’s left of it.

        2. pleaset aka cheap rolls*

          If you’re and convicted of distribution on top of previous crimes, it’s not a rare sentence. Assuming you’re poor and/or a person of color.

          If you’re wealthy and white then you probably showed a lot of “promise” in your youth, so the sentencing would probably be less. Assuming you were convicted of a felony at all…..

      1. Gigi*

        Federal Drug penalties are overly harsh IMO. ‘Distribution’ doesn’t have to be proven, the charge is based on weight of drugs in possession. I’ve been excused from jury duty twice in the last three years bc I said I could in no way be impartial when it came to possession of drugs. Prisons in the US are filled with people who got nailed by the ‘war on drugs’.

        1. Aquawoman*

          I used to review appeals of drug sentences under the federal sentencing guidelines. People (of color) would get 20 years for being in the same room as whatever amount of drugs = a 20 year sentence because that was a “conspiracy.” Women (of color) who never sold an ounce of drugs would get 20 year sentences because their boyfriends (of color) sold drugs that passed through their apartment at some point.

          1. Quill*

            I can guarantee you that I have a cousin who at some point possessed enough drugs on her person / in conjunction with her then boyfriend in their shared apartment to be arrested for dealing. Because she told me and I can do math. But she’s a white girl from a nice suburb, her worst case scenario, especially when she was still in college, was probably fines, not imprisonment. (The fact that it was weed makes this idea even more stark now that it might become legal in her home state.)

            The way we treat drug convictions as a nation is disgusting and was 100% influenced by racist ideas about who uses drugs, and also by the civil rights movement – many forms of legal discrimination where you could arrest black people for being in ‘whites only’ locations have been replaced with uneven enforcement of drug and vagrancy laws.

            1. Old and Don’t Care*

              Not really understanding what sentence a person may or may not have received if they were arrested, which they were not, furthers discussion or understanding.

        2. Spreadsheets and Books*

          I served on a special narcotics grand jury for New York City (very few ways out of grand jury duty and they don’t give two shits whether you have some sort of bias against the legal system… basically, if you get summoned here, you’re serving sooner or later). We spent like the first two days learning about the difference between misdemeanor and felony weights and in what circumstances intent to distribute is implied. Unless someone was caught with wire taps or cell phone records planning to sell, weight is absolutely what they go on.

          And after that fun experience, I know now that “indicted by the grand jury” means basically nothing. We indicted every single case we heard, partially because the city provided adequate evidence to proceed to trial and partially because we wanted to go home.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            To be fair, the standard for indictment is much lower than the standard for conviction. Grand juries do reject indictments, but any halfway decent DA’s office is going to at least try to pretend they’re following their ethical responsibility to only charge cases for which they have probable cause.

            That said, there’s a huge dearth of legal resources for folks who are indicted (less than 3% go to trial, and it’s not because they’re all guilty), the system has baked in inequalities on the basis of race and SES, and there are all sorts of incentives for prosecutors to prioritize conviction with draconian sentencing over any form of restorative or redemptive justice.

          2. AntOnMyTable*

            I have heard comments about how you could get a tomato indicted by a grand jury if you wanted which just further highlights the injustice done when so many cops weren’t indicted when it came to their killing of citizens.

          3. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

            Yeah. There’s no way out of that either, so I sat there for a month voting not to indict on almost every case: I don’t think drug possession should be a crime, and the grand jury’s job, we were told, is to decide whether the person should be charged with a crime. (I did vote to indict for criminal possession of a machine gun, and someone who was accused of physically assaulting the police officer who was pretending to be a drug dealer.)

            Almost everyone else on that grand jury voted to indict in every case, but I did what I could. Famously, most grand juries would vote to indict a ham sandwich.

      2. Quill*

        I wouldn’t be surprised either way. Either with the justice system in the late 90’s or with OP’s attitude towards someone who may have been out of jail for a decade.

    10. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This is beautifully and thoughtfully written. I was so astounded by LW’s framework and question that I could not put my feelings into words. But you’ve captured everything I was feeling much better than I could, and I truly appreciate you crafting a compassionate-yet-firm response.

    11. londonedit*

      This is a brilliant response. Given how difficult it is for ex-offenders to find work when they’re released from prison, I think it’s pretty impressive that this person has got themselves a job (and good on the company, too, for giving someone with a criminal record a chance). Would you rather they didn’t have a job at all? How do you imagine they’d get on in society if they didn’t?

      1. ThatGirl*

        Right? I guess anyone who ever spent any time in prison should never get a second chance at anything? He’s not an ax murderer.

    12. Lilo*

      The Washongton Post had a feature on people who were convicted under murder or attempted murder laws for supplying heroin someone else used to OD on. These people were commonly either very small time dealers whom sold to support their own habit or friends where they commonly sold the drugs back and forth with the person who ODed. Drug dealing is very complex, but the idea of the big predatory drug dealer really isn’t that common, many dealers are just addicts themselves.

      I will note one exception, I have a family member who is a prosecutor and she will aggressively go after dealers who cut their stuff with fentanyl, but that’s because it gets people killed.

      1. J*

        Yeah, that’s like deliberately selling nitroglycerin in a can marked ‘gasoline.’ It’s hard not to see it as deliberate murder.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yes, that’s how my brother died and it definitely feels like he was killed by whoever sold him what turned out to be mostly fentanyl. I wouldn’t object to long sentences in that case.

          (But that’s probably not what happened here, and I doubt OP even knows if the guy was actually selling drugs or just caught with an amount big enough to be charged with distribution)

      2. Quill*

        That’s chemically adulterating something knowing that it can kill people, which is so very different from “I sold them exactly, to my knowledge, what they asked for, and they used too much.”

        1. Sleve McDichael*

          Yeah, it’s like the difference between a fast food outlet selling food which a person eats too much of and dies of obesity related complications, and to putting melamine in baby formula.

    13. Al who is that Al*

      A 2016 study in the UK by Dame Sally Coates of the UK Prison Population showed:
      24% of adult prisoners report having been in care at some point in their lives –
      compared to an estimated 2% of the general population.
      42% of adult prisoners report having been permanently excluded from school.
      Three fifths of prisoners leave prison without an identified employment or education or
      training outcome.
      Given this background what would the OP prefer ? These people leave and turn back to crime or are accepted back into society ?

    14. East Coast Girl*

      I was coming here to say the same. Letter writer, I mean no harm when I ask you to please consider your own feelings and opinions around both offenders and addicts. Your use of the word “druggie” stung for me, being an alcoholic in recovery who works very hard (publicly) to educate the public and break down the stigma around addiction.

      Should this person never work again because of past mistakes? Because it seems to me that if they can’t work legally, the likelihood of having to resort to illegal means of making money would increase substantially. I would also add that you might be surprised how many people in your circles are in recovery from addiction and are contributing members of society and you don’t even realize it. I am proud to be part of the recovery community as it has some of the most hard-working, generous, empathetic, and open people I have ever met.

      This person has served their time, passed company screening and presumably been honest about their past convictions and issues. That paired with the fact that you don’t even work there makes this absolutely none of your business.

      1. Mary*

        “stigma” was exactly the word that came into my head. If I were planning a seminar on how stigma and “social contagion” work, I would assign LW3’s letter as essential reading.

        LW3, your son isn’t going to catch anything from working with someone who was convicted of dealing drugs twenty years ago. Spend some time thinking about what your “worst case” scenario is here and what you have been taught to think about people who use illegal substances. I understand that you were taught to be scared of people who use drugs, but this response is so destructive and lacking in compassion and I’m sure you don’t want to be that person.

    15. MicroManagered*

      LW3 had me feeling a little fit to be tied. You stated everything I was thinking perfectly!

      1. J*

        Oh, they’ve got me nail-spitting mad too. People like LW3 are absolutely the reason recidivism is so high, and why campaigns to ban the box are so damn important. Even aside the gross, abhorrent racist and classist injustices inherent in the US “justice” system and who goes to prison and for what, the ongoing stigma that people leaving prison face FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES makes it so damn hard for them to integrate back into society. We send people to prison for dumb reasons; we then don’t let them do the sorts of things that prepare them for a good life post-incarceration; we dump them back out of prison often with few skills or resources and little support; we refuse to hire them, rent to them, and generally provide an avenue back into society; and then we act all shocked at their “moral depravity” when many formerly incarcerated individuals struggle. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, it’s racist, and it’s amoral.
        Nail. Spitting. Mad.

    16. Detective Amy Santiago*

      People like OP#3 are the reason that recidivism rates are so high.

      The point of prison should be rehabilitation in the majority of cases (exception for extremely violent offenders). The goal should be to reintegrate them into society which means giving them opportunities to earn an honest and legal living.

      P.S. I would be shocked if your son hasn’t interacted with drug dealers before. He’s probably even patronized them.

      1. Antilles*

        The goal should be to reintegrate them into society which means giving them opportunities to earn an honest and legal living.
        Let’s imagine this guy was blackballed from legal employment. Presumably, he would not simply roll into a ditch and die immediately, so he will need food, water, clothes, shelter, etc. Where do you think he’s getting money to purchase such necessities if he’s unable to find legal employment?

        1. J*

          “Where do you think he’s getting money to purchase such necessities if he’s unable to find legal employment?”

          He can steal silver from clergymen.

          1. Jessica*

            You broke the law
            It’s there for people to see
            Why should you get the same as honest men like me?

              1. Blueberry*

                That book (like all Hugo’s works) is much too epic to fit into any movie, but the musical does a pretty good job. /digression

                1. Quill*

                  I think Hugo might be the rare case where it’s more efficient to watch a play or movie…

                  I’m just not going to retain everything about Notre Dame.

              2. Amy Sly*

                Important thing to remember with Les Mis … Hugo was paid by the chapter, and some weeks he just didn’t care about advancing the plot. You really aren’t missing anything important when you skip the chapters on street argot and the Parisian sewer system.

                1. Ev*

                  I find that, about halfway through the book, you develop a sort of Hugo-related Stockholm syndrome, where suddenly you earnestly do want him to tell you all his opinions on gardening and Paris street urchins because at least in those chapters he’s probably not making you cry.

                2. Forrest*

                  Or you could be like me, writing a dissertation on the Parisian sewers, and spending 4 weeks reading all of Les Mis because of some vague idea that it had sewers in it. Nobody was ever so glad to get to the sewer part!

                  (The chapter titles in Les Mis are the best bit: “On why you should always arrest the victim of a crime first”.)

              3. fogharty*

                Do not see the horrible film version of the musical. You should see the stage show, if possible, or perhaps the 25th Anniversary Concert (which is available on video).

        2. WorkyWork*

          I have worked in social services for many years now. For some people who are unemployed or underemployed, the alternative to providing for one’s needs via earned income is to apply for public benefits to assist with food, housing, health insurance, and cash assistance. Perhaps the OP would prefer if her son’s coworker did not work and was instead supported by public benefits coming from her (and her son’s) taxes, as opposed to the coworker earning his own money and being a taxpayer himself?

      2. annony*

        To be honest, my first thought was that the son has done drugs and that is what the mother is worried about.

    17. The Original K.*

      I’m so glad you said this; it’s a much kinder version of what I was thinking (which was basically “there are a lot of -isms in such a short letter”). Thank you.

    18. LQ*

      Absolutely strong agree to all of these points. I’d also add that it’s nearly guaranteed that LW, and definitely LWs son are already working and interacting with folks who have done drugs at some point. Those folks (more likely to be white, looping back to the way people (especially men) of color are very disproportionately punished for drugs) who didn’t get caught or who got caught and given a slap on the wrist are in jobs everywhere. There are lots of them out there. Even in whatever place you consider that impossible.

    19. Not So NewReader*

      OP, I have to smile sadly and shake my head.

      The more people I get to know the more I realize that we are surrounded by convicted felons. And what you wrote right here, OP, is the very reason most of us don’t know it. People do stuff especially in the early decades of their lives. Then they decide they want something better out of life and that part of their life is over.

      Our legal system for all its flaws DOES offer people opportunities to fix their lives and continue on. Would you prefer a harsher system? Would you feel the same about this person, if it was YOU in this storyline? Do you think you should go to jail and never come out?? I think probably you’d want people to understand and give you a second chance. In order to get that second chance for ourselves we have to grant that second chance to others.

      What is your main concern here, OP? Do you think your son will buy drugs from this guy? Perhaps you think he will find something else corrupt to do and it will some how impact your son. Perhaps you think that the guy is taking away work your son should have.

      Or maybe you lost a loved one because of drugs. If this is the case, my heart goes out to you. But hatred/rage is not the solution. Many addictions stem from private feelings of being unlovable, unlikable, friendless. We don’t get to the root of matters by layering on more rage and contempt.

      If you want to do something practical, I’d suggest supporting groups who support people in recovery. Support programs for teens so they have activities to go to.

      But please don’t add to the rage that we already have in our society. That rage is driving many poor choices. We don’t need more rage. We have more than enough now.

    20. Darkened Meadow*

      My employer’s mission is teaching inmates a trade so they can find a job and stay out of prison after release. If former felons cannot find sustainable employment, they might return to criminal activities to get by. Many inmates are terrified of returning to the real world and do not have support from family or friends upon release (or maybe friends and family are not the sort of people they should be around). I hope the son is supportive of this new coworker, too.
      One of my coworkers was formerly incarcerated and he is one of the kindest, sweetest, and trustworthy people I know. Please give this man a chance. He most likely needs all the support he can get. This man has more than paid his debt for his wrongdoing and should be welcomed back to society. Stop punishing him. Give him a chance to change his life for the better.
      Can you forward me this employer’s information? We would love to have another resource for our students!

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Yes, thank you for this. My post is in moderation, but my brother was incarcerated for 30 years and he needed all the support he could get. Thankfully people were supportive and helpful, and he went on to lead a productive, though short, life.

    21. The Other Dawn*

      You’ve said this in a much nicer, much more constructive way than I would have.

      My brother (white) was in prison for 30 years. It started out as drugs, which lead to other crimes, such as assault (not rape or murder), theft, possession of a weapon, etc. He was released after serving his time at the age of 48, went to a halfway house, got a steady job, eventually got married, bought a small house and a truck, and had two cats. Unfortunately he died of cancer a couple years ago.

      He did his time and became a productive member of society. I’d be absolutely appalled and sad to hear someone talk about him the way OP3 talks about a stranger that sold drugs TWENTY YEARS AGO and did his time and now wants to become part of society again. I’m sure there were plenty of people who thought of him the same way OP thinks about this stranger, and that’s why he kept it a secret as much as he could outside of family, friends, and his boss.

      1. some dude*

        I know at least three people who had serious drug issues which led them to get in trouble with the law which led them to having three strikes in California which led them to having loooooong sentences when their issue was basically they were addicted to cocaine or heroin. Great people who did great things before their addictions got them involved with the criminal justice system.

    22. TW*

      LW3 –

      What in the actual fuck? Is your so a minor? If not, why are you even writing in to AAM about it? Calling someone a “druggie” is dehumanizing and petty. It is incredibly difficult for felons to find good jobs. They typically continue paying the price the price (stigma, housing discrimination, job discrimination, disenfranchisement) long after they have completed their sentences. My brother committed a felony in his 20s that haunts him to this day as his approaches 50. He cannot find good, stable employment or housing, and has to live with our mom. He has been out of jail for nearly 20 years and sobe for even longer. Shame on you. For real.

      1. Irinam*

        Upon reading your comment, I think Alison went easy on this one, or even posting it. The readers deserve to know if OP’s son is an adult. Op if your som is an adult, you need to be taking immediately hard lined approach to backing away from his life. This kind of involvement is a part of a bigger cycle almost always.

    23. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      Thank you for putting that out there. I actually didn’t even think to point it out – the race component seemed so obvious to me, and so obviously a part of this person’s outrage.

      Also, “fit to be tied”? “Druggie”? Calling my son’s boss to demand he be moved to a different department? I mean, I know OK Boomer is already dead, but c’mon….

    24. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Thank you. I wanted to say something in response to #3, but honestly was feeling so angry about the letter that I could not think of anything.

      If LW’s son is already of age to have a job, chances are he has, at the very least, at least once, bought and used a substance that is not legal in all 50 states. So there’s that to consider too.

      I would stop telling my parents anything at all about my job if I were met with this reaction.

    25. Quill*

      It’s not like we can expect them to, you know, support themselves with perfectly legal jobs if we refuse to hire them for them!

      Additionally, there’s the racism inherent in the fact that people of color are more likely to be arrested for drug posession, then more likely after that to be convicted of it, then more likely to have a longer sentence… and more likely to be sentenced as “dealers” for having more than a certain amount of, say, weed. This contributes a heck of a lot to the unsavoryness of OP’s attitude.

      (Was it weed? I don’t know, neither does OP, but statistically more people deal or use marijuana than other drugs.)

      Also, OP3 is looking into the criminal records of their child’s coworkers? Overstep much?

    26. Really anon for this*

      Thank you from an AAM regular whose younger brother served time in prison for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. My brother is a good person who did something dumb, not a threat to anyone; he’d been a bright, friendly software engineer and volunteer at a r*pe crisis hotline (censored because of the comments autocensor). His arrest did *some* good because they sent him to rehab since he was smuggling weed to support his cocaine habit (and cocaine was making him arrogant and reckless, as it is wont to do) but sending him to prison was wasteful and cruel and absolutely broke our mother’s heart.

      He’s out now, and just finished parole. I’m happy to report he’s managed to return to software engineering at a company with a positive social mission, and that he has a kind and loving girlfriend and a spoiled kitty. I’m proud of him.

      I’m in favor of legalizing marijuana and taking a “treatment, not prison” approach to hard drugs unless you’re talking about cartel kingpins or doctors who run opioid mills or the like.

    27. TootsNYC*

      also–let’s consider the concept of having “paid their debt to society.”

      Having a job, and a new community of people, is how people are able to rejoin society.

      A lot of aggressively “moral” people are Christians, and I find that I often want to say to them, “Have you not heard of forgiveness? About ‘all have sinned’? About redemption?”

    28. Artemesia*

      Is the son 16 or 17 and a high school student? Otherwise why is Mom even concerning herself with whom he works? For any adult this is an enormous overreach.

    29. PhyllisB*

      Just to bring up a minor point; it didn’t say this man had been in prison for 20 years; it just said he was charged 20 years ago.
      With that out of the way, I hope people have more compassion toward ex convicts. My 17 year old grandson is a charged felon. Right now he’s out on bond, but there is a distinct possibility that he will go to prison even though he was only 15 at the time of the crimes he’s been certified as an adult.
      I pray that when all this is behind us that he will encounter people willing to give him an honest chance.

    30. AKchic*

      All of this.

      And I’m also finding it telling that the *mother* of the employee is writing in, rather than the employee. It’s almost as if the employee really doesn’t have a problem with working with a felon who has served his time, but Mommy Dearest really has a problem with a “druggie” tainting her poor baby boy’s reputation by being anywhere *near* him.

      Mommy Dearest really needs to take that judgmental stick out of her rear. And I’m not going to sugarcoat it, because a *lot* of us have done things in life that I am going to bet OP 3 finds distasteful and would pearl-clutch and swoon at having her darling son be anywhere near. She sounds a lot like my current MIL (who nearly fainted at having the idea of a twice-divorced mother of 3 dating her oldest son… guess who gave her that first grandchild?).

      OP 3, I can guarantee that your son’s classmates have problems and criminal records that you don’t know about. Check your privilege, your assumptions, and let your son manage his own career.

    31. Lets not name names*

      I’d encourage LW to listen to the Ear Hustle podcast, produced in San Quinten prison, for a chance to be introduced to incarcerated folks as living, breathing human beings with friends, family, ambitions, and yes, jobs. There’s a great episode about the jobs they maintain in prison—the obvious ones likes cooks, cleaners, manufactures, and highly trained ones like medical personnel, and fire fighters (who risk their lives continuously in CA.) There’s a whole pilot program with tech companies recruiting coders who are trained in prison also. Because there’s no internet access, they have to be unimaginably creative and inventive to build and troubleshoot offline. Humanity, people!

    32. Pennalynn Lott*

      We hired a felon when we bought out a competitor a couple of years ago. I ran background checks on all the employees we were inheriting and one guy had done time about five years earlier for a non-violent crime. Because our employees go into our customers’ homes, I had a talk with him to ask why he did what he did, what he has done to make sure he isn’t tempted to do something similar, and — well — to just get to know him. I felt comfortable with everything he said and he has turned out to be one of the best employees we’ve had in the 16 years we’ve been in business.

      1. Shoes On My Cat*

        Thank you for this! Not just sharing, but also making the effort and having the judgement to check in with this guy to make sure he would be trustworthy with your clients. Sounds like your company and this guy won. Thats how it’s SUPPOSED to work

    33. Lils*

      I agree with this comment and all the others. I also wondered if LW#3’s son is a teenager. Whatever the case, LW clearly has some concerns about their son interacting with the ex-felon. Just hopping in here to point out that typical minimum-wage jobs appropriate for teenagers (restaurant host, barista, sandwich artist, etc.) will indeed expose them to colleagues who have spent time in jail and who are doing/have done drugs. Other experiences on offer include interacting with people of other ethnic backgrounds, people who honor a different religious tradition, people from other socio-economic classes. This is a GOOD experience and I highly encourage all young people to take their turn in food service and retail: it makes you humble and empathetic.

    34. Shoes On My Cat*

      A good friend of mine, whom I met during his parole, was a white dude and only got a few years for ‘doing a stupid and driving a truck through a town no questions asked.’ He didn’t talk much about his time in, but his body language, etc. made it clear it was not by any means a picnic and he was *not* risking going back. He was a bartender at one of the local dives (it’s that or cleaning bathrooms in that area) and had a rep for defusing most situations that came up by handling it early and being low key about it. That was the skill he honed in prison, being both a target and a pacifist by nature. That being said, we eventually got him hired at our upscale restaurant, where he ended up pouring beer for the governor and was overall a fantastic colleague (as a female waitress, he was also great to have on certain rare occasions when the boss wasn’t in). I hope OP’s son at least will learn to see the person with their human wins and fails just trying to make the best of their situation and getting a chance for a different ending than the path he/she may have been on twenty years ago. -& who knows, this person may bring significant skills to the company if just given a chance.

  5. Gaia*

    OP 3, this person served their time and has paid their debt to society. Especially considering how unfairly our system treats people for relatively minor drug charges, your attitude is out of line.

    When we refuse to give formerly incarcerated people access to gainful employment, we increase their likelihood to re-offend. That benefits no one. People who made a mistake 20 years ago do not deserve to be punished forever.

    Reconsider your stance.

    1. blackcatlady*

      To OP3: Please land the helicopter well away from your son and don’t fly again. I don’t know how old your son is but you are REALLY hovering! To repeat what many people have said the new hire served his time and deserves a chance to make good.

    2. Sharikacat*

      This is precisely the response I wanted to add. While there may be certain fields I wouldn’t want to hire the formerly incarcerated for, based on the offense (not hiring a jewel thief to work in a jewelry store), the do need a way to earn a living so they can truly reintegrate back into society.

      I recall hearing about a bakery in New Jersey that readily employed people who were in prison so that they could have gainful employment and earn good work skills.

    3. Dahlia*

      Yeah, my mom has a… probably closer to 40 year old now pot charge. She had a few very, very large plants but because she was a white girl in a small town, I think they just charged her with possession, not dealing, and she never served any time. It only is a thing when she has to do a background check, and most people don’t make a fuss about a 30+ year old pot charge. Especially not now that it’s legal here (though not in those amounts lol).

    4. Curmudgeon in California*


      The level of pearl clutching over someone their *son* works with is… over the top, at best.

      The Judgey McJudge-a-lot routine makes them look like a helicopter parent on steroids, and likely bigoted as well.

      The war on (some) drugs has screwed up so many lives it isn’t even funny. They need to not be part of the problem, holding past crimes, probably victimless, against the former convict. (Even most dealers only deal to people who already indulge. Pushers are another thing, but most of those are actually the user’s peers, not the dealer.)

  6. Princesa Zelda*

    OP3: I have a genuine question. What about this situation is making you upset? I would love to know more about your thought process, because it isn’t the same as mine.

    My personal experience with managing and working with people with criminal backgrounds (food service setting) is that they compare basically similarly with those with non-criminal backgrounds. About the same percent are bad, same percent are mediocre, same percent are superstars. The main difference really was with the superstars: the folks with criminal backgrounds who were really good were also highly motivated to do well in their first job back outside. I hope this gives you some further context about your son’s employer’s decision, especially if he works in a similar industry.

    1. Batgirl*

      Yeah this. Perhaps OP thinks the objection is too obvious to spell out but I’m definitely clueless as to the feared outcome. That co-worker will cross over to different crimes and be violent? That her son will be corrupted by drugs? Something, something fear of the unknown/tainted by association?

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I think it’s important that it’s the son – what we fear for our children overlaps with what we fear for ourselves but isn’t identical. I suspect in this case that it’s a corrupting influence LW fears.

        1. Fikly*

          There is a slippery slope between “if my son is around someone who uses/offers drugs he cannot be expected to control himself” and “if my son sexually assaults someone, it’s because they were asking for it.”

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Yes, that’s when a parent describes their child with zero agency. Possibly self-fulfilling.

          2. Ari*

            There’s also a strong overlap between people who demonize “druggies” and “felons” and those who think sexual harassment is boys being boys.

            Not sure if LW is in that group. But if your default is to demonize and stigmatize another whom you know very little, than you really need to rethink your ethics and logic

      2. Lilo*

        Also, as an adult human being you’re going to run into drugs. In your dorm at college, at parties, at school, etc. I would bet a bucket of money this guy at work is neither the first nor the last person her son is going to meet who sold drugs. If she’s worried about her son using drugs, hand wringing about this one guy isn’t going to do anything.

        1. Artemesia*

          I can guarantee that if her coddled son went to a poncy private school that he knows drug dealers and has been offered drugs and probably has tried drugs. Also likely if he went to public high school but guaranteed if he went to a fancy private school where he was ‘protected from the riff raff.’

          1. Mia*

            Can confirm. I went to a private high school and drugs, often pretty hard ones, were *all over the place* there. Even kids who had zero interest in ever being high were offered something or other at least a few times.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Annnd this has been going on for decades. My husband went to a fancy private high school in the late 50s /early 60s. He said it was the one place that definitely had a lot of pot and other stuff going on. He said, “Eh, the rich kids had it.”

          3. Curmudgeon in California*

            Heck, in the work world you are more likely to see drugs, especially cocaine and meth, in the C suite and marketing in tech companies. I had an associate tell me about acting as an underage drug mule for a famous tech founder, delivering drugs in his backpack to the corporate campus.

            The more money there is to throw around, the more likely it will be spent on recreational substances.

  7. Gaia*

    OP 5 I had a similar situation. All of my bosses and close colleagues in a past job were in Europe and I’m in the US on the west coast. I would just offer a quick explanation whenever references were discussed. Each time, they ended up using email.

  8. Iain C*

    OP1 – I think you’ll be on a highway to nowhere asking to be paid to go to the party, but having a long gap between work and party. As you’re not happy about that, I presume you have a real commute, and can’t use that time for (eg) Christmas shopping?

    It is reasonable to ask if your hours that day could be shifted, or merge two half days into one long day to cover that dead time.

    1. MistOrMister*

      Adjusted hours for the day makes a lot of sense! I’ve done that myself. In an office job, it’s usually easily handled. It could he more difficult for certain roles or in retail, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to ask.

      1. anonintheuk*

        Recently one of the big bosses had a retirement do which I had to go to as it included clients who were going to be looked after by me. Rather than any of the numerous locations near our office, he had it at his golf club. I managed to get a lift there but had to pay for a taxi home. (£15). So I didn’t put anything in the collection for a retirement gift, as I had already paid.

    2. CoveredInBees*

      Yeah. I think either shifting your hours forward if possible or finding something else to do would be great. If it is available nearby-ish (and interests you): a cafe to read in, mani/pedi, massage, catching up on errands, maybe even see an afternoon movie.

      I truly get having no interest in work parties. However, I’ve found they can be a good way to build rapport with colleagues, particularly those I didn’t work with on a regular basis.

    3. Rexish*

      Before our holiday party we just pre-game at the office for a few hours and then go to the venue together. I don’t particularly like my colleagues but I got to know one of the newer employees during the pre-gameing and she seemed super fun and we’ve since had lunch together.

  9. Kimmybear*

    Op#3. Wow. The OP just needs to take a step back and stay out of it. Not your job, not your business. And honestly, unless your son works at an employer that drug tests or is really small, someone there possibly uses or sells already.

    1. Radio Girl*

      I am guessing the son is a juvenile, or at least college age. I cannot fathom No. 3’s concern if this is not the case. I say bravo to the employer for giving the person a chance!

      1. Kimmybear*

        I’ve had post-college colleagues with parents trying to negotiate their benefits and even sitting in the lobby during interviews so I wouldn’t assume the son is a minor.

      2. Aquawoman*

        My son is in college and the way some of his classmates’ parents act is shocking to me (via reports and facebook postings). There was a [College] Confessions facebook page that the kids would submit a posting on a google form and the moderators would post it anonymously, and one parent was sure that everyone who ever submitted such a post would be blackballed from employment for life or that the moderators were pedophiles (because apparently pedophiles target college students now). Others track their kids on their phones and require parental permission to leave campus.

        1. Quill*

          Plenty of reason to be wary of at the very least, a messy breakup when your 19 year old brings home a 29 year old S.O. but also not technically pedophilia. Gotta back off into the “I think your experience gap is going to be a problem” advice zone or let peers give the advice.

          Phone tracking? God that’s scary, I didn’t even leave college that long ago and that was not a *thing* anyone’s parents considered even if their parents required them to inform them whenever they were going to be off campus overnight.

          1. Mia*

            Phone tracking is a pretty common helicopter parent tactic. I started college in 2010 and my mother was tracking mine back then. It’s ridiculous for sure, but sadly not a new phenomenon.

            1. Quill*

              I’m just trying to square my experience of 2010 with “having a smartphone that your parents paid for in 2010 when you could still have a perfectly useable non-internet phone,” but my parents were pretty notorious for not being early adopters of any technology that cost more than $80. We bought VHS’s until they stopped selling them in stores too.

    2. Natalie*

      Plenty of people who use recreational drugs pass pre-employment drug tests, for that matter. I have fond memories of swapping strategies with my Best Buy coworkers over a joint.

    3. Batgirl*

      In my sister’s first job everyone was using cocaine on the Christmas night out as though it were de rigueur. She was able to navigate that and decline without freaking out because guess what? At 22 it wasn’t her first social contact with someone doing drugs.

      I can see people being somewhat upset about that kind of drug culture at work, but this? It’s ancient history.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        The tech industry, especially startup culture, is loaded with drugs. Weed and cocaine are common, with meth sometimes being involved too.

  10. E*

    In the vein of LW3: what’s a good way to handle knowing a new co-worker has a violent criminal history? A few years ago my old workplace hired a guy who had spent 18 years in jail for assaulting and robbing someone. He was the one who told everyone. It definitely wigged people out, myself included. It revealed biases I didn’t know I had because I’d worked with people who had been in prison before, but (as far as I know) not someone who had been in for a violent crime. He ended up not being a great employee for other reasons, but is there a way I could have handled it better? Intellectually I knew he’d done his time and most people don’t reoffend, but in practice it was hard for a lot of us to not be at least a little freaked out that he’d violently hurt another person.

    1. Director of Alpaca Exams*

      If the new coworker is the one who told everyone, I’d be very influenced by how they did it: “Hey, some of you might remember my name from the news, so I want to be clear that I’ve done my time and I’m a different person now, I look forward to earning your trust and respect” is very different from jokes that make light of the offense or anything that might be construed as a threat.

      I also assume that in any group of more than about 30 people, there’s probably a person who’s committed a violent act or assault of some kind. In other words, I’m already cautious of everyone, so being cautious of a particular person with a known history of violence wouldn’t stand out. I don’t know that I’d necessarily advise this as a way of life—it’s easy for it to tip over into paranoia if you’re not careful—but it’s served me pretty well.

    2. WS*

      Emotionally feeling weird about it is something that is a pretty normal human reaction, I think! But humans have emotional responses to all kinds of things, and it’s on us to behave in a professional way in the workplace. As long as you didn’t treat him differently to anyone else in the same job, or join in gossip about his conviction, I think you handled it perfectly well.

    3. Anon this time for reasons*

      I think “most people don’t reoffend” is a little optimistic, though it’s certainly not just down to the offender, but a complex issue of institutionalization and poor opportunities after leaving prison (not helped by attitudes like that of LW3!)

      That said, if you’ve been a victim of violent crime as I have it’s…extremely hard to know how you’d handle that. I imagine I would keep my head down and be polite—what else?—but be innerly freaking out, to be honest.

      1. Quill*

        Therapy can help with dialing back the brand new cause of hypervigilance from Defcon 1 to something better for you long term.

        Wish I’d known that years earlier.

      2. Criminal justice novice*

        FWIW, the statistics on reoffending are closely tied to age. Here’s what the US Sentencing Commission says: For offenders in Criminal History Category I, the rearrest rate ranged from 53.0 percent for offenders younger than age 30 at the time of release to 11.3 percent for offenders age 60 or older. For offenders in Criminal History Category VI, the rearrest rate ranged from 89.7 percent for offenders younger than age 30 at the time of release to 37.7 percent for offenders age 60 or older.

        So “most” probably is true, and very very likely for those above late 50s.

        I’m sorry you had that experience and wish you well.

    4. Akcipitrokulo*

      Same way as you’d handle any other co-worker who you didn’t like or had cheated on your bff or some other reason – professional and polite. In this case where there is no personal animosity may even be easier. But pleasant, professional, and watch out for risk of BEC tendencies.

      1. Fikly*

        There’s a difference between being offended by someone or knowing they’ve cheated on someone, and knowing a person has physically assaulted someone.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      When someone sketches you out you keep yourself at a safe distance. Be kind and courteous but by all means don’t hangout with them casually or share personal details with them.

      I’ve had a couple fights break out at work and it’s never the ones with records. Something to keep in mind!

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        This was my solution when I worked at a place that hired a man who had a series of sexual assault convictions. I made sure I was polite, distant, and didn’t tell him much about myself beyond my name. I am going to admit I had a really strong, negative reaction when I heard about his background and considered quitting because I was very much in his target demographic. Nothing ended up happening at work (outside work was a different matter). I’m glad my employer gave people second chances and this was the only one of the folks with a record who ever gave me pause.

        1. Observer*

          Yeah, this is quite different from what the OP describes. And I would question the judgement of the employer in this case.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            Oh yeah, this was more directed to E asking about how to handle working with someone with a record for violent crimes. It is absolutely doable, even in a situation like mine.Very different than the OP’s situation

    6. Quill*

      I think the line here is probably between the known history of violence (the instinct to watch your back here is adaptive!) being 100% a thing that you’re probably right to have feelings about, but not to act on without other reasons.

      Personally I’d be more wary of someone with a domestic violence charge than a robbery + assault (statistically more likely to have been a one-off event) but that’s probably a bias I have due to my demographics (being female & a previous stalking victim.)

      My advice is to behave professionally & realize that half the battle of unlearning biases is saying “I feel this way about this person but I consciously need to weigh whether or not that’s relevant to how I treat them.”

    7. TootsNYC*

      He ended up not being a great employee for other reasons,
      Are you sure there weren’t some reasons in common? Selfishness, perhaps?

      1. Reina*

        Yeah, I thought I was tolerant enough to accept an ex-felon coworker but it soon became apparent *why* he had such a criminal past. He’d been in and out of jail for a variety of reasons: domestic violence, vandalism, contempt of court, DUI, etc. It soon became clear he had really poor impulse control and consequences and warnings just didn’t seem to sink in. He was superficially charming but it became clear over time that he was extremely irresponsible and couldn’t be trusted with anything.

        Unfortunately the period of time I worked with him was definitely negative and has definitely affected the way I feel about working with ex-felons…

  11. Morning Reader*

    OP1 may want to ask a coworker in a similar, part time position, with more experience at the company, to verify that party attendance is mandatory. In my previous workplaces, a part timer whose scheduled hours weren’t near or overlapping the party time would not be expected to come. Especially if it were on a day you didn’t normally work. That said, Alison’s advice is good if you want to network with coworkers and possibly advance in this workplace, so take that into consideration.
    If I saw a part timer actually come back to work on her day off to attend a social event, I would think she was extraordinarily devoted to her workplace. I would also not blink an eye to hear, “evening party? Sorry, can’t make it.” Very possibly this is only a big deal in the eyes of the HR person you asked.
    During my full time job, i attended the holiday parties about every other year. In my post retirement part time position, I went if it was on a day I worked, otherwise not. I also hate schmoozing and was not looking to advance in my career, only to maintain reasonably good fellowship with coworkers.

    1. tape deck*

      Yes, I agree. If the party was right after work, I would definitely say suck it up and go. But if she gets off work at noon and the party is at 5, I wouldn’t expect her to just hang around or go home and come back, especially if she has a significant commute. That said, if it’s possible to flip and work that afternoon instead, then go to the party for an hour or so, that might be a good solution all around. Or find some other errands to be doing in the area. Otherwise, I would try to take the temperature, so to speak, with more than one person and decide how truly important this is.

      1. annony*

        Yeah, if the job is one that can be done either in the morning or afternoon, it might be worth seeing if it would be possible to switch that one day.

  12. Mainely Professional*

    LW4, I would take a different tack. Don’t deal with Paul. Post in one of the public channels (#general?) “I notice I’ve been removed from #whateverchannel. Not sure if that’s intentional but if so, but I think being in there would help with X part of this project. Could I be added back?”

    Then you’ve turned it over to the group, and not made it about your personal tension with your ex-friend.

    1. Lilo*

      I agree with this 100%. Treat it publicly like “Whoops! Something went wrong” instead of calling out Paul directly.

    2. Quill*

      “This is a glitch, could someone loop me back in?”

      Paul no longer gets to make decisions about whether or not you’re included. I love that.

    3. Senor Montoya*

      I would leave out “Not sure if that’s intentional but if so, but” because that’s borderline snarky/passive-aggressive.

      I’d say something like, Not sure how that happened! Or — Must be some weird tech glitch. Could someone help me get added back in?

    4. pamplemousse*

      I like this, but a less passive-aggressive version: “It looks like I’m not in #whateverchannel anymore, and it would really help with X — can someone add me back in?” You can do this over DM with other people you work with, in a general channel, to IT, whatever.

      Anyone can invite to a Slack channel (at least on my version of the software) so that circumvents Paul entirely.

  13. CC*

    INFO: I understand it’s a long story, but it seems like there’s a lot missing here.

    LW4, I’m trying to delicately ask, is there a particular reason why your former friend would be unable to be professional with you, specifically? Or is it more like a personality mismatch? What happened?

  14. Allonge*

    LW3 – even if this was your job and therefore a bit your business – what exactly do you expect former felons to do, after their prison sentence is over? The whole point of a specific punlishment is that once it is over, people are supposed to live as part of society once again. That means working in places with (gasp!) other humans.

    If you wish to avoid this happening to you, moving to Mars should be an option in a few decades. The first few years on the colony might be guarranteed felon-free, after that, well… Until then, this planet works thusly.

    And – unless your son is, like, 14 – please stop being so involved in his life. Actually, even if he is 14. It’s his job, not yours.

  15. Autistic Farm Girl*

    LW3, i know it’s not kind but you are the exact reason ex-inmates struggle so much once they’re back outside. People make mistakes, sometimes they even do it on purpose. But you know what? People change. You aren’t the person you were 20 years ago, and neither is the new employee at your son’s work. It’s not a magical solution and it doesn’t always work (for reasons a lot more complicated than “those people can never change”) but you should at least give that person a second chance. Because we all deserve one.

    Also keep in mind that the american prison/justice system is wildly biased and has one of the highest rate of incarceration in the world, so getting 20 years doesn’t mean that person was some sort of mafia boss, it could just be that the judge wanted to make an example of them, they were convicted at the wrong time (before upcoming elections for example) and were the “wrong” skin colour (i don’t think any skin colour is wrong btw, i just think courts are biased towards non-white people) and there you go, that person got 20 years in jail.

    Maybe their employment will work out, maybe it won’t, just like anyone else! But don’t judge someone just because of something they did when they were young.

    Also: not your circus, not your monkeys.

  16. pleaset aka cheap rolls*

    On #5, I’d strongly advise against putting exact time differences into something early in an application process. This can vary due to summer time/daylight saving time at either end, so what’s true now could be off in a few months.

    1. RB*

      Ha ha, good user name. I hope that Hawaiian Rolls letter winds up in one of the year-end “best-of” lists.

  17. Asenath*

    I used to call in sick way back in the past in another job. My routine now is simply to email an admin who keeps track of such stuff as leave. If she’s off, she emails those of us who work most closely with her. I can see that might not work in a much larger or more formal group, but it works for us. Some people here seem to distinguish between “asking” and “informing” – we simply “inform” someone we’re going to be off sick, or even if we’re taking a day or so off as vacation time. If we’re going to be off longer on vacation, well, I personally word it as “ask” but it’s more like “informing” because it isn’t requiring permission and isn’t turned down. That would go to the admin and also the two more senior people I work with most often.

    1. Sparrow*

      At my last job, we had to email our boss directly AND leave a voicemail on the central office line, since it was the best way to make sure one of the front desk staff found out about it in a timely fashion. They would typically cancel the meetings on your schedule (unless you told them you would do it yourself, as I typically did), put a note on your door saying you were out, etc.

      At my current job, I could just text my boss, but I tend to default to emailing her so I can CC my coworker. My coworker is the one I share space with and the only one who would notice if I was gone, frankly.

  18. Mannheim Steamroller*


    Go to the party, spend an hour or two, then leave.

    In the days after, start asking around. If anybody was docked pay for not attending (meaning that the party was part of work), then feel free to cite the law and bill for your time there.

    1. CheeryO*

      I wouldn’t do this. No one is getting their pay docked for not attending the party, and it would be very strange to ask around about it.

      1. Mannheim Steamroller*

        Some (badly managed) companies can and do make parties mandatory and punish those who fail to attend.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          That’s true but the punishment is not generally docking pay. I can hardly think of a circumstance where that would make any sense. The punishment usually comes in the treatment at work: not considered for opportunities, generally treated badly, if it were purportedly mandatory then being written up, that sort of thing. If it’s not work time, then one wouldn’t expect to be paid for it, so there’s nothing to dock by not being there. If you’re paid less for not being there it implies you would’ve being paid for being there – which is what OP wants, but they can’t not pay for actual hours worked. If you’ve experienced docking pay from actual work due to not attending a company party, in the US that’s almost definitely illegal.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Just because nobody is docked for the time doesn’t mean they’re going to pay you for the time you attended. You’ll be told it’s not paid time and payroll won’t process the hours.

      That’s not how payroll law works in most areas. You’ll look out of touch and be terminated for randomly “billing” hours for a company party.

      1. Artemesia*

        And if you want to continue working there don’t be the pill who asks about being paid for attending a Christmas party or if the pay is docked for not attending. Don’t want to go then have a ‘conflict’; want to network, go for a couple of hours at least. But don’t draw negative attention to yourself by whining about ‘do I have to go’ or asking if you will be paid. Asking to shift part time hours to make it more convenient is a great idea if it seems feasible.

  19. Rachel*

    Hi Alison,

    Thank you for your response to #3. There is too much stigma for people who have been imprisoned in the US (which is over-crowded and unfair to poor and non-white people). I hope that OP seriously considers your response and reflects on it. I was lucky enough to work with a formerly incarcerated person while I was in high school, and that helped me to reduce my own biases early in life.

    1. HR Stoolie*

      I second the thanks to Alison.
      Our company partnered with a State Dept of Corrections and instituted a working program that has expanded and been adopted by a number of other companies. They’ve been the best vetted new hires we’ve had.
      It’s been highly successful and I’m researching involving other State DOC as well.

  20. Cheryl*

    When I’m taking days off, whether a sick day or vacation day, I never tell anyone why I’m taking off. It’s not a good idea because it conveys that you think you have to explain why you’re taking what is your time. It might come up later but I try not to be the initiator.

    It may seem innocuous but I’m very much against it. The first time you take off for a job interview, for example, and you’ve persistently told your manager why you were taking off, you’re then forced to make up an excuse. Or you say nothing, or give a vague answer (“I had to take care of stuff”) and suddenly everyone becomes suspicious because you’re breaking the pattern you established voluntarily.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      That doesn’t work if you have separate vacation and sick buckets. If you have to book vacation in advance but sick is for, well, being sick, you do have to call in sick. You shouldn’t have to give details, but you can’t just say you’re taking care of stuff in that situation.

      1. Hope*

        My boss has us just say “I need to use some sick leave” or “I’m taking vacation leave”, without requiring any further info. Sometimes people do just take a day off for vacation. As long as we have the leave available, our boss approves it. I’m really, really thankful for the example they set with this, and I know I’m lucky to have a boss that sees sick leave this way (and a job that doesn’t require finding coverage).

    2. CL Cox*

      While you do not need to disclose private details, most people have to provide at least a general reason, primarily having to do with what kind of leave you’re wanting to use to get paid. Many places require vacation time to be pre-approved, whereas personal or sick days do not need to be run by a supervisor first. But you only get a certain number of days of each type, and once you run out of them, you could be looking at taking unpaid time, some sort of attendance management meeting, or even a PIP. And if you are part of a union, the rules can be pretty strict (for instance, the teacher contract at my school states that teachers can take either personal or sick leave, but personal leave needs to be pre-approved with at least three business days’ notice. Teachers and 10-month employees don’t get paid vacation time.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      Vague answers are fine for scheduled time off, but this question is about waking up in the morning and suddenly realizing you won’t be able to make it to work today. You shouldn’t go into details but you need to tell your boss at least some version of “I’m not feeling well.”

  21. HR Jedi*

    #3, if your son goes to his boss and/or HR to say he will not work with someone who has a history of drug use, it is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (discrimination based on the past history or perception of drug use. They are just as likely to fire your son, justifiably, for discriminatory behavior.
    I agree with Alison and the other commenters who have noted that the employers willingness to help this person move past the criminal conviction as a good thing.

    1. Important Moi*

      I wish you would have posted further up. The son could end up getting fired.

      This is a good comment that may get overlooked.

      I would say more, but I see no reason to beat a dead horse.

    2. Observer*

      You are almost certainly not correct about the legal issues.

      Having said that, I would be willing to bet that if he went to HR, it would NOT go well for him – the company does not need to have to refer to the ADA to decide that they don’t like his attitude. “You’re a jerk” (which is what he’d come off as, if he sounds like this letter) is a perfectly good reason to sideline or even fire someone. And if they see him as a bigoted jerk, which is also highly likely, then they certainly can do as they see fit.

    3. Not Me*

      No, this is not true.

      The ADA does not cover convictions as a protected class. If the son complains about his co-worker being a former felon it has zero to do with the ADA. Also, if the son complained to their boss or HR about the former drug use it still is not a violation of the ADA. One comment made to management is not discrimination or harassment. The employer would need to take adverse action against the co-worker due to a disability in order for there to be an ADA issue with the scenario in letter 3, and that seems to be the exact opposite of what’s happened here (the employer hired them).

      1. Daisy-dog*

        Yep, OP’s son is not in a position to discriminate. He can complain, but I doubt anything he says would make a difference to HR or senior leadership. If you don’t want to work with him, then you head out on your merry way and we’ll hire someone else that might be able to qualify for WOTC.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          False. You don’t have to be in a specific position to put the business at a risk of discrimination claims. If you allow people even who have no hire/fire power to just walk around spouting off discrimination/harassment towards your employees, you are in the fire for allowing that.

          No, a single complaint isn’t enough that’s for sure but the company does need to shut it down and advise that he’s to treat this employee with the same respect and dignity that he’s expected to treat everyone else with. Then if he starts continuing to complain or worse, starts jawing around the place about “that druggie over there, he’s bad news” or whatever, then it starts getting into harassment territory.

    4. TootsNYC*

      though, what about saying “a history of criminal behavior” or “a history of selling drugs.” There’s a subtle difference.

      1. TootsNYC*

        but–if he says that, this company in particular (but most companies, truly) is likely to say, “Oh, well then, are you resigning?”

        They hired him, and if they hired him because of his recent release from prison, then this is a stated value of theirs, and they are not going to betray it for someone, even if they are currently employed.

        If there were some personal threat to an existing employee (this guy beat you up in an alley once), then it might make a difference, especially if the existing employee was valued. But that’s not this.

  22. Asking For A "Friend"*

    Re #1 Holiday party – question for the group: if management says in exact words that the party is mandatory, that attendance is required, workers are non-exempt, and going to the party requires at minimum an 8 hour round trip in company provided transportation, is it out of line to expect to be paid for that time?

    1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

      I’d say if attendance is required and workers are non-exempt, that seems straightforward enough: they need to be paid.

    2. WellRed*

      Your “friends” party sounds like a question in itself for Alison. I agree, this needs to be paid time.

    3. CL Cox*

      It should be treated the same as an all-day conference, seminar or retreat – it’s paid time. And, if it that time makes them go over 40 hours for the week, it’s paid as overtime.

      1. ThatGirl*

        This is what I would like to know! I’ve never been to an off-site party that was more than 10 minutes or so from the office.

      2. Dasein9*

        My workplace once put us on a bus and drove us 8 hours away for a party. It was a location that looked central on the map, but where we didn’t even have an office.

        (They also provided the hotel rooms, but we were supposed to share, so I just booked my own.)

    4. The Original K.*

      I remember this from last week’s open work thread. It sounds horrible; you have my sympathies. And I would ask to be paid in this situation.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Being required to attend should make it paid.

      But lots of places will try to avoid it. So you’ll still need to be ready to push back when they shrug and say “we’ve never paid time before, we don’t know what you’re talking about…”

      You can also call your state labor department and run it by them.

    6. Quill*


      Honestly it should not be out of line for that but… a company that thinks a mandatory party 4 hours away is a good idea will try to tell you it is.

  23. Asenath*

    OP 3 – A surprising number of people have had convictions for something in the past, and you can’t pick out who they are by looking at them. There are probably more ex-cons in your life than you are aware of – for obvious reasons, many of them don’t announce their legal history to everyone they meet. Your son should treat his new co-worker as professionally as he’d treat any new co-worker. You can tell yourself (and your son, if he is nervous) that since it’s unlikely the employer would have hired someone who appeared likely to re-offend, the new co-worker is highly unlikely to pose any danger to your son.

  24. Retail not Retail*

    Op 3 would flip her lid if she found out about rehab work or work release where “druggies” and felons work alongside other employees.

    I have my issues with the rehab work program – they’re classified as “volunteers” and don’t earn any money and are exempt from labor laws (6 day weeks!). They also do the grunt work on a crew that’s mostly physical labor any way. (In the summer they mow, we pull weeds. In the fall, we all rake. Winter, we all mulch.)

    But the guys are the same as any coworkers when it comes to work ethic etc

  25. Oryx*

    OP #3, as some of the people in the comments here know, I used to work as a prison librarian (shameless self plug: I had a memoir come out over the summer titled READING BEHIND BARS. Alison blurbed it!) Our prison had a very strong substance abuse program, so many, many of the men I worked with were ‘druggies,’ as you so eloquently put it.

    The thing is, assuming you are in the United States, our country as a very, very f*ed up criminal justice system. Especially when it comes to drugs, and this is not helped by the media which continues to perpetuate various beliefs regarding what a typical drug user looks like.

    For your own interest, here are some stats for you (via and NAACP):

    1) In the US, we lock up more people than any other nation in the world. 700 per 100,000 residents
    2) While the US accounts for 5% of the total global population, we account for 25% of all incarcerated individuals in the entire world
    3) African Americans are six times more likely to be imprisoned for drugs even though usage rates among African Americans and white is *exactly the same*
    4) In 2005, African Americans constituted more than 80 percent of those sentenced to federal prison for crack cocaine offenses, even though two-thirds of crack cocaine users are white or Hispanic.
    5) African Americans make up 12.5% of all drug users, but account for 33% of those individuals incarcerated on drug offenses

    The United States unfairly and unjustly punishes certain demographics for drug use. Specifically non-white and poor people. I don’t know if your son’s co-worker falls into either of those, but it stands to reason that he probably does (see above, about how infrequently whites get arrested for drugs). This all goes back to the so-called War on Drugs, which was really a war on non-white and poor people. Take crack v. cocaine, for instance. On a molecular level, they are basically the same drug, the difference is in how you ingest it, but crack is severly punished at alarmingly different rates. For a long time it was 100:1, meaning it would only take 5 grams of crack for a person to get the mandatory minimum but 500 grams of cocaine to get the same sentence. Want to take a wild guess on the demographic usage of crack v. cocaine? And while the sentencing descrpency has been lowered and is no longer 100:1, it still exists.

    Your son’s coworker did his time. That’s how prison works: you do your time and then you get out and are, in theory, allowed to get back to your life, including finding a job that will hopefully mean you won’t reoffend. Formally incarcerated individuals have a near impossible time finding meaningful work because of attitudes like yours.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Do you know if there is going to be an audio version of your book?

      Thank you for the work you did and for your statistic. I have a friend who spent some time in prison (not for drugs) and has turned his life around and I would be livid if someone treated him the way OP#3 is talking about their son’s coworker.

      1. Oryx*

        My publisher usually doesn’t do audiobooks, so I don’t think so (which I would love to do. I’m a big audiobook user myself and know there are many reasons people prefer those over ebook or physical)

        1. AnotherKate*

          You may already know this, so disregard if so! But your agent may be able to sell the audiobook rights separately, even if technically the publisher bought them up in the initial deal–if they aren’t planning to “use” them, sometimes a good agent can convince them to either publish the audiobook themselves or release the rights so you can sell them to another publisher.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Oh thank God, an adult is here with the statistics. Thank you for your work and your knowledge!!

    3. MissPieish*

      They are excellent statistics, but I wonder if they will matter to him/her. OP 3# is upset that son is going to be working *near* someone who sold drugs 20 years ago. There’s no indication if they care what demographic the person is (which we don’t know – they could be white, making the whole thing irrelevant) or if they were unfairly punished for selling those drugs. Do you happen to know any stats on recidivism for people who are able to get jobs after being released?

      1. Oryx*

        There aren’t as many studies as one would hope and I don’t have any specific stats, but yes, employment is frequently highlighted as an indicator in reducing recidivism, going back as far as 1999.

        More recently, the Manhattan Institute released in report in 2015 that showed a reduction in recidivism for employed nonviolent offenders, which many if not most drug charges are.

        1. Yorick*

          Studies tend to show recidivism is lower when people are able to find jobs after release. Especially jobs they find meaningful, because what matters isn’t so much the money, but more the formation of pro-social identity.

          Employment is considered one of the “central eight” criminogenic needs.

    4. Quill*

      Thank you for doing the stats! I wondered if there were contributing factors of why OP3 decided to research their child’s new coworker’s criminal history but didn’t want to go too far out on that limb without actual numbers.

      1. Oryx*

        If there is one thing I’ve learned from my book talks it’s that some people still like to hold on to their narrow view of drug users and don’t like being told any differently. Thankfully we are living in a time when more and more people are having conversations about mass incarceration and prison reform and legalization of drugs, so it’s not everyone but there are definitely pockets.

    5. Artemesia*

      And it is not just ‘sort of a war on non-white people’; the war on drugs was designed to sideline Democratic voters, specifically minorities. Lee Atwater wrote extensively about how this was the PURPOSE of the political ‘war on drugs’ to disadvantage minorities. And it worked great to do so. Not many white people in jail for 20 years for drug dealing.

  26. Gary*

    LW3: Why are you concerned about whom your son’s employer hires? If it bothers your son, *he* can complain to his employer. Mom, it’s time to let go of your son and let him live his life as an adult. You’re not doing him any favors by sticking your nose in a situation that has nothing to do with you.

    1. Observer*

      How do you know it’s not Dad?

      I just find it so ironic that a response to a letter that’s based on stereotypes is just as stereotypical.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Those two things are not particularly comparable.

        People default to assuming female here a lot and it’s not that ridiculous I think to guess at the gender of an anonymous post online based on the what they write and the way that they write it. It is possible this is the father writing in but the wording of the letter reads to me like it is honestly just more likely to be the mother. And if we have guessed wrong… that doesn’t actually harm anything or change the advice, as opposed to the harm done by trying to deny someone a job because they were arrested 20 years ago under a drug charge (that may not even accurately reflect what they did).

        1. Observer*

          This is more than guessing at the gender of the OP. Or even just using “she” rather than “them”. It is SPECIFICALLY addressing the OP as “Mom” and though a Dad would never do this.

          That’s it’s “not as bad” as the stereotyping in the letter is a pretty low bar and a seriously pathetic excuse. Coming in this commentariate, where so much discussion comes up about the damage that sexist language can cause, is truly dispiriting. Why is it ok to feed stereotypes?

          And let’s be clear, these stereotypes ARE harmful. The over-involved Mom causes plenty of problems for many. And the “hysterical mother” who “over reacts” to things is even worse.

          You are correct that the advice to the OP SHOULD be the same regardless. Note that Alison was able to say much the same without ever referencing gender. If @Gary would have given the same advice regardless of which parent it was, why did he have to *add* the word Mom? What did it add?

          1. Avasarala*

            I don’t think anyone is arguing that a Dad would never do this. And the advice is the same regardless. What does combing the comments for sexism do to help OP?

            1. Observer*

              I’m not “combing the comments” – this just jumps out in this context.

              And, while it doesn’t help the OP, other people are also reading this.

  27. Jedi Squirrel*

    LW3 — Unless your son is under the age of 18, he is an adult and should handle this on his own, if it even bothers him.

    Step out of the helicopter.

  28. Sharon*

    I’m not a party person either and I typically would never attend any company holiday parties unless it was held during the work day and unavoidable. At my last job, it was kind of an unspoken rule that people above a certain level or hoping to be seen as “career track” wouldn’t attend an “after hours” holiday party. The idea was that if you had the time to attend a holiday party, you obviously didn’t have enough work to do and were expendable.

      1. Sharon*

        Yeah, they also did things like offer on-site yoga classes during the day and keep track of who attended so they would know who to lay off if needed…. because if you had time to do yoga, you weren’t busy enough

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          That’s maniacal behavior and not at all normal. I’m glad it was your last job and hope you shed the fears that kind of setting can ingrain in people.

          Most companies require senior staff to attend more so than lower levels. It’s where you get recognized and helps advancement not hinder it.

    1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

      For an *after-hours* party, if they attended they didn’t have enough work to do? So, if they had enough work to do they… would be doing overtime to do it instead?

      I think my brain has scrambled trying to parse that logic.

      1. Sharon*

        I’ve never had 9-5 type jobs. Always salaried, where the expectation was that 40 hours was “part time” and the norm was to work 60-80 hours. That’s finance for you!

  29. Justin*

    You know, I’ve had relatives in and out of prison, and it’s been particularly hard for them to stay out, despite our trying to help them, because people hear they’ve been in prison and they’re written off. It would make sense to worry about a person with a specific past doing a specific job (e.g. child abuse, children) but there are already specific laws against that. Unless this job is, I dunno, working with the chemicals you can use to make meth or something, it doesn’t matter, and I beg of you not to judge this person for something they once did (or, to be clear, something they were once convicted of, since you absolutely know many drug users whether or not you think you do).

    1. JustaTech*

      Exactly, thank you.

      The only, only way that I could see the parent having a reasonable concern is if the new co-worker were a famous drug kingpin, and the parent was concerned about violence from former rivals.

      But I think it’s surpassingly unlikely that the son’s new coworker is Pablo Escobar. More likely the new coworker is someone who was unlucky when the DA was running for re-election.

    2. Decima Dewey*

      People are weird about drugs.

      My library system offers Narcam training so we can save someone who has an overdose in our branch. And after we save their lives, they get a 6 month expulsion from the system, for using drugs in the branch.

      “Don’t thank us! Your expulsion letter will be in the mail.”

      1. Observer*

        I’m not sure why this is so weird.

        Should your branch NOT do the Narcann training? Or should the system not be allowed to suspend them because you saved their life?

        1. Decima Dewey*

          I’ve had the Narcam training and I’d rather administer Narcam to a patron who OD’d than have to fill out an Incident Report and go to counseling because the patron died in our branch. Some people on staff think that having Narcam on hand is somehow encouraging drug use.

          It’s the disconnect between saving someone’s life and kicking them out for six months that strikes me as odd.

          1. Observer*

            I agree that doing the Narcan training is a good thing.

            What I don’t understand is why you think that the two things are contradictory.

            1. Avasarala*

              One action is helpful to victims of addiction. One is punitive. Does the library want to help people or hurt them?

              1. Observer*

                What about both? They could want to punish people, but not KILL them or even just stand by while someone dies.

                Also, while the second action is punitive, that may not the be intention, but a side effect. They could easily be thinking that they need to keep direct drug use out of the library, but they don’t have any way to know what people are doing. But you can hope that 6 months is (theoretically) long enough that it’s possible that someone has gotten their habit sufficiently under control to not do drugs at the library.

  30. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Oh no, not a felon!!! Guess what, your son will be fired if he ever uses this kind of nonsense as a reason not to work with someone. Also real talk, if people don’t have access to jobs and a way to support themselves they are going to turn to criminal acts to live.

    I’ve worked with and have hired people with criminal records for years now. They are throw aways because of their past crimes that they’ve been punished for.

    1. TootsNYC*

      especially drug dealing–that’s a crime with an income.
      We need to make sure guys like him have a LEGAL income so they have no motivation.

      Though–20 years ago? He won’t have the connections anymore. He can GET them, if it turns out he absolutely needs to.

      Let’s get him a job so he doesn’t need to

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Ah 20 years is a long time indeed but the connections may still be there, you’d be surprised by the old timers out there. Or the “I knew your dad.” kind of cards to play.
        BUT ALAS, he is rehabilitating himself and stop trying to mess that up!

  31. Confused*

    “I hate parties and social gatherings and making small talk with people, and would prefer to keep professional relationships collegial but not friendly, so I’m definitely biased and will not be great at finding the appropriate boundary.”

    This should on AAM bingo for how often it gets said

    1. ...*

      Lol along with “I have other plans-Watching Netflix!”
      I love Netflix though so no judgement, just gets said a lot!

    2. Mongoose*

      No joke. People act like it is absolutely outrageous that free food and drinks would excite anyone.

      When we used to have after hours holiday parties, the problem was never getting people to attend, it was getting people to leave! And I cannot imagine what a manager or owner would have thought if someone demanded to be paid to attend their very expensive “thank you” party. Probably would’ve been fired.

      What surprised me most about this letter is how much the OP claims to love the company, her job and the culture. Just pop in and leave if you dont want to stay.. or dont go at all! Asking to be paid will make you look like a fool.

      1. JM60*

        That manager would’ve violated labor laws for that hypothetical firing if attending the party was mandatory. Whether it’s intended as a “thank you” or not (and mandating that someone attend an event is a terrible thank you), whether or not it’s fun is irrelevant to whether or not it should be paid. If attendance is required, it should be paid.

    3. She's One Crazy Diamond*

      I’ve truly enjoyed certain after hours parties with colleagues – the ones where we organized them ourselves and didn’t include managers. I can absolutely relax and have fun with someone on my level that I have things in common with, but will never have fun when a manager is present even if they’re a fantastic boss because I will be on the whole time.

  32. Hiring Mgr*

    On #5, as AAM said it’s unlikely your references will be called this early in the process, and also I think these days most people will email the references anyway to set up a time to talk.. at least that’s how I’ve seen it play out.

  33. KM*

    I once wrote a poem about those holiday parties.

    I’d say that mandatory holiday parties are less akin to giving someone chocolate and more akin to standing over someone and forcing them to eat the chocolate whether or not they want to. What you’re communicating is that you’re more interested in controlling them than you are in giving them a gift they like. It’s super toxic and it bums me out that we treat it as being normal.

  34. RaptorFan*

    I read letter #3 as “My son’s employer hired a falcon” and I thought, “Sweet! I’d love to work with a falcon!”

      1. yala*

        I guess technically they have them, since businesses do hire falconers from time to time, usually as pest control.

        I guess at Ren Fests and the like, the actual falcon would be involved in the interview as well. (Or the vulture or buzzard or what-have-you. The Texas RenFest has Igor (eye-gore) the vulture, and he is adorable)

    1. Koala dreams*

      Honestly, I think I would be more scared of the falcon… Those beaks don’t look very friendly.

  35. MissPieish*

    “And I can pretty much guarantee you that you yourself have interacted with people who sell drugs and you just didn’t realize it.”

    *clutches pearls* How could you suggest such a thing?!?! I’m sure OP3 lives in a decent neighborhood, and peers out her window at everyone to ensure “those people” never visit.

    On a serious note, please calm down OP3. I’m not sure what you think is going to happen, but even if this guy starts up selling drugs again (which is less likely since someone was actually willing to hire him after he served his time, but certainly a possibility), that doesn’t mean something bad is going to happen to your son. “Druggie” isn’t a contagious disease. As Alison said, people around you sell and use drugs and you would never know. Heck, people around you are massively drunk/high and you would never know.

    1. Senor Montoya*

      They’re out on the roads, driving. If I had to worry about someone else’s drug use harming me, that’s what I’d worry about.

      I work in higher ed. I am sure I encounter people every day who are doing and/or dealing drugs. And not just students.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Seriously. The legalization of recreational pot here in California probably put a crimp in lots of people’s “side gigs” here at the university I work for.

  36. agnes*

    #1 Its the “expected to attend” piece that I am not understanding. That is a mixed message. I’d ask HR to clarify.

    That said, most people recognize that holiday parties are an opportunity to get some face time with executives and to hang out with the people you like from work. I generally suggest that people go for a short time–and DON”T GET SLOPPY DRUNK. I understand your concern about hanging out for a party that starts 4 hours after you leave work.

  37. Bunny Girl*

    Honestly #1 is a stick in my craw at my current job. Our work/holiday parties are always over lunch or after work, and we are expected to attend. But as part of the admin staff, I’m expected to help set up and clean up, so it’s not really social for me, I’m working. Plus honestly I just don’t really care for a majority of my coworkers, so having to be friendly with them for free is not my favorite. This isn’t a job I am going to make a career with, so I just put up with looking unsocial. I go to one after work event a year that I get comp time for, and ignore the other ones. Our holiday party is over the lunch hour, and I go help set up for a bit, then take my lunch at my normal time (I have to go let my dog out) and then I come back and help clean up after, when I’m being paid.

    I think requiring hourly people to be at these parties sucks. I know some people enjoy them, but a lot of people don’t and will still look at them as work.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I wish I’d read your comment before inserting my own. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re *working* the event, you’re *working*. That shouldn’t be unpaid time. I like your way of setting up , cleaning up, but taking your own event without working it.

      1. Bunny Girl*

        Our boss doesn’t see it that way unfortunately, which is why I handle it like I do. I’ll attend and help when I’m on the clock, but I am not going to be at a work event for free. For the after hours one, I use my dog and school as an excuse.

    2. Mediamaven*

      I hope your colleagues don’t realize you don’t care for them – I’m sure that would be very uncomfortable and unpleasant for everyone. Please try to keep that underwraps.

          1. Blueberry*

            There are so many different ways this is an unhelpful comment.

            @Bunny Girl, I’ve been there, and you have all my sympathy.

  38. Seeking Second Childhood*

    Are you part of the team running the event? If you will be *actively* working the event then you are staff. That would be things like checking people in at the door, coordinating the flow of activities, managing the caterer & any vendors, to an extent where you don’t get to eat or socialize much. If you are there purely as a guest, your “pay” is probably in finger food and party punch.
    That said, there are a few companies with an existing tradition of paying hourly people extra for attendance — ask any hourly co-workers how they have handled these in the past. If you are the *ONLY* hourly co-worker, you could *ASK* your manager *IF* your hourly predecessor filed a time card for the event “because some companies do that for non-salaried staff.”
    But I think you’ll have better luck asking to be moved to a work-shift adjacent to the party…and bring a companion if that’s allowed.

  39. The Original K.*

    I’ve done some hourly contract work over the years and have run into the holiday or other “fun” work event issue a few times. In one instance there was an employee appreciation all-day event that they said I was welcome to attend; I did ask if I would be paid (but I framed it as “This would not be paid for me, correct?”) and they said I would not, and I did not go, and that was fine. It was very soon into my time there so I would have felt strange going. In another instance, the holiday party was toward the end of the day (the idea was that you’d go home straight from the party) so I used 4-5 PM as my lunch hour and then left so the hours evened out. In another, the event was a holiday lunch off-site, after which everyone was dismissed. I did have to lose half a day’s pay.

    I would be much more annoyed by the 4-hour lag time than by the idea that I wouldn’t be paid for the holiday party, and I agree with those who suggest shifting the hours around so that they butt up against the party start time. When I worked somewhere that had shift work in addition to “standard business hours” and there was an event on-site, the shift workers either didn’t go or had their own events during their shifts. No one expected folks who worked third shift to show up at the employee appreciation lunch at noon.

  40. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    At my first job in the US, at one point, we hired someone who’d just gotten out of prison. The reaction was bad. There was a mass exodus. But 1) the guy was hired as the new corporate IT director, with everyone in our office being under him and our own IT director reporting to him 2) he was 35 and had been away for 18 years, his only qualification being that he’d taken computer classes in prison 3) he had in fact gotten a life sentence, but was released early for good behavior. He was in prison for murder. A group of three or four people did it, but this guy was the ringleader. I once posted the details on here and was asked not to post anything like that again without a TW. That’s how bad it was. He was from a rich and connected family in Philly, and his lawyer dad had pulled some strings and gotten him a nice and easy job. (He was terrible at it, and was bounced from one department to another, being terrible at everything he did, but it took the company ten years to finally get rid of him.)

    *This* is where I draw the line. *This* would be unacceptable to me. Someone who’d gotten caught in the wheels of the war on drugs machine and had to serve a ridiculously long sentence for a victimless crime, for what probably comes up to half of his life? Nowhere close to unacceptable. Good on OP’s son’s employer for hiring him.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I draw the line at anyone without qualifications getting slotted into management like that. The fact he’s a murderer is like extra icing on that awful decision to just toss your entire business into a hole for some dude with connections. Yuck!

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        to just toss your entire business into a hole for some dude with connections

        I left that place shortly after it happened, but a couple of years later, there were only four people left in the office. (Was something like 30 or 40 when they hired me.) Then the corporate laid off the 4 people and shut the office down. No idea what happened to the corporate. It was a pretty small company, so they might not have survived this guy, either.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          YESSSSSSSSSSS HE BURNED THE ENTIRE BUSINESS DOWN EVEN. [Excuse me excitedness…I just love when really really really really awful decisions like this end in fantastic destruction.]


          And since everyone was fleeing for the mountains left and right, I assume all good people involved found shelter and safety. The last standing 4, well they had their chances.

    2. Mongoose*

      While I see your point, and agree that there isn’t a reason to wholesale avoid felons, I don’t think it is fair to call drug dealing a “victimless crime” or assume drug dealers are all innocent because “war on drugs”

      Two of my employees have lost children in the last year to drugs laced with fentanyl. It is an absolute epidemic.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        The problem with the “war on drugs” is that by making them illegal and harder to get, you get them laced with nonsense like this. They’ve been laced FOREVER but things are now worse thanks to Big Pharma creating an dependency on drugs that are more cheaply duplicated in a narcotics lab.

        It’s still the “war on drugs” that’s to blame in the end. People have been OD’ing forever due to attention being focused on the wrong areas.

        The people going to jail aren’t usually the ones lacing drugs. It’s much higher up than that.

        Nothing is victimless, including those who are lured into the drug selling life. Often as a child. Who knows no better. Which is very much how things work. So again, everyone is a victim here. The system, capitalism, poverty.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          And all that aside, I hate drugs. I’ve had people dying on me since I was a child thanks to the havoc they create on communities and families alike. I still don’t want to throw away the people who have been taught to depend on selling them to survive after they’ve been punished by the system. It’s misplaced anger to hate those who are often had no fighting chance in this world due to where in the world they were born to and their parents situations.

          1. Mongoose*

            I certainly don’t think that people that have been incarcerated should be shunned by society forever, or unemployable. But I am not ready to say that someone selling heroin should be left free, with the ability to continue to do so.

        2. yala*

          I’m reminded of the whole Prohibition thing. Some of the effects of the illegally brewed “coffin varnish” were truly horrific.

      2. Blueberry*

        It is an absolute epidemic. But in the case of this epidemic our society has chosen to put the infectees in prison, with the attending stigma and damage, rather than treating them, and as The Man, Becky Lynch describes, it is this exact course of action which feeds back into making the epidemic worse rather than helping to alleviate it.

        I am sorry for your coworkers’ terrible losses. But I am absolutely unconvinced that incarcerating people is what will prevent more families from losing their children.

        1. Mongoose*

          The county I live in (in a state where cannabis is still illegal) will not prosecute anyone with less than 33 ounces of weed. That is A LOT and I agree with that stance. However, if anyone is selling heroin or fentanyl or meth… they need to be temporarily removed from society.

          I know there are downsides to the war on drugs, huge ones. but that does not make selling hard drugs a victim-less crime. Overdoses kill ~twice as many people as guns in the US.

  41. anon for this...*

    Here’s another Q related to LW3: my company recently hired someone who was convicted of white-collar crime. I’d be less sketched out if they hired someone like in letter 3, because I don’t think drug distribution will be an issue in my workplace — but the crime my new co-worker was convicted of will be directly relevant to our position (think finance) and the new coworker described hirself as honest and full of integrity on hir resume, while describing their achievements during the period of the crime in glowing terms. Now, it’s hard because you’re supposed to list numerical achievements on your resume, right, but at the same time I personally would feel uncomfortable saying “Increased profits by 25%” if it was documented that I did so by cheating my supplier out of $20 million, or price-fixing, or whatever. And it is documented: I read the press release by the government entity that investigated, and vaguely remember the case when it happened because it did hit the NYTimes and Bloomberg News and etc.

    If this new coworker wouldn’t be working on projects I need to sign my name to, I might have a lesser level of discomfort. Anyhow, I’ll be reading the answers here with interest…

    1. Observer*

      Wow. That’s a real dilemma. Is there anyone at your company you could talk to about this? Not in a “Stomp into the office and demand he be fire!” kind of way. But in a fact finding way – why did they think that their other accomplishments outweighed the fraud? How is the company expecting to avoid further problems? What are their expectations for you?

      Also, getting an unbiased set of eyes on this could be useful. What I mean is perhaps you could talk to an auditor or forensic accountant or someone like that, explain the problem and ask what if anything you can do to prevent problems, find them if they occur and / or cover yourself if something slips through.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Ooh, yeah, if the crime committed is directly connected to the job a person was hired to do, that is a whole different situation. I honestly would love if you wrote this to Alison as a separate letter.

      Does your company run background checks? If so, I’d ask your manager and/or HR about it and confirm what sort of checks & balances are in place to ensure that this doesn’t happen.

    3. Artemesia*

      The former Governor now Senator of Florida got elected in spite of cheating Medicare out of billions. It’s okay if you are . . . well connected? . . . whatever?

  42. Amethystmoon*

    #1, I hate unwritten rules. It seems like during this time of year, introverts wind up having to do a lot of obligatory things, both with work and family. I wish companies would take into account that not everyone is a people person, but I don’t think that is going to happen anytime soon. They probably won’t fire anyone for not going to the holiday party, but a promotion might be denied because of it (team-player reasons).

    1. ...*

      Its so interesting for me to read here because working in sales (of the luxury variety) you pretty much have to be an extrovert or comfortable with constant interaction for 40+ hours a week, so no one ever really wants to not attend events and people seem to genuinely (seem to, I don’t have proof) look forward to them. They are held after hours but always involve free food + drink (and yes we take allergies/non drinkers into account). But I think in other fields it would be more varied of course. Also I work with generally quite nice people so I don’t mind being around them!

  43. SleighBellsRing*

    For #2, I did actually used to call every time, but one night when I had been up coughing until 4am and decided then and there I wasn’t coming in I called my boss, only for her to actually pick up and be very annoyed at me calling (I was expecting voicemail). Apparently we’re a texting office for that kind of thing (although in addition to texting my boss/small department, I do also have to leave a message with HR’s sick line).

  44. Software Engineer*

    For #1, it’s a bit much to ask to be paid to attend the company party. BUT, depending on what you’re doing and how important coverage is, you might ask if you can shift your schedule later that day so the party is right after work and you don’t have to commute home etc. that’s pretty reasonable, to say hey the party is at 5 but normally I’m here 9-1 on this day can I just rearrange my hours so I don’t have to go home and come back? That’s a reasonable request

  45. Seeking Second Childhood*

    TO EVERYONE WHO ENJOYS THEIR COMPANY PARTIES: FIND OUT WHO PLANS & RUNS THEM AND THANK THOSE PEOPLE!! Send your praise for good work in an email and copy their managers. If your company has an employee awards program, nominate them. Need specific reasons? Here’s a few: Good planning meant a smooth-running event. Morale-building that really worked to reestablish a team feeling. Quick calm reaction in face of emergency. Good choice of a venue that is handicap accessible, that can cover special diets, that is near public transportation, etc.
    When I was an office manager, I planned a 50-person Christmas party, got food poisoning the afternoon of the event and couldn’t attend, and received NO FEEDBACK from my manager beyond a casual “sorry you couldn’t make it” over coffee the next Monday. I’d been looking forward to it.

    1. Daisy-dog*

      That is the worst! I wish I could have attended and told you in detail all of my favorite parts.

  46. Jackie Tolomeo*

    “People serve their sentences, get released from prison, and go back to work; that’s how our system is designed to function.”

    I would argue that this in NOT how the system is designed to function, and the fact that OP’s son’s new colleague was able to do so is a testament to this person’s character and abilities.

    1. Amethystmoon*

      It depends on the crime though. For example, in an interview, wouldn’t they ask if the crime was theft and the person had to handle money or something like that?

      1. J*

        Jackie’s point is that the criminal justice system, as it currently exists in the United States, is not set up to actually temporarily detain actual criminals for appropriate amounts of time and then launch them back into society, reformed and with the skills they need to become productive citizens. It is a for-profit enterprise that ensnares the poor, the marginalized, and the non-white, and too often keeps them trapped for life, one way or another. It is not interested, primarily, in doing the most good. It is interested in extracting the most profit. That the individual under discussion was able to complete their sentence and gain employment speaks to their character, grit, and, I’d say, luck.

        1. Jackie Tolomeo*

          Thank you for putting that so eloquently

          (PS: everyone here should go read “Are Prisons Obsolete?” by Angela Davis to see exactly what J is talking about)

  47. Nicki Name*

    In addition to all the above about how the law is applied and people serving their time, also consider that “distribution” is one of those vague crimes where some of the people convicted of it knew nothing about any criminal activity! People have been jailed for “distribution” because a relative borrowed their car to go sell drugs, or because their renter kept a stash in their rental.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      Or a cop disliked them and planted a “distribution” quantity in their car or apartment when it was searched.

  48. Observer*

    #3 – You’ve gotten a lot of good feedback on the issue of your angst over the “druggie”. There is a reason that the First Step act really got bi-partisan support. The way we handle drug offenses is insane, no matter where you come down on stuff like legalization of marijuana etc.

    The other thing I would ask you is, How old is your son? Why are YOU asking this question for him? Either he doesn’t care, in which case you need to BACK OFF, now. Or he does care, in which case this is HIS fight and his question to ask. But, given the way you phrased it, it honestly sounds like this is YOUR issue. Whatever you do, do NOT try to pressure your son to turn this into an issue at work!

    People who say that this could lead to your son being fired are 100% correct. Not only that, if your son gets fired over this he would not even be eligible for unemployment, even in the most employee friendly states. Because (outside of some fairly narrow exceptions) this is NOT reasonable grounds for quitting, and kicking up a fuss would be considered appropriate grounds for dismissal.

    1. Pomona Sprout*

      to all of this!

      I also wondered about the son’s age, and would still love to know if this OP is an overprotective parent of a young person just starting their career, or the busybody parent of an older, more experienced person (only ecause the first scenario would perhaps be a tad bit easier to comprehend, sort of?). That’s really just my idle curiosity kicking in, though, as a person who always wants to know ALL the deets, lol. Either way, the advice is the same.

  49. Jennifer*

    #3 If this guy was a rapist, killer or pedophile that had done his time – I’d understand your concerns, even if it was 20 years ago. But you don’t seem to understand how easy it is for people from certain communities to be arrested for “distribution,” even if they are caught with a small amount of weed. That doesn’t make him a “druggie,” which is a pretty derogatory way of referring to him. Let’s give non-violent offenders and chance to turn their lives around, free from judgment.

    1. Bunny Girl*

      This was what I was thinking. If your company was going to hire a rapist, oh yeah that’s some cause for concern. I would absolutely start job hunting if that happened in my company, if not quit on the spot. But this is not really a cause for concern.

      1. LilySparrow*

        With the rates of assault being what they are, we’re all more likely to be unknowingly working with rapists or child molesters than with drug dealers.

    2. Ben Marcus Consulting*

      But then our justice system is worthless if people could never be considered rehabilitated.

      1. Jennifer*

        Our justice system doesn’t rehabilitate people, but that aside, I’m talking about my personal choice vs. a hiring manager’s choice. I don’t want to work with a rapist. I’m allowed to have that opinion. If you think they can be rehabilitated in prison and want to put your safety on the line to work alongside that person, that’s your choice. It wouldn’t be mine.

        Many sex offenders (I’m talking actual violent, sex offenders, not just people who have had to register as sex offenders because I know that can be murky) re-offend. I’m not taking that chance with my safety.

      2. Jennifer*

        I think it is pretty worthless, but that’s a conversation for another time and place. I wouldn’t feel safe working with a rapist. I just wouldn’t.

      3. Amy Sly*

        That is the point of a lifetime sentence — the state is acknowledging that the person is unfit to ever be released back to the general population. Frankly, I think for some convicts (like pedophiles), that would be the kinder solution instead of releasing them but then having so many restrictions about where they can live or work they’re effectively homeless and unemployable. We can let them be free to live like anyone else, or we can keep them cut off from potential victims by removing them from the population, not both.

  50. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-Of all you wrote the thing that stuck out the most was “I want to be collegial but not friendly.” Why? I assume you are friendly to the cashier at the grocery store and friendly to your mail carrier. You don’t need to be friends but why wouldn’t you be friendly? I do think there is a difference between collegial and friendly. But that’s me.

    I would talk with some of your colleagues at your level about the party. Get the scoop from someone on your level. Then determine if it’s truly mandatory or not. I don’t know that asking to be paid for a few hours is worth the capital you would lose in asking.

    1. Mediamaven*

      Agreed. There are a lot of people who find it to be very important to have tight and friendly relationships at work. It’s not that hard to do and still maintain a line.

  51. HR Recruiter*

    #1 – I will usually allow my part time employees to work a different schedule the day of the party so they aren’t “punished” for being part time. They usually work a whole day or work the afternoon instead of the morning so they don’t have to go home and then come back. I’d ask if that is a possibility if you are interested in attending. Otherwise you Alison’s advice. People understand when part time employees can’t attend.

    #3-We hire a lot of felons (manufacturing). we run background checks look at the charges, when they were, etc. A drug charge from 20 years ago most employers wouldn’t even bat an eye. I’ve attended several workshops on getting people rehabilitated and back into the workforce. Research shows you or me are more likely to commit a crime then someone who was found guilty of a crime 20 years ago.

  52. Duckles*

    So a spin-off of #1 I’ve been struggling with— basically exactly the same letter except my office is having a six day, five night (!) holiday retreat. I usually like seeing my co-workers but that is a LOT. It’s in the middle of nowhere and they’re coordinating travel to do the multi-hour drive from the office to the site (and I work in a different office so I have to travel to that office too), so it’s not possible to go for part of the time. I don’t have one hugely compelling reason I can’t go (no childcare/ailing relatives/heath reasons) but rather lots of smaller reasons (expensive to board pets that long, missing certain events that week, and just a lot of anxiety about being trapped with my coworkers for that long). They blocked the week on our calendars months ago so we would keep it open but everyone assumed they would pick SOME of the days that week, not all, and the length and location were only revealed a few weeks before the trip. Help.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m sorry, what? A five-night retreat in the middle of the holiday season? That would be ridiculous at any time of year but especially now. I’d be happy to do this as its own letter if you want to send it to me (

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      In my opinion, “expensive to board pets that long, “missing certain events that week” and “being trapped with my coworkers for that long” are each on their own hugely compelling reasons not to go!

  53. Chronic Overthinker*

    My biggest issue with office holiday parties are the ones that are during the week AND out of town. I’m not driving over 3 hours round trip for a dinner party. Plus my vehicle is not 100% reliable. I’m also relatively new and the whole politics of it is super frustrating. Do you attend or decline? I want to be a team player, but I also know my limits and want to keep things professional too. I just don’t want my colleagues thinking less of me because I didn’t attend. Ugh. Being an adult is hard.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Do you have any office friends yet that you can ask about this? I would ask if people really do attend the parties that are that far out of the way!

      My first year, I was like “I have to go! I’m new! And I bet everyone will notice if I’m not there!”

      Turns out that a fraction of the people showed up because of various reasons I later learned way too much about.

      Don’t just listen to HR and their “Everyone! Attends! It’s! Great!” rah-rah. Ask around in the trenches.

      Also ask about how people go about attending if they’re on limited transportation. I’m sure someone in there takes the bus or rides their bike and doesn’t even have a car. How do they navigate that?!

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      Does your office have multiple locations and you have to go to a different one for the party? Or did they choose choose an obnoxiously far venue??

      1. Chronic Overthinker*

        Multiple offices. Home of one of the Grandbosses. Apparently my office is the “remote” location, but we will be opening a new office in yet another location. I’m glad our firm is growing, but I’m a lowly hourly employee so I don’t have funds for fuel and everything else that goes along with it. However, it looks like I’m not the only one who is affected and they have “another” holiday party set for a weekend. That I may attend, as I can make better arrangements and can be more flexible with times/driving. I know I should attend the other one as it can work better with my schedule.

  54. LogicalOne*

    1. That’s unfortunate you don’t get paid to attend work related activities outside your normal work hours. Some employers, including where I work, we pay hourly staff whenever they attend anything work related that’s not in the scope of their normal work hours. Maybe your company does not have the budget to pay staff more than their regular hours? But I also agree with you in that I do not like to engage with co-workers outside of work hours and don’t like to attend work gatherings. Don’t get me wrong, we probably like our coworkers and I assume they’re a nice bunch but personally, there needs to be that cutoff from work/home life. I’ve gotten together with a few coworkers on a weekend and it felt like I was at a work lunch so I couldn’t disconnect from work over the weekend. Personally, a healthy cutoff from work is needed, even if that means not associating with coworkers outside of work hours. This incident reminds me of that episode from The Office, season 8 I believe when Robert California was the CEO of the company at the time and he was going through a divorce and lost his home and as a last hurrah, he invited everyone at Dunder Mifflin to his mansion before losing it to the settlement. Jim did not want to attend as hes the “master of leaving parties early” so mentions the three things to do at a party so you can leave early but still have that presence that you were there and no one would question your early departure: take a picture to create impression, mention something that people will remember you talked about, and make note of something as a talking point for later.
    Best of luck with your mandatory holiday party!

  55. Mediamaven*

    Here’s the thing about office parties. Try to remember that your company isn’t throwing you a party to punish you. They are spending sometimes thousands of dollars to put something on to show you they appreciate you and to provide a thank you and something they think you’ll enjoy. From a professional stand point, it will be more beneficial to you to roll your eyes in private, but attend the party for the politics, be gracious, say thank you and continue living your life. I read these letters and it’s so disappointing to see such vitriol over something that comes from a place of positive spirits. And let me assure you -that CEO throwing you the party didn’t opt out, they didn’t grumble, they didn’t get pissed because their employer was offering a perceived reward for hard work. They smiled and had a good time and chalked it up to a little fun, free food and drink, professional expectations and a demonstrated commitment and a team player mentality. That’s part of long term professional success. Unless you have a serious social anxiety health issue then just go. Trust me, these people are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t. If they canceled the party there would likely be outrage around that too.

  56. neeko*

    People often don’t understand the stigma that follows people in recovery around and question 3 is a prime example. The charge was 20 years ago. He could very well be 20 years sober and has nothing to do with that life anymore and you are calling this man that you don’t even know a druggie. He could have been doing that because he was raised in an environment that emulated that kind of work. Who knows. The bottom line is that he did his time and the job is giving him a chance, something that felons often are not given which is why so many re-offend. Empathy and minding your own business are both lovely and free.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It sadly boils down to we have a culture of throwing away “undesirables”. It’s part of that age old temptation to just kick the “weak” out of our pack and “if they die, they die.”

      When we started demonizing “the drugs”, it added another “criminal act” to our list of things to shun people for.

      We’re still fighting for civil rights and recognizing all humans as worthy of life.

      Also can we all remember that we have FOR PROFIT prisons. THIS IS A BUSINESS STRUCTURE!!!!!!! Vile. Vile. Vile.

  57. Kat Maps*

    RE letter #3… This one has me kind of frustrated, but I will recount a story from personal experience.
    At Old Job, we partnered with a local women’s prison – inmates could work (for regular wages) for us while they were still serving their sentence, to help gain work experience before they were released. The woman I supervised while was also incarcerated for drug-related offenses. She never spoke about her past and was just super motivated to move forward with her life. She may not have been representative of everyone in her position, but I have a feeling that she’s in the majority.

    1. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

      Not mention, LW3 doesn’t even know this person or their life. The only thing you definitively know about this person is that they were not wealthy enough to hire a white shoe lawyer at the time of their case.

      Drug sentencing laws are often used as a bludgeon in the US and there is no defense of very long mandatory drug sentences in this day and age, at least none that don’t hinge on mis-proven theories at best or racist/classist stereotypes at worst. For all LW3 knows, this person was holding the wrong friend’s backpack near the wrong cop one day — you can get arrested for distribution even when you are not in league with El Chapo.

      Also, why are your adult son’s colleagues any of your business? If your son works with folks who were in frats at an ivy or other prestigious school with a lot of blue bloods or old money, I can promise you some of those people did hard drugs in their youth (rich white kids have the highest quantity of drugs at any given time). Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Penn? Filled with cocaine. You could buy Adderall everywhere in my dorm and none of those folks got so much as a slap on the wrist, even though that was felony distribution. I personally don’t care if my co-worker sold some weed to pay the bills, but I would have a serious problem if their mom was getting involved at work. If you need something else to focus on, your local prison would be glad to have volunteers to help with legal cases, literacy, or job skills programs.

    2. AKchic*

      A lot of addicts in recovery keep their recovery quiet exactly because of LW 3’s mentality and open distain. A lot of people keep their criminal records and assorted sordid pasts secret too.

      I am not one of those types. I am happy to make people uncomfortable in their biases. High school drop-out (9th grade), GED, teen pregnancy, 2 divorces, 3 marriages, 4 fathers to 4 kids, drugs, spousal abuse victim, stalking victim, child s*x victim/trafficked, and apparently, I “don’t look that way”. As if I’m supposed to walk around with some sort of haunted look in my eyes, and permanently clutching an emergency blanket around my shoulders. I don’t really know what people imagine somebody with childhood traumas are supposed to look like when they are nearing 40 and have worked hard to normalize their lives.
      I have a decent job. I have a newer vehicle. I have a nice home. I have typical kids. My personal history has just made me very aware of things, and I have a vastly different POV than the majority of my neighbors.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It warms my grizzled heart hearing the stories here about folks who are working or have worked for places that help those with records get back into society. It’s slowly changing, we banned that stupid “have you ever been convicted” box from applications awhile back but so slow. When we want to get people away from crime, you don’t throw them back in the gutter every time they try to get out and dust themselves off.

  58. jiminy_cricket*

    LW #3 is one of the most judgmental letters I have ever seen on this site. Thank you for your sane response, as usual.

  59. Name withheld*

    LW3, A few years so my office lost someone in facilities management who was convicted of “dealing.” He had gotten hooked on opioids, and followed a sadly too common progression into selling some of his legal ones to buy something stronger. We never knew until he showed up on the news. And honestly the building has gone downhill since he left–he was good at fixing minor problems before they were big problems, and quick to respond when they were reported. I will work with him again happily if he’s rehired after completing his sentence.

  60. Not My Real Name*

    LW 3: Objecting to this will do more harm to your son’s career than the coworker will. Helicoptering is a huge no-no in the workplace, and it hinders the maturation of the children who get treated like children after they enter the workplace.

    So… the felon is not a problem for your son. Your belief that you need to interfere is.

  61. Mandatory reporter*

    At OldJob, I skipped on the party one year because my partner’s much larger employer (mid-sized CU with 20 employees vs a large pharma distributor that got bought out for close to $1b) was holding one at the same time, and I offered to DD. Plus, having a meal and a small gift exchange at a chain Italian place vs open bar, dueling pianos, and amazing food at a high-end hotel? C’mon.

    Lo and behold, my partner and several friends decided to hit up a couple bars that night. As we rolled into the second one around 11, I see a handful of co-workers who’d clearly had several beverages dancing and having fun. Awkward!

  62. ]*

    “The employee was a druggie arrested for distribution 20 years ago.”

    the person typing this sounds like they think this is literally indistinguishable from murder or pedophilia

    oh no, the scary man who got busted selling pot one time has to work with my dear, sweet, precious, innocent baby, how could such a thing have come to pass

    what a catastrophe, i must retire to my fainting couch

Comments are closed.