updates: coworker is afraid of my service dog, my boss brings in alcohol, and more

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are five updates from past letter-writers.

1. My coworker is visibly uncomfortable around my service dog (#3 at the link)

I want to send you an update to my letter about my coworker Carol being scared of my service dog.

I got a new job, but not because of Carol. 

The situation with Carol ended up being a symptom of much worse problems with my supervisor and HR. I think she may have been reluctant to change desks because HR was being really strange about the whole thing. They had a very skeptical mentality about anyone needing accommodations, even with medical documentation. They had an apparent mindset (which I’ve encountered far too often) that it’s better to let 10 disabled people go without needed accommodations than to let one person get an accommodation they don’t “deserve.” They kept trying to restrict how I could interact with my service dog, to the point that it was interfering with the tasks she is trained to do. When I pointed out that these restrictions were preventing me from having full use of my service dog, they simply threatened to ban her from the building altogether to “teach [me] how to get along without her.”

I want to make clear that my dog never misbehaved. She never barked, whined, lunged, or did anything that could be seen as naughty or unruly. The restrictions that HR was trying to impose had more to do with their preconceived notions about the kind of people that have service dogs, and if I am disabled enough to “deserve” one. When I pointed that out I had ample medical documentation, they simply dismissed my doctor as a quack. If they were half as dismissive and condescending with Carol as they were with me, I wouldn’t be surprised if she figured it wasn’t worth the trouble. And I definitely don’t blame her at all if that was the case.

There were other problems too. One coworker openly mocked me because of my disability, saying how happy she was that she doesn’t have my problems. My supervisor actively blocked any opportunity for professional advancement, no matter how small or inexpensive. She was also reluctant to manage her team, which made me feel like I couldn’t talk to her about my concerns.

So I got a new job. It came with a 15% pay increase, awesome benefits, and my working conditions are much better. My supervisor, HR, and coworkers are much more understanding of me and my service dog. They even took extra steps to rearrange my workspace to make it easier for me and my dog. I’m less stressed, which has helped my health a great deal.

I do wish I could have helped Carol be less stressed about my dog, but it just wasn’t meant to be. I’m guessing she’s probably a lot less stressed too.

2. Can I ask my boss to stop bringing in alcohol?

The relevant problem actually kind of solved itself–another person joined our team who explicitly told our manager that she was uncomfortable with alcohol in the office. She got a bit of a hard time for it (i.e. my manager pressuring her to drink at team lunches because “we’re not in the office” despite her politely declining), but the manager did switch to providing coffee and soda as treats in the office instead of beer and wine. Happy ending!

…for a bit. To make a very long (and still ongoing) story short, I am no longer working there. My manager asked me to work extra hours from home, then told me he didn’t plan on paying me for those hours. Thanks to your site, I knew that that wasn’t above board and refused. He threatened to fire me, and ultimately did so. I filed a retaliation claim with my state’s labor board. He then shorted me on my final paycheck; when I asked about it, he told me he wouldn’t pay me for the hours I was “jerking off” at work. So I added a wage claim for the hours he didn’t pay me.

He ended up having to pay over $1000 in penalties, plus what he owed me, for my final paycheck being late. The retaliation claim is still ongoing, but I’m confident given that I have screenshots of the text he sent me saying that if I didn’t agree to work for no pay, he’d fire me.

The moral of the story: everyone who warned me about the environment being a red flag was absolutely right. I’m very glad to be out of that workplace.

3. I feel guilty about getting a job in my competitive field when others are still struggling

My letter wasn’t the most thrilling, but it has a happy ending (happy continuing?) at least.
I was coming off a job search where I’d catastrophized everything and assumed I’d never get a job in my field or I’d only get a position that I hated to pay off my loans.

Your response and the comments drove home that I was looking at everything surrounding my job in extreme binaries – all or nothing. That wasn’t realistic, and my guilt was neither helpful nor actionable.

Now that I’ve been working here for a few months, things are going well! I suspect I’ll continue to struggle with impostor syndrome for a while, but so far, I’m good at this job and uniquely qualified for it. I learned some of the specific reasons why they hired me, and that helped a lot too. Being in a place where I can make some small differences to support increased diversity in my field also gives me a way to positively channel that energy now.

Yes, there were elements of luck and privilege in my getting hired, but that’s life. Having FEELINGS about it won’t change anything. I work with a lot of people who are smarter than me, and they got here through some elements of luck too. That doesn’t make them any less qualified or skilled though.

Thanks for providing some much needed perspective!

4. Attending conflict resolution training with a horrible coworker (#4 at the link)

The good and bad news is that the training session was a giant waste of time (and money!) and it really wasn’t a big deal. It was mostly a team-building exercise led by an outside consultant.

We had to be in small groups and I didn’t have to be with my awful coworker, so that was a plus. The whole session was really designed for HR and management, so I honestly don’t understand why the entire company was required to participate.

Over the past few months we’ve been asked to give HR feedback over various ways to improve, and it finally seems like they understand how out of touch they are. I’m hoping next year leads to bigger changes since they are sorely needed.

5. My boss doesn’t trust my answers or my ideas — and keeps double-checking what I say with others

Since my letter things have been going well. I never had a real heart-to-heart with my boss about this issue. Mostly because I’m a coward. But also he’s calmed down a little bit, either because he’s super busy (we still haven’t filled that second position) or because I’ve proven myself several times over. The software vendor asked me to present some of my work at their yearly conference, and he witnessed several attendees come up to me after to tell me it was the must useful session of the whole conference. (He also witnessed a recruiter try to poach me on the spot right in front of him!) Plus the one coworker he kept making me double check with has moved on to greener pastures.

But the issue does still crop up occasionally, and I’ve taken the stance that it’s not worth the battle when I have it pretty good here all things considered. In a very recent skip-level interview with my grandboss, I mentioned the issue and said it’s something I’ve just learned to accept. She was emphatic that I shouldn’t just accept it, and I should have a talk with boss (my grandboss reminds me a lot of you, Alison). So I will have to overcome my avoidant personality and speak up at some point!

Thanks again for your valuable feedback.

{ 107 comments… read them below }

    1. LW 2*

      I could go on with stories of his nonsense.

      He accused me of injecting recreational drugs at work (I had a sheet of scratch paper on my desk with some equations worked out, he saw it and jumped to the conclusion that I was calculating how much of a drug I should inject), he used slurs in the office, he told highly inappropriate stories in the office and at work lunches (highlights include details about his erectile dysfunction and the time he got so drunk at a club that he defecated in his pants). He loudly discussed his plans to fire an employee with the other manager while other employees (coworkers of the woman he wanted to fire) were in the room. This was all in the 2 months that I worked for him, by the way.

      After he fired me, when I told him I had reported him to the labor board, he went from cajoling and offering me money not to go through with it, to calling me names and threatening me (to the point where I called the police). While on a conference call with the labor board employee, he continued raving, calling me every name under the sun and threatening me; the labor board official, after warning him multiple times, ended up hanging up on him mid-sentence.

      After dragging his feet for months, I finally got the money he was supposed to pay in penalty for the final paycheck being late. The retaliation investigation is still ongoing, and I’m genuinely exci

      1. LW 2*

        [Sorry, hit submit too early]
        –excited to see him in a hearing. If he keeps up the same behavior, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if a hearing officer/judge throws him out of the room.

        1. Kendra*



          I’m so glad you’re sticking it out on the stuff with the labor board, and I hope things end in your favor! Glad you got out of there when you did, too.

        2. I don't know who I am*

          Please send another update after the hearing. It sounds like it will be a fascinating show

        3. AcademiaNut*

          Silver lining I guess? I mean, if you’re going to be subject to legally actionable abuse at work, having someone who doubles down in front of legal authorities and commits stuff to writing is way better than someone who is good at hiding what they are.

        4. Uldi*

          I have to wonder if this guy will get a lawyer, and if said lawyer will be able to keep him muzzled at the hearing.

          My gut and my head are both laughingly saying “NOPE” to both.

      2. Tidewater 4-1009*

        I’m not an expert, but to me it sounds like he’s in the final stages of an addictive downward spiral. That would explain him bringing alcohol to work (because he can’t do without it), and jumping to the conclusion you were doing drugs (because he hangs out with people who do), and the bad behavior because he’s not aware of where he is or what he’s doing.
        This process he’s in with you is his crash. I’m surprised he hasn’t been fired for the bad behavior… is he the owner? Or is his boss/the owner offsite? I wonder if whoever is above him is aware of any of this?

        1. LW 2*

          He’s the founder of his company; his co-founder is an introvert who is primarily in charge of the technical side of things, follows instructions, and doesn’t speak unless spoken to. He has apologized for bad behavior by pleading drunkenness before (the bad behavior took place between 11 am and 2 pm on a Thursday), and some of his comments about his family life make me suspicious he might be abusing his

          1. LW 2*

            [So sorry, I’m on mobile and my keyboard keeps disappearing]
            –abusing his wife (nothing concrete I could report him to the police/CPS with, but he’s mentioned that his wife is afraid of him because of how he rages when he doesn’t get his way). They have 2 small children, and I’m incredibly worried for their safety.

            1. Ducky*

              If you genuinely worried, make the call- where I live you are legally required to make the call if you suspect children are in danger. You don’t have to have hard evidence, and you could really help the children (the stats I’ve heard is that children will tell like 7 adults before anyone does something so I am all for getting a jump on things when potential child abuse is involved).
              Please make the call- after hearing how he has treated you, it’s not really a stretch to think he may be harmful to others.

              1. Tidewater 4-1009*

                The children are probably traumatized by his rages and verbal abuse even if he’s not hitting them, so intervention would be good if the authorities are willing to do it.

            2. Kimberly*

              Being worried like that is cause enough for me to be REQUIRED to report. You should report. Google your state and report child abuse that should bring up a form you can fill out or number to call.
              TW – Abuse/Rape Threats

              Two stories. From K-5th I was bullied. To the point I was suicidal. My parents threatend a law suit and criminal charges and he was removed from our school. (I also got the help I needed) Later I heard he was jailed for raping a woman in a manner he was describing in KINDER. Dad always regretted not spotting what was happening to me (this was the 70s so parents and teachers lacked training) Not forcing the bully to get help meaning in part removed from his abusive home. Dad thought he and every adult involved in the situation were moral responsiblity for not helping the bully and caused the suffering of his later victims.

              I had a family come through my classroom. They all had mental and physical scars from the abuse from their mentally ill parents. They were starved because food was posioned by the government. By the time I had them they were safe. Their grandparents (adopted the kids) once told me that 67 phone calls were made by family, friends, and neighbors. But the parents were able to hold it together around the social workers and sell the our families hate us and are just trying to get the kids. There was food in the house, and the whole family was on the slight and small in stature side. What saved the kids was the 68th phone call from a stranger no connection to the family or neighborhood. Saw the kids being hit and threatened with you will go hungry tonight in the Walmart parking lot. The man was frieghtened by what he saw and heard so he took the plate number and called the cops/CPS. The kids were in a hospital being treated for starvation that night.

              If you fear for child or adult who might not be able to leave call CPS or APS and report.

  1. voyager1*

    LW5: That is hilarious that the Grandboss wants you to speak to your manager about their problem. I would not speak to the manager now at all. Obviously if you were to point this out to him, if he retaliated or got angry, Grandboss would just sit on her bottom on it.

    If you can live with it and everything else is good, I agree with your mentality, not rock that boat.

    But consider that you did learn that Grandboss is adverse to managing her reports. That is valuable information for the future.

    1. KC*

      I disagree. LW5 has not yet had a conversation with their boss about it, and bringing it up to grandboss without at least trying to resolve it 1:1 is prematurely escalating the issue. It would have been wise for grandboss to coach LW5 on how to have this conversation (and perhaps gently coaching the boss on how to avoid micromanaging without disclosing LW5’s comments, which may have happened and we just don’t know). But it is an important developmental step for LW5 to try to handle problems on their own first before asking for a grandboss intervention.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        The letter doesn’t sound like LW5 requested a meeting with the grandboss specifically to complain about their boss, though. Some companies have regular standing skip-level meetings, and it’s possible that this came out in one of those sessions.

        1. Cookie Captain*

          And it’s extremely common in that kind of meeting to be flat-out asked what your biggest challenge is. It’s a hard question to answer diplomatically.

        2. LW5*

          LW5 here, yes this is exactly it. She requested a Skip Level with me (she does it quarterly). She had to work hard to pull out of me any issues I’m having with my direct boss. I did mention this to her as a my greatest challenge with him, but said it’s certainly not something I’d leave the company over. She’s correct that I need to work it out myself with my direct manager.

      2. drpuma*

        Plus depending on LW5’s own professional ambitions they will need to get comfortable starting difficult conversations as that is a huge part of managing. LW5 acknowledges that’s something they need to work on, so it sounds to me like their grandboss is helping them build that skillset and absolutely will step in with the actual boss if necessary. But overall this sounds to me like a classic managerial “How did you try to solve the problem yourself before bringing it to me?”

    2. Marthooh*

      Or Grandboss wants LW5 to bring the problem to Boss first, to give him a chance to deal with it before GB steps in. There’s no reason to think GB would just sit back and let Boss retaliate.

    3. AMT*

      I agree, and I wonder whether Boss’ inability to recognize LW5’s expertise combined with Grandboss’ reluctance to intervene might affect LW5’s career growth (e.g. maybe LW5 will find that they’re not getting promoted, recognized, or given opportunities at this job at the same rate as they’d expect under a different boss). Maybe next time someone tries to poach them at a conference, they should accept the offer!

      1. Arctic*

        There is no evidence GB is reluctant to intervene. If she moves first, before LW ever had the shot to bring this up, it looks like the LW was “tattling” without giving her boss the chance to fix the issue without GB stepping in. It will sour the relationship. And is not how professional relationships should develop.

        And it’s common for skip-level meetings to be confidential with the qualifications that if harassment or anything else very serious is reported that would have to be acted upon. So, it may have been part of the deal that the GB not act on anything without LW’s consent.

    4. LW5*

      LW5 here: I agree with grandboss that this is something to work out with my boss first. It’s really not a huge issue all thing considered, and it’s an opportunity for me to buck up and develop my skills in having difficult conversations.

      GB is very good at managing her direct reports. I’d walk through hell for her.

  2. Shocked Pikachu*


    I am so glad you are out of that place. What your HR department did was not only shitty, but I am fairly certain they crossed into discrimination territory. They don’t get to decide if you are disable enough to have service dog, they have absolutely no standing to ban it so you can learn how to do without service dogs, they don’t get to decide your doctor is a quack. Letting coworkers openly mock your condition ? And the supervisor is a cherry on the top. Gosh darn, my blood is boiling.

    I don’t know exactly how ADA complaints filing works, but if you still can (and are willing to do so) I am going to say go for it. This is just not right.

    1. glitter writer*

      There’s no, like, “ADA bureau” for disability discrimination complaints; those mostly become lawsuits. BUT with that said, you can make employment discrimination complaints, including complaints related to disability, through the EEOC. (Googling “EEOC discrimination complaint” gets you to the right page pretty quickly.)

      Also, 100% agree. What an absolutely terrible workplace.

    2. EPLawyer*

      Who appointed them the Therapy Dog Police? I am just amazed they actually thought they were QUALIFIED to teach the OP how to get along without her dog. I mean what did they think would happen after she jumped through all the hoops to bring the dog in the first place? Say Oh Never Mind, I was just kidding about needing one.


      1. Accounting Student*

        Just so you know (a lot of people don’t) there is a difference between Therapy Dogs and Service Dogs.

        Service Dogs are there to help a disabled individual and are the ones with public access (technically it’s the disabled handler who has the access right and the dog is their medical tool which is why they’re allowed in). They must be task trained to mitigate a person’s disability.

        Therapy dogs, on the other hand, are only allowed in places upon invitation (usually schools, hospitals, nursing homes, etc.) and are there to help people besides their handler.

        Source: myself. I have a service dog.

        1. TiffIf*

          And an additional note: an emotional support dog is different from both a service dog and a therapy dog. One key difference is emotional support dogs do NOT get all the same access/legal protections as certified service dogs. There is no official certification for emotional support dogs.

          1. Kendra*

            There’s no official certification for service dogs, either, and the ADA says you’re allowed to train your own dog (as in, the trainer also doesn’t have to have any kind of special certification). Basically, if someone says their dog is a service dog, it’s best to assume it’s a service dog (at least until things get to the level of taking someone to court; then the court can ask them to prove the dog’s a “real” service dog, but you – general you – can’t).

            1. Kathlynn (Canada)*

              This also depends on where you live. In at least some parts of Canada, they have to be certified.
              And (The LW says this is not the problem, so this is just a general people lie about Service Animals thing) Service animals *do* have to be trained, and if they aren’t adequately trained, they wouldn’t be covered by the ADA, nor does it allow them to behave poorly. And there are two questions you are allowed to ask. “In situations where it is not obvious that the dog is a service animal, staff may ask only two specific questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform?”. (I’ve encounter multiple fake Service animals through my employment. The only legitimate one I’ve seen was outside of work. (and huge, so did bother my anxiety a little. But greatly behaved))

          2. Pomona Sprout*

            This OP explicitly stated that they have a “service dog,” so I’m not really sure what the definition of “therapy” dog or “emotional support” dog has to do with this particular situation. It does sound like the HR people involved might be fuzzy on these definitions, but if so, that just speaks to HR’s incompetence and unfamiliarity with laws that I would expect HR professionals to better informed on.

            1. KinderTeacher*

              OP did indeed specify service dog. EPLawyer asked who appointed their employer the “Therapy Dog” police. I think the other posters are just using that language discrepancy as an opportunity to offer some educational info/clarification for reader in the comments who may not be familiar with the differences between therapy, emotional support, and service dogs that they can carry with them into their general lives if they want to read what those posters have written about it. Not because the distinction matters here where OP’s dog is fully protected under the ADA.

    3. Kaaaaaren*

      Yes! Everything LW#1 described is an absolutely horrible way to treat an employee no matter what “special thing” they may be requesting. I’m so glad LW and her sweet dog are out of that nuthouse!

      And, generally speaking, the “let a dozen people suffer just to be 1000% sure no one ever gets an accommodation they don’t absolutely and totally need” mentality is so ridiculous and unkind. Things like that always make me wonder why people feel *SO SURE* they will never, ever, ever be in need of an accommodation themselves that they’re willing to bring this bad karma/mojo into their lives by acting this way toward others.

      1. Service Dog Handler (OP1)*

        I have all my limbs, don’t use a wheelchair, and am not blind, so obviously I’m completely fine. *rolls eyes*

        I didn’t want to go too much into detail in the update, but among the things they were requesting was that I not give my dog verbal cues. Because “service dogs are not supposed to be trained to respond to cues” according to them. I have never personally met a service dog that wasn’t trained to respond to at least some verbal cues, especially things like “forward”. But they thought it would somehow help Carol…? She told me she never requested anything of the sort.

        1. Kaaaaaren*

          OMG that is SO ridiculous. I could see if you were like… shouting insanely at the dog all day in a manner that was disturbing others, but I’m completely sure that wasn’t the case. They were just trying to make it as hard for you to have your dog there as possible, probably in the hopes that you’d just give up and leave your dog at home. And, it doesn’t even seem to be about making Carol more comfortable — it seems like they just didn’t like the idea of you having the dog there, because you don’t “seem” disabled enough. They may have had an issue with your dog, even if all of your coworkers loved having him there or didn’t mind.

          1. Service Dog Handler (OP1)*

            Yeah, that was my conclusion too. My dog is mostly self trained, although I did work with a professional trainer for her finishing/public training. They did not consider self trained SDs to be “real” even though the ADA and numerous case law states otherwise. I also have a non-obvious disability, so they acted like I’d just gotten a fake diagnosis from a fake doctor.

            As an aside, one of the other service dogs in the building DID come from professional service dog program, and when he saw my dog, he went nuts and barked at her. My dog just stayed put and didn’t make a peep.

            1. BelleMorte*

              If you come across someone who is fearful again, I find the most effective thing is to put your dog in a sit or a down and stay until they can move away, if you are not able to adjust your path. The fact the dog isn’t moving makes it a little better sometimes.

              Source: Also have a service dog.

        2. Kendra*

          So they think service dogs are, like, psychic? FFS, they’re dogs, not magic; they need to know what you need from them before they can do it.

          Also, how would you NOT controlling your dog help Carol feel any better?!?!?

          Your old HR department sounds truly terrible, and I’m glad you found somewhere less insane to work.

        3. Jurassicgoddess*

          What a mess. Glad you are out of there. I know someone with a service dog in training and have met a few other handler teams, and all of them have used verbal commands for some things. We’re a verbal species, and dogs have learned those noises mean things, lol!

          You OldJob sounds awful, and the persons making those decisions sound very discompassionate and disconnected from the legal requirements around accommodations.

          I’m super glad you are out of there and hope they have their eyes peeled open one day!

          I do not understand this attitude of making sure no one gets something they aren’t entitled to, by placing so many obstacles that people who are completely entitled to the thing, can’t get it either! You see it in gov’t programs, where someone has decided that in order to make sure ONLY the people who REALLY deserve food support get it.

        4. JSPA*

          that’s either strangely ignorant or strangely and intentionally discriminatory.

          It’s like insisting that nobody ever uses a handrail while walking upstairs (when observably, this is a thing that commonly happens, is designed to happen, is planned for, is required to be possible…and all of these things are documented in popular culture, and in publications by experts, and in written codes/statutes/laws).

          I mean, if you’d trained the dog to respond only to, I dunno, yelled profanity or maximum volume two-fingers whistles not suitable for indoor use, a request to work with the dog on responding to signals given at a much lower volume? Sure. But “real service dogs don’t need cues” is right up there with, “women can hold their periods until convenient,” for sheer wrong-headedness.

        5. Not So NewReader*

          If a service dog does not respond to cues, how can it still be a service dog?

          It sounds to me like Carol did not like you talking to your dog. Maybe she kept trying to figure out if you meant her or the dog and couldn’t figure out who you were talking to. ugh.

          Some people get stuck on something and they just. cannot. get off of it. Carol sounds like one of those people. I am so glad you and your dog are in a better place now. FWIW, I supervised a guy with a dog and it was no problem to include the dog. Ever. I was very happy the dog was there to help him. Carol made something ridiculously hard that is not that hard at all.

          1. Zillah*

            It seems like this wasn’t at Carol’s request, though – and given that they were willing to say something so unreasonable, I’m very able to believe that HR came up with it on their own.

          2. Observer*

            Why are you blaming Carol? The OP says that Carol told her that she never asked for such a thing. Furthermore, there is no reason to think that HR would do anything to help Carol, but there IS good reason to think that HR is clueless and obnoxious.

        6. Another JD*

          Large dogs scare me, in part because I was attacked by one as a child. There were bomb-sniffing German Shepherds at an event I went to and I started to panic. But seeing a dog consistently and actually doing the thing its owner told it to do would help me be at least a little more comfortable. It’s ridiculous they wouldn’t allow verbal cues.

        7. Violet Fox*

          … my cat is trained with hand signals too. There are other ways to train animals besides verbally.

          1. Violet Fox*

            I misread(thought you were not giving verbal cues and they wanted you to), but basically there are a lot of ways to train animals, some verbal, some not. For my cat, if I want her to sit, I can say “sit” and she will (if she feels like it because cat still), but I can also use our hand signal to sit, and she will sit (again cat). A lot of it also depends on what you want the animal in question to do. Saying “forward” is easier than most any other option.

            A lot of how your dog is trained, I would assume, has a lot to do with the job that they are expected to preform.

          2. Fikly*

            Good for you and your cat?

            Service dogs typically are trained for many different tasks, and hand signals are not numerous enough to accomplish that. Also, hand signals assumes a free hand at minimum and hand mobility.

        8. Squidhead*

          Not trying to derail, but a friend has dogs that she trains and shows in obedience. In the ring, she is not allowed to use verbal commands and uses hand signals to give the dogs the commands ordered by the judges. Buuuttt…the crossover between her dog’s skillset and the skills of a service dog is probably close to zero, and any non-ridiculous person who wants to know the basics of dog-training should probably be introduced to Google.

        9. KinderTeacher*

          Uhh……I’m no service dog expert, by which I mean I have never personally interacted with a service dog in any way, but a there is a young woman named Molly Burke who makes videos on YouTube. She is blind and in addition to discussing it in bits and pieces across her videos, she has a video dedicated to explaining and demonstrating how her guide dog guides her and a whole videos about the VERBAL commands she uses. Her service dog has been trained to respond to a good number of verbal cues! He does also know hand gestures, but she usually uses the verbal command and hand gesture in tandem. He also wasn’t home trained, he was trained at a 38 year old foundation over ~ 2 yrs to the tune of something like $40k. Guide dogs for the blind are kind of the OG service dog (afaik), and so I would assume that if doing the whole service dog thing w/o any verbal commands was really the superior way a foundation that old investing that much money in training their dogs to perform the kind of service work that has been around the longest would have worked it out by now. That is such a bizarre thing for them to care about! Not caring about violating the ADA and your rights in general is also pretty bizarre, but from a cynical perspective not so out of left field.

      2. Observer*

        Arrogance and lack of imagination will do that. Also, they would insist (and may even believe) that they would be happy to jump through those hoops to make sure that the moral order of the universe is maintained.

      1. Observer*

        And I am totally not surprised. HR and management dismissing the obvious possibility that Carol might have a problem was a fairly big red flag.

    4. Service Dog Handler (OP1)*

      I was working with an ADA advocacy organization during this whole thing, and they were very helpful. I did think about filing suit, but it seemed too stressful at the time. The people in HR have all moved on, so it feels like a moot point. My supervisor and the person who was harassing me still work there, though.

      Also, my employer was a state government agency. So that’s fun. I still work for the state, but in a completely different agency. Different HR and management, much more reasonable.

      1. Shocked Pikachu*

        I am not blaming you for deciding filing a lawsuit would be too stressful. Like I said, I don’t know the technicalities about ADA complaints or lawsuit, I just got mad reading your updates and thought I wish they would be held responsible. And holy cow, state government agency !

        I wish you (and your service dogggie) all the best in 2020 – and in all the years that follow. And congrats on your new job. Sounds like a serious upgrade :)

      2. 2 Cents*

        My jaw just dropped at the state government agency thing. I’m both flabbergasted and disgusted. So glad you’re elsewhere, OP!

        1. Why isn't it Friday?*

          My jaw dropped reading your update, OP, and it dropped even further learning that you work at a state government agency. The way they treated you absolutely veered into discrimination. In California the DFEH will file suit on your behalf – if you’re in California or another state with a similar entity I would really encourage you to look into it. They should never, ever be allowed to treat someone like this.

          1. Service Dog Handler (OP1)*

            Hmm. I’m not in California and I left that job a year and a half ago. I guess I could look into it. I do know another person with a disability similar to mine who worked at that agency and sued them for discrimination and got a settlement check. I think we worked there about the same time too, so it was probably the same HR people.

            1. JSPA*

              If you don’t need the money (or don’t need all of it) donate a significant chunk back to organizations that help people navigate these issues. Future-interview-wise: “they had developed or acquired a legacy problem that was preventing them from meeting several state and federal requirements. I was able to play my small part in getting them back on track in that regard.” (LOL)

              But seriously, you’d be doing not only yourself, other employees, clients and “the cause” but also the state and the agency themselves a favor. Someone needs to drag the agency, kicking and squirming, into the 21st century (after a 20 year delay on their part). If you happen to have the time and bandwidth, it would be a lovely act on your part to do so. Especially if you can channel the “this is medicine, not punishment” attitude.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I am not too surprised this is a government agency. There are a lot of things that go on against government employees that would never fly anywhere else such as working huge unpaid time and so on.

          1. Susie Q*

            Not the federal government. It is illegal to work for the federal government for free.

            And a lot of salaried individuals at private companies “work for free” under the guise of being salaried. This is very common.

      3. DCGirl*

        It’s enormously stressful.

        I’ve lived through filing a complaint with EEOC, which oversees ADA, which issued a right-to-sue letter. (Out of a team of 14 people, my old boss selected two people to lay off when layoffs came: me (who had just requested a reasonable accommodation for a learning disability) and the woman who had just informed she was pregnant).)

        I was able to settle with the company before having to sue, because I had very little appetite to file suit at that point. The company took a total scorched earth approach to my character in their response to the EEOC, and it was clear that what was they would do in court. I went from thinking that I had worked for fundamentally decent people who made mistakes to thinking that I had worked with complete and utter a**holes. Would I have gotten more had I sued? Probably. My sanity was worth more to me, and I have the consolation of knowing that the company probably spent $150,000 in legal fees along the way to my $7,500.

      4. Call me St. Vincent*

        You can make a complaint to your local United States Attorney’s Office or on ADA.gov. The DOJ has jurisdiction over employment discrimination based on disability in state and local government employment.

    5. Jadelyn*

      They absolutely did cross into discrimination territory, several times over. My jaw had already dropped and then I audibly gasped at “they simply threatened to ban her from the building altogether to “teach [me] how to get along without her.”” I just…the absolute, utter lack of compassion it takes to say that boggles my mind.

  3. Librarian of SHIELD*

    OP2, your former boss is an ass and you are lucky to be free of him! I hope your next job is for somebody reasonable.

  4. Elizabeth West*


    When I pointed out that these restrictions were preventing me from having full use of my service dog, they simply threatened to ban her from the building altogether to “teach [me] how to get along without her.”

    *insert a long string of expletives here* >:(

    Hope they enjoy getting sued one day!

    1. Snarflepants*

      I know eh! My brain was screaming in frustration through the whole update post. For a workplace to be so hostile towards persons with disabilities makes flames appear on the side of my face.

      1. Fikly*

        All of society is hostile to persons with disabilities.

        Every time I get on a subway with my crutches, and no one offers a seat.

        Every time I park in a handicapped spot (with my permit) and get questioned if I am disabled enough.

        Every time someone gets turned down on their disability application the first time because every one gets denied the first time, regardless of documentation/lawyer, etc.

        Every time a person says “I’d rather be dead than…”

      1. Observer*

        I was thinking the same thing, but in a response to a different comment further up, the OP mentions that HR said that they are not allowed to give the dog verbal cues because “real” service dogs don’t need them.

    2. corporate engineering layoff woo*

      From further up the comments: apparently they did have to pay a settlement in a suit from another person with a service animal in the office.

      1. Snarflepants*

        One would think that was a Moment of Change for the company! Paying out a disability related settlement? By the old gods and the new…..

      2. Service Dog Handler (OP1)*

        The person I talked to didn’t have a service animal, but they have a disability very similar to mine. HR also dragged their feet and put up all kinds of roadblocks for other accommodations that I requested, and my supervisor was too busy/apathetic to really help me with it. They knew how to talk a good game about being accommodating but actually getting the accommodations was like jumping through hoops on fire on a floor made of marbles.

  5. Brazilian Hobbit*


    Wow. That place was really something. I’m glad you’re out of there, because these people… don’t know how to work with humans. When I was going to college (for HR management), one of our professors said something that really stuck with me: “Never forget the human. People live in bodies, and bodies do all kinds of things. They know their situation better than you. Your job is to work with them in a way that is possible for everyone”. I’m not working on HR at the moment, but I never forgot that and filed it in my mind for the future.

    Just one thing: please, DON’T try to make anyone else more comfortable around dogs unless they ask you (general) to. I have a severe phobia, and so many people think exposing me to their dog (sometimes without any warning) will help. It doesn’t, it just sends me into a panic attack.

      1. Brazilian Hobbit*

        It’ll probably happen again, because people are jerks. I won’t say I’m used to it, but I now avoid places unless I’m sure there won’t be a dog there – and never go anywhere with my mother, since she loves to lie to me and tell me there won’t, just for me to be faced with a dog as soon as I set foot on the place.

        1. JSPA*

          If you’re in Brazil, the culture is for sure more pet-crazy than anywhere else I’ve been. Lovely, if you’re there with your own pet, and partially dependent on the helpfulness of others. Less lovely if saying “I can’t be around your pet” is as offensive to people as saying, “I can’t stand to be in the same room as your baby.”

          If you happen to like cats, though, “my cat is terrified of dogs” gets far more sympathy…

          1. Brazilian Hobbit*

            It is. I like animals in, I will donate for animal charities, leave water for stray dogs, etc. I just can’t be around dogs without a lot of preparing and bracing myself. When everyone involved has the patience, I may interact, but it takes a long, long time. I love cats, but every one I’ve ever had was an indoors cat and didn’t really bother with anyone who came around. They’d look at the guest and ignore them.

            1. Shocked Pikachu*

              One of our cats would go hide immediately, two others would watch you for couple of minutes and then would be all over you. Ooh, another human to pet us, how neat. I always ask people if they are ok (or allergic) with cats because if they are not I would have to separate them to different room because the two are just social bugs :)

              1. Brazilian Hobbit*

                Aw, that’s adorable. One of my cats would just stay on her bed and sleep, the lazy girl. The other would stay perched wherever he chose and glare at people like they had wronged him by coming to my house (or his house lol).

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Your mother is as scary as an unknown dog in my books and FWIW. Someone who violates basic trust like this is not a kind person.

          My friend is afraid of dogs. She said sometime in the future she might like to meet my dog. I said, “It’s up to you to say when.” And I have never asked her about it. Not even once. People need space with stuff like this. I have my own thing that I need space on when and how I deal, IF ever. This is life.

          1. Brazilian Hobbit*

            She is, sadly. I could write a book on all of the things I’ve endured with her. But if you meet her as a stranger, you’ll think she’s a lovely human.

            And see, you’re a good friend. It is true that people need space. I can interact with a few dogs with a lot of time and patience, but it’s very hard.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              It’s a bad mix to put people and dogs together if they don’t wanna be.

              A different friend came over. He never even mentioned being wary of dogs. But he did not pet or talk to my dog. I could not figure out what was up, because he never said anything about a problem to me. Finally my dog wadded himself up into a tight ball and laid beside my friend’s chair.

              My friend said, “What’s he doing now?” In that moment I realized my friend had zero experience with dogs and it was not a leap in logic to assume he was concerned about my buddy. I said, “He is making himself look small and less intimidating so that you will pet him.” (This dog had an uncanny knack with people.) He said, “I have never seen a dog work so hard to accommodate me and my concerns.” He STILL did not pet the dog. After that the dog was either outside or gated in another room when my friend came over, as I realized my friend was on overload and he was never going to tell me he was on overload.

              Responsible pet owners want to know when friends are not okay with their pet.

              1. Brazilian Hobbit*

                Your dog is such a good boy! And I agree. I always inform people I have a phobia, though I sadly get a lot of “oh, it’s okay, he doesn’t bite!” from people. I still try to communicate, at least they can’t pretend they didn’t know when I decline any future invitations to visit.

        1. Brazilian Hobbit*

          Had the experience as well. When I was around 13, I told my grandmother I couldn’t take a specific medication, and she tried to dissolve it in the other and give it to me anyway. Lucky for everyone, I knew the distinctive smell and didn’t take it, but people 100% do it when you say you’re allergic to something!

          1. Pomona Sprout*

            Ugh, sorry that happened to you. People can be horrible about allergens. I read a story in some advice column (can’t remember which one) about a guy whose mother tried hiding something his girlfriend was violently allergic to in food she planned to serve when the gf was visiting. I can’t remember if he found out before the gf had a chance to eat the food, or if the gf found out, or if she actually ingested some of it and had a bad (luckily nonfatal) reaction. But the motivation was evidently to “prove” that the allergy was all “in the gf’s head” and that if she didn’t know the allergen was there, she of course wouldn’t have a reaction. *GIGANTIC EYEROLL* Assholes gonna asshole!

              1. Brazilian Hobbit*


                It’s a weird thing, this need to prove that people aren’t actually allergic to things. And it’s even weirder because people act like it’s a personal slight that you won’t eat the thing you’re allergic to in order to appease them. It’s a sick power play, at best, but people who do it and send someone to the hospital should start being looked at as attempted murderers, because no matter what bogus reason they’re giving, they’re basically putting someone’s life and/or health at risk for their ego!

                1. Fikly*

                  If ignorance of the law isn’t a defence, then surely “I didn’t believe they were really allergic” isn’t a defense to attempted murder.

  6. Mimmy*

    #1 – If your previous employer had 15 or more employees or was a state or local government agency, you could’ve possibly had grounds to file an ADA complaint. HR had no business trying to “teach an employee to ‘teach [me] how to get along without her'”. So glad you’re in a new job that is more accommodating. I wish more employers were inclusive of people with disabilities.

  7. But There is a Me in Team*

    Aaand.. is it too early to start a “worst boss of 2020” list? I feel like we could bump these clowns forward from 2019. Here’s to happier days for the OP’s. Happy New Year to all!

  8. Mannheim Steamroller*


    “…I mentioned the issue and said it’s something I’ve just learned to accept. She was emphatic that I shouldn’t just accept it….”

    I must agree with your Grandboss. Please don’t “just accept” your boss’ behavior, because he just doesn’t get it. He saw you being a rock star among your industry peers and saw a recruiter trying to poach you, yet he still hesitates to trust your work. Maybe you should have a talk with that recruiter instead, because your boss DOES NOT deserve to have you working for him.

    1. LW5*

      LW5: I agree. Having difficult conversations is not my forte, and I need to get better at it. I’m gearing up to have a talk with him next time he does it to me.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Practice in front of the mirror. Get used to the sound of your own voice saying these thing.
        And/or outline your main talking points. What is it that you want the boss to know? What is it that you want the boss to do? Plan out your key points on paper.

        Don’t feel bad. This stuff is not in our genes at birth and we have to acquire it somehow. If nothing else, you can plan out how you will handle it in preparation for handling other things. I will say, the longer stuff goes on the harder it is to handle. It’s possible that you never really handle this instance, but in another time/space you actually do handle a separate situation. My friend would not stand up to their parent. We talked about it. Much later an authority figure at work was way over the line. My friend came up with an EXCELLENT reply to the authority figure and successfully squelched any further recurrences. Sometimes we have to incubate stuff for a while.

  9. Secret Identity*

    In regards to #1 – I just don’t understand that mentality. I get that people abuse systems. There are those who abuse nearly every good thing we’ve got going and I really do get that it absolutely sucks that there are some people who may receive disability benefits who don’t need it or use a handicap parking space that’s not truly necessary or go online and get a “service animal” vest and slap it on an unruly, untrained animal and that needs to stop, but just starting from the assumption that someone is abusing an accommodation is just unbelievable to me.
    And I say this as someone whose MIL is currently on disability and absolutely lied her ass off to get it. And admits having done so. At least to us, she does. Not to doctors, of course. But she shouldn’t be allowed to make it harder for those who do need benefits to get them. I admit, her antics have made me more skeptical than I’d like to be, but I would never automatically assume someone was lying as my starting position. That’s crazy to me.

    1. JSPA*

      Being on disability is not the cushy ride that people seem to assume it is, anyway. Lifesaving, for some of my friends, but not something any of them would have chosen in place of actively decent alternative options. I now always assume that if someone goes that route, they either have the disability stated, or some other, harder-to-document disability or issue that makes them equally unable to get and hold regular employment sufficient for basic necessities.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      If a person has a mindset that everyone they see on disability is draining the system, this is all about the person’s worldview. It’s not possible NOR logical that so many people are ALL embezzling from the system.

      I did have an instance where one subordinate was bragging about evading taxes. I had to think about this for a moment because as a supervisor I worked at staying out of people’s lives. Finally, what I landed on was to say, “That is an at-home topic. What you are talking about is probably illegal and you need to keep it out of the workplace. We don’t need to know.”
      Had this continued I had decided to say, “Don’t put me in a place where I can get ordered to testify against you.”

  10. Observer*

    #1 – I’m totally not surprised at this outcome. The fact that HR said that it was “not necessary” to consider moving desks was an immediate red flag.

    I’m SOOOO glad you are out of there.

    I’m not sure if this is possible, but would you consider filing a complaint with the EEOC (or whoever it is that deals with ADA accommodations)? It sounds to me like they were arbitrarily refusing reasonable ADA required accommodations.

  11. Former Employee*

    OP#1: The entire work place seems so strange that I’m almost not surprised at the dysfunction displayed by the people in HR. This makes me think of some sort of laws of attraction phenomenon that caused horrid individuals to be drawn to apply there.

    I don’t think that anyone needs to be a dog person (I’m not) to see how off that place is or at least it was when the OP was there.

    And yes, there are scammers who pretend to be disabled, but they usually go all in by qualifying for disability so they can avoid having to get a job. Someone who is making an effort to work by getting an assistance dog or some other type of accommodation is not likely to be a scammer. So, the OP was dealing with people who were both dysfunctional and dumb.

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