updates: the long car ride with coworkers, the late payments, 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 four updates from past letter-writers.

1. I don’t want to be in a car with coworkers for eight hours a day (#2 at the link)

My boss is unfortunately still against me staying the night during trips to our site and continues to make the trip in one day. She simply doesn’t agree that the trip is unsafe and has since told me all sorts of stories about the long days she worked while she was pregnant. I had support from her boss but he recently left the company and his position has not yet been filled. We’re in the process of on-boarding a new team member and she was horrified when she learned about the travel days. I’m hoping that my boss will be more inclined to listen if both of her employees complain. Not sure if I mentioned that aspect in my original email….my boss only manages the two of us (and it was just me for a long time).

After talking to the others in my office (they work for a different department), I learned that they actually have the option to stay overnight or break up the trip in any way they see fit. I’ve been lucky enough to get out of recent trips due to previously scheduled meetings at our office. If all else fails in the future, I’m going to get HR involved. I’m not going to be making another trip to this site in one day.

At this point, I’m just counting down the days to maternity leave. I plan to use my time to find another job because I definitely will not be comfortable leaving my newborn for so long.

2. My client is always late paying me (#3 at the link)

This story has a happy ending! I asked for them to email me back acknowledging my invoices, and there were a few hiccups, but then… Wait for it… They put me on part time salary with regular direct deposit! (Part time is all I wanted, I have another job I love that only takes about 10ish hours a week). You had suggested that in some cases, it’s the law that you go off contract if you are really an employee – I didn’t even have to bring it up. I now have dental and health benefits and they bought me a brand new work computer!!!! My bosses are and always were really amazing people, and this worked out so well, I’m really glad I gulped down my worries about bringing it up because now everything is so much better! I was open with them about how I had external stressors regarding payment and they completely understood and have bent over backwards to make me feel like a valued member of their team. I couldn’t be happier! Thank you Alison!

Addendum to the update:

I totally didn’t put in my follow up a couple things, like how much the comments section helped. Everyone saying I could ask for an email back with an acknowledgement was a huge help, and also your kind words letting me know I could stop feeling ashamed for needing the money. <3 As I mentioned, my friend had just passed away very suddenly (her breast cancer was in remission, and then bam, in 3 weeks she passed away from it spreading to her liver, two small children, just heartbreaking, she was an angel for real) and I wasn’t up to interacting online, but I read every message. The support was awesome and sometimes hilarious in the best way! <3

3. My company wants me to pay for a parking citation received in error (#5 at the link)

I followed your advice and attempted to push back with the rental car company, but because the rental was booked on a company card by our admin, due to the data privacy rules in my country, no one at either the rental company or the local government issuing the citation would speak with me. I followed all possible trails to resolution, documenting everything and sharing with my company, until all the options dried up. Eventually, our admin interceded with the finance team at my company and helped to convince them that they should not be holding me liable for the charge given that I had made every attempt to have it reversed. All in all, I didn’t end up having to pay, but it was a long process to get to that point.

4. Bringing an on-again, off-again boyfriend to the holiday party (#2 at the link)

I just wanted to send you an update as it’s time for the annual holiday party again! I brought Cecil to the party last year and other than a slightly awkward moment when my coworker’s husband asked how long we’d been together, the night went wonderful! I am bringing Cecil to the holiday party again and I’m pleased to announce we’ve gone a full year without breaking up – a personal best for us!

{ 68 comments… read them below }

    1. anonEMT*

      Unfortunately, I doubt it. OP’s boss is just a jerk. Truck drivers have mandated limits on driving hours but that’s DOT rules, not OSHA. I’m in EMS, so obviously a huge driving component to my job, and we work crazy shifts and no one blinks an eye. We’re just used to it. I’ve driven after being awake for 24+ hours and its perfectly legal (and commonplace in some areas). OP, I’m sorry your boss is being like this and I hope someone in the company sees reason. If you don’t feel safe or healthy doing it, stand your ground and don’t let them change your mind (it doesn’t sound like you will!)

      1. Audiophile*

        Stay safe, anonEMT. Years ago it was huge news in my town, when a paramedic passed away after the driver of the ambulance fell asleep at the wheel.

        And yes, OP’s boss is a jerk.

        Somehow this wound up as its own comment, so I’m reposting.

        1. anonEMT*

          Yes, people have gone to jail for accidents while driving the ambulance. It’s scary, and we do our best to stay safe. I don’t want to be responsible for causing anyone’s death.

          1. Working Mom*

            I *think* that unless the driver is a DOT regulated driver, those rules don’t apply. (I’m not certain – but I suspect. Still wrong though.)

            FWIW, I will share my experience when I traveled out and back in one day to meet with the client. When the request first came in, my boss suggested I do what she always does – which is fly out early, have the meeting, fly back right after. I did it – and it totally sucked. I left my house at 3am and got home at 1am. It was just a crazy long, exhausting day. The next time that same client requested a meeting and my boss approved the travel – I just asked her if she wanted me to do it one day to avoid a hotel stay – or if she would be ok if I did that just because it was tiring. She did NOT hesitate at all and said absolutely – get a hotel for the night. Doing it in one day was just her personal preference. From then on out, I always booked a hotel and stayed the night, then flew back the next day.

            That’s how a reasonable boss should respond!!

    2. Diamond*

      Whether it’s legal or not, it wouldn’t look good on the company if there was an accident and it came out that OP had repeatedly said she felt unsafe and requested to stay overnight and was denied.

    3. bluephone*

      “She simply doesn’t agree that the trip is unsafe and has since told me all sorts of stories about the long days she worked while she was pregnant.”
      Ah, the old “Well *I* walked 20 miles, upwards, in blizzards to get to school–and back– when I was little so you should too!” defense. Good luck with that, OP’s boss. (And good luck, OP 1, to finding something else during maternity leave! I hope everything goes well for you and your new baby)

  1. EPLawyer*

    #1, run do not walk to HR. Your boss is a loon. Just because SHE worked long hours while pregnant does not make it 1) safe or 2) reasonable. This is a case of “Well I did it, so everyone else can too” without really stopping to think. She is probably unreasonable in other ways too.

    Everyone else, YAAAY I love a happy ending. #2 when your boss is reasonable, they react reasonably to reasonable requests like PAYMENT. I am sorry about your friend.

      1. e271828*

        Yes on the HR involvement. Please. And best wishes for a successful, salitudinous job hunt.

        A possible response to your boss’s description of her heroic road trips while pregnant is, “Well, that’s interesting, but I’m not you.”

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          OP#1 Just check all your work policies and make sure that if you go on some sort of paid maternity leave (not just FMLA) you do not have to pay it back if you do not come back to work.

          I have seen many companies that offer paid maternity leave, but if you don’t come back to work because you want to stay home or find another job you have to pay back the benefit that the company paid out.

          1. Massive Dynamic*

            Seconding this, also any portion of your medical coverage that the employer is paying and will continue to pay on your leave… they could charge you for that if you give notice before returning after leave.

    1. Meepmeep*

      This is unfortunately common for all sorts of pregnancy issues. “Well, I ran marathons when I was pregnant, so what are you complaining about?” I had terrible pregnancy fatigue and got that one all the time when I said I couldn’t do something.

      I’d say that OP shouldn’t even mention the pregnancy – just say this is unsafe for ANYONE. Because it is.

      1. Filosofickle*

        An old friend had super easy pregnancies. Super duper easy. She has never been an empathetic person, but I was floored by her “I don’t know what all those women are complaining about, being pregnant is fun and awesome” attitude. Um, maybe not everyone has pregnancies like yours?! Ugh.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          That was my mom. She got put on an “information diet” four months into my first pregnancy when she told me I just had to “suck it up” about being nauseous 24-7 (I wasn’t to hypermesis, but was also not normal). It didn’t get better when I finally got pregnant a second time (complete with non-stop demands for pregnant belly photos………), some people just can’t understand that their pregnancy experience is not universal.

          1. PossiblyEnoughDetailToBeIdentified*

            some people just can’t understand that their pregnancy experience is not universal.
            Actually, you could remove the word “pregnancy” from this sentence and accurately describe the entire human psychology.

            I had a boss who just couldn’t wrap her head around the fact that not everyone has an orangery, and can afford to go on two or three vacations a year. She knew what my salary was (approximately half of hers), but somehow she thought I should know and have experienced what she understood of the world. To keep it tangentally connected to pregnancy – she also expected me to fully understand and appreciate what she was going through when she was menopausal; I’m 16 years her junior – that’s not going to be my experience for at least a decade (barring some medical issues). Some people….

            1. Quill*

              Last time I cussed an actual human out to their face was when my arches unexpectedly collapsed on a hike with the sierra club, where I was the only person under 50 and the hike was SUPPOSED to be 8 miles, which is about my limit. (It turns out it was 12 because the organizer can’t read maps, apparently.)

              60 year old organizer “stop complaining, you’re too young for this to be so difficult. And you’re too young to have arthritis!”

              Me “I was too young to have arthritis when I got it seven ***ing years ago at eighteen, you’re the *** idiot who thought this was an eight mile hike.”

              I haven’t been on any hikes with them since, because apparently the sierra club is fond of biting off more than I can chew and severely underestimating the time and distance required.

            2. Roy G. Biv*

              yes – very much this – “Actually, you could remove the word “pregnancy” from this sentence and accurately describe the entire human psychology.”

        2. 2 Cents*

          A friend told me her mom didn’t believe morning sickness was real because she hadn’t experienced herself with either pregnancy. I asked my friend if I could throw up in her mom’s shoes just to prove how real it can be for some.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Ughhhh – that was my mom. Couldn’t believe that I was still dealing with “morning sickness” after the first trimester, and then wanted me to just “suck it up.”

            Just because your experiences were different than mine does not negate me and my lived experiences. (And yes I feel this should apply to all of life, not just pregnancy.)

      2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        We had someone do that in the comments here a few weeks back. Someone asked for pregnancy accommodations and the commenter came back with the same “But I did it…” rejoinder. But because it’s here, several people pointed out that not all pregnancies are alike, in fairly short order.

      3. Lilo*

        I climbed mountains while pregnant. I would rather climb a mountain than sit in a car for 8 hours while pregnant. Sitting for long periods got super hard in my third trimester. My hip would ache.

        I had a friend with hyperemesis and she could barely get out of bed.

        But again this is nuts for anyone. Please tell me these poor people are at least getting paid overtime for this insanity.

    2. Agatha_31*

      I once had a boss tell me – after I returned from work after a couple doctor-ordered days off because I’d gotten a fairly nasty burn ON THE JOB – that she had gotten third degree burns at work and had never taken a day off for them.

      Needless to say I simply stood there and let her rant and then went back to working with absolutely no guilt because honey, you making stupid decisions does not mean it’s in anyone else’s job description to do the same.

      (PS this was a minimum wage fast food job, because of course it was)

      1. corporate engineering layoff woo*

        Sound like someone is a terrible point of contact for building a safety culture, alas.

        1. Ann Onny Muss*

          Yeah, I’m pretty sure this was one of my managers when I was waiting tables. “Well *I* come in when I’m sick/injured/should be hospitalized. I don’t know why you don’t too.” She was an all around unpleasant person to work for.

      2. Lilo*

        I once had a fast food boss try to get me to keep working while I was throwing up. That had to be some kind of health code violation.

        1. Eirene*

          I essentially got fired for not coming into my job as a prep cook at a sit-down brewery/restaurant because I had norovirus for a week. I could barely stand up straight (because I was either busy throwing up or the other thing), and they were annoyed that I didn’t want to pass on the GI illness from hell to our customers. I wasn’t sorry when they shut down a couple of years later for lack of business.

      3. Mongrel*

        “…that she had gotten third degree burns at work and had never taken a day off for them.”
        And yet when you say “Good for you. And?” you’re the one with the attitude problem.

      4. Pretzelgirl*

        Some bosses, just don’t get it. I had a manager who gave me crap for wanting to take a few days off, after getting my wisdom teeth out. Which can be a painful and difficult recovery. Stating she came to work the afternoon after she got them out. I just stood there and literally stared at her. She was like “Oh fine, take whatever you need…” and stormed off.

        1. LV*

          I still have my wisdom teeth, but had some teeth removed when I was around 10 years old. I vividly remember that the entire bottom of my face was numb for hours after the operation. When I caught sight of myself in a mirror, I realized that my mouth had been hanging open for who knows how long and long ropes of drool and blood were steadily streaming down my chin and onto my clothes. I don’t think anyone wants to deal with that in the workplace!

        2. Quill*

          I am very bad with anesthesia and it takes about double the usual amount to knock me out. I was lucky enough to get the wisdom teeth out in high school, on a friday morning, and thought I was good to go to class on monday, because I wasn’t driving and didn’t have gym…

          I ended up wandering around insisting that I didn’t know how my wisdom teeth were, other than in a bag of biowaste in a few hundred pieces, but my lack of wisdom teeth was just fine, thank you for asking, until my 4th period student assistantship in the library, when the librarian got sick of me and requested that I “review” the new books cart until I passed out in the back room.

      5. Quill*

        Of course it was.

        (Third degree? I think she may be deeply misinformed about the severity of a burn as well as deeply obnoxious… because no, DO NOT WORK WITH FOOD WHEN YOU HAVE A THIRD DEGREE BURN.)

        I got a nasty but nowhere near requiring hospitalization burn when my manager (also working food in college) snuck up behind me as I was getting a pizza out of the oven, and screamed “why aren’t you helping this customer!!!?”

    3. Glitsy Gus*

      Agreed. Take New Coworker with you if you can. Showing HR you both think this is bonkers will help.

  2. Observer*

    #1 – Absolutely talk to HR. It’s not just the pregnancy. It’s just stupid (and abusive) for anyone to be working those kinds of days and driving.

    The fact that other people ARE being given permission to break up their trip says that it’s not a company problem, but your supervisor. If you HR is any good, they will be VERY unhappy (if for no other reason than the liability involved) and put a stop to it. Even if you leave, your successor will surely thank you for this.

    You know your company culture the best, but think about not framing this as a pregnancy or parenting issue. Because let’s face it, you wouldn’t want to do this even if the baby were not in the mix. And it might sidestep your boss’ stupid idea that if it’s not officially “dangerous” for your pregnancy and SHE did it while pregnant, it’s perfectly ok to demand that from you.

    1. Quinalla*

      Agreed, talk to HR if it does come up again before you go on maternity leave. It is fine if your boss wants to do the trip in one day, I do get that desire to avoid overnights away from home, but to force others who have clearly stated they don’t want to because of health and safety reasons is ridiculous!

      And I would bring up your pregnancy as that makes the health issues even more pronounced, but that is a health/safety issue for anyone! And now that you know others in your company split the trip, I think you have even more leverage.

    2. Lilo*

      It is especially bad for a pregnant lady. My doctor told me it was important to get up and take a walk every hour in my third trimester. Plus the sciatica.

      This would be nuts for anyone. You’re asking for someone to fall asleep at the wheel.

    3. tangerineRose*

      Can you get a note from your doctor explaining that this is dangerous, especially while pregnant?

    4. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      Also, there’s the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism. That’s why there’s a section with suggested exercises in airplane magazines.

      1. MsSolo*

        Yeah, my midwife isn’t keen on me taking a long train journey – lots of instructions to get up a wander around hourly. Honestly, if someone told me “Oh, I did it when I was pregnant” as a way of pressuring me into doing the same, I’d pull a mumsnet* style “Oh gosh, how risky! You’re so lucky everything turned out okay! I don’t think I have the courage to dare go against medical advice like that.”

        *my midwife also explicitly tells patients to avoid mumsnet, because dear god the passive aggressive pregnancy shaming from all angles on there!

        1. Lara Cruz*

          I literally only know of mumsnet due to their abusive transphobia, so I’m not shocked they subject other women to the same nonsense.

          1. Oranges*

            I did not know about mumsnet. Half of me wants to go there the other half is saying go there later, right now you don’t have the spoons for insanity.

            1. MsSolo*

              There’s a good twitter feed for the best nonsense, mumsnet_madness. It’s a whole weird thing in the UK where it’s basically treated as a demographic to be courted (especially during elections), and turns up very high in search results for a lot of general queries. TBH, if you’re looking for “what do I do with a bumper crop of tomatoes I accidentally grew” you’ll find yourself in a fairly safe corner, versus “should I dye my hair while pregnant” which lands you in discussions about whether wearing manmade fabrics leads to autism.

    5. JKP*

      It’s not just the 8 hour drive, it’s 8 hours drive PLUS 8 hours work. A 16 hour work day is unreasonable whether you’re pregnant or not.

      1. Observer*


        Sure, pregnancy DOES make it worse and if necessary, the OP should bring that up. But given that she’d never want to do this even without the pregnancy FOR GOOD REASON, it might be worthwhile to focus on the overall problem.

        1. Rob aka Mediancat*

          Yup. If you concentrate on mentioning the pregnancy issues, they might assume you’re fine with 16-hour days when you’re no longer pregnant, and you’ve made it clear to us you’re not. You might mention that the pregnancy aggravates the issue, but that this is still an issue otherwise.

      2. Tierrainney*

        working for 16 hours is a very, very long day.

        And it was never mentioned, but I’m betting you were supposed to show up at your regular office the next day at the normal time and work 8 hours as well.

    6. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I think at this point I would just go above your supervisor and get this stunt if hers out in the open. You know that others in the company are breaking up this trip – you should be allowed to as well. Being pregnant also isn’t the only medical condition that makes this potentially impactful on personal health. Hopefully HR can help this manager see that just because not staying overnight is her preference doesn’t mean that she can force her staff do to the same.

  3. Audiophile*

    Stay safe, anonEMT. Years ago it was huge news in my town, when a paramedic passed away after the driver of the ambulance fell asleep at the wheel.

    And yes, OP’s boss is a jerk.

  4. Koala dreams*

    #1 Good to see that you have a plan if these sort of trips come up in the future! I hope HR will be able to help you out. Good luck with your job search!

  5. AnonNurse*

    #1 – I’m not really one to run to HR but this feels like the time to do that. I wouldn’t wait, I would just address this because it’s insane that the boss expects. It’s fine if that’s her personal expectation and desire, it’s not fine that she’s putting it in someone else.

    The two large employers I’ve worked for have had policies that any travel over an hour was eligible for overnight accommodations. It was up to the employee but there was never pressure to have to drive long periods on the same day.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed, boss’ preference is just that, her preference. The company is letting the other travelers break this up, I would go to HR and let them know your boss isn’t allowing you to do what every other department is getting to do, and how would they like you to handle pushing back against her desire that your whole group has to always do this all in one day. Who knows, they may just handle it all for you.

      1. Carlie*

        The pregnancy isn’t even part of it – the company has a procedure for travel, your supervisor isn’t allowing you to follow the procedure, and not following it causes a safety risk. That should be all HR needs to swing into action.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        It was not brought up that I know of, but OP is very likely an exempt salaried employee so yes/no.

        1. Quill*

          It’s still a pretty huge travel burden & most companies will find some way to compensate that, whether in additional days off or what have you.

  6. Kisses*

    I’m very sorry to hear about the friend passing, especially so suddenly. That’s heartbreaking.

  7. Pretzelgirl*

    #1-Use pregnancy to your advantage here. Try and see if you can get your OB to write you a note. Most would probably not wanting you sitting for that long, due to a host of complications that could arise.

    Also post pregnancy if you plan to nurse and pump, at work you may want to try and use that to your advantage as well. Citing it would be too difficult to drive, and pump etc. Good Luck, with everything!

    1. Oranges*

      Anyone else get the mental image of the boss telling the OP “Just pump in the car. We’re all women here. You can cover up so the other cars can’t see”?

      1. J.B.*

        I have pumped in the (parked) car and in a water plant. Not that I recommend anyone else do so, it was just ok with me. The car was awfully tight (and I had a nursing cover over the top with the A/C running, but…weird)

    2. Alice*

      This is not about the pregnancy. Nobody should have to work 16 hour days that include 8 hours in a car, at best it’s grueling and at worst it’s an accident waiting to happen. OP being pregnant makes the situation worse but it’s not as if this setup would be okay if only they replaced her with someone who’s not pregnant.

  8. Quill*

    #1 Your work trips are a disaster zone, which you already knew, so it’s good that you’re going to start looking. Your new coworker also may be headed out ASAP, because really, 16 hour days? Also your boss seems very much like a “I walked ten miles uphill in the snow both ways, I expect you to do the same” type person.

  9. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

    #2 Part-time sounds like a lovely outcome. I’m sorry to hear about your friend.

    #3 That sounds like a frustrating amount of work but yay for it working out!

    1. CmdrShepard4ever*

      If OP#3 was fighting on principle good for them. But I wonder how much time and energy it took them to fight it, to avoid paying the $100 fine they mentioned in the original post?

      When I was younger, in school and broke I remember standing in line for an hourish for a free meal ($8) for various restaurant’s grand openings. A couple of years ago a new quick serve pizza place opened on a college campus they were giving away a free personal pizza ($9) the line was long mostly college kids, I asked some how long they had been waiting they said about 75 mins. I briefly contemplated getting in line but decided that to me my time was more valuable being at home getting other things done.

      If I were in school still, had the entire day free with absolutely nothing to do, or the line was shorter I would have gotten in line for sure.

  10. J!*

    Ugh, #1 I’m so sorry that your boss is digging in and being weird about this. That “I did this thing and survived so the people who follow after me also have to suffer, that’s just how it is” attitude is prevalent in a lot of fields, and it’s so stupid.

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