interviewing when you might be moving, coworker told people about my husband’s criminal record, and more

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

1. Interviewing when I might need to quit the job quickly

After two years in a freelance position, I’ve begun interviewing for in-house roles in my city. I’ve had some hesitation about doing this because, while I am really eager to find a consistent position, there is a strong chance my partner will be offered a job across the country. We don’t know when the offer might come, and we don’t know when we’d have to be out there if we decide the move is the right thing to do.

I’m beginning to hear back from companies about initial interviews, and the ones I have had so far have been positive. Of course, nothing is guaranteed at this point, but I’m imagining a situation in which I’m offered a job and then we decide to move. Knowing that that’s a possibility makes me feel a little bit dishonest if I leave it out of the conversation, but I also don’t want to bring it up before we know more about our plans. I’ve worked remotely for years, so I’m very comfortable with that, but to be honest, if we move I’ll be much more inclined to find a job in our new city (which has abundant and interesting opportunities for me!).

Do you have any advice about how/when/if I should be bringing this up with hiring managers? I suppose it would make the most sense to wait and see if this move will materialize at all, but since we don’t know how long that will take, I’m not comfortable putting my entire job search on hold. What would you say, or want to hear, if you were on either end of this situation?

As a hiring manager, I’d want to know very early on in the process so I could decide if it made sense to keep you in the candidate pool or not — but to be honest, unless you were truly extraordinary, I probably wouldn’t consider you further because it doesn’t make sense to hire someone who’s already thinking they may leave the job soon after. So, know that’s how a lot of hiring managers will feel and make your decision about whether to disclose it accordingly. (This assumes we’re talking about professional jobs where frequent turnover isn’t built into the model.)

But if you think you’re likely to know for sure in the next few months, it would be better to wait until then. I agree you shouldn’t put your job search on hold indefinitely for something that may never happen, but if you have the option to freelance a few more months, I’d strongly consider that.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. My coworker is telling people my husband has a criminal record

About a year ago, my then-boyfriend came to visit me at work. A new colleague, whom I didn’t know or work with, told several colleagues that he has a criminal record, which she knew because her sister dated him years ago. Her stated reason for telling colleagues: she was worried that he was there for a job interview and she thought the company should know.

I approached my HR manager about the issue — that a colleague had brought in personal, sensitive information and spread it around my workplace. He recommended that I speak with her directly, which I did. I politely and firmly explained that this is not information that is hers to share. He made a mistake in his youth (a minor, non-violent offense, for which he paid very heavily and for which he continues to pay a heavy price). She apologized, the damage had been done, but we moved on and several months ago, I married him.

This week, I learned that this same person approached a family member of mine (the two of them are members of the same religious community), months after the wedding, to tell her about my husband. I have a small family, and they are very important to me. I was livid. What if my family decided to turn their backs on us? This person doesn’t know me or my husband, she doesn’t know what happened with my husband’s transgression, we’ve never done anything to her, and even her sister moved on years ago.

I have no power over this person. Do I have a justification for filing an official complaint with HR? Harassment? Hostile environment? Anything?

Probably not, I’m sorry. Hostile work environment, in the legal sense, needs to be based on race, sex, religion, disability, or other protected characteristics. It doesn’t rise to the legal level of harassment (which requires that the conduct be severe or pervasive, and also based on protected characteristics like the ones I just named). It’s possible your company has internal policies against gossip or would consider this otherwise problematic, and you could try explaining that your coworker is spreading gossip about you outside of work. But this is someone who shared info that’s factually true with someone she knows in her personal life. It’s not likely to look like a sustained campaign of harassment (even in the non-legal sense). And I suspect that the more you fight it, the bigger deal it’s going to make of something that you’re trying to keep a smaller deal.

Can you instead work on making peace with it? Your husband got in trouble for a minor, non-violent offense in his youth, as have millions of other people. That’s a fact of his life that’s not going away. It’s part of him, part of his history, and part of why he is who he is today. The more you can make peace with it and not see it as a dirty secret to hide, the easier this will probably get.

3. Email subject lines for death announcements

I wanted to get your thoughts on quite a tricky subject; deaths at work. I’m a communications manager and, sadly, during my career I’ve had to face and help communicate the deaths of colleagues number of times.

I’m fairly confident on how I’ve handled most of the processes around these — one-on-one conversations with people who knew them well or worked closely with them, sensitively worded emails to the wider team with next steps or what to do if they need to talk, penning straightforward and heartfelt obituaries for public announcements when needed. However, there’s one area that I feel I just haven’t been getting right (if “right” is possible) and can’t find much advice on — email subject lines.

It’s just a fact that some people will need to be notified by email rather than a face-to-face or a phone call. But I find it frustrating that the work I put into breaking such bad news in a sensitive way somehow needs to sit behind the blunt instrument of the business world — the email subject line. No matter how I phrase it, the subject line always seems too vague (“Sad news”), too specific and blunt (“Timothy Jones passed away yesterday”), not important enough (“Timothy Jones”) or too impersonal (“Notice of the passing of Timothy Jones”).

Do you have thoughts on how to approach this? I know it’s going to continue being something I need to handle and I want to do my best to treat it with the solemnity that it deserves across everything it touches.

There’s no good answer for this because it’s just an awful situation. I would go with “sad news.”

4. Why do people accept LinkedIn connections but refuse to communicate?

I’m confused about a piece of LinkedIn etiquette. From your blog, I understand that it might not be the best idea to contact hiring managers directly to check in about your applications status. That’s great.

But there’s this company I wanted to work at for years. I’ve done all of the research I can possibly do. The big gap is not knowing anyone, so I connected with a manager in my field who works there and reached out to express my interest in the company and let them know that I’d love to learn more about the company from him. He never answered. I tried again a while later because he’d written a post on LinkedIn that I shared my admiration for. He never answered.

I get that strangers have no obligation to answer people on platforms like LinkedIn and I’ve moved on, especially since realizing through other means that I don’t want to work for a tech company. But what confused me is why this person accepted my connection request to begin with. Why would you connect with someone, opening that door for communication, if you’re not going to communicate with them at all ever? It doesn’t make any sense. I understand that he might not have had anything to do with jobs I was looking for like I thought, that maybe he was already inundated with messages, and so forth … but then don’t connect with strangers who can clearly see your position at the company? It makes LinkedIn connections seem very hollow if people are collecting connections who they’ll refuse to communicate with.

Some people accept all/most LinkedIn connections without thinking about it at all, and it’s not any deeper than that. But also, he might be open to some types of conversations and not others. He might be up for responding if you sent him a question about a paper he authored, or asked for a reference for someone he worked with, or had questions about a particular piece of his career path. Those are all more compelling than “I’m trying to get hired at your company,” which is what your message boiled down to. He might get a lot of those messages. He may prioritize spending his time on other things.

Asking a stranger to spend time helping you in your job search is a big favor to ask. Some people will respond if you look like an unusually good candidate (and some not even then). Some people will respond if they’re actively hiring (and some not even then). Some people will respond if you come through a mutual connection. But in general, people don’t prioritize cold contact from total strangers looking for a job. It’s just not what people are on LinkedIn for. That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t respond to something that held more interest for him, though.

5. Can I reach out to the person who used to have the job I’m interviewing for?

During an interview process, is it strange to reach out to the person who held the position before you, i.e,, your potential predecessor? I’m very early in the interview process for a position. The person who had the position previously has left the organization already and was there for only a year, which to me is a potential red flag (and I’ve heard a couple other things that concern me as well). But also, who knows — it might be a completely great organization. I want to try to identify them and reach out, but before I even try to do that, I’d love to know your thoughts on whether doing that is weird in the first place.

In contrast to question #4, this is a good example of the kind of LinkedIn query someone might find more compelling! Or not, who knows, but it’s worth a shot. It’s not inappropriate to do, as long as you’re under serious consideration for the job (it doesn’t make sense to do it at very early stages of the process, when they’re still making lots of cuts). Just make sure you’re diplomatic in your approach; your initial message should be one you’d be okay with the employer seeing (because at this stage you don’t know if she’s still super close with her old boss and might mention it to them).

I recently coached someone through doing this (like you, she was seeing potential red flags and wanted more info) and she ended up turning down the job over what she heard.

{ 748 comments… read them below }

  1. many bells down*

    So for #3, this actually comes up where I work. It’s a religious organization and has a lot of elderly members. We use “A Death in the [Organization Name] Family” in our email subject lines.

      1. Quickbeam*

        I always appreciate plain language in death announcements. I got one at work once indicating that a co-worker had gone to the “Chapel Triumphant” and I thought they had entered the ministry or something. Someone had to tell me they had died.

              1. Chinook*

                Ironically, I could see my family members using that type of phrase to talk about dead relatives. Black humour is very in keeping with British humour.

              2. roisin54*

                Well considering what he said when he gave the eulogy at Graham Chapman’s funeral (“Good riddance to the freeloading bastard, I hope he fries” being a choice example) I think dark humor was always the way he was going to go. I’m sure Terry would’ve appreciated it. Irreverence is part of the Python image, after all.

                1. Edwina*

                  I think it’s REALLY important to put that in context–he started out with such a touching, heartfelt eulogy that it brought tears to everyone’s eyes–and THEN went with the kicker, which got an explosion of laughter–exactly because of the deep, powerful emotions he evoked before that. He then went on to explain exactly why he did that.

                  “Graham Chapman, co-author of the ‘Parrot Sketch,’ is no more. He has ceased to be, bereft of life, he rests in peace, he has kicked the bucket, hopped the twig, bit the dust, snuffed it, breathed his last, and gone to meet the Great Head of Light Entertainment in the sky, and I guess that we’re all thinking how sad it is that a man of such talent, such capability and kindness, of such intelligence should now be so suddenly spirited away at the age of only forty-eight, before he’d achieved many of the things of which he was capable, and before he’d had enough fun.

                  (BIG PAUSE, while everyone weeps, THEN:)

                  Well, I feel that I should say, “Nonsense! Good riddance to him, the freeloading bastard! I hope he fries! ”

                  (SCREAMS OF LAUGHTER–THEN, after the explosive relief of the laughter:)

                  And the reason I think I should say this is, he would never forgive me if I didn’t, if I threw away this opportunity to shock you all on his behalf. Anything for him but mindless good taste. I could hear him whispering in my ear last night as I was writing this:

                  “Alright, Cleese, you’re very proud of being the first person to ever say ‘sh**’ on television. If this service is really for me, just for starters, I want you to be the first person ever at a British memorial service to say ‘f***’!”

          1. KayDeeAye*

            My *church* uses “the Church Triumphant” (not in the subject line, though!) when it sends out a notice of someone’s death. It seems wildly inappropriate for a non-church context, however. Personally, I prefer plain language (I also dislike “has passed” – “has passed away” is somewhat better), even when it’s someone I’m really close to, but people have wildly different preferences in this area.

            I like “A Death in the [Organization Name] Family” a lot.

        1. PK*

          My dad is a minister. He was in the hospital at one point, and after a series of “please pray for…” emails, an email went out to all the ministers of the region with the subject line “‘Dad’s name’ has gone home.” One younger minister who he had mentored collapsed to the floor sobbing before she opened the email and discovered that he had not gone home to God but instead gone home from the hospital with a clean bill of health.

          1. Roy G. Biv*

            Do you suppose the person who wrote that email is quite proud of their clear, concise communication style, and can’t understand how anyone could misinterpret their messaging?

          2. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

            I’m sorry I laughed a little at that story (and I collapsed briefly once when learning of a surprising death of a colleague, so sympathize too).

            This story points out that euphemisms sometimes don’t help. “Passed away” is as vague as I’d go, and works well:

            “Sad news: XYY has passed away”

          3. TooTiredToThink*

            I have my own story – same language – opposite results and I busted up laughing at this.

          4. BradC*

            Our pastor frequently used the euphemism: “(name of person) has graduated” to announce deaths in the congregation. The full context probably came in a sermon years ago, something about “graduating” from this earthly life to heaven, but he frequently used it without further explanation.

            I was momentarily startled out of my tedium one Sunday morning when he announced from the pulpit that 7 of our high schoolers had “graduated”, until I realized he meant it literally.

        2. Feline*

          So much this! Don’t soften the blow so much the recipient doesn’t understand. I misunderstood about someone who “lost [Dog’s name]” recently, which was terribly embarrassing that I didn’t offer them the right kind of support.

          1. Junior Assistant Peon*

            My friend announced his mother’s death on Facebook with a posting that completely failed to make clear that he was announcing her death. He wrote a nice tribute to her, and everyone who read it thought it was her birthday or something like that!

            Another friend posted about missing his mother because he had recently moved away. I thought it was a softened death announcement until she posed a comment responding to his!

        3. Dasein9*

          I have had the same experience when told someone “transitioned.” I’m trans and was like, “What, over the weekend?”

            1. JSPA*

              Different religions, different terminology. But the message needs to be clear to those on the outside, as well. Shuffled off this mortal coil is clearer than shuffled off; transitioned from his earthly form is clearer than transitioned (etc). They’re all a bit weird if it’s not something you’ve encountered, but that’s because it’s a subject we don’t much talk about broadly, compared to within much smaller cultural / familial / faith – group settings.

              1. Quickbeam*

                My husband’s fraternity newsletter calls it “Moving to the Chapter Eternal”. Like a big creepy frat house in the sky.

      2. Bluenose Ghost*

        I was wondering if something like “Company bereavement” sounds too formal for OP3. I admit I would find “sad news” too elementary in tone, and “[Name] Death” or “[Name] – Obituary” a bit shocking if I worked with the person directly at some point but for some reason was left out of the “personally notified” loop.

      3. Chinook*

        Ditto for my women’s group when we give notification of a member’s death. When it is an immediate family member of a member or notice of a severe illness (which we send out with their permission), we use “Prayers for our sister,” but I don’t know what a non-religious equivalent would be.

        On the practical side, it may seem impersonal but that is a good thing in a subject line. It gives enough information to know if you need to open it now (because someone may need to know that person is no longer available) without being overemotional (which means a person can put off opening it if they are not in a place to deal with any emotion).

        As for what to put in the body, I would base that on what the family agrees to or a line of condolences from th company and a link to an online obituary.

    1. StellaBella*

      For OP5, definitely reach out and ask a few questions. I have done this in the past a coupke of times and it helped me to decide to not apply or to do the interview. I wish that when I was interviewing about a year ago, that I had reached out to the predecessor…when told by the hiring manager that, “of 3 candidates, 1 withdrew because of the required testing and 1 because she had freelanced in the role for six months and then had a burnout so withdrew”…because I became fourth person in the role in 18 months, then after six months got a lead who took over some of the work, then she left after 12 weeks. So I think if I could have spoken to the predecessors, I may have also declined. In the end, I am looking now for a new role and it has been a bumpy year with this manager.

    2. jam*

      I work in an academic department, so we also have fairly regular notices about elderly faculty or alumni who have passed away. Our chair sends them with just the person’s name in the subject line (just “Bob Smith”). I suppose this could be a bit ambiguous… but these are not usually people who would be announcing, say, a new role. Other personnel announcements tend to have more descriptive subject lines, “Farewell to Mary Park” “Welcome to Tim Jones” or “Congrats to Laura Patel” (although really, most of these announcements go into a newsletter rather than an individual email).

      1. The Bean*

        Yeah at universities I’ve attended it’s usually the only time an email goes out from a top administrator AND the subject line is just the full name of the professor.

        Got one yesterday as an alum about an old but great prof I had in law school and knew immediately what it was about. I do appreciate getting them even though I’m not at the school anymore. Gives you reason to stop and reflect in the middle of a usual day.

      2. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        Just the name is not enough. Bob Smith has passed away is so much better. Or Sad news – Bob Smith has passed away.

        1. Bostonian*

          I think it varies. In my office, a name is enough. Because that’s the tradition, people know by seeing someone’s name in the subject that there’s more sensitive/possibly sad news to follow in the message.

          Also, I think it’s slightly better to learn about someone’s death from the actual email instead of a subject line- especially if you’re in a meeting and see the notification pop up.

          1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

            Do you tell new employees this tradition, or do they learn it with the first message?

            “I think it’s slightly better to learn about someone’s death from the actual email instead of a subject line- especially if you’re in a meeting and see the notification pop up.”
            I don’t understand why this would be the case.

      3. Sciencer*

        My university uses “Sad news for the (university) community” in the subject line for student, faculty, staff, and (important) alumni deaths. The first line of the email is a clear “We are saddened to report the passing of…” or “It is with profound sadness that we report the passing of…” (that language is reserved for students I think; it’s a small school and student deaths hit hard).

        My opinion is that it’s important to indicate “sad news” in some way in the subject line, so people can choose not to open that email if they’re about to go to class/meeting/presentation/etc.

        1. Amelia*

          I work at a college and that’s how our notices go out too. I think it’s good to highlight that it’s sad news so people are prepared for, well, sad news when they open it and aren’t blindsided by the subject line sitting in their inbox.

      4. Tina*

        At my university they put the flag at half-mast and send an email with, literally, ‘Flag at half-mast today’ as the subject line.

    3. Nash*

      Comes up frequently in my workplace, which is government so is a large entity and includes dignitaries. The subject is usually “Notice of passing – name”. But like i said, this is not intended to be a personal or intimate announcement, it’s an notification for thousands of people. But in this context “sad news” would be weird as we get these fairly frequently.

      1. Veronica Mars*

        I think ultimately, people who are going to be sad about someone’s death are going to be sad. No amount of superfluous words or gentle lead up is going to make it better. In fact, I’ve experienced the frustration of frantically scanning through a death notification trying to figure out the who/what in the midst of all the wordy words. I appreciate brief and to the point notifications.

        FWIW, My Fortune 500 company has unfortunately had to send a few of these recently and used:
        “Remembering a ‘company’ colleague”
        “Invitation to remember PersonName”
        “Crash Claims Colleague’s Life” (which I found to be much too much, but it was an update on news of a crash we’d already heard about)

    4. MPH*

      My organization makes the email subject line “in sympathy”. This seems kind, specific, but not too blunt/harsh.

    5. MtnLaurel*

      I really think “sad news” is the best of all possible options for a work email. It’s not too specific yet gives the recipients a chance to prepare themselves, such as not opening while client facing.

      1. OP3*

        I’m beginning to agree. As I mentioned in another comment, the first death I dealt with from a comms perspective was actually very personally affecting. It was someone I worked with daily who dies in a sudden accident, one day we were having strategy meetings and a giggle – the next he was gone leaving a wife and two small daughters behind.

        I think I was looking at that impersonal subject line retaining that level of emotion, without disconnecting that if people are on the “being notified by email” list it’s likely they aren’t that close to it and slightly impersonal is fine. Thanks to all that have contributed.

        1. Dragoning*

          We had something similar in my office a few months back, and I am here to tell you, I honestly do not even remember what the subject line for it was. I’ve been trying to remember so I can share that, but that was not the detail that stuck out.

          1. Sparrow*

            This is a fair point. It seems likely that people will only really note the subject line if it’s clearly inappropriate or very confusing/misleading. Any of the more innocuous suggestions I’ve seen posted will probably be promptly forgotten.

        2. Wormentude*

          The hospital I work at in the UK uses the subject line “Death in service” and then gives the details in the body of the message.

      2. Rosaline Montague*

        We use “sad news,” which we believe allows folks time to prepare themselves before opening the message, but doesn’t shock or upset those who were close to the person by stating their death in the subject line. We also wait until the immediate colleagues of the person, if applicable, have been notified in person or over the phone.

      3. Nerfmobile*

        A slightly different situation, but my daughter’s school had a student die in a tragic accident earlier this school year. The email that went out to parents read “Important [School] News; Please read”. In that situation, it was important for parents to know what had happened and how the school was addressing it (grief counselors, etc.) for conversations with their children. That could be a useful approach for a situation where a small number of people (immediate co-workers, say) need to be informed and be able to respond. Less useful for a general announcement.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        For retirees, our company does the same. For current employees, the subject line is usually something like “tragic accident” or “tragic news”. Similar to “sad news” but a bit stronger.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Ours is similar, but it’s just the name of the coworker who has passed away. The email typically contains a short tribute to the person, details for any visitations/services, if the family is okay with them being shared, as well as a link to the obituary.

    6. K*

      I really like this one, though I guess it could depend a little bit on what the culture at one’s workplace is.

      I think the main thing for a subject heading is that you need something that will signify the gravity of the news without dumping the whole thing on you right away. If some people are learning about the death for the first time from the email, it wouldn’t be great to just be checking your email casually and get hit with a “RIP Bob Jones” subject line. (I guess you could say that anyone who was that close to Bob would already have been informed but I still don’t love it.) I think language like the above comment or just “Sad News” comes the closest to doing the trick.

    7. Dragoning*

      When one of my coworker’s daughter died, we got a mandatory meeting invite titled “An Announcement” and our director told us himself. But that was pretty unusually tragic.

    8. LizB*

      Not quite a workplace example, but my synagogue sends out congregational emails about deaths with the subject line “Condolences – [surname]”. Sometimes they go out pretty immediately after the death, sometimes it’s an announcement well after the fact, depending on what the family wants.

      1. ET*

        My synagogue sends out death announcements with the subject line ‘Baruch Dayan Emet – [surname]’ (which, for those who don’t know, is an abbreviation of the blessing you say when you hear someone has died). It’s unambiguous and respectful, but wouldn’t work outside of a Jewish context — ‘Condolences’ seems like a good all-purpose substitute.

    9. Shadowbelle*

      My (very large) company uses “sad news”, and I loathe the expression. And the emails.

      1. “Sad news” sounds to me like an expression used to a child. I find it immature and unprofessional.
      2. Although we are a very decidedly secular organization, the admin who sends out the death notices is allowed to use them as an opportunity to promote her (or someone’s) religion, and instruct us to pray. I don’t find the instruction to “keep so-and-so in your thoughts” any better. You don’t get to tell me what to think, Admin, or about whom. (BTW other employees have privately expressed the same irritation.)
      3. The death is may be sad for the family involved, but it’s not sad for me when I have never met or heard of the employee whose family member died, let alone the employee’s spouse’s grandparent. I’m not that involved in mankind.

      Therefore, in the interests of keeping my acid reflux at bay, I have my email auto-delete all emails where the subject line is “sad news”.

      I see no reason why they can’t use the expression mentioned by Avasarala below: “Notice of a Death”, and keep the text neutral (“BigCompany extends its sympathies to the family of RecentlyDeceasedPerson …”) This sort of email should try to avoid the annoyance factor and use language appropriate to the audience, which is (theoretically) composed of adults with a professional attitude.

      1. Renata Ricotta*

        I guess I see the reasoning behind your reactions, but for the OP, I think it’s worth noting that they’re pretty idiosyncratic. I see nothing childlike about “sad news” – it is news and it is unfortunate, and I wouldn’t think twice about the wording. I agree on religion, but “keeping X in your thoughts” is pretty neutral and common, and most people don’t take it as a literal command overriding your brain autonomy. Finally, I for one am a little sad (even if it’s a tiny twinge compared to what family and close friends are going through) to read that a member of the community has passed that that many people are feeling very strongly about it.

        1. Annony*

          I also don’t see a problem with “sad news.” Also, I think that. the fact that the organization consistently uses it allows people who don’t like the emails to filter them out and not see them anymore. Seems like a win to me.

      2. Hanna*

        I don’t find the instruction to “keep so-and-so in your thoughts” any better. You don’t get to tell me what to think, Admin, or about whom.

        Are you serious?

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Yeah. Especially combined with the weird anger about the phrase “sad news” or the idea that anyone but people who know the deceased might consider it sad.

            1. GreyjoyGardens*

              I use “I am thinking of you,” “you are in my thoughts,” “sending good thoughts” to people, BECAUSE I want to respect that not everyone is religious or wants prayers. Thoughts are neutral, and most people *who assume good intent* will appreciate that I am thinking kindly of them.

              (Those who do NOT assume good intent, I suppose I could say “too bad so sad about your loss, womp womp” but that would be sinking to their level.)

        1. Lita*

          Reminds me of a scene with Sam Elliot. Soldier is passing him while walking.

          “Good morning Major”
          “Don’t tell me what type of %$%& morning to have”

        2. Shadowbelle*

          Yes. I am serious. Will it clarify anything if I say that I have received, on a conservative estimate, over 500 of these emails? I can only remember one concerning a person I knew well, and I already knew about that loss.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Not really. The idea that someone using the generic “please keep so-and-so in your thoughts” is some sort of directive to control your thoughts is a weirdly literal overreaction. It’s a social nicety, not an attempt at mind control. I was on board about not being directed to pray, because I like my secular workplace, but, “Don’t you tell me what to THINK!” in this situation is over the top.

      3. JSPA*

        I find it odd that you can’t get your head around the idea that the news itself is sad, even if you personally are not directly saddened. On a purely practical note, you will at some point say “have a good one” or “why the long face?” to someone who is directly affected… you will be irked that the person in question isn’t getting back to you by e-mail… or it will actually be someone whose death does matter to you.

        Forcing people to deal with your ignorance of a death because you can’t be assed to read even the first line of an email and then manually delete seems… well, “entitled” is so misused and overused these days that it’s awkward here, but “I chose not to Adult at work when it concerns death, and will simply explain that I must have missed the email, if I cause someone unnecessary pain” strikes me as exactly that.

          1. Shadowbelle*

            Sorry, mis-nested. That was for JSPA.

            My response to you was going to be that I have not made any assumptions.

      4. Middle School Teacher*

        Wow, you are really heavily invested in this. Also you remind me of Dickens’ description of Scrooge.

      5. Ramona Q*

        “The death is may be sad for the family involved, but it’s not sad for me when I have never met or heard of the employee whose family member died, let alone the employee’s spouse’s grandparent. I’m not that involved in mankind.” I am really glad I don’t work with you, Shadowbelle. How unkind.

        1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

          I’ll add that even if something is not sad for me, if a relation of a colleague dies I at least pretend it’s a sad thing to me. Not in a huge demonstrative way, but such as saying (if speaking “Oh, that’s very sad.”) Really. It’s not a big deal – it’s politeness. And I’m a pretty cold mofo myself.

          1. Washi*

            Right. It’s a sad thing for the family, and I don’t wish sadness on anyone, therefore “that’s too bad” or “I’m sorry to hear that” or “that’s very sad” are all perfectly accurate things to say.

      6. GreyjoyGardens*

        This sounds…incredibly cold-hearted. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers that you can develop some human compassion for others.

      7. Lissa*

        I mean…no matter what you do or say you run the risk of someone hating it. I think “sad news” is pretty reasonable for news that is sad but maybe not directly relevant – it’s really similar to what I sad to my friends to tell them my father suddenly passed away – they didn’t know him but the news was sad! I know some people have really strong feelings about never saying “passed away” or softening anything but there are going to be just as many people who prefer it, so I think one’s own preference really shouldn’t be the standard here and we should assume everyone is operating in good faith and not trying to annoy their staff by the wording of a death announcement.

      8. emmelemm*

        This is… pretty prickly. It’s your right to feel this way, but I do not think you are in the majority.

      9. DKMA*

        As far as I can tell, you have one legitimate complaint in here and then a bunch of idiosyncradic preferences that you mistakenly frame as moral stances.

        Being annoyed at the religiousity makes sense, but the rest comes off as a combination of prickly and callous and you should be prepared for it to be viewed as such if you ever express it in a less anonymous forum.

        1) There is nothing childish about “sad news”. You are framing this as if they are sending emails that say “Someone had a boo boo “, but it’s actually not like that.
        2) You don’t actually have to keep someone in your thoughts. You also might want to realize that being annoyed at this and also annoyed at religiousity is counterproductive.
        3) I’m agape at this one. You seem to believe that “professional” is equivalent to “robotic and impersonal” this is not true. I’m flabbergasted that anyone would object to the fact that the death of a coworker was being described as sad.

        I highly recommend not repeating these complaints at your workplace, it will not help your professional reputation.

      10. Mr. Shark*

        Wow, I normally would hate to pile on, but that seems completely unfeeling, and totally unreasonable (the idea that “keep so-and-so in your thoughts” is some kind of demand about what you should think).
        Most people understand that a death, even if you aren’t personally affected by the news, is something that people have sympathy for others who are affected.
        The “Notice of Death” is extremely impersonal and doesn’t extend any sympathy or even try to break it to a coworker nicely.
        I understand the company is a business, so I agree, there shouldn’t be any prayers or anything, but simple condolences or keeping people in your thoughts seems like a nice, human reaction to other people’s loss.

      11. Long Wow*

        It really must be hard living a life where an e-mail announcing a death is such a hardship to you.

      12. SimplyTheBest*

        I can’t even get past your first point to read the rest. I assume it’s just as ridiculous. Sad news is an expression used exclusively with children? Which word is childish? Sad? News? Are you one of those people who thinks emotions are only for the weak? I’m truly baffled.

      13. Decima Dewey*

        My library system sends out emails when people who worked for the system (or still work for it) or their relatives die. For me it’s a reminder of how large the system is, that I could work in the system for more than two decades and have never met the person. Occasionally a sadness that now I never will.

        If I knew the person, I’ll send condolences. If I didn’t, but know of people who knew the deceased, I remember that someone is grieving.

    10. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I like the idea of using the deceased’s name and their birth and death years, if known, for the subject line.

      1. Clorinda*

        It still seems kind of abrupt, because you’re telling people who died *in the subject line itself* whereas Sad News or A Death in Our Community or something like that gives the reader a moment to prepare.
        Compare it to telling someone in person. Would you just walk up to Harry and say, “RIP Dumbledore” or would you say, “I have some sad news” first? Most of us would give the intro.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          I don’t really see this as analogous. Chances are that people close enough to the person to need that moment to prepare will have found out via another channel that came with the intro. For most others, it is mostly informational and there’s no need to wade them in gently, except to phrase the announcement kindly.

    11. Purple Princess*

      Our company uses “In Memory – [Name].” It gets the point across without being too jarring.

      1. SimplyTheBest*

        From experience, I disagree. I work for a religious institution and we send out congregational emails announcing the deaths of congregants and congregants’ family members, each with the subject line In Memory of [Congregants Name]. It is shocking to me every time. It would be infinitely preferable to me to have something else in the subject line in order to brace for the news.

    12. Phony Genius*

      Regardless of the phrasing, I would make sure that the immediate work group of the employee was first notified in person. Here, this is usually done by gathering the group in the middle of the office somewhere, and either the boss or the head of HR makes the announcement.

      1. GreyjoyGardens*

        I think this is a good idea, because the people closest to the deceased co-worker can have the news broken to them in a kind way, and can process it before (assuming a large company) the email goes out and they deal with someone they don’t even know offering condolences or whatever.

    13. wordswords*

      When I worked as an admin at a university, “Sad news about [Name]” was my go-to subject line for this kind of situation. It makes it slightly less vague (especially if the person was known to be ill) while keeping the recognizable stock phrase.

    14. Cog in the Machine*

      My agency tends to use “condolences” as the subject of the email for family members of an employee and “condolences to the family of” for an employee.

    15. Oaktree*

      My work has used “Remembering Timothy Jones”, but often just puts the name of the individual who passed in the subject line. Here’s an example from just last week:

      “Subject: Timothy Jones
      One of our retired partners, Timothy Jones, passed away last Tuesday. Timothy was a partner in our Llama Wrangling practice group in our Cityville office. [goes on to talk about Timothy’s professional accomplishments and who he was as a person]”

    16. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

      Yes, I came to give a similar answer. Unfortunately, we’ve lost 2 colleagues in the past 2 weeks where I work and the most recent announcement had the subject line “Passing of a Colleague”. I didn’t write that – but I thought it was very good.

    17. WhatsUpSusan*

      My old company used to take the “Employee’s Name” approach. Unfortunately, that was also SOP for announcing the departures of very-much-alive people from the organization!

    18. Iconic Bloomingdale*

      I work for a municipal governmental agency and for agency wide death notifications, the email subject line is either Sad News or Bereavement Notice.

      These notifications are generally reserved for the death of an employee, former/retired employee and relatives of employees which entitle the employee to paid leave under the bereavement policy (spouse, domestic partner, child, grandchild, mother and father-in-law, sibling or a relative residing in the employee’s household.

      Also, these emails are only sent by HR and at the employee’s request, or in the case of a deceased employee, the family’s request.

    19. Brisvegan*

      Here in Australia, I have often seen email topics which use “vale”. As in “Vale Bob Hawke” to announce a death.

      Is that a usage/option where OP lives?

      I have no idea if it is culturally specific.

      1. Barb*

        Interesting! I’m American and haven’t heard that word in English, only in Spanish (in which it has a totally different meaning).

        1. Hapax Legomenon*

          Is the Australian usage coming from Latin perhaps? “Vale” is Latin for “farewell,” but it’s directed at a person(in the imperative). The funny part is that it comes from the verb that literally means “fare well,” as in “be strong/healthy.” So it’s a kind of morbidly funny one to use when someone has died, if you think too much about it.

    20. Be nice*

      At my organization, the subject lines say, “To the friends of John Smith.” Then the message is, “It is with a heavy heart that I share the sad news of the passing of John Smith,” blah blah blah with a little bit of work history like how long he worked at the company.

    21. nym*

      We have an internal template that we use for this that goes to all 15K staff. The email subject line is always “Death of employee ” or “death of former employee ” depending on whether it is a current or former employee (retirees tend to remain connected, and sometimes even people who’ve moved on to illustrious careers in other places have spent enough time with us for their names to be recognized and be announced). We only do it for direct employees, not spouses or other relatives. People move around enough within our organization during their careers that it makes sense for it to go to everyone.

      The announcement goes out from an “announcements” email box, not from an individual, and the first line is always “it is with profound sadness that we share the news of ‘s death”. That mailbox also handles a lot of other organization-wide announcements – one or two per day usually – so seeing it pop up as the email sender is not an automatic “who died?” reaction.

      Then there’s a paragraph about the person and the memorial plans – written by the family or by a supervisor or close colleague, whatever the family requests (we don’t send an announcement out at all if the family doesn’t want to, and this is coordinated between immediate supervisor, next-of-kin, and the office that sends the announcements) and then it closes with information about how to access EAP and a link to our virtual memorials page where people can leave comments for the family or share stories about the deceased.

    22. LaPanadera*

      My Synagogue sends email notifications with a subject line “Bereavement notice of -Insert Person’s Full Name-.” I think that is tasteful enough.

  2. Soylent Green*

    #5 Definitely remember your question could be shared with your potential employees. I’ve had ex-employees give me a heads up when someone was asking around about a role.

    1. StellaBella*

      This is a good point, but I would include that it partly (depending on the context and what they are asking) shows a bit of due diligence on the part of the candidate. In your case, can you give more details – I perceive from your comment that this was not a good thing?

    2. EmbracesTrees*

      I agree with StellaBella, SG. I’m genuinely curious: assuming the inquiry was phrased professionally and politely, why would this be a bad thing? Why would any company or manager balk at potential employees asking about the ins-and-outs of a workplace from someone who no longer has any “skin in the game” so to speak?

    3. andy*

      If me asking previous person on the role is a red flag for organization, then very likely the organization have something to hide. If they dont want me to know in advance details about the work position, do I really want to work there (assuming it is not the only option and I am not starwing)?

  3. Cinnamon*

    LW #3 Our office just changed the protocol to using “Sad News” as the subject line for deaths. They used to put the employee’s name but what was happening was the subject would be “Monica Geller” and some of us would internally freak out only to read an email saying “We regret to inform everyone that Monica Geller’s Third Cousin’s Niece has passed away.” We are also a huge company so sometimes I wouldn’t even know the person and now I found out that a distant relative of theirs is dead? It was just very odd.
    It came to a head when a beloved director passed away over the holidays and we all woke up to an email the with their name in the subject and, like previously, we all thought oh that sucks but what relative only to find out it was the director themselves.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      My office also uses “sad news”. When you see it, you know someone has died, and have a second to brace yourself before finding out who. I’ve seen it for coworkers and former coworkers (rare), relatives of coworkers (occasionally) and prominent people in the field (most common).

      1. TooTiredToThink*

        +10000 that’s exactly what I was going to say – it gives a moment to brace and let’s me choose when to find out what the news actually is as well.

    2. Diamond*

      That’s really weird that you would get company emails about the death of someone in an employee’s family you don’t even know!

      1. Yvette*

        It is probably more for those who do know the employee well enough to want to know or care (I am assuming the employee supplied the information) so that they can express their condolences or perhaps understand why the employee may be a little distracted or absent from work. The person issuing the emails has no idea who that may be so one for all.

        1. Cinnamon*

          This is why. We’re not 5,000+ people big but even a couple of hundred are not going to know everyone. There are departments I don’t interact with at all so I don’t know all their names and personal info.

          1. GreyjoyGardens*

            In that case it might be better for the person in charge of the emails to confine news like “Monica’s dad died” to the immediate department. Those are the people who will be offering their condolences (and can cut Monica some slack if she seems upset or distracted).

            Years ago, back in the days of email infancy and “reply all” oopsies galore, I worked at a very large company and always got emails concerning people I didn’t know from Whistler’s Mother, and then of course there were the “reply alls…” and the emails meant for Sam Tarly which were sent to Sam Spade because two names, one department…

        2. Chinook*

          As well, I want to know if Monica in accounting is dealing with a recent death as it can explain a slow down in response time or sudden absences of a part of the department. I may not personally know Monica but can be sympathetic by how something like this can affect their work which, in turn, can affect me and my work output.

      2. Turquoisecow*

        My company does this too but it’s a much smaller company so I guess it makes sense. It’s not usually a third cousin, more like a parent or sibling, and I think it’s often just so people know why the person won’t be in the office or responding to emails.

        I work remote and I don’t know a lot of people so most of the time it’s just kind of like background noise.

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          My company only does announcements for (ex) employees but I think the subject line was just the name of the deceased, and in one case, details about the funeral and some organised transport to attend.

          Here, the funeral has to be held within 72 hours, so it’s quite normal for there to be a memorial service either several weeks later, or on the anniversary, so I have seen a black edged announcement up on the communal notice board.

        2. GreyjoyGardens*

          I think this is good for people to know (deaths in immediate family), not just for absences, but because people will know and understand why, for instance, Sansa is a bit off her game lately and seems distracted and upset, it’s because her dad died, so we can be understanding and cut her some slack for a while.

      3. Tom (no, not that one)*

        We do it too – with ‘sad news’ and then in the body of the email the actual news.

        Even if a family member – it`s made public because:
        1) coworker might not be in a few days – the news explains why
        2) coworker might be sad / downcast for a few days – and people will not need to ask.

        There are probably other reasons – but those 2 are the most important for us.

        1. CupcakeCounter*

          I wish my manager had sent out an email to my extended team when my FIL passed away. It happened on a Thursday night/Friday morning so several people just thought I took a long weekend and asked all about my vacation. Not ideal.

          1. Chinook*

            I agree completely. It helps avoid awkward conversations.

            I am sorry about your FIL passing but I know what those conversations are like for everyone involved. My grandfather died 2 days before my graduation. My family decided to hold the funeral after my ceremony, which meant I was gone following all the grad activites (which happened a month before classe ended – long story). One teacher made a snide comment that Monday about how I must have partied hard to miss class two days later and my classmates politely informed him I was at a funeral. I was told by a friend that they had never seen anyone that particular shade of red before and that he apologized profusely to everyone who heard him.

            In short, informing colleagues of a death in a family will be help everyone involved.

          2. SimplyTheBest*

            Something similar just happened to a coworker of mine. He’s bran new (like, hasn’t even been here a month) and after his first couple of days was gone for a week to Hawaii for his father in law’s funeral. Trying to be somewhat personable, he brought back chocolate covered macadamia nuts, but people kept coming up to him for a few days taking about how nice his Hawaiian vacation must have been. He seemed to handle it well – was able to correct everyone but not make anyone look/feel like an ass. But I felt so bad for him!

        2. Catherine*

          We usually get an email with the subject line ‘Vale X’ for current or former employees.

          For deaths in the family, in my group at least, I’ll send an email with the subject ‘Card for X’ saying ‘so and so’s mother passed away last weekend. There is a card on my desk for anyone who would like to sign it’.

          That way everyone knows that X is likely to be out for a few days, and if they want to express sympathy but don’t know X super well, a few words on a communal card is easier than coming up with a whole card on your own.

      4. Shramps*

        My company does this (and it’s a huge company!) so I get a few emails a week of notice of relatives passing.

        Our HQ is in a small city though, and everyone knows someone who works for this company. Though as someone not from this city and new to the company, I still feel bad deleting the emails.

      5. Quill*

        Depends on the type of support the employee might need. If a coworker lost a spouse, child, parent, sibling… it would be good to know that they were likely going to be preoccupied with funeral arrangements for a few days and then gone a few more.

        Drawing the line outside of that is tricky because every family operates differently. Maybe their great aunt lived in town and helped raise them, maybe their second cousin was almost as close as a sibling to them because they grew up spending every summer at grandpa’s house together. Maybe they’re an executor of the estate of their cousin in-law Richard Moneybags and are more busy determining which of his distant relations (based on how well they handled spending a night in the haunted Moneybags Mansion) should get the bulk of the inheritance than actually bereaved.

        Actually, I think that last one is the plot of a scooby doo episode.

        Ultimately it’s going to depend on what the employee wants to make public.

      6. LJay*

        One of my old jobs did this and I always found it really odd. Especially since I didn’t know Joe Smith so I definitely didn’t know his Mom who passed away or whatever.

        I think maybe department-wide emails might have made sense but these were park-wide at an amusement park. Though for full-timers some people had been there 20-30 years so they had a lot of connections. But there were a lot of departments where we didn’t know anyone and they didn’t know us because we never interacted.

      7. Veronica Mars*

        When my grandmother passed away, my mother’s entire team and her managers all came to the funeral reception. We were incredibly touched. I mean, this might be unusual for most teams, but my mom has worked with the same people for 30 years, and they all knew what a toll caring for a sick mother was taking on her.

        My company handles notice of employee relatives deaths a little differently though – they just share with the immediate team and usually come around in person to announce it. Or send an email to the immediate team with “sad knews about so-and-sos niece”. When my coworker’s young daughter died, it was incredibly important we all knew that, because he was leaving us in a lurch at a busy time and they didn’t want anyone to be annoyed about it. And because we needed to know that even once he got back to work, he wouldn’t be ‘ok’ for quite some time.

        1. Leslie Knope*

          When my mother’s parents passed away her coworkers came. It was very thoughtful, especially considering my grandmother passed only 4 weeks after her husband. It was a 2-hour drive from where my mother lives, but a carload of coworkers came for the first funeral, then another carload of different coworkers came for the second. My mother had been very open with all of them that her parents were in bad health and expected to pass soon, so I think they had pre-planned it so she would feel supported. I sent them thank you notes at their office both times because I wanted them know how much it meant to me as well. It was very touching.

          Same situation – small office, they’d all known each other for years and were close. They’re in a county government office where they have many many “customers” per day, so having 4-5 people out at a time, plus my mother being gone for longer, was a big deal. They made it work.

      1. Jessica*

        I use “sad news.” And I never use that subject for anything but a death. Not for other kinds of bad news, not in jest, ever. So if employees who have been around a while are paying attention (or subconsciously noticing), when they see the subject: Sad news, they’ll know someone has died.

        1. Mookie*

          For workplaces like your own, where the phrase is known and employed for only one reason, this makes sense. Where there is no such boilerplate, I’d have a content warning in that subject line, as well. So often what could be regarded in professional spheres as sad or even tragic pales by comparison to the weight of this sort of news. I’d give people the opportunity to choose when to open such correspondence, particularly if it’s likely to trigger an emotional reaction they may want to be prepare themselves for and may want to experience more privately. I’d also aim to email them before or after working hours, for similar reasons.

          1. Avasarala*

            Curious what kind of content warning you use for the subject line? Basically that’s what this discussion is about, is what phrase can you use to warn people that this is news about the death of an employee (or their family).

            I’m assuming you don’t go with
            Subject: Sad News (TW: DEATH)

          2. Ego Chamber*

            There are good and bad ways to handle any subject but no universally good or bad ways. It’s always crucial to know your organization. (For example, emailing before or after working hours isn’t going to be a good solution if your emails are being sent to hourly workers or workers who don’t have standard working hours. I know AAM skews exempt professional, but it’s good to keep your specifics in mind.)

          3. Daisy*

            I’ve never seen ‘sad news’ used for anything but deaths in an email, at university or work or anywhere. I find it imagine that people would expect anything else. What else have you seen it used for?

            1. DerJungerLudendorff*

              People who are fairly new may very well miss that it’s about a death the first few times.
              And in this comment section there are a number of examples of companies who did it differently.

              So I wouldn’t assume everybody immediately understands the implication.

              1. Veronica Mars*

                This. If everyone knows “Sad” is a synonym for “death” then you aren’t really softening the blow for people by refusing to call it death in the subject line. But you are running the risk of blindsiding or confusing people.

                No amount of careful phrasing makes a death announcement less upsetting, so I prefer the straightforward approach of “Notification of a colleague’s passing” and then the who in the email content.

            2. LizB*

              At my workplace, which doesn’t usually announce deaths by email so there’s no protocol, I’ve seen at least one supervisor use that subject line to announce that a beloved employee is leaving the company for another job.

            3. Quill*

              It could come up if someone is resigning due to health issues… but if it’s your standard for death announcements it would make sense not to use it there.

          4. Colette*

            I disagree that you should intentionally try to email people outside of working hours. First of all, deaths are not secret, and it’s quite possible the news will spread regardless of the email. But if they don’t, people can be trying to get in touch with someone and not know why they’re not responding.

            In many workplaces, an email sent before or after work hours will still be read at work, during work hours, so you’re not really saving any awkwardness.

            And it’s OK to have an emotional reaction when someone you know dies.

    3. OP3*

      Thanks to everyone here who left comments about this. I have to say I’ve leant towards “Sad news” for all the reasons people have brought up – particularly letting people take a breath and prepare for what they’re about to read. It’s just always good to get outside input, but when everyone around you is thinking about the loss of a person’s life it’s never seemed right in the moment to ask them about what they think of an email subject line.
      I’ve actually had to handle this about 3 times now in relatively small workplaces and what got me thinking was that although “Sad news” felt right for all the reasons mentioned, particularly for people I knew well it just didn’t seem personal. But anything else seemed like a drive-by shock. Thanks again.

      1. Carlie*

        Where I work the subject line is “Condolences”. You open it up to find who, and the first line of the email body is either “Condolences to X on the loss of” if it’s a family member of an employee or “Condolences to the friends and family of X” if it’s the employee.

        To me “sad news” could cover a variety of announcements, but no one uses “condolences” except in cases of death.

        1. londonedit*

          I agree. I’ve seen subject lines similar to ‘Sad news’ that have turned out to be about someone leaving the company (or, just the other day, we had one where the subject line was someone’s name and then the only bit that showed up in preview was ‘I am very sad to report that…’, leaving you wondering whether Fergus Jones was dead or just leaving his job…). ‘Condolences’ is something you really would only use for a death, so I think everyone would get its meaning straight away.

        2. Elizabeth*

          “Condolences” feels very inappropriate for the death of an employee (not a relative) at a small company where the person sending the email knows the person who died.

          I’m trying to imagine it in my small workplace and it would feel terribly offensive, like, “sorry for those of you who will grieve this loss (not me!).”

          1. Quill*

            “Condolences to the family of” – seems fine for announcements about the deaths of employees’ relatives or a company-wide email about an ex-employee or someone who most of the organization only knew via email address, but I agree that it would not fly in a smaller workplace.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I used ‘Sudden sad news’ as a subject header the one time I had to write an email like that. I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with this :(

      3. Pretzelgirl*

        I have seen “sad news” or some variance over the years. Some companies (with the person’s permission) will do the subject as “Jane Smith’s Mother”. Then say “Sadly Jane’s Mother passed away last night” then give funeral info, if co-workers want to attend.

      4. ASW*

        #3, I think the most important thing is that you are sending the email at all. We had a long-term employee pass unexpectedly a couple weeks ago (first time a current employee had passed away in about 20 years). A couple days had gone by and no announcement had been made. I only knew because his supervisor mentioned it when she apologized for not getting me some information I needed. Our employees are spread across multiple locations but many employees knew him. Some were upset that they hadn’t known until they heard it through the grapevine. I asked HR why something wasn’t sent out company-wide. A couple hours later, an email did go out from our CEO, but only to departments heads. I guess they were leaving it up to us to tell our employees? At that point, people were more upset about being kept in the dark than they would have cared about the subject line.

        1. mlk*

          This is what happens at my company–about 2500 people at the main location; fair number of “old-timers” around. From what I gather, notices of a death go out to directors and maybe the division heads (mainly same group). At that point, they may share down to their managers who make the decision to share further. As one of the old-timers who’s worked with a lot of people across the company, I usually hear about these through the grapevine. A manager or a co-worker remembers that I’ve worked with the person and forwards the notice. I then think about who might have know the person but will not have heard yet so I can tell them.

      5. GalFriday*

        I work for a charity where it is inevitable that some of our current clients may pass away. While we don’t send out a notice for all those who pass, for the clients who are involved with many staff members or who have been active in other ways we always send notice of death with the subject line “Sad News.” This is also the case when an active volunteer or the family member of a staffer dies. There is no good way to share bad news, but we have found the consistent use of the subject line gives folks a minute to prepare for the news they are about to receive.

    4. The IT Plebe*

      Yeah, I like “Sad News” for employee deaths. For relatives of employees, our head boss uses “In Sympathy” in the subject line, which I think is a nice distinction.

    5. Amy*

      I work for a large company, and our subject line for such matters is “Bereavement Notice.” The text of the email contains who passed away and the funeral details, and then there is usually an attachment that contains a nice write-up and the person’s photo. Bereavement Notice seems a little formal, but it gets the message across.

    6. The Original K.*

      Interesting. If I saw just an employee’s name as the subject line, I would think the email was about them either leaving the company or being promoted. I wouldn’t jump to death.

    7. JSPA*

      A broadcast e-mail “Sad news” at work pretty much has to mean a death. You’d use some other adjective and be more detailed for a work – related problem. Being vague is helpful because people can choose when they’re ready to read it, or mentally wall it off for a while if they need to do that.

    8. CrookedLily*

      My company uses the employee’s name as the subject line, whether it’s their death, death of a family member, a retirement announcement, promotion, leaving for another job, or some other congratulatory message. It’s very confusing… When you see an email with someone’s name as the subject, you never know what you’re about to find out.

  4. in a fog*

    OP4, if this person is anything like me, they might have gotten tired of the amount of email LinkedIn was sending them (congratulate Susie on her new job! you may know these people!) but didn’t want to unsubscribe. I created a rule in my email inbox sending all LinkedIn email to one folder…and I just don’t check it that often. If I have to go to LinkedIn for my job (which does happen occasionally), I’ll log in and have like a dozen notifications. It could very well be more about how overcommunicative LinkedIn is than anything to do with you.

    1. Willis*

      Yeah, I accept most LinkedIn requests but I VERY rarely correspond with anyone on there. I usually have a bunch of spammy notifications when I login that I just delete, so I could easily miss a message especially from a name I wouldn’t recognize. But, even with that, I think Alison’s right. People are pretty unlikely to respond to a cold contact looking for help to get a job. Sure, you might get a bite once in a blue moon, but generally contact like that is not the path employers have set up for potential applicants.

      1. Auntie Social*

        I responded once to a LinkedIn request with some very general info. After that I got countless messages about help me do this, introduce me, look at my resume, meet with me, etc. I wouldn’t coddle my child that much. And the attitude was that she wanted to be my peer instantly, without doing 20 years of work first. Grrr. No good deed goes unpunished.

      2. OP4*

        That makes sense. I don’t get a lot of LinkedIn messages, so on the rare occasion that someone does cold contact me, it’s really not a big deal and I’m usually happy to respond with what I do or don’t know (or at least let them know that I cannot help them for whatever reason) but if you get a lot of notifications, then it makes sense. It’s actually helpful to think about my approach, because I was taught that it’s a good idea to reach out to people to ask for an informal interview or to ask questions over LinkedIn, but this post has given me some clarity on why maybe that’s not the best approach and would explain my confusion :)

    2. Allonge*

      An alternative to this is that they get notifications about reqests to connect but not about messages. If soeone does not check LinkedIn regularly, it’s really easy to miss a lot that is going on.

    3. Life is good*

      Also, as Alison pointed out, many people always accept invitations to connect. A few of my connections have like 6,000 “connections”. Really?

    4. hbc*

      Or if they’re like me, they got the notification and went, “Huh, I don’t remember this person. Did we meet at a tradeshow? Was that company they worked for the one where we got some quotes but nothing ever worked? I guess if they’re connecting, they remember me, so sure, could be useful to see what’s going on in their work life and industry on occasion.”

      If that led to favors, sales pitches, or probes for job opportunities, I’m either ignoring the messages or disconnecting.

    5. Mockingjay*

      OP 4, try connecting with the company recruiter or HR representative instead. You’ll see job announcements and company news (“we won a new contract! we’ll be hiring”) in your feed. Also follow the company itself.

      You won’t get personalized interaction but you can get heads up on opportunities.

    6. Quill*

      My linkedin is checked, at best, once every month. Too much spam comes through there for me to even let it notify me by email unless someone has private messaged me.

    7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Also, I have so many different communication pathways that I don’t have the time (or interest) in sustaining conversations via LinkedIn’s messaging platform. I’ve connected with people I know of but don’t know personally in my field, but I think it’s too high of an expectation to think a connection means anything more than a link on a social network. I don’t know many people who consider accepting an invitation as a promise or overture of a desire to entertain a longer conversation.

  5. Reluctant Manager*

    What if… LW2 runs into her co-worker and politely, neutrally says, “Cousin Jane tells me you approached her to talk about Sparky.” *Blink, blink, pause, look neutral but expectant, see if she says anything* “As I told you, I’m uncomfortable being the object of that gossip. What was your thinking on bringing it up with Cousin Jane?” I don’t think people like to be called on gossiping. (It might not be nice to point out that many faith traditions look poorly upon gossip and favorably on forgiving the repentant.)

    1. Drag0nfly*

      I don’t think this will work, because you’re assuming that the coworker should feel ashamed. In her mind, she’s warning people about a person whose character was less than sterling when she knew him. She isn’t spreading malicious lies, she’s spreading facts, and she’s telling it to people who have a direct interest in knowing the facts about him.

      It’s gossip when you tell hurtful or salacious things about someone when it *isn’t* relevant. If LW2 works in a bank, and her husband sprayed graffiti all over a cemetery, then the coworker is gossiping by spreading this information. But, If LW2 works in a bank, and the husband stole money from the cash register at McDonald’s, the coworker isn’t gossiping when she warns *bank* employees about hiring an on-the-job-thief. She could even be considered unethical or unconscionable for failing to raise the alarm in that scenario. Failing to warn people about those who might harm them is definitely a violation in at least two religions I can think of. Point is, you can’t shame people into *not* doing what they think is right. If anything, she would likely think there’s something wrong with the OP for wanting to “hush up the truth” and thus “expose others to harm” (as coworker might see it).

      LW2, you’d be better off coming to terms with the husband’s past. He did whatever he did; so own it. Don’t minimize his actions, just tell people that it’s “old news, and he’s a different person than he was back then.” Repeat as needed.

      Your cousin is a member of a religious community, so redemption shouldn’t be too difficult a concept for her to grasp. If his actions were bad enough that its plausible for your family to “turn their backs on him” even after having gotten to know him, then your husband’s past was a time bomb from the get-go. Your strategy can’t revolve around hiding the truth, it needs to revolve around soothing any rational worries, or shutting down insults and so forth.

      1. Julia*

        I don’t know. If the husband’s offense really was something non-violent, I’m not sure the co-worker saying he has a criminal record without stating it was for weed use and not assault seems kinda of… malicious? Disingenuous? Especially since he is not applying for a job there, but simply married to someone who works there. Is she saying OP might also commit criminal acts now? What exactly is the co-worker trying to accomplish?

        1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

          I think it’s impossible to determine this based on the information in the letter. I can think of several offences that many people, including the commentariat here, would consider to be a permanent red flag. IMHO Dragonfly’s advice is probably the only real way to move forward. Trying to keep it hidden is not going to work so the OP needs to find a way to treat it as a matter of fact.

        2. Mystery Bookworm*

          I think part of Drag0nfly’s point is that if the co-worker felt that (for example) using weed reflected a dangerous and morally bankrupt character, that’s unlikely to change. In her mind, she’s warning people – whether that warning is relevant isn’t really something we have enough information to comment on – but if OP pushes back too strongly, the co-worker is likely to see herself more as a noble champion of truth. It’s unlikely that OP’s anger will cause co-worker to completely re-evaluate her perspective on the crime and what that says about husband’s character.

            1. Fikly*

              Regardless of whether or not co-worker is right, co-worker is unlikely to stop thinking they are right. Thus the behavior is unlikely to change.

              1. Annony*

                Yep. I don’t think what the co-worker is doing is right, but so long as what she says is true there is very little the OP can do to make her stop. Additionally, trying to make her stop is going to make it a much bigger deal. It is best to be matter of fact if it is ever brought up and maybe slightly confused. “Yeah, he committed a non-violent crime years ago when he was young and stupid. He hasn’t done anything like that since. I don’t understand why that is relevant now.”

                1. Paulina*

                  Especially since the OP has already had that conversation with the co-worker, a year ago. Someone who apologizes in the moment but still persists behind your back doesn’t seem likely to change just because you have a second conversation.

        3. Quill*

          I mean. Some people are equally concerned about a conviction for weed as they are at assault and battery. Gossipy coworker could be that sort of person. Nonetheless, given the coworker’s previous relationship it seems pretty darn vengeful, and the gossip of spreading it to family outside of the workplace is very, very petty.

          The only way I can see the coworker’s actions being justified is if coworker was legitimately afraid of LW’s hubby after during their breakup, which would make talking about a nonviolent crime from a (very?) long time ago burying the lead a lot, unless the crime was one that, while nonviolent, could easily be a red flag for his honesty / suitability for sharing space and finances with OP, such as theft.

        4. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

          It’s hard to tell with out more info. It’s possible the offense was something dumb like smoking marijuana, but the coworker is being pearl clutchy about it. But given how bothered the OP is by it, it’s possible it was slightly worse.

          When I first read the title, my initial thought was that the situation was like that letter where someone did a creepy background check or something and started spreading that information. But this person knew it from knowing him personally, so it’s not illegitimate for her to share what she knows.

        5. ToS*

          We previously had to deal with an employee that was creating trouble in the workplace by introducing non-work details in a way that stirred the pot to a rolling boil. The person went over the line to “prove” their gossip, and ended up disciplined. Working well together is a skill and a team effort.

          The gossip needs to stop, as it hurts the whole culture. What happens if the person is able to get the record expunged and keeps on with *her impressions* (remember, she thought he was applying for a job) Is she looking up everyone else’s criminal records? On company time? And stirring the pot?

          The difficulty with LW presentation of that secondary share is it’s too close to call. LW is best to treat the gossip as untrustworthy until they prove otherwise. Respond in the vane of the context. Gossip-says-X with “oh, I don’t pay much attention to non-work details from gossip” If it’s about LW spouse – press into the value – bless your heart, did gossip worry you about me? I’m well, thanks for asking. On to work. amirite?

          Still matter of fact.

      2. JamieS*

        I don’t know that it’s even gossip as long as the coworker isn’t speculating. Gossip is generally understood to mean things that are at least partly not confirmed to be true. It’s also hard to tell if the coworker is being unreasonable in telling people without knowing exactly what the crime was and how long ago it happened. It’s more understandable if the coworker was telling people about OP’s husband if the crime was something like breaking into someone’s house or stealing their car compared to if the crime was smoking a little weed or something like that.

        1. EPLawyer*

          It’s gossip. It’s not the co-irker’s place to run around with The Truth to everyone. If she was concerned about him possibly being hired, you tell HR, not everyone you see. You don’t just randomly drop to someone at your religious community oh by the way did you know a criminal married into your family? She likes stirring things up.

          However, the only way to deal with someone like that is to ignore them. Every time Op gets worked up about co-irker running her mouth, co-irker gets to enjoy the drama. As someone said above, the response of Old news, different person now is the best way to handle it. If co-irker doesn’t get her drama, she will move on to something else.

          1. Zap R.*

            Agreed. It’s gossip full stop. How are non-violent offenders ever supposed to reintegrate into society if someone they barely know is going around telling people what they did?

            1. sunny-dee*

              Well, context and circumstances matter and the OP left out a lot. The coworker could have been “telling everyone in the office” …. who was on the interview panel and would kind of be reasonable to tell. The “nonviolent” crime could have been beating the ex girlfriend’s car with a baseball bat or multiple DUI convictions or even a plea bargain from a crime with some violent aspect. Even telling the cousin may have been inadvertant. Like they may have been chatting at a potluck, the OP’s name came up, and the coworker said something about not liking the husband ever since Thing He Did, assuming that the cousin already knew.

              There is so much context missing, it’s really hard to speculate on the coworker’s actions. The only thing we can look at is the OP’s reactions, and Allison’s idea of essentially gray rocking the topic is the best approach.

              1. LTL*

                You make a good general point about missing context. But “telling everyone in the office” is different than “telling everyone involved in the hiring decision.” We’re supposed to take the LW’s at their word.

            1. DA*

              JamieS- so by your logic: Lucinda starts dating Bob. Bob used to date coworker’s sister. They broke up because Bob has erectile dysfunction and sister considers sexual intimacy important to her relationship. So coworker could go around telling everyone that Bob has erectile dysfunction, and because it’s a truthful statement, you would be ok with it? It has nothing to do with his job and it really is none of one’s business but it’s a truthful statement.

              1. DA*

                I don’t think she should, just as I don’t think the coworker should have said anything about OP#2’s husband. I can almost understand if she had gone to HR and said “if he is a candidate heads-up” but surely that would have been uncovered in a background check. Going to OP’s family after the wedding is just pot-stirring. I believe in a higher power but some religious groups (some, not all) use religion to exclude, harass, bully and damage people that do not believe the same as them. It feels like the gossipy coworker is using the past of OP’s husband to damage his reputation.

          2. Tidewater 4-1009*

            Agree completely with EP lawyer.
            Coworker sounds like the type who likes to stir up trouble and/or hurt people while staying enough within the rules to have deniability.
            But to me it’s not plausible deniability and I would not want to associate with someone who does this.
            LW2, you might want to document all interactions with her at work and make sure she can’t stab you in the back.

        2. Dasein9*

          No, gossip doesn’t have to be false to be gossip. It has to be stuff that’s not the person’s business. “Did you hear that Wakeen named his kid ‘Sigfriedliebtbrunhilda?’ What a ridiculous name!” or “Did you see the way Circe was chowing down on cookies? Isn’t she trying to lose weight?” are still gossip.

          And, yes, a conviction is a matter of public record. But the bringing of that truth to the attention of people whose business it isn’t is pretty malicious.

          I’d probably start calling the colleague some variant of “Brenda, you know the one who’s such a Busybody” to family members and non-work friends to help mitigate the seriousness with which people take her gossip.

        3. Grapey*

          Gossip is pretty much anything meant to put down another person. Even someone saying a factually true statement like “Jane wore that red dress again today” can be gossipy depending on tone of voice. It’s about the intent of the person saying it.

      3. Sad*


        If a person has ‘paid back to society’ and he wasn`t a mass murderer or something evil like that – then people like co-worker are making it look like a) it is recent, b) it is worse than it was – and can possibly damage the reputation or even the job of LW.

        From what I understand from LW #2 – is that the ‘crime’ was long ago, price has been paid, and is still being paid – and Gossipy Mc Gossip is only adding fuel to the fire.

        It`s even worse as mrs Gossip claims to be a religious person – but apparently was absent the day the taught about forgiveness etc.

        While I do not know what LWs husband did – what is bad enough to be confronted with until the end of times? Seriously , i have made mistakes too – and due to that lost a lot. But, i have moved on, i have learned – and i would seriously be angry if some dimwitted gossip started telling everyone “hey, you know that Sad has a criminal record from 35 years ago” – especially when this is A) not relevant to the here and now, and B) not even applicable in the current job. To me, this coworker is enjoying telling people this, and maybe is trying to cause trouble for LWs husband. (From the post “This week, I learned that this same person approached a family member of mine (the two of them are members of the same religious community), months after the wedding, to tell her about my husband”).

        It could even be ‘revenge’ because (from post) “which she knew because her sister dated him years ago.”

        All in all – coworker is not being ‘careful’ or even ‘protective of her workplace’ (why else would she approach a family member????) – but is malicious and being a major PITA for LW and her husband.
        While it may not be illegal, it certainly is bad form.

        And, if a crime – regardless of what it was – is ‘always a factor’ – then explain prisons, fines and other ‘reparations to society’ if people will never be able to move on after a stupid mistake.

        (and yes, i`m a tiny bit annoyed about this, can you tell?)

        1. Auntie Social*

          I agree—she has salacious gossip, which she justifies by “just trying to protect our workplace/our church”. A big bundle of nasty in sheep’s clothing. My question is, if he got his juvenile record expunged, would she stop?? I doubt it.

        2. Mystery Bookworm*

          I didn’t read Dragonfly’s response as ‘siding with’ or justifying the co-workers actions, but just explaining the co-worker’s mindset (she seems to have cast herself in the role of noble protector, it’s doubtful she thinks of herself as a malicious gossip)…and pointing out why an approach of trying to call her out for gossip is unlikley to work.

        3. Hekko*

          I think you missed Dragonfly’s point. It is not about whether Mrs. Gossip is right, but rather that trying to shame her into stopping won’t work. Because Mrs. Gossip firmly believes she is right.

          Also hushing her up without context won’t work because that will only look like there is some relevant concern. If OP were being manipulated by an actual evil criminal, she would absolutely use vague and defensive language to excuse him. Owning his past and giving context to Mrs. Gossip’s tales can help:

          Mrs. Gossip: OP’s husband is a criminal, did you know? My sister dated him back before he got locked up for it.
          OP: Why yes, he panhandled Snickers ten years ago, was caught, served his time, and has turned a new leaf since. It was a mistake he won’t repeat. Why do you think it’s even relevant here and now?

          In other words, if you can’t make Mrs. Gossip stop making those waves, then let others know she’s making these waves over a minor violation that happened years ago.

          1. Sad*

            Hekko – that might work.

            And yes, ‘those’ people believe they are right(eous) in their gossip so that might be the (excuse for a) thought process here.

            Your strategy “yeah, he did X that long ago” may indeed be the thing LW needs to use.
            It a) confirms he was wrong way back when, but also that b) it is not that serious and ‘in the past’ – so it makes Gossip look malicious by bringing it up again and again. (Might stop her – fear for reputation – but also could unleash the hounds of hell though – some of them are like that)

          2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Yes, I think this is exactly right.

            The trouble is that very many people with a criminal record will say it was a tiny little nothing a million years ago, whether it was genuinely a single shoplifted Snickers and a severe judge, or mortgage-scale embezzlement. If LW remains defensive but vague then how is anyone to know that the offence isn’t the latter type? Clearly Mrs Gossip doesn’t think it was insignificant, or she wouldn’t feel compelled to warn people about it – again, that doesn’t make her right, it just illustrates that perspective varies widely. “Non-violent” could be used to describe an awful lot of serious criminal offences as well as minor ones.

            LW doesn’t think husband is a bad person, as she has ample evidence of his changed life. Mrs Gossip only knew him in his criminal days (however few there actually were). Of course they are going to have vastly different perspectives. LW can only show her own perspective if she actually shows it, and I think Hekko’s script is great here – short and factual without minimising or emoting.

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              That is, not that LW owes anybody an explanation, but if she wants to change their minds then that’s the way to go about it.

            2. Yorick*

              People forget that non-violent crimes can be serious and harmful. We don’t know what he did or what his conviction was for, but, for example, he might describe his burglary conviction in a way that makes it seem minor and non-violent, but it may actually have been something that people would find upsetting and be glad to know about.

              Also, it’s possible the coworker’s sister was the victim, and that’s why she feels so strongly about it, but I’m probably speculating too much there.

              1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

                I agree with this. Without knowing the nature of the offense, we can’t tell if the coworker is overreaching, or if the LW is in denial or worse, an enabler. If he, say, stole a laptop as a young man and it was expensive enough to be a felony, we’d all agree with LW, the coworker is unfairly stigmatizing him for it. But if he got busted for child pornography? We’d all think the coworker is right to warn others about him, especially family and friends who may see him outside of work when their children are present.

              2. biobotb*

                Yeah, the passing mention mention that “even her sister moved on years ago” made me wonder if the sister was the victim of the crime somehow.

        4. Myrin*

          I think you missed a crucial few words in Dragonfly’s comment, which are “In her [the coworker’s] mind”, the beginning of her second sentence. Everything from there until the end of the second paragraph is an – entirely accurate, if I’d have to guess – explanation of what is very likely going on inside coworker’s head, not what Dragonfly thinks.

          1. Sad*

            Could be – i`m not perfect :)

            But then my response would not be directed at Dragonfly , but rather at the thought process.
            Though that might be pointless – sad gossips like that usually don`t do reason.

        5. Snuck*

          Oh it’s annoying. I’m annoyed with you!

          The thing is there will always be gossips. If not her, someone else. If this is the sort of environment (community, society, culture, schoolyard) where whispering about someone getting caught with a joint of weed or didn’t file their taxes in time is going to go on, then there will always be someone who is going to interfere.

          Time to develop some solid scripts to head it off, and a thick armour skin. You married him I presume knowing this history, and knowing who he is now, and this is part of having a relationship (spouse, parent, child, friend, housemate, etc) with a criminal history. What that script should be? Well it depends on your crowd, but things like “Yup, he was done passing a joint at a party” or “He’s learnt to manage his paperwork better since then” and change the subject. If it was a more serious crime (against another person) then being blasé about it is not appropriate, and I personally feel that saying something like “He was drunk and didn’t mean to break the other guys jaw” doesn’t really wash, so think through if it’s something like that more carefully.

          People can change, and mature, and move on. The baggage of their previous lives never disappears, it might be in storage, it might be packed away in their own attic, but it remains. I’m sorry you are dealing with this, chin up, you’ll find a way through.

        6. OP #2*

          Thank you, Sad, you’ve captured my feelings perfectly. I needed this virtual shoulder to cry on.
          I think everything that people are saying correct:
          1. We need to own it: yes, definitely. (But part of owning means being able to let people know in a direct and respectful manner.)
          2. she probably believes she’s right. Yup
          3. If it’s minor and in the past, it shouldn’t be a big deal and it makes it look worse if we try to hide it. True, but this is a very conservative community (including our families) and the mere fact of a criminal record is enough to make some people flee. (Mostly because people assume that all felons are violent/dangerous forever.)
          4. All the truth in the world doesn’t change how painful it is to have your deepest, darkest, most shameful mistake chatted about behind your back. Plus, since we have no idea how many people this person told and how many people THEY told and in what manner, it feels isolating and scary. I have to walk around my office, my family gatherings, and my community wondering, “what do they know? what do they think they know? will I lose this relationship?”

          1. Sad*

            Oh dear ..

            #4 is really painful.
            And – being on the receiving end of gossip (from people in a church, no less) – that thought has crossed my mind as well.

            One tiny issue you point out.. Some people do believe ‘a crime is a crime – end of story’ – making no difference between the theft of a Snickers, or being the head of an international ring of kidnappers who use their victims as slaves in the sex industry, or being a serial killer… – and there will be no reasoning with those people.

            But most importantly – your now husband did wrong, got punished, changed his ways – so that should be it. Some people just cannot accept people can learn from their mistakes – and I would say that if at all possible, remove yourself and your husband (and any children, pets etc.) and start elsewhere.. (though that may not be an option for most).

            Best of luck, to both of you.

          2. Delta Delta*

            You have just released a new nugget of information – that the offense was a felony. Your original letter referred to the matter as a minor, non-violent offense. But now you refer to your husband as a felon. as a criminal defense lawyer, I recognize that over criminalization of certain behavior is real, for lots of reasons (many of them not good, most of them deeply racist). For example, In some places, being caught with 2 oz of weed could count as a felony, so, yes – the actual action itself could have been very minor but perhaps over-criminalized by law. (whereas in some other states being caught with 2 oz of weed is referred to as “Tuesday.”) The point is – you’re right. Some people hear the word “felon” and run for the hills.

            It doesn’t change the fact that Gossip McGossippants is behaving rudely (and, imho, potentially bordering on harassment, depending on your state’s definition and her behavior), seemingly with no reason other than to torpedo your husband. I think it’s fully within OP’s right to say something like, “you seem obsessed about the fact Fergus got in trouble fifteen years ago. What gives?” When she says, “people ought to know” (because she will) OP can respond with “why?” It’s the “why” that will tell you everything you need to know.

            also, If she’s doing this to OP, she’s probably doing it to other people.

            1. Mia*

              Idk if that new nugget matters much. I mean I guess it probably does to the gossip-y coworker, but it’s entirely possible that LW’s husband isn’t at all violent. As you pointed out, plenty of things are simply over-criminalized. In my state, possessing a single ounce of weed is a felony, even though that amount is rather small.

              1. Oranges*

                Just because someone is not violent doesn’t mean they’re a decent person. Burglary, identity theft, fraud are all non violent.

            2. Lynn*

              And on the flip side, as a prosecutor in NY, the phrase “non-violent offense” is also misunderstood. Trafficking large amounts of narcotics and vehicular manslaughter are technically non-violent, but can cause more long term damage (to society and individuals) than some violent offenses (having an illegal loaded gun in your glove box).

              1. Yorick*

                Yes. Identity theft is hugely harmful to the victim. Burglary can be traumatic (knowing somebody was in your house and might come back). Theft can be emotionally damaging, since we have significant emotional attachment to some of our possessions.

                1. Crumpet*

                  I’d rather have someone beat me than steal my dogs or my cat. In my state, theft of a pet is a misdemeanor and not likely to ever be prosecuted.

                  A dude who lives in my state walked into his neighbors yard and shot their dogs. He did so over the course of several hours. This must have terrorized the last dog to be shot. It has devastated the family, their friends, their neighbors. It’s a misdemeanor in our state. It’s considered a minor destruction of property charge.

                  There are lots of things that are legally minor, but deeply harmful to the victim and have harm that ripples out to the larger community.

                  We have no idea what LW’s husband did, so we can’t say it’s something we’d all deem serious or not.

                  But we can say that a lot of what is considered minor in the law isn’t minor to the victims.

              2. Not So NewReader*

                The term non-violent offense has taken on a new definition in NYS as of Jan 1. I am in NY. They are still working out some of the stuff with the new law.

                Since OP is saying this happened a while ago, I think it’s safe to assume that NY’s new definition does not apply here. Some laws, such as pot laws escalate to felony level quickly. Most people are surprised when they find out that they are being charged with a felony level crime. (This should be taught in schools, because people are truly confused and have very little orientation to the subject. I know that there’s boat load tons of stuff I don’t know.)

                Most recently in NY we had a felony level pot charge lowered to a violation (the lowest level a person can be charged at). Fortunately, we are changing as a society, but that does not help OP.

            3. Arctic*

              Common usage often has “felon” as anyone convicted of any crime or served any period of time. It doesn’t necessarily literally mean he committed a felony.

            4. londonedit*

              I don’t really know what a felony is (except…like…a particularly bad crime?) Our legal system doesn’t differentiate between ‘felonies’ and other types of crime. So I wouldn’t have any idea what it meant!

              Plenty of people commit ‘minor, non-violent’ offences at some point in their lives. If we’re to take OP2 at their word, which is what we’re supposed to do, then her husband committed a minor crime several years ago, has already paid a heavy price for it, and therefore (in my view) it’s not fair of the coworker to go around telling everyone in sight that he has a criminal record. People are allowed to move on from their pasts.

              1. Mia*

                This is kind of an overly simplistic definition, but a felony is just a crime that carries a heavier sentence (more than one year), that would typically be served in a prison rather than a jail.

                1. Crumpet*

                  I’m a lawyer, but not a criminal one. The distinction is generally whether or not a fine is sufficient and how much jail time one can serve.

                  Which crimes fall into misdemeanor and while fall into felony categories is highly variant across states.

              2. Crumpet*

                The flip side of that is that victims get to control their own narrative. They often can’t move on completely.

                I don’t know what the husband did. If, and only if, it was something that directly impacted the Gossiping co-worker, then she does have a right to tell people about it.

                1. sunny-dee*

                  It apparently impacted the coworker’s sister. And the only people that we know she told were coworkers when she thought the guy was applying for a job (so, there was some context) and a relative of the OP (whom one could reasonably assume already knew).

            5. Ethyl*

              I think you’re reading a legal definition into a word people use colloquially to mean “anyone convicted of a crime,” so I’m not sure the rest of your point is relevant without knowing more.

          3. sheworkshardforthemoney*

            When people repeat gossip like this it reflects more on their own lack of character. Why do I need to know that Jane in accounting has a son with a DUI? It’s attention-seeking on the gossiper’s part and stirring pots that should be left alone. It’s also possible that the gossiper is going for second-hand shaming. Imagine the audacity of OP to marry a criminal!

            1. Arts Akimbo*

              Exactly, the gossiper is doing it to put herself at the center of attention and because it makes her feel Important!

          4. Student*

            Oh, dear, I’m so sorry!

            I was reading your question and thinking (as one does with advice columns), “What would I do if my husband had a criminal record?” And then I remembered–my husband actually does! Back before we knew each other, he did time for dealing drugs. I have an *extremely* conservative family with very strict opinions on substance abuse, and I expect they would be shocked to hear about it, but I’m completely unconcerned about it. So much so that I forgot it existed.

            It sounds to me like the shame is what you’re struggling with. That might be easier to handle from the inside, by talking with a therapist about this. Shame is a corrosive, awful emotion that has almost no upside and arises from all sorts of weird things we internalize from our culture.

            If you want to explore that idea on your own, I think a lot of people like what Brene Brown has to say about shame. To be honest, though, the book on the topic I found most valuable was Lois McMaster Bujold’s sci-fi classic Memory.

            1. OP #2*

              Thank you, Student, I appreciate that you are sharing you story with me.
              The truth is, that I have no shame- I really do feel as many people have posted here, that it’s in the past, he’s worked incredibly hard every day since to make amends to his family and to those around him, to learn and rebuild and come to terms with why he made the deeply flawed decision that he did. (And no, neither sister is the “victim”, as some have speculated.)
              My main concern is our children- if they find out in a way that traumatizes them, or they get ostracized at school or within the family, then that would be the worst case scenario. That’s the main reason that we have not been more open with this information socially.

              This entire thread and all the sage advice within it, has really provided us with clarity and at least a partial way forward. Thank you to everyone.

          5. Smithy*

            I’m so sorry that you’re going through this and the loss of control has to make this feeling truly much worse.

            That being said, if you can find a way to share this truth with your family, then you are in a position to to own and know more about your whole life. Instead of living with a cloud of doubt whether your family will one day start ghosting you – you can face that information up front. So many religious communities include counseling services, perhaps this is a fear that you can address with your religious leaders and the fear of being shunned?

            You are in a reality right now where a) someone knows this truth and b) feels compelled to share it. As awful and unpleasant as that is, proactive steps you can take to own this story more can only help you. Even if you do lose closeness with some in your community, that has to feel better than worrying exactly who might drop you and not knowing when.

          6. hbc*

            “But part of owning means being able to let people know in a direct and respectful manner.”

            Not really. That may be how you prefer to handle it, but your preference doesn’t prevent you from needing to own it even if an annoying gossip isn’t cooperating. Owning it means that you accept that there are certain people in your life who might judge your husband for his past (with context or without) and distance themselves from you. At this point, it means telling your version asap to anyone in your life who you feel should hear it from you first. It would have been easier if he didn’t have that past or no one else knew about it, but I’m guessing his presence in your life was worth that extra burden.

            I do sympathize, truly. It’s just that your experience with your husband and right to tell your story is no more or less valid than your coworker’s right to tell her view. And a company should definitely not get involved in whether an employee gets to talk about her sister’s ex with a church friend.

            1. Smithy*

              I think that this is an important part of the story. In my young adulthood, I was in a situation with some friends that resulted in me being interrogated by security services. The experience certainly had an impact on me, but also left my parents very concerned.

              It remains a situation where I don’t have all the details, and certainly don’t talk about “those people there – you should know that because of them, I was in this situation, etc. etc”. Had I known more, maybe I would feel compelled. Maybe still not. But what happened to me is also still my story that I do tell when it feels appropriate.

              The OP’s coworker’s sister had a relationship with the husband, and the realities of his conviction may have well impacted her and her family. Seeing someone arrested can leave an impact. Seeing the police search your home or car can leave an impact. Being interrogated can leave an impact. This is not to put people on a ladder of who’s suffered more or less, or who owns the story more or less – just that other people’s relationship and ownership to their own stories is going to vary. And controlling other’s people’s stories and perceptions is often a losing battle.

              1. Crumpet*


                We don’t know from LW’s letter whether the criminal activity happened when husband was dating Gossipy Gertie’s sister, whether it impacted the family directly as victims, whether they were drug into the investigation, etc.

                There’s a massive difference between a situation where husband’s actions were prior to or after dating the sister and where husband was dating sister during the criminal activity and the family was victimized or negatively impacted by it.

                In other words, is Gossip a direct victim, someone impacted, or merely a bystander with knowledge?

                We don’t know. If she’s directly impacted, she controls her own narrative. That’s different than a nosy bystander.

            2. MCMonkeyBean*

              “your experience with your husband and right to tell your story is no more or less valid than your coworker’s right to tell her view”

              Unless the coworker or her sister were directly impacted by whatever he did then I very much disagree with this.

          7. learnedthehardway*

            I’m really sorry that you’re dealing with this. It’s not fair and it isn’t right.

            While it is difficult now, I think you will find that most people will see who your DH is today and will realize that teens / young adults sometimes do stupid things, but that they also mature and become responsible members of society. Certainly, your DH’s character and dealings with people in the present will convince all but the most judgmental people – and those people would find something to judge no matter what. You’re better off without friends like them, anyway.

            As for the gossip – because that’s what she is – people will see what she is all about too. I pretty much guarantee that people will ultimately think less of her and trust her less than they will judge your DH. The appropriate response from your family to her should be “What are you trying to accomplish in telling me this?” Because honestly, tracking down someone’s family to tell them about that person’s spouse’s minor criminal conviction from years back is vindictive and vicious. ie. doing so reflects far more badly on her today and going forward, than your DH’s past conviction reflects on him.

            Even if she just happened to encounter your extended relatives, and was asked her opinion of your DH (instead of looking them up and contacting them herself), it’s still pretty petty to dredge up something minor, and why on earth would your relatives ask her opinion of him anyway? (They probably didn’t.)

          8. anonymoushippopotamous*

            ” I have to walk around my office, my family gatherings, and my community wondering, “what do they know? what do they think they know? will I lose this relationship?””

            That’s somewhat of an anxious-preoccupied attachment style – you’re lending far too much credence / weight to the external validation or opinions of people around you. Their opinion on your relationship doesn’t matter. You and your spouse date and got married, that seems pretty secure to me.

            Don’t let them get in their head.

            Also you can look into attachment theory if you’re interested in this from a psych perspective. If you’re an anxious person in general, I can see how this is blowing up and making you crazy! Don’t blame you at all. But don’t lose sight of what’s important.

          9. Drag0nfly*

            Hello OP2,

            I think your number 3 — that people assume felons are violent and dangerous forever — can be negated by setting them straight about what your husband did, which is apparently not violent or dangerous.

            But if his past makes it plausible he could harm others in certain scenarios, then you’d be better off accepting that he will have to clear a higher threshold to get people to trust him. Like my earlier example, a bank may rationally not want to hire a teller with a history of stealing petty cash, because he’d have access to customers’ social security numbers, mother’s maiden names, and bank accounts. If your coworker believes her actions are akin to protecting the elderly from losing their life savings, she’s going to persist in talking unless she has reason to believe that your husband is not the same person she once knew.

            I once had a relative warn me not to leave my purse unattended in her house, because her son was on drugs and would steal money and valuables to get some. Does your coworker think she’s telling your cousin similar warnings?

            As for number 4, again, if you really think that your husband’s transgression would result in shunning by your family *even though* they know him, even though they’ve seen his behavior up close, then you have a time bomb on your hands. I agree it IS lonely and isolating to have a family who refuses to judge the person they see before them (a good man who is good to you) and prefers to see a man they never met, a criminal.

            You’ll never be at peace if the truth in and of itself is sufficient to sever a relationship, which is why hiding the truth isn’t the way to go here. I’ve known ex-cons who aren’t *proud* of being ex-cons, but they aren’t living in fear and shame about people knowing their past. They sometimes use their history as a caution to others, or an inspirational point about how they climbed out of the pits they dug for themselves. They’ve moved on, and I hope your husband can move on, too.

            If your family has a history of not believing in forgiveness or redemption, then I hope you’re able to cultivate people in your life who *can* accept that someone can change for the better. Is it possible you’re selling your relatives short, though, by assuming that they’ll kick you out of their lives? How did your cousin treat you and your husband after she learned the truth? Is your cousin’s reaction a fair preview of your mother’s reaction? Your siblings, grandparents, so forth?

            Is it possible you have more loved ones than you think? I really hope you have loved ones who will give you and your husband a fair hearing, and move forward. I wish you all the best.

            1. Observer*

              This is very well put.

              OP, keep in mind that as @Malarkey01 says just below, even if your CW didn’t exist, there are a huge number of ways people could find out about this. Unless your husband was a minor, treated as a minor (not always the case) and had his case sealed, a simple Google search on his name could bring this up.

              I think the suggestion of counseling could be useful.

          10. Malarkey01*

            I am really sorry that you have to deal with this at work. However, to your last point, in this age of google, I would assume that this information is out there. Whether it’s a young cousin who googles the new family member or someone who is googling you and follows a rabbit hole. I’m sure that’s incredibly painful, and I personally hate that we have little privacy in society and don’t think people should spend time randomly googling people (except to see what ex boyfriends are doing now 25 years later which everyone knows is fine), but that is reality.

            I would kindly suggest counseling to deal with shame and anxiety around this and for coping mechanisms since this will likely be a part of your life forever.

          11. Observer*

            1. We need to own it: yes, definitely. (But part of owning means being able to let people know in a direct and respectful manner.)

            No. “Owning it” does not mean that you get to control the narrative. It’s about how you decide who you tell and how, and how you respond to people who find out from others.

            3. If it’s minor and in the past, it shouldn’t be a big deal and it makes it look worse if we try to hide it. True, but this is a very conservative community (including our families) and the mere fact of a criminal record is enough to make some people flee. (Mostly because people assume that all felons are violent/dangerous forever.)

            Yes, that’s tricky. But if your husband’s arrest happened when he was fairly young, it’s quite probable that a fair number of his family know about it anyway. Also, people are the most likely to change their views about stuff like this when they get to know people who don’t fit their stereotype.

            I have to walk around my office, my family gatherings, and my community wondering, “what do they know? what do they think they know? will I lose this relationship?”

            This sounds a bit like catstrophising. For starters, as I said, this was never a secret, so there are lots of people who already knew about it before CW told people about it. Just as you didn’t know that she knew about it, others probably do, too. As for constantly thinking about will you lose the relationship, you’re getting ahead of yourself. If a family member is going to shun you over this, they will let you know quite clearly. They are not going to interact with you while waiting for the perfect time to drop the bomb on your head.

            I’m not defending your coworker. From what you say, I’m quite unimpressed with how she’s been dealing with the situation. And I have no doubt that if she were the one writing in, you’d be seeing a lot of deserved criticism. But she’s not the one asking for advice, much less trying to figure out what next steps to take.

          12. Not So NewReader*

            OP, I have no idea what is like from where you are sitting. I can suggest at some point all this upset may no longer become worth it and you might just want to openly discuss this with your family/friends. You may be thinking “nooooo!” I do understand and of course the choice is yours.

            The one way to disarm a gossip like this is to go in to the thick of it and openly talk about it. This takes away all her power and in the long run, she looks foolish as everyone yawns and says, “Oh that is old news.”

            I fail to understand what she gains by telling people this. Does she think that this makes her closer/more intimate friends with people? What IS her goal here. She is making me see red, and I am not too impressed with the judgey people who think this is a bfd.

            The longer I go the more I realize we all have something that we would prefer not to talk about. A startling number of folks have a criminal record…. IN THE PAST. As in, it’s over now. Many courts and judges tend to run a little more lenient with people in their teens and even on into their twenties. These are the years of experimentation, the years of trying things and not understanding the consequences, etc. People can and do change and those in the profession know this to be true. Additionally, the younger the person the more likely they are to change course. This is fairly well known also.

            I am so ticked on the behalf of the the two of you that folks around you are so narrow minded and have very little understanding of how life works.

            If you think you need fire power, talk to a pastor/minister. There are many quotes in the bible about forgiveness, forgive others as you would like to be forgiven, etc. If need be carry the quotes on a piece of paper in your wallet. Not joking. Don’t forget to throw in “Jesus said above all else LOVE each other.” He never said “above all else JUDGE each other…”.

            I have a good friend who stole a car in his early 20s. He has spent the rest of his life working at making himself into a better person. I have mentioned him before. He’s the one who described himself as a “recovering AH”. He did other stuff, also. Then he wised up and it’s over and it’s been over for a while now.

            It is a people filter for him. The judgey people fall by the wayside and he is left with quality friends. These are the people who “get it”. Most of us step in crap (to varying degrees) at some point in our lives and we have to clean up the mess we made.

            One last thing I really need to point out. Any one who has received a traffic ticket has been arrested. People forget this, they forget that traffic tickets are considered an arrest. I hope Ms. Gossip has never had a traffic ticket, because clearly being arrested for anything is an unforgivable deal to her. How will she forgive herself?

          13. Tired*

            OP I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with this and I’m really sorry that some of the commenters here don’t seem to understand that people can change and that when people have served their time they should get a chance to grow and put it behind them.

        7. Amber*

          I have firsthand experience with how some past convictions can haunt a person, rightly or wrongly, for far too long. My fiance lived in California and found himself in a really bad situation that ended with him getting convicted of a misdemeanor that unfortunately landed him on a sex offender registry. Because it’s California, even though this happened 20 years and 800 miles away, he’s STILL dealing with fallout from that, in that we had to inform legal officers in our new city about it. The really twisted part is that the specific misdemeanor in California does not exist on the books in our new state, so he gets to explain it to people who literally end up laughing when they hear the story. The lovely officer we spoke to when we first moved in really tried not to laugh, but we ended up telling him it was ok because it seemed like he was about to explode if he couldn’t.

          OP2, if you are of a mindset that lends well to doing so, turn the situation into your own form of a joke. Making it something that even you and your husband can laugh at tends to shoot gossips like your coworker in the foot, because they can’t make a BIG DEAL out of something that you and your fellow find funny. My fiance’s and my go to is to claim that I’m “just” a gold digger for his vast wealth of $900 per month. (He’s on disability for health issues from childhood.) This tends to stop gossips from talking about us, because it makes them look so very petty when they do.

          And for full disclosure, my fiance has no problem with me bringing up the generalities of what he’s been through. He’s trying to help educate the public on long-term effects of certain convictions and how they follow people in hopes of changing things for the future.

      4. Marlon Oil*

        Yeah, this is a sensible take. Also finding OP’s description of what he did a bit strange – minor and non violent, but something which has affected his life ever since and caused family to turn their backs? Ok.

        1. Sad*

          Some people think that even a speeding ticket means one is ‘destined for the pits of hell’ – and would turn the speedster away.

          I mean – there are people that kick their children out of the house for the ‘crime’ of being gay..
          So, that would not necessarily be a good measure here.

          Point is – was in the past – why bring it up, other than either gossip or revenge for a sister scorned?

          1. froodle*

            OP2, I’m sorry that you have to work with Helen Lovejoy

            My experience is not an exact match to yours, but I’m currently going through.something similar

            Last year my sibling was arrested for possession of a Class A drug, in the sort of quantities that were potentially an intention-to-distribute charge

            I live on a literal island and the social scene here can be… well, claustrophobic is the nice way of putting it

            There is one particularly reprehensible gossip at my work and in the immediate aftermath of his arrest, as well as when the case was heard in court (and reported on) and when my sibling was sentenced (and reported on) she would a) run her mouth to other people in the company and b) try to bait me into giving her a hook to hang her nasty gossipy hat on by doing that in front of me

            I won’t pretend I have a perfect solution, but what’s worked for me is:

            if I get asked about it directly, I have a set quote I’ve BLATENTLY STOLEN from Alison and Captain Awkward and have practiced in private:

            “Its pretty raw at the moment and I’d rather not talk about it. Thanks for understanding”

            And when it’s the Gossip Hive of Squirmy Wormy Pointed Comments, or when my line doesn’t work to shut things down, I say “excuse me” and I leave. To the breakroom, the printer room, the toilet, whatever – I just remove myself from the situation

            (I briefly outlined the broad situation with my manager at the time of the arrest, and I mentioned that I might sometimes need to bail and compose myself, which she understood, so ymmv on that one)

            Oh, and outside of work to people who don’t know her, i call that horrible cavern-mouthed gawp every name under the sun and I pray that she steps barefoot on Lego every day of her miserable waste of a life

        2. PhyllisB*

          Marlon Oil, I’m not trying to guess what the OP’s husband did, but if he’s a registered sex offender then this is a non-violent crime that will follow him.
          You can be put on the sex offender list for anything for heinous reasons all the way down to peeing in public or sending and receiving nude photos.
          I have a son-in-law who is a registered sex offender because he briefly dated an underage girl. She was 15, he was 25. He met her at a night club and thought she was older. She told him she was 19. When he found out how old she was, he quit seeing her. Her mother had him arrested. All this happened before he met my daughter and he told us before the wedding. I hired an attorney to check out his story and he was being honest. The only reason he was charged is because he couldn’t afford an attorney to fight. In our state, once you are on the offenders’ list you never get removed, so this exacts a heavy penalty.
          I’m not saying this is what happened to OP’s husband, just an example of something that has long-ranging consequences.
          I also have a grand-son who is being charged with felony car theft. He was only 15 when he committed these crimes. We still haven’t seen the end of this story yet, but I would hope when we come out on the other side that when he’s 35 years old he won’t still have people talking about his criminal past.
          All this rambling is to state that people make mistakes and pay the price, and shouldn’t be crucified for evermore.

          1. Antilles*

            Drugs are also a good example here. A few ounces of marijuana is probably intended for personal use and frankly wouldn’t even get prosecuted in a lot of states today, but if the police officer is feeling vindictive or righteous, he could easily write that up as “intent to distribute” rather than simple “possession”. So if you can’t afford a quality lawyer, you can end up tagged as a felon.
            And then even after you serve your time, the community doesn’t get all those details when the story gets told – instead it’s just “John has a felony for drug distribution!”. So when people hear the story, they’re envisioning some massive drug lord moving crack and heroin rather than the reality.

          2. Yvette*

            “peeing in public” It is my understanding that the reason that gets someone on the list is because the type of offender who likes to expose himself (back when I was a kid they were called ‘flashers’) often use that as an excuse. “I wasn’t exposing myself to that group of women/kids/nuns in the park I just really really had to pee.” Which is why even if you “just really really had to pee” you still shouldn’t do it in out in the open where you can be seen.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              While the can certainly be the case, depending on the jurisdiction some have “enhancements” based on where the peeing occurs, such as on/near a school, playground, daycare center etc… even if no kids or other people besides the cop are around.

              For instance you are walking home late at night and duck behind and alley to urinate and a cop is walking/driving by and it turns out the building is a daycare center and/or school, the cop could give you a simple public urination ticket, or arrest you for a more serious sex offense.

            2. Dankar*

              “Don’t pee in public” is great advice for those of us who aren’t homeless, but a lot of people without access to facilities get picked up every year for exactly this, and some do end up on the sex offenders registry. In fact, I just read an article yesterday where police were calling for more investment in jails so that they could pick up homeless people for “crimes” like peeing and sleeping in public, as opposed to funding more shelters.

              Of course, not everyone is a victim of these circumstances, but as we criminalize poverty more and more in the US, there are going to be more people who have to deal with unjust criminal convictions.

            3. Girly Sports Fan*

              I agree, that is certainly an excuse that has been used by flashers, but I have a friend who is a registered sex offender for this reason. He was caught peeing in an alleyway of a bar, after midnight and with no one around whatsoever. The police spun it as indecent exposure but who was he supposedly exposing himself to if no one was there? These types of incidents are common and ridiculous that this deems you a sex offender and follows you for the rest of your life.

              1. KoiFeeder*

                True or untrue, during my grade’s senior prank it was common knowledge that you absolutely could not relieve yourself outside (and the prank couldn’t take place in the building because we were all locked outside, so good luck FINDING a bathroom), because one year a kid did that and got put on the sex offender registry.

                No need to explain why he never got to walk graduation, I think.

            4. Jeffrey Deutsch*

              (1) That’s the difference between “malum in se” (wrong in itself) and “malum prohibitum” (wrong because it’s prohibited).

              It’s like the difference between texting while doing 60 on the highway and texting while stopped at a red light. The latter may still have to be illegal too, but we all know the moral difference.

              (2) In any case, I think criminalizing peeing in public — let alone putting people on the sex offender registry for it — both needlessly destroys lives and gives anti-sex-offender measures a bad name.

              “John Smith’s on the sex offender registry.” “Oh, what’d he do? Piss in the bushes when a cop happened to be watching?”

              Yes, I know some flasher somewhere might use it as an excuse. Last time I checked, once in a while people abuse sick days but we don’t say you can’t call in sick. This is throwing out the baby and the whole bathroom with the bathwater.

              Letting a few flashers actually get away with it is a small price to pay for not making criminals out of people whose bladders filled up at inopportune times.

          3. Lynn*

            A criminal defense attorney doesn’t have the power to make the police or prosecutor not charge someone. In most states, statutory rape is a strict liability crime. That means “I didn’t know she was 15” is not a valid defense.

            1. Dankar*

              Defense attorneys can’t prevent the charges from being brought, but they can try to get the charges reduced in exchange for a guilty plea. Public defenders should be able to do that, though, not just private attorneys.

              (That, arguably, is what our system wants people to do, since having them admit guilt rather than fight in court saves time/money, which is why prosecutors overcharge in the first place, but that’s a rant for another day.)

            2. AKchic*

              In this digital age, there is absolutely no excuse anymore. A person can say “they looked old enough” all they want, but that doesn’t cut it, it really doesn’t. Everyone has a footprint somewhere. If a person isn’t going to verify age, then that is on them and they should be prepared for whatever consequences that follow should they not be of legal age.

              1. GreyjoyGardens*

                And with crimes against women and children being treated so lightly, and the victim being blamed, in many cases, I think sometimes people feel vigilante justice is the only kind that will be meted out. This is definitely changing, but “She asked for it,” “She looked older,” “Look at what she was wearing,” etc. still abounds.

                1. Jeffrey Deutsch*

                  Some people may feel it, but that doesn’t make it so.

                  When I grew up, marital rape wasn’t even a crime in many US states, “date rape” was much like like the afterlife in that some believed in it while others didn’t – and it certainly wasn’t on the government’s radar at least in the US — and sexual harassment was just the boss chasing the secretary around the desk.

                  Yeah, there are still a few idiots who say the things you mentioned. But the swamp is being drained — and as anyone who’s drained a swamp or cleaned a long-filthy basement can tell you, the very act of cleaning unearths a lot of crap that was just hidden before. For that matter, as long as there are car thieves and muggers there will always also be rapists and sexual harassers.

                  But I assure you crimes against women and children (at least in the US and some other countries) aren’t being treated lightly at all. And vigilante justice is not the way to go.

          4. Junior Assistant Peon*

            A relative of a friend is on my state’s sex offender list for sleeping with a 14-year-old girl when he was 18. It’s pretty common for a 14-year-old girl and an 18-year-old boy to be on about the same maturity level, but in the eyes of the law, there’s no difference between him and some creepy middle-aged guy trying to lure kids into a cargo van.

            I suspect the guy in the OP’s story is technically a “sex offender” for peeing in bushes or something of that nature.

            1. andy*

              > It’s pretty common for a 14-year-old girl and an 18-year-old boy to be on about the same maturity level

              That is just not true. 18 years old boys are way more mature and savy then 14 years old girls. The difference between boys and girls is not that huge.

              1. GreyjoyGardens*

                I agree; it really isn’t. A fourteen year old girl is in no way as mature as an eighteen year old guy. People need to stop playing the “but biology!” card as an excuse.

          5. Not So NewReader*

            @Phyllis. I was reading down through and I thought, oh I hope Phyllis chimes in here.
            My heart goes out to you and yours.

            So one night when I couldn’t sleep I sat up reading online about all the problems with the sex offender registry. And it’s a staggering number of problems. Not the least of which is the GROSS lack of discernment. There’s wild variations in stories but, hey, let’s paint everyone with the same brush. My friend was talking about a 17 y/o relative. The adults around the relative are letting the young woman’s BF sleep over at their houses when the young woman is staying with them. BF is over 18. My friend’s comment was, “This goes well until someone gets mad and reports the BF. Then there’s going to be lots of problems.”

            Yep. It’s fine until it’s not fine anymore. And the hypocrisy of the reporting adult, don’t get me started… If the adult believed it was not fine, why didn’t that adult report the relationship at the onset months ago…. No, the adult decided to report it because they no longer like the BF for whatever reason. We as a society need to look at these situations in a more sophisticated and intelligent manner. We can do better.

            Crucified for mistakes: My question here is that if a person has to wear a shame for the rest of their lives, why would they be motivated to make better choices? They might not be motivated, why bother as there is no opportunity to have something better.

            Now. Just so I am clear here, there are offenders who deserve to be buried UNDER the jail, so they never come out for the rest of their lives. Some people hearts are just as hard as stone and they will not rehab. Ever. Those are not the people I am talking about here. And there are other people whose acts are so inhumane and so cruel, they deserve different consideration that what I am talking about here.

        3. Joielle*

          I noticed that too. I don’t think it helps OP to try to minimize it. I get that OP sees the crime as not a big deal, but individual people and society as a whole do apparently see it as a big deal, and I think the “minor, non-violent” framing will rub a lot of people the wrong way. Personally, I think it would serve OP better to consider it a serious mistake that he has learned from, is in therapy for (I assume/hope), and is doing his best to make amends to the victim and the community.

      5. OP #2*

        I think you and Mystery Bookworm have really gotten to the heart of why this is such a tricky situation to handle. One man’s hypocrisy is another man’s justified righteous indignation. The suggestion you make for approaching the topic and the one that Batgirl added are probably the way to go. “I hear you are still bringing up my husband’s past with people. Why is that?” would most likely be met with self-justifying false piety, but could also hopefully lead to a more pointed question of “at what point will you be satisfied that he has paid a heavy enough price?” or maybe, “what is missing from your life that makes you so fixated on this non-issue?” or how about there are people in your community who are actually violent/abusive/corrupt, you would benefit society more if you focused your crusade on them.” Those last two questions are more of a fantasy, but the point remains..

        1. Isabelle*

          You are perfectly within your rights to confront her once again and she absolutely deserves to hear those pointed questions. Her sister doesn’t even have an issue with your husband, so what is her problem? Most of us are often too polite with those obnoxious gossipy types. The good news here is that you are not in a boss/subordinate relationship so you should feel free to speak your mind.

          and by the way, apologising and then doing the same thing again negates the initial apology. She was never worried about him coming for a job interview (and she knows fine well that information would have been disclosed during the hiring process), she just wanted the malicious joy that comes from sharing juicy gossip. Don’t go easy on her OP2! Maybe point out to her that scientific research has shown that using gossip to negatively influence someone’s reputation is related to narcissism and machiavellianism.

        2. Butterfly Counter*

          Maybe a pointed, “Most of us are lucky that our worst mistake isn’t public knowledge. Can you imagine how it would feel if people kept talking about the worst mistake you ever made behind your back as if you didn’t learn and grow from it?”

        3. Wing Leader*

          I agree you should confront her. There’s absolutely no reason for her to being spreading this around. It’s not her information to share and she’s clearly just trying to be a busybody.

        4. Crumpet*

          The only caveat to this advice is for you to (1) Ask your husband what he wants. He should be the one to determine how this is handled. (2) Ask your husband if the ex-girlfriend or her sister/Gossipy co-worker were in any way impacted by his actions.

          Your husband needs to be in the driver’s seat on how to handle both this exact incidence and also the general response to this coming up. This won’t be the last time if he lives in an area where people know his past.

          If the ex or her family were direct or indirect victims or it had serious, negative consequences for them, then the ex-girlfriend’s forgiveness doesn’t compel her sister to forgive.

          If there was honestly no negative impact other than embarrassment by association, then Gossip needs to STFU. If, however, there were negative impacts, then you have to balance her right to her own story v. His right to be rehabilitated.

          1. Penny Parker*

            “If, however, there were negative impacts, then you have to balance her right to her own story v. His right to be rehabilitated.” — and you need to remember that if this is indeed the case, then her rights DEFINITELY trump his.

        5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think the difficulty is that your coworker isn’t going to change. There could be any number of very unsatisfying but rational (to her) justifications for why she continues to talk about his past. So if you can’t control another person’s fixation, it seems like the only path for you is to come up with ways to deal with the reality that she will continue to share this information whenever she wants and regardless whether it’s (in)appropriate to do so.

          In addition to the idea of redemption (which may resonate with your cousin’s faith tradition), sometimes it helps to remind people that all people are worthy of some level of compassion. We are all more than the worst things we have done. We have all done things in our lives that would make us feel ashamed (and I aver that anyone who says this is not true lacks introspection). But what matters is how we’ve taken accountability, grown and moved on. I think it may be helpful to you to keep this in mind when addressing your husband’s prior criminal history. I wouldn’t make it more or less than it is, and I would try to diffuse any pent up angst the listener is carrying.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            I would find someone who claims they literally have never been ashamed of anything they’ve ever done to be scarier than most felons – partly because a lack of shame or guilt usually indicates a deeply disturbed personality, extreme disregard for the rights of others, and is characteristic of some of the most genuinely evil people out there.

            And yes, I have seen an AAM commenter literally make that claim.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Parallel thought: A cold-hearted person NEVER asks themselves if they are a cold-hearted person.

              We have introspection for a reason and we are supposed to use it. Lack of shame could be because of failure to examine one’s actions/agenda.

      6. CupcakeCounter*

        So that makes sense when she thought he was coming in for a job interview and maybe didn’t have a ton of the details about the crime other than “robbery” or whatever. Although it doesn’t seem like the coworker went to HR with the information but told several other coworkers (who could be HR I guess). If she was so concerned they might hire this guy, wouldn’t you think they should go to HR and/or the hiring manager not a bunch of coworkers who most likely don’t have any influence over the hiring decision?
        And what is the reasoning behind telling OP’s relative? While OP doesn’t spell it out, it seem that OP and her husband are not a part of the same religious community so chances aren’t high that the husband is going to come in and steal the contents of the offering plate. That is just straight up gossip.

        I do agree that the OP shouldn’t be pretending it never happened – especially with her family.

        1. Wing Leader*

          Why not? It’s years in the past and was a non-violent offense. I almost got busted for stealing a watch when I was a teenager once because it was a dumb kid moment. So what? I’ve never told my in-laws that because it doesn’t matter in the slightest. Obviously this man has not re-offended since. There’s no reason it has to keep being brought up. He’s allowed to move past it.

          1. CupcakeCounter*

            Almost getting busted as a teenager is different than having a conviction on your permanent adult record that anyone can find out about (I’m reading OP’s letter as the crime was minor not that the husband was a minor when it happened). I don’t think it needs to be brought up to anyone they meet but I think it is something OP should have revealed to her family in the “just as an FYI, many years ago this happened and Hubs has done X, Y, and Z to better himself and I am confident it won’t ever be an issue again”. She mentions that she is close to her family and that they are really important to her. Finding out she kept this information from them could cause a rift which she appears to be very worried about. They have had a lot of time to get to know him so hopefully they will realize that their personal experience with the person they have gotten to know over the years outweighs something that happened years in the past but that doesn’t always happen.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              At 18 a person is considered an adult but they are still in their teenage years.

              Scientists know that the human brain is not fully developed in age 21 (? someone correct me – I think it might even be older than that).

              If the family is close, whatever rift happens will mend given some time to mend. This is her life mate, her spouse. So hopefully the family will see the long term here rather than the short run.

      7. Zap R.*

        “Your cousin is a member of a religious community, so redemption shouldn’t be too difficult a concept for her to grasp.”

        This is correct in theory but, uh, let’s just say it’s definitely not correct in practice.

      8. Justice For All*

        Regardless of where she works, this isn’t gossip, it’s fact. It’s part of the continuing price of crime – violent, recent, or not – that people will find out, and that the consequences of people following out may follow you and those close to you. The coworker who is disseminating this information is exercising her right to free speech. If the OP continues to approach her about it and/or run to HR, the OP may find herself on the wrong end of a harassment complaint.

        1. learnedthehardway*

          Something being true doesn’t mean it isn’t also gossip.

          If it isn’t necessary for uninvolved people to know about it, telling them is gossiping.
          If you’re telling people for the purpose of causing problems for someone, rather than because the person who you’re speaking with needs to know the information, it’s gossip.

          One also has to look at the motivation of the speaker – in this case, the speaker isn’t using the proper channels to voice a concern (ie. they should have spoken to HR, not spread the story around the office, they seem to be going out of their way to find people to spread the story to, etc. etc.) It sounds that the person simply wants to stir up trouble. That makes it gossip, as well, even if the information is factually correct.

        2. Wing Leader*

          Uh, if the coworker was really worried about the organization knowing, then she would have gone to a manager or HR, not babble it around to her colleagues.

        3. Mia*

          It’s totally possible to needlessly gossip about things that happen to be true. The fact that LW’s husband actually does have a record doesn’t make it totally ethical and a-ok for her coworker to run around telling everyone about it. This is also really not a free speech issue and bringing that up is incredibly odd. Sure, rude coworkers are free to say whatever they please, but it doesn’t mean they should or that their words are free of consequence.

        4. skunklet*

          gossip is most definitely fact (even the dictionary states so).
          as others have said – if this person is so concerned, go to HR. and that’s it.

        5. Blueberry*

          No one’s proposed the government (or any authority) restrict the coworker in any way, so bringing up Free Speech is irrelevant and over the top. As has been said too many times, there is no right to not be disagreed with.

        6. KoiFeeder*

          Free speech protects you from the government, not from the consequences of running your mouth.

        7. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

          “the continuing price of crime?” Ew. Attitudes like that are why recidivism rates are so freaking high. He made a mistake and went to jail. Why isn’t that enough of a price? He shouldn’t have to be gossiped about (and yes it IS gossip) for all of eternity because he committed a crime once.

          If the coworker has the right to tell people something that is none of her business, the OP has the right to tell the coworker she’s a POS.

          I found out recently, due to gossip, that a coworker was fired from her last job for theft. Know who I told about it? No one. Not a single other person. Because she doesn’t work in a position where that is possible now, she does a good job here, and I know telling people would color their impression of her and I am not a bitter, evil woman that needs to drag down other to feel better about myself.

          The coworker is not doing this out of fear of him being hired or fear for the cousin’s safety. She is a self-righteous a-hole who feels better about herself when she can stamp down others. That’s it.

          OP #2 – there’s no changing this woman. Just act unaffected by it and make her seem like the weird one for continuing to bring it up. The people that you need to – tell right now. Explain everything, what he did, how he’s changed, the debt society paid, etc. And ask if they hear someone gossiping about it to admonish the person doing it.

          1. Tidewater 4-1009*

            Or go even further and tell them the gossip’s name and what she’s doing, in detail. Make all the details clear to everyone and they will have the info they need to understand and respond to evil gossips.

        8. fhqwhgads*

          To me there’s a big difference between stating something technically true, but in a vague enough way to make people think it’s potentially a lot worse than it is, and stating a simple fact. You know?
          If I know somebody once got arrested for stealing a chapstick and I go around telling people “so and so was arrested for stealing” and let them draw whatever conclusions they want, that IS gossip. Whereas if I know they got arrested for stealing a car and I say “so and so was arrested for stealing a car” that’s just stating a fact (but could also be gossip depending on the context in which I brought it up and if it’s remotely relevant or just me bringing it up because I felt like it). Sure the first one’s a fact too, but it’d be disingenuous for me to suggest it wasn’t likely to be misleading.

          You’re also mentioning free speech in a context in which it doesn’t apply.

      9. Sakura*

        My concern is that the husband is a felon and is STILL paying for his crime. Which leads me to believe it might be worse than the OP wants to admit.

        A lot of people commit crimes and then *spin* their crime in the kindest interpretation possible. For example, if the husband has been prosecuted as a sex offender and has been made to register…this is something I absolutely would tell coworkers and the wife’s family about because if I thought for a moment that he was going to be able to be near children, then I’m not mincing words. Given that she has some intimate knowledge of him it could be anything from gossip to having a more accurate story of what went down. For example, if the husband was caught with photos of underage children and has been telling people that the photos were sent to him as part of a file and he had no idea…but the coworker here actually knows that he knowingly collected these photos or took some of them himself. We just don’t know, and unless the wife has done due diligence by contacting a private investigator or some such (which most people wouldn’t do) I wouldn’t think it impossible that she doesn’t have the correct facts as the husband has incentive to mislead her and others. Now we are supposed to believe the OP and so I’m going to, but I think it’s something to keep in mind here.

        1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

          She might have meant that he is still paying but not having many job prospects, the stigma, etc. That doesn’t necessarily mean he is on the sex offenders list.

          The issues people face after incarceration * are * an ongoing price. People claim jail is the only price they pay, but it isn’t. The judgement people face for having been incarcerated is one of the reasons recidivism is so high.

          We are asked to take letter writers at their word. She says it was minor. Lets not jump to pedophilia simply because she says he is continuing to pay a price.

    2. Batgirl*

      OP2, I was going to suggest something similar; if it really bugs you, you have the right to say “I hear you are still bringing up my husband’s past with people. Why is that?”
      You might get at the root of her concern/fascination, scratch the itch of annoyance or just let her know that you are noticing and it’s affecting a work relationship.
      I agree with Alison though that you would be on a lot stronger ground if his past was just a forthright fact rather than something shameful. You want to be in the position of “It’s not a secret, everyone knows, but it was eons ago. I’m weirded out by your focus on this”.
      If you come across as ‘We have something to hide’ it reinforces his image with her as someone she thinks is worrying.

      1. Np*

        I like this.

        Also I’m not a fan of people just saying that “OP should make peace with it” or whatever. She obviously doesn’t have an issue with it and has made her peace with her husband having a conviction. But that doesn’t mean she should accept its being spread around. The very point of undergoing some sort of sentence for a criminal offence is, amongst other purposes, to “pay”. I am a firm believer that if you’ve done your time, and it is a minor, non-violent offence, you have *paid your dues* to society and deserve a clean slate. (In a manner of speaking, of course — it goes without saying that certain criminal convictions can and should be a bar to some professions.)

        I am all for the OP confronting Mrs Gossip and asking her what is up with her spreading this stuff. I accept that it’s a fact and so might not count as gossip (although I’m not sure about that either — slander or libel isn’t considered as such if it’s true. But gossip can be a fact. “So and so and sleeping with Hamish from Accounting…and her husband doesn’t know!” That’s gossip to me.) But gossip or not, this is hurtful and, especially given the terrible stigma that a criminal record carries, is just not on. It’s none of her business and someone should call her up on it.

        1. Snuck*

          I kind of intimate above a bit of a ‘make peace with it’ but I didn’t mean it purely like that, more along the lines of ‘find a script’ crossed with “if not her, another’

          It sucks that some people have nothing better to do with their lives than rustle about in other people’s business.

        2. Zap R.*

          Yeah, “make peace with it” is terrible, almost callous advice. She can make all the peace with it she wants – people are still going to have garbage attitudes about it and that’s always going to affect her life in some way.

          1. Pescadero*

            She doesn’t need to make peace with the fact her husband committed a crime – she has already done that.

            She needs to make peace with the fact that people are still going to have garbage attitudes about it and that’s always going to affect her life in some way. It will happen. It will never end. It will effect him for the rest of his life – fair or not.

            So it is important to understand that unfortunate fact and be prepared to deal with it.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            And so would you … not try to come to terms with that, accept it, and find peace? You cannot change the past; you can only figure out how you’re going to move forward from it. Desperately wanting no one to find out or talk about something isn’t usually a viable option.

            1. Crumpet*

              I also think they need to find a way to deal with it as a general subject. Even if they shut this woman down, they are living in an area where people know. It will come up again. It’s better for LW and her husband to sit down and come up with a strategy than to ostrich the problem.

              I don’t know if LW is ostriching the problem, but a lot of people with criminal histories try to do this. It’s human nature to believe that if they ignore something, it will magically not be an issue.

              Also, as someone who has worked with juvenile offenders, I want to point out this: If there were victims of his actions, you cannot reasonably ask them to be quiet about his transgressions. Victims always have a right to their own stories. If he’s living in the same vicinity of anyone he wronged, he will have to find a way of dealing with interactions with them or their friends and family.

              I highly suggest you find some support groups or a counselor who can help you work through how to cope with this. You aren’t the first. There are also some online communities that can offer support and advice from people who have been there.

              Lastly, it’s been pointed out that the co-worker might have just been raising this b/c she was concerned about him working there. Some states have made it illegal to ask about certain types of criminal convictions or those that are older than 10 years or involve juveniles. If that’s the case, co-worker would be wrong in raising this.

              1. GreyjoyGardens*

                This is a really great comment and great advice – especially for the OP and husband to find a support group and/or counseling. I have a feeling this might be a heavier lift than what AAM or the commentariat can manage, and professional help is called for.

              2. anon4this*

                “Some states have made it illegal to ask about certain types of criminal convictions or those that are older than 10 years or involve juveniles. If that’s the case, co-worker would be wrong in raising this.”
                Right…it’s illegal for employers to ask applicants. But it’s not illegal for existing employees to “tattle” on applicants. We don’t know if it’s a bank or what type of employer it is, or what crimes he committed, so they may not be unrelated.

                1. Linnet*

                  Wrong is not the same as illegal. If her justification was an employer should know, the law dos play into b/c it cuts out the knees of her moral argument.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              Desperately wanting no one to talk about it– OP, this is such a huge key here.

              We cannot control what people talk about or what they think about. You have the option of taking that preemptive strike and disclosing before she does.

              I’d also recommend googling the laws. Google the original charge and read what the charge actually is. Google the charge it was reduced to (if applicable) and find out what that law says. Knowledge is power, OP.
              The more of this stuff you know, the less likely people are to blindside you with something. You will be able to stand there and say, “Actually, the law reads….” or “Actually, that is not true and here is why…”

          3. biobotb*

            And she can’t stop people from having whatever attitudes they’re going to have, and she can’t stop them from talking about this if they want to talk about it. So yeah, unless she wants to be emotionally worked up all the time, she needs to make peace with the fact that this apparently will continue to come up in her life and that a lot of it (whether/how it does, how people respond) is mostly beyond her control.

        3. Lyra Silvertongue*

          Yeah I was searching for this. I get the advice here but as you say, there is still a very widespread stigma against people who have been incarcerated, no matter what for, and it could feasibly needlessly cost OP’s husband all kinds of opportunities if they live in a small community. Prejudice against incarcerated people is a factor here and it’s not really something that someone can just “make peace with.”

          1. Wing Leader*

            I agree. There have been many people who have made a mistake and done time, and now they have fixed their issues and are positive members of society. They shouldn’t have to carry it around forever.

            Also, I don’t understand the “make peace with it” thing. OP does not have a problem with her boyfriend’s past, she has a problem with a coworker inserting herself into a situation where she doesn’t belong just to gossip and cause drama. OP shouldn’t have to just ignore that.

            1. Annony*

              I think that “make peace with it” is because treating something that is public record like a deep dark secret is generally going to fail and cause her more pain. If she can find a way to be ok with people knowing (or at least pretend that she is ok with it) it can take out the teeth and possibly make the coworker drop it.

              1. Drag0nfly*

                Exactly this about “making peace.” The LW is consumed with fear about what people are going to think or do about her husband’s past. She thinks it’s plausible that people who have seen the New Man will reject him because he was once a person they don’t know, the Man Who Committed A Crime.

                It is impossible for her to be at peace in her heart and mind if she actually thinks her family is going to sever ties because of something they know about her husband. She’s convinced they’ll ignore what they’ve seen and experienced — husband being a good man who is good to her — in favor of information about something they didn’t see and experience, something that never affected them in any way.

                I actually have doubts that a family is all that loving to begin with if this fear is plausible — has she only managed to maintain a relationship with her family because she conceals “her true self” from them? Does she have to hide any wrong *she* might have done, even minor and normal ones (think Ferris Bueller playing hooky) because her family won’t accept less than perfection? A rift is inevitable in that case, coworker or no. It’s just a matter of time, and in that case I’d urge cultivating ties with people who are more loving and forgiving.

                But either way, the LW hiding the truth isn’t a winning strategy for solving problems.

            2. biobotb*

              She doesn’t have to ignore it, but ultimately, she can’t change the coworkers opinions or actions. So if the coworker won’t change, she has to change how she responds emotionally to the fact that her husband has a past that people may react negatively to, and which apparently may be brought to people’s attention without her or his permission. Otherwise she’ll just be angry and worked up all the time about things she cannot change.

      2. Snuck*

        I like that… it’s weird if this person does keep focussing on it.

        I’m in Australia, so trying to imagine a community where a person’s focus is so caught up in this sort of thing and it’s considered normal is not an easy stretch for me. If it’s a low end thing then it’s really confusing (but not if it was a serious crime).

        1. Quill*

          There are communities of people who think smoking weed, for example, is equally as heinous as, say, assault and battery.

          Also missing from OP’s letter is demographic information (race, background) that might explain if co-irker is judging the crime more harshly than she would on another person. And whether the nonviolent crime harmed people in other ways, such as stealing from them.

          Overall though, OP’s going to have do address this.

          1. Wing Leader*

            The demographic information is a good point. If, for example, the coworker is white and the boyfriend is black, that adds a whole other layer of nasty to what the coworker is doing.

          2. Mia*

            Yeah, the demographic aspect could be a huge factor. Ime, with low-level crimes especially, people judge anyone they see as “other” way more harshly than those they see as one of their own.

        2. anon4this*

          We really don’t have enough details. For example, if OP’s family is extremely wealthy, and OP’s husband nonviolent crime was extortion, robbery or something involving him stealing or conning people out of money, the coworker could be warning the OP’s family (as OP apparently hasn’t told her family).
          We simply don’t have enough details to know the full situation IMO

          1. tangerineRose*

            Or if the guy stole someone’s credit card or something like that… I mean, I can sort of get that it might be a onetime thing that he’ll never do again, but there are some non-violent crimes like theft that a person might think they should warn others about.

            1. anon4this*

              Especially if he has an impoverished background and his crimes involved money or theft.
              Especially if the OP comes from a wealthy or affluent family.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I don’t think any conversation with the person spreading the news is going to put OP’s mind at ease or satisfy them. I agree with Alison. Yes it happened in the past and he’s moved on from it, but trying to hide it makes it seem like OP is ashamed of him and what he did. Put a positive spin on it. He made mistakes when he was young, but he turned his life around and has learned from it. And if anyone brings it up in the future, be proud of who he has become.

      1. Wing Leader*

        But they’re not trying to hide anything? Not talking about something is not the same thing as trying to hide it. OP and her boyfriend are not required to disclose his past to anyone. They’re just not. One exception may be to an employer, but OP said that boyfriend was just there to drop something off to her, he wasn’t applying for a job or anything. Another exception may be if the boyfriend committed a violent crime or has a long criminal history, but OP said that also wasn’t the case. So why does it matter?

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          She doesn’t want other people to know about it and in a sense is hiding it. No, it’s not the business of co-worker to tell people about it, but that’s it’s own issue entirely.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Just a random thought. OP’s husband has stopped doing whatever it was. Yet Gossip Woman is STILL gossiping.
        I remember being taught that gossip kills. It’s “just” words, but people die on the inside because of other people’s words.

        OP, if you do ever have a discussion with this woman, point out that gossiping does kill. Tell her that her habit of talking about other people may cause other people to die on the inside. She will never do jail time for murder, because that is not how our legal system works, but that does not make her less guilty.

        I am sure if she is doing this to your husband, then she has plenty of stories to tell about others also. It’s reasonable to assume this is not a one-off but rather it’s a way of life for her.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          …whoa, what? It’s extremely bizarre to equate gossip with murder. I can’t imagine her reacting to this with anything other than mockery, puzzlement, or thinking you were horribly melodramatic or irrational.

    4. What’s with Today, today?*

      Everything Alison said, plus, it’s public record. This isn’t really a secret if anyone can type in his name on a website (the county’s website in my state, mandated by law) and find out all about his criminal history.

  6. Sabine*

    #3: Ours say “Condolences” across the board. We’re not a huge organization, so we also send notifications about employees’ family members, and it can all go under one heading.

  7. Dan*


    I come at this from a somewhat different angle… I live in an area where *a lot* of people have security clearances, and as such, “youthful indiscretions” have the potential to come back and bite you later. When they investigate you, they’re more or less (keeping it simple here) looking at two things. 1) Is this really in the past, or is this indicative of your overall judgement and decision making? 2) How susceptible are you to blackmail? If you do have a background that is less than pristine, they ask who knows about it. Coworkers? Bosses? Friends? Spouse? Family? If you start answering “no” to who knows about stuff, then they want to see how much you squirm when they ask how you would feel if such-and-such found out about it. After all, if you do squirm, you may very well be susceptible to black mail, and they very much want to know.

    I bring this up not because I think OP or her husband are in this type of work, but to illustrate a broader point — sometimes, we are our own worst enemies, as AAM is politely trying to point out.

    1. Sad*


      I do understand. And when the Gossip would have just told HR or whomever was in charge of hiring – that might be the case. (As in ‘please be careful as i know the applicant has a criminal record for ZYX’).
      However, Gossipy mcGossip also actively approached family members of LW (which I gather are not working in the same company) and there is the malicious part – as what purpose does that serve?

      1. Colette*

        Maybe … or maybe they were talking about people who have been convicted of crimes, and the coworker said “well, OP’s husband was convicted and he’s turned his life around”. We don’t know what the context of the remark was, or whether she mentioned it to spread it around or whether she assumed the relative already knew.

    2. Snuck*

      I had similar thoughts Dan, about some sorts of roles.

      A series of indiscretions can provide some insight into a person decision making and work culture, and this could be very useful in specific environments.

      Even if the ‘crime’ was very minor I have in the past been left thinking “hrm, why did this person get a six month suspended sentence for possession of weed?” Because where I live you don’t get six months suspended if you are caught with a few joints once or twice, you get that for a dealer quantity, or repeat possessions and driving under the influence etc. It’s rarely a one off, and if it’s a one off it’s past the “my mates wanted me to pick them up a bag too while I was at the dealers” excuse.

      Depends on the job I am recruiting for, some I don’t care if you’ve been caught with weed, others I do. I wouldn’t recruit you for a job working with heavy machinery, driving long hours etc if I can’t be confident you will be safe on the job. I might be ok with you working in a general team of office workers though doing something with less chance you’ll damage yourself.

      1. Jennifer*

        Black people have been known to get harsh sentences for weed. It wouldn’t surprise me at all.

        1. Quill*

          That is 100% where my mind went with the letter, especially as it might also explain motive for Gossip, but ultimately there’s no way to tell that from the letter as it stands.

          Though, it’s equally applicable to, say, a teen stealing a bike, that racial bias could have affected the sentencing.

          1. Dankar*

            In some places, the minimum value of a stolen item to meet the felony threshold is $200-$500. Steal a new iPhone and you’re facing a felony theft charge.

            1. Crumpet*

              Several states have laws where stealing an iPhone = felony. Murdering a pet = misdemeanor destruction of property.

              1. Quill*

                Jesus christ.

                I can only assume that the second is a holdover from days before rabies shots and forensics where it could be legally murky to determine if a person was acting in self defense if they were confronted with a vicious or rabid animal

                1. Lita*

                  More th st historically living creatures other than landed white males were property under the law w. For most of US history, women, slaves, and Indians were not peopke. Women and slaves were properry. Indians were something else. But not people.

                  I’m California, women didn’t get the right to own their own property free from their husbands until 1978. My mil told me she had o have her husband accompany her to setup an account to deposit her paychecks bc the bank couldn’t legally setup an account for her without h is written approval.

                2. Lita*

                  Most law is setup to reinforce existing structures. Viewing women and pets and slaves as property serves colonial and aristocrat hierarchies. It was inherent in both British and continental laws. It’s baked it by design.

                  What’s actually amazing is how much of that had been rejected within my lifetime

                3. Not So NewReader*

                  @Lita. Excellent point. I grew up in the 60s. I remember being so impacted realizing my mother could not get a loan in her name, could not have a credit card in her name, nothing, there was very little that she could actually do. I launched into my own adulthood, hell-bent that this would not happen to me. Then the bank made me take my maiden name off my bank account because I got married…..

          2. Jennifer*

            Yes, that’s where my mind went too with the letter, but we don’t know the races of anyone involved so I didn’t want to jump to any conclusions. Gladys Kravitz could just be a garden variety busybody, but the need to report this to everyone she can find is really suspect to me.

            Generally, I just wanted people to know that there are a lot of factors involved in sentencing, and it’s not just about the seriousness of the crime.

            1. Dankar*

              I’ve seen you making similar points up and down this thread, and I’m so glad someone else is making these arguments so I don’t feel crazy!

              It is incredible to me that there’s more than one person below arguing that this couldn’t possibly be anything other than a wife downplaying some secret, heinous crime, and not the result of systemic issues that promote overcharging of minor crimes. Some of these responses have been very “Scarlet Letter.”

              1. Wing Leader*

                I agree. I think knowing the race of the boyfriend would be beneficial in this case. If he is anything other than white, I think that enough to understand how messed up this is. Even if boyfriend is white, coworker still shouldn’t be butting her nose in. Just my two cents.

              2. Not So NewReader*

                Yep. Life is just not straightforward. There are usually many aspects to consider regarding any situation. Sometimes people don’t think about this UNTIL something happens to them specifically and then they realize how fast stuff blows up bigger than it actually is.

                People were pretty judgey about my father facing bankruptcy because of medical bills. As the years rolled by they realize they too were facing bankruptcy… “OHHHH, this must be what happened to NSNR’s father, too….” [grrrrr…]
                Worse yet, we have some folks among us that ONLY understand something IF that exact thing happens to them, also. Otherwise, the comprehension drops quickly.

              3. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

                Seriously. People who have been fortunate enough not to have intimate contact with the “justice” system believe that it works the same for everyone and that’s just not true.

                In fact, based on how screwed up our system is, I’d gladly wager it is more on the side of overcharging and over sentencing than some secret terrible crime.

                There are people who think any drug offense means you are a dirty junkie ready to hurt and burgle anyone at anytime. These kind of prejudices are what make it so hard for people to move on with their lives and become contributing members of society!

                People like the coworker are why recidivism rates are so high. They make it hard for people to move on from their past.

                If it truly was a non-violent, minor, victim-less crime crime, I think OP needs to openly tell people about it, make them feel bad if they act like it is some huge red flag and she’s married to a monster, shrug like it isn’t a big deal for people to know (even if inside it bothers her), and make coworker feel like a weirdo for caring so much.

            2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              For me what really matters in the approach for the LW is whether this is a victimless, minor, non-violent crime (e.g. drug possession) or not.

              I am coming at it through a lens of having a family member who had a drug habit and stole medicines and petty cash (e.g. minor and non-violent) from his pet sitting and his girlfriend’s family and friends clients 13 years ago. He straightened up in prison (18 month sentence, served 11). He presents his crime as minor, non-violent, and only committed because of his past addiction (all true) when talking to people. However, he never acknowledges that his crime had victims that he hurt, including his ex-GF who was evicted because he had a stash of drugs in their house. When his past comes up, the rest of the family acknowledges the harm he did as well as saying he it was his past and he has moved beyond it. The LW might want to take the same approach if there are victims or people harmed. If it is victimless, then I like your approach.

              1. GreyjoyGardens*

                I agree with this comment: I think there is a HUGE difference if victims (human or animal) were involved. Drug possession? Graffiti? Stealing a package off a front porch? Those are a lot easier to forgive than if a person or a pet was actually *hurt* as a result of what Husband did.

                1. The Supreme Troll*

                  Being honestly, truly remorseful for the hurt that you caused makes a HUGE difference.

      2. Arctic*

        Not only do POC tend to get harsher sentences (and it’s true they do) there is so much discretion with prosecutors that someone really can just get unlucky. Or maybe they were perceived by the cop as having a bad attitude and that was communicated to the prosecutor. That can make them less likely to give you a good deal. But having a (totally subjective) bad attitude is no crime.

        Also, depends a lot on your jurisdiction. I live in Massachusetts. If you are caught on a minor drug crime in Boston (weed is legal under one ounce though) the DA has a policy of not prosecuting. If you get caught in Brockton (very close) that DA does not have any such policy.

        Tldr too many factors are involved to make those kinds of assumptions.

      3. SimplyTheBest*

        “you don’t get six months suspended if you are caught with a few joints once or twice” – You do when you’re a person of color. You do during elections when the sheriff, the DA, whoever wants to show they’re not soft of crime or drugs. There’s a lot more nuance to “justice” than they’d have you believe.

    3. BikeLover*

      Interesting, because I happen to have a security clearance. In fact, the highest level of security clearance there is. I also have several “youthful indiscretions” which, probably because I am a middle class white lady, are allowed to stay in my past (read the book The New Jim Crow or watch the movie The 13th to learn why this might not be the case for everyone). Most of my family, friends and co-workers don’t even know about my “sordid” past. And no one in government cares much about minor infractions as long as you disclose them on you SF 86.

      There is no reason this man should have his past hung around his neck like a rotting albatross. OP, I am sorry you have to deal with this woman and I hope the two of you have the strength to deal with her with grace. I hope some day all this really will be over for you.

      1. blackcat*

        I was going to say this, too. I know lots of people with security clearances, including my husband. One does indeed have felony DUI.

        They seem to care much more about potential for blackmail or influence by a foreign government. A non-violent crime that was a solo action (ex: DUI), even a felony, is not nearly as much of a problem as say, regular travel to China to visit one’s extended family.

        1. Antennapedia*

          This must vary from site to site because I frequently work with a major US Navy installation and we’ve had people denied base passes because of EXPUNGED felonies committed 15+ years ago.

          1. Close Bracket*

            Something different must be going on. Clearances don’t grant you access. That’s a whole different set of permissions, even at “the highest level of security clearance there is.”

          2. BikeLover*

            You can have base privileges revoked for all kinds of reasons including traffic points on your driving record. Not the same thing. At all

          3. D'Arcy*

            People get in trouble with the military for expunged felonies primarily because they don’t report them up front. And as BikeLover pointed out, base passes are at discretion and are totally different from security clearances.

    4. Student*

      I can tell you as someone on the investigations side of government security clearances, there’s very little that they’ll treat as a serious concern for blackmail. It’s understood that you don’t want to air your youthful indiscretions with everyone in your life, so as long as the people who matter are informed (e.g., your spouse and your employer), it’s simply not an issue.

      And if the offense was more than ten years ago, it’s basically treated as irrelevant.

  8. Iron Chef Boyardee*

    As part of her response to #2, Alison said: “I suspect that the more you fight it, the bigger deal it’s going to make of something that you’re trying to keep a smaller deal.”

    This would be a good example of the Streisand Syndrome.

  9. Observer*

    #2 – I can’t imagine that your employer would think of doing anything about the fact that your colleague shared some information with someone in their social circle. If they didn’t think it was worth doing anything about when the person was actually sharing at work, why would they change their minds when it’s on personal time.

    It’s kind of hard to make the case that she’s harassing you, either, even in the common non-legal sense. It’s not like she’s making it her business to approach every coworker to make sure that they know about this. And her original stated reason was not all that ridiculous. Sure, I don’t think she handled the situation well, but that it’s not egregious. Neither is “bringing sensitive personal information” into the workplace. Again, I get why people don’t want to do that, and I also get why information like this is especially not something you want to share with all your coworkers. it’s not the kind of thing HR departments are likely to try to do much about.

    You also don’t know how she came to tell your relative about the situation. Of course it’s possible that she proactively searched out your relative to cause you problems, but that is no more likely than many other scenarios.

    So, what you have is that she gossiped about your husband twice. Trying to play that as harassment will make you look like you are trying to get someone in trouble or YOU have a problem.

    Allison is right. You say that it was a minor infraction that happened when he was young, and he’s grown and mature since then, and so it’s really not that big of a deal. So, act that way. Treat it that way. (And if your family is such that the reality won’t matter, that’s not on her but on your family. I hope that they are more reasonable, though.)

    1. Yvette*

      Also “(a minor, non-violent offense, for which he paid very heavily and for which he continues to pay a heavy price)” is all we have to go on, a description from someone who loves him very much. It depends on one’s definition of “minor”. How often do parents excuse their son’s seriously bad behavior with “high spirits” and “boys will be boys”. I am not saying this is the case here, but we have no way of knowing.

      At the dept. store I used to work at, wallets started disappearing from the stockrooms (where employees kept their purses, lockers were not supplied back then) all over the store. One day a customer commented to a sales person “Oh, I see Fagan works here (about one of the housekeeping staff, they went all over emptying trash bins into big containers). Fagan likes wallets. So one of the department managers worked with security and left her purse on the desk in her stockroom. Fagan went in to empty the trash into his rolling bin, she went in after, the wallet was gone, security checked his bin and there it was. Fagan was terminated and wallets stopped disappearing. Thank goodness for gossip.

      1. Quill*

        Yeah, there’s ultimately no way of knowing from the letter if OP’s hubby’s record is from Stupid Teenage Hijinks that got caught. (Example from my high school, there was a fad of stealing lawn ornaments for a while. There was also a variety of times that people did so, freaked out immediately, and ditched the lawn ornament across the street. Depending on the discretion of an officer who caught that it could have been a “call your parents and deliver a stern lecture” offense or a “you now have a juvenile arrest record” offense.)

        There’s also no way of knowing if OP has heavy motivation to ignore an offense that other people might legitimately consider a red flag.

      2. Jennifer*

        Aren’t we supposed to take the OP’s word unless we’re told otherwise? I’m really surprised and disappointed by some of these comments. It’s been implied here this man is anything from a major thief, to a wife beater, to a statutory rapist based on next to nothing. No wonder people end up with harsh sentences for minor offenses, or even worse, doing time for crimes they didn’t commit. People rush to judge when they know nothing about the person based on nothing but their own biases.

        1. Wing Leader*

          Yeah. A lot of people are assuming that OP is just googly-eyed with love and the boyfriend is basically Ted Bundy. It’s nuts. Yes, we are supposed to believe the OP unless we are given good reason not to. I believe OP when she says that his offense was non-violent and that he has paid for it.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’ve read all the comments (up until about 11 am) looking for that because I saw yours, and I haven’t seen comments that do that (with one exception, which I addressed below). If there’s a specific one you’d like to flag, I’ll take a look. (That said, I’ve found “it could be something like X, in which case Y” – but not a slew of comments assuming it is.)

          1. Jennifer*

            Thank you, but it’s okay. I’m really passionate about this issue but it’s more of a “it could be” as opposed to “it’s definitely this” as you said. It just irks me.

            1. tangerineRose*

              I’ve been wondering if it might be theft. I could understand someone sharing that news if they think that the offender hasn’t changed and if this was a pattern rather than a one time thing. It sounds like whatever happened, LW’s husband has changed. But if it were identity theft or something like that, I’d understand why the co-worker has warned people.

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Yeah. For some people a “non-violent” sexual assault would be no big deal and should be left in the past, but would believe that a weed possession should haunt the person forever. For others, the opposite is felt. LW2 can’t control how people perceive her husband’s past actions. Does this mean that she might be shunned by some friends, family and community members? Probably. and there is nothing to be done about it. Maybe the LW can think of it as a way to sort out the people who share her values and those that don’t?

  10. Maggie*

    I disagree with Allison a bit on #1. I think you should go ahead and apply. Here’s why:

    When I was in my 20s, I would move apartments frequently and was generally restless with my life. I was then and still am a high school teacher. Each spring, my employer would send out a form to everyone asking if we knew we were going to put in for an internal transfer to another school within the district, were retiring, or were otherwise moving so they could plan ahead. (This was a good practice and it benefitted everyone!) I always felt a bit shady about leaving the form blank when I was considering leaving. So one day I asked my mother, who has been in HR for decades. She asked me very succinctly: “Do you have another job offer in hand?” When I said no, she said, “So you need this job to pay your bills. Therefore, you “want” it, even if you ‘don’t want it.’ That’s all your boss wants to know.”

    It clarified things for me so completely and I’ve never wavered since. Do you have another job offer in hand? No? Then you want the job you’re applying for! What if your partner never moves? Interview. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from reading AMA, it’s that if a situation comes up down the line, responsible employers understand that sometimes hires don’t work out.

    1. Avasarala*

      I agree that OP needs to do the best thing for them, and has absolutely no obligation to consider the company (I am rather in favor of worker’s rights and universal basic income and not having to sell your time to justify your existence, etc)

      I say this as background because since OP is comfortable freelancing, that changes the calculations a bit. I think it’s good for OP to keep in mind that if they get hired by a company in a field they like, and do quit after a short time, that is causing a lot of trouble and inconvenience to the company and people taking their time to interview and train you, and might seem unprofessional. It could burn a bridge, in which case OP might have to leave it off their resume, in which case what was the point of doing it? If the industry is small, it could come back to bite OP further down the line.

      I think OP has to make a matrix in their head of how likely it is their partner gets a good offer worth moving for in the next year, vs. how badly OP wants to get out of freelancing. If they’re not likely to move soon, and OP wants out, go for it. If they’re not and OP can afford to wait, maybe it’s better to wait.

      1. Annony*

        I agree. I think that if they are likely to have more certainty about the timeline within a year, it makes sense to either keep freelancing or apply exclusively for remote work so that a move won’t matter. Remote work really seems ideal since that would allow the most flexibility for a move. Even if the goal is to apply for a job in the new city, they could wait until they have worked at the job for year to start looking at other opportunities.

    2. Jennifer*

      I agree with your disagreement. She needs to do what is best for her. People end up having to move all the time, just like they get sick, die, get pregnant, etc. Life happens. I say keep looking. If she does end up moving, just make sure to be gracious and give plenty of notice.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Yes. You could work for the very best company and have the very best manager, but ultimately the only person who is looking out for your best interests is you. I’m not saying that a manager won’t help you advance, or try to find you another position if there’s word of lay offs, but a company wouldn’t hesitate to let you go if it helped their bottom line. So do what’s best for you. While this job opportunity for your SO may come to fruition, it could also fall through and you would have wasted a lot of time when you could have been working in a permanent position. Yes it’s shitty to interview and accept a job knowing you won’t be there long, but nothing is set in stone yet.

      2. Colette*

        Sure, but if she leaves 2 months in, she’s burned that bridge with the hiring manager, the company, and anyone else who knows she was expecting to move but took the job anyway. Now, if she’s willing to stay behind after her partner moves and work for a year, it’s a different calculation – but that doesn’t sound like something she’s considering.

        1. Jennifer*

          I wouldn’t necessarily say she’s burned that bridge. It’s all in how she frames it. She doesn’t have to divulge every detail of her husband’s job search.

          1. Yvette*

            True, if it is presented as “this just fell into his lap, it is too good for him to pass up, I can’t ask him to turn it down…”

            1. Jennifer*

              Exactly. Any of us could have something happen today that could cause us to put in notice at our jobs. Some things are just beyond our control. But we have to live and pay bills in the meantime.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It’s a job for 2 months, you shouldn’t list it on your resume anyways. So if there was a burned bridge, in a town you moved away from, it’s pretty irrelevant to the rest of your career.

          Also most people aren’t going to take it so personally in the end. We’ve had people leave for various reasons a couple months in, unless they were terrible in some way, we aren’t blacklisting them and telling them to lose our number.

          1. Colette*

            You shouldn’t list it on your resume, but you can still run into people from that job in the future. I mean, it’s fine to do it, but you should do it knowing you are burning that bridge.

            It would be one thing if you started a job with the intention of staying for a while and something unexpected came up, but (for example) if a friend of mine took a job knowing there she had plans to leave in 2 months, I wouldn’t connect her to my network in the future – because if she did that again, it would affect my reputation.

    3. Tableau Wizard*

      I actually think the difference is that she has another option that is currently working to pay the bills – freelancing.
      If she didn’t have that, I would agree that she should just apply but since she’s got a situation that’s working and could be maintained until the uncertainty has been figured out, I agree with Alison’s advice.

      1. Quill*

        Ultimately I agree, but because of the time frame, not the availability of other work to sustain LW. It seems like she’s likely to know something about her future plans before the HR documentation would go through.

        1. Southpaw*

          This is most likely true. I wasn’t very clear in my first post but we could get news about this within a few weeks, not months. I’m imagining it would take at least that long to get set up at the job, in which case my time would probably be better spent packing and looking for jobs in our new city.

    4. Phoebe*

      Yes, I agree. Alison answered from the point of view of the hiring manager, but I think the better advice for the LW would be to continue applying as if you want the job. Who knows how long the hiring process will take and anything can happen in the meantime.

    5. pinfu dora*

      I’m of a similar mindset. With no guarantee that any of this will actually happen, it’s best to just keep this info to yourself. Frankly OP’s partner’s job search is none of OP’s prospective employers’ business in the first place. If relocation comes to pass, one can always frame it as “this fell into their lap, it’s too good to pass up, and I can’t ask them to decline it”, since they are not owed the job search timeline either. The only one who will look out for you and yours is you.

    6. Southpaw*

      Hey everyone, OP#1 here,

      Thanks for all your insights. Some of your comments are really helping to crystallize this for me and I thought I’d offer some more context:

      -The job I’m looking at right now is a part time contract position at a very large company. They want someone onsite, which I completely understand. If we were for SURE staying, this would work for me, but all things considered it’s making me question whether the whole situation is worth it. I think I would feel a bit differently if this were my dream job, a permanent role, with everything I was looking for in a position, but it’s not.

      -On the other hand, because I am eventually hoping to find another in-house job in the near future, I’m eager for the interviewing experience, and I don’t want to cut myself off from any possibilities at this stage. There’s a lot of potential in my industry to get work from referrals and positive relationships, which is why I want to handle this well from the get-go.

      -My partner’s potential job offer could come in a matter of days or weeks, at which point we would rapidly switch gears. Given my more flexible schedule, I would likely take on tackling many of the logistical aspects of our move, and that’s not really something I would want to do with a brand-new job that I was also about to quit. (Also, I very much WANT to go, so we wouldn’t be struggling with the idea of me leaving a great opportunity behind.)

      -Mostly, I’m wrestling with my conscience! My gut says I’ll feel better (and perform better in the interview, tbh) if I come clean and let the hiring manager make a decision based on their priorities–transparency and relationship-building in my industry is really important and if we decide to stay or move back here at any point, I might want to connect with that person or their network again. I won’t be crushed if I don’t get the job for this or any other reason, but it makes me uncomfortable to think of all the ways this could go sour if I’m knowingly withholding info.

      All in all, who knows. We could get news one way or another before I even go in for my second interview and that could blow the whole thing wide open in any direction!

      1. DKMA*

        Hi, this context is helpful. I’d split this between a discussion of what you have the obligation to do, and what is best for you to do.

        Obligation: You don’t have to disclose this. You should fairly easily be able to apologise and explain to not burn a bridge if you do decide to move. Life happens, people might be annoyed at the outcome, but not pissed at you specifically.

        Right for you: It seems like…you don’t really want or need this job, so maybe don’t pursue it? Interview practice is not enough of a reason. It also sounds like the flexibility of freelancing will be valuable to you and more transferable as you ultimately job search in a new location. My recommendation: Go through the interview, find out the details, but before you actually accept the job present the fact that there is a chance you might need to move soon thereafter. This is a compromise and like all compromises won’t leave everyone satisfied, but I think it’s your best option. You don’t have to take yourself out of the running early because of a “might happen”. You get the interview practice. You get time to have reality catch up to possibilities. You get to make a disclosure choice based on knowing your options. And you don’t make any committments that you have to reneg on. It’s also MUCH less annoying to deal with having to hire someone else, or even waiting a week or two to see if a prefered candidate will join than it is to hire, restart hiring process and hire again.

        1. Southpaw*

          Thanks for this!

          Yeah, you’ve nailed my dilemma…and what I think I will actually do, if I’m offered the job. That compromise seems to make the most sense. I personally would rather go through the potential awkwardness of saying “Hey, I just want you to have all the information that you need to help you fill the role, and here’s something that might come up” and risk not getting it, than the nearly guaranteed awkwardness of quitting a 9-month contract a few weeks in.

          I’m having the same conversation with my landlords about what to do with our lease, too–so I’m getting all kinds of practice with these up-in-the-air conversations.

  11. Fikly*

    I disagree on #1. The issue isn’t coming to terms with your husband’s past. The issue is people blowing your husband’s past way out of proportion and him being unfairly penalized for it, potentially, something that is unfortunately far too common in the United States, as well as other countries.

    1. Bagpuss*

      But OP can’t make large societal changes on her own.

      It may be that if she starts to see it less of a secret to be hidden, then she will find it less stressful if anyone else brings it up, and can also start to gently challenge, within her own circles, any perception that a single, hostic offence forever damns him.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        This. I’d be curious as to how her husband feels about this busy body telling others about his past? Does he see this as not a big deal, or is he bothered by it too? OP needs to put a positive spin on it. He screwed up in his past, but turned his life around. Be proud of that and stop worrying about others finding out about it.

      2. Fikly*

        Not being able to solve the issue does not change what the actual issue is, though.

        The LW doesn’t need to come to terms with her husband’s past. She needs to come to terms with how people in her life hold her husband’s past against him.

    2. Observer*

      Well, we don’t really know that any of this is correct.

      Without knowing more, it’s quite easy to make the reverse argument – that the OP’s husband’s crime is more relevant than they think, and in any case that they have an overblown sense of what is going on.

      I do give the OP credit for reaching out to AMA before going off full steam and making a fool of themselves. Because taking the tack presented in the letter would most definitely have not gotten them the results they want, and really could make them look bad.

      1. Fikly*

        If you read comments the OP has made, they live in a very conservative area where it seems like any crime of any level is regarded as bad and evil. There is no scale. I would not be surprised at all if this was an area where people are thrown out of houses and familes for the “crime” of being gay.

        Given we take LW’s at their word, it’s not easy to make the reverse argument. It’s terrifying to have a secret, fear that the secret being revealed would mean you lose your family, and be told the only thing to do about it is to reveal your secret.

        1. Observer*

          No, I am taking the OP their word, for the most part. But trying to cast this as illegal behavior, or treating the original gossip as some official workplace misdeed that HR is required to chastise can is easily seen as overstating the situation.

  12. Auntie Social*

    LW2—Since your husband’s crime as a minor was non-violent and seems to have taken place some years ago, why don’t you see about getting his juvenile record expunged??

    1. Auntie Social*

      And if it was a felony, even if expungement isn’t possible, reducing it to a misdemeanor can be a big help when job hunting.

      1. Marny*

        As a criminal défende attorney, I can say that in many jurisdictions, that isn’t possible or realistic.

    2. Ego Chamber*

      LW2 doesn’t say it was a juvenile offense, just that it was non-violent and happened in his youth. This is a lot of grey area and I’m sorry LW2 wasn’t thinking about this more realistically. It’s bullshit, I know, but just because you love someone doesn’t mean other people are going to be okay with the choices you’ve made. I hope LW2 is strong enough to get through it okay because the basic situation isn’t going to change. It sucks and I’m sorry.

      1. Np*

        I think it’s ok for some people to not be ok with it. What’s not on is people spreading this. They can keep their thoughts about criminal convictions to themselves.

        1. biobotb*

          Or they can decide to spread their thoughts. That’s their prerogative, and that’s what the LW needs to come to terms with.

          1. Courageous cat*

            I guess I don’t get this line of thinking. It’s like, because it’s not illegal for them to spread it, we’ve just decided it’s ok? Is it ok to cheat on someone because it’s not illegal?

            It’s still bad behavior, and we shouldn’t encourage that as a society.

            1. biobotb*

              Wow, where did I say that talking about this is OK, or should be encouraged? Please cite. I just said they have that freedom. That’s not an endorsement, why is that confusing to you?

              1. Courageous cat*

                I don’t have any desire to get into it with people who think that all language needs to be cited verbatim and that interpretations simply aren’t allowed. Resting on that is a good way to get out of having a real discussion.

                I think your comment sounds suspiciously similar to an endorsement and that’s ok, it’s not confusing, and you don’t need to be patronizing about it.

                1. biobotb*

                  If you’re going to make up a stance and imply that I share it, yes, I will ask you to support that “interpretation.” You can’t though, because I didn’t say any of that, or imply any of that. I merely made an observation about the situation and what the coworker is free to do. Observation and endorsement are not the same thing, no matter how patronized you feel about me pointing that out.

                  And by the way, making up inflammatory stances and then implying that someone supports them is not the path toward a “real discussion” either. Unless you think that being obtuse and needlessly antagonistic constitute a real discussion. I don’t.

              2. Courageous cat*

                By the way, pretty passive language with “no matter how patronized you feel about me pointing that out”, you know very well that saying “why is that confusing to you?” is condescending as hell and that’s why you chose to phrase it as such.

                But anyway!

      2. Courageous cat*

        I kind of feel very “so???” here. Do you have to be ok with someone else’s non-violent crime that didn’t affect you to not spread it that information around completely unasked for? I don’t get this level of overwhelming acceptance here.

    3. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

      I don’t think that will make any difference with the immediate problem of OP’s coworker, who sort of sounds like Gladys Kravitz from Bewitched.

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Getting his record expunged won’t solve the problem. OP’s co-worker knows about his past because her sister dated him not because she read about it online.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        It won’t solve this particular problem, but if possible it could be a helpful suggestion to avoid other problems in the future. OP#2 mentioned the husband still paying the price for this, it could be due to this showing up on background checks, if it can be expunged or reduced it can be helpful in that regard for housing/job searches.

      2. Crumpet*

        It also seems from the letter that they are living in an area where other people who know about the past are also residing. If so, then expungement won’t make a difference.

        I had a judge once tell one of my 17 year old offenders that they best thing she could do would be to straighten up, go to military/college/whatever path she could, and not move back b/c the town was small enough she’d never be able to be “normal.”

        Sometimes, life sucks. Denying it sucks doesn’t help.

        1. GreyjoyGardens*

          This is the huge downside of “close knit” families and small communities; once you’ve effed up, it can be hard if not impossible to regain trust. (More true for communities than families) Sometimes the only thing to do, unfortunately, is move away for a fresh start.

  13. Ellen*

    For #3, my (large) organisation’s subject line for death notices is usually “Vale [Deceased’s Name]”, which is a very common Australian substitution for ‘RIP’. It might not work in all contexts, but I quite like it because the word is really only used for people when they pass away, so you immediately know that a death has occurred and exactly who it concerns. It’s also a relatively elegant, professional way to convey that information.

  14. Paperdill*

    Hi, OP #3.
    I work for a massive government department, so employee deaths are not infrequent.
    The subject line for the emails announcing this sad news is usually “In Memorium” or “With Deepest Sympathies”.

      1. Tomalak*

        My private members’ club just uses the dead person’s name as the subject line. I guess if you see your own name in an email from them, you’re in a Sixth Sense scenario.

      2. Snuck*

        It’s old English for “with memory/ in memory”

        It’s an expression used to ‘remember’ people who have passed, and common in talking about death in Australia, where people have “Memorial Services” as much as ‘Funerals’. Often people with very large circles will have a private family funeral, and a public Memorial Service.

  15. Tomalak*

    “LinkedIn connections seem very hollow if people are collecting connections who they’ll refuse to communicate with”

    Bingo. The reality is that LinkedIn is a boring web site for anything but job hunting and recruitment, so most people are likely to have an account, but hardly use it except to talk to recruiters or look for job ads. It’s shallow. If anyone wants to email me, my email address is on my profile and I do check that.

    1. Moving the needle*

      This depends entirely on your approach. LinkedIn is extremely useful for me, I get my industry news from it and I regularly engage in really interesting discussions with peers at different companies, from which I will get new connections, that lead to new business opportunities. Or I gain new insights I can apply in my own role. It’s all about how you use the platform. There’s much more to it than just job hunting and recruitment.

      1. Annony*

        I think that is key. Trying to use LinkedIn to forge a connection at a company you want to be hired at is going to be a very hollow connection. Using it to stay in touch with past colleagues or keep up to date on industry news is not.

      2. Filosofickle*

        Social media gets a lot of flak, and it seems to me how you use it is everything. If you’re active on it, seeking the interesting content, and smart about who you follow/connect to, there is a lot of value. If you only pop in once in a while, expect it to be lame, and/or have a small or weak network, then yeah there may not be much for you.

        I’m struggling to get back in the LI habit as I reboot my business, but I know that if I’m not getting much out of it, that’s on me.

        1. Tomalak*

          If you enjoy your time on LinkedIn, that’s great, but I highly doubt it will do anything to reboot your business. How many potential clients are really waiting for you to send them a LinkedIn message? I bet you’d get 100 times the return by doing the old fashioned, unglamorous graft of building a business the traditional way. And definitely don’t blame yourself if you don’t find many potential clients on LinkedIn – it’s just not how the world works. Best case, they will have an account they never check, whereas the people constantly posting on social media about how to make your first million are earning about 1% of that sum each year.

    2. OP4*

      I’m glad I am not the only one who feels this way, given my experience. I try my best to make the most of it because I am relatively new in my career, hence why I’m trying to understand the nuance of how people approach it, but it’s hard for me to understand how it’s useful in different fields

    3. Jeffrey Deutsch*

      I suspect some people collect LinkedIn connections the same way other people used to collect scalps.

  16. Moving the needle*

    At OP4 – LinkedIn is a key part of a my job, I give executive training on it and know pretty much everything about the platform. I also work for a company that’s a highly desired place to work. We get about 100 applications within a day of posting a role.

    When it comes to building your network I will definitely recommend connecting with peers at different companies. Why? In order to learn from them, see what they’re up to, see best practices or content from them or their companies, or a million other things. LinkedIn can be a very strategic part of a company’s overall employer brand strategy and individual leaders who want to contribute are often eager to create a strong linkedin presence.

    If you’re really interested in working for a company, you should build a warm and authentic relationship with your peers, without a focus on a direct return or gain for you. If you repeatedly engaged with my content/updates and add insightful comments to public discussions on certain topics, you will build some good will and at least appear as competent and engaging. Then the next time I might promote a job and you tell me you’re interested, I might be open to give a small heads-up to the hiring manager that I at least know you are engaged, warm, friendly and have meaningful contributions to the field (aka, you look competent) and it might be worth an invite.

    1. Czhorat*

      This is a great answer.

      The key is to become part of the online community, not just someone with their hand out looking for help.

      If you’re someone whose name I recognize and have come to know through comments and/or your own posts then I’m more likely to take the time for you when you ask for something.If you’re a complete stranger with whom I’ve never interacted, then why would I spend my time advising you in your job search?

  17. Reality Check*

    #2 If you & your husband are comfortable with this, why not take the gossip’s power away. By that I mean don’t have this be a secret any more. Mention it to a few people (not coworkers, they already know anyway), word gets out, it becomes Old News, etc. Next time the Gossip mentions it to anyone, she is met with a yawn and a shrug. Takes all the fun out of it for her.

    1. Bagpuss*

      I like this approach but I think it is very dependent on the situation – both in terms of what the offence was, what husband’s job/area of work is, and on the community – I would imagine that (for example) a conviction relating to drug possession might be seen as a much bigger issue in a smaller, more conservative community than in a liberal city, and that would affect how realistic it would be to be open about the offence.

      There are also some offences where even if they are classed as non-violent and did not result in a conviction, are going to be a big issue – things such as possession of indecent images of children would probably fall into that category for most people, for instance.

  18. NYWeasel*

    OP 2: I’m not getting the sense from your letter that you are doing this, but I’ve known a couple IRL that downplayed some seriously awful activities the husband was convicted of. It’s now over a decade (and a few years of jail) later, and if their response was “I’m sorry for hurting others and I’ve committed my life to doing X and Y to (avoid it in the future/try to make it up to them)” there wouldn’t be an issue. But when they get mad that no one will forget it and complain that they are being persecuted, it makes many of us who know the full situation feel that the couple still doesn’t acknowledge how reprehensible the husband’s actions truly were. I fully admit I still tell many people about what happened, but if I added in the details of the crimes in relation to the couple’s current attitude, it would be quite understandable why I do it. There’s zero indication from the couple that the husband even understands that he did something wrong let alone that he won’t do it again. And this makes those of us who know the full situation feel like we owe his past victims to make sure there aren’t new ones.

    I also know plenty of people who really did just make a couple of bad decisions and don’t deserve to have gossip following them for the rest of their lives, so I’m not coming from a super judgy attitude that the legal system is always right. I just want to share a perspective as to what drives someone to keep talking about a conviction years later. To relate this back to your husband’s case, if there was any sort of a victim involved, showing how he recognizes and is making amends for their suffering will be one positive thing you can do to counteract the negative chatter.

    1. NYWeasel*

      And as a clarification, I personally only tell people when it’s a relevant situation for the person I’m talking to. I don’t go around randomly telling everyone I meet.

      1. blackcat*

        Yeah, I’ve definitely seen this for people convicted of really, really serious stuff–generally serious sex offenses. And, yeah, if I know Bob is a convicted sex offender who rages about how unfair it all was to him and how dare anyone bring it up, I might warn people. But if Bob keeps his head down, and, if confronted says, “I made a terrible mistake and hurt others deeply. I’ve sought professional help to get me to a better place where it will never happen again” I’m probably going to keep a tiny bit of distance but keep my mouth shut.

        But if Bob got caught with a pound of weed? I might say “Hey, that happened to a friend of mine in high school, and I saw just how much A POUND of weed really is.” then never mention it again. (Because seriously, a pound is a huge volume of weed)

    2. Jennifer*

      I think that makes sense. Considering the lenient sentences some rapists and other sex offenders get, this sometimes is the only option to keep people safe.

    3. Joielle*

      This. I don’t think it helps OP to try to downplay the issue, especially if it was a sex offense – whether or not that’s fair depends on the actual conviction, but the optics of minimizing it are bad.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Or statuary rape comes to mind here. I’ve seen a lot of “he was dating someone who was 17 and 18 is consensual age. And parents pressed charges.” That can land you on the offender list in areas.

          2. Courageous cat*

            Ok, sure, but this kind of reminds me of “if you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras”. Seems much more likely (and less of a buried lede) that it’s something like drugs or shoplifting or something, not distributing child porn, which I highly doubt someone would write in something like this about. And I still wouldn’t exactly call nonviolent since it promotes/encourages assault but that’s neither here nor there

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Stalking would come under non-violent as would most harassment that only damaged property. So would most forms theft and fraud. Say he worked at a care home as a young adult and stole small amounts from clients to cover rent/food/utilities then got caught. The offense would be both non-violent and minor, but people might still judge him for it, even if it was 20 years ago and his circumstances are completely different.

          Tl;dr: Non-violent doesn’t necessarily mean no victims and not harmful

          1. Blueberry*

            Tl;dr: Non-violent doesn’t necessarily mean no victims and not harmful

            This is very true. But, I don’t think that disagreeing with the coworker’s actions necessitates that we have to think “non-violent = victimless and harmless”. As ever, it depends on the crime and the restitution.

    4. Smithy*

      This is well put.

      Also – without really knowing all the details, the OP’s gossipy coworker’s sister may have found that the arrest or subsequent period engaging with the judicial system left a significant impact. Seeing someone arrested can be scary. Having the police search your home or car can be scary. Being interrogated by the police and/or prosecutors can be scary.

      This isn’t to say that what this coworker is doing isn’t unpleasant and unhelpful, but from her family’s experience – the situation may have left its own mark on the sister/family that they feel entitled to share and discuss. Not to present the situations as equivalent or engage in some kind of ‘sad story contest’ – just that the situation may have left a genuine mark with the family. And if they feel as though they’re being told to be quiet about their experience – I can see that not having the effect the OP might prefer.

      Controlling how others feel about these experiences just seems really difficult.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Shoot. Sister and the family could even have been a victim of the crime for all we know. Maybe he stole from her or her family. If it was a small amount it would be both non-violent and minor, but folks might still have feelings about it years later

    5. mguiney*

      Likewise, I knew a dude who did all of the surface level restorative justice work, but kept doing the same predatory shit that got him in trouble to begin with. His friends/girlfriends had no idea, and often said pretty much the exact things OP did when confronted with rumors of his behavior. Because of my experiences with that, I see OP’s letter as having more red flags than tiananmen square. That said, I totally acknowledge that that is my bias, and may not be accurate.

      It’s just sort of hard to tell without knowing more/having another perspective on the issue

    6. Oranges*

      OP strikes me as an enabler. She made the choice to get involved with a man with a past, these are the consequences now.

  19. Thankful for AAM*

    I wish Alison had expanded more on the ans to #3. It sounds like you are doing an awesome job with the death notices and I appreciate the sensitivity you bring to your job!

    Maybe ask some people you have had to send these emails to how they think the email subject lines were received? It might come down to different things work for different people and workplaces. I like Sad News and dislike the death notice mentioned by Many Bells Down. So there might be a preference in your workplace.

  20. Delta Delta*

    #4 – I don’t like LinkedIn at all. Maybe it’s because I never truly figured out the usefulness of the platform (some people are great with it; I’m not). I get messages from LinkedIn and ignore them, generally. Most of them are spam-type messages, and most of them are from people I don’t know or aren’t in my professional or geographic area. I know lots of people feel the same way I do. I wouldn’t be surprised if OP isn’t getting responses, in part, because of this.

  21. No Name*

    I really hate Alison’s advice to number 2, not because it is wrong but because it is so… Unfair! Unfortunately, if you don’t want to be open about it, Alison’s advice is the way to go. However, there can actually be a lot of power in owning a mistake. You can control the narrative. For example,
    “ When my husband was young and stupid, he fell in with the wrong crowd. He got caught taking a joyride in a stolen car and rightly paid the price. It was a turning point for him. He completely turned his life around 10 years ago and I couldn’t be prouder of him of him.” Then focus on the positive, who he is, what he is doing now. If you are matter-of-fact about the past and proud of the present, most people will follow your lead. I completely understand you would have preferred not to have this out for all to know. But if the story is already out, sometimes it is better to leech the poison and make it boring rather than hoping to squash it completely. If it is any comfort, I would be seriously side-eyeing the coworker who came to tell me malicious gossip like that.

  22. Not Link*

    Well, LinkedIn connections are hollow for most people. It’s not a meaningful interaction in the majority of cases. It sounds like you may be reading more into someone accepting a connection than is warranted, OP4.

    1. Hats Are Great*

      INCREDIBLY hollow, I’d be honestly startled if someone tried to legitimately connect with me via linkedin

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, I accept nearly every request on LinkedIn because I feel like the general idea behind the site is literally just creating those connections… but I pretty much never use it. I check it probably a few times a year, accept a few requests and check my messages. Rarely do I actually respond to any of the messages, especially if they’re months old.

      1. Hats Are Great*

        Everyone who contacts me on linkedin is either a) selling financial services; b) hitting on me; or c) has a really bad understanding of boundaries. Delete, delete, delete.

  23. quirkypants*

    People frequently add me on LinkedIn and add a message at the time of the request that is vague, “I’m looking to talk to about XYZ.” I typically add them and then wait for them to send an actual LI message that is a more specific question or message. I am not going to be the one to follow up and ask them to expand.

    Also, really general statements/conversation starters seem lazy. It seems like you want me to do all the work. I’m happy to answer a question but “I’m interested to learn more about COMPANY” or “I’m looking for career advice” with nothing more specific leaves me guessing.

    If I’m feeling sassy I’ll write back and ask if they have more specific question I can answer.

    1. OP4*

      If it helps, my questions were actually more specific than “just tell me generic information”, it was tailored to what I was hoping to learn about the culture and what it was like to work in my field at the company.

  24. Jennifer*

    #2 Wow what a nosy little teacher’s pet busybody! I’m sorry you are going through this. Even if the company was going to hire him, so what?! It was a minor offense. Some people just lump all people that have been to jail in the same category and have no common sense.

    That said, Alison is right. It’s a part of his past. If you just accept it instead of making it a dirty little secret it will make your life easier. Talk to your family and be honest.

  25. Stephanie*

    LW #3: I work in a school district, and the emails that we get in those kinds of situations always have “Condolences to Jennifer White”. It seems to me to get the point across without being too vague or too blunt.

      1. Stephanie*

        No, I should have been more clear.
        If it is Jennifer White who passed away, the subject line reads “Condolences to the family of Jennifer White”.
        If it is a family member of Jennifer White (ie her mother, or husband), it reads “Condolences to Jennifer White”.
        You’re right, it is very odd to offer condolences to someone who has died.

        1. Dankar*

          Though, arguably, the deceased is the one most affected by their death!

          We do something very similar here. A post on our shared organizational announcements page and an email from our top communications person: “Condolences to the family and friends of X” or “Condolences to Y” depending on whether a coworker has died or has experienced a death in the family.

    1. Arctic*

      My work does the same. Looking at it here it actually looks kind of funny but it works and I’ve never thought it odd or out of place.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Where I work does “Condolences to John Smith and family” if it is a family member and “In Memoriam” if it is the employee that has died.

      And generally the employee’s direct team has already been told in person if at all possible (we have some teams that are 100% remote, those get phone calls I think).

  26. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #1

    If you want something more consistent, maybe try a temp agency for your field, if that exists. You could do short-term jobs, say for a few months at a time. It gives you some consistency and it’s expected you won’t be around long.

    1. Southpaw*

      OP #1 here–it does exist! I have had more success with my freelance clients than any of the agencies I’ve ever worked with, but it might be time to change my approach a little and look for these short-term contracts specifically. Thanks!

  27. WannaAlp*

    #2 Where I work, HR (who are pretty good, to be fair!) were very supportive in dealing effectively with an issue when a co-worker was yelling at me. It was absolutely hostile, even though it wasn’t for reasons in the technical legal sense. So I wouldn’t rule out HR as a recourse. If they are decent, they wouldn’t want one worker systematically making it uncomfortable for another worker.

    1. Leslie Knope*

      If the coworker ever brings it up at work again the OP would definitely go to HR. However, the letter states that the coworker has made these comments in a setting away from work to people who are not associated with the company. It would be strange to ask HR to deal with that, unless somehow it made its way back into workplace.

      Crappy situation, though. I wish the OP and her husband all the best.

  28. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

    #5 I think you can definitely try to reach out, but drop it if you don’t get a response. When I was 18 months into a toxic job working for a man involved in illegal/immoral activities (some of which I found out very late) a previous employee saw my name on an industry listserve post and reached out to me. We had a lovely phone conversation during which she confirmed a lot of my concerns and told me to GTFO before professional repercussions fell on me. Unfortunately, I did end up in one mess that was sorted after a long year, but her advice helped me from losing my livelihood to a very charming charlatan when I was new and naive in the industry. I’m still grateful for her help and I’m out of the industry all together now due to the widespread toxicity.

  29. CatsAndGuitars*

    Sorry, but regarding #2, the issue is her husband’s, not the coworker’s. Assuming the conviction is a matter of public record (which it is unless it has been expunged or he was a juvenile…the OP says he was “young” but that doesn’t mean the same thing), then it was his crime that got him in trouble. Had I been the coworker, I wouldn’t have even apologized when confronted. This isn’t a “hostile work environment”. This is a coworker reporting a piece of public information that might be directly relevant. What is a “trivial matter” to the OP may not be to others, and if I saw a new person at the workplace, a reasonable assumption would be that he or she might be there for an interview, and for an interviewee, I would *definitely* want to know if he or she had a criminal record. It most certainly *is* hers to communicate, if it is relevant to work, like a criminal record may be.

    I know it’s uncomfortable, but her *husband* made it uncomfortable by committing a crime that can follow him for the rest of his life. Best is to just get used to it and move on. The coworker didn’t do anything wrong whatsoever (at least in terms of communicating it at work).

    1. Pescadero*

      Yes… and while a few crimes that are actually “minor” qualify as felonies – in general, a felony conviction is not for a minor crime.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Plenty of people have been charged with felonies for possession of marijuana. Especially people of color. Often simply having over X quantity can bump it to a felony.

      2. Mia*

        Something being a felony just means that it had a lengthier sentence, not that it was an especially heinous crime. Things that are perfectly legal in like a 1/4 of the country are charged as felonies in some states, and LW specifically says that she’s in a conservative community, so this seems like a *really* uncharitable assumption. And as Allison pointed out, POC are charged far more harshly than their white counterparts.

      3. Turanga Leela*

        Things that are felonies in my state include:
        -vandalism/property damage costing more than $1000
        -grabbing or otherwise touching a cop
        -possessing any amount of cocaine, meth, or opiates
        -taking a sexual photo of your underage girlfriend/boyfriend, or sending that person a sexual photo of yourself (regardless of how old/young you are)

        These seem kind of minor to me! I also knew a guy who had a felony conviction for illegal file-sharing in college.

    2. Arctic*

      I’d agree the co-worker didn’t do much wrong the first time but she had no reason to go to OP’s family member.
      That being said it was a “minor” non-violent offense the family might turn their back on them for? That’s very odd.

      1. The Original Stellaaaaa*

        I caught that too. If it’s still following him this much as an adult, it was likely a fairly major offense and like it or not, it’s going to come up. OP married a felon. She’s going to have to deal with this periodically.

        1. Arctic*

          I hadn’t read all the comments at the time. It seems OP’s family is just very conservative. I can understand that.

          1. The Original Stellaaaaa*

            Or it could be something like being 24 and having had a 14 year old girlfriend. That’s a non violent thing that sits in a gray area and absolutely would follow him around for the rest of his life. You don’t have to be conservative to prefer that your daughter not marry someone with that kind of past, or anyone with a felony record. That affects your job prospects and can even limit where you’re able to live. It’s not a total shocker that OP didn’t tell her family, but depending on the crime, they absolutely do have a right to know who they’ve been allowing into their homes.

            1. Jennifer*

              Statutory rape isn’t minor or non-violent and he’d be on the sex offender registry. That’s doesn’t fit the OP’s description.

              1. Pescadero*

                The only crimes defined as “violent” by the FBI are:
                Forcible rape
                Aggravated assault

                So statutory rape very well (depending on state law) could be considered legally to be a “non-violent” crime.

                1. Mia*

                  But unless it was a federal issue, the FBI’s standards don’t necessarily apply. Different states define crimes differently.

                2. Jennifer*

                  I would describe anything involving the r-word as violent, regardless of what the FBI thinks. It also isn’t minor so it still doesn’t fit the OP’s description.

            2. Blueberry*

              It could be. It could also be something like being 21 and having a 22 year old boyfriend — while looking up a fact for this discussion I stumbled upon <a href article from 2013 about then-current arrests of men for having sex with other men. (While the article used the word ‘gay’, I think I should point out here that bi and pan men exist.)

              The thing is, OP did not specify the husband’s crime, so our speculations on what it could be are moot. I’m painfully aware that people often downplay the crimes of those they love [personal examples redacted], but I’m also keenly aware of how unjust so-called justice systems can be. So I think we should as usual extend the OP the benefit o the doubt.

            3. AKchic*

              You are not the first person to bring up a young teenager with a mid-20’s adult. That is not a little indiscretion. It may be “non-violent” in terms of “he didn’t hit her”, but if the older person knew the younger person’s age, and continued, or even bothered to *check* for an age, this is a calculated, manipulative, deceptive issue and very much deserves to follow the older individual for life.

              Look up the statistics on the fathers of children born to teen mothers. Yet we villainize the teen mothers. Never the fathers. Many who go on to father children with other teen mothers. Who have a preferred victim type. They “date” young for a reason. It is a serious red flag that many ignore.

      2. Observer*

        We actually don’t know how it happened that she told the relative – did the coworker start looking for the OP’s relative which is utterly weird or did it come up as part a relevant conversation that they were having for legitimate reasons, or something in between?

        The OP pretty clearly doesn’t know either, based on the comments I’ve seen so far. So, it’s hard to really know what to make of the coworker.

    3. Jennifer*

      So if someone commits a crime, even a minor one, it should follow them the rest of their life and it’s your duty to report to every potential employer? How ridiculous.

      1. CatsAndGuitars*

        Jennifer, it isn’t black-and-white. It requires discretion. But yes, if an adult commits a crime that rises to the level of a felony (as noted above), then yes, it DOES follow you. Some choices are so bad, that you do end up suffering their effects for the rest of your life. It doesn’t make the husband a bad person, and everyone has things they are not proud of, but we 1) have no idea if this was really trivial or if it’s serious (I worked as a social worker after college…do you know how many abused women sometimes say their beatings to be “minor” or “trivial”?) and 2) the coworker originally made the statement in the context of her belief he was applying for a job. Every job application I have ever completed asked if I had been convicted of a crime…if it isn’t something that is valuable for the company to know (which is what the coworker was doing), then why would they ask it on the application.

        I genuinely see nothing at all wrong with what the coworker did in reporting it at work, and in fact think the OP acted badly in dressing down the coworker. Her husband created the problem by committing a felony’ the coworker didn’t do a thing wrong by pointing out that fact.

        1. Jennifer*

          A beating isn’t “non-violent.” It doesn’t fit the description the OP provided.

          But all this person had to do was ask HR if they were there to interview. If they were not, problem solved. She’s enjoying spreading gossip. She’s telling other people. Her motives are not pure.

      2. The Original Stellaaaaa*

        Some crimes absolutely should follow people for the rest of their lives. Unless you think that people’s actions are not indications of their character.

        1. Jennifer*

          Yes, horrible things like rape, child molestation, murder, etc. Not every single crime out there on the books. Not, minor, non-violent crimes as described by the OP.

          Plus you are ignoring the fact that there are other factors that make it more difficult for people to move on, like race and economic status. Insisting on continuing to bring up minor BS like weed possession for all eternity affects their ability to support themselves and their reputations in the community. Plus it’s just plain nasty.

          1. Courageous cat*

            Yeah, my god, let’s not forget how much these things extremely disproportionately affect people of color. We can’t paint this with a broad brush here.

        2. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

          What someone did 20 years ago, if a minor crime, is not an indication of their character now if they haven’t continued doing it, or similar things. It isn’t.

          Also, this from Jennifer is spot on:

          “Plus you are ignoring the fact that there are other factors that make it more difficult for people to move on, like race and economic status. Insisting on continuing to bring up minor BS like weed possession for all eternity affects their ability to support themselves and their reputations in the community. Plus it’s just plain nasty.”

      3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Minor doesn’t mean it isn’t harmful. He could have stolen money and it could be both minor and non-violent. Petty fraud can really hurt the people defrauded.

  30. The Original Stellaaaaa*

    For #2, I wouldn’t be surprised if OP’s husband’s prior relationship with the coworker’s sister ended badly, and she was maybe freaked out about the idea of working with him. I would also caution against broad statements like “she doesn’t even know him.” She does know him; she knew him before OP did, when the crime wasn’t such a distant memory. She may even have been in the husband’s social circle at the time the crime occurred. I believe the OP’s assertion that her husband is a changed man, but the coworker is also speaking about a true part of her past.

    1. Pyrbennu*

      That’s rather the impression I was getting, especially with OP’s words of even her sisters moved on. If for example it was the sister being 15 and ops husband being older, statutory rape. Or if it was him not listening to her tell him go away, harassment. It could be something she really felt concerned for herself or worried for op, and less a matter of gossip?

    2. Smithy*

      In addition to all of this – I think watching a loved one go through a stressful or scary time can be stressful in a different way. The sister may have been in a place to receive an apology and proactively process her own feelings either by breaking up or moving on with her life via other romantic relationships. But for the sister, it’s still cast as the time of the stressful and negative period in her sister’s life.

      I (a woman) was traveling once abroad with a female friend. During this trip we got robbed, and I required the US Embassy to call my parents to have them call me back. So my parents had the awful experience of receiving a phone call at 4am from the US embassy saying “call this number to reach your child, we can’t give any additional information”.

      In many ways, there is nothing I can do or be responsible for to impact how my parents experienced that situation. My mom thinking that traveling with one other woman, or that friend specifically is the culprit of the situation, or that I’m a reckless traveler. She’s going to do that. She still tells the story of her parental trauma of receiving that 4am phone call – and that just is her story to tell.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        If your mom blames you or your friend for the robbery that *you and your friend were victims of*, that’s not just “her story to tell” – that’s her being unkind and unreasonable and her having received a scary phone call at 4 am doesn’t make it OK.

        1. Avasarala*

          It’s not about blame, it’s about recognizing that the experience was extra scary for the parents, and they don’t have additional experiences with that friend/traveling alone in similar circumstances/etc that outweigh that one scary experience.

          It’s like if you get food poisoning after eating at a taco truck, you’re not likely to go back–and if that was your first time at a taco truck, you don’t have all these great taco experiences to outweigh that one bad time. Your taco-loving friend will roll their eyes every time you tell that story because they know so many better taco trucks, but you did actually get food poisoning that one time, and your story is not wrong–it’s just placed in a different context.

          1. Smithy*

            Very well put.

            And because so many of these stories always have additional context – I was comfortable reaching out to my parents in that circumstance and requesting they urgently wire money. My friend wasn’t. I was a young adult, still receiving financial ‘bailing out’ by my parents, and putting them in a situation that clearly scared them. And that fear truly belongs to them.

            Now when my mom does tell this story and others from my youth that scared her, it’s often to parents of older teens/young adults under the umbrella of “see how she gave me all these gray hairs – but she’s still largely in one piece!” Those will always be her parenting stories to tell.

            Certainly many feel that what the Coworker is doing is gossip and quite unkind. But she may have a her own story of receiving a terrifying phone call from her sister at 4am. And telling her not to tell her story I just don’t see ending with a result the LW wants.

    3. Delphine*

      She “knew” him. That’s not the same as knowing him. And it certainly doesn’t give someone the right to spread gossip around like it’s their job.

  31. The Cosmic Avenger*

    I’m surprised how common it seems for companies to send company-wide notices about deaths of employees or even employees’ family members. Our company is on the large end for a small business, and we generally keep information like that to our immediate project/division (usually 10-20 people), and HR, who sometimes sends flowers. Those people generally spread the word to those who might have worked with the affected employee. If it was the employee, not their family, it would probably be posted on our intranet site, though.

    1. Daisy-dog*

      I was surprised as well. Both times that I have had a co-worker pass away, I did work for very large national companies at the time. But we didn’t even do a department/local staff email. It was just word-of-mouth. I heard from my manager in the first instance and my closest co-worker in the second.

      1. Leslie Knope*

        I think it depends on the situation. In our small company, a coworker passed away after a battle with cancer. We all knew the next day, by word-of-mouth, but she was our controller and had wide contact with our vendors.

        For vendors who were friendlier with her, and had been doing business with us for years, our owner did send out an email to them to let them know she had passed. It would have been a little odd for him to call each vendor personally, so he felt putting it in an email would be less awkward. It was very eloquent, though. He handled it well and included memorial details for those who would want to come. A few did, which was nice.

    2. SkyLark*

      This surprises me too. I worked somewhere for a long time where over 2000 people worked just in 1 building (head office #1), muchless hundred of people who worked in the 2 satellite office in the same city, and another 2000+ at the other head office in another city. No one would have cared (not to be harsh, you just can’t realistically send death notices to 4000 or 5000 employees effectively). They certainly did this within the department though, which still might mean a few hundred people would get a notice, but that’s more manageable

  32. Toyouke*

    #3: Our email subject line is just “Bereavement”. All the details (employee, former employee, family members) are in the body of the message, plus visitation or funeral arrangements if we know them.

  33. Pretzelgirl*

    #1- Do you do any type of work that can be done remotely? Or if you know your partners potential future city, could you look for companies with offices in that city? Oftentimes companies will let you transfer locations within the same company.

    During interviews would be a great time to bring up, working remotely or transferring cities.

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      Not the OP but this is a great idea!
      The other thing I was thinking was to be open to working remotely for the new company for a year or so after you move. That will give you time to get settled in the new city and look at the job market without a bunch of pressure and you won’t burn that bridge.
      Although as you go through the process, if you get more information that makes the move seem like a sure thing (maybe just fuzzy on the timeline) I would withdraw from the running and focus on the freelancing.

      1. Southpaw*

        Hi, it’s me, the OP!

        Yes, I do–almost all of my work can be done remotely, though it’s generally more pleasant to do it in person with a team. The role for which I’m interviewing is actually a short-term contract AND it’s part-time, so I’m not exactly hanging my hat on it. I would hate for them to have to re-open the whole search, and it’s fairly low stakes for me, so I’m leaning toward telling them and letting them decide if the situation jibes with their priorities.

    2. pamplemousse*

      This is a good idea, and I’d suggest looking specifically for job postings that are either for remote positions or explicitly say that candidates who can work remotely will also be considered. If you ask in the interview process, I’d be specific about your timeline. Three or four months is barely out of the training/probationary period in a lot of jobs; I’d consider a transfer or remote work request from a good performer with a year of experience, but having someone move from in-person to remote before the 6-month or year mark could be a lot more disruptive.

  34. TotesMaGoats*

    #3-“A Loss In Our Community:
    #4-I accept all that come my way but since most of them are people trying to sell me something that I don’t want and/or don’t have the authority to purchase, I don’t initiate.

    1. OP3*

      Oh, I quite like this. I think it prepares everyone for what they’re about to read without the drive-by nature of stating the whole news. It also conveys the emotion of it. Thanks, I’ll keep this on record for the (hopefully distant) future.

    2. OP4*

      Would it make sense to reach out to new connections and be like “why do you want to connect with me?” (but in a way that makes sense for your professional circumstances — obviously my working would likely come off as rude, but I’m using it to make it clear what you’d get out of that)?

      I’ve done that a few times when people send me random connections, but I am sure that it’s not standard practice, because I’ve been curious about why random people who I’ve never heard of and have no genuine connection to (e.g. maybe we both attended the same school but 10 years apart). The reason I did it was because I figure if they want to connect, I might as well make a connection with them, find out if we might have anything to talk about, and then move on. It’s actually gotten me some interesting results, but I’m sure most people don’t do that.

      1. Avasarala*

        That’s fine if you want to do it, but it’s also a lot of work to interview everyone who connects with you, just to find out they want something from you!

  35. Czhorat*

    For OP4, I say this withove, but if our first interaction on LinkedIn is you asking me for something then you might not get a second interaction. Absent some other interactions or relationship why would you expect anyone to spend their time helping a complete stranger?

    It could be that they’d be more willing to talk of it felt more mutual – if you had also given them something of value. Otherwise your message feels like the equivalent of a cold sales call.

    1. OP4*

      Do you have any recommendations about how to open the door to that connection in a way that makes sense then? Like maybe “I noticed you wrote X and Y and think it’s interesting” (obviously being more specific)? Or like, congratulating them via message or on a post if they get a new job?
      I’m relatively new to networking (probably obvious) and I genuinely don’t know how to open the door to connections when I feel like I have nothing to offer in return (I’m sure I do, but whatever, it’s definitely not even playing ground).

      1. Czhorat*

        It’s industry-specific, I’m sure. What worked for me was simply getting engaged in various online forums, including groups on LinkedIn. I’d comment on other people’s posts about technology (I work in commercial AV). Ask questions. Eventually start to post on my own and even started a personal technology blog. Now I had a footprint, a platform, and the start of a reputation. Eventually I found topics that resonated with me and grew a voice for myself. It takes time, and at the beginning you might not have anything more than inquisitiveness.

        Yes, congratulating peers on a new job is a start. Better is if they post something substantive, ask about it or try to add something to the conversation. It’s not an overnight kind of thing, and you might have some interactions that net you nothing. You need to be OK with that. Eventually someone in your network and you will ahve needs that align and you can work together.

        Good luck. It’s a long, slow journey.

  36. Justin*

    At the goverment agency where I consult (but don’t work for, yet we get their emails), it is indeed, ““Notice of the passing of Timothy Jones”).” In fact, we find out for employees’ relatives, “Notice of the passing of Timothy James’s mother, Dorothy Howard.”

    Seems like it’s a codified policy.

    So, if you want to do it that way you can. I’m not sure I’d recommend going full government agency.

    Maybe “sad news about Timothy Jones.”

    1. OP3*

      Thanks, it’s good to know how other people and organisations approach this. I think my problem with the ones that spell everything out in the subject line is it feels like dropping a bomb on someone without them expecting it. Like swinging past someone’s office and saying “Tim’s dead, can we talk about it when you have 5.” Just interrupting their flow with something horrible that they may or may not be able to dive into right at that moment.

      I am keeping track of all these and am trying to absorb how people feel about them.

      I think it’s just the first time I dealt with this sort of thing it was quite personally affecting so I over-thought everything. But now I’ve been on that side of it I don’t want to be dismissive of the people who might feel it very acutely even though they might, for some reason, not be on the one-to-one chat radar.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        What about first letting the person’s supervisor directly inform the people the deceased worked closely with, then send out a company/agency-wide email? That way those who are most impacted get the more personal treatment. As I mentioned above, we start with the person’s supervisor (or sometimes peer, if they’re really close) letting the immediate group know, we just don’t move on to the company-wide email. That groups does usually spread the word to those who might have known the deceased, though.

        1. Justin*

          This is smart. And based on the timelines of the emails we receive (which also include funeral info), the closer staff must have been informed as some time has usually passed first.

      2. I'm A Little Teapot*

        I think you’re overthinking this. Don’t be callous. Don’t be cruel. But you don’t need to obsess over how badly each employee might be impacted. As long as you’ve hit a minimum level of sensitivity, you’re ok. Someone who’s going to be deeply upset about a death is going to be deeply upset regardless of how they find out.

  37. Allypopx*

    I am unfortunately in a job where we give death notices a few times a year (a lot of older volunteers) and we usually make the subject line something like “In Loving Memory of Jane Smith”

  38. OP3*

    Since the discussion of the death notices seems to be ongoing, I wanted to chip in with something else that I didn’t mention in my letter (because I have a very settled opinion on it) but might be useful if anyone else if in the situation that I have been.

    I’ve gone out of my way to strip battlefield terminology out of any announcement I’ve made (death, illness or otherwise) to do with cancer e.g. “working on beating cancer”, “after a long battle with cancer” or “sadly lost her fight against cancer”. From personal feeling I know that these terms, although commonplace or easy fallbacks, can be very hurtful to some people. To imply that a beloved friend or family member might still be around if they just fought harder or longer – rather than simply stating that they died from a disease for which the treatment was unsuccessful – can twist the knife at a difficult time.

    Not 100% relevant to the conversation, but since we’re talking about it I though it would be a useful sidebar.

    1. Platypus Enthusiast*

      Have you read AIDS and Its Metaphors by Susan Sontag? There’s a discussion there about military metaphors and how we use war-like terminology when discussing illness. Your comment reminded me of it, and if you haven’t read it, it might be something you’re interested in.

      1. OP3*

        This sounds interesting and is definitely something I’ll look up. I tracked down an at-the-time review of it in the Ney York Times that made me want to scream though: ‘She was herself a cancer patient in the 1970’s, and she triumphed over not only the disease but her doctors’ ”gloomy prognosis” as well.’

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I have read several letter in other advice “columns” (websites) where people (friends and family) diagnosed with a certain disease are upset angry with the person for not “fighting” the disease and instead choosing to live life (is that redundant?) the best that they can in the time that they have left. I have certainly seen people use phrases like cowards or afraid because they decided not to pursue certain treatment options. While some people might have issues with using terminology like fight/battle, I think it can also be helpful to others as well, it just varies by individual.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      Completely agreeing with you – whether someone survives cancer or not isn’t really about one’s control over one’s fate. It’s about whether a treatment exists, whether it works in the patient’s particular case, and whether their body can tolerate being poisoned/irradiated/whatever long enough to kill the cancer before the treatment or the cancer kills the patient.

    3. Blue Eagle*

      Why are you including what the person died from? I would not include that in any note I sent. As for subject I would first put either Bereavement or Memorium (or something like that) and then either Jack Smith or Family Member of Jack Smith. Then in the first line mention the passing of who the family member of Jack Smith was. And in the second line include a link to where they can find the obituary (or link to the funeral home info). And that is all. If people want to know more, they can check out what the family has written as an obituary either in the paper or on the funeral home’s website.

  39. Scout Finch*

    LinkedIn day at AAM!

    #4 – Echoing others – I am more likely to respond to someone I actually know IRL. And there’s no way I am spending any capital introducing strangers to the powers-that-hire in my org. I may answer a few questions for the person who has been in my network a while.

    I am not even sure how to best use LinkedIn any more. However, I have refused to link with people “above” me in our organization (and am connected with only one colleague on my level).

    If I ever do start looking for a job (and figure out how to use LI in that way), I do not necessarily want my superiors getting an early heads up. Not sure how I will answer bosses when they ask why I have not accepted their invitations.

    #5 – I think this is a good idea. As long as the communication is worded right (just non-stalkerish), I would love to give insight on my past jobs to those interested. Good luck to you!

    1. Oh No She Di'int*

      “Not sure how I will answer bosses when they ask why I have not accepted their invitations.”

      There’s a good chance that they won’t even notice. And if they do, they shrug and go, “Whatever.” IME most people just aren’t emotionally invested enough to actually bring it up IRL.

  40. Zap R.*

    I’m on your side, LW2. Your coworker sounds like a pill and I’m sorry this is happening to you. I am kind of shocked that people are being so weird about this.

    1. MuseumChick*

      Morally, I’m on her side and if this were not a work context my advice would be different. But this is a work context and it just doesn’t rise to the level where legal action can be taking and unless the co-worker does continue spreading gossip this just isn’t something to bring up the chain. It’s been handled, the OP spoke to the co-worker, the co-worker apologized and hasn’t (from what we know) continued the behavior at work.

      1. Zap R.*

        Oh, I totally agree that it’s not really a workplace issue, per se. I just have a huge problem with “Look on the bright side! Make it into a positive! It’s only a problem if you make it into a problem!” style advice in any context.

        1. hbc*

          I don’t see anyone talking about making it into a positive. It just…is. If you live in a community and family that takes a completely un-nuanced view of crime, and you marry someone who committed a crime in your community, there’s not much you can do. I get that the best case would be no one found out, but “everyone in judgy community keeps mum about the thing they’re judgmental about” isn’t where I’d put my money.

          Is it fair? No. But counting on this person and this community to be more enlightened is like asking the British tabloids not to be racist @sshats. You just have to make the best decision you can given the unfair situation you’ve got.

        2. Delphine*

          I do too. Maybe it’s because I’m approaching this from the point-of-view of a person of color, but “make peace with it,” feels like terrible advice when you consider what damage this woman could do to the OP’s husband’s reputation and livelihood, especially if she is a white woman in a conservative area and OP/OP’s husband are not.

    2. Jedi Squirrel*

      I agree. Some families are just not very forgiving. Once they’ve labeled you, you become that label in their eyes. Someone here in the comments even called him a felon, although that’s nowhere in OP’s question.

      Her stated reason for telling colleagues: she was worried that he was there for a job interview and she thought the company should know.

      If she were really worried about this, she could have just asked “is he here for an interview?” And then if the answer were “yes” she could have gone directly to HR about his record. Instead, she gossiped with several coworkers about it. She wasn’t worried about him being there for an interview. She just likes to gossip. If she did this to me, I would be upset as well. It’s none of her business.

      OP2, you have my condolences. I hope this works out okay for you and your husband.

    3. The Original Stellaaaaa*

      Remove the OP’s lens and see the initial incident from the coworker’s point of view. She thought that her sister’s felon ex was interviewing for a job there. There are some offices where it would reflect badly on her if she didn’t speak up about the fact that she knew him already and didn’t tell someone about his security risk.

      I would say it’s on the husband to deal with whatever bad blood exists between him and the coworker/her sister. That might include no longer hiding his past from the OP’s family, and frankly it’s a little odd that the OP’s family doesn’t already know about it.

      1. Dankar*

        I don’t think it’s that odd. I can imagine sharing something like that with my mother, but not the rest of my family and I’m very close with them. Some things are just not worth rocking the boat over, especially if the incident was as overblown as OP says it was. (Completely unsurprising, given how our justice system works…)

        If the coworker were so concerned about the implications of hiring someone with a criminal record, she could have asked whether he was there to interview, then shared her information with HR. Telling anyone who will listen to your gossip is not the most efficient way to make sure that information makes it to the right person, but it is a very good way to stir up unnecessary drama!

        1. The Original Stellaaaaa*

          Except the coworker actually knew the guy first, and really, it’s no crime to tell the truth about something someone else did, especially if it impacted her or her sister at the time.

          1. Dankar*

            It’s not a crime. But I think it’s way more likely that she was looking to drum up drama than to be a good citizen, alerting the community to a hidden danger..!

            I also struggle to see how his conviction could have possibly impacted coworker in any way, shape or form. Unless he acted in some criminal way during the relationship with her sister, in which case, why wouldn’t she lead with that? Coworker is probably a busybody excited to have “secret knowledge” she can share around for the attention.

            1. The Original Stellaaaaa*

              She might have led with that. The letter is understandably vague, but if you think about how people really talk, the coworker probably did mention her history with the guy as her context for knowing about his past.

              1. SimplyTheBest*

                Super. Why is she spreading the information to coworkers and not HR or the hiring manager? For no reason other than gossip.

      2. Mia*

        I mean, OP says her family is very conservative, so I get it. I’ve dated people with juvenile records for things like pot possession before and no one in my family knew because they would have reacted exactly like OP’s coworker. Some people just think literally any crime = super scary and indicative of violence.

        1. pancakes*

          I understand not wanting to deal with managing the responses of people like that, but pandering to their extraordinarily rigid views doesn’t seem like a good solution to me. If they want to (or can’t manage not to) react badly, that’s on them, or should be on them.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            Moving is difficult. Losing the support network you’ve had your whole life is difficult. Pandering is a bad solution, and honestly not viable long-term, but it’s the easier and less scary option. Depending on the financial resources of OP and her husband, it might be one of the only viable options.

          2. Mia*

            Deciding that someone in your life needs to be on a low-information diet isn’t pandering; if anything, it’s self-preservation. Also, how is it even OP’s place to share info about her husband’s past with her family? I get that it’s a matter of public record, but if he isn’t comfortable talking about it during the holidays or whatever, that should be respected.

          3. pancakes*

            We don’t know enough about OP, her husband, or her family to say. I do think it’s pandering to treat people who, as you said, “think literally any crime = super scary” as having smart / reasonable views on crime. For example, permitting them to shape the way their friends, family, & the rest of their community talk about crime. There’s nothing good that comes out of allowing the most simple-minded, irrational, and fearful people to set the tone for the rest of us.

  41. MuseumChick*

    OP 2, I get it. I do not want people discussing my family business when it is none of their business! Alison’s advice is spot on, this just isn’t something that rises to the level of legal action.

    The best thing you can do, IMO, is 1) In a VERY neutral tone tell your co-worker something like, “I understand from Cousin Cersei that you approached her about my husband. I’m going to ask that you not do something like that again. This is a private family matter. I’m sure you understand.” 2) If you really think you need to, very briefly let your manager know, “I thought I should mention this, It’s come to my attention that Co-Worker has been spreading some gossip about my husband. I’ve already asked her to stop, nothing needs to be done at the moment and I think it resolved. But I thought I should mention it in the off chance it should keep happening.”

    1. Observer*

      Why would you loop the manager in? Even if the coworker really gets weird about it and starts trying to track down all of the OP’s family members to tell them about it what exactly do you think the company should do here?

      Now, if the CS starts making comments to or about the OP at work, that’s a different story. That’s not about “bringing personal information into the workplace” but about mistreating a coworker. And, once the OP does their part to stop ir (by speaking to the CW), HR should definitely step in to stop that. But that’s very different from what the OP is currently describing.

      1. SimplyTheBest*

        Mistreating your coworker doesn’t stop the second you’re off the clock. If my coworker is “tracking down” all my family members, you can bet your ass I’m taking that to HR immediately.

  42. Beehoppy*

    For #3- I’ve never been able to figure that out for my personal life. My mother was killed by a hit and run driver several years ago, and for various reasons, I had to notify some friends by e-mail. I used the Subject Line Tragic News and one of my best friends opened it with a laugh thinking our favorite TV show had been canceled.

    1. OP3*

      What an awful thing to have to experience, I really hope you’re doing okay now. My heart goes out to you.

      I think the thing I’m coming to terms with is that there’s no “right” words to make it better, because nothing can make it better. All we can do is avoid anything that might make it worse.

  43. Ginger Root*

    #2 Its coming off as a big deal because your trying to hide it. The best way to deal with this is when someone asks to brush it off as, “Oh yes when he was a teenager he had a wild side, boys right” then smile and ask them a question about anything else. If its not a big deal to you others will follow suit.

    You said you have a small family that is very important to you but you haven’t shared that your husband had a issue when he was a minor. That seems off that that a small group of people who are important to you wouldn’t know this already about someone you have married. Either way other people know about this its a small world and hiding it makes it seem like a big issue.

    1. Lehigh*

      Unfortunately that particular phrasing, “wild side, boys right” is likely to make many people suspect the crime was violent, sexual, or both.

      1. Heidi*

        Yeah. The social context around that language has really shifted. The connotation nowadays is not so much taking the short way through your neighbor’s cabbage patch as it is raping someone who’s incapacitated. I guess the theme of responses to this letter is that it really does depend on the details of the crime.

  44. Daniel*

    I don’t write in often, but I think the response to #2 is off base. The writer can and should work to get past the stigma, but I think they should also approach someone in the religious community to let them know what the coworker has done. Maybe a leader in that community could have a literal “come to Jesus” moment with the coworker, who sounds terrible.

    1. Anonymous at a University*

      The thing is, as other people have stated, this probably won’t work if the co-worker believes she’s in the right. She hasn’t made up a false story about OP’s husband; she told the truth. OP has also said in comments that this was a felony, which freaks out some people right from the get-go no matter what the offense was, and a religious leader trying to talk the co-worker out of that feeling is probably not going to get very far.

      The OP owning it and telling other people that she was able to move past it will work much better.

      1. Anonymous at a University*

        And by “owning it” I don’t mean that the OP has to tell her family or not be upset about the co-worker. Just that trying to get someone else to shut down the co-worker is not going to work. She went to HR, that stopped the one situation in the workplace, but this is a completely different situation and one that it doesn’t sound like OP is part of herself, unless it’s also her religious community. The OP talking to the co-worker herself is probably the only thing that’s going to work here. Like with so many situations AAM handles, the person being affected is the one who has to be direct, instead of getting other people to intervene.

        1. Daniel*

          It’s discrimination. That’s how this should be couched to the coworker. No one should have to sit there and accept discrimination.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            But it’s not. No one is actively discriminating against the LW because of this news, not that the LW has told us. She has not been “shunned”, she has not been denied promotions or opportunities. It’s just news that’s out in the open.

            1. Daniel*

              It’s discrimination against her husband, not the LW. Replace “convicted felon” with any other type of minority and see how it sounds.

              1. Daniel*

                I know it’s not discrimination in the legal sense – it’s not going to cause any workplace issues, and no one can make legal claims against the coworker, but it is absolutely a pervasive type of discrimination that is harmful and exists. Search for the whisper campaigns against Missouri politician Tom Schweich – he ended up committing suicide because Republicans were quietly saying that he was Jewish.

                1. Allypopx*

                  Okay let’s not conflate discrimination against a protected class with sharing the details about a convicted juvenile felon. We know that’s a slippery slope argument and it really takes away from the very valid point that our criminal system is punitive and not reformative and these sorts of things can really hold people back, especially nonviolent criminals and especially nonviolent criminals of color. These are all valid criticisms of our justice system. That does not make it comparable to antisemitism.

                2. Allypopx*

                  Not in the legal nor the colloquial sense is this discrimination, slander, or harassment. It’s annoying. That’s all.

                3. Blueberry*

                  I totally agree with you that this is discriminatory — not legally, but definitely socially, in that it’s an attempt to ostracise LW and LW’s husband — but I’m not sure the coworker would listen/be swayed by that.

                4. Avasarala*

                  These are not the same thing. How dare you compare being Jewish to being convicted of a major crime.

                  I am heartily in favor of drastic reformation of the prison/judicial system and the awful ways it destroys people’s lives forever, especially black and brown people. But “convicted felon” is not the same as any other minority status for good reason: it is (presumably) based on actions that a person has chosen to do, not based on who they are. At the end of the day, the coworker is telling people facts about what LW’s husband chose to do. A long time ago yes, a minor crime sure, but that is not the same as smearing him based on his color, creed, class, etc.

      2. M from NY*

        It’s not the coworkers truth to tell.

        If she was scared he was applying for work go to HR. Gossiping to other coworkers not involved in hiring process is inexcusable.

        And no matter what OP husband may have done it happened with the coworkers sister not coworker. The coworker has no cause for her continued gossiping. I’d not only go to the religious leader I’d loop her sister in and tell her since I doubt if the crime was so salacious that her sister wants her association with the ex constantly discussed.

        The coworker is dead wrong and it’s annoying how many are bending over defending this bully.

      3. Delphine*

        Lots of things don’t work, it’s never been (AFAIK) the position of this blog that if something may not work, you might as well do nothing instead.

  45. cncx*

    Re OP 3, I had a coworker die on my birthday last year, and the subject line of the email was just First Name Last Name. i was scrolling work email on my phone at my birthday dinner because i do helpdesk, so i opened it thinking it was some kind of task for me (in our team we’re generally reachable via email during awake hours).

    So my vote is also “sad news”, because people can then choose if they want to look at it right then because they know it’s going to be bad. i wouldn’t have opened “sad news” scrolling.

  46. NBD*

    #2- Come on, girl, ovary up:
    “Hey, *coworker,* can you please stop talking about my partner’s past? Not only did that happen long before we met, but I think it’s a great unkindness to hold people accountable for mistakes in their youth that didn’t negatively affect anyone else. If you want to discuss this further, please come and see me in private.”

    1. Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.*

      100% this – I think she needs to be direct with the co-worker yet again. Maybe not HR, as this happened off-campus.

      Also nothing like a good offense here – maybe time to start telling everyone what a horrible gossipy busybody this person is, talking about things that are not their business.

    2. Courageous cat*

      Agreed. There’s nothing you can do legally but just talk to them. Each time. Make it known how you feel.

  47. KMC12191219*

    Yeah…for OP #2, why do I get the feeling that this non-violent minor transgression is something that requires her husband to register as a sex offender? I’ve seen this happen twice before, and in both cases, the spouse was covering up a serious issue by portraying it as a minor misunderstanding or teenage prank. Unless her coworker is particularly vindictive, the only reason I can think of for her to feel highly concerned about the possibility of the guy applying for a job AND to go tell family members about it, is because she feels that there may still be some danger and these people should know about.

    1. CmdrShepard4ever*

      It very well could be that and if it is there are several, several well documented cases where people have had to register as sex offenders for behavior that is should not be illegal. Such as consensual sex between an 18 year old (HS Senior) and a 15 year old (HS Freshman). More and more states have started to create Romeo and Juliet exceptions in sex offender laws but not all.

      Even if it was not a sexual offense and it was a felony drug use/possession charge it can and does follow people around for the rest of their lives. Most often in being a barrier to employment so yes people do keep paying the price even after they have served their time. The lack of opportunity for ex-felons even for non-violent offenses with no direct victim is very well documented.

      1. Yorick*

        We don’t know that the letter has anything to do with a sex offender registry.

        Anyway, it isn’t all that common for people to be required to register for things that aren’t serious.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          You are right we don’t know if it has anything to do with the sex offender registry, but I was replying to KMC’s assumption that it was related to that.

          I disagree with you that it isn’t all that common for people to be required to register for things that aren’t serious. If you research sex offender registry issue you will see that there are actually several reasons someone might end up on it, when no harm was done to anyone. I do believe in the registry and it should be used for people who have committed sexual offenses.

          But like I mentioned above you can have a HS senior dating a freshman (or even a college freshman dating a HS sophomore/junior) and they have sex with the consent of both parties, but the parents do like the bf/gf or believe in no sex before marriage so they pursue statutory rape charges. I’m not saying all statutory rape charges are bad. Some state have enacted Romeo and Juliet laws so kids having sex with a person +/- 3 or 4 years is okay, but not all sates do.

          Or someone urinates behind a building late at night as they are walking and there are no nearby bathrooms and it turns out to be a school or daycare center, or someone peeing behind a bar and the cop is in a bad mood and charges indecent exposure instead of just a public urination ticket.

          “Kids” (14/15/16/17 year olds) can get in trouble for creating/possessing/distributing child pornography if they take a nude picture of themselves on their phones.

          There are several ways for people who have not harmed a child or another person to end up on the registry.

          Many politicians are unwilling to try and reform the system, because it opens them up to easy attacks of being “soft on crime” or trying to “help rapists/pedophiles.”

    2. Daffy Duck*

      That is the first thing I thought of also. I have also seen women wave away serious molestation (including violence against an infant) when invested in a romantic relationship. Apologies to the LW if it is different, we don’t have information on the incident.
      Really, the best thing to do is not be cagey or try to minimize the incident. Own up, say he has paid his debt to society and learned his lesson – no big deal is the attitude you are going for. Hiding the past makes it look as if whatever issue may be ongoing, and family especially will feel betrayed (probably a bigger issue than the conviction). Although there are communities that are extremely conservative most non-violent crimes will be given a pass by most people. I am old enough to remember when all tattoos were taboo and now they are accepted in even the most conservative communities as long as they are not on face or hands.

      1. Delphine*

        Since you don’t have information, best to take the LW at her word and not imply that she’s “wav[ing] away serious molestation.”

        1. Daffy Duck*

          I obviously didn’t make my point clearly: If you are secretive about the situation people will jump to the worst possible conclusion. If we are going to use the above example saying “He was dating a freshman when he was a senior in high school” is gonna put a damper on the tittle-tattle a lot more than “It was a long time ago and doesn’t concern you” even though both statements are true.

  48. DefinitelyARavenclaw*

    I received an email notifying me of the death of a colleague this morning. It’s a very large company and I’d never even heard of the person before but the subject line was “Message from the President on the passing of Helga Hufflepuff”.

  49. Mr. Tyzik*

    #4 – Examine what you are doing and what you are asking. You are connecting with people with the sole purpose of finding a job. Are you really looking to build relationships.

    I get new connections asking for jobs and I decline to help. That’s capital they’re asking me to spend on someone I don’t know. I rarely recommend people I do know unless I can vouch for them professionally! Much less someone who just hit me up on LI.

    I have responded when connections mention my role, ask me about it, share something related to it – something to open a dialogue beyond “Are you hiring?”

    Also, are you looking for a specific role or anything? Asking about any roles is not effective. Asking about a specific role could potentially be if you have questions outside the job description AND you open with a relationship builder.

    There are LI users and there are LI *users*. Don’t be in the latter category.

  50. S*

    For #3, my church uses “Notice of death” in the subject line to let us know when a parishioner has passed away. I think that or “Sad news” would be fine

  51. Candid Candidate*

    On the topic of #4, people who connect on LinkedIn but never respond to any communication, I have a weird one that’s been bugging me:

    I was laid off from my job in November and am actively looking for work. There’s a tech company in the city we’re hoping to relocate to that has several open positions that are aligned with my skill set, and I’ve applied to them. I’m acquaintances with the HR director of that company (she was on the alumni board at my alma mater while I was a student and employee there and we interacted a few times, and we’re still friends on Facebook & Instagram). I reached out to her by message on LinkedIn to ask if she would be open to discussing the positions I applied for. She never responded, which I would be willing to accept IF it weren’t for the fact that: 1) she posts on LinkedIn regularly about her position as HR director at the tech company, leading me to believe that she’s read my message and is deliberately ignoring me, 2) she has been watching all of my Instagram stories. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I have frequently posted in my stories about being unemployed, what specific roles I’m looking for in my next position, my skillset, my desired city to relocate to, etc. … maybe she doesn’t know that Instagram stories have a feature that allows you to see who viewed them. But good grief, it just feels rude.

    1. No Tribble At All*

      That phrase makes me think you handed off a dish to someone too soon. I regret the passing of the mashed potatoes to my brother, because he loves mashed potatoes and now I will get none.

  52. Ash*

    OP2: if the husband was a minor when the offense was committed but was still charged and convicted as an adult (therefore a felon), that means that either it wasn’t his first offense or it was a really big one (like dealing a LOT of drugs, for example). Not saying that there aren’t horrible cases of injustice in these situations, like what happened to poor Kalief Browder.

  53. lawyer wrangler*

    #3: I work for a very large organization and we unfortunately receive these emails from time to time. The subject line they use is “In Memorium: [Person’s Name]”

  54. D'Arcy*

    Minor and nonviolent, but also carrying apparently massive social stigma, and OP’s comment implies it was a felony?

    I don’t think there’s many crimes that fit that bracket, and most of the crimes that do *really are* not minor in the slightest.

    1. Ash*

      As I mentioned above, look up Kalief Browder. But that case is not typical for sure, although it likely happens more than we might think.

    2. V8 Fiend*

      Unless he’s a POC. Then he could absolutely be charged as an adult for a non-violent, minor crime.

      1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        Yup – just saw this headline: “A Mississippi Man Is Sentenced to 12 Years in Prison. His Crime? Having a Cell Phone in Jail”

    3. Turanga Leela*

      I commented above with a short list of minor crimes punishable as felonies in my jurisdiction.

    4. mguiney*

      I kind of suspect that it’s either a drug related offense (in which case the coworker is shitty) or a sexual offense (in which case the coworker is a little less shitty, if she thought he might be hired)

  55. Amethystmoon*

    For #3, some years ago, I inadvertently wound up verbally telling someone at work that a business colleague had passed away, not knowing they didn’t know, after I found out during a routine inquiry. It was very awkward. I think there should be a notice to business partners at least, for someone they deal with on a regular basis.

  56. Emmie*

    2: I do not like the way your HR person handled the issue. I understand why she encouraged you to talk to the person first. If this happens at work again, approach your HR person again. There are several laws impacting when a company can access or discuss criminal convictions, and confidentiality regulations too. Your husband is not an employee or contractor and those laws do not apply to him or your coworker; however, I am concerned she may do this with an applicant or a current coworker. An untrained employee discussing an applicant or fellow coworker’s criminal conviction with coworkers could create a lot of liability for your company.
    Does this coworker handle other information confidentially? This may also speak more widely to her judgement at work with other things.

    1. Arctic*

      A law that has a blanket prohibition on discussing a public record is unconstitutional. There have been many cases on that.

      You can’t reveal things you have learned directly from a criminal history background check as an employer (or in certain other contexts.) It’s a fine line but necessary one because of the First Amendment.

      Discussing something you know because your sister dated someone is not going to create any liability.

      1. Emmie*

        You’re right in part that discussing information about someone with no employment or applicant relationship does not create liability. Discussing that info about an applicant does. Some jurisdictions have Ban the Box laws, and the EEOC have rules / guidance about this. My point is that this individual is fast and loose with this info. If I were her HR person, I’d give her a brief explanation about these rules, our policy, and explain that she should discuss this stuff with me when / if she hears this about an *employee.* It then would create liability for the company.

        1. Observer*

          None of that is really relevant here though. The CW was letting people know that she thinks he’s scary, based on his history. That’s not going to create liability for the company.

          Also, the way the OP framed it made it less likely for HR to react the way you suggested. If the OP had told HR that “CW gossiped about my BF because she thought he was here for an interview and it was uncomfortable to me and too much drama for the office” I would hope that a good HR would tell CW “If you ever have concerns or relevant information about a potential hire, please come to discuss it with me. Gossiping about people who come into the company is not appropriate.” But the OP complained that the CW “brought personal information into the office.” I don’t blame the HR manager for telling OP to talk directly to the CW.

  57. This one here*

    When my mother died (which was on a Sunday), I called one of the attorneys whose assistant I am. On the Monday, I got some calls and texts from coworkers. I later learned that the attorney sent out an email with the subject line “[This one here]’s mother passed away”, then included some details.

  58. QuinleyThorne*

    For LW#3: I work with law enforcement, and we get these notices a lot (as in like, once or twice a month). For current and retired employees of our agency, the subject is usually [FirstName LastName, Job Title], with the actual death announcement and funeral information in the body of the email. For the employee’s immediate family, or for law enforcement personnel outside of the agency, the subject line is just [Death Notice], with the identifying details and funeral info in the body. I can see where “Death Notice” seems detached and impersonal, but I usually don’t interpret it that way when I receive them; it’s just a quick and to-the-point way to get the attention of the recipient, and we get these emails frequently enough that any new employees catch on pretty quickly.

  59. DoubleDodo*

    On question number 1, I was in that position reccently. I was freelancing and knew I was likely to move with my partner in the near-ish future but not exactly sure when. I proceeded through the hiring proccess as such because it was very inconcrete, it could be a year away. Well I received an offer and as they were putting it together we finally received a solid date for the move which would mean resigning in around a month’s time.

    I told everyone straight away and said it didn’t feel honest for me to accet the offer in the circumstances, as much as I had been looking forward to work. I made it clear it was a recent develoment and we weren’t expecting the date to be so soon.

    They were very understanding, allowed me to finish my freelance contract out and have been glowing references since.

    While I appreciate from a hiring manager’s side that it would be useful to know, people move and things happen all the time. What if you got ill? Or pregnant? Or simply decided the job wasn’t for you afterall? I think if you knew for sure you are moving in the very near future it’d be one thing. But you don’t… In my partner’s case it was nearly a year between the initial indication that it might happen to it actually happening so until your plans are concrete I’d go ahead an apply personally – if freelance just isn’t an option.

    Just know that you’ll probably need to stay in your next job long term.

    1. Alexis Rose*

      yup exactly, made the sameish comment below. Life happens!!!!! People move! And believe me, no one LIKES moving, its not a decision that is made lightly.

  60. Anongineer*

    LW #1 – If it’s certain you are going to move to the new city, why not start looking for jobs there as well? I know it may be more difficult as you don’t currently live there, but it can’t hurt to start checking out the prospects now.

    1. Southpaw*

      Hi :)

      It’s not certain yet, but I’ve already started looking there (mostly out of excitement and just-in-case jitters). I figure it can’t hurt to reach out and make some inquiries.

  61. Applesauced*

    #1 – I think you should proceed with the interviews without mention of maybe moving. Your husband doesn’t have an out of state job, he doesn’t even have an offer yet… and one *might* come in a few months? That sounds too tentative to plan around at the moment.

    1. Southpaw*

      #1 here,

      Well, our understanding is that the offer (or non-offer) will come in a matter of weeks, and the move would happen shortly thereafter. (I say this from the mystifying position of still knowing almost nothing!) So, yeah, it’s pretty tentative. The job I’m interviewing for is also a 9-month contract, so it’s possible that could change the conversations I have with that hiring manager…I think it will mostly come down to their priorities and our timeline. Who knows! We could hear about his offer before I even go in for the second interview.

  62. Former Retail Lifer*

    #4 I have a LinkedIn account because you’re supposed to have one, but I’ve never found it to be useful for anything other than job searching when I was on the hunt. I accept connection requests from anyone who doesn’t seem sketchy because I’m supposed to be building a network (or something), right? I’ve never had anyone communicate with me for anything other than trying to sell me something or inviting me to apply for a job that I’m way overqualified for, so I tend to ignore messages. Even when I do eventually read them, I almost never respond. It’s all a big facade that you’re “connecting” with people on there. I think half of the people on Linked In are like me, in that they have a profile because they are expected to. Not because they actually want to have more conversations with strangers.

    1. OP4*

      I hear you.
      It makes it hard for people like me though; it’s hard to build a network when all of your jobs are 6 to 12 month contracts, and there is so much pressure to have a big network, so in order to work around your circumstances you turn to LinkedIn as a means to build your network (albeit maybe awkwardly or incorrectly) only to learn it doesn’t work the way you were taught it works, which leaves you in the same shitty boat you were always in *shrug* it’s definitely frustrating. Things like networking events (which people constantly recommend to me) are just as bad; I feel like I have nothing to contribute there and I have social anxiety that makes it even worse. So I try to make connections at places I go like the gym, or with coworkers, but that’s often fruitless too. I love having friends, which I’ve been successful at, but I don’t exactly have an awesome professional network. Maybe it’ll be better once I actually have a career to speak of and am not constantly entering this on a severely uneven playing ground.

  63. Hello It's Me*

    Re: deaths…

    My 500-person organization sends out company-wide emails when a family member of an employee dies. I think it is SUPER weird. It’s like, I don’t even know this person at all, and you’re broadcasting to me and EVERYONE that so-and-so’s uncle died? WHY? WHYYyyyyyyy?!?!?!

    Is this normal???

    My opinion is if people know the person and they’re in the same department and the person is going to be absent for a few days, then either email or tell them in person “Hey so-and-so will be out of the office for a death in the family.” I think only for people who interact with and know the person. Otherwise a company blast is super awkward.

    1. De Minimis*

      I saw this happen twice when working for a global company with thousands of employees. They’d notify us of deaths of employees in other cities halfway across the country. I agree it was very odd. The only thing I can say is that the vast majority of employees tended to be younger so deaths were probably a rare occurrence to where they might not have figured out a better way to handle it. One person died in a car accident and the other in a plane crash.

        1. De Minimis*

          I have worked in places where they did notify us about deaths of employee parents, siblings, etc, but it was just within our single location.

          Even then it was odd…people worked different shifts so if it was someone on another shift they generally were a complete stranger.

    2. SimplyTheBest*

      As an admin/HR person, I certainly don’t want to be the person who decides these people in the company need to know about this person’s death but these people don’t. There’s way too much room for error and frankly, I just don’t have the time. But there are lots of people who would benefit in knowing that information (if for no other reason than my poor coworker who wouldn’t have had to spend the last several days correcting all the people asking about his “Hawaiian vacation” when he was only there for his father-in-law’s funeral). So just delete the one’s that don’t affect you and move on with your day.

  64. De Minimis*

    For #3: I’ve been at several workplaces over the years where someone has passed away, and the entire organization has often been notified by e-mail. What I’ve often seen is for the e-mail subject to just be the name of the deceased. I honestly prefer that to “Sad news” or what have you.

    When I used to work at the Post Office processing center, they would print out a picture of the deceased’s employee ID [which had their photo] with their name and dates of birth and death. They’d usually tape it up by the entrance so everyone got a chance to see it. I suppose it makes sense in jobs when employees don’t use e-mail.

  65. Alexis Rose*


    I wanted to chime in on this as a military spouse, and as the child in a military family. We deal with this moving thing a lot. Despite my mother and I being bad ass women with stellar careers and work ethics and the educational background to go along with it, we have both been discriminated against for having spouses who are in the military. Most lay-people understand the military lifestyle to be “your partner goes away a lot and you move a lot”. I’m not joking when I say that my husband’s career has been the reason that a hiring manager told me they wouldn’t consider me “we don’t want to take the chance that he will move and we will lose you”. At any point when I am applying for jobs, it is a highly probably outcome that I could get a job, settle in, and then immediately my husband gets a posting message and we are moving away. Being in a partnership with a person who might be moved is not a protected class, so there isn’t any recourse for this discrimination, unfortunately. So, as someone who has a career of my own that has nothing to do with my husband’s, I deliberately do not mention his career or the fact that every January we go through a period of stress waiting to see if we are going to get the notification that we have to move. There was also a period of time when I didn’t wear my wedding ring to job interviews on the off chance that someone made small talk and asked what my partner did and I had to lie or evade or make it weird, or that that information was used in some unconscious bias way…. Its complicated when it feels like the deck is stacked against you (i’m qualified but maybe i’ll get pregnant or move or whatever).

    I don’t disagree with the advice necessarily, and I understand that OP has backup work as a freelancer, but at the end of the day “might move” is not the same as “move date in place” and I think OP should operate as if there is no move. In that case, I think the script is the same as if you were pregnant or get a better offer for another job when you start a job: “I realize the timing of this is not ideal, but life happens, so how do we plan for my transition?”

    1. Southpaw*

      Hi! #1 here.

      Thanks for writing this very thoughtful note, and for your empathy. That sounds like a really challenging thing to navigate every year and I’m so sorry you’ve been discriminated against because of it! We’re only looking at one big move, so I can imagine how taxing it is to do this so much.

      (As a side note, we recently got engaged and I’m sure SOME interviewer will probably also wonder if I’ll get pregnant soon, or take time off for the wedding/honeymoon–I’m definitely thinking ahead to all these possibilities.)

      I wanted to thank you for that script–I think I could use a variation of it even if I did come clean with the hiring manager up front. Freelance work is really my bread and butter right now so it’s not like I would be lost or crushed if I didn’t get this job. It’s more that I’m exploring possibilities that could add something to my career, but this particular gig is not a make-or-break opportunity. Who knows, they might be more open-minded than it seems, due to the nature of this role!

      1. Close Bracket*

        There was also a period of time when I didn’t wear my wedding ring to job interviews

        “we recently got engaged”

        I’ve seen the advice to women to remove wedding/engagement rings for interviews for many years now, and not just to military spouses, due to concerns about how interviewers perceive married women’s family and child care priorities. In your shoes, I would go to interviews without a ring and not even discuss the fiance, much less any plans to move. No, the hiring manager won’t like it if you hire on and leave a few months later, but you need to put your goals first.

        1. Alexis Rose*

          That’s the thing, I don’t give them ANY information that isn’t directly relevant to my qualifications and my fit for this particular job. My husband’s career is CERTAINLY not relevant.

          That being said, now that I’m not a “recent grad” or someone who just needs a job, any job, I do wear my rings to interviews. My feeling now is that I HAVE a job, and any person who doesn’t want to hire me because I might move or might get pregnant (something I’m sure they don’t worry about for male candidates with wedding rings) then I don’t want to work for such a sexist idiot. I have worked hard to get myself into a position where I feel I have this privilege of being able to choose, so I don’t feel like “beggars can’t be choosers” anymore.

      2. Alexis Rose*

        Aw thank you, and you’re so welcome. As I say about most things about this lifestyle, it is what it is! I can either learn to live with it and make it work or I can choose to let it make me bitter. I always choose to make it work! But it does mean that I have had to navigate a lot of assholes who can’t get over the idea that its not the 1950s and I’m not a dependent housewife (I’m actually way more educated than my husband, and he is no slouch himself!). At the end of the day, I put myself and my goals first, and do whats best for my family. Most of the time, it works out and any time I have had to leave, people have been super understanding. Its a part of life. Gone are the days that people have a job for their entire careers and stay in the same city or town their whole lives (if such a time ever did really exist). Death and taxes are inevitable in life, and I really think that needing to pack your whole life into boxes and schlep them to a new location and figure out how to put down new roots is just as inevitable for most people.

        You’ll be just fine, and good luck with the job hunt and potential move!!!!!!

        1. Southpaw*

          Yes! You’ve got this and sound MORE than savvy about handling all the ups and downs. I bet you have some terrific experience, too.

          Thank you so much! :)

  66. Daisy-dog*

    #1 – Overall, Alison is right. The hiring manager is going to want to know this. But that will mean that you will likely be offered no jobs. If you are offered a job and do start work for a couple weeks/months, it is possible that your manager will be angry to learn this news. How “small” is your industry – will anyone find out about this?

    So it’s up to you – what do you really want to do with this time? If you really want to do one of the jobs you’ve interviewed for, then keep going. Just consider some other factors: How certain is the move? Is there a predictable timeline for hiring in that industry (like it follows a school schedule)? Can you find a temp role?

    Also, starting a new job can be stressful! You have to learn a lot and in this case it’ll be things that you don’t need to know after a potentially short period of time.

    1. Southpaw*

      Yes, oh my goodness, yes. You’ve put my worries into words.

      I think, if we do decide to move, I will want to put my energy into moving and finding a job in the new city ASAP. I don’t want to do that while trying to close out a job that I just started. It would be a massive change for me lifestyle-wise (big corporate environment after 2 years freewheeling) and considering that it’s part-time/contract *and* I won’t be crushed if I don’t get it, I think I need to be honest.

      Also, I’ll be *okay* to freelance for a few more months, at least until we learn more. It’s not ideal, but it’s sort of a known stress instead of the unknown.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        Good luck!!! I am possibly going to be in a similar situation this year and have weighed a lot of the same options. There is no “right” answer, so you just gotta pick what will make this time feel the best for you.

  67. Buttons*

    Op#2, she is a horrible gossip. It truly says more about her than it does about your husband. She feels some sort of powerful superiority by spreading this nonsense, he was a kid. I hope you can see her for what she is, and if it comes up again look confused and said “Why in the world would people be gossiping about the teenage trouble my husband got into 15 years ago!? Some people need to get a life!”

  68. Midwest Writer*

    For #5, I’ve totally reached out to people who used to hold a job that I was in the running for, twice. Both times gave me valuable information. The first spoke well of his former employers, was candid about the ups and downs of the job and gave me a lot of really good information to evaluate the job. (I did end up getting an offer, but as a contractor and not as an employee, so while I was negotiating that, they offered the job to someone else and hired him. That told me even more about these guys as employers and I was super glad I hadn’t ended up being able to take the job.)
    The second time, the company had some serious negative reviews on Glassdoor and I was super hesitant, but the pay was good and it was in a locale that had me seriously interested. I found one of the previous people who’d held the job and her response was to tell me that she wasn’t going to tell me anything about the job and ask how in the world I found her. That was also good info — if she and other employees had been making up complaints about the company, I think she would have talked with me. (These are all media jobs and reporters are generally pretty chatty.) I got the impression she had been intimidated into not talking. I turned down the job and kept an eye on the job postings — they continued to have high turnover and bad reviews.
    So it definitely works sometimes.

  69. Amy*

    #3 My company has ‘Our heartfelt condolences to So Andso on the death of whomever’ and then the email itself has info on where cards/flowers should be sent & any public events to see the family. It lets everybody know something happened (& the employee may be away from the office) in a really nice way.

  70. CustServGirl*

    I’m not sure I like the advice to LW #2- while it isn’t a hostile work environment or harassment in the legal sense, I believe OP should speak to this coworker directly. I would not be okay with a coworker meddling like this. Despite having known the husband and sharing a social circle with OP (through the family member), it isn’t her place to bring up his past to anyone and everyone she “thinks” should know.

      1. CustServGirl*

        Speak with her again. More directly. And clue her in that if it doesn’t stop, she may need to talk to her manager or HR because gossip like this not only unkind, but unfair. And Nosy Coworker is probably damaging OP’s professional persona (some people may look at her and only think of her “criminal” husband).

  71. Granny K*

    Regarding the second letter, I’m wondering if she can send a ‘cease and desist letter’ on an official-looking letter head. If what this busybody says could keep her husband from getting a job, wouldn’t that be considered liable and/or slander? I’m not saying it would make things easier at work, but if this person thinks they are being sneaky, I think it would be best to let them know that you know.

    1. Ann*

      Criminal records are public, so I doubt she has any legal recourse here. Anyone can look you up and find out your criminal background.

    2. LawLizard*

      It’s not libel or slander if it’s true. Could possibly be tortious interference but it’s unlikely that it rises to the level of civil liability.

    3. Dahlia*

      Libel is written, slander is spoken, and the burden of proof with both is on the person making the claim that it’s false – prove what they are saying is false.

    4. Observer*

      In the US, truth is an absolute defense against defamation / libel / slander.

      Now, if CW is going around saying that Husband is a horrible person, cannot be trusted with money / children / medication / etc. THAT could be defamation. But as long as she sticks to the truth she’s on solid legal ground.

      And trying to intimidate her into keeping quiet is highly likely to backfire.

  72. Scully*

    Re LW2:
    Alison, I’m sorry, I usually never disagree with you but suggesting that the OP just needs to make peace with her husband’s past in order to be okay with people maliciously gossiping about him is so misguided. Just because she’s okay with it, doesn’t mean the stigma on having a criminal record (especially if one doesn’t specify what the transgression was – for all we know this person wasn’t) doesn’t exist and can’t be severely damaging.

    I’m gay and I’m not ashamed of it. I’m happily out and have a girlfriend. It doesn’t mean I want someone to go telling people at my synagogue and at my workplace when those are conservative environments I am carefully navigating until such a time when I’m ready to tell. There’s a reason we don’t put people even though being LGBT isn’t shameful. Would you ever advise someone to just “accept themselves” if they said someone was going around outing them? I doubt it.

    We also don’t spread people’s confidential medical info just because it’s not shameful. (legalities aside.)

    This is very much similar. The OP is clearly fine with it. The gossip needs to stop spreading confidential information that’s none of her business.

    You’re probably right that she doesn’t have recourse…. but the last paragraph got to me.

    1. Colette*

      The problem is that the OP can’t control the gossip – she can only control herself. So she can continue to get upset every time she hears that the gossip has been talking to someone, or she can make her peace with it and shrug. What she cannot do is make the gossip stop spreading this information.

    2. Courageous cat*

      Yeah! I was kind of shocked by that. It *can* be very damaging and just because it’s a part of him doesn’t mean everyone else needs to know about it. That could apply to lots of things – for example, like you said about medical things, just because someone has an STD doesn’t mean everyone needs to know about it – would we be ok with the coworker spreading that around, just because it’s legal for her to?

      This reasoning is strange to me.

    3. Observer*

      I think you are missing the point here.

      I have no doubt that if the CW were writing in, Allison would tell her straight up “Stop gossiping about people.” etc. The reality is that that’s not who wrote in.

      The Op has some choices. Boradly, they can come to terms with the reality and figure out a viable way to deal with potential fall out. Or they can keep stewing, trying to control a narrative that they can’t control (and is not entirely hers, anyway) and trying to find some way to get official enforcement of her control. The second choice is a sure fire way to make things worse for herself and her husband – BEST case she’s going to spend a lot of energy stewing over something she actually can’t control and also risks burning social and work capital or making herself look bad. The first choice has the potential to provide some peace of mind and mitigation of the problems this kind of gossip can cause.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      I couldn’t put my finger on why that advice felt wrong to me, but I think you’ve nailed it.

    5. Smithy*

      I do think that it is relevant to distinguish information that is confidential including an expectation of privacy (i.e. medical) vs information that is sensitive (LGBTQIA status, criminal history). And while it is a social norm to not out others – it’s also true that it happens all the time by people simply unaware of where any given individual may or may not be out.

      Should an acquaintance you know from your out life get a new job in your place of work or worship, it’s possible they wouldn’t know how out you were or were not. Depending on their read of the situation, they could assume that saying “really happy to start here and see some familiar faces – I used to work with XYZ’s girlfriend and she’s always spoken highly of ABC”.

      A lot of information from the adult criminal justice system is public. Lots of very personal information is available via Googling. And there are also people who simply have different reads of what is private information and what is not. And others are just terrible at keeping any kind of secret. So I read that last paragraph more so as a call to figure out how to stop fighting this information from spreading and rather how to live with the information being more open.

      1. Scully*

        This is neither here nor there, but just so you know, LGBTQ folks normally have a silent understanding before they mention potentially outing information in front of new people. When I meet people with my gf (or LGBT friends) I always ask first if they know, so I know what I can or shouldn’t mention. It’s because we all know what it’s like and that it can be outright dangerous to be out to the wrong people.

        But as I said that’s neither here nor there.

        The gossipy coworker here didn’t mention it offhand in an “oops” way, it was in an effort to “warn” people about him. Which is malicious.

        1. Jen2*

          Well, it all depends on what the crime was. For some crimes, it would be malicious not to warn a potential victim.

    6. The Original Stellaaaaa*

      I think it’s a fallacy to compare being gay to being a felon who committed a crime that carries a major stigma.

      1. Observer*

        Well, to be honest, we don’t know that the OP’s husband committed a major crime. It could be that they did, but it could be something far less significant.

    7. SimplyTheBest*

      As both a queer person and someone who spent a lot of time in the corrections industry, I agree with this so hard. That “make your peace” with it paragraph left a seriously sour taste in my mouth. Asking someone to make peace with shitty behavior is not good advice.

    8. WTFyall*

      I’m hallucinating, right? You didn’t just equate “being born LGBT” with “choosing to do something illegal” like that’s a meaningful comparison, surely?

  73. Forrest Rhodes*

    #2 Many of the comments here are along the line of “if it was a felony, then whatever he did was major.” Does that not depend on the laws in effect at the time and place of the arrest?
    Case in point: Some years ago, a person I knew well had a certain leafy green plant in his home—just one plant, less than 8″ tall. He was probably the kindest, gentlest, most relaxed person I ever knew; one who operated from a perspective of collaboration at all times; a practicing Jain. (His attitude toward life may also have been affected by his relationship with that plant, but whatever.)
    Someone called the law (turned out it was a person who wanted to date the woman my friend was involved with, but that’s another story). Because it was a citizen complaint, the town’s police had to respond; and my friend was arrested for having the plant.
    Local laws at the time said that possession of one plant indicated intention to distribute, which put my friend in the category of “dealer,” a felony. So technically, my friend was a felony arrest.
    All I’m saying is that to assume “felony” means major evilness and destruction and oh, my lord, run for the hills, alert the media … can be an overreaction. Sometimes, of course, it’s exactly the right reaction, but not always.
    I feel for you, OP. You’re kinda in a pushme/pullyou situation—it’s a problem whatever your reaction. Personally, I like the idea of simply asking Lady Loudmouth “What’s up with that?” about her obsession with your partner’s past.

    1. Blue Eagle*

      But if this is the case, why the reluctance on the part of OP2 to want to hide this from OP2’s family? OP2 definitely wants to keep it hidden – which makes me think it is something more sinister than your example.

      1. Mia*

        OP says that both her family and their community at large is rather conservative, so that’s probably why. A lot of particularly conservative folks in the US think being convicted of *any* crime should essentially operate as being branded with a scarlet letter. My own family is very much like this, and I’ve hidden things about past partners that were 100% ethically neutral because of it.

      2. Blueberry*

        If I were dating Forrest Rhodes’ gentle friend, or had married him, there is no way I would tell my family about his criminal record; I would hear daily, probably hourly, about what a horrible dangerous criminal he was and likely to murder me or something. (I know this from sad experience.) Many people are not all that rational and many people are stuck being related to and answering to them anyway.

    2. Kavita*

      That wouldn’t have happened if the person was a minor. If you’re a minor and get charged with a felony, it’s either because you have priors or you did something really awful.

      1. V8 Fiend*

        Or, depending on where you live, a POC. There are documented cases of male POCs being charged as adults for first time offenses because of the way the laws are written in certain jurisdictions.

      2. Mia*

        That’s entirely untrue in many jurisdictions and pretty much everywhere for black and brown kids. And really, does the substance of this issue change if he was newly 18 versus 16 or 17?

  74. Mia*

    OP2, I think there are a couple of different ways you could approach this, depending on what you’re more comfortable with.

    1) Be super frank with your coworker and say something like, “Listen, I get that you have a different perspective about my husband’s past, but it’s really frustrating that people — my own family members, even — are still hearing about this from you. Why is this such an ongoing issue?”

    2) Shrug it off. Idk the exact nature of your husband’s conviction, but if it was anything that could fall into the youthful indiscretion category, maybe say something like, “Most of us make pretty dumb decisions when we’re young. He had the misfortune of getting caught, but thankfully he was able to learn from it. It was X number of years ago, after all.”

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      Oh I don’t like that. I feel like I mostly see the phrase “with regrets” in the context of RSVP-ing no to a wedding…

      1. I'd Rather Not Say*

        That’s an interesting point. I don’t know the origin of it and it’s been that way for as long as I’ve worked here, but this is where I’ve spent the majority of my professional career, so it seems normal to me. It is informative to see the range of how places handle this, though.

  75. CMF*

    My church sends out death notification emails, and the subject line is always Rest in Peace: John Doe (but the RIP is in latin which makes it somehow less jarring)
    In my business, associations will send out death notices that have “With Deepest Sympathy” in the subject line and then the details in the body, which usually starts out “we regret to inform you of the passing of…”

  76. M from NY*

    OP2 You’re giving coworker too much power. Turn the awkwardness back on her. Your husband is not a public figure so whether or not its true doesn’t give her the right to keep spreading his business.

    Bullies know who to pick on. Speak to the religious leader about coworker gossiping (you don’t have to say about what as the point is whatever happened never concerned coworker). She doesn’t get to stand in judgement over your husband via you.

  77. Koala dreams*

    #2 I have seen a lot of comments where people say it’s more accepted to talk about a crime if it’s very serious, and not acceptable to talk about minor crimes, but in my experience, it’s the opposite. People wouldn’t share details about the latest murder in their favourite true crime podcast unless they were sure the other person was also a fan of true murder podcasts. Minor crimes, however, are seen as fair to gossip about. Sharing stories about people getting speeding tickets, getting in trouble with the law because of drunken mistakes in their youth, who has or hasn’t tried illegal drugs, things like that, are popular gossipy topics. Probably both the OP and the gossip agree that the crime is minor, but disagree about the moral value of gossip.

    I get that in the OP’s case, this kind of gossip hits unusally hard because their family is very conservative. The thing is, it’s very hard to make the gossips change their mind. For them, gossip is the spice of life. You can speak up in the moment and show your disapproval, and you can make clear to people you know that you are against gossip. But to make it stop entirely? That’s not a realistic goal.

  78. Courageous cat*

    Wow, I’m surprised how much I disagree with the answers on not 1, but 2 of these.

    #1: I personally wouldn’t bring it up. I think of it a bit like getting pregnant shortly thereafter: you can’t always plan for these things, and if you need the money you can’t exactly not have a job because of it, so I wouldn’t tell them and let the chips fall where they may. It would be pretty dishonest if you knew for sure you’d be moving and when, but right now, it’s all up in the air.

    #2 I disagree much more vehemently on. I do not think you should try to make peace with your coworker being this problematic?! That seems nuts. I don’t feel like this is a “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” situation. Just because the workplace isn’t technically hostile and she’s not doing anything technically illegal doesn’t mean this is at all acceptable behavior in or out of the workplace. She’s being a pretty terrible person (particularly if this crime is non-violent and not a threat to others, aka, I assume it’s something like drug-related). Just because it’s a part of his life doesn’t mean sitting back and letting random people tell everyone for no reason. There are a lot of biases against people with records that are pretty unfair, and it’s not cool or ok or something I’d personally ignore.

    That said, I don’t know what else to do in this situation other than talk to her and make it known you are not happy about this and it’s going to continue to damage your relationship if she goes on, but I just don’t think making peace with gossip is the answer here. It’s just not her information to spread.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, I think it’s definitely worth at least one more conversation with the coworker for #2.

      I don’t fully agree with #1 either, but the OP did primarily ask for the perspective of a hiring manager specifically in which case obviously Alison’s answer is that a hiring manager would not want a candidate who is already planning on moving.

      1. Courageous cat*

        Totally, it makes sense from the perspective of the hiring manager. I just think the situation warrants some advice from not-the-perspective-of-hiring-manager as well, since there’s an obvious/understandable bias there

    2. biobotb*

      Alison didn’t say to make peace with the coworker.

      And since there’s nothing else to do except talk to the coworker, and since the LW already tried that to no avail, what would you have the LW do? You yourself say you don’t have other ideas about how to handle it. Since the LW is powerless to change the situation, she can only change her emotional response to it. So either make peace with the situation and find a way to make the fact that people may bring up her husband’s past less emotionally fraught, or just keep getting worked up about something she has no control over. But since you disagree so strongly with the first option, does that mean you think the second option is the one to pick?

      1. Courageous cat*

        Could I just get you to not keep baiting me indefinitely? It’s not going to be a constructive discussion given your phrasing.

  79. Library Land*

    I’m a little surprised that I haven’t seen this addressed yet: OP4 – why do you think the reason you were not getting a job at that particular place is because you didn’t know anyone there? I know some places really prefer to only hire internal or closely related to internal but most do not. It seems like there are other issues at play.

    That being said – I’ve had people try to connect with me and ask me questions about a job posting that I had absolutely nothing to do with. I responded once and they became pushy, trying to get me to tell them who was involved. So unfortunately for the people after them, I stopped responding and will only connect with people I know.

  80. Holly*

    I think the advice #2 is solid except for the following factors: (1) as another commenter mentioned, although we cannot tell from the letter, OP might be downplaying serious and justified concerns that his or her colleague has, or (2) if OP lives in a jurisdiction that has enacted “ban the box” legislation. If that’s the case, I would potentially remind the colleague that informing HR about the husband’s criminal history would have caused potential legal problems for the company if he had in fact been applying for a job.

    1. anon4this*

      An employer illegally asking an applicant about their criminal history is very different than a coworker letting HR know that an applicant has a criminal record.
      The law may ban an employer from asking an applicant, but it does not specify whether other coworkers can out an applicant as a criminal.

      1. Holly*

        I understand that, but companies want to end up any litigation in the first place. They would probably win if there was a suit depending on the law in the jurisdiction, but what the employee is doing is increasing risk of a suit.

  81. froodle*

    OP2, I’m sorry that you have to work with Helen Lovejoy

    My experience is not an exact match to yours, but I’m currently going through.something similar

    Last year my sibling was arrested for possession of a Class A drug, in the sort of quantities that were potentially an intention-to-distribute charge

    I live on a literal island and the social scene here can be… well, claustrophobic is the nice way of putting it

    There is one particularly reprehensible gossip at my work and in the immediate aftermath of his arrest, as well as when the case was heard in court (and reported on) and when my sibling was sentenced (and reported on) she would a) run her mouth to other people in the company and b) try to bait me into giving her a hook to hang her nasty gossipy hat on by doing that in front of me

    I won’t pretend I have a perfect solution, but what’s worked for me is:

    if I get asked about it directly, I have a set quote I’ve BLATENTLY STOLEN from Alison and Captain Awkward and have practiced in private:

    “Its pretty raw at the moment and I’d rather not talk about it. Thanks for understanding”

    And when it’s the Gossip Hive of Squirmy Wormy Pointed Comments, or when my line doesn’t work to shut things down, I say “excuse me” and I leave. To the breakroom, the printer room, the toilet, whatever – I just remove myself from the situation

    (I briefly outlined the broad situation with my manager at the time of the arrest, and I mentioned that I might sometimes need to bail and compose myself, which she understood, so ymmv on that one)

    Oh, and outside of work to people who don’t know her, i call that horrible cavern-mouthed gawp every name under the sun and I pray that she steps barefoot on Lego every day of her miserable waste of a life

    1. M from NY*

      Might I humbly suggest an addition of “Why do you continue to ask?” followed with an icy stare? Don’t back down and answer any response with the tenacity of a 4 year old avoiding bed. Why? Why? Why? Why?

      Put the awkwardness where it belongs.

      And I hope the fleas of one thousand diseased camels nest in the middle of her back.

  82. Amethyst*

    OP2: Why not take the bull by the horns & give a brief talk about your husband’s felony? As an example:

    “Many of you have heard gossip from Gossip Gladys re: my husband’s long ago felony, committed when he was [age] & massively stupid. As most of us have skeletons in our own closets we are loath to tell, ours just happens to be a little more public than others. So this is what happened…”

    It removes the power from Gossip Gladys & you have it back, controlling your own narrative. The key is that your husband focuses on the impact it had on his life, the affect it had on his victim (if applicable), & the work he’s done to overcome the associated feelings from committing this act & spending X time in jail as penance, + whatever kind of self-flagellation he might’ve done afterward. This is assuming that this was an ACT that he did, not a possession of [drug] or an open bottle of booze in his car or some such.

    Like it or not, it’s already out there, & you have an odious gossipmonger who’s delighting in spreading this bit to everyone in your community. You’ve said it’s conservative, so if you’re a member of a church, ask if you can do a brief 5-10 minute talk before/after/between parts of your service.


  83. Donkey Hotey*

    Please tell me I’m not the only one who read LW2 and thought, “Reader, I married him.”

  84. char*

    #3: It’s funny, “Sad news” would be my absolute least favorite of those options. It’s so vague that I would be alarmed and stressed just by reading the subject line, so I’d have to read it right away anyway. Knowing that something bad happened but not knowing what gets my anxiety going like nothing else.

    My preference would be for something like the “impersonal” option that includes the actual news in the subject. But it looks like I’m in the minority in that regard.

  85. mguiney*

    Re: Letter #2, I can see a few instances in which that kind of information sharing would be reasonable and even the ethically responsible thing to do- say, if the husband happened to be a sex offender of any variety. In that case, whether the offense was violent or not, it would be in the best interest for a community that might involve the offender to be aware, because it puts the entire community at risk.

    If that is not the case, however, I can see how awful that would be for the letter writer.

  86. soon to be former fed really*

    “Sad News” is used in my organization. I hate it. I discovered the death of the son of a friend of mine who worked in the same office this way, which was horrible. Sure, any other heading would have had the same impact, but I know what’s coming when I see this heading. I would just prefer the name in the subject line so as to not be so shocked after openng the message. I had to leave work about my friend’s son, who I had known most of his young life (he died suddenly at 15). I understand my friend and her family were so very distraught that they didn’t think to tell me before telling work, but still. It was years ago and I still remember the horror when I opened that message.

  87. Alice's Rabbit*

    #4: “A sad loss for Teapots International” is a good subject line. “A tragic loss for Llamas LTD” works too, especially if the death was of a more shocking nature or the individual was in a vital role.

  88. Former Employee*

    If I were in OP #2’s position, I would b be tempted to hire a private investigator to find out whatever I could about the gossip and her close family. Maybe she has something in her past she’d rather keep quiet. Perhaps a close family member has a little problem she’d rather no one know about outside the family. Whatever.

    I’m guessing that something will turn up. It’s often people in glass houses who end up throwing stones. I think it would be amusing to best her at her own game.

    By the way did anyone else note the irony in what the OP wrote:
    “This week, I learned that this same person approached a family member of mine (the two of them are members of the same religious community), months after the wedding, to tell her about my husband.”

    I wonder which “church community” encourages people to gossip?

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