saying the Pledge of Allegiance at work, asking a coworker to chew with their mouth closed, and more

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

1. Saying the Pledge of Allegiance at work

I have a long-standing issue at work and am at a loss over whether I should raise this, and if so, how. I am a full-time permanent federal employee. At my agency we honor monthly presidential declarations (think Hispanic Heritage month, Black History month, etc.) by holding a one- or two-hour event, which I fully support and attend. However, as part of our performance evaluations, to receive Fully Successful, we MUST attend at a minimum of two of these events per year. If you want to receive Outstanding or Superior, you attend more.

My issue is that at the beginning of each of these events, an employee performs the national anthem (totally fine!), and then we recite the Pledge of Allegiance, which I feel is not only unnecessary because we are the federal government, but also alienating to certain groups. If these weren’t required as part of my performance evaluations, I would seriously consider not attending because of this.

I don’t know how to address this. There is a feedback submission system, but it is not anonymous. I am willing to raise my voice, but am worried about retaliation and being marked for the rest of my career, and I have a significant amount of time left before retirement.

I think expecting people to ritually pledge allegiance to their country during the course of their normal workday is bizarre, even for the government, but because this is government I doubt very much that you’re going to get it changed. I suspect, though, that you’re not actually required to recite the pledge — you can probably stand and say nothing while it’s occurring. (If you don’t want to stand at all — and the Supreme Court has supported your right to remain silently seated during the pledge — you’d need to decide if you’re willing to spend the capital that would probably be involved.)

2. My company won’t order meals I can eat at upcoming meetings

I have a week’s worth of company meetings coming up where we will be staying in a hotel. Lunch will be pre-planned by the meeting organizer. I asked her to accommodate my dietary restrictions (health issues). She forwarded my request to upper management and I received an email response back that he suggests that I pre-buy lunches for myself and bring them with me or call the hotel to see if I can order special lunches while there. Is this acceptable for meetings that I am required to attend? I felt like my company should try to accommodate my needs. I can’t very well bring lunches as the hotel doesn’t offer rooms with refrigerators.

Yeah, this is BS. They should absolutely be attempting to accommodate your dietary needs. I’d respond this way: “I can’t bring my own lunches since we won’t have fridges in our rooms. Typically in the past, meeting organizers have ordered me a dairy-free (or whatever) meal because it’s easier for it to be part of the overall catering so it shows up at the same time as everything else. It’s usually easy for caterers to adjust what they’re serving; they get these requests all the time. Is there a reason we can’t just wrap this into the meals you’re already ordering?”

But if she pushes back, ask them to reimburse you for delivered meals that you’ll order yourself (and know that this is crap).

3. Asking a coworker to chew with their mouth closed

Is it ever okay to ask someone to chew with their mouth closed at work?

It depends so much on the relationships involved. If it’s someone who you have good rapport with or who you know wouldn’t take offense, or if they’re junior to you, in many cases you could indeed say, “Bob, would you mind chewing with your mouth shut?” And definitely if you’re their manager, there’s more room for it. But in a lot of other cases, it’s going to come across as not your business (you’re not their parent, and in general you shouldn’t scold other adults about their manners), in which case you’re better off just trying to position yourself so you’re not getting a full frontal view while they’re doing it.

4. Which address should I use on job applications in a new city?

My boyfriend moved upstate for a job and I’m going to join him up there because there are better opportunities for me as well. He’s settled into the apartment we’ll be living in together (so I could get mail there).

Which address should I use on my applications for jobs in the new city, my current address or my future one?

I’d prefer to have a job before moving just to keep my health insurance coverage. My fear is being eliminated from consideration for not being local.

Some people in this situation will use the future address. That can be helpful since some employers favor local candidates (often with good reason), but it can also be tricky if they assume it means you can appear for an interview very quickly. If you actually can appear for an interview as soon as someone local could, it’s fine to go ahead and do that. That will, after all, be your address soon — and since it’s the apartment you’ll both be sharing, it’s not too far of a stretch.

But the other option if that weren’t the case is to do this:

Clarissa Warbucks
(Relocating in March to Buffalo)

5. My call with a recruiter disconnected and I couldn’t call back right away

I applied for a job that was a reach for my skill set. A few days later I received an email from a recruiter saying I might be a good match for the position, but to please fill out the skills section of their website so that they can be sure. I filled it out and less than an hour later the recruiter called to let me know that one year of experience was a hard minimum, so that position wasn’t a good fit for me.

Unfortunately, I made the mistake of taking the call in the car and it disconnected. I was unable to call back because Driving, and I was also unable to call back when I reached my destination because I was driving to work. Instead I emailed the recruiter this when I got to work: “I apologize about the disconnection earlier, I was using Bluetooth in my car to answer the call and couldn’t call back because I was driving. Can I schedule a time with you to finish the conversation?”

It’s been a day and the recruiter, who previously responded to emails within an hour of receiving them, has yet to respond. I’m wondering if he thought I hung up out of anger and blocked my email and blacklisted me before I had a chance to explain what happened. But I also wonder if maybe he was only responding so quickly before because I was a potential candidate, and now that I’m not I should expect slower responses.

I thought about calling him if I don’t receive a reply back in a week, but that also seems to be overkill? What is the proper thing to do if I get disconnected from a potential employer or recruiter in the future and can’t call back?

You did exactly the right thing — emailed him to explain what had happened. It’s pretty likely that he hasn’t responded to you because he’d already relayed the crux of his message: that the position wasn’t a match for you. There isn’t a conversation to finish, because to him that closed it out.

It’s super common for people involved in hiring to communicate only when they have a new message to deliver to you (which already happened here) or when they have a question for you. If you’re already out of the running, it’s not surprising that he’s not getting back to you. In a more social setting, it would be a nicety for him to respond to the email you sent, but in a hiring setting there’s nothing more he needs to say.

So it’s not that he thinks you hung up in anger. It’s just that he already told you the position isn’t a match and now he’s moved on (and assumes you will too).

{ 491 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    To keep things on track, please resist the urge to post comments about whether you do or don’t personally say the pledge of allegiance (and I will remove those if I see them) — instead, please keep comments focused on advice for the letter-writers.

  2. Lime green Pacer*

    LW1: As a patriotic Canadian kid in a US school, I grappled with this daily for a few years. I soon discovered that if you say “I pledge allegiance…” and then go quiet, nobody notices — even if you are supposed to be leading it!

    1. Dot Warner*

      OP could also stand there and mouth, “watermelon, pickles” or once in while, they could “accidentally” show up to the meeting late, after the pledge has ended.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        It’s a technique I call “Goldfishing” and can also be used to sing anything where you don’t know all the words.

        1. Oh No She Di'int*

          Side story: I remember hearing a speaker at my school talking about the importance of being sure you understand what you’re talking about when you speak. He used as an example the fact that he spent his entire childhood in thrall to the great Richard Sands whom he thought must be an amazing man. Someone finally asked him Who is Richard Sands? He replied, he’s the one we pledge allegiance to every morning. You know, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic of Richard Sands . . .”

          Hope the derailment is OK. :-)

          1. Quill*

            I swear I saw a similar story in a beverly cleary book, but to get this back on track…

            Standing silently is probably less likely to cause issues for OP than taking a page out of the NFL playbook and taking a knee, but if OP has chosen this as their hill, there can be a lot of mileage out of that kind of protest.

      2. T2*

        I am sorry but that is not an option for people like me. I would consider Mouthing anything else would be disrespectful to others. And it would look like participation.

        Respectful silence is the way to go.

        1. Quill*

          I feel like respectful silence is the best bet here: it’s what the majority of people who have to attend a church for a family event but aren’t participants in the religion do, after all.

        2. Ice and Indigo*

          Yeah, I have to say, I’m not a US citizen and find the idea of being required to recite a pledge of patriotism at work creepy as all get-out, and I still think that comedy mondegreens are not a good way to go. Raising objections is find; clowning is unprofessional. And if nothing else, the overlap between ‘People who take pledges of allegiance seriously’ and ‘People who kick up a fuss about “disrespectful” co-worker’ seems like it would be … worth considering.

          Honestly, I’d either raise it as a ‘concerned about other people’ issue, or just turn up, pledge along politely because if you’re taking part your protest isn’t very significant, and let my mind wander.

          (Of course, I doubt this was a serious suggestion!)

          1. sleeplessKJ*

            It’s a government job so everyone that works there is going to be a citizen of the country to which they are pledging their allegience.

            1. AKchic*

              Not necessarily. As long as you have the “appropriate” paperwork, you can work here. Citizenship is not a prerequisite.

            2. Dahlia*

              Just because you’re a citizen doesn’t mean you believe in the pledge, though. See kneeling protests.

              1. Ice and Indigo*

                Yeah, if you don’t grow up with pledges of allegiance, making them compulsory for citizens feels like an interference with your freedom of conscience. I wanna reserve the right to say my country’s in the wrong!

                However, I recognise that it’s a cultural custom and is probably done by rote for the sake of a quiet life a lot of the time, so if you aren’t going to make an open point of objecting, your best way to get an actual quiet life is probably to just say it. I suspect there may be other employees wise to the ‘watermelon’ trick!

                1. JessaB*

                  There are however religious issues many denominations of Jews, I’m pretty sure Jehovah’s Witnesses (if I’m wrong, there’s definitely a Christian sect or two that won’t do it for religious reasons,) not sure on Islam, but it might violate their tenets against idolatry? But even for government it’s a bad idea.

                  I remember a big court case in New York when I was in elementary school where a bunch of Jewish parents went after the school district for punishing their kids for not saying it. And for bullying and shaming them (adults as well as adults ignoring other kids doing it.) They won.

                  So there’s a big difference between the National Anthem and the Pledge.

            3. Chinook*

              As a Canadian, I have learned it is not necessary to have allegiance to the country you work. Case in point – the number of neighbours in Quebec with Separtist decorations who would take the bus the government of Canada jobs. And, at one point, our “loyal opposition” was the separatist Bloc Quebecois. If we had a pledge of allegiance, they would be the first to propose an alternative (which we do have for tjose who won’t pledge to the Queen).

              I think standing in silence is the polite alternative. As a Catholic, we don’t bat an eye at visitors who don’t utter our prayers or statement of faith as long as they don’t draw attention to themselves (which is why sitting and standing with us is encouraged).

            4. NotTheSameAaron*

              Really, it reads as a loyalty oath, affirming that you are still loyal to the USA and its leaders.

          2. Burned Out Supervisor*

            I AM a US Citizen and find the idea creepy (and I had to do it all the way through primary school). I think it’s funny that a country formed on the idea that they didn’t like a far away government telling them what to do would try and compel it’s citizens in this way.

            1. GreenDoor*

              But in this case, it’s not the government it’s the employer doing it. The fact that the employer is a governmental agency makes it worse though, becuase a government employer should know better. I work in local government and we annouce that we will rise for the Pledge – but specifically say that those who do not wish to particpate are asked to remain silent (those people can choose to stand or to remain seated). We also have employees who say some of the Pledge but remain silent for certain parts, particularly the “under God” phrase, because of their own religious beliefs. For a governmental employer to make a stink about this is wrong. If OP and others are truly being pressured to say the words, I’d go to HR. As Alison said, the Supreme Court has opined on it!

        3. Ellen*

          At one time, a couple of regiously observant students would just quietly get up and leave the room, returning when we were done. Us other students did have to explain to sub.

      3. BeckySuz*

        Oh my gosh that’s what I learned in choir as a kid! If you don’t know the words mouth the word watermelon over and over. If you time it correctly it looks like anything I guess?

    2. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

      LW1 works in a government job so I wonder if that means that all employees are US citizens. If that’s the case then dealing with people in other countries isn’t an issue in this case (but it would be in any other case and something that needs to be thought about if Americans want to continue this pledge thing, so that kids don’t need to worry about committing treason every day at school…)

      As a non-American I don’t have an opinion on how weird this case is in its context because most countries don’t have this kind of pledge at all (and in many places patriotism is different from the American version too) so there’s really nothing to compare to.

      1. Avasarala*

        I would say that aside from “maybe foreign nationals don’t want to do this”, a stronger argument is to focus on its position and effectiveness in what seem to be celebrations of culture and diversity. Maybe they’re going for “some of us are X and some are Y but we’re all American!” But I imagine some of the cultures represented in these meetings have complicated histories and feelings regarding the national anthem and pledge of allegiance. It feels almost ironic to display patriotism in this way at, say, a Black History Month meeting, when Colin Kaepernick chose to kneel in protest at this very display for that very cause.

        It seems like since these meetings are mandatory/highly encouraged, your office really wants to encourage workers to see these as valuable and genuinely important, not just a “goof off meeting”. So maybe you could use that, and suggest improvements to make them more effective (ie backing down on the MURCA and focusing more on the cultures and topics you’re there to celebrate and learn about).

      2. Fikly*

        I don’t know what the LW’s particular objection to the pledge is, but historically, it’s commonly been that the pledge includes the phrase “under god” which (besides being a separation of church and state issue) rather makes things uncomfortable for those who do not practice a religion, those whose religion doesn’t have a god, or those whose religion is not the same one that the pledge is presumably referencing.

        There’s an extensive history of school kids being ostracized (and worse) for refusing to say the pledge, which has been said daily in public schools.

        1. Mongrel*

          “I don’t know what the LW’s particular objection to the pledge is”
          There’s also the ‘forced patriotism’ aspect or the breach of the First Amendment.
          Sometimes people just dig their heels in when they’re asked to do an unnecessary task that’s not part of the job.

          (Not an American)

          1. Quill*

            There’s also the historical significance of that pushing mandatory pledge participation on people has often coincided with times that the U.S. has increased nationalist policies and scrutiny of anyone who could be perceived as critical of the government.

            That alone was pretty widely considered to be enough of a deterrent to participation when I was a teen and tween growing up during the Bush administration, regardless of OP’s feelings on any current policy.

            1. Miyo*

              Anyone who doesn’t understand how allegiance can be weaponized should go read about the No-No boys or just generally about what the American government did to it’s own citizens of Japanese descent during the war.

              It isn’t as simple as opting-out for many people. The consequences of getting it wrong have been lethal during the lifetimes of people who are still alive today. This isn’t some distant memory form 100 years ago. It’s reality within living memory.

            2. Jadelyn*

              I was in high school during the beginning of the Bush administration and yeah, a number of us refused participation as a protest against the post-9/11 nationalist fervor we were seeing occurring around us. This was during all the “you’re either with us or with the enemy” stuff, when people would literally wear shirts reading “enemy” in protest and stuff.

              I still, 15ish years later, won’t say the pledge, because of that aspect of it. It’s coercive and often meant to stifle dissent.

              That said, most of us doing this would stand, but would not put hands over hearts and would remain silent. I’d suggest that to OP as a form of protest that’s still minimal enough to hopefully not draw too much fire.

              1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                Yep. Stand, fold my hands behind my back, and simply chin up and stare forward until it was over. I never got any blowback about it.

          2. Observer*

            If you take out “under god”, I can’t see this as a first amendment issue. I mean, you are working for the government – it’ not unreasonable to expect people to have a base line of allegiance to the country whose government you are working for.

            To be clear, I’m not getting into whether this is a good idea, expression of patriotism in any other context or support for any party or policy.

            1. LizB*

              There are a couple of religious groups that have an objection to pledging allegiance to a flag – not sure if they also object to the “and to the republic for which it stands”. I believe there’s some overlap here with people who will refuse to swear to tell the truth/whole truth/etc. in court, but may be comfortable to affirm that they will tell the truth/etc., also on religious grounds.

              1. Richard Hershberger*

                I don’t have an ideological objection to pledging allegiance to a flag. I just don’t know what it means. The flag bit is immediately followed by the “and to the republic for which it stands” bit. This clarifies what the heck is being talking about, but the flag bit doesn’t actually add any substance. I suspect it is there because reciting the pledge while facing a flag makes the whole thing more tangible, where pledging allegiance just to the republic is too abstract for the emotional pull that is the real point of the exercise.

              2. Observer*

                I hear that. So the question becomes (again, from a purely LEGAL pov) whether the government agency can argue that if you are working for us you need to have an allegiance to the country and it’s government.

            2. TootsNYC*

              “Every new Federal employee, including the President, is required by law to take an oath to support and defend the Constitution. The Oath of Office will be administered on your first day of employment.” (from

              So they’ve already taken an oath. THAT is why it feels weird to her as a government employee, because she has already taken a huge oath and doesn’t feel she needs to renew it.

              I rejected the idea of a vow renewal; my original ones haven’t worn out or been weakened.

              1. Richard Hershberger*

                My 20th anniversary is coming up in a few years. My kids are lobbying for a vow renewal. My wife is open to the idea. My response is that I didn’t know our vows needed a periodic booster, like a tetanus shot. If this is the case, I want to know the precise date when the original wears off, so I can check out some of those hook-up apps I have been hearing so much about.

              2. Observer*

                I’m not saying that it’s a good idea. I’m just doubting that it’s a religious freedom issue. I could be wrong based on the fact that some people have a religious objection to pledging allegiance to anything other than G-d, but I think that it’s possible to make the case in some government employment that “allegiance to the country” is a bona fide requirement.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  But that allegiance happens when you take your oath. It doesn’t need to reappear in the recitation of the pledge.

                2. Pomona Sprout*

                  Oh, the pledge of allegiance is definitely a religious freedom issue for some people! There are those for whom the idea of pledging allegiance to the flag is tantamount to idolatry. (This includes Jehovah’s Witnesses, most notably, but it’s not limited to them.) The courts have upheld the rights of parents who have sued to have their kids exempted from saying the pledge in school on a religious basis.

                  That’s not say that objecting to being required to say the pledge is ALWAYS a religious freedom issue. There are lots of different reasons people have problems with it, as can be seen from the comments here. But to flatly say it’s not a religious freedom issue (ever) is simply factually incorrect.

              3. RecoveringSWO*

                I get the opposite feeling about “renewing” the oath of office. If loyalty to the Constitution is a performance requirement of federal service, is it that out of whack for the employer to bring up that job requirement periodically? Especially in federal government where job performance expectations are required to be written down and unions fight to ensure that managers inform employees of their duties before disciplining them (in theory at least).

                I get an objection to saying the pledge out of religious concerns or other concerns involving certain connotations with the pledge or managers compelling the pledge. But, I think that it would be acceptable if the agency required some sort of renewal of the oath. It’s in line with other requirements like maintaining a security clearance.

                1. Sacred Ground*

                  Right, because someone who would betray their oath of office would certainly never lie about it.

            3. Daffy Duck*

              The “under god” part was added in 1954, after about a decade of Christians lobbying for it, supposedly to differentiate the USA from other Marxist countries during the cold war.

              1. Daffy Duck*

                That should read either other countries *or* Marxist countries. I did not mean to imply the USA was Marxist.

            4. CircleBack*

              Some religions object to the pledge because it is a pledge – the stance is basically along the lines of not swearing allegiance because your first and primary allegiance is to God, which supersedes any pledge to country etc. So even when taking out “under God,” it’s still a first amendment issue.

              (Fun fact: I once had a school superintended get nervous and trip over the pledge while leading the school – but he left out “indivisible” and left in “under God,” which led to some fun speculation over his politics).

            5. Anon For This*

              That’s not how it works, though. Working for the government is just a job for the majority of people who do it; it doesn’t denote levels of patriotism, so even asking someone to pledge their allegiance is weird at best, and dangerous at worst. Having grown up on and around military bases where the national anthem plays before movies and now working for a contractor running a government program, I can tell you I push back on mindless patriotism daily. Not too long ago government employers were required to take an oath of office. All of them. Not just higher level employees. The Supreme Court said that wasn’t reasonable. This isn’t that different.

              1. Pomona Sprout*

                Oh, the pledge of allegiance is definitely a religious freedom issue for some people! There are those for whom the idea of pledging allegiance to the flag is tantamount to idolatry. (This includes Jehovah’s Witnesses, most notably, but it’s not limited to them.) The courts have upheld the rights of parents who have sued to have their kids exempted from saying the pledge in school on a religious basis.

                That’s not say that objecting to being required to say the pledge is ALWAYS a religious freedom issue. There are lots of different reasons people have problems with it, as can be seen from the comments here. But to flatly say it’s not a religious freedom issue (ever) is simply factually incorrect.

            6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              There’s Supreme Court case law on this. It violates the first amendment for a number of religious groups, and in this context is compelled speech.

        2. snowglobe*

          The religious element is one reason that I’m very surprised that this is a federal job. I have to believe that the management of this agency is not following federal rules, since this would imply that the government is endorsing a particular religion.

          1. Anononon*

            I mean, there’s a daily opening prayer for Congress sessions. The pledge doesn’t even come close to that.

            (I completely disagree with having both in government – just pointing out that this likely does not break the rules.)

          2. Fikly*

            Yeah, the separation of church and state is way more theoretical than what is actually happening. I mean, god is on American currency, for crying out loud.

              1. MsSolo*

                I only learned that recently (from the documentary Hail Satan, which is interested in detangling church and state) – it explains why the original Miracle on 34th Street doesn’t use the ‘god is on the money’ defence that pops up in the remake (though it doesn’t explain why they changed it from the original in the first place). I’m stunned that it was added so recently; I always assumed it was an archaic holdover from the early days of the US.

                1. anon4this*

                  “Under god” was added to money much later, I believe in the 1950s, encouraged by Christian groups.
                  I remember when Molly McIntire of the American Girl Doll line appeared, she came with U.S. $1 bills as an accessory and they said “under god”, which was a major anachronism, as Molly was a young girl of the 1940s.
                  The Pleasant Company refused to change it or even admit it was anachronistic, probably due to the feeling of Nationalism of America in the 1980s (when the dolls were first created).

                2. Quill*

                  I’m not but I grew up in a state that considers Senator Joseph McCarthy one of their most notable shames, (at least in the part I grew up in) so…

          3. CheeryO*

            We say the pledge before union meetings at my state government job. I sometimes see people just standing politely and not reciting it, which seems like a good compromise.

          4. ASW*

            To me, it makes more sense that it’s a government job. Who is going to be more invested in focusing on pledging allegiance to your country than the government? In Texas, most (maybe all) city councils start their meetings with everyone in attendance standing to recite the national pledge and then they go right into the Texas pledge. I used to have to attend these meetings as part of my job, but I had recently moved here from another state and had never heard of the Texas pledge. I just didn’t say anything during that part and if anyone ever noticed, they never said anything.

            1. NYCRedhead*

              I have never heard of a state pledge, but there are apparently 17 states that have them! Thank you for teaching me something!

            2. Umiel*

              I have worked for the Texas state government for 16 years, and I had never heard of the Texas pledge before now. I guess I’ll look it up.

            3. Anon for this*

              Texas schoolteacher and yes, the national and state pledge every day. I teach special ed and some years my greatest achievement is that my class learned to say the pledge. Otherwise, it’s a total annoyance, interrupts instructional time, and as someone not from Texas I just go along with it. It’s not the hill I’m going to die on, but it’s a pain.

              1. R*

                I moved from teaching in London, UK to teaching in TX. I was so shocked when I found out saying the pledge is a real thing and not just something weird I saw in movies. My shock did not go down well with my Texan coworkers.

          5. MCMonkeyBean*

            I mean… the pledge of allegiance itself is the government endorsing a particular religion.

          6. Malarkey01*

            All federal employees take an oath of office which ends with “so help me god” and swearing on a bible in court is the most common to swear in witnesses so the religious aspect isn’t really at play here.

            1. Quill*

              People have sworn also on torahs, qurans, and the constitution as well, that feels a little more flexible than the pledge, which also has nothing to do with swearing that you’re about to tell the truth.

              1. DC Cat*

                My favorite is the city councilman in California took his oath of office on Captain America’s shield.

            2. Artemesia*

              Even the Constitution itself indicates you may ‘swear or affirm’ and there is no requirement to swear on the Bible and many people don’t. In some religions ‘swearing in’ is a religious violation. And of course, most of our founders were not religious and were mindful of making sure there were no religious tests for holding office.

            3. CircleBack*

              When I served on a jury, there were no Bibles for witnesses – everyone was just asked to raise their hands and say they would tell the truth. Maybe that’s just standard for my city or the judge whose courtroom it was, but Bibles are not required or even necessarily “the most common” for court. There is absolutely a religious aspect.

            4. Miyo*

              Meh. I have a friend in rural Kentucky. They don’t swear on a Bible in her courtroom.

              So I wonder if this is more “TV law” than actual practice these days.

                1. Miyo*

                  “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
                  — U.S. Constitution, Article VI, clause 3

                  This is why you can’t force people to be sworn in on a Bible or even to say “under God” int he pledge.

            5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              you don’t have to swear with “so help me God”—they don’t even do this in federal courts. There are several acceptable versions of the oath of office that do not include any reference to a higher power, and no one is required to swear on the Bible anymore (they can affirmatively choose to do so, but it’s not required).

            6. NewReadingGlasses*

              I am a federal employee, and I had to sign a form agreeing to not act against the government. There were no bibles involved. God did not appear on the form.

        3. Oxford Comma*

          I am always fascinated by those with fanatical adherence to the Pledge of Allegiance. It only dates back to the 1890s. It came from a magazine and “under God” is a 1954 addition.

          Furthermore, at one point there was a salute thing you did, which an elderly relative recalls being taught in school. She says they were told to stop doing it in 1938 or 1939 because it resembled the Nazi salute (Wikipedia says it got dropped post Pearl Harbor).

          I don’t have any advice for the OP on this other than sympathy. Forced “patriotism” is garbage.

        4. Threeve*

          There have also been (understandable) religious objections that boil down to: no, I don’t pledge allegiance to anything or anyone EXCEPT God, so the whole concept is an issue, not just the phrasing.

        5. MCMonkeyBean*

          I went to a meeting for my local precinct and it was a small group of just like 5 or so people, and you’re supposed to start the meeting with the pledge–and every single one of us fell silent during that line and then after the pledge was over we kind of broke down into giggles because we had not expected the silence to be so noticeable.

        6. Artemesia*

          Compelled loyalty oaths have a long dirty history in the US and so forced loyalty statements are pretty offensive to many of us. I had to sign such a loyalty oath to work in the early 60s. FWIW I remember when ‘under God’ was inserted into the pledge; it was not in the original pledge. It happened when I was in elementary school during the McCarthy Era — guessing around 1954. If you listen carefully when a group that includes old people says the pledge you may note the rhythm difference. Us Olds say, ‘One Nation (pause) under God (Pause etc’ Younger people who learned it after this phrase was tacked on say ‘One nation under God’ as a single phrase. The forced pledge and loyalty oaths are reminders of rather dark time in our history.

          1. TootsNYC*

            I’ve been experimenting with how the pledge sounds with and without that phrase.

            It’s different!

            “one nation, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all”

            Stick that “under God” in there, and it really dilutes the emphasis on unity!

          2. Shirley Keeldar*

            Thanks for articulating this for me–I felt uneasy with it but wasn’t sure why, in a government job–I mean, if you’re working for the government I kind of hope you’re loyal to the nation. It’s the compulsion that makes it feel icky–swear daily that you’re loyal and patriotic or (implied threat, I know nobody has threatened to fire the OP) you won’t have a job. Also, it kind of seems fake and cheerlead-y, as if those who say the pledge more often or more enthusiastically are definitely the most patriotic.

          3. Tisiphone*

            Growing up in the 70s, I never learned the Pledge in grade school until I took a Spanish class in summer school. It was my first introduction to the Pledge. We learned it in Spanish with the English translation but after the first day learning it, we said it in Spanish.

            I never had to say it again (in English or any other language) until I attended a caucus and the meeting opened with the Pledge.

            At some point, I decided not to make things harder than they need to be and would ever after say it the way I know it: In Spanish.

            There is a sizable number of people who would get all bent out of shape about that and they are the same people who had meltdowns over a Spanish rendition of the Star Spangled Banner back in the early 2000s.

          4. DefCon 10 (formerly PlainJane - there's a new PlainJane around here now)*

            I had to sign a loyalty oath for an academic job in the University System of Georgia – in 1992. No idea if they’re still required, but they definitely aren’t ancient history. Part of it involved swearing that I was not nor ever had been a member of the Communist Party (or words to that effect). Sen. McCarthy would have been proud to see how long his legacy lived on. I was much less impressed.

            1. Rivakonneva*

              I did too DefCon 10, when I started working in 2000. Both to the US and to the county that housed my institution. I thought it was odd but HR made sure I knew it was mandatory to keep the job.

        7. Essess*

          The supreme court ruled that it is unconstitutional for school children to be required to participate in the anthem or pledge of allegiance. Unfortunately, that protection does not extend into the workplace. I agree with others to stand respectfully, but not recite the words. It’s the same thing I do if I am attending an event at a church where I do not share the beliefs. I stand, sit, kneel at appropriate times as a respect to the others around me but I do not verbally participate.

        8. Miyo*

          I have several relatives who were interred in the American concentration camps which held Japanese Americans during the war. While they were there, they endured a lot of ritual and forced patriotism that was designed to let them know they were “other,” that they were expected to assimilate, and that they were expected to OBEY. The Pledge was included. This is the height of irony since the whole point of the camps was that the US government didn’t view these people as citizens.

          One of my nephews now refuses to say the pledge on purpose because he is now free enough to refuse to do so without the consequences his grandparents suffered. He has no issue with the actual words. It’s the entire concept of forced, mass ritual.

          I also have a cousin who is Dine, but doesn’t live on the reservation. To him, the USA is not something that he accepts as a concept. He works for the state government and has made a loyalty oath to it. He won’t say the Pledge. I don’t need to agree with his logic to respect it.

          I also know an exchange student who was forced to say the pledge when he was living with a family in suburban NY. It was really odd to me because he’s not a citizen. He was a child who was a citizen of another country.

          There’s a very deep, very troubling history of using the Pledge and other similar rituals to enforce a very narrow, very specific view of what the US is. To a lot of people, it’s not just the contents of the Pledge, it’s the fact that it has, and still is, used to enforce conformity to certain views and systems.

          Asking people to justify why they don’t want to say the pledge is, in and of itself, a hostile act that enforces the dominant view of US history. One that is harmful to many of its victims.

          1. Miyo*

            I realized I left out what to do.

            If your are a person who says it, but is worried about others having to say it: Stand up for them. Let the people who organize this know that it is potentially alienating to people for religious, cultural, and historical reasons. Also let them know that any pledge that is said only to conform with group norms/fear of losing a job is meaningless. They need to expressly state somewhere that participation is optional. That people can come into the room after the Pldge or simply sit if they don’t want to participate.

            If you don’t want to say it, simply stay silent. Sit or stand as you wish. I won’t say stand, b/c in some cultures that is a tacit endorsement.

            I personally say the pledge, but I won’t pray and I won’t sing along at the rah-rah patriotism at NFL games/other games. I do sing the National Anthem, but not God Bless America for reasons too complex to get into here.

            I’ve had a few people look at me, but very few say anything. When they do, I tell them I have thought this out and that if they respect me, they will accept I have deep, personal reasons that are my own. That I don’t need to justify myself to them.

            I’ve never had anyone push it after that or to the point I had to go nuclear.

            In the end, if they are going to ostracize me for not participating in public rituals of patriotism or belief like this, they are going to ostracize me for my background, my darker-skinned husband, or my personal beliefs. They will eventually figure out that I don’t share their POV.

            To me, this is a symptom of othering, but the othering will still rear it’s ugly head sometime, somewhere down the road.

            1. Burned Out Supervisor*

              “I also have a cousin who is Dine, but doesn’t live on the reservation. To him, the USA is not something that he accepts as a concept. He works for the state government and has made a loyalty oath to it. He won’t say the Pledge. I don’t need to agree with his logic to respect it.”

              I’m a South Dakota native and I absolutely agree with his logic. I’ve witnessed the extreme racism Native People experience in my home state (to this very day) and I can’t say that I blame them for their views on the federal and state government. I think it would be ludicrous to force a Native American person to recite a pledge to a country that has systematically attempted to wipe their people and heritage from the face of the earth (and nearly succeeded). Same goes for other people of color who have been historically oppressed and disenfranchised by the US.

        9. AKchic*

          I know what my personal objections are.
          You’re correct in the religious aspect. I never use the singular “god” if I mention any deity at all. Either it’s plural, or I leave it out all together. That particular phrase wasn’t added in until the 50’s anyway.

          The other objections end up becoming a lecture, that I am going to refrain from starting.

        10. Clisby*

          I don’t know about “historically.” The pledge didn’t include the “under god” wording when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Jehovah’s Witnesses who didn’t want their children forced to say the pledge in school.

        11. Burned Out Supervisor*

          “Under God” was added in the 50’s during the Red Scare. Quite a few people just leave it out if they want to.

      3. De Minimis*

        In general it’s a safe bet that all the employees in a federal workplace are US citizens, at least if the workplace is located in the US. I think it might be different with military bases abroad, but generally that’s something they are pretty strict about when hiring.

        I’ve worked in several federal facilities in my career both as federal employee and contractor, and have never heard of such a thing as the OP describes. I recognize too though that it can be difficult for people if they’re perceived as a troublemaker. My advice would probably be to stand silently. I really doubt if anyone there is paying attention to whether you’re saying the pledge.

      4. Allura*

        One thing that I’m not sure a lot of people realize is that in the US, federal employees take the same Oath of Office as federal elected officials (ie Congress). So if you’re not comfortable with the pledge of allegiance, you may be working in the wrong place. Specifically, the oath is, “I, (name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

    3. T2*

      As a member of a religious community which is well known for our stance on the Pledge, I have dealt with this off and on for more than 45 years.

      Here is my advice: when the pledge is required, simply stand or sit in silence. I never recommend trying to prevent anyone else from the Pledge. This is one of those things that is personal, which means that you can’t force anyone else to do what you do.

      If asked, I simply say that I decline to participate. If that is a problem, I point out that according to the Supreme Court, I have a right to decline.

      I have only had one severe issue in my working life. This was solved by giving the company lawyer a copy of the Barnett’s decision and that was the end of it.

    4. Gumby*

      It’s the anthem and not the pledge, but I find the solution that college gymnastics teams have come up with for non-US citizens to be elegant. (Not sure if it is all college teams, but I have seen it a lot.) (Could be other sports too – I only watch the one.)

      Someone sings or they play a recording of the national anthem at every competition. The team lines up and each woman places her left hand on the shoulder of the person in front of her. Gymnasts from the US place their right hand over their heart; foreign gymnasts place their right hand behind their backs. Still part of the team and connected to teammates but acknowledging that it is not *their* national anthem.

  3. Aphrodite*

    I think, Alison, you may want to split off responses to question #1. You are probably going to get a lot of them, and heated ones too.

    So I will start. I had no idea this was a requirement for a federal job. I tried to get one several years ago but didn’t get far. Thank god because I do not say it nor will I. I have very strong and solid reasons but most people do not want to hear them because they do not agree. I would spend all my capital to hold to my beliefs–but it would be hard to give up promotion opportunities. It’s for the best I never got too far into the process, then, because that would be a very hard decision.

    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      Saying the pledge of allegiance is by no means a requirement for every federal job. I worked for years for a federal agency and none of us were ever asked to say the pledge of allegiance. The situation appears to be specific to the job that the letter writer has and is definitely not universal.

        1. MyCatHasStripes*

          We say the pledge, for “official” type gatherings only, like presentations for whatever we’re commemorating that month. If it’s for something really fancy, or if a bigwig has come up from Washington, they’ll have one of the employees (who can actually sing) lead us in the anthem.

          I’ve never heard of an employee get in trouble for refusing to say the pledge or sing the anthem. Honestly I don’t really pay attention to what my coworkers are doing during either, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

          OP #1, I guess it depends on how much attention you want to draw to yourself. If you want to minimize questions, I’d suggest standing when everyone else does, and just be respectfully silent. If you choose to remain seated, I’d suggest having a copy of the Supreme Court decision printed out and ready to go.

          I’d also like to mention—your agency REQUIRES you attend these things or your performance rating is affected? That is beyond ridiculous. I’ve never heard of such a thing, and I have nearly 20 years in. Are you a member of your local union? Are they aware of this requirement? That might be a better thing to push back on as a group, rather than your already Constitutionally-protected right to free speech.

      1. A Good Jess*

        Same here… I am a federal employee and have not encountered this. And I’m a civilian working in a military branch.

        That said, LW1 will have some other factors to consider. Not participating in the pledge or bringing up the fact that it can be alienating to some groups will go over better in some agencies than in others. If some leader did decide to start doing the pledge where I work, I think those who objected would get some pushback here. If the agency is one with a number of non-US citizens in the workforce, then it might be better received.

        For what it’s worth, it may be considered bizarre but I doubt it had a lot of thought and planning behind it. Honestly, the way things seem to be in government, it was probably one high-up person years and years ago who attended or spoke at one of these and happened to ask why the anthem and not the pledge. Cue underlings running around telling the event organizers that they MUST include the pledge from now on or else the SENIOR LEADERS WILL BE MAD… meanwhile the leader in question forgot about it the next day and never thought of it again. Fast forward 5, 10, even 20 years later and “we just always do this” now but nobody remembers why. (Like truly, depending on the agency, someone might have started this to protect the agency against McCarthy’s Red Scare and they’ve been doing it ever since.)

        1. Alex*

          “I always cut off the ends of my roast”
          “Mom taught me to do it this way”
          “(Mom), why are you doing this?”
          “Oh, that’s how my Mother taught me!”
          “(Grandma), why are you doing it like this?”
          “Oh, my casserole dish is just too short, so I have to cut off the endings so it will fit”

        2. Artemesia*

          This is such a perfect description of the tyranny that occurs when suck up underlings scurry to do the will of the boss. A casual remark gets translated into iron law unto generations. I watched someone have their career destroyed because an idle question by the chairman of the board was translated into a series of investigations of this employee and when nothing negative was found, another investigation was started until he quit. Her daughter’s friend had a friend whom this person managed and was told to manage more aggressively because she was notorious for not showing and not working; he did so; the woman complained to her friend who mentioned it to her Mom the Board Chair who asked if the guy was a good manager because she had heard there were some issues. That was the end of that guy. I doubt the Chair ever really knew what she unleashed.

        3. Glitsy Gus*

          Yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were something along these lines. They said the pledge for some official meeting thing one time and it just sorta stuck.

          If you personally have an issue with the pledge, I may bring it up with your manager first. I know that there are some religions especially who have an issue with saying it and going direct to your manager and saying that your beliefs don’t really allow you to say the pledge, so while you are happy to stand and such, you won’t be reciting along with everyone else. By mentioning it up front not only is it less likely to be an issue come review time, if someone else mentions to her that you aren’t reciting the pledge she’s already in the loop which will make the conversation more comfortable on her end. If you need to you can mention the Supreme Court ruling, but it might be best not to start there.

          If you’re just in more of a “this doesn’t bug me personally but it feels weird and might make someone else uncomfortable someday” boat, you may want to ask around a bit and see if others feel the same. This is a perfect example of the kind of thing Allison talks about when she talks about a group being better than one person at getting change. If you find that it looks like there aren’t a lot of folks concerned about it, it may be best to wait until you have a bit more capital to spend before trying to change it.

      2. Anomalous*

        I agree. I have worked for the Federal government for four years, and I have never heard the pledge of allegiance recited at work nor heard the national anthem being played — not even when the Department Secretary comes. (A possible exception here is for Memorial Day and Veterans Day events, but I have never attended one of these, so I wouldn’t know.)

        Various cultural events are put on from time to time, but attendance is completely voluntary and is totally irrelevant to our performance evaluations.

        OP 1. your agency is being completely ludicrous.

        1. Upstater-ish*

          Yeah I’m surprised that it would be on your performance appraisal especially if you are a unionized worker.

          1. J*

            I doubt the pledge recitation is on OP’s standards. (Side note: ugh, standards) Just attendance at these events. Dollars to donuts, if they just stand silently during the pledge their supervisor will never raise this as an issue. Also, all of us have performance standards, union or not.
            -A Fed

            1. OP1*

              Correct. Reciting the pledge is not in the standards/ performance evaluation, just attending at least two of these events where the pledge is recited to receive fully successful. And if I want to receive superior or outstanding rating I must attend more than two events.

        2. MissDisplaced*

          It sounds like these are “events” though, not just ordinary day in the office working.

          Probably someone wanted something patriotic to kickoff the event. And now it’s overkill.

          And that might just be the tack to take. Ask to choose ONE thing: National Anthem OR the Pledge: but not both due to time constraints.

          And man, while I don’t particularly dislike the Anthem, it sure is LONG to get through and is truly terrible if sung poorly!
          (I’ve always favored the Purple Mountains Majesty song better because it describes nature not war but that’s me).

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            In the second grade we sang the “My Country Tis of Thee” song every morning, and to this day I cannot sing it without ending it with “have a seat” because that is how my teacher always closed it lol

            1. Triple Threat Diversity Hire*

              Bahaha, I’ve sung the National Anthem with a chorus at baseball games so many times that I’m almost convinced it ends with “Play Ball!”

      3. NewlymadeHobo*

        City employee with similar issue to LW1. I too have to regularly attend council meetings where the pledge is said. Fortunately I live/work in a diverse City with a large immigrant population (including on our City Council). I disagree with the pledge so I don’t say it but I do stand and stay silent. It’s my compromise to the setting without being obligated by social convention. Fortunately a number of our Council members do this as well so it’s very reenforced.

      4. nonegiven*

        I know many people who have worked for the federal government in the past or do currently. Saying the pledge of allegiance is not required for any government job I’ve ever heard of.

      5. JSPA*

        Our city and county governments say the pledge at the opening of every public session (and ask the attending public to stand and join in). So do some of the public “authorities.”

      6. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Yep. Mr. Gumption has been a fed since college if you include military service. They don’t say the pledge before any events or sing the national anthem anywhere except games and 4th of July events. This isn’t a fed thing, this is one quirky office/department in the great behemoth known as the federal government, possibly due to one specific manager.

        Now, is it worth pushing back on? Depends on why the LW objects. If it is for religious reasons because “under god” violates their faith or lack thereof, then I say go for it. If it is because they think it is silly, a waste of time, or overkill since you just sang the anthem, I would say no. Given the quirks I have heard about in fed government management, this is a pretty minor annoyance and something you only have to deal with, at minimum 2x/year and at most 12x per year (assuming monthly events).

      7. NotAnotherManager!*

        My spouse is federal worker, and he says he cannot recall ever being asked to say the pledge at work. They don’t do mandatory events, either, which is good because he’d really chafe at the idea of being evaluated on attendance of an event that took him off his actual work for 1-2 hours every month.

      8. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Agree. I never had to do this when I worked for the feds, not even at big celebrations (e.g. 40th anniversary of the civil rights act). You’re required to take an oath of office (which does not require religious affirmation), but ritualizing the pledge this way is not the norm across all agencies or branches.

    2. Lady Kelvin*

      I am a federal employee as well, and we aren’t even required to participate in the monthly events. The only thing we have to do is stop driving when the anthem is played at 8am because I work on a military base and its played every morning. If you’re inside you don’t have to do anything, just if you are outside.

      1. Holy Moley*

        Same here. I work for the DoD though so maybe it just depends on the Federal agency that the OP works with. Im also not required to attend any events for my review.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Honestly that was the weirdest bit for me. Mr. Gumption, as one of the few of his race in his agency, always gets roped into planning one of the months and most people don’t participate in any of the events. Basically, unless there is food, only the organizers go and sit and stare at each other.

        1. RecoveringSWO*

          It’s a sea service thing. Fun fact: if you have any international ships moored on a Naval base, they will play that country’s national anthem directly after the US anthem.

        2. cacwgrl*

          On every DoN installation at least, colors post at 0800 every morning and are retired at sundown. We get a first call for both and a dismissal to move on when they’re done.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            I was a Navy brat. My father was stationed at a Marine base when I was in high school. We lived off base, but I drove and sometimes had occasion to be on base without him. And, of course, a lot of my friends were children of military. We all understood the drill, stopping what we were doing for the duration.

    3. Willis*

      I’ve worked as a consultant for a variety of government agencies/levels and have seen a few places that begin meetings/events with the pledge, although it’s not very common.

      As for the OP’s question, if she’s just trying to avoid saying it herself, I would probably try Alison’s approach of standing but not reciting or show up a few minutes late once I know the pledge would be over with. But if her goal is to change the way her employer does this, that’s a lot harder. In that case, I may start by feeling out if any co-workers seem to have similar feelings about it.

      1. OP1*

        Thanks for the comment. This is what I am leaning towards – going to the next event and just standing and not reciting and seeing if anyone else does the same and then approach them afterwards to see if they are interested in approaching leadership as a group.

    4. Mockingjay*

      Since it’s a Federal agency, there should be an Ombudsman phone number or website that the OP can contact anonymously. If not her particular agency or branch, go to the next higher.

      Sometimes hierarchy is useful.

    5. Senor Montoya*

      Saying the pledge is not a requirement for this job (or for any federal job, as far as I know — I’d think such a requirement would run afoul of federal law and supreme court decisions, IAN a constitutional scholar, however). LW says that attendance at two sessions is mandatory; attendance at more than two is required for a certain rating. Reciting the pledge, singing along with the anthem — unless the LW left something out, these are not required. LW just has to be there.

      If LW does not want to speak or put their hand over their heart or even stand up, LW does not have to do these things.

      1. Observer*

        Although this is not technically required, from an employment law perspective, any time something is known to affect your employment, ie it may affect ratings, raises, assignments or promotions, it’s something that is considered mandatory.

        These ratings are serious business, which means that not achieving these results is essentially penalizing someone who does not go. Which means that, yes, they are mandatory.

        1. Working Mom*

          I totally agree that if LW does not wish to recite the pledge (or really participate at all) they don’t have to. However, I also recognize how the optics of such non-participation could impact how one is viewed by management.

          That said, help me understand, as I’m kind of scratching my head to a certain extent, why this is so upsetting to OP, as an employee of the US Government. I mean, to a certain extent, if my Employer had a pledge of some kind related to our mission and core values, I wouldn’t take issue with reciting it at a meeting. (I actually have been part of an org that had something like that and have done it.)

          Now, I also recognize the pledge of alliance is much more than a company’s mission/values – but I guess I don’t understand being so against reciting it when you live and work here (in the US), and actually work directly for the Govt. It’s clear that the expectation regarding the national anthem & pledge are associated with specific celebratory/honoring events, as opposed to just a regular meeting.
          TLDR; what’s the big deal?

          1. Clisby*

            Well, if we lived in North Korea it probably wouldn’t be a big deal. In a so-called “free country”, it’s really bizarre to be herding people up into mobs to parrot a government loyalty oath.

          2. OP1*

            Thank you for your comment and I will try to answer as best I can. I wanted to keep my letter focused on this current issue, but this does go back farther in my past. I have personal feelings about the US pledge of allegiance and the “under God” part. This started in 7th grade, when, every morning during homeroom, I was forced to recite the entire pledge or stand in the hallway (I had to say it – couldn’t mouth the words). My parents supported me, but the school didn’t so every morning for that year I needed to sit in the hallway while the pledge was recited. There were other instances about getting a “0” or failing grade if I didn’t participate in mandatory school activities related to religion. So I am curious what AAM and other reader’s opinions are on how to deal with this related to work. I always sat back and didn’t say anything when my grades were in jeopardy, and wondered if I should continue to do the same now that it is related to work.
            To answer your question, I feel this isn’t related to my job, so why am I forced to sit through it?

        2. Close Bracket*

          As Senor Montoya pointed out, attendance is mandatory. Realistically speaking, there is probably a way to track attendance, but who recites the pledge is probably not tracked. Which means that LW does not have to stand up, put a hand over their heart, or recite the pledge *so long as they meet the requirements by attending.”

    6. Lynca*

      I work with a lot of people in federal positions and this is not something I’ve encountered as a requirement for every job. Especially not to the point that attendance and participation are part of performance evaluation!

      I do wonder how front facing/high profile the OP’s agency is. Having events for monthly declarations is a lot and even more so for it to be tied to evals.

    7. Kitten Caboodle*

      When I worked for one US Military contractor (I’ve worked for others who did not do this), it was customary to say the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the quarterly All-Hands meetings. It was a ritual, not a requirement. Employees who wanted to be respectful of the ritual, but did not want to participate in the pledge, would arrive just as the call for the pledge began. They would quietly slip into the back of the room, stand with their backs against the wall, mouths closed, hands at their sides and take a seat after the pledge was completed. While there was easily 200 employees reciting the pledge, there was also 20+ people against the back wall standing silent. Respect worked both ways. It was never an issue. Folks respected your right to do it but folks also respected that nobody was required to do it.

      1. OP1*

        Thanks for the perspective. I agree this has probably become a ritual. In the field offices where I used to work, it wasn’t done, but I noticed it done where I am in the larger main building I work at now. Thanks for the alternative suggestion to respectfully arrive later.

    8. Catherine de Medici*

      Yeah, the Alison’s answer here is not great. I’m a federal employee and we have these same monthly events but they are in no way required for performance evaluations. Plus, the Pledge is very problematic all on its own and there is a reason the Supreme Court decided you couldn’t require people to say it. OP 1, if you are a member of the union, please reach out to one of them because this situation is ridiculous and deserves push-back on many levels.

      1. GeoRunner*

        I am also a federal employee and we have these events, but they are by no means required. I’ve also never heard the pledge said at any meeting. I wanted to add to OP 1 that even if you aren’t a union member, the union may still be able to act on your behalf. At my agency, non-union members still get some union benefits and can go talk to the union office about issues and concerns if our position is a “bargaining unit” position.

    9. HappyHumpDay*

      I’ve worked for State and local government and most public meetings started with the Pledge. It definitely wasn’t a requirement. I always sat silently or stood silently and no one gave me question. I’m vehemently opposed to the “one nation under god” part and mostly opposed to the rest.

    10. Librarian1*

      As far as I know, this isn’t a requirement for a federal job. I know a lot of federal workers and none of them have ever mentioned this.

    11. TootsNYC*

      you DO have to take an oath of office before you start (usually on your first day)

      “Every new Federal employee, including the President, is required by law to take an oath to support and defend the Constitution. The Oath of Office will be administered on your first day of employment.”

      An individual, except the President, elected or appointed to an office of honor or profit in the civil service or uniformed services, shall take the following oath: “I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.” This section does not affect other oaths required by law.


      I would imagine that you can leave out the “so help me God.” This dates from Sept. 6, 1966

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        You don’t have to say the last part. The idea of swearing comes from the notion that a person would not lie after taking god’s name for fear of damnation. (Also, anti-communist propaganda.) Most folks don’t include that phrase, anymore, for the oath or for the affirmation.

    12. AKchic*

      It’s not a requirement. I’ve worked federal jobs off and on my entire career. Never have I been asked to say the pledge in any state or federal job. Only one job demanded it, and it was a ridiculous family-owned company that had no idea what the word “boundaries” meant when it came to keeping home, work, and politics separate.

    13. Cog in the Machine*

      I’ll pile on the “not at my job” bandwagon. The only times I can remember being at a meeting that recited the Pledge are state meetings, not Federal.
      We do get the cultural meetings on performance, but we also have at least one meeting every year where there’s a cultural component to the meeting. There are a few smaller ones scattered around for people who miss the big meeting.

    14. cacwgrl*

      Saying the pledge is not a requirement. Committing to an oath to uphold the Constitution is a requirement for at least the Navy and Air Force civilians, just fair warning for your future employment searches.

      The installation I’m on posts Colors at 0800 every morning and at sundown every evening. Everyone is asked to be respectful and there is a very clear warning when it will start and when you are clear to resume whatever you’re doing outside when it happens. That’s all the installation asks, that you stop and be respectful, not on your phone, not continuing to drive, etc. If you refuse to do that, you are likely to be called out for it, whether by the police or another civilian and asked to do so next time. But in spite of all that, the Pledge of Allegiance is not said or required that I can recall. However, we do work with local schools and they not only observe Colors when they hear it but also have their ASB president lead the school in the Pledge every morning at the start of the day. As civilians, non-student or district employees, all we are expected to do, is stand respectfully. Hands at your side is fine, but if the kids see you, they likely will ask why you don’t have your hand on your heart. You don’t have to mouth anything, you either recite with the class or you don’t. I’ve seen someone exercise that right maybe once in all my time in the schools, but when it happened, that person was respectful and when it was over, we went about our day. So that’s my advice, based on experience in a VERY conservative, highly patriotic community. It is expected yes, but someone who doesn’t observe the exact ritual and is respectful about it is generally left alone because we’re adults, for the most part.

  4. Yeahhey*

    LW1 may want to add to the force of their push-back by reminding management that some groups decline to recite the pledge of allegiance as part of their religious beliefs, which are federally protected.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      This. It’s the basic concept of pledging herself to an object/concept (“to the flag”) that was the issue for one long-ago friend of mine. She was passionate on the subject — for her it’s a violation of the first commandment.

      1. yala*

        Yeah. At some point as a kid, that just…really stood out to me, and I never felt comfortable saying it since.

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

      This. My school chose a different pledge that makes no religious mentions, which (in restrospective) makes sense for a religious institution. However, where I come from we only pledge to the flag.

      1. T2*

        This would not be enough for me. The objection is to pledging allegiance to anything other than God. For us we pledge our loyalty to God alone. And that is a private process between us and God. Any such pledge to a flag, country, person, or hamburger would violate that fundamental loyalty to God.

        This is primarily meant for background so you will understand our thinking. I understand that most do not feel that way. To each his own as it were.

        1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*


          Leaving out the “under God” part is an answer for unbelievers who are comfortable pledging allegiance to the country they live in. It doesn’t meet your objection–“under God” was added years after that Supreme Court decision–or the objections of people who think “allegiance to the flag” is idolatry but don’t see a conflict between allegiance to the country and to God.

          1. Clisby*

            Or to people who have other objections. I’m an atheist, but “under god” isn’t the problem for me – it’s easy enough not to say it. It’s the pledge ritual itself that I object to.

        2. always in email jail*

          I’m assuming T2 and I are of the same faith, but yes, my beliefs also prohibit pledges and swearing oaths. I work in non-federal government and the pledge is frequently done at large events. I stand respectfully and silently, and have never had a single person ask me about it.

          My experience with government work is that, unless you have encountered problems or push-back for not participating, they’re not going to do anything if you complain. It’s not usually seen as a problem if it’s truly optional.

          1. ThatGirl*

            FWIW, people rarely think of Mennonites when it comes to this stuff but we also are to avoid pledging/swearing oaths — even in court, I was told as a kid that I should “affirm” that I would tell the truth etc. if it ever came up.

            1. Case of the Mondays*

              We have changed our oath from “do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God” to “do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, under the pains and penalties of perjury.” Would that work in your situation?

              1. nora*

                Jewish person here. We are not supposed to swear oaths like that. Times when I’ve had to “solemnly swear” to something, I’ve replied with “I affirm.” So, yes, “swear” is the issue, at least for me. I’ve noticed a few times that the language has been changed to “solemnly swear or affirm,” which is acceptable for me.

              2. T2*

                To me, the oath is different than the pledge. The oath, requires me to tell the truth, which I am required to do anyway. Besides, God himself is pictured as raising his right hand and swearing an oath at Isaiah 62:8 and Deuteronomy 32:40.

                So since the oath in court does not conflict with the requirements of God as I understand them, I have no problem with that at all.

                The difference is that the requirements of my country and God may in fact, differ. I know this is a hard concept to understand. But there are a number of countries where this conflict between governments, and God’s requirements is very stark indeed. For me, when this happens, I know where my allegiance is due. So I can’t pledge allegiance to any particular country.

            2. Artemesia*

              And the Founders literally were aware of this as the right to affirm rather than swear is in the Constitution itself.

            3. TootsNYC*

              and interestingly, “affirm” is in the text of the oath. So the founders must have known of this potential objection.

              1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                They did. There were Quakers among them and many of them object to “swear” as well.

          2. Auntie Social*

            Would the meeting organizer allow you to contact catering about a dairy-free lunch? I’m sure catering is used to special requests, and I think the organizer thinks it’s a pain and doesn’t want to be blamed if it’s wrong. So you could contact catering, make sure that they have something you can eat, and then cc her with the result and price difference, if any. If she won’t allow that you have an email confirming that you can’t, which is one more reason why you should be allowed to order from the hotel’s regular restaurant menu. But she’s going to look really petty if she doesn’t let you contact catering—it’s the least she can do. Hotel kitchens are very accommodating.

    3. Bagpuss*

      YEs – would it be possible to either speak to someone, or to use the feedback form to say something along the lines of

      “I am concerned by the inclusion of the pledge at mandatory meetings as it is not uncommon for people to have protected reasons, such as their religious beliefs, which conflict with reciting the pledge. I am worried that we may become vulnerable to allegations of discrimination if the practice continues.
      I am also concerned that the current way that this is done, gives the impression that participation is compulsory, and that if we continue to recite the pledge at these meetings, even if the attendees were explicitly told that they were not required to participate, there would still be a perceived, (and perhaps actual) risk that visibly sitting out might result in bullying or discrimination.
      In the circumstances, perhaps it would be appropriate to consider ending the use of the pledge in meetings, particularly those meetings where attendance is linked to performance assessment”

      In that way, you’re framing it not as “I have a problem with this” but as “I am worried that we as an organisation are opening ourselves up to claims and bad publicity” which might be much less likely to result in any retaliation against you.

      If you feel you can speak to coworkers about it, this would also seem to be a good candidate for pushing back as a group, and again, framing it in the context of discrimination based on religion ought to reduce the risk of retaliation.

      1. aebhel*

        I like this–it outlines the actual issues with the practice as something beyond just the LW’s personal feelings on it, and I think it’s more likely to have an impact–and less likely to blow back on her even if it doesn’t work.

      2. zora*

        I agree. I support the LW in giving some feedback about this, in the event that she has been there for more than a few months, and hasn’t witnessed any intense retaliation and political infighting in the office so far.
        I like this script and think it’s a totally fair thing to bring up!

      3. OP1*

        Thank you for this. I am going to consider this when I’ve looked at all the comments, but I think this is a good way to go, especially if I can find some like-minded colleagues.

    4. Jules the 3rd*

      Since these are generally part of diversity inclusion month celebrations, that might land pretty well, if the organizers are thoughtful about the *spirit* of the celebrations, not just the letter.

  5. momofpeanut*

    LW2 – Is it possible your company was actually trying to be helpful by suggesting you call the hotel to order your food, or choose delivery, because they want to make sure you get lunches that meet your needs and that you will enjoy?

    1. Heygirlhey*

      This is what I was thinking. I know in the past I have had a hard time trying to order food for meetings for people that are vegan, allergic to soy, or allergic to gluten, because I don’t know what they like to eat and usually they get stuck eating the same thing every time unless they order it themselves.

      1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

        I’ve had a similar experience, from the other side. I requested a kosher meal and was told it had been organised. When we arrived at the restaurant, the manager asked me what they could prepare for me. Obviously, nothing, because they didn’t have a kosher kitchen. It was supposed to be ordered and delivered beforehand so that I could eat with my colleagues. On another occasion I got a kosher meal, but it was meat – I’m a vegetarian. Since then I’ve just taken responsibility for my own meals. I’d rather have a cereal bar and a yoghurt than count on a proper meal that doesn’t materialise.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Because when you’re specialty ordering for one person, you want to make sure to get them something they’ll eat. Those without food restrictions can typically make do with a side or some portion of the meal, even if they don’t like part of it. If you have food restrictions, there’s one option, and you don’t like/can’t eat that option, you go hungry.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            This! As a person with a food allergy that is easier to accommodate where I live now (Rocky Mountains) then where I did previously (in a fishing port/Coast Guard port on the Upper Gulf of Mexico) it can sometimes become very hard to get a full meal if you don’t live with the restrictions constantly. Plus you also have varying levels of sensitivity to deal with. I want to think happy thoughts here that this is a new caterer the company hasn’t worked with before and they want to ensure (in a very, very clunky way however) that the OP is able to also eat lunches.

            I would go back to the organizer and ask them what budget you have to work with and then check with the hotel about food options. It’s crummy that you have extra leg-work, but it beats being sick/not breathing.

            1. Venus*

              I am glad that this is a good option for someone. I occasionally organize a lunch, and in my invitation I tell people with food restrictions that each person is allowed $X, so if they can’t eat the ordered food then they can go to the cafeteria, grocery store, etc and get a receipt, and I will pay them back immediately (I bring cash). I sometimes feel badly as they would have to do more work, yet it gives them the most flexibility.

        2. Artemesia*

          I have had the experience of ordering a vegetarian meal for someone for a conference and having them look at it and say ‘I don’t eat beans.’ In that case, the hotel actually was able to come up with something else — they had frozen meals they could heat for special diets. But it is frustrating to cater to specific needs and still miss the mark. If the OP can call the venue and discuss the meal to be included for them, that would actually be ideal. Most venues that cater to groups have special diet options they can provide.

    2. KimmyBear*

      This is a possibility I hadn’t thought of but may make sense depending on the complexity of the request. For example, my preschooler has a peanut allergy. That’s common enough that any kitchen knows what to do. Other family members and I have unusual food allergies so need to be very specific as to what is and is not acceptable. (Yes, my meal can be made in a facility/kitchen that makes the allergen but don’t use the same oil/deep fryer for my french fries.) Putting an uninformed colleague in that communication chain can ask for trouble.

      1. KimmyBear*

        At the same time, they may just not want to deal with it which stinks. If nothing else, see if you can request a mini fridge for your hotel room. Even if not standard, this is a common request for guests that need to keep medications refrigerated.

        1. AnonEmu*

          This! I have celiac, and since that is under the ADA, I use that to help bolster my request – some hotels will push back, but mentioning that, accessibility, and “severe allergy” (yes I know celiac isn’t an allergy but) seems to work. It’s frustrating, but it may be the best option.

      2. BeckySuz*

        KimmyBear, just out of curiosity do you ever let your preschooler eat at restaurants? I have celiac and really struggle to not get sick when eating out. I can’t imagine ever trusting a restaurant to safely prepare food for my kid if the consequence was potentially dying.

        My five year old is in a peanut free classroom and I know that the mom of his peanut free classmate always sends in her own treat rather than trusting someone else to get it right for special treat days..bdays etc…

        1. Annony*

          I have celiac too and I vastly prefer to organize my own meal. Too many people don’t understand that cross contamination is an issue. If the company is providing food I try to find out all I can about the caterer online (findmeglutenfree helps) and then generally call them to ask how the gluten free meal is prepared. Then I see if it is wrapped and kept separate from the other food. There are many times I have showed up and decided not to risk it, so I always bring back up food.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Yup – I have completely given up (with two exceptions not available in my current state) on seafood restaurants because of cross contamination risks with my allergy (shellfish). I also skip some other major chains because of the same reason (think places that don’t have seafood as the main options, but have lots of fried calamari as appetizers). I’m on the extreme end of severity for my allergy, and breathing is a requirement.

    3. Kiki*

      And even in the likely case that upper management and the organizers aren’t actually trying to be helpful, this could still be an opportunity to escape bland meeting food and order something you actually want. I don’t know what LW 2’s dietary restrictions are or through what service the organizer is ordering, but I feel like sometimes catering services’ response to restrictions is to just offer salad or the same super boring meal option each day.
      Hopefully your hotel is within delivery range for some good restaurants that meet your needs. I would request the ability to expense delivery each day. It will be more work for you, which sucks, but might end up with better results.

      1. Artemesia*

        LOL Every once in awhile the special meal outshines the convention meal. I was on a trip in Russia and have an onion sensitivity and one of our companions was vegetarian. I remember the restaurant lunch where everyone in the group got a really disgusting looking mystery meat patty for lunch which contained onions, but I got a lovely grilled chicken quarter and my vegetarian friend a think that looked like an elaborate fancy sushi roll. Everyone around us was jealous; one person actually threw a fit until she was also given chicken. (I offered to split mine with her but she held out for her own)

    4. Lynn Marie*

      Yes, it so makes sense to be able to be able to order your own meal from the hotel and choose exactly what you need and want. If you don’t want to pay upfront and be reimbursed separately, you may be able to simply charge it to your room that I assume your company is paying for. You don’t even have to argue for it – it was the company’s suggestion! Sounds like a win to me.

    5. Ginger*

      This was my exact thought.

      OP – I would try to see this in a positive spin. You get to order exactly what you want and aren’t stuck with some sad wilted catering.

      This doesn’t really matter but I am a bit curious what the level of complexity the food allergy is. For example, of OP is requesting gluten-free vs several no-go items. Like how inflexible is the organizer being?

      Alternatively, I suspect the organizer forwarded the request because they may have a policy of “order your own” to keep any liability off their plate or there are too many “special” requests to manage. Unfortunately there is a rise in in claims of allergies which are really just preferences. It hurts people like OP who really need to be accommodated.

    6. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      This is what I was thinking. Go back and read the AAM archives and people with special dietary needs, especially if they are complex, often wish their jobs would offer this. LW2, they are trying to make sure you 100% get what you want and can eat. Run with it and ask the hotel if they can accommodate and ask for a mini-fridge in your room if they can’t.

    7. MissDisplaced*

      Assume best intent right?
      Take them up on that and call the hotel. Give your company name/dates and ask if you can request the special meals. Most hotels will try to accommodate it if they can.
      If they cannot, ask the hotel what other options are available: such as upgrade to access to a room with a refrigerator and/or a small kitchenette.

    8. P.C. Wharton*

      +1, with emphasis on the “you will enjoy”!

      As someone with a lot of restrictions that seem hard to remember for some people, if I ever let someone else order for me, I either get something I have to pick the non-safe foods out of, or a plain salad, no dressing.
      I hate big catered events for this reason. LW should make it clear that the employer needs to reimburse what they order, then count themselves lucky that they get more choice.

      1. MCL*

        I will never forget the poor gluten allergic woman at my table who was presented with a trashcan lid sized plate of steamed broccoli and a bowl of salsa by one hapless hotel at lunch.

        1. Kiki*

          Ugh, I don’t have dietary restrictions, but I do help plan events for my job. I hate that so many venues will act like they can accommodate dietary restrictions but don’t actually have a real meal’s worth of food items that fit the restriction. It’s better to be honest and say you can’t accommodate and let clients bring in third party food that we know will fit the bill. I am fully aware it is challenging to make a dessert that is gluten-free, vegan, soy-free, and nut free. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay to say you can and then try to present apple slices as a dessert option.

          1. 1234*

            Get specific with your venues. Don’t just accept “yes we can accommodate this dietary restriction” as a good answer. If they say they can accommodate the restriction, ask “Specifically what dish/food did you have in mind for the GF/vegan/etc. person on our team?” and even have them describe it to you in detail like how it’s being prepared etc. A venue who can truly cater to the restriction will have no problems detailing it out.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              Yup – did that at my wedding. The head chef was vegetarian and also had an allergy. My veggie friends were treated to Eggplant Parmigiana (main choices were Chicken Parmigiana or Steak) and all sides were fully vegetarian-friendly on all plates. The food was also beautiful and tasted great. And the chef had absolutely no qualms at all about talking thru how and what would be changed to accommodate our request.

              1. Sally*

                I love it when all of the sides are tasty and something that a lot of people can eat. We have a couple of annual gala fundraisers that my previous job used to send me to, and every time, all of the sides were gluten free. It was such a relief! I couldn’t eat the rolls or the dessert, but I was so happy to be able to eat the entire main course, I didn’t care about the other stuff.

                1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                  Gluten-free was the one thing our chef said he couldn’t accommodate in house – but he had a few places he worked with and could arrange to bring in a meal from outside if needed (he may also not have been able to do Kosher or Halal, I don’t know the rules for those diets). It was an amazing venue – sadly I heard from people I know still in that area that the staff has changed over and it’s going downhill fast. It was a great place if you had allergies and wanted to do a big catered event.

        2. Quill*

          If that came with rice and beans it might even be a full vegetarian meal… no worse than I’ve made for myself some days but wow, you’re a restaurant and you couldn’t have rounded that out with a variety of veggies?

    9. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Based on the response, I don’t think they were being helpful. They chose to wash their hands of it. OP needs to push back – this isn’t about someone being picky about what they will/won’t eat. It may be more difficult to accommodate someone with dietary restrictions, but if you’re providing lunches for employees and attendance is mandatory, you need to provide options to those with restrictions.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Doesn’t it count as accommodation if the employer is willing to pay for/reimburse the meals, but wants the employee to do the ordering? It seems like that is what is happening here. If the employee is expected to pay, then I would push back on that, not the order coordination.

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          “She forwarded my request to upper management and I received an email response back that he suggests that I pre-buy lunches for myself and bring them with me or call the hotel to see if I can order special lunches while there.”

          This is not accommodation. This is “we don’t want to deal with your dietary needs so it’s your responsibility to figure it out.” The first suggestion is ridiculous. The second one should not be OP’s responsibility. The organizer should call ahead and see what options are available.

          1. koiliakos*

            Allergy/celiac person here, it’s better to have them say no ahead of time than go in thinking that there’ll be something available and have the chance it’s really not OR it’s prepared incorrectly. OP should ask them to reimburse and ask the hotel for a mini-fridge — they often have those available for disabilities and this is one of those times it’s appropriate.

          2. Artemesia*

            True this, but the OP may do better managing it herself with the hotel especially if it can be added to the catering order and thus expensed with the group meal.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              Also, you do get the occasional weird caterer who wants to talk directly to the person with special needs to ensure that they ARE able to make something that is a full meal and meets safely those special needs.

              Signed, the person who has seen one too many small bowls of plain wilted lettuce without dressing and a bag of broken saltines as my catered meal due to allergies.

          3. Tempestuous Teapot*

            Not to mention the networking/joining in that’s lost as OP then goes to get their lunch and come back with it. It completely others the OP as different.

            A catered option is less disruptive. It’s seemless and shows OP as an accepted part of the culture.

      2. WellRed*

        Agreed. This is no more helpful then telling someone in a wheelchair they skype in because the venue is non-accessible. You are treating someone different.
        That said, I hope OP orders some fine food from the hotel kitchen.

      3. Observer*

        It doesn’t really matter id they intended to be helpful. The real question is what is going to get the OP the best outcome. Assuming good intent and running with it is likely to get them the best outcome – a meal that they can actually eat with some enjoyment.

    10. Alli525*

      I don’t think the company was trying to be helpful – the language “see if I can order special lunches” doesn’t necessarily mean that the company was offering to pay for those lunches – but I absolutely agree that OP2 should call the meetings/events division of the hotel, say “I’ll be attending the [Company Name] event as an employee and wanted to make sure there will be options that work with my dietary restrictions.”

      The event planner might call your company to confirm the adjustment (mostly just to confirm that this is a known issue, and not a disgruntled ex-employee or whatever – like when scheming mothers-in-law call wedding caterers to screw up the order on purpose), but that puts your company in the position of having to decline, which seems unlikely. I’m not sure if dietary restrictions for documented health reasons are covered under ADA, but if they reject OP’s request it might be worth looking into that.

    11. Librarian1*

      I guess I’m less charitable about this, because I assumed the organization won’t pay for the OPs lunches. The letter, to me, reads like the company just doesn’t’ want to deal with it.

      1. Blueberry*

        It read that way to me as well. However, if the OP responds with language that assumes the company will pay (something like “so what is my budget for the meals and how will I expense them?”) maybe between choosing to say “we won’t pay, STFU” and actually doing something reasonable the person in charge will be shamed into at least arranging for expensing the meals.

        I’m hoping for you, OP!

  6. Dan*


    “that position wasn’t a good fit for me”

    I’m a bit confused on what kind of communication you were looking for after this exchange? For all intents and purposes, once this had been communicated to you, the conversation was pretty much over.

    1. JamieS*

      Maybe OP thought the recruiter was going to tell them they looked like a fit for another position? Unlikely but it’s the only thing I can think of that’s warranty further discussion.

      1. Willis*

        This is what I’m thinking. But OP already reached out; if the recruiter has another position for her to apply for, they would call or email back. There’s nothing more for the OP to do here.

      2. Ginger*

        #5 – it sounds like the recruiter didn’t try to call you back either so I would let this one go.

        In the future, talking while driving isn’t the best option and many companies have this as a policy. Something to consider.

        1. LW5*

          Yeah the recruiter didn’t call back; he also never responded to the e-mail and I decided against sending another follow-up, thankfully.

          Good to know; I also wondered if it might have sent a bad message even if I wasn’t physically holding the phone.

      3. Antilles*

        Or maybe just trying to close the discussion in a polite way – thanks for your time, sorry it didn’t work out, but please feel free to contact me if something else crosses your desk, blah blah blah…but since the call was disconnected and OP couldn’t call back instantly, OP couldn’t do that.
        But now that OP’s already emailed the recruiter and not heard back, that was your one follow-up; recruiter clearly considers the matter closed and that’s that.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          This. A dropped call before the conventional closing niceties is like a symphony stopping just before the final chord. Even knowing how it would end, one is left wanting final resolution.

          1. Jadelyn*

            I literally just had this situation with a coworker the other day – he’d called to ask about something, I’d answered, we were literally mid-sentence on the first “well, have a good one” of the Closing Bit of the call when he jostled his desk phone and it hung up on me. I didn’t know that was what happened, but I just shrugged it off and set my phone down.

            He called back 2 seconds later to apologize and explain because he didn’t want me to think he’d hung up on me. That second call was literally just to say “Sorry about that, have a good one, bye”. Which cracked me up in a way but I thought it was rather sweet that he didn’t want to seem rude.

        2. LW5*

          Hey, LW5 here. This is correct – I was just trying to close the conversation in a polite/professional way and convey “I didn’t hang up on you on purpose.” I wasn’t actually sure how to say that in a non-weird way so I went with the “continue the discussion” wording, though I can see now how that could come across as odd since he’d already said I wasn’t a good fit for the position.

    2. Patty Mayonnaise*

      I was wondering the same thing – I think the LW was more concerned that she didn’t say some version of “thanks and goodbye” and that the recruiter thought she had hung up in anger, not that she had something specific she wanted to talk about.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Agreed. If they had more to say, they would have responded to OP’s email.

    4. You can't fire me; I don't work in this van*

      I agree, but I think the LW was looking for some “closure” or wrap-up to the discussion, such as spelling out, “. . . so we aren’t moving you forward.” so she knows for sure.

    5. voluptuousfire*

      While the recruiter may have said all they needed to say, even wrapping up an email thanking them and wishing them luck or whatever is really the best thing to ensure a good candidate experience. And yes, I know recruiters are busy and all that jazz (I work in the recruitment area so I’m familiar), wrapping things up as often as you can make a great impression, especially in an industry that thrives on relationship building. That little acknowledgment could potentially be a game-changer.

      I’ve been scouted on LinkedIn by various recruiters for roles, most of which weren’t a fit. I let the recruiter know it wasn’t a fit, thanked them for their interest and wished them luck in finding someone. Maybe 2 actually wrapped things up with me by responding to my email. The rest just went dark. I don’t necessarily expect a response but I definitely remember the ones who do and would be much more likely to work with them in the future if I was looking. You never know!

  7. mark132*

    @lw3, one to to consider before you ask this, is there are some people who have nasal issues that make it difficult to breathe through their nose. So eating with their mouth open is kinda necessary to breathe.

    1. It’s all good*

      I have this issue sometimes so I cover my mouth with a napkin and try to minimize noise.

    2. WS*

      Yeah, this was me before sinus surgery. After years of being yelled at by my parents, though, I would go to great lengths not to eat in front of other people! I kind of envy those who just went ahead anyway!

      1. Annony*

        Me too but it was my tonsils. I would leave the table in tears as a kid because I was being yelled at for needing to breathe. I couldn’t understand how everyone else managed it.

    3. Orange You Glad*

      Agreed. I know two different people who can’t chew with their mouths closed because of sinus issues.

      It’s also a habit to chew one way or the other. If they’ve been chewing mouth open for years, it’s impossible to chew mouth closed without consciously thinking about it. So they can for a bit but once they get distracted again, they will resume chewing mouth open. It’s not worth repeating your request; if it bothers you, sit elsewhere!

    4. Leah*

      People who have this problem will cover their mouths. People who just chew with their mouths open so that the people around them can hear and see everything are psychopaths who do not belong in civil society.

      1. Elenna*

        My parents never told me not to eat with my mouth open, so I literally had no idea it was an issue until a kid started bullying me about it in summer camp. But I’m glad to know 11-year-old me was a psychopath!

        1. Wren*

          My husband made it to university before a friend asked him to try to close his mouth when eating. When he first told me this, I thought, thank goodness for that friend! but then I realized that I hadn’t noticed in several years of warm relations that his parents didn’t chew with their mouths closed. The next time I saw them, I saw that yep, they didn’t chew closed lips, but it wasn’t really a big deal. (I do very occassionally need to ask my husband to try to chew more quietly, even closed mouth.)

          Leah, you’re being over the top and unkind.

        1. LeslieCrusher*

          They really shouldn’t. People should not be having such dramatic responses to…being asked to chew with their mouths closed.

    5. Sesquedoodle*

      I have jaw issues (TMJ dysfunction) that sometimes make it difficult for me to keep my mouth closed when I chew. I do my best to avoid being gross but it does happen.

    6. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I wondered about this, too, because I have a few friends like this. The difference is, they cover their mouths or turn their heads away while chewing. Because we’re friends, we chose to find a way to eat a meal together and it works.

      OP, your co-worker is in a different category. He either can’t, or he chooses not to, eat with his mouth closed. He’s not your friend, and you have options. You can sit elsewhere, or walk away, or immerse yourself in a daydream about winning the lottery and retiring forever. But I don’t think you can say anything to your colleague without sounding like you’re scolding or parenting him. That would do more damage to your reputation than his.

      1. Maria*

        Hello, LW3 here! It was in a sort of “Lunch and Learn” type of environment where the CEO was taking Qs and we were all eating at tables. I thought about getting up and standing by the wall to distance myself from the sight/noise, but I didn’t want to draw attention to myself while they were speaking (plus I’d have been the only person standing – and would have noticeably exited a seat to do so, probably requiring an explanation to my manager).

        I was mainly annoyed because I felt stuck in that seat, unable to do anything to remove myself from the distraction. They also went back for thirds throughout the meeting, so it was frustrating to be like, “Yes, it’s finally over!” Then see a whole new plate prepared and brought back to the table.

        1. Mr. Tyzik*

          That’s just disgusting and rude. I don’t care if there’s a sinus issue. If you are being that rude, freakin’ explain it. How hard is it to use a freakin’ napkin?

          I immediately thought of chomping gum, getting that annoying snap with an open mouth. Drives me nuts. I want to smack the gum out of their piehole when someone does that around me.

          So glad I work from home so I don’t deal with these types of idjits anymore.

        2. Steve*

          I have colleagues who occasionally have to stand up due to back issues. If I am ever in a large presentation room and have an issue with the person next to me (perfume, noise, etc), then I would be tempted to stand up and shuffle to the side of the room. If anyone asked me about it, I would complain about stiff chairs and needing to stretch. It seems to be an acceptable social convention.

        3. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Maria, I feel for you because mouth sounds drive me up the wall. That’s why I know how hard it can be to ignore this fellow. The situation you describe is more challenging than most because you WERE stuck. So was everyone else – including your CEO, who may have noticed this employee, too. Under these circumstances, it was even more important to ignore bad manners and behave appropriately, because your behavior would have been noticed, too!

          It’s better to not call attention to anyone/anything in a setting like that. Just grit your teeth, think about something more pleasant and reward your self-control in your favorite way.

    7. JayNay*

      hey, can we not do that? Sure, some people will have a medical need that keeps them from eating with their mouth closed, but that’s the exception not the rule. It definitely shouldn’t keep you from telling a colleague “hey, I can see more of your lunch than I’d like.” Let’s not excuse bad manners by a medical condition a person may or (more likely) may not have.

      1. Mr. Tyzik*

        Yes! Not everything is an accommodation (and I say that as someone with invisible disabilities). I have an overbite and sinus issues and I still manage to close my mouth when I eat, or use a napkin or my hand when I can’t. Disgusting Glutton Fergus can do the same.

      2. Puggles*

        “I’m sorry, what was the question? I was distracted by the half-masticated cow rolling around in your wide-open trap.” It works for me!

      3. mark132*

        If you’re asking me to not be sensitive on whether or not a coworker may have medical issues for something like this, I’m going to ignore your advice.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          No, the request (which is actually in the commenting rules) is to not dismiss advice as unworkable generally because it might not work for someone who has an outside-the-norm circumstance, in cases where we don’t know that’s in play.

          1. mark132*

            My advice was simply to consider( or be sensitive) if the person has medical reasons. The person I responded to said not to do that. I disagree, I think not being sensitive to that is unworkable.

            1. LeslieCrusher*

              That’s not advice. It is dismissing advice. Reframing it as being asked to “not be sensitive to medical issues” is disingenuous and seeks only to shut down conversation.

              If you are so inclined to be sensitive to medical issues I have severe sensory difficulties due to autism. So how does loud, gross mouth sounds play into being sensitive to my needs?

            2. JessaB*

              The point however is even if the person has medical reasons, they are not an excuse to visibly eat that way. A person can use their hand to shield their open mouth, use a napkin, generally turn away from people who can see them clearly, there are many adaptive ways to eat that don’t necessarily make the rest of the people at your table ill. And whilst most people keep their medical issues private, something this visible, it would be polite to be apologetic about the need for.
              And yes people shouldn’t have to apologise for being disabled, but I do for instance warn people I’m loud because I’m Deaf, not because I’m rude, and I’m not yelling at them personally but my residual hearing isn’t enough to modulate my own volume. So please gimme a pipe down or a signal if I’m yelling at you.

    8. TomorrowTheWorld*

      Or, as in my case, teeth that are too large for my jaw/jaw that is too small for my teeth. I can’t even breathe normally through my nose unless I’m actively keeping my jaw shut, which is uncomfortable. On the other hand, I loathe the sound of anyone eating, so I eat by myself and no one is offended. :)

    9. MoopySwarpet*

      I have a sibling with that issue. He manages to chew with his mouth closed or mostly closed for most of the time. It’s definitely difficult for him, though and when he’s in private, he doesn’t always try so hard.

      Next icebreaker question – What is one thing you are grateful for learning growing up? Chewing with my mouth closed. ;)

      (I vividly remember anger at my parents for “picking on me” at meals. As an adult, I am grateful for their relentless reminders despite the evil eye – and probably tantrums – from their 3-5yo “spirited” child.)

  8. A non o mouse*

    #1- will it bother you to just stand but not recite? I have never said the Pledge (I only show allegiance to God). Hundreds of times I have just stood. It hasn’t been a problem since elementary school.

    1. Impska*

      I don’t even know the words to pledge of allegiance or the national anthem. I just stand. No one has ever noticed. I’m a naturalized citizen and they didn’t ask us to learn those things as part of the process.

    2. emmelemm*

      Honestly, I feel like you can stand, put your hand on your heart, and mentally recite in your head any pledge, mantra or thought you feel like in that moment. (Or nothing, of course.)

  9. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

    LW3: If you have a good rapport with Chewy McViewerson you could try “Duuuuuude that’s gross, close your mouth!” said while kind of laughing. If you keep your tone genuinely friendly and lighthearted it’s unlikely they’ll take offence. I’ve had luck pointing out similar gross stuff where more formal wording would have come out a bit sharp. Do not recommended this approach when you’re already seething with annoyance though, unless you are a very good actor!

    1. Orange You Glad*

      Adults don’t typically do “gross” things on purpose and shaming them – even in faux teasing way – wouldn’t go over well with most people.

      It would damage my relationship with a coworker if they said something like your suggested response to me. To me, it’s *much* more rude to criticize someone else’s manners who didn’t ask for your input.

      Let people eat in peace. If the chewing mouth open bothers you, adjust YOUR behavior by not looking or not sitting next to them.

      1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

        Do you feel the ‘shaming’ comes from the language I suggested, or having it pointed out, period?

        Most cases I agree with you that simply using headphones or avoiding being around the coworker when they’re eating is the better route. Definitely coworkers you’re not friendly with, are significantly senior, sensitive, or who can’t help it physically. But if it boils down to their forgetfulness or manners, you have a good rapport, and you can’t avoid being around while they eat (eg: lunch meeting, you all eat at desks, or they’re also talking and spraying chunks of food) I mean, why not say something? Positive things can come from candour.

        1. Triple Threat Diversity Hire*

          I feel like it’s the language. I hope that the folks you’ve used it on aren’t the ones covertly “seething with annoyance” after hearing that, because I would be. I can’t think of a work environment where this approach would seem more appropriate than something quieter/more subtle, even though it’s clear you mean well.

          1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

            Most of the places I’ve worked at generally have a casual/fun atmosphere, with close-knit teams and good humoured coworkers that don’t take themselves too seriously. If I’d used more serious language in those particular situations it would be out of place and kind of confrontational, like it’s A Big Deal now because of the dramatic departure from how we usually relate. Does that make sense? But I also see now that this is a very different context to most commenters’ workplaces!

            1. Triple Threat Diversity Hire*

              What you’re saying makes sense, and you’re the only one who’s there to “read the room” in your own situation, it’s just not typical :)

        2. Yorick*

          It’s the language. If you discreetly said something, I’d be embarrassed but understand why you spoke up, and I’d try to work on it. If you just said, “grooooooooossssssssss,” I’d just think you were childish.

      2. Cheluzal*

        What manners?
        Adult should have manners that eight-year-olds can get and it’s not even the look but the sound. You sound defensive over people pointing out things that adults should not have to have pointed out

      3. Susie Q*

        Maybe we should just all start cursing and talking over people and ignoring all other basic manners that keep our society somewhat decent.

        Chewing with your mouth open is rude. My toddler niece manages to chew with her mouth shut, I expect the same of most adults except those with aforementioned sinus issues.

      4. MatKnifeNinja*

        As someone who had an an actual medical issue, and basically had no air exchange from nose to my lungs, I had to mouth breath.

        Eating was extremely hard. People get ratty if you mouth breathe, anyway and forget actually chew with your mouth slightly open.

        I had a “I have issues with all sounds/smells/coping with anyone eating more than soft white bread and butter” coworker, who did the above, only not joking. I went scorched Earth nuclear. 5th day on a high dose prednisone is not pretty. She is lucky I didn’t pull her out of her chair by her hair, and slam her into the ground.

        5 surgeries later, I can be not a social embarrassment. It’s about 50% better than before. If my sinuses/air ways are bad, I don’t eat around people.

        I wasn’t eating like Blotto from Animal House. I get no one wants to hear/see what’s in people’s mouths. Can we maybe, just maybe believe the person might have an actual reason other than doing it to ping your last good sensory issue nerve?

        If I could have gotten away with a feeding tube, I would have. That is how much a PITA eating was.

        1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

          Oooh that sounds rough, and I’m sorry you went/are still going through that. Your coworker sounds like a jerk.

        2. Seacalliope*

          She is lucky I didn’t pull her out of her chair by her hair, and slam her into the ground.


          1. Starbuck*

            Yeah, oof, rudeness never justifies violence. I get that this is probably an exaggerated figure of speech to convey how you felt, but FYI it makes it way harder for me to take you seriously and believe you are the reasonable one when you express yourself that way; I don’t think I’m alone in this either.

            1. Kat in VA*

              Having been on a course of medically prescribed steroids before, I think MatKnifeNinja’s description of how you feel on prednisone is spot-on.

              There’s a reason they call it “roid rage” – that instant rush of wildly uncontrollable anger they describe is not hyperbole. It’s swift, savage, and incredibly overwhelming.

              I was so glad to get off that drug after a weeklong course of it.

        3. Susie Q*

          “I had a “I have issues with all sounds/smells/coping with anyone eating more than soft white bread and butter” coworker, who did the above, only not joking. I went scorched Earth nuclear. 5th day on a high dose prednisone is not pretty. She is lucky I didn’t pull her out of her chair by her hair, and slam her into the ground.”

          I don’t think this is fair either. There is a good chance she struggles with misophonia which is a legitimate disorder.

          1. DefCon 10*

            And even if she doesn’t have an actual disorder – most people I know find loud chewing and the associated lip smacking pretty disgusting. I’m sorry for anyone whose medical issues force them into behaviors others find offensive, but that doesn’t mean the offended ones are wrong. Compassion is warranted on both sides.

      5. Little Bird in the Big Apple*

        Agreed. Also, it’s worth noting that this may be a cultural thing. In a lot of Asian countries it is NOT rude to eat with your mouth open (or talk with your mouth full, or slurp your noodles nosily, or stuff a huge amount of food into your mouth). So there may be a cultural aspect here that the OP is not taking into consideration.

        If this was me, and a good friend took me aside to give me a heads up about what is expected in a professional environment, I would appreciate this far more than having a complete stranger mock me loudly and somewhat aggressively in front of everyone in the lunch room.

        1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

          Mmmm something got lost there if your takeaway is that I suggested an aggressive public mocking of a stranger that was insensitive to cultural or medical issues. That would indeed be abhorrent.

        2. Mr. Tyzik*

          Cultural aspects dictate that you learn the customs of where you are. Unless the OP is in Japan, this is irrelevant. In OP’s culture, people chew with mouths closed. Disgusting Glutton Fergus would need to adapt, assuming he’s Japanese.

          Boy, that’s a helluva lot of assumptions.

          1. Little Bird in the Big Apple*

            Yes, and unless someone tells you about what is considered culturally appropriate, you will not know any different.

            I say this with experience. My mother spent most of her adult life in abject poverty in an Asian country that was in the middle of a war. When she started working, she didn’t know what was “correct” in the western country she eventually migrated to. It was her close friends who took her aside and helped her understand what was acceptable, not a stranger who loudly told her how “gross” she was in front of all her colleagues in the lunch room. That is literally the suggested wording in the original comment!

            This would be mortifying for the recipient in this situation. Laughing to indicate that it is a joke could be seen as mocking (especially if there is a cultural aspect to this!)

            And maybe there is no cultural aspect to this for the OP, but there is nothing wrong with asking to be sensitive of this and perhaps why publicly saying something rather than quietly taking a person aside is the preferred mode of communication here?

            1. Little Bird in the Big Apple*

              Ugh, I meant to say “perhaps why quietly taking a person aside rather than publicly saying something is the preferred mode of communication here”.

    2. jj*

      Addressing things like this as a joke rarely comes across as a joke, in my experience, and handling it this way may draw more attention to your friend, leaving them feeling embarrassed and belittled while feeling like they need to laugh it off

      1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

        Do you really think there’s any less risk of them feeling embarrassed or belittled if you phrased it more seriously though?

        1. jj*

          Personally, as I would consider that they are an adult and I’m probably not the first person outside their immediate family that they’ve eaten with. If they wanted to change it by now, they would. Others have pointed out that there may be health related issues for eating this way. I’ve pointed out elsewhere that there may be cultural issues as well.

        2. CRV*

          Yes, I do. Insulting someone before asking them to do something is never the best approach. Insulting someone is never the best approach in general, and that’s exactly what calling someone gross is.

        3. Annony*

          Yes. The whole “joking not joking” thing IS belittling. That is the type of thing you may be able to do with your friends but is not appropriate at work. The phrasing is designed to shame and it also draws more attention than quietly asking them if they could chew quieter because it is distracting. That phrasing would also allow them to say “I’m sorry but I physically can’t” if they want to share that information.

        4. SarahTheEntwife*

          Unless this is someone I’m *very* close to such that they know where all my emotional buttons are, I would probably be humiliated if they tried to joke about it. If they phrased it discreetly and politely, I would be embarrassed, sure, but also grateful that they said something and it would also feel like more of an opening to say “I’m so sorry, but I can’t breathe through my nose; would X be less unappetizing?” and we could have an actual conversation. Jokes feel like only an opening to a return joke, and can also be hard to tell if this is something that seriously bothers you or you just show connection by teasing me about a harmlessly weird thing I’m doing.

        5. Observer*

          Yes – if you ask like an adult talking to a reasonable adult, you will sound a LOT better. And if you do it in private, that’s even better.

      2. Quill*

        Yeah, the key to not making people defensive about an annoying habit that has not actually caused harm is 1) bring it up directly 2)without an audience 3) if it’s a habit you can remotely imagine them being teased for as a kid don’t make it a joke, period 4) If at all possible frame it as an “it’s making it difficult for me, personally, to concentrate,” so that it comes off as somewhere between a favor and a compromise.

        After you’ve made this request you can then determine if this person is chewing with malicious intent or not and adjust your request accordingly.

    3. DCR*

      I would be fine with someone directly asking me to change my behavior, but would be so very very hurt by this joke approach. I’m probably not going to be rude to the person in response, because as opposed to them I have manners, but I would never be comfortable around them again and would try to keep my distance from them.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Only situation I can think of in which “Duuuuuude that’s gross, close your mouth!”, said while kind of laughing, would go over well, is if the chewer is five. And the person saying it to them is their mother. And the chewer has a *very* good rapport with their mother. In all other cases, the person you say this to will never speak to you again. Might go to HR if it’s a coworker. I mean, I probably wouldn’t be able to sit in front of an open-mouth-chewing coworker without my gag reflex kicking off, but this is way over the top.

  10. NewlymadeHobo*

    Oops saw Alison’s comment regarding personal views on the pledge a little late.

    I work in City government and it is acceptable in our structure to stand and not say the pledge. That way it’s polite of others but isn’t a requirement.

  11. Mme Defarge*

    OP1 – when I was in Junior High, approx. fifty years ago, our whole homeroom class agreed to stand and just say nothing during the Pledge. After a while of the teacher saying it on their own, it was dropped. If you think your co-workers agree with you, you might be able to arrange a similar collective passive resistance.

    1. Mr. Tyzik*

      My public elementary required recitation of the Pledge while looking at the classroom flag after the anthem played on the intercom. As a JW, I sat for the whole thing. I can see this being hard for a number of people on religious grounds of not elevating the flag to the position of an idol.

      It can be ostracizing to not do anything during the activity, especially as a required activity. OP might want to proceed with caution depending on her environment.

    2. Quill*

      That also occurred in my junior high in approximately 03-05, but we just reached an agreement with our individual homeroom teacher that we were going to not participate (since it was recited over the intercom), rather than the announcements ceasing.

  12. Lyys*

    #3-I read the headline and asked my husband “is there ever NOT a good time to ask someone to eat with their mouth closed?” And no, there isn’t. Same if they were digging in their nose or popping pimples in the break room. There’s a social contract and basic manners. It has nothing to do with “parenting” them, and everything to do with being adults who are considerate of others.

    And I scanned over some replies above referencing “some people need to breathe through their mouths!” I’m a mouth breather and I manage to eat politely without suffocating. Pro tip-the movie musical Gigi, while jaw droppingly inappropriate today, has wonderful guidance on how to speak (and breathe) with food in your mouth.

    1. TechWorker*

      Bit harsh tbh – yes you may be able to eat politely and still breathe through your mouth but doesn’t really prove everyone can! Plus eating isn’t something you can really expect or require folks to do in private.

    2. MK*

      Actually, no, there isn’t a “social contract” about manners. Tp begin with, there is no consensus about what “basic manners” are, but, apart from that, there is no social rule that you are allowed to correct other people’s behaviour based on your own set of rules. Especially if their behaviour doesn’t affect you in any way; if the person eating with their mouth open is projecting spit and tiny pieces of food around, sure, you can tell them to be careful and they will probably get the message and close their mouths. But is it’s purely an aesthetic issue, you always have the option of not looking at them.

      1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

        So by extension of that reasoning, there’s no general consensus on basic workplace manners for things like burping, farting, swearing, putting feet on the table, or wearing pants that slip and expose butt crack..? C’mon.

        It’s conceivable that any of those could also have legitimate reasons that they can’t be helped. But there is a big difference between someone *actually* not being able to stop doing something, and doing it because they can, don’t care or believe their right to continue doing it is more important than using manners at work for the sake of harmony.

        Also, avoiding people or just not looking at them isn’t really the obvious, perfect alternative that some are suggesting it is. It can be very hurtful long term. I’d find it much kinder for someone to say “Hey Memes, stop coughing up hair balls at lunch, you’re being gross!” and then carry on as usual, than to slowly let me me wonder why I’m feeling increasingly excluded from lunch invites and conversation. *sniff*

        1. Anononon*

          …no, there isn’t a general consensus on your list of things. In tons of office, cursing is fine. I’ve also worked in offices where people lean back in their chair and put their feet up. (I find that weird, but no one’s calling them out.)

          1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

            Sure, I’ve worked in …interesting… places where All The Above happened regularly too. But dropping a c-bomb when a client was in the office? Feet up on the desk in the all staff meeting? Farting in the grand boss’s office? No. Because everyone still knew what common “basic manners” were and when to use them.
            Knowing manners, and having appropriate judgement on the use of them are two different things.

            1. yala*

              “Farting in the grand boss’s office?”

              Do you have some kind of superhuman mastery over your bodily functions? Farting isn’t usually a deliberate action.

              1. Mirabel*

                Y…yes it is? It’s not always comfortable but yes, most adults who are aware of social norms can hold a fart when they need to.

              2. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

                It was called the fart game and the male participants truly amazed me with their ability to fart on cue. Like they always had one ready to go. But they still had the manners to not play it near the desks of unwilling participants :)

      2. Temperance*

        I don’t agree with this. Chewing with your mouth closed, not making body noises, not snot rocketing … these are universal basic manners.

        1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*


          Bahahaha! Oh thank you, I love this term. So… visceral.

        2. Fikly*

          So every society across the planet, the accepted standard is to chew with your mouth closed? What extensive study you have done!

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        This is a workplace blog. We’re not going to pretend there’s no such thing as basic manners expected at work; there are. If someone has a reason they can’t follow some basic etiquette tenet (such as a medical issue), of course that’s an exception. Otherwise, it’s not unreasonable to hope people would be basically polite (not burp loudly at meetings, not show mouthfuls of food, etc.).

        1. Observer*

          I agree with this.

          The question to me is not whether we’re dealing with basic manners, but what is the appropriate reaction to someone who lack basic manners. And the appropriate reaction is rarely to school them.

        2. DefCon 10*

          Thank you. I try to be as accommodating of differences as I can, but the vast majority of adult workers can abide by basic social rules in the workplace. I’m surprised at how many commenters here have a problem with that.

      4. Natalie*

        ??? Manners are 100% a social contract, almost by definition. That’s why “good manners” will vary from group to group rather than being some inherent human quality.

    3. Cheluzal*

      For what it’s worth, I agree with you, even if other people don’t. Guess that’s why we have so many adults who have worse manners than my two-year-old…

      1. Susie Q*

        I agree with you as well. People in our society are so individualistic to the detriment of the common good.

    4. jj*

      I believe that open mouth / closed mouth chewing can also be cultural, which can make this an issue beyond whether or not you consider something to be “basic manners.” Either way, this falls into the category of things that I would just leave alone.

      1. star wars rebel leader*

        Manners, including open/closed mouth chewing, is, I would presume, not genetic. It is learned from somewhere. Maybe it is parents, relatives, friends, etc…..but people don’t know what they haven’t been taught. OP3’s coworker is now an adult, and as an adult habits are hard to break even with the best of intentions.

        I agree that this is a difficult subject to bring up at work, and would probably leave it alone myself. But if the OP were to say something, leading with a tone of disgust or offendedness is only going to provoke defensiveness in the coworker and will be unlikely to produce the desired result. It might even be counterproductive or lead the coworker into thinking the OP is being rude.

        I think the OP needs to establish a rapport with the coworker at a minimum before saying anything, and then only in the friendliest of tones and in some way that demonstrates that OP is trying to have the coworker’s best interest in mind. Maybe starting with something like “Hi George, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but sometimes you chew with your mouth open.” If George is recently from another country maybe the OP could mention to George that many Americans have a strong visceral reaction against open mouth chewing. Or if the OP is a manager, maybe she could mention to George that it might have an affect on his relations with some of his coworkers. or how he is perceived by upper management (if true, of course).

        Or it could be possible that OP3’s coworker is being deliberately obnoxious, who knows.

        1. jj*

          Yes, my (perhaps poorly made) point was that chewing with one’s mouth open may not be bad manners in their family of origin. And as you say, relearning to do basic things like eating is a challenge and the comments implying that this person is disgusting and/or deliberately rude are really unnecessary

      2. Observer*

        To be honest, I think that this is a bit of a red herring. “When in Rome” is legitimate as long as you are making exceptions for genuine need and genuine conviction (eg religious or moral issues.)

        That means that if I’m mentoring or supervising someone who eats with their mouth open, and they need to be able to eat with people, I am going to bring this up with them. If the issue is medical then of course we’d move on. But if it’s just that it’s acceptable in their culture, that’s a different issue.

    5. Jcarnall*

      I was once asked “what’s the most important thing in life”? And without a second’s thought, having spent more time than I care to think about choking and trying to breathe because of a dust allergy, I said “Breathing”.

      I do actively strive not to eat with my mouth open because I’m aware this is not pleasant for others, but it does actually require a conscious effort when my nose is blocked up (and it frequently is in winter when we can’t leave the windows open all the time).

      I’m genuinely appreciative of people who give me a polite heads-up or even a genial/joking comment that I’m eating with my mouth open (usually because I was focussing on something else at the time).

      But I fear I’m not appreciative at all of people who are rude to me about it.

      1. River Song*

        Yep. I had surgery at 14 so that I could actually breathe through my nose. I got in trouble all the time as a kid for chewing with my mouth open, or watching TV with my mouth hanging open, or whatever. After my surgery I had to consciously teach myself to chew/fall asleep/just exist with my mouth closed, and even now 20 years later, if I’m concentrating on something, or not paying attention, I totally catch myself breathing through my mouth. It’s like it’s my default position because that’s how I learned to breathe.

        Some of these replies are so unkind. Look away, ask politely if you absolutely must (knowing you may well mortify someone who can’t help it) but don’t act like it’s something they are doing AT you (general you). They may just be trying to, you know, stay alive.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Yup. I went thru a childhood of mouth-breathing (and ended up with some interesting dental problems as a result) and somehow I still managed to have my temperature taken at the doctor’s office and I don’t recall being told not to chew with my mouth open. (And I do remember being talked to about other habits, like knuckle cracking.) I suspect that I didn’t try to *talk* with my mouth full of food, and I wonder if that’s the real issue with LW’s co-worker.

          (And it turned out to be food sensitivities. Dropping milk helped. Dropping wheat helped enormously.)

    6. Juniantara*

      It is absolutely very very bad manners to call out someone else’s manners unless you are responsible for teaching them manners or social interaction. That’s why Allison said that a manager had more grounds to comment- because business etiquette is part of a manager’s responsibility, or a friend because we allow our friends more rudeness.

  13. Bowserkitty*

    #5 – I like what Alison said. You did the exact right thing! I’d just let it go and reach out when you have that one year minimum requirement!!

  14. Zircon*

    Letter writer #2. I have organised conferences and meetings. At one we were having a traditional ethnic meal. Everyone in this country and in our profession should know what that entails. I asked for dietary requirements. 25 people out of 150 asked for non-standard food. 15 of those asked for gluten free. I emailed each of them stating “Please do not eat any part of the traditional meal. It is being cooked with bread and we cannot guarantee that it will be gluten free.” Every single one of them wrote back saying “I can eat the traditional meal. I do not have celiac disease. I can eat gluten.”
    Now I ask people for vegan, vegetarian, or religious or medically required diets. If someone asked for something very particular, I would suggest that they contact the caterer themselves so they can sort out what they can and can’t eat. Then you can be sure that what you are having is safe for you.

    1. JBX*

      I manage many events and my experience in recent years is way too many food requests are frivolous rather than necessary. It becomes so frustrating, because most organizers WANT to accommodate anyone who has a legitimate issue. Needing a special meal for a health or religious reason is one thing but SO MANY people simply want to customize their meals with a wide assortment of personal preferences, minor issues, or fad diets. And then they happily make it known!

      THOSE instances impact others because valid requests may not be taken as seriously next time. A friend organized an event with mostly women mid- to late- 20s. Of the 500 attendees, 125 asked for special meals. Not just the mainstream stuff but picky preferences. For instance, one wrote, “absolutely no tomato products”. Organizers assumed an allergy and took it seriously. Turned out later she simply doesn’t like tomatoes and didn’t want to have to pick them off her salad. (She bragged about this at the lunch.) But this forced the chef to consider any component of the meal cooked with tomatoes. Another listed a SEVERE citrus allergy; couldn’t have citrus anywhere near her, such as lemons on the table for water or tea. Staff worked the entire dining room to accommodate this. When she showed up, she shrugged her shoulders and said, “don’t worry about it, I took an antihistamine”.

      I’m NOT saying OP’s need isn’t valid. I’d encourage her to talk again to those organizing the meeting. Knowing what she CAN eat, OP may even have some suggestions for what has worked I the past.

      One specific note – if OP#2 does need to bring her own food – not necessarily for lunches but perhaps for off hours or snacks – many hotels will put a mini-fridge in the room if asked in advance, in particular if you mention it is to accommodate a medical need. And if not, it’s fairly easy to take a small/medium cooler and refresh the ice each day.

      1. Observer*

        And if not, it’s fairly easy to take a small/medium cooler and refresh the ice each day.

        I’m going to push back on that. If you don’t have a freezer in your room, refreshing the ice becomes a real headache. Where are you getting the ice from? And unless you have something like an ice chest, you need to refresh more than once a day – which can become a problem if you are out of your room all day.

        1. Jen2*

          I agree that bringing your own cooler sounds like a pain, but I think almost every hotel I’ve ever stayed at has had an ice machine available for guests. There’s usually one on every floor.

        2. JBX*

          I can only ever recall one hotel that didn’t have ice machines for guests. And there – staff would bring ice upon request. I like cold water and always fill the ice bucket in my room. Filling up a quart or gallon ziplock bag once a day for a small cooler is very easy and no mess.

          And, note, I was merely offering an idea in case she wants to pack snacks or food for off-hours, not suggesting this as a lunch solution. Calling ahead about a fridge or taking a cooler has been invaluable to my family when traveling with small children, when I’m trying to eat healthy (traveling solo), or even just controlling the budget. (Cost of breakfast at resort hotels on a family trip is INSANE.)

          When traveling by car, we almost always have a small cooler in the trunk. Even when flying, sometimes we stop at a grocery store on the way to the hotel and purchase an inexpensive styrofoam cooler and snacks, leaving the cooler behind at end of trip. And not everyone knows that SOME hotels will provide a mini-fridge upon request. Not all, and some charge. For others it’s simply based on availability as they only have a few.

  15. Allonge*

    LW1: I grew up in a socialist country with quite a lot of ‘rituals’ like this. I was also taken quite a lot to church by grandparents while not being religious myself. I said all the things that one was supposed to be saying in all these situations (or close enough). And so were a lot of people around me. It’s just what you did.

    My advice based on this is: don’t assume that all the people who say the pledge have any kind of strong feeling about it, or that they would be missing this in any way, if the culture changed around this. Some, for sure. But if you do feel strongly about it, I am sure you can find others who feel the same or don’t care either way but don’t want to rock the boat on their own.

    So: do you have any opportunity to talk about this with colleagues? To form a group that can address this toghether, or at least find out why exactly this is happening? I agree it’s bizarre, but then I was also a camp counselor in a Girl Scout camp where we did this (plus the GS Oath) every morning for a whole summer… so twice a year seems like nothing.

    1. Delta Delta*

      30 years later I still live by the Girl Scout law. I always liked that it is aspirational and focused on the greater good.

    2. londonedit*

      I’m not religious but I enjoy going to a carol service at Christmas, and obviously go to church for other people’s weddings etc. I sing the hymns if I know them, but when it comes to reciting the Lord’s Prayer I just sit with my hands in my lap and stay quiet. I don’t think anyone would ever really notice, and if they did, they wouldn’t have a problem with it. People choose to participate in whatever way feels comfortable to them.

      When I was little my family lived in the USA for a couple of years and I went to school there briefly. I went to my parents and said I didn’t like reciting the Pledge of Allegiance because I wasn’t American. They spoke to the school and everyone agreed that I could just sit quietly while the rest of the class stood up to recite it every morning. Again, no one had an issue with it (and this was the 1980s so there was less discussion generally in the world about accommodating different cultures etc!)

      1. I Love Llamas*

        I was thinking this meeting routine is similar to Toastmaster’s meetings. They don’t play the national anthem, but they do say the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of every meeting. I have been to many meetings where some participants simply quietly stand with hands to their side, some do hand over heart and stay silent, others go all in and belt it out. I wouldn’t overthink the Pledge routine. Just adopt a response that you are comfortable with and worry about the person singing off-key (that part of the routine would probably make me eye roll ….sorry).

        1. Mr. Tyzik*

          You call watching out for your soul overthinking?

          For some people, the pledge is the same as worshipping the flag. I wouldn’t accuse them of overthinking.

          1. Observer*

            Reciting the pledge is one thing. Do you consider being quiet while others recite it to be engaging in idolatry?

            1. Mr. Tyzik*

              Placing a hand over the heart is still worship. The intent to place the flag first is there.

              Standing is grey territory and is dependent on environment. I won’t look askance at someone who stands and doesn’t say anything so they can fit in with other people. I do this when I go to baseball games – just hands at sides and people-watch. I would actually advise OP to stand and not recite in this case, rather than fake it, if OP has objection to doing it sincerely. Since employment is involved, I wouldn’t advise sitting.

              Kneeling is to protest police brutality and not the flag, so I *definitely* don’t recommend taking a knee. That is missing the point and needlessly adversarial. The point is to be a conscientious objector on your own, and leave everyone else to their own beliefs.

              1. Observer*

                Well that’s just the thing. All I Love Lamas was suggesting was quietly not engaging in the Pledge, without getting into a mental pretzel about it.

        2. LaSalleUGirl*

          I think I Love Llamas means not to overthink how *other people will react* to OP’s decision about what to do during the pledge.

          1. Mr. Tyzik*

            Perhaps. Employment is a factor, as is performance evaluation. It’s a tricky thing to do, but I don’t think that the OP is overthinking anything.

    3. Dr. Pepper*

      Agreed. When I was in elementary school we recited the Pledge of Allegiance every single morning and in Girl Scouts we recited the Pledge and the Girl Scout Oath at every meeting. Honestly, it meant next to nothing to me. They were just words that we said, and for a long time most of us didn’t even know the actual words, we just knew the sounds we were supposed to make. The Pledge still doesn’t mean a whole lot to me, it’s just a short of familiar chant. If I were one of your colleagues, reciting the Pledge would strike me as a holdover from the days when we had to say it in public school since the federal government is always behind the times. I wouldn’t care enough to say something about it on my own, but if you brought it up to me I’d agree that it was strange and I’d be in favor of not saying it, mostly because I find it a waste of time.

  16. ExtraAnon*

    #5: If the potential employer has a strict no cell phones while driving policy, getting your message may have deprioritized you. It’s common in my field and I’ve had recruiters refuse to schedule calls if I’ve said I would be driving. But in general, I think it’s risky to take interview related calls while driving since the possibility of disconnection is high enough. I think telling a caller that you’re driving and you’ll call them back in X minutes when you can stop safely is better.

    1. LW5*

      That’s interesting, looks like I might be out of date about my safety policies. I try to be safe while driving, never text, use the seatbelt, always drive the speed limit, all that fun stuff. Is hands-free talking also unsafe or is it more of a decor thing?

      Yeah, lesson learned on that one, I wish I’d said something like that.

      1. EEOC Counselor*

        My agency has a no cell phone use (except for GPS, and we’re not allowed to set it or touch it while driving, which includes being stopped at a light or in traffic) while driving policy and has fired people for this. It includes work vehicles and personal vehicles being used for work. If they called someone about a position and that person answered the phone while driving, that would be a big black mark.

  17. Yvette*

    #4 “Clarissa Warbucks (Relocating in March to Buffalo)” This comes across as a little vague and unsettled. I would fill in the complete address (since you already have one). It let them know that yes, you will definitely be living there.

    1. Lance*

      I’m a bit curious: why should it need to be specific? I’ve heard of plenty of people listing just their city and state of residence on their resume, without the full address; I’m not sure how this would be so different.

      1. Constance Lloyd*

        I used a specific address to really drive home how serious I was about relocating and that I wouldn’t need any more than the standard 2 weeks notice period. I don’t know how much of a difference it made with hiring managers, but it made *me*feel less worried that being a distance candidate would hurt my chances.

      2. Yvette*

        It also points out that the LW has a place, is planning on moving there no matter what, and therefore will not need or want a relocation package and would not eliminate a prospective employer because they would/could not offer one. I don’t know what they do for a living, but there are many positions where a relocation package is simply not available.

        1. LW4*

          I haven’t moved since I started my career, but I work in the nonprofit/education sphere so my expectation is that I’ll cover my own moving costs. I do want to communicated to prospective employers that I’m committed to working in that area and that I understand I have to cover my own interview and moving expenses. I also want to avoid the implication that I’m just following my boyfriend around and willing to take any job to be near him.

    2. Constance Lloyd*

      This is what I did, and it worked. In the initial email/phone call I stated that I was still employed in X city (also reflected on my resume) and looking to join my partner in Y city. Then I would usually clarify I could be available for a phone of Skype interview as soon as they liked, but could plan for an in person interview the following week (it was a 12 hour drive between cities). Nobody batted an eye and they were happy to start with the phone interview. It helped to be able to say, “I have my house, I just need to start living in it.”

      1. LW4*

        I’m glad to hear it worked out for you, thanks for sharing your experience. Did you encounter any issues with the stated reasoning of moving to join your partner? I am only applying for jobs that would advance my career and I’m not on any timetable to move, but I think I might be having some insecurities about explaining the reason for the move.

        1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          I know AAM has suggested to frame moving to be with a partner as “moving to be closer to family.” I do know that some people see non-married couples as “less serious”*, so would the family framing work for you?

          *For the record, I don’t see moving to be with a long-term partner as frivolous.

        2. Constance Lloyd*

          I didn’t have any (obvious) issues citing my boyfriend as the reason for the move. I was similarly insecure that employers would judge the reason for my move, but I don’t face any further questions* after saying I was relocating to join my partner, who was already living and working in the area. I work for a non-profit, to the extent that’s relevant.

          *one recruiter asked if I was running from the law, but she also wanted to hire me as a barista at a major pay cut with no benefits, so I removed myself from consideration.

    3. Policy Wonk*

      +1. I’ve seen plenty of resumes that have two addresses on them (particularly for students who are approaching graduation – the school address and future address). If you have a known move date, or even an approximate one, recommend you include that with the address.

      1. LW4*

        Thank you for the reassurance about seeing this regularly. I’m ready to move at any point, and my boyfriend would cover our living expenses, I just don’t want to go without health insurance indefinitely so I’m hoping to get a job before actually leaving my current company.

    4. Pretzelgirl*

      I disagree. I call a lot of resumes to set up interviews for my boss. I see Clarissa Warbucks thing (or a variation of it), many times.

      Also LW, FWIW we haven’t disqualified candidates because they are relocating. We usually schedule a phone interview instead. Eventually if we want to hire them, we bring them in for an in person interview. Either once they are here or pay for them to come out.

    5. LW4*

      Hi, I’m the one who wrote this question. Are you saying you’d write (Relocating to 123 Main St., Buffalo, NY in March)? Or just use the future address in full without mentioning relocation?

  18. Jcarnall*

    LW1: omg, that sounds dire (I live in the UK: only MPs have to recite a pledge of allegience, and they only have to do it once.) I agree that the least obtrusive way round it would be to stand in silence: if you want to make a point, I believe “take a knee” is now traditional at least at football games.

    LW2: If the person who should order your meals through the caterer is inexperienced about ordering for your dietary restrictions, it may actually be more practical for you to do this yourself – obviously the company should pay, and if they won’t, that’s an issue that needs raising since everyone else will be getting a free lunch. Can you contact the hotel, explain what you need and why, and move forward as they suggest – either a meal delivered as part of the in-house catering, or arrange to have your lunch separately delivered? Either way, document what you did, and send the outline to your colleague so they’ll know what to do next time.

    1. Link*

      Taking a knee is a protest. Protesting is not something you should be recommending people do at work unless they are on strike or prepared to face serious consequences.

    2. annalisakarenina*

      Taking a knee is a protest of a specific issue — the disproportionate amount of police violence against black Americans, but most likely does not apply to LW1. I would just stand in silence. Which is what I do anyway for the pledge and the anthem.

      1. Annony*

        I agree. Taking a knee during the pledge at work would be oddly confrontational. More so than going to HR to complain about it, which the OP is already hesitant to do.

      2. annalisakarenina*

        Actually, I re-read the letter and LW1 is asking whether or not it’s worth speaking up about. I understand your concern about alienating certain groups, because it is a weirdly indoctrinating ritual, but since it’s federal government I don’t know if it would be effectual.

        If you want to stand in silence it may make others feel more comfortable doing the same.

  19. Retail not Retail*

    OP1 – one of my coworkers claimed he told our CEO he wants a mandatory pledge and when I objected he told me “america love it or leave it.”

    I say stand and say nothing.

    1. DuskPunkZebra*

      Unfortunately, here, they have every right to do this unless you have a religious objection or something else that’s a protected status against this. 1A rights only protect you from the government forcing you to participate. In LW1’s case, though, those protections apply since they work for the government. Even if they’re your employer, the fact that they’re the government applies.

  20. Fed IT*

    LW1: As you work for the Federal Government, there is an Inspector General or equivalent for you to use to raise concerns such as this. Go talk to them. And if this is occurring at your agency headquarters, so you believe the agency IG is aware and supporting this practice, contact your Department IG. Your Agency and Department internal web pages will have the contact information.

    And I would bring up not just the pledge, but the validity of having your performance evaluation dependent upon attending these functions.

    1. Madeleine Matilda*

      I’m not sure this rises to the level of something I would report to the IG. There is no fraud, waste, or abuse of government resources here. Certainly there is nothing wrong with requiring a staff person to attend meetings. I have something like that in my performance plan for certain mandatory trainings and staff meetings.

      1. Mockingjay*

        I posted upthread about this being something to contact the Ombudsman about. It’s not an IG issue. It’s a managerial issue which can and should be addressed within the agency. Even if you contact a higher authority Ombudsman (to retain anonymity, which seems to be another issue for OP 1), the Ombudsman will take it from there and get the complaint forwarded to the correct people.

    2. Observer*

      but the validity of having your performance evaluation dependent upon attending these functions.

      Why? What law do you think is being broken here? What kind of fraud or abuse is involved in effectively requiring people to attend these meetings?

      I’m not sure that the meetings (absent the pledge) are the greatest idea. But that doesn’t make them illegal or abusive.

  21. Alex*

    I may be off but might #2 fall under ADA (assuming LW is in the US) since it’s a health-related dietary restriction?

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      Wait…does a dietary restriction that’s not an allergy qualify for ADA? Like if you just get bad GI issues (without having celiac) do you still HAVE to be accommodated? Seriously, if that’s the case then my life would be 1,000x easier. I am so, so tired of fighting this fight with my office and my daughter’s pediatrician y’all.

      1. fposte*

        There is no clear metric you can apply that will make you know for sure what how a court would rule. However, a 2013 decision found that a university meal plan would be required to either accommodate diets for celiac disease and allergies with “significant or severe responses to certain foods” or exempt them from the meal plan. (Note some of that was the situational issue of paying for a meal plan they couldn’t use, too.) That decision doesn’t explicitly pave the ground for a GI issue sans diagnosis, and it wouldn’t necessarily apply to a different situation.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          Honestly, that might be helpful down the line when my daughter graduates from daycare, where her teachers are happy to give her the safe food I bring from home, to kindergarten where things get more complicated with all the school-provided food and mandated nutrition requirements and whatnot. I really, really hope she outgrows this last allergy before then but it seems unlikely now that she’s 2.5 and had issues with dairy since birth. But hey, gluten and egg were reintroduced successfully a few months ago so there’s still a chance.

          1. Quill*

            Absolutely contact the PTA/PTO about this and get advice, my mom worked in elementary school for 12 years and kids with restricted diets are common to the point of her more or less having one every year or every other year.

            Depending on the problem, workarounds included:
            – Parents brought in a box of approved, shelf-stable treats so the kid could have that whenever someone brought in birthday cupcakes instead of just not being able to have those.
            – Absolutely no peanuts or tree nuts were to be eaten in the classroom, after a few weeks kids enforced this snacktime policy themselves with “Hey Josh your lunchable has peanut butter, share my goldfish so Annie doesn’t suffocate, you can pay me back at lunch” (the cafeteria was more regularly cleaned & had a separate table for the peanut free.)
            – Epipens, and the argument with the district nurse after they skyrocketed in price with “I know there’s supposed to be a new one provided by the parents every year but for the love of god keep last year’s on hand to give the ambulance more time while we try and get that sorted out,”
            – Kids getting very invested in reading the ingredients, re “mommy we can’t buy fruit punch fruit snacks for everyone, they’ll make Jane puke. We gotta get lemon-lime instead.”

            It might take a few years but with a good, comprehensive strategy that doesn’t leave daughter out, her classmates will look out for her and accept her dietary restrictions as just a thing that is.

            1. Quill*

              Also of note her district did not require evidence of an allergy diagnosis for this, just for parents to provide information and, if the problem was going to widely apply to, say, common snacks or celebration items where it wouldn’t be reasonable to order one separate item (birthday cupcakes) alternate items.

              Teachers would then send parents the “we can’t have snacks that include x&Y in class due to severe allergies” as part of the classroom newsletter & remind parents buying for other classroom events in the instructions list of that and the things that it was fine to have in the room but that would end up excluding people if that was the only snack provided.

            2. Nope, not today*

              I second this – elementary school has been pretty easy. There are peanut-free tables in the cafeteria, and specific tables for those WITH peanuts in their lunches. If a kid has a peanut allergy the whole class knows and every time there is an event parents are reminded ‘no peanuts/no gluten/no gelatin/etc’. When we buy snacks or treats for parties etc my kids always remind me that so-and-so cant have X – its very cool actually, that even that young all the kids get it and look out for each other.

            3. Third or Nothing!*

              The easiest workaround by far is for me to just send all of her food and make sure everyone understands not to give her anything I didn’t send from home. My big fear is that someone will forget about that because she won’t have an allergy flag on her file. Since it’s more of a GI issue, it’s treated as a preference and not an allergy. Preferences don’t get official accommodations. You have to rely on those in authority to 1) care and 2) remember.

              1. Quill*

                Usually the policy for elementary schools is to accommodate allergies and intolerances under the same broad “parent reports kid medically shouldn’t have X” policy, rather than splitting hairs about whether lactose intolerance is an allergy or not, or going through what’s a “true” allergy with parents. (Assuming the administration knows the difference themselves.)

                1. Third or Nothing!*

                  That’s actually quite reassuring, thanks. And I might need to take a break from this thread because I’m having an anxiety attack worrying about my little girl.

            4. Third or Nothing!*

              Oh and by the way, I called it an allergy upthread but she doesn’t have an official diagnosis. Her blood test came back showing no allergy response but her body looks otherwise when she eats dairy. So that was my bad. It’s a officially a sensitivity.

              Whether a bad rash and diarrhea should qualify as an allergic response is a question I’ve been asking and pondering for a while.

              1. fposte*

                Generally, medically speaking, whether something is an allergy or not isn’t based on severity of the symptoms or which they are but whether there’s a specific antibody response. So you could absolutely have a non-allergic rash and diarrhea (and diarrhea is a pretty common food sensitivity response in its own right) because there are a lot of things other than IgE antibodies that can cause those.

                1. Third or Nothing!*

                  What if the rash is getting progressively worse? I’m starting to wonder if I should ask for another test. It really worries me that her symptoms are getting worse every time we try to re-introduce.

                2. fposte*

                  A rash can be serious without being an allergy. Not saying that’s the case for your kid, but a rash doesn’t “prove” allergy. That doesn’t mean her reaction is unreal or dismissible–just that it may not fall into the allergic category.

                3. Third or Nothing!*

                  Thank you fposte for being kind and helpful in this discussion. I know many people get real het up when someone claims “allergy” without a diagnosis so I appreciate that you didn’t. I’m so used to saying “allergy” for myself that sometimes I slip up and do the same for her.

                  Most of my confusion about whether she might actually have an allergy stems from, I think, the fact that I have the same types of responses to dairy that she does and I have a diagnosis (that I often forget to mention because, again, not life threatening). And that her responses are getting progressively worse with each re-introduction. We both had blood tests done but hers was different than mine. I wonder if perhaps mine was more comprehensive or my previous doctor was more conservative on her threshold for an immune response than my daughter’s pediatrician is. Wish I could remember what all mine tested and what hers tested. I do remember that mine tested more stuff.

                4. fposte*

                  @Third–from a parental standpoint, I could totally see going to a different doctor. But from a practical standpoint I think Quill has the right of it for school–if it’s that your daughter doesn’t do well with ingesting dairy, the school will largely avoid giving her dairy, and they won’t worry about the specifics of the reaction.

                  All of this, of course, is a very different question than whether, if she were an employee at a meeting, the ADA would require the office to provide her with dairy-free entrees or whether it would be legally permissible to tell her just to pick off the cheese.

                5. Third or Nothing!*

                  @fposte If the ADA doesn’t cover my daughter now, in school, then it won’t cover her later when she is an adult in the working world. If an allergy diagnosis is required for ADA accommodation, it probably doesn’t apply to the LW either unless she has some other documentation from a doctor. But hopefully the LW has better luck than I have getting safe food to eat at work events. I gave her some suggestions of what’s helped me for social events in a separate comment.

                  Anyways, thanks for an enlightening discussion. I’m signing off for a bit as this thread has triggered an anxiety attack over worrying about my daughter.

                6. fposte*

                  @Third–that’s not exactly correct. First, there’s no rule that an allergy diagnosis is required for ADA coverage; second, what an institution has to do for a reasonable accommodation will be very different between an employer and an elementary school. (And also as an adult your daughter will have agency that she does not possess now.) Don’t get overfocused on what school does now as having lifelong implications for your daughter.

                7. Third or Nothing!*

                  @fposte your comment about agency is actually quite helpful, thanks. I need to remember that she won’t be treated like a toddler forever. I swear I’ve been fighting to have her issues taken seriously for her entire life and it’s hard to imagine a time when I won’t have to any more because she will have taken up the reins.

                  Also just curious, why are reasonable accommodations different in school vs work? Does it have to do with the children being minors? I always assumed the needs would be similar. This is kind of a whole new world for me as I was diagnosed 5 years ago and therefore never dealt with school accommodations.

          2. Nope, not today*

            My daughter outgrew her dairy allergy around 5-6 years old. The egg allergy gradually faded over the next few years as well – she started out able to eat breads and cakes with eggs, but not foods that hadnt been cooked that long, such as cookies. Then she could have cookies with almost no irritation. She can now have scrambled eggs! I just make sure they are fully cooked; I havent tried runny yolks yet (she’s 11 now). So yes, definitely time for things to change still!

      2. Arctic*

        It really depends on the type of issue (whether it meets the ADA definition of disability which can be amorphous but certainly would include some GI issues) and whether the accommodation you are asking for would be considered reasonable.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          What I’ve asked for at work is for them to order a dairy free meal when they cater meals for the entire office. All they have to do is tell me where they plan to order from and I do all the legwork to find a safe meal and recommend it. I have been told by the lady ordering the food that it’s too hard and expensive.

          As for my daughter, I bring all her food to her daycare. It’s not been much of an issue there but I truly dread the day she graduates to kindergarten. She will not be accommodated without an allergy exemption. And her doctor says she doesn’t have a real allergy so we have no doctor’s note to back anything up.

          1. Observer*

            Both your school and your doctor are being idiots.

            Your doctor is an idiot for being pedantic and thereby exposing your child to risk. Unless your pediatrician is otherwise phenomenal, I’d look at finding someone who is more reasonable.

            Your school is being idiotic, because the law doesn’t work this way. It doesn’t matter if someone has a classic medical allergy. If a food will, for instance, stop a kid from breathing, they need to accommodate it. Period. They can’t decide that only some medical causes will be accommodated.

            Lots of luck with this. Although this is not a workplace issue, maybe an organization like JAN would be helpful to you.

            1. Third or Nothing!*

              Except she won’t stop breathing (same with mine). It’s not life threatening at all. Painful, but not deadly.

              Her daycare has been great for the most part. They make sure she only eats the food I send and the stuff they have I’ve marked as safe. What I’m afraid of is later on down the line when she leaves this daycare to go to big kid school and has a lot more people involved in her care who might not know about the issue and could give her something that would make her sick. When you don’t have an allergy plan on file, you have to rely on caregivers to 1) care about it and 2) remember. And you can’t get an allergy plan without an allergy diagnosis. And her doctor won’t diagnose an allergy unless the blood tests come back showing an allergy (hers didn’t). So she does not have an allergy. She has a sensitivity. You could argue that it should matter, and I have, but at the end of the day it’s treated as a preference.

              My work is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.

              1. Observer*

                Even if she won’t stop breathing, it is NOT a preference.The fact that she doesn’t have a classic allergic reaction does not change that. It is still a medical condition And the school doesn’t get to decide that they are only going accommodate certain medical conditions and not others.

                And, like I said, your doctor is an idiot. He knows that she has this sensitivity and it is not just that she doesn’t like this food.

                1. Third or Nothing!*

                  Already planning to find a new pediatrician, TBH. She’s been pushing me and pushing me to get dairy re-introduced to my daughter’s diet because she’s worried about how short my daughter is. I am 5’0″. I’m not entirely sure why she expects my offspring to be higher than the 1st-5th percentile. Her weight is fine. Her previous set of doctors were not concerned at all. Too bad they’re so far away.

            2. Close Bracket*

              The anaphylactic response, which is what stopping breathing is part of, is a very specific type of immune-mediated response, ie, an allergy. That’s what the doctor means. Non-allergy responses, like non-celiac gluten intolerance, lactose intolerance, and whatever it is that I have going on with calamari, by definition, are not anaphylactic responses and are not life threatening. Food intolerances will make your life hell if you accidentally ingest whatever you don’t tolerate, but that’s still not life threatening. It’s not just pedantry, there are actual distinctions.

              1. Observer*

                Except that none of this is relevant. People can stop breathing because of classic allergic reactions or because of other reactions that are colloquially referred to as “allergies” but technically are not. The school doesn’t get to decide that they only have to worry about allergic anaphylaxis, but that they don’t have to worry about a kid’s throat closing up and stopping them from breathing if it’s caused by contact dermatitis in the throat.

                By the same token, the school doesn’t get to decide that if a kid breaks out in hives because of an allergy they need to accommodate it, but if it’s a non-allergy histamine reaction (yes, that actually exists), they don’t. Either hives are a problem that you need to allow for or not. The same holds true for any set of symptoms. The school does NOT get to decide which causes merit accommodation.

          2. doreen*

            What do you mean by “she won’t be accommodated without an allergy exemption” ? Do you mean that they won’t ban dairy from the classroom or that they won’t allow you to send food with her ? I’m also not sure what you mean by “allergy plan” – the ones I have been able to find are basically a list of allergies and instructions regarding when to inject epinephrine, when to give antihistamines and which emergency contact numbers to call. That isn’t helpful if your daughter is say lactose intolerant ( please note, I’m not saying this is your daughter’s issue) – if a lactose intolerant person consumes dairy, the reaction may be painful, but epinephrine won’t help. It wouldn’t really even be helpful in the case of a mild allergy if an epi-pen has not been prescribed.

            1. Third or Nothing!*

              I actually misspoke earlier; my daughter doesn’t have a diagnosed allergy. Sometimes I get confused and call it an allergy since we have the exact same problems but mine has a diagnosis….which I often also forget to mention because our symptoms are so atypical and I got tired of the pushback so I stopped altogether.

              So to explain the need for an allergy plan, you have to have an allergy plan on file if you’re going to flag a kid as having an allergy. If there is no allergy diagnosis then you don’t get an allergy plan. No diagnosis -> no plan -> no flag. The allergy flag is important for kids with serious issues because it follows them no matter which classroom they’re in – basically the teacher gets the allergy plan when the kid is enrolled in his/her classroom and the name is usually highlighted in yellow or something on the roster. Again, this is ONLY for diagnosed allergies at my daughter’s daycare. At church she does actually have her name highlighted in the roster. Bless them.

              Without the yellow highlighted name (or however the school flags a kid), you have to rely on the teacher remembering that little Junior can’t eat the Goldfish crackers usually provided as a snack. Or Junior being mature enough to know that eating the Goldfish will not be a good time. Accommodation in this case would be sending all her own meals and snacks and having the teacher give them to her at the appropriate times. This happens OK at daycare since I know her teachers and talk to them daily. They are happy to help me keep her healthy even though she doesn’t have that allergy flag on her file. I really don’t know what’s going to happen once she ages out of this daycare and has more caregivers interacting with her who might not be aware of the situation.

              Some schools and daycare centers require the children to follow strict nutritional guidelines (I think it may be a city ordinance?), one of which is that children must be given milk with lunch. You can’t get dairy free milk without an exemption, and they can be quite stingy with those. I don’t know how that will play out with food sent from home, but the fights I’ve had with previous daycares don’t bode well in that regard. Hopefully by the time she gets to school she will be responsible and mature enough to just throw the milk away, as much as I hate to waste. And hopefully she will also say no to the celebration cookies and cupcakes and candy given out all the time in classrooms.

              fposte did have some good comments upthread and that discussion was quite helpful in making me feel less terrified for my daughter’s future. When she is older she will have more agency (and hopefully more common sense!). I need to remember that she won’t be treated like a toddler forever. And who knows, maybe by the time she enters the working world companies will be a lot more open to getting her what she needs than mine is about my issues. Ay ay ay but that is a story for another thread.

      3. Observer*

        Why would it NOT be covered under the ADA?

        There is no bright line, but the question here is whether this issue significantly interferes with her ability to function or with basic life activities. If her GI issues mean that she’s essentially totally disabled for a few hours if she eats the wrong food, it’s a good case that this is ADA territory.

        1. fposte*

          Because the Lesley College ruling made it clear that there are limits to what would be covered. It really isn’t automatically enough to say that that food makes somebody sick for a few hours.

        2. Third or Nothing!*

          I will spare you the details but there is significant time spent in the bathroom if I eat dairy. In addition to that, it makes the symptoms of my PCOS much worse to the point where I have to take a sick day when my cycle starts.

          I never thought this could be covered under ADA because I don’t have anything from a doctor saying I have to do this. I just eat this way because it makes life better. Not even exaggerating, within a month of dropping dairy I thought “wait….is THIS supposed to be the norm? Is it really possible to function during your cycle???”

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            Actually, now that I think about it, I DO have a little card from a previous doctor saying I have an allergy. I forget about it because I haven’t needed to pull it out in years and years…and my symptoms are so atypical that I often forget I have a real diagnosis. But she did a blood test and that one along with egg came back as an immune response.

    2. fposte*

      It depends on whether the health condition meets the definition of a disability and whether her ordering her own from the hotel (assuming the workplace will pay for it, which isn’t clear) could be considered a reasonable accommodation.

  22. S*

    #2 I tried this with a particularly jerkish coworker, her response was to eat even more loudly, smack her lips, chew gum open mouthed, etc. literally the whole day. It was like working next to a horse and the sound of her slurping, chewing and smacking all day drove me nuts. Chances are if they aren’t smart enough to know to chew with their mouth closed they aren’t going to get it (stupid is as stupid does). I would invest in some noise canceling headphones. This is a huge pet peeve of mine and drives me nuts.

    1. Jcarnall*

      I tend to breathe through my mouth because I frequently have a blocked nose (allergies). While obviously I try to remember to chew with my mouth closed, I do find if I’m thinking about something else and eating at the same time, I’m quite likely to chew with my mouth open.

      This is embarrassing for me, and I’d be appreciative of someone asking me politely/giving me a heads-up that I’m doing this.

      But I’ve had total strangers tell me off rudely for eating with my mouth open, and I fear I am not inclined to be polite to them if they’re rude to me.

    2. WellRed*

      I”d be tempted to start calling her Mr. Ed because no one wants to be compared to a horse. But, that would be wrong, I suppose.

      1. Jcarnall*

        Also could get you in serious trouble at work.

        Calling a co-worker names intended to be insulting is generally not looked well upon by good managers.

      2. S*

        Ha she known as “the clomper”. We had wood floors and she would wear 4” stacked heels every day, which combined with the way she walked made a huge racket. Someone was on a conference call once while she walked by, and the people on the other line asked who’s banging things loudly at your office?

    3. Res Admin*

      Several years ago, first lunch meeting at a new job…I found out quickly why no one else would sit across from a specific co-worker. She blatantly and proudly chewed with her mouth open. She was well aware of it. If anyone said anything she would laugh and open it wider while sticking her tongue out (food and all). This in front of her supervisor who said nothing about it. I moved on from that job fairly quickly–just too much craziness.

  23. DuskPunkZebra*

    On #1, LW could reasonably point out that even federal employees have Constitutional rights and this policy is a violation of their 1A rights and protections against forced participation in patriotic ritual, and could be religious discrimination. In particular, the Supreme Court decision that protects in this particular case was decided that Jehovah’s Witnesses, who consider the Pledge to be idolatry and that they should not swear allegiance to anyone or anything but God, could not be forced to participate. By making this a factor that actually reduces the rating it is possible to receive on their performance reviews, their agency is pretty clearly violating this right and could get in a LOT of hot water if this were to happen to someone with a protected objection in particular.

    I think the tactic here is to point this out in the “we could get in a lot of trouble” way to their HR person or OPM rep. Because they definitely could.

    1. Malarkey01*

      Question on the Supreme Court case- was that in reference to employer to employee or government over private citizen? The 1A absolutely is relevant for government forcing private citizens, but it gets tricky when it’s an employer/employee because you don’t have the same 1A protections there (an employer could require you to sing the Hookie Pookie every morning or public ally pledge your life to spongebob and not be in violation of 1A).

      It gets super tricky when your employer is also the government, but even there you don’t have free reign to speak out during office hours.

  24. Ali G*

    #2 this is what I would do.
    First, keep that email where you were told to order your own food for the meeting.
    I assume they are paying for your hotel room, so every day, order yourself a lunch from the hotel, either the restaurant or room service and charge it to your room.
    Make sure your food is absolutely dazzlingly and obviously delicious, because I guarantee everyone else is not getting stuff as good as you will be able to get.
    Enjoy the heck out of it.
    Expense the costs with your hotel room. Use the email for back up when you are inevitably called out on paying for your own food.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Not a good idea. If you don’t get something pre-approved for a business trip, there’s no guarantee they’ll reimburse the expense. The options OP was provided are not feasible, so they need to go back to whoever they talked to and come up with something that will work and not completely inconvenience OP.

      1. Antilles*

        Especially with regards to charging it to the hotel room, because room service is often far more expensive – a standard sandwich/salad lunch platter can often work out to $5-10 a person or less, but if you’re ordering room service for your lunch, you’re looking at easily double that, maybe more. If it’s not preapproved, that extra expense is either getting denied on the spot OR a grudging “well, I guess we have no choice” where you get the money but also make your manager, the conference organizer, and the upper manager in charge of budgeting ticked off at you.
        Make sure your food is absolutely dazzlingly and obviously delicious, because I guarantee everyone else is not getting stuff as good as you will be able to get.
        The problem is, the people who you’re taunting by doing this are NOT the same people who are refusing to be flexible on food. Instead, it’s going to be co-workers, managers from other departments, colleagues, etc who don’t know the situation and just are going to quietly wonder at the fact you’re spending tons of company money on chicken parm while the rest of us are eating bland sandwiches.

    2. WellRed*

      Not sure room service is helpful if she wants to eat with the other conference attendees. Is she supposed to run back and forth?

  25. AnonFed*

    I’m a federal employee and I have to say I find the whole thing strange. It must be an agency thing because I have literally never heard the pledge of allegiance or the national anthem at work. We also have “supporting agency goals” as one small prong of our performance evaluation and attendance at events like this alone wouldn’t be sufficient (running one, yes).

  26. Jdc*

    If your federal job is on a military base I suggest you do as expected. You can be in a world of trouble otherwise. They can’t fire you but military bases can set pretty much any standard and military or not worker you better follow them. We have a small base here with a lot of civilians and it amazes me how they get away with their lack of following the rules. That stuff won’t fly on a larger base. If I speed on base my HUSBAND gets called into military court not me, and it isn’t just a ticket you pay. Just thought I’d point that out. You can want to fight the fight on a base but you won’t win.

    Otherwise if not on a base just stand up and don’t say it. People do a lot worse for a raise, it won’t kill you to stand there for 25 seconds twice a year.

    1. Mockingjay*

      Yes and no. I work on a military base as a contractor, but I’ve also been a dependent spouse. There are separate rules and reporting structure for military and their dependents, than civilian and contractor personnel. Speeding isn’t quite the same as an internal issue with a government agency. Everyone has to obey the speed limits on the base. The reporting structure determines who the ticket gets sent to when you get caught.

      In this case, the civilian agency is tying high evaluation marks on participation in what should be voluntary activities, instead of focusing on individual work performance and productivity. This is a serious managerial issue.

    2. NoviceManagerGuy*

      Also if LW’s objection is that strong maybe they should consider whether working for the government fits their personal ethics.

      1. Jdc*

        I agree. I’m not agreeing if it’s right or wrong I’m just explaining my knowledge after 25 years as to how it works. The military has their own set of rules and if you are on a base you are expected to comply. That’s that. If someone has serious opposition to this perhaps that’s not the right place for them. Heck even I think plenty are a bit much but I follow them because that’s the trade off for the benefits they provide me, which are fairly abundant.

    3. CircleBack*

      There’s a difference between a safety rule and a speech rule. Are you saying that a civilian worker on a large military base would potentially get in trouble for standing silently during a pledge of allegiance?

  27. Allergen Mom*

    OP 2- Your company didn’t handle this the best but I strongly agree that YOU need to contact the venue if it is a medical issue. I’m not sure what your dietary restrictions are but if its medically related you need to relay that information directly to who is providing the food. Its a pain the butt, however its for your safety.

    I have been on both ends of the spectrum of needed special meals and working at a hotel that hosts a large amount of corporate meetings. A lot of things get lost in translation when you tell the meeting organizer, who then passes that onto someone else and so on.

    The hotel should be accommodating and able to notate in the company’s record that you need a special meal. Their Chef should also be trained on dietary restrictions, cross contamination, etc that your meeting organizer probably isn’t familiar with. There should not be any charge to you. They will just adapt what the rest of the group is eating to meet your needs.

    I also agree with bringing your own food. I don’t leave the house without safe snacks. You never know when something will go wrong in your stuck in a situation with nothing safe to eat. Lastly if your hotel does not have fridges/microwaves in every room ask if they will put one in your room to accommodate your medical condition.

    1. Working Mom*

      This is a great idea; I wonder if you could combine this with pushing back to the organizer and suggest that if they can provide the hotel contact – you’ll be happy to connect with that person directly and coordinate safe meals for yourself. That way the company’s organizer isn’t responsible to do this (and honestly, the initial response would worry me that even if he/she said they’d do it – that they’d actually do it right). That way you can communicate directly with the hotel and ensure safe meals for yourself (which you are entirely ENTITLED to!), but you can position it as “I’ll take this task off of Fergus’ plate and handle it myself.”

      BTW, I’m sorry this is something you’re even having to deal with, because it shouldn’t be!

    2. Elizabeth West*

      These are good suggestions, and if OP has to buy their own meals, the company absolutely should reimburse them. It would be total BS not to.

  28. Reality.Bites*

    My first boyfriend was required to say the pledge of allegiance in school. What makes that worthy of mention is that he went to school in Canada.

    It was a Catholic school and one year he had a particularly dimwitted nun as a teacher who was enamoured with the “under God” part and let that override any qualms about forcing Canadian kids, in a Canadian school, to pledge allegiance to a foreign country.

    This would have been late 60s or early 70s, depending on what grade it was.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Wait, what? He was living in Canada? Going to school in Canada? And the teacher had them say they “pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America?”

  29. CupcakeCounter*

    Write back and ask for the company credit card information so that you can go ahead and order those meals. If/when you get push back, be very matter of fact that since the company is requiring you attend these meetings and all attendees were informed that meals were provided, that of course the company is paying for your meal.

  30. I Will Steal Your Pens*

    #1 – Just Curious why we aren’t addressing the fact that it is required to go to the sessions period? Your performance shouldn’t be based on whether or not you attend diversity events. Or maybe it wasn’t addressed because that wasn’t the question?

    And yes – the whole pledge of allegiance thing is rather odd. I used to work on a large base in the DC area, so I am used to walking in and seeing pictures of people in the administration, US flags as well as the agency flag (which I do think is kind of cool), but I don’t have to pledge allegiance every day.

    If it was already addressed above and I missed it, I apologize, and feel free to call me out for that.

    1. Madeleine Matilda*

      I don’t think there is an issue with requiring the events. I see it as similar to requiring attendance at staff meetings or other such meetings which is in all of our performance plans at my agency.

    2. SarahTheEntwife*

      Requiring attendance is annoying and probably counterproductive (if you want your employees to embrace diversity, mandatory all-staff meetings are probably not going to endear the concept to them), but as far as I know it’s perfectly legal.

    3. Decima Dewey*

      I’d say there needs to be a diversity event added: one celebrating Jehovah’s Witnesses and other groups that do nt say the Pledge of Allegiance.

    4. Genny*

      Fostering diversity and inclusion is a part of leadership tenets in many federal agencies. There’s been a big push to operationalize that tenet by making it a part of the formal review process. I don’t think requiring attendance at these types of events is the best way to foster diversity and inclusion (it’s a little lip servicey to me), but I also don’t have a problem with employees, especially managers, needing to do something to demonstrate how they’re making the workplace more diverse and inclusive.

      1. J*

        Yes. My agency recently moved EEO/Civil Rights standards into our first, most important, “mission results-oriented” element. And many of our standards are these sorts of easily-quantifiable yet of questionable actual utility nature. I am not at all surprised that this is part of OP’s standards.

        1. J*

          Further (man, I wish I could edit), at least where I work we have very, very little ability to contribute to the development of our standards. They are presented to us fully-formed and we pretty much have to take them or leave them as-is. It’s up to your supervisor if they’re inclined to entertain your suggested amendments. And even if you refuse to sign them, they are binding. Chances are it’s completely futile for OP to question the appropriateness of these standards, unless they are willing to seriously climb the food chain and spend a lot of capital on it, accepting that they still might get no where.

  31. Lisa*

    #2 -Just out of sheer curiosity, I am wondering how complex the dietary restrictions are. I was just thinking that something like dairy free or peanut free are probably common requests easily accommodated by a caterer so I was wondering what was so difficult that they couldn’t just bring a separate meal on the side. Back in the day when I was in an admin role I did a ton of food ordering for meetings and we always had a couple of people who needed a separate meal due to an allergy or because they didn’t eat meat etc… only a couple of times did I ever have someone who was asking for something unreasonable, but someone needing something dairy free or vegetarian or whatever, that was always easy to do.

  32. Former Retail Lifer*

    OP #2, I sympathize. I’m a vegetarian with a dairy allergy (which eliminates the usual default vegetarian menu items). I’ve struggled to get my restrictions accommodated at work events and I’ve had two where there was literally not one thing I could eat. I’ve even been struggling with my wedding menu, as caterers seem to be universally vegan/vegetarian averse and I’m not eating just salad at my own wedding. I’m not sure what your specific restrictions are, but I wish every catering menu had a standard vegan, kosher, and a gluten-free option. I feel like that would cover most of us with special dietary needs.

    1. Dagny*

      I found that caterers were willing to work with me on the menu when they found that I was vegetarian – not some rando guest.

      But we also had a brunch wedding, which opened up a lot of options for vegetarian, gluten-free, people who like traditional food (bacon, sausage, pancakes), people who like to be adventurous with food (tapas). I highly recommend that approach.

  33. Third or Nothing!*

    LW2: I really, really hope your company isn’t expecting you to pay for your own safe meals. If they are, that’s complete BS just like Allison and many other commenters have said. That is definitely worth clarifying!

    I also have dietary restrictions that are related to a medical issue. It’s a crapshoot whether or not I’ll get a meal I can eat when my company brings in catering for everyone for the monthly birthday celebration lunch. (I’ve had some discussions on here about it, actually.)

    I have had much better luck with catered social events like weddings, TBH. What I do is ask for the caterer’s contact info and speak with them directly about whether there will be safe options for me. Sometimes if they don’t have any they offer to make a little side meal without the melted cheese on it or whatever. It is much, much easier to talk to the people who will actually be providing the food. I recommend you speak to the hotel staff directly and also make sure that these special meals will still be paid for by your company.

  34. Observer*

    #2 – As someone with some odd food sensitivities, I’m going to disagree with Alison a bit. Your company may have actually done you a favor here, although it doesn’t sound like they meant it that way.

    Go back to the coordinator and tell them that you can’t bring your own food as there is no capacity in your room to either warm up or refrigerate food. But you’ll be happy to talk directly to the caterer and / or the hotel to order food you can eat. What budget do they have set?

  35. No One Should Ever Be Required to Pledge*

    FYI, everyone: YOU ARE NOT AND NEVER WILL BE LEGALLY REQUIRED TO SAY THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE. Trust me, I am a teacher, I know the laws.

      1. Mockingjay*

        And tying attendance at ‘voluntold’ events to high evaluation marks, instead of work performance. You can be an outstanding worker, but unless you show up at X number events, you won’t get high marks. Affects raises, step increases, and promotions.

    1. Ferret*

      My understanding is that you can’t be sent to prison but an employer would be perfectly free to fire you if you didn’t (assuming you didn’t ave a religious objection)

    2. Clisby*

      Sure you can. Ask religious schools that require it – just like they can require prayer in schools.

      From your comment, I’ll assume you’re a public school teacher, in which case you’re right as far as schools are concerned.

  36. rayray*

    I know I’m late, but regarding #3, my boss frequently talks to me with her mouth full of lunch, or while she’s chewing or sucking on candy. It’s GROSS. This is the kind of behavior my parents corrected in me when I was a toddler.

    It really disgusts me. As much as I’d like to say something, I just don’t think I can.

  37. Looking In From the Outside*

    LW #1 It sounds like the pledge is only done at the beginning of special events (you used the example of a special presentation for African-American Heritage Month) after the singing of the national anthem. We often have this at special events because there is also a color guard to bring in the flag and other ‘pomp and circumstances.’ I would just stand up and not say anything if it really bothers you.

  38. Database Developer Dude*

    My advice to LW#1 would be, if they are a citizen of the United States, is to do what I do: Recite the pledge along with everyone else, but don’t say the words ‘Under God’. Matthew 22:21 says to me that I should not do this. I currently lead my Masonic Lodge, and we recite the Pledge, but not sing the Anthem, and I do this there too. No one notices because everyone’s saying the pledge. Same with my Eastern Star chapter, and we do both.

    I’m a notary public, and when I administer oaths, I offer the signer a choice on whether to swear (so help me God) or affirm (under penalty of perjury). It isn’t up to me, in my opinion.

    If LW#1 truly doesn’t want to say the pledge, rise, and stay silent. With the way the federal government is right now, considering who’s at the head of it, the less attention drawn to oneself the better. The current occupant of the Oval Office considers anything less than total fawning and worship to be disloyalty to the nation, and he has the power to make your life completely and totally miserable. Others will do the same because they (incorrectly) believe that supporting your nation means supporting your President.

    I don’t WANT to turn this into a political discussion, but unfortunately, in our nation today, that’s where we are.

  39. soon to be former fed really*

    Long-time fed here. Participation in special emhasis programs has never been mandatory or part of a performance review in any of the several agencies I have worked at. This is a weird scenario.

    I concur that respectful silence is fine, if you must go to these things. I never do myself, they are so performative as there is no real committment to any of the groups talked about.

  40. ragazza*

    #5–recruiters are notorious for not calling back/falling off the edge of the earth. Don’t worry about it.

  41. Genny*

    LW 1, I want to push back against the idea that it’s not worth raising the pledge of allegiance issue at work. I doubt this is a beloved tradition. My guess is if you start asking people why it’s done, you’ll hear “that’s how it’s always been” or “Ten years ago (a political appointee, new Assistant Secretary, EX director up for promotion, etc.) was trying to (address a morale problem, foster team spirit, make a change to justify the promotion they’re seeking, etc.), and we’ve just recited the PoA ever since”.

    The power of inertia is strong and the government tends not to change unless someone pushes for it. Unless you have supremely vindictive leadership, I don’t think there’s any harm in raising the issue with whoever’s organizing the event. You may or may not be able to change the tradition, but asking once would be very unlikely to result in retaliation or being permanently marked.

  42. Close Bracket*

    Looking for clarification here:

    Wouldn’t chewing with your mouth open be in a similar category as coming to work with a noticeable odor or dirty clothes? As in, it warrants correction when it’s considered counter to societal norms? So in North America, chewing with your mouth open is widely considered rude and gross, so in North America, this is something that somebody should talk to the coworker about. Maybe OP is not the right person to address it with the offender, but maybe it could be brought to their manager as something that they should have a sensitive conversation about?

    1. fposte*

      Kind o; while managers aren’t automatically enforcers of social norms, it could be the manager’s call to intervene in all three situations, dependent on how important that behavior is in that workplace. But that doesn’t mean I’d bring it to the manager, either, unless the chewer was in a public-facing role. The chewing is a problem I can solve by looking at my computer for five minutes, whereas if I’m in a closed space with somebody with body odor problems, my options would likely disrupt my workflow, so I’m a lot likelier to go to a manager over that.

      1. Close Bracket*

        Well, but managers are automatically the enforcers of social norms, unless you mean that HR should do it. Torn clothes don’t disrupt people’s workflow, but most people in North America in an office environment would agree that a manager should speak to an employee who consistently shows up in torn clothing. There was a letter about too many post its with affirmations, and Alison was all, “yes, definitely that person should tone it down,” although I don’t remember who she recommended should deliver that message. Whether or not something disrupts work is a red herring. There are lots of social norms that employees get spoken to about that don’t disrupt work, and that’s because one of our social norms is agreeing on what is a social norm.

        1. Close Bracket*

          And on that note, requiring people to keep their odor, whether body odor or perfume odor, to a minimum is also a social norm, not an actual work consideration*. There are plenty of cultures that have a different standard than North Americans for frequency of bathing or laundering clothing, and also cultures which have a different standard of personal space and stand much closer together than North Americans do. Both those differing norms are going to lead to people smelling each other a lot more, and work does not grind to a stand still in those countries. The disruption you feel when you smell a strongly odored coworker is entirely a social norm. Talking to employees about their smell is entirely enforcement of a social norm.

          *excluding allergy and chemical sensitivity issues, which also exist in cultures outside North America

        2. fposte*

          Managers enforce office requirements. Sometimes office requirements relate to social norms, but that doesn’t mean that just because something is a social norm a manager will enforce it (or should).

          Disrupting work really is not a red herring; it’s the key issue. Sometimes the fact that something is unusual is enough to be disruptive, but often it’s not. Chewing with the mouth open, IMHO, isn’t something I’d tackle as a manager unless it was a public position.

  43. Jesse*

    For LW #1, I’m sorry if it’s already been said, but you may have some recourse under EEOC guidelines or the performance review system. Even an anonymous letter to your EEOC coordinator, head of HR, or other bigwig should at least prompt a review of this practice. Do your performance standards explicitly include “attendance of mandatory-pledge events”? If so, a complaint may trigger an HR review that will make whoever wrote the standards justify why “saying the Pledge of Allegiance” is an integral part of your job function.

    This could potentially be setting up a situation where Jehovah’s Witnesses, atheists, or other protected classes could be being discriminated against on their official performance reviews, so EEOC, HR, and even the OIG (Office of the Inspector General) should be interested in how those performance standards are being written and evaluated.

  44. Crazy Hat Day*

    Is this pledge requirement in your position description? Forcing you to say the pledge dances awfully close to a prohibited personnel practice (the one about influencing subordinates’ politics). If you are a bargaining unit employee, discuss it with the union. If you’re not or you don’t want to go that route, check your bulletin board for the EEOC posters. They SHOULD be there and have info on how to contact someone about your concerns.

  45. Maya Elena*

    LW1, the Pledge of Allegiance is an interesting thing. I think it matters the context.
    When it feels like a “stupid brainwashing gimmick”, you abstain. When everyone around you abstains or talks through it because they’re “protesting the unjust power structures or whatever”, you saying it becomes more of a signal of patriotism or disagreement with them. I’ve been on both sides of this situation. In your situation, especially since you’re fine with the anthem, I’d just not say it.

  46. Birdie*

    LW4 – I recently relocated and was job searching while living in my old city. I used the wording Alison suggested here and it worked for me. My resume stood out enough that the hiring manager set up a phone screening and in it she asked to clarify my relocation. I explained that I was moving, told her that I had an apartment ready to go, and gave her the date that I would be in the city and able to work. I ended up getting hired not for that exact job but for another job on the same team that was also open.

    Not to sound like I’m bragging, but the place I work is one of the most famous institutions of its kind in the world, and the applicant pool for any job here is incredibly competitive, and I got hired while living 2000 miles away (my field is a bit niche though – not a lot of people like doing it but it has to be done). If your resume stands out enough they’ll want to clarify what your relocation plans are, and in your circumstances I can’t see it really being a point against you. Wishing you luck!

  47. LawBee*

    Coming in super late and unseen re the mouth-chewing thing – LW, I feel you so hard. There’s a person in my office who has to stick her tongue all the way out when she takes a bite (as in, bring fork to mouth, stick tongue out ALL THE WAY, curl tongue under fork) and it has truly made me find a new place to have lunch because I. Just. Can’t.

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