my boss told his wife we had an affair but we didn’t, what does a fast rejection mean, and more

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

1. I worked for a married couple and the husband told his wife we had an affair — but we didn’t

I quit my retail management job two years ago over work/life balance issues and started working as a private home chef for a wealthy married couple. Long story short, the wife caught the husband having an affair and rather than admit who it was with and have to stop seeing her, he lied that it was me! She fired me. He apologized to explain himself and tried to give me money, but I was furious and told him off. So I’m on my own now. I need to look for a new conventional job, but I have no idea what to say about this last position on my resume especially because I can’t get a reference from them. But if I don’t list it, then how do I account for the last two years?

What a jerk — not only cheating on his wife, but getting an innocent person fired in order to cover his tracks?

Don’t leave that entire two years off your resume! Leave it on, and if employers ask about it, you can explain the couple’s marriage imploded, you were caught in the crossfire despite being scrupulously professional, and the situation between them was so volatile that you wouldn’t suggest them as a reference. (Also, if seeking “a conventional new job” means that you’re not looking for work as a private chef, employers may not even care about contacting this couple, which will make things easier.)

Alternately, the fact that the husband offered you money might indicate he (rightly) feels guilty and might be open to other ways of trying to make you whole — like being your reference, which is the least he owes you. I know you told him off, but there could be room to contact him, say you’re having trouble finding a job because of the lie he told about you, and tell him you need him to be a reference for you for that job (which you presumably did well) or even just be willing to verify your employment so you can list it on your resume. You might not be comfortable doing that, but it’s an option to throw in the mix too. As is having a lawyer explain defamation to this couple, if you want to go that route.

2. How to bring up experience at an interview that I forgot to mention on my resume

I’m returning to work after doing a postgraduate degree. I’ve got an interview coming up, and in the course of prepping for it I realized that one of the projects from the job I had before going back to study is in a really closely related area to the role I’m interviewing for. The problem is that I hadn’t mentioned that project in either my cover letter or my CV when applying. Obviously I want to bring up this relevant experience in the interview, but what’s the best way to frame it in a way that is more “this candidate has useful experience” and less “this candidate didn’t fully think through their application”?

Just be matter-of-fact about it! “I realized one of the projects I did at Job X might be relevant here. It’s not on my resume, but (details about the project).” No reasonable interviewer is going to think not including it originally means you’re flighty or thoughtless. Interviewers know lots of people use the same basic resume for all the jobs they apply for, and they also know humans will not always instantly realize precisely how relevant something might be to a job they’re not terribly familiar with yet.

I’ve interviewed many candidates where I thought, “Oh! That’s really relevant — I’m glad you mentioned it.” Sometimes I’ve even thought, “Oooh, you should include that on your resume! It’ll help you!” But I’ve never thought, “What kind of doofus didn’t write this down originally?”

3. Does a fast rejection mean I did something wrong?

I’m a freelancer who’s been struggling to transition back to more traditional employment. I have a lot of anxiety about my employability —my field is very competitive. But I’m proud of the work I’ve done.

I recently applied to a dream job. It’s for a company I’ve done freelance work for. I have a good relationship with the person I’ve done work for there. I know and respect a lot of people at the company. I know I’d be great at the job. I asked around to make sure it wasn’t a job they already had someone in mind for but had to post an ad for anyway. It’s not the first time I’ve applied to this same company — it’s somewhere I’d really like to work. So I thought I’d covered all of my bases.

I got a rejection email three days after submitting my application. The job posting only went up less than two weeks ago, and it’s still up. I’ve gotten a lot of rejections over the years, but this was by far the fastest. The position didn’t get filled.

I feel like I must have done something horribly wrong to have been rejected that quickly. I have no idea what it could be. Is there some way I could find out? A rejection is a rejection — I have no interest in challenging it. But if I did something in my application bad enough to warrant such an immediate response, I don’t want to do it again. Does this mean I shouldn’t apply to the company again? What can I do? What should I do?

Some rejections do get sent that quickly and it doesn’t mean that you’ve done anything wrong or that you’re horribly unqualified. Sometimes there’s just a particular qualification they’re looking for where you’re not as competitive, and that’s not always clear from the ad. Sometimes the person doing the initial screening isn’t as aligned with the hiring manager as they should be about what they’re looking for. Sometimes they’ve screened you previously and determined you weren’t quite right then, and are sticking with that decision now even if they shouldn’t. And sometimes it can even be a mistake. (But on its own, three days doesn’t mean anything. Employers typically know if they’re rejecting you within about a minute; rejections take longer simply because they’re not reviewing applications daily or they wait a polite amount of time before sending the notice.)

But since you know people there and have worked with them before, there’s no harm in sending a note to a contact who you’d talked to about the job, saying something like, “I wanted to let you know I did end up applying for the X position. I got a note pretty quickly saying I wasn’t being considered, which is disappointing but I’m sure you have lots of great candidates. In any case, thanks for talking with me about it!” That way, if the person feels strongly you should be given more consideration, they have the opportunity to raise that internally.

4. How do I keep a client out of my personal space?

I am a legal professional and deal face-to-face with clients on a daily basis. I usually greet them in our reception area and seat them in one of our conference rooms, which is right next to my desk. I have never had a problem with clients staying where they are directed, but the other day I had a client stop by my desk right after a meeting. She was in my personal space and kept nudging me with her elbow to emphasize her point. She coughed at one point and did not cover her mouth, spittling all over my desk and keyboard. I also have a lot of sensitive client information at my desk, so it’s really not ideal to have clients at my desk in the first place.

I was so uncomfortable and did not know how to politely ask her to step back. I do not want to be too blunt and damage the attorney-client relationship or my firm’s reputation. My boss walked by as this was occurring, but did not say anything. She was a new client, so I expect that she will be at our office for more meetings. Maybe I should just make myself scarce while she is in the office? Could you please let me know how you would handle this situation?

One option: When the person first stops by your desk, stand up (which on its own signals “we’re not staying here long”) and say, “Let me take you into a more private area,” and then just start leading her there. You can say this in a way that sounds like it’s for her benefit — she gets your full attention, her private business isn’t overheard by others, etc. — but it also carries a suggestion of “I don’t want to disturb others.”

That’s harder to do if someone just stops by to say hello — but even then, you can stand up to greet them and then subtly move the conversation a few feet away from your desk.

5. How managers can help during the coronavirus crisis

I’m in public health, and therefore I’m acutely aware of the anxiety people are feeling about coronavirus. What I’ve been telling people among my family and friends is: we’re on it, but you should be extra diligent in taking the precautions that you would normally take for flu- stay home if you’re feeling sick, wash your hands with soap and water, cover your mouth with your elbow if you’re coughing (or wear a mask if you’re coughing- but no need to raid the drug store, the elbow works too).

I was thinking about this, and realized that managers have even more latitude to help in a health crisis. Creating a plan that allows people to work from home easily, to take as many sick days as they need, and doing things like- making hand-sanitizer stations available to staff and making sure that the bathrooms are stocked up on soap… They’re all good public health measures, and something that managers can do to help out in an anxiety producing situation. A local health department will likely have other suggestions, and would be a good resource to reach out to.

Just as important: Communicating measures like this, in a calm way, to staff can also mitigate a lot of the anxiety people will feel about this situation. Tell people what you plan on doing, why you’re doing it, when you’re going to implement it (for instance- if/when your area gets its first coronavirus case), and that you’ll tell them when the new policies will go away after any potential implementation.

Thank you.

{ 549 comments… read them below }

    1. Texan in Exile aka golddigger*

      I just got a rejection email five minutes and ten seconds after an interview. :(

      1. Mbarr*

        Ouch! :(

        That being said, this probably wasn’t a a case of of you being that bad. Instead, they probably interviewed a superstar before you and were completing the final interviews to cover their bases.

      2. SI*

        I once received an automated rejection email 5 mins after applying for a job. The only thing I could think of is the system was set up to reject resumes from out of state.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          I will say, that happened to a friend of mine the other day, where the system automatically rejected her for not having the qualifications, but she does, so she followed up and got back in the pool!

        2. AKchic*

          Online systems look for keywords a lot of times, and if you don’t have the keywords or super-secret phrases written in, they will reject you because the algorithm didn’t “see” what it was looking for.

          1. antigone_ks*

            Isn’t that why some people say to type the keywords in tiny, white font at the end of your resume/cover letter? Does that actually work?

            1. ampersand*

              Wow, I’ve never heard this, but I’m curious to hear if anyone else has and/or what people have to say about it. The ridiculousness level here seems high but…maybe it works?

              1. Jane*

                No, it doesn’t work. Most automated systems don’t preserve your formatting, so all that white font gibberish is stuff the hiring manager will see on your resume.

                The keyword thing does work for jobs that use these sorts of systems, but you have to figure out a way to incorporate them in a way that won’t piss off the hiring manager.

            2. MCMonkeyBean*

              I think a lot of systems pull the info from your cover letter and spit it back out without all your formatting right? So can’t imagine that’s a good idea.

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                I meant from the resume, not the cover letter. I have had at least one job that I uploaded a resume and then went into the application system and it had made an attempt to fill out the job history section for me based on what was in my resume.

                1. Tidewater 4-1009*

                  Yes, all the jobs I’ve applied for do this with my resume.
                  And they get much of it in the wrong fields, but they give me a chance to correct it.
                  This is why it takes so long to apply for a job now. It can take an hour or more to move the info to the right fields and triple-check to be sure it’s just right.

            3. Weyrwoman*

              It doesn’t. Many of the systems that rely on keyword filters will also reformat your resume into a standard format – and since it’s done by machine, those “hidden” keywords will be reformatted into plain black text and look super out of place to the person reviewing your resume.

            4. Rainy*

              Please don’t do this. It worked for a few months at the dawn of time.

              ATSes now typically strip that kind of formatting out so you just end up with a resume and then a sheet of random keywords.

          2. Mama Bear*

            This can be especially true for federal jobs – they look for very specific keywords and if you don’t hit them, you come back “not qualified”.

        3. Tidewater 4-1009*

          As a sort-of tech, I have to wonder about a company that has its system set up to reject qualified people.
          Don’t they test and verify the programming to make sure it’s accepting the candidates they want?
          I would have serious doubts about working for such a company.

          1. Tidewater 4-1009*

            And I also wonder if it’s secretly programmed to reject people with names from certain ethnicities, or something like that.

            1. Krabby*

              This is just not how it works. No system is auto-rejecting based on how a name sounds (we have biased human beings for that!). Also, ATS just aren’t that advanced.
              The situation was much more likely one of these:
              1. An ATS has been set up to reject anyone who says ‘no’ to, “do you have 5+ years of experience?” but she only has 4 years.
              2. The system rejects anyone who doesn’t mention “X” certification, but she has a very similar “Y” certification that is actually more advanced.
              I don’t think this is a good way to do it, but when you are receiving thousands of resumes a day, I understand why some recruitment teams choose to auto-reject. What I do think is problematic is how frequently poor rejection criteria is used.

              1. selena81*

                It’s the kind of thing that happens a lot when companies want ‘selflearning algorithms’ and end up f.e. rejecting women for an engineering position: the algorithm is mimicking what the human recruiters were doing.
                Theoretically such a system could also learn to throw out anyone with a ghetto name, but it would need to be able to distinguish between names (f.e. learn that ‘bad’ names are hyphenated or have multiple capital letters or end with ‘ie’ instead of ‘y’)

                Anyway, i’m sure a lot of those systems are far less advanced and merely checking wether you checked the ‘finished highschool’ box.

        4. Daisy-dog*

          I have been working in the applicant-tracking system while applications have been submitted. We got a lot of candidates for a particular role that were obviously not right (position was in LA). I did have an option in the ATS to delay the sending of the rejection email for a few days though.

      3. Wendy Darling*

        Once I went to an interview and by the time I had gotten into my car I had a rejection email.

        I was PISSED. Not that they’d rejected me but that they didn’t have the decency to at least pretend they had to think about it! If I can put on my interview outfit and drive to your office, you can wait an hour after the interview to reject me. :(

        1. Lexi Lynn*

          Back in the pre-email days, I returned home from an interview to find a letter on my mailbox thanking me from coming in and telling me they weren’t interested. As I had to take off half the day for the interview and I needed that money, I was (and remain even though it has been 20 years) pissed. Before they went out of business, I definitely took every option to bad mouth them.

          1. Burned Out Supervisor*

            I think it’s incredibly unkind for hiring managers to do this. I’ve interviewed plenty of people who I knew I wasn’t going to hire within minutes of them answering my questions, but I always wait until the next day to disposition their application.

          2. Beaded Librarian*

            That’s bad that means they most likely sent out the rejection letter before the even interviewed you! I’d be pissed too.

      4. Elitist Semicolon*

        I did an interview for a graduate teaching position once and when I got home, the rejection letter was already waiting for me in the mail. When I emailed to ask, the lead interviewer said, airily, “Oh, we just interviewed you to know who’s out there.” :/

        Earlier this year I submitted an application online and when I checked my email the next morning, the confirmation was time-stamped 10:49 pm and the rejection was time-stamped 10:51 p.m. It took me two hours to write the cover letter and 20 minutes to cut-and-paste everything into the online form (when it was asking for a PDF of my résumé anyway). Talk about a terrible ROI.

    2. Mainly Lurking*

      Back in the days before online applications, you had to phone the number in the job as to get a full copy of the job description / candidate requirements.

      A couple of times I realised from the detailed job spec that I didn’t meet the requirements, so didn’t apply for those jobs, but STILL received rejection letters for applications I had never even submitted …

      OP3, you have my deepest sympathies, I hope you find something that’s right for you soon.

    3. RC Rascal*

      I once had HR reject me for a job the hiring manager asked me to apply for. I received the online response, forwarded to him, and he told HR he wanted me in the candidate pool.

      HR gave me the most hostile phone screen ever. Ultimately I did not get the offer but still keep in touch with the hiring manager from time to time in LinkedIn. That was 10 years ago.

      1. WalkedInMyShoes*

        That happened to me two weeks ago. The CEO wanted me in the candidate pool. Since the role reported to the CFO, the CEO wanted the CFO and I to meet. Well, the CFO was peeved to say the least and I experienced one of the worst interviews ever. He asked how many kids I had, how old they were, where I live, how did I get there, am I married. I should have left, but wanted to be professional. Really I should have left, because I wasted 60 minutes of being asked personal illegal questions than what in my experience would help the company. He was very condescending. No wonder they have HR issues. As I predicted, I received a rejection email. It just wasted 4 hours of my time, getting stuck in traffic both ways and listening to someone unprofessional. I am glad that I dodged that toxic environment.

    4. Annie o Mous*

      I got one immediately after applying as well. Some application systems are designed to auto-reject candidates immediately.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Yeah, the trouble with automating things is that computers are entirely literal. I once got auto-rejected because the post required 2 years of experience in a certain job task. I entered my start and end dates, the computer did the math and came up with 23 1/2 months, and my application got booted by the computer before a human ever looked at it. The HR rep who had asked me to apply in the first place told me to change one of the dates so the computer wouldn’t reject it and made a note in her files that I didn’t have two full years at the time of application, but I would by the date of the interview.

        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          I got an automatic rejection for not having a degree, and it said so.
          The job was a 90% match for my experience, and I’m no longer interested in that organization.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            I hate that. They bounce you for no degree, even though you have over ten years experience, demand five years experience with an OS that has only been out for two years, then complain they can’t find qualified people and hire an inflated resume from overseas with a two year “bachelors degree” for cheap.

            1. Tidewater 4-1009*

              I would bet money the whole point was to hire for cheap and that’s what they wanted all along.

        2. AnonPi*

          Yeah a corworker go rejected from a university position because the position required a Masters, and it asked (and only asked) on the app if you have a Masters degree. She answered honestly that no she doesn’t, because she skipped it and went directly into her doctorate program and has a PhD. Was auto reject a few minutes later, even though the department head told her to apply and her husband worked there as a professor too. I told her to call the department head and/or HR to look into it because I thought it might be an automated error and it was. They told her go ahead and resubmit the app and mark yes for Masters degree. Imagine how many people don’t get considered for jobs because of things like this.

          1. raeann10491*

            AnonPi: SO MANY ADJUNCT TEACHING JOBS rejected me for the same problem :/ I did reach out, thinking that if I explained “I’m ABD, about to finish my Ph.D.: could I still be considered?,” I might get a shot. I never got a response, until I interviewed to be a secretary in a University English department, and got rejected from that job so I could teach for them, LMAO!!

            1. datamuse*

              That’s such bad design, and unnecessary! I’m an academic librarian and at my institution librarians have faculty rank so a graduate degree is required. As long as you WILL have one by the projected start date (and that’s how we phrase the question), we’ll consider you. We’ve hired a few people right out of graduate school, myself included.

      2. Wendy Darling*

        Yeah once or twice I’ve clicked submit on an application and then basically immediately had an email notification pop up and it was a rejection. The thing that kills me is that the email from the ATS has a line like “Your qualifications are excellent but after careful consideration we have decided to proceed with other candidates” even though the rejection was so fast it was obviously automated.

        Either pretend you actually carefully considered my application, or don’t say you did it, folks.

    5. RabbitRabbit*

      There are some automated screeners that look for certain key words and do just that. I understand that sometimes you need to resort to a base-level filtering, but I’m still kind of salty about one of those rejections as I definitely had the base skills.

      1. LunaMei*

        I got an instant rejection for a job that was exactly like the job I was currently doing – a business analyst job, with the exact same description, duties, everything! And it was within the same university system. However I think the reason they auto-rejected me was because they made me fill out a ridiculous 30-page behavioral screening survey that asked some really bonkers, invasive questions, and at the end of the survey, it asked if I enjoyed the survey (??) and felt like it was an accurate assessment of my skills and experience. I answered honestly and said it did not. Five minutes later the rejection email came in!

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          I think those behavioral screening surveys are actually tests to see if you can figure out what it is they want to hear. Unfortunately they also screen for your willingness to write what they want to hear, regardless of the truth. No, I won’t turn myself into the police if I discover I have taken a paperclip home from the office without permission. But is this what they want to hear?

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            I was told by someone who screened those tests at a Giant Soul-Sucking Retailer that you would not *believe* the questions people answer truthfully. In some cases, they are literally looking for the people who say “Yes, of course I’ve stolen from an employer, just like everyone else, and I’ll do it again.”

            1. Massmatt*

              Yes but they also screen out (or at least flag) someone who says they agree with the statement “I have never lied”. Of course, no employer wants to hire liars, but if you read the question literally then who could possibly say they’ve NEVER lied?

              These types of surveys are big in some sales related industries. I doubt they are effective, I’d like to see a well-run study showing they identify people that are successful in the job and screen out the ineffective, but it would be hard to do. companies should test this themselves rather than just spending the $ on a hunch but I doubt they ever do.

              1. Dragoning*

                I think, because those are so often for things like retail positions that have so many applicants, they don’t care. They get a convenient way to filter out far, far too many applications, and just go with it.

              2. Richard Hershberger*

                The “I have never lied” question is a great example of how these are really about guessing what the employer wants to hear. Yes, the employer might screen out the obvious BS claim to never having lied, but for every employer that does that, how many are screening out confessed liars? How reflective do we think this employer is?

                The same is true of superficially more sophisticated questions. The book about Microsoft interview questions includes a bunch of open-ended questions with no right answer, where the interviewee is supposed to reason through it out loud to show his reasoning ability and ability to deal with uncertainty. Asking for more information is a strike against him. But then there is the “design a house” question, where the interviewee is supposed to ask about budget, design specs, and so forth, to show how he will interact with a client. Diving in without doing that is a huge red flag. There is nothing intrinsic about the questions to show the candidate which is the desired response. This is at best cultural knowledge, and at worst sheer guesswork.

                Then there are IQ tests, which are rife with questions about cultural knowledge. The most blatant have been weeded out over the years, leaving the subtly culturally biased ones in place.

                1. Julia*


                  IF your company wants to ask stupid questions (and I don’t think it should!), at least ask them at a later stage and not during the initial screening, where candidates might spend hours filling out forms online only to be rejected two minutes later. Allow me to proceed to the next stage first!

              3. Gazebo Slayer*

                They’re often a way to screen out applicants with mental health issues like depression or anxiety, people on the autism spectrum, and… well, people who just don’t fit the bubbly, constantly optimistic sales personality they want. (Of course, a company thst only hires extreme optimists and Positive People is likely to crash and burn horrendously, being blissfully oblivious to risks, but the Move Fast and Break Things types don’t think about that.)

                1. More leaders, fewer lawyers*

                  “Of course, a company thst only hires extreme optimists and Positive People is likely to crash and burn horrendously, being blissfully oblivious to risks, but the Move Fast and Break Things types don’t think about that.”

                  Of course it is, Gazebo Slayer. Of course it is.

              4. Filosofickle*

                I overheard a front-desk person giving instructions to an applicant for a security job. She pointed out a question asking if they’ve ever done anything illegal and said “In my case, I have jaywalked, so I would have to truthfully say ‘Yes, I have broken the law'”

                What they were hoping for with this question? Is the point to find who will be honest, and anyone who says they never ever broke a law would be disqualified because it was assumed they were lying? That’s how she presented it. Or was that a trap, if you admitted you’d something illegal you’d be disqualified for that? Was she instructed to give that example, or was that something she made up for her own reasons? It was weird.

                1. Alienor*

                  I think it’s definitely a trap if it’s asked as a yes/no question. I’ve seen forms where questions of that type come with a built-in qualification, like the ethical compliance survey we do every year at my current employer–it asks about involvement with competitors and then clarifies in parentheses that owning stock doesn’t count unless you own a controlling share. (Which is probably for the legal department’s convenience so they don’t have to follow up with 500 people who truthfully answered yes, only to explain that their 10 shares of Huge Company X are fine.) But if they don’t make any distinction between jaywalking and homicide, they not only make it impossible for candidates to answer, they probably miss out on a lot of good people.

              5. RC Rascal*

                Yes, Aunt Betty, I love fruitcake!

                No, officer, I didn’t see the light.

                I would love to go out with you Friday night, but I’m busy washing my hair.

                Lies, lies, lies I tell you! And we all tell them!

                1. TardyTardis*

                  In that case, I want your share of the fruitcake, because I honestly adore it (especially with some whipped cream on top. Mmmmm…..).

                2. Unless you're color blind, that is*

                  No, officer, I didn’t see the light.

                  This is not a lie I view as acceptable (unlike, “no dear, that dress doesn’t make you look fat”). Ppl should NOT be running red lights!

            2. AKchic*

              I could not believe that they require 14-15 year olds to take a 30-40 page personality test to get a minimum wage job at McFryHandlers for the summer and the questions are ludicrous.

              Even from a behavioral health standpoint. I read some of the questions and I was completely baffled. “Are you a ‘clean your room daily’ or a ‘only recycles due to peer pressure’ kind of person?”
              Whut? That’s not an either/or kind of question. That’s not an accurate basis for determining if a person can make French fries and say “will that be all?” and count change back.

              1. Richard Hershberger*

                My personal classic is how much do I enjoy going to parties, on a scale from “not at all” to “more than life itself.” OK, what sort of party? Is it a hot, crowded room with loud music and cheap beer all over the place? This is pretty much my vision of Hell. Or is it erudite conversation over wine and cheese? That sounds lovely. But since I am not told which it is, I split the difference and take the middle option. One evaluator told me this was wishy-washy. I suppose it is, but it isn’t my fault they wrote an unanswerable question. Of course if you look into the theory of these tests, the semantic content of the question is quite literally irrelevant. It is entirely about how responses to this particular string of letters correlate with whatever it is they imagine they are measuring.

              2. Curmudgeon in California*

                “Are you a ‘clean your room daily’ or a ‘only recycles due to peer pressure’ kind of person?”

                I would not be able to answer that, because neither are true.

                Those tests are stupid, even for young people.

                1. AKchic*

                  They really are. I took photos of some of the questions because they were just outright Bonkers D. Bobcat levels of cartoon insanity. It’s really the only way I can describe it.

                  My husband is going through applying to yet another round of retail stores and he says it’s become commonplace for them to have that kind of “personality” test screening. Um, no. That’s not a personality test. That is a bunch of random half-questions mashed together with other random half-questions that are designed to make no sense whatsoever in hopes that people won’t answer them so they self-screen out of the hiring process.

          2. ThoseQuestionsSuck*

            Yep. My honest answer about something like stealing is a really long debate on circumstances and philosophy.

            Given increasing income inequality and the waste and greed in the world, I have a sort of Jean Valjean “exception,” and I’ll pay for or look the other way if someone is stealing food, formula, or diapers.

            Heck, with coronavirus going on, I have a friend who looked everywhere to buy face masks, went to a half dozen stores, nothing. So she snuck into an ER reception area and took a bunch from a dispenser by the door. Moral grey area, but she and some other people she wanted the masks for have chronic illnesses and are at risk.

            But, no employer wants to hear, “well, companies are greedy and many people are hungry, so…” And anyone who has never stolen anything at all is a liar.

            1. Mask works*

              “Heck, with coronavirus going on, I have a friend who looked everywhere to buy face masks, went to a half dozen stores, nothing. So she snuck into an ER reception area and took a bunch from a dispenser by the door. Moral grey area, but she and some other people she wanted the masks for have chronic illnesses and are at risk.”

              I mean, this is not exactly an example of ethically gray areas. You took masks from health care workers who need them. And if you’re immuno-compromised you’re putting your own health at risk by going to ERs in any event.

      2. Beaded Librarian*

        I read the book “You look like a thing and I love you” and it talks about how automated or AI sorting for job screening is horrible as it is hard not to accidentally make the program racist. So businesses think it’s a way to eliminate bias’s but it’s actually a good way to guarantee you continue hiring in the exact same way.

    6. James*

      When I was in college I got rejected at the start of an interview. The interviewer made it clear that my resume wasn’t up to snuff, and that he was taking his time to educate me in how to properly do these things. It was humiliating at the time (mostly the resume issue was due to a screwy online submittal process–this was nearly 20 years ago), but the lesson was appreciated and has stuck with me!

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I was informally rejected during an interview once, and it wasn’t anyone wanting to teach me a lesson. It was just an interviewer who answered my question about their timeline with “well, we’re going to have to advertise the job again; we’re not happy with any of our applicants.”

        1. Elsewhere1010*

          I once got a rejection letter two hours before I submitted my application. The company really really really didn’t want me.

          1. linger*

            Their precog unit concluded that you wouldn’t enjoy the job once you realised it was even worse than a zero-hour contract.
            Just imagine the hassle of filling out negative timesheets.

        2. Pam Poovey*

          That reminds me of an interview 25 years ago for a receptionist. After being asked to roleplay (by myself, nobody else feeding lines or making the phone ring) in front of 4 people how I would answer a phone with multiple lines coming in at once, and doing it well (IMO), I asked about their timeline. “Well, we’re looking for the right person, and if we find that person we are prepared to make an offer on the spot.” Followed by an awkward silence. Luckily, the interview wrapped up there – and I never got a rejection. The interview was rejection enough, I guess

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              Or the fact that they were interviewing college students for a low-paid, part-time position, but wanted a lot of experience.

              1. TardyTardis*

                Ah, one of those jobs for 22-year-olds with a PhD, ten years’ experience and willing to work for minimum wage type places?

      2. Clever Name*

        I had an interview like that. I was fresh out of college and a family member set up an interview for me with a national TV station. I was interested, but I had no business being there. The woman introduced herself and said “we only hire currently enrolled juniors and seniors for internships and we only hire people with at least three years experience in smaller markets.” She then made small talk and asked if I had any questions. I thanked her for her time.

        I get doing a favor for someone – my family member was a retired big shot (I guess?), and sometimes you have to humor those people. But if you aren’t even going to pretend to interview me, why did I take the time to drive out here and why are you taking the time to tell me this? Tell the family member when he asked about the interview that it won’t work. You don’t hire new grads with no experience. I am a new grad with no experience. What are we doing here?

    7. BetsyTacy*

      Was applying to a job out of state, had an excellent phone interview and multiple follow up emails regarding my plans, details, etc.

      Arranged my move date so that I would be there for what was branded as a ‘quick screen with HR – just a formality’. Got an autoreject the morning after. Emailed the people who had interviewed me to thank them for their time and say I was sorry we wouldn’t be working together… radio silence. Exact job was posted 3 weeks later. Emailed again, no answer.

      To this day, I wonder what the heck happened… Aside from the fact that they wanted somebody with an RN, MPH, teaching degree, AND a willingness to drive all over a big rural state to give after school/evening/weekend presentations for $26k a year.

      1. Another Librarian*

        This reminds me of the time I got rejected for failing a “personality test.” The job would have meant a move half-way across the country and a pay cut, but allowed me to focus on the work I really wanted to do. I had a great Skype interview and a very enthusiastic phone call with the director. We scheduled a time for me to fly out for an interview with the city HR that she assured me was a formality (it was a public library position, and city government had to sign off on their hires — not my experience in the state I live now, but was standard in that area at the time).

        I scheduled a long weekend there so I could find an apartment. Paid for my own flights, hotel, and rental car (public libraries typically don’t have the budget to cover these things for candidates). Interview with the city HR went well, the interviewer was very complimentary. I was told I just had to complete an online test, which they called a “personality test,” that sounds like the behavioral screening surveys mentioned earlier in the comments. I completed the test at the hotel, found an apartment, put down a deposit, and flew home.

        My boss knew I’d been job searching (she was AWESOME and in no way tried to push me out or convince me to stay, just wanted to help me do what was best for my career), so I told her I would submit my resignation as soon as I had a formal offer. I’m so glad I waited for that, because after a week of silence, I got a one-sentence email from the director “updating” me to let me know they were considering other candidates.

        Fortunately I was able to get my deposit back for the apartment, and I’m doing the job I wanted for 1.5x the salary the cross-country job was offering. At the time I was upset, but now I recognize it as a bullet dodged. As a bonus, now I have a fun story about how I failed a personality test.

        OP, best of luck with your job search!

        1. RC Rascal*

          This is what I think when I hear this story:

          Where is that Hiring Manager’s courage of conviction in his or her own judgement? Doesn’t he have any internal fortitude, aka guts? Conducting interviews, flying a candidate out across the country, and then making a hiring decision over a personality test? This is a very chickenhearted way to make a hiring decision.

          Alternatively, you got out there and they weren’t impressed in person. If that was the case, they should have thanked you for your time and politely told you they were going to continue their search. And they should not have told you an interview trip at your expense was a formality.

          1. Pomona Sprout*

            This may have been a case of governmental bureaucracy gone haywire rather than any failing on the hiring manager’s part. Impossible to tell from the information available here, but I can remember situations from my years working for a large state university and a medium sized city where rigid bureaucratic rules that could not be circumvented because RULES! (or someone’s excessively literal minded interpretation thereof) led to some pretty nutty outcomes.

    8. Champagne Cocktail*

      You’re not the only one. I was shocked and demoralized before I was able to move into a ‘they can f* off’ mindset.

    9. ArtK*

      Applicant tracking systems will do that. They’re searching for very specific keywords and if they don’t see them in your application, out you go. It’s really awful when the person who set up the job requirements doesn’t include enough latitude to include good-but-not-perfect candidates.

      I’ve gotten a rejection within seconds of submitting an application for a company that I really, really, really wanted to work for. Since then either they’ve either relaxed their ATS or I’ve gotten better at including keywords. One way to deal with that is to read the job description very carefully and make sure you include as many of the keywords as you ethically can.

      1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        We had a case once where HR came back and told us that no applications came in with a must-have requirement (a required license).
        Turned out someone mistyped the keyword, so all applicants got auto-rejected.
        The had to go through the database manually and contact a number of the rejected applicants to set up an interview.
        Talk about egg on the face!

    10. Cinna214*

      The quickest rejection I ever received was from a company looking for an internal communications editor. The job posting was so riddled with typos, reversed syntax, grammatical errors, etc., that I thought I was really showcasing my talents when I marked it up in red and sent it along with my cover letter and a prime example of my work.

      Took about an hour to be rejected for that one.

      1. AnonPi*

        That is awesome and exactly the kind of thing I’d do too! And kind of sort of did this morning in an interview – I tried to be gentle about it to not piss people off criticizing their work, lol, but it’s what the job entails!

      2. Mr. Shark*

        That’s awesome. Did you go back and check the posting to see if it had been fixed following your redlines?

        1. Cinna214*

          At the time, I was new to a professional job and thought I made a huge error of judgement. I was embarrassed and did not go back to look at the posting again. Now I would have replied to the rejection with a “YOU’RE WELCOME. INVOICE IS IN THE MAIL.”

    11. Clever Name*

      I once got a rejection letter in the mail the day after I interviewed. My interview went until pretty late morning, so I’m relatively certain that they actually mailed the rejection letter before I even finished the interview.

    12. Arts Akimbo*

      When this happens, I always suspect they have an internal candidate in mind and are just interviewing as a formality.

  1. PollyQ*

    Not saying LW#1 should do this, but this might be a situation where she could legitimately sue for slander. IANAL, but it might be worth her time to visit a lawyer and see if there’s anything that can be done to make the boss improve the situation going forward.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh! I meant to include the mention of a lawyer in my response. Not necessarily because it will make sense for the OP to sue (although who knows, maybe she’ll decide it does), but because a lawyer can contact the former employer and make it clear that they can’t defame the OP, work out a reference, etc. I’ll add a sentence at the end about that.

      1. Maria Lopez*

        And since the husband tried to give her money, perhaps the lawyer could negotiate formal severance pay as well as a good reference.

    2. Sleve McDichael*

      1. I agree PollyQ, a lawyer would probably have some useful advice in this situation.
      2. LW#1 I’m sorry you had the misfortune to work for such a complete toeknuckle. Good luck finding a new job!

    3. valentine*

      I wouldn’t contact either half of the couple again. She fired OP1 without proof. What will she do if she thinks OP1 is luring her man?

      Write up a timeline and save all communication for future legal proceedings.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Tbh, I’ve known people who have hired one. Not in the same situation, but similar. And they weren’t even wealthy enough to afford a personal chef.

          It just blows my mind how the wife decided to believe the one person she’d just caught lying to her, over OP (assuming OP did communicate it to the wife that she was not in fact the other woman).

          1. Bagpuss*

            I don’t find that part surprising.
            I think most people, if their partner admitted to them that they had been having an affair, would believe that admission and would not immediately assume that they were telling the truth about the affair abut lying about who it is with, because that is just weird!
            And if OP did get the chance to deny it – it’s not remotely surprising that she wasn’t believed – both because there is always an element of “Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?”, which would be particularly strong where the person accusing you has the power to sack you, but also it is very, very common in situations where a relationship is in trouble because one partner is or has cheated, for the other partner to blame the ‘other woman’ or (less frequently but still fairly common) ‘Other man’, rather than their own spouse.

            1. Myrin*

              Right? It’s so strange to me that he would just randomly say that OP was his affair partner!
              Now that I’ve thought about it a bit more while replying to you, I’m thinking that 1. OP is dispensable, thus making it possible to have the alleged problem (which really is the cheater but which his wife might not view that way) disappear immediately, and 2. it serves to obfuscate his tracks if he wants to keep seeing his actual affair. Which is bound to blow up in his face sooner or later but in the meantime, he might imagine his wife seeing him talking intimately with her best friend without even entertaining the notion that said friend might be the affair because that was without a doubt OP the Vixen.

              1. Dust Bunny*

                I don’t think it’s strange at all since the OP was an in-home employee, who would be around a lot and in the employers’ personal space. This is why the stereotype of the affair with the nanny or pool guy exists.

                1. valentine*

                  not immediately assume that they were telling the truth about the affair abut lying about who it is with, because that is just weird!
                  Not at all. The best liars only confess to what you already know and people hedge their bets, including lying about key things when their children are missing.

                  it serves to obfuscate his tracks if he wants to keep seeing his actual affair.
                  I thought this was the main objective and the secondary one was having the wife further lulled into a renewed false sense of security, since firing OP1 gave her the dual satisfaction of payback and defending her turf. You’d think it’d be a red flag that he did not volunteer to fire OP1.

              2. Rusty Shackelford*

                Yeah, I’m guessing his real partner was someone his wife knows about, and he didn’t want to have to cut her out of his life.

                1. LabTechNoMore*

                  I figured he misdirected to hide a much more drama-filled truth. (e.g. If he were actually cheating on wife with SIL, Law Firm Partner, FIL, etc. etc.)

            2. AKchic*

              I don’t find it surprising it all. Especially if the actual mistress is someone that the wife knows and trusts (i.e., they are friends or family), or there is some kind of benefit tied to the relationship (i.e., the husband works with the other person, or the wife works with the other person). The husband knew it would be easier to hire a new personal chef than exploding the friend/professional circle by naming the real lover.
              However, because of the employer/employee relationship, I have to wonder if this falls under a sexual harassment law (state, if not federal). I mean, it already can fall under slander if they choose to spread the lie (and libel if they write it), but with the sexual component, this does add an extra layer of issues.

              Also, from the wife’s perspective, she will feel justified in the firing, because the LW had two options. Whether she denied it or not, the fact that the husband said he slept with her, in the wife’s mind means that even if he hadn’t, he wanted to. Since he’s already cheated, it will always be a question of not if, but when, will he put “the moves” on the “hired help”. Depending on how LW reacted could have been construed as “insulting” to the wife (i.e., “what? Why would I ever sleep with your husband?!” can easily be taken as “have you *seen* your husband, eeewwww!” to an already angry wife). The LW was in a no-win situation the moment her name came up in the cheating argument.

              And I 100% agree that she should be looking to talk to a good attorney, because if a couple can afford a private chef for two years, they have friends in high places and they *will* talk, and the rumor will spread.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            Well, for starters, people tend to take the side of the person to whom they are closer, even if that person is wrong. Cue every cheated-on partner ever who blames the Other Person (including several on AAM).

            Two, the wife doesn’t have any reason to believe the OP over her husband. She knows the OP wanted to keep the job so there’s no reason to think the OP would tell her the truth if the affair *had* happened.

          3. CupcakeCounter*

            Didn’t surprise me at all actually. There is a convenience factor to is that makes it believable – think about all the cases you hear in the news about celeb dads having affairs with their kids nanny.
            Honestly there is a good chance that the OP didn’t get a chance to talk at all. Probably heard a some yelling and then the wife came out screaming “GTFO you man-stealing hussy” or something along those lines leading to a lot of confusion until the husband explained what was going on. Curious if his offer of money, etc…was in text/email or in person? If she had documented proof of his lie that should help a lot if she has to get lawyers involved.
            Either way, I doubt she would be able to get a personal chef job for anyone who runs in this couple’s circles since it is highly likely the wife is telling all her friends about her scumbag husband and the slutty chef (which in the wife’s defense is what she believes to be true since I highly doubt OP was given the chance to defend herself and deny the husband’s account). Even if the husband confesses and OP’s name is cleared, that story was out there and people’s opinion will be affected.

    4. DinoGirl*

      Not just slander. I was wondering if this might be potential sexual discrimination/harassment, too.

    5. JSPA*

      OP 1 may also want to check with a lawyer before any contact that could be misconstrued as blackmail. When there is a very large financial disparity between parties, the risk to OP is real, if they put a foot even slightly wrong. Also, if OP was paid, even in part, under the table (or in-kind with inadequate clarity to the IRS, or misclassified as an independent contractor) that’s another can of worms. Alternatively, if OP has proper tax documents from the couple, there’s the proof they need, for minimum resume / hiring purposes. Along with photos of some off the meals / dishes (no people identifiably shown, no other privacy violations) or formal dinner menus, that’s more documentation than people may have when, say, a regular employer goes under.

    6. Mystery Bookworm*

      Wouldn’t they need to first lie to possible employers (or others) for it to be slander? If they just refuse to give a reference, that’s not slander, is it?

      (Honestly asking, I don’t know much about the legality here)

      1. Dibblesandbits*

        She can prove she lost income because she was fired. That’s slander against the husband, but maybe not the wife.

        1. JoJo*

          What slander against the husband? She lost her job — that’s financial damages that she can prove because of HIS lie/slander against her that she slept with him when she didn’t.

            1. ThatGirl*

              I don’t think it is, though, slander generally has to be public, so unless he’s proclaiming it widely or hiring a skywriter or something…

              1. Just Another Attorney*

                That’s a misconception. It’s slander if I say it to you in the privacy of my home.

                If I say to you “Tobias has 50 STDs!” In my home and I mean it and no one ever hears it, it’s still slander.

                Writing is required for libel. (In general, it is a bit more complicated).

                Where the public part comes in is wrt to damages. In this case, however, she’s already had economic damages (lost wages).

                1. ThatGirl*

                  OK, so it meets the technical/legal definition of slander, but that doesn’t mean it would be prosecuteable. The best case scenario would probably be a threatening letter from a lawyer, and some kind of compensation and apology from the husband.

                2. Just Another Lawyer*

                  That Girl,

                  Please read about libel per se. In many states, lying about something sexual would be worthy of a lawsuit. Full stop.

                  Also “prosecutable” is for criminal law. This is a civil suit.

                  For a civil suit, all a party has to do is have a prima fascia case. LW does.

              2. Just Another Attorney*

                “ Publication – For a statement to be published, a third party (someone other than the person making the statement or the subject of the statement) must have seen, heard or read the defamatory statement. Unlike the traditional meaning of the word “published,” a defamatory statement does not need to be printed. Rather, a statement heard over the television or seen scrawled on someone’s door is considered to be published.”

                In this case, the third party was the wife. So it meets the requirement.

                It does not have to be outside their home or “in public” in the traditional sense.

                1. AskAnEmployee*

                  Just wanted to pipe in as a fellow attorney that this is correct. The wife heard the slander, and that’s enough for it to be “published.” This honestly seems like an open and shut case, and I’d suggest seeing an attorney.

      2. Just Another Attorney*

        What I see:

        (1) Husband did slander LW. His statement to wife is slander.

        All slander requires is a false statement about a person’s actions or reputation from one person to another. H to W counts.

        (2) Given that it was about a sexual matter, in many states, it’s slander per se. She doesn’t have to prove damages to recover.

        Slander per se = the topic is so damaging that the state thinks you shouldn’t have to prove actual economic harm.

        This is generally something like “Jane has an STD” or “Jane slept with the entire defensive line of the 49ers.”

        In some places, statements about sexual activity are enough. In others, it has to be about an STD or Some other, deeper issue related to sex.

        (3) Some states have a claim if someone purposefully interferes with your ability to get gainful employment. The elements of the claim vary.

        (4) A lawyer can send a cease and desist letter with respect to talking about LW’s alleged affair with the H. He can make it clear that if either of them say anything, a lawsuit will be brought.

        Also, I agree with the blackmail concern. She needs to have a a lawyer handle this carefully. Going to the husband and saying he needs to do X or she outs him as lying might border on blackmail. If a lawyer lays it out, it’s a settlement.

        Another advantage of a settlement: it will include a NDA or other gag on the H & W. If they break it and continue to slander LW, she can get a payout. Potentially a bigger payout than what she would have gotten for the original offense. Courts do not like bad actors who violate settlements.

        I would absolutely hire an attorney to do this in her shoes. She has no idea yet how much blow-back she’s going to get. If she’s still living in the same area, this could follow her.

        If nothing else, a lawyer might be able to get the H and W to keep their mouths absolutely shut about the matter. Not a great outcome, but better than either spreading malicious gossip about LW.

        1. Just Another Attorney*

          For the non-attorneys, defamation is

          (1) False statement about a person
          (2) Published (e.g., scrawled on a door) or stated to a 3rd person (i.e., not the speaker or subject)
          (3) Fault (i.e., not involuntary)
          (4) Damages (unless defamation per se)

          Libel = original statement was printed
          Slander = original statement was spoken

          It’s generally what the original statement was in terms of format. So there is such a thing as “printed slander” or “spoken libel.” This does vary by state, but, as I recall from law school, most states in the US follow this model.

          1. Just Another Lawyer*

            Defamation Per Se and Untrue Statements

            Traditionally, there have been four general categories of untrue statements presumed to be harmful to one’s reputation and therefore actionable as an injury claim. Typically, if the statements don’t fall into one of these categories, the plaintiff is required to prove their damages. If it does fall into one of these categories, damages are usually presumed.
            For defamation per se:

            The four general categories are:

            Indications that a person was involved in criminal activity
            Indications that a person had a “loathsome,” contagious or infectious disease
            Indications that a person was unchaste or engaged in sexual misconduct
            Indications that a person was involved in behavior incompatible with the proper conduct of his business, trade or profession

            When it comes to the third type, this varies greatly by state. In some state, allegation of an affair is enough. In others, it’s not.

            Because of this, she really does need legal advice where she lives.

        2. TS*

          But the problem is, truth is a defense for slander. We know the husband is not telling the truth here, but when it comes to he said/she said it’s one person’s word against another.

          1. TiffIf*

            This is a good point. However it might not be all that difficult to find the actual person he is having an affair with.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        You don’t have to lie to other employers for it to be slanderous—the husband’s statement to his wife satisfies the legal definition of slander and slander per se. Normally the wife could fire OP for any or no reason (at-will employment), but slander requires a showing of harm to the person’s reputation, which is usually demonstrated through economic hardship or loss of opportunity. Being fired over a lie certainly damages OP’s economic opportunity. And as other law commenters have mentioned, there may also be claims related to tortious interference.

        That said, it doesn’t sound like a lawsuit would be a great use of OP’s resources when compared to hiring an attorney to negotiate post-employment terms. But knowing that there may be claims could give OP leverage to negotiate a reference or at least an agreement that prevents the wife from defaming OP to prospective employers.

    7. Uldi*

      IANAL, but I’m pretty sure she has the necessary elements to win a lawsuit (someone told a lie that cost LW#1 her job), the problem then comes to: can she prove that the guy knowingly told a lie (any text to that effect would be extremely valuable) and can she afford to pay a lawyer. Even is she has a text and voice-mail of the man admitting to lying and offering her money, if they decide to fight the suit it’ll get really expensive really quick. It’ll also likely stretch into several years until they get a verdict (assuming there is no settlement). Then there’s the appeals, which could be another two years and even more money to the lawyers; not to mention attempts to collect any monetary judgements.

      The fact is, in defamation cases at least, even when the plaintiff wins they often lose more money than they win.

      1. Phony Genius*

        This case could further be slowed by a potential divorce proceeding. If damages are awarded to the chef, they will have to decide if the payment comes from community property (since they were still legally married), or only from the husband’s share. A settlement should require immediate payment, and let the two of them argue about whose money it was later. (Of course if they decide to stay married, this becomes a moot point.)

      2. Just Another Attorney*

        I don’t think this would ever see a courtroom. I think H’s attorneys would advise a quick and hefty settlement. You never know what a jury will do. He’s a very unsympathetic wrongdoer.

        It’s worth talking to an attorney b/c the likelihood of some sort of cash settlement + gag order is high.

        The only question I have is whether or not LW can also sue W. It depend on whether or not W has repeated the slander. If she’s going around telling her girlfriends that LW screwed her husband, then that’s also likely.

        What LW wants is both cash and a gag on both H and W.

        1. MK*

          What the OP wants is how to explain the last two years of her employment history. That’s what she wrote to Alison about.

          As for the rest, it’s absolutely not a given that this would be settled easily and quickly. Even if their lawyers advise otherwise, her ex-bosses could dig their heels; the husband might stick to his story that the OP was his affair-partner (does she actually have any proof of his admission that he lied to his wife?) and the wife might be out for blood.

          It’s not a bad idea for the OP to consult with a lawyer to get a more accurate idea of her options. It is a bad idea, in my opinion, to contact the husband and ask for a reference; he cannot be trusted and if his wife finds out, it could get really ugly.

    8. Ms. Cellophane*

      Came to say this. You suffered damages as a result of his statement. IANAL, but that could be slander.

      1. Just Another Lawyer*

        It is slander. IAAL.

        The real question is if she’s in a “lying about sexual matters” is defamation per se state. If so, it’s probably worth hiring a lawyer and going after him. If not, her damages might be too little.

        Most attorneys I know who practice in this area would talk to her briefly to see if there’s any “there” there.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        The fact that it’s slanderous is not that helpful to OP, though—it’s just not a great lawsuit. But if OP needs leverage when negotiating with the husband/wife regarding the two-year gap (including perhaps negotiating that they’ll say nothing), it can be helpful to know there are real claims… even if I wouldn’t recommend going forward with them.

    9. Phony Genius*

      Since the husband offered to give her money, she should document that in any way she can, including the amount. Lawyers love cases where an offer of compensation has already been made. They look at that as the absolute minimum for a settlement, and negotiate up from there. Way up.

    10. tink*

      Wrecking someone else’s livelihood because you can’t keep your trousers on boils my blood. At minimum this scumboss should approve any unemployment OP applies for.

      1. RecoveringSWO*

        Yeah, LW should file for unemployment. Particularly if she can’t afford an attorney right now, since it might give her enough cash to fix that problem. She might not be eligible because of employee classification, but she then might discover that she was misclassified and is owed even more.

    11. Jam Today*

      If she’s got the money to spare ($150-$300ish), a simple Cease and Desist letter might do the trick. Its probably enough to scare bad actors into behaving themselves.

  2. Heidi*

    Sorry this happened to you LW1. Your former boss is contemptible. Not just for cheating. He could’ve named anyone since it was all a lie to begin with, and he chose someone whose livelihood depended on him. I suspect that in the end you’ll be better off far, far away from this jerk.

    1. Traffic_Spiral*

      Well, the guy took a steaming dump on his wedding vows – clearly he’s not the sort to be loyal to the people around him.

    2. EPLawyer*

      He gve you money because that’s how he solves problems. Bet the Wife got a nice present to get her to forgive him. If you ask for a reference he will be honestly bewildered. You rejected the money what more do you want? The fact you need a good reference will never cross his mind.

      1. Aquawoman*

        Not defending him but offering money for monetary harm does make some sense. I understand her sense of outrage, but the fact is he has cost her her livelihood at the moment and should pay for that. I’d talk to a lawyer and go back to him about it.

      2. Phony Genius*

        If she accepted the money, she could be hurting her chances from getting any more than that in a lawsuit. If she has been damaged more than what he offered her, it could put her in a bad place legally.

        1. Just Another Attorney*

          Not necessarily.

          If the claim was lost wages, possibly. If the claim is defamation (slander or libel), then no, it would have no bearing. A good lawyer would simply say “this was for wages and unrelated to the claim before the court.”

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I don’t think it would really affect her legal standing. It’s not an offer of settlement, and the cost of a suit likely outweighs any benefit (assuming it even made it to the courtroom). But she can certainly use it as a tool to negotiate a settlement agreement that may include a more formal severance and “gag-order-esque” terms limiting what the couple can say to others or to other prospective employers.

    3. Reality.Bites*

      This is not a defence of his morality or his actions, but no, he couldn’t have named anyone, because whoever he named was going to be confronted by the wife, which meant it had to be someone plausible and powerless.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        The fact that he chose someone powerless, whom he had direct power over, makes this particularly vile and cowardly.

  3. Phil*

    The coronavirus problem really hits home for me because I get my health care at Travis AFB at, by the way, the best hospital I’ve ever been in. The new case in Northern California is in the town right outside Travis. Fortunately I live some distance away but I must say we’re all pretty worried. And the woman who got ill works in San Francisco. I’m afraid this will get worse before it gets better.

    1. Magenta*

      We live in Hong Kong where there’s about 90 confirmed cases. Requiring people crossing the border from Mainland China to got into 14-day quarantine helped dampen the spread here. Although we had one religious group at the centre of an outbreak, it’s not as bad as what happened/is happening in South Korea. Although we’re in ‘target group’ for deaths from COVID-19, we’re not that worried and aren’t wearing masks.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        LW3: the fact that they didn’t fill the position is telling, I think. It suggests it isn’t an urgent hire, or they don’t quite know what they want, or they can’t articulate what they want, or they’re waiting for an actual unicorn. It might be helpful to consider that your application was rejected simply because it didn’t check the “pops glitter and vomits rainbows” box you didn’t know was there.

        Better luck next time.

      2. Bluesboy*

        In Milan, where we’ve had quite a few confirmed cases, I reckon maybe one in twenty or thirty people I’ve seen have been wearing masks.

        Although a couple of people have been seen in the streets with WWII era gas masks or snorkelling masks and are being roundly mocked on social media.

        There is a weird contrast between people who are desperately worried, fighting over masks and refusing to leave their homes, and people who couldn’t care less and are living their lives exactly as they always do.

        1. londonedit*

          Still very few confirmed cases in the UK…in London I’ve noticed a very slight increase in the number of people wearing face masks (you’d always see them very occasionally, now I perhaps see one person every other day or so). Until we start seeing a lot of cases here, my feeling is that living in the capital and travelling on the tube with 10 million other people every day, there are countless diseases that I could feasibly be exposed to, and as long as I’m doing the usual things like washing my hands and whatnot, I’m not at any huge risk. We’ve had some generic advice from work – err on the side of caution, stay at home if you’re unwell, take advice if you’ve travelled to affected areas recently – but beyond that there isn’t much anyone can do at this point.

          1. Bluesboy*

            My employer has been really good. All our branches (we’re a bank) are closed and everyone is at home on full pay. Offices not open to the public are open, but we aren’t taking external meetings and everyone who can work from home is allowed to. But I agree with you – there’s a limit to what you can do other than be careful with hygiene and stay at home if you’re unwell.

            1. CupcakeCounter*

              My company did something similar with our locations in Asia. Our main manufacturing site in China is not located in Wuhan but several people who work in the plant live in Wuhan and return there each weekend as well as were there for Chinese New Year. We shut down the plant for several weeks with full pay, approved WFH for all office workers indefinitely, and covered lodging for those who didn’t want to return to Wuhan until the plant reopened. We actually have a few people that were over here in the US for meetings right before the outbreak occurred and they’ve been here ever since.

          2. whingedrinking*

            I work with international students in Canada, and a number of them have asked me if they should be scared. I’ve said, “No, you should wash your hands.” Ha ha, no really, Teacher. Ha, ha, no really, wash your hands. Go to the doctor if you’re *really* sick, otherwise stay home. Uh…don’t make out with obviously ill people, I guess. Other than that there’s nothing you can do. Most of my students’ home countries are actually closer to the outbreak than Canada, where we’ve only had about a dozen cases, so they’re probably safer here than they would be at home.

            1. AcademiaNut*

              For us, if we fall ill with something that looks like it might be coronavirus, we’re expected to call the hotline, and stay home. They’ll send someone over to check you out. That way, a potential case isn’t out infecting the people on the bus, the taxi driver, the hospital staff, people in the waiting room….

        2. gmg22*

          I had planned a vacation with my mother and some old family friends, also a mother and daughter, to Ireland and Italy. But this week that went from first “maybe we shouldn’t go to Italy” to “maybe we shouldn’t go at all.” I am trying to be upbeat/empathetic — this was to have been the other mom’s first EVER trip outside North America which meant she was always going to be a bit of a nervous traveler even before the global pandemic wrinkle got thrown into the mix, and she has been fighting off chronic bronchitis since Christmas which I think understandably puts her in a higher-risk category. But a little quiet piece of me, just to myself, also feels grumpy/selfish — I really do not want to wind up eating $1,200 because of this decision and it is looking possible that I might.

        3. Beaded Librarian*

          I love near Omaha where they are transferable my many of the US corona virus patients for treatment and near the location they are quarantining people. There is more awareness but so far people aren’t freaking out. Might be the fact they are most scared about the potential for more flooding this year but hard to say.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Annnnd there’s a whistleblower in northern california. People were assigned to help the evacuees without being given protective gear, training in infectious disease protocol, followup testing, etc. Someone who pointed out this danger was being summarily reassigned to another job with penalty of being terminated from federal service if she didn’t accept it. Whistle blown, and by the sound of the northern california news, maybe too late.
      Link in a reply.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        Oh nooooo! I am reading and wincing.

        Not surprised with the email from Corporate this morning about having a pandemic plan.

      2. Linzava*

        I’m in northern CA, this is the reason people panic, they promise they are handing things properly, but this stuff comes out and we lose trust in the managing bodies. This week alone, I’ve felt the anxiety of the people in my city rise quickly. I do not trust the CDC, the hospitals, or the government right now, and that crazy, because I normally do.

        1. another scientist*

          I trust the CDC and hospitals. With what information they have, they will try to make the best decisions. That being said, hospitals often don’t have strategic communication staff, so from the outside it might look uncoordinated or suspicious, because the doctors focus on managing the medical cases, and not on explaining themselves to the public.

        2. Gazebo Slayer*

          I don’t trust anyone in the federal government who was appointed by this malignantly incompetent administration. I mean, I don’t trust them with anything, but especially not this. We have a president who drew on a hurricane map with a Sharpie to insist that he was right and some people in the National Weather Service went along with him out of fear or out of loyalty to his bizarre cult of personality. 2 plus 2 equals 5 if Dear Leader decrees it so.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            There are still people working in the CDC who are legit, just less of them. Plus, the information they’re giving out is pretty much the same as info I’m seeing from experts in other spheres. As I’ve cross-checked it, I’m taking it at face value.

            Speaking of faces, a generic drugstore surgical mask is only really good for keeping your sneezes off everyone else. It won’t keep COVID-19 off you; the virus is too small for a mask to filter out. N95 masks and respirators are only recommended for healthcare workers who are caring for COVID-19 patients, not the general public at this time.

            Ignore anything Pence says. :P

          2. Lissa*

            “Malignantly incompetent” is such a great phrase. I mostly trust that people aren’t actively lying to me on that level (I’m in Canada) but I also think that in any situation, there are going to be people with widely diverging ideas of how to handle it, and since it seems like such a long incubation rate I’m afraid that even with good management it’ll get worse before it gets better.

      3. Nita*

        What? That’s just insane. How could anyone with half a brain and a basic knowledge of contagious disease transmission think this is OK? Although… I’m reminded of that letter about a school principal who wouldn’t call an ambulance for an injured teacher because it would “look bad” and “disturb people”. Maybe this stupidity was done in the spirit of “not creating panic”.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          I suspect so. Too many higher-ups value image and covering up trouble over everything else, including people’s lives. You see it again and again with industrial hazards, corruption scandals, and predatory individuals shuffled around or left to do as they please.

        2. Linzava*

          Your example of the ambulance is spot on. The dude in charge of the CDC straight up said he wouldn’t encourage a quarantine if things got out of hand because it could lead to a recession. Seriously, how is a recession projection part of his job? Is he congress now? Money over American lives, that is our sad reality.

          His attitude will lead to panic because we can no longer trust his agency.

          1. whingedrinking*

            A friend of mine has described this way of thinking as “we can’t do that, it would make the money sad”.

          2. Gazebo Slayer*

            Oh God.

            That’s what we get when a bunch of dimwits want to “run the government like a business” and elect a crooked executive as president.

          3. JustaTech*

            I think what the head of the CDc meant was that a quarantine would cause a recession *and it wouldn’t work*. This disease is too mild for a quarantine to be effective because too many people don’t even know they have the virus. Not people going into work sick, but people who genuinely feel 100% fine.

            There’s no way to quarantine that.

            So the only thing a quarantine would do is cause assorted panic and a recession, but at no benefit.

            1. Nita*

              Fair enough. The quarantines do seem rather pointless, although, who knows, they may be slowing down transmission – and buying time is a good thing if this is one of those viruses that doesn’t spread well in warm weather.

              1. JustaTech*

                It would be nice if this is a cold-weather-only virus, but the coronavirus researchers I’ve seen talking about it aren’t super optimistic.

          4. TL -*

            It’s more complicated than that – public health is about reducing overall harm and the impact of sudden economic downtown is a very real harm.

            It’s not just what helps the immediate harm, but what, long term, reduces overall harm.

    3. Lockstep*

      It hit home for me as well. I live in the SF Bay area and asked 3 weeks ago about what others on this forum if they were stocking up on food and supplies in preparation for the Coronavirus.

      It also kicked in into gear to update my earthquake kit.

      I’m so glad I’m now fully stocked and ready to hunker down.

  4. Kate*

    Re: 5

    Agreed. Talk to employees. In addition to importance of good hygiene, personal space, hand sanitizers and regularly cleaning work spaces, I’ve encouraged employees to change out of their work clothes/footwear as soon as they go home, and same with kids coming home from school/sports.

    And if they don’t feel well. Stay home. The essential functions will get done.

    1. Cheluzal*

      Teacher here. No remote work capable, kids (high school!) pick their nose, and one of my female colleagues doesn’t wash her hands after the restroom if she doesn’t know someone (me—twice now) is in a stall. ‍♀️

      1. Happy Lurker*

        The non handwashing just BLOWS my mind. Sesame street, my mother, my grandmother, everyone told me 45 years ago to wash my hands and I still do. Cannot fathom how many people do not. The simplest thing is still the hardest to get people to do for their own good. *rant over – thank you for listening :)*

        1. Lily Rowan*

          YES. I don’t care if you feel like you didn’t pee on your hand or whatever — you are in a small room with a sink, why not take the opportunity to wash???

          1. rnr*

            Right! And just think, someone else before you pooped and then touched the stall door that you just touched. So gross when people don’t wash their hands! (I know I’m preaching to the choir.)

          2. Marni*

            Because those air dryers are far grosser than an unwashed hand?
            If a public restroom doesn’t have paper towels, I will leave without washing my hands if I can get away with it. I’ll use hand sanitizer if I have it with me.

            1. Avasarala*

              What?? Just wash your damn hands. You don’t need to use the air dryer. Just wash your damn hands.

              1. Old Admin*

                +1000 !!!
                Wash your damn hands, and dry them on a tissue, or some toilet paper etc.
                Wash your damn hands!!

            2. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

              How is the air dryer gross? Most of the ones I’ve encountered are either automatic or have a big button that you can push with your forearm or elbow.

              Hand sanitizer is not that effective anyway. Soap and water is much better.

    2. Manya*

      I think telling employees what to do at home is a massive overstep. Change out of my clothes? Inappropriate. I know there’s a pandemic scared going on, but unless you’re literally a public health expert, trust your employees to behave like adults and make good choices for themselves and their families.

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        Hmm. I think publicising the best practices isn’t an overstep, but attempting to mandate them (like penalizing you if you didn’t change) might be. (Barring people in certain fields.)

        But curious what others think.

        1. Constance Lloyd*

          I think sharing best practices is fine, it doesn’t rise to the level of mandating or monitoring how you behave in your home but gives people information to use as they like to better protect themselves.

          My job involves visiting people in their homes. I’m exposed to a higher rate of seasonal illnesses as well as bedbugs and general Yuck. We are given so many tips that would seem bizarre or overreaching without context (like removing your clothes on a hard floor rather than carpet) but are helpful, relevant, and may not have otherwise occurred to us.

          1. Manya*

            Why don’t I just take a photo of myself and my family after we’ve taken our outdoor clothes off? How’s about that?

        2. Alienor*

          I agree, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with letting people know, and since you can’t monitor what they do at home anyway, it’s not as if you’re mandating anything. (For what it’s worth, I don’t change clothes if I’ve just been out doing errands or working an ordinary day at the office, but I do if I’ve been to a doctor or dentist appointment or visited someone in any part of a hospital, because that’s a place where you’re legitimately exposed to a lot of stuff including MRSA.)

      2. RabbitRabbit*

        I think warning people about best practices is responsible in protecting those employees’ families from what employees might pick up during work/commutes on their clothing. Clearly there’s no way to mandate it but pointing out that you could be infecting your entire family and encouraging practices in how to avoid it is hardly “massive overstep.”

      3. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I don’t see it as being all that egregious. It feels kind of like when there’s a pollution advisory in my city and my workplace sends out an email that says things like “to decrease individual contributions to pollution, pump gas after dark and avoid using gas powered lawn tools.” It’s not like anybody from my workplace is going to follow me home to check whether I stop for gas before sunset or power up the lawnmower. They’re just giving general advice that employees are free to follow or not, as they see fit.

      4. Gazebo Slayer*

        I’m not sure what changing out of clothes would even do for someone like me. I live in a tiny efficiency apartment!

      5. Alli525*

        Changing clothes & shoes was something we did when I worked in daycare – we kept our shoes at the facility and brought in clean khakis each day (the facility provided scrub tops). It’s probably not necessary unless you’re working with people who are immunocompromised, but it’s not a terrible idea if you’re a PreK-5 teacher either.

    3. Thankful for AAM*

      My employer, a city, sent out a short email with a statement telling me they are on it (probably not that on it) with links to CDC info.

      Even though I felt there were some big holes in the “we’re on it” part, I did feel better knowing they were on it enough to send all employees an email and the links were helpful.

      1. Oxford Comma*

        The CDC has a really good page entitled “Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), February 2020”

        It outlines things employers should be considering and planning for.

        1. Dasein9*

          The CDC does have good information at the moment. They may not in the future, given the way the issue is being handled. I’ve also been looking at the NHS website and Canadian government sites for information.

          1. Oxford Comma*

            That is an excellent point and sadly, I think a realistic expectation given the current political situation.

            State and local health departments may also be options for information too.

            But at a minimum, I would hope that employers start having these conversations and start communicating real fast.

          2. Gazebo Slayer*

            I look at the WHO’s website. I’m not sure whether to trust the CDC with our current administration.

            1. nym*

              Keep an eye on who’s doing the talking. Alex Azar (secretary for health and human services) and Robert Redfield (director of CDC) are political appointees. Anne Schuchat (CDC’s deputy director) and Nancy Messonnier (director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease) are career civil servants, trained epidemiologists, and very, very good at what they do. Both are retired Public Health Service officers (CAPT Messonnier, RADM Schuchat; USPHS uses navy rank designations). Dr. Schuchat was the director of the Influenza Division during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic and she held the deputy director position under Tom Frieden as well. CDC’s staff are working around the clock to get, and share, the best information that is out there. Oxford Comma pointed to one good resource developed by CDC; there are many more. WHO is a good source too.

              LW5: thank you for this. I appreciate the constructive advice you’ve offered for employers.

    4. Smithy*

      In addition to this, I think it’s also worth sharing how to proceed with planning for business travel.

      A lot of conferences and other large events in Europe are being canceled where a month ago that didn’t seem to be on the horizon. Therefore explaining how to proceed – book now, the organization is positioned to be refunded? Wait until X time before a trip to book? For smaller companies, make sure you buy insurance?

      Also – for those who might have additional medical concerns and want to be taken off X type of travel as a result – who can they talk to? How should that work? What extra precautions might be provided? Or how can other coverage be arranged?

      I think that even for lots of people, ambiguity around anything at work can create uncertainty and discomfort. Being upfront on business practices around travel, in addition to the health pieces can be really helpful in making an organization seem aware of what’s happen, monitoring the situation, and attentive to the needs of staff.

      1. Awesome Admin*

        Yea, we had a leadership meeting yesterday where our VP told the team leads to talk to their employees with travel planned and let them know they can back out without any consequences or ill will. One team lead said “no one on my team seems worried” and the VP got a little harsh and said the leads need to be the proactive ones and ask the question specifically and in private conversations so staff feel comfortable. I was impressed with the boss!

      2. JustaTech*

        The travel thing: I am supposed to go to Italy to visit a plant (the date is set), but we *still* haven’t heard from them or our upper management if the trip is still on. It is driving me insane (mostly because flights will only get more expensive and harder to find).
        Personally, I’m not particularly worried about catching COVID19, but I am very worried about getting caught in a quarantine and getting locked in a hotel room for three weeks.

        On a more productive note, the plant I visited last week in Germany, everyone was under instructions to bump elbows rather than shake hands. Not everyone remembered, and we looked pretty silly, but it seemed like a good precaution.

        1. JSPA*

          That (as much as anything) is why, having a canister respirator (as well as disposable N-95 respirators) for other (hobby) purposes, I will be traveling with them (wearing canister respirator on all flights and in airports, and N-95, which I really do know how to use correctly, have been using for decades, and which will not cause me to touch my face) for the near future. Seems too silly to have & not use. And I hope that being able to demonstrate consistent use will carry weight in case of quarantine (and will be on hand to protect me during any quarantine, if the quarantine scenario itself turns out to be a FUBAR nightmare, as a few apparently have been).

    5. Goldfinch*


      People are freaking out at my office, because one of our colleagues just left for a two-week vacation in Honk Kong. His boss sounded dumbfounded when someone asked about the company plan for travel to affected areas. “Gee, I dunno, nobody’s brought it up.” Get your isht together!

      1. Amethystmoon*

        Agreed. Not only telling people to stay home if sick, but making contingency plans. I work for an employer that you have to accrue PTO time, and it’s all in the same bucket. So many people will be out of PTO for the rest of the year if they have to stay home for 2 weeks. Anyone new will only get 1 week. There needs to be a plan for those people also. People need assurances they won’t get fired/laid off for doing the right thing.

        If employers would give more latitude for working from home, that would also be good. Currently, we only get 1 day per week, and it can’t be the same day every week. So you have to kind of randomize it a bit. If people aren’t symptomatic, or have mild symptoms, they should be able to at least get some work done at home, especially if their job involves things like data entry or running reports.

        1. Antilles*

          So many people will be out of PTO for the rest of the year if they have to stay home for 2 weeks.
          What that really means is that people are going to come in sick unless they’re basically on death’s door and then just lie about it. Don’t worry about the coughing and sneezing, it’s just uh super dusty in this office, no coronavirus here, no way, just haven’t had the time to dust.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            If you have to come to work with a cold, THAT’S when you should wear a mask. I wish that were a thing here.

    6. another scientist*

      We had an all-staff email, mostly with updates on business travel restrictions, hygiene best practices, links to self-quarantine instructions and when one should apply them, AND a reminder that contagion doesn’t care who you are, just where you’ve been, so people should not treat Asian co-workers differently, and refrain from poor jokes. Apparently, that reminder was needed.

      1. JSPA*

        They’re in the process of testing persistence on surfaces. They’ve said it’s in the standard ~2 hour range for stainless steel, but may be longer on plastics and other surfaces. That’s a significant unknown when it comes to sharing lunchrooms, restrooms, door handles, never mind hotdesking, sharing pens, touching the same keyboard.

    7. Gazebo Slayer*

      #1 priority is making sure sick or quarantined employees are required to stay home, given the paid sick leave to do so (as much as they need) and given absolute assurance that their jobs are not in danger because of it.

      Telling people to stay home when sick, then penalizing them for it, is worse than useless.

    8. Anonymous for this*

      Managers can do a lot. I also work in public health. We just got a notice from our agency head that said that among the things the response team is doing is providing guidance to the public and private sectors about how they can continue to operate with telework and flexible sick leave policies. They are also informing businesses on how to respond if an employee gets sick.

      I am grateful that I grew up with a mother who was born post-germ theory but before antibiotics. Infection control procedures were second nature to her, and I learned them. One of the first things she did on returning home from being in public was wash her hands carefully and change her clothing. Of course, part of the clothes changing habit was that we grew up in an era and social class where going in public meant dressing up and being at home meant you had work to do. But it is not a bad habit to have. Infectious diseases are very democratic. They will infect whomever they have access to.

  5. Health Care Anon*

    The work at home suggestion is good. Hand-washing stations always good. I disagree that we are on it. I hope we won’t be tested.

    1. Anonymouse*

      Personal anecdote warning.

      When I first starting working with kids, I think I got sick 3 times that winter and each sickness lingered for weeks. It was the worst.

      So I did my research and started religiously washing my hands (soap and water, scrubbing thoroughly, and for 20+ seconds every time). I wiped down my phone with alcohol wipes every time I washed my hands. I also trained myself to stop touching my eyes, nose and mouth with my hands — you would be shocked at home often you do this unconsciously.

      And now I’m one of those people who almost never get sick. I haven’t had a cold in years, and yeah, I still work with kids + the general public.

      1. Cheluzal*

        Teacher here. I agree on unconsciously touching membrane parts. I’m very careful.
        Plus I have a toddler who always has a runny nose.

        Methinks tomorrow is a good day to wipe down desks—again. Kids are filthy, even high-schoolers. I’ve several out for over a week.

        1. Free Now (and forever)*

          Might be time to stock up on containers of wipes and have every class start off with the kids wiping down their desks.

      2. Alli525*

        The trick I was taught at daycare for handwashing was to sing (under my breath/mentally – not out loud!) “Happy Birthday” 2x. That’s approximately 20 seconds.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          At the daycare where I worked in college they had us sing the alphabet song. It’s about the right length. :)

      3. Le Sigh*

        OMG the unconscious touching! I really hadn’t thought about it until this outbreak and now I’m realizing how many times I touch my face.

      4. JSPA*

        It makes a huge difference.

        Wiping down surfaces also helps. I got sick a lot less often doing sporadic presentations in schools after I took to wet-wiping the top and underside of the desk with rubbing alcohol, peroxide or clorox wipes before setting up. And the chair. And any pens or other shared items.

        For people who encounter viruses all the time, though, some of it is resistance combined with reduction of the viral dose. Immunity to average coronaviruses and other “common cold” viruses (as a class) is troublingly short (following infection or immunization) but…it’s not zero. Your immune system is probably challenged almost constantly by low doses of multiple variants of every virus that’s circulating. As a result, you’re almost always primed to deal with a range of viruses, through being constantly challenged, at a very low level.

        The problem with a truly novel virus is that people who have gotten used to having that level of resistance to existing, circulating viruses may misjudge how powerful their procedural protection is.

        I don’t think we actually do know, yet, what the minimum infectious dose is. Along with questions about airborne and surface persistence, the CDC and WHO and others are working hard to define those things, but for now, we really don’t know what it means for someone to walk through another person’s sneeze zone after a few seconds, a few minutes, or longer.

        We also don’t know why infection is often not only mild but undetectable in many people. Genetic variation among people for (say) some cell receptor? Antigen overlap with some other, prior coronavirus(es)? (This is at least in part a separate question from why it’s fatal in other people, which in many cases correlates with pre-existing conditions.)

    2. OP5*

      How “on it” depends on jurisdiction. We activated our emergency response as of a month ago. Will it be perfect? No. Will we try our damndest to keep people safe? Yes.

      1. Insert Clever Handle Here*

        Good for you, OP 5! Thanks for looking out for both your employees and the general public.

    3. JustAnotherAAMFan*

      I love the emphasis on washing hands. I really don’t care for the advice to use hand sanitizer – for a number of reasons, including the fact that they’re antibacterial and we’re dealing with a virus here… Besides that, they provide a false sense of safety. So, WASH YOUR HANDS, FOLKS! Always!

      1. OP5*

        Alcohol also disrupts the virus’ lipid envelope. It’s not as effective, but it’s good in a pinch.

  6. Anon Kitty*

    I disagree with contacting this unstable couple. The wife already thinks OP broke up the marriage. Stay away and move on as best you can.

    1. Random IT person*

      Given the hardship – getting a lawyer to contact them for a ‘settlement for unfair dismissal’ and possibly slander / libel / whateverthelegaltermis..

      But you are right – OP should not contact them – use a go-between.

      1. aebhel*

        Yeah, MTE. Lawyers can be expensive, but it might be worth asking to see if it can be done, at least to negotiate a reference and settlement. My understanding is that in a lot of cases like this a lawyer would take a percentage of the settlement anyway (my spouse and I recently had to get a lawyer involved with an issue with his former boss. It didn’t come to a lawsuit, fortunately, but if it had he would have gotten paid through the settlement and not directly from us).

        The malicious bonus here, of course, is exposing this guy as a liar who is presumably still continuing his affair with whoever he was actually cheating with.

        1. JSPA*

          newer media, however, can be ambiguous. (Youtube, podcasts: spoken, yet recorded.

          So can situations where written material is to be broadcast orally (think, the town crier? Or perhaps, Alexa?) or oral material is guaranteed to be broadcast in written form as well (e.g. a hearing or council meeting where, by law, anything spoken on record is transcribed and posted).

          We don’t know if husband used only his mouth to lie, or also email.

  7. Batgirl*

    OP1, if she caught him once then she’ll catch him again. Particularly if your lawyer informs her that he slandered you so his affair could continue.

    If you decide to just contact the husband (and as an employer he does owe you reparations and an honest reference so there’s no need to avoid doing so) just be sure to do so in writing, be businesslike and be sure to reiterate your position that the reasons for dismissal were false. If she’s monitoring his communications she’ll see it and hopefully his reply as well.

    1. Anonomoose*

      I’d contact them both on all communications, ideally through a legal professional, and reiterate that you weren’t having an affair. In the UK at least, it would be somewhat of an easy decision if you should sue for slander. If they’re rich enough to hire a private chef, they’re rich enough to pay severance, plus organise a decent reference.

      I think you were right to not take the money in the first instance, though, without something official.

      1. Bagpuss*

        If you were in the UK it would probably be much more effective to make an unfair dismissal claim and get your lawyer to offer to settle on the basis of payment, and agreed reference and undertakings not to make any comment in relation to the alleged affair.

        With slander, given that the claim was so far as we know) only made to the Wife, and not publicly, any damages would be minimal and if he apologised that would probably be it.

        It’s possible that the sacking would be fall into the class of being automatically unfair, as it was gender based (unless H wants to argue that he would have made the same claim had the chef been male)

  8. Veronica Sawyer*

    Good advice re: the coronavirus. I work in Europe, and we had a meeting last week because of the impact from our Chinese locations. I asked exactly the questions posted here, the possibilities for our EU office workers to work from home, lifting the company’s requirement to provide a doctors note after one day absence, and extra sanitation measures for the office. All questions were immediately brushed off because our city was not yet affected. One week later, there are now 30 cases in my country and spreading. Needless to say, I am frustrated!

    1. Random IT person*

      Indeed – it`s getting close to home. Italy, Spain, and this morning (feb 28th) in The Netherlands.
      In a city where I occasionally have to work no less..

      Good thing i`m young (don`t laugh) and healthy – so minimal risk for me. But really… :(

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Denmark this week too.
        I haven’t seen anything yet on how long the virus persists on dry surfaces, that’s what’s got me catastrophizing a bit, because of all the fast travel & fast deliveries we do globally.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Al Jazeera for the win – google “coronavirus on dry surfaces” and hit the Al Jazeera story. The latest they have (20 hrs ago) from the WHO is “it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. The agency says coronaviruses, including the one that causes COVID-19, can persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. ”

          Highly transmissible. All R0 estimates are over 1, it’s going to be around for a while. If you’re in a vulnerable population, consider how to ‘shelter in place’ for a few weeks if you can.

          1. OP5*

            As a note: R0 estimates aren’t fixed, and depend on a bunch of factors including environmental and social factors.

        2. Veronica Mars*

          ” In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures. Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods and there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods.”

          My work sent out an official risk assessment on this (we get tons of shipments from China) saying it was zero factor.

    2. Insert Clever Handle Here*

      I’m in a part of the US that’s not yet impacted, and my employer (a public utility) communicated a comprehensive plan to employees a month ago, including who to contact if you’d traveled to an impacted area, and assurance that if quarantine was necessary pay and benefits would not be impacted. The director of my department immediately followed up that communication with an updated copy of the business continuity plan for our department. I certainly hope this ends quickly, but it makes me feel good knowing my company is taking the potential impact seriously.

  9. Hapax Legomenon*

    It’s interesting to me to watch the same people panic over COVID-19 who decided not to get flu shots. I think “we” internationally are doing a lot to contain the disease and prevent a pandemic. In the US, the situation might be a little different, and I do think it was wise to warn people that it will probably escape containment. But there are so many encouraging signs in the way this outbreak was handled that I feel good about the outcome. If people are feeling anxious or panicky about it, I would really encourage them to look over the WHO’s situation reports. They’ve presented the information in a way that the layperson can understand pretty easily, and receiving the information in a less-sensationalized way helped me understand that even though containing this coronavirus outbreak is SUPER important, this outbreak still pales in comparison to a standard flu season.

    1. Dan*

      I’m 40 and never had a flu shot that I know of. I last had the flu when I was like 13 or something like that. Generally speaking, I have a very strong immune system.

      But I’m not freaking out over COVID19 or what have you. I work with data for a living, and can only conclude that as a people, we’re comfortable with risks that we understand. (E.g., driving a car. People die in car crashes every day, but we get in cars every day without thinking twice about it.) Yet we flip out over things like the 737 MAX which is still way safer (in developed countries, anyway) than getting in a car is ever going to be. We flip out over COVID19 for the same reasons — we simply don’t understand the risks yet. Sure, there’s *some* data, but not a ton. Definitely not years worth, like there is with the flu and car crashes.

      1. Hapax Legomenon*

        I mean, I’m not sure I know anyone who gets the flu shot to prevent the flu in their own body. I get it to keep from spreading it to others who would be in real trouble if they got the flu, and so do most people I know. But I watch people fret about an unknown-but-probably-not-as-bad-disease while choosing not to do something basic to combat the big-bad-known-disease, and it bothers me. The news articles that feed into the “everybody panic!” mentality bother me too. The world is a hard enough place to live in as it is, and manufactured hysteria makes it worse, and that makes me sad.

          1. Hapax Legomenon*

            I used to work with a lot of people who were required by their employer to get one because of the risk of spreading it to children we worked with, so maybe that skews the “people I know” group. If it were about personal well-being, I would rather get the flu than have the flu shot, because about half the time I have an extremely painful few days after the shot–the side of my body, from the knees to the clavicle, aches(it’s not the “soreness at injection site” ache, I don’t know why it happens, but in comparison to the tetanus shot the flu shot causes me more pain).

            1. Veronica Mars*

              Same. I have a bad reaction to the flu shot every time, to the point its not worth it. My roommate in college had a seizure from the flu shot, and that was terrifying.

              (I get it, my roomie was the .000001%. I’m truly not an anti-vaxxer, and I’m not trying to spread fear. I’m just saying, you aren’t automatically selfish for not wanting the flu shot. Sometimes people have reasonable reasons for opting out. As long as they practice good hygiene, ok).

              1. professor*

                The only reasonable reason for opting out is if getting vaccinated is medically contraindicated (by a actual doctor), like for the person who got a seizure. The injection site hurts a bit, you get some flu-like symptoms? yeah, you’re 100% selfish for not getting your flu shot. It’s not about you, it’s a public health issue. Some of us depend on herd immunity (like your friend who gets seizures from vaccines and can’t get the flu shot).

                1. Leslie Knope*

                  Or my niece who is 4 and allergic to eggs. For several years she didn’t get the flu vaccine because it contains egg protein. She was a kiddo who was definitely relying on the herd immunity (and she needed to be able to go to daycare).

                  I think she can get it now…if I understand correctly, kids tend to outgrow egg allergies. I’ll admit I’m not totally educated about it, but I know it was tough when she was really little.

                2. Lora*

                  They have new versions that are not made in eggs, made by Sanofi and Seqirus. They’re pretty good. I personally had the Seqirus one this year, because that’s what they were giving out at work, and it was like every other flu shot I’ve ever had, uneventful.

                3. gmg22*

                  Rather than the shaming response, I would say instead that maybe the folks with severe experiences such as this should just talk to their doctors about it and get guidance. That said, I’ve found a frustrating trend where medical professionals don’t always want to give ground on this (maybe for fear of creating misunderstanding), and rather than a sensible “Yes, that can happen, but just keep in mind that it’s absolutely not the real flu, it’ll pass and no harm done” they’ll say things like “Are you sure you just didn’t coincidentally have a cold at the same time?” Right, because I’m too dumb to read my own body and tell the difference between the moderately crummy feeling of coming down with a cold and feeling like I’ve been hit by a truck. It strikes me as gaslighting, and it’s not great patient care.

                  I had a really bad reaction once years ago — just absolutely knocked me flat for about 24 hours — and it discouraged me from getting the shot for a long time afterward. But finally after a lot of well-meant haranguing by my mom, a nurse, went back two years ago and got one, and did this year as well. No side effects either time, happily. The understanding that I’m helping immune-suppressed fellow citizens as much as myself is important. So I pep-talk myself: “Even if you do have some side effects, feeling like you have the flu for one day is a lot better than actually having the real flu.” And I plan ahead — I go to my pharmacy on Saturday afternoon and make no going-out plans for that night and none for the next day, just in case (the time I had the bad reaction I was caught at work, and I was so out of it I had to leave my car there and take a cab home).

                4. Alienor*

                  I get aches and pains and soreness after the flu shot…but I still remember how sick I was the two times I’ve had the actual flu as an adult (in 1996 and 2003) and there’s just no comparison. I’ll take the shot every time to avoid those 7-9 days of total misery, as well as to protect other people.

              2. Librarian of SHIELD*

                I think if you personally have a bad reaction to the flu shot, that’s a valid reason not to get one. And while I haven’t had the flu since childhood, I continue to get the vaccine so I can contribute to the barrier that protects people like you and your friend, who can’t get one.

                1. Elitist Semicolon*

                  Thank you! Weak member of the herd here who ended up needing emergency care after my last flu shot.

                2. Veronica Mars*

                  Thanks. I guess I fundamentally disagree with the belief that other people should get to decide for me how serious the side effects need to be before I “deserve” to opt out. Since, you know, 100% chance I get side effects vs 0.000001% chance my lack of flu shot causes harm to someone else. Especially if I’m practicing good hygiene in other ways.

                  What particularly gets under my skin is people who brag about getting the flu shot / look down on me for not, but then come to work (we have an incredibly generous sick time) while very sick. I work from home every single day I feel remotely like I’m coming down with something, wash my hands, regularly lysol my desk, etc etc etc. Flu shots aren’t the only way to practice good herd stewardship.

              3. The Rat-Catcher*

                Leslie Knope – my son has an egg allergy and gets a flu shot. We just had to let them know so they could pick the safest one for him, and we have to stay about half an hour afterward for observation.

            2. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Hapax, Generally, the people who get a severe reaction to the shot are the ones who had little or no immunity to the flu in that year’s vaccine. ie you would have gotten the flu *hard* if you’d gotten it.
              So the risk evaluation might be a 50% chance of three days of pain per year for the vaccine — vs three weeks if you catch the one you weren’t vaccinated for.
              Even though you’re not getting the reaction *every* time, I’d suggest you talk to your doctor about your adverse reaction. You might have an undiagnosed allergy to something in the vaccine — if you DO know you have an egg allergy, ask about the new no-egg version that I read about. (I only remember that it exists — there are no egg-allergic people in my family, so I didn’t retain details.)

            3. RandomPoster*

              When was the last time you had the flu? It is absolutely terrible, and there’s no way that a sore arm from a shot could be worse.

              1. Jules the 3rd*

                Please don’t tell someone that pain for several days all down the side of their body (“knees to clavicle”) is ‘a sore arm.’

                1. Casper Lives*

                  Yes, that reaction is extreme. I will say that the last time I got the flu, it was worse than what Hapax describes for the flu shot reaction. I was in good health in my early 20s. Flu went around campus. I ached everywhere, had high fevers where I would shake under layers of blankets, and laid down staring at the ceiling because I was too weak to get up. Flu is WAY worse as an adult than what I remember as a kid.

            4. Goldfinch*

              This sounds similar to my reaction. When I get the flu shot, my neck, shoulders, and arm completely freeze for three days. I can’t go to work because I’m basically paralyzed from the chest up.

            5. Quill*

              Hey Hapax, if you haven’t discussed that one with your doctor, probably do that.

              Especially if the flu shot injection site is different from other vaccines – could be they’re hitting a nerve! (My mom has nerve damage from where they jabbed her in the exact wrong spot while giving blood.)

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I’ve been getting one every year for the last 13 years. I’d started a new job and was told that the PTO was 15 days, all vacation and sick in one bucket. I decided to try anything that had any odds of helping me not use up all my PTO days on sick time. Now my PTO is in a separate bucket from my sick days, and I lose sick days every year, because I never get sick.

          Also, my one living parent is 82 and comes over to visit every day. Last thing I want is give her something that I’ll recover from in a day or two, but she’ll be down with for months. So there’s that too.

          1. Amethystmoon*

            I have gotten one for at least 15 years now. Back when I was still temping, if I didn’t get the flu shot, there was a chance I might have to go without pay to stay home sick. It was far less costly to get the flu shot.

          2. Clisby*

            Don’t assume you’ll get over flu in a day or two. I’ve had it twice as an adult, and both times was sick for about 10 days, and felt exhausted for a month after.

            1. OP5*

              The flu usually lasts a week minimum. Every time I’ve had it, I’ve also been weak as a kitten for about a week after that.

              1. Emily K*

                Yep, unfortunately “flu” is both an actual virus, influenza, and also colloquially a generic term for “fever illness” or “viral illness.” (Hence the colloquialism, “stomach flu.”)

                Influenza is a multi-multi-day affair and a lot of people who think or say they’ve had flu just mean they had a fever for a couple of days and felt icky.

                I caught it earlier this month, despite getting my flu shot – I guess this wasn’t a good year for it. (Every spring the vaccine makers try to predict which strains will dominate that year so they can ramp up production ahead of time to meet demand. Most years their predictions are good, but it varies, and sometimes they miss the mark.)

                I had a fever from Tuesday night to Sunday morning and was so fatigued I slept 12+ hours a day and I’d get winded just walking across the room. Was another several days after the fever broke before I really got back up to speed, though luckily I work remotely so I only missed the 3 days I was delirious with fever.

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  This is why I hate the term “stomach flu.” People get a relatively mild illness, consider it “the flu,” and then use that as a reason not to get vaccinated, because “it’s not that bad” or “the shot is worse.” When really, actual influenza is a respiratory illness, not a stomach bug, and it knocks you off your feet for days.

                2. Librarian1*

                  Yes, 100% agree with this. I got the flu twice as a teenager, once in middle school, once in high school, and both times were awful. I had a high fever that lasted multiple days, my body was really achy, and I just felt awful. I was exhausted for days after the fever broke and couldn’t participate in PE or sports until that cleared up. It’s not just a cold or whatever.

                3. Eirene*

                  Yep. In 2018 I went down hard with influenza – a week before I had my flu shot scheduled, because not only did I not want the flu but also did not want to pass it to my immunocompromised loved ones – and I have never been so sick in my life. (Except the one time I had norovirus. F-, do not recommend either.) I worked from home for about two weeks, because I had only been at my job for three months and didn’t have enough PTO built up, and have no memory of doing so because I was so messed up from the fever and lack of sleep because I was literally coughing myself into breathlessness every thirty seconds. Everything hurt and I was hot and cold at the same time all the time. It took me another two weeks just to get my voice back, let alone for my body to return to full strength, and I’m now on a daily inhaler because I wheeze when I shouldn’t be. It’s so, so awful. I’m lucky enough to not have a bad reaction to the shot, but honestly, even if I did I’d rather deal with that than ever get the flu again like I did 18 months ago.

                4. Lx in Canada*

                  I’ve had the flu once in my life and I could barely function for 3 days. I don’t remember what I felt like after – probably pretty weak, but I had low iron at the time and generally felt pretty weak all the time anyway.

                  I am terrified of needles to the point where it’s a full-blown phobia so unfortunately I don’t get the flu shot… I can’t, I would panic and there are a LOT of nurses who are unsympathetic to adults who are afraid of needles, so I just don’t do it. Especially since a few years ago I had a nurse who made fun of me for freaking out. :( I know she was probably an outlier, but even thinking about needles makes me dizzy and lightheaded and my vision starts swimming, like right now… ugh. I generally practice good hygiene though. I really want to get the flu shot! It’s just not in the cards for me. Blaaaaah.

            2. Alienor*

              I think it definitely gets worse as you get older. The last time I had it, my then-four-year-old came down with it a couple of days after I did, and she was back to normal when I was still wobbling around like a Victorian invalid. I was in my very early 30s at the time and hate to think what it’d be like now, when I’m pushing 50.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          My kid and I both get the flu shot to prevent the flu in our own bodies, we get it every year now that we are not allergic to the commonly available shot (not cultured in egg yolks anymore). Kid had the flu once and asked for the flu shot annually for the next three years. It’s faded some now, but he remembers enough to go without complaint. My spouse gets the shot for herd immunity, because there were years that kid and I couldn’t get it (they ran out of nose sprays).

          1. Natalie*

            Some varieties are still cultured in eggs, but overall the recommendation has changed to monitoring severely egg-allergic recipients for a time after their shot, rather than forgoing the vaccine all together. Which is good, because there’s only one vaccine that’s both not live virus and not cultured in eggs, and there are people who can’t receive live virus vaccines for various reasons as well.

        3. blink14*

          I get the flu shot 100% to protect myself. I started getting it in the late 90s as a teenager and still get it every year to this day. I’m a life long asthmatic and was recently diagnosed with a chronic immune system deficiency. It is absolutely crucial to someone like me who has had the flu multiple times prior to starting the vaccine and is at danger for severe complications.

          I firmly believe in the concept of herd immunity, which is not as much of a guarantee with the flu, as it changes from year to year, but I really wish more people would get the flu shot.

        4. Quill*

          Flu shots are generally both for personal and herd immunity. Unfortunately, many otherwise well informed people get suspicious of them because “you don’t have to get other shots every year,” or “last year they guessed wrong and I got sick anyway.”

          It’s just kind of human nature to be more worried about the ‘new’ threat than the one that turns up every year. Kind of like how if you lived in southern california your whole life, then moved to say, kansas tornadoes probably freak you out way more than earthquakes do, and vice versa.

          1. Ktelzbeth*

            I live in a tornado state and have friends in an earthquake state. We are all more afraid of the other’s natural disasters than our own.

          2. Emily S*

            Definitely agree with you that we’re more worried about “exotic” threats than routine ones that we accept in order to go about our daily lives.

            That said, that’s not entirely what’s going on with the corona virus. In this case, it’s not that the virus is supposed to be more severe than seasonal flu in people who catch it; rather the concern is that it’s much more contagious than seasonal flu so there’s a much greater risk of pandemic. Even if the mortality rate of people who get flu vs coronavirus are similar, you still end up with more dead people if the rate of people who catch the illness is dramatically higher. It takes a little while for exponential curves to take off, but when they do…

        5. soon to be former fed really*

          Uh, I get the flu shot to protect my own body as I have several chronic health conditions. It’s also beneficial from a public health perspective. Yours is an ableist comment but I’m glad you are getting the shot, for whatever reason.

          1. Cat*

            It’s not ableist. They were just pointing out that the flu shot is to protect other people as much as yourself sometimes. It was a response to someone who doesn’t get a flu shot because they’re not worried about personally getting the flu.

        6. Librarian1*

          I don’t think we can say with any certainty at this point that COVID-19 is not as bad as the flu. The death rate so far is higher than the death rate for the seasonal flu.

        7. Pobody’s Nerfect*

          Please stop propagating the “not as bad as the flu” line. It’s already been established the mortality rate is much, much higher than that of the flu. Yes right now the flu infects more, so of course it kills more. But if this new virus takes off and infects a very large percentage of the world population, the higher mortality rate will
          mean it will definitely be worse than the flu in terms of number of deaths. That’s why there is such a concentrated effort to detect and contain right now, to slow down the spread and deaths until treatments and/or vaccines can be developed.

          1. Oxford Comma*

            Also, they have flu vaccines. There isn’t a vaccine for this thing. They don’t know a ton about it.

            There are now cases of human-to-human transmission and there’s at least one case of a person appearing to recover from it only to have a recurrence.

            For the record, I almost always get a flu shot.

            I wouldn’t characterize my response to this as panic, more like strong concern.

          2. Lisa*

            No, the mortality rate is not higher than the flu, stop repeating that. Mortality rate has not been established yet. We don’t know the number of people infected, so we literally can’t calculate the mortality rate yet. The 2% you see people throwing around is calculated incorrectly – people can be asymptomatic for weeks, or have a mild reaction that doesn’t require a doctor’s visit, so they aren’t being counted. Best *educated guess* so far is that it is about the same as regular flu, but that is still a guess.

          3. OP5*

            They don’t actually know the mortality rate yet. It’s hard to tell what the denominator is, because some people are getting a really mild version of covid19 and just staying in until they get better. That fatality rate will also change depending on medical care available and the population in question. Moving from say… A population that smokes a lot to a population that smokes a lot less will change the mortality rate a lot.

            1. Gumby*

              Question: Do we know the denominator that is used to calculate the mortality rate for the flu? Are there people who get a mild form of the flu (or are doctor-averse) and so are not counted? Is there a reason to believe that ratio of uncounted flu cases to all flu cases is not similar to the ratio of uncounted COVID-19 cases to all COVID-19 cases?

              … she asks as she remembers the time the flu knocked her out for over a week and yet she saw nary a medical professional because “they’ll just tell me to get rest and fluids.” Also, doctors’ offices actively discourage flu-havers from coming in for normal flu symptoms. So how is the way we’re coming up with that number different/better than the way we’re coming up with the COVID-19 number?

              1. OP5*

                We have better estimates on the flu’s denominator because it comes around on a regular basis and we can study it.

          4. Fikly*

            It has not been established in any way what the actual mortality rate is for Corona, so it’s impossible to compare it. Please stop spreading this nonsense.

      2. whingedrinking*

        Getting the flu shot isn’t just for you. It’s also for the people around you, many of whom aren’t blessed with a strong immune system. And you never know when your luck will run out on you; I hadn’t been seriously ill in years, and then a few years ago I got hit with the flu and was in bed for a week.

        1. heynonynonamy*

          I love Sawbones and would recommend bit to (almost) everyone.

          Those who are very squemish may want to avoid some episodes

      3. Seeking Second Childhood*

        My grandfather carried stretchers in the 198 pandemic, where some people died within a day of showing symptoms. I heard plenty. Get your flu shot.
        If nothing else it makes you less likely to be a Typhoid Mary.

        1. Nita*

          I wish! Last year my vaccinated first-grader spread flu to just about the entire family. Naturally, the vaccine did help – the family members who were vaccinated got a mild annoyance of an illness, but the unvaccinated ones were laid up flat for a week. But it didn’t prevent transmission. If anything, it may have made things worse. I feel horrible about this, but it looked like the sniffles at first, and he went places that weekend instead of staying home. I’m a lot more cautious about not spreading germs this year, now that I’m aware that “feeling a little off” may actually be how the flu presents if you’ve been vaccinated.

          1. Fikly*

            That vaccinated first-grader was still less likely to spread the flu. They simply spread a strain that was not contained in the vaccine. The flu vaccine does not protect against every strain out there – that’s impossible. It protects against what our best guess for what the most prevalent strains will be each year.

      4. Slick Sylvia*

        I’ve never had the flu but started getting the annual shot a couple years back when I realized it’s not for me — it’s for the people I’m not even aware of, around me on public and work and etc., who have less robust defenses than I.

        Get your shot.

        1. soon to be former fed really*

          It may not be just for your but protects you also. Doesn’t matter why people get vaccinated against flue or anything else. Just do it for the public good!

      5. IT Guy*

        Flu shots and vaccinations in general are for herd immunity. The fewer people that are vaccinated the less effective it is at preventing the illness in the community. “Do it for the herd!”

      6. Archaeopteryx*

        The elderly, children, and immune compromised would all benefit from others getting the flu shot, even if you don’t often get sick yourself.

      7. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        Each time you go out in a car you have a 1/40 chance of getting into an accident, I’ve been told.

        1. 'Tis Me*

          That would mean that the many people who get in their car twice a day 5 times a week (to drive to, then home from, work) would on average have 1 accident every 4 weeks, assuming they never drove to the shops or anywhere else.

          I am pretty certain that you have been told wrong.

      8. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        I never got the flu until I was 42. It was horrible so I’ve had a shot every year since then. I want to avoid getting that again if possible.

      1. Beary*

        It may not be very effective at preventing the flu entirely, but it is very effective at reducing symptoms, reducing your chance of dying, and reducing you chance of spreading it to others. 

      2. Mongrel*

        CDC Disagrees –

        Some outliers but most years are 45% or better, which is pretty good considering they have to predict the strains the year before.

        Also, I’m pretty sure irresponsible reporting (like bandying about low effectiveness figures) reduces the uptake of the vaccine thus turning it into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
        “The vaccine doesn’t work so I won’t bother getting it. The vaccine isn’t effective because nobody gets it (breaking community immunity)”

      3. Seeking Second Childhood*

        These stats are also misleading because the flu strains that ARE in the year’s vaccine will by design just not spread to become a problem.

      4. DaisyGrrl*

        They tend to be 40%-60% effective in the US. The only year I could find effectiveness below 15% was 2004. This year’s vaccine appears to have an overall effectiveness at about 45% (per the CDC), but the effectiveness varies depending on age, influenza strains in circulation, etc.

        It’s possible to receive a vaccine in a high-effectiveness year, but still catch flu from a strain that is not in the vaccine. It doesn’t mean the vaccine wasn’t effective on a population level.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          And even if you do get it, your case tends to be less ‘bad’ – fewer symptoms, shorter duration – because it usually gives partial immunity to variants that are not in the vaccine.

          Get your flu shot, it’s worth it.

      5. Senor Montoya*

        Your numbers are off — much higher than 15%. This year it’s around 50%. Also this year’s flu has been tough on kids.
        Info from the CDC, updated last week:

      6. soon to be former fed really*

        Nope. Effectiveness varies by year, but vaccinated folks who get the flue experience less severity. It’s a win-win.

      7. Rusty Shackelford*

        Even if that were true – which it’s not – why not reduce your chance of getting a nasty illness by 15%?

        1. Antilles*

          Especially given how low effort it is.
          It’s one shot once a year, is somewhere between “pretty cheap” and free, and is available at any pharmacy – most notably this includes pharmacies attached to grocery stores which means that you can just work it into your normal trips for groceries.

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            Most years, Target will offer customers a $5 gift card if you get your flu shot in their pharmacy.

        2. tangerineRose*

          Insurance frequently covers the flu shot, and if you don’t get bad side effects, why not get it? Getting the flu can be awful.

      8. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        Yeah, I’ve never yet had the flu shot and I don’t intend to in the future.

    2. Asenath*

      I can’t say I’ve noticed any overlap between COVID-19 panic and flu shots, but in person (as opposed to on the media) I haven’t seen much panic about COVID-19. I don’t know everyone’s flu shot status, although when I worked in an institution that encouraged them, I knew of more people who didn’t get flu shots than I know among my personal friends and family, who mostly get vaccinated at higher rates than the local general public (or, I sometimes suspected, the workers in that particular institution). Personally, I’ve been getting the flu shot for years, mainly because I get so miserable when I get even a common cold that I want to do whatever I can to minimize the chances of getting any form of influenza. Since I rarely have a reaction to a vaccine, and never to any of those annual flu shots, there’s really no downside for me in getting vaccinated. And if COVID-19 reaches here, which it might very well do, I’ll just be a bit more careful about hand washing and similar procedures, and hope for the best, more or less just as I do for regular viruses. This is hardly the first novel virus to move across the world, although some people seem to think it is. I heard recently about someone who chose to drive across a good chunk of North America rather than risk exposure in an airport or airplane. I would have thought the airplane trip in North America a fairly low risk for COVID-19 (if not for the common cold), but when I said as much, the response was along the lines 0f – “don’t you know that some of these people who have been traveling by air had COVID-19??”

    3. AngelicGamer, the Visually Impaired Peep*

      I CANNOT get a flu shot. It’s non-negotiate via my doctor as I will get the low-grade flu reaction and then follow it up with bronchitis. After this happened twice, my doctor told me no due to worrying about scaring on my lungs later in life.

      I’m still low-key panicking over this because of how it’s effecting our markets and my mom works in finance. She sometimes has to handle money and they’re doing the best they can about keeping employees safe. Please don’t equate all people not getting their flu shot as idiots. I wish I could get it. I hate having to rely on herd immunity during the winter and not going out when the flu risk is high. I just like my lungs more.

      1. tangerineRose*

        I think most of us want everyone who can get flu shots to get them so that people like you who shouldn’t get flu shots will be safer.

  10. Nerdy Library Clerk*

    Coronavirus is concerning, since I work with the public – and, largely, a very vulnerable section of the public, since I work at a downtown library. I’m less personally concerned (we have good health insurance, and I’m reasonably healthy) than I am concerned about what an outbreak here could do to our patrons, many of whom have limited resources, jobs that don’t offer sick time, much less health insurance, and/or are homeless.

    We have hand sanitizer stations and disinfectant wipes available (and soap in the bathrooms), but still… we’re talking a disease that’s apparently very contagious and people who are likely to put off going to the doctor until they’re very ill. (Not because they’re irresponsible, but because they just plain can’t afford it.) I wonder if our resident social worker knows if the local low/no cost medical providers have any plans in the works.

    And, of course, on the inconvenient side of things rather than the potential tragedy side of things, if it spread through the staff, we might end up in a situation where the branch would have to be closed or only run on a skeleton crew. Pull very much staff out for two weeks each and things kind of grind to a halt.

    1. Anon-mama*

      Fellow library worker here! Your idea to hopefully get information about low cost medical visits is great. I’m going to suggest that to my boss. Not only do we want patrons well, several staff members are either in the higher risk group or care for others at high risk at home.

    2. OP5*

      Likely, testing for coronavirus will be free. Call the local health department!! See if there’s any information that you can help spread!

    3. DaisyGrrl*

      Are you in contact with your local public health unit? They might be able to provide some fact sheets for you to have available, as well as recommendations for extra cleaning that might help reduce the spread of the illness. State and national public health websites might also have some good resources (CDC and WHO both have fact sheets and posters you could download and print).

      As the coronavirus becomes established, I would expect public health units to have specific guidance available for more vulnerable populations (especially people with chronic illnesses, homeless, low-income, etc.). I know this is an active concern in my jurisdiction and this guidance is in development, even if it’s not yet published. Your resident social worker might be able to liaise with public health to ensure you have access to the latest tailored information and guidance.

    4. James*

      I will add that a notice on proper hand washing would be helpful. Hand sanitizer is no replacement for thoroughly washing your hands. You don’t even need anti-bacterial soap (which doesn’t do anything against a virus anyway); antibacterial soap, at least in the studies I’ve seen, is not significantly more effective than good old-fashioned soap and water.

      The other thing to remember is that hand sanitizer needs time to work. I forget how many seconds, but it’s a reasonably large number. A quick squirt and rub isn’t sufficient; it’s like trying to mow a yard by cutting grass with scissors for a few minutes. May want to print out a quick reminder for people and post it near the hand sanitizer.

    5. OP5*

      A lot of people seem to be panicking because of a perceived lack of things that they can do about coronavirus. It’s not true though. One of the benefits that we have over China in dealing with this is a well educated population endowed with transparency and freedom of speech.

      Making people aware of the resources available will help people a lot.

    6. LaSalleUGirl*

      A colleague told me yesterday about a case in Miami where a man who had recently returned from China came down with some flu-like symptoms, and out of an abundance of caution went to his local hospital for testing. The test was negative (thank goodness), but he wound up getting billed for $3000 for the testing because he has high-deductible insurance. (I’m not including the link to avoid getting stuck in moderation, but I just pulled up the story on the Miami Herald — Google “coronavirus Miami test $3000”)

      If that’s what we’re up against, then yeah, a lot of people are going to avoid medical care. OP#5 posted below that testing will be free, and I want that to be true, but if it’s not — or if there’s a lengthy gap between now and when it becomes free — there will be many, many people who simply can’t take the financial risk of getting tested.

      1. Nerdy Library Clerk*

        That’s exactly the kind of thing that worries me. Even if that was some kind of fluke and there are resources here that are affordable, people are going to hear about instances like that and not get things checked out.

        Definitely reason to talk to our social worker and the local health department and see what’s available and what information we can get out to people.

      2. OP5*

        Testing will be free in my jurisdiction, but we also have a lot of money that gets poured into our public health system. For instance, HIV testing is free here. People should contact their local public health office and ask about getting tested. Smaller jurisdictions might be slower on the uptake with this stuff, but it would be mind blowingly negligent to not make testing free. However, yeah… Hopefully testing gets made available for free and publicized ASAP.

  11. Dan*


    I have two separate responses to this, one a personal anecdote, and experience with my current employer.

    Anecdote: Ha, a three-day email turnaround is nothing to write home about. Many moons ago, I was interviewing for jobs that paid a hair above minimum wage, and in a field where I had demonstrable experience. I got my pick of offers, but one place *snail mailed* me a rejection… that arrived at my residence less than 24 hours after I interviewed in person. That was 16 years ago, and to this day, it’s memorable, and I half wonder if they had that rejection in the mail before I even showed up. (Even if they didn’t, they would have had to have it typed up and in the mail within an hour or two of me gracing them with my presence.) Like I said, it’s 16 years after the fact and I have a very clear recollection of a rejection from a job that paid $10/hr that still makes me go WTF.

    “Real job” experience: My org generally just does rolling interviews for a position. We typically hire “experienced professionals”, so if we have an open position and interview someone for it, we’ll more or less take the first “right person” that comes along. And if we don’t find that person, we don’t bother. We also don’t waste our time (and the candidate’s) with multi-day interviews for all but the most senior positions. You show up, you interview for about a half day with a 5-6 different people, and that’s it. There are exceptions to that rule, but by and large, it holds.

    As such, we typically will have a discussion at COB about the person we interviewed, and know same-day whether we will extend an offer or pass. I don’t know what conventions HR has for sitting on rejections. But I’ve known people who are called same-day with a tentative offer, and one guy I worked with went from in-person interview to butt-in-chair within two weeks. (I think that’s a record.) And he relocated from out-of-state.

    Point being, a three-day turn around on a rejection indicates nothing more than a company who can be efficient with its hiring if it wants to.

    Side story: At Old Job, I submitted a resume from an alumni network. Dude interviewed, and was *persistent* about follow up… with me. For whatever reason, it seemed like management just wanted him to get impatient and go away, because they certainly weren’t extending him an offer. Well, he kept pestering me, and I went to my manager. They finally, after like three months, finally sent the dude a formal rejection letter. I guess at this point, I haven’t seen it all, but I’ve seen a lot. (Hell, it took old job a month to turn around an offer… and I have a background where you pretty much know ASAP where I stand. I have the demonstrable skills, so I’m either a cultural “fit” or not.)

  12. Jen*

    #2 – my best employee forget to mention her (highly desirable in this job) master’s on her resume. She mentioned it during the interview, we laughed a bit about her resume being out of date on the job site, I hired her and she is amazing.

  13. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    LW3: the fact that they didn’t fill the position is telling, I think. It suggests it isn’t an urgent hire, or they don’t quite know what they want, or they can’t articulate what they want, or they’re waiting for an actual unicorn. It might be helpful to consider that your application was rejected simply because it didn’t check the “pops glitter and vomits rainbows” box you didn’t know was there.

    Better luck next time.

    (reposted for nesting failure)

    1. Veronica Mars*

      I do think, if possible, it would be really helpful to humbly reach out to the interviewer (or your contact at the company) and ask if they’d be willing to provide you feedback on why you weren’t hired. Because its worth reapplying to the company if the answer is “we wanted a proficiency if you don’t have” but not if its “we didn’t like your hair color.”

  14. Bluesboy*

    #4 I feel your pain. Many years ago when I was teaching English to adults I had one student who would sit next to me instead of across the table (I mean like right next to me, legs touching). I would try and move my chair away, she would move her chair closer and follow me. It was like musical chairs as we basically moved around the table her following me.

    I tried dealing with it indirectly, and mentioned how personal space was important to me. She just said “But everybody loves being touched!” and squeezed my cheek as though I were a baby!

    The only solution I found, and which I propose to you IF you have this in your office, was to deal with her in an area where the chairs were more armchairs in style, and ideally opposite each other. A table didn’t work as a physical barrier because she just moved around it, but armchairs at least have a barrier that she couldn’t do anything about.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I mean, or you could use your words. “Mm, nope, I really need you to back off a bit and give me some working room so we can get this sorted.” (And grabbing your FACE? I think I’d be out of that chair so fast it’d be tipped over behind me before I even realized I was moving.)

      1. Hekko*

        Right. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “No, I don’t like to be touch. Please stop touching.” And then escalate the language if needed.

      2. Spencer Hastings*

        I mean, or they could have been unsure of whether their bosses would back them up if they pushed back, seeing as it was a client and all.

      3. Original Poster #4*

        Touching my face would definitely have been a NO NO! I would have spoken up if that happened. That’s REALLY crossing the line.

    2. Ana Gram*

      I work in law enforcement in an area with a large immigrant population. At first, it was a bit awkward dealing with people with totally different norms than I have but I eventually got pretty blunt about it. I’d say, “in the US, we typically stand an arm’s length away when we have a conversation” or “here, it’s considered polite to not interrupt” (followed by me standing an arm’s length away and not interpreting them, of course! It feels rude but, ultimately, I think it’s helpful information to pass along. And I think of the time I stood in a Vietnamese post office for 20 minutes trying to figure out how in the hell people were lining up (it looked so random!) and wishing someone would have explained it to me.

      1. Veronica Mars*

        Seriously, I think this is a HUGE favor! Imagine you’re in a new country, touching legs like you always used to do, and people keep recoiling in horror from you (because, seriously, the horror) and you don’t know why?! Sometimes bluntness is the kindest solution.

        1. Ana Gram*

          I agree! What felt rude to say was really an unkindness not to say. If I’m in another country acting in a way that everyone perceived as rude, I hope someone will tell me! Very little of being a cop is enforcing the law. It’s all sorts of things, including American Social Norms 101. I’ve done a lot of roadside bribery education but my favorite one was the guy who offered me $7 to avoid a ticket. I saw a $20 in his wallet but I guess I looked like $7 would do. Always an adventure…

      1. Carlie*

        I’ve seen that suggested as a useful response – make it as awkward and intrusive as you feel it is and the shock of it has a good chance of getting through to them. Even if they think it’s a weird personal quirk of yours, they’re then not likely to “forget” that you don’t like it.

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

      Urgh, this reminds me of a male client I used to have way back when, who would sit next to me at my desk while we reviewed work. Whenever he needed something he would just start rummaging through my desk drawers for it. Like, this is not the bargain bin at the dollar store buddy, you’re right up in my personal space where I kept my handbag, my cash, my lunch, my list of passwords, etc. He could not take a subtle hint, “let me get that for you” (nope, got it) locking it didn’t work (YO ANYBODY GOT THE KEY), and since he was the client I was limited in how firmly I could push back. What did work in the end though was emptying several packets of feminine hygiene products into the cabinet, and making sure no stationery could be grabbed without Disturbing The Super Sized Pads. Lo and behold he suddenly recovered his manners! “Oh, uh, sorry I was looking for a post-it, do you have one” *desperately avoiding looking at the contents of the drawer* “Sure, let me find one for you!” RUMMAGE RAIDS DEFEATED FOR ALL ETERNITY. Although these days if faced with the same situation I would feel ok saying something quite direct rather than relying on the powers of the Period Drawer.
      This doesn’t help OP of course. But in addition to Alison’s suggestion to stand and walk away, I would also make a point of quickly turning off my monitor and closing/stacking any open files on the desk to send a stronger message if she is slow to pick up the hint.

      1. Marthooh*

        You can also prevent data leakage by slapping one of those Super Giant Overnight pads across the monitor ;)

        1. AKchic*

          Can you put tampons in the USB ports? I wonder if that would work to keep certain photos from getting sent to some of our private accounts…

          *considers the new options*

    4. Boldly Go*

      #4 I feel for you. I don’t work in the legal field but my previous role at the global headquarters of a non profit had people*in my space* a lot.

      In your case, since you are dealing with confidential material, you need to be more firm about where people can stand. Clear this with your boss, but I think you can safely say “oh, Company requires that all clients stay over there”, or “Company rule is that all discussion must take place in a conference room. Would you like to schedule a meeting?” Stand if you have to, cover your files if you have to, move your monitor, etc

      1. pope suburban*

        Yeah, that’s what I would do too. I worked in law firms right out of college, and one thing that was drilled into me as an intern and employee was confidentiality. Someone trying to come around to my side of the desk would absolutely be told that they need to stay on the other side because we prioritize information security. Frankly, if the personal space invader is a client, there are many ways you could phrase it to make it clear that *their* personal information is being treated so well, which I’d consider a win rather than something that would cause grief from the boss.

      2. Miss Meghan*

        I don’t think you need to add “Company requires.” I’m an attorney, and I just say, “Sorry, no clients past the desk.” My desk makes a pretty clear demarcation between public space (chairs) and confidential space (files, computer, etc.) which makes it easy for clients to see where they should and shouldn’t be in my office.

    5. Quill*

      Yeah, chances are good if someone did that to me they’d catch at least one flailing limb as I tried to escape

    6. Gabs*

      #4 I have this issue with with delivery people at my office. They tend to walk around to stand behind my desk in order to get me to sign for parcels instead of standing directly in front of me at the counter. I was thrown off at first but then quickly changed to “oh! I’m going to have to ask you to stand on the other side of the desk. I have confidential information over here!” Some are apologetic, others truly can’t take a hint.
      Say things with a smile on your face at first, and don’t be afraid to be firm in your direction.

      Side note – one of the couriers came in to the office as I was coming back from the bathroom (out in the hallway) and I said “oh, I’m right behind you!” because I knew he was one that would wander in to our office if no one was at the front to stop him. He responded with “Why?? Where do you think you’re allowed off to?” obviously I ignored him, only to be met with the “Why don’t you smile? You must have plenty to smile about!”
      You’re always going to get people who have terrible social manners.

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

        You’re always going to get people who have terrible social manners giant, festering creepazoids.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        They’re delivery people… they’re not clients. Demand they stop doing things that are offensive and report them to their job place!

        I’ve reported carriers over the years and it’s always worked out well.

        “You don’t get to speak to me like that.” Goes a long way. They’re not clients. They’re preforming a service your company or clients or other vendors are paying them for. I’m sad people put up with that nonsense.

        Tiptoeing around clients makes sense. They’re the power position because you want that money/business. But I’ll straight show anyone else no mercy after they refuse the first nice redirection.

        1. Original Poster #4*

          Yes, delivery couriers and clients are very different. This was my first time meeting this particular client, so I was really taken aback when she stopped by my desk after the meeting. She’s not only unaware of other people’s personal space, but she also would not allow me to get a word in. I should have added that she was trying to show me her personal website as why she was at my desk, but she was doing it in a very pushy manner, and it had nothing to do with her legal case.

          1. Lucy*

            Hey OP4, As an attorney I think it’s very important to remember that the duty to protect client confidentiality is ON YOU. If this person took any information from your desk and used it in any capacity, your state bar would come after your law license. You have to speak up in some form. There are diplomatic ways to do it and Allison has given you good advice for ways. You can also be proactive and see when this person might be coming to the office so that you can speak with others in your office about ways to prevent her from coming near your desk. Each client is different and sometimes you have to do weird little things to contain them.

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

            It sounds like something out of a lame sitcom, where the seemingly bumbling, clueless client leaves the office, rounds the corner and then grins evilly as we see her livestream from the camera she hid in the lawyer’s office, revealing herself to the audience as an unscrupulous private investigator. DUN DUN DUHHHH.
            Or one where she then has coffee with a girlfriend: “Oh Carrie I totally blew it, why do I have to word vomit on every guy I like? He thinks I’m an idiot!”

    7. JDC*

      If someone leans over my shoulder to look at my computer there is a good chance I will bite them. Ok not seriously but I am going to start hating that person justified or not. I mean anyone, my mother, husband, child. People hovering drives me nuts and it happens to be my stepsons favorite past time. This is why I buy wine in bulk.

  15. feministbookworm*

    #5- in addition to the things that have already been mentioned (ability to work from home, adequate sick time, reminding people to wash their hands, etc), a very senior manager in my organization also encouraged staff to order food from their favorite local Chinese restaurant to help counterbalance people who are staying away from Chinese food out of misplaced fear, xenophobia and racism.

    1. Bree*

      Are you in Toronto, by any chance? I hear business in Chinatown is down more than 30%. Getting Chinese takeout this weekend!

      1. feministbookworm*

        nope, I’m in the US (and my org has staff in several large US cities, which are unfortunately all having similar problems)

        1. OP5*

          Which is dumb. If coronavirus can be contracted in Chinatown, you can get it anywhere. No one has ever been like “oh, better not go downtown- I’ve heard that they’ve got the flu below south street.” That makes no sense.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      A high profile restaurant critic in the UK is similarly encouraging people to visit their local Chinese restaurants as takings are down.

      I like the idea of a senior manager showing humanity, though! Definitely a good sign.

      1. feministbookworm*

        This particular senior manager is a personal hero of mine. Many years ago she spoke up in the middle of a diversity and inclusion training when the trainer made a well-meaning but inadvertently homophobic statement (along the lines of “being gay isn’t a ‘lifestyle,’ of course being gay isn’t a choice, why would anybody chose to be gay?”) Senior manager’s comment: “I’ve got a whole LIST of reasons!”

        1. 'Tis Me*

          I think asking “In a world where homophobia is so rife, where teenagers end up homeless after coming out to their parents, and being gay puts you at a higher risk of being harassed, assaulted and murdered, would you choose to face all that if it was a simple matter of choice between being gay and being straight? Similarly, being aware of all that, did those of you who identify as being straight and male choose to be attracted to people who you identify as female, and did those of you who identify as being straight and female choose to be attracted to people you identify as being male? Do you consciously decide WHICH people who fit those criteria you are or aren’t attracted to?” isn’t unreasonable – phrasing it like being gay is something that nobody could or would ever choose in and of itself (with the implied “because eew”) is not cool though!

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      We went to one of the local Chinese markets last weekend, though it’s farther than our regular store. I’ll probably go next weekend, we still have steamed buns and dumplings in the freezer right now.

      I suspect they’re going to cancel the Korea fest in three weeks, though. No confirmed cases in our area right now, but I’m sure they’ll be some by then.

    4. Librarian of SHIELD*

      That’s a good idea (she says as she contemplates the idea of inviting coworkers to order Friday lunch takeout…)

    5. Eirene*

      My first-ever job in high school was working the counter at my local Chinese takeaway, taking and bagging orders, and I’ve never stopped going there in the 20 years since the end of that summer because the owners are such lovely people and the food is so good. I made a point of placing a huge order there two weekends ago because I read about the major hit a lot of Chinese restaurants (and other Asian restaurants, because we can’t have nice things) are taking and wanted them to know I supported them. I think I might do that again tomorrow.

    6. TV or not TV*

      Regardless of how well intentioned they might be, I would not take kindly to any manager “encouraging” me on how to spend my own money.

      1. feministbookworm*

        she just said “if you feel like it, you can…” at the end of an email detailing other steps being taken organizationally. Would you really find that offensive?

        1. TV or not TV*

          I will admit that when I read your original comment, I was envisioning something a little more forceful. If it was just a tag line on the end of an email with no pressure applied, I’d be good with it.

      2. Meepmeep*

        Or to go to yet another public and crowded location. I’m not going to Chinese restaurants now, sorry. Not Chinese, not Indian, not Italian, not burger joints. I’m staying home and cooking.

  16. Seeking Second Childhood*

    OP3, Argh my phone ate a longer response.
    Some employers have a formal policy of waiting X months after contract/freelance job to hire someone as permanent.
    My company was in the middle of interviews when a hiring freeze came down–everyone was rejected. (Would have seemed more logical to me to put everyone on hold but no one asked me!)

    1. Stormy Weather*

      This is true. One of my previous contract jobs had a policy of two years as a contractor before permanent hire and it often took longer.

      If there’s a hiring freeze, I’d think the most logical thing to do would be to tell the applicants, “I’m sorry we are not able to move on your application at this time because of a hiring freeze.” That way an applicant could consider applying again in the future.

  17. Anon-mama*

    LW5: On my wish list from employers: job security if an absence extends beyond available PTO, but not caused by a qualifying FMLA situation. For example, if a healthy child’s daycare shuts down for longer than vacation time allows, or the employee suddenly has to care for an inlaw.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      This. I see stories about school shutting down in other countries and have no idea how we’d manage the child care if schools close here but workplaces don’t. Knowing employers had plans and that we weren’t going to be out every bit of our banked PTO and then some would be reassuring.

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          Especially since if there’s a real risk that anyone in the family has the virus, the last thing you want to do is call in grandparents to come help with child care, which is our normal backup option for something like this. Everything I’ve seen says that the virus hits older folks a lot harder than younger (as is true for the flu, too).

          And you probably don’t want to get together with friends and neighbors and watch their kid one day and have them watch yours another, either.

          I know that closing schools en masse is more about precautions and about eliminating one common pathway for disease to spread and not about any specific individuals being high risk or contagious. But we’d still be thinking about it a lot differently than a multi-day closure for snow or a facilities problem or something.

        2. Phil*

          If you watch NHK news-the Japanese version of the BBC- it will scare the holy beejeezeses out of you. Japan is basically shut down.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        In Taiwan, the government mandated an extra 5 days PTO for parents of children under 12 who need childcare during coronavirus school closures. It’s not enough to cover the whole period, but for mass school closures you can make plans to swap off with other parents for care. So if each parent takes one week, and they join with another family that does the same, that’s four weeks covered right there.

    2. LaSalleUGirl*

      This is an excellent point! I was really relieved to see that my spouse’s company addressed this explicitly in their company-wide blast about virus preparation yesterday. They are offering blanket authorization for remote work not just if you need to take precautions for your own health, but also for unexpected school closures. They are also going to be generous with PTO for self care or dependent care, if needed.

  18. EPLawyer*

    #4, this is the nature of legal work. I’m amazed its only 1 client so far that stood at your desk talking to you. Clients love to drop off documents and then say “I need to chat just a moment with you.” Or “I need to see you today about this really important thing.” They don’t get that you are not available at all times just for their case.

    Remember, you have plenty of cases to work on, they only have one. So it kinda occupies all the space in their head. First you have to set firm boundaries. “I am not available on a drop in basis, please make an appointment.” Then stick to that. If they try to continue talking at your desk after a meeting, Alison’s suggestion of walking them away is perfect. It gets them moving which gets the point across. Also, talking in a conferenc room implies meeting, which is billable. They will honestly be surprised to be billed for time spent chatting at your desk. After all, it was just a quick chat. Seeing that first bill tends to nip this behavior in the bud. This assumes you bill hourly. If you are doing flat fee or contingency, still set boundaries as noted. Also use your words “I can’t talk now, I have to do X or I’m on my way to court.”

    1. PhyllisB*

      Talking about billing reminds me of when my daughter was going through a divorce. I dropped some documents off at the office for her. The paralegal heard me and told the receptionist to send me back. Puzzled, I went back. I knew this lady from church but there was no business reason for her to talk to me. We discussed our kids and other random topics about 15 minutes before I could make a polite getaway.
      Well, about a week later I got a bill for an office visit. I called up furious and told them in no uncertain terms I was not paying a bill for a visit I did not ask for and did not even include the reason I was there. They cancelled it.

    1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      Yes, thank you!

      I also note that your list of precautions are not only useful for coronavirus, but also the flu, common cold, sinus infections, bronchitis – really, anything that can be spread by coughing/touching membranes/touching surfaces where the virus/bacteria is.

      (Now I just need to train myself to stop touching my face already…)

      1. MsSolo*

        A friend who works in a lab shared their tip, which is to treat every surface like it’s covered in chilli oil – in fact, part of the training was to make them wear chilli-oil covered gloves for a couple of days before they were allowed anywhere near the chemicals, to really ingrain the habit.

        I… really enjoy touching my face… is probably the realisation I’ve come to? So I definitely need to break that habit sooner rather than later.

  19. Pamela Piggle Wiggle*

    LW #1, I am so sorry. What an uncomfortable situation. I would go to the police because this slander led to loss of wages for you…… I would try the non-emergency number first but if you must call 9-1-1 to have your story listened to, it can be done.

      1. Quill*

        You can get fined or sued for calling 911 for this sort of thing, it’s meant for actual emergencies.

      1. James*

        Possibly not true–it involves libel and potentially bribery (either because of the money offered, or because the wife THINKS the husband offered hush money). One of the accusations against Donald Trump was that he paid a porn star to keep quiet about their affair, so this demonstrably can have legal implications.

        There’s also civil law to consider. It may not be criminal, but it still may be something that can go to court–either because the LW wants to, or because the wife wants to, or because the couple gets divorced and the LW is caught in the middle.

        Still not a 911 issue–unless there’s a lot more going on here than the LW included–but it’s not true that this is not “a crime in any way shape or form”. I wouldn’t consider it a police matter, but definitely would consider it worth talking to a lawyer to confirm.

        1. pentamom*

          It’s not illegal to pay someone money not to do something you don’t want them to do, unless they’re legally obligated to do it or legally obligated not to accept money in return for actions in favor of another person, which only applies to certain situations. The issue with Trump was that there was an allegation that campaign funds were involved, which is a campaign finance law violation. Had it been out of his own pocket, there would have been no potential crime, only a question of ethics.

    1. aebhel*

      Do NOT go to the police. This is a civil matter, not a criminal one; if LW intends to take legal action, she should contact a lawyer. The police will not be helpful, and calling 911 over this will make her look like a lunatic.

      1. Annony*

        This. Get a lawyer not a police officer. The police cannot help you if someone is saying something about you.

      2. Super Duper*

        THIS!!! Please do not abuse 911 to “have your story listened to”, and don’t bother trying to file a police report for defamantion. Argh…the total conflation of torts and crimes gets my back up!

    2. ThatGirl*

      This likely does not come up to the legal standard of slander or defamation – and I very much doubt any police department would take this very seriously or charge the guy with anything. Calling 911 for this is a terrible idea.

    3. Pobody’s Nerfect*

      Are you serious? In no way is this a 911 situation. It’s not even a police non-emergency situation. As AAM added, if anything, it could be a contact-a-lawyer situation. Please don’t recommend tying up valuable police resources with this kind of thing.

  20. Freelancer*

    Re #3, I’m a longtime successful freelancer. A couple of years ago I was going through a period of dissatisfaction with my work and tried applying to a couple of regular jobs. Even though my skills would have been a good fit, I found it was very hard to fit my work into the automated application system because it assumes everyone has traditional jobs. I wasn’t surprised to get rejected without even being interviewed, based on what I was forced to enter in the system. I wonder if it’s the same thing going on here. I’ve decided I’m happy where I am after all, but I wonder if the same thing happened for this letter writer. Any advice?

    1. Filosofickle*

      I, too, have been on my own for a very long time and went through a period of applying for jobs. I did get interviews, but everyone voiced extreme skepticism about my ability to transition back to working for someone else. TBH, they weren’t wrong.

      The cover letter is probably what got me in the door most. I could spin a story about how in-house employment was the next natural step in my evolution — I’ve been helping companies from the outside and now I want the challenge of taking that farther inside. Say you’re a copywriter. As a freelancer you might write campaigns and copy on a project basis. The “next level” in this story would be working in-house, developing whole systems of brand content across web, emails, ads, white papers, social. You can say you’re eager to expand the depth/breadth of your skills, and/or that you’re eager to join them because you admire them so much and want to support them every day.

  21. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP3 – I’m wondering if some companies have policies like “Don’t hire people who’ve previously freelanced for us unless X” due to some concerns over boundaries, or bad past experiences. I could see a case where a former freelancer, used to more independence, didn’t fit into a command-and-control management situation, and so the company decides not to do that anymore as a blanket rule. Anybody run across something like this before?

    1. Annie Porter*

      I definitely worked for a command-and-control management situation in the past–I can’t say they’d have rejected a freelancer based solely on the fact that person was used to freelancing, but anyone who was accustomed to a modicum of independence in determining their own workflow or schedule would not have liked the environment anyway.

  22. So Not The Boss Of Me*

    Masks are simply not available in Spain, and several US states that I know of. It makes sense from a manufacturing POV, from the demand in China alone. And then there are the people who bought them up and are trying to charge 50 $ or € for what should cost 1.
    We have the virus here in our city and the hospital here is having to substitute scarves.

    1. Other Meredith*

      Yeah, I have actually heard that doctors and health professionals are asking people to please not buy and use masks, because now there’s a medical shortage. You almost certainly don’t need one, and they really do need them. So don’t buy a mask!

  23. Annie Porter*

    People in my area are starting to panic about Coronavirus although we don’t have any (known) cases here at this time. The reason? So many people have so few PTO or sick days, and such crappy insurance, that they’re convinced nobody will be forthright about feeling ill, proactive about getting tested, or generally think of others at all.

    Sigh. I’m hoping it’s needless panic, but WTF with US healthcare system/worker benefits.

    1. Allison (not AAM)*

      Someone in London took an Uber to the ER when they suspected they had coronavirus. That’s likely gonna be a big issue in the US, where an ambulance costs an arm, a leg, your favorite cat and your firstborn child. If we want people to actually seek medical care and take time off work, we need to make medical care and sick time accessible and available to everyone.

      1. WellRed*

        Eh, I don’t think most people call ambulances for themselves, unless they have a broken leg or a heart attack. I’d probably have someone drive me.

        1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          After the news about the person who called an Uber, the NHS asked people to either drive themselves or call an ambulance–the ambulance drivers are more likely to take precautions against infection, other than telling the passenger to get out of the car if they say they think they have this virus.

          Asking someone you live with to drive you seems plausible–they’ve already been spending time with you, with the risk of exposure. That doesn’t apply to the Uber driver, your friend in the next town, or your helpful neighbor.

          Of course, that’s the NHS: here in the US a *lot* of people can’t afford that ambulance ride, and a lot more will be thinking “if I call an ambulance, what does that mean giving up?”

        2. SarahTheEntwife*

          Yeah, I was under the impression ambulances are only for emergencies where either you’re not coherent enough to call a taxi or you might die if you don’t take the vehicle that has the power to turn the traffic light green.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      About a third of US workers have no PTO at all, many of them in public-facing positions. Many employers, especially small ones, are angry and often punitive if people even take unpaid days off when sick.

      Between that and our patchwork healthcare system, I am downright scared.

    3. Meepmeep*

      Yup. I have good health insurance and can afford to get tested and to stay home when I’m sick. But the grocery store clerk working the cash register doesn’t. Neither does the waiter at the local restaurant. Neither does the barista at the local cafe. Neither does the homeless person in the street asking me for money. Neither do the teachers at my kid’s preschool. I wish all these people had accessible healthcare and mandated sick leave with job security, but they don’t.

      So no matter how humane OP5 is going to be to their employees, there’s going to be a pandemic.

  24. Amethystmoon*

    For #1, is there a general HR line you can have them call for employment verification? A lot of companies are doing that these days. Really, it should be an option for any medium-large size company. Not to ask for a reference, but at least to verify if you worked there. Otherwise, do you have any pay stubs, electronic or paper from them? That may be the proof that is needed if no HR dept. exists.

    1. WellRed*

      Doubtful. It doesn’t sound like she went through any sort of agency, just worked for a wealthy couple.

  25. professor*

    Ok, the face mask thing is not going to keep you from getting anything…

    “There’s still no real need for the public to wear face masks, according to the CDC. The main point of them is to keep someone who is already sick from infecting others.”

    1. A Kate*

      THANK YOU. I wish articles would be much more clear about this. It feels like a lot of the “official” health best practices have just thrown “and wear a mask, if you feel like it” in there just to…get people off their back? I don’t even know. But everything I’ve read from science-based, public health professionals says there’s no indication that the typical masks available to the public will do anything to prevent you from inhaling a virus. It’s for the SICK person to keep their germs out of the air.

    2. OP5*

      Masks are useful for keeping you from spreading diseases that spread through droplet transmission. It’s not great at protecting you from people who are sick. That’s why I said to use them or cough into your elbow.

  26. Smithy*

    LW #3 – Putting aside the speed of the rejection, I do think that since you know people there it’s really worth following up. I had a friend apply for a staff position where she was a consultant – knew loads of people in the team where she’d be applying and was encouraged for apply for the role. She was also rejected without ever having an interview.

    She followed up to ask about it and learned that based on the overall size of the org, there were a lot of immediate HR rejections that happened with initial applications. Part of the application included a writing test. Instead of following the exact directions in the instruction, my friend provided more of a “real to life” example and that triggered the automatic rejection. While it didn’t help my friend with that job, she learned a lot more about the kinds of answer that would trigger a rejection before a hiring manager would ever see the application. Certainly still disappointing, but ultimately very helpful.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Some might say that if she decided to “do it better” rather than following the exact directions, she was showing why she should have been rejected.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        I second this. Yes, I know, applying for a job feels cumbersome, but when a company asks you for something specific on the application, they’re asking for a reason. You can roll your eyes the whole time you comply with their request, but just follow directions, please.

  27. Allison (not AAM)*

    I’ve noticed that one of the main concerns about coronavirus is the impact a 2-week quarantine might have on one’s job. Surely no one’s gonna get fired explicitly for complying with a quarantine or for working from home for two weeks, but I think people are concerned it would put them on thin ice at work, or they’d ultimately be replaced by the temp hired to cover them. I think that’s a valid concern, so if managers really can spare someone for a quarantine, and they’re not gonna greet someone on their first day back with an “it’s just not working out” termination meeting, or are honestly fine with people working from home long-term, that needs to be communicated up front.

    (operative word here being “if,” because if that would be an issue, obviously don’t lie to people)

    1. MatKnifeNinja*

      It’s one thing to work a middle class office job. It’s a whole other deal working fast food and retail.

      I don’t think small retail stores, car washes and fast food chains will give a quarantined employee any money for non work days, or even keep their jobs open.

      1. Allison (not AAM)*

        Yep, I understand this. I worked retail very recently, I haven’t forgotten that those jobs exist and I know they are different from office jobs in many ways. I tried to acknowldge that what I suggested was not possible in all lines of work, just that if a manager can assure their team that a quarantine won’t destroy their job, they should say so.

        I also said nothing about giving retail workers two weeks of PTO, I know that’s not realistic. But I do hope that people managing stores or food service establishments look into ways to prepare for sudden staff shortages, and they have some sort of plan of what to do when people have recovered or are let out of quarantine, and they communicate that plan so people know what to expect.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Well, Jane loses her job because she self-quarantines for two weeks. When she can work again, she gets Fergus’s job, which he just lost because of his own self-quarantine. It’s the circle of life.

      2. Asenath*

        Sometimes social pressure and/or the desire to do the right thing and/or the desire to get good publicity works. We had a lengthy state of emergency, and the businesses that could and did pay their workers for the time they missed got a lot of good publicity. Of course, some businesses, particularly small ones, couldn’t afford to do that, but it’s not impossible that employers of cashiers and other service workers might do it.

      3. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I read a twitter thread last night about how many restaurant workers in particular have no protections at all in terms of sick leave, and how that may pose a danger if the virus does start spreading in the US because people will continue to work for as long as they’re able to remain standing.

        1. Pobody’s Nerfect*

          Thereby putting every single customer and patron who eats there at risk also. It’s going to be a lot worse overall than people realize if it takes hold in the US.

        2. Eirene*

          I once got fired from a prep cook job because I stayed away from work for an entire week….due to norovirus. Not only did I feel horrendous (in retrospect, I probably should have gone to the hospital because I was so dehydrated), but I would never have forgiven myself if I’d passed it on to anyone else, especially people with weakened immune systems. And they did not like that a single bit. I still don’t regret it. Also, that restaurant has shut down, and good riddance.

      1. WellRed*

        Thanks, Sherlock! The point is it’s a waste of time to try and gauge all the nuances of job applications and rejections. As Alison points out, it could be for any number of reasons. The end result is the same.

      2. Oh No She Di'int*

        I think WellRed is implying that it means they didn’t get the job . . . and nothing beyond that. In other words, it’s fruitless to read anything at all into the speed of the rejection.

    1. Salty Caramel*

      and that is all it means in most cases. The speed at which the rejection came means it pretty much had to be something like a missing key word.

      It’s jarring, I’ve had it happen. But really, who wants to work for a place that won’t even have a human look at your resume?

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Corporate staffing here – and please don’t think your resume is automatically rejected by an ATS looking for keywords and dates, no humans involved. Recruiters actually do review resumes, and they’re looking for certain experiences. If they don’t see what they need in order to advance you, they can decline you in the ATS, which sends out an automated message.

        Even if the system is automated to scan for certain experience and skills, or you are asked to self-rank your experience and skills, an actual human had to set the filters based on the requirements for that job and/or hiring manager. If a job posting says they need XYZ experience and you don’t have it, then it can’t be a total surprise that you’re not going to get an interview.

        No system is perfect – bad hiring decisions and bad candidate presentations have existed for decades. But things happen faster now because of automation for the sake of time management, and it feels different.

  28. blackcat*

    One thing that I’ve heard of in my area is companies doing work from home quantines for people coming home from China/South Korea/Japan, but NOT doing it for folks coming home from Norther Italy. That’s not a good look! In contrast, the university I work at has tied recommendations to the CDC threat level (which is level 2 for both Italy and Japan right now).

    So I’d add the “have a uniform policy” that doesn’t target specific regions differently.

  29. Schmitt*

    I asked in our manager chat channel if we had thought about self-quarantine WFH for people who travel to affected areas. No response.

    One day later, our CEO forwards an email from another CEO with tips on how to avoid covid-19. He summarized it thusly: “Take care of your immune system, get enough sleep, eat healthy, don’t drink alcohol, and stay healthy. Then nothing will happen.”

    I just…

    1. Gazebo Slayer*


      I just can’t with the magical thinking among corporate elites. “Stay healthy.”

      Also, I’ve heard so many stories of companies that chide people to “get enough sleep” while also requiring overtime.

      “Always blame the person with the least power” is the guiding principle for way too many people in our society.

    2. Oranges*

      Being healthy is a sign of your goodness. After all god only curses evil people with illness. Just World stupidness wins again. We all lose.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Your comment made me laugh, tho!

      Actually, it’s a great opportunity to start your new habit, and just keep it up after this all calms down.

    2. Candy*

      Avoiding shaking hands during an outbreak of a highly transmissible disease is a good idea. Avoiding shaking hands ever is still weird.

    3. Pobody’s Nerfect*

      I saw a new doctor a week ago and politely declined to shake her hand, citing the flu/cold/random virus season (she had not washed her hands when coming in the room plus it’s a doctor’s office with lots of sick people). She looked super surprised as if I was the first patient ever to do that. She said she was ok with it but then the whole visit she treated me coldly and seemed very disinterested and mildly upset. I don’t care, I’m with you and I’m still a non-hand-shaker.

    4. JustaTech*

      I was just doing a site visit in Germany and everyone was bumping elbows (when they remembered). My host even told me that she’s usually a big hugger but right now you just can’t take the risk.

  30. Innocent Librarian*

    OP 1: so much sympathy. While not as serious as what happened to you, I once had an casual friend inform me that his wife (whom I’d never met) was convinced I was the person he was having the affair with, so to be on the lookout if she… came at me? All because one day when I was on disability leave, I met him for lunch because I was so lonely and trying to find ways to get out of the house and see people since I wasn’t able to work. I felt furious and betrayed by his willingness to hurt her + put me at risk of any reputational or other recriminations by not fessing up. Nothing came of it except I noped out of that friendship, but it hurts a lot.

    I think A’s advice sounds good and wishing you all the best luck.

  31. Bagpuss*

    LW4 – I think that you may need to speak to your employer about your set up. If your desk has confidential files and documents on it *and* it is somewhere that clients can access without being taken there, that’s the underlying issue.

    If the conference area is near your desk, can you speak to your employers about having any door locked or with a keycode, and having reception make sure that client’s don’t try to go through without being escorted.

    I think beyond that, and until you can get changes made, you need to be firm and clear.

    For instance, if the client starts walking towards your desk, stop them before they get there – for instance , say “Oh, no,we’ll be meeting in the conference room. If you can take a seat I’ll be with you there, in just a moment”

    After a meeting, get in the habit of actually walking them back out to reception, and if someone turns to come back into the area by the desk say something like “This area is staff only, but if there was something we didn’t cover in our meeting, come back into the conference room and I’d be happy to address it”

    If your desk is in an areas where clients are likely to be or can access, I would also recommend getting into the habit of not having anything confidential visible. Obviously you need the file you are actually working on to be there, but if you get in the habit of keeping other files face down or in cabinets, and keeping papers with the top sheet turned over so the contents are not visible, then you can reduce the risks of breaches of confidentiality and it’s much easier to quickly lock your screen and close / cover the file you are using, if someone showsup where they shouldn’t be!

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      If your desk has confidential files and documents on it *and* it is somewhere that clients can access without being taken there, that’s the underlying issue.

      No, the underlying issue is that the LW doesn’t want the client up in her personal space, nudging her and coughing on her (!!!). The confidential files are the cherry on the sundae, but she doesn’t want the client snuggling up to her even without those files on display.

  32. CupcakeCounter*

    #1 What a douche! I’m guessing you were completely blindsided and didn’t get a chance to deny the accusations to the wife. Did the husband “apologize” and offer money in person or in a written format? If you have the admission in writing, I would either attempt to contact the wife to clear things up (not to get the job back but at least get a decent reference) or go through a lawyer. Someone above mentioned suing and while I rarely suggest that route, I would look into it especially if you are finding that your reputation has been harmed by the wife telling her friends what happened. To be clear, I would go after HIM – as far as she knows everything she is saying is true and is coming from a place of hurt and possibly thinking she is protecting her friends if you attempted to apply for similar work in that area.
    If you don’t have the confession from the husband in writing, be prepared for him to DENY, DENY, DENY.
    He’s a dick.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      If you have the admission in writing, you might want to forward it to the wife. And if you know who this guy’s actual affair partner is, you might want to include that. Do so as diplomatically as possible, expressing great sympathy for her situation.

      I can’t guarantee she’ll believe you, but hopefully it will plant a seed and she’ll keep investigating and find out about the *real* affair. And then, if she’s a decent person, apologize to you.

  33. Jedi Squirrel*

    LW #4 — Just be glad you are in law, and not a middle school teacher. This is pretty much your day!

    Stay gold!

    1. Quill*

      Volunteering in an elementary school was nuts when I did it. Even when I was in the fifth grade classroom, not the second grade.

      In second grade the cute little germ factories think you’re a jungle gym.

  34. Extremely Anon*

    I work for an international travel company in a major US city and things here are pretty grim. I don’t think anyone is so worried about getting the virus and dying but all staff travel has been canceled and people are whispering about layoffs. In addition to actual health precautions, it would be good if managers could be transparent about how this might affect job security, in industries that have been impacted by things like canceled flights and quarantines.

    1. Pobody’s Nerfect*

      All travel even domestic flights within US have been cancelled for your staff? Or just international travel? I’m still wondering what the risks are for domestic flights at this time, or going to large work conferences inside US.

      1. Extremely Anon*

        I haven’t heard of domestic travel being canceled yet, but most of our travel is international or at least overseas (i.e. Puerto Rico.) There is a big conference in the US in May that a number of people had planned on attending, and there are noises about canceling that trip as well.

  35. SI*

    LW 5
    A friend and I were recently having a discussion about working from home or staying home when sick, especially with all the news about coronavirus. The problem is, too many people have jobs where they can’t work from home. Low-income workers cannot afford to miss work. Missed work means housing is not paid or they can’t afford to put food on the table. If you’re in the service and retail industry, its common to hear “come to work or get fired.” What is the plan to help them?

    Just a few thoughts we had yesterday.

    1. Ace in the Hole*

      That is a separate but related question.

      What managers can do is allow employees the broadest possible latitude under the businesses current policy, and use this as an opportunity to push for better policies with the owners/executives. For example, in a place that doesn’t offer paid sick leave the manager couldn’t just start handing out PTO – but they could decide to not enforce a rule requiring doctors notes for every absence, or allow employees to call out “sick” to care for a family member even if that’s not officially accepted. They can let employees know that they won’t be punished directly OR indirectly for taking days off when they’re sick… and live up to that claim. And, frankly, in a job like food service or retail where a sick employee is a public health risk managers should be sending obviously-contagious individuals home whether they like it or not. It may be financially bad for the person being sent home, but it’s better than spreading a serious contagious disease to their coworkers or others. It’s also important because it reinforces the message that employees will not be punished for staying home sick, and because it gives the manager leverage when pushing for more paid sick leave.

      Another thing to do is keep a personal log of two things: all the hours missed for being sick, and all the hours that SHOULD HAVE BEEN missed for being sick. Again, this is important to build a case for better sick leave policies. In my experience a lot of buisness owners/executives live in a fantasy land where they assume no one gets sick, so three days of leave a year is “generous.” If you can document that employees came to work coughing up a lung for an average of 80 hours a year, it’s easier to argue that they need at least 80 hours of paid sick time.

      Other things managers can do in the short term is provide better hygiene options like hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes at every work station, encourage employees to maintain distance from customers, and put up posters about cough/sneeze etiquette at every entrance and at every counter.

      Long term: managers, employees, and the public at large need to push for better labor laws around employee health. This is a matter of human dignity and public health that is beyond the scope of any one workplace or manager.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*


        The US needs a drastic cultural change around sick leave. I’m afraid that if it ever comes at all, it will come too late for this crisis.

        1. Oranges*

          I don’t think it’ll come until a crisis happens that *hurts the policy makers*. Otherwise there’s no incentive for them to change it. Since y’know being a decent human being isn’t enough of a reason for them.

      2. Meepmeep*

        Thing is, for many low-paid employees, “financially bad for the person being sent home” can mean “we don’t get to eat this week”. Or worse, “we get evicted and have to live on the street”. So many people are just one misstep away from ruin.

        And I’m not sure that I’d be so public-minded as to choose to leave my family homeless to avoid spreading disease.

    2. OP5*

      It’s a good question. I’m not directly involved in emergency response, so I’m not sure about any policy interventions. However, what I’m trying to do is reach out to bosses and ask them to come up with a game plan that makes sense, hopefully with the help of their local health department (to help them determine what is and isn’t a useful idea).

      So let’s throw this question out there to retail managers and managers involved in food service. What would be some policies you could implement that would help keep you, your customers, and your staff healthy during this health crisis?

  36. I Love Llamas*

    LW #1 – What the husband did is inexcusable. Part of me thought he also did this to make his wife’s life more complicated. Now she’s got a cheating husband and no chef, so she has to go through all the hassle of finding a replacement for you. But your personal situation is more important here. PLEASE go see an attorney. PLEASE. You do not have to sue. The attorney will not cost you a penny because part of the settlement will be payment of all your attorney fees. This wealthy couple will pay to keep this all very quiet. You deserve several months of “severance” pay or damages or whatever anyone wants to call it, but you deserve compensation for the ridiculous situation they have put you in. The settlement will also include whatever you want for your employment history/references. Do you want them to confirm dates, provide a pre-approved letter of reference? That can all be part of the settlement. But go find a litigation attorney and let them fight for you. Good luck and PLEASE update us!!

    1. Blueberry*

      This this this. And while I’m commenting:

      People often say “go see an attorney” without mentioning how to find one. But many large population centers have a Legal Aid organization who can help begin the process and should be Google-able.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        Also, search for (your city name) Bar Association. They often have (free to caller) recommendation services.

  37. HR Ninja*

    This was probably mentioned earlier, but I volunteer boss from OP1 as tribute for Worst Boss of the Year 2020.

  38. Jennifer*

    #1 There’s something sour in the milk there. I don’t doubt the OP’s story, I just don’t get what this couple is up to but it’s something hinky.

    If I were you, I’d take Alison’s advice and see if the husband would be willing to be a good reference.

    1. pentamom*

      Simple. The husband told the wife that it was LW because it’s appears plausible to have an affair with someone who spends a lot of time right in your home, and because that will put her off the trail of he’s actually doing, so that he can keep it up. Now LW is gone so husband has a breathing space where wife thinks he’s being good, before he’s caught again. He actually probably believes he won’t be caught again, because that’s what people think when they have affairs, but that’s unlikely.

      There are other possibilities, but that seems the most obvious.

  39. LW 2*

    A quick update, having managed to read this reply just in time for my interview today: the project came up very organically, I was able to discuss it well, and they have offered me the job! So thanks a lot for the advice (both specifically this response, and the rest of the material on the site).

  40. esqueer*

    LW# 4 – I think your best move is to walk clients into the conference room before the meeting starts and signal where they’re supposed to sit before you do, and walk them directly out to the reception/elevator bank after your meeting is finished. If your office is the type that has support staff that seats clients and/or escorts them out, make sure they do so directly and don’t leave clients alone until you arrive to talk to them — for obvious confidentiality reasons it’s never a good idea to leave clients alone to wander bc they might not just be stopping by YOUR office, but other people’s as well.

  41. Leela*

    #4 – I’d be pretty surprised if your boss said something! It’s hard to say without having been there but it sounds like they just walked by and saw that you were talking to someone, I find it unlikely that it would have registered strongly enough for them to come up and ask the client to step back a bit, or that they would have chosen to go that way on the fly without having the chance to ask you how you felt about it.

    I *do* think that it’s worth maybe going “I don’t know if you remember but on X day, did you happen to see the client that was sitting really closely with me? I was worried they might see some sensitive information but wasn’t sure how we wanted to handle that with a client, thoughts?” If you’d really like their input, but I do think it would be fine to just say “due to sensitive information we actually have to ask that everyone stay (wherever you want them staying), sorry!”

  42. SnapCrackleSloth*

    OP #3, I once applied to a job at 8:30 pm on Friday evening. By 9:45 (again, on a WEEKEND EVENING), I had gotten a rejection letter. Don’t beat yourself up too much!

  43. Pumpkin215*

    I once got rejected before the interview!

    Had the phone screen- that went well, got the call back, prepped for the interview, got up that morning, put on the suit, paid the turnpike toll, drove 45 minutes to the location (oh and I was unemployed at the time), showed up and the same HR person I spoke to on the phone said she didn’t think I had enough experience. I was flabbergasted! Normally, I’m great at speaking up but I was so surprised as she ushered me out the door and I never met the manager I was scheduled to meet. I was spitting nails the whole ride home, wondering what happened. I wrote several strongly worded emails, but deleted them all before sending. I’ll never forget the name of the company though! Nor will I ever apply there again.

    1. 'Tis Me*

      Part of me wonders if something else was at play if things looked good until they saw you (e.g. Age/racial discrimination)..?

  44. X. Trapnel*

    Oh, wow, OP 1, I am so sorry this happened to you!
    My son’s first job was working for a couple (farmers). There was a whole clusterfudge of stuff going on there – six figure business debt, multiple small children, hubby’s alcohol use to name the most egregious of their problems.
    Because my son did the milkings with the wife as the husband was too out of it on rum to do the job, the husband got it into his head that his wife was having an affair with my son and turned up at the worker’s cottage at 1am, yelling the odds and waving a shotgun.
    My son was 17. This was his first real job in the big world, his first time living away from home and looking after himself etc. He got out of Dodge that night and came back home with all his stuff in the back of his car. Never received any kind of apology.
    He’s almost 30 now and still says he learnt negotiating skills in one swift lesson there.

    1. Jennifer*

      Wow! I’m sorry your son had to go through that. If the husband was so concerned, he should have gotten his lazy, drunk behind up and done the milking with his wife instead of going after a teenager. What is wrong with some people?

      1. X. Trapnel*

        I’ve worked on farms myself for over 25 years. The job itself is great – outdoors, working with animals, great job autonomy – but farmers tend to be THE absolute definition of dysfunctional bosses.
        My son was keen on farming as a career. He managed five more years in the industry before getting out, due to the above-mentioned batshit bonkers bosses (the shotgun chap was pretty par for the course). He’s never been unemployed since. People see “farming” on his resume and know he can cope with anything.

  45. Anonymouse*

    I got rejected before I even applied for the job.

    Granted, it was a Silicon Valley company researching time travel.

  46. Mr. and Mrs. H*

    #1, just explain that you took care of both of them, but their hobby was moida.

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