coworker got obnoxiously drunk at a work event, can we tell people to wash their hands, and more

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

1. Should I tell my new boss my coworker got obnoxiously drunk at a work event?

Do I have a responsibility to let my boss know that a coworker was behaving inappropriately at a work function that she herself was not present at? I just joined my new team and attended my first after party with celebs and big name executives. My coworker (who is on the same level as me but way older) got very drunk and was being really obnoxious, yelling and then sitting with her head in her hands looking sick. Many executives were staring and were definitely upset. Our boss wasn’t able to attend, but I’m afraid she’ll hear about it from someone else and I wouldn’t have given her any heads-up. On the other hand, we are peers and I have no authority over my coworker, so I don’t know if it’s my place to say anything.

If other people from your company were there, especially senior executives, you can probably assume it’s been relayed to your boss … and if I were your manager, rather than holding it against you for not giving me a heads-up when you’re brand new, I’d be embarrassed that that was your first impression of us. That said, if you’re concerned about it, you can definitely have a discreet conversation with her. I’d frame it this way: “I feel awkward raising this when I’m new, but I’d also feel awkward not letting you know that there was a bit of a scene at last night’s event. Jane had a lot to drink and was yelling and people seemed pretty upset.” (The tone you want is “I feel awkward reporting this,” not “OMG listen to this scandalous gossip!”)

2. Can we admonish coworkers to wash their hands now?

With all that is being reported around the world regarding the coronavirus, can we require colleagues to wash their hands when using staff bathrooms? I have read letters on here about what to do about that colleague at work who for some ungodly reason doesn’t wash up after using bathroom facilities. If I remember correctly, the answer is generally “no, you can’t tell someone to wash their hands.” Is it different now?

In my place of work, there is a colleague who just never washes her hands after using the bathroom — and the worst part of that is that she works on a cosmetics counter! Cosmetics counters of course are well-known breeding grounds for bacteria festering in “tester” products used by the public daily.

Yeah, in the past my answer on this was that you can’t police other adults’ hand-washing habits; just know that people are gross and wash your own hands liberally. It does feel different now.

Employers have always been able to require hand-washing (and to post signs accordingly), but it’s difficult to enforce that. As for whether coworkers should say something to other coworkers  now (as opposed to before the current crisis) … well, I asked about this on Twitter last week and got a range of responses. I think it’s more socially acceptable now to say something, but honestly, I’m skeptical that someone who isn’t already washing their hands will be converted by a short interaction in the bathroom.

That said, a cosmetics counter? Ick. Say something to her or to her manager.

3. My sociopathic former boss keeps getting new jobs

My old boss (from a previous company) was the head of HR. He was also, I suspect, a sociopath. He missed a ton of work, which he never tracked, and was often completely MIA. I witnessed him behaving recklessly with confidential employee information, making inappropriate comments about female colleagues’ appearance, and deflecting all work to his employees, which meant we were all overworked and also handling things above our scope and experience level. He was also sneering, condescending, and dismissive. After he was eventually terminated, some googling led me to realize he had been in a lawsuit (which he eventually lost) with a previous company. Disclosed in the lawsuit were two telling allegations: that he missed a lot of untracked workdays at the previous company and was then paid out for them upon his departure, and that he fired one of his subordinates who complained about him, which was deemed retaliatory.

He has a pattern of working jobs for a year or two and then moving on, which I find odd at his career level and I think reflects the time it takes for a new company to get wise to his duplicity. He left our company with severance and a vacation payout for his “unused” (untracked) time, which is infuriating considering what he put us all through.

I am an HR professional and know the risks associated with slandering someone at another workplace, but do I have any professional responsibility to warn these businesses? He tends to go for start-ups where he is the executive or only HR person, and he relocates regularly for jobs, so there likely isn’t anyone performing reference checks or asking probing interview questions nor is there any likely connection between former and current companies to shed light on his behavior. Each time LinkedIn tells me he’s joined a new organization, I cringe thinking about what they’re about to experience.

It’s no longer your responsibility. A responsible employer will do their due diligence before hiring someone. If they can’t be bothered to check references (and it doesn’t take an HR department to know you should do that) or to think to look into why someone has changed jobs so often, that’s on them. As an outsider with no connection to them, it’s not yours to solve.

Plus, by going out of your way to intervene with companies you have no connection to, you risk being accused of tortious interference, which is a legal cause of action for intentionally damaging someone’s business relationships. (Note that I’m not a lawyer and can’t opine on how likely that is, but there’s no reason to risk it.)

4. When should I let my references know I’m still looking?

When do I have to contact my references to let them know that I’m still job hunting? I’ve been searching for over two years now and have taken two different temp jobs in the meantime, but my job hunt has never stopped. Do I tell my references that I’m still looking? I only told one that I accepted the first temp job because it meant we were working in the same building. I never told anyone I took the latest job.

I’d check in now if you haven’t touched base with them in the last year. You could say, “You’ve been kind enough to agree to be a reference for me in the past. I’ve taken some temp jobs but I’m still looking for longer-term work and hoping it’s still okay to offer your name as a reference if I get to that stage with any employers.”

5. What can I do about lost wages due to coronavirus?

I work part-time for an education nonprofit that runs academic enrichment programming for public high schoolers. Because of the spread of coronavirus, today all part-time instructors were informed that if the organization has to suspend programming for the rest of the semester, it cannot guarantee “uninterrupted, standard compensation” for us during that time. Assuming the virus dies down and our next semester proceeds as normal, I wouldn’t qualify for unemployment during this time since technically I wouldn’t have been fired. But, short of sustaining an injury, I can’t find any information online about how to be compensated for lost wages. Any guidance you can provide would be very, very helpful.

You’re probably eligible for unemployment benefits! Rules vary from state to state, but generally you’re eligible to collect unemployment if your hours or pay are cut, even if you’re not completely laid off. Contact your state unemployment agency immediately. (This assumes, though, that you’re paid as an employee and not an independent contractor. Only employees can collect unemployment. If you’re a contractor, there’s no current mechanism for providing relief.)

{ 264 comments… read them below }

  1. Enough*

    #5 – Definitely check the laws for your state. My daughter had a co-worker who was cut from full time to part time and got unemployment. This was in PA. Also make sure you understand the rules for continuing to receive unemployment.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I have also read that some states are waiving the initial waiting period for UI payments.

          1. Mel_05*

            That’s so good! My husband is hoping the restaurant he manages will be closed or have the hours heavily cut while this is going on. But that gap where his employees wouldn’t get paid would be a big strain for most of them.

    1. old curmudgeon*

      Additionally, there was just money freed up by the Feds specifically for UI payments to workers whose jobs were lost (or downsized) due to covid-19, so keep your documentation that the reason for your loss in work and pay is the pandemic. As others noted, each state handles it differently, but please know that you are not by any means out of luck. Best wishes, and be well.

    2. Mel_05*

      Yes, I recently was on unemployment and there is an option for being “underemployed” on the form.

      And Inknowbthat when factories shut down for 2 weeks or a month employees collect unemployment, even though they haven’t been fired and will still have a job when the factory reopens.

    3. H. Hound*

      Defiantly apply. During a Teacher’s strike, us non-exempt employees got unemployment pay, even though we would eventually get paid for all our contracted days.

    4. bluephone*

      Yes, unemployment compensation often applies to “underemployment” compensation too! My SIL is a big box store pharmacist and when management wanted to cut her hours from 20 to something like 5, the threat of her filing is what got them to back off.
      Good luck, OP 5 and everyone else facing financial shortfalls right now!

    5. TootsNYC*

      So many people just assume whether they qualify.

      Don’t assume! Just file. As far as I know, there is no penalty for filing and then discovering that you’re not eligible.

      We pay FICA taxes and state income taxes for a reason–there are agencies with people whose job it is to tackle this, and sometimes even to fight on your behalf. It’s one of the purposes of a democratic government–to provide a counterbalance against the people with all the money.

      Let the agency people be the ones to tell you that you aren’t eligible.

    6. Anonforthis*

      Seconding this. In GA, when my husband’s hours were greatly reduced from full time to 10 hrs/week, I called and spoke with the department of labor and they told me that he would not qualify for unemployment, even if they cut him back to 1 hr a week because he was still “employed” under their definition. There may be exceptions for the coronavirus, but you’ll want to double check with your local office if you live in Georgia.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Note that it only requires the corona-related sick leave for employers with fewer than 500 employers. No requirements for larger employers.

    7. Mellow*

      Also, states require that those who collect unemployment look for work – typically three per week – and to document those job searches.

      A cruel irony in these rough times. I hope Congress suspends that requirement.

  2. WoodswomanWrites*

    #3, you referenced seeing LinkedIn updates from your former boss about his new positions. It’s great that you no longer have to deal with him, and a good way to reinforce that is to disconnect on LinkedIn. Or maybe you’re not directly connected but you look at his profile. Either way, there can be a real feeling of emotional relief taking that kind of logistical step, and good riddance.

    1. Viette*

      It sounds like LinkedIn is repeatedly letting the OP know that her old boss is getting new jobs, and I do think that disconnecting from him will stop that.

      It’s hard to drop these things sometimes, because it feels like it’s something you should do something about, and letting it go can make you feel complicit. But in this case there’s nothing you *can* do about it, and no longer focusing on something that distresses you (but that you cannot affect) does not mean you approve of it. It’s like blocking an ex on social media. They’re going to go on and be a jerk to their new girlfriends, but what are you going to do — go and talk to every new girlfriend? Let it go not for the sake of your awful ex-boss, who is awful, but for your own sake.

      1. MarsJenkar*

        About the only situations where warning about your old boss would be appropriate are unlikely:

        1. The old boss applies to YOUR company. This is unlikely as your current company doesn’t seem to fit the profile of companies that old boss applies to.
        2. A different company contacts you out of the blue for a reference. This is also unlikely as most of the companies old boss applies to don’t seem to do reference checks, and if they did, they wouldn’t necessarily see you as the person to talk to.

        On the off chance you are contacted, keep calm and collected, and stick to objective facts. But otherwise, this isn’t your problem to intervene in.

    2. Admiral Thrawn Is Still Blue*

      This somewhat describes the pastor who fired me. He bounces from corporate to church jobs and back again, as his resume shows. I think he gets bored with one, and craves the adulation that comes with being a new senior pastor. But then he gets invited to leave, or quits because it gets to be too much, and goes back to corporate, having done the latest round of damage.

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

        I wonder if these types of people ever have a moment where they reflect upon their problems in life, recognise a pattern, and earnestly question whether something about themselves may be the cause of said troubles. And of the ones that do, how many accept it and how many double down in denial.

        1. Jean*

          “I wonder if these types of people ever have a moment where they reflect upon their problems in life, recognise a pattern, and earnestly question whether something about themselves may be the cause of said troubles.”

          In my experience with these types, it’s a resounding nope.

        2. MassMatt*

          The better question is why don’t the people hiring notice this pattern and ask themselves, and him, this question. And call the former employers for references.

          If your church/congregation didn’t do any of this, that’s on them. Likewise if someone asks THEM for a reference and they make bland generic comments, or “we confirm dates of employment only”. These processes exist for a reason, if people ignore them based on gut feelings or because the guy was from the same fraternity or whatever then that’s a systemic problem.

    3. JustMyImagination*

      I’m connected with one person on LinkedIn solely so I know not to apply to their current company.

      LW, maybe you can turn off that notification setting so you aren’t alerted when her gets a new job?

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

        I do that too! I mean, I do have a little mouth-spew every time I see an update of theirs, but I prefer knowing how to avoid ever working with them again.

        1. anon for this*

          And me – in my case, a sexual predator. Current Company investigated and immediately everything was confidential but they gave him a slap on the wrist. Only coincidence ensured that there weren’t any immediate possibilities for climbing the ladder here, so he jumped ship. Suddenly, far fewer of the female employees (including me) were working from home or avoiding the work parties. Funny about that. By this point, I’ve been promoted, and seeing it from both the entry level (where I as a female employee was one of many who worked on filing complaints with HR and staying out of this guy’s way) and higher up (where it’s clear that management had almost no idea what was going on, didn’t take it half as seriously as the situation warranted, and often defaulted to a consensus among themselves of, “well, why can’t everyone down there just get along?”) has been cause for disillusionment.

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

            I’m feeling such shared indignation over the pervasiveness of these creepers in 2020, and how they are still enabled to climb. I’m sorry you had to go through it.

  3. Willis*

    For #2, I’d think in the current situation store employees, particularly someone working a makeup counter but really everyone, should be washing there hands more frequently. Does your store have some policies in place about measures to reduce virus spread because that’s probably what I would focus on more than this one person’s bathroom trips. And if they do have some hand washing policies, I think you could point out (to her or a supervisor) that she’s not following them.

    1. Avasarala*


      Here is my issue with Alison’s linked stance: “Keep hand sanitizer around, use it liberally, and socially shame her if you must — but quitting over it? For that to make any sense, you’d also need to wear gloves and a mask every time you emerged from your house. People are often gross. The world is germy.”

      Telling coworkers to wash their hands; seeing someone not wash their hands and saying, “Gross”; this is social shaming. This is how humans police people we have no authority over. We use social cues all the time to communicate when a joke was inappropriate, questions were too invasive, and so on–why is it such an overstep to say “Oh Jane, you forgot to wash your hands! Don’t want to get anyone sick these days, right?”

      And yes, the world is germy. That is the problem. Alison often encourages people to stand up against Secretaries’ Day, asking for salary history, and religious music playing in the office, but not basic hygiene failures? Is there nothing at all that can be done, no middle ground between “people are gross, deal with it” and extreme hygiene policing? I have seen all kinds of creative, nuanced suggestions for much less important issues on this blog that I’m very surprised that one can’t be found for this.

      This is not just passing colds around. This is everyone’s health. How much suffering could be prevented if we all decided to add “not washing your hands” to the list of Things It’s Not OK to Do In Society (next to sticking gum on the underside of desks and picking your nose).

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The post you quoted was from before this crisis (and outside the context of a makeup counter), and yes, before the current situation, policing the hand washing of adults at work would be an overstep. (Many people would argue it still is.) It’s not in any way comparable to pushing back against salary history requirements, which perpetuate the gender and race wage gap and put workers at an enormous disadvantage.

        For today’s OP, the context of their question is different than the question in the older post you quoted.

        1. Avasarala*

          I don’t think it’s different just because we can now see the consequences of poor hygiene. My country has been dealing with this crisis for months now and it’s frustrating to see people in Europe and North America finally taking seriously what those of us in Asia have been saying for a while now. Hand washing is prevention in advance. Can we only say something mid-crisis, and once it’s over it’s not important anymore? Or is it only certain industries like cosmetics and food service?

          And I brought those up as examples of where we have found many nuanced solutions that are between the extremes of “do nothing” and “make sure everyone does something.” Why is there no middle ground here? No matter-of-fact tone script that one can say to their colleagues? There were some suggestions I saw on Twitter. But you seem very pessimistic about this and it seems unusual.

          1. MK*

            The difference between those other issues and handwashing is that the latter involves a) other people’s bodies and b) cleanliness. You are basically telling someone what they should do with their bodies and also that they are kind-of-sort-of being dirty. Don’t get me wrong, I agree it’s a legitimate request (and yes, they are being gross), but, barring exceptional circumstances like those we are currently living in, it is an overstep.

              1. Colette*

                Some people don’t wash their hands under doctor’s orders. Wash your own hands and let other adults manage their life as best they can.

                1. Gazebo Slayer*

                  This is not the time for “live and let live.” Lives are at stake here.

                  Speaking here as someone who has eczema made worse by handwashing but sucks it up and deals.

                2. somanyquestions*

                  Then I need to be able to keep them away from me. People who I am forced to interact with should not have the option to be gross and virus-spreading through their willful ignorance.

                  I have heard far too many twenty-somethings at this point say the danger to themselves is basically non-existent, so why should they worry? They need to get out, they’re trapped at home for work now. It makes me want to smack them. As someone with respiratory issues whose kid also has those issues, their horrifying, selfishness grossness might kill us. Fuck them, and fuck being polite about it.

                3. Middle School Teacher*

                  Oh please. If your lack of management puts my life at risk, all the righteousness in the world won’t help. Stop this.

                4. Colette*

                  I find it interesting that so many people are willing to shame strangers over handwashing but not over making repeated trips to public places, stockpiling toilet paper, or going to restaurants – all of which also put themselves and others at risk.

                5. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

                  I have a skin condition that is aggravated by washing hands. If I wash my hands too frequently, particularly with the kinds of liquid soaps in most public restrooms, my hands will begin to bleed from many small wounds, which causes a completely different public health problem that me touching things with unwashed hands since I am now leaving blood smears everywhere. Outside of the current pandemic, generally I have to balance the risk of bloodborne pathogens versus the pathogens that usually live on skin and make strategic decisions about how thoroughly I need to wash my hands given what I’ve touched lately and will be touching next. This can lead to what looks like pretty sloppy/minimal handwashing at times as a compromise.

                  There is no zero-contamination option for me. There’s just a careful balance of what kind of contamination is the greater risk for both me and the community.

                  My current strategy is to stay the hell home, where I can (a) use the soap that causes the fewest issues, (b) wash my hands less because I live alone and am not having any visitors for the duration (so I am, for example, not bothering to wash my hands before/after touching my face since I already personally have the germs that are on my face and that I’m likely to pick up from surfaces in my house), and (c) use the moisturizing routine recommended my my doctor, which leaves grease spots everywhere and thus also doesn’t win me any friends out in the world (not looking for other suggestions from not-my-doctor at this time, thanks – she knows my entire medical history and you don’t).

                  But it’s not as simple as everyone being able to wash their hands all the time to solve this. I get that it’s the main thing we can Actually Do given the lack of larger structural tools, but it’s more complicated than some people are making it.

                6. Why?*

                  Really? Please stop, you’re being ridiculous and seem to be acting purposely obtuse here.

                7. small pig*

                  I suggest you go back to your doctor because that advice will be different during a pandemic (in fact, I’m very surprised it was given to you in the first place). You WILL be contributing to fomite. I have very severe eczema (bleeding, blisters, cracked skin) which is exacerbated by hand washing, but I have always been told I should continue to wash with controls in place: I am able to mitigate the damage by using a specialised hand wash for eczema (mine is Dermol) which is antimicrobial and non-foaming. I also have an industrial one bought by occupational health for me which I use at work – many companies will accommodate your issues. Finally I follow up with eczema cream. Let’s not “not everyone can eat sandwiches” this when there are workarounds that are fairly essential to public health right now.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                The question isn’t whether or not they should. Of course they should. The question is whether it’s appropriate for coworkers to tell them to. Avasarala is arguing that it is appropriate, even without coronavirus in the mix. I don’t think most people agree with that, although the calculation is different now.

                1. Sylvan*

                  I think it depends on the workplace. Where people share items with their coworkers, work with food, or work with things customers are going to handle, it’s IM(non-manager)O appropriate to tell them to wash their hands.

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

                  Used as an occupational health and safety slogan: “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.”

                  Hand washing is an OHS issue. Same as protective equipment, machine operation, bullying. Everyone at all levels should be encouraged to point out unsafe practices, which to me includes reminding any coworker of any level to wash their hands.

                3. TootsNYC*

                  I agree with Avasarala’s point about social shaming.

                  I think if you see a colleague leave the bathroom without washing their hands, you can say, “Don’t you wash your hands? You’re going to get everything germy.”

                  That’s feedback.

                4. Mr. Shark*

                  I agree that now, it is absolutely the right thing to do.
                  But I can also agree that in normal circumstances, unless your job dictates that washing hands is a requirement (in the instance of the makeup counter or food handling), then I would see it as strange to comment and make a big deal out of it, especially if you don’t interact directly with that person on a daily basis.

                5. small pig*

                  Avasarala is arguing that it is appropriate, even without coronavirus in the mix. I don’t think most people agree with that, although the calculation is different now.

                  I very much disagree with this, BUT it might be a cultural thing (I live in the UK and also work in infectious disease, so we’re collectively a bit more focused on hygiene). Same thing with scrubbing out of the lab effectively and replacing our coats.

            1. Beep*

              Right now it isn’t just about their bodies. It’s about each person reducing their own participation in spreading viruses around to be picked up by others. The coronavirus can live on any surfaces they touch for a looong time. Whether or not your coworker washes their hands has some big implications for you.

              1. Gazebo Slayer*

                Yeah, it’s one of those “your right to swing your fist ends where my face begins” situations.

              2. MK*

                I am not saying their right not to put soap onto their hands trumps the public health danger; I was replying to a comment that equated hand washing with issues like pushing back against secretaries’ day.

                Also, the bravado in this comment thread is … misplaced, in my opinion. Hand washing isn’t something that can be enforced or policed, even short-term, and shaming people isn’t going to be effective. You need people to buy in for this, and it won’t happen by insulting or humiliating them.

            2. Wherehouse Politics*

              That’s ok, I’ll tell them what to do with their bodies, and say wash their gd hands, just like I’d tell them not to smoke in my space. They aren’t an island, and those sort of choices have a collective impact beyond themselves.

            3. Avasarala*

              We’ve had similar questions about “can I tell people to stop hogging the bathroom” “how do I tell my employee they smell” “can I tell someone to stop using perfume that causes migraines for me”. We can absolutely police other people’s bodies when they are being dirty in public spaces. Look at how many people were here saying it’s OK for smokers to pay more for insurance, and how they dirty up streets with their gross habit. We have already accepted a base level of this, and I argue that handwashing, coughing into your hands etc is no different than that in principle.

              And I think we should do it all year round, especially during flu season, not just now that the CDC has finally decided to do something.

          2. Koala dreams*

            I agree with you, one could bring it up matter of factly, without unnecessary shaming. Just as a reminder: Hey, you forget to wash your hands. Or: Remember to wash your hands frequently, especially in times like these/during flu season.

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yeah, I don’t love how people always fret about “shaming.” Sometimes shaming is a good thing! Sometimes that’s how you pressure people to change their behavior in really necessary ways.

            1. tangerineRose*

              Yeah. I just googled diseases that can be spread this way, and even without coronavirus, the answers are disturbing.

          1. Grapey*

            answer: it might not change the one person’s mind, but bystanders overhearing it more will help start a social movement.

            1. MK*

              It’s unlikely to be effective in this emergency either, unless you appoint someone to stay in the bathroom and supervise handwashing.

          2. Avasarala*

            Absolutely. Peer pressure affects everyone all the time. Social rejection is a very powerful motivator.

    2. MistOrMister*

      I don’t understand how someone who doesn’t wash their hands is allowed to work the makeup counter. Especially if they’re helping customers with application. I would be horrified to get makeup done by someone and then see them leave the restroom without washing. And beyond livid to know the bosses knew and never said anything! I don’t see how telling this person they need to wash their hands is very different from saying the same to someone in food prep. No one wants nasty pee hands on their face!

      1. Sylvan*

        Right? Disgusting. In the best case scenario with no coronavirus or even a cold going around, they could still give somebody a skin infection.

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

          Although I’m not a regular at the cosmetics counter, as of this letter I am officially never shopping at one again. I’ll take my chances with online shopping and dodgy monitor colours over physical shopping and dodgy hygiene. Gross.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            I’m just gonna buy my makeup off the store rack – nobody’s touching my face! Ew.

      2. Clorinda*

        I don’t understand why makeup counters still have samples and testers, and I hope that gets shut down fast. What are people thinking? We have to change some things!
        Yesterday, in the grocery store, I paused by the olive bar out of habit and started making a mental list, some of these, some of those, ooh they have the feta-stuffed green ones–and then I looked at the olive bar setup and noped on away from that.

        1. Panthera uncia*

          I follow multiple skincare and makeup forums, and Sephora employees are trying to get a hashtag trending to close their stores. They cite specifically that “official” policy is to clean all testers, but in reality there’s not enough manpower to do so after every customer.

          Ulta and Sephora are holding out thus far, but Lush has closed. I’ve also seem some drugstores removing testers from the shelves.

          1. Arabella Flynn*

            CVS and Walgreens removed testers well before now – I think in response to flu season a few years ago. They compensate with a “no questions asked” return policy on cosmetics. You can get a refund for things that are the wrong color or don’t work as planned, and they just go straight into the bin as shrinkage.

      3. Koala dreams*

        To be honest, I think lot of stores has a layout that doesn’t encourage hand washing. Sometimes it’s very far from the make-up counter to the sink. It’s extra icky that the employee doesn’t even wash after bathroom visits, but the manager or store owner could also encourage hand washing between customers and before/after the shift.

      4. LJay*


        Like I’m not going to police my coworker’s hygiene on a normal basis.

        But they’re also not touching other people’s faces on a regular basis as part of their job.

        Everyone should always be washing their hands, but especially anyone touching food and anyone touching people as part of their job and that includes people applying cosmetics and skin care and doing massage therapy as well as people in traditional health care.

      5. yala*

        Imma be honest, I also don’t understand how on earth a MAKEUP COUNTER is still open right now. That’s like “touch your face and also strangers touch your face” central

      6. We were on a breeeak!!!*

        Hi OP2 here! I absolutely agree with you- pee stained fingers smearing on my face isn’t exactly the makeup look i want- ewewew! For some context I work in (not for) a large department store (UK) and I’m in a dept for “teapot repairs”. I found out more recently that a LOT of women (especially others who work in the surrounding beauty counters) have seen the colleague in question not wash her hands also and yet not one of them has brought this up to the store manager/s (even before the current crisis– & i think she has worked here for years)! It feels to me like an open secret that everyone but the guilty person knows! And of course not to single her out, she’s not the only guilty non washer I’ve encountered at work too!

    3. Mookie*

      I’d also separate the mandate from bathroom visitations and habits, which can be viewed as invasive. In the LW’s case, you left your counter for any reason, use hand sanitizer immediately after returning. Back from a break? Ditto. Between each customer where products were passed back and forth? Do it. Policing private spaces and breaks is just ineffective and a time-suck. Requiring a pump of hand sanitizer in public eliminates that aspect, and makes the policy apply to everyone without needing someone to directly and aggressively “monitor” hand hygiene. It’d also be great if there was a moratorium on all samples, but that may not be possible.

        1. We were on a breeeak!!!*

          Hi OP2 here! Yes to this- something i learned on my first day at my first ever job at the golden arches conglomerate! Wash hands every 30 mins & again if/when changing tasks! Something simple yet effective that has stuck with me since.

      1. Avasarala*

        Yes, this is an EHS issue and there should be practices in place to ensure hygiene is part of regular work habits. Not just hand hygiene but cleaning brushes and tools, surfaces, seating areas & floor, etc.

      2. Beep*

        True though hand sanitizer is not nearly as effective as hand washing in terms of removing coronavirus germs.

      3. Mr. Shark*

        Or just institute what many restaurants do–mandatory gloves while working at the makeup counter. Change gloves everytime you have a new customer or get up and go somewhere.

    4. schnauzerfan*

      I just had a conversation with co-workers about hand washing a couple weeks ago. It went well I think. Backstory: Our large institution recently switched soap brands to something horrible smelling that irritates my skin, I brought a bottle of my own soap to use, but got sick of carrying it with me. Then I used a public restroom and found NO SOAP so I went looking for some of the small travel sized bottles so I could easily carry my own soap. Found a small expensive pack, hmm looked some more and found a package of 20 or so for the same price as the smaller pack. Enough for everyone in my household and my team at work. HMM. So I got the big package and one of the “refill” bottles of a nice unscented soap and filled enough for myself and the coworkers. There are 8 of us in my office. We had a nice chat about how horrible the “office” soap is and how important it is to practice good hand cleaning and not touching our faces, also the fact that no one seems to have hand sanitizer in stock, but that soap is in ready supply. Told them they were welcome to refill the bottles with soap of their own choosing, but I felt weird giving an empty bottle and I certainly didn’t need 20…

      So, my point is we had the conversation. No one was singled out. I don’t think anyone felt shamed, and hopefully it did at least a little bit of good.

      1. angstrom*

        Good job!
        One of the best steps you can take to change a behavior is to make it as easy as possible to do the right thing. Nice soap is a step in the right direction.

    5. jamberoo*

      I work in tech and am grateful to enjoy a pretty lax atmosphere when it comes to coworker relations. I cannot visit my grandmother on hospice due to COVID-19 and you better believe if I catch you not washing your hands after going to the bathroom that you’re going to hear about it from me.

      This pandemic is a wakeup call to all the people who don’t think about the effects of their actions beyond their own nose. Wash your god damned hands.

  4. Red*

    #5 Many states offer UI benefits for being reduced hours. In CA, they’ve even waived the one week waiting period. Benefits begin as soon as approved.
    Additionally, if you become sick with covid-19 you might also be able to apply for your states disability insurance or if you have to take care of someone with covid-19 then the family leave insurance.

    Best of luck to you.

    1. JessaB*

      Ohio waived the week too. I think a lot of states are going to come out on that side of things with so many people off work not because they were let go per se, but because government orders shuttered their businesses. In Ohio, they ordered the restaurant business shut for in place dining. Take away and delivery is still okay.

      1. Tidewater 4-1009*

        They’ve done the same with restaurants and bars in Illinois, effective at end of day today.

  5. RUKiddingMe*

    I was just re-reading

    Interested to know, two years on, in the time of Covid-19 how people are feeling about insisting that coworkers wash their hands… Have the points of view changed or do we still not care/think it’s not our place to say anything?

    1. Willis*

      Given the heightened need to prevent spread of germs, I think it makes sense to encourage people to wash their hands and companies should be actively communicating to employees that they need to. Similar to not coughing on people, not shaking hands, etc. If someone is blatantly refusing to do that stuff, I would consider it a pretty big disciplinary issue. So, I think it’s fair game to remind someone to wash their hands, but it also seems like it shouldn’t be on co-workers to bring up the importance of these measures…the employer should be doing it. (And I say that as someone who wouldn’t normally say anything to someone who didn’t wash their hands. But it’s different here because the stakes are a lot higher.)

    2. Avasarala*

      I hope some people’s viewpoints have changed. So many people then seemed to think washing hands or not that important, saying “bacteria is not a big deal!” Well now we have a virus that is… Whether I say anything or not is one thing, but I absolutely judge people who sneeze/cough into their hands and don’t wash them after the bathroom.

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

        Yes, some definitely have. Case in point: my husband, who is staunchly in the “a little bacteria exposure makes you stronger!” camp, and has always scoffed at me for washing fruit and veg with soap and water before consumption. He’s now thanking me for reminding him to wash his hands and food more often and not touch his face when we’re out. Using my *completely scientific* method of estimating the general population against his level of stubbornness, I’d say many have changed their attitudes.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        It’s not a “gotcha.” Not everyone plays that game.

        It’s a sincere question of how people are feeling/thinking now – with an actual direct, tangible threat rather than just an amorphous hypothetical.

    3. Rebecca*

      I know there’s at least one non hand washer in my office, as I’ve heard her leave the bathroom without going to the sink when I was still in the other stall. Since the 2 stalls are positioned on either side of the sink, I couldn’t see her shoes, so I have no idea who it is, but I am definitely going to call out for her to wash her hands if I hear her leave the stall and open the door to leave. Loudly.

    4. Perpal*

      I don’t think handwashing after using the bathroom would stop covid.
      That being said I also find not washing hands after using a bathroom pretty gross, and I think employers should generally require it? Certainly anyone in the food, medical, or service industry should.

      1. Uhtceare*

        Your coworker, who is an asymptomatic carrier and doesn’t even know it, goes to the bathroom and leaves viral particles on the door. Later, you go to the bathroom, open the door, and now you have viral particles on your hands. You use the bathroom. You do not wash your hands. The next time you touch your food, rub your nose, bite your nails, viral particles go inside you. You now have the virus and, if you’re lucky, are another asymptomatic carrier who will infect others and maybe cause some deaths.

        Alternatively, everything above is the same except that you do wash your hands. The water and soap together make your hands slippery and the viral particles can’t stay on. They wash down the drain. The next time you touch your food, rub your nose, bite your nails, nothing happens.

        Wash your hands. It’s the best defense. Do it often. Do it in the washroom because you’re already there.

        Shame people who don’t. They should be ashamed. Shun them. They should be avoided. ‘Over-react’ and ‘overstep’–if their face and workplace harmony is worth more than someone’s life or health, your priorities are wrong. Good luck and stay safe.

        1. Colette*

          Totally disagree on the shaming. Some people have been told not to wash their hands by doctors, for valid reasons. Shaming someone for a medical condition is pretty awful.

          1. CoffeeforLife*

            That person is an outlier. Because someone may have been told not to isn’t a reason for the rest of us not to encourage good hygiene. If you are that person, sorry.

          2. Mary Connell*

            “Some people have been told not to wash their hands…”

            It would be worth getting a second opinion on that.

            And surely that would be so rare that the chance of running into it would be much lower than the chance of getting C19.

            1. Llellayena*

              I know someone who makes her own soap because she is allergic (like, anaphylaxis allergic) to every single soap on the market. She literally cannot use the soaps in public bathrooms or she risks dying. Granted, her situation is unusual and likely does not apply to most of the population that we see leaving bathrooms without hand washing, but I wouldn’t discount a doctor’s opinion on a person’s hand washing.

              1. Curmudgeon in California*

                I am allergic, albeit not to the anaphylaxis stage (yet), to artificial fragrances, like the ones in soap. If I have the problem with a workplace’s soap, I carry my own soap in a little 1 oz bottle that I refill at home.

                Yes, I have made my own soap, both bar soap and liquid soap, when I couldn’t find any that I could safely use (certain places are *very* painful to get a rash.)

                Even if they are *out* of soap, I still wash my hands under running water.

          3. Myrin*

            I usually agree with your points on basically all things, Colette, but I’m really surprised by your stance here – how likely is this medically ordered not-handwashing, really? And more importantly, how absolutely necessary is it as opposed to just recommended?
            (My mum, for example, has arthritis and a bunch of skin allergies, and it’s generally always better for her to be very moderate with her handwashing. But at the moment, she’s doing it anyway. Her hands look pretty horrible right now, they’re raw, dry, and torn, but she vastly prefers that to contracting this stupid virus, so she just sucks it up and tries to alleviate the pain however possible.)
            And, as always, if someone really, absolutely can’t wash their hands, it’s possible to talk about that like adults and try and find a solution which is satisfying to all parties together.

            1. Colette*

              My sister’s hands crack and bleed if she washes them per the guidelines. Open, bleeding sores on her hands make no one safer – not her, and not those people around her. Shaming her will not fix that problem. So in my house, the likelihood is 50%.

              Now, if she chooses to wash her hands (which she has been trying to do when out of the house), that’s a reasonable choice for her to make. A stranger doesn’t get to make it on her behalf.

                1. Impy*

                  Open wounds are more dangerous than slightly less frequently washed hands and no, you do not get to order a stranger to injure themselves for your comfort.

                2. Sylvan*

                  Impy, you could turn that last statement around: You do not get to expose strangers to contagious illnesses for your comfort.

                3. Impy*

                  Contagious illnesses / injuries. One is the potential for harm, the other is material harm. Not the same Sylvan.

              1. somanyquestions*

                Then she needs to stay home. There’s absolutely no “well, spreading the virus works better for me” choice.

                1. Sylvan*

                  Or wear gloves, or ask her doctor for an alternative way to clean her hands. (Though we should all be staying home.)

                  You’re right that there’s no “Welp sorry, hope your parents don’t get my germs” alternative.

                2. Colette*

                  As far as she knows, she’s not sick – and if she is in fact not sick, the danger in her not washing her hands is mostly to her, not to someone else. (And washing her hands increases that danger, not decreases it – at which point she can spread it to others.) Of course she is staying home as much as possible – most of us are.

          4. TBagpuss*

            True, but uncommon. My mother has developed issues with her skin and she has special, prescription only hand wash etc – and takes it with her so she can still wash when she is away from home. She also has a super strength cream to use afterwards to help reduce cracking or irritation of the skin.
            I personally can’t us the soap in a lot of public bathrooms as i have multiple sensitivities, particularly to scented products. If I can’t use the soap, I use hand sanitiser and also wash thoroughly with water – water without soap + hand sanitiser is more effective than hand sanitiser on its own

            1. Annie Moose*

              This is exactly how I feel about this whole “oooh what if a doctor said they can’t wash their hands??” thing. In that case, it’s not that you just don’t clean your hands, it’s that you’re prepared with alternate options, such as carrying your own soap that’s safe for your skin, using hand sanitizer, or using lotions or other products to protect your skin after washing.

              1. Impy*

                You know, this pandemic is causing racism, poverty, panic buying, political intrigue etc – but one of the trivial things that annoys me is how many people think that they are suddenly doctors.

                Not everyone can take the measures you suggested and it is not remotely your place to judge them. Has it not occurred to you that people with those sorts of conditions will already be operating under medical advice, and be doing what is best?

                Performative hand washing that results in literal blood will not stem Covid.

                1. Annie Moose*

                  Do you think that having a skin condition magically makes you immune to germs and disease? Just because a person has a reason to minimize skinwashing doesn’t mean that they don’t need to clean themselves or in some way remove germs from their body! The number of people in this world who literally have no safe way to clean themselves at all is vanishingly small.

                2. Avasarala*

                  One of the non-trivial things that is annoying me is how many people respond to “hey everyone should wash their hands” with “but I have a really good reason not to”.

                  If you have a medical reason not to wash your hands, OK. You get a pass, you have a doctor’s note, you are excused.

                  What about everyone else?

                  This is turning into “not everyone can eat sandwiches” and is ridiculous. You know who else can’t wash their hands? People with no hands! Should general health guidance be thrown out or ignored by all because some people with no hands can’t follow it? Or can we trust that people are smart enough to figure out how to adapt the guidance to their situation?

                  “Hey Jane, you forgot to wash your hands.”
                  “Oh actually I can’t use that soap, I have hand sanitizer though.”
                  “Oh, OK, cool!”

                3. Impy*

                  “Do you think that having a skin condition magically makes you immune to germs and disease?”

                  No, I think people with severe skin conditions are already likely to be taking the advice of a doctor and that you are not a doctor, so should leave them alone.

                4. Impy*

                  Avasalara: “If you have a medical reason not to wash your hands, OK. You get a pass, you have a doctor’s note, you are excused”

                  I agree. Others on this thread do not, which is what I’m objecting to. It’s not, “Not everyone can eat sandwiches”.

                  It’s ffs, stop trying to force people with bleeding hands to hurt themselves to make yourself feel better.

          5. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            I’m pretty sure that the advice not to wash hands would change given the circumstances, even if there was a medical reason. If it did not, then the person who can’t wash their hands should be self-quarantining, rather than potentially spreading virus around public areas. So yeah, I’d shame them.

          6. Jennifer*

            Seriously? Because 0.01% of the population can’t wash their hands, no one should ask people to wash their hands? In the middle of a pandemic? No one can mention ANYTHING here without someone mentioning some extremely rare (potentially made up) medical condition. Can you just accept that we are talking about the vast majority of the population and not outliers?

            1. Impy*

              No, like most situations in life, we ask/expect people to wash their hands and if they explain they have a disability / illness preventing that, we back off and treat them with dignity and respect. We don’t go around shaming them, in the same way we don’t shame paraplegics for needing plastic straws.

              1. Jennifer*

                I agree. Merely asking someone to wash their hands is not shaming them. Be an adult and have a conversation with that person with the understanding that tensions are high.

          7. jamberoo*

            If I were that person who could not wash my hands, I would be capable of locating at least an iota of understanding where people are coming from when they ask me. Just explain yourself and move on with your life.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Sure, but then what is it about the bathroom that we think requires special shaming? It’s gross not to wash after using the toilet, but your coworker isn’t going to spread corona from that specifically; instead, they could spread it after touching the sorts of surfaces that are everywhere in the office (not just the bathroom), touching their face, coughing, etc. But there’s nothing special about using a toilet that increases the risk. It’s just gross. There’s a psychological component to being especially concerned about someone who doesn’t wash their hands after using a toilet because of the grossness, but it’s not actually heightened risk compared to all the other activities that person is doing in other rooms in the office. The other activities are more of a problem.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            Not for COVID-19, but there definitely is increased risk for norovirus, Shigella, Salmonella, E. coli, and a whole other passel of gastrointestinal no fun. That is why washing after using the bathroom is more important than after touching, say, your desk.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Sure, but people are framing this as being about corona, and it’s not. (That would also mean bathroom shaming was always fine, and I don’t think most people agree with that, based on comments on letters in the past … and just social norms.)

              1. jamberoo*

                Corona is just a very current example of what happens when overall social hygiene slips.

                Not washing your hands affects people beyond yourself, and those people have a right to speak up and remind someone of baseline hygiene when they are forced to interact day after day.

                It’d be the same if someone were to sneeze into their hands, then pat them dry with a tissue instead of wash their hands with soap and water.

              2. CoffeeforLife*

                Yes, but going to the bathroom provides an opportunity to wash hands. There aren’t usually sinks placed around work stations so this is the added reminder to remove your daily grime. Just like going to the break room – if there’s a sink, wash up before eating. Wash up afterwards.

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

                Corona aside, I’m honestly floored that there’s apparently a contingent who shame people that shame bathroom-using-non-hand-washers.
                The theoretical health issues of one non-washer do not make it okay for them to risk the health of everyone else they come into contact with. I don’t understand why that’s being defended…? It’s poo! As others have said, BYO soap/wipes/sanitiser/gloves. You don’t just not clean your hands. Allergies and sensitive skin are not a license to be a grot.
                Can I shame the shaming of the shamers..?

              4. Miles*

                COVID19 actually does transmit through the fecal-oral route. That just isn’t getting as much airtime because most health experts think everyone knows you’re supposed to wash your damn hands after using the bathroom.

                1. biobotb*

                  Has that transmission route been validated, or have they just found evidence of the virus in toilets?

              5. Mr. Shark*

                But bathrooms are also shared spaces whereas many other places are not. So someone not washing their hands and then opening the door to leave can definitely transmit the virus. Whereas if they are just not washing their hands at their desk, it’s less likely that it’ll be transmitted to someone sitting in another area away from that person (who probably uses the same bathroom).
                Besides, more washing of hands regardless of where helps out.

              6. Colette*

                I really think part of this is similar to people who tell others with cancer to eat more leafy vegetables or meditate more. It’s wishful thinking that if you do everything right, you won’t get sick – and that if others don’t do what you would, it’s their fault if they get sick.

                1. Cat*

                  I mean, no, it’s not. The concern here is spreading germs to other people. If it was just you who were at risk it would be an entirely different conversation.

    5. Lynca*

      I don’t think it’s that “it’s not my place to say anything or that we don’t care” as much as it is that you physically make them do it. You can insist and definitely say something. But you can’t force compliance.

      In jobs where hand washing is a critical performance issue, it is something that sometimes you have to police your co-workers on or escalate to management. But at the end of the day you still can’t physically make them do it. Only act on their refusal to do so.

  6. Casper Lives*

    #2 I feel your pain. The person who doesn’t wash her hands after going to the bathroom at work is my boss. She puts on a little hand sanitizer instead. It’s not the same thing.

    I doubt you’re going to convince your coworker to change her mind, unfortunately. She’s gotten to adulthood ignoring the risk of transmitting germs, ignoring the “all employees must wash hands before returning to work” signs, and probably ignoring parental or teacher instruction to wash her hands. Good luck.

  7. JessaB*

    Regarding reduced hours, in Ohio today our Governor announced they were waiving the 5 day waiting period before payouts of unemployment due to the amount of people whose lives are being messed up over COVID-19 so it’s even possible your state has extended eligibility rules and done other things to make it easier for people to collect benefits.

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      Not in the US, but special dispensation is being made here for people who cannot work due to the shutdown. Even in a non-pandemic situation, if somebody’s working hours are cut, then they have to receive benefits to make up (part of) the difference.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I don’t know about the waiting week requirements being waived or not but Washington has enacted emergency rulings to adjust to the pandemic causing temporary job lay offs. Especially since we too just cut restaurants/bars from having in house service/seating.

      You don’t have to ever be FIRED though here, you are eligible any other day if your job closes down for any reason or cuts your hours drastically.

      I’m now stuck wondering if they’re going to give unemployment extensions at some point since it’s going to take awhile to get everything re-launched but that’s another discussion when we have a new time line in front of us. But something to remember for people who are scared, in times of these crisis we do frequently enact unemployment extensions.

  8. Traffic_Spiral*

    Gonna disagree with #1. Stay out of it unless explicitly asked. Responsibility for reporting her behavior rests with the more senior members of the team – and that ain’t you. If what she did was bad, the higher ups will have already had a word with your manager, and if it’s considered ok to get crazy at the party, no one will be impressed by “tattling.” Also, older people tend to be set in their ways – especially for their drunk behavior. This probably isn’t the first time she’s done this which means it’s the last straw or “oh LOL, it’s the Cersei Drinking Show.” Either way, it’s awkward and you don’t need to be involved in awkward this early in your new job.

    1. TechWorker*

      Yes and I’ll take LWs word for it that what she did was bad and clearly alcohol related, but ‘head in the hands looking sick’ isn’t exactly cause for discipline in itself.

        1. TechWorker*

          Yes of course – didn’t mean to imply that bit was fine! Just thought LWs addition of ‘sitting looking a bit ill’ was an odd thing to mention.

    2. LGC*

      I was kind of in agreement with you that LW1 should stay out of it at first…but that’s because LW1 works in entertainment, and I don’t know if the rules are a bit looser there.

      But on the other hand, it sounds like Jane was much more drunk than everyone else there. And that’s probably the concerning thing here – I’d be slightly less bothered from a professional viewpoint if her consumption was in proportion to everyone else’s. (Obviously, getting falling down drunk is not great in any case! But there’s a difference between doing shots with Post Malone and downing two bottles of Chilean chardonnay by yourself while everyone else at Adele’s table had one glass.)

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        Oh it’s entirely possible that she went way over the top. However, if she did, LW doesn’t need to do anything about it. One of the higher ups will have noticed it and told the manager “get your house in order.”

      2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        It’s still none of OP’s business. They’re new, not the drunk person’s supervisor and were not a part of any of it. If drunkie did something to make OP personally uncomfortable, then they should speak to their boss about it. Outside of that, OP needs to stay in their lane.

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

          Yes. And in a new workplace OP won’t know the norms or how boss will respond to her raising it.

          Even as a long term employee, I once tried to flag another coworker’s atrociously rude behaviour in the office, and was told by boss: “she’s going through a divorce, you have no idea what that’s like, so mind your own business.” Ok sure, never divorced so I don’t know. Compassionate leeway, of course. But screaming at colleagues to f*** off, pointedly ignoring people when they’re talking directly and only to her, and half the office too scared to ask if they had a question that only she could answer? That’s just a jerk hiding behind an excuse, IMO. But boss was also going through a divorce at the time, so she probably could have started peeing in the sink and he would have blamed someone else for making her do it.

          1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

            That’s seriously messed up. I don’t care what is going on in someone’s personal life, it doesn’t give them the right to treat their co-workers like crap on a consistent basis. A one-off followed by an apology deserves empathy, but consistent behavior like that…nope.

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

              Yep. That was just another nope in the nope-etship, blasting off from planet Nopeanus on to the Nopey Way.

          2. AKchic*

            I have gone through divorces. My first one involved my ex coming on site, stalking me and harassing my coworkers and threatening my supervisors/managers if he didn’t get my schedule or get to see me (there was a restraining order in effect, and he wasn’t even allowed on the installation and shouldn’t have had access to where I was).
            I was told “this is a personal issue and you need to get your personal sh*t situated so it doesn’t come to work or you’re going to be fired”. They wouldn’t even call the SPs when they saw him, knowing he wasn’t allowed on the installation. The union reps just shrugged their shoulders and said I needed to deal with it through the courts (I already was, they weren’t doing anything).
            I ended up leaving and going to work at a women’s prison. He snuck on property there twice. The first time he did and introduced himself as my “husband” to my managers, they openly radioed for guards and he bolted from the lobby before they could lock the facility down. The second time, he left a note on my car and they only caught him on camera. Someone started patrolling the parking lot more often because of it.

            A divorce does not give anyone permission to be a complete turd to people and require them to walk on eggshells in the office, too scared to even ask you to perform the essential functions of your job.

      3. Observer*

        It’s still not for the OP to inform the boss. I could see a lot of scenarios where it would be their place. But not in this case – They are new and there were other more senior (both in rank and time employed) people there.

        On the other hand the OP seems concerned that their boss might be upset with them because they didn’t give Boss the information. I understand being worried about that, but to be honest only the most unreasonable boss would hold it against them.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I am also on Team Stay Out of It. Specifically because you’re new to the job and this is going to be your team’s impression of you. Granted, I am overly anxious about these things, but after all the office politics-related antics I’ve seen in my life, if a new teammate went to report another teammate’s drunken behavior at a party to our boss, my thought would be “Ohhh, someone’s trying to move up quickly” and I’d be extremely cautious around this new teammate from there on. Not that anything Jane did at that party was right or professional, but I agree with Alison that the boss probably already knows. People talk A LOT. Someone has definitely told her by now. No need to insert yourself into this.

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        Plus, if it ever gets back to the tattled-on coworker? Yikes. That’s gonna be an uncomfortable working environment to say the least.

    4. Wintermute*

      Now maybe this is because I’m in a pretty conservative industry (fintech) but I’ve always had drilled into me the principle that it’s the most senior employee present that takes care of any “back to base” stuff from an excursion away from the office– they are the ones that expense the meal, they’re the ones that verify the attendance records if needed, and if there needs to be anyone’s boss brought in the loop about misbehavior, they are responsible.

  9. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    #2 Unless your co-worker has been living under a rock for the past 2 months she must know that washing her hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is the best way to prevent the spread of viruses. You are well within your responsibility to yourself and others to tell her to wash her hands. Please also let her manager know as well. In these uncharted times, ignoring basic hygiene rules can be deadly for some.

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

      Unless she believes in any of the conspiracy theories that say this is organized by the media. They reached this part of the world, I heard it when I was queuing at the supermarket yesterday.

      1. Rebecca*

        Removed because I want to keep this focused on the letters and not have this turn into a general discussion of coronavirus (removed the replies too for that reason). Thank you. – Alison

    2. Colette*

      By the same logic, she already knows she should wash her hands – and she isn’t doing so. Telling her to wash her hands won’t change that.

      1. Grapey*

        That doesn’t mean don’t tell her anyway. It might not change HER mind but the less brainwashed members of the family should hear someone take it seriously.

      2. Archaeopteryx*

        Social pressure can do a lot of good in these situations, though. Plenty of people know they shouldn’t tell offensive jokes but aren’t motivated to stop doing so on their own. But if they keep getting glares whenever they do so, they might stop even without internal motivation.

    3. JustaTech*

      And there are lots of ways to tell people to wash their hands.
      “Dude! Soap!” in the same tone as “you dropped your keys”.
      “I’m finding all this hand washing kind of meditative, don’t you?”

      It doesn’t have to start as super confrontational. I work in a lab and even though people here are generally really good about touching things (with and without gloves), everyone slips up sometime. A matter-of-fact tone is all you need. It makes clear that you know that they know what to do and you’re just offering a gentle reminder.

  10. cncx*

    Re OP1, i’ve worked at companies where getting stupid drunk was sadly part of the culture, and telling the boss was more of a “heads up since you weren’t there thing” and not an “omg your employee got WASTED” thing. In that kind of place, my boss would have wanted to know just to be in the loop but not necessarily to take action.

    1. Observer*

      Still not the OP’s problem. There were people in a much better position to gauge whether the boss needed and wanted to know and with more standing to carry the information.

  11. Green great dragon*

    For UK folks in #5’s position, statutory sick pay, universal credit (if low income) or contributory JSA/ESA (if you’ve been paying NI contributions as employee or self employed) are your options.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        …think long term how exactly? Applying for the benefits that are available isn’t going to hurt you in the long term.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        And what would you suggest as a long term plan?

        Even with another Great Depression, there’s nothing you can do to prepare for it other than be as ready as possible. Which includes what’s being discussed, filing for the applicable benefits/insurances in place and save your money for the essentials.

        This kind of weird off handed remark is just as bad as any other kind of fear mongering we see right now. It helps nobody. I understand you’re probably very scared right now but please think before you just leave half thoughts laying around where people who are also scared will see them.

  12. Thankful for AAM*

    Re not hand washing.
    I’d ask, what is your justification for putting us all at risk by not using soap for 20 seconds?

    I know that is direct and harsh but these are serious times and I think nothing less than public shaming has a chance of working on someone who does not wash their hands.

    I hung a sign up at work at the workroom sink from a website that makes a handwashing poster from 20 seconds of a song you pick. We have been talking constantly at work about the need to wash for 20 seconds. I am horrified at the number of coworkers who said, “hey, 20 seconds is a long time!” as they sang along to the song. Sometimes people just don’t realize what they are doing.

    1. Important Moi*

      Today will be interesting day for comments. I will be watching this post. I wonder if it will be a low number of responses.

      What has caught my eye so far :
      -possible medical reasons for not washing hands (thus don’t wash your hands?)
      – possible allergies to water (thus don’t wash your hands?)
      – shaming is bad

      1. Impy*

        Medical reasons should be respected though. There have been several comments here that have made me *extremely* uneasy, including one saying that a woman whose hands bleed when using certain soap should just… bleed. Being scared of Coronavirus is not a legitimate or acceptable reason to start bullying sick and disabled people.

        1. tangerineRose*

          Medical reasons should matter, but that has to be a very small percentage of people who don’t wash their hands.

          1. Impy*

            I agree it’s a small percentage, I’m just a little bit shocked at the people saying those people should wash their hands anyway.

  13. Rebecca*

    #3 – I know that Alison’s advice is correct, and the OP should let this go, but I can’t help but think this is exactly how managers we read about here can continue to cause grief and mayhem for years, affecting 100’s if not 1000’s of employees. I think many of us could say we worked with someone and then found out they were hired someplace else and thought “wow, how could they get a job at that company, hope they know what they’re getting into”. Most likely the references these types of people have are equally as bad as they are, so they’re able to move onto new ground easily. I truly wish there were some sort of reporting process so at least if people like the OP’s ex boss get hired somewhere, the new company has a true picture of what went on before.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Greendoor for employees?

      I mean, I see where you’re coming from, but people suck, so the signal:noise ratio would be hideous.

  14. Jaid*

    I know that there are some people who are allergic to water and cannot wash their hands. I can’t remember what the one guy does, but he did say he’s WFH for now, anyway.

    1. CoffeeforLife*

      From a BBC article: Aquagenic urticaria affects around one in every 230 million people. By that estimate, there are only 32 people with the condition on the entire planet.

      I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that none of those non washing people are allergic, they’re just gross.

      1. Lonely Aussie*

        A much more common example could be people on the spectrum with sensory issues that make basic hygiene extremely difficult. I have a couple of friends who really struggle with the sensation of being wet or flowing water over their skin (one friend basically keeps herself clean via sponge baths/baby wipes and another basically will only bath because the flowing water of a shower is just too much). Both have switched to hand sanitizer in lieu of hand washing but that’s getting harder and harder to find.

        1. Crying*

          This is the situation for my preschooler. He can handle water running over the back of his hands but not the palms.

      2. Annie O Mous*

        Yes, it would so incredibly rare to be allergic to water. My guess if someone is allergic to water, they likely have a number of other allergies and working at cosmetic counter would probably not be in the cards for them.

      3. Impy*

        Potentially, but allergies, sensory issues, arthritis, and skin conditions are all legit reasons someone might be unable to wash their hands in a way that makes you comfortable.

    2. Jdc*

      Oh that must be my step kids problem. And here I was being mean. Explains the lack of showers too. Finally. An answer.

    3. Colette*

      Or they have skin conditions made worse by hand washing, which is actually quite common.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        I have eczema on my hands, made worse by handwashing, but I wash my hands anyway and always have!

          1. Fieldpoppy*

            Me too. They are cracked and bleeding now so I alternate between hand washing and wearing cotton gloves with tons of betacream and Vaseline in them

        1. bluephone*

          hard same, I’ve had eczema so bad in the past that it became infected on my ankle (missed a week of kindergarten because I couldn’t walk) and my face (yay junior prom!). And yet I still wash my hands like every 20 minutes just in case. Even in winter. In PA. Where the high is 49 degrees Fahrenheit today.

      2. EPLawyer*

        Honestly this is one of those cases of “reasonable accomodations but still able to do the job.” This isn’t your cube farm coworker who comes out of the bathroom sits down at their keyboard and starts typing, This is a cosmetics counter. Where they are applying make up to other people’s faces, handling make up that goes on faces, etc.

        If you can’t wash your hands for some reason and aren’t using sanitizer (I would presume the LW would have mentioned that if it were happening as mitigation), then you should not be getting near people’s faces. A medical condition that prevents hand washing does not mean you are also germ free on your hands.

        1. Mirabel*

          This. Doesn’t matter the reason. If you can’t wash your hands, then you can’t do your job. End of story.

        2. Colette*

          Oh, I agree that if you are touching other people, you have to clean your hands. It’s the shaming strangers that I disagree with.

      3. Sylvan*

        Some people have medical conditions made worse by getting COVID, and those conditions are actually quite common.

        Anyway, my skin doesn’t do well with frequent hand washing, so I’m washing with cold water and using more lotion than usual. I have washable gloves coming in the mail. We don’t get a free pass to spread germs. Especially if you’re at a makeup counter and your job requires you to touch people’s faces!

          1. Sylvan*

            Work gloves with nitrile fingers/palms. I figure I can put them on when I go out, wear them for the duration, and only have to wash my hands once I remove the gloves at home. I’m not sure if it’ll work out, but I’ll see. If it turns out to be impractical in some way, welp, guess I’ll just have chapped hands lol.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          I actually wore cotton gloves when I went out this weekend. More comfortable than plastic, and washable.

          Former lab & safety person here: If you wear gloves, be sure to remove them without touching yourself with the theoretically contaminated surfaces. This takes practice. If you use washable ones, wash them after every use, and turn them back right side out after washing.

  15. Richard Hershberger*

    LW3: This is a classic “Living well is the best revenge” situation. I will confess that when I learned my former Terrible Boss was disbarred I did not have feelings of sorrow for him. In fact, I read the entire 100 page ruling, with an occasional cackle passing my lips. But I had had nothing to do with his disbarment, and had not in the meantime been giving him much of my attention. This is for the best, if only from a personal emotional perspective.

  16. Retail workers?*

    Are retail employees/restaurant workers eligible for unemployment if their hours are cut (or eliminated) due to the coronavirus outbreak? I’ve been seeing a lot of people expressing uncertainty about that. (This might be something to answer on Twitter if they are, since I imagine it would be shared widely!)

    1. CoffeeforLife*

      Check your state’s UI website. It’ll have the requirements, and new policy changes, and the form to fill out.

    2. I don't work there.......really.....*

      Apply. Even if you aren’t sure. Apply, and somewhere on your application, there will be space to enter something in, make sure you call out COVID-19 or coronavirus.

      Right now I’d even recommend folks who wouldn’t normally be eligible to apply, like independent contractors. And apply as soon as you know, don’t wait.

      (Generally, retail and foodservice if the business is shut down it would be a layoff and they would be eligible anyway.)

      **It depends on your state!**

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        I wouldn’t be so sure about applying if you’re an independent contractor or otherwise ineligible- in my state they sometimes pursue people for unemployment fraud, and I’d worry about that.

        1. Arctic*

          It’s not fraud to apply, be honest on your application and get rejected for being ineligible.

          People should apply.

        2. I don't work there.......really.....*

          As long as you are honest in your application it’s NOT fraud. On most things I can’t speak for all states, but if you just apply and aren’t eligible and were honest in your application you won’t be pursued for fraud, that’s a pretty dangerous thing to put out for people right now.

          You can always apply and if you are truthful you won’t be doing anything wrong. Please DO NOT hestiate to apply because of this.

  17. Arctic*

    Honestly, it seems you really think this person is a sociopath not just using the word liberally. Why put yourself out there for them to target you? I don’t mean like violence or anything. But he could totally try to sue you. It is very unlikely he could win a tortious interference suit but people like that don’t mind trying and making you spend time and money fighting it.

    In Massachusetts the governor has loosened unemployment laws. Hopefully, other states will follow suit.

  18. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #3 – not your circus, not your monkey. And nothing in your letter indicates that your former boss is a sociopath. You might want to pull back on using that term.

    1. tinybutfierce*

      Seconding the latter part of your comment. He just seems like a flaky, inconsierate jerk, not someone possessing a legit personality disorder.

    2. Jedi Squirrel*

      nothing in your letter

      Ah, but we don’t necessarily have the entire letter. Alison edits.

      Plus, OP said she “suspects”. OP may only be reporting the part that is actionable at her job.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        While true, calling somebody a sociopath is serious business and not to be taken lightly.

      2. Sophie1*

        They are in HR, they aren’t a psychiatrist, so them attempting to make a diagnosis of anti-social personality disorder is basically meaningless. Googling sociopathy and matching the symptoms to a person in your life isn’t going to give you very accurate results, especially given how much misinformation is out there about ASPD and how many self-health websites there are are dedicated to identifying and commiserating about apparent “sociopaths” and “narcissists”.

        Plus, sociopath is a pretty pejorative word – it’s not the diagnosis, anti-social personality disorder is the diagnosis. It’s kind of similar (but not as incendiary or offensive) to saying you suspect them of being r*tarded if you suspect them of having an intellectual disability. One is a perjorative outdated term, and the other is a diagnosis that someone who isn’t a doctor isn’t qualified to diagnose.

        So regardless of how much evidence they have, it should really be retired from being used to describe their former boss anyway if they want to avoid doing anything they could be sued for.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I have worked for at least one real sociopath in the past, and have a group of friends who worked for another. Both men keep moving up in life and getting executive jobs. I don’t get why life works that way, but it does. There’s nothing I can do to change that, so I’m staying out of it.

    4. JJ Bittenbinder*

      I was scrolling to comment the same thing. Being a jerk and a terrible person is not at all the same as being a sociopath, and I hate that people throw that word about whenever someone displays behavior they don’t like.

      Thanks for starting this conversation, TCMMGFMB. Words have meaning and power.

  19. Panthera uncia*

    I can’t help but be skeptical that shaming will make people wash their hands if they wouldn’t do it already.

    One of our directors just waltzed into the office after spending a week in Europe. Her direct supervisor, an executive vice president, told her to stay home, and she ignored him. That’s direct insubordination. Wrinkled noses and offhand comments about hand washing are not going to do diddly, considering there are people acting like this.

      1. Panthera uncia*

        Not so far. Even if she gets forcefully sent home now, she’s already used the bathroom, walked around the entire floor, and purchased things from the cafeteria. The whole building is contaminated.

        1. Buttons*

          I don’t understand the people totally panicing and buying u everything, but I also don’t understand someone bing so blase about possible exposing so many people. That is BS and I hope she is dealt with.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is on your VP as well. They can’t do a half assed “well I tried” and “welp can’t just force her to leave now can I?”

      They need to stand up and escort her out and truly threaten her job, she should be fired for ignoring a direct order that could result in death of others.

      She did it because she knew the VP is spineless. We’d fire someone we told to stay away who showed up anyways.

  20. Buttons*

    OP#3 It sounds like you still have a lot of anger and resentment towards him, which I can understand. A bad boss can leave scars just like an abusive parent or partner. I have an old abusive boss who would look me up on LinkedIn every few months for years, I finally blocked her.
    I would like to encourage you to stop following him or looking him up, let it go. Also, maybe his bad performance and attendance were driven by something for which he has now gotten help. You don’t know, but it is time to stop caring and stop trying to get back at him for all the hurt he caused you and your team.

  21. I'm just here for the cats*

    For the letter writer who’s co-worker isn’t washing her hands, maybe she is alergic to the handsoap in the bathroom and she’s not able to bring in her own so she uses sanitizer?

    1. KoiFeeder*

      As someone with a pretty hefty perfume allergy, it really isn’t that hard to bring in your own soap. Stick it in a ziploc bag and you’re good to go.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      You can still rinse your hands with water. Or she should have made this request to the person who does their facilities management.

      These excuses for people’s bad hygiene habits are not helpful, there are ways around it. It’s called “bring your own” if it’s really not available but also “ask for non scented or a brand that you’re not allergic to”.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        Well, in all fairness to the “use your people words” part, I once got threatened with expulsion in middle school for asking for a different brand of soap that wouldn’t give me asthma attacks, so I can see why someone might be reluctant to say something.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            Someday I’m going to compile my memoirs of going to that school.

            And then the school will probably sue me for defamation, so I won’t publish anything. But it’ll be nice to vent.

  22. the Viking Diva*

    Alison, what is the rationale behind your advice to OP1? This seems counter to your usual advice in the vein ‘If it doesn’t affect your work, stay out of it.’ So I’m curious about why the employee has standing to bring it to the boss in this case, and what action the boss could reasonably take on hearsay of this type.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’ve made exceptions in the past for situation that affect the team’s work, and I’d put this in that category. But mainly, the OP is concerned that it will reflect badly on her if she doesn’t say something, given how much of a scene was made — in that context, it doesn’t really work to say, “Yes, the event was great!” without any mention of a major thing that happened there.

      1. the Viking Diva*

        If boss asks, I agree, there is an obvious opening – “I had a good time, but to be honest, I was a little worried about Coworker….” But I read OP1 as asking should she bring it up. I understand her self-protective reasons to do so, but what plausibly work-related reason could she offer her boss for bringing it up?

  23. Person from the Resume*

    RE: Handwashing after bathroom use

    Your coworker is a lost cause. Wash your hands after using the bathroom because you might have germs, bacteria, fecal matter or urine on your hands. This is not about protection against the transmission of the Corona virus* and is about the protection against different sort of illnesses transmitted through fecal matter.

    Just like a restaurants, businesses can make a rule that employees must wash hands. The question becomes if your boss will enforce with consequences since if your coworker had any good sense she’d be washing her hands for her own safety as well as her customers.

    * Wash your hands because of the Cornona virus frequently, before you eat, when you enter a new location, when you return home, after you’ve been in public and touched anything.

  24. Heat's Kitchen*

    #3 – remove that guy as a contact on your LinkedIn. You’re thinking about him way too much for no reason.

  25. Jostling*

    LW5, some companies here have been “laying off” workers with promise of rehire to ensure that they can collect full disability ASAP. Your company may not be able to afford to do this depending on local or union laws surrounding severance and paying out unemployment, but it may be worth floating the idea to them.

    1. Madeline*

      Oh… I would let someone do that to me with extreme caution. What if the company takes a bigger then expected hit and are not able to afford to hire people back?

  26. Jennifer*

    #2 I can’t imagine why anyone would be visiting a cosmetics counter right now but yes, this is disgusting and I think it’s a situation where a manager should be notified. To me this is no different from working in a restaurant and knowing someone doesn’t wash their hands after the bathroom before they prepare food. It’s a safety concern.

    More generally, I do think we have to assume that no one washes their hands properly and avoid shaking hands and washing our hands after touching things that they’ve touched.

    1. Observer*

      I agree – the OP is not going to get anywhere but this is the kind of case where a sensible manager is going to lay down the law.

    1. chickaletta*

      This. Testers shouldn’t be out at all during these times.

      I’m a little surprised at the comments above condoning shaming. I think most adults know that’s a terrible way to change someone’s behavior and all it usually does is create hostility. Shaming is something that bad parents do to toddlers. We’re intelligent enough animals to know how to communicate a need to someone without shaming them. Let’s continue to employ those methods.

      On a larger note, I think that the overall reaction among Americans to coronavirus to hoard supplies and shame other people’s behaviors is appalling. There’s no support for each other. We’ve seen all the inspiring images of Italians singing from their balconies and Wuhan doing something similar in February. Meanwhile Americans have become super Karens calling out every single thing they think is done wrong and loading up their carts with supplies (many of which are needed by people who actually, well, need them). It makes me sad.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I don’t know what you’re talking about…

        My facebook community group is all about helping those who have to self quarantine or cannot access things right now because of their mobility/health issues.

        We’re sharing TP and getting people with CPAP machines distilled water they need to limit the risks associated with using tap water with the machines. You’re buying into some hype about how Americans suck and we’re all awful because that’s how the media will always portray us.

        Of course they’re showing feel good Italian footage, it’s all about putting us against each other and “Look how they’re doing it, they’re doing it right. You’re all doing it wrong.” Yuck.

        People are asking how they can volunteer for quarantine stations here and how they can help their neighbors. It’s not all price gouging and monsters.

      2. Observer*

        What TMBL said.

        Do you think all of the really nice things people have said on this blog, just for an example, were said by non-Americans and all the crazy was from Americans?

  27. Curmudgeon in California*

    There seems to be something weird with my browser. My apologies if something got posted multiple times. Just keep the latest, if possible.

Comments are closed.