can we ask our roommate not to take a job, my boss says I can’t quit if she gets a federal loan, and more

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

1. Do I have a right to ask a roommate to NOT take a job right now?

My husband and I moved about five hours from our hometown just over a year ago, and while we’re loving it, we’re really missing our friends and family. About nine weeks ago, a very close friend was laid off from her job, but then found a job in our city and asked if she could live with us for a bit while she got settled. We happily agreed she could stay with us for a couple months while she started the new gig and get back on her feet. She accepted the job, moved in with us, and things have been going great.

Then this crappy virus happened, and her company furloughed everyone the second week in to her new job. Because she found the job so fast, she never filed for unemployment initially. Now she has applied for unemployment, but our state’s backlog is taking a while to process claims and she’s understandably getting worried.

My husband and I have already told her that we’re not worried, and we’ve got her expenses covered until this is over. However, she’s “feeling a bit bored and guilty” and wants to get a job. She’s recently started talking about trying to get a temporary gig at a grocery store or healthcare facility to make some money and pass the time. We are concerned about her bringing the virus in to our house, and told her we weren’t comfortable with this. However, she keeps bringing it up.

She already has a few interviews starting to line up with her specialty, and those jobs would be remote. Her unemployment will start coming soon once the backlog is cleared as well. We both already worked from home, have only gone out a few times for necessities, are taking this quarantine seriously, and do not want someone living here who’s going out and interacting with people daily. Do we have a right to ask her not to work in such a publicly exposed job right now? I promise we’re not monsters, but if she insists on this, it’d be a deal-breaker for her living with us.

You 100% have the right to say it’s a deal-breaker! Without question. It’s your home. The terms of your offer to her are very generous — she’s living with you and you’re covering her expenses. She is not in a desperate situation; she’s “a bit bored and guilty.” You have complete moral standing to say, “We’re happy to have you live with us, but to make it work we need you to follow the same distancing rules we’re following.”

Since you’ve already told her you’re not comfortable with her plan and she keeps bringing it up anyway, it sounds like you need to address it more directly — as in, “We’re so happy to have you here, and we’ll gladly continue to cover your expenses until this is over. But we need you to follow the same precautions we’re taking, which means that if you decide to take one of the temporary jobs you’ve been talking about, you’d need to stay somewhere else. We don’t want that to happen — we love having you here — but we’re not comfortable with that risk, so we want to make sure you’re clear that it means we couldn’t keep living together.”

2. Am I not allowed to quit if my employer receives the new Paycheck Protection Program loan?

My boss at my nonprofit told us on our team call that we got the Paycheck Protection Program loan, which we are so grateful for! But then she disclosed that none of us can quit until after June 30 or the loan will not become a grant.

The way my boss said this to us feels like we are all being held hostage — like if I quit, I’m doing irreparable harm to my colleagues and the organization. Is it true that if I quit the loan cannot become a grant?

I’m going into the second round interview of a promising job opportunity that would pay me at least double what I am making here and would be a better title at an institution I really want to work for, in a town I really want to move to. If I get the job offer, I will not hesitate to take it.

What?! No.

What is true is that loan forgiveness will be based on the company’s costs paid out in the eight weeks following the loan. They’ll need to spend at least 75% of the loan on payroll — so your boss might be concerned that if someone leaves, the company’s payroll won’t meet that threshold. But the law doesn’t say no one can quit! Your company would just need to hire someone to replace you (if that’s what it takes to meet that metric).

The forgiven amount is also reduced if the company has fewer employees compared to their average headcount during the previous 12-months and don’t hire them back by June 30. So again, you can quit; they’d just need to re-hire. (This is because the program is designed to help keep people employed; they don’t want employers laying people off and using most of the loan money for other things. The program ties loan forgiveness to employers continuing to employ people. They don’t care if someone quits; they care about the employer keeping their headcount up, which your boss can do by replacing you.)

3. People are mad they can’t take home the masks our company is buying

I work for a large public utility, so while those of us who can are working from home for the foreseeable future, we have many colleagues who are still going into the office or having to interact with our customers to restore their service or perform maintenance work. My company is doing all the right things to support the entire workforce: instituted WFH early; created a generous COVID-19 specific leave policy to supplement our already generous sick leave; doubled the leave allowance for dependent care since people have their kids at home; paying the fee when people use the tele-doc option available with our healthcare; instituting social distancing at the office for those who have to be there. They are also providing cleaning wipes, hand sanitizer, masks, and other items necessary to protect our colleagues who still have to go to the office.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are regular reminders on our intranet that taking those supplies home to your family is theft and it can result in termination. What strikes me as odd is that people are now commenting that if the only supplies in an area to protect your family are the company-provided ones, then the company should let us take them home to our families. These people are ridiculous, right? Those supplies are so that when a service tech has to go into someone’s home to restore their utility, the tech is protected as much as possible!

People are scared and desperate right now, and I can understand someone thinking, “We haven’t been able to find these supplies to keep us safer at home and here are a bunch — why can’t we use them too?”

But yes, if those supplies are for your service techs who have to enter high-risk situations for their jobs, it’s reasonable of your company to limit their supplies to that, thus decreasing the chances that at some point they’ll run out or have to ration them. It sounds, though, like your company might need to do a better job of messaging around this — any reminder that people can be fired for taking the supplies home should be accompanied by an explanation that these supplies are crucial for your service techs’ safety and that current shortages mean taking them for other uses could end up risking your techs’ lives.

4. Starting a new job in a pandemic

I’ve been looking to leave my current position for a while, and recently landed an offer from a great organization. It’s a step up in responsibility, is work that I’m really passionate about, there’s a pay increase, and overall seems like a fantastic opportunity. I accepted and am due to start in just over two weeks.

The city we live in has been particularly hard-hit by COVID-19, and my new team has been working remotely for over a month. Both of my interviews were via Zoom, and through those I’ve “met” four of the six people I’ll be working closely with already. How should I set myself up for a good working relationship with everyone when my start date is in such an upside-down time?

I’ll be the most junior person on a pretty senior team, and while my job function is valuable, I can’t say I’d be thrilled to have to train a new employee in a time like this. It’s a nonprofit, so my manager definitely has more pressing matters to attend to right now (like making sure our funding is uninterrupted!) and I don’t want to be a burden. That said, I still want to do well and contribute to the work my team does, as they should obviously expect me to.

Right now, I’m planning to be patient with the training process if it takes a bit longer than it normally would due to the remote and hectic circumstances, ask my manager early on how she’d like me to ask questions as I learn the ropes (save them up for an end-of-the-day email? once-weekly Zoom meetings to address them?), and generally aim to make my presence on the team an asset rather than a thorn in people’s sides. Is there anything else I should be doing? I likely won’t meet any of these people for months, and don’t want them to feel like they’re forced to pick up my slack in a time of crisis. That said, ending every email with “I know things are hectic, so just get back to me when you can” seems almost … patronizing? I’m just not sure how to best straddle being a new employee with inevitable questions while also working alongside people in a time when they have much bigger worries every day than work.

You’re being very considerate of your new colleagues, but you also might be over-thinking it a bit! Everything you named is great to do — be patient, know things will probably take longer right now, and proactively talk with your manager about how best to communicate. You could also ask about any altered systems the team is using right now and anything you should particularly prioritize/de-prioritize in these weird times (like normally it might be obviously important that you prioritize X, but right now they’ve back-burnered that because of Y).

But don’t lean too hard into assumptions that people will feel inconvenienced by having to train you or that you’re a burden. They might be thrilled to have the role filled and excited to have you there. Some of your coworkers might have dramatically diminished workloads and be happy to spend time answering your questions. Or not — but you can’t know until you’re there, and so you shouldn’t come in assuming either way. Mostly, come in prepared to be patient, pay lots of attention to the cues around you, and let them show you what they need.

Also, you don’t need to end every email with an acknowledgement of how busy people are! “Get back to me when you can” usually goes without saying, as long as the email tone isn’t excessively demanding. It’s helpful to indicate whether something is time-sensitive or more “whenever you have time for this,” but otherwise you shouldn’t need to do a ton of caveating in every email.

5. When I turn down a job, can I recommend someone else?

Several of my coworkers and I are all job hunting. They’re all great people and I’d definitely work with them again. I also know for a fact that they have the capabilities a lot of the jobs that I’m applying to want from a candidate. I know a couple of them have been looking/interviewing longer than I have been, as well.

I’ve been lucky enough to get to the final interview stage for four different jobs, two of which have sent me an offer so far. When declining whichever jobs I end up not taking, is it okay to suggest some other people I’ve worked with who I know are looking? These are all rolling basis jobs, and I think these coworkers would be a good fit, but I don’t know if that is an okay thing to do at all or if it’d be considered really weird.

You can do that! It won’t necessarily go anywhere (they may have several runners-up already interviewed and waiting in the wings if you turn them down, or they may be looking for a slightly different profile than you realize, even as a top candidate, or they might just not be at a stage where they can start from scratch with new candidates), but it’s a gracious gesture, both to the company and the person you’re recommending. It’s not weird to offer to connect them with someone who might be what they’re looking for.

{ 383 comments… read them below }

  1. Bubbles*

    OP4: I really appreciate how understanding you are about the stress trying to train a new person would be. But please listen to Allison when she says that some people have diminished workloads and would LOVE the opportunity to jump right in with you. I have been doing very repetitive tasks lately and would love the chance to do something different, even if it’s just for an hour a day. It’s also a great way to connect to your new coworkers. So yes, continue to be patient and understanding, but don’t be pandering. Trust people to manage their schedules.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Yes! I’m a teacher, and a new colleague just started (she’s filling in for a teacher on leave). She was supposed to start a week after our campus closed, so has had to meet all her new coworkers and students remotely. I was already signed up to be her mentor and I am SO glad to continue with that. It’s not exactly that I’m bored or have nothing else to do; I have a small kid at home to juggle while I’m working. But this remote teaching thing is hard and unsettling and I feel like I’m not doing my job very well right now because this is outside of my experience… but I feel really competent with helping my new colleague navigate our school website, answering questions, letting her know how to get tech help or order supplies… and it’s SO GOOD to have something concrete that I feel really good at right now.

    2. Mainely Professional*

      FWIW both my partner and I were hired remotely with video/phone interviews years ago. I usually see my colleagues once or twice a year for conferences or a company retreat, or if we happen to be traveling nearby we’ll meet up socially. He’s met his colleagues in person once. My initial training periods were definitely phone call intensive, but it was fine to feel like “I don’t know what I’m doing right now.” I had a lot of “you can spend time reading these materials” which didn’t feel like work.

      My company has hired three more people in this fashion in my time, and it’s just normal for us!

      1. YoMs.R-H*

        I work for a not-usually-WFH-nonprofit that just filled a vacancy, and just having another (amazing, competent) person on our already stretched team was a godsend. LW, don’t assume you are a burden: I would have happily given my new employee 3x the hours in training because we were so glad to have her. You may be entering a team of people who have all been picking up pieces of your job for months, and are thrilled to have you on board!

    3. Emilia Bedelia*

      OP4:
      It’s always good to be polite and respectful of your teammates’ time, but you don’t need to go overboard – your suggested approach is more than enough, in my opinion. Everyone on the team has a role, and part of that role for senior team members is answering questions, sharing institutional knowledge, and helping junior team members.

      We have a new person on my team and she has been asking me a lot of questions about a responsibility that she is taking over from me. Every email has “sorry to bother you!” and “apologies for all the questions!” – this is not an actual problem and I’d never hold that against her, but it does make me feel awkward for her to be so deferential.
      The process is confusing, non-intuitive, and overall really obnoxious – I am VERY happy that she’s going to be doing it from now on! It would be impossible for her to learn how to do this correctly without a lot of questions, and I completely expect that.

      As long as you are being proactive about trying to figure things out yourself and asking questions in a respectful way, assume that your coworkers are reasonable and professional and willing to help you. If they react poorly or are not willing to help you, that will tell you a lot about the functionality of your team!

    4. Mama Bear*

      We are still onboarding folks. In some cases we have expedited the process because with half the company WFH we need more hands on deck in IT. If they have hired you and you are willing to go to work, then start the job without guilt. Trust that they are professionals and will tell you if you’re bothering them. I have had jobs that were fully remote for years (and one where I only heard my manager’s voice maybe twice). Lots of companies are always dispersed and do fine (even the feds have teams that don’t work in the same locations), so maybe look at it that way vs everything is stressful in a pandemic. Ask to join any relevant meetings/calls/standups and use whatever communication tools are offered.

  2. nnn*

    For #3, useful messaging might be to draw the connection between the supplies being available in the office and everyone’s families being safe at home.

    For example, if the office runs out of masks, will the techs still have to go into people’s homes without masks, thereby bringing unknown germs home to their families – and, on the way, perhaps back to the office so everyone else will bring them home to their families?

    Is the PPE supply chain currently unreliable in your area, so if the office runs out of masks they genuinely might not be able to acquire more in time?

    1. Avasarala*

      Yes, I think it’s very helpful to draw that connection: company supplies are limited, and when they run out, there are no more for the techs, and they have to work regardless, and it endangers everyone.

      People need masks to go to the grocery stores in some areas, so people are having to make really tough calls–if I don’t have a mask, I can’t get food, but the company has 1,000 masks so they won’t miss one–not realizing that there are many many techs who need those masks for the foreseeable future.

      I had to make that call myself when we ran out of TP. I took 2 rolls from the company bathroom and we just made it until stores got more. I’m not proud of it and it was wrong to do. I’m not advocating that the company should supply toilet paper for my house because they supply it for the office. So I guess that’s where I come down on this–if you as an individual make that call that this is like stealing bread for your family to eat, that’s your morals at work. But don’t advertise it and act like the company should pay all your bills because they need you to work. Do you want your pay cut if you sew your own masks because you “don’t need it”? Just quietly do what you need, repent, and pay it forward to help someone else where you have some leeway.

      1. Susie Q*

        You can make a mask. There are tons of videos on the internet on how to do it without any sewing.

        1. Taura*

          Up until recently, there was still a lot of debate about whether or not homemade masks were at all useful, and if they weren’t then they shouldn’t be allowed. (Obviously that is no longer the case. Homemade masks ARE useful and they ARE allowed). Besides that, if you didn’t already have the materials on hand, what were you supposed to do? Idk about you, but I don’t happen to have bandanas and hair ties just lying around, and I don’t own any clothes in the right material to cut up for this, not to mention not having anything to use as filter material. I’m set NOW, because I was able to buy a fabric mask from a neighbor who makes them, but there was a week or so where that wasn’t possible.

          1. Elizabeth*

            Many of the patterns out there only require a cotton t-shirt and a pair of scissors to create. Search on line for “no-sew mask from t-shirt” and you’ll find dozens of relevant instructions.

            You can also use a cotton kitchen towel (a “tea towel” – the thicker, woven kind of towel, not the really thin “flour sack” white ones) as well, or a 100% cotton pillow case or sheet.

            According to a recent scientific study on alternative mask materials, tightly woven 100% cotton by itself (i.e. with no filter) is 50-70% as effective as a disposable hospital grade mask for a virus of this size. That’s so much better than no mask at all!

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              My mom ordered fabric online from Michael’s I think, along with a sewing machine (she sews by hand and never had one), and I bought the elastic for her – she’s made our whole family masks that way (and thank god, ‘cause I can’t sew and the no-sew options just didn’t feel secure enough for me).

              1. Jdc*

                My mom did mine too. She’s a long time sewer so had fabric and elastic on hand anyway. So grateful but now people she’s been nice enough to make them for are taking advantage of her. Asking for dozens for friends, etc. while not considering the hours she is putting in plus paying shipping herself.

                A friend text her to complain she wanted a different color with different elastic and went off. My poor mom was crying. I remain so mad at this person.

                She is still working full time. I told her she needs to put her foot down. She can’t work full time, sew dozens of masks a day and be mentally ok.

                1. schnauzerfan*

                  My mom’s in home caregiver and mom have a new craft project. They are making masks. I’m ordering fabric and supplies for them. I raided my large supply of hair ties and they’re off. We’ve made masks for friends and family and our local EMTs (they give them to patients before they transport.) I can’t believe people are being mean to you’re mom. Ingrates.

                2. French Pressed*

                  Yikes!! I made about 20 with the fabric I already had on hand and put it out on my only social media (a small private instagram) offering them up for free and still have about 3 left – anyone who requested one was nothing but gracious and offering compensation. I felt bad I couldn’t do more or reach out further to offer them to others. Maybe that was a good thing in hindsight.

                3. Sparrow*

                  I hope your mom said something to the friend. I know people are stressed, but that’s really not ok. I can’t imagine acting ungrateful for something that was essentially a hand-crafted gift.

                4. Curmudgeon in California*

                  You mom’s friend should be slapped. If she didn’t want the mask, she should send it back so it can go to someone who appreciates it.

                  If someone wants a custom color/elastic/etc from me, it costs actual money.

                  I can only make about 1 or 2 masks a day when I’m working too. They only go to people who want them.

              2. Sparrow*

                I suggested this to my mom – she’s a sewer and already had all the materials at home, and she likes to help people and was clearly feeling a bit adrift since she can’t help with any of her grandkids right now. Since she’s retired and not having to balance it with work, it was a really good project for her! She made masks for the whole family and even made a bunch for my bil and all his coworkers, because their company is still operating right now.

            2. Curmudgeon in California*

              I have made masks for:
              * My household
              * A friend who works as a security guard
              * A coworker and his roomies
              Plus spares I have to give away.

              I handed two masks to our UPS driver today – he didn’t have any!!

              I’ll be finishing a few more tonight. I only have the use of one hand, so it takes me longer to to the pinning and folding, but I’m pretty happy with how they work (2 layers of quilters cotton, plus a layer of non-woven interfacing inside plus elastic that goes around the head and a nose wire.)

              The two layers of cotton alone filter ~79% according to the study.

            3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              From what I’ve read it’s better to have at least one layer of polyester. Polyester is basically a kind of plastic so it doesn’t let much through at all. And the tighter the weave of all layers of fabric, the better. Even better, the kind of mask that’s a couple of layers of whatever fabric (cotton is the most pleasant against the skin) featuring a slit to slip a non-woven dust wipe in. You can swap the wipe out every so often.

          2. Jules the 3rd*

            I saw videos for old tshirts, and socks, no sew, if anyone still doesn’t have access to masks.

          3. A*

            I made mine out of a pillow case and rubber bands. I got the rubber bands from my stalks of asparagus FWIW : )

          4. JSPA*

            They don’t protect the wearer by filtering. They protect us all, if we all use them, by catching droplets from everyone who’s breathing from behind a mask. I wear mine for you, you wear yours for me. Because either one of us could be silently infected.

            They do protect us from absentmindedly putting our potentially contaminated fingers on our lips and nostrils. Again, any material will serve that purpose, though a couple of layers is better than one.

            Aerosol droplets are anything below 10 micrometers (and down from there by a couple of orders of magnitude).

            Coffee filter pores average 20 micrometers in each dimension, and many are large enough to allow visible coffee dust into your cup.

            If you really could make N95 equivalent masks easily, there would not be a backlog in production! No regular material will pass enough air to breathe, yet filter at that level.

      2. JSPA*

        If you don’t have running water, soap, rags, newspaper, or any other way to clean your backside, I suppose you do what you must.

        But you can’t jump in the shower at work, or wash off with a pitcher of warm water and soap, at work, anywhere near as easily as most people in the US could do, at home.

        For real, people…

        In vast expanses of the world, even parts of the world with sit down flush toilets, people don’t flush paper goods down the toilet, and they therefore don’t need dedicated toilet paper.

        You get perfectly clean using a cup of water ± a well-soaped hand. If you use a paper product or some other scrap, that goes in the bin. You tie the garbage bag off well, and it all goes in the garbage can, same as your pet’s poo, or your used feminine hygiene product.

        There are a dozen variants of how to toilet without toilet paper, they’re no more disgusting than changing a diaper or picking up after a pet, and they all work.

    2. Emmaline*

      The company should order more supplies to insure that everyone coming into work (not WFH) CAN take supplies home. They have access to wholesale supplies and prices. Asking employees to come into work means some of them will bring COVID-19 home to their families, and spouses, children, and parents will get sick and WILL DIE—specifically because this company requires them to go to work. Not allowing them to have this extra protection is cruel. We’re not talking about a mom-n-pop business here. It’s also, as OP notes, an area where apparently the staff can actually find and buy what they need to increase their chances to stay alive. Now, if the company truly cannot afford to protect the families they are demanding be at risk by having the employee come to work, they can STILL help. Coordinate with employees who want to purchase such items, them order extras from the industrial wholesaler, which the employees can then pay for.

      1. Emmaline*

        *I meant, it’s an area, according to OP, where people CANNOT find and buy their own supplies.

        1. BuildMeUp*

          I mean, there are areas where hospitals are having trouble getting the supplies they need. I don’t know that we can assume the company would be able to do this even if they wanted to. They may only have a certain amount of supplies, or only be able to order a certain amount at a time. Or they may be limiting their budget to keep from having to make difficult choices down the line.

            1. Emmaline*

              My suggestion was not a demand for specific items (or any that aren’t available.) Only that companies have access to different supply chains and buy in bulk—which their employees as individuals can’t do. In my view, if you have a company where the roles of some employees presend clear dangers in a pandemic, you need to make sure they are 100% protected. “On the job” isn’t enough, because the risk can easily be carried home to their families. None of that PPE is foolproof.Folks working from home aren’t being put at risk by their employer or the nature of their work, so there’s no implied responsibility there.

              1. Diahann Carroll*

                But again, some of these wholesalers are rationing out supplies to their regular customers because we don’t have enough. So the company may genuinely not be able to supply enough PPE for their employees to use for site visits and for them to take home.

              2. kt*

                I agree overall, but I was also on a call recently with supply chain managers from some of the largest companies in the world, strategizing on how to find/where to get PPE. Major food corporations you’ve heard of truly did have to find a distillery down the street and cut a deal to make their own hand sanitizer. Major corporations you interact with had a hard time sourcing and buying clear plastic bottles for spray sanitizer. These are not dumb people and they are not low on resources — there is actually a finite amount of this stuff in the world and it takes time to manufacture.

                1. Amaranth*

                  I was talking to the manager of a big box store and she said they aren’t even getting PPE they have standing orders on – they sent what they had on hand to the hospitals assuming they’d get more and now its redirected way up the supply chain. They had to scramble to get enough after that to protect their workers during shifts.

                2. A*

                  Thank you!!! I’m managing a global supply chain (and have been in the thick of COVID-19 mitigations since Dec) and it’s really disheartening to constantly have to be on the defense. I understand that not everyone reads the plethora of articles/new coverage on supply chain struggles right now – but dang, we are intelligent human beings trying to do our best to keep our brands alive and our employees employed and safe.

                  It’s not like the thought had never occurred to us – hey! We should order more PPE in the midst of the global pandemic! What a novel idea – problem solved! Yeesh.

              3. NW Mossy*

                “You need to make sure they are 100% protected.”

                While I totally get the impulse, this isn’t a realistic goal right now. Even if the company had access to an infinite supply of PPE to be able to distribute to employees, their families, and everyone else in the community they serve, it still wouldn’t guarantee that none of those people got sick.

                PPE is scarce, and when resources are scarce, we often start thinking that if we just had X, that would give us control and we’d be safe. The brutal reality is that we don’t have control and we don’t have certainty that we won’t contract the virus even if we follow precautions. It’s a really scary time.

                1. Emmaline*

                  I live in the epicenter of this virus, in New York, and even WE have sanitizer and wipes in stores. Not every store all the time, but generally one can expect to go out and find them. Show up at a Target at 8AM and you’ll get what you need. I know this because I see this.

                  Frontline people working in hospitals get first dibs. Unquestionably.

                  Masks? In short supply. It there aren’t any masks to be had, you can’t offer them. But other essential supplies ARE available, from suppliers and in stores. These, you most definitely can and should provide, IF you are requiring employees to do something that may kill them and potentially their family members. Here in New York, we are seeing this happen every single day.

                  But any other role in any other job? They did not sign up for this. They aren’t trained for this and can’t protect their families if you, the employer, put them in harms way as a requirement for being “on the job.”

                2. Opal*

                  There are a lot of essential jobs and the employees did sign-up for it. I know someone in pest control. Two things are true. 1. In any type of pandemic pest control is essential to keeping food supplies and hospitals pest free. 2. They absolutely need protective equipment.

                  If the people in the office started taking supplies home and created a shortage for the people going into different businesses and homes every day….Well I wouldn’t be happy.

                  The person I know is going above and beyond. Many of his customers are elderly and their regular house keeping support isn’t available. He washes their dishes, wipes down the counters, and takes out trash. Does *have* to? No. But he’s trying to be a good neighbor. What does he do afterwards? Wash or use sanitizer to keep himself healthy.

                3. Avasarala*

                  Emmeline, I am in an epicenter here in Asia and we have been out of masks for months.

                  Unfortunately we can’t ask employers to be responsible for keeping employees and every member of their family safe at all hours. Same as we don’t ask them to provide housing and groceries.

              4. Little yellow spider*

                That’s just not necessarily possible right now though. Even hospitals where the staff are in direct contact with the virus on a daily basis aren’t able to order enough supplies for everyone, so while it would be great for everyone to be able to take some home, there just aren’t those supplies available right now.

                I’m a teacher and am working from home now, but before the schools closed we had two things of hand sanitizer and one thing of cleaning wipes for my classroom and that was it, we couldn’t get any more because even though the school had connections to be able to order wholesale, the place we order from was out of these things. there was like a month wait to get more. If I would have taken those supplies home there wouldn’t have been any for my coworkers and there was no option for the school to just order enough for everyone to take home.

              5. MasksHaveBeenOutSinceFebruary*

                A lot of the companies that make masks are backlogged into 2021 and cannot ship to non-medical places right now. They do not have the ability to fill orders for every place that can order from them in bulk.

                1. A*

                  Yes. And several standing orders have been cancelled/moved out. I even gave one up because the supplier called asking if I was willing to forfeit it for a hospital that contacted them in immediate need. We really needed those too, but our healthcare workers needed them more. This is a huge challenge from a supply chain perspective.

              6. Susie Q*

                Hospitals DON’T have enough PPE. So your suggestion is insanely unrealistic and ignorant of the entire situation. This isn’t a fact that the company refuses to buy PPE, the PPE doesn’t exist. And PPE that does exist should go to hospitals, etc.

                My husband is essential and goes to work. I made him a mask to wear at work. I don’t demand that federal government should give him and me masks to wear at home because he’s been deemed an essential federal employee.

              7. Colin Robinson, DayWalker*

                Also, certain suppliers are prioritizing medical facilities over non-medical facilities.

                So unless you’re on the front lines of this pandemic and truly have a high chance of getting this virus, try thinking of others, rather than yourself.

                #medical professionals first

                1. paxfelis*

                  Emmaline, you’re talking about a world of should, and we’re trying to cope with a world of is.

                  I work in a clinic. We’ve BEEN ordering supplies, and then having things just not show up. We’re still open by guess and by gosh, but every day we wonder if this is going to be the day that we close because we don’t have the necessary PPE and supplies.

              8. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

                “The company should order more supplies to insure that everyone coming into work (not WFH) CAN take supplies home.”

                Government should do this. Really, if vital supplies are need to live and not endanger other people, government should play that role.

      2. Rexish*

        at least where I am the problem is that a it is impossible to get protective gear. I work in a hospital and we are having trouble protecting the employees who work with patients. We have enough money to buy protective gear, there just isn’t any available. Every time someone takes some home it means that a health care employee has to go without.

        1. JM60*

          That’s was what I was thinking. Plus, that protective gear probably wouldn’t make that much of a difference at home. Even if they had access to it, the family members of employees probably won’t be wearing PPE around the house all the time. That PPE would better benefit those family members if other employees use it in the field, thereby reducing the likelihood that the virus will make it’s way to the home in the first place.

        2. Curmudgeon in California*

          I’m trying to make enough spare cloth masks to be able to supply some to a local hospital for non-covid use.
          Instead, I’m handing them out almost as fast as I make them to people I interact with.

      3. Susie Q*

        People can make their own masks. There are tons of instructional videos on how to do it without having to sew.

        Doctors, nurses, etc are only being allowed ONE mask per shift. It’s hard for me to feel sorry for someone who can’t be bothered to make one.

        1. Anon for this*

          Just throwing this out. I spent five days trying to get the stuff to make a no sew mask. I ordered cloth masks online, but they took forever to get here. Try looking now (the prices have shot up and the delivery times are 3x as longer as they were like a week and a half ago. I had no bandanas, no scissors, no rubber bands, no thread, no needles, no hair ties. It took a lot of calls and scrounging to get what I needed to me in a safe no contact way.

          We have what we need now, but it was by no means easy.

          1. Quinalla*

            For anyone who can’t make their own mask, I’ve had good luck buying cloth masks on etsy in the US. Pretty much anyone on their with fabric is selling them and right now prices range from ~$8-15 for one and typically discounted if you buy more than one. For faster shipping, narrow it down to your local area. It isn’t a guarantee and you won’t get it immediately, but I ordered a few from various sellers and gotten them in 3-4 days which is not bad. I could make my own cloth mask as I have materials – though no sewing machine – but I figured I’d support some folks that probably aren’t able to sell anything else right now.

            There are some folks like Vera Bradley that have started selling cloth masks online, but they go out of stock as soon as they are up from what I’ve seen.

          2. Gaia*

            I have a friend in a similar situation. She is currently tying some version of a t-shirt and letting it hang down over her shoulders. Does she look a bit odd? Sure. But it is what she can do in these crazy times. She has no scissors, no other cotton fabric, no ties, and doesn’t have even $10 for an Etsy mask. I’ve arranged for a few masks to be sent to her and they should be there shortly. It is important to remember that some people won’t have these supplies and have no money for even a “cheap” version to purchase.

            That said, employees should absolutely not be taking these masks. Utility workers are the definition of essential right along with medical and grocery workers. We need to protect them however we can and that includes not taking the supplies that make their critical and dangerous jobs a little safer.

          3. Jules the 3rd*

            You can get scissors at the grocery store – they’re crap but they work. I saw no-sew options for socks and tshirts, which I’ve seen at Target (which has better scissors) and Costco.

            A dishtowel wrapped around like a scarf is effective, though hard to breathe through, and grocery stores sometimes have those.

            Be patient and flexible.

            1. curly sue*

              Dollar stores and grocery stores also sell mending kits, which typically include at least one hand needle, a couple of pins and some bits of thread. One would typically be enough for a quick-and-dirty mask project, if you’re not concerned about matching thread.

              I’m a bit surprised at the number of people without basic sewing supplies on hand. What do you do when you lose a shirt button?

              1. Jayn*

                I replace maybe one button a year. There aren’t many items of clothing in my house with buttons to begin with.

                The stranger one to me would be not having scissors, but even as someone who does sew I don’t do much mending.

                1. B*

                  This one blows my mind. Not even kitchen scissors? Not even a pair stuck in a box with wrapping paper/gift supplies? Heck, even pocket knives often have them. Also – knives would do in a pinch. The no-sew pillowcase mask I made just required a few cuts down the middle, didn’t need to be exact/even.

                  Thinking outside the box here, but even garden sheers could work. IDK, there are so many options I have a hard time believing it’s truly ‘impossible’.

              2. Sparrow*

                I don’t wear clothes with buttons (except for like…jeans, I guess), but I still find occasional uses for a mini sewing kit. It’s definitely not a high use item – I’ve had the same one since I went to college almost 20 years – but once a year or so, it’s handy to have.

            2. Anon for this*

              Yes, they carry things at grocery stores. I am not going into those. Delivery or curbside pickup orders in my region book at 5-7 days out. There is no way in hell I a. going into the narrow confines of a dollar store.

              So same problem. To reiterate, I finally have masks, but I was just pointing out that this is not always nearly as easy as it might seem.

              1. Travel_mug*

                You can wrap a scarf around your face. Or a T-shirt, or dish towel. And if you aren’t going to any stores and are not leaving your home, you don’t need a mask.

                I realize it would be easier to have a hospital-grade mask handed to you, but everyone needs to make-do a little bit right now.

                1. Anon for this*

                  That wasn’t my point. I need masks. My governor has made them required. I have to go to the doctors. I am still exercising outside. I anticipate that at some point I may have to enter a store. I have gone out for curbside pickups. I have family who need masks. Family who don’t have computers and who can’t watch YouTube videos. Elderly family who have arthritic fingers and have trouble with the ones with ties.

                  The point is that not everyone has all the supplies and rushing out to go buy stuff to make one in a crowded store defeats the purpose. Not everyone has the resources at their disposal to do this.

                  It took me days and not an inconsiderable amount of money to get homemade masks for me and my family. It’s done. We finally got masks from Etsy. Some friends got me the supplies to make more. But it wasn’t easy.

                2. Crop Tiger*

                  Oh God, listen to Anon for this. Not everyone in has the supplies on hand, and your response is “just go to the store and buy what you need”? My governor is also required masks, not t-shirts wrapped around your face.

                3. JSPA*

                  Despite the endless misleading headlines and scare messages on facebook, last I checked (last night) no governor is requiring a crafted mask that looks like what you think a mask looks like.

                  They’re all requiring that you cover your face with fabric–a “mask or face covering”–in such a way that your breath and sneezes are contained. You can take a stapler to a T shirt, or use tape on a couple of pair of underwear.

                  There’s no legal definition, beyond that, of what constitutes a “mask.” It doesn’t have to look like a mask, or hook behind your ears with straps, or tie behind your head.

            3. Princess Zelda*

              I wear wide fabric hairbands, the kind you get at Claire’s for $2-$5, in normal times when I can’t be bothered to actually style my hair. I found that wearing one of those as a mask covers my nose/mouth, is more comfortable than something with elastic around the ears, and is something I already have around the house. Refolding them properly back into headbands isn’t difficult, either. So if you have those around, that’s an option!

          4. Elizabeth*

            I mentioned this above, but a recent scientific study found that tightly woven cotton is a recommended material for homemade masks. It is both breathable and fairly effective at blocking an aerosolized virus of this size (50-70% effective compared to the hospital masks, which are 95% effective – so definitely not perfect but SO much better than nothing!).

            Here are some “tightly woven cotton” materials suggested in the study:
            – tightly woven kitchen towel (“tea towels” – not the super thin white “flour sack” towels)
            – 100% cotton t-shirt
            – 100% cotton pillowcase or sheet

            You can make masks with just the cotton fabric and a pair of scissors, no bandana or rubber bands required. If you can’t find a sewn mask available to buy online, and you don’t have cotton materials on hand, you could buy an inexpensive cotton t-shirt or pillowcase online and make your own no-sew mask at home.

            If you google “no-sew t-shirt mask” you will find tons of instructions out there on the internet.

          5. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            I’m finding it hard to believe that people don’t have a single garment they could sacrifice for masks. And if you don’t find any elastic, you can make ties with shoe-laces or even just strips of leftover fabric from the masks. It doesn’t have to be beautiful, just catch droplets so you don’t inadvertently spray others with infected spittle.

        2. EPLawyer*

          Post on Nextdoor or other community groups if you need masks. Many many sewers in all areas are making masks. Some charge a nominal fee, som are doing it for free. It might take a bit (we are swamped with requests), you might not get the choice of color or style you want (we are using our stashes) and you might have to go with ties rather than elastic (elastic is harder to get than unobtainium because no one anticipated the rush on it).

          For the US AskAManager community — I am sewing masks. No charge. My email is in my signature. But remember I am still working (I don’t waaaaaannnna be essential) so there may be a short wait on getting them out, but I can do it. Try your local community first though — it might be faster.

        3. Ominous Adversary*

          Now is a good time to have extra empathy and consideration for people trying to manage a crisis, instead of being judgmental and rationing out “sympathy” and “feeling sorry” for people as if kindness was a package of toilet paper.

      4. Allonge*

        Obviously if you need a mask to go into a supermarket, you need a mask.

        But another consideration is that according to, like half the sources on wearing masks, you use the mask to protect others against you, not yourself against others – it needs to be handled professionally to work the other way around. Whole governments decided to advise against using masks for the general public.

        If the company decides to use them for the most at-risk employees, and can get them, that is great. Don’t put that in jeopardy by taking home one for each member of the family, plus maybe some for the neighbours.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          The people whose home the tech is going to need to have masks so that they don’t infect the tech! Make your own everyone!

      5. a nonnie nonnie non*

        Where is all this PPE? I am still reporting to work. I am deemed essential. While I don’t have contact with patients (mental health facility), I am an admin with work that cannot be done at home. I don’t see many people bc a lot of the other people at our org WFH. Our org is non profit and several programs. We were able to finally buy masks last week. But they are for patients, staff that work with them etc. Thankfully we haven’t had any co-vid cases. But I cant expect my company to pay for masks for my family, when they are laying people off in other depts.

        1. blackcat*

          ^Right.
          My husband is “essential” (this should get all the eye rolls, trust me, he is not actually essential to the functioning of anything besides software development, and that software could totally wait), and he has to wear a mask when he “must” go into the office. Yet they’re not providing them. They do have an order in, but it keeps getting delayed and delayed. There’s no just getting masks for everyone.
          My husband is lucky I have sewing skills and we had a sheet with a bad stain I decided to sacrifice…

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Good on you! He also needs those working around him to wear masks to avoid getting infected himself…

      6. pentamom*

        I have a friend who is a purchaser for a medical facility. She spends all day every day trying to find supplies. She’s been keeping up with the need, barely. It’s not as simple as “if it’s not a mom and pop, just order them from the wholesaler.”

        1. cacwgrl*

          From what I’ve seen, the small business mom and pops, literally a mom and pop in one case, are having the best luck getting supplies. I’m not sure what their magical site is, but the small hardware store, the small drink shop, several small (2-3 employee places) businesses are getting PPE and cleaning products faster than the stores like wal-mart and home depot. Luckily we’re in a small town that’s already recently been rocked by mother nature and the community is fantastic about helping so those businesses are passing the products to the public at cost.

      7. BethDH*

        I’ve seen you saying this in a few places and I’m wondering whether you are thinking of the issues around the food and toilet paper supply chains.
        In those cases, people are still using roughly the same amounts, they’re just using them at home instead of out at businesses, so a company may be able to get them when individuals can’t.
        The demand for masks and so on, though, has gone way up overall, both at home and in workplaces. So there aren’t enough of them in the industry supply either.

        1. Hillary*

          I also work in supply chain, currently for industrial manufacturing.

          The main issues is these aren’t the same supply chains. Consumer food sales have specific packaging and labeling requirements that don’t exist in a commercial environment, plus it’s a completely different set of wholesalers. A bakery that makes hamburger buns for fast food is set up to package in large quantities – they don’t have equipment or supplies to pack six-packs. They sell everything they make through Sysco, but the grocery store buys through Supervalu. Sysco doesn’t have relationships with grocery stores, although they’re working on fixing that.

          Same things for toilet paper, except it’s also product-related. Commercial TP is made in different factories to different standards plus it’s sold through different channels.

      8. OP#2*

        Hi Emmaline, OP#2 here. I work closely with our procurement department and they’ve been frantically ordering supplies since February, but as others have noted in replies here, there’s a country-wide short supply of certain items. While we do have access to wholesale supplies and prices, our suppliers are being bombarded by orders and haven’t been able to fill orders to 100% (ie, we’re only receiving a fraction of what we ordered). We’ve even been exploring alternate sources, like partnering with local companies to make hand sanitizer. There are employees that *have* to report to work, and the company wants to make sure they are safe when they do because we have a responsibility to our customers to provide their utility. If there was an abundance of supplies, I have no doubt that my company would do everything possible to distribute them to those who can’t find them…but if there was an abundance of supplies, this whole situation would be completely different.

        1. Do I need a hard hat for this?*

          I live in a city where there’s a housing shortage and work for a small residential construction company. At first we were told construction would be non-essential, but then the city changed its ordinance so we’re all able to go back to work. Our company had a hard time deciding if we would start running again, but after discussing it with of our sub-contractors, realized that even if we can wait out the storm, they can’t necessarily do the same and have their businesses survive. It wouldn’t be surprising if many of the workers they have employed are undocumented…and they can’t exactly turn to unemployment or a stimulus check for help. So we’ve left it up to them if they want to keep working, and we’re doing everything we can on our end to give them the ability to protect themselves. Luckily we’re at a stage in the neighborhood we’re building where the workers are all out in the open air and not in confined spaces. We’ve set up hand-washing stations at every house under construction, but it’s been difficult for me to keep us in stock with soap and cleaning supplies. I’ve been going to the store every couple of days to buy bleach and the biggest bottle of soap I can find, but there’s a limit to how much I can purchase at a time. Luckily I haven’t run out of anything yet, but time will tell. Even if I could buy more at a time, I would feel guilty taking it and not leaving supplies for others that need it. You’re completely right that an abundance of supplies would make us all breathe a little easier…

      9. an actual doctor*

        what you are saying just isn’t true — there aren’t supplies to buy. Our hospital is begging and buying RETAIL and trying to make stuff locally and getting donations, and we STILL don’t have the amount that we would normally use IN THE HOSPITAL. There is no way our hospital could get enough for us all to take some home for our families. I made my mask and my husband’s mask myself.

        1. LJay*

          Yeah, my company has essential workers, and we’re doing our best to keep our employees protected.

          But the places where I usually buy supplies from are sold out or are limiting their supply sales both in quantity and only selling them to companies who purchased those items previously (and I’ve never purchased say Lysol spray from them before because we always just picked that up retail, and I’ve never brought masks before because we’ve never needed them before).

          I’m scrounging around and buying what I can when I can, but may be sending one of my employees in a less hit location today to go to the local Lowes etc and buy some supplies for one of my locations where we can’t get anything locally or shipped in by suppliers.

          Our ground maintenance guy at headquarters is doing the same thing. He basically has a buy-on-sight order with one of his suppliers where they’re selling us everything they can get a hold of as soon as they can get a hold of it. But we don’t have guaranteed supplies of anything, and someone taking home the supplies to use at home would be depriving other employees of protection they need at work and it’s not something we can just replace. And not because of price but just because we can’t get any no matter how much we pay.

      10. M*

        By me hospitals can’t even get PPE so I don’t know how you expect utility companies to get it. Also like above you can make your own mask. And at home it’s better to use soap than sanitizer anyway so I don’t really see what you can take from your company that will protect you more at home. When you get home wash your clothes and shower ASAP.

      11. Travel_mug*

        As an MD in a hospital with inadequate supplies, please don’t do this.
        Health providers are dying because we don’t have enough supplies, and I’m also worried about my family. Wear a cloth mask (don’t tell me your can’t figure out how to fold a dishrag or tie a scarf around your mouth and nose- I won’t believe anyone over age 7 can’t figure that out) or don’t go out.
        When companies and individuals who don’t need hospital-grade supplies stockpile them (or provide them to individuals who don’t need them) it hurts providers on the front line. If you want us to be around to treat you if you get sick, you need us to have the gear.

        1. Travel_mug*

          (my response showed up further down than I expected- that was a response to the person arguing in favor of people taking supplies home)

        2. JSPA*

          If and when you even need a mask. The governors and CDC and WHO are calling for masking when you’re in a public space where you can’t reliably distance; not every time you step out your door.

          At the right time of day, I can walk for an hour within city limits, and the only living things within 30+ feet of me are rabbits, squirrels, robins, jays, various little brown birds, earthworms and (if it’s late and I’m lucky) a bat or two. There’s nothing I’d be touching (wet leaves? other people’s cars? sidewalks? Random tree trunks?) that would make it inadvisable to touch my face. No overhanging balconies for people to sneeze off of. Houses set back 10, 20, 30 feet from the sidewalk, and that set back 6 or 8 feet from the road.

          This is within a city of ~50,000…but I used to do same in past / alternate homes, including two metro area of over 2 million and one of over 12 million inhabitants. Pick your time and place, keep your distance, and keep your masks clean and dry for when you need to be not only outside, but among people.

      12. A*

        Oh should we now? Please, do show me the supplier that is in stock and up to date on their orders for PPE, and accepting new orders. Sorry, my snippiness is showing. This is a really, really stressful time to be managing a supply chain and this has highlighted to me how out of touch many people are on the severity of this problem.

        And if I’m in this boat, most are most likely worse off. I’ve been involved in COVID-19 impact mitigations since Mid to late December, so we had the privilege of stocking up and placing standing recurring orders. It is still nowhere near enough, and suppliers are not only at capacity but many are having to cut their run rates as absenteeism rises.

    3. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

      so I literally have been selling masks to utility companies (how fast can a teapot company reinvent itself under the gun, apparently pretty quickly) and I can tell you: SHORT SUPPLY. repeating: SHORT SUPPLY.

      Everybody is working as fast as they can and in a month it will be a different picture but: SHORT SUPPLY.

      And, I gotta get back to work now. O.o

        1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

          SHORT SUPPLY

          We stayed away from medical grade masks for [reasons] but we are deep in non-medical masks and: SHORT SUPPLY. Things can only be made so fast, and most everybody in the country needs them.

          I wish you all of the best in finding everything that you need!!

          (can you feel the twitching of my body when I write SHORT SUPPLY)

          1. OP#3*

            Virtual high five, Wakeens Teapots. I know my colleagues doing procurement are having a heck of a time, which means suppliers are, too.

          2. Jules the 3rd*

            Jedi hugs to you both, and to all my supply chain compatriots who are doing an impossible job. May your inventory grow and be fruitful.

            1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

              BLESS YOU.

              Now tell my FB friends list who wonders why I am not learning to cook Chinese food in my spare time.

              HA

              xo

              1. Jules the 3rd*

                yeah, those are weird. I’m still working full time, my spouse and kid are doing school and house maintenance full time, I’m stunned by the friends who have time to bake bread, much less learn new things.

              2. A*

                Oy vay, it’s so obnoxious! You want to know what language I’m learning in my “spare” time while WFH? I’m learning the language of managing-a-global-supply-chain-in-a-global-pandemic. It’s a terrible language I do not recommend : )

                I had to speak with my dad and stepmom about this, we have weekly Zoom calls now and they are retired and my step sisters are both on indefinite paid leave. I had to break it to him that it was incredibly frustrating to spend an hour each week being asked “has anyone learned any fun new games??!” when I’ve just gotten off ten hours of back-to-back zoom calls trying to prevent my employer from collapsing and a huge portion of my counties population becoming unemployed. Not to mention that I’ve been dealing with this since December and have lost a notable amount of colleagues (US & China) to this virus.

                Le sigh.

      1. Betty*

        Yes, I was absolutely horrified when I read this! PPE is a hugely scarce resource right now and very likely the company has bought every mask they could and doesn’t know when they’ll be able to get more. The idea that people would just take them home like they were a post it note is… well, it disgusts me. Literal hospitals full of coronavirus patients cannot buy masks because none are on sale. People should leave the damn masks where they belong.

        1. Holy Moley*

          Its so selfish to me. I want my coworkers to be protected so I dont catch it from them. Everyone wins.

        2. Susie Q*

          Agreed. I don’t care if people are scared. Masks need to go to where they are needed most which is healthcare facilities.

          1. Gaia*

            Right. I’m scared. But I work from home. Even if I had to go into an office, I can’t imagine I’d be as scared as utility workers that have to go to homes of others (!!!!!!) possibly without appropriate PPE because my coworkers who are in the office have been taking it home.

        3. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

          the masks that we are selling and utilities etc are buying are non-medical masks. they aren’t in competition with hospital supply and I assume that is the kind of mask the OP is talking about.

          1. OP#3*

            Yup. And even if we could order medical-grade masks, suppliers who are making those are prioritizing orders from hospitals over every other order (as they should!).

    4. Mama Bear*

      Good point – lack of masks actually makes the people in the office as a whole more vulnerable.

      I would acknowledge the frustration and fear, but remind people of the other things they can do without theft or putting their coworkers at risk. Tell them to take advantage of all these things the company is providing and encourage people to make or buy fabric masks. Presumably what OP is describing is N95 level gear and while everyone wants top shelf, the people who need that kind of PPE are the front line folks. The worker bee in Accounting with their own private office or telework has options. We shouldn’t have to but we need to prioritize the healthcare workers and those who are most exposed right now. PPE is hard to find almost everywhere. My company has some on order but who knows when we’ll get it. You can’t give away what you don’t have.

      The thing about the fabric masks is some are better than others, some can include filters, and it’s more I protect you and you protect me than I am protected from everything through my mask. Distancing and handwashing still apply. Some mask is better than no mask.

      Regarding other things like TP – people can use cloth, or buy a bidet.

    5. Jojo*

      What PPE supply chain? My company is government contract. We still have zero PPE. And we are using alcohol for cleaning and a few cans of lysol spray in heavy traffic areas.

    6. JSPA*

      The flip side of this is, though, that the company should give the techs flexibility so that they can wear their (already in-use) mask for shopping, either on the way home from a final call, or as a lunch break. Extending the use of an in-use mask, by an approved user, for a personal errand, is a general benefit to all. I’d hope that’s allowed, not seen as an unapproved use.

  3. jack*

    Here’s my $0.02 as an essential employee and I doubt this will be a popular opinion on this site BUT:if you don’t want me to get sick and bring coronavirus to the workplace, don’t be so strict about keeping supplies at work.

    1. Yum Yum Sauce*

      I think it would be reasonable for someone to take certain supplies home for oneself, such as a few masks. You have to stop for gas on the way to work, or perhaps take public transit to get there. But I don’t think it’s appropriate to take home supplies for family members when they’re meant for staff. That *is* stealing, plain and simple. You wouldn’t take a printer that’s meant for you and your coworkers, so why should someone be allowed to take supplies not meant for their personal use?

      1. Fikly*

        What’s reasonable is for someone who gets a mask for their job duty to take that same mask home with them.

        What is not reasonable is for them to take an extra mask home. Stopping for gas, etc, can be done while maintaining a six foot distance. Their job most likely cannot – that’s why they are being allocated masks in the first place.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          No. Professional disposable PPE should never be used and then taken home. If it can be reused, it still needs to be washed/disinfected before reuse. (Sorry, former safety person. Even with chemicals cross-contamination is an issue.)

          1. JSPA*

            If you’re already wearing it, and don’t doff, there’s no need to re-don. That’s extended use, not re-use.

            Well, presuming it’s being used for COVID protection in both cases; not if it’s doing double duty for some other hazard. Don’t take a chemically contaminated mask to the store, or a radiologically-contaminated mask, or a blood-exposed mask that could harbor hepatitis.

    2. Mid*

      I hate using slippery slope arguments, but given how people are irrationally hoarding toilet paper and eggs right now, I wouldn’t trust anyone to not abuse their access to supplies. It would start with one extra mask to take grocery shopping and quickly escalate to taking entire boxes home for themselves, their neighbors, to resell online, etc.

      If the techs don’t have access to masks, they cannot safety do their jobs. Their workplace is doing everything it can to ensure everyone is safe while at work. They have everyone possible WFH, they have spaced out workstations, etc.

      This is kind of like saying that if the construction site you work on provides safety glasses, you should be allowed to take them home for the whole family, because if your workplace wants you to be safe at work, they should want you to be safe at home too.

      1. Colin Robinson, DayWalker*

        Agreed! In my workplace we had to lock up batteries, because when Christmas rolls around everyone starts taking whole packs of batteries home for new gadgets…

        We even had a woman who would steal coffee creamers, snacks, drinks, toiletries, tape, pretty much anything. I still remember when she stole all the coffee filters.

        Her excuse was that if these items weren’t meant to be taken home, than why weren’t they locked up?

        So, yes it’s a slippery slope and it’s theft. Your stealing supplies that your coworkers need to do their jobs… People can be so selfish

        (The kicker was, the woman was a supervisor)

          1. Colin Robinson, DayWalker*

            She was when she started embezzling money from the company, because no one addressed her stealing supplies, she escalated to stealing funds.

            1. The Rural Juror*

              I accidentally rented a movie the other day with the wrong credit card and felt so guilty! I’m the administrator of our company’s Amazon Prime account and had been given permission to use the perk of getting Prime video at home (since it doesn’t cost the company any extra money for me to use it). I went to rent a movie on Amazon and forgot to switch the payment method…so I cost the company like $4. When I told my boss about it and apologized he had a good laugh and asked what I had rented. I still felt guilty, but at least he thought it was funny.

              I can’t imagine why someone would think it’s ok to take office supplies just because they’re not locked up. And then to eventually start embezzling money! The cajones on that one…SHEESH!

            2. Arts Akimbo*

              “If those funds weren’t meant to be taken home, then why weren’t they locked up?” — her pull-quote for the 6:00 news

        1. Emmaline*

          This is not at all the same as “safety glasses at a construction site.” Construction hazards are only hazardous in the moment and to those at the actual site. Other people in other places cannot die because a plate glass window smashed or a staple gun misfired or a jackhammer broke at a site 30 miles away. But you can easily bring COVID-19 home and endanger you family members. Re: batteries, coffee creamer, pens, printer paper… these things are not required life-saving items needed in a pandemic. CLeaning supplies and protective items ARE. If the company can’t afford to give extra supplies to the workers it requires to take thes risks, to force others to be at risk because of them coming into work, the company can help by using its suppliers to purchase more such items which the employees can then pay for (or have costs deducted from their pay.)

          1. JM60*

            “If the company can’t afford to give extra supplies”

            Even hospitals are short on PPE. It’s not because they can’t afford it, but rather because there isn’t enough of it for them to buy. You can only buy what’s for sale.

            The PPE that does exist needs to be left to those who benefit from it most. Everyone, including the families of employees, benefits more from having the available PPE be prioritized for being used in the field rather than in employee’s homes. After all, PPE isn’t needed in the home if PPE prevents the virus from ever spreading to the home in the first place.

            1. Colin Robinson, DayWalker*

              Exactly, if those on the front lines (bless them) can’t get masks and cleaning supplies, but your stealing from your job because you think it’s your right to take masks, cleaning, supplies etc. Than I wouldn’t trust you as an employee.

              What’s next? You need extra toilet paper, hand sanitizer, money? Where does your entitlement end?

          2. hbc*

            It’s not forcing others to take those risks, it’s mitigating the extra risks that those employees encounter by providing the PPE *where the extra risk is*. I mean, I’m all in favor for giving a pack of wipes to someone who says they ran out and can’t wipe down their shared vehicle or the doorknobs they touch on their way to the shower at home, but I highly doubt they’re wearing masks at home. They’re trying to get protection at the grocery store, where they’d be anyway if they didn’t have an essential, on-site job.

          3. Anononon*

            There ARE no extra masks. I have a family member who’s the director of a long term care center, and for weeks, he’s been scrambling to do whatever he can to get more PPE.

          4. Fikly*

            Please stop spreading the misinformation that these extra masks exist and are able to be purchased. They clearly are not.

            1. Emmaline*

              I haven’t spread any misinformation. And I didn’t specify particular items on any list of
              musts.” If a company is able to purchase items as the OPs has, that means they DO have access to a supply chain. I live in New York—the epicenter of this. And there are wipes to be found all over the place—not every day at every store, but most days at some stores—which means clearly the supply chain is working and such products are out there somewhere to be had. Also, as I mentioned, industrial and business suppliers have access to different supply chains than individual consumers do—and buy in bulk. The idea, to hbc, of “providing the PPE *where the extra risk is*” ignores that workers in the scenarios described by OP are exposed to risks that don’t begin and end at the job site. They risk bringing the virus HOME and spreading it to others (given that even taking all precautions available isn’t fool proof, and people forget and touch their faces or sometimes don’t wash hands well enough, the transit they use may be contaminated, etc.) I’m not talking about the company sending packs of wipes or anything to those employees working from home, who are thus not at risk because of any situation they’re placed in by their job. But for those who ARE… surely they should be protected all around—all the more so if they aren’t being well paid well for that.

              1. Gaia*

                Wholesale supply chain of PPE is very much in chaos. There are not enough masks or cleaning supplies. You’re just wrong to suggest otherwise.

              2. brushandfloss*

                In live in NYC and in work in dentistry and in February most offices nationwide couldn’t get masks. Most suppliers limited selling to only established customers and their usually order. It’s the main reason dental office have closed for non-essential treatment. Still most medical grade masks are only being delivered to medical institutions/ nursing homes.

              3. Allonge*

                What do people do with masks at home? Seriously, how does that work? Essential employees stop working, go home and then what? Do they force their whole family to wear a mask while they are at home? Or do they keep wearing a mask all the time?

                Sorry, but it seems that you fixed on having a mask as a universal solution. Even if there were enough masks to go around, it does not work like that (how I wish it would! If only we could solve this by all of us wearing a mask for like two weeks…).

              4. KimberlyR*

                The OP specifically mentioned that masks are being taken home. Masks are the item that are not currently available across the country. We can argue about toilet paper and wipes all day, but that completely ignores the fact that masks are the issue. Period. Full stop. So saying that the company could buy wipes to send home ignores the actual problem. The techs need the masks to go into people’s homes to ensure there is no interruption of their utilities. I imagine the company already had these masks and cannot buy more at this time because they aren’t available. Every time an employee takes a mask home to their family members, one less tech will have one down the road. I absolutely see why this is a fireable offense, but I agree with Alison that the company needs to break it down and explain it. Scared people do things they normally wouldn’t and explaining the reasoning, including how this makes the company and its employees safer, will probably help with at least some of the problem.

                1. boo bot*

                  Yeah, this is not analogous to taking home any other office-provided supplies – the issue is not that it’s stealing from the company, it’s that there aren’t enough masks to go around, and the people at highest risk have to be the ones to have them.

                  We can argue about the relative morality of taking pens, toilet paper, and one Cadillac piece at a time, but this is different, and the company should explain it in those terms.

              5. LitJess*

                So because a supply chain exists for the company, theft is totally okay?

                Wear the mask you wore on shift home, by all means. Learn to make sew or no-sew cloth masks. Don’t steal from your company and your coworkers who need those masks for WORK.

                1. B*

                  Not to mention, just because the supply chain accessibility once existed doesn’t mean it still does. I don’t know why supply / demand is so difficult to grasp!

              6. Someone On-Line*

                If these supplies are so easily found in stores, then people don’t need to take them from their workplaces…

                1. CaptainoftheNoFunDepartment*

                  OP#5 I recently did this exact same thing. I was interviewed for a job that turned out to actually be a huge step back career-wise. When I declined the offer, I asked if I could introduce them to an employee I had just had to lay off who I thought might be a better fit. Long story short, she was hired and had to spend less than a week unemployed. It works out sometimes and I think it’s lovely that you thought to do this!

                2. pnw dweller*

                  there are options for no sew masks and masks made by home sewers all over the place. People are choosing to steal over providing their own protection through the means available to them. There is no cause to justify stealing.

              7. fhqwhgads*

                Did you read the part where OP said their vendors are not able to supply their entire order? So they’re ordering what they need and receiving less than the amount requested? I don’t understand why you’re still arguing stuff must be available for purchase if the company has any at all – or why you were arguing that in that first place and keep claiming you’re not talking about a particular item. OP was talking about particular items and it is well known that there is a massive shortage of said items. It’s all over the news as well as this thread. You ARE spreading misinformation by suggesting it is as easy as “order more and receive it”.

              8. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                It depends on what you bought previously and if you’re big enough to be in the “bulk” section of the supply chain.

                For our small business, it’s all sourced off places like Costco for most things or the small restaurant supply options. I was limited to buying hand soap on Amazon like any other person, it was painful to say the least. But yeah, it happens eventually, you have to be on top of it. Lots of places aren’t that invested in the heavy lifting that comes with sourcing right now.

                Try finding bulk TP right now *sobs*

                I do generally otherwise agree with you, that in this kind of time if we have the supplies, we should spread them around as much as possible. I can see trying to get people necessary stuff that they can also take home in some fashion. But it has to be something that’s planned and processed by the employer in the end, not just a free for all “take whatever you need home.”

                Some kind of way to get each employee a canister of disinfectant wipes they can take home or so on.

                This happened in HOSPITALS they pillaged their supplies and now look at where they’ve ended up at? That’s why companies are being so strict and threatening about the theft of items. It’s all too real and out of hand.

                1. Travel_mug*

                  Implications that health providers are stealing supplies is so incredibly insulting.
                  I am quite literally putting my life and the safety of my family on the line to provide essential care. As I mentioned before, I have been wearing the same N95 for more than 2 weeks now. By the way, in my city, health providers are also getting pay cuts. While watching our colleagues get sick and die.
                  My place is with the sick and I’ll keep providing care, even in the face of all this.
                  But you don’t have to insult me at the same time.

              9. Susie Q*

                You are insanely ignorant of the actual supply chain issues of PPE. Stop watching Fake eerrrr Fox News.

              10. Travel_mug*

                If wipes are so easy to be had at stores in New York, why would the workplace need to provide them? Just buy some.

                Masks are the thing that is impossible to get. I’m a health provider who has been using the same mask at work for more than 2 weeks now.

                My husband (also an essential worker, but not medical) has a cloth mask, because he’s not dealing with sick COVID patients and doing “extreme risk” aerodigestive procedures like I am.

                If you get a mask at work that you can wear home after your shift, great! Please do. But please don’t take masks for other people who are not essential, at-risk personnel.

                Does it suck to ration safety gear? Of course! You don’t have to tell me! Every time I perform a procedure in my 2-week old mask, I feel angry. But we have to think about the difference between what is truly necessary and what would make us “feel” safer. We simply don’t have enough for everyone to have everything they want to feel safe.

                For those asking- when I get home I shower immediately, wash all clothes worn in the hospital in hot water or leave them at the door away from my family (with the hospital shoes) and I wash my hands like a fanatic (20 seconds) and spray the door end entry-way with alcohol (we haven’t been able to get antibacterial wipes for weeks). But I don’t wear a mask at home. If I become symptomatic or test positive at any point, I have a plan to move out of my home to avoid exposing my husband. Many providers are living in hotels away from their families to protect them.

                We are all making sacrifices.

              11. A*

                Please stop, you might not be aware of it, but it is misinformation. Having access to a PPE supply chain means squat right now. I’mg lad you have been able to find wipes. That does not change the global supply chain situation – if you have knowledge that we do not, please share because lives are at stake and I have a massive network of supply chain professionals that are unable to source PPE across the board.

                I encourage you to take a step back and consider that given the high volume of comments echoing the same message, across multiple front line functions, that there might be a grain of truth in what we are saying.

            2. Colin Robinson, DayWalker*

              100% agree! Hospitals/clinics in my area are asking for donations of masks, etc. Because they CAN’T get any….

          5. Diahann Carroll*

            There is no extra supply of PPE that people can allow their employees to take them home. You take the stuff home, you don’t have it at work to do your job and there’s no telling how long it’ll be until enough PPE will be manufactured to replace what people are stealing from work.

          6. Mid*

            Not to stretch the metaphor too much, but I think it’s pretty similar. There are a higher concentration of dangers on the worksite (construction materials flying about, going to visit multiple households as a tech) and a lower concentration away from work (home redecorating or landscaping, going to the grocery store). Your workplace wants to minimize the risks on the workplace and support people who are at the highest risk. That doesn’t mean you’re risk free at home but it doesn’t mean you can take supplies home either. Especially when the supply is masks and they’re super limited and hospitals are rationing nurses to one mask per shift and some nurses and doctors don’t have access to masks at all.

        2. Caterpie*

          That’s nuts, and her logic is really wacky. Could I just take her computer and desk chair home then if they weren’t chained to the desk?

          Someone at my company tried really hard to put out baskets of menstrual supplies in the restrooms but people would just take the whole thing EVERY TIME so it seems like they stopped. It was really frustrating and disheartening.

      2. LavaLamp*

        Actually, my previous employer in the construction industry did offer up safety glasses and ear plugs to everyone. My experience isn’t universal, but usually they promote saftey as much as they can. The only stipulation I remember was my dad had to get a note for tinted saftey glasses due to an eye condition.

        1. Just J.*

          Yes, but if there was a nationwide shortage on safety glasses, the construction company would not want you taking home multiples.

          And as side note, when a company provides PPE, it means that they can standardize what everyone is wearing, making sure it meets the latest safety requirements, etc., which reduces their in-house liability.
          Same here with the masks. With this being a utility company, I am thinking that theses are N95 masks. Which are way more protection than one needs to go to the grocery store.

          In other words, do not take home N95 masks for home use.

        2. Perpal*

          Those are generally reusable; old advise for surgical masks was to replace every 20 min because moisture probably makes them less protective. Now with universal masking, we’ve been told to keep using the same mask for a week (unless used with a known covid patient, then we replace everything every time). Still need to keep replacing them though.

      3. Karia*

        Also even if the slippery slope doesn’t apply, if *everyone* takes ‘just a couple’ of extra masks for themselves, stores deplete quickly. The company isn’t being ‘mean’ with this. They’re conserving scarce supplies for essential personal coming into contact with the vulnerable.

        1. Annony*

          Yep. It isn’t a slippery slope, it’s the tragedy of the commons. If one or two people take a couple of masks it probably wont’ make a difference. If everyone takes a couple of masks, the techs no longer have masks to use at work which would actually endanger the workers families more than the families not having masks.

          Masks are in limited supply right now. While this company was able to buy enough for their techs to wear at work, they likely are not able to buy more whenever they want and need to be very careful with their supply.

      4. Perpal*

        Yeah, we had to take away the box of masks we used to have at the hospital entrance because people would just grab the whole thing. Over and over. If everyone does it, we will ABSOLUTELY run out of masks. So instead we have greeters with a table and they hand everyone one mask (if they don’t already have one).
        Sorry there just aren’t enough to give out boxes to everyone to take home. And maybe then also give to their friends and family. if the hospital doesn’t have enough I can’t imagine a business has enough.

      5. Jojo*

        Lets say the company employs 50 people. That is how many they bought gear for. Do not have enough gear to supply 150 which is the employee plus their family.

    3. AcademiaNut*

      A big part of it is whether these supplies are renewable. When they run out can they easily buy more, without shorting other essential workers? If so, let employees purchase a certain number for home use.

      However, masks are hard to come by right now. If employees take them home for their families and they run out, other employees will have to go into people’s homes for repairs without protective equipment, placing both the employees and their customers at risk.

      1. Carlie*

        And further, customers may not let the technicians into their houses if they are not wearing masks. This is not just about the safety of the technicians, but the ability of the technicians to actually do their job and keep the company going.

    4. Daisy*

      That seems like the opposite of what the workplace is worried about. You’re far more likely to catch the virus at work, if you come into contact with many strangers through your job, and spread it through your home and workplace, than you are to catch it from the 2 or 3 people you live with and bring it to work. That’s why it’s far more important for the safety equipment to be at work. I don’t understand the alternative you’re envisaging – that people let it all hang out at work and then wear masks around their family members 24/7? That’s bizarre.

      1. boo bot*

        My guess is that people are taking home extra masks so that their family members can each have one to wear when they go out of the house, rather than taking them to actually wear at home. So, less nonsensical, but they still shouldn’t be doing it.

    5. Snark no more!*

      There are easy ways to make these masks from a bandana and a couple of hair ties that are perfectly suitable for going to the store or being on the bus. Having said that, they may not be as “good” looking as the manufactured ones. Leave the PPE supplied by the company AT the company for company business and ask her Google-ness for a demo. People can do this for themselves without resorting to stealing and putting their co-workers at greater risk.

      1. Jennifer*

        Not everyone feels safe walking around with a bandanna covering half their face, particularly people of color. People need masks that actually look like masks. Is this the right way of going about it? I don’t think so. But it’s not as easy as you’re making it sound.

        1. Show Me the Money*

          Black men in particular are getting challenged even when wearing surgical masks! The pandemic hasn’t erased racism. Ironically, black people are dying at triple the rate of whites, and men are dying more than women. Even with this, Black people testing rates lag behind that of whites. SMDH.

          1. Jennifer*

            Yes, very true. I saw two black men thrown out of a Wal-Mart for wearing surgical masks. People would rather risk COVID than being shot by the cops or an overzealous citizen. It’s not a simple as just make a mask.

          2. Jules the 3rd*

            Yeah to all of this. It is the most disheartening thing about this pandemic – racism isn’t taking a break, even when the rest of us are.

          3. Colin Robinson, DayWalker*

            Same Indigenous people have a high rate of infection after our African brothers and sisters, but testing is well below the Euro-americans.

          4. Third or Nothing!*

            WAIT….WHAT?! I’ve been hiding under a rock trying to avoid triggering anxiety by reading COVID news and I just…..AUGH!

            The sad thing is, I’m not surprised. Just….disappointed in my fellow humans.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yes. People need to become more resourceful! The masks are for the techs, and when they have to go somewhere to do their tech work, they need to require everyone to wear a mask while they are teching. Because that’s the only way the tech can stay safe.

        Like if there’s a shortage in the hospital, they’ll give the mask to the patient not the carer, because that’s the best way to protect the carer. The patient obviously already has it so can’t catch it.

    6. EM*

      This is pretty bananas to me. Your workplace has a duty of care to keep you safe while at work, while doing your job. The do not have a duty or obligation to remove all risk from your life, or the lives of your family. It’s nice if they can make you safer at home, but there is a massive shortage of sanitiser globally right now. I’m currently involved in procuring sanitiser and ppe for people in retail, and it is very hard to get. Even hospitals can’t get enough masks at the moment. Any worker who takes the limited supply home with them is actively (deliberately) endangering their colleagues. It’s not just regular theft of milk and biscuits, it’s stealing something that cannot be replaced even with money – to give it to low risk people at the expense of high risk people. It is selfish and dangerous, far more dangerous than many other activities that this commentariat would be furious about.

      1. fposte*

        I also think it sets a problematic precedent for work’s involvement with your home life. If they’re obligated to provide health-protective equipment for your family, that would seem to confer a right for them to know about your family’s health.

      2. Mockingjay*

        This. I had to grocery shop last weekend (waited as long as we could and only replenished essentials) and my heart broke when I overheard the store manager apologizing to his crew for not having proper masks yet – back ordered like the rest of the country.

    7. Lady Kelbot*

      As someone overseeing PPE procurement for our essential business, there is very, very little available. And what is available is 4-5 times the normal price. We’ve ended up having to lock up gloves, etc because 6,000 disappeared in one week.

      I wish we could provide everyone with all sorts of extra PPE to bring home but we can’t.

      1. Mimi Me*

        My friend is an ER physician and he said that when the panic buying first started in late February / Early March the hospital had to lock up all of the gloves, masks and sanitizer they had because patients were literally putting boxes from the exam rooms in their bags.

        My husband leaves the house every day. HE has a mask that he wears daily. The kids and I wear homemade face coverings when we have to leave. But here’s the thing, my husband is willing to be the ONLY one to leave the house so that we minimize exposure. If the employees are that concerned about their families getting sick, then this should be the conversation to have. It’s ridiculous that with all of this it’s the grown ups need to be reminded to share, to not take things that don’t belong to them, and to be kind to one another.

    8. Susie Q*

      It’s not about strictness. It’s a supply chain issue. There is a hugely limited supply of PPE right now. And the PPE that is available needs to go to the most essential people

      1. ynotlot*

        Yep, my sister works in a hospital caring for COVID patients. They refuse to give masks to the nurses (the doctors get them) and when the nurses asked for masks, they suspended or fired them. Then they shut down her whole floor when people continued to complain.
        There is not any PPE for people literally treating COVID patients in ICUs. I didn’t say there’s not enough, I said there isn’t ANY. It seems like people aren’t connecting with this info.

    9. A*

      There is a PPE shortage almost across the board (I’m being generous in leaving wiggle room there), it’s not about what SHOULD be done. It’s about what realistically CAN be done.

      I agree with you in theory, but it’s not possible right now. Please trust that us folks in supply chain/procurement are capable and intelligent enough to be doing everything we can to protect our employees, but most of this is out of our control. So, nice thought.

  4. Susan*

    For LW3, I think the employer does not truly need to give any explanation; taking things from one’s place of employment is stealing. My opinion is that no employer owes any employee an explanation of their expectation that employees refrain from stealing. I know people are frightened, but that does not excuse criminal acts on the part of employees. Stealing is a terminable offense and, to me anyway, does not require any kind of explanation.

    1. Colin Robinson, DayWalker*

      Stealing is a crime of trust, if I caught an employee stealing I’d fire them.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      People are terrified right now, for themselves and for their families. It’s better for companies to be understanding, not rigid. That doesn’t mean they need to compromise their mask stash, but it does mean it’s in their interests to be empathetic and not just frame it as “you don’t need an explanation for why you can’t take these.”

      1. Vulcan Logic*

        True, but it also doesn’t give employees cart Blanche to take supplies that are necessary for others to do their jobs, for their own personal use.

        Yes, there’s a pandemic and people are scared, but they doesn’t justify depriving others of needed supplies. It would be like walking into a hospital and demanding they give random person all their masks, because random person feels that their family and friends need it more than doctors and nurses.

        In a perfect world everyone would be sharing supplies, but all this does is open up opportunities for hoarders to take supplies they don’t need to either give to their family, and friends or to sell online. It sucks right now, but fear and emotions doesn’t over ride the needs of those who need these supplies the most.

        You can sympathize with people during these times, explain that supplies are limited, and only given to certain employees is all you can do. Even if people don’t agree with it, its the truth.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Right, I agree, as I said in the original answer. But this is a reply to someone saying that an employer shouldn’t bother giving any explanation.

    3. nnn*

      At the same time, if the company has historically accepted or overlooked or casually neglected to notice when printer paper or paperclips find their way into employees’ briefcases, it would be helpful to explain why this time it’s different.

      Example: “Masks are in short supply everywhere. Unlike most office supplies, there’s no guarantee that if we order more masks, the order will actually get fulfilled in a timely manner. If you take masks for personal use, our technicians may end up having to make service calls with no masks, which puts everyone at risk.”

      (Should you *have* to explain to people why stealing is bad? No, you shouldn’t *have* to. But also, this might increase the chances of getting the desired results without having to fire essential public utility workers.)

      1. OP#2*

        Yup, that’s pretty much the message that’s in our intranet articles. “Here’s the situation. Here’s what we’re providing to people coming into the office/going into the field. We’re doing our best, but supplies are short. This is a serious situation, so the consequences can be serious.”

        1. Wendy*

          Homecare office worker here who is currently in charge to giving out PPE to our field staff. Even when you do explain why things are being restricting, they will still argue and complain. Do people honestly think I’m hoarding hand sanitizer and masks because I’m a bitch?

    4. Emmaline*

      Expecting employees required to come to the job means that, inevitably, some of their family members will die. If the company cannot afford to GIVE extra items, it CAN use it’s connection to industrial wholesalers to order extra which employees can then PAY for. Why this is important has to do with the OP making clear that people cannot actually, on their own, buy the items themselves where they live. So they are creating 2 groups of employees. Thos who can work from home and protect their families. And those it expects to come to work, who have no access at all to supplies to help protect their families from a virus that at lease some are likely to bring home from work. That is horrifying, and should be mitigated in any way possible. Individuals can’t access the kinds of suppliers that industries can, and therefore lives may be saved by the employer making such a gesture.

      1. BuildMeUp*

        And those it expects to come to work, who have no access at all to supplies to help protect their families from a virus that at lease some are likely to bring home from work

        I believe from the letter that they are supplying these things, though. It says “They are also providing cleaning wipes, hand sanitizer, masks, and other items necessary to protect our colleagues who still have to go to the office.” So the techs and other employees who are unable to WFH are able to use these supplies when they are at work and interacting with others. Unless I’m not understanding what you’re saying?

        1. OP#3*

          The company is supplying those things, but in certain areas it’s difficult/impossible for an individual to walk into Walmart and get masks/soap/wipes/hand sanitzer (yes, soap is best, but the techs have to have something in their trucks). I think what Emmaline is saying — because it’s the same as what some comments on our intranet are saying which prompted my letter to AAM to make sure I wasn’t off base in thinking that’s not right — is that if you live somewhere where you can’t buy it from a local store, the company should let you take it home.

      2. Caroline Bowman*

        Wait, what? I understand that Covid-19 is serious, deeply so and that of course there is a risk of severe illness and death to some, but there just isn’t a definite ”if you come to work then your family members will die. End of story”. That’s just not so.

        If the company – as is very likely – has quite limited access to the necessary equipment, not because of money, but a simply supply problem that seems quite universal at the moment – then they have every right, indeed a duty, to ensure that there is enough PPE for the staff who are having to work in risky circumstances. By using adequately-supplied PPE, they reduce their risk of bringing home Covid 19 in the first place.

        Are you saying that by working, they will lose family members to Covid 19?

        It seems that it’s not a question of a miserly attitude on the part of the company. Also, where does it end? With people taking stacks of stuff home for their entire neighbourhoods? You’d think that would be ridiculous, but is it?

        1. Emmaline*

          I’m not saying they are miserly if the company doesn’t GIVE what they cannot afford. Of course not. That’s why I suggested they could offer to order more from the industrial wholesaler they buy from, and the employees who need (because it’s not possible to find in their area otherwise, as OP noted) can PAY for what they need. Industrial suppliers have different access than individuals going shopping at a neighborhood store. As to what I said about it being likely that at least SOME family members will get sick, and a few will die… I am in New York City and that has been my experience here. It’s a fact that among fields where people go to work (can’t WFH) people are getting sick and dying. Police, transit workers, supermarket staff, some offices, etc. The fairest way to do things is to offer hazard pay—how in normal times one would pay any employee whose job forces them to be around dangerous substances. Can’t afford that? Give folks a few masks or packs of wipes. Can’t afford that? Use your business supplier connex to order extra and allow employees to collectively buy that way (they couldn’t otherwise access the bulk supplies or bulk discounts as individuals.)

          1. Mask anon*

            I think you’re missing the point that’s being made that it’s not necessarily that they can’t afford to give them to staff to take home but that there aren’t enough to go around. Just because a company has wholesale connections doesn’t mean that the wholesaler has any more to give them. If the company can only get its hands on 100 masks, and they don’t know when they will become available again, it doesn’t matter how much money there is in the bank, they won’t be able to restock them. If people take masks home for their families, then those masks aren’t available to the people who are really at risk, the techs going into peoples houses.

          2. MK*

            You keep missing the point. The supply chain for protective gear is severely strained; the wholesalers are flooded with such requests. The best way to protect everyone is not to order as much as you can for the families of workers, limiting the access to those who need them more.

          3. doreen*

            My husband works for a hardware distributor in NYC , which means his company carries masks. And his company hasn’t been able to get masks for weeks, which means that his customers haven’t been able to get masks for weeks. I work for a large state agency – we weren’t able to get masks* or sanitizer wipes until last week because our supplier couldn’t get them. The only reason we had hand sanitizer is because the prisons started bottling it.

            * The agency did have some,but medical staff naturally had priority.

          4. Karia*

            The wholesalers don’t have the supplies though. Where I live, *doctors and nurses* can’t get enough PPE. Why on earth should the company or wholesaler provide extremely scarce supplies to people who are not putting themselves at risk?

          5. Show Me the Money*

            Folks at home can sanitize with diluted bleach. Homemade facial coverings are everywhere. Not having commercial wipes and masks does not mean that the people who live with those who must work outside the home have no protection. I don’t know why you are not gettingit, but these are not normal times and even health care institutions are not able to order however many masks and gowns that they need.

            My local CVS had to place hand sanitizer for customer use behind the counter because customers were stealing it. Yeah, you could use it at home, and no, there was none to buy at the store, but does that justify theft? Noway. The store would have been happy to sell you some, but just didn’t have it.

          6. LJay*

            You can’t just order more than what you need from the industrial wholesaler
            I can’t even order what I need right now, never mind more than what I need. It’s not about price.

            It’s about supplies not being there, and that when the supplies are there the wholesalers are rationing them so everyone can get some/customers who needed these supplies pre-COVID can continue to get them.

            Like Nitrile gloves. I order them for all of my stations. Previously we would order about 3 sets of gloves in a bucket at a time in each size. I can still order them, but only 1 set of each size at a time. If I hadn’t ordered them previously from this supplier I wouldn’t be able to get them at all.

            I can’t even access the amount of supplies I used to be able to access and that we need to be able to sustain operations, never mind provide extras for employees to take home, even if they’re willing to pay for them.

            The industrial suppliers are all limited right now, too. Haven’t you heard of all the hospitals struggling without supplies? Do you really think that that is because of them being cheap and not because there really are no supplies out there?

          7. Another lab tech*

            “Can’t afford that? Give folks a few masks or packs of wipes.”

            There are NO masks to give out.

            1. Pescadero*

              Then the company shouldn’t expect employees to come in.

              It’s reasonable for companies not to provide adequate PPE. It’s not reasonable for them to expect people to still work without it.

              They need to be legally liable in those cases.

              1. Vegan Paradise*

                You missed the point, they have masks and hand sanitizer for employees that are going into peoples homes, what others are complaining about is taking these supplies home to their families for personal use.

          8. Avasarala*

            Can’t afford that? Use your business supplier connex to order extra and allow employees to collectively buy that way (they couldn’t otherwise access the bulk supplies or bulk discounts as individuals.)

            OK, what if they can’t order extra, or any, because the business supplier doesn’t have any?

            What if this isn’t a question of “afford” but demand outstripping supply?

        2. Jojo*

          She is saying that if the company has PPE they need to let workers take some home. I guess she cannot figure out that what the company has is all there is. The company can get no more . Supply chain is empty. There is none at walnart. There is none at 3m warehouse. So there is none more for the company to purchase.

      3. Fikly*

        Not if those masks do not exist. Where are these masks?

        You can want them to exist all you want, but that doesn’t make them magically appear out of thin air.

      4. ynotlot*

        @ Emmaline, it’s horrifying because we are going through a horrifying crisis. Nurses in ICUs caring for COVID patients daily do not have masks. The supply chain has collapsed, the federal government is pitting states and hospitals against each other resulting in huge price increases, FEMA is swooping in to seize and redirect supplies if a hospital does manage to acquire some, and nurses and doctors are getting FIRED for speaking out about being forced to treat COVID patients without PPE. The rest of us are going to have to wait.

      5. Actual Vampire*

        “Expecting employees required to come to the job means that, inevitably, some of their family members will die.”

        This is a bizarre, disturbing thing to say. Are you ok?

      6. Colin Robinson, DayWalker*

        Please tells us emmaline where all these extra supplies are? So we can buy them…

        It’s a shortage there are no extras

      7. Vegan Paradise*

        So basically Emmaline your stating that by not allow employees to take masks, hand sanitizer, and other supplies for personal use that their employers are possibly “killing” their family members? WOW, just wow…..

        Allison, Shut this forum down, its getting out of hand with misinformation and outrageous accusations…Please

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          One person on this post with misinformation who’s then soundly corrected by dozens of responses does not warrant shutting down a comment section that’s providing value to many other people.

          If it’s aggravating you, please take a break from it.

          1. Vegan Paradise*

            Removed. You’re being ridiculously over the top. It’s a comment section. Move on, please – Alison.

          2. A*

            Thank you!!! I found this thread extremely informative, and almost cathartic (as a supply chain professional). I admire your ability to recognize that not all divisive threads are worthy of deletion.

            Thanks everyone that contributed, this saved my Thursday : )

    5. Fikly*

      It’s true that they are not obliged to give an explanation.

      However, giving an explanation is likely going to be more effective at stopping the theft, and that spares the company from both the theft, and then having to hire new people to replace the fired ones in the middle of a pandemic.

      1. Show Me the Money*

        Locking them up, restricting access, and keeping strict count is the only way to stop theft, unfortunately.

  5. Fulana del Tal*

    #1-IANAL but depending on your city/states laws if she has been living with more than 30 days she maybe considered a tenant and need to served an eviction notice if she doesn’t leave voluntarily. Most places have halted evictions right now. You may be stuck with her even if she finds outside employment

    1. Lia*

      Thank you, I wanted to bring this up as well. Most states have laws (even before the Covid situation) that makes it difficult to remove someone who’s been living living in a rental unit for a certain period of days (usually 30)
      https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/how-evict-roommate-not-the-lease.html

      If the OP owns a house, they could technically ask the room mate to leave and if she doesn’t, declare her a trespasser although I have no idea how that would play out currently.

      1. Fulana del Tal*

        That shouldn’t fly. I’m sure the roommate’s possessions being there/mail would prove to the police she’s not a trespasser.

      2. Nervous Nellie*

        Even if OP is the homeowner, there is no lease with the friend’s name on it, and OP is not their landlord. Parting ways with a longterm houseguest would not be interpreted as an eviction.

        1. Fulana del Tal*

          Totally depends on local laws. The friend may be a legal resident at this point regardless of lease.

        2. Annie*

          In a lot of jurisdictions, you don’t need a lease or pay rent to be legally considered a tenant. In some cities, it takes a little as 7 days to be considered a tenant and the owner would have to go through the formal eviction process to remove them from the house.

        3. Helena1*

          It would where I live… if it can be demonstrated that this is their habitual place of residence, they establish tenant’s rights regardless of whether or not they pay rent.

        4. MJ*

          This doesn’t require a written lease. If the home is their legal place of residence, they can’t be removed without notice.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This is good for the OP to be aware of, but it’s pretty likely it won’t come to that. It’s more likely they’ll have the conversation and the friend will agree not to pick up the temporary work. Or if she’s really committed to it, she’s more likely to make arrangements to move than to take a stand and refuse to leave — given that this is a friendship and people who are helping her out, and given that she is not in dire straits.

      That’s not to say that never happens — it sometimes does — but generally with friends who are decent people, you talk it out and it doesn’t come down to eviction. So now that it’s been pointed out (which is useful), I’m going to ask that we not derail on it.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        And there is also the option that they can help her find work that would be agreeable to all. She desperately wants to work, which is commendable. So why not help her find something that you all can live with,OP? This is not a negative, toxic relationship with these three people. Everyone is really working at things here and they are caring for each other. Maybe OP and her spouse could ask around to see if their friends know of any openings, even temp openings in a safer environment.

        So far it looks like Friend is checking ads and checking in the obvious places. It sounds like if she had other ideas she would probably check those ideas out also. Just my guess but the Friend is mostly concerned about paying OP back and less concerned about the nature of the work itself. This means she might have flexibility and take on work that she wouldn’t do otherwise.

        What strikes me here is the harmony in this relationship, no one is mad at anyone. Everyone is trying to pull each other through this.

        1. Taura*

          OP said their friend had online interviews for remote work set up though. Of course it’s possible that none of those actually result in a job, but I don’t see where that means she HAS to pick up a higher risk job right this second, like it sounds like she’s wanting to do.

          1. HiringMgr2*

            Talk to her! No need to go nuclear (thanks to other commenter for that great phrase)!
            She flat out told OP she’s feeling guilty and bored. Of course she’s feeling guilty – she’s used to paying her own way and cannot. And of course she’s bored… she’s got nothing to do! So… maybe you can express that you LOVE having her stay with you and are 100% comfortable covering her expenses while we ride this out. BUT, she might feel more comfortable if you gave her something to do. Discuss it with her – are there chores that she could take over that she isn’t doing? Not that you *need* her to do those – but if you assigned them to her, maybe she would feel better about the situation? Prepare/cook meals? Laundry? Maybe more deep cleaning things like windows and floors?

            Or – another alternative – consider encouraging her to spend time doing online classwork. Can she earn a certification that would be beneficial in her career? Learn another language? Take a coding class or online marketing class remotely? Maybe if you phrase it as, “Hey, we want you to stay here and not get a new job until you find the right, remote job for you long term. I understand that’s hard for you. What if we agree that you’ll “earn your keep” by pursuing X goal? Or taking over X tasks in the house? Would that help you feel more comfortable?”

            1. Arts Akimbo*

              Or maybe she could start a garden? Even indoors you can do quite a lot. It takes up time, there’s a learning curve so your mind stays active, there’s always something to be done in it so you’re always useful, and it can produce food that the entire household enjoys so you’re contributing! I had zero interest in gardening before the COVID-19, and now I’m all over it for those exact reasons.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          Also not necessarily a feasible one – many areas have suspended evictions for the moment. So the first approach is to assume everyone will be reasonable, but it’s also the last approach.

      2. Amethystmoon*

        There are companies hiring people to work from home now. I have a friend who is a technical writer and she recently changed jobs. Now granted, most of those kinds of jobs do require degrees. Maybe there is something doing data entry that would be doable right now? I do think under normal circumstances the person should be allowed to get whatever kind of job she wants.

        Is anyone in the living situation at particular high risk or are they young and no pre-existing conditions? If no one is at particularly high risk, I also think exceptions should be made for that.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Nah. It’s too easy to think that you’re healthy and then get sick and find out you’re actually not – many chronic conditions don’t present with obvious symptoms right away. It’s safer to just assume you’re unwell and stay in the house if at all possible now.

          1. Amethystmoon*

            Well, I did have to explain to a friend today that I have a coworker in the high risk category — this is why I don’t go to the grocery store and physically shop anymore. She thinks if you wear gloves and masks that is 100% always effective, but it’s not and I would feel terribly guilty if coworker got very ill and it was proven that I was the cause. But she is high risk and I do have to go in a couple days a week — we are essential employees.

      3. Nervous Nellie*

        Whoops, sorry Alison! Just added a comment above, scrolled down and saw your note about eviction chat. Delete if you wish!

      4. LW1*

        Thank you for answering Alison! And as usual, you’re spot on. We haven’t really sat down and had a direct conversation about it, which we’re planning on doing tonight or tomorrow. I’m reading some great comments here on how to phrase it better, and really appreciate it.

        And no, we’re not worried about the legal aspects of this, we’ve all known each other a very long time, and been through much worse together.

        Folks have been making some great comments about mental health and keeping busy which I agree with. We just don’t want her to feel like she has to be our “maid” to feel wanted/welcome. She went to the grocery store this morning, and picked up a bunch of stuff to make some of her favorite recipes. I also ordered some things on Amazon, and she’s going to teach me how to cross stitch. She also talked us in to trying yoga too, so lot’s to look forward too.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          FWIW, you guys sound like an awesome household who are handling things awesomely! I’m so happy to hear you’re all making the most of things, and I bet you’ll work this out just fine.

    3. blackcat*

      But I also think that if the conversation starts with something like, “We are really concerned with exposure to COVID that would come with working outside the home. We would much prefer to feed you and waive rent while you search for a job that will let you work from home than to get paid and have that exposure risk. If you want to contribute more to the household, we’d prefer non-monetary contributions like [extra cleaning/yardwork/sewing masks/something in the home that is doable].”

      Most reasonable people will say “Oh, wow, ok, I didn’t know it mattered that much to you. I’ll hold off on looking outside my industry.”

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      There’s no info in the letter stating whether the friend is paying them rent or not so I wonder if that matters. Because if she’s not paying them anything to live there, she wouldn’t technically be a tenant right? I got the impression she is not paying, and the “we got your expenses covered” was more about food an necessities rather than rent.

      1. anonymoushippopotamous*

        being a tenant is not contingent upon paying rent or having a contract. Residency law varies by locality, but commonly having possessions, receiving mail, and residing for 7/14/30+ days makes you a tenant.

  6. Bex*

    LW1, have you tried the straight forward conversation to make it clear your friend won’t get the boot just because they’re not working? As someone who’s moved for a big chance just to have it go sideways, I panicked and was looking for *anything* that would make me feel stable again. Despite having money saved and being reassured, I just felt so ill at ease I did whatever – anything that felt normal (even if it was going to a weird unneeded job) was useful.

    Has your friend expressed budgetary concerns? They might be looking to work before it’s a crisis. If that’s not an issue to you, try to think of “in kind” labor or services they could provide if things last a while and everyone is stuck waiting.

    Sorry for rambling. A bit sleep deprived here.

    1. LW1*

      Thanks for responding! Luckily my friend is ok with her savings account right now, I think she’s just feeling useless, and I get that, been in her shoes before. Like you and other’s have said, we just need to sit down and have a more straight forward conversation with her, which we really haven’t.

      Also sleep deprived over here as well!

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        I totally get the useless feeling! My husband feels the same way right now. He’s on day 20 of his 30 days of unpaid leave that he took because he’s high risk. Although I have repeated endlessly that his entire job right now is to take care of our 2.5 year old daughter so I can work from home effectively, he still feels like he’s not contributing enough.

        Perhaps you could suggest ways she could volunteer remotely. I personally know of at least one way that anti-trafficking organizations use remote volunteers, and I’m sure there are other opportunities out there.

  7. Aphrodite*

    OP#3, if you and your co-workers are getting worried about masks you may want to google “medical supply companies.” And then look multiple pages into the results. I found this company on the first page of results and found these masks that I bought today. I bought one unit (of 50 one-time use masks), but I am staying very close to home and go out only once every two+ weeks when I bundle chores together. So they should last for a while making the cost more acceptable.

    https://www.clkmedicalsupply.com/clk-superior-x200-blue-procedure-bfe-99-medical-face-masks-level-ii-earloop-fda-blue-50-pcs-per-bag/

    1. Clumsy Ninja*

      Except that even your link says “currently unavailable.” So these things are vanishing as soon as they’re listed.

      1. Tabby Baltimore*

        Just tried the link myself, and can corroborate the unavailability status. For those of you willing to wait for re-supply, however, you *might* get a bargain, since each mask–formerly priced at $69.99–has now been marked down to a much more reasonable … $45.00 (“You save $24.99”). /s

    2. Ellie Mayhem*

      I hope you actually get them in a timely manner. I work in a healthcare-adjacent field and we’ve been trying to source masks for weeks. We’ve submitted many orders from similar companies and while they are more than happy to take our payment, they continually delay the shipping until months from now.

      1. brushandfloss*

        Last night put in an order for a face shield. it was listed in stock, put in all of my billing info , this morning got the email that all PPE is out of stock and not being back ordered.

      2. JustaTech*

        The only reason my company has masks (absolutely necessary to make our medical treatment) is 1) our volume is down so we need less 2) we started stocking up (not hoarding) back in January and 3) our corporate overlords in China have been getting stuff to us.

        So we’ve been donating what we can to local hospitals.

      3. Amaranth*

        From what I’ve read, too, a lot of those companies are springing up to take advantage of the crisis and quality can be….questionable.

    3. JM60*

      Those are surgical masks, not n95 respirators. Their main benefit is to reduce the risk of you spreading the disease to others. They only slightly reduce the odds of the person wearing it from getting the disease. They have value, but can give a false sense of security.

      I’m guessing that the OP is thinking of n95 respirators.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I wish people would stop disparaging masks like that. The point is that everyone wears one, the chances of infecting each other drop dramatically. I wear one (home-made according to French standard) so that I don’t inadvertently infect anyone, and I would very much like everyone to do the same. Even if it’s just a bandana knotted over your face, it helps and makes me feel safer.

      2. Jojo*

        The purpose is to prevent you putting out spit that can infect others when you breath/talk/cough. Not to protect you but to protect others. You are not a surgeon. Nobody is putting their body fluids on you.

  8. Koala dreams*

    #1 Of course you can make that a deal breaker, and your friend can also make it a deal breaker on her part that she won’t not work. It’s generous of you to offer to cover her expenses, but it’s also understandable that the friend prefers working and helping with the crisis. Since the friend is already applying for jobs, it’s time to get direct and start discussing a moving out date for the friend.

    #3 Wow, those people… Sadly many people are simply oblivious about things going on, so the company needs to spell out very clearly that there is a shortage and for the benefit of the community it’s important to prioritize who need the supplies the most. It won’t help with the selfish people, but it should help with those that are simply oblivious.

    1. Lucette Kensack*

      Right, but if not working is a dealbreaker for the friend, she needs to move (before she starts working).

      1. Koala dreams*

        That’s why you need to take the discussion a step further and discuss the moving out date. It sounds like they are still in the phase of discussing deal breakers, and maybe hoping the other person will change their minds. Somebody needs to bring up moving, the sooner the better.

        1. Willis*

          I agree that this is a the-sooner-the-better conversation. Maybe the roommate is just saying that stuff about the grocery store job cause she feels awful about not paying for anything, or maybe she’s really serious about getting a job. But better to get everything out on the table before she applies places or accepts a position.

  9. Myrin*

    “I promise we’re not monsters”
    Au contraire, OP #1, you and your husband sound like exceptionally kind and generous friends who have so far taken a reasonable, fair, and level-headed approach towards your situation and continue to do so.

    It would be one thing if she actually were a professional retail worker and as such would naturally be looking at grocery or other stores because that’s her job but since she is from a different field entirely AND already has several interviews for remote work in that field in the works, you really have nothing to feel bad about in drawing a very hard line here.

    1. LW1*

      Thank you! Everyone’s responses have made me feel a lot better about this situation, and we’re going to have a big family dinner tomorrow and discuss it more directly then.

  10. Apples*

    For the Paycheck Protection Program, I thought I had read that you need to stay staffed at 75% of the usual, leaving room for someone to quit. We were also concerned that someone quitting could be problematic, but found in the rules that it would be OK. Did anyone else read that?

    1. sam*

      this is correct, but if you have a small enough staff, losing one or two people could reduce your staffing to below 75%. That’s why Alison noted that the way to fix the problem is for the employer to hire someone to fill the vacant position. You can’t actually force a person to work at a job they no longer wish to be employed at.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        That last part is such an important thing to reiterate. If by some miracle I get another job in the next month, I know I will get a TON of pushback because of this very situation… but it’s always important to remind ourselves that we are employees, not indentured servants.

        1. Jedi Squirrel*

          we are employees, not indentured servants

          Agreed. It’s been depressing to read on here and other sites how powerless we are as employees. But we still have options.

    2. ynotlot*

      My understanding (which could be incorrect) is that they’ll base it on who filed for unemployment. So if you file for the Paycheck Protection but then they can see that all of your staff filed for unemployment and have been collecting benefits, you don’t get it back. If you can show that you kept people on staff (they didn’t file for unemployment because you didn’t lay them off) then it gets forgiven.
      Still figuring it out though..

    3. Dragon_Dreamer*

      I am amazed how many employers think they own you.

      Then again, my former retail corporate was shocked, *SHOCKED,* I tell you, and furious, that I didn’t want to come back to work for them after they “fired” me because I was a fulltime non-manager. (They claimed that a survey had come in from a customer, saying that I had been overheard being rude to another customer on the phone, on a day I didn’t even *work.*) I was re-hireable, though! At minimum wage (instead of $12/hr), no more than 20 hours, at a different store (it takes time to build a customer base for repairs), and the promise I would *never* be management. But I would still be expected to keep up the same level of $2000-$3000/week in sales. (I was NOT commission.)

      The only reason I *had* full time is that when my hours were originally cut to save the company from paying fulltime benefits after Obamacare passed, my sales had fallen from that level to about half. Because I wasn’t *there* as much.

      They even tried to tell the unemployment office when I filed that I had been fired “for cause,” and then later they claimed I was *still* working for them. Neither lie held up in the hearings. When one of the stores I had worked at closed down, I got an angry email blaming me! :P

      They, of course, have applied for the program. They are a nationwide corporation who shouldn’t even be open. >.< So glad to be out of that toxic environment.

    4. Ben Marcus Consulting*

      Not correct. Employers that participate in the PPP must restore and maintain at least 75% of wages for the period covered by the program. Any reduction in covered wages over 25% will be reduced from the forgivable portion of the loan.

      Employers also must maintain their FTE levels for the same period. Any reduction in FTE will result in an equal reduction in their forgiveness. i.e. A 2% reduction in FTE is a 2% reduction in forgiveness.

      However, voluntary separations and dismissals with cause do not penalize the forgivable portion. But, a maximum of 25% of the loan may be used for non-payroll expenses.

      1. Lorne DWC*

        Thanks for this, Ben! I’m LW#2. This is really helpful. Another I thought I had – if they can’t rehire quickly enough and it had some effect on the percentage that would be forgiven, couldn’t they just put the portion of my salary into a savings account and pay it back as soon as it is due? Or hire someone as interim in my position or show that they were attempting to hire in my absence?

        1. Ben Marcus Consulting*

          They certainly avoid interest on anything that won’t be forgiven by paying it back immediately. That doesn’t circumvent the penalties.

  11. AnyoneAnywhere*

    Re: #1
    Would things be different if she had to take a job to pay her bills? Would things be different if you were co-signers on a lease and the person already worked in healthcare (for example, worked as a nurse, and you knew that when you signed a lease together, and now you want them to quit that job but you won’t pay their bills)?

    Completely agree with Alison’s response to #1, but I think there are a lot of grayer situations going on around us that I’ve heard about. And a lot of roommate problems!

    1. Jennifer*

      I read about a nurse that was evicted from her home because of her job. She rented a room in a house with other roommates in an expensive city and it was all she could afford. What are people supposed to do? Everyone needs a roof over their heads.

    2. CheeseGirl*

      I thought people couldn’t get evicted at the moment? Maybe it’s just because in my state and the states around me, the courts are closed so eviction cannot be enforced, and I guess courts aren’t closed everywhere (?), but I thought eviction processes had been temporarily suspended.

      1. That'll happen*

        Just because most places have a moratorium on evictions doesn’t mean that landlords won’t illegally evict folks. A lot of people are unfamiliar with their rights, OR the landlord does something like change the locks. And since the courts are closed people have no recourse – the police will say it’s a civil matter.

        1. Jennifer*

          Exactly. In the case I mentioned above, if you’re one person against an angry landlord and four other angry residents, sure you may know it’s an illegal eviction but what recourse do you really have if they want you out? Being in a home where you aren’t wanted is a very anxiety-inducing, not to mention potentially dangerous, situation.

        2. Lala*

          The fact that courts aren’t open works against tenants as much as it works for them. If these people all put her stuff in the hallway and locked her out what could she do? That’s an illegal eviction.

          Saying they did that is extreme. She probably just felt a lot of pressure. But it’s still probably not a legal eviction. And she has little recourse. Because she can’t go right to the courthouse.

          Most ARE open for emergency actions and sudden homelessness might be that. But even those are being heard somewhat slowly and not with a lot of satisfaction.

      2. schnauzerfan*

        Our governor of whom you may have heard (cough Smithfield cough) has refused to issue a moratorium on evictions of utility shutoffs. The biggest utility cos. in the state have announced they will not be doing shutoffs, but some of the smaller co-ops etc., have been.

      3. Albet*

        Some of these eviction moratoriums are ONLY for inability to pay due to loss of income due to COVID-19.

    3. Koala dreams*

      Of course it would be different in a different situation. If you were co-signers on the lease, for example, it’s not a given that it’s the nurse who should move out and the others that would stay.

  12. Jls521*

    Nope, sorry. Just no. Those items are for the techs, period. This company has no obligation to provide equipment for workers’ families whatsoever. If there was an unlimited supply, then yes they could offer to let people BUY these items. But there isn’t an unlimited supply and we all know that.

  13. Jennifer*

    #1 Hopefully she’ll get a remote job in her field and this will be a moot point. I think she feels bad for staying with you rent free and wants to contribute something, but this isn’t the way to go about it.

    How the hell are all these people starting new jobs and getting interviews?

    1. Important Moi*

      If anything, it gives me hope that people are still starting new jobs and getting interviews.

    2. yala*

      Honestly, if her thing is just that she’s “bored and guilty”…she could use her time to make masks, maybe? Either to sell via etsy or just to give to folks who need them.

    3. Snark no more!*

      Our department is 100% WFH since mid March and we have hired three people in the last two weeks. Totally depends on the field. We are in public health working on the opioid problem.

    4. LitJess*

      I wonder if “bored and guilty” is what roommate is saying to OP. I think it’s wonderful that OP is being so generous with their home and helping cover expenses, but at the same time, the roommate is not earning any money. Which limits them currently with how they choose to spend their money and down the road as months of not earning add up.

      It’s OP’s house and they should absolutely set the terms, up to and including asking roommate to move out if they are going to work outside the home now. But, and I acknowledge that this may be WAY misreading the situation as well, it’s a little financially manipulative. I can understand wanting an independent income even if one isn’t “needed”.

      I think OP needs to decide for certain if this is a hard line for them and be willing to potentially end the friendship over it. Again, it’s fine if it is, you just need to commit and move ahead.

    5. LW1*

      There’s hope out there! Another friend of mine (different state) just started a new job on Monday. I’m happy to see companies adapting to remote work if they weren’t before, and that people are still getting jobs.

  14. Former call centre worker*

    #1 needs a response from a housing expert, not an employment expert. I’m not convinced Alison is qualified to answer, no offence like.

    1. Jennifer*

      No it doesn’t. These are people that are friends who genuinely like each other and get along. If my best friend and I disagreed on something while living together, my first move wouldn’t be to evict her. If we couldn’t live together anymore, one of us would leave on our own without the courts being involved.

      1. Show Me the Money*

        I wonder if the courts need to get involved if there is no rent being paid.
        Friend can agree to pay her hosts retroactively when she gets a job in her field. No way should she go against their wishes, as they have been more than gracious.

        1. Lala*

          It depends on the state. In some states rent isn’t required for someone to be considered a tenant. But by no means all.

          1. KarenK*

            In Maine, it doesn’t matter if you pay rent or not. If you live somewhere with the permission of the owner, the only way to make you leave is through the eviction process.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Doesn’t matter in Washington if there’s rent exchanged or not!

          If they’re there for over 2 weeks without being told to leave, they’re tenants and have rights. No contract/lease makes it that much harder to “evict” them. I had to watch an elderly family member be abused under this law because they have awful adult aged children who had vagrant friends squat at her home. At first it was just “They just need to get back on their feet for a couple weeks to get the money to get their own place…” and boom, a couch tenant.

      2. Willis*

        This. Alison’s advice is great….OP needs to talk with her friend. There are plenty of times where a friend does something that could have legal ramifications but courts are rarely the first place you go to resolve it.

        Also, as a side note, even if OP’s friend is now legally a tenant under the law where they live, there are procedures for ending a landlord/tenant relationship in a manner that do not equal an eviction, with notification that a tenant move out typically being one of the first steps. It’s certainly not advantageous for OP’s friend to have an eviction on her record (now or whenever they again become an option where OP lives) so she would have some incentive to cooperate with that process. But seriously, they’re friends, they just need to talk about this.

    2. doreen*

      I’m not going to say Alison is qualified to answer – but I was really surprised to see it here. It’s not an employment question- it’s a question for either a housing expert or a relationship expert.

    3. Fulana del Tal*

      Yes I think this question would be better answered elsewhere. Regardless if LW 1 had a reasonable right to ask her friend to leave, legally she may not be able to make her friend leave immediately.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I believe she asked it here because she’s asking, “Is it OK for me to stand in the way of a friend taking a job she wants?” Which is a work question. As I noted elsewhere, it’s very unlikely this will come down to eviction; it’s a conversation between friends.

  15. a nonnie nonnie non*

    LW1- There are a lot of places looking for remote workers right now. Perhaps she can find something like that. IS there anyway for you all to have her do some work around your house? Weed gardens, landscape, paint a room, anything can be easily DIY. Maybe even do some re-organizing, walk your dog or take care of pets. Something to keep her occupied.

    Maybe she can volunteer to do outside work for your neighbors. She wouldn’t be in anyone’s house, and she could potentially supply her own tools. She could weed, mow, rake, plant etc. Right now I would totally take someone up on prepping my garden beds for spring!

      1. LW1*

        Yeah, I think you’re right that we need to help her find something fun or useful to do to pass the time in the day while we’re working. I just don’t want her to feel like she has to be our maid here either. She loves to cook, and we just got back from the store this morning, and she picked out a bunch of things to cook some of her favorite recipes. Looking forward to it, and she’s super excited. :)

  16. sam*

    OP#4 – I know we’re all in a very weird time right now and this is all “new”, but one thing to keep in mind is for many people and many workers, “remote” work and training is not…that unusual. I work for a company that has many locations, and at least 1/3 of our workforce is work-from-home even under “normal” circumstances.

    Even when I’m in the office, most of the people I work with are in other offices and we rarely, if ever, work face-to-face. (There are people that I have worked with for YEARS that I have never met in person). Many companies are not going to find it that strange that they are training people and otherwise interacting with people remotely, because they’ve actually been doing this to some degree all along. (It might be new for the company to do it in the aggregate for *everyone*, but not so much with any individual person.)

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

    OP3 I understand the temptation to bring the masks home (especially if those are N95!) but they are for company use, like a car or a laptop. Can they provide handmade cloth ones to take home?

    1. Show Me the Money*

      I have a friend who is fulfilling orders for sewn masks. The quality of sewn masks varies though. For example, not all are made of multiple layers of woven cotton and some are too small to be effective. When the fabric is help up to a light, it should be opaque. Nonetheless, it’s worth exploring.

    2. OP#2*

      There’s an effort that was recently started to assemble cloth masks, in fact! But even that is suffering from supply issues.

  18. LGC*

    So, I’m actually in agreement with the answer to letter 1 (in this specific case, given those specific details)…but…it also sounds like the friend needs their energy channeled into something “productive.” And also might need to get out of the house in general.

    (I’m not going to speculate on her actual financial situation – I’ll assume that her expenses are taken care of sufficiently so she doesn’t need to work, and that you are really okay with this.)

    If the friend is crafty, you can suggest she make cloth masks or otherwise help out that way. (Unfortunately, a lot of the stuff people do really need help with involves going outside.) She might need to find other ways to help (that don’t involve money – because she doesn’t know exactly when she’s getting unemployment) that do use her time. Boredom is a real thing, and…I want to be really charitable to the friend, and grocery store clerks and healthcare support workers are doing extremely valuable jobs (even though we still don’t treat them as valuable, but I digress).

    Also, I don’t know if this is possible (maybe you live in an urban area, I’m not expecting an actual answer to this), but just make sure that you and her are getting outside once a day at least when it’s the safest for you. I kind of addressed the “guilty” part, but the “bored” part is almost as important, I think. If she’s only leaving the house every few days or even less than that (I don’t know how exactly to read “have only gone out a few times for necessities”), that’s…probably a big part of why she feels bored.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      I’m going to second this suggestion. There’s only so much time you can spend on the couch reading your Kindle before you start to go bonkers. The friend needs to feel useful in some way.

      I have been trying to get out once a day and it really helps. Now I know why dogs like to go out so much.

      1. LGC*

        I think that’s the thing – I had to look a couple of times, and while the answer (and the letter) addresses the immediate concern…I think the answer doesn’t really examine the “bored and guilty” part. Like, I can imagine the friend still feeling bad about “freeloading” (which she isn’t) off of her friends. I know I certainly would if I were in her position.

        (And yes, she is being productive right now in parking her butt on the couch and injecting Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin directly into her veins. But it doesn’t feel productive, and that’s not how we’ve been socialized to be productive.)

        1. pancakes*

          Has she also been socialized to be so relentlessly self-important as to put her own need to feel productive above the health and well-being of the people in her life? Hopefully not.

          1. LGC*

            That’s pretty uncharitable. Like, I don’t think it’s a good idea for her to take a job at a grocery store or in a healthcare facility, but also – and I’ll hope you’ll agree with me – being out of work sucks in the best of times, and right now she almost literally can’t do anything other than wait.

            1. pancakes*

              I don’t think it is uncharitable to say that someone who focuses exclusively on their own feelings is being self-regarding. I think it’s a matter-of-fact description of their thought process. Whether being unemployed sucks (of course it does) and whether there are things other than self-regard she might occupy her time with (of course there are) are different topics.

          2. Koala dreams*

            The friend is prioritizing the health and well-being of the people in her life, and in her community in general, by preparing to do essential work. I would call that solidarity, not self-importance. It’s unfortunate that the friend will need to move to do that work, and maybe in the end she won’t be hired or will choose something else, which is fine too.

            1. Old and Don’t Care*

              I agree. She may feel guilty because is a generational crisis and she wants to help. Many people feel this way; hence the huge numbers of medical people offering to help in NYC. The OP has the right to set the boundaries for her household, but generally speaking there’s nothing overtly selfish about choosing to work in an essential job.

              1. pancakes*

                I didn’t say it’s selfish to go to work. I said it’s self-regarding to fixate on not feeling productive. The letter says that the roommate has been talking about getting a job “to make some money and pass the time.” The idea that the roommate just wants to help people is something you’ve fabricated.

                1. Koala dreams*

                  I see that people have interpreted the comment about the friend feeling guilty in many different ways. I took it to mean guilty about not doing more to help with the crisis. It’s in the sentence right before the sentence you quoted, if you still think it’s “fabricated”.

                  As for the word self-regarding, we apparently have different definitions. I only know it as a synonym to selfish. I see in the dictionary it can have other meanings too. Oh well.

    2. Nina*

      But if she’s bored right now . . . aren’t we all? I completely sympathize because I was also unemployed until I got and started a remote job, but you still just can’t go out right now. I agree with finding some type of work for her to do, either making masks, or taking over a lot of the household chores (which is sort of what I did), they should also reassure her that it’s okay that she’s not paying rent or whatever, because I’m sure that’s a part of this.

      1. LGC*

        From what I’ve heard, the recommendations are to get outside for a little bit every day, but to distance yourself from others (which is the real issue). So, you can go for a run or a bike ride, but only with members of your household and only in places/at times where you won’t be in significant contact with others.

        (This is not universal, and I’m writing this from the suburbs – and even my area is a bit dicey, since we’re a relatively dense suburb of New York. But for what it’s worth, both the state governors of NY and NJ and their health departments have issued that general guidance.)

        Reading the letter again, it sounds like LW1 and their husband have already said it’s okay that she’s not paying rent. That said, I can imagine myself in this situation feeling like a freeloader. (I mean, I still have a job and I feel guilty about it because I can do it from home – I don’t have to go in, and I’m not fighting our embarrassment of a UI system.)

      2. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        I’m not bored. I’m maxed out combining working with childcare. It’s tedious, sure, but not time to be bored.

    3. Lala*

      I doubt she’s just bored. She likely needs money. LW is making a generous offer but she’d be completely dependent on their kindness and probably unable to ask for things she wants in any regular way.
      Hopefully, UI comes through.

      1. LGC*

        True – that’s one of the huge things that I’ve been thinking of, but I tried to assume that money isn’t an issue here. I’m hoping that UI comes through for the roommate as well, although I’m not quite that sanguine about it.

        That said…I don’t know if it’s quite that immediate right now. The roommate does know UI is coming, her mandatory expenses are presumably covered, so it’s more of a waiting game. And I don’t know if “fortunately” is a good word to use here, but it sounds like her claim was filed relatively early, which is a point in her favor.

        1. Genny*

          That part of the letter was really unclear to me. When OP says she’s covering friend’s expenses, does she mean there’s no expectation of repayment, that this is a no-interest loan, that this is an interest bearing loan? Does friend know what LW means? That very well could be influencing the desire to get a job. OP and friend need to have an honest, direct conversation about what each of them needs and how those can be accommodated.

          1. LGC*

            Yeah, I didn’t even think of those possibilities, I just considered it open-ended. If Friend just wants spending money, that’s a different situation than if Friend thinks she needs to pay LW1 and their husband back for housing her for multiple months. (And honestly, even if LW1 explicitly says they don’t expect repayment, she still might feel like she needs to repay them because it is that significant to her.)

            I think that if LW1 hasn’t had a conversation with their husband, they need to do that as well. Right now, I’m not expecting our lockdown to lift until at least July at the very earliest. (We aren’t as strict as Wuhan was, and they reopened 75 days afterwards.)

          2. Anonymous Canadian*

            I wondered about this too. I think it’s a super important question and would totally change my answer to the question depending on which situation is happening.

            1. LW1*

              LW1 here. So we’re paying rent, utilities, food and do NOT want any payback. She’s paying her cell bill, but it’s only about $40/month, and if we go to the store, we use one of our cars so she doesn’t have to worry about gas/maintenance, but if she needed help with that, no problem. Luckily she’s got a savings account, but I’ve been in her shoes, and know how frustrating it is to be unemployed and watching your savings account draining.

              I’m hoping she gets a job in her specialty soon (Teapot Design QA), and she’s got a couple interviews next week. Alison is right, we need to have a more direct conversation with her soon.

  19. Ali G*

    #4 here is the perspective of someone on a team with an open position right now: we can’t wait for you to start and really want to help to get you up to speed asap!
    We had a member of our staff give his notice just as the SIP order in our area came down. His job function is vital to us meeting some hard deadlines in the next few months (projects where the money is in and we need to close them out). All of us are picking up extra work to keep us going, but yeah, we want that position filled yesterday. I can tell you when we get that person on board everyone will wholeheartedly pitch in to seal up the huge gap we have.
    Good luck!

  20. ynotlot*

    For OP#1, I would actually recommend avoiding saying anything like “We love having you here.” It can put you at risk of a permanent non-rent-paying tenant. I know I sound like a miserable person saying that, but just.. remember that people, even your favorite people, don’t always have the same boundaries as you and may interpret your politeness as a sincere desire for them not to move out, ever. Then when you try to bring it up, it’s “What? I thought you loved having me here!”

    1. Lala*

      Saying we love having you here does not magically change them into a tenant in any jurisdiction. In many states, just having her there for that long regardless of whether she pays rent does that.

      1. Dan*

        I don’t think ynotlot was suggesting that language created a binding contract, because you’re right. What I interpreted ynotlot’s comment as saying was, “if you tell someone you love having them there, then they feel like they shouldn’t have to move because the hosts like their company.”

        Then they stay for 30 days and create the problem you indicate. (30 days is the magic number in many jurisdictions.)

    2. LW1*

      Appreciate the concern, but it’s not going to end up like this. Believe me, she doesn’t want to live here forever, and cherishes having her own place to do her thing. She’s a smart independent woman who’s just in a bad spot right now.

  21. Lala*

    LW#1 look into landlord-tenant law in your area ASAP. This person has been staying in your house for weeks and may very well have tenant rights in your state. (Or not they vary so wildly by state.)
    In some states, courts are closed until May (likely to be extended) except for emergency matters. So, you couldn’t even begin an eviction proceeding until they open up. She’s your friend and hopefully it won’t come to that anyone. But she’s also essentially homeless and may fight back.
    Not going against Alison’s advice but look into the legalities of it. You can say “if you do this you have to leave” but you may not be able to act on it.

  22. Jennifer Strange*

    #4 – As others have said, your new teammates are likely going to have no annoyance in trying to train you. That said, if there is an issue with the amount of time they have to train you right now (thus making it a slower process) I’d look into whether or not there are training documents available either on the internet (i.e. if your work involves your organization’s database you can check the database software’s website) or (if you have access to it from your own computer) on your organization’s hard drive. Obviously, confirm with someone that any documentation you find is a) the most current documentation available and b) the areas of training they’d like you to focus on, but it’s a great way to start learning the ropes on your own if need be.

  23. ACDC*

    RE #4: I would like to throw in my advice of what NOT to do while being trained remotely in a pandemic. Please do not video call your trainer without any prompting every time you have a question throughout the day. May or may not be speaking from personal experience on this…

  24. yala*

    #5 — I just want to say that it’s really cool of you to think of others and to lift them up when you see a job opening you think would be a good fit for them. Everyone’s worried right now, and that’s the sort of thoughtful kindness we need more of.

  25. Liz*

    For #3, depending on the nature of their funding / employment, there can be very real legal implications that the company is bound to, as well. I’m at a state university, and state employees are NOT ALLOWED (as we’re often reminded!) to have any benefits that the general public is not privy to – unless they are directly related to job performance. In this case, a backdoor channel to PPE for personal use would be one of those things. I absolutely could not have just walked out our lab with boxes of gloves because I “need” them. (For anyone wondering, our whole university already gathered and donated the PPE that would otherwise be sitting in labs unused right now).

  26. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP1 – it might help if you reframe it in your head as an “our home” issue not a “her job” issue.

    I can understand the feeling of “it’s not ok to tell her not to have a job!”.

    But what you are saying is “it’s not ok to put this household at additional risk”. Which is absolutely 100% ok.

    She can take a job… she just has to find somewhere else to live if she does. If she knows this, and decides to do it anyway, she is an adult who has made a (foolish, imo) choice to move out.

    It might be worth addressing the bored and guilt part – especially the guilt. Having an honest talk about the details of what you are prepared to provide, the reasoning, details of how she can help at the moment and briefly touch on repaying when she is able, so it isn’t mooching off you, may help.

  27. CupcakeCounter*

    #4
    I started a new job in January and we were sent home the first week of March. During the 2 months I worked onsite, my boss was on vacation for 1 week and on a business trip for another and the person training me worked from home about half the time due to personal issues.
    They constantly apologized to me about it and went out of their way to make me feel like a valued member of the team even though I was contributing almost nothing. I spent a lot of time on our intranet and public facing site learning a lot about the company and what we do/make.
    Keep calm and stay home.

  28. Leah K.*

    I just love the boss from letter #2. Aside from the fact that he information he gave his employees was inaccurate, even if it was true that the law somehow demanded that the headcount be frozen, it would simply not be their problem to worry about. I bet if the situation was different and the company was conducting layoffs and OP#2 told his boss”If you lay me off, I won’t be able to pay my mortgage and I will lose my house” , I seriously doubt this would have made them change their decision to reduce headcount. Yet somehow the boss is expecting his employees go act against their best economic interest because it might result in the company having to repay this loan? Cry me a river.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Exactly. The boss is either not understanding how the pay protection works, or he’s trying to guilt the OP into staying. I was very happy to see the statement in their letter saying that they wouldn’t hesitate to take the new job if offered. Because a company wouldn’t hesitate to lay you off if it was in their best interest/helped their bottom line.

      1. Lorne DWC*

        Hi! I’m LW#2. Thank you for your support! Some additional details… for three pay periods in a row our boss said she wasn’t sure she could pay us, and so every paycheck could have potentially been our last. Then suddenly we get the PPP and we’re told we’re not allowed to leave or else we are screwing over our colleagues and the nonprofit. She’s also suggested she is going to cut our pay by 25%, which would mean I would be making less working than if I was on unemployment and that I would be making than federal FLSA guidelines. It’s been an absolutely WILD ride over here.

  29. I'm just here for the cats*

    I can understand and I really feel for OP #1 but I think it’s really wrong that they would kick their friend out because she got a job in a field that is more high risk. The OP says that they are covering her expenses, but are they really? Are they paying for her health care, cell phone bill, car payment, or loans? Probably not. They are probably just covering her portion of the rent/ utilities and paying for food. The friend may have other expenses that they are not considering and she may be running out of savings. Unemployment is so incredibly backed up right now some people are waiting almost a month before they get any confirmation of benefits. Plus there could be issues since she was only there for 2 weeks. I think the LW really needs to consider her friend’s position.

    There are precautions that the friend can take if she does get a job that’s not remote. She can change clothes at work; wearing the uniform or scrubs or whatever only at work; take off shoes and put them in a bag before coming into the house; wearing a mask; washing as soon as she comes home.

    I wonder if she had not been laid off, was not able to work from home, and was mandated that she come to work, would the OP have kicked her out then too? I also wonder is there some underlying tension. It sounds like she may be more of the OP’s friend, not the husband. Could there be some tension that the OP is unaware of, or maybe just some perceived tension since the friend is not working? Could maybe having something in writing help the friend feel better? There is so much going on and the OP needs to

    1. Housing worker*

      THANK YOU
      I am sure they aren’t paying her credit card debt and student loans. They can’t add her to their health insurance plan. They aren’t contributing to her 401k.

      And it’s not like there’s an abundance of remote work available, she’s probably just trying to get whatever she can. It’s commendable right now to work in those fields. We’re supposed to be supporting our grocers and friends, not ostracising them.

      Also you don’t need a lease to be a landlord. If she’s ever paid money to OP for housing there’s a good chance their state law will consider her a tenant. They will not be able to kick her out if they consider it a “deal breaker” . There’s no evictions for non-payment right now and I can’t think of any judge that would consider getting employment grounds for eviction!

      I get Alison’s point that these are friends and it’s worth bringing up concerns, but a complete answer should really consider the legal ramifications if push comes to shove.

    2. Fulana del Tal*

      Yes that’s the point I’m been trying to make, deal breaker or not, the friend cannot be legally forced to leave at this time. And you cannot ignore that because their “friends and it shouldn’t have to come to that”. To me friends wouldn’t threatening to kick out someone in a pandemic.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        To me, friends would be very cautious about risking their friends’ lives by taking a job if they didn’t need to pretty desperately.

        1. LitJess*

          But how do you define need? All we know is OP is covering her expenses, which is generous indeed, but we have no idea what the scope is or frankly how long OP/partner will willingly float this woman. Roommate probably does need money and quite frankly is wise to seek out independent income. Even if that means she needs to leave OP’s house.

    3. Ominous Adversary*

      The friend says she wants to take this job because she feels “bored” and guilty, and in part to pass the time. If she needs work because she needs to cover her health care, cell phone bill, or loans, she should explain that to the OP so they can figure out what works.

      Why are you trying to make the OP a villain?

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        I wasn’t making the OP the bad guy. I just think there’s more that needs to be considered.
        I’ve been in a similar situation where I didn’t have a job and lived with family. I was walking the dogs, taking care of what housework I could while they remote worked and even offered to make dinner, but it was declined. But things were really tough and there was a lot of resentment from them because I wasn’t “contributing”. I think they need to have a conversation and look at it from all sides. That’s all.

        1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

          “But things were really tough and there was a lot of resentment from them because I wasn’t “contributing””

          This seems to be the opposite of the way the OP is describing things, so I don’t understand how your experience is relevant.

      2. I'm just here for the cats*

        Also, why is she feeling guilty if they love having her there. We do t here from the husband and his perspective..maybe he isn’t as close of friends to the friend. Maybe he feels different but doesn’t say anything and is being passive aggressive with the friend and she’s picked up on it and feels guilty and wants to help. Maybe they can help her find something for her to do to contribute more. I feel for both sides, I truly do.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          I would feel guilty in that situation! Even if my friends truly wanted me there and didn’t mind supporting me, even if they told me that and showed me that through their actions, I just always feel guilty accepting that much generosity (or even just a little bit of it). Good for you if you can accept friend’s help with grace and without guilt (I really mean that, it’s something I’m sure your friends appreciate), but some of us are not built that way. Many of my friends are the same as me. You’re wrong if you think it’s not likely that a person wouldn’t feel guilty if someone wasn’t sending them the message that they should feel bad, and we have no reason to project scenarios on to the OP’s situation when there aren’t any details to base it on.

    4. Genny*

      Yeah, I can’t help but feel there’s more here than perhaps OP1 recognizes. Does OP know what’s driving the boredom and guilt? Before laying down any ultimatums, OP and friend need to have a direct, honest conversation about what they need, what they’re feeling, and what kind of compromises can be made.

      In addition to the point about finances, it occurs to me that friend is probably incredibly stressed out by the job hunt. Having some interviews lined up is nowhere near the same as having an offer. To someone on the outside, having interviews is a material improvement, but nto someone who’s currently unemployed and really needs a job it doesn’t feel that much different.

    5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Your comment is totally unfair to the OP. She was doing her friend a really big favor in the first place, and is now offering to cover her expenses until her unemployment checks start coming. Feeling a little bored and guilty doesn’t scream major financial hardship. I don’t blame her for the way she feels.

    6. Misty*

      You said what I was trying to wrap my head around.

      We had a roommate living at our place whose expenses we covered for a few months because he was going to homeless. But not really. In actuality we just covered his rent and food and if we all went out somewhere, we paid for him to go with us too. We didn’t pay for his phone bill, his gas, his car insurance, his health insurance, his student loans, etc.

      The friend may feel a lot of stress because she may have invisible bills other than room and food that wouldn’t be obvious to another person.

      However I totally understand not wanting someone living in your house (esp a non family member) to get a job at a higher risk place while OP and their husband are super cautious. But I think OP may need to reframe the fact that they are paying expenses for the guest in their head therefore guest doesn’t “need” a job. Chances are they are not paying for everything for the guest. Chances are the guest still needs a job, esp since we don’t know how long the pandemic will last.

      1. Anonymous Canadian*

        This exactly. No one is a monster here but thee is almost certainly more in play than the OP or a lot of the commenters here are considering.

    7. Jenny*

      I just think it’s crappy that people expect to be able to use shops and hospitals, but also say that they couldn’t possibly take on any risk of people working in shops and hospitals.

  30. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

    I too think it’s odd that people don’t have a small stash of hand sewing supplies. However, surely you have a pair of scissors. Cut up an old sheet or pillowcase. If you have no hair elastics or rubber bands, you can cut the feet and legs of a pair of stretchy pantyhose into rings about 1-1/2 inch wide and use those rings for elastics. Instructions for no-sew masks are all over the internet.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I have never sewn, don’t know how to sew and have no plans to learn, but apparently I should have sewing supplies stashed somewhere in my house? Yeah ok.

      1. Filosofickle*

        OTOH I actually do have some sewing supplies (like needle/thread, no fabric or elastic), but I definitely don’t have pantyhose! :D

        FWIW most home scissors suck on fabric, especially knits. So glad i recently picked up a pair of fabric shears to cut up old t-shirts (for an entirely different reason). Coming in handy now.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Same here, but I can’t even wear a lot of “women’s” socks, so pantyhose would probably literally disintegrate if it touched me.

      2. Rexish*

        At 18 when I moved to my first apartment my mother gave me a sewing kit. Never used it, but it has moved with me for 12 years now. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have one either.

    2. I'm just here for the cats*

      The CDC has tutorials on how to do no sew masks. All you need is a scissors and a t-shirt. I made 2 this weekend from 1 XL shirt.

    3. KoiFeeder*

      I guess it’s one of those sandwiches things, though being able to fix buttons and socks certainly has improved my quality of life.

  31. Re'lar Fela*

    OP #4: I’m a director at a non-profit and will be onboarding a new hire in mid-May. I’m in charge of the onboarding process for our agency and, despite the challenges inherent in onboarding via Zoom, I’m absolutely THRILLED to have our new hire come in. Our senior leadership team is busy, as you described, keeping the lights on. However, as lower level leadership, my priorities are not so critical and I’m actually looking forward to having a concrete purpose again. Your new organization is bringing you on during this time fully aware of the challenges. Actions speak louder than words–be patient and understanding, do your best to catch on quickly, ask questions to increase your understanding, and hang in there. It’ll be ok. Good luck!!

    1. hayling*

      Agree with this! We have been looking for a hard-to-fill role on my team for a while, and someone just started in the role this week after doing all her interviewing remotely. We’re thrilled that we were able to continue to hire for the role and bring someone in during all this craziness! Some roles have been put on hold as we wait to make sure our financial situation is stable. And I’ve heard of so many companies cutting open headcount or even rescinding offers. I’m sure your new company will be very excited to have you and will have a good plan for remote onboarding.

  32. blushingflower*

    RE: #1 – Are we sure it’s “to make some money and pass the time?” and not “to be a contributing member of society”? Essential workers are essential, and they need somewhere to live, too. Now, if LW 1 is high-risk for some reason, or the home is small enough that there’s no way to maintain distance inside the home, I can see an argument that the risk to the people in the house is high enough that it outweighs the good done by roommate taking a job. Bear in mind, also, that in addition to the financial concerns there are mental health aspects here – needing to get more socialization than being at home with 2 other people, needing to get away from being the “third wheel”, needing to stay busy as a way to fight off intrusive or obsessive thoughts, etc. It’s not necessarily just “oh, I’m bored, I’ll go bag groceries!”. Fundamentally, Alison is right that there needs to be a conversation about everyone’s concerns, financial and otherwise, and a weighing of the risks. If the LW is indeed high-risk, maybe there are other ways roommate can volunteer online or do work that makes her feel like she’s contributing. Or maybe they can find a way to pay for her to live somewhere else for the duration while she works in food distribution or healthcare. But we can’t say “if you have roommates, you can’t do essential work”, that’s not reasonable or sustainable.

    1. LW1*

      I’m sure it’s a little bit of both. I’ve been unemployed before, so I too was bored, but also felt like I wasn’t contributing to society either. Her specialty is Quality Assurance of Teapot Designs, so wanting to “go bag groceries” is not something she would normally look to do. (Not dissing any of those jobs either, it’s hard work dealing with the public like that, especially right now)

      And agree, mental health is a concern for everyone right now. We found an online yoga class that we’re going to try tomorrow, and hopefully if Amazon comes through with the delivery, she’s going to teach me how to cross stitch, which I’m looking forward too. Unfortunately there’s not much I can do about the third-wheel syndrome, cause that’s just our living situation at the moment.

  33. Natalie*

    #3 People really shouldn’t be taking items for use outside of work. The only exception would perhaps be a reusable cloth face mask. If each employee is provided a mask, they should be taking them home daily to wash them. If that employee wears that mask off duty, that’s fine. Provided they don’t take additional masks beyond the ones which have been allocated.But anything that’s not reusable should remain in its intended place.

  34. Third or Nothing!*

    LW1: From reading your responses, it sounds like your friend just really wants to feel like she’s doing something useful. Which I totally 100% understand! I’d like to suggest a few things that have helped my husband while he’s on unpaid leave for 6 weeks due to his at-risk status, and some things that are helping me too:

    1) He’s taking care of our daughter so I can WFH. Obviously this one doesn’t apply to you guys, but it can be extrapolated to general household help. Perhaps your friend might enjoy doing some experimentation in the kitchen, or helping you plant an herb garden of some sort, or organizing the catch-all closet. I’m sure there is something she’d enjoy helping with that would be life-giving to her instead of being just a chore and making her feel like Cinderella.

    2) Get outside every day, somehow. I don’t care if it’s sitting out on the balcony, going for a drive, going for a run or walk, doing Camp Gladiator in a deserted parking lot, whatever. Getting outside really does help, and especially getting moving outside helps relieve some of the frustration of feeling like you’re not contributing anything. Perhaps having a goal will help too – walk at least 1o minutes every day, etc. It’s nice to accomplish something, you know?

    3) Understand that by staying the heck home and reducing exposure, you ARE contributing to society by flattening the curve. This is the hardest one to get on board with since most of us are accustomed to being useful by, you know, DOING something, but it really is the most vital role a lot of us will take on. Not everyone can be/is on the front lines, and those of us who can’t/aren’t need to support those that are by social distancing and taking all necessary precautions.

  35. Dancing Otter*

    LW1 and her husband allowed a friend to stay with them temporarily as an act of charity. Note TEMPORARILY. Note CHARITY.
    They are under no obligation to continue to do so, if they consider said friend to be endangering their own wellbeing.
    One is under no obligation to set oneself on fire to keep a friend warm. If I donate blood once, it doesn’t mean I have to do it again the next time the blood center calls (and calls, and calls, and calls). If I give to the food pantry or homeless shelter once, if doesn’t obligate me to do it every month.
    Even if the friend does need money to cover other bills, LW1 can still set the terms for living in her home rent-free.

  36. pcake*

    LW1 – It sounds like your friend is willing to risk your lives (she may not see it that way) so she can feel useful. Perhaps she can do volunteer work. I’ve seen a couple places who set up volunteers to talk on the phone regularly with elderly people or people with issues. Here’s a list I posted on another board, none are BS all are truly helping make the world a better place.

    transcribe for the smithsonian
    https://transcription.si.edu/

    help blind people with tasks or identify things for them via an app
    https://www.bemyeyes.com/

    all sorts of volunteer categories at the UN
    https://www.onlinevolunteering.org/en/opportunities

    proofread for project gutenberg
    https://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Gutenberg:Volunteering_for_Project_Gutenberg

    Volunteer as a translator for Translators without Borders
    https://translatorswithoutborders.org/volunteer/

    Volunteer for LibriVox
    https://librivox.org/pages/volunteer-for-librivox/

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      (I don’t know about the other links but for Translators without Borders you do actually need to be an experienced translator to work with them. You can’t just tell them you’re bilingual or spent a few months working in a bar in Barcelona which means you’re fluent in Spanish. )

  37. boop the first*

    1. If it makes you feel any better, she’s going to be competing with hundreds of other people who are out of work, not just because of the virus, but also students who are evicted from their housing and need to retake classes, and of course, the usual hundreds who are looking for high school credits, summer jobs, and regular family-supporting low-wage work that was always in demand.

    I am skeptical about her assumption that these places are going to hire someone who just wants a temporary break from her Real Career Track. These places greatly prefer workers who appear desperate and/or naive about workers rights.

  38. LW1*

    Ahh, didn’t think about it from that perspective either. We’re gonna have a more direct talk tonight together, and I’m also going to pass on some of the safer volunteer activities some people suggested.

  39. Not For Academics*

    Journalism is hard to break into, so you’re going with academia as a plan B.

    cool, cool.

  40. Lulu*

    Hi Alison! This is Louise, a Digital Marketing Manager from KLICK. I’ve been reading through your website, and I am really impressed with the wide variety of blogs and topics that you publish here. I came across your topics about HR Management. Just thought that there are collection of data we’ve gathered on HRIS might get you and your readers interested as well.

    Feel free to reach me on my email! Let me know if there are any other statistics you’d be interested to look at. Thanks you and stay safe!

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