my fiancee forged my doctor’s note, food perks when working from home, and more

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

1. I was fired because my fiancee forged me a doctor’s note

With the coronavirus going around, my fiancee and I are high-risk. I have hypertension and heart health issues, and she has cancer and immunity issues. I was trying to get a doctor’s recommendation for PTO. I was going the legit route — no deception or misleading information. Well, my cardiologist would not give me a recommendation, so my fiancee created a fake doctor’s note with my medical diagnosis and emailed it to me as a PDF, which I sent to HR, not knowing it was falsified. Since my fiancee told me it was from my cardiologist, I did not question it.

I was fired. I had just been hired full-time two weeks prior. I even tried to get a valid note and plead my case that I didn’t know the note was falsified and was still fired. Is there anything I can do? My fiancee even spoke with my company’s HR and admitted what she did. It did not matter, they still terminated me.

I’m as confused as your company probably was! Typically a doctor wouldn’t give your fiancee a note on your behalf because of patient privacy laws, so the story sounds suspect. Even with an explanation (like that you’d given her medical power of attorney, or you didn’t know privacy laws would prevent this so had no reason to question what she told you), it still sounds suspect because most people aren’t faking notes for their partners without telling the partner that’s what they’re doing. Most people are going to assume you knew about it, even if you weren’t the one to actually create the fake note.

Submitting a fake doctor’s note is a really big deal; it would get even a long-time employee fired, because it’s such a significant violation of ethics and integrity. Add in that you were new, and they just don’t have enough track record with you to extend you any benefit of the doubt in a situation that looks so strongly against you. So there’s not anything you can do to get the job back, as unfair as that might feel if you really didn’t know. (There is, however, a lot of stuff to be resolved with your fiancee if she did this without your knowledge or permission.)

2. How can I get my company to continue its food perks now that we’re working from home?

My company pre-coronavirus provided daily catered lunches to all employees (or dinner for folks who worked evenings), in addition to a kitchen stocked with snacks and energy drinks. Folks literally could eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and bring leftovers home to their kids/family. Now we are all working from home, but a big perk of the job was money saved for our staff in these meals and snacks.

Is it out of line to expect or ask that some sort of daily stipend still be provided for this perk? I feel like everyone is in this place where they “should” feel happy to still be employed and not push things, but I know this added expense, in addition to expecting internet access at home, is a huge and new financial burden for many (in addition to everyone’s new food insecurity as a whole and many dealing with so many new and unforeseen financial/emotional/physical burdens and barriers) and I strongly think it should be something the company now still offers (and had already had a budget for anyway).

I’m seeing some places (with far less revenue and job security) offering stipends for working-from-home equipment (chairs, desks, etc. that some folks don’t have) and some even offering a bonus payout for flexibility in this time or even money for at-home wellness options. I have asked at our company, and they only push our EAP (which in better times was subpar). I just want more to support my team. What can be done?

Well … employers who provide that amount of food are usually doing it to make it easy for people to stay in the office and not leave for meals — a point that’s now moot. But even when it’s genuinely just a morale boost, it’s a hard sell to argue they should be shipping snacks and meals to people’s homes. The logistics of doing that are much more complicated than stocking your office kitchen. It will also be perceived as a lot more … decadent than just stocking the office, and at a time when most companies are feeling very conservative about their budgets (with good reason — even “safe” industries are working in an uncertain environment right now).

You can certainly say, “If we’re looking for ways to boost morale and make these new conditions more comfortable for people, what about sending some version of the office food perks — sending snack packs or even gift cards for meal delivery?” But you’d want to frame it as a suggestion, not an entitlement. And if I’m reading your letter correctly, you’ve already asked and been told no; I would not continue to push.

That said, if your company pays wages that make food insecurity likely, that itself is something to address. If you have folks who previously could only feed themselves because of the company’s food largesse, that’s a serious problem with your wages and you can push for specific help for folks at that pay level now.

3. My otherwise great boss makes me feel pressured to work while sick

I have a job I love at the employer of my dreams, and my supervisor is one of the two best bosses that I have ever had. He’s kind, sympathetic, understanding, and funny. Most of my job duties are highly time-sensitive. Soon after I started last year, I had emergency surgery that I though would keep me home for one day. I found out in the recovery room I would have to stay home in bed for at least seven full days. My boss made a few comments here and there at the time and since then about how tough that was and that it would have been nice to have advance warning. I was surprised because it was so out of character for him to say something that was not 100% understanding and supportive.

I now have been dealing with serious symptoms of what is almost certainly COVID-19 for over two weeks. We are all working from home for now. Following company policy made specifically to address the pandemic, I used up all my sick time and have been working as much as I can and using paid “release” time so that I am being paid for my normal full hours. I am not falling behind in my work. My manager is his kind, caring, and sympathetic self regarding my symptoms, and I know he is worried about my health, but he is also clearly stressing out over my inability to work my full hours or to adhere to a regular schedule. This is causing me stress and makes me feel guilty about using the release hours.

I don’t know whether to let this go or address it with him somehow. I’m a laid-back person and prefer to overlook minor things, but feeling guilty over something that is completely out of my control is tough and definitely not good for my health right now.

It’s okay for your manager to feel stressed by the situation, but it’s not okay for him to express that stress around you. It would make anyone in your shoes feel pressured to work when you shouldn’t be and/or concerned that you’re somehow disappointing your boss — both of which are real problems when someone’s dealing with a health issue.

Sometimes in a situation like this, the most effective thing to do is to address it head-on, because that can jog the person into realizing what they’re doing — or at least force the topic away from hints and toward clear, direct conversation. For example: “You’ve made several comments about your stress over my inability to work full hours or a regular schedule right now, which puts me in an awkward spot because health-wise I really can’t do more. Knowing that my health situation will probably will be like this for another couple of weeks, is there something you want me to be doing differently?” Sometimes posing that question will force the person to realize … oh, there really isn’t anything you can do.

Depending on how that conversation goes and on your relationship with your boss, you could add, “I feel a lot of pressure not to disappoint you so when you make comments like X or Y, it makes me feel really guilty although i know there’s nothing I can do.”

Alternately, you could skip this whole conversation and tell yourself that since he’s a good and caring manager, you’re going to assume these comments are just how he lets off stress, but aren’t intended or expected to change your behavior in any way. (And if you find you can’t really believe that, you’ve got to reassess that “good manager” thing.)

4. How do I tell references I’m applying to be an astronaut?

NASA recently opened its astronaut selection application (something they only do for a short window every four years or so) and I decided to apply. I can’t say it’s been my #1 lifelong dream, but I’ve seriously thought about it over the past few years and people close to me have been encouraging. I meet all the requirements and people in my field have become astronauts before, so it’s not totally preposterous. But over 12,000 people applied, so to say it’s a long shot is an understatement.

How do I tell the professional references I had to list about this? I’m confident they would all say great things about me and will probably be nothing but supportive. But I still feel a little silly! Do you have any advice on how to tell professional references about pie-in-the-sky career ideas? I want to be realistic about my chances, but it would also be odd for them to get a call from NASA out of the blue and probably wouldn’t reflect well on me.

I realize I should have figured all this out before submitting my application, but it was due in the height of pandemic confusion. The notes I drafted seemed extra silly in that context.

Is the thing that’s making you feel silly a worry about seeming over-confident to your references? Are you worried about a reaction of “Maggie Valentine sure does think highly of herself!” and/or “Maggie has no idea how competitive this is”?

If so, you might feel better if you just give a nod toward how competitive it is by saying something like, “Obviously it’s a really competitive program and most people aren’t accepted, but I’m excited to give it a shot.

Just make sure you don’t take that too far. Saying things like “I probably won’t get in” or “I know it’s silly” will undermine you. It’s competitive and you’re excited to try is a stronger message — and one that should leave people who are in your corner happy for you.

Good luck!

5. Drinking a mimosa in my company Slack photo

I work in an industry extremely dependent on relationship-building and interpersonal interaction. Part of our transition to work from home has been the institution of a company Slack channel. My organization is small (less than 10 people) and very informal. We were encouraged to use profile pictures, because several members of the team started work remotely and won’t get a chance to meet everyone in person for weeks or months. My boss (the CEO) chose a humorous picture of himself. I chose a formal picture (not a headshot, but something I would be okay with my grandma framing). I’d like to use my favorite picture of myself, where I’m sitting under an old fashioned hairdryer drinking a mimosa before a friend’s wedding, but I don’t know whether that’s appropriate.

Obviously, anything that would be easily branded a “party” picture is a no-go, no matter how flattering/funny, but does the mimosa alone make this a party picture? To clarify, the picture is take in daylight, I’m fully and appropriately clothed, and not drunk looking.

In a small office where the CEO is using a humorous photo of himself, it’s probably fine. The presence of orange juice with alcohol in it shouldn’t change that, as long as the drink itself isn’t the focus on the photo. (And what’s to say it’s not just orange juice?) But it depends heavily on your company culture. I’m using your CEO’s photo as a proxy for info on that, but a more reliable way would be to run the photo by a colleague whose judgment you trust.

{ 700 comments… read them below }

  1. Ms.Vader*

    Op 1: I suspect you know that you’re lying to yourself as to the circumstances. You know that your fiancé could not have possibly got a viable doctors note when you just mentioned that your doctor declined to allow you PTO. You’re probably frightened and was grasping at any straw to limit your exposure. In these times panic is understandable. I think you should really think about how this impacted your employer and how you would handle it differently in future so if someone asks at your next interview, you can show what you learned from this. Providing them the excuse that your fiancé did it will not endear them to hire you. It’ll serve as a big red flag.

    1. valentine*

      If fiancée handles online health stuff for OP1, it could be as simple as her sending an email in OP1’s name and claiming to have received the PDF in response. This makes more sense if fiancée related the no, in the first place, or if it was via phone to OP1.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      It’s a bit of a moot point now, though. The LW may have had some idea that something dodgy was going on and ignored it, or may have been completely blindsided, or may have been complicit. But what happened was that they submitted a fake doctor’s note to get time off during a pandemic, were caught, had a really weak sounding excuse, and were fired.

      At this point, there’s nothing to be done work wise – she’s fired and has no chance of getting the job back. What’s left is sorting out the relationship side of things, which might be kind of messy.

    3. Diamond*

      Very confusing.

      So OP asked for a note from the cardiologist, the cardiologist said no, then the fiancee says “oh cardiologist changed his mind and sent the note directly to me, here it is.” Or something??
      How did she even create the note? Was it on a letterhead? It sounds like HR cottoned on pretty quickly so I’m thinking it was a relatively obvious fake.

      1. Heidi*

        I guess it’s also possible that upon receipt of the “doctor’s note,” the employer contacted the doctor’s office to have them fill out a form or provide information not included in the note (like the recommended period of leave). Then the doctor’s office was like, “What note?” I would be fairly displeased if I were the cardiologist, come to think of it.

        1. CL Cox*

          It’s not unheard of for an employer to contact a doctor’s office for confirmation or clarification (as long as it’s limited to, “I want to verify you sent this” or “please send us a letter that list what restrictions, if any, the employee has.”). I would think that especially right now and super-especially if the employee were wanting the federally mandated paid 2 weeks benefit.

      2. Pennyworth*

        If my fiance sent me a doctors note which was contrary to the information I had been given directly by that doctor I would be asking a whole lot of questions before I submitted it to HR.

        1. Turtle Candle*

          Absolutely. It gives the impression that something is going on here, whether deception or extremely poor judgment.

          (LW, I’m sorry; it’s possible the hoofbeats are in fact zebras in this case. It’s just most reasonable people will be looking for the more common horses…)

        2. EvilQueenRegina*

          I’d be starting with wondering what the doctor was playing at dealing with my partner rather than directly with myself, although I would be taking a closer look at the document before actually raising that with the doctor.

        3. Dust Bunny*

          Yeah, this.

          The cardiologist already said no, so either the LW is incredibly naive or s/he is choosing to “believe” that s/he didn’t suspect this was fake, because nothing about this makes sense.

          1. Tidewater 4-1009*

            You all are being a little hard on the OP. How many of us would have the thought our partner is lying about something so important?

            1. Ms.Vader*

              I don’t think that actually happened. I think they’ve made it up to deny culpability. It just doesn’t make sense.

            2. I edit everything*

              I would certainly be confused about where the doctor’s note came from and how they got it, yeah.

            3. TheSockMonkey*

              My husband doesn’t deal with my medical issues at all. He’s my emergency contact so the doctor has contacted him if they can’t reach me, in which case, he hands me the phone. Unless I’m incapacitated, he wouldn’t handle anything for me.

            4. Uranus Wars*

              I agree. I handled a lot of my former partner’s health issues for many reasons I won’t get into here. I would have NEVER lied about something like, but I also think he would have taken my word if I did. He might have been like “I thought he said no because X” and if I had said “well, I explained Y” he probably would have been like “oh, ok. thanks”

              1. JMR*

                Yeah, I was thinking the same. I deal with most of the “logistical” stuff in the relationship. If my husband needed a doctor’s note, he’d log into the app for our healthcare provider and hand me his phone. If I handed him a note, I don’t think he’d question it at all, even if the doctor had told him no before; he’d just figure I wrote to the doctor again and pressed the issue. So that part doesn’t seem that strange to me. The part that doesn’t add up to me is that the OP didn’t notice the letter was fake, which I imagine was obvious (like, it couldn’t have been on official letterhead or contained the correct credentials, righ?). So either she produced an exceptional fake, or he didn’t even bother to glance it over before turning it in to his employer.

                1. Not that I would ...*

                  I could create a note from a doctor that looked professional enough to fool most people. What do you think the doctor’s office uses to create letters? Word, just like everyone else. I could fake anything but a prescription, but that’s only because they use special paper.

              2. Not So NewReader*

                Ditto from me. I handled doctor calls, lawyer calls and a bunch of stuff for my husband during his final illness. He never once asked me if I was telling him the truth. And some pretty strange conversations happened but yet he never doubted me.

                Couples should be able to trust each other. I don’t think OP was outrageous in trusting their partner. Additionally, I don’t see what is gained by “proving” OP faith in the partner was outrageous.

            5. AKchic*

              My 1st ex-husband *did* fake doctors notes. It got him into serious trouble. To the point that he can’t apply for state assistance anymore because he was using those notes to defraud the welfare system. I was lucky in the fact that I wasn’t charged with anything because I literally had no idea. I assumed he was seeing a doctor because all of his “appointments” were happening while I was at work, and he turned in all of these bogus notes on his own. I was already prepping to leave him, so him getting our state assistance case put in jeopardy (food stamps and medical insurance for all of us) just so he could avoid working was a nice reason to send him packing.

              Not everyone would assume their partner is lying, but many would be suspicious. Doctors don’t normally reach out to partners (married or otherwise). They reach out to the patient. They don’t just arbitrarily change their mind on a decision, or write up a note they’ve already declined to write. This was absolutely something to be suspicious of and I’m doubting the truth of the storytelling. Either there is some blurring of details, timeline discrepancies, willful ignorance, scapegoating, or a combination going on.

            6. A*

              Not necessarily that thought right off the bat, but there are so many red flags here that yes I would expect OP to question them. I assume that OP did know or at least suspected and is understandably grasping at straws.

              I would never accept an official document from my medical team that was sent to anyone other than me directly, and that contradicts previous communications. At the very least I would have reached out to my medical team to clarify the change in direction / why they are releasing information to others. And that’s just a few of the flags. SO MANY.

        4. hamburke*

          I wouldn’t have thought twice since the recommendations have been constantly changing, tbh.

          And I handle a lot of stuff like this for my husband who signs a form annually to say that the doctors can talk to me. Before the internet was more widely used for medical stuff, I used to pick up odds and ends for him during business hours – Rx’s, medical clearance forms, and the like – so it wouldn’t be unusual that the I could scan and send something to him that he needed at work or drop something off in an envelope at the front desk. Even in the digital times we live in, I might have my medical portal password at home, rather than on my person so downloading from home and sending it is also a possibility. Now he works from home and I work outside the home (part time and wfh during the pandemic) and he handles some of this business side of life for me.

          1. Cat*

            Yes, but when the doctor has already told you no and then your partner materializes with a note?

          2. Courtney Kupets*

            But what would the explanation be here? Hey, you told me they said no so I called them and changed their minds? Its not so much that you don’t have partners doing stuff for you sometimes, but you usually ARE aware of what they are doing.

          3. Mad mad me*

            Good lord, who are these adults who can’t handle their own medical affairs? Unless one is gravely ill, it’s ridiculous to expect anyone else to assume this tedious responsibility.

        5. Red*

          I think you might be misinterpreting what the LW meant here, although I could be wrong. I read it as “I had contacted my cardiologist about providing a note and was waiting for their reply when my fiancée told me that they had responded and provided one, and she forwarded it to me. In reality, the cardiologist had responded saying that they couldn’t provide a note, so my fiancée decided to forge one instead without telling me.” I’m assuming that the fiancée has access to the LW’s personal email account and was forwarding it to their work email. It sounds like the fiancée panicked when she saw that the LW would have to keep working at risk to their health and decided to lie, knowing that the LW was too honest to go along with it. That’s just my take – I could be totally off base!

      3. BadWolf*

        My clinic has an online portal and the doctors are responsive through the internal email. If I let my partner have my login info, it would be easy for them to say “Hey, I sent a note to your doctor again and they changed their mind and sent a note. I downloaded it and emailed it to you so it is easy to send to your work.”

        Sure, I could double check by logging in and checking what was sent/received, but if I were stressed and trusted my partner, why would I?

        1. fposte*

          I just said the same thing downstream. It’s just too weird a thing for the system to guard against.

          1. Works in IT*

            Yeah, our brains see what they expect to see, and it takes a specific type of personality to get beyond that and see what is really there, despite what our brains show us. Generally once we get to the point where we don’t trust anything our significant other tells us, we start planning to leave them. I cannot imagine being in a relationship with someone who would do something like this… but that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? Because it’s so unimaginable, it stands a better chance of succeeding. There are people sending out phishing emails pretending to be with the CDC and scamming people now, even though who in their right mind would try to capitalize on a pandemic in this way?

      4. Bella*

        I thought maybe the OP was adding in what they learned afterward (like when they received the note, it was the first notice they had, and only later realized the doctor had said no).
        I get not being “with it” when it comes to medical stuff, I feel like I’m 85 when I try to log on to all the online check-in things and prefer to call, BUT.

        It still really stretches belief that a doctor would email a partner this. Even the email itself would be a bit suspicious – every doctor I have sends notes now through a patient platform… why would the fiance be on that? I guess you could argue that maybe fiance was more on top of this (maybe fiance doesn’t work and she was trying to help) but it’s SUCH a stretch I can see why the company would be like uuuuuuh no

    4. The Original Stellaaaaa*

      The OP is probably not going to mention a two-week job (that they were fired from for just cause) on a resume or in an interview.

      1. Oh So Anon*

        They can leave it off a resume, but if OP ever needs a vulnerable sector check or security clearance they may not be able to fully hide what went down forever.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Yup. I once had a job for only about a month full-time (I was there “part-time” as a temp for three months prior to being let go), which I never planned to mention – I even left it off my resume at a certain point. Once I became a claims adjuster, though, I had to get two background checks completed in Florida and Texas that listed every single job I ever held going back something like seven years. And if I was unemployed, I had to state that and explain what I’d been doing during that unemployment period in order to pass. I had no choice, then, to list that short-lived position (and I prayed no one called and asked for a reference – they didn’t).

          1. Oh So Anon*

            Yeah…I only brought this point up because the background-check-skeletons-in-closet situation is sometimes less of a situation when you’re getting hired and instead comes up months or years into a job.

        1. Oh So Anon*

          Thank you. I have a pretty thick skin but I was pretty taken aback at how patronizing that comment was.

      2. Kate*

        it wasn’t necessarily a two-week job in itself – they may have been just not been hired FULL-TIME at that before.

      3. Myrin*

        I do think that we need to allow for the possibility that OP has been at this job for longer than two weeks – she says she “had just been hired full-time two weeks prior” (emphasis mine), but that doesn’t mean that she hadn’t worked with them on a part-time or contractor basis before that. Which doesn’t add anything to the whole firing discussion but depending on the situation, leaving this job off might lead to a significantly bigger gap than just two weeks.

    5. A Silver Spork*

      I’m trying not to project too much on OP1, but I do know that my father is entirely checked out of… well, basically anything that isn’t his actual job. He lets my mother do everything: arrange doctor’s appointments (on the rare occasion that he actually goes…), do the actual talking to the doctor, manage whatever treatment gets prescribed, deal with insurance, all of it. (I discovered the hard way that he doesn’t even know how much exactly he makes per hour OR year, nor where his contract and tax forms are stored. That was a very unpleasant thing to learn when I desperately needed that info to fill out college forms.) A nurse I know said that this is a thing that happens depressingly often: dudes who just don’t pay attention and let their wife/girlfriend do everything. (We don’t know that OP is a dude, and these dynamics are plenty possible with same-sex couples. But that’s the trend.)

      “Pays so little attention that they don’t know what is going on with their doctor” is not a firable offense on its own… but honestly, recent employee + forged doctor’s note = most bosses don’t want to take the risk that the employee is merely not paying attention and keep them when the alternative is “willing to FORGE MEDICAL DOCUMENTS” (which is a serious problem!)

      Taking OP’s word for what happened, my advice is: I think you and your fiancee need to have a serious talk about your relationship. You need to take the initiative in your *own* medical care and she needs to not lie to you about something this important. Sorry to say, but I don’t think you’re getting your job back. Please be honest and take accountability when interviewers ask about why you were fired. Treat it as a learning experience.

        1. Mama Bear*

          Agreed. At minimum OP needs to take a hard look at the relationship with the fiancée and whether or not the fiancée has been less than truthful any other time. I’d also take into account the fiancée’s attitude/reaction to OP’s firing over this. If fiancée thinks it’s overblown, then OP needs to run, and make sure fiancée doesn’t have access to bank accounts, etc.

          Also, OP needs to be more in charge of their own healthcare/life if they are so far removed from things that they didn’t think anything was weird about this.

          OP, I’m sorry but that job is gone.

      1. Oh So Anon*

        Absolutely 100%. Yeah, lots of couples have a dynamic where one person handles everyone life management (been there, done that, got the complimentary ulcer to boot). As an employer, IDGAF how anyone handles their domestic labour situation so long as they take some responsibility to not let the consequences of whatever’s going on encroach on their job.

        1. Cabbagepants*

          This. Letting your fiance handle all your medical information is a choice, and/but you still own the consequences of that choice.

      2. Avasarala*

        Yeah… I really sympathize with OP being in an at-risk group, nobody should be forced to choose between exposure and income.

        But the problem is all possible reads of this story reflect poorly on OP.

        Is OP lying about the whole thing because the forged note was found out? That’s a huge strike against OP’s integrity and warrants firing.

        Did OP not notice that the PDF came from fiancee, not the doctor, or notice it was forged, or think it was weird the doctor sent a note after refusing earlier? This is a strike against OP’s intelligence and awareness. I wouldn’t trust OP with anything sensitive, they’d fall for every phishing attack. Plus they have a fiancee who meddles and has severe integrity issues that OP is oblivious to.

        So OP, your story asks HR to question whether you’re lying or stupid. That’s why they terminated you. You’ll need a more believable excuse, or you have some real soul-searching to do about your fiancee (I couldn’t marry someone I couldn’t trust). Hope you’re able to land on your feet in a safer job and stay healthy.

        1. Myrin*

          “But the problem is all possible reads of this story reflect poorly on OP.”

          Yeah, I really think that’s the crux of the matter – she’ll either come across as a cunning and deceptive liar or as a naïve and gullible airhead, neither of which is how you want to come across to a new employer.
          (Not saying that OP is any of those things, btw – lapses in judgment and clear thinking happen, especially in high-stress situations, where you later look back and shake your head exasperatedly at your past self. But an employer really doesn’t need to get into the weeds of that, especially with a newer employee.)

        2. Tate Can't Wait*

          You make some good points. We can tell a lot about the facts (or lack thereof) by someone’s story not just by what they say, but also by what they don’t say.

          For example, if OP1 had given information like the fiance came back and said the doctor changed their mind – maybe based on more information – then that would help her case.

          Any more information along the lines of how the information came to her and why she was so apt to believe it, even though it contradicted logic, would help.

          But when people aren’t telling the full truth, they tend to hold back on these kinds of details. The lack of information on exactly why she believed her fiance could have come up with a doctor’s note is really telling here.

        3. pretzelgirl*

          I have a friend (that I have had since I was 8 years old) who has severe health problems. Both mental and physical. She has her mother do nearly everything for her. She is in her 30’s and probably has the health of an 85 year old woman. She can barely walk 1/4 of a mile and has a plethora of other issues. She is incredibly naïve and has several learning disabilities. I could see this happening to her 100%. The sad thing is, I could see her caregivers doing the note part.

          1. Bear Necessities*

            Under those circumstances, yeah. But I don’t imagine your friend is working independently, with all those difficulties.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            That sounds like a much more extreme case than the LW’s, though, since the LW is capable of full-time employment.

        4. Person from the Resume*

          I agree that there’s no way the OP looks good in this story.

          1. The OP is lying about not knowing it was a forgery in an effort to save job.
          2. The OP was so unaware of the way the world works that their fiancée duped them. Doctors don’t provide medical information to fiancées who are not yet legally related to the patient. Spouse are legally next of kin and even then Doctor’s can’t share medical info with not-their-patients without some medical POA or similar in the case of underage children.

          1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

            Medical information can be shared if the patient signs a form saying “you can share my medical information with this person.” That paperwork would let my husband call the doctor and ask questions about my health and/or treatment, like “is the Gollux really supposed to take two doses of the same medication?” but not to make decisions on my behalf. They can tell him my diagnosis, or what the plans are; they can’t override my choices, or make decisions on things that my doctor and I haven’t discussed. (Also, the form lets a person say “answer questions from either of my parents,” or either of two friends; a POA is one specific person.)

            I don’t think that paperwork would let my husband ask for a doctor’s note; it would probably allow them to explain why they hadn’t given me one. (As usual, I am not a llama, nor an expert on health care paperwork and such.)

          2. Lord Gouldian Finch*

            The only way I could see this being in any way plausible is if the fiancee is herself a doctor, who might have conceivably said “I ran into Dr Cardiologist in the doctor’s lounge and explained things and he came around” but even then it’s not really looking good. I think this job is a scratch-off and, at core, maybe more of a relationship issue first and a work issue second.

            Although the work situation IS pretty sucky. An immuno-compromised person in the household should be grounds to stay home without needing to go through the cardiologist.

            1. Auntie Social*

              I could see fiancee explaining to the LW that she called the cardiologist’s office again, talked to someone more sympathetic, and that person sent the note. I trust my husband, I could see LW believing that she had done that.

              1. biobotb*

                But under those circumstances you wouldn’t be confused if your doctor then sent the note to your husband’s email, and not yours? The LW said the fiancee emailed her the doctor’s note.

      3. Willis*

        Plus I think the bottom line is OP submitted a forged note. Whether they did it deliberately or because their fiancee duped them doesn’t matter that much to me as an employer, especially for someone there only 2 weeks. You’re responsible for the stuff you submit or paperwork your work requires.

      4. many bells down*

        Yeah I have absolutely been the spouse who handles everything and would have easily been able to obtain medical info for my spouse. But … forging it is a whooooole different level.

      5. LAMM*

        I had the reverse of this trying to handle my grandma’s medical information once my grandfather passed. Apparently he dealt with everything and she had literally no clue what all her meds were for.

        So it can go both ways… for a couple to designate a paperwork and information person and the other let’s them handle all of it.

        I’m the paperwork person in my relationship and boy it was an eye opener for my boyfriend to deal with trying to switch car insurances. He got a big in his ear that we should switch so I told him to call around and look into. Long story short, we still have the same insurance.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          lol yeah, I’m mostly the paper pusher in our family, and mr jules had the same bug in his ear, and we still have the same insurance. He does do all the phone stuff, though, and I walk him through the bills once or twice a year in case I get hit by a bus.

      6. lokilaufeysanon*

        My only issue is that OP1 went to the cardiologist about getting a note and was already denied. I could certainly see what you are saying if it weren’t for that detail, though.

        1. Desk-Nail-Clipperer*

          I can see that happening – if fiancee deals with this stuff routinely, then it may be that fiancee asked originally, got a rejection & told OP so, OP panicked about the exposure and fiancee then decided to forge the note with an explanation “I got back to cardiologist and she understands now – here’s your note.”

          1. Annony*

            She may also have panicked about her own health. She has cancer and immue issues so I could definitely see that factoring in. It was incredibly stupid but I can see why she was too scared to make a good decision.

        2. schnauzerfan*

          And that’s another thing. In my experience, it’s pretty easy to get a doctor’s note if you have an existing relationship with a doctor who is treating you for serious health issue. Again in my experience they tend to assume everyone wants to take as much time as the employer or the law allows and have procedures to get you what you need. I may have been lucky, but I can’t imagine any doctor refusing a note in this situation. Now if you just call up a doctor you don’t see, and ask for a note, that’s a different story.

          1. Rockin Takin*

            I spent 2 days calling my OB’s office for a note stating I was high risk because I’m in my 3rd trimester, because I am essential staff and my boss was not originally going to let me work from home. I finally called the exchange after hours. A doctor I never met from my Dr’s office immediately wrote me a note and had it to me within an hour. No questions asked.
            I was close to calling my primary Dr for the note if I didn’t get through to the OB.

            Not sure what kind of note they were asking to provide, but I am confused why a doctor wouldn’t at least write a note stating what medical conditions you have and that you are in the high risk category.

            1. A*

              OP said they specifically requested a note for PTO, which to me seems like it would be a higher bar to meet / I don’t even know if medical professionals do that since it’s a matter of how the time off will be handled financially versus the inability to perform the job at this time.

          2. Jules the 3rd*

            I went to an urgent care in my neighborhood for a flu test in early March (negative; my area had its first covid 19 case 10 days earlier). Hadn’t been there in a couple of years, since the yellowjackets. I don’t need a note to WFH, I just need to tell my boss there’s an issue.

            They handed me a WFH note on my way out the door, standard. It doesn’t seem hard, if you have time / money to check with multiple doctors, but not everyone does.

      7. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        There’s also the cliché of the Mafia wife who knows nothing of her husband’s finances and dealings.

      8. pretzelgirl*

        Yes, this. I am in my mid 30s. I have friends who have parents or significant others do most everything on their behalf. One has a multitude of mental and physical health issues. She also is incredibly naïve. I could see her thing happening to her 100 times over.

      9. Quill*

        Yeah, there are a decent amount of couples that do separate tasks so thoroughly that one or the other has no practical, recent experience with doing it. It’s not, in the long run, a good situation, because the chances of one person being unavailable are high.

        Also, LW 1, your cardiologist may not have refused to provide a note so much as been swamped. I’m assuming you wrote this letter a while back because it’s whack that a company would *still* be requiring a doctor’s note after over a month of shelter in place and safer at home orders.

        1. Annony*

          It depends on what his job is. If he works in an essential industry and cannot work from home he probably would still need a note.

          1. Anono-nono-nonymous*

            Yip. I work for a company that is essential, the work can’t be done from home. They offered very generous Emergency Sick Paid Leave and Paid FMLA a week or so before the new law passed, and we are too large to be subject to it anyway. Every communication they sent out was plastered with “you will be subject to disciplinary action, specifically termination, if we find out you lied to get these benefits” and I know of several people at my office alone who have already been let go for lying. They were let go for lying about their childcare situation (school and day care closures was one of the reasons you could get FMLA) after the company learned that their kids didn’t live with them, they didn’t have custody, they had another adult living in the home who could act as a caregiver, etc. People are desperate, but lying to take advantage of a benefit is still a fire-able offense.

        2. A*

          I’m not an essential employee (but am working from home), and I would need a note beyond a few days. My company has made it clear that expectations on productivity are significantly decreased and we all just need to do the best we can – so saying that I’m too sick to even log in from home for a little bit / at least call into top priority meetings would require some kind of documentation. In regards to COVID-19, they have accepted notes from doctor’s saying it is suspected but not confirmed, so it’s not like it always has to be a full blown diagnosis.

          That being said, we have unlimited sick time so I’m sure that factors in.

      10. Caroline Bowman*

        It might not be strictly generational, but from my personal experience it often is, that ”the man earns the money” and might-possibly-maybe have 1 or 2 specific other ”life admin” things that they (usually with great fanfare) do. This may be taking out the bins on collection day or arranging for the car to be serviced / roadworthied. Anyway, literally everything else. Everything. Else. is the the wife’s job because ”she’s at home”.

        And if everyone is happy with that, genuinely, then that is fine. What so often happens is that when the checked-out one retires, they still expect to the other partner to do everything all the time and have a kind of learned helplessness situation going on.

        1. Quill*

          Yeah, my maternal grandparents had this going on but the difference was that my grandpa worked as hard at home as he did at work. (Fixing things, carpentering, getting up at 4AM to walk the collie five miles and come back to make bread, keeping bees…) Neither of my grandparents would have been able to comfortably live alone had one of them died while the other was still healthy, but they began to decline close to the same time and died a little less than a year apart. Looking back there’s no question that they were a little codependent: up until my grandpa had to stay in the hospital for back surgery they apparently hadn’t spent a night apart in forty years, and as they both got sick they drove us nuts by trying to hide the extent of their sickness from each other and their descendants, because they’d both convinced themselves they could hide their symptoms well enough to get on with taking care of the other. (They could not, but god help you if you told them so…)

          But so often you get people who are more dependent than codependent when you split the work so strictly.

      11. Tidewater 4-1009*

        One of the reasons I’m single as men who want me to babysit them and manage their life for them. I don’t have the bandwidth to do that. Managing my own life takes 90% of it. The other 10% is for fun.
        OP, if you are that type of person you will do better if you manage your own life and health care as much as possible. This will take the stress off your partner and make a more equal relationship, and if anything happens down the road where your partner can’t do it anymore, you will be able to.

      12. PeanutButter*

        When I worked as a Paramedic, I repeatedly came across this scenario, which is the perfect way to murder your husband and no jury in the world would convict you:

        1. Take over all medical communication
        2. Pick up and dispense all Rx, especially cardiac medication
        3. If your spouse has a medical device, never let them operate/apply it themselves
        4. Keep every scrap of documentation for the above in your purse
        5. Leave to visit your sister for a month, or die

        MULTIPLE MEN CAME TO THE ER AT DEATH’S DOOR during my time there due to exactly this sequence of events, it’s mind blowing. Most of them were 70+, but there were some 30-40 year olds in there.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          It’s a pit that can trap anyone. I have a story of a wife whose husband did everything for her. I mean everything. After he died she was 80 some y/o and had never once prepared a meal in her life. Forget handling the checkbook and keeping the bills paid. She passed away a few years later, but not before she had some really terrible experiences. It was a very painful story to hear and worse for those close to them.

    6. Emma*

      Man, my take on this is very different from everyone else’s! I totally get where LW’s fiance is coming from, and I think that under these extraordinary circumstances, the company should have cut LW some slack – although obviously what LW’s fiance did was a very bad way of handling it.

      But, you know, when you’re on chemo and immunosuppressed, the prospect of your partner getting coronavirus is the prospect of you having a very high risk of dying. I think it’s understandable for someone to panic and do something unethical when they’re afraid they’re going to die.

      I’m an essential worker, my partner is high risk, and the original plan was that my office was going to stay open. About a week into lockdown I went to my grandboss and said that I was not going to continue coming into the office, that I was happy to work from home to the very limited extent that that was possible at the time, but that I couldn’t continue to risk my partner’s life. I’d spoken to my manager (who was out with symptoms) and been told that my job was safe but she couldn’t say whether or not I’d get paid, so I pruned down my budget and figured out I could scrape by for a while without my salary, and took the plunge.

      Not everyone is in such a privileged position to be able to do that, though. It worked out for me, since me and a couple of other people making this decision was the push that was needed for management to cobble together the world’s jankiest wfh solution, and as far as I know I’m still getting paid for the days I didn’t work; but, yeah, if I hadn’t been in a position to do that, I can see how I – or my partner, if she was freaking out enough – could wind up trying to fake some appropriate medical advice. It’s not the right thing to do, but it’s a life or death situation and the normal rules don’t apply in the same way.

      1. Scarlet2*

        I agree that companies should be cutting some slack, but… forgery?? That’s a whole other ballpark there…

        1. Emma*

          Sure, but “the company’s failure to follow government advice leading to the death of an employee’s fiance” would also be a whole other ballpark

          I’m not trying to be morbid here, I know LW is reading and I’m not trying to be alarmist or freak you out, LW – I was in the same position until recently and I don’t want to make you feel worse than you already do! But people’s lives are what’s at stake, ultimately, and that changes everything.

          1. Scarlet2*

            I don’t like one bit that the company asked for a doctor’s note to let someone have PTO in these circumstances. But are they seriously expected to overlook a forgery?

            I’m also wondering about the cardiologist. Would a specialist refuse to write a note for someone in an actual life or death situation? That looks odd to me as well, to be perfectly honest.

            1. CL Cox*

              Why wouldn’t they ask for a doctor’s note? The OP was claiming that they were at a higher risk due to their own medical issues; it would be perfectly natural for an employer to ask for verification of that prior to allowing PTO or even an extended period of time off unpaid. Especially since it sounds like the OP was wanting more than two weeks off.

              1. Kelly L.*

                It’s pretty hard to get in to see a doctor right now for anything except COVID, not to mention risky if other patients in the office have the virus. So if she didn’t conveniently already have documentation on hand, getting it now is kind of onerous.

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  I have seen doctors for things that are not covid, as have other people in my family. All other health problems didn’t stop for the pandemic.

                  If I needed documentation for something I would expect my doctor to send it as an email attachment.

                2. Ash*

                  If this is your cardiologist who you have an established relationship with, you shouldn’t need to go in to see them. If the doctor believes you should receive medical leave, they should be able to generate a document stating that based on your previous medical history.

                3. Kittymommy*

                  That’s not exactly true everywhere. I had my annual physical yesterday and the lobby was very empty. My doctor said things had slowed down a lot with them, which is something I’ve heard from other offices in my area. Urgent cares, yes they have been busy here. Regular offices and specialists? Not so much.

                4. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

                  Literally getting in is tricky, yes. I’ve had two tele-medicine appointments since Massachusetts started telling people to stay home, one with my GP and one with a specialist.

                  They may wind up calling on cardiologists, psychiatrists, or ophthalmologists to take hospital shifts if/when things get that bad. Until then, someone who hasn’t treated infectious diseases or done an ER shift in a couple of decades isn’t the best choice for those jobs now, and a lot of those offices are still open, but doing as much as possible by phone.

                5. Observer*

                  Doctor’s offices are functioning. And this is a classic case where a competent practice will do this remotely. If the OP has an existing relationship with a cardiologist, the doctor does not need an in person visit to say “you are at high risk and need to stay at home.”

                  Which is another reason why this story looks so bad.

                6. an actual doctor*

                  depends where you are and which doctor you want to see. We are doing telemedicine for most of our appointments (phone or video) but patients are rescheduling if it’s not essential so I have LOTS of openings. I’m not in New York, it’s much worse there. However, if this is OP’s personal cardiologist, no, they wouldn’t need to be seen. The refusal to provide the note suggests that the cardiologist doesn’t concur with OP’s assessment of their risk level. The cardiologist, unfortunately, can’t write a note based on OP’s fiancee’s risk level (which sounds very real) unless the cardiologist also cares for fiancee.

                7. Nita*

                  Yeah. The week before NYC shut down, management announced that everyone is to keep coming into the office unless something really dramatic happens. The writing was totally on the wall at that point, and my husband has lung issues and has colds go to his chest very often. I freaked out and wrote to HR asking what it would take to send the office staff home. I was asking on behalf of all of us – the employees in their 60s, the people with poor health, others with vulnerable family members – not just my own family. Anyway, the response I got was “if your husband has health concerns, send us a note from his doctor.” Which was not helpful because (1) it’s a whole thing to get him to go to a doctor, (2) he’d need to see his PCP and then a specialist – more opportunities to catch something nasty, (3) at the time, he wasn’t nearly as worried as I was, and (4) what about all the people who need to stay home but haven’t asked HR? Yeah, the doctor’s note requirement was not helping anyone. I seriously considered just snapping a photo of his old chest X-rays, or quitting, but two days later everything started shutting down here, and they finally sent us home.

                8. Safetykats*

                  You literally can’t see a doctor in my town except for an emergency. It’s all telemedicine. If they decide by phone that you must be seen, then you get an appointment at one of the few places that are still open to physical patients. My coworker’s dad fell and broke his leg on the weekend, and although they got an appointment for an X-ray the next day (and then surgery two days later) they were told not to come to the emergency room. So no – depending on where you live, doctor’s offices are not really open.

              2. Liane*

                “I don’t like one bit that the company asked for a doctor’s note…”
                I believe that for some of the (US) Federal aid, companies need to have documentation like this–but check AAM’s COVID-19 section to be sure. Link is at the top of the webpage.

                1. A*

                  Yup. At my company in order to get PTO for COVID-19 (usually we have unlimited sick time but with the understanding that you’ll need a note if you’re out more than 3-4 days, not a hardfast line) we have to submit documentation from our medical team that it is necessary. Confirmed diagnosis not required given how scarce tests are.

                  We require that because we need it in order to get the tax break from the government, not because we are monsters.

              3. Mily*

                Our state has issued guidelines (not legally binding) that companies should not require doctor’s notes for leave right now.

            2. doreen*

              I’m actually kind of wondering what the note the OP was asking for and – what kind of note the fiance forged. Because at the point where the OP writes about trying to get a recommendation for PTO, I don’t know if that was sloppy wording or not , but I’ve never known a doctor to “recommend PTO “. They will write note saying that you are unable to work for some period of time and with the corona virus situation, they will recommend that people isolate themselves and work from home – but if the OP was looking for the doctor to recommend paid time off, that may have been the issue. It seem like people often forget the “P” stands for “paid”

              1. Cascadia*

                Yea, this is a really good point. I’m pretty surprised with the LW’s history that she was denied a doctor’s note from her own doctor. I wonder if she was asking for something too much, like PTO, instead of just a note saying she was immunocompromised.

                1. an actual doctor*

                  OP isn’t immunocompromised. They have some sort of heart issue. Fiancee is immunocompromised, but, unless OP’s doctor is also Fiancee’s, the doctor can’t comment on that. The rest of your note is exactly correct, though.

                  As a physician, I can only say that a person is under my care, and what sorts of limits their illness places on their activities.

                  If they ask for FMLA, I have to provide a LOT more specifics, but again, I don’t decide if they qualify for FMLA, I just describe the limits their illness places on their activities and the expected duration of same.

                  If I’m filling out FMLA for a family member’s illness, I have to be *that family member’s* doctor.

            3. Tera*

              I have a heart problem that puts me ‘at risk’, too. I’ve been advised to work from home if possible, but my job (classed as essential work) is not one that can be done from home. So strictly speaking, I should be working. Luckily my employers are 10/10 and giving me full pay to sit on my ass and do nothing, and have already phoned once to check in and see how I’m doing, but if they’d asked for a doctor’s note I’m unsure if I’d have been able to get one that said I wasn’t allowed to work, because that’s not the situation. I did have to provide evidence that I have the health problems in question, though.

              That’s just me though, I don’t know OP’s situation, and it’s probably different in many ways – I’m in the U.K. and the rules could be different in the US. But you can definitely be at quite serious risk and have issues getting a doctor’s note.

              1. Third or Nothing!*

                HECK YES I love that your employers are being so good about all this.

                I’m pretty sure I’m high risk since I had full-blown asthma as a child and seem to have exercise induced asthma now as an adult. Note the “seem” – because I haven’t been able to get in to a doctor to get a real diagnosis and I honestly didn’t suspect a thing until I started training for my first half at the end of last year. Thankfully my entire job can be done remotely so I’ve been working from my dining room table for the last month.

            4. EPLawyer*

              The company was wrong to not cut OP some slack. However, the OP was really wrong to not inquire further how the note magically appeared after the cardiologist said no.

              Just because the company really sucks does not justify forging a note.

              1. TimeCat*

                I dunno, I don’t think I’d cut slack for a forgery. That’s a HUGE violation of trust. Especially with a new employee? Nope.

                1. J.B.*

                  I read it as the company was wrong not to cut slack in the first place, and demanded the doctors note to begin with. I fully agree with EPLawyer’s assessment.

                2. EPLawyer*

                  What JB said. I had a tragic rotary cutting incident (thankfully not while making masks) and cut my finger over the weekend. Typing is fun right now.

                3. somanyquestions*

                  Their brand new employee was claiming to need full time paid time off, for likely months. Asking for documentation of their health issues isn’t bad behavior.

              2. Bear Necessities*

                This. Forgery is a big deal. I don’t know if a forged doctor’s note falls under the legal crime of forgery (that is specific to legal instruments, yes?) but it’s awfully borderline.

                What the employer now knows is that the OP may under certain circumstances provide them with falsified documents. They have one datapoint about what those circumstances may be. They have no reason to believe that OP will only do it unknowingly, or when it’s a matter of medical risk. Under what other circumstances could this happen? That is a question they have to ask themselves. Will OP do it to save their job? To get a promotion? To get someone else in trouble?

                1. iambrian*

                  I know of somebody who forged a doctor’s note, and was charged. The charges came through the doctor, not the company. OP really should be worried about the doctors office finding out, they can pursue charges (and I’ve heard through the years are very inclined to do so) and OP will also need to find a new doctor.

              3. A*

                I disagree. OP, two weeks into a full-time gig, was asking for PTO. I’d agree with you if they had requested a leave of absence and the employer was unwilling to work towards a compromise, but I think the employer has every right to request documentation prior to giving out PTO for en undetermined amount of time.

            5. Archaeopteryx*

              The cardiologist would refuse because it’s outside their scope of practice. Those kind of notes should be coming from the primary care physician. Maybe a pulmonologist, but even they would probably tell the patient to ask their PCP to make the note.

              1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

                I had a pulmonologist fire me as a patient once for asking for a return to work letter. I had been in the hospital for a week (I have asthma, COPD, emphysema and bronchiectasis) and my company was requiring a return to work letter. Couldn’t go back to work without it. My pulmonologist told me that “We don’t do that” and fired me for even asking.

                My company wasn’t happy, but they were forced to accept the letter from my PCP (they were INSISTENT that it had to come from my pulmo).

                1. Caroline Bowman*

                  I can get why they didn’t want to do the note (I suppose? It seems odd, but fine) but to actually fire you as a patient. Is it offensive to make the wrong admin request somehow? Surely ”unfortunately I can’t, your PCP can” would be all that’s required?

                  That seems very temperamental.

                2. Phony Genius*

                  That your pulmonolgist would fire you just for asking sounds like a major breach of medical ethics. Like report-him-to-the-state level here. He cannot fire you while still undergoing treatment due to “continuity of care” requirements.

                3. Lady Heather*

                  In my country, doctors aren’t really allowed to write such letters. It has happened twice that I needed a doctor’s certification that I was sick for an important test. The first time, the doctor wouldn’t give it but then I read the school instructions and they only asked for the name and address of the doctor you’d consulted! I happily wrote those down.

                  (My cousin, on the other hand, wanted to do join an international volunteering project that is headquartered in the US. So she needed a doctor’s signature saying that she was well enough to participate. That wasn’t easy, as doctors don’t do things like that here.)

                  (FYI, We do have occupational health doctors. Your employer can make you see one if you are sick so often it constitutes a disability, if you have a disability that needs accommodating, or if you are sick for longer than a month. The company pays, but the only thing the doctor is allowed to tell the company is what work you can and can’t do and what accommodations you need.)

                4. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

                  @Caroline……he kept saying “We just don’t do that and we told you at the beginning we don’t write notes!” I was like “Oh-kay then, what am I supposed to do?” This was after I had called and requested the note and waited a day and a half for the note…..that was never written.

                  @Phony…..he shut his practice down shortly after this but I really wanted to go after him. I had a helluva time finding another pulmo after that…and don’t have one now. He was a jerk, in more ways than just this one. I use him as a template of what I DON’T want in a doctor.

                5. an actual doctor*

                  honestly, that’s crummy. if you were hospitalized on the pulmonology service, this note should be completed as a matter of course — they are so easy:

                  “Ms. of Worlds was under my care from XX date to XX date. Ms. of Worlds is now clear to return to work”

                  signed
                  Dr. Crummy, MD,PhD

              2. EvilQueenRegina*

                I wonder if maybe the cardiologist didn’t communicate that very well to the OP? Still doesn’t excuse the way fiancee went about it, but if it was worded badly to OP it might go some way towards why fiancee took that route instead of OP approaching their primary care physician.

              3. Librarian of SHIELD*

                The way my oncologist explained this to me is that a lot of people with severe health issues tend to see their specialists so often that they can sometimes neglect visits with their PCP. So it’s pretty standard practice for some specialists to require that certain functions be conducted by a patient’s PCP to ensure that the patient keeps that relationship going. (It was true for me, and those requirements did remind me to keep going to the PCP when I might otherwise have skipped it)

                So I can totally see a scenario where a cardiologist would choose not to write a doctors note in a case like this, and where a patient might not have a strong enough relationship with their PCP to get something done quickly.

      2. TimeCat*

        No excuse for a lie and forgery. If she was scared she needed to talk to him, not forge documents.

      3. Batgirl*

        I think the major difference is that you and your partner were in it together. I’m not knocking the OP’s relationship; everyone hits that junction where they have to figure out how to handle dual controls together, they are just doing It at a bad time. It sounds like you and your partner were willing to prioritise life over earnings. If you couldn’t have afforded that, it sounds like you would still have been on the same page and would have agreed to risk the job with a forgery; but had it gone wrong you would have accepted the consequences together and not expected your employer to accept ‘my partner did it’. OP can’t have it both ways; she can’t give over control of a work related document to her partner as though they are one unit, then ask that she not be judged for bring part of that unit with her partner by her workplace.
        I agree that you should prioritise your partner’s life over a job, but you need to actually work as partners to do that. Giving OP the benefit of the doubt, she needs to figure out how to improve the honesty between them (like not hiding an extreme panic over fearing for your life) and how they tackle this stuff together.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Yeah, there are some things that one should and must do for themselves. We just can’t leave it to others.
            I remember shredding checks for my father’s home equity line of credit. My husband commented that I was wasting my time. The lawyers and court had closed that line of credit.

            It took FOUR years. I got a phone call from the bank informing me the line was STILL open, four years after my father’s passing and the estate being settled. If I had just throw those checks into the trash without shredding them, who knows what could have happened. We have to stay on top of things under our watch ourselves and not totally rely on others to take care of everything. In this setting, my husband, the lawyers and the court were all mistaken. If things had gone wrong it could have been to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.

            I don’t fault OP for not checking. And I bet this will never happen to OP again. There are just some things that it is best if we walk through it ourselves rather than letting others do it. I have had my own lessons in not following things as they are processed. It’s been a nightmare for you, OP, and I am sorry this happened to you.

      4. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yeah, I’m with you here. It was not handled in a very sensible way, but considering that they’re both high-risk they are afraid for their lives and I can’t blame them.

    7. Reality.Bites*

      OP should never mention anything about this experience ever at an interview. He was with the company for two weeks and was fired for overwhelmingly good cause.

      1. A*

        Yup. And silver lining is that I doubt a gap in employment (assuming it isn’t for too long) will be questioned given the timing with COVID-19.

    8. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’ve seen people get shafted by their significant others, so I could see it being possible. Some people just suck. OP might have one like a friend’s ex-husband: He forged her signature to withdraw money from her bank account — the entire downpayment on a house that she’d borrowed from her 401k–and gambled it away in a week. She soon learned he had also pawned her jewelry and “borrowed” school trip savings from her teenager.
      He is now her EX husband, but the damage is already done.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        My friend’s husband passed away. That is when she learned about the 15 credit cards she never knew about AND about her name being forged on a mortgage. Then she learned the life insurance policy never existed. The list of problems goes on and on.

        OP, this isn’t in the context of someone had it worse. This is in the context of this stuff can happen. I think my friend’s husband loved her. I think he was afraid of losing her and he thought having money was essential to keeping her with him. We will never know for sure, so this is just a guess on my part.

        Some times these stories start from a good place and go wildly awry. Sometimes these stories start from a bad place and get worse.

    9. Jdc*

      Right. Pure lie. Doctors wouldn’t even speak to her fiancé unless he was an emergency contact and she was dying. She’s knows she lied but wants her story to sound better. This angers me.

      1. TimeCat*

        Yeah I don’t believe this letter and I doubt the employer believes it either (and why would they believe the fiance taking blame here?).

        Doesn’t really matter. LW now has to job search in this crappy climate and potentially will be denied unemployment benefits because they were fired for cause. That’s some pretty steep consequences. Hopefully enough LW understands this is a “never ever do that or anything like it again” situation.

      2. HannahS*

        Whoa, that’s not true. If patients give permission for a spouse (or parent-of-an-adult, or adult-child-of-aging-parent, etc) to know their medical information, doctors can and do leave medical information with other people. The expectation on this site is that we believe what the OPs tell us. If the OP is in a relationship where the couple speak to each other’s doctor’s offices, then I can see how, in a panic, the note made sense.

          1. MK*

            It’s not a blatant lie. Almost every time my parents have medical texts there is a line in the form where you can fill in the name of a person who can pick up the results and be told confidential information. Also, not all doctors are as strict as they should be about patient confidentiallity, and some will give information to the family members who escort the patient on visits etc.

            1. Courtney Kupets*

              I’m not disputing this. But how exactly would this play out? All of a sudden your partner tells you…what exactly? Oh, hey, I know you were upset about what your doctor said so I went back to them and I got you this note…..Also, most things are done through the portal with a doctor (especially now) so…where is that correspondence?

              I’m also wondering if they never even asked the doctor in the first place for anything and if they did, how it was phrased.

          2. MicroManagered*

            Yeah… the tough part me to get past is that somehow the employer determined that the note was a forgery, but OP had no idea? OP had been denied the note from the cardiologist, then suddenly the note appears… is it fake-looking enough that HR could tell? But OP could not? And OP had zero curiosity about why the cardiologist had suddenly switched stances on recommending PTO? And that the cardiologist had sent the note to fiance, but not OP? That is just…. a lot of missed alarm bells for me.

            1. A*

              I assume the employer contacted the doctor to corroborate the note or request additional information since OP was requesting PTO, not just a leave of absence.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          The expectation on this site is that we believe what the OPs tell us. If the OP is in a relationship where the couple speak to each other’s doctor’s offices, then I can see how, in a panic, the note made sense.

          Only, the OP didn’t tell us this is the situation – this is being inferred by the commentariat here.

          1. Shad*

            Because the OP told us they believed their fiancée when she said she got him a doctor’s note. We are expected to believe the OP when they say that and are explaining why that’s reasonable.

          2. Clisby*

            Exactly. People are just imagining this scenario. Not that it’s beyond the realm of possibility, but if it’s true, it seems like the LW would have said so.

          3. Not So NewReader*

            I am not sure why people are so invested in proving that OP is lying. What is to be gained. OP’s job is irretrievably gone no matter what. Additionally, if OP is telling the truth then OP is having some difficult conversations with their fiancee. OP’s life is falling apart in the middle of a pandemic. I don’t think that successfully proving OP lied also, could make this situation more miserable than it all ready is. It’s pretty miserable.

            1. Trachea Aurelia Belaroth*

              People get very amped up on the internet when they think they’ve spotted a lie. And this letter does sound a bit “excuse”y. But Alison asks us to take LWs at their word, not just when they SOUND truthful, but always. A lot of people have offered examples of ways LW’s story could have happened. And as unlikely as they find LW’s story, I think it makes less sense that they would write to Alison for advice based on a lie (excepting the kind of people who make up stories out of whole cloth for attention). Unless they are lying to themselves a bit, which has been addressed. And even then, Alison has stated before that she will leave up a doubtful letter if the advice would be helpful to someone anyway.

      3. JB (not in Houston)*

        I’m not sure why you’re so certain of that. Every one of my doctor’s has a form where you can permit other people to have access to your medical information, and I have to update it every year. I always list several family members, and if I were engaged or married, that person would be on the list as well. Several of my married female friends take care of contacting doctor’s for their husbands, and at least one of my male friends relies on his wife to take care of that kind of stuff for him because otherwise he’d just never get around to it. Plus, as other’s have mentioned, many doctor’s have patient portals you can use to contact the doctor, and for that you just need a login.

        1. Courtney Kupets*

          But the OP has NO further questions to the fiancé about why the doc changed their mind, why they went to the doc on their behalf instead of coaching them on how to reapproach the doctor, etc? Did the fiancé concoct a crazy lie to say “hey yeah I called them back and now they said they’d do it because of whatever..”

          The whole thing is super fishy.

      4. AKchic*

        This isn’t true.

        A signed Release of Information can and does allow a doctor to discuss medical information with the fiancé as long as the information being discussed has been signed off on by the patient. Such broad strokes such as diagnosis, treatment dates, being treated in general (which would be on the ROI and in a note) could very well be discussed.

        I could sign an ROI right now to allow you to speak to any of my doctors on any number of things if I wanted. It is my right as a patient.

      5. KoiFeeder*

        Dude, do you know how often I have doctors wanting to speak to my parents when they learn I’m autistic? I’m a grown adult, but it doesn’t matter, because I’m autistic so ~obviously~ I’m not competent enough to manage my own health.

        I mean, OP doesn’t mention being autistic, so it’s probably not relevant, but I assure you that your experience of the situation is not universal.

      6. Broadway Duchess*

        Doctors wouldn’t even speak to her fiancé unless he was an emergency contact and she was dying.

        This isn’t universally true — almost all providers/group practices have a disclosure form, usually updated annually. I could see this happening. For example, my health system has a pretty extensive web portal and I have received all sorts of info directly from my provider that way. I’ve had Broadway Duke log in and check messages or get test results for me. If a physician note had been sent to me that way, my S.O. could have retrieved it with my login info and emailed it to me that way (FMLA wouldn’t have been handled via portal, but a quick note certainly could’ve).

        It’s just as likely that the OP is telling the truth as it is he/she lied. I just don’t think we can immediately jump to one conclusion over the other.

    10. Senor Montoya*

      TBH, I would not mention this in any interview, ever. There are mistakes, even big, spectacular mistakes, that you can talk about in an interview. This is not one — it casts doubt on your integrity (however unfairly). If I heard about this in an interview? we would not hire you, full stop, regardless of how stellar you might be otherwise.

      I wouldn’t even talk about it with co-workers. Or frankly, with anyone. You do not want this sticking to your reputation. Bury it deep.

    11. JamieS*

      I thought the same thing. I can maybe see it as being possible if OP’s fiance had access to OP’s email and said the doctor sent a note there so not claiming the doctor sent it direct to fiance. However even that seems very far fetched especially since their doctor already said no. I definitely wouldn’t believe it if I were OP’s boss even though I’m willing to be more open to the possibility reading about it on the internet.

      Regardless hopefully this incident is a one time mistake and isn’t indicative not OP’s relationship as a whole. As it stands either OP’s fiance intentionally lied to them causing them to lose their job or OP is trying to throw their fiance under the bus to save their own skin. Not a great way to start a life together.

      1. Courtney Kupets*

        Doctors don’t email this stuff. They use the patient portal. So much HIPAA violations otherwise.

    12. Was a Church Lady*

      “I think you should really think about how this impacted your employer . . .”

      WTF.

    13. Alice's Rabbit*

      Very true. Unless OP had signed a power of attorney giving his fiance permission to access his medical records and make medical decisions for him (this is different from someone being your emergency contact, because those only get to make decisions if you’re incapacitated) the doctor legally cannot contact her for anything regarding OP. Not even a note for work.
      A spouse is slightly different, as husband and wife have a legally recognized relationship. But a fiance? Nope. No legal rights whatsoever.
      So first off, no one is going to believe that OP didn’t know the note was fake. And even if OP were telling the truth about that, it doesn’t really improve matters; that just makes him look naive and gullible. Not the sort of employee a boss is going to fight to keep during this rough economic situation.
      Second off, and I really hate to say this, OP still being engaged to someone who pulled a stunt like this? That worries me. A lot. This was a massive breech of trust. I, personally, could not marry someone who was so cavalier about lying to me and my employer. Couldn’t even continue to date them, to be honest. OP needs to seriously consider what it would take for her to regain his trust.
      I know this is a business site and not a relationship one, so I won’t harp on that point any longer.
      Third, OP is going to have to be very careful about this job and the circumstances of his dismissal when applying for future employment. Sorry, but turning in a forged doctor’s note? There’s no way to spin that where OP comes out looking good. And he can’t risk hiding it, because they’ll likely want references at some point.

    1. valentine*

      If the glass isn’t obviously for alcohol and you’re not going to tell anyone what’s in it, it seems fine.

      I would stick with the current picture, unless boss has a prop in his, because for me, the hair dryer sets the tone.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I’d stick with the current picture as well if only because it sounds like the wedding pic wouldn’t fully show the OP’s face and if the point of using the photos is for newbies to know what you look like, a hair dryer covering the top of your head and a glass up to your lips (with your hand/arm possibly obscuring the lower half of the face) defeats that purpose. Once everyone is onboarded and has “met” you, OP, then you can switch to the fun photo.

        1. Avasarala*

          Agree with these two comments. Alcohol (obvious or not) aside, you’re under a hair dryer–it’s harder to recognize you and doesn’t give interesting information that would help build those relationships instead (like say, a candid shot at a restaurant holding the same mimosa). I wouldn’t do a scuba photo either.

          I would approach it like a dating website photo: something that shows you relaxed and natural, with a clear view of how you usually present yourself (head covered or not, hair styled as usual, glasses worn or not as usual etc). Save the hair dryer photo and scuba photos for Photos 2 & 3 (or later on when you get a better sense of the Slack vibe).

        2. Felix*

          Yeah, when I was reading the letter, I thought the hairdryer would be more of an issue than the drink. Anything that significantly obstructs your heard or makes it hard to see what you generally look like is not a good picture for this purpose.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            True, that kind of dryer doesn’t block the face, but the drinking could still potentially block the lower part of her face, which would make it hard for new hires to get a clear view of what she looks like. If it doesn’t, she can probably get away with using the photo since the company is small and the CEO also has a silly pic up (I say “probably” because I’m not sure if OP’s CEO is one of those do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do types that would side eye her for her silly pic).

        3. Kelly L.*

          I think the point is for it to be funny, because that’s what the boss did–I think OP is aiming for a joke about the casualness of WFH. Like that meme that went around about how your pajamas should match and not have clashing fandoms, and how to properly wear the animal head on a onesie.

        4. It's My Prof Pic*

          Hi! LW here. I like the suggestion of phasing it in once the new people know me better!

          Alison’s link further down the thread is closer than what y’all are describing. My face is not obscured in the photo, and the mimosa is held well out of the way. Picture more a full-body shot that you’d see in like… Mad Men while women are gossiping under the hair dryers. I’m definitely identifiable.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            That photo sounds cool, so I think it would be fun to see once the newbies get to see business you first (I kind of want to see it now, too, lol).

          2. Alexander Graham Yell*

            I would freaking LOVE that – especially if I were remote and the atmosphere in the office is a “casual but we get stuff DONE”, it would show some personality. A headshot is fine, and best for most situations, but if your CEO has a fairly jokey photo, this seems totally fine to me.

          3. Bee*

            Honestly I think this sounds fantastic and not like a problem at all! But then two of my coworkers are using pictures of Simpsons characters in our Slack (and one of them uses the same shot of Homer as his work email photo), so we’re pretty lax.

          4. Joielle*

            I think it sounds like a great picture! I feel like the whole point is to be more than just a name on an email chain, so showing some personality is a good thing. It gives people a sense of the office culture. Since the CEO has a more casual picture I think you’re safe to do the same.

          5. Military Prof*

            Why don’t you just use the crop function that comes with any photo-viewing software to make it closer to a head-shot, rather than a full-body shot, which will also allow cropping out the potentially controversial glass? You’ll still get the humorous hairdryer issue, you won’t have to deal with the alcohol question, and it will take you roughly 30 seconds to make the adjustment.

          6. Butterfly Counter*

            My slight issue with this is that often the profile pictures, at least in the programs I use, are pretty small. If it’s a full body shot, even sitting down, you have a lot less pixels to work with in recognizing your face and getting to know you.

      2. JerryLarryTerryGarry*

        If someone had a drink in hand in this type of photo, isn’t the default that it’s alcoholic? You don’t see a lot of pictures of people all dressed up enjoying milk.

        1. MK*

          Eh, I don’t usually drink alchohol at my hairdresser’s. I don’t know how obvious the photo is that this was wedding prep, when drinking is more likely.

        2. WellRed*

          No?! WTH? I’d say people are more likely to get their pic taken when they are oh, hanging with friends you know, like prepping for a wedding and cocktails are part of that for them. An alcoholic?

          1. RabbitRabbit*

            I think they meant it was an alcoholic (alcohol-containing) DRINK, not that the person is automatically an alcoholic.

            Plus the usual default for mimosas is champagne flutes, so drinking “orange juice” out of a champagne flute would obviously ring the “I am drinking alcohol” bells.

          2. Jerry Larry Terry Garry*

            Yes, I meant the drink, not the person (it is not they are). Nothing wrong with having a drink, or getting pictures taken while doing so, but if you don’t want it to look like it’s an alcoholic drink, it needs to be obvious- a soda can, coffee cup, juice box (though perhaps a juice box would also look unprofessional?)

      3. Jdc*

        I knew someone who was fired for holding a cup in a social media picture. It could’ve been anything. They told her they were a Christian company and wouldn’t put up with that. Obviously they were beyond in the wrong and she says there was zero mention of something like this in the interview. I felt so bad for her because she is the last person to ever want to upset anyone and she felt like she’d done something wrong.

        This workplace doesn’t sound anything like that though.

        1. MassMatt*

          WOW! The essence of Christianity comes down to… a vendetta against cups?

          Plus, are they not aware they were drinking wine at the last supper? From, yes, CUPS?

          Soooo much wrong with this company!

      1. Renamis*

        Coming from a different angle… Champagne flutes makes it obvious it’s alcohol, and honestly you can’t be sure any of your coworkers don’t have histories with alcohol abuse. Yeah, your profile picture is a very small thing, but this is a stressful time for a lot of folks. I wouldn’t want to potentially make someone feel uncomfortable by seeing my picture, particularly when this time is hard enough for folks with a history of alcohol abuse. And particularly if there’s some new folks that’ve never met you before, that’s now their first impression.

      2. Booksnbooks*

        I’d be more worried about the hair dryer, to be honest. Because it isn’t professional and might influence how people subconsciously think of you. With a humorous picture the subconscious thought is “oh, he’s funny!” but the hairdryer puts thoughts of you as a woman and what you look like and what you want to look like front and center in their minds every time they see it go by.

  2. Ann*

    Come on OP1. You’re either extremely gullible or you’re not telling the full truth here. Either way, red flags for your employer.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      Agree. Is LW1 road-testing this fib to see how it flies? It doesn’t.

      I mean maaaaaaaybe if Fiancée already works in a medical office and has ready access to the stationery? But even that is a massive stretch.

      1. valentine*

        Why lie to Alison, though?

        There’s less harm in saying, “I know I was wrong to lie, but Fiancée is scared because Cancer.”

        1. Diamond*

          Yeah, obviously fabricating a doctor’s note was not the way to go about this, but I can still empathise with the fears that led them to do it.

        2. The Original Stellaaaaa*

          You know when you’re a teenager and you test a lie on your friends to see if it works before you use it with your parents? I’ve actually seen a lot of that here.

            1. Alice's Rabbit*

              We’ve seen Alison call people on it, for starters. We’ve also seen numerous follow-ups where the OP admitted to shading the truth, and a few who acknowledged outright lying.
              Read the archives and see for yourself.

        3. Parcel*

          I think GammaGirl answered that. She’s getting used to transmitting (“road-testing”) the lie she’s likely going to tell for years. She’s also grasping for an angle she hadn’t thought of…thinking maybe Alison was going to surprise her with an obscure legal point she might use.

        4. Massmatt*

          LW 1 is either road testing the story or is in extreme denial. DR refuses to provide note excusing from work and then fiancé turns up with it? Please. Alison asks that we be kind so I will leave it there.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            It’s not clear to me from the letter that the office refused the note to the OP, just that obviously that happened before the fiancee bothered faking one, which makes sense. Maybe my thoughts are colored by how my doctor’s office works but they’ve not been seeing anyone for anything not urgent for a month now. But there’s an online web portal where you can email them (it’s not new to the pandemic. That’s been there several years). So if I needed a note or something, I’d log into the portal, click “send an email”, pick my doctor from the dropdown (which only shows doctors I’ve ever seen) and then write up my question. Then they’d reply the same way. So if the fiancee is handling all the stuff – which the letter didn’t say explicitly but is the only thing that makes this make any sense – fiancee could’ve done the initial emailing, been the one who saw the response, forged up her forgery, and OP’s in the dark. It still sounds ridiculous, and whether that’s what went down or not HR probably would’ve reacted the same way, but if I’m giving the OP benefit of the doubt, I can see this happening pretty easily if the relationship is one where the fiancee handles everything.

            1. Hi Mom!*

              Even if the fiancée is the one who handled the request through the portal and forged the doctor’s note, I hope that OP sees this as a red flag in their relationship.

        5. DyneinWalking*

          I’m fairly certain that GammaGirl meant that OP might be trying out this lie on Alison BEFORE using it on the employer, to see if there is any chance it might work. As in, OP might not have yet told employer this lie.

          1. valentine*

            OP might not have yet told employer this lie.
            They told the employer. It’s in the letter.

            1. TimeCat*

              And the employer didn’t buy it, because it’s crazy.

              And yes, you could get denied unemployment benefits.

            2. DyneinWalking*

              They can state a fake scenario in the letter. I know we are supposed to believe the LW, but I wanted to clarify because you didn’t seem to understand what “road-testing” means in GammaGirl’s post. And, as I said, I’m fairly certain what she meant was “the scenario as stated in the letter might not have happened (yet), OP might be trying out the excuse of ‘my fiance did it’ before actually handing in a forged doctor’s note”. The idea being that it’s a lot less risky to state a fake scenario to an advice columnist than to actually follow through on your idea with your employer right away… so someone might write a letter with a scenario that hasn’t yet happened, see how people respond to the excuse they’d like to use, and base their actual actions on the feedback.

              No telling if that’s really the case here, of course.

              1. valentine*

                If you’re right about what GammaGirl means, this is extra bizarre because OP1 would be lying about being fired and that reduces anyone’s ability to help.

                1. DyneinWalking*

                  Eh, the advice is still helpful. In that case, the question might be reworded as “if I handed in a forged doctor’s note, and my employer fired me for that, could that be undone if I said it was my fiancee who did the forgery?” Except when you see it worded like that… it is clear that the person asking the question is far from innocent! Condemnation in the comments would be a certainty. Framing it as a fake scenario helps with that – there’s no telling if the scenario is true or not. Accordingly, the commenters are suspicious and weirded out, but largely base their advice on the assumption that things DID happen as stated, and that OP had no idea about their fiancee’s forgery.

                  The advice is the same and helpful regardless if the forgery and firing already happened, or if OP is considering a forgery and worrying about getting fired if found out. In the first case, the advice is “nope, nothing you can do about it, and how come your fiancee handles so much of your private life that you didn’t notice?”. In the letter case, the advice is “nope, nothing you COULD do about it if you got fired, and people would wonder how the hell you fiancee could do that without you noticing”.

                2. Avasarala*

                  It would be so that OP could find out what recourse they would have if the worst happened.
                  “Oh, even if I get fired, Alison says XYZ. Plan is a go”
                  Not saying that is what happened, of course…

              1. Mallory Janis Ian*

                I was wondering while reading the letter: Does OP believe this? Or is trying to persuade herself to believe it, or trying to persuade us to believe it? It read to me like they don’t really believe it, but wrote in as if the situation were actually plausible (i.e. suspended their own disbelief) to see what the answer might be if the situation were plausible?

        1. valentine*

          Or you can just trust your SO and be so relieved you don’t notice. Or maybe they didn’t read it until they were fired.

          1. kathlynn (Canada)*

            Or OP didn’t know that the doctor refused to provide her with a doctor’s note until she found out it was fake. Completely possible if the request and response were done via email. (I can communicate via email with my dentist. IDK about other medical professionals)

            1. RabbitRabbit*

              Yeah, I’m wondering if that wasn’t made clear in the telling – that OP hadn’t discovered the doctor’s original refusal until after the fact.

    2. Kate*

      The disappointing thing about people lying or trying to get something in situations like this is that even though they are rare they get attention and outrage which far out weighs the people in actual desperate situations. This makes their occurrence seem so much more common and it adversely affects people in actual need.

      1. valentine*

        OP1 is in actual need. They don’t want to harm themselves or their fiancée. I imagine they don’t have a second property they can isolate in.

        1. Kate*

          I’m not denying that, I’m saying that for people who are doing the right thing the people doing the wrong thing get the attention. And if you are suggesting I have a second home to isolate in therefore that I am wealthy and non sympathetic that is almost explicitly the type of response and negative comments I was referring to.

          1. BuildMeUp*

            I think valentine is referring to your “people in actual need” comment and saying that the OP is in need because they are in an at-risk group. I didn’t read their comment as having anything to do with your personal situation.

            1. valentine*

              valentine is referring to your “people in actual need” comment and saying that the OP is in need because they are in an at-risk group. I didn’t read their comment as having anything to do with your personal situation.
              Yes.

        2. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

          Are they really in actual need, though? Wouldn’t the doctor have agreed to write the note if there was a real medical need?

          1. Black Horse Dancing*

            Not necessarily. Plenty of doctors don’t care or simply don’t agree with patient or don’t believe patient. Or this doctor may simply have shrugged and said they don’t have the fiance as a patient and the OP can work.

          2. Diahann Carroll*

            Right. I’m shocked the cardiologist didn’t just write the damn note to be honest. It seems I can get my doctors to write just about anything for me as long as it’s not a lie.

            1. Bear Necessities*

              It depends. I had to go through three doctors to get someone who would sign my request for a temporary handicap placard when I needed a cane to walk. Some doctors out there really, really suck.

              1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

                I mentioned this above….but yeah, some of them do.

                I had a pulmonologist who would NOT write a note for me. I had been in the hospital for a week (COPD exacerbation…a really bad one) and work was requiring a note from my pulmonologist. My PCP wrote one (he was the one overseeing ALL my care) but they wouldn’t accept it. It HAD to be from my pulmonologist. Instead of writing the note, my pulmonologist fired me as a patient. My company was forced to accept the one from my PCP, but I was and still am pissed (almost four years later) that I was fired as a patient for requesting a RTW note from my freaking doctor. Yes, some doctors do really really REALLY suck.

                1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                  I’ve seen this happen with a variety of specialists. They’re so busy and over scheduled they’ll pitch a patient if they think you’re too demanding.

                  I’m sorry you’ve been a victim of one of these awful doctors.

                2. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

                  @The Man….thanks. I was losing $$$ every day I wasn’t working and his stupid game cost me two days wages. He spent more time arguing with me about writing a stupid letter than it would have taken him to write the letter.

                3. an actual doctor*

                  I commented above, but, yes, your pulmonologist is a posterior. The letter takes one minute, maybe two. An underling can even write it and the doc can just sign it. most EMRs (electronic medical records) can generate a pre-created one. Seriously. sigh.

                4. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

                  @an actual doctor….I’ve seen your comments, thank you so much for weighing in. I used to be the office manager for a doctor (10 years) and that is what I did. I’d write the letter and give it to him to sign. He either signed it (and I gave it to the patient and everyone was happy) or he refused at which time he made the call to the patient to tell them why he wouldn’t write the letter. Honestly, I didn’t think I was being unreasonable.

                  Fortunately, he isn’t my pulmo any longer. It looks like he closed his practice…..

            2. Quill*

              That can take years of knowing a doctor though. My family doctor (who I’ve seen for about 20 years) always asks what my mom (a career elementary school teacher) has diagnosed us with when we go in for, say, strep or pinkeye. His method is to confirm or deny those first, as it saves him some time.

              That said he was taken aback when my dad got shingles and my dad went in with “my daughter made me come in because she says this weird painful rash is shingles,” and the doctor went “That’s textbook shingles all right, but I thought she went to school for chemistry, how did she know?”

              (I listen to sawbones and their shingles episode had dropped literally that week…)

                1. Quill*

                  I would 100% have never picked up any other McElroy production if I hadn’t had Sawbones recommended to me…

                  Don’t drill a hole in your head!

            3. cmcinnyc*

              I wouldn’t assume that. This OP is a liar, in my judgement, and in their former employee’s judgement. How do we know the doc is, in fact, a cardiologist? Maybe it’s a GP being asked to pretend they’re a cardiologist and they’ve refused. Or OP is calling the person who did their routine EKG their cardiologist, and that person is saying, no I can’t write that note. Or OP doesn’t really have a serious heart condition at all. Once you’re caught in a lie, everything is open to question. And that’s why you fire the guy.

            4. KoiFeeder*

              This definitely isn’t OP’s case because they have hypertension whereas I have hypotension, but I probably couldn’t get a note from the cardiologist who diagnosed me with POTS because I was a kid at the time (and maybe he’s no longer practicing, I certainly wouldn’t know). I haven’t been seen by a cardiologist since, so I’d either have to make a new patient appointment with a cardiologist or hope that a note from my primary care was acceptable- and there’s been stories in the comments that indicate that many workplaces wouldn’t find that acceptable!

          3. Humble Schoolmarm*

            It probably depends on when exactly this was written. If this happened when we were all in the “watching warily” stage, I could see a not insignificant number of doctors feeling like they didn’t want to feed panic by writing too many notes. If it was in the past month, though, yes I’m surprised both that the doctor wouldn’t write and that the employer demanded it (a lot of the early public health directives in my area talked about dispensing with doctors notes to cut down demand on the system).

        3. Anonymous Canadian*

          Then they can put their adult pants on and make the decision that many others in these comments and across the world are making right now and decide that they cannot go in and accept the consequences that go with that.

          Before anyone says I’m heartless or that I don’t get it. I say this as someone who’s partner also has a heart issue and who is immune compromised herself and had to decide between going to the office or being laid off because my workplace was deemed essential and the only positions not laid off required being physically in the office.

          I appreciate their (completely valid) concerns but they need to take some responsibility here.

    3. Oh So Anon*

      Even if OP#1 isn’t lying about their involvement in the doctor’s note scam, I can’t imagine that most employers would know what to make of a work-able adult who has that little agency over their health care and work decision-making. It would raise so, so many questions as to whether they would default to using their fiancée to advocate on their behalf regarding other work-related issues. Thinking of all those letters that come in about spouses overstepping work boundaries…a prospective employer wouldn’t be off base to think that hiring OP would lead to those sorts of situations, and no one wants to deal with that.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Yup. Or, as someone upthread pointed out, if we take the OP at their word that they genuinely had no idea the letter was forged, then that means OP doesn’t pay attention to detail. If the company spotted this letter early on as a fake, then OP should have as well. Since OP didn’t, now they’re left wondering if OP’s going to be that careless when it comes to their actual work. Yeah, it’s better to cut your losses now at two weeks and find a replacement than to give this newer employee the benefit of the doubt and potentially have to let them go/replace them later.

      2. Scarlet2*

        Yeah, same here. A lot of things give me pause in the letter and I can’t think of any possible explanation where OP doesn’t come off pretty badly.
        The best option going forward for OP is probably to start looking for another job and keep this one off their resume. And I would add a recommendation to check out Captain awkward’s website, because I see a lot of bees in this relationship.

        1. Quill*

          Yeah, OP should definitely look into bee inspection services. Because even if this truly is a panicked one-off it can lay the groundwork for ongoing boundary problems or resentment of the fiancee.

        2. Alice's Rabbit*

          Yes to everything you just said. Better to have a long unemployed gap than to put this fiasco on a resume.
          And serious thought must be given as to the trustworthiness of the fiancee here, and what that means for the relationship.

      3. Sunflower*

        I completely agree. I understand that people have things other people handle but as soon as the OP accepted that her doctor sent her fiancee a note, that shot up all sorts of red flags. For your fiancee to receive such note, wouldn’t they have to be some sort of legally, designated power of attorney type situation? I’ve only seen this in situations where people are incapacitated and unable to really live on their own in any way(unless it’s life or death of course).

        I wouldn’t be surprised if the OP was fired because this is too big of an indicator for potential issues and the company just doesn’t want to be involved.

        1. Anono-nono-nonymous*

          They could share an “Important Documents and Bills” e-mail address. My husband and I do. We are trying to be as paperless as possible when it comes to bills and stuff. We have a single G-Mail address that we use for all of our important accounts. Mortgage, electric, cable, doctor’s, credit card, etc. She could have just said she had been the one to “login” to that account and forward the PDF to the LW’s personal or work e-mail. A forwarded e-mail is easy to fake, as easy as a doctor’s note surely, so he wouldn’t have any reason to doubt that.

          1. Anono-nono-nonymous*

            To be clear, LW is a liar and deserved to be let go. I was simply trying to give a reasonable situation to explain how the fiance might have seen the Doctor’s Note first and forwarded it to LW without that act itself raising any red flags for the LW.

    4. BRR*

      Yeah there’s a lack of accountability here that I think the LW needs to work on. Unless there’s something missing
      Issuing here, the LW isn’t guilt free.

    5. Batgirl*

      I think it’s much easier to get a significant other to believe a lie than an employer. Sometimes something is so “Oh they would never” that you genuinely don’t consider it.

  3. GammaGirl1908*

    LW4, The only thing that I think is odd about this is your belittling your chances and calling this dream silly. It’s not silly to dream. I mean, if not you, then who? It’s OK to do something that’s a long shot; if no one ever took a wild chance, then no one would ever win the lottery or be a Rhodes scholar or win a MacArthur genius grant, or whatever. It doesn’t happen for everyone, but it happens for someone who takes the chance (yes, I know that the recipient does not apply for the MacArthur grant. You know what I mean).

    “It’s a bit of a long shot, but I’ve always been very interested in their program,” is a perfectly acceptable response, especially for someone who is legitimately qualified.

    1. Heidi*

      I had a coworker who applied for astronaut training. They did not get selected, but everyone was like, “Wouldn’t it be cool if you went to space?” and not at all dismissive about it even though we knew it was a long shot. I think this is the type of opportunity people are understanding about even if the chance of getting it is small.

      1. Bee*

        Yeah, I can only imagine that people who are already willing to say nice things about you on the record would respond to this news with, “Oh that’s so cool!! Good luck!”

    2. Elemeno P.*

      This. I applied for a very competitive scholarship and my references were SO thrilled for me and very positive about my chances. Nobody thought it was silly!

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        Same! I applied to one of the top 5 schools in the country US for my field. The teachers writing my recommendation letters were nothing but encouraging and excited for me. And yes, I got in. If you apply, you might succeed, you might not. But if you don’t apply, you automatically fail.

    3. Venus*

      I would also expect that NASA wouldn’t check references until at least the first round, as they won’t want to check 12,000 of them. So if LW gets a refusal letter (I know someone who got one, at the time they were the gold standard for rejection letters as they were so nice about it) then nothing needs to be said to anyone, and if LW makes it into the first round then they can let their references know with much more confidence.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        This is how I approached it when I applied to the Astronaut program years ago (the odds were about the same, 10,000+ applicants for a handful of spots). Although I was reasonably confident that my references would support me as they had been references for other applications, I didn’t ask them explicitly to be references for this because I figured it was likely not going to matter if I never got to the reference stage. I did get a nice rejection letter that I still have somewhere. :-)

        Incidentally, the handful of times I’ve ever mentioned that I applied, people have seemed impressed and thought it was pretty cool that I actually went through with the application. I’ve met a few other people who’ve gone for it and one or two that made it through the initial downselect. I’ve also met maybe a dozen astronauts in my career as well and while they’re generally amazing people, they also don’t make it seem impossible to achieve. You never know. Good luck!

    4. Goliath Corp.*

      Honestly, I’ve been more embarrassed about asking for a reference for a job that is actually *below* my qualifications. (Stressed about job security and few available options.) I think your references would be happy to help you shoot for something so great!

  4. Stephen!*

    For an astronaut, I think saying “It’s a long shot, but you don’t know until you try!” conveys both optimism and pragmatism. That’s what I usually say about stretch jobs (which I’ve mostly not gotten! C’est la vie).

        1. LunaLena*

          Even if it is the Kobayashi Maru, you have a chance! Kirk managed to beat it (albeit by cheating), and it was ruled acceptable since the program cheats as well. (source: the Star Trek novel Kobayashi Maru, which details how Kirk, Scotty, Sulu, and Chekov did on the simulation)

    1. Josto*

      And if LW isn’t selected, he/she has proven to be seriously ambitious (not just dreaming). I would imagine a company wanting to take care of someone with that level ambition.

      1. LeahS*

        Yes! Op, the fact that you’re applying alone says some really cool things about you. Be proud of it! I think you’re awesome and don’t even know you.

    2. Rollergirl09*

      I keep thinking of punny ways to convey what you’re doing.

      Dear Susan,

      Recently I was made aware of an out of this world job opportunity. It is in a highly competitive field and is likely light years out of my reach, but I am going to shoot for the moon and go for it.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          All the comments for LW4 make my nerdy heart happy. Especially the puns and sci-fi references.

          1. Alice's Rabbit*

            Shoot for the moon! If you miss, you’ll still land among the stars… because you won’t have the moon’s gravity to slingshot you back toward Earth.

      1. EPLawyer*

        I would love to receive that notice from someone.

        Honestly if I were one of OP’s references I would be thrilled for them. I would not think it insane to go for it.

        Best of luck to you OP.

        1. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

          I applied to be an astronaut when Canada was hiring two astronauts. Over 4000 applied and David Saint-Jaques and Jeremy Hanson were selected.
          There was a lengthy application process followed by an online test, so I never needed to find references. Depending on NASA’s process you might be in the same boat (though I hope you get farther than I did).

    3. MediQueen*

      Agree with this! Also, OP – I imagine you would hear from NASA about next steps in the application process before they’d be contacting references, so if you wanted to wait a bit you probably could? Of course I could totally be off base (in outer space?), but if not, you could approach your references you could let them know that you’ve moved past the first round into the Mars walk simulation (that must be the second step?). I’m thrilled for you and I’m sure your references will be too! Good luck :)

    1. Mockingjay*

      I just want to say Letter #4 is one of the coolest things I’ve read in weeks.

      I would be tickled pink to be a reference for someone applying to NASA’s astronaut corps. Go for it! Be an astronaut! Aim for the stars! I really hope you get in!

    2. Judy Seagram*

      OP 4, I’m from the suburb of Houston next to the Johnson Space Center. There, it’s so completely normal to think of “astronaut” as a valid job, that I’ve actually had to counsel friends who were wildly disappointed at NOT becoming astronauts! Like, if your parents’ friends are astronauts, and the kid down the street became an astronaut, and then you didn’t get in, then what’s wrong with you?

      Point being, it’s all a matter of perspective.

      It’s obviously super highly competitive, but it IS a normal job for some people! Not silly or overreaching at all! Best of luck to you, and enjoy the ride, no matter where it might take you.

    3. AnotherFrustratedJobSeeker*

      OP #4: My college commencement speech was given by an astronaut; it was a great speech that has stayed with me. I recall him telling the story about how he applied MANY times before finally getting accepted and how embarrassed he was to keep asking his references. So, 1) prep your references and 2) Let them know you might need them again, because not getting selected this time doesn’t mean you can’t apply in future. Good luck!

      Also, his message for how to become an astronaut? Be the very best at what you do.

  5. valentine*

    I think OP2 wants a food stipend, not a delivery, and it makes sense to ask, unless they know they work for people who would respond “More?!” like in Oliver Twist.

    1. Pennyworth*

      If her employer has been adversely affected by the coronavirus they might be looking for way to keep expenses down, and I’ve seen comments on the free-for-alls about the cost savings in WFH – but I guess it is worth asking. The worst her employer can do is say ‘No’.

        1. valentine*

          the OP already did ask
          I missed that, but I think it matters whether they mentioned what other companies are doing and/or merely said, “What do we have to offer people?”, versus specifying they would like to mitigate the rise in food costs, especially when some are already paying more for Internet service.

          1. JamieS*

            If OP or thekr co-workers have a rise in cost directly related to performing work, such as higher internet cost, then they should be approaching their employer about covering that since it’s a legitimate business expense the business should cover. Food in the office is more of a bonus perk than part of compensation and/or something the employer should be expected to provide outside the office.

        2. Anon Anon*

          Personally, I think the bigger issue is that people are being asked to work from home and potentially don’t have the resources or equipment to accomplish that task. Where I work we have an established WFH policy, where it’s bring your own equipment, so almost everyone had the equipment in place. However, if we didn’t have that policy in place already, I know I’d out purchasing a bunch of equipment to just do my day-to-day job.

          1. LitJess*

            This letter was so vaguely written I couldn’t tell if people at the company were not being paid enough to provide for meals/didn’t have adequate resources to WFH. OR is OP was aware that these were issues at other companies, and was trying to temper a frankly kind of tonedeaf ask by at least acknowledging that other people have it hard. Somewhere else.

            I tend to think a company that could afford to feed employees like this is probably a tech company, paying regular staff fairly well, but I’ll be happy if OP can clarify the actual WFH conditions from their specific company.

            1. matcha123*

              This was my read, too. That because somewhere, out there, there are people suffering from food instability and who don’t have reliable internet and so on… that OP’s company, by sending WfH employees food and more, is somehow alleviating this issue? Or righting some wrong in the world?
              It seems strange that the OP is suggesting that employees were made to do WfH without having their ability to do so ensured in the first place.

      1. Tate Can't Wait*

        As someone who’s asked unreasonable questions on a regular basis, I strongly resist the idea of “the worst they can do is say no.” When someone asks an unreasonable question, meaning something they’re not entitled to, but they’re really just trying to get away with whatever they can – they’re not only told no but they’re thought of differently afterward. Don’t impact your personal reputation by pushing for things you shouldn’t have.

        1. Mediamaven*

          I completely agree. I had an employee ask me for a $50,ooo raise one time. Yes, you heard me right. I said uh, no. She said, well, no harm in asking. Actually yes, there was a lot of harm in asking a very tone deaf, entitled question such as that. If someone was hassling me to send them meals at home right now I would be irate when we’re all trying not to terminate people.

    2. Massmatt*

      With everything everyone is dealing with and many millions of people out of work it seems really petty to complain about “losing” the company perk of free snacks and meals. People are dying, and this LW is focused on no free pizza? LW needs to get some perspective.

      1. Willis*

        Yeah…I don’t think it’s reasonable for the company to be reimbursing people for daily meals (let alone 3 meals plus snacks). It would seem like a pretty tone deaf request to me. It would be better to ask for the other stuff OP mentioned (office equipment/supply reimbursement or internet stipend) or maybe an occasional gift card IF the company is looking for ways to boost morale. But if OP already asked about this and was told no, pushing it is going to look weird.

        1. MistOrMister*

          I would assume that bringing food into the office would conceivably be cheaper than giving everyone a stipend to cover however many meals a day. Certainly it must still be quite expensive, but if you’re getting large amounts of food regularly, I would think you’d have some sort of possible corporate discount. Plus where an individual order of pasta might be $15, a big tray might cost $40 and can feed enough people that the cost per person is lower. I just really can’t see being given a food stipend. Not unless that is specfically listed as part of your compensation. I could see giving a stipend to say a nanny or someone else where it’s understood their meals are taken care of while they work.

      2. Anonymity*

        I agree. Personally I’d be embarrassed to ask in the first place. My office provides tons of food but I’d never think to ask that it be provided for me at home. It’s an OFFICE perk.

        1. valentine*

          It’s an OFFICE perk.
          Some of them were taking it home, so, like dogs in the office or anything else that’s a savings, they now view it as SOP, not a perk, and they’ve allocated the would-be food money elsewhere.

          1. LF*

            Agreed. My company also provides three meals a day and free snacks at the office. I feel really lucky to have that perk, and although I will sometimes complain in private to my partner about how I miss it, I certainly don’t feel entitled to a stipend to make up for it in these WFH times. I understand my employer being more budget-conscious at this time (even though my industry is not directly affected, as Alison said, there is a lot of uncertainty). I also know my employer is still covering the wages of contractors who can no longer go into work and perform their normal job duties, which I think is really great and I’m glad my employer is prioritizing that over things like giving everyone stipends for food.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              This. The snack budget is going to equal a few salaries.

              And as this stuff is normally provided so that salaried workers don’t bother leaving and just stay at work, I’d dubious that these are hourly workers at minimum wage for whom “you don’t have to buy food M-F” made up for that. It’s like complaining that the company gym is closed so you can’t swim in the mornings anymore.

              1. TimeCat*

                My employer normally has a generous overtime and bonus structure. That’s cut now, but if you spread that over our whole org, it may save the jobs of 100+ people.

              2. Annony*

                Yep. Almost every company needs to save money right now because of the unprecedented uncertainty. I can see how not having the food perk feels like a salary cut, but it is very reasonable for the company not to offer something comparable for WFH. It is much cheaper to buy in bulk and put food in a central location that to buy individually and pay for delivery for everyone.

              3. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

                Those perks add up fast. My Fortune 100 provides free coffee/tea in only a few offices and the monthly bill was staggering.

        2. KayDeeAye*

          I agree with the “it’s an office perk” sentiment – because that’s what it is: Something the company offers to people in the office.

          Besides, does the company deserve a little money from its employees because they no longer have to put miles on their cars to drive into the office? Of course not. That would be silly. Honestly the…indignation the OP is displaying here seems silly and disproportionate.

          Now, if people had to make changes to their home wifi or whatever so that it more suitable for work, that is a legitimate complaint, and I’d suggest the OP concentrate on that.

          1. Quill*

            Off topic, but thanks for reminding me that I should call my insurance, because I probably deserve a little rebate for the fact that I’m now driving my car less than 15 miles per week.

            1. Phony Genius*

              Most major companies are issuing partial rebates or discounts on renewals. You don’t even have to ask.

              1. Quill*

                State farm still has my first name misspelled on every one of my bills and I’ve given up trying to get that corrected.

                Thanks for the info, but I’m gonna call. :)

            2. cacwgrl*

              I guess this is a thing if you live in California. I can’t figure out how it’s going to work or if I’ve already been impacted anyway. Last week I received a notice that my beater truck, which gets MAYBE 100 miles a month to it, was being reduced in policy cost by like $6. Maybe that’s my COVID savings? IDK and haven’t bothered to call, which is 100% on me.

        3. CatLadyInTraining*

          Me too! And free food, especially frequent free food, is definitely a perk! If people are saving money by not buying food and relying on the office food for their meals, that is their choice. Most companies that provide free food, generally pay their employees well. Companies that pay their employees poorly, generally don’t seem to provide this perk, at least not as a daily thing!

      3. Batgirl*

        So much depends on context. Are they well paid and the extra food has been saving them money for years? Well, now’s the time to pay for your own groceries. Or are they poorly paid and having it glossed over by faux largesse in the form of the odd bacon sandwich? That’s a different calculus, as it’s not like the employees can cancel a few faffy subscriptions or use the cash for restaurant spending to cover the groceries. However this is the worst time in the world to hit up a company for money even if looking at the household budget is making everyone blanch.

        1. Bree*

          I agree a lot of this is context. If salaries are so low that some staff truly relied on the food, a stipend becomes more reasonable (though not at three meals a day level). It also matters how hard hit the company has been or will be hit by all this.

          Also, it’s not clear to me from the letter If the LW previously brought up a food stipend suggestion specifically, or just asked broadly about supports during this time and was referred to the EAP. If the former, it might be possible to find another opening to bring it up – IF it’s truly more than a nice to have perk and really part of the compensation staff rely on.

          1. Mama Bear*

            It’s a jolt to the system, to be sure, to have to pony up more for this or that now that you are home. But what people need to always remember is that unofficial perks like this come and go. At any time. I had a job where we had a beverage machine (pre-Keurigs). As belts tightened, the machine went away. It was a nice to have, but not mandatory.

            Maybe the company really needs to use that money on payroll or healthcare instead. It’s not clear. It’s fine to be worried and some people may honestly have relied on it a lot and are struggling. If it’s been asked and answered, then asking again isn’t going to help. If OP wants to help the team, what does that realistically look like? Flex hours? Or maybe if a particular staffer is struggling with food and OP thinks the EAP is useless, OP can help them find local resources. I think sometimes it is easier to fixate on one thing that we feel like we can control than the big picture which is out of our control.

        2. Roscoe*

          “well paid” is a very relative term. If you are single, living with a roommate, and fairly young, what is well paid isn’t the same as being married with kids and having a mortgage, even if they are doing the same work.
          While I get your overall point, most likely there is a pretty big range there. But, the overall point is this is a perk, not a benefit like insurance. If they have been saving money by having their meals at work, good for them. But its one of those things that, IMO, shouldn’t be looked at as an entitlement.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            No, I don’t think it is. Your lifestyle decisions don’t determine if you’re well paid. Being paid market value for your work and experience do. I might make $150,000 and not be well paid if my peers in the company all make $175,000+. In relation to whether that’s enough to cover my household expenses if I add an extra $1000/mo in groceries, though, is a different discussion, but I don’t think it’s the employer’s concern unless they are paying at the absolute bottom of the wage scale.

            1. Batgirl*

              I think the reason I agree with you is because if they aren’t being paid market value, they could have left and gone to company B. However, a food top up might belay that: “I make do, its convenient as well as helping me make going rate”. However I think even then it’s a massively poor decision because a perk can be withdrawn at any time.

              1. Jennifer Strange*

                While I agree, I think “life circumstances” is a better way of putting it than “life choices” as there are things (disabilities, losing a spouse/partner, etc.) that are not choices.

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Underpaid compared to the rest of the industry would be a good comparison point for me. If the competitor pays $XX,000/year and they pay $XX – 10 for the same position and make up the rest in free food, then it’s not a great look for them now.

          3. Batgirl*

            Oh I agree with you, in no way is it an entitlement. They just cant expect this. The only difference it makes is in deciding whether or not to gladly put your hand in your pocket while thinking about all the previous money you’ve laid up or whether to do so mutteringly while planning a job hunt.

          4. Clisby*

            Whether you are “well paid” has nothing to do with whether you’re married, have kids, have a mortgage, have to pay for childcare. It’s whether you’re being paid at the market rate.

            1. Lady Heather*

              Being market rate isn’t even a guarantee to be well paid – teachers and nurses come to mind.

          5. CatLadyInTraining*

            Not to sounds smug, but if they’ve been saving money by having their meals at work, then surely they would have money now to buy their own food while they work from home??

          6. matcha123*

            Disagree with your first paragraph. I was underpaid and denied a raise at a former job because I was single with no kids. The fact that I was paying off university loans in addition to taking care of the living expenses of my parent in a different country didn’t matter. You don’t get to pay someone less because they don’t have kids or live with roommates.

      4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        It might be petty, or, per the past paragraph of Alison’s response, it might be a legitimate concern. We have a large employer in our area that is infamous for having people work long hours for low (salary) pay and then “making up for it” with perks like “free” food, on-site slides (yes, two slides that both go from the second floor to the first, not making this up). If OP’s employer had been underpaying people and explaining it to them with “but free food”, then it would now behoove them to make up that difference.

        1. Max's Manager*

          Exactly. My company provides everything that OP’s does, but we also already had a large contingent of remote employees who certainly were not receiving all those edible perks. What about them? Nothing! They don’t work in the office.

          1. Asha*

            This kind of reminds me of when I was going to take my team out for breakfast for an appreciation day. I had a staff member who had PTO scheduled that day. We couldn’t change the day because we are a large team and just had to pick a day that worked for the greatest number of people. That staff member then asked for a gift card to the breakfast place since she missed the outing! LOL!

            1. Mama Bear*

              I missed a few spontaneous group lunches due to my schedule and I never asked for a gift card or whatever. Wow. Sometimes you just miss out. She chose PTO over the event.

      5. Liz*

        I agree. While my company doesn’t provide free food as a rule, on a regular basis, if they did, I’d honestly just be happy I still HAVE a job. Which I do; i’m fortunate i can work from home, and my company isn’t really affected by the economy, at least not directly, and not in a big way. So I am very grateful and fortunate. Not only that, but management has been wonderful about making sure everyone is “ok”, checking in, letting us know its ok to have down time, and that just becuase we’re home we don’t need to be, or shouldn’t be working 15 hour days.

      6. OhGee*

        Somebody at my SO’s company asked for a stipend to make up for the loss of unlimited free coffee in the office. The company laid off 50% of the workforce (over 1,000 people) two weeks later. Which is to say, I think people sometime have no idea how their company is being affected by a crisis.

        1. Threeve*

          Or if the person that they’re discussing the desired perk with has a family member who has been laid off, this would strike a super-raw nerve, even if their own job is in no danger. It could burn quite a lot of goodwill, possibly permanently.

        2. CatLadyInTraining*

          Wow! That’s really ignorant and out of touch to ask for something like that. Free coffee believe it or not, is a luxury. It is NOT a necessity! Some people have lost their jobs and can’t pay their rent or mortgage…I doubt they’re worried about free office coffee!

      7. High School Teacher*

        I agree with you. I’m a teacher and lunch is provided for us so now we no longer get lunch, obviously, since we are working from home. But to be honest it never even crossed my mind to ask for them to provide a stipend or food. That seems like asking for a lot in my opinion.

    3. MK*

      A stipend is actually more tonedeafmto ask for. To begin with, the company is almost certainly buying things in bulk and getting discounts for catering; the budget devided by employee would probably be enough for coffee and a muffin, and is unlikely all their meals.

      As others said, most companies are retrenching right now, so this is unlikely to fly. The OP would be better advised trying to get her company to cover any wfh-related expenses the employees might be burdened with than fight for this perk.

      Also… it’s a perk. A discretionary extra, not part of your compensation. By definition, they can be taken away at any time.

      1. LJay*

        Yeah. This is definitely part of the reason I would rather have more money in my salary than perks like food or game tables at the office or gym memberships, etc. It’s a lot easier to make a discretionary perk disappear than part of your salary.

        And it’s easier to carry over comparisons company to company. It’s a lot easier to say “I was making X in that role and I would expect to make Y in this role,” than it is to say, “Well I was previously making W, but we also had free catered food and coffee and nightly taxi rides home as part of our compensation package which I would value at B so I would expect to make Y in this role.”

      2. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

        One of the perks of my job is a free meal and leftover food to take home if there any left at the end of the day. However, that’s only for the days that I go into work. I can’t go to my workplace on my days off and expect a free meal, it doesn’t work that way. The OP is working from home now and that means no more office meals.

      3. CatLadyInTraining*

        Exactly! My company does provide food on certain special occasions, but they buy it in the cheapest way possible!

    4. Feline*

      From the employer’s perspective, I don’t think asking for a food stipend makes sense. Their motive, as Allison observes, is to feed you at the office. But this isn’t to raise morale. It’s to maximize butt-in-seat time. It encourages you to work and not run out for a bite to eat. Paying a food stipend now would not keep you working more hours. You would still have to prepare your food, which would likely take more of your time away from tasks. Unless the stipend is earmarked for delivery of prepared food, it wouldn’t serve the same purpose, and that seems like a somewhat extravagant ask. If I was in your position, I would hesitate to use political capital asking for it.

      1. Holy Moley*

        +1 on this. It’s not for morale but to maximize your efficiency at work. The logistics of doing this for people WFH during a pandemic makes this ask feel tone deaf to me. Yes you will have to pay more money for food but with the economy being so uncertain I dont think its really realistic to request.

      2. Junior Assistant Peon*

        I worked for two different companies that propped up money-losing onsite cafeterias, and that was exactly the idea – I’d usually be back to work in 30 minutes at those jobs. Now I can spend that much time running out to pick up takeout before I even start eating it.

        1. JustaTech*

          Exactly. My SO works for a Big Tech that does in-office meals, 3 meals a day, 5 days a week and they’re not doing anything like a food stipend. I think one person asked if they could have delivery (to still be able to use the advantage of scale to keep the price down) and the answer from peers was a resounding “no!”

    5. cheeseburger*

      On mimosas- OP, how many degrees of reporting away are you from your CEO? If you are C-suite or upper management, I say go for it. If you are junior, look at upper management (esp females-
      I assume you are female BC you are under a hair dryer but apologies if that’s not the case!). Are they also using silly photos? If yes- great! If not, I’d use caution.

    6. vampire physicist*

      I agree that this seems really out of touch with the current realities (many people being laid off and furloughed, etc) but I’d also want to know the context of food insecurity. Do you mean “this is a budgetary change for me but I can do it without serious loss, and I’m referring to food insecurity in the sense that everyone’s panicking and some things are sold out at the grocery store” or genuine “I don’t have enough money for food.” If it’s the former…kind of even more out of touch. I get it – when I switched from an office with free coffee to a job where that wasn’t offered, it definitely did things to my budget – but you’re still employed and making enough to live on and we all need to acknowledge there will be some sacrifices made at this time. If it’s the latter, your company wasn’t paying you enough and that is worth bringing up.

      1. boo bot*

        Yes to knowing context; the flip side is that if it really is causing food insecurity, I don’t think it is tone deaf to raise the issue – it doesn’t count as an “office perk” if people need it to survive. I don’t think that’s implausible – I can see a company deciding, hey, it’s cheaper to run our own free meal program than to pay people enough to buy their own food! (I don’t know if there are cases where it would be – I’d imagine it depends on the location and size of the company, among other things).

        If that were the case here, I think they really should keep the meal program running in some form – maybe continue buying food at the bulk rates they presumably get and do a drive-through food bank.

        1. LJay*

          Yeah, I feel like there is a huge difference between whether this is like a tech company where catered food is one of the perks along with game rooms and weekly happy hours at work, etc and everyone is otherwise well-compensated (which is what I was initially imagining) vs a non-profit that barely pays their staff enough to get by but provides food so their staff at least has enough to eat. (I’m thinking like something equivalent to AmeriCorps City Year where you’re paid at the poverty line pretty much). I have a lot more empathy for someone in the latter situation wondering what to do about missing their free meals than the former.

          1. boo bot*

            I don’t think it’s implausible – LJay gave an example, and someone else above said there’s an employer in their town that does pretty much exactly this; Walmart, Amazon, and McDonald’s have all caught heat for paying their workers so poorly that large numbers of them qualify for SNAP benefits. People have been comparing this to free coffee and pool tables, but the OP said that missing out on the cafeteria was, “a huge and new financial burden for many,” and I think it’s worth taking that seriously as a possibility (which Alison’s answer did).

            I have no idea whether that’s the case, but that’s why more context would be helpful!

      2. CatLadyInTraining*

        True! An office I worked at temporarily stopped giving out coffee and someone complained that now they had to pay an arm and a leg for Starbucks! Oh cry me a river, you don’t need to go to Starbucks, make coffee at home! Yeah, it did affect my budget to start buying coffee, but buying coffee at the grocery store is cheaper then going to Starbucks everyday!

    7. Amy*

      I work for a good company in a nice office with lots of food perks, catered lunches, lots of Starbucks cappuccinos etc.

      And this feels so unbelievably tone-deaf. I truly hope we come out of this with our workforce fully intact. But we’ve already needed to take a temporary 20% pay cut and layoffs will likely start around July if things don’t improve. Revenue has cratered. Expenses are being cut to the bone. 401K matching has ceased. Half of us are home trying to also handle childcare during work hours. I can’t imagine bothering anyone about sandwiches right now.

      1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        Maybe it’s my background, but OP2’s letter reminds me of the dot.com boom. Companies were offering three catered meals a day, bring in the dog, free massage, etc. Then the tech market crashed and many companies pulled the perks (assuming they stayed in business). OMG, the whining from people who still had a salary (some of which were very well-compensated)!

    8. ECHM*

      Not sure what OP2’s commute was like, but could they put some of the money they are saving on gas/tokens/whatever toward food?

      1. baseballfan*

        This is what I was thinking. If this person was accustomed to driving to an office every day, paying for gas and parking, they are saving money by staying home. I estimate that I spend about $15 per day on gas and parking and that’s probably on the low side compared to other people because my company subsidizes the parking.

        Not to mention, most of us are also saving money on dry cleaning, office-appropriate clothing, and other items frequently necessary when you go to an office.

        1. CatLadyInTraining*

          And with malls, clubs, bars, movie theaters and other entertainment venues closed…we’re saving a lot of money as well. I also haven’t booked any trips either which is keeping money in my bank accounts. I have been getting a lot of takeout, just to support local businesses, but I still am only getting it twice a week at most…

    9. KimberlyR*

      I guess the only reason this would seem feasible is if this was part of OP2’s benefits package, rather than a perk. If part of the benefits package, along with the vacation/sick leave and other stuff, it was billed as 3 meals per day plus snacks! and OP2 and her coworkers financially calculated that in with their full compensation when taking the job, then OP2’s question makes more sense. I still agree that she already asked and received her answer, and shouldn’t push more on this particular thing. But it may be worth looking broadly at their whole compensation package and seeing if this is really the job for them (once things are less precarious, of course.) I do know of families who are unexpectedly feeding their children at home and feeling the pinch there, but thats generally because one or more of the parents aren’t working now or because they were already struggling financially due to low-paying jobs.

    10. Another Lawyer*

      I wonder if this changes if the employer paid for individual meals for employees, instead of just having food available in the office kitchen. For example, many law firms (though not mine) pay up to $30 or so for meals every day if you stay past 8pm (or a certain time). I don’t know if those firms are still paying to have food delivered to employees at home if they work late from home.

      1. Clisby*

        I’m not sure why they would – it seems to me the idea of providing food at the office is because people can’t just produce meals at the office. At home, they can.

      2. CatLadyInTraining*

        Why would they if the employee is working late from home and probably has food at home and can prepare a meal at home…

    11. Ominous Adversary*

      OP2 isn’t a starving orphan trapped in a grim Victorian workhouse. She’s employed at a company that provides its employees with the office perk of catered meals and round the clock snacks, and because they aren’t in the office with the free food anymore, she thinks the company should be sending everybody a check for groceries. I’m not sure what the galaxy-brain version of “tone deaf and entitled” is, but that letter is it.

      The mention of EAP sounds like the OP tried to float the idea of food insecurity and financial struggle, and was told that employees who were genuinely suffering a financial hardship due to working from home should call the EAP for help. Continuing to ask for money because she has to actually feed herself when she’s at home is not going to do her career any favors.

  6. Kittymommy*

    Freakin A, LW4, this is amazing!! Truthfully, if I applied to be an astronaut I would tell every single person I knew. I would stop people in the store, social distancing be damned. I would be shocked if your references aren’t excited/elated/ecstatic to be a reference, especially for something like this and for someone that they think highly of (which I’m going to assume is a given as you have them as a reference). Good for you, and good luck to you!! We need updates!

    1. Gaia*

      Seriously. I would be so excited to be asked to be a reference for a NASA Astronaut applicant, it wouldn’t even cross my mind whether or not they are even remotely qualified in my opinion.

      And I would tell EVERYONE if I actually got to be a reference. It would be likely tagline.

      Good luck, I hope you make it!

    2. Daisy*

      Exactly! To me, just being qualified enough to apply is amazing. When you think of how many Americans would love to do it, 12000 seems like a small number!

      I love this letter. Good luck OP4!

      1. rudster*

        Well, the 3.3% fatality rate (of people who have been in earth orbit) probably scares a lot of people away.

          1. Astro Not*

            That’s total. 19 people in 5 separate incidents. 14 of them in just 2 (Columbia and Challenger). None since Columbia.

          2. TimeCat*

            For a while there more astronauts had died in plane crashes (they flew themselves around in jets a lot) than had died in spacecraft related incidents.

      2. Grits McGee*

        The thought of being surrounded by infinite expanses black open space terrifies me, so… more astronauting for everyone else I guess.

      3. TimeCat*

        The base requirements actually aren’t that high (Master’s degree in STEM but they will take some equivalency or test pilots). They don’t have a whole lot of specifics because they want a wide range in the candidate pool.

        But they take less than one in one thousand.

        1. Bee*

          One of the women currently in space is a marine biologist, even! It doesn’t have to be space- or engineering-related STEM. My ten-year-old self is over the freaking moon at the idea of a marine-biologist-slash-astronaut existing. (And she went to my alma mater!)

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            Now, of course, I’m thinking of similarities. Does she do deep dives–is one of those suits similar to an EVA suit? The amount of care one needs to take with SCUBA suits and with EVA suits might be on a par; checking for flaws, making sure each piece of gear works and is hooked on where it should be, etc.

      4. TimeCat*

        I dunno. I am a big fan of the space program since I was a kid but I’d never want to be an astronaut. When I was a kid I wanted to be Gene Kranz. I do something different now because my interests diverged in college.

        I have a cousin who works for JPL and that’s pretty awesome. She works on probes sent to asteroids.

  7. Diahann Carroll*

    Well, my cardiologist would not give me a recommendation, so my fiancee created a fake doctor’s note with my medical diagnosis and emailed it to me as a PDF, which I sent to HR, not knowing it was falsified.

    OP – if your cardiologist wouldn’t give you a recommendation to work from home in person when you asked, didn’t you think it was odd they suddenly emailed one to your fiancée? You didn’t circle back around and ask the doctor why the change of heart? That’s the part of the story where it falls apart and is probably why your company fired you – it literally makes no sense. Unfortunately, you won’t be getting that job back, but maybe you can send them an email apologizing for the note (and don’t blame your fiancée – it was your responsibility to double check with your doctor that this note was valid), explain that you were afraid to keep physically coming into work given your medical issues even if your doctor wasn’t particularly concerned, and ask that they only confirm dates of employment if you end up ever needing them for a reference and that they not contest your unemployment claim (should you be eligible to file one). They may delete the email and never agree to any of it, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

    I’m sorry you lost your job in this climate, OP. Next time, do your own due diligence in verifying documentation before ever giving it out to an employer.

    1. Treebeardette*

      When I read the letter, I was under the impression that she didn’t know the doctor said no until HR contacted her. It’s not uncommon to expect your spouse to tell the truth.

      She shouldn’t keep contacting the employer though.

      1. Serena*

        How would the OP not know the doctor said no….the doctor would have said no directly to the OP…..

        1. On a pale mouse*

          I read it as fiancee emailed request to doctor, doctor said no, fiancee forged note.

          1. Archaeopteryx*

            Most medical providers won’t communicate directly with the patient’s spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, etc. – even if they are the emergency contact. Unless it’s a case where the patient is a minor and you’re talking to a parent, or where the patient is either disabled or so sick that they are in capable of communicating on their own, even for people you were given permission to discuss health matters with, the medical office isn’t going to put up with talking to anyone else on the patient’s behalf. It’s the patient’s own responsibility to communicate directly with their own doctor. Kind of the same way that employers won’t talk to and employees spouse because it’s the employees responsibility to do that communication. Except with a whole bunch of sticky HIPAA implications as well..

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              I wouldn’t say “most” – my doctors all have forms where I can designate a third party as a representative to receive updates on my medical treatments, and they absolutely will contact said person if I’m unavailable.

              1. MassMatt*

                I have never seen a standard form (as in, handed out at the Dr’s office) designating a third party medical proxy. Are you referring to an “in case of emergency contact”? That is not at all the same thing.

                If I wanted someone else to get my test results or Dr’s note excusing me from work etc I would expect to have to provide a boatload of documentation, and expect many providers to be very leery of doing so, even then, for fear of liability, unless I were incapacitated.

                1. Diahann Carroll*

                  No, I’m talking about a form that authorizes the release of medical information to a third party (it could be another medical provider, an insurance company, a parent, a spouse, etc.).

                2. fposte*

                  Whereas I get all of those through an online patient portal, and it would be easy for me to give a partner login info to access it; if they used my computer they probably wouldn’t even need to do 2FA. I’m wondering if the OP has something similar and the fiancee claimed the letter was from the portal.

                3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                  My doctors forms always include a place you allow them to release information to a third party. It’s by the area that agrees they can call you and leave messages.

                  I’ve always listed my parents, brother and partner on mine.

                4. JB (not in Houston)*

                  I see five different doctors for different issues, and every one of them has a form for their patients to designate other people the doctor’s office can communicate with about my medical information. Every single one of them. It’s incredibly common. Plus, as fposte said, it’s also very common to have a patient portal, so someone only needs your login information to communicate with the doctor’s office for you.

                5. Blueberry*

                  There are standard forms for designating medical proxies. I used to give them out and file them.

              2. Courageous cat*

                Occam’s razor though. Some of y’all are stretching a good bit and I don’t think it’s necessary when it’s a lot more likely OP asked their doctor and got told no.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        I was trying to get a doctor’s recommendation for PTO. I was going the legit route — no deception or misleading information.

        The fact that OP uses the word “I” in the letter made it sound like OP was the one who reached out to the doctor initially, not the fiancée, and then when OP didn’t get the requested note, fiancée took it in her hands to forge one. But even if she was the one who had been dealing with the doctor from the beginning, everything I said still stands – it’s OP’s responsibility to confirm that all medical documentation they present to an employer asking for paid time off is legit. It’s OP’s employment that was at stake here, not the fiancée’s, and OP shouldn’t expect the company to just let the forgery slide.

        1. Treebeardette*

          It’s not unrealistic to believe a significant other. I’m not saying that she should not be fired, but everyone is going after her with pitch forks when we need to take her word. There’s too much speculation .

          1. TypityTypeType*

            Agreed. LW presumably trusted fiancee, and may also have had the kind of lapse in judgment that comes with simple relief. When somebody is (apparently) handed something they really want, their response is likely to be “Yay!” not “I’d better look into this further.”

            LW, sorry this happened to you.

          2. LitJess*

            Okay, but the idea that “the fiance made the first contact with the cardiologist” is also complete speculation and not directly supported in the letter either.

            All we know for certain is at best, OP needs to take a hard look at their ability to take responsibility for their actions and decisions, and hopefully learn from this situation.

            Also, just leave this company off the resume.

          3. Avasarala*

            Even if fiancee logged into the portal and asked for the note, was told no, forged it, sent it to OP, OP sent it to HR–

            That still means that OP submitted a forged doctor’s note. OP didn’t notice it was forged. OP’s fiancee has integrity issues and can’t be trusted and meddles in OP’s employment relationships. How much involvement will fiancee have in OP’s employment going forward? If you email a sensitive document to OP, will fiancee get at it and return it with incorrect or false information?

            Either way, from the company’s perspective, they can’t trust OP. That’s why OP got terminated. There is no way to tell this story where OP looks good. I’m not particularly interested in whether OP lied or was deceived, because either way the company has no way of knowing that OP is otherwise responsible, and if I were the employer I would have made the same call.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        They probably should (and will), but it still doesn’t hurt to ask given that we’re in the middle of a pandemic that can last for god knows how long and maybe, just maybe, the company will sympathize with why the forgery took place to begin with (both OP and the fiancée being in high risk medical categories) even if they can’t let OP continue working for them given the ethical considerations.

      2. Lady Heather*

        Is it even legal to not contest unemployment claims? In my country, that wouldn’t fly – saying someone who was fired for cause was let go for no reason has a name: fraud.

        Or is there a difference between ‘contesting a claim’ and ‘being honest’?

        1. Lynn Whitehat*

          There’s a difference between contesting a claim and being honest. Not contesting unemployment is basically being silent.

        2. What the What*

          Yes, it’s very legal. In the United States, the employer pays into the unemployment system at a specific rate. If they have no claims, their rate goes down. If they have claims, it goes up. If the employer chooses, they can opt not to contest a claim and allow an employee to claim on their record, suffering an increased pay-in rate in the future. There is usually a check box right on the response form that says, simply, “I do not wish to contest this claim or provide any additional details” or something to that effect.

        3. Observer*

          Different things. Not contesting means that when the UI people reach out to you, you don’t give them any information. You do NOT lie about it – you don’t call it a layoff, etc. But you just don’t give anything more than a confirmation that they did indeed work for you. And if it goes to a hearing, you just don’t attend.

          Sometimes, for whatever reason, the will ask for more information, which can get a bit more tricky. Even then, there is a difference between going into how the person does not deserve unemployment vs giving just the information asked for and no more. Although if that’s what happens, the unemployed person is more likely to be denied.

    2. Venus*

      > ask that they only confirm dates of employment if you end up ever needing them for a reference

      The LW said that they were there two weeks. It would be such a bad idea if the LW put them on their resume. Much better to leave them off completely, and just let everyone assume that they had trouble finding employment due to Covid.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        The OP said they were hired on as a full-time employee, which could suggest that OP isn’t entirely new to the company and was working for them in some other capacity – possibly as a temp and/or part-time – before. And as I pointed out in an earlier thread, there may be an occasion where OP has no choice but to list this employer on a form for a background check, so it’s better for them to negotiate any potential references now than to just hope they never need this company and then get the nasty surprise further down the road that they in fact do.

        1. Scarlet2*

          I honestly cannot imagine a company giving a reference to someone they fired for committing fraud.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            They may agree to just confirming dates of employment – that’s what I’m talking about.

            1. Scarlet2*

              Wouldn’t they also disclose that OP had only been hired full-time for 2 weeks and then was fired for cause? Don’t people who check references generally ask questions about the former employee?

              1. Diahann Carroll*

                They can ask whatever they want, and HR can decline to answer (which would speak volumes in and of itself). But there are some background checks where literally all they want is to verify the dates of employment and don’t care to speak to anyone for additional details (my last company’s background check department did this barebones verification), that’s why I think it may be worth it for OP to apologize for the forgery and the circumstances surrounding it and ask for HR to, going forward, only verify employment dates.

                Additionally, the OP’s wording about finally being hired on full-time could suggest that OP worked for this company before in another capacity, possibly as a temp and/or part-time (as I said before in a prior comment). If that’s the case, the length of employment could have actually been longer than two weeks, so the employment verification would be necessary.

                1. Venus*

                  “I had just been hired full-time two weeks prior.”

                  We are obviously interpreting this very differently, as I read this and think “LW had only been working there two weeks, and happened to be full-time, and maybe the ‘just’ conveys disappointed that this happened so soon after starting a new job.” (not that my point of view is necessarily right as I don’t want to nitpick, yet I point it out to show that the wording isn’t definitive)
                  With this wording it is possible that the LW had had different part-time jobs at other places, or it’s just the way they refer to employment options in their culture, but having worked there previously part-time is only one option of many.

                2. Diahann Carroll*

                  That’s why I said “could suggest,” Venus, and not “does suggest” – there’s ambiguity in the letter about this.

              2. Alice's Rabbit*

                1. If they’ve agreed to only confirm dates of employment, then no, they wouldn’t mention the firing.
                2. Assuming this letter is recent, lots of new hires are being let go right now. Given the timing, that alone won’t raise a red flag. A yellow flag, maybe, but not a red.

  8. Oh So Anon*

    OP#5: Seeing as you’re at a small company, there’s a reasonably good chance that they hire for “cultural fit”, which means that following your CEO’s example as a proxy for formality might not be a terrible way to go. At a larger and more hierarchical organization, however, I’d aim to make the most conservative person on your team comfortable. Larger orgs will be more likely to have folks who are very much outliers from the general company culture (if there is one) and letting them feel as though they have a role in setting the tone might be helpful for building political capital.

    1. It's My Prof Pic*

      Hi, I’m OP5. I think the size of the team is more a function of the industry than anything (I don’t want to get more specific for fear of giving away identifying details), but I really like this advice for the future!

  9. Parcae*

    By “everyone’s new food insecurity,” I suspect OP2 was referring to our great national egg shortage, not economic food insecurity. A lot of us are adjusting to less choice at the grocery store, compounded by shopping less frequently. Personally, I’d describe my situation as “food inconvenienced” not “food insecure,” but I see what OP2 means. I’m spending more on groceries than I usually would because I have to take what’s available (e.g., name vs store brand) and can’t just leisurely stroll the aisles looking for deals.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      Agreed. “I don’t have exactly what I would prefer available to me, and if it is, it’s not at the price I would prefer to pay” is not an emergency. Maybe it’s not exactly what I have a taste for every night, but food is available.

      (Although I am actually low on TP now. I’ll be really upset if I have to drip-dry.)

    2. PollyQ*

      That was my read as well, although I have found that I’m feeling insecure about getting & having food in a way I’ve been fortunate enough never to experience before.

    3. MK*

      But a stipend won’t really help if there isn’t food to buy. If you mean that stores might start charging more for necessities, I hope you have laws to forbid this and that yhr authorities are strict enforcing them.

      1. MassMatt*

        Where in the world are you that there isn’t food to buy?

        There have been shortages of particular types of produce, etc but the grocery stores around here are well stocked with just about everything, with the occasional exception of toilet paper.

        Let’s not exaggerate the current situation because the store may not have your preferred brand of decaf. We are not experiencing a mass famine!

        1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

          I noted that fresh kiwis from Italy are no longer in stock at my local grocery store, not the end of the world for me. Italy has bigger problems than making sure my morning kiwi is available.

        2. ZaDrCh*

          That’s definitely not the universal experience. I live in a pretty rural area and the grocery storesaren’t well stocked at all right now. Our usually full stores have been out of eggs, milk, bread, flour, etc. for weeks. No, it’s not a mass famine, but it definitely goes well beyond just not getting my preferred brands right now.

        3. Third or Nothing!*

          It’s hitting those of us with food allergies pretty hard. Before the stores in my area worked out the supply chain issues, there was a week there when I was faced with the very real possibility of skipping meals so my daughter could eat (we have the same allergies…sorry kid you got the bad genes). As stores ran out of the regular stuff people were stocking up on the allergy safe stuff.

    4. caps22*

      Isn’t the slight increase in food bills offset by the reduction in commuting costs, whether it’s gas, public transportation or whatever?

      1. Beth Jacobs*

        Depends. I used to walk to the office. Still, I’m not complaining, WFH with full pay is still a huge privilege in these times. Plus, now that I think of it, the amortization on my sweat pants is a lot less than on business clothes.

        1. CupcakeCounter*

          my yoga pants are already fully amortized

          I’ve driven my car 4 times since being sent to WFH in early March so I’m saving a bundle. Plus less lunch hour splurges and Amazon limiting deliveries of random crap in my area means I’m saving money there too. However, I did go a little crazy with the charitable contributions and tips so my CC bill hasn’t reflected any savings yet.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Me too. I filled up the first weekend in March, when I did my last big CostCo run. I still have half a tank, even after going out of my way looking for a store that actually had what I needed.

        2. Tau*

          And I bought my public transport ticket on the yearly plan, because it worked out significantly cheaper than month-by-month and hey, it’s not like I’ll ever not need to head in for work almost every day, right?

          …I tell myself I’m subsidizing public services.

          Point does stand, though – unless you’re at the sort of earning level where you were relying on the benefit because your salary wouldn’t allow you to buy enough food, asking for a stipend is likely to come off as incredibly tone-deaf.

      2. SarahTheEntwife*

        It sounds like a lot of people were getting essentially all their food 5 days a week at work, which is a significant increase in food bills. This isn’t just free coffee and snacks.

        1. Courtney Kupets*

          But if that’s just a benefit….it sucks they need to pay more now, but it would be like me providing my staff often with things they can use (food, coupons?, IDK) and now I don’t….they aren’t entitled to that, it was just something EXTRA they got to enjoy.

        2. Glitsy Gus*

          I totally agree, it is an increase and I’m sure a lot of folks are having to juggle budgets quite a bit, which I completely sympathize with.

          At the same time it’s also kind of like telling the company, “well, I usually go to the bathroom five times at work, and at least one of them is a #2, so you really should pay for my toilet paper and increased water use. My electric bill is also higher because I’m working from home, so you should cover that too.” There are things that are covered when you are at work, and if your office is lucky enough to have a company-sponsored canteen that is one of them, where even if it does benefit your bottom line, it isn’t considered part of your compensation, it’s a price of doing business at an office. If you happen to be lucky enough to have those perks spill over in your day-to-day life that’s great, but it isn’t an expectation that should extend to when you are not in the building.

          That said, I do think OP might have some room to bring it up in certain situations, say, if your team completed a big project under a really tight timeline you might have room to go to the higher ups and let them know, “my team put in a LOT of extra hours on this one. It really would be a nice gesture to treat them to a delivery dinner or two as a thank you since I know they had to order-in quite a bit to have enough time to make this happen.”

      3. CatLadyInTraining*

        The fact that entertainment venues, clothing stores, and other non-essential stores are closed also helps people save money

    5. Daisy*

      Oh thanks, I was confused by that line. I couldn’t really envisage this office job with elaborate catering that didn’t pay high enough wages for people to feed themselves.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        Yeah the food constantly available thing is generally associated with companies like Google, which pay very well and have all kinds of fancy perks but those compensate for not really having a life because you’re there so much.

        1. HQetc*

          Well, I would caveat that Google and companies like it also have a good number of employees who are paid at a rate where three squares a day for free probably makes a pretty big difference. I think it’s easy to forget that Google also has (for instance) recruiters, who don’t get paid anywhere near what their engineers get paid (but are often still paying Bay Area prices). I still think it’s not really a thing the OP can ask to keep getting, but it is possible that they (or other folks at their company) are talking actual financial difficulty.

      2. cmcinnyc*

        This. Tech and investment banking are the two industries I know of that will feed you to stay at your desk. Publishing used to but I think that ended long ago. Of these three industries, only publishing pays poorly. You can afford food.

      3. Cascadia*

        It wasn’t an office job, but I worked at an outdoor camp as an educator and we got three meals a day – the same three meals that were fed to the students. It was a perk that was often touted as part of the compensation. But also, that job would cease to exist because you can’t do it from home. I still don’t think the OP should ask for a stipend or food benefit or anything, but I can think of a job I used to have that paid less than minimum wage and provided breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Very unique though.

    6. Tate Can't Wait*

      Agreed. This term seems very carefully chosen to imply “I’m not getting the food I need” and therefore “My company should send catered meals to my home like they used to.”

    7. Not So Super-visor*

      I don’t know… I was thinking about how the pandemic opened a lot of people’s eyes about many families depend on the free breakfast and lunch provided at school to feed their children. In some instances, those were the only meals that those kids got. In my community, there was a lot of concern over how to feed kids when the schools were shuttered.

      1. Taura*

        Exactly. Plus, at least at my groceries, all the cheap stuff is consistently wiped out. I’ve had to factor in an extra $15-20 per trip so that I can buy the more expensive items (which I have, thankfully, but some people don’t) and I’m sincerely hoping it’s people who rely on it who’re taking all the WIC marked stuff because it’s never on the shelf anymore.

      2. MassMatt*

        Yes, this is a serious problem, there are kids that depend on getting lunch and in many cases breakfast at school as maybe their only reliable meals of the day and how do we get them that when they’re not at school?

        But the LW is not in that position, they can dial 911 for a waaahmbulance.

      3. ACDC*

        The difference is the children in those situations are truly food insecure. I think the OP is using that term in a hyperbolic way and they are not at all the same thing.

      4. Courtney Kupets*

        I live in a very high poverty school district, and breakfast and lunch and weekend stuff is still going out. They are using the buses. It was like the first thing they did. I’m shocked if other places didn’t make this a priority.

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          My district is providing free breakfast and lunch to all kids under 18, even if they don’t normally attend public school. You drive up, tell them how many kids, and they hand you a bagged lunch and breakfast for the following morning.

      5. Katrianah (UK)*

        My food budget has been obliterated and quite frankly if it wasn’t for my parents, we’d be very food insecure right now. Cheap basics are, as you said, wiped out, and so many things have gone up. Plus, I don’t have access to my usual grocery store any more so my only options are a LOT more expensive anyway, let alone right now.

    8. Quill*

      Where I live they’re practically giving away eggs, milk, and cheese – we produce a lot of those and just aren’t sending them out as much right now.

      However, I’m trying to stretch my shopping to once every two weeks now, so…

      1. cmcinnyc*

        In NYC eggs cost $8 a dozen if you can find them. But most things are obtainable and normal (high) NYC prices.

        1. Quill*

          Wisconsin is pushing “$2 off ANY cheese with purchase” and has 50 cent milk. Egg prices remain approximately stable.

    9. Anon Anon*

      To me it’s one thing if the lack of food now means that employees have to go to a food bank to be able to keep food on the table. It’s a totally other thing if it just means that you are concerned that the grocery store might have a shortage certain types of food.

    10. I'm just here for the cats*

      Keep in mind that there are lots of peoe who are food insecure. The OP said that people would bring stuff home for their families. Even if that job is paying well we do t know what cost of rent, utilities etc are. I’ve heard of same places where rent was 80% of their salary. Add on utilities, and other necessities those people may have really relied on that extra food. There are a ton of new people coming to food banks. If the issue is the company uses the food perk to limit the salary, perhaps they can look at bonuses for people.

      1. remizidae*

        95% of us will take free food when it’s offered. That doesn’t mean we can’t afford to buy food. It’s very unlikely that OP is talking about people who actually can’t afford food, because those people are a tiny minority in this country, and they usually aren’t working full time.

        1. Ash*

          “A tiny minority?” Do you know how many 10s of millions of people get food stamps? But yes I agree that of course OP and their team likely would not qualify for good stamps by a long shot.

        2. Curmudgeon in California*

          It’s not a “tiny minority”. Over the last 20 years wages vs inflation have stagnated, especially on the lower end, while housing and utility costs have skyrocketed. Internet used to be a luxury, now it’s essential for work and education. Food is the one area of the budget that can “flex” – as in, if the money available only covers housing and utilities, there’s nothing left for food.

          I know people who are food insecure – their income doesn’t quite go far enough. Some of them work in tech, but are low paid, just starting out, or their rent is huge.

          The homeless are food insecure by definition, plus minimum wage workers are often food insecure (even at full time schedule). The two combined are not a “tiny minority”.

        3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I’m sure there’s a few people with actual food insecurity. Student loans and other debt is often crippling.

          However I do generally see more greed than actual need when it comes to leftovers.

  10. Friday*

    OP #4 If it makes you feel any better here is what I wrote for the last round. It’s far from perfect, but everyone said yes, and no one was anything but complementary. I got to the final 100 candidates for my country, and they did check my references – so it’s not a dumb step to give them a heads up. Every one was really kind, and the fact that applied did not get out until I had to tell people because I was travelling to go to tests. That said, I owed everyone stories afterwards.

    Note, I am still in contact with the people I use for references, I see them at conferences and we meet up for dinner when I’m in town, so your mileage may vary.

    Good luck! It’s an unsettling year’s worth of a job interview, but it was a neat experience, and if my country does a call again, you’d better bet I’m trying again.

    Dear XXX,

    I applied to the call for astronaut candidates this year with the XXX. They have requested for reference at this stage. Do you feel comfortable with me submitting your name?

    I have something like a 2% chance based on how many people are still in the running – so it’s a very long shot and I’m not sure if they’ll contact you.

    How are things going in XXX? It feels weird not to have been back in so long, but depending on how this goes, I’ll probably see you at XXX this year.

    Thanks!

    Friday

    1. Friday*

      Ugg – sorry, I swear there weren’t those typos in the letter I sent, I edited it to remove identifiable things, and managed to introduce typos. This is why you shouldn’t edit anything on a phone this late at night.

      One small addendum, after reading some of the comments I know that people here are saying that they would shout it from the roof tops if they were applying but… my advice would be to not. All the people I met at the group stages had very clean social media profiles, no mention of this at all, at least publicly. A few had professional science-educator-style sites, but again, no mention of this.

      At the time I did obsessively follow a number of other applicants on various platforms who seemed so much more qualified than me and so much more likely to get picked. But none I saw none of them at the group stage (I didn’t get to meet everyone, so there’s a chance they were in a different section) . My theory, and I could be totally off base, is that my space agency really likes to tightly control the public messaging, even when things seem unscripted, they are pre-approved and vetted until infinity.

  11. Rollergirl09*

    LW2, unless it is stipulated somewhere that the meals are a set benefit as part of your total compensation, I think it would be a hard sell. I’m not sure how it would even be implemented. A per diem like you get when traveling?

    1. April*

      Yeah, that’s really tough for both employee and employer but unless they work for like, google or amazon, it’s probably viewed as a cost savings by the company now and may be one of the things keeping them all employed so…it’s very tough. I’d like to think a company would care if their employees were going to go hungry without the food they provide, but it is still a *perk that could go away at any time anyway so OP should start to look at it from that POV.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I get luncheon vouchers each month, which is a normal part of monthly salary here, unless your company is large enough for a subsidised canteen. At present, luncheon vouchers are not being produced, and also the supermarkets are refusing to accept them. (I think it’s due to hygiene when handling paper and payment is almost all by card)

        It hasn’t been clarified yet what will happen about our “lost” luncheon vouchers, but I have noticed how much you could buy in the supermarket with them.

      2. Eng*

        Not disagreeing with you but Amazon is run by skinflints and they don’t provide free food in their officers – very different environment from Google even for highly paid engineers. I know it doesn’t change your point, I just hate Amazon and everything about them. They can’t exploit engineers anywhere near as much as they do warehouse workers but they still try their best to exploit them as much as they can.

        1. LF*

          Yeah, pretty sure Amazon employees don’t get free meals. And even many of the big tech companies who normally offer free food aren’t giving stipends now. For all the reasons Alison mentioned, it doesn’t really make that much sense to give stipends in place of the free office food during these times.

          1. JustaTech*

            Yup, can confirm that event he tech employees at Amazon don’t get free food, and only just got their own cafeterias. (I don’t work there, but I work near there and gave up on being able to go out to lunch in that area because the Blue Lanyard’d Horde makes it impossible to grab and sandwich in less than 45 minutes.)

            But even the other tech places that do usually have free meals aren’t doing any kind of stipend or delivery. There just isn’t any way to translate the economy of scale from large cafeterias to home delivery. And folks would probably be amazed how little a single meal costs when you make hundreds of them.

          2. Curmudgeon in California*

            I can confirm that Amazon tech workers DO NOT get free food. When I worked for a subsidiary, they didn’t even have a cafeteria. You either brought your lunch or ate out in a very expensive area.

    2. Rexish*

      This was my question. If it’s just a thing that happens there but not really mentioned anywhere then I would let it go. If job listing/ benefit package/official documents mention “we provide daily meals for all our employees” then it might be worth bringing it up again.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        But even if it was listed as an official benefit/perk the company could still decide to do away with it at any time, the same with employer 401k match. If companies are looking for ways to cut costs to avoid layoffs a food perk would be the 1st thing to go, especially since the company is not likely to be able to save any money by having people WFH the company still needs to pay for rent (largest fixed expense) they might save a bit of money on utilities (but many charge a fixed connection fee even with no usage) employees are likely to be able to save more money on WFG due to decreased commuting expense. Yes some of it will be offset by the increased utilities cost at home, but asking again I do think will come of very tone deaf.

    3. Natalie*

      Fun fact, it would also have to be taxable income. Meals while traveling or onsite meals that are provided primarily for the convenience of the employer can be a tax-free fringe benefit. A stipend for meals at home cannot.

      1. JustaTech*

        Ooohhh.. that’s an excellent point. Ugh, trying to figure that out for your taxes would be a nightmare.

    4. Batgirl*

      I think youve highlighted exactly why no one is ever going to provide food for a person’s house even if they do so for business locations. There’s a huge difference between the type of convenience or prepared food you can get when travelling and food you prepare at home though. I can’t see anyone going for that comparison.

  12. nnn*

    #4: Depending on the precise nuance of your concerns, it might be useful to specifically state (either pre-emptively or in response to any questions) that you meet all the requirements. “Obviously it’s a really competitive program, but I meet all the requirements so I thought I’d give it a shot.”

    Also depending on the nuance you’re trying to convey, “…it turns out I meet all the requirements…”, delivered with enthusiasm, might help. (It makes it sound like you yourself are kind of surprised that you meet the requirements. Whether that makes things better or worse depends on the nuance you’re going for)

    Since people in your field have become astronauts, you could also cite them as role models. “Astronaut McAstronautface has long been a hero of mine, so when the application opened up and I saw that I met all the requirements, I just had to apply!”

    Of course, you don’t have to do any of this mitigation. People are allowed to apply for stuff – encouraged to apply for stuff! But if you do feel the mitigation would go over better with your references, these are some options.

  13. Massmatt*

    I’m the first to comment on #3? really, more interest in a mimosa photo?

    I don’t think your boss is as great as you think. That your health (possibly life!) is in danger and your boss’s focus is on work goals and pressuring you to get more done sounds like extremely jerky behavior to me. Very nearly up there with the infamous bosses who pushed their way into employee chemo sessions or sent an underling to leave a work related note on the grave of a deceased coworker’s relative to ask about work. (They both happened, I’m not making them up!).

    AND you are being told to take PTO/use sick leave while also being pressured to work, and in fact still keeping up with your work? That’s not how PTO or sick leave is supposed to work. I’m surprised Alison didn’t touch on that.

    I urge you to reexamine whether this boss is anywhere near as kind and wonderful as you say.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      Agreed. If OP is sick then boss should not be bothering them about work and should be allowing them the time to recover. And it’s not the first time boss has reacted badly to OP having sick leave. To me this is not a quality of a good boss.

      Is there genuinely no one else who can cover these tasks? If not, Boss should be looking at this issue and finding a way to avoid a single point of failure.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Yeah. What OP called a “kind, sympathetic, and caring” boss came across to me as somebody without emotional boundaries, who’s ready and willing to be manipulative in order to get what he wants.

      1. Marzinnia*

        I honestly read, “My boss is one of the best bosses I’ve ever had. He is kind, sympathetic, caring, and funny.” and thought “That sounds like my ex-boss who was AWFUL AND I HATE” and this is so accurate for him – He was manipulative, desperate to be liked, had no boundaries, was willing to insinuate (to you, or gossiping to your coworkers) that his subordinate’s reasons for taking PTO weren’t good enough, just generally a person who talked a much better game re: being kind, sympathetic, caring than the reality. I also believe he thought he was all those things, and I’m sure he wanted to be, but he absolutely wasn’t a good manager. He had some skills, but being a good manager was NOT one of them.

        Lots of people think he’s great. I still hear about how well liked he is semi-regularly at my job. I liked him and believed the hype for a couple of years. So I absolutely get how you can be fooled. But he’s the worst!

    3. Gazebo Slayer*

      LW3, I despise your “kind” boss. He was guilting you about *emergency surgery*? “Oh, I really wish you’d let me know ahead of time about emergency surgery!” Does he not know what “emergency” means?

      And now that you have an illness that a hundred thousand people have just died of, his number one priority is nagging you to keep up your productivity while you’re sick?

      Is getting seriously ill himself the only way he’s going to grow a minimum of empathy and decency? Or would not even that work, because this work-till-you-drop-dead standard is for other people?

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      This 100%. A kind, sympathetic, and understanding boss doesn’t bring up an unexpected medical issue from the past to make you feel guilty for taking more time than you anticipated, and also make you feel guilty for taking time now when you’re sick DURING A PANDEMIC.

      I started a job in the late 90s and shortly after discovered I needed my gall bladder taken out. I hadn’t accrued any sick or vacation time off and needed a week off. My boss worked it out so I didn’t have to take time off without pay, and didn’t make a big deal about it. I had only been there a few months. That’s how a kind, sympathetic, and understand boss treats you.

    5. Batgirl*

      Admittedly the context of the letter is a limited view but I agree. The overall feeling I got about this boss is “They are so great when things are going well!”
      How nice for them. A couple of things I would be considering in OP’s place are:
      – How would things play out if she had a big life crisis, like a bereavement?
      -What bosses is she comparing them to and is this a high bar or a low bar?
      – Is OP being manipulated by flattery? Like, is it basically dating that guy who says you are “so cool and secure” you let him flirt with other women only this time you’re working overly hard for compliments at how quickly they can be withdrawn?
      I mean sure, he COULD just be an external worrier but……

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Sounds like a fair-weather boss. He can be kind, sympathetic, and understanding when it’s easy to do so. When everything is going well and the stakes are low. HOWEVER, the behavior the OP describes doesn’t sound kind, sympathetic, and understanding – at a time when the OP needs it most!

        That would seriously erode my trust. I’d end up walking on eggshells, worrying that everything had to be perfect, or the kindness would dry up.

        1. A Simple Narwhal*

          This 100%. This happened to me and yea, it ruined any trust I had in my boss. I outlined my experience below but a boss that is only good when things are good isn’t a good boss at all.

    6. Sara without an H*

      Yes, it’s possible that the boss OP#3 is describing is only “caring” when there are no problems to care about. That said, when I read this letter, my mind went back to one of my former bosses, who had to process everything — literally everything — out loud. She scared the hell out of me several times before I realized what she was doing. After that I made a point of clarifying whether she actually wanted me to do anything specific about the situation, or if she was just thinking out loud. It helped our relationship a lot.

      OP#3, I really recommend that you try out Alison’s scripts, and not just to try to get a handle on your boss’s expectations during the present crisis. If he/she is really an external processor, you need to know this before you find yourself wasting hours working on something that, for your boss, was just a throwaway remark.

      Your boss, on the other hand, needs to work on consciously putting his brain in gear before he opens his mouth.

      1. cmcinnyc*

        Ugh, we’re dealing w/someone at the job right now who has to “worse case scenario” things out loud, to the entire department, and I hate* her.

        *She’s fine, it’s just that people at work really have been sick/hospitalized w/COVID, really are dealing w/emergencies on the daily so the *speculative* sky-is-falling is seriously alarming.

    7. A Simple Narwhal*

      I had a boss at oldjob that I thought was amazing. They were supportive and caring and wonderful – until they received any sort of pressure from above. And when we were a small company and could run our department as they saw fit, things were constantly awesome and I thought they were the best boss I’d ever had. But when we got acquired and suddenly people were asking questions and breathing down their neck telling them to increase results while cutting costs, they turned into a monster. They never stood up for their employees and instead threw us under the boss at every possible juncture.

      I assumed that I was just terrible and that my wonderful boss must still be wonderful and I was just failing. It took me way too long to realize that a boss that is good only when things are good isn’t a good boss at all.

    8. J!*

      Agreed wholeheartedly. #3 maybe you’ve had really terrible bosses in the past or have been a high performer so it hasn’t really come up for you until now, but not being Miranda Priestly doesn’t make your boss great.

  14. Princess Zelda*

    “I now have been dealing with serious symptoms of what is almost certainly COVID-19 for over two weeks. We are all working from home for now. Following company policy made specifically to address the pandemic, I used up all my sick time and have been working as much as I can and using paid “release” time so that I am being paid for my normal full hours. I am not falling behind in my work. My manager is his kind, caring, and sympathetic self regarding my symptoms, and I know he is worried about my health, but he is also clearly stressing out over my inability to work my full hours or to adhere to a regular schedule. This is causing me stress and makes me feel guilty about using the release hours.”

    The way I’m reading this, you’re keeping up with your full work schedule while *also* being on some kind of PTO? That’s not how that’s supposed to work — if you’re off the clock, you are supposed to be unavailable, because you’re not at work. Have you had a conversation with your boss where you say basically, I am able to work X hours a week and am accomplishing all my assigned tasks in those hours, is there a problem that needs to be addressed? Your boss also !!!SHOULD NOT!!! be venting to you about how stressed *he* is about *your* health. You are not his therapist; you are the one who is actually sick. He’s paying you for your job labor, not your emotional labor. OP3, I’d urge you to really reconsider whether or not your boss is a “great guy.” From over here, he seems subpar at best.

    1. Green great dragon*

      It’s quite common round here for people mildly unwell/convalescing to do a few hours work a day/log in just enough to triage emails and use sick leave to make it up to full time. Slightly surprised OP says they’re ‘not falling behind’ – but not sure wether that means they’re producing a normal amount (in which case Boss can back right off) or whether it just means they’re keeping on top of the urgent stuff.

  15. Anonymity*

    Your employer was correct in firing you. You said your cardiologist would not give you the required note and then one magically appeared? With privacy laws your doctor would not speak to her let alone forward a note. Be honest with yourself and learn from this. Your former employer sees you as very untrustworthy.

    1. Jam Today*

      Just a small correction: the doctor absolutely would speak with the fiancee if the patient’s privacy forms specifically included her as someone who should have his medical information. Privacy rules are opt-in: you can specify people who should be included in physician communication.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        Yes but they’re still only going to do that in very limited circumstances even if they’re allowed to. They want to speak directly with the patient, and if a fiancé asked for a note on pt’s behalf, the office is going to say “Please have [name]contact us directly and we can discuss.”

        1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          Right. Having thought about it a little more, the main reason my forms say “you can talk to my husband” is as part of “so it’s okay to leave a message with medical information on our answering machine.”

          1. Courtney Kupets*

            Yes, or if you were somehow sick or in the hospital and they needed important things.

        2. Rosalita*

          Actually my doctors had a specific form that i filled out with my then fiancee now spouse’s name and exactly what infomation and things they could be told and given (like a doctors note, reschedule appointments and medication)

      2. leapingLemur*

        The employer may have thought that either LW was lying, or LW’s fiancee was interfering with work in a way that would probably happen again.

  16. Anonymity*

    With all due respect, it’s not your employer’s job to feed you in your own home. That’s why you are paid a wage.

    1. Not Australian*

      The employer should also be paying them a living wage so that they are not so reliant on food handouts – *if* that is the case, which it may be for some of the workers if not the OP.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        You’re 100% right … and yet I have a friend who works for Google in a management position in a major US city who complained about the exact same thing! Friend was a just-okay cook all along, and then Friend got very used to having two gourmet meals a day on someone else’s dime and then, like, a protein drink and an apple at home. Money is not the problem (and Friend admitted that it was facetious to sniff about paying for one’s own food on a manager-at-Google salary); that Friend got WAY out of the habit of providing and paying for and preparing Friend’s own meals is the problem. Like, even though Friend can probably order groceries and can afford it, s/he barely even knows what to order to stock a fridge from scratch to make meals.

        Anyway. A lot of us are learning that what we thought were necessities — or close to it — were just conveniences.

        1. Ray Gillette*

          In addition to everything you already said, Friend is probably being expected to keep up their normal workload since they can work 100% from home. Doing their own shopping and cooking (and the cleanup from said cooking), especially when they’ve fallen out of practice, is a pretty substantial amount of time. As mentioned above, Google provides those meals so that employees will spend more time working.

      2. Rollergirl09*

        I don’t think these are subsidies, though. In my experience, companies (in the US) with these kinds of perks very much pay a living wage already. They just expect you to be there working your rear off, so the give you free food as a motivator. We’ve seen countless letters over the years that show just how much employees love free food.

        1. purple otter*

          Agreed, most US companies with these kind of perks already pay above-generous living wages. We’re talking people earning six figure salaries with white collar jobs, unless it’s SF the OP just comes off as entitled. I have yet to hear of custodians/cleaning crew to have perks like free food while working for a large company.

          1. Glitsy Gus*

            Some do, and if OP had said they were the head of the facilities or ground crew then I might think wages could be an issue. Also, some low-level developer and software tester positions really don’t pay as much as people think they do. They aren’t at the ‘unable to pay rent and groceries together’ level low, but probably in the ‘can’t afford the name-brand fancy food they stock in the kitchen’ level, especially if you have budgeted to not have to take three meals a day into account.

            That said, companies are paying rent for empty buildings right now, so I’m not surprised they don’t want to spend even more on snack stipends for employees on top of wages. If your employees really can’t pay for food with their wages that should be addressed. But if it’s more ‘I don’t have the disposable income I usually do because I have to buy my own cereal’ well, I really do get how irksome that is, I do. All of this is hard enough without having to completely rework your budget on top of it, but many of us are having to do that on some level or another.

            As so many others have said, the food is provided as a way to remove the need for you to leave the office, you aren’t tied to the office right now, you also don’t have your commute, so, at least theoretically, you have some of your time back as well. I know that has made it a lot easier for me to throw something in the crock pot in the morning and let it bubble away while I work in the other room without having to worry if coming home a bit later means it’ll be all dry and scorched.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          This. It’s not a perk designed to keep the minimum wage workers fed, but the well-compensated workers at their desks.

          1. ACDC*

            Yup. This is why that letter is giving me a serious “I just drank orange juice after brushing my teeth” taste in my mouth.

        3. TimeCat*

          You do get a shift meal at some fast food restaurants (not others, I worked for a pizza place where we got in trouble for eating unclaimed pizzas). But that doesn’t sound like that kind of situation.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Starbucks started allowing people to get a shift meal if they’re not even working to help their staff that relied on them so heavily.

            That warmed my heart to find out.

            But yeah corporate catering is only a necessity to interns and extremely low level staff in most situations. I bristled at “people take food home”… that’s a sign of disrespect and misunderstanding what the food is for in most cases.

    2. some dude*

      I just….

      I am surrounded by people who have been laid off or furloughed or had their hours cut because of this. Bruh, buy your own food, and recognize how incredibly privileged you are to have a job that allows you to work from home and that provided free meals to you when you were in the office.

  17. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    (duplicated for nesting fluff up, which frankly proves its own point)

    LW3 – please be extremely careful. I’m a week ahead of you, and have spent close to three quarters of that week back in bed. I thought I was getting better, but she laughed in my face and doubled down on the exhaustion.

    I think Alison’s scripts are good, but my script to my (excellent, kind, generous) boss was more along the lines of “I will try to check in frequently, but I am still very sick and cannot manage a full workload. If there are any tasks you want me to prioritise, please let me know and I will let you know if I am capable of covering them at this time.”

    I am amazed at how badly the virus has affected my “processing” capability, to use a computing analogy. My problem solving, reading comprehension, attention to detail and articulate-ness (?!) are through the floor, and those are skills I need constantly through the work day. I know I’m no use at the moment, and I know I won’t be until I’m fully, properly better … and I know that won’t come if I push myself to do too much too soon.

    There is very little being said about what a COVID-19 recovery looks like, and it may be that your manager thinks you ought to be fully better by now, as if you’d had flu. You and I both know this ain’t flu, and you may need to explain that more explicitly to your boss.

    Good luck.

    1. MK*

      There is an old wives’ expression in my country, that you should “celebrate your illness so that it will leave you”; meaning that if you give in to the fact that you are sick and focus on taking care of yourself, it will be over sooner. I have seen this with colds adn flues; when I was able to hole up in a bed for the day and drink tea, I felt better within 24 hours, when I had to got to work, it dragged on for a week or more.

      OP, don’t let the fact that you are at your house fool you: if you are sick, you need rest, and if you are working from home, you are not resting. I realise you don’t have any more sick days, but don’t try to work more than you are able to, it might even delay your recovery.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Yes! Just because you aren’t moving your body, that doesn’t mean you’re resting. If you need to be horizontal, go lie down.

      2. Quill*

        My colds definitely go away faster when I can schlep around the house drinking boullion straight from the pot for a day or two and essentially do nothing but eat, sleep, and watch netflix. Even work from home, rather than going into the office, tends to knock them down from a full week affair to more like four or five days.

        OP I don’t think your boss is taking the fact that this illness can kill seriously enough, and you should probably be getting even more rest than you are.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      While you are 100% correct, the bigger problem here is that the OP thinks her boss is kind, sympathetic and understanding. His actions prove otherwise. He keeps bringing up a past medical issue that kept her out of the office longer than originally anticipated. And now he’s making her feel bad for taking time to rest when she’s sick during a pandemic and most likely has the virus. If it wasn’t for the past medical issue thing, I could give him the benefit of the doubt and say his behavior is caused by the stress of everything happening (still not okay). But he sounds like the type of person who is all “everything’s cool” on the surface, while honing his manipulation tactics underneath.

      1. 2 Cents*

        Yeah, bringing up the emergency(!!!) surgery is a jerk move. This manager is not “kind and caring.” That manager would tell you not to worry about work and to get better.

    3. only acting normal*

      There is advice out there (forget which country or health service, but possibly NHS), that not resting properly while recovering from COVID-19 can prolong the illness considerably and potentially worsen the outcome.
      Since OP3 says “serious symptoms” and is already 2 weeks in and not recovering yet, they should definitely put a much higher priority on their health than their job right now. They could end up hospitalised or worse if they don’t stop.

      1. leapingLemur*

        “not resting properly while recovering from COVID-19 can prolong the illness considerably and potentially worsen the outcome.” This!

  18. Lych*

    Related to question 2: how common is it these days for people to not have internet in their homes? Maybe it’s a cultural difference but I’ve not seen anyone under 80 without internet in their house in the past 5 years.

    1. evolution in action*

      I teach. About 1/3 of my class has very limited internet, and several have no internet. They get the internet at school. Also, at home many devices are shared. A friend of mine (in a large city) has five children. Their family of 7 has one laptop computer. If they were in school, it wouldn’t be an issue. At home, it’s a big issue. Rural areas are often dial-up speed at best.

      1. Humble Schoolmarm*

        Our region has set time limits on how much teachers can assign cumulatively for all classes to make device sharing easier (1 hr per day for elementary, 2 for middle school and 3 for high school, much less than the usual 5 hrs per day).

        1. MassMatt*

          OMG 5 hours of homework a day was “usual” in your region? That is nuts, even for high school!

          1. hamburke*

            5 hours of instruction time in a normal school day, I think. My kids’ school day is usually 8:30 to 3 which is 6 hours + 30 min on-campus lunch plus homework

        2. Alice's Rabbit*

          I wish my godchildren had such reasonable limits. My goddaughter has more than 6 hours of work a day, and she’s in 6th grade. Poor thing is going nuts!

      2. Little yellow spider*

        Was going to say the same thing . I teach and we have had to seriously rethink how we are going to do distance learning because only 1 third of my class has access to the internet. Most of them were using the library before and this is now not an option as the libraries are also closed. We’ve been mailing physical work home every week.

    2. BuildMeUp*

      I think the number is higher than most people assume! A lot of rural areas, for example, don’t have reliable internet.

      1. Lych*

        That may be the difference, my country is so tiny that it is probably smaller in its entirety than some american ‘rural areas’. So that makes it easier to have reliable internet everywhere.

        1. Amy Sly*

          One of my favorite knowledge tidbits is that the distance from Los Angeles to New York is the same as London to Baghdad. We’re a big country!

          Saw a great tweet along those lines:

          “Stay 6 feet apart!”
          Iowans, confused, all move closer together.

      2. BadWolf*

        My coworker lives in an area where they can’t get fast internet. He could afford it, no problem, but they can’t get anything fast run. He’s tried out three different options trying to get the best one. He lives outside the city.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I saw a thread on twitter the other day from a preacher whose church is holding drive-in services instead of internet streaming, because they’re in a rural community and every time in the last five years he’s tried to get high speed internet access at home or work, the companies have all refused to come out and do the install. Providers just don’t service certain areas, and you can’t buy what’s not for sale.

    3. AcademiaNut*

      It’s a class issue more than a cultural one.

      In urban areas, there are a lot of people, generally low income, who rely on cell-phones for internet. So they’ll have data plan (not unlimited!) that is enough for social media, games, texting and so on, and use free wifi when it’s available, but aren’t set up for remote work and teleconferencing.

      In rural areas, there are an awful lot of people who don’t get broad band internet because it isn’t available, and a significant minority are still using dial up. Same problem with bandwidth as above. And cellphone coverage in rural areas is often spotty as well, so the cellphone isn’t a reliable backup.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        This. It’s very common in America not to have home internet either due to cost or lack of infrastructure.

      2. Sara without an H*

        I second this. While the library I run is technically closed, we’ve left the computer lab open for the use of students who don’t otherwise have reliable internet access. The exterior doors are locked, students have swipe-card access to the building, and security is still on duty. It’s not the best solution, but many of our students don’t really have a choice.

      3. BadWolf*

        In my city, you could normally get by on a data plan (even pay as you go) and then stop in the library or a coffee shop if you need some more internet time (for the larger keyboard and/or “free” wifi).

    4. DeeFive*

      Internet is common in households, even in developing countries. But the purpose of a stipend isn’t just for the WFH employees to get their own internet connection, it sort of serves a double purpose of sorts. If you don’t have an internet connection, well, you need one to work, so the stipend pays for it. If you already have an internet connection, it may or may not work for your WFH needs, so you might need to upgrade your plan. To give you an example: when I started my current WFH job, our internet connection wasn’t great, but it mostly worked for everyone. Once I started working from home, I quickly found out that my wife watching Netflix would trash my kid’s gaming sessions and would cause my VPN to drop out. Thus I ended up having to switch ISPs to one that offered 100Mbps FTTH service as opposed to my 10Mbps DSL which was probably clocking 7Mbps on a good day. Part of what allowed me to pull off such an upgrade was that WFH stipend, as it covered nearly 80% of the monthly cost for that package.

    5. CL Cox*

      The school where I work is in a low-income area of the county, which is the third wealthiest in our state. 1/2-2/3 of our students don’t have computers and/or internet access at home. They used to go to the public library for free computer and internet access when they needed to work outside of school hours, but the libraries are all closed. Other parts of our district are so rural that there was no reliable internet access – they got Comcast to set up a hotspot in one of the high schools (students can sit in cars in the parking lot to access it).We do not yet havve 1:1 technology in the district.

    6. Beth*

      It depends a lot on region. In the US, in urban areas it’s almost universal. In rural areas, on the other hand, high speed internet isn’t necessarily even an option, no matter how much you’re willing to pay for it. The infrastructure may well just not be there yet.

      There’s a class element too. A low-income family might have internet, but be sharing 2 laptops and the most basic internet plan available between 2 parents trying to work from home, a college student trying to attend Zoom classes, a high school student homeschooling, and a middle schooler trying to keep in touch with friends via Facetime. That’s going to be a challenge both in terms of devices (not enough to go around) and bandwidth (especially since video calls need a lot of it). A low-cost internet plan may also have a data cap, which is easy to run through if you’ve gone from everyone being at work/school/friends’ houses all day to suddenly being home 24/7 and trying to stay connected virtually. Just because someone ‘has internet’ doesn’t mean it’s equal-access, basically.

    7. WS*

      I’m in a rural area and over half of the people I work with don’t have internet at home because it’s expensive, slow and unreliable (satellite only). When I was looking to buy a house here, the boundary of where I could get relatively reliable internet was a major part of my search. Several also don’t have mobile phone reception within a few kilometres of home so they come into town well before work starts to catch up on Facebook etc. on their phones.

    8. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      A friend from the US told me his parents don’t have internet, and they live a few miles from NASA.
      A lot of people don’t have internet. A lot of people don’t have smartphones or even mobile phones. If your method of organising a meet-up is to ping people on FB or WhatsApp then obviously you don’t mix with such people, but they do still exist.

    9. Jess*

      Agree with what everyone else is saying- I live in Florida, not remotely rural, and was in kind of a mixed neighborhood- one side was apartments and motels and the other was million dollar houses, but our internet speed for that area was as slow as 1 mbps (and they advertised up to 10, which is still really slow). That meant that only one person could use it at a time, and often it was so slow even that it just effectively wasn’t usable, let alone for all day, heavy use for work. For months I used the free xfinity hotspot instead of our paid internet because it was so much faster.

    10. LQ*

      We have a solid 5% or so without internet, those seem to be by choice/preference. No one over 80. And not rural here either. Another 20% or so have it so slow they can’t work off it, these do not seem to be by choice.

    11. GigglyPuff*

      Honestly if I didn’t know myself so well, and thought I could get away with it and be happy, I’d get rid of my internet. I make 40k/year, but live in one of the highest rise in cost of living places in the last couple years, and salaries aren’t keeping up. If I could ditch the $70/month on just internet, I would. I had to ditch cable and my TiVo, which I thought would never happen.

      Man I miss my TiVo.

      (And yes I’ve tried to lower it, played all the stupid telephone games, but haven’t managed, and there’s only two provider options.)

    12. another Hero*

      In the USA, 85% of people have internet at home, so 15% don’t. But that 85% includes people whose only internet access is mobile data, which may have a low limit and/or be accompanied by having only a phone to use internet on.

    13. Quill*

      That’s 100% a function of location and income.

      But even normally smooth-running suburban internet is suffering in terms of reliability around here, because of the increased burden. Families are going from having three or four internet connected devices actively running at a time (say, the smartphones of two adults and a tween or teen, a tv with netflix) to using all available devices at all hours to get work and school done, especially with videoconferencing.

      1. Free Meerkats*

        I’ve definitely noticed that about 10 AM, the connection definitely slows down as the kids get up and the gaming and Netflix viewing starts. And I’m on a 100 mbs service through cable.

        And I have coworkers who’s only possible connection is satellite. No chance of video chat there, even audio only is chancy. All this within 60 miles of Seattle.

    14. Sunflower*

      I think the number if higher than you’d expect. Working at a consulting firm, most consultants travel Mon-Fri and some stay away for the weekends. Some of them don’t even have real apartments- a lot of them just use hot spots or their phones since they might only be home a few days a month.

      1. LJay*

        Yeah, before I started just living in hotels in the town that my headquarters is in, I had an apartment with a bed I brought on Amazon and a suitcase full of clothes that I brought with me each week, and that’s it. If I needed internet after work I tethered to my phone or went to Starbucks or went back to work.

        I’m on the road like 50-75% of the time during the week, and on weekends I live with my husband in the city where he works, so there was no reason for me to have internet service at “home”.

    15. AuroraLight37*

      My family living in Alaska has internet, but we lived with dialup for years because there wasn’t a better option. Also, Google Hangouts didn’t work for us because Google Voice numbers didn’t exist for Alaska or Hawaii when I tried to get one. So there are lots of regional issues that make it more complicated.

    16. Observer*

      Not just cultural. I’m not a DeBlasio fan, but he wasn’t wrong in worrying about the education of kids who don’t have internet access if the schools shut down. In the end, the schools wound up supplying a large number of children with dedicated locked down tablets with wireless internet access.

      I just shipped a wireless hotspot to a staff member with no access because they don’t have access, but they could definitely do their work remotely with access. And this is NYC!

    17. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s $65 a month for my internet package. It’s the cheapest one available. It’s extremely expensive and unattainable for those with meager means.

      People can’t even feed themselves or their kids. So the idea they’d have enough to buy a “cheap” device (my floor model option was $275). And then scrap together $65 a month is a huge assumption!

      It spans all cultures. Poverty doesn’t care where your customs come from. Money talks in the US and its not dispersed equally by any means.

      Our schools handed out Chromebooks, thank God.

      1. Beth*

        Oh man, I’m also on the cheapest option in my area…but for me it’s $17 a month. What a huge difference! This stuff is so unequal.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It’s due to monopolizing issues that are so oddly allowed with utilities.

          I have one option. Unless I wanted a mobile hotspot kind of setup… which don’t think I haven’t thought about!

          Previously least cost option was around $35

      2. Little yellow spider*

        Very good points. Some internet provider (I don’t remember which one) was advertising “affordable” computers for families who didn’t have a device to complete school work on right now. Their cheapest device was like $250. That’s affordable compared to a lot of computers, but not affordable for people living paycheck to paycheck, or who are out of work right now. Which is a lot of people. Our district planned to give out chromebooks but there were SO many more kids without internet/computer access than there were chromebooks, so right now a lot of kids are just having all their assignments mailed to them.

    18. HBJ*

      My H and I didn’t have home internet for many years (and we are a good bit less than half of 80). We used our phones with the data plan and did not stream videos. We could use our phones as a hotspot to use internet on our computer. If we wanted to stream videos or download updates or whatever, we went to the library. Theoretically, we could have afforded it in that we had the extra funds each month to pay for it, but we just didn’t. We didn’t need it. Even now that we do have home internet, we pay for the smallest and cheapest internet package available. It’s plenty for our needs, including some streaming. But if our hypothetical bosses wanted us on anything that needed a lot of downloading or uploading for 8 hours a day, it certainly wouldn’t be enough. I know other people who have extremely limited and extremely expensive internet packages. As in $75 for 5 gigs.

    19. Curmudgeon in California*

      Lots of rural people have only garbage dialup. Poorer folks have only one device like a laptop/desktop for all family members. Even middle class with kids may not have a device for each adult and child. Basic internet is still expensive, unless you’re in an area with special plans for poor folks.

    20. Courtney Kupets*

      I’m 35 and did NOT have it. I actually think younger people need it less. I am just on my ipad or iPhone and I have unlimited data. I use my hotspot to throw streaming services to my tv. I do not pay for cable. So yeah, there was no reason for me to ever have it. It really costs money, and while I make a very good wage, I’d just rather not pay for that.

    21. Silence Will Fall*

      Several of our employees either didn’t have internet or didn’t have fast enough internet. There were several people who just use their phones to browse Facebook or watch the occasional movie and didn’t have any other connection available. Then there’s the third group who has good enough internet for normal times, but not with multiple people trying to work/school from home.

  19. Julia*

    For 4, wouldn’t the fact that references get contacted at all mean you actually have a reasonable shot? I can’t imagine NASA contacting the references of 12000+ applicants, surely they’ll filter people out before that?

    1. Desk-Nail-Clipperer*

      Yeah, I was thinking that. I have no idea on NASA’s hiring procedures, but I’d imagine they would let you know before they start contacting references. Personally, I’d refrain from getting in touch with my references until then.. It’s no more than when applying for jobs generally. My references don’t need a note every time I submit an application for a job, but a short heads up after a phone screen or in-person interview is fine. Let your references know when they’re likely to be contacted, not at the very start of a process with thousands of applicants.

      Sidenote – to me it seems a little amiss for NASA to be asking for reference details from 12,000 applicants, at least from a data security standpoint (how are they storing that amount of information? How long for? How secure is it? Who has access to the personal contact information of these references?), but that might just be because I’m UK based and GDPR has been burned into my conciousness.

      1. Lady Heather*

        After the end of year you can have a consciousness transplant – GDPR out, Brexit Deal in!

    2. Beth*

      I think OP is trying to figure out how to give her references a heads up that they *might* get contacted while also recognizing that it’s competitive.

      1. Julia*

        And I think Desk-Nail-Clipperer makes a good point. By the time the references might be contacted, OP surely will have received some communication from NASA, at least if their process is in any way similar to normal hiring practices where reference checking usually happens later in the process.

  20. Clementine*

    Many tech companies are providing a one-time stipend of say $400-1000 for employees to buy stuff to enhance their work from home experience. This can be stuff like a coffeemaker, but probably not food.

    I know various people who arranged their lives to hardly ever have to feed themselves, because they worked at tech companies. But these are also people who have salaries that do not require any sympathy. If they are sufficiently sought after, they can get a job at another company and make a food stipend a requirement (but why would anyone do that, when you can just negotiate salary?). It is a loss to give up the concentration and single-mindedness you can have when working, if you have zero other things to worry about like food, transport (employee shuttles after all), or even laundry and pet-walking (yes, I have encountered companies that handled those). Not to mention a built-in social life and social network with office events and hanging out together. Of course, it’s a loss that extremely few people will empathize with.

  21. Green great dragon*

    LW2 – you might have a better case pushing for funding for wfh equipment. It might be a smaller sum but it seems a more reasonable ask. I am really feeling the absence of a proper keyboard and chair (but mitigation for this is on its way).

  22. KoolMan*

    OP2 : It seems your intent is to milk the situation as much as possible to your own benefit. Getting too greedy !!

    1. Bree*

      This seems unkind – the LW says they’re trying to look out for their team, and it’s a confusing and complicated adjustment period where norms around this stuff aren’t fully established.

      Not kool, man.

    2. Alan*

      It depends on how much people are getting paid imo. If they are on low wages and this benefit is a way of offsetting the poor pay then they have a reason to be upset about it

    3. Chili*

      I think there are a lot more generous interpretations of this letter. I do agree that this doesn’t come across the best, but I also think it’s fair to be confused about how to handle this. And a lot of companies do make the free food seem almost like part of the compensation package: “yeah, we pay below market but you’ll never have to pay for a meal.” So I could see someone being more likely to ask for a food stipend if they’re in this boat.
      And some companies are letting people expense takeout from home for meetings that would have been catered (mine included), so this isn’t the wildest ask. It can definitely seem really out of touch if this is absolutely not the vibe of your office (it sounds like it isn’t for the LW) but it’s not as ridiculous a question as some people are making it seem.

  23. Beth*

    Op1: Oof.

    It looks like most people are responding with the assumption that you knew on some level this wasn’t legit, or should have known at least. They have a point–this is pretty out there. You really don’t have a shot at getting this job back, because this story isn’t very believable; you’d need a strong existing record of absolutely impeccable credibility to even have a shot at it, and you haven’t been there long enough to establish that.

    But on the off chance you are telling the full truth here, and truly were blindsided by this, you need to have a serious talk with your fiancee. If what you’re saying is genuinely what happened, she forged a document, lied to your face about its origins, and had you submit it to your company (which anyone with an ounce of sense could anticipate leading to this outcome; all it would take is one call to the doctor to follow up on it to reveal the forgery, and like I said, that kind of dishonesty is near-impossible to come back from). That shows a serious level of disregard for you, your career, and your right to have some degree of control over your own life and reputation.

    I’m going to bet she’ll say she did it out of fear since you’re both high risk. But if she was that concerned for herself, she could have taken any number of other measures–including deciding to live apart from you for a while to maximize isolation, if that’s what it took to make her feel safe. And she never had the right to force you to make the medical decisions she wants against your own will; even with you being engaged, you still get to make your own choices about how to manage your health. Instead, she went for a path that was either extremely controlling, demonstrative of extremely poor judgement, or both. That’s not okay. That’s not how partnership works, and it’s a giant red flag for a future marriage between you.

    1. Observer*

      I have to agree with you.

      This is not a relationship blog, but really this raises some huge red flags here.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I kind of see it this way also. The job is gone. This now boils down to a relationship question. Much younger me decided that a good partner for me was someone who used good judgement. They needed to have a level head and be able to keep themselves AND me safe, as I would do for them. (A two way street.)

      Perhaps this is a wildly out of character thing for Fiancee and it was driven by sheer panic. This still stands as good reason to sort out how the two of you will handle situations as a team in the future. Perhaps part of the discussion includes waiting a bit longer to get married. This can go in any number of directions.

      And it’s a fair harbinger for your future lives together. When a spouse speaks people often assume that the other spouse is in agreement, not a good assumption to make but it happens often. You see it playing out right here, too. People assume because Finacee lied, that you are lying also. This is a real thing that happens with couples. It’s worthwhile to spend time getting on the same page with each other and talking about boundaries for each of you in regard to your relationships with other people, including work people.

      Work issues were always a DIY thing for me and my husband. We could advise each other but the one with the problem was the one who took any action. Likewise with medical issues, we could advise each other but the one with the medical problem made the final choice. The only exception would be if the ill partner could not speak for themselves. And we agreed to respond in a manner the other would choose if able. Pick some general categories and outline how you guys will approach each area with each other- finances, inlaws, etc. This could be a good investment of time for both of you.

  24. Cordoba*

    From 5: “Obviously, anything that would be easily branded a “party” picture is a no-go”

    Is that really true? I wouldn’t hesitate to use a photo from a New Year’s Eve party or something, picture dressed up with champagne and a noise maker or similar. This doesn’t seem any better or worse than a hair dryer photo.

    Adults are allowed to go to parties, photographic evidence of them doing so isn’t inherently unprofessional.

    1. Desk-Nail-Clipperer*

      I think it depends what’s meant by “party”. Photo of you at a nightclub, shots in hand, clearly worse-for-wear? Yeah, not professional. A nicely posed pic of you in a party dress with a glass of champagne and a silly new years hat? I wouldn’t put it on my LinkedIn page, but for a work profile picture that doesn’t scream unprofessional to me.

      FWIW, my profile picture on the company intranet is of me as I finished a gruelling 100-mile, 2-day hike. It’s a great picture of me, it says something about my interests and hobbies outside of work, and it’s a nice little pick-me-up whenever I see it as it brings back memories of that weekend. It’s probably not professional by many standards, and I don’t use it for external communications, but for internal work purposes it fits the bill.

    2. Electric sheep*

      It’s not the photograph, it’s the choosing of a photo to represent you in a professional setting doing something recreational that in many offices would come across as showing poor judgement.

    3. It's My Prof Pic*

      Good point! I was thinking more along the lines of the advice that’s given regarding social media and work/hiring — nothing sloppy, nothing too PG-13, nothing with excessive alcohol. I think a NYE pic would be more along the lines of what I’m writing in about, put together/madeup, shows some personality, but there is alcohol involved. I think the hesitation comes less from my co-workers knowing I drink and more from the way a profile picture is meant to represent you.

  25. Lady Farquaad*

    LW2: So many companies are experiencing loss in revenues right now. So unless you work for a company that produces face masks and hand sanitisers, it’s going to come across incredibly tone deaf to push for expensive perks that aren’t necessary to working from home. At my company a lot of employees have accepted they will be on reduced pay because there literally isn’t enough cash to pay everyone the same salary as before and the only alternative is mass lay offs. If someone starts complaining about losing their free meals (because we used to provide meals as well) I would mentally note them down as one of the first to lay off if we get to that stage.

    It makes sense to ask for additional sick pay or extra equipment to allow a WFH arrangement. Or even access to counselling services to support employees experiencing isolation and anxiety. But demanding daily delivery of takeaway meals is going to make you seem…entitled and immature. Not to mention putting delivery people at risk.

  26. LGC*

    …I feel like letter 1 is a corollary to the letter from last week/month/year/century (or all of those at the same time) by the LW who was mad at Alison that they couldn’t yell at their spouse’s job on their behalf about THE RONA.

    LW2: Logistically, they might not be able to afford it. For my project, our revenue’s dropped…a lot. Our other projects are shut down entirely. And although our staffing is much lower, we wouldn’t be able to pull in the money to afford stuff.

    I know a lot of people are probably dropping heat on you right now (the comment I’m looking at right now is a bit mocking), but yeah. A lot of those perks were to keep you in the office, for better or for worse. And I’m not sure how your job works (disregard if you work for – like – Google and they literally send a private shuttle to pick you up every morning), but while you’re losing the free food perk you’re also “gaining” the time and lower expense of not having to commute to work. (For example, I’m not paying $250 a month to commute.)

    Finally, maybe it’s just me, and maybe I’m just old and have bathed in AAM way too much, but I feel like it’s a bit of a red flag that the food is the big perk your job offers. It kind of shows where their priorities lie, I guess.

    LW3: As your boss, I’m really sorry for not hiding my feelings better.

    Okay, so to be serious – the response is 100% right, and if he’s as good as you say he is he’ll be responsive. But also – did he just not get the memo that COVID-19 knocks you out for like a month?! (I don’t mean to scare you, but I’ve heard stories of even “mild” cases lasting for well over a month.) I think part of your boss’s issue – if he’s anything like me – is that he’s a “conscientious” person, where he tries to honor his deadlines…and panics when he can’t.

    One other thing you can do is to ask him what’s most important to get done and what can wait – and to try to get the important stuff out of the way first.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      If the boss is just “conscientious” and panicking about deadlines, he should take over the LW’s work and/or assign it to someone else, rather than taking it out on the sick person.

      1. LGC*

        Which is part of the reason why I put “conscientious” in quotes. He’s thinking about the deadlines, and forgetting that there’s a desperately sick human trying to meet them. (Okay, “forgetting.” Again, emphasis on the scare quotes.)

        That said, you are right. There’s a couple of things going on here, though – it’s not that LW3 can’t work entirely, it’s that she can’t be as productive as she usually is.

        I now have been dealing with serious symptoms of what is almost certainly COVID-19 for over two weeks. We are all working from home for now. Following company policy made specifically to address the pandemic, I used up all my sick time and have been working as much as I can and using paid “release” time so that I am being paid for my normal full hours. I am not falling behind in my work. My manager is his kind, caring, and sympathetic self regarding my symptoms, and I know he is worried about my health, but he is also clearly stressing out over my inability to work my full hours or to adhere to a regular schedule. This is causing me stress and makes me feel guilty about using the release hours.

        But on a third look…I wrote my suggestion assuming that she’d like to work, but now I’m not sure about that. (It’s slippery! She can WFH, but that’s different from whether she should right now, or if she wants to.)

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Yeah, if the boss were a decent person he wouldn’t be asking her for *any* work right now.

  27. Lady Farquaad*

    LW1: Wow – your employment relationship is broken beyond repair because this kind of deceit is pretty major. It will be pretty difficult for an employer to believe you didn’t know about the forgery (honestly even I am doubtful). Do you want to go back to a workplace where people will see you as inherently untrustworthy? You’d have ongoing issues at work even if they took you back.

    I would accept this as a learning experience and find a new job.

  28. Susie Q*

    OP#2 if your company doesn’t pay living wages, that needs to be addressed over this food stipend. If it does, then suck it up buttercup. Welcome to the real world where the majority of us have to budget our income to spend on food. Stop trying to use terrible realities that many people are experiencing get a perk.

  29. Ash*

    LW2: methinks you are grasping at straws here. The only industries I know that provide full meals and snacks for everyone are entertainment/media, and philanthropy. Anyway, you are likely in a white collar industry where all staff have internet at home and probably smart phones with data plans too. If any members of your team don’t have internet, certainly that is a reasonable thing to ask for support from your company. But daily free food is not a perk 99% of workers in the United States receive, and it’s not reasonable for you to ask for it during an emergency. I also highly doubt the company is encouraging folks to take food home to feed their entire families. The goal of providing the food is for *employees* to feel more comfortable and happy in the workplace.

    1. Archaeopteryx*

      Yes this to me seems kind of like asking for a toilet paper stipend because you used to have that provided by your office five days a week. I’m sure it’s technically an increased expense, but it’s kind of your own responsibility.

      1. Courtney Kupets*

        I actually thought about running a toilet paper black market ring out of the office. It was a thought I had one day in the ladies’ room right before I went home full time.

    2. Nonprofit Lifer*

      Philanthropy ahahahahahahaha not so much. I assume the OP works in tech or Big Corporate. No tears, bub.

  30. Ginger*

    Most companies that provide a fully stocked kitchen generally pay their employees fairly well (obviously making a generalization here).

    Asking for a stipend and bringing up food insecurity during this crisis when millions are out of work is incredibly tone deaf and lacks a huge degree of empathy.

    My company has fully stocked kitchens and know what we are doing? The company is using the budget that normally goes to food is being donated to food pantries.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Most companies that provide a fully stocked kitchen generally pay their employees fairly well (obviously making a generalization here).

      Yeah, this is definitely a generalization. My mom’s company gives employees free meals, but they also pay them way below market rate – they’re literally the worst paid insurance company in our city.

      1. TimeCat*

        Although never, ever rely on a soft perk that can be yanked at any time (like free food) over a concrete one (salary, defined benefits).

      2. Ash*

        Your mom and her coworkers should band together and ask the company to raise wages (after the crisis, of course). If they push back and say we can’t, they should offer to forego the free meals. Money in pocket is almost always better than perks (perks being different than benefits). Especially since so many states still allow employers to ask for salary history, being underpaid has the ability to impact earnings for years to come.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          This company has been underpaying for decades, people have been protesting this for years – they get nowhere. Most people leave that place for higher paying jobs. The only reason my mom hasn’t is because she doesn’t have a college degree and thinks she can’t do any better anywhere else.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              I won’t get any increase this year – my university employer has announced both a wage freeze and a hiring freeze.

              As a private university, their funding comes from endowments that are invested in the stock market. Guess what went waaaaay down? Yep, the stock market. So we’re kinda screwed.

              Our pay is less than industry to start with, our “merit” increases barely keep up with national inflation, and we certainly don’t get any free food (our new open plan buildings have a very expensive cafeteria though.)

              But yeah, people who are underpaid do exist, even in companies that have “free food” as perks.

              1. Diahann Carroll*

                My employer froze hiring and cancelled our raises for this year as well – solidarity, CinC.

      3. Iain*

        It was an explicit generalisation. Most is not all, the plural of anecdote is not data, and so on.

  31. Desk-Nail-Clipperer*

    LW2 – I can see where you’re coming from. If you get so used to eating 2/3 meals at work for free, having to fund those 2 meals from your own pocket can seem like quite an expense. However, in the same way that my at-home coffee spending has soared now I don’t get to drink the free coffee at the office, your employees need to eat the cost of providing their own meals.

    The bigger question to ask, is are you paying your employees a reasonabe living wage? If so, then you’re in the clear and your employees need to settle down and pay for their own lunches. If you’re paying minimum wage and the only way your employees could reasonably make ends meet was by eating the free food in the office and take it home for the rest of the family, then *that* is what needs addressing. You can’t pay people the minimum amount and expect them to use office perks to be able to afford to live.

  32. Roscoe*

    #3 honestly, this comes off a bit tone deaf to me right now. I mean, I get it. I’ve worked for companies where they provided lunch in the office, and it was a great money saver. However, if they are like many companies right now, and not making the normal amount of money, asking them to subsidize your meals while at home is a bit much. Part of working from home gives you the convenience to make stuff easier. Whereas in your office, you may only have a microwave, here you have your whole kitchen to make lunches. With so many companies cutting hours, or staff, I think getting rid of a nice perk isn’t that big of a deal. You asked, they said no, I really don’t think you should ask again.

    #5. I really hate the idea that the fact that an adult has alcohol could be considered a bad thing. If you were doing a beer bong or something, that would be different. But a legal adult beverage shouldn’t be looked at as unprofessional since it was clearly in your off time. I especially hate that people decide what things are ok and what aren’t. Many people would have no problem with a picture at a vineyard, but frown on a picture doing a shot. Its ridiculous. But I agree with Alison, your company sounds like it would be fine

  33. cncx*

    OP1, please look at this is a big red flag for your fiancee too.
    My ex husband almost cost me a job when i forwarded him an offer letter, and he replied to me with the manager on copy about negotiating salary. He said it was a reply all mistake…even though you can’t reply all on a forward. That was the first of many things he did to sabotage me professionally so that i would be financially dependent. The whole time I was married to him I job hopped. It was horrible. I know the commentariat here leans towards not digging into people’s relationships and i really hope your relationship is great, i’m just saying anything about your relationship right now, i’m just saying keep this episode as a data point and be aware of anything else that seems off when it comes to your fiancee and your employment.

  34. Jemima Bond*

    I feel like LW1 has as much of a fiancée problem as a work problem. Could be framed as “my fiancée got me fired owing to their at best thoughtless/injudicious interference in my work-related medical issues”. Giving the LW the benefit of the doubt that they really didn’t know the note was faked – and assuming in the absence of any indication to the contrary they are mentally and physically capable of managing their medical affairs and no medical power of attorney etc is in place – what has led up to your fiancée being able to fake a note about your own medical affairs and pass it off as genuine? What circs are in place that you wouldn’t question why the doctor sent the note to the fiancée and not you? Do they control other things about your life? Also what were they thinking; did they not think it would be found out? I’d be worried about their apparent lack of appreciation of the consequences of their actions, or their willingness to risk your interests.
    This sounds like serious relationship problems to me.

    1. Archaeopteryx*

      Yes, before you make this fiancé into a spouse, you’d better do a lot of hard thinking about their relationship with the truth if forging a medical document is within their boundaries.

  35. Jamie*

    OP1: Really no excuse for this- you had to be fired. I’m not sure I’d want to work for a company that required a doctor’s note to work from home or stay home during a pandemic though! In the long run you may have dodged a bullet here.

    OP2: The “perk” of them feeding you is to get you to stay at the office more. Not going to happen at this time!

  36. Jemima Bond*

    All meals and snacks provided is clearly an office perk. The first word indicating that it is to make the office better, to encourage you to be in it more. So if you aren’t in the office, you don’t get it. The second word indicates that it is a bonus, an extra, a gift, a bit of luck, not an entitlement. If your next door neighbour gave you a homemade cake two weekends running, would you demand the monetary equivalent the week after when she didn’t make you a third one? Of course not.
    I find it hard to believe that a company lucrative enough to provide this sort of thing (I mean this is the google level of perks) is paying any employees so poorly that loss of a perk puts them below the breadline – and the LW doesn’t say that they do; she talks in general about times being hard for some. If it were the case then that needs to be addressed in terms of salary/wages, not trying to make up a shortfall with donuts.

    1. Jennifer*

      I agree. A company that can afford to provide breakfast, lunch and dinner to their workers is likely paying a decent wage.

      Not to mention people are saving a lot of money by not having to put much gas in their cars since they are no longer commuting.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Nah – my mom’s employer provides free breakfast and lunch, sometimes the occasional dinner if there’s a company-wide push for overtime, and they pay horribly. Their excuse for that is the fact that they pay for the employees’ meals and offer them regular medical insurance with only a $650 deductible (though I think employee premiums are still high). This company is a mess though and run by greedy asshats.

        1. Quill*

          I worked for a company that would take us out for sushi whenever the boss felt like it but was, in all other ways, horrible. (Pay was about at market rate for my experience but WAY below rate for what I was doing on a daily basis.)

          Point was, it was always cheaper to feed us – lavishly, even! – Than it was to do due dilligence on finding an insurance plan we could all actually afford to be on, pay any of the overtime we worked, or get us trained on proper procedures rather than making me drive across three counties looking for someone who would sell us dry ice after the ancient dude who owned the local Baskin Robbins got written up for doing it. Or find a place where we could have proper lab hygeine…

  37. Jennifer*

    #4 I’m rooting for you, OP! Thanks for making me smile today. I admire people who keep striving for their dreams, even if they seem unattainable.

    To infinity and beyond!!

  38. Fikly*

    #2: My company has a standing free lunch for everyone in the office once a week. The way it’s done is through a service that picks from a rotating group of local restaurants, there are 3-5 options, and you choose what you want. If the meal is above x price, you chip in for the extra.

    Now that we’re all remote, we all get to expense the same x amount once a week for delivery/groceries. We use a really simple expense service (that we’ve all been using already) where you just upload the receipt, so it wasn’t a huge deal to set up.

    We also have a small supply of snacks/drinks, which aren’t being replaced, but those were never really intended as meal replacements.

  39. SpaceballOne*

    Hey, to the aspiring astronaut — if you get far enough that NASA is calling your references, those references ought to be pretty impressed. Truly! And to any thoughts/comments of doubt — from yourself, friends/family, potential references — I say, take a close look at some of the astronauts’ bios and backgrounds. They are all high performers, of course, but they come from a variety of backgrounds.

    Best of luck to you. :)

  40. AvonLady Barksdale*

    LW #3: I know it’s been said before, but it deserves to be said again. Your boss is not especially kind, understanding, or sympathetic. He might be pleasant to be around and he might have a nice personality, but he has proven to be not so great when the s*** hits the fan. I mean, seriously, still giving you grief over being unexpectedly out when you had emergency surgery? That’s not kind, that’s actually pretty mean and manipulative. The kind response when you’re sick– especially now– would be, “Oh man, I know you’ve used up all of your sick time, but please just rest right now and we’ll reassess in a couple of days.” The kind response to your surgery would have been, “Oh wow, that sounds much more serious than I thought! Take care of yourself, I will handle things until you’re able to come back.”

    I’ve worked for this guy. The guy who responds to, “I’m not feeling so well, I’m going to take the afternoon off,” with, “But we have to work on Project That Can Be Finished Tomorrow And Isn’t Due For A Week! Can you get some rest and then meet with me at 3pm?” This is the same guy who, when he is ill, will take the entire day off and tell us not to bother him.

    You should let his response to your situation color your opinion of him. This is information you need to keep in your back pocket.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yes. This is a superficial performance of niceness, not someone who is actually kind.

    2. Fikly*

      Yup, he’s in the same category of boss as one of my mother’s, who when she returned from emergency leave because BOTH of her parents had to have emergency surgery two days apart, asked “how was your vacation?” And was then resentful that my mother had missed three days of work.

  41. Lady Heather*

    Even if you can get the company to pass food expenses on to employees as a stipend or bonus, I doubt it will be a significant sum.

    *The company almost certainly has a bulk discount; they won’t pay retail pricing (unlike you, when you go to the store with your company stipend).
    *Depending on the catering set-up, your company might still be paying some or all of the catering.
    *You eat three company meals a day, another coworker eats one company snack a week. The average might be three meals and four snacks a week, so that’s what the company pays for and what it would give you as a stipend.
    *Whatever money would be left you’d pay taxes on.

    Given all that, what you’d receive if the company’s food expenses would be passed to the employees would be pennies on the dollar compared to the value of the food you got at the company.

    If your situation is such that you’ll have to skip meals even if all your meals are solely rice and beans, I do think you can ask your company for help, but then your argument (your plea, honestly) needs to be ‘I’m starving, please help me’ and not ‘You stopped giving me food, please resume’.

  42. matcha123*

    OP2’s question sounds really tone-deaf.
    I highly doubt that they are working for, say, Burger King…where pay is low, but employees might be given a “free” meal.
    I think the OP was very lucky to work at a company that provided meals, but I don’t get the impression that they are working for a company that’s paying absurdly low wages. I do get the impression that they are using the suffering of others to improve their own situation, which I find deplorable.
    Perhaps I am wrong, but the OP reminds me of a friend who makes a good salary, but uses the experiences of low income people to gain sympathy for her own situation. If OP were truly worried about not being able to eat, or coworkers that couldn’t afford to buy food or internet, they would have stated that in their letter.
    They shouldn’t push for food to be delivered to their home. That’s too much.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      If OP were truly worried about not being able to eat, or coworkers that couldn’t afford to buy food or internet, they would have stated that in their letter.

      I think so, too.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        When my company pays my salary, they give me a means for me to feed myself. The food is not compensation in and of itself. If my employer provides meals and snacks at work, it’s not compensation – it’s a perk.

      2. Fikly*

        If it’s included in your contract, it’s compensation.

        And it’s compensation especially at places where it’s used to keep employees from leaving to get food.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Most US workers don’t have contracts and it’s highly unlikely you’d see this included in one for those who do. It’s a perk, not compensation.

        2. On a pale mouse*

          If it’s used to keep employees from leaving for food that makes it *less* likely that it’s compensation. It’s for the employer’s convenience rather than the employee’s benefit.

        3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I don’t know where the heck you’re getting that anyone has “office provides snacks and catering” in their contracts.

    2. Jennifer*

      I agree. If it was a food service job where there may be workers who actually depended on their free meal plus maybe leftovers that they got to take home to their family, I’d be a lot more understanding.

      I do understand that it’s easy to get used to having a freshly prepared gourmet meal waiting on you whenever you get hungry and having to cook all day is a big adjustment, but it’s small potatoes compared to what others are facing right now. Uber Eats is still operating. You can pretend you’re still at the office.

  43. Delta Delta*

    #5 – The photo sounds adorable and full of character. If it’s only for internal Slack usage, and if the tone is in keeping with your company, use it. If it falls flat, change it. In my mind I’m picturing the hairdryer, sassy red lipstick, a mimosa held in one hand in sort of a devil-may-care pose. In fact, I sort of want to have that as my picture…

  44. agnes*

    OP #1: It’s a tough lesson you learned with serious consequences. It’s time for you to accept responsibility for this and not blame your fiance. You are deluding yourself if you believed that your cardiologist would not give you a note, but would somehow magically give your fiance a note. Don’t beat yourself up, but don’t give yourself a complete pass either. Neither approach is helpful in the long term.

  45. What the What*

    I could see how my husband could trick me into thinking I’d received a doctor’s note. If I were at work and he texted or emailed me a photo/scan of a letter and said “Look what came in the mail today, the doctor must have changed her mind,” I would not second guess him. I also wouldn’t call my doctor to see if it was real, even if she’d original said no. Information about COVID has been changing every day, and I would assume the doctor truly did reconsider. I would definitely take it at face value if my husband did something like that.

    So I can understand how the LW may have been ignorant.

    It’s a silly, short-sighted, and deceitful thing to do and unfortunately has learned that the things your spouse does can have very real impacts on your career and reputation. Choose wisely who you marry, LW. This person is supposed to be your partner in life, and if you choose to partner with someone who lies and cheats and can’t predict the consequences of their actions, that’s on you.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      Information about COVID has been changing every day, and I would assume the doctor truly did reconsider.

      This is something I had not considered and is a real possibility. Plus, offices are probably really busy, so they may just send it out without calling ahead of time.

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      Choose wisely who you marry, LW. This person is supposed to be your partner in life, and if you choose to partner with someone who lies and cheats and can’t predict the consequences of their actions, that’s on you.

      Preach!

    3. Jennifer*

      I get that too. I trust my husband 100%. If I left my email up on our home computer or something or was logged into the medical portal for my doctor’s office he could have easily seen it if the doctor actually sent a note. I would have never thought my husband would forge something like that. I know the story sounds strange but I get why the OP believed her.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Thank you for this POV.

      I agree, I trust my partner without hesitation because why wouldn’t I? He’s never shown himself to be deceitful or pulled weird crap before, you know [and we wouldn’t still be together if he did… because yikes that’s the ultimate deal breaker].

      But really, you should be angry and rethinking your relationship.

    5. Diamond*

      True. Even if my husband said “hey the doctor’s office emailed this to me for some reason – they must have mixed up our emails!” it still wouldn’t occur to me that he was lying. That would be such a completely confusing, shocking out of the blue thing for him to do. It would be as unexpected as if he decided to go to my work and tell my boss in interpretive dance why I needed to stay home. So I can’t really blame the OP for trusting their fiancee, if it truly happened the way they say.

  46. CupcakeCounter*

    #1
    Not sure how you didn’t realize it was a falsified document since when you spoke with your Doctor and he declined to give you the note. However, I will say that picking up a doctors note can be done by anyone – I have picked up several for my husband and all I had to do was walk into the office and say “I’m picking up X form for Mr Counter” and they hand it over. All I needed to do was confirm his first and last name and DOB. So IF the doc had agreed (or at least not denied) to write the note, the fiancé could have easily picked it up, scanned, and emailed it to OP.

    Unfortunately for you, you knew that your cardiologist had declined to write the note so you should have had doubts as to the validity of the note.

    1. Nita*

      Seconded. My husband has picked up an FMLA note for me. I think I may have told the receptionist he’d stop by, but that was it. I can see how this might have looked plausible to OP.

  47. Anon4this*

    OP#1- you’ve should’ve seen another doctor or gotten a second opinion, bottom line.
    Plenty of doctors will give patients notes for almost anything. Especially in times of a pandemic.
    Forging a note is not only “unethical” but it’s a criminal offense. I don’t know if you’re in the USA, but the drug wars have made any sort of doctor forgery a felony offense, and America has privatized prisons, so…be careful in the future and good luck with finding a new job.

    1. Shitters Beware*

      I am floored that anyone would think he is entitled to a food stipend because snacks and lunch are provided on-site at work. Talk about entitlement! And anyone with a full-time job mentioning “food insecurity” is blatantly offensive. This person needs to bone up on real life. Does he not realize that there are likely thousands of convenience store store employees putting their lives at risk everyday for minimum wage who would switch places with him in a heartbeat, catered lunch or no? I hope it’s not too late for this shallow fool to learn something from this nightmare we’re experiencing, but I doubt it.

  48. Almost Academic*

    OP 4 -I applied as well! Good luck to the both of us.

    I’m in a highly nontraditional field for becoming an astronaut, and one that can be judgmental about people seeking outside employment, so I used the following language:

    Dear Ex-Boss,
    [Pleasantries / catch up sentence]

    I’m writing because I’ve decided to submit an application in response to the current open call for Astronaut Candidates. Would you be comfortable being listed as a reference on my application, and do you feel you could provide a strong reference for me if contacted?

    To be clear, the chances of me actually getting this job are small (7 / 18,300 per the last round of applications). However, being an astronaut is a job I’ve dreamed about since I was a kid so I’ve decided to throw my hat in the ring. My time in [workplace] really helped me to build a lot of transferable skills for this position, namely [things I want them to highlight if called], and I feel you could speak to those well.

    Thanks!

  49. AuroraLight37*

    LW4, as someone who used to work for NASA (not as an astronaut), I can tell you that most people are going to think it’s really cool to be a potential reference. And if they’re mean dream-quashers, you don’t want them as a reference anyway.
    Good luck, and send us a photo from space!

  50. Liz T*

    Re: #2, my company isn’t replicating the snacks in any way (or the other culture-related perks like birthday cakes), but one cool thing they’ve done is take the money from our “free lunch Friday” Seamless order and give it to us as a personal work-from-home expense budget. So we each have $15/week to buy anything we feel will make our WFH set-up more comfortable. (I used it on a lumbar cushion and footrest; my coworker lost her grocery receipt so she expensed her wine. All legit.)

    So there might be room to say, “Can some of that budget be used for making WFH more sustainable?” rather than approaching it as, “This is a perk you owe us.” For my company at least, sending everyone home for 2+ months meant buying lots of computer monitors and headsets and things like that, so it’s not like they’re just pocketing our cold brew money and skipping to the bank :)

  51. YoungTen*

    OP2, From a logical standpoint, you are saving money on your commuting cost by working at home. Unless you were previously able to (highly unlikely) walk to work. Then, it’s safe to assume that you are not paying for gas or public transit. I’m an essential worker who does not get lunch perks and must burn gas to come to work daily. My only perk no traffic.

  52. Hi there*

    I wonder if it would help the boss in #3 to be super-clear about work expectations and to say you basically won’t be able to do any work for at least another week, maybe two. Not knowing if you are going to be able to help with any tasks and when that might happen on a small team with time-sensitive work happening every day has got to be stressful.

  53. CaliCali*

    RE: OP2, I actually think people are operating with sweeping generalizations, including Alison! And I usually agree with her! So my brother used to be a security guard for a large tech company that provided meals. He was a comparatively low-wage worker, but still got the benefits of working there. He’d regularly eat 2/3 of his meals there and bring home snacks. It was a significant amount of money he was saving! A lot of these companies with these sorts of perks don’t JUST employ high earners — there’s entry level workers, administrative workers, facilities, janitorial, etc. The company didn’t restrict who could take advantage of the free food. So for some, yes, it’s a cushy perk to keep butts in seats and working a long time. For others, it works more like a stipend in practice to often offset living in a high COL area (where, often, companies like this are located). So I think asking for a small stipend makes sense — people need to eat, this is how they used to eat, and it won’t be as easy for them to eat anymore if this is taken from them.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Sadly many of those workers you mentioned are now mostly laid off so they wouldn’t be getting anything from these employers.

      1. LJay*

        Yeah I’m pretty sure security guards and janitors aren’t working from home.

        (Though I could see a case where they used to be able to take advantage of this perk when it was offered for everyone, but now that they’re in the office but nobody else is the perk has been stopped. In that case I think it would be fair to ask if the company could still provide the perk for those who are still in the office. But ultimately if the company says no they say no.)

    2. Gilmore67*

      I worked for a company that did the same thing. I didn’t make a lot of money.

      However I never thought of the perk as my food ticket ( so to speak ) as if I didn’t need to put food in my weekly budget at home. So yeah, maybe I didn’t buy as many snacks or lunch all the time but still I knew I always needed to have enough money to buy food on my own.

      I didn’t rely on the company to feed me in the manner some people are talking about. You must always think ahead of the game.. What if I lost my job, what if they just stopped the food. I need to make sure I can buy food at all times. Because… this is JUST a perk.

      You can’t just say,.. ” Yeah free food. Good I don’t have to buy a lot food ever again” or I don’t make enough money but since they give me food its not so bad.

      Like AAM said, if the company just doesn’t pay enough in general ( for some jobs) that is a whole issue on its own. Fight for more money because you deserve more money or go to another company.

  54. Ellie May*

    2. I’ll admit I was speechless on this one for a few minutes … perks are perks. The great food is an added bonus and not part of the compensation package. Appreciate it for what it was … in the office.

    1. Long Time Lurker*

      Same! It was like 2 back to back letter of me just sitting here like “are these real!?”

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I had to buy coffee because I always just make it at work. And my response was simply “well crap…I need to source coffee.”

      Can you imagine if everyone started asking their employers who supply coffee for coffee and the fixings? What if you don’t need a coffee pot usually? Employers should just buy us all a coffee maker? Where does it stop?

      It blows my mind that this is more than a thing you notice and then remedy it yourself!

      Btw found a local place back home who ships coffee because I’m not going grocery shopping for that kind of thing in between shopping trips.

      1. some dude*

        I read recently that the reason why there is a shortage of TP is not so much because of hoarding, but because we are no longer going to the bathroom at work, and therefore have to buy our own TP, and there is a big difference between industrial and consumer TP. And I don’t think any of us are asking our employer to ship us some rolls of TP.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          No, people are just hoarding TP, I wouldn’t put that much stock in the idea that everyone is just buying the necessary additional amount.

          They average that it’s 2 rolls per person a week at the current stay-home rate. And you see people cleaning out Costco packs for over a month now.

          I bought an extra package when everything was starting. I am at home the least of anyone I know and now being home all the time, my butt hasn’t needed that much more than usual LOL And I don’t have a gallbladder ;)

        2. Ella bee bee*

          There was a shortage of toilet paper pretty early on in all of this, before most people had started working from home/were laid off. People really are hoarding it

  55. Lusara*

    OP1 “Since my fiancee told me it was from my cardiologist, I did not question it.” Yeah, I don’t buy it. You really didn’t question why your doctor’s office sent it to her instead of you?

    1. Julia*

      If they live together, and the fiancee was at home while OP was in the office, she could have opened the letter from the doctor (I have lived in places where doctors mail stuff to you) and offered to send a scan to OP. This isn’t what really happened, but it could have happened.

  56. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    It’s more expensive to buy individual sized meals/ snacks. They’re probably averaging say $5-10 a day per head with their kitchen and catering services in the end.

    Whereas individual deliveries or sending you all some kind of package is much more.

    If they start giving you even say $25 a week more for per diem or whatever they’re lumping it under. When you come back, people will lose their minds and forget that was a temporary boost for food during WFH. Thats one big reason they don’t want to go down that road as well.

    Equipment to WFH is tangible and different than giving people a new semi bump in pay for a temporary time.

  57. Anon20*

    For #2, I think it’s important to realize that the food budget may no longer exist. A lot of companies are having to make cuts, and saving on office supplies /fun committee budgets might enable them to not have to lay off one more person or cut salaries.

  58. NQ*

    OP1, if there’s even a grain of truth in this, fire the fiancée… if it were me, I’d sue the fiancée.

    I used to be in a fairly abusive relationship where he dealt with all the bills, and I had to pay him whatever money he decided they cost that month. He would randomly lie about all sorts too, for the purposes of gaslighting and control, and even manipulated a manager into not taking me for a job because he didn’t want me to go there. But eventually I got out. Are we sure it isn’t this kind of situation?

  59. Total*

    LW1: I’ve got to say, I’m with the folks who are skeptical that you didn’t know. There’s nothing in your letter about talking to your fiancee about what was a giant breach of trust. What did they say when you confronted them about the lie?

  60. Mill Miker*

    LW4: My wife applied for the astronaut program the last time it was open. She mostly got enthusiastic and interested responses from people. There’s a big difference between “I’m going to be an astronaut when I grow up” and “NASA just opened applications for astronauts, and I meet the requirements” and the later sounds entirely reasonable. As reasonable as any other coveted job anyways.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Agreed!

      Also you miss out on everything you don’t apply for. Just because your odds are low, if you qualify, there’s no shame in throwing your hat into that ring. Anyone who you trust to be a reference should be pumped to know someone who fits the criteria to even apply to be considered.

  61. Observer*

    #1 – I haven’t read all of the posts yet, but I see that you’ve taken quite a drubbing. Some of it really is unfair, but there is a lot here that you really need to take on board and really think about.

    Beyond that, the reaction you are getting should show you something valuable, even though it’s highly unpleasant. After reading even part of this, you know why your former employer decided to cut their losses. You also have some insight as to how this is likely to look to future employers.

  62. Observer*

    #5 – I think that the hair dryer is more of an issue than the drink unless it’s very prominent or very clear that it’s not just OJ.

    Unless this is a very laid back company and industry which doesn’t have major problems with latent sexism, the hair dryer is likely to feed into stupid stereotypes.

  63. Antennapedia*

    OP4: I did this, actually, two selection classes ago (made it through the first round of applicants, washed out in the second, long before interviews) and did exactly what Alison suggested and it was fine. Most people are surprised at how much it’s like applying for any other government job– when I applied it was literally just an application on USAjobs.gov.

    Good luck! Make sure you brush up on your Russian and make sure your scuba cert is up to date! those things help.

  64. lmary*

    #2 – Frankly it is your own responsibility to provide the food you eat in your own home. Having food perks is wonderful and can save tons of money, but (1) this is a perk, not a benefit – your company is not required to provide this and can take it away whenever they want, (2) Your company is likely tightening its belt and trying to cut costs too, and (3) although I’m sure it isn’t meant that way, it feels a bit insensitive to be complaining about losing your food perks at work when people are losing their jobs and their lives. Your company is likely going to read this comment as insensitive or inappropriate given the circumstances.

    1. Mad mad me*

      If one of my employees came to me with such a request, I’d give him the heave ho. I am gobsmacked by this letter!

  65. nancy pants*

    #2: The LW here is not alone, unfortunately. My spouse works for a company who feeds them all the time at the office, and they had to send out an all-staff email saying “sorry you’re not getting reimbursed for food at home” because so many people had asked a version of this question.

    Often, people who work at these kinds of companies live in a bubble. They’ve never been anything but prized and pampered by their employers, and competed over by recruiters who offer ever-more perks, and they have no idea how it works for the rest of us out here in the world.

    I’d highly recommend if you find yourself thinking you “deserve” food benefits while also working a secure and well-paid job from home, take some time to volunteer at your local food bank.

  66. Kilroy was here*

    The OP knows damned well that the doctor’s note is a big fat phony. Does he actually think any scenario exists that would give him his job back? And even if that note were real, is he ok with the fact that his nutty fiance has inserted herself into every facet of his life (talking to the doc, HR)?! How old are these people? Just cop to this little caper, accept that this one didn’t work for you, and move on.

  67. Jennifer Juniper*

    OP5: If you’re a woman, I would not have myself photographed drinking anything alcoholic, let alone use that photo as my profile picture. You don’t want people thinking you’re of dubious moral character. Many conservative and religious people would think precisely that.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      “You don’t want people thinking you’re of dubious moral character. Many conservative and religious people would think precisely that.”

      Sounds like their sexist problem. If the OP had stated they worked in an office with that kind of culture that would be one thing, but they didn’t, so this advice feels out of touch to me.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      You shouldn’t worry about what extremists believe.

      I’m surrounded by both conservatives and religious people, many of them drink, many of them aren’t sexist creeps. So stop spreading fear.

    3. Mama Bear*

      I would err on the side of caution for any professional photo, be it in-house or not. A company I worked with in the past lost business because of a website photo that was a little too unprofessional. If you wouldn’t sit at your desk with that drink, then don’t use it as a profile, IMO. That goes for anybody.

  68. Koala dreams*

    #1 I feel sorry for you, it was very bad of your fiancee to deceive you and forge the doctor’s note. From the company’s point of view, though, it was your responsibility to provide a (legitimate) doctor’s note. Even though you choose another person to pick up the note/log into the portal/open the mail on your behalf, it’s still on you. Your fiancee deceiving you is an issue between the two of you, and not something the company wants to get involved in.

    #2 When the employer provides most of the main meals for employees, that’s a significant part of the grocery budget. It’s not at all the same as some minor perk like free coffee and some snacks. The problem is that for all the reasons people have listed above, you’ll have a hard time to convince your employer to compensate for the meals. I’d recommend you to just accept that your pay has been cut, just like many other people have had their pay cut recently, because that’s what it means to you. And then leave it alone.

    If some employees are paid so little that they would starve without those meals, maybe you can find other arguments for paying those employees a living wage. Statistics on poverty levels, information on market wages, a stipend to cover extra costs for work from home equipment. A donation to the local food bank?/only half serious

  69. Trixie, the Great and Pedantic*

    LW4, if you meet all the requirements, why do you think people would think you’re silly? You’re a qualified professional seeking an exciting new opportunity in a competitive field! What’s the worst that can happen? You don’t become an astronaut? Like you aren’t already? Let them know! Your references will probably be SO PROUD of you. I don’t know you and *I’m* so proud of you for being that qualified!

    Just make sure you don’t have any friends who think a prank call from NASA would be funny. You want your references to take it seriously when it happens.

  70. Ruffingit*

    On the privacy laws issue with regards to the doctor, the OP could very well have signed for his fiancee to be able to have access to his health records. That form is included every time I go to a new doctor or when they ask that I update information. So it’s really not a weird thing at all. Even before I was married, my husband, then-fiance had access to my health records.

    1. Perpal*

      Access is not the same as “we gave this note you asked for to your emergency contact despite you being perfectly available” – but LW knows their own situation best. I could see just being an accepting sort of person, but it’s weird to ask a doctor to tell a company paid time off is needed and it’s weird to have a fiance fake a doctors note and the whole thing is just really weird and too much drama for a employee of 2 weeks

  71. Perpal*

    For what it’s worth LW1, I’m a doctor, and I cannot write a note saying anyone needs “paid time off”. The best I can do is say “so and so has such a condition and can expect to need treatments (on x days) or (has y restrictions)”. I can’t say a company has to pay someone, or refund someone, etc. I give that note to the patient either in person, or mailed to the address in the system.
    We don’t use email except through the EMR portal because email is not considered secure. The EMR portal just fwds an email or text notice of “check your EMR” Pts email me stuff sometimes if they got ahold of my email, but I’ll only respond with “interesting, thanks!” or something similarly noncomittal (+ perhaps “please stick to the chart!”)
    Anyway I know times are tough and medical system is complicated, but docs generally don’t have power over non-medical stuff, we can just advice and certify such and such is going on.
    At most if someone has active respiratory symptoms I might say something like “state mandate is not to work or travel with symptoms” etc. Again, not about paid time off, just about whether the person should be working or not.

    1. Perpal*

      Once and a while I might certify that someone likely has a limited life expectancy for certain insurance benefits or other legal planning. Again I run all the paperwork past the patient first.

  72. Anon Nonprofit*

    OP 2, your concern about your loss of work-provided food is so tone deaf as to be astonishing. If you need something like internet, computer equipment, or ergonomic chairs that is valid.

  73. CatMom*

    OP 2, I don’t think it’s a totally crazy thing to suggest, at least in a modified way. My company normally provides lunch a few days a week and they’ve been sending us credits on a popular food delivery app, as well as scheduling virtual lunch hang-outs. It’s a nice morale-building strategy.

  74. OP #3 responding*

    For context’s sake, I work at a humanitarian-oriented non-profit that is mostly funded through government contracts, and our specific jobs are extremely technical. Our organization is now on the front lines of addressing the pandemic. Even under normal circumstances, we all work long hours for relatively low pay compared to for-profit work in our field because all of us are bleeding hearts looking to make the world a better place. There are only 4 of us in our unit, and since our jobs are super-technical, I required tons of training by my boss and he already works overtime while raising a family. Part of my/our unit’s work being time-sensitive is that with government contracts we must be 100% accurate and on-deadline or we will have federal auditors on us in a heartbeat and lose contracts and crucial public credibility. As much as our specific unit is suddenly swamped with new pandemic related contracts and increased work load, the larger organization is bleeding cash and, like most places, there is a lot of panic and stress over what cuts will have to be made and how many jobs will be lost. My boss is the department HR-liason and has to figure out and communicate all these new HR policies on top of everything else.

    Our office is like a highly functional family. Bossman has been helping me navigate two really tough issues almost since I started. He had to know about them because of his HR role. Additionally, 4 months in one of my best friends died unexpectedly, and my boss was amazing when I gave him a head’s up that I might end up crying in my office, underperforming, etc. I was shocked when he remembered that the next day was the anniversary of another horrible event from my distant past.

    I ended up calling a mutual friend in our office for insight. He clued me in that several unreliable people who held my job previously would often leave my boss scrambling to complete their work for them by deadline. He suggested calling my boss to tell him that he was stressing me out and also that I should over-communicate with him moving forward, so he wouldn’t worry so much about my work getting done. My boss and I had a productive talk. He agreed that it would help his stress if I adopted a “more info is always better” approach. I had worried before about deluging such a busy person with cc’d emails and the like. I now feel less guilt over taking time off, and the fact that I still feel some makes me think part of the issue was my own work ethic and anxiety over using up all my PTO while living paycheck-to-paycheck.

  75. Notasecurityguard*

    OP4 just meeting the basic requirements to be considered for astronaut training is a hell of an achievement so you can totally be “matter of fact” about it.

    Also I can’t imagine a more terrifying job but it’s probably pretty cool so good luck

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