my boyfriend pretended to be a doctor, I called a coworker a moron, and more

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

1. I overheard my boyfriend pretending to be a doctor

I’ve recently moved in with my boyfriend (one week prior to our city’s stay home order) and so we hear a lot of each other working these days. He’s in marketing for hospice care and talks to a lot of families and patients to get them onto his company’s service. Yesterday I overheard a call with a family where he called himself a doctor. He’s not a doctor in any way, shape, or form. I asked him about it after the call and he said that the wife (the patient) hates the idea of hospice care and the son referred to him as a doctor on earlier discussions so she thought it was just the doctor recommending home care.

Am I wrong to have some serious ethical issues with that? I understand how hard end of life is, but pretending to be an MD seems a step too far. I told my boyfriend that I didn’t think that was appropriate, but he brushed it off. I don’t want to let harp on it, but it just doesn’t feel right to me.

Whoa. Deliberately misleading a patient into believing you’re a doctor so they take your recommendations more seriously is fraudulent. In many (all?) states it’s illegal. And doing it to sell his company’s services to someone? That’s incredibly unethical and just … really wrong. And it’s such an attack on the dignity and agency of the woman he deceived.

You are right to have serious ethical issues with this.

2. My employer says we’re still furloughed but we’re back at work

My employer furloughed the majority of employees for COVID reasons. My southern state has decided that it is time to “re-open” so my employer is back to business with the usual additional precautions. Instead of bringing employees back full-time, we are being kept on furlough but working full-time hours. Refusal to return to work is considered a resignation. Because I’m furloughed, I’m not accumulating PTO or having my 401k matched. My salary has not changed. Their reasoning is that if we have to close again because of a COVID infection, we wouldn’t have reapply for unemployment.

Is this legal? Can they force me to work full time while furloughed? If I were not to show up to work, would it be considered a resignation or would it be a layoff because I wasn’t a technically full-time employee? I’m not planning to make any moves either way, but I’m look for an outside perspective. I know several coworkers have already raised similar concerns with management.

It’s bizarre that they’re telling you you’re still furloughed while having you work-full time. You’re not furloughed. “Furloughed” means you’re not working and not getting paid. You’re back to work, just with some of your previous benefits package gone. They’re just (badly) using wordplay to avoid saying, “We’re bringing you back to work but canceling 401K matches and you won’t be accruing vacation.”

Saying this is to do you a favor (to keep you from having to reapply for unemployment) is laughable. They are doing themselves a favor by lowering their payroll costs; you don’t benefit. It’s not inherently wrong for them to do this to lower their payroll costs! Their finances may demand it right now. But they are wrong to pitch it to you this way.

The subject line of your email to me was “furlough fuckery,” and that’s a good description of this.

To your questions: Yes, this is legal. Yes, they can call you back to work. And yes, if you decline to continue coming in, you’d be considered to have abandoned the job / turned down suitable work, and that would make you ineligible for unemployment. (This will get more intuitive once you realize you’re not still furloughed but in fact are back at work.)

3. I called my coworker a moron

Our offices have been closed except for a couple of essential personnel since early March. About 45 of us are teleworking, but two people who aren’t strictly essential have elected to come in anyway. This benefits one of our business groups, who really need someone in the office for hands-on work, but the parent company (and our program manager) made it clear that all personnel in the building, whether truly essential or not, were required to wear masks at all times.

Many of us must make quick trips into the office to retrieve bills or other items that are still coming in, and when I went in yesterday, one of those two non-essential guys opened the door to a closed office I was in, standing about 3-4 feet away, and he had no mask on. I had on my mask, and when I said “Where’s your mask?” he replied, “I’m standing six feet away from you.”
Well, he wasn’t. I said, “No, you aren’t, you’re barely four feet away” and he continued to say, “I’m six feet away from you.” I continued to say, “Where’s your mask? Why aren’t you wearing your mask?”

I was genuinely shocked to see this guy bare-faced, despite clear corporate orders and instructions from our manager. He kept being “cute” and saying, with a smile that made me want to smack him, that he was standing six feet from me. Then he added that MY mask would protect us both, and he wasn’t going to wear a mask. That’s when I lost it and said, “Moron.”

My own small internal team says I don’t owe him an apology, that he blatantly put us both at risk, plus the people who MUST work in the building, plus anyone else who must make a quick trip there. I’m not inclined to be gracious and apologize. I know he will not apologize to me for anything. But I also know I shouldn’t have called him that.

I doubt seriously that he will say anything to our manager, because then he’d have to admit why I said it in the first place. I’m still angry about his careless behavior and stated refusal to wear the mask. What say you?

He’s an enormous ass. You shouldn’t have said it, because you shouldn’t ever call your coworkers names, but you were correct in your assessment and you were provoked.

Personally, I’d let your manager know he wasn’t wearing a mask and refused to wear one despite multiple requests. If you want, feel free to say, “I lost my cool with him toward the end and was sharper than I intended to be.” I don’t think you’re likely to get in serious trouble for what you said, given the context (as opposed to if you’d said it in a discussion about his work) and the reality that emotions are running high right now. If anything, the most likely outcome is that your manager will just tell you not to do it again — and she should deal with your coworker’s actions with far more severity.

4. How soon should I follow up on a promotion once we’re back at work?

I had an interview for a full-time position in the library I currently work part time for. It is basically the full time version of what I do now (reference). The interview occurred in early March. They had still not made a decision a week later. A few days later we closed because of the virus. A few weeks after that, the director told the entire staff that we were under a hiring freeze. My question is how soon after we get back in the building should I ask about the job? Or should I just let them approach me and not even mention it? I want to show that I am still very interested in the position, but don’t want to seem pushy or insensitive. What should I do?

I’d wait a week after you’re back and then say, “I assume the hiring freeze is still in effect, but I wanted to check that with you, since I remain really interested in the X position whenever we’re ready to move forward.” You’re indicating you’re clear on the circumstances and not out of touch, but just checking in.

5. Phishing attempt said our company was closing down

How’s this for some Covid-related work anxiety: 10 minutes after I got off the phone with my realtor about an offer I’m going to put on a house later today, I got an email saying that as my time at my company is coming to an end, please take this exit survey. WHAT?! I’m in an essential industry that is pretty stable right now, but that doesn’t mean we’re immune; my biggest project is indefinitely delayed due to covid, and while I have other work to do, my heart dropped thinking I was being furloughed, laid off, or fired.

Turns out a bunch of people at the company got the same message, and right now it looks like it was a malware attack/phishing attempt. Hackers are being smart and preying on people’s current fears. Luckily I work at a decently sane company and I knew from reading your blog that they would be very unlikely to send that email without having a conversation with me first (so thank you for that), but I still thought it could be just a mistake in the timing and not the fact that I got it, so it was a roller coaster of emotions this morning.

I’m printing this so others are aware!

{ 525 comments… read them below }

  1. Observer*

    #5 – That’s sick. But I’m unfortunately NOT surprised.

    I’m so glad you didn’t go to fill out that “survey”.

    1. KimmyBear*

      Phishing attempts have increased in the last few months with COVID being a common theme. You’ll also see email from “hr” about COVID resources and the “irs” about your stimulus check needing to be requested.

      1. AnonEmu*

        Yep, my job has had more phishing emails than usual as well. A bunch of us got something regarding “your April paycheck will be delayed unless you enter in your updated bank details” the other day – I sent it to the IT dept without clicking anything, but these ghouls are getting aggressive!

        1. Harper the Other One*

          My partner is a minister and scammers used the regional directory to send emails out in the names of all the ministers pleading for “donations” to help with COVID-19 outreach. Thankfully it sounds like the warning email about the scam went out before anyone was fooled into “donating.”

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yes, I work in an industry that is pretty heavily targeted by phishers to begin with, and we’ve all been through extensive security training on it – but they are really working overtime now, and we’ve gotten notifications from our InfoSec guy several times with examples of fairly sophisticated attempts. One spoofed the chief executive’s email and made claims about his being ill and urgently needing help.

        The preying on people’s fear of job loss, though, is pretty appalling. That’s a new low. I’d be so upset if someone did that to my team – working from home and being isolated is hard enough, that’s just cruel.

      1. HS Teacher*

        I get these from “Apple” daily. I don’t even own an Apple device. I get the Amazon ones, too.

        I think scammers are the lowest form of human existence, and I wish there were a way to eliminate all the junk email and texts.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I wish there were a computer virus that made scam emails, texts, etc. mysteriously vanish into the ether.

          1. TardyTardis*

            Charles Stross, in his book RULE 34, put together some complicated and strangely satisfying evil fates for spammers.

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

      Yesterday my company Security department sent a “beware of current scams” alert mail. Apparently they’re targeting employees in Europe and the US, but they sent it to us to be warned.

    3. Heffalump*

      Our IT department has added a tool to the Outlook toolbar that gives us an easy way to report a suspected phishing email. Every so often they send a fake phishing email to see if we’re on our toes. If we report one of these, we get a popup saying in effect, “That was a fake email from IT, good job reporting it.”

      I can honestly say that on dozens of these, I’ve bitten only once.

    4. KoiFeeder*

      As far as the scammers are concerned, this is phish in a barrel. People are stressed, scared, and often ill, and that’s the perfect time to scam someone, when they’re not thinking straight. It’s the same reason so many scams target the elderly.

      If there was enough of a support system in place that people weren’t having to choose between going back to work and getting exposed or starving, there wouldn’t be so many of these, because people would be able to think better.

      1. TardyTardis*

        Today I got a real email from my cable company about updating the expiration date on my credit card, but I went to the site, logged in on it, and *then* updated the expiration date. Still feel good about doing it that way, though.

    5. Keymaster of Gozer*

      My husband’s firm had one that stated ‘one of your coworkers is in hospital with the virus and you’re at risk. Click here to see what you should do next’

      Fortunately he works in IT and can spot a phishing scam half a mile off.

  2. tra la la*

    #5: We just got phish email, allegedly from our ED, asking for our phone numbers so they could text us. It’s happened twice now. But wow, an “exit survey”? That is truly low, especially right now.

    1. Sara*

      Yeah, a bunch of us got a phishing email that appeared (well, attempted to appear – it was poorly executed) to be from the university president. Because the university president is really going to be emailing random faculty and staff for our phone numbers. No one I know fell for that one, but I don’t think that would be the case with an “exit survey”. That’s truly terrible.

    2. Wintermute*

      the key to social engineering is turning off people’s suspicion or causing them to disregard their normal guy feeling, so this doesn’t surprise me at all. creating a heightened emotional situation is a very common tactic because, basically, it fuzzes the danger signal.

      normally if you got a really phishy request it would set off alarm bells, you’d feel uneasy and maybe nervous. but by overwhelming your emotional processing that signal is lost in the noise.

      that’s why all kinds of social engineering often will create an urgent, emotional situation, play on empathy, or play on fear. as people get better trained on spotting attempts it’s harder and harder to get past our defenses, so using emotion is common to help lower those defenses.

      1. Artemesia*

        Recently I got two of those emails that claim to have taken control of my computer months ago and having pictures of me jacking off to porn which they are sending to all of my contacts and my colleagues if I don’t buy bitcoin for them. They had my password (one I use for sites I don’t care much about not for my bank or professional accounts). I can imagine this might terrify many people even if they suspect it is a scam — there has to be the lingering fear it isn’t. And the amount asked was modest enough that I can imagine people buying the scam ‘just to make sure’. I am old and have never used my computer for porn, but it still is the sort of thing that evokes fear.

        We have lagged so far behind on cyber security; makes me fear for our elections and our military preparedness. Hackers seem to have no trouble invading and stealing from our institutions.

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          I got a malware on my PC maybe 10 years ago like that. It hijacked my operating system and changed my desktop background to “We will show your browsing history to your wife, your children, your work, and your neighbors.”

          Except I’m female and was in my early 20s and this threat did not scare me in the slightest. It was a pain in the neck to get rid of, but that’s all.

        2. Jiya*

          I got that one too! It was actually pretty well written, as these things go. I reported it in great detail to the FTC, as is my wont – I know that one report alone probably won’t do anything, but you never know when that kind of info might be handy on the enforcement side, even if it’s years from now. That and I’m highly motivated by spite.

        3. pagooey*

          Just got this one myself, adding a little kink-shaming to the threat of sharing my non-existent porn videos with the world. Sigh.

          1. TardyTardis*

            I sometimes email them back and ask how high quality their video is. Never get an answer!

      2. TardyTardis*

        I always look at the sending email first. If it happens to be ‘s#$%^^, so going to delete that one!

    3. Joielle*

      This was before the coronavirus, but we got phishing emails a couple of times that appeared to be from our executive director, saying “Are you in the office? Come see me.” Which….. I don’t get what that would accomplish? Make someone get up from their desk and walk over to the ED’s office? And then he says he didn’t send an email, and then what? I was so confused by that one.

      1. BadWolf*

        If they already had access to your computer and webcam…then maybe to lure you away so they could do stuff on your computer? But then they could just wait until off hours…

        So maybe just a “cause confusion” for “fun” type of thing.

      2. Salsa Your Face*

        All I can think is that if you write back, then they know your email address is correct and active. Then they can try sending you a real phishing attempt from a different sender.

        1. selena81*

          perhaps they are hoping for people to respond that they are not in fact in the office right now, and then spin a story of how you need to do some small thing for ‘your manager’ from home.
          (the social engineering part would be that you are eager-to-please and prove to your boss you are still helpful outside office hours)

      3. tra la la*

        Our first one was something like this, too, with a note about why “he” was using his gmail account, and because the tone matched our ED’s tone, I had a moment when I wondered. I assume that the point was to get me to email back that I’d be right there.

  3. Larry Gossamer*

    #3 – As they say in Reddit’s AITA, you’re NTA. I would have used much, much stronger language.

    1. Kate Daniels*

      Especially with how he tried to be all “cute” as if wearing a mask is all one great big joke. I can just picture this person’s smug, condescending face. He’s lucky OP didn’t punch him and is fortunate that he was saved from said punch because it’s not a good time to be touching other people.

      1. My Dear Wormwood*

        I can only assume he’s the kind of guy who insists that it’s really 6 inches when it’s…not.

        1. Nea*

          That is the first thing that popped into my head, and to be honest, I’m the kind of person who would have said THAT to him instead of calling him a moron.

          1. TurtleIScream*

            Me too. Oh wait, I have said similar. I am not renowned for my tact or self-control.

        2. CupcakeCounter*

          now I have to clean the coffee that was in my mouth off my monitor and keyboard

          Thanks for the laugh though!

        3. Heffalump*

          I’m reminded of the old joke:

          “Why do women have poor depth perception?”

          “Because they’re always being told that this [hold up fingers] is 6 inches.”

          1. JessaB*

            I know better, I promulgated a potential rule that says “never eat or drink reading AAM” and I disobeyed myself, so Pepsi up my nose…

      2. Essess*

        I think you have a right to get verbally abusive when someone is putting your life at risk deliberately and in violation of company safety rules.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Yep, this. My politeness tends to evaporate when my life is put at risk.

      3. Sparrow*

        Being cute about not wearing a mask AND about not being 6 feet away. Ugh, I hate this guy and would have a very hard time not holding it against him even after all of this has (eventually) passed.

        1. leapingLemur*

          Yeah, me too, but I think it’s reasonable to remember what a jerk he was and know that this may be the kind of person he is.

        2. Tidewater 4-1009*

          I think it is very reasonable to hate him. If it was me I would keep my office door locked when he’s around, until the crisis has passed. I would ask security to walk me out so they could keep him away. And I would never trust this guy, as a coworker or in any other way, ever again.
          He’s a child. He sounds exactly like a boy annoying his sister. Guys like him are the reason I didn’t go into trade or lab work. With my luck I’d be the first one killed by their attempts to be cute. I feel like ranting for a while longer but I’ll stop now.

        3. selena81*

          This is why i think she should tell her manager what happened: so it is clear why she feels uncomfortable around him (and to prevent this douche from spinning the incident as ‘pfft, she just cannot take a joke’)

    2. LifeBeforeCorona*

      A friend called someone a “posterior aperture”, it took him a few seconds to realize that it was an insult.

      1. SweetestCin*

        I’m going to remember this one. Its right up there with “misplacing your excretement”!

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        My old manager used to refer to people as having ‘cranial/posterior inversion syndrome’. I nearly broke a rib trying not to laugh in meetings….

        (Wonderful guy. I’d work for him again in a heartbeat. I’d even take reduced pay to do it)

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          I always use “He has a bad case of recto-cranial inversion syndrome”

    3. Traffic_Spiral*

      Yeah, the whole “oh, I’m not going to wear a mask because so long as everyone else does I can ride their coattails,” thing is pretty aggravating. I mean, any time you tell your coworkers that you’re going to sponge off their efforts you should definitely expect a cussout.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        Right? I thought “Oh, look – another entitled guy expecting a woman to pick up his slack.” Honestly I’m tempted to start giving them joke species names, like in the Road Runner and Coyote cartoons – you know how they’d stop them in mid-chase for a moment, and put up a subtitle with something like “Canis Famishus” for the coyote.

        Maybe this guy could be something like “Entitlus Smugius.”

      2. JessaB*

        Especially since he’s breathing all over the office surfaces, people touch them, don’t have time to wash their hands every single time they touch someone’s desk, and bang! if he’s a carrier he’s passing it on.

      3. whingedrinking*

        It also shows a complete lack of understanding of why we wear them in the first place. Masks are primarily for keeping pathogens from travelling *away* from an infected person. If a person who has Covid19 coughs, or sneezes, or talks moistly (thanks for that phrase, Trudeau) and they fill the air with droplets, an uninfected person wearing a mask can still breathe those droplets in unless the mask is an airtight one with an N95 filter. So if even one person refuses to put one on, and they’re infectious, everyone else can still get sick even if they were extremely conscientious.

        1. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

          This. He would be protected by the OP’s mask, OP wouldn’t.

    4. The Starsong Princess*

      Definitely NTA. Here in Canada, Dr. Theresa Tam, the Chief Public Health Officer, helpfully told us that 2 metres or roughly 6 feet is about the length of hockey stick. Perhaps bring a hockey stick the next time you go to the office? Then you could use it to measure distance between you and your obnoxious coworker. Then use it to enforce distance, if necessary, not that I would ever condone that kind of thing. A hockey stick is very useful.

      1. noahwynn*

        I’m going to measure everythign is hockey sticks now. Like my office is about 1 by 1.5 hocky sticks.

        1. Feline*

          Every time I hear hockey stick used as a reference of measurement, it makes me want to explain that no, hockey stick length varies by player height. For a short person like me, the blade would never lay flat on the ice with a 6′ stick because it’s intended to be held by hands that are farther from the ground than mine. A stick resting on its heel isn’t useful for hockey things like receiving passes or taking shots.

          I’m years past my old co-ed beer league days, but I just went out into my garage and measured my old composite Easton stucj. 57″ is pretty far short of 6′!

          1. BeesKneeReplacement*

            I also find it confusing because my family is Dutch and I lived there a long time. When Dutch people talk about “hockey” they mean field, not ice. Despite a love of skating, ice hockey is not a thing in the Netherlands. Field hockey sticks are even shorter!

            1. Jiya*

              Maybe it’s the length of the field hockey stick when you hold it out to poke whoever’s getting too close?

          2. actually, my name's Marina*

            I still wouldn’t want to be on the wrong end of it if I were being “cute” about not wearing a mask!

            …maybe I’m projecting what I would be like given a hockey stick and a coworker like that

        2. Goliath Corp.*

          It’s pretty hilarious. You now see things like reporters with mics taped to hockey sticks so they can hold them out for interviews, or drive-through attendants with debit machines on hockey sticks. Peak Canada.

      2. JessaB*

        I would totally put a marker down at 6 feet from my desk if this guy didn’t stop.

        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          He would just say she’s wrong. Six feet isn’t the point. The point is finding ways to bother/annoy/harass her.

        2. Glitsy Gus*

          Right? A tape line, like in the grocery store. If you pass that line, you’re too far into my office. I would even write on the tap “THE JERRY LINE” (or whatever coworker’s name is) since it is there just for Jerry, who apparently needs the extra help.

      3. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

        Where I live it is at least 1,5 meter for social distance. I am about 1,55 m (yes, those 5 cm are important to me :’) ). I am not that great in estimating distance, but I can see where my head would be if I were to lay down… so I know if someone is respecting that distance or not.

        I also use a cane during long walks (disability) and if I stretch my arm with the can, and I can touch you, you are so not respecting the SD.

        1. whingedrinking*

          I’ve been thinking that I need to construct some form of hoop skirt.

      4. Keymaster of Gozer*

        That. Is brilliant! I wonder if my walking aids would suffice as a rough guide?

        With your permission I’ll send your post along to various Canadian friends of mine working in the UK? I can guarantee nothing but the laughter of half a dozen IT workers :)

  4. ArtsNerd*

    #1: Even if the son started it, your boyfriend was obligated to stop that train of thought. Yech.

    1. Abogado Avocado*

      #1: I am really sorry you learned this about your boyfriend. I remember when a terminally ill relative went into hospice care and remember how hard the decision-making process was for our family. I have no doubt that hospice personnel feel that stress because their experience teaches them the difference between dying in a hospital versus in hospice care. Additionally, I realize that the stresses of sheltering-in-place at this time are great and that it’s got to be doubly hard — especially if your boyfriend is the least empathic — to assist families who are considering hospice care for their loved ones.

      That said, there are multiple reasons why a hospice employee would not want to impersonate a medical doctor, not least that his company could be sued because an employee apparently engaged in fraud to compel someone to use its services. Additionally, your state’s medical board may well have an opinion about people who impersonate medical doctors and may have a legal means to prosecute those people.

      Your boyfriend may want to consider consulting a lawyer who knows health care law and discussing whether he should fess up to this. Your local bar association should have a low-cost referral service to lawyers in specified specialities who will are willing to engage in a one-hour consultation for a low, specified price. That’s one way to get counsel at a price your boyfriend can afford.


        1. Ego Chamber says eat the rich*

          I think it’s more a question of what the penalties are and the extent of the fraud.

          If you’re in a medical or medical-adjacent field, you’re probably getting fired and maybe losing any applicable licenses. If you’re working at Arbys and tell someone they should up-size their value meal because you’re a doctor, (that’s effed up but) I doubt they’ll be a write-up.

          There’s always the potential for a civil suit if someone can show damages but those are just money, not an arrest and jail time.

    2. Blisskrieg*

      As a Healthcare Director, if that were my employee, I would feel my obligation would be: 1) write him up severely, 2) report him to our Compliance Department, 3) terminate him, or 4) a combination of the above.

      That is very serious.

    3. Legal Consequences*

      OP #1 — I got to this post late, but wanted to add my two cents as a lawyer who does some work in the healthcare field. There are federal and state laws concerning the use of false statements to solicit patients to choose a particular provider or service that apply if these patients’ care is being paid for in any part by federal or state healthcare programs, like Medicare or Medicaid. These laws include severe civil and criminal penalties, and those criminal penalties can be and have been applied to line-level employees like your boyfriend. In fact, companies often seek to paint those employees as bad apples, even if their conduct was understood by everyone as implicitly sanctioned by management. If your boyfriend is doing this on a regular basis, he could be putting himself at serious personal risk. His company will not shield him if anyone blows the whistle on this practice. It’s up to you how you want to handle this situation, but you should be aware of the very real legal implications in addition to the ethical ones.

    4. charo*

      I can’t believe the LW doesn’t know how wrong this is. It’s totally unethical and has to be illegal, just as “impersonating a police officer” is. It’s really WORSE than impersonating a cop because hospice care involves the end of life.

  5. Observer*

    #1 – I know you didn’t write in for relationship advice, but I have to say it – I think you’ve just learned something incredibly important about your BF.

    1. Kevin Sours*

      Came here to say that. At a minimum have backup plans in case this goes south.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Beyond this, I’m going to ask that we not pile on with relationship advice for the LW, which I imagine will quite quickly drive her from the comments (and I’m removing some additional threads of it below). Thank you!

    3. Kiki the witch*

      I think there could be a less worrying explanation.
      When my granny was, let’s say, not so sharp anymore, at one point she decided the doctor who was visiting her was her cousin Toto. We were not able to convince her that the doctor was not Toto, and in the end the poor guy was nice enough to answer question about various relative (yes, of corse he went to niece Mimi’s wedding, it was very nice, yes, of corse he will send cousin Nino her love). Of course my mum was the one making every decision.
      Maybe the boyfriend was just nice to an old lady and was completely onest to the relatives in charge?

      1. Agnodike*

        Lying about your credentials in order to convince someone to buy what you’re selling doesn’t fit any definition of “nice” I’ve ever heard.

        1. TechWorker*

          Whilst I agree it’s also possible that the son has power of attorney (or whatever that’s called elsewhere…) and the decision to go for hospice care & for this particular hospice has already been made. I totally agree it’s beyond shitty as a sales tactic (and probably illegal regardless) but it’s possible that he thought he was doing it for the right reasons.

        2. doreen*

          I think what Kiki is suggesting is that it perhaps wasn’t to convince someone to buy what he’s selling – that perhaps the son ( who knows BF is not a doctor) is actually the one who is making the decision. I’m not saying it’s right ( haven’t formed an opinion on that yet) but it’s not the same as misrepresenting yourself to the decsion-maker.

          1. Agnodike*

            The mother isn’t making the purchasing decisions, but I bet that the her objections represent an obstacle to the son signing on to the service. Leaving aside entirely the ethics of whether it’s OK to lie to someone with diminished capacity about who you are in a way that places you in a position of power over them (it’s not!), there’s still no way to frame this as “a nice thing” because the boyfriend clearly financially benefits from his lie however you slice it.

      2. Mystery Bookworm*

        It’s true that sometimes with dementia patients they are very distressed if you try to convince them their perceptions are wrong. In this case it is often a kindness to refrain from trying to ‘correct’ them. However, that is clearly not what OP is describing.

        Your granny’s doctor didn’t claim to be a policeman so that he could search her car – he never overstepped his bounds of responsibility.

        1. EPLawyer*

          this is a great analogy.

          Boyfriend pretended to be a doctor, not to easy granny’s mind but to try to sell her the services of his company. He’s not better than the phishing scam in the other letter. He was trying to get her money to line his own pockets (eventually when he got paid from his company).

        2. Agnodike*

          Yes, exactly this! Playing along with a delusion is fraught at the best of times, but there’s a huge ethical distinction between doing it in a way that diminishes the power imbalance between you and a patient (Dr. Lovely becoming Cousin Toto) and one that increases it (Scammer Boyfriend becomes Dr. Buythis).

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Actually, for patients with dementia “playing along” is considered the standard of care; trying to convince someone with dementia of what is real vs. what they remember is not only often causing them to grieve anew, it would need to be done at a minimum every day, if not multiple times a day. The standard course is to meet the patient where they are, and create a narrative that is in their best interest, such as “[dead relative they asked about, whose absence is causing anxiety] had to go out”.

            However, that is for caregivers who have a duty to the patient’s physical, mental, and emotional well being. It is NOT an appropriate strategy for someone selling services, even caregiving services, as they are not in that kind of custodial relationship.

            1. Agnodike*

              There are lots of things that are the standard of care that are still fraught. Sometimes the decisions we make as caregivers (professional or familial) are about choosing between two difficult and problematic options, not figuring out which option is good and doing that.

              1. JessaB*

                Yeh a lot of time the choice is between can’t win and can’t win, and you have to pick the one that supports the mental/physical health of the most people.

                Having to constantly tell Aunt with dementia that Uncle is dead, not only hurts Aunt who has to grieve from start once again, but also hurts the people who ALSO may be grieving for Uncle by making them go through this. Sometimes there’s no good choice, so you have to pick the one that helps the most.

        3. Washi*

          Yes, I worked in a hospice, and this was way out of line! There are sometimes tricky situations where the family member with power of attorney doesn’t want the patient to know that they are in hospice care and wants the hospice staff to fib about who they are. (This was strongly recommended against where I worked and at most, the staff would agree to not announce who they were, but would not lie if asked.)

          But this is not that. If, let’s say, the patient’s son misspoke and called BF a doctor and BF just didn’t correct him, OP probably wouldn’t even have noticed since she could only hear his side of the conversation. The fact that OP could hear BF literally saying he was a doctor means that he was going way over the line and actively deceiving the patient.

          1. Rachel in NYC*

            That’s my concern. BF could have just let it go by- instead he put himself and his employer in a difficult position. And the reality is we don’t know if the son was confused about who he was speaking to or intentionally lying.

            And the reality is if this becomes an issue, the BF could have cost himself his job over something he didn’t need to do.

        4. Quill*

          My grandpa, early in his alzheimers, ran two red lights and got pulled over by a cop, who (fortunately) immediately recognized his condition and let him go with a warning, instructing my uncle (who had power of attorney at this point but nothing else) that he could take grandpa’s license and keys and blame it on the cop, to avoid unnecessary family strife.

          Grandpa was mad at “that police officer, when is he sending my license back?” for a few months before he forgot about that, BUT it served the public safety (grandpa was not safe to drive but getting that legally determined would have taken a rather long time.)

          LW’s partner did not serve public safety overstepped his bounds of responsibility, and actively lied about his credentials.

          1. TardyTardis*

            Fortunately my dad’s doc was willing to be the bad guy for him (he would tank up on Vicodin to drive 20 miles on a major highway to go visit his sweetheart who was in a nursing home in another town).

      3. Quill*

        Yeah, being “nice” would be going along with her “oh, you’re Janey’s boy” not actively lying about your credentials. The line here is that the patient’s son and LW’s husband both lied that LWH was a doctor. I’m sure he thought that going along with the son’s deception was kinder, but it is ethically a very bad move.

      4. Auntie Social*

        My dying stepmom was convinced that my non-MD husband was the doctor. We tried and tried to correct her but couldn’t, so my dear hubs would take her pulse and tell her she was doing just fine, but could she please eat a little more? And she would finish every pea on her plate at lunch.

        1. JessaB*

          At my father’s funeral one of my Aunts with alzheimers insisted that my pagan friend’s very very pagan husband must be the Rabbi because he had a suit, hat, and a nice overcoat on when he came in. He did his very best to be a Rabbi, and before he was pagan, he was Catholic so that was a pretty big stretch. It just wasn’t worth it in the middle of the funeral home chapel to have this fight with her when she’d not remember it tomorrow.

          1. Bubbles McPherson*

            That is sad, but I am giggling a little imagining an ex-Catholic pagan trying to impersonate a rabbi.

            1. Quill*

              My brother’s first college roommate was jewish, but a redhead, (whereas my family all has curly brown hair and brown eyes) and took him to the jewish students society dinner the first week of school.

              The rabbi sat down next to my brother and it took my brother FIFTEEN MINUTES to realize that the rabbi thought he was the jewish kid. The Rabbi finally asked “where do you go to temple?” and my brother, very quiet, says “actually we’re catholic, my roommate said there was free food.”

        2. pancakes*

          The distinction is that your husband wasn’t trying to profit from the deception, nor use it for anything other than comforting her.

      5. Living it in GA*

        I’m actually going to agree with Kiki the witch here. My mom was recently diagnosed withe dementia and when she gets something in her mind, you cannot convince here otherwise. A few examples:

        *convinced her daughter (my sister) is here mother and call her Mom all the time now
        *thinks her grandson is her actually her son and tried to leave with him several times
        *thinks her brother is her boyfriend and acts ..different when he is around (holdng his hand, kissing his cheek, asking when they are going out to eat, etc.)
        *regularly thinks she is living in NC, when she hasn’t lived there in 30 years
        *thinks everyone is after her money and called the police once to say people were stealing her money
        *don’t remember who I am at all and regularly cusses me worse than a sailor when I visit
        *rarely sleeps and has incredible bouts of rage at 3am
        *has begun having hallucinations, including seeing people “evaporate” and disappear and had a full conversation with someone that was not there.

        When we try to correct her she either gets incredibly angry and cusses us or has a meltdown including crying, flinging herself down on the bed and trying to run away (gets her purse and starts out the door and walks down the street. I followed her one day while my sister called the doctor to ask what to do).

        If the mother has dementia and is fighting over things that can help her, I think letting her believe the person is a doctor is not an unforgivable sin, as long as the son is the one making the actual decisions. I know many will not agree with me and that’s ok. We have tried everything to keep her at home but we are at a point that we will need either full-time live in care/nurses (which she is going to hate) or put her in a memory care facility (which I think will cause her to progress more rapidly and take years off her life and with COVID, might kill her). So, if letting her believe something that is not 100% accurate will help her get the care she needs and help alleviate some of the caregiver stress the son is likely under, I’m going with misleading her a bit.

        1. blaise zamboni*

          This sounds incredibly difficult. My heart goes out to you and your family. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

        2. Dr Rat*

          I used to work for hospice, so let me clear up some confusion for people. 1) You do not have to correct a patient who has dementia or argue with them but 2) you absolutely CANNOT use their confusion for personal profit or for profit to the hospice. So, if I come over on a professional visit and you think I’m your niece Betsy, that’s fine. And if you give me a $100 bill thinking I’m Betsy, I will absolutely accept it and thank you. Then I will give it back to one of your family members before I walk out the door.
          Impersonating a physician is a felony offense. There are people in prison right now for claiming to be doctors when they are not.
          Pretending to be a physician to drum up business in not only unethical, it is actually illegal.
          Any hospice I have ever worked for or with would fire this guy tomorrow if they knew what he did. And if his hospice would not do that, it would make me wonder what other illegal and unethical actions they sanctioned.

          1. Ego Chamber says eat the rich*

            “Pretending to be a physician to drum up business in not only unethical, it is actually illegal.”

            Alison said that though, not LW. LW said they didn’t like their BF misrepresenting himself as a doctor and that the patient’s son had told the patient BF was a doctor recommending home care because the patient didn’t like the idea of discussing hospice care. Seems possible the patient’s son is the one making these decisions but is trying to get his mom on board because you can’t do effective care for someone who’s opposed to it.

            Sounds like LW should talk more to the BF about exactly what was heard because if they’ve got this wrong, they’ve got it really really wrong.

    4. Jdc*

      I really doubted LWs judgement with the first letter as it was. She doesn’t seem one to act on giant red flags as she already moved in with him after the first episode.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        There’s nothing in the letter that says this incident happened before she moved in with him, so I’m not sure what you’re implying.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          In fact, it says *exactly* the opposite. The phone call happened the day before she wrote this email to Alison.

    5. tinybutfierce*

      THIS. He’s apparently okay lying to a woman seeking end of life care, for business purposes. That’s an entire parade of red flags.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        I’d say it even goes beyond red flags – red flags are supposed to be warnings, but something as disgusting as impersonating a doctor in this way goes beyond warning sign to be a huge dealbreaker itself!

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          Yeah… even if you can lie to yourself and go “oh well, just because he’s a petty con artist professionally doesn’t mean he’d lie to ME,” well, petty con artists end up investigated, fined, fired, and jailed pretty regularly, and that’s not a good thing to involve yourself with.

        2. JessaB*

          Yeh even if he’s NOT a con artist, he’s then making pretty bad decisions about how to handle certain issues. I mean my first go to in that situation would not be to claim I’m an MD. I might waffle and not correct the caller, but I wouldn’t outright lie to them. And never for a sale of goods.

      2. boo bot*

        I agree about the parade of red flags, although I don’t think it necessarily means he’s a con artist: it sounds like the family member came to the boyfriend already having told his mother he was a doctor; if he’s relatively new to this work, I can see being kind of thrown by a family coming to him and saying basically, “this is what we’ve already decided to say.” That doesn’t make it okay – I suspect that this is a job that’s going to require saying “no” to people in a variety of ways, and he needs to learn how to do that, stat.

        If he can’t see why the OP is disturbed by this, then that’s a serious problem – there are a number of excellent reasons to prefer a partner who avoids pretending they’re a doctor.

  6. 36Cupcakes*

    For #2 is the company paying your or are you collecting unemployment? I’m confused because they are saying it’s so you don’t have to reapply if they have to close.

    1. Renamis*

      This! From what I understood from the letter they are still on unemployment and the business isn’t paying them. If that’s the case this is 10 kinds of illegal.

        1. Colette*

          It’s also illegal to have someone work unpaid (except in specific circumstances).

          1. JessaB*

            Exactly and it’s especially illegal to have them working and let Unemployment PAY THEM. That’s just no, there are small business loans (and after the large business scandal they opened up a second wave of loans,) to help meet payroll. The State of X’s Unemployment Bureau are NOT supposed to make your payroll for you, it’s every kind of fraudulent benefits there is. And it won’t fall on the company it will fall on the employees. They will be cut off, they will be barred from collecting unemployment for however long their State bars people, and they will have to pay back with penalties.

            Run, don’t walk to the phone and report this if your boss doesn’t change their mind quickly.

        2. Artemesia*

          I read it as the company was not paying them rather than that they were double dipping i.e. they were collecting unemployment while being required to work unpaid. That is the only thing that makes ‘not needing to reapply for unemployment’ make sense. THAT of course would be totally illegal and would also be using up their unemployment eligibility while being employed and might even be considered fraud by the employee.

          Obviously Alison read it differently.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I assume they’re paying her — she wrote, “My salary has not changed.” If I’m wrong, then this is a whole different letter — this is fully illegal in that case (but I don’t think that’s the situation).

      1. JamieS*

        “Salary hasn’t changed” would mean it’s still zero if OP wasn’t being paid during the furlough which is likely.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It hasn’t changed, in contrast to the benefits, which have. I’m going to ask that we not derail on this as I think it’s a misreading of the letter, although I’ll also email the OP to make sure.

          1. ..Kat..*

            The OP says that her company says it is so employees “won’t have to file again for unemployment.” Please ask her if this means employees are still receiving unemployment. Otherwise, I don’t understand what this means.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It means they’re still active in the unemployment system, just not getting UI benefits on the weeks they’re working/getting paid. Like how if you’re collecting UI but have money come in some weeks, you don’t get benefits that week but you can continue receiving them in later weeks.

              1. Dan*

                I think the readership would appreciate it if you would expand on this a little bit more, either to the OP directly or somewhere else.

                Most of us think of unemployment as something you get when you lose a job through no fault of your own, you get on UI for awhile, get paid while reporting work searches each week, then find a job, and then get off of UI full stop and on a regular payroll. There’s a lot of nuance in what you’re referring to that most of us just won’t understand from a more or less passing comment.

                To the OP, you say the employer is misusing the term “furlough”. But down here, your writing comes across as if you don’t think the “not filing for UI again” thing is NBD.

                It’s a legit question, I think most of us are confused as to what’s going on and the ramifications of it.

                1. Mel_05*

                  Because, she can be active in the unemployment system and just indicate that she was paid by her company that week and doesn’t need unemployment coverage.

                  Personally, I think that would be way more obnoxious than having to reapply, but I know not every state is doing as well with their unemployment system as mine is, so maybe it makes sense there.

                2. Seeking Second Childhood*

                  In my state (and I assume most others) you can file for unemployment insurance once and then each week you tell them if you earned money and they give you partial hours.
                  This was my situation years ago when I’d been laid off during a recession. I took a series of temp jobs while job-hunting. Most were two- and three-day positions that wouldn’t pay my expenses, but each extended the length of time my benefits would last. One was six-week post that did pay a living wage. I landed my next full-time job while there, having filed “yes I earned money don’t send me a check this week” every week in between.

                3. pancakes*

                  It’s perfectly understandable to me and I don’t think it’s that uncommon. It’s a situation I’ve been in myself. I was laid off from a job, along with everyone I was hired with, for lack of work — the project we’d been hired for ended. Filed an unemployment claim and started receiving benefits. A couple weeks later I picked up a temp job, but it only lasted 3 days. In my state, the money I earned during those 3 days was too much for me to qualify for unemployment that week, so I didn’t receive benefits that week. The following week, again without work, I filed again, and received unemployment again.

                4. Malarkey01*

                  This also happens when your hours are cut and you’re eligible for UI. Say a company says you are FT but due to finances everyone’s hours are cut by 50% along with pay. You are eligible to file UI for those 50% wages. During that time you are both on UI and employed. You report each week how much you made and your UI is adjusted. This is also true if you are on UI and pick up small freelance jobs. Your payment is adjusted for that week (or longer period) but you do not forfeit UI altogether for taking an odd job.

                  It’s suppose to incentivize you to not decline all income since a one week odd job is better for the gov but no one would take that if it meant you would lose UI.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        That is how I tentatively took this, but I’m not sure. But even stipulating to it, she is back at work full time but with reduced compensation. Are there benefits available to compensate for this?

    3. JKP*

      I’m wondering if they aren’t officially hiring people back because they don’t know how much regular work they can give them. So if everyone stays on unemployment, they still report their wages each week, and some weeks they work enough hours to not collect any unemployment and some weeks they don’t work enough or at all and can collect some unemployment, but they don’t have to restart their claim over and over again.

    4. Perbie*

      Yeah, i wan’t clear who was paying; if it’s UI, it’s fraud for the company to tell Them to work on UI’s dime

  7. Heidi*

    For Letter 1, I wonder what the boyfriend would have done if the client had asked a medically complex question. Would he have made something up? Pretended to consult a colleague? This is messed up and I’m sure it violates his own industry’s standards, which are intended to preserve the dignity of clients at the end of their lives. Don’t let him convince you it’s not a big deal, OP. This is not okay.

    1. Palliative Polly*

      As someone who has some training in the palliative care field this is absolutely horrifying. Frankly I’d be trying to establish if this is something he (or any of his fellow marketing coworkers!) do on a regular basis and if so report it to the local medical authority. If the company has any idea that this is occurring and hasn’t severely reprimanded (or fired) their employees for this they too should be reported. That would be the bigger concern actually – if the company knows and is doing nothing to stop it.

    2. MommyMD*

      It violates the law, not just standards. And if has anything to do with Medicare and the patients are 65 + he’s messing with some State/Federal laws here. His employer can get into serious trouble and he could get fined or time behind bars. Not to mention fired for cause.

    3. tinybutfierce*

      Yeah, even if you (somehow) manage to ignore how wildly unethical and illegal this is, it’s also just… wildly stupid. What’s going to happen if/when the customers who spoke to him wise up and realize the person who said he was a doctor was just a salesperson who lied to them so they’d buy his stuff? What’s his excuse going to be if a complaint is made to his employer?

      1. snoopythedog*

        He’s likely betting on the fact that the customer has dementia, alzheimers or other forms of memory loss and that others will just assume she got confused about who she talked to.

        1. Auntie Social*

          And the son is playing along on the phone in order to get mom into hospice.

  8. Anon for this*

    #1: Hospice employee here. In addition to the obvious ethical issue of pretending to be a doctor, I also see a problem of trying to sign up someone when the family is not on board. Hospice is a philosophy of care that requires the patient and/or family to be understanding and accepting of the fact that the person is dying and that they are no longer planning to implement any life-prolonging treatment. This might not be a big issue if the patient is still capable of making his own healthcare decisions and is in agreement with the hospice philosophy, but if the wife is POA and is not onboard, he needs to stop pushing her to sign on. (Frankly, it’s just going to make things tough for the direct care staff to provide good care if the POA is resistant to services.) Unfortunately hospice is a business just like anything else, but it really makes me angry when marketers revert to tactics like this to boost their census numbers.

    1. Anon for this*

      Oh shoot, now upon re-reading I see that the wife is the potential patient. In that case it’s EVEN MORE unethical to push hospice care on a person who is adamantly against it. Yikes.

      1. Anon for this*

        Yes, I realized that right after commenting and was apparently writing a follow-up as you were commenting. Either way, not a good situation.

        1. Rexish*

          It has never occurred to me that a hospice is a business like this and includes recruiting clients. I have so many ethical issues with this.

          *Here the medical team makes a recommendation and discusses with patient and family. Then they make the arrangements and those institutions are public funding so there is no profit element

          1. Myrin*

            Yeah, I’m blown away by this. I read “He’s in marketing for hospice care and talks to a lot of families and patients to get them onto his company’s service.” and went like “… What.”
            To be fair, I’m not in the US and my – very tangential – experience with this kind of care aligns more with your second paragraph but I have to admit I’d never thought about this very deeply before. I’ll definitely have to research this now!

            1. UKDancer*

              Likewise. I’m in the UK and the hospices I know of are charities and provide services free of charge. I’ve raised funds for the one I know best (after they cared really well for a friend’s dying husband) and I’ve never know them marketing. In fact they’re usually full to capacity because they’re so well regarded locally.

              1. londonedit*

                Mind blown here too, I’ve only ever experienced hospices as charitable organisations. I can’t imagine the idea of them soliciting for patients.

                1. CanWeHaveSinglePayerNowPlease?*

                  Even charitable organizations have to make money. No organization runs 100% on volunteers, and there are equipment costs, etc.

                  I work for a 501c3 but I can tell you that we absolutely have to watch our bottom line. It’s tough, because we’re here to provide medical care to people who can’t afford it elsewhere. If our grants won’t cover a particular type of care then we are left with a choice between asking the patient for money, not providing the care, or covering the cost and then choosing not to have money for a project elsewhere.

                  That being said, the right thing to do is make the ethical choice, which this doctor faker is not doing. I’m disgusted by his behavior.

            2. CupcakeCounter*

              My area has 3 hospice options to choose from. When the doc says that it is time to look at end of life care, they give out pamphlets for all 3 options. Each are really well regarded but have slightly different niche areas – one specializes in medical only in-home care, one has in-home or a care facility option for longer term residents, and the other is very expensive but provides care not just for the patient but also home services for the spouse/family (things like meals, light house keeping, etc…). The third option is obviously the most expensive and they do have marketing materials and “sales” people who try to sell their more “whole home care” approach. From what I understand, they don’t initiate the calls though. They are either answering when a family member calls asking for information or returning calls or online inquiries.
              From what I’ve heard its actually quite a lovely service for the family members of the dying person as they get to spend more time with their loved one and not have to worry about the more mundane household chores. My parent’s neighbors used the service when the husband was dying. They were an older couple and could handle things together but when it was just her, she was really struggling. Having someone do the cleaning and grocery shopping made things a lot easier for her. When he passed, she moved into an assisted living facility.
              My best friend’s husband is actually the graphic designer for the one with both in-home and a care facility. Their marketing is limited to the pamphlets in the hospital and a couple of billboards – no phone calls.

            3. Washi*

              In the US, we have both for-profit and non-profit hospices. I worked in a non-profit hospice that had several “liaisons” who spent most of their time out in the community, talking to people who were considering hospice about what it is. There are a lot of myths about hospices, so part of their job is clarifying what is and is not part of hospice care.

              I don’t think it’s automatically shady, it’s just that there are a number of options and it’s understandably not a system people are familiar with. They’re all free to anyone who has Medicare, so in our case it was more about informing people about our services and our particular selling points, which was that we were a nonprofit with lower caseloads and more volunteer-provided services (pet therapy, massage therapy, music therapy, etc) than the other local options.

              1. pancakes*

                If you take a step back and compare the US to other wealthy industrialized nations it is inherently shady for healthcare, particularly hospice, to be run as a profit-generating industry. It’s also inherently shady considering how rapidly the industry has changed within the US — there’s some good reporting on the subject, and there’s been explosive growth in the for-profit hospice industry because the profit margins are unusually high. There were approximately 600 for-profit hospices in the US in 2000, and by 2015 there were over 2,400.

                1. Washi*

                  I agree on the issues with for profit hospices! I was responding to the astonishment that there would be any marketing involved, which I don’t think is inherently shady.

            4. blackcat*

              I’m in the US and have discussed hospice care with 3 grandparents. ALL of the hospice workers have always been kind, compassionate, and genuinely helpful. Occasionally there’s a bit of prodding to get hospice care, but in my experience that has come from primary care docs who see they’re out of their wheelhouse and recognize hospice people have a better toolkit for helping the dying.

            5. Quill*

              Based on what my dad arranged for grandma, doctors recommend hospice but the actual facility markets itself and is in competition with other facilities (usually local ones.)

              Though when my grandma went in it was more a case of trying to find a good one with vacancies than a case where we were being marketed at.

          2. Pall*

            Absolutely! The idea of someone in marketing to recruit patients to a for-profit company for palliative hospice care is horrifying!

            1. J Kate*

              In the US hospice is one of the few services 100% covered by medicare. Marketing in hospice is mostly just means trying to get the patients to use your hospice rather than a different one. The patient still has to meet strict qualifications to be eligible for hospice, certified by two (real) doctors.
              If the actual patient had dementia then her son was probably the power of attorney making the decision to utilize hospice services and might have told her that someone who was not a doctor was a doctor to make her more amenable to getting the care (people with dementia dissociate from reality.) The BF intentionally identifying himself as a doctor is all kinds of wrong. He should have said the doctor recommended him or asked him to call (which would be true as a physician referral is necessary for hospice.)

          3. Doc in a Box*

            I’m in the US and regardless of whether the hospice is non-profit (most are) or for-profit, it’s massively unethical to “recruit” for hospice/palliative care. The medical team makes a recommendation/referral; the patient may be asked to decide between Agency A and Agency B, but that conversation happens with the medical team at the time of referral. I’ve never heard of, and am frankly skeeved out by, the idea of cold-calling/telemarketing for hospice.

            1. pancakes*

              That’s not correct that most US hospices are non-profit. Direct quote from a summary of a study published in JAMA in 2018, which I’ll link to in a separate comment: “The number of for-profit hospices has increased over the past two decades with about 51 percent of hospices being for-profit in 2011 compared with about 5 percent in 1990.” I’m looking for more recent numbers but the trend towards for-profit appears well-established.

            2. Tidewater 4-1009*

              One thing I’ve learned living all my life in the US – If there’s possible profit in it, there are people sleazy enough to market it, no matter how sensitive the topic or product is.

            3. Ego Chamber says eat the rich*

              You sound wildly out of touch on this.

              Also it would definitely not be cold calling, that would be a huge waste of everyone’s time. (“Hi Mrs Smith, my name is Ego and I’d like a moment of your time to discuss end of life care!” Whut.) These calls are almost certainly following up on requests for information from families who filled out the contact form on the hospice’s website or otherwise requested more information about services.

    2. TROI*

      My social work friends tell my the hospice industry is rife with shadiness. Not defending the boyfriend exactly, but his compass of right might have been warped by what he thinks are “normal” business practices. Because it’s definitely normal for some businesses.

      1. Cleopatra, Queen of Denial*

        That’s really awful to hear. My sainted grandmother passed in hospice, and it was the best experience we could have hoped for given the circumstances. I’ve also known a few other extraordinary hospice nurses. It’s sad to know that there’s a whole marketing arm behind it.

        1. Quill*

          We were able to arrange in-home care for my mom’s parents, but my dad’s mom passed in hospice. She was NOT happy about it at first (she hated the idea of loosing any sort of responsibility or power) but by the end she was very peaceful.

          I didn’t know any of the workers for my dad’s mom, but the ladies who came to my mom’s parents house were overall angels. They wrote some of grandma’s recipes down for her, kept grandpa from taking a hike in the complete wrong direction (probably a full time job, he used to walk 5 miles every morning with the collie…) and somehow managed to keep my grandma’s immense social circle able to visit.

      2. The Other Dawn*

        “…the hospice industry is rife with shadiness.”

        I just can’t wrap my mind around this. I’ve had several family members in it, either inpatient or at home, and I never would have thought in a million years that hospice is made up of anything other than caring and compassionate people. And I definitely don’t think of it as a “business.” But I guess it is, just like any other. And I admit I haven’t seen the back office side of it, so it sounds like that’s where the shadiness would be.

        1. No real name here*

          You are on the money that the shadiness comes from the back office. Direct care staff are amazing humans. When you start moving up the hierarchy though … ::shudder:: At least where I worked.

          1. Wintermute*

            I’d wager you’re right because that’s how it is in a lot of residential care, whether it’s inpatient psychiatric or a nursing home.

            the real tragedy is that the quality of the front-line care is often totally out of the hands of the people there. many of them are incredibly hard-working and compassionate, but you can’t just care so much broken equipment magically fixes itself, or work hard enough that five people working 50 hour weeks on split shifts magically provide at least two people every shift 24/7.

            1. No real name here*

              Precisely! A lot of places prey upon the direct care employees being good-hearted and willing to put up with too much crap for the good of the patients.

              What other choice do we have? Watch someone pass away in discomfort? So I work myself to burning out while the CEO (of a non-profit!) makes a hefty six-figure salary.

              1. Wintermute*

                I hear you. It’s even more tragic because they weaponize your own compassion against you, sure you COULD insist on your legal rights and not skip breaks and lunches, but what would that leave undone or who would it leave unwatched? Sure you COULD refuse illegally long workweeks (depending on your state, in mine you cannot be made to work 7 straight days), but that may leave someone having to work a double shift if you won’t, or leave them with dangerously low coverage.

                It’s a horrific proof of the old addage that in any relationship, personal or professional, the person that cares the least has all the control.

          2. noahwynn*

            Honestly, this is why I left health care. I worked as an EMT and later a paramedic through college. Ambulance services are also shady and most will cut corners wherever they can. Having it run by the fire dept can be even worse in some cases because fire gets the money while EMS is the step child. I also worked in hospitals, both for and non-profit. Some people care, but most of the admin looks at everything based on budget only and it is always run as a business.

        2. Cobol*

          Shadiness is relative too. Retirement homes are the same way. They pay lower wages to people who don’t have experience/training for a job surrounded by death. Many employees don’t have the background always to know something is wrong, or at least how wrong it is. E.g. I’ll present a report to our leadership that highlights the wins, and doesn’t focus on the misses (and I won’t call the misses losses). This is a logical extension of this attitude, although obviously branches into things that should not Be done.

      3. LifeBeforeCorona*

        There are businesses like funeral homes that people only interact with at a very emotional time of their lives. Because the employees are trained to be compassionate the idea that it’s a money-making venture at the same time seems contradictory.

      4. Tobias Funke*

        Yup. Most social work settings are a sausage factory of which nobody wants to see the inside.

    3. Phony Genius*

      I was going to say that it’s serious enough that the writer should consider reporting him to his boss. However, after reading this thread, I think his bosses put him up to it. If so, this somewhat blunts the personal ethical implications, and instead opens up questions about the ethical implications of continuing to work for an employer that would make you do this. Either way, this isn’t good.

      1. pancakes*

        What on earth? How does reading a thread about the industry someone works in leave you feeling that you somehow know the choices they and their employer made? And how does the idea of someone doing something dreadful for their boss lead you think their ethics are sound? This is very muddled thinking.

        1. Phony Genius*

          I didn’t say I know, I said I think. And when people’s jobs are on the line, they sometimes make choices that they wouldn’t otherwise make. Since I don’t know for sure this is not the case, I will not condemn. Do not read that for support, though.

          1. pancakes*

            You don’t know whether his job is on the line either, though! More broader than the question of whether you condemn or support this guy or something in between, this isn’t how knowledge-gathering works. These are guesses.

  9. Catherine*

    OP #1, I hate to say this, but this probably isn’t the first time your boyfriend has done this. It’s just the first time you caught him.

    1. ..Kat..*

      I would urge OP to report her boyfriend to the her state’s Board of Medicine and American Medical Association. This is really awful, unethical behavior. I am sorry she didn’t find out he was like this before moving in with him.

      1. Come On Eileen*

        That seems like the nuclear option, and the one you pick when you’re ending the relationship because of this. (Because who says “hey honey, I reported you to the authorities and you’ll probably lose your job and maybe even face charges, but what do you want for dinner tonight?”) I feel like there’s Options B, C, and D to try first.

        1. ..Kat..*

          I think that this is so sleazy and unethical that he deserves it. I would end a relationship over this as well.

    2. Annie*

      Dirty John lied about being a doctor, is the first thing that popped into my head.

    3. Batgirl*

      Yep. Also, I know this is just a snapshot of the OP’s relationship but anyone willing to get into legal hot water is a pretty comfortable liar. Anything he’s told her about himself is now suspect.
      I could see it being a one-off if he’d admitted straight off that he got caught up in their emotion and a misunderstanding and acknowledged it was wrong; but he pretty much repeated the liars creed “Oh it makes people more comfortable to hear what they want”. They genuinely think this is ok.
      The second flag is that he brushed her off. You only feel you are ‘harping on’ in relationships where serious issues are directed to go under the rug instead of on the front burner. This guy has a big and bumpy rug I would bet.
      No, harping on won’t work. OP: If you’re going to stay, I would just be very quiet and observant until you’re more sure of what you’ve got and who he is when no one’s looking.
      I used to be in a relationship with a guy who would tell moving anecdotes about his ethical decisions and risky honesty. Eons later, I was floored to discover they were all lies. When he discovered I’d found out he just said “you told me ethics were important to you”.

      1. tinybutfierce*

        Hardcore seconding all of this. People don’t just throw out huge lies like this the first time.

      2. Archaeopteryx*

        Yup, just plainfacedly saying “well if I told the truth I couldn’t have gotten what I wanted!” is a liar’s justification for anything. It’s showing you how his mind works and that there’s a massive gap missing the fact that lying is wrong no matter how much it can benefit you.

        1. Syfygeek*

          We used Hospice for my mom in November and December of 2018. It allowed her to stay home, and we had medical staff that would come to her instead of trying to get her to a doctor.

          Since my 2 sisters and I rotated who was with mom and when, we relied on a notebook to write down which sister talked to who at Hospice and when and what was said.

          If someone talked to one of us, saying he was a doctor, and recommending upgrades for moms well being, we would have gone for it, no questions asked. If we then found out it was a salesman, all hell would have broken loose. I am livid on behalf of that family!

      3. Ali G*

        Whoa. “you told me how important ethics were to you, so I lied about being an ethical human.” That’s just mind boggling.

        1. Batgirl*

          Fascinating learning experience though. My dad said: “That guy was your second degree”. I am scary good at spotting liars now.

      1. Annie*

        Yes, I’d like to know this too. In my country it’s considered a very shocking and offensive word – the disabled equivalent of the “N” word. I’m really shocked to see people throwing a bigoted slur teen around with such abandon.

          1. Aster*

            By whom?

            By you? By your friends and family?

            Because it is to me, to my friends, family, and the disabled community?

            So many times Americans think that they have never heard something is offensive means it simply can’t be and they are the arbiters of standard usage.

            I’ve lived all over the US. This is a known slur.

            I’m gobsmacked by the number of people defending it as common and harmless.

        1. MommyMD*

          It’s common in America and not a slur. It refers to someone who acts stupidly. Nowhere close to the N word.

          1. Annie*

            But in many parts of the world it IS considered just as offensive as the N word. This is an international site with readers from all over the world. There are countries where the N word is not considered offensive; I’m sure posters saying “but it’s not a slur in my country” would be given short shrift.

            1. Bright*

              Well, no. It’s an American blog. Alison is American, it’s hosted on an American server, and the vast majority of the readers are American. Obviously, others are welcome here, but I always thought it was clear that they place is American.

              1. Annie*

                That means it’s okay to use horrendously hurtful slur terms that will make at least some disabled posters feel attacked and unsafe?

                I’m honestly really surprised that so many AAM posters are willing to make “the right to use bigoted slurs even when they know they are causing people pain” their hill to die on.

                People didn’t know it was a slur, fine. But surely once you know a word is offensive and hurtful, you stop using it? Not argue that those stupid disabled people/foreigners/black people need to stop being so sensitive and uppity because us regular (white/able-bodied/Americans) think it’s just fine!

                1. rainman*

                  It’s not a US/UK thing, it’s a disabled/abled thing. I live in Chicago and am heavily involved in disability activism, seeing Alison use that word felt like being punched. The only reason people don’t know it’s a disableist slur is because most Americans are not knowledgable about disability politics, and because disableism is more socially acceptable than racism.

                  Y’all need to stop using it. And stop defending using slurs against minorities on the grounds the majority don’t know it’s a slur so that makes it magically fine.

                2. Fred*

                  This is the first we’ve ever heard that it is an offensive term anywhere. Why should we believe you don’t know who you are if you’re just overly sensitive and reliable. Our experience tells us otherwise. If you find out that somewhere halfway around the world they never point with her finger are you never going to play with your finger because it’s offensive somewhere halfway around the world? Context does matter.

                3. Annie*

                  I’m sorry I was not assuming you’re white, I was using race as a metaphor.

                  The message I’ve been getting on this thread, from numerous posters, has been along the lines:
                  “It’s okay to use a term that foreigners consider a bigoted slur because this is an American site and most posters are American.”

                  Replace “foreigner” with “black” and “American” with “white” and see how it reads.

                  It’s safe to assume that most posters are able-bodied, which puts the “well most people here don’t find it offensive” comment into a not great light. I used to be on a forum based in a country with a mostly white population and left because of the casual racism. The posters there claimed it was fine to use racial slurs because “most of the posters are from X country and we don’t find those words offensive here.”

                4. Newly commenting*

                  Annie, using “race as a metaphor” reduces racism to a handy rhetorical tool to bolster your argument. It’s a really privileged way of looking at racism, as a comparative point for whatever cause you actually care about.

              2. Yes Anastasia*

                American here. I don’t think this is simply a matter of cultural differences. The word that the poster used was literally invented by a eugenicist. I agree that the majority of people in the US don’t know the history of the word, but in my view this is BECAUSE we used to be a nation that supported the eugenics movement, and we’ve swept this history under the rug without fully reckoning with it.

            2. TechWorker*

              (Honestly I don’t think the comparison to the n word helps much, but ignoring that…).

              I agree with Annie the response here is unfair. *You* might not consider it a slur but many do (it’s not a word I use really but I was aware of it being considered offensive). No-one is demandin you stop using it immediately (contrary to the OMG but how am I meant to know what’s offensive guess I’ll just keep being offensive…), but it is very reasonable to point it out to Alison as this blog deliberately tries to use language that isn’t exclusionary, in general.

              If you want to keep using language that is exclusionary, in the belief that no-one around you finds it so (difficult to really *know* but hey) then go ahead.

          2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            Google Buck vs Bell (that’s how it hit the Supreme Court, earlier iterations were Buck v. Priddy). It’s one of the pioneer cases in the eugenics movement for forced sterilization. Carrie Buck was forcibly sterilized because she was declared feebleminded, specifically ranked as a “moron, middle grade.”

            1. Fred*

              When was this? 50 or 100 years ago? Language does change I’ll be very surprised if this was recent.

                1. Harper the Other One*

                  Yep, and people with intellectual disabilities still have other rights trampled on regularly. I think people who are arguing this word “isn’t so bad” should do a little research into disability rights advocacy in general. It’s truly shocking just how much ableism is ingrained in our culture.

                  And for those who say it’s not as bad as the n-word… it wasn’t that long ago that the n-word was considered a TOTALLY REASONABLE thing to call someone. Language DOES change, and often that’s because the people who have been hurt by a word speak up, and allies support them.

              1. Anon for this*

                The sterilization of people who are not competent to make their own medical decisions is very much a current issue in medicine, rather than something relegated to the history books. It’s no longer part of an explicit eugenics movement (just like lots of eugenic practices, like a nationwide prenatal genetic screening program aimed at eliminating the existence of people with Trisomy 21, are no longer explicitly labelled as such), but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

                Where I live, the “m-word” doesn’t carry the same connotations as the “r-word,” but it is of the approximately same vintage and served a similar clinical purpose. I can understand why it would be framed as a slur.

          3. Harper the Other One*

            I would argue it’s only not considered a severe slur because people with intellectual disabilities are still highly stigmatized and discriminated against. It’s an older term – more like calling someone “coloured” rather than using the n-word – but that comparison should illuminate how many people react to “moron.”

        2. Llamalawyer*

          In the US it isn’t used as a slur and isn’t used to describe someone with a disability- I’m pretty sensitive to those things and haven’t heard that before. It’s used as a synonym for “idiot” or “buffoon.”

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            The origin of the word was as one of the categories of “feeble-minded” in the field of eugenics when they were sterilizing people against their will.

            Link in reply.

            1. Bright*

              Lots of words have changes in their definition and how they are used overtime. I think “idiot” was another one of those eugenics categories, but today both words are use to describe a person who is doing something stupid.

      2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Yes, and today, in this thread, is the first time I’ve ever seen anyone say it’s a slur for disabled people.

        1. Aster*

          That doesn’t make it any less problematic.

          That’s a sign that mainstream US society is insulated and indifferent to the plight of those with abilities that differ from their own. It’s a sign of a privilege.

          It’s not a sign of acceptability or anything else.

          It doesn’t make it’s use acceptable.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I appreciate this being flagged, but as with any similar issue here, I ask that we not derail on it once it’s been flagged so I’m closing this thread (and removing some particularly off-topic tangents within it).

        I apologize for using the word; as others have said, a lot of us in the U.S. don’t commonly realize it’s considered a slur, and I’ve changed it in my answer.

  10. bunniferous*

    #3 makes my blood boil. I would have been yelling at him to back the heck up and then my next step would be to call the boss and report him. Admittedly this is a very sore spot with me since my husband is very vulnerable medically.

    This is not cute. This is not funny. For some of us this would be a life and death issue. I understand that the vast majority of people who contract this virus will survive, and many won’t even have symptoms, but that is NOT the case for some of us. I really wish people would THINK.

    1. Jennifer Juniper*

      Depending on how functional the company is, the OP may need to let this go. If the OP is a POC or a woman, the coworker will have an easier time portraying them as shrill and hysterical. The OP may be told off for not handling an interpersonal problem themself.

      1. Lance*

        Except it stopped being an interpersonal problem as soon as the co-worker refused to use a mask.

      2. MusicWithRocksIn*

        This isn’t an interpersonal problem, the guy was ignoring a company directive. In the current climate everyone should absolutely be taking something like this seriously. I don’t think we should discourage her from telling her manager. This guy is just gonna turn around and do it to someone else. Honestly it sounds like a form of bullying, he was enjoying having power over the OP and upsetting her, taunting her even. That is serious and awful.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          Right! On top of ignoring the company directive, he could obviously tell the OP was uncomfortable and did not back up or leave the room. I mean, even if he was genuinely confused by the OP being upset, wouldn’t you back the hell up if you saw you were making a coworker uncomfortable? He’s either a bully or extremely dense. Their manager should definitely know.

    2. Morticia*

      I’m pretty sure a lot of people are not thinking, or have an imperfect understanding of how the whole thing works. Where I am, elevators are now limited to 2 people. When I called the elevator yesterday, there was already a couple on with their dog. I naturally backed up and signalled for them to go. They guy says, “No, it’s okay, you’re wearing a mask.” Ummm, neither of them were. It’s nice that they were only concerned for their own safety. I let them go, and called a new one.

      To address the other issue, I saw the phrase “abject fuckwittery” the other day. I think varying forms of this could be useful, since it’s what you’re doing with your wits that’s being discussed. In such a case #3’s co-irker could be called an abject fuckwit, hopefully with no offence to anyone.

      1. Quill*

        Yeah, fuckwittery seems to imply intention, not ability.

        Jackass is still my favorite insult of choice. As far as I know, no donkeys have complained.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Dipshit is good too, IMO, for people who are being willfully ignorant.

  11. The Rat-Catcher*

    I have gotten several voicemails from my “legal department” claiming there is a “complaint” about me and that they would be “reviewing the case over the phone due to the current situation.” I listened until I was instructed to call an 866 number (in the US, those are usually toll free lines of some kind), then blocked the number. It was scary!

    1. Shirley You’re Joking*

      #2 – 401(k) plans are governed by very strict regulations. A company can’t just not pay the match unless there’s something in the plan document that defines a situation when that can be done. I would request a copy of the Summary Plan Document (SPD) from your HR dept. That should worry them. You can also request that they show you where in the document it says they can stop paying the match. Even if it says that furloughed employees don’t get a match, there’s likely a definition of furloughed in the document that will contradict your current situation. I would then call the finiancial institution where the accounts are and start asking questions. That vendor may be helpful. If it’s really a violation of the plan rules, which I bet it is, then I’d report it to the Department of Labor. If it’s a violation, the employer will need to pay all the owed funds to participants plus any gains from market fluctuation since the time the money should have been in your account. A 401k plan correction like that is a huge pain and expense for the employer. A small bit of justice.

    2. Yorick*

      This may be too off-topic, but I thought it was hilarious. I recently got a call from “Visa, Discover, Mastercard, and American Express” telling me there was a problem with my account….

      Sure, most people are gonna have one of those, but surely not too many people are gonna think this is a legit call?

      1. KRM*

        I get lots of emails telling me to call to resolve a problem with my Amex. That I don’t own.

        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          I’ve been getting a recorded call about my car warranty. I don’t own a car.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            I own a car, but it’s over ten years old, and I’ve owned it long enough that even a used car warranty is way past gone.

      2. High School Teacher*

        I get calls like this CONSTANTLY and I just hang up. You’re right in that most people know they’re scams. However, what is really sad and what these scammers do is they’ll target the elderly. My grandpa got a call from someone saying that his granddaughter had gotten arrested for a DUI and he had to immediately wire money for bail. He was a bit suspicious, but he was worried enough to call my aunt and ask her, and she assured him his granddaughters were fine. My grandpa is elderly and started to forget things and it is a really good thing that he knew enough to call my aunt, but many elderly people do believe these calls and get scammed. It is really sad.

      3. ellex42*

        I regularly get calls from “the warranty department”. Okaaaay…whose warranty department, and for what?

        Lots of calls, especially in the last few weeks, about my student loans. I don’t have any student loans, so it’s clearly just a phishing expedition.

        My favorite calls are the ones where there’s a recording of someone speaking in Mandarin. How do I know it’s Mandarin? Well, I watched some really interesting videos done by this amazing guy who speaks dozens of languages, including both Mandarin and Cantonese, so I was able to compare the words/accent. Regardless, I don’t speak Mandarin OR Cantonese.

        1. I'll Have That Drink Now*

          I’ve gotten a few of those. They’re aimed at Chinese immigrants, and the victim is told they need to pick up a document at the Chinese consulate, then a scammer comes on the line and tells them they’ve been accused of a crime (money laundering or some such) and they have to wire money to a Hong Kong bank or be arrested.k

        2. Curmudgeon in California*

          I get those recorded calls, and they’re apparently a bank scams, since the only English words are the names of financial institutions. They seem to be phishing for bank credentials from Chinese immigrants.

      4. Kes*

        It’s actually a specific tactic in scamming to make it a little unbelievable to filter out more gullible people they can easily target

      5. NotAnotherManager!*

        Occasionally, these scammers will spoof a number that looks legitimate to me and I end up answering the phone. I choose the James Veitch method of dealing with them and pretend like I’m very concerned and need their help figuring out which of my various (usually fictitious) cards has the issue. I actually was cursed out recently by a guy who got angry that I wouldn’t read him my card number – I told him I had far too many to read them all but it sounded like he had my file and could tell me which it was.

        Same for car warranties – we have one very old (warranty expired years ago) and one very new car (still under factory warranty), and it really ticks them off to keep insisting that they tell you which of your vehicles has the problem rather than your giving them the make, model, and VIN.

      6. actually, my name's Marina*

        dude, I got a call from someone claiming to be Verizon, telling me that my Verizon service had been cut off.

        On my Verizon cell.


  12. SusanIvanova*

    My church has gone completely online, with livestream services on Youtube and Zoom discussion groups. We’ve had a couple of emails out warning us that email that appears to be coming from the priest who’s been hosting the groups is *not* from him; it’s a phishing attempt, probably finding people from the Zoom or Youtube chats since they’re open to anyone.

    1. OwlStory*

      This happened with my church pre-COVID. They may have got the pastors’ emails from our website.

  13. Mike C.*

    That’s a really weird answer for number three. You don’t just go to the manager later if someone is explicitly violating workplace safety rules and endangering your life and the lives of others nearby, you drop everything and demand that the comply. You walk them to where their mask is and ensure that they put it on. What else should you do when someone is putting your life and the lives of your coworkers in danger, just graciously suck it up? If you were a heart surgeon working on someone and someone in street clothes walked into your OR, what would you do? Professionalism doesn’t matter here, getting their attention so that no one gets hurt is the priority. If that means using a word short of a slur, if that means raising your voice or stopping work or attracting attention or the sin of initiating conflict, then so be it. That’s a cheap price to pay to ensure that people are safe and saying that “you should never call coworkers names” means that you’re prioritizing professionalism over workplace safety.

    Additionally management should be fostering an environment where everyone is comfortable and expected to call anyone out for not following these rules. That means if you should be able to call it out regardless of whether it’s your coworker or the president of the board or a federal auditor or a guest who’s just visiting. Management should also have a plan for ensuring compliance to workplace safety rules and ways to document near misses and rule violations. Repeated non-compliance is a great way to kill people, get fined and lose lawsuits and catching those issues before they become “repeated” is incredibly important.

    Where I work, we all have to wear safety glasses while on the factory floor and the advice above is part of how we ensure long term compliance. Guess what folks? You’re all working on a factory floor now, you’re all wearing masks and you’re going to have to work hard to maintain that level of safety for the next year or two. Pretending that just because you work in an office or for a boutique nonprofit and “workplace safety doesn’t apply to you” will get people killed. Just having general rules and advice without the specialized knowledge of dealing with long term workplace safety isn’t going to cut it anymore.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This is a weird response to both the letter and my answer. She did demand he comply, multiple times. He refused. We’re not going to take her to task for not being able to force him to comply, and neither she nor I need a lecture about masks or workplace safety.

      And you misread the answer if you think it was “don’t call coworkers names.”

      1. Mike C.*

        I haven’t taken the OP to task for anything, and you literally said “you can’t ever call a coworker a name”. That you focused on those minor points and not the massive culture of safety issues is incredibly dismissive of far more important issues.

        Look, we’re talking about life and death here. I live in Snohomish County, we were the first to know we had community spread. I’ve seen this spread through my workplace and I have coworkers that have died from Covid and maimed/died from industrial incidents. I get daily reports on new cases in my own building. Just telling people to “talk to their manager” isn’t enough. Worrying about calling someone a “moron” is totally unimportant. The OP should be told that they are empowered to take unusual action to ensure the safety of themselves and their coworkers. If that means stopping work or walking them to get a mask or calling the manager right then and there those are fine answers. You didn’t suggest any of these and would have allowed this person to continue putting others in harms way until a manager was told at some later point.

        How does that make sense when we’re talking about workplace safety and public health?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The incident is in the past. The OP wasn’t emailing for advice in the middle of it; she’s asking what to do now that it’s done.

          It’s true that you shouldn’t name-call coworkers. It’s also true that the OP isn’t the one who made the most serious error here, as my response indicated.

        2. MayLou*

          Walking them to their mask sounds like it would require the coworker’s compliance (already not in evidence) or much closer physical contact and proximity and the risk of getting into an actual fight. That doesn’t seem like a good idea!

          I agree that management should have a policy that empowers people to report non-compliance, but that’s not on the OP and it’s not within her power to implement.

          1. EPLawyer*

            How was the LW supposed to walk the person to their mask? They weren’t even listening to back the F up to 6 feet? They sure were not going to comply with a demand they be walked (how do you do that while keeping 6 feet?) to get their mask then watched while they put it on.

            Coirker was being a childish ass. LW did the best they could in the circumstances. Now they need to report it ASAP up the chain. Because coirker IS going to get someone killed.

          2. Batgirl*

            Yeah that puzzled me too. Being insistent is one thing, but how do “you walk them to where their mask is and ensure that they put it on”. If they say no, what them? Because you can’t call hospital security like a surgeon would (or rather wouldn’t because access would already have been prevented). You can’t enforce things without systems and plans for enforcement. If I have a dangerous situation in a classroom I have on call backup. There are pre planned consequences. As a mere coworker you can only call on management to implement that and comply yourself.

            1. Mike C.*

              It’s simply one of many possibilities and it’s a tactic that actually works in real life surprisingly often.

              1. Quill*

                Very hard to do from 6 feet away, and if the person you’re trying to escort isn’t cowed enough by you to go along semi-voluntarily.

          3. Yorick*

            Yeah, that’ll work with a hard hat or safety glasses, but not in this situation, and it’s weird to try to suggest it.

            1. Mike C.*

              No, it’s not weird to “try and suggest it” when it was simply part of a list of many different options that could be considered.

        3. Not Australian*

          I’m curious to know what form you would expect ‘walking them to get a mask’ to take in the circumstances. The guy was clearly going to ignore everything the OP said on this occasion and had absolutely no respect for the OP’s point of view or personal safety, and I doubt if even handing him a mask and telling him to put it on would have been of any use in the moment.

          It doesn’t matter how important the issue is, there are some people – mostly men – who will just take advantage of *any* perceived power imbalance to ride roughshod over another person’s wishes. If you have never been on the wrong side of this equation, be grateful; those of us who *have* will fully understand the OP’s actions in the matter.

        4. IRL*

          What a bizarre and unrealistic response.

          I get that you go all… weird… whenever safety issues are involved, I’ve seen your past comment history on this enough, but this is just ridiculous. You are not being reasonable or thoughtful about this. You are not offering practicable advice. You are NOT HELPING the OP.

          And you really need to do some self-reflection on how you address these sort of questions, because right now you are being deeply and worryingly unrealistic. Your response is always to give a high-minded lecture on your theories of workplace safety in a perfect world. Perhaps you should write your own blog on that, and stop pretending the rest of us live in that bubble.

          1. Anononon*

            Yes, in fact, his advice is actively harmful, stating that the OP should have forced the coworker to put on a mask.

            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              Right? The heck do you suggest I do any of that – walk him anywhere, make him put on a mask – from a six foot distance, when he’s already made it plain he is not cooperating?

                1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

                  if I did, I sure wouldn’t waste it on this goofus. Hah.

              1. Amy Sly*

                Seriously. Tackling our colleagues and pinning them to the floor to put a mask over their blowholes (that they can take back off immediately) is just not an option unless you’re working for the WWF.

                1. Database Developer Dude*

                  Wouldn’t tackling your colleague and pinning him to the floor to put a mask on him actually defeat the purpose of trying to get him to wear a mask anyway?

                2. Amy Sly*

                  Yes …

                  One of the most important life lessons I learned from my students when I taught in an urban public school was that you can’t make anyone do anything. You can tempt them with rewards, you can inflict punishments until they concede defeat, but in the end, if someone is willing to suffer the consequences for not complying, you can’t make them comply. And frankly, if you’re not the parent, the boss, the police, or the judge, you most likely can’t impose severe enough consequences to cause a stubborn person to give up.

          2. Biolab*

            I think it likely comes from being in an industry were workplace safety is really just *that big of a deal*. I’ve worked in laboratories with materials that are extremely caustic or carcinogenic and you will get shat on from a dizzy height if a lab supervisor (or g-d forbid a health and safety officer) catches you messing about without the proper PPE. And they have the authority to ban you from the lab if you fail to comply which means you can’t do your work at all. But Mike C hasn’t translated that into an office environment where a coworker can’t ban you from the office for not wearing a mask and or fire you for it.

            1. pbnj*

              Yup. Similar in the chemical industry. So his comments are expected, normal and mandatory behavior for those workplaces, even if you work in the office buildings. Knowing and willfully not following any safety rule can result in immediate firing. But I can see how it is odd for regular offices.

              1. Jamie*

                It’s not just odd, it’s impossible in this scenario. The OP couldn’t possibly “walk them to their mask” without endangering herself and it’s missing the point of the question.

                The question wasn’t “what should I have done in the moment?” it was how to handle this now. And I thought it was super clear that Alison wasn’t focusing on the name calling aspect.

                We all have our trigger scenarios (I used to bleed internally whenever people would post here about sharing passwords) but he’s completely off base on this.

              2. Sacred Ground*

                I’d also remind that even in such highly safety conscious workplaces, while peer coworkers can and should call one another out for gross and willful non-compliance, there’s usually nothing they can do in the moment to enforce compliance other than report it up the chain. In some environments one can stop working to do so, or even stop the whole production process for a safety concern. And in some places you can’t, you just have to finish the task at hand best you can and then go to the boss.

                As for the name-calling, it’s really not an issue to me. If I were OP’s boss, I’d assure her that although such language is of course not to be used in normal conversation, this wasn’t a normal conversation and she was clearly provoked. I might point out that “moron” has a history as a slur against the disabled and would recommend that if something like this ever happened again she instead use the word “asshole.”

                It’s a cliche but true in this case that it’s a slur against the disabled to compare them to people like this.

            2. IRL*

              The inability to understand the significance of context is alarming. And this is far from the first time he’s asserted ridiculous claims about safety matters that simply do not apply outside of his very narrow context.

              It shows a worrying rigidity of thinking that is deeply unhelpful to OPs on this site.

            3. Quill*

              I mean, I worked in a lab for a good long time, and standards for “being an ignoramus about PPE” were deeply different inside the lab vs inside the cube farm at all my lab jobs. Not wearing cube farm PPE in the cube farm, or following safety rules about lifting got you a talking to. Not wearing lab PPE in the lab could get you fired you fired.

          3. Sheesh*

            Weird? Are you serious? Workplace safety is incredibly important even in usual times, but especially so in the middle of a global pandemic that has already killed thousands of people, so being concerned about workplace safety in the current climate is far from weird! It’s weird to be lax about workplace safety, but totally normal and extremely important to be vigilant about workplace safety, ESPECIALLY now. I think piling on Mike is massively unfair. He’s made a good point.

            1. Cat*

              What do you think the LW should have done? She asked him to back up and put on the mask and he refused. He wasn’t being careless. He was willfully putting her in danger.

              1. Sheesh*

                I was specifically responding to IRL saying “ I get that you go all… weird… whenever safety issues are involved”. Interpreting Mike’s interest in the importance of workplace safety as “weird” comes across like IRL is dismissing the need for people to be safe at work. Every worker has a right to be safe and not be at risk of injury or death at work, it’s not “weird” to have an interest in workers’ rights and safety!

            2. revueller*

              In case you missed the number of actions OP3 took before escalating to calling her coworker a moron, she did take workplace safety seriously. In case you missed the number of people who say they would have escalated further in OP3’s shoes, we all take the coworker’s noncompliance seriously.

              What’s “weird” is to suggest that OP3 act like a manager or cop and enforce consequences on her coworker to comply with the company’s regulations. She had no authority or training to protect herself from this guy taking further action against her when he was already non-compliant. It is not feasible, realistic, or safe for a coworker in a typical office workplace to “walk them to where their mask is and ensure that they put it on.” It’s in fact incredibly bold to assume the coworker had a mask on site to walk to, let alone that he would comply!

              Plus, I’m willing to bet that people in workplaces where you and Mike are aren’t motivated to follow such rigid safety rules to just keep themselves safe: they would also risk being fired by not complying. It is extremely unlikely for a typical office worker to be fired for something like this. And even if it’s more likely now in this pandemic, OP3 did not have the standing to do so. She is his coworker.

              Your anxieties are valid, which is why nobody is defending OP3’s coworker for his stupendously awful actions. However, we’re allowed to call Mike’s recommendations for OP3’s actions unrealistic in OP3’s environment — because they are.

              1. Sheesh*

                Like I said above, I was specifically responding to IRL saying “ I get that you go all… weird… whenever safety issues are involved”. Interpreting Mike’s interest in the importance of workplace safety as “weird” comes across like IRL is dismissing the need for people to be safe at work. Every worker has a right to be safe and not be at risk of injury or death at work, it’s not “weird” to have an interest in workers’ rights and safety!

                1. revueller*

                  IRL used the word “weird” to describe the outsized reaction Mike tends to have whenever an issue of workplace safety comes up. Think of it this way: it’s normal to be worried about your kid getting injured while playing outside. It’s weird to insist on wrapping them in bubble wrap every time they step out the door and chastising other parents for not doing the same. Mike’s worries are valid; his suggestion here was bubble wrap.

        5. Sylvan*

          It’s already happened, so there’s no way for OP to force their coworker to wear a mask. It likely wouldn’t have been possible anyway. I’m so sorry you and coworkers are going through this.

        6. Fred*

          Alison’s response is rooted in a present reality. You’re just fantasizing after the fact.

        7. A Cat named Brian*

          Agreed. But what you describe is industry standards where people die, get maimed and lose body parts. Most people, especially those in a non-profit environment, have not context for this. In industrial environments, it’s the norm to call people to task and enforce. Daily office and other work environments it’s not.

          I moved from industry to an educational organization and was given a bunch of cr*p for insisting on safety glasses, protective gear, saftey lines for space etc in the labs. That I was being “way over the top.” Until an older machinist came in without 2 fingers for an interview.

          The new normal is coming. You are correct, it’s going to take empowered people to make sure everyone is accountable. And some major behavioral changes. I see alot of office safety consulting companies starting up!

        8. Librarian1*

          Walking them to their mask? They aren’t a child. If someone tried to do that to me, I’d be pissed. It’s so patronizing.

          1. Quill*

            Also, as a grown person… I cannot imagine either someone successfully doing this to me absent threat of physical intervention, or me succeeding in doing this to another person set on not wearing their mask without opening myself to an assault charge.

    2. Dahlia*

      “You walk them to where their mask is and ensure that they put it on.”

      Sorry, how do you make another grown adult do something when you are not their manager? Do you use physical force? How do you do that while staying six feet away, do you get a broom and bat at them until they move?

      1. MrsOtter*

        @Dahlia, i have this image of someone poking someone with the pointy end of a broom and it’s really made me chuckle. Whilst I am not trying to detract from the seriousness of the situation OP found themselves in due to their co workers selfishness and arrogance, I like the idea of wielding brooms like swords to keep others 6 feet away, something the people near me in shops could definitely benefit from

        1. Traffic_Spiral*

          I kinda like the ideal of flailing at them with the brush end, like they were an annoying varmit: “Shoo!
          Git now, y’hear?”

        2. Blueberry*

          Yeah, that mental image provided a needed bit of levity in a discussion of an otherwise grim subject.

    3. Myrin*

      “You walk them to where their mask is and ensure that they put it on.”

      Pardon my bluntness, but I think you’re being extremely unrealistic here. I’m willing to bet that a person who behaves like OP’s coworker wouldn’t just say “Okie dokie, let’s do this!” if OP told him to come with her to get his mask (if he even had one somewhere at all). OP doesn’t seem to have any authority over this guy, either, so she can’t even threaten him with termination or another disciplinary measure. The only thing she could do here would be to physically grab him and drag him to where there might be masks to be had, which completely defeats the purpose of keeping your distance and also becomes questionable behaviour towards one’s coworkers in general. (Although I feel like you would disagree with me here and say that bodily pushing/pulling a coworker ceases to be “questionable behaviour” in the face of a safety violation like that, but please do correct me if I’m wrong about that! But if I’m not wrong, then I think that’s the crux of the pushback you’re getting.)

      Stopping her work or calling the dude’s manager, like you propose in your other comment, sound like good and reasonable suggestions to me (although OP stops her tale at her calling her coworker a moron – we don’t actually know what she did afterwards; she says she was in a closed office, so she might’ve just closed the door again in a rage and thus been relatively safe from this guy’s carelessness).

      But like Alison says, the situation is in the past now, and OP’s letter clearly cares about what to do going forward and never ask what she could or should have done differently. I mean, she and others reading your comment might still find value in it should they find themselves in such a situation (again) in the future, but for the purpose of the letter and the question OP is actually asking, I think Alison’s response is completely appropriate.

      1. JamieS*

        Agreed. There’s also just the simple fact that even if OP were willing to go the exteme of using physical force it’s very likely they simply wouldn’t be able to move the coworker. Especially if he resists. Not everyone is an incredibly strong person who can easily move other people around against their will.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, I’m pretty strong physically (I’ve worked at a gym for five years and worked out there for ten, and all of my main jobs so far have included heavy lifting to more or less big degrees) but I’m not sure I could just drag an adult man somewhere he refused to be.

          Heck, the store I work in regularly has incidents of pretty brazen shoplifting done by teenagers and last time it happened, it took two police officers to escort a teenage girl who was quite literally kicking and screaming out of the shop. And these were adult men who seemed physically fit and were presumably trained on exactly this kind of thing.

          1. JamieS*

            Bit of an aside but their training is probably why it took 2 officers to get the girl out. Don’t really want to be the cop getting a lot of publicity for literally throwing/slamming a teen girl.

        2. NerdyKris*

          And they’d be fired, and potentially charged with assault. And before it’s suggested, self defense would not apply here. Even if it did, the solution would be to leave the area, not lay hands on a coworker.

      2. Colette*

        I’m trying to picture me standing at the door of my office wanting to call someone’s manager. How do I know who their manager is? Do I have the managers number?

        My option in this case would be to turn around, go home, and explain to my manager that I wasn’t able to do whatever I needed to do because coworker wasn’t wearing a mask and thus it wasn’t safe to go in,

        1. Bagpuss*

          Exactly -that is something OP could have done, and reporting to her own manager what happened and requesting that steps are taken to ensure that Jerk sticks to the rules in future re things she can do now.

          Seekingto force another person to put a mask on by brute force , when they have already refused to do so, is ridiculous, not to mention in any physical altercation you would be far more at risk than if you have to be within 4 feet of Jerk, so it would also be counter productive, and probably illegal since it could be amount to an assault (I am sure that a lawyer could have a lot of fun trying to argue it as self defence, but I wouldn’t want to bet my own livelihood or clean criminal record on the outcome!)

          And unless OP is Jerk’s boss, she doesn’t have the standing or authority to walk him to his desk and insist he puts on his mask, and he had already made clear he wasn’t going to do it despite being asked and having rules in place requiring it.

          OP – I would definitely report him – your employer needs to know he is ignoring their directions and putting other staff at risk – both so they can deal with him, but also they need to know – from a legal perspective they could well be liable for his actions, so they need to know about them for that reason, too.

        2. Mx*

          Maybe she could have called HR if she didn’t know his manager.
          You’re right, leaving was the best option here. She couldn’t force him to wear a mask.

          1. Mama Bear*

            At my office, I could report a repeat offender to HR by saying so and so wasn’t following the directive (per the email they sent telling us of the policy). Could HR please clarify this new policy with them? We have MASKS REQUIRED signs all over, too. OP’s office could consider that if necessary. I don’t think OP should have walked him to his desk and was probably shocked in the moment, but another response might be to back up 2ft yourself and tell the offender to close the door and only come back to speak with you when they were properly masked.

      1. UKDancer*

        Quite. You can’t (in most jobs) physically force another person to do something. She asked him to put a mask on and he refused. Even if the OP were strong enough to move a male colleague and force the mask on, it’s probably not a good idea from a legal perspective and would expose her to more infection by making her get too close to him.

        1. bluephone*

          Some Pennsylvania counties, including Philadelphia, have been hit very hard by COVID-19 so protective measures (stay at home orders, mask rules, etc) have been around for almost 2 months now. People are…stressed to put it mildly.
          A few weeks ago, before the state made mask use mandatory while out in public, there was a huge kerfluffle on the evening news: A Philly resident boarded a public transit bus without a mask. Another passenger chewed him out, threatened him, and tried to get violent. Police were called and there was cellphone footage of police (non-violently) removing the 2nd passenger from the bus. Everyone had An Opinion about the whole thing and I don’t even remember if anyone got in actual trouble when all was said and done.
          That was two randos on a bus, who presumably didn’t know each other, who almost came to blows over mask guidance WHILE the CDC was still saying that “everyone should wear a mask” probably wasn’t going to help anything (we can argue all day about whether they’re right and/or were just trying to keep people from screwing over hospital staff some more by hoarding masks). But it still involved the police, it still caused a huge ruckus on the news and in the court of public opinion, etc.
          But sure, let’s all get within 3 inches of our (possibly infected) coworkers, literally strong-arm them, and try to put a mask on their face. Now we’ve all infected each other AND incited a 3-year long journey of assault charges, civil suits, and counter-suits.

      2. KoiFeeder*

        What, doesn’t everyone carry around rope just in case they need to hogtie someone?

        (this is a joke)

    4. LifeBeforeCorona*

      These are very stressful times and emotions are running high. People are frightened and don’t always act in rational ways. That being said, my personal authority to make people wear masks when they should is limited. We expect people to comply and we can bar them from entry to our workplace if they don’t. I wear my mask when I’m out because I interact with babies and seniors. The temptation to call someone a name is very strong when they deliberately ignore the required safety rules.

    5. LGC*

      So, I haven’t read the other replies, but just to (probably) add on…my dude, she did say something to the guy! That’s what this entire letter is about – she told him to put his mask on and he reacted like a toddler being told to put his pants on. And then she lost her temper and said something she shouldn’t have.

      As for her company’s management:

      …but the parent company (and our program manager) made it clear that all personnel in the building, whether truly essential or not, were required to wear masks at all times.

      My own small internal team says I don’t owe him an apology, that he blatantly put us both at risk, plus the people who MUST work in the building, plus anyone else who must make a quick trip there.

      I doubt seriously that he will say anything to our manager, because then he’d have to admit why I said it in the first place.

      So it sounds like LW3’s company will probably do the right thing. She already did the first part of what you suggested, and that just didn’t work in this case, partly because some dudes would rather chug fish tank chloroquine and be a tough guy that ain’t afraid of no virus named after some Mexican beer than…you know, wear a facial covering.

      So given all of that, what else would you suggest she do, since she has no power to actually force compliance and he’s being willfully non-compliant? What would your factory do if one guy just decided that he wasn’t going to wear safety goggles to stick it to everyone else and after you called him out he kept refusing to put them on?

    6. GrumpyGnome*

      How was she expected to walk her coworker over to a mask when he was already acting in an antagonistic manner towards her? Any method she could use to force him in that moment would be an escalation, and could be dangerous to her safety. Additionally, even if she was successful, I don’t see her company approving of manhandling a coworker, and the law tends to take a dim view of that as well.

      I appreciate the importance of work place safety. However, the moment you attempt to force a person to do anything you risk violence, and I would argue that only in extreme cases is that appropriate. Reporting to her management now is in this case the safest option for everyone, and if she encounters this coworker again and he does the same thing, she should leave the situation immediately and explain to management/HR why as another comment suggested.

    7. Lala*

      I really appreciate that your comments very often point out employees’ rights (yeah, they may be limited in the US but we DO have them and this blog often forgets twice this week alone there were issues that clearly impacted laws that were ignored like, no, a workplace can’t forbid someone from tagging co-workers on social media and if you are injured on the job you need to file a Worker’s Comp notice of injury immediately) and workplace safety.

      But this is ridiculous. Sure, over years custom has become that on a factory floor you can march someone to their safety gear. That’s not the case elsewhere. She isn’t in his chain of command, she has no power over him, and even if she did manage to get the mask on him he could take it off immediately (whereas on a factory floor people would see you.) You are also a man and can use force the way most women can’t.

    8. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I understand your POV because I also come from the background of manufacturing. Where you get fired for disregarding PPE requirements. I wouldn’t march anyone to a mask, I’d simply pick up the phone and call the persons manager to report the issue, which would lead to the person being spoken to by the manager of “Wear it or you’re done.”

      But in an office, with what is not traditional office PPE, in a very different time where some businesses are going hard on safety or just literally shrugging it off, it’s not the same ball game.

      In the end, it has to be brought up to the people who have the authority to discipline this dude. Which you know in every facility, it’s always a supervisors final decision. A lineworker can’t just march you to the PPE and say “wear this or get out”.

      A surgeon has massive authority. A medical assistant has to call someone. This situation is that of a medical assistant, not a surgeon.

      But again I’m really upset that the person didn’t call management immediately and is dwelling on the “name calling”. That’s how awful it is to have a 100% “office” mentality, where “professionalism” is on the forefront instead of human safety.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        IMO, 90% of the time when “professionalism” is cited as to why not to do some otherwise normal thing, it is a form of bullying. “You’re not being professional” is the equivalent many times of “You’re not following the in-crowd’s arbitrary playground rules.” It’s not really about integrity, but conformity.

        Yes, sometimes things are waaaay outside what is considered “professional” conduct, but that still assumes a certain genteel type of profession.

        One field I was in had very different rules for field work versus office work versus shop work – you couldn’t swear in the office because some folks were sensitive about it, you didn’t swear in front of customers in the field unless they swore first, and you didn’t swear in the shop if a manager was around. But my grandboss swore the most of anyone there.

  14. Random IT Guy*

    OP #5, and all others working from home or dealing with ‘delayed work’.

    Please, be aware the scammers, phishers and other assorted criminals are out in full force.
    They are targeting insecurity (as OP5s example shows) or fears. And, they hope to exploit naive people, or gullible ones, or those that are just not as aware about online dangers.

    During this time especially (actually, always when dealing with email and internet) – dial up the paranoia one notch – and when in doubt – either google the text, contact your IT department, or check out sites like Snopes, Hoax slayer and similar. But, if you have this nagging feeling, no matter how tiny: PAUSE, THINK, have a coffee, talk with someone (co workers!) and learn how to read headers, reply emails etc.

    I`ve been working in IT for a while now, and spam /scam / phishing is sort of a hobby of mine – and if you want – i could add some pointers (generalized) and tips together. But there is a lot already out there.

    To all: Stay Safe, be vigilant, and when in doubt – pause at least. You do need that coffee, right?

    1. Rebecca*

      Shortly after we received an email from our IT Dept with tips like you laid out, we all rec’d an email with a link to do a survey about the IT Dept. Literally no one clicked on the link – we were all convinced it was a test of some sort. The IT Director had to call department heads and send a follow up email basically saying “yes, this is us, it’s real, you can answer” so I guess the first email was effective :)

      1. BadWolf*

        A couple years ago, we were supposed to do some special training, but the kick off email ticked all the “phishing boxes.”

        It was an odd format compared to email we usually get. It had some awkward language. It was urgent (you must complete this now!!). It had links to an external site. It said, “This is not SPAM” at the bottom.

        Our managers had to tell us that we were really supposed to complete the training and click on the link after several people deleted it or reported it as SPAM.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          See, that’s where having a specific location were required training is listed for each person is useful. I get lots of emails about “required training” from third parties. If it’s not in my assigned training on the in-house training site, I ignore it.

      2. LJay*

        Yeah we had something similar happen before all the COVID stuff happened.

        We all got an emails saying to log into a certain site to download your 1095 form. And they said they came from our HR director, but came via an email address associated with the website rather than an internal email.

        I know I immediately forwarded that to our IT department and I guess a bunch of other people did too because about half an hour later we got emails from our HR director’s internal email address and our IT department saying that it was legitimate and we could safely go there and download the form.

    2. leapingLemur*

      Pointers and tips on this would be great! I know that a lot of misspelled words and bad grammar are warning signs. I’ve also tended to google anything that looks odd.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I’m using part of my time out of work to run online presentations for my older relatives on how to e.g. check email headers, Google for scams, check with reputable sources etc.

      It’s keeping my tech skills honed, and I’m getting some great online chats with the in-laws/parental units etc.!

      (I also did an intro to basic virology chat for my younger relatives so they could understand the stuff in the news. Finally my degree is getting some use)

  15. Kamatari*

    @#1- I work in a hospital as a clinical dietitian. Whenever someone calls me a doctor, I immediately correct them and tell them my name and title. I do NOT want incorrect/damaging/against what their doctor told them information being attributed to me because that is a recipe for firing. Even when I tell the patient something diet related and they tell me their doctor told them differently, I tell them to follow what their doctor said because for better or worse, the doctors have final say about EVERYTHING.

    I’m all for hospice care if it’s appropriate but if I hear someone claiming to be a doctor when they’re not in order for them to benefit financially, you better believe I’m going to report them ASAP.

    For me personally, I don’t know if I would break up with him over this but I would definitely wonder what else he would do in other less than obvious ethical situations. Definitely a huge red flag! I would definitely look into having a quick exit strategy planned if things suddenly go south.

    1. Princess Deviant*

      I am a trainee counsellor. The ethical guidelines expressly state that honesty is required. This includes telling the client (patient) the limits of your experience, whether you’re a student on practice, etc. It isn’t illegal to claim to be a counsellor when you’re not, unfortunately; rather, it is classed as an ethical issue.
      However it is illegal to pretend to be a doctor and to offer medical services here!
      I’d talk to your boyfriend again, and I’d also consider contacting his workplace if it happened again. Trust your instincts- they’re right.

      1. Sylvan*

        I think I agree about contacting his company. Also, his company will be horrified by this when they begin working with this patient and the truth comes out. What does OP’s boyfriend think will happen?

        (FWIW, I’m in marketing. I’m a copywriter, so I’m not in OP’s boyfriend’s position. This might not be relevant. But I’m required to be honest, and I’m one of the 2-3 people required to factcheck everything I write. Writing something inaccurate puts the client at risk for legal troubles and guarantees unhappy customers. He might be trying to justify what he’s doing in some way, but it’s not beneficial to the patient or to his client.)

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Are there titles which are ringfenced, such as “clinical psychologist”, “therapist”, “psychiatrist”? Is it just “counsellor” which is a free-for-all?

    2. Beth Jacobs*

      Exactly! There’s even specific guidance for healthcare workers who have a Ph.D. but not an M.D. not to use the title doctor towards patients as it could be misleading. To think that someone would use the title with what I presume is a BA or equivalent is just… bonkers.

    3. BadWolf*

      I was thinking maybe this was a passive sort of thing. Like, “Doctor, do you think I should go to hospice” and the boyfriend just saying, “Yes, ma’am, I think this would be good for you to do.”

      But then I thought, this seems like a space/time/position where you should actively correct. “I am not a doctor, ma’am, but I believe our service will help you.”

      I wonder if this was a thing where the son was overemphasizing, “The DOCTOR thinks this is the best option for you (hint, hint)” and boyfriend was trying to help/play along to get the patient somewhere safe. But the conflict of interest here is a problem.

    4. Anonymousaurus Rex*

      Right. I hold a PhD and work a lot with MDs. I am technically a doctor, but whenever anyone addresses me by that title, I am very quick to point out I am NOT an MD.

  16. Courtney*

    I have a lot of respect for people who write in admitting they made a mistake and open themselves up to a potential telling-off from internet strangers (the person who bit their coworker and the employer who admitted they don’t tell interviewees the salary range for a job come to mind). OP#3, your actions weren’t great but they were understandable.

    1. Alan*

      I disagree that the OP made a mistake, I think they were remarkably restrained. I would have called him far worse than a moron

      1. Courtney*

        I appreciate your position. I am speaking from a place of privilege where cases of the virus are 94% recovered, so I don’t have the same level of panic and fear as my baseline. In my defense, I wouldn’t say ‘not great’ and ‘mistake’ are the same thing – although perhaps that is a distinction that I can see more clearly because I know my own mind and meaning, and can’t expect an internet stranger to be a mind reader!

        1. Alan*

          I think you are right. Looking at my reply it looks like I’m disagreeing with your whole point when I completely agree people admitting when their behaviour is sub-optimal should be commended. I just think in this case the OP was justified in calling a moron a moron.

  17. Kate, short for Bob*

    #3 – please also make it clear to your boss that the ‘moron’ was trying to gaslight you, repeatedly telling you that 4 feet was 6. That’s indicative of someone who knows they’re crossing boundaries, rather than someone who’s made an honest mistake. His whole attitude gives me the creeps.

    1. ..Kat..*

      Where I work (a hospital unit), we have a couple of (explicitly labeled) six feet long dowels. Of course, this could be dangerous. I would have been tempted to smack the guy….

      1. JM in England*

        You should sharpen one end of these dowels for an added deterrent! lol :-D

        1. LifeBeforeCorona*

          I’m Canadian, I’ve seen hockey sticks used to measure the distance. I’m tempted to take one with me when I go for my walks to keep people the proper distance away.

          1. SweetestCin*

            I’m trying to figure out how to do this, as my own hockey stick is not six foot tall. None of the ones in my house are – and yes, the whole house plays. Roughly half are quite a bit shorter (Junior as opposed to Senior).

            I can indeed see the appeal of carrying on a walk though. :)

            1. Harper the Other One*

              It’s hockey stick plus arm – reach your arm out with the hockey stick in one hand and it’s approximately six feet.

              I only know because that’s how our local news was doing interviews with people – with a mic taped to the end of the stick!

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Ooh good idea. After seeing some clueless wonders with loose dogs on hiking trails, I’ve been wishing I’d gotten a walking stick when I saw them last fall. And I do have a souvenir hockey stick from college, somewhere in the storage shed. Team discarded it because the blade was damaged — but the main portion is a good solid piece of hardwood. I snagged it at the time for frivolity, and it’ll still be light-hearted if I put it back into use again.

      2. Database Developer Dude*

        I’m a taekwondo black belt. When you become a senior color belt, many schools, my own included, make you choose a weapon to learn. Because of my profession, and being a huge Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan, I chose the bo staff. I have three. All of them are six feet long, and one is polished oak.

    2. Kalala*

      A lot of people (me included) are really bad judges of distances… it could be that the coworker (or the OP really) could be the same. We don’t have to jump straight to gaslighting, I think that really diminishes the term and its how serious it is.

      1. Naomi*

        It’s not just misjudging the distance; it’s the insistence, doubling down on it when called out, and rules-lawyering the minimum amount he should be doing for safety. This was not an honest mistake.

      2. EPLawyer*

        He knew. He knew. A reasonable person when told, no you are not 6 feet would apologize and back up a bit, even if they thought they were 6 feet. Because it’s about safety so what’s a little more space at a time like this?

        The insistence coupled with the refusal to wear a mask says he’s a jackass pulling a power trip.

      3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Imagine a dead or dying relative lying on the ground between you and the other person, and add clearance as necessary for relatives under six feet in height.

        I am sympathetic to people not being able to judge longer distances instinctively – is 100ft to the end of the road or just the streetlight? Is it a mile to the park or only 3/4? – but it is totally reasonable to expect people to be able to judge an everyday distance, especially where it is so often invoked.

        1. Harper the Other One*

          Or at bare minimum, to underestimate rather than overestimate the distance. I’m terrible at distance estimation so I’m probably often staying further than 6 feet away, but too far is better than too close!

      4. Bagpuss*

        I agree that a lot of people are bad at judging distance, but if someone tells you (in the context of social distracting) that you are only 4 feet away then surely the appropriate response is to step back a bit, even if you think they are wrong?
        Coupled with the fact that he explicitly refused to put a mask on I’m included to think that it is more likely than not that the OP is correct in this instance, but either way, if someone is asked to back off and they refuse, they are being a jerk and making excuses about it is a form of gaslighting.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yes it sounds like this was basically the equivalent of an older sibling sticking their fingers right by your face and saying “I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you!” It’s stupid and immature and name-calling is a completely understandable response. If no one at their job has suggested the OP apologize which it doesn’t sound like they have, they should definitely forgive themselves for reacting in the moment and report the coworker for not respecting the safety of others.

          1. Quill*

            Older? In my experience it’s always younger. ;)

            (I was the oldest of my peer group too…)

          2. Sparrow*

            That’s exactly the vibe I got from the story, too. It was so irritating from my younger sister when we were kids; I find it inexcusable from an adult (even if we weren’t in a pandemic!)

      5. MusicWithRocksIn*

        I would call it straight up bullying. She was uncomfortable and upset and he was enjoying the fact that he made her that way. Even if you think you’re standing ten feet away from someone, if they are uncomfortable and upset you don’t keep standing there smirking at them unless you are enjoying yourself.

      6. Observer*

        Nah. He kept on insisting – with a SMILE yet. That’s not just being a bad judge of distance that a dare. Then he basically said “Too bad.”

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Yeah, I would have told him to get out of my office and stay out, possibly with rising volume. Then after he left I would have closed and locked the door. (When I had an office, *sob*, I could do that. I hate open plan.)

      7. KoiFeeder*

        Sure, I’m also garbage at judging distance. That’s why, if someone tells me I need to back up, I back up. I don’t smirk and go “but I’m six feet away~” because, historically, I’m usually wrong.

        The moron was being a moron and an ass. End of story.

      8. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        “it could be that the coworker”

        It’s not about judging distance. It’s about being an askhole.

  18. babblemouth*

    OP3, your coworker IS a moron. Maybe he got his medical advice on masks from OP1’s boyfriend?

    Anyway, he should absolutely be reported. he is making the workplace unsafe for everyone who shows up there. People wear masks to protect others, not themselves. His disregard for safety in this instance makes me wonder if he’s the kind of person who actively disregards guidelines to limit the spread of the disease in other regards. Is he deliberately going to the supermarket every day, having barbecues with friends every Saturday etc, thereby exposing himself more to risk?

    I continue to be stunned by people unwilling to make the slightest adjustments to their lifestyles to protect others. Even keeping in mind that most people have been doing their best, the fact that just 2 to 5% of the population is being so selfish is disappointing.

  19. Raincloud*

    #2 if they’re claiming you’re not working they’re probably fiddling their company taxes also.

  20. Annie*

    Alison, please don’t use ableist terms, even in jest. It’s hurtful and shocking to read a term like that in an answer.

    1. MommyMD*

      Americans don’t find it shocking. It’s a common use for someone who acts like a jerk.

      1. Saint Maybe*

        Hard disagree. I work for an organization that supports adults with developmental disabilities and if I used that term, I’d be in serious trouble.

      2. Aster*

        Well, in my lifetime there are a lot of terms that weren’t shocking that were still wrong.

        Also common use does not make it ok.

        If you are an MD, surely you have heard of the Eugenics movement? Are you really ok using a term that was created by them to try and force an agenda?

        Just b/c everyone uses it and has used it doesn’t make it anything other than a slur.

    2. Violet Rose*

      Which term? I only know the terms used in the answer as insults with no connotations of specific conditions.

      1. Annie*

        Oh, maybe it’s a cultural thing. In Europe or at least some parts the “M” word is considered an shocking and offensive slur for disabled people. For me reading it is like seeing the N word in print.

        1. Colette*

          That’s interesting, because I don’t think that’s the case here (unless I’ve missed something!)

          1. The Other Dawn*

            I agree. It’s similar to “idiot,” “stupid,” or “jerk.” I’ve never heard of it used any other way.

          2. Annie*

            I’m not sure what you mean. There is no “case” in which using a word that is widely considered to be extremely hurtful and offensive is acceptable.

            There are countries where the N word is not considered offensive. If someone from that country used it, then turned around and tried to downplay the fact people were hurt by saying “oh in my country it’s fine and anyway I wasn’t using it in a racist way” what do you think the response would be?

            1. Bright*

              In the US, where this took place, it’s widely considered to be a very tame word to describe someone doing something stupid.

            2. Claire*

              I think you’re misunderstanding Colette’s comment–she’s not saying that the M word is normally considered extremely offensive but is acceptable in this situation, she’s saying that it’s not normally considered extremely offensive in the USA. The “case” here is not this specific incident, but that word being extremely offensive at all.

              1. rainman*

                I’m in the US and I disagree. It IS offensive here. The only reason people don’t realize it’s offensive is because the US is steeped in disableism. Within the disabled activism community, it’s a known slur.

                Not upset that the OP used it, but the pushback and anger from posters is surprising. If an African American person, Hispanic person, NAI person, told you you’d accidentally used a hurtful racial slur, you’d stop. Why are disabled people not extended the same courtesy? And this is AAM, a site perceived as extremely ‘woke’ and which is usually so careful and sensitive about use of language and appropriation.

              2. Jen M.*

                Agree with rainman. I was taken aback to see it in Alison’s reply, and really thought the ableism was the point of OP’s letter, not the loss of temper. I’m in the US, and it’s a word I’ve understood to be offensive for a while now.

              3. Aster*

                But it is offensive to the group it is often used to describe. There is absolutely ZERO question about that in the disability community and the supportive communities (e.g., lawyers, psychologists, educators) who work with them. It’s like using the term retarded or even akin to Mongoloid. Remember when that was acceptable? I’m old enough that I do.

                It’s also a term with a very, very ugly history linked to the Eugenics movement.

                “The idiot is not our greatest problem. He is indeed loathsome. … Nevertheless, he lives his life and is done. He does not continue the race with a line of children like himself. … It is the moron type that makes for us our great problem.” – Henry H. Goddard, 1912

                If you have no idea who Goddard was and why this is do deeply problematic, then I’d kindly ask you to stop defending the term until you inform yourself of who he was and what he did.

                Just b/c you as a mainstream person don’t know this and don’t agree doesn’t make it non-offensive.

                Allison really, really needs to flag this b/c it is simply not acceptable.

                Please stop. Please.

                1. Sylvan*

                  Er, this isn’t unanimous among disabled people. You don’t speak for all of us (you already smacked me down pretty hard for saying “moron” isn’t broadly considered a slur in the US, without defending it or giving any opinion on it).

              4. ELK*

                OP here. I am not proud of using the “M” word, because after a lifetime both in and around the mental health/mental disabilities communities, I’m perfectly aware of the emotional weight and potential offense of the word. It’s not a word I would normally use with a co-worker, for sure. But in my mind, even though the word has a long history of being applied to mentally challenged adults, it doesn’t mean anything more than “dumbass,” which is what I wish I’d called him instead.

              5. Aster*

                OP – those of us arguing against the term aren’t mad at you. You said something in the moment. It was likely habit and your jerk brain just went there. Even those of us who care about the community of persons with disabilities slip up in the heat of the moment because we were reared and live in an ableist culture.

                That’s very different from those who are sitting in their homes and defending this in the calm light of day. Particularly since they could open up another tab on their browser and spend some time reading about the term.

                You aren’t the problem here.

          3. Aster*

            Looked it up. Idiot was originally a legal term used to protect those who didn’t have the intellectual capacity to protect themselves. So, in that sense, it doesn’t have the same hateful, vile origin or moron.

            I just searched my legal database. Three US codes still use it. Interestingly, even California.

            I don’t see moron anywhere.

          4. Archaeopteryx*

            Word origins aren’t the only determinant of how offensive something is considered, though. There are multiple words for excrement, for example, but some are considered mild swears, some medium, some totally neutral. The fact that moron is considered offensive in some places is useful information for solving communication barrier problems, but in the US it is broadly considered mild and not an off-limits word at all.

            Throughout the early 2000’s there was a large campaign of public service advertisements and cultural promotion to get people to stop using the r-word. There has been no such reaction to moron, and it’s a word you’ll find in plenty of children’s TV for example.

        2. Fred*

          Do you have a term that is acceptable to indicate some is behaving stupidly and inconsiderately? Or is every such word an insult to disabled people? If so you are way too sensitive. That’s what the word needs here and we do need something in order to communicate.

          1. Claire*

            I mean, any word that implies that a lack of intelligence is inherently a negative trait is vaguely offensive to mentally disabled people: some people are unintelligent and that’s fine, just like some people are short and that’s fine, and some people are fat and that’s fine, and some people are bald/balding and that’s fine. If you wanted to eliminate even the slightest whiff of ableism, you would probably just focus on the coworker being inconsiderate, which might actually be a better choice, though not one that I in any way blame the OP for not making, especially in the moment. That said, that’s not how we normally communicate–and with that said, it’s hardly “way too sensitive” to be offended by slurs, even if those slurs are not universally considered as such.

          2. rainman*

            Idiot, stupid, etc. are all fine. There are thousands of words to indicate someone is showing their ass, that are not slurs. There are only two words (the M word and the R word) that are considered disableist slurs.

            Fred, do you use the word “re*ard”? If not, why not?

            Calling minorities “too sensitive” is a commonly used tool of oppression. How often are people of colour called “over sensitive” for complaining about racial micro-aggression and coded language?

            1. Alex*

              In my experience, “id-ot” and “st-pid” have both been called out as ableist terms, along with many others (although I’ve not seen “m-ron” called out previously I assumed it was in the same category). And I think that makes the point that what one person/community sees as an OK work to use, others see it as slur.

              I’m in no position to determine what is and isn’t an ableist slur, and I do my best to educate myself, and will always defer to those who are oppressed when they tell me what is and isn’t OK to say. However, I don’t think it’s wrong to also highlight that such discussions can be very opaque to many, and the “correct” terms are not alway agreed upon by those within the oppressed communities. It can be an absolute minefield for people who are trying to get it right, let alone those who simply aren’t aware.

              1. Aster*

                I also don’t think it’s up to us to come up with substitutes.

                Asking people who flag things as wrong to come up with alternatives is akin to making oppressed peoples do all the emotional labor of educating the non-oppressed in how to be.

                Rather than ask someone to give you the answers, think of words you would use and look up their histories. That’s what you should do if you care and aren’t arguing to argue.

                There’s a list on Wikipedia of slurs against the disabled. “List of disability words with negative connotations”

                I’d urge anyone who is advocating these terms are acceptable in the USA to read that first. If you don’t know the history of these words, you might not take the same position you would if you did know that history.

                It’s easy to be completely insensitive on this. Remember when “lame” was an insult in the 1980s. Well, what does lame mean? It’s referring to difficulty walking or moving. It’s using a different or lack of ability in a fundamental aspect of human life as an insult.

                It’s high time people who claim to care do some heaving lifting and think about what comes out of their mouths and their keyboards.

                No one is asking anyone to be perfect. I’m sure I’ve made a few errors even in these posts.

                I know there is a debate amount the community of persons with disabilities as to whether one should write “moron” or “M word.” I chose to write it so there is no ambiguity.

              2. Aster*

                From my 20+ years of experience as a supportive person to these communities (plural), there are some word that are absolutely 100% uniformly verboten. the I word and S word may not be. I still use them.

                I’d never use “retarded” or “moron.” Not ever.

                I personally felt that if a word has a deep and harmful history toward a group, they should get to decide it’s not allowed.

    3. Claire*

      I’m pretty certain that you aren’t American and this is a cultural difference–in the USA, “moron” is not a super big deal. It’s slightly ableist both in its history as a clinical term and in that any term that implies that lack of intelligence is a negative trait is slightly ableist, but it’s far from shocking, more of an equivalent of calling someone dumb.

      I’m definitely sympathetic to you, I remember being shocked at how casually people used the word “cunt” when I was first living in Scotland, but it’s just not as offensive in American usage.

    4. Archaeopteryx*

      This has no ableist connotation in the US, despite its origins. It’s a completely mild term synonym with “dummy”.

      1. Aster*

        To YOU. Not to persons with disabilities.

        It does have ableist connotations to a lot of Americans. The fact that you are unaware of those persons and have so few contacts with them that you don’t know this doesn’t make it ok.

      2. MicroManagered*

        I don’t think it’s “telling disabled people how they feel” as much as “descriptive usage in American Standard English.” You can see, by the number of genuinely confused comments saying “wait, what was the offensive slur?” that a lot of speakers do not use the word moron in that context.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      As per the other thread where this came up: I appreciate this being flagged, but as with any similar issue here, I ask that we not derail on it once it’s been flagged so I’m closing this thread (and removing some particularly off-topic tangents within it).

      I apologize for using the word; as others have said, a lot of us in the U.S. don’t commonly realize it’s considered a slur, and I’ve changed it in my answer.

  21. MommyMD*

    Your boyfriend is not only unethical he’s breaking the law. If he gets caught he’s in big trouble. So is the company he works for. He should be fired.

    1. Sylvan*

      Yep, and I don’t see how he could avoid being found out. The truth will come out when his company or client begins working with this patient.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        If the patient says “I chose this facility because the doctor said it would be good for my needs” then it wouldn’t be obvious that she meant “the person calling on behalf of the facility who said he was a doctor” rather than her own doctor. I think it could easily go under the radar.

    2. Phony Genius*

      If you look at one of the threads above, there is the possibility that the company is actually the ones behind this. If so, they won’t fire him for this. But they could potentially be put out of business if they get caught, which would essentially fire everybody.

    3. Ralph the Wonder Llama*

      Yep in my state it’s a felony to impersonate a licensed professional.

  22. LGC*

    I like how I can answer LWs 1, 2, and 3 with variations on DTMFA.

    LW1 – clearly, yes, and honestly you probably should DTMFA. Okay, he’s in sales, but also he lied to the family of a possibly dying woman that sure he’s a doctor he knows what he’s talking about. That is…probably the second most sociopathic thing that anyone did in the short answers today.

    LW2 – congratulations, your governor is probably more of a sociopath than the guy that lied to the family of a dying woman about being a doctor!

    More to that point, I initially read this as that they were bringing you back without pay. And look, I’m some jerk from the Northeast and my cultural stereotypes of the South is that employers there can exploit their employees with impunity. (And okay, this applies up north too, but the difference is it’s more likely to be legal in the South.) But if my first read is right – and I hope I’m not because this would be comically evil – your office is full of evil bees.

    That said…they’re ending the furlough, they just don’t want to say it. They’re not paying benefits, but…like, being furloughed means that you’re temporarily laid off, which means that you’re not being paid and you’re not working. This fails on at least one of those counts, and most likely it fails on both counts. That said…would this be considered a significant enough change in work conditions that LW2 can turn down the offer? It sounds like the kicker is that they don’t get any PTO now, and that’s significant.

    LW3 – I personally think your company should DTMFA, and also…like, look, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s a freaking duck.

    You might want to get in front of losing your temper with him, just because it’s probably better that they hear it from you first. But also, not only is he wrong (and…I am not going to get into the weeds of why I’m not surprised he’s a “he”), he is putting everyone at risk. The cloth masks that we’re wearing (and even surgical masks) aren’t for our personal protection, they’re for everyone else’s – so while he was half right that your mask protected him, he was deathly wrong in saying that your mask protected you.

    Intellectually, his individual selfishness and obstinance doesn’t make much of a difference. Even the much-vaunted Taiwanese…don’t have 100% mask compliance (I think I heard 98%, so 2% of them still don’t wear masks). One individual person rejecting – let’s say – the measles vaccine isn’t going to spark an outbreak on its own because we generally have 95% of our population vaccinated anyway. But the problem is that it only takes a small group of like-minded people to cause major issues. With measles, if you have – let’s say – a school community with a bunch of anti-vax parents, that’s a recipe for disaster.

    1. Mockingjay*

      LGC, regarding LW #2: Let’s leave the South stereotypes out of it, shall we? It is illegal here to work without pay, the same as everywhere else. I live and work in a state with a very diverse economy, which flies in the face of the stereotype sitcoms and “reality” shows which are filmed here. My company has gone above and beyond to keep everyone employed and informed, and we’re not alone.

      Your second point does raise an interesting question; if work compensation changes considerably, is the job considered the same and must be returned to? Do UI rules pertain only to pay compensation, not benefits?

      1. LGC*

        Sorry – I should have made clear that I was mocking myself for having that stereotype. (And…okay, Southern state governments.) Y’all as people are cool.

        But I’m surprised that the benefits change didn’t get pointed out myself. And it’s something I have zero experience with – it sounds like a significant change in employment (or at least significant enough where LW2 wrote in to Alison about it). Then again, UI law varies according to state.

      2. Lawyer*

        Agreed. Can we not? My company, a global company based in a southern state that is “reopening,” has been a leader in sending employees to WFH (we were at 100% WFH the first week of March), is paying a premium to essential employees that can’t WFH, has provided PTO (above the standard allowance) for non-essential employees that can’t WFH due to the nature of the job, is covering costs of COVID testing for employees (and has set up special telehealth screenings to get the tests ordered), has committed to no layoffs/furloughs/salary reductions for 90 days, and created new (separate) PTO allowances for people who get COVID/are caring for a family member with COVID and parents who can’t work due to school/childcare closures.

        Oh, we’ve also kicked up our employee giving match to encourage people to support local charities during this time and have accelerated our own corporate charitable giving (usually spread over the year) to Q2/Q3 to try to get money to organizations supporting our community.

        The kicker? We’re essential critical infrastructure and under our state’s order, weren’t actually obligated to change anything about our operations at all. We could have done none of this. Are there fewer worker protections in the south? Certainly, particularly with regard to unions (this is a “right to work” state). But companies all over the country are handling this badly.

        1. bluephone*

          …Hey, are you hiring by any chance??? (seriously though, those are all awesome measures!)

      3. Quill*

        Yeah, governors that are fuckwits and lickspittles are a nationwide phenomenon! I should know, I’ve lived in Wisconsin a very long time. :)

  23. #3's Coworker is a Salad*

    #3 – I also called a coworker a moron because they were going to travel to another state and stay at a house where a roommate had COVID, with his pregnant wife and another coworker’s wife is also pregnant. I was laid off so the last interaction I had in person with the dude was calling him a moron. No regrets and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. As they say in the UK…absolute salad.

    1. UKDancer*

      Also in the UK and I don’t know I’ve ever called someone a salad before. I’m not up to speed on the most recent slang terms (being middle aged and not hanging around with the youth of today) so maybe people do say “absolute salad” but it’s a new one on me. Have I missed something?

      1. Not Australian*

        Perhaps it derives from ‘tosser’, i.e. a ‘tossed salad’? Just guessing; I’m also somewhat over 21!

        1. MusicWithRocksIn*

          Man, now I want to call someone a salad, but I’m pretty sure they would just be confused.

      2. Jemima Bond*

        I too am UKian and unfamiliar with this – do tell! I love a good insult. Especially Cockney rhyming slang ones. Pro tip – calling someone a berk (usually about equivalent to jerk ?) is really a lot ruder than you think…

      3. TechWorker*

        Looks like a celebrity said it on gogglebox and people found it entertaining… it’s certainly not widely used :p

        Link to follow

          1. UKDancer*

            OK, this one had completely missed me but then I don’t watch Gogglebox. I am now better informed so thanks.

            I think for the benefit of non UK people, I’d definitely say this isn’t a very widely used insult and is likely to lead to confusion if you try and use it over here.

            Made me laugh though, which is good right at the moment.

      4. Traffic_Spiral*

        Well, basically in the UK you can call someone an “absolute [insert noun here]” and it’s a generally serviceable insult. Like, “you absolute coathanger,” or “you absolute shoebox.”

    2. cmcinnyc*

      I’m in NYC and I dearly want calling someone “an absolute salad” to catch on. To my ear it is utterly meaningless but has enough syllables and in the right tone will say everything that needs to be said about certain coworkers.

      That said, the vast majority of my coworkers are kicking ass right now and I am proud of them. (We still have one salad.)

  24. Moroni*

    #3: Arguing with someone about their failure to wear a mask while they’re standing 4 feet from you is counterproductive. The briefer an encounter, the better. The less talking, the better. Your goal with anyone not social distancing should be to get away as quickly as reasonably possible, not to debate reality with them (4 ft vs 6 ft) or make them see the error of their ways.

    At this point, your coworker knows about masks, the CDC’s guidance, and your employer’s instructions and is choosing not to wear one. He’s not going to change his mind because his coworker got mad and called him a moron (if anything, he’s probably more adamant than before).

    I wouldn’t even mention this again. If you report this and management talks to the coworker, your coworker’s version will probably be, “I was walking around minding my own business and OP 3 lost it and called me a moron even though I was standing 6 feet away,” and you can’t really say differently. Yeah, he’d be admitting he wasn’t wearing a mask at that moment… but mask-wearing is recommended right now for situations where you can’t maintain social distance, not whenever you’re outside. There’s a risk you’d just look bad for losing your cool and maybe like someone who can’t let go after an argument. Not worth it.

    1. Anononon*

      In my state, PA, masks would be required in this situation, not just recommended.

      1. Laney Boggs*

        Same state. Theres exceptions for if you have a health issue that’s exacerbated by a mask. For all we know he’s already talked to management about it.

        Tbh I think OP was acting unacceptably and I’m pretty shocked everyone is crowing about how right they were.

        1. CupcakeCounter*

          No the coworker was behaving unacceptably. He was defying clear instructions from his employer that masks were required, entered a closed office where OP was working and complying with safety protocols, and refused to leave, step back, or put on a mask. This dude is blatantly disregarding the direct orders of his employer, CDC recommendations, and a very reasonable request from a coworker all while being on-site when not essential. I would have called him out too and my word choices would have been of the 4-letter variety.

          1. Moroni*

            You can’t control how other people act, only how you react. There is no world where throwing schoolyard insults or cursing at coworkers is considered professional, even if you think they deserve it. You’re expected to regulate your emotions at work. Also, what did calling this coworker out actually accomplish?

            FWIW, OP was also onsite when not essential.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              “Professional” means letting people walk all over you now?

              When someone is endangering your life, it is perfectly “professional” to chew them out about it, even with swear words, IMO.

              “Professional” does not mean doormat, milktoast, or passive victim, and it high time that we stop using it as a cudgel to force people to tolerate the intolerable.

              You are entitled to be angry when someone disregards your safety and your life, even in a so-called “professional” environment. “Regulate your emotions” doesn’t mean letting jerks walk all over you in the name of “professionalism”.

              This take is bullying, IMO.

        2. Anononon*

          If he had a concern where he couldn’t wear a mask and (understandably) didn’t want to explain that to the OP, then he should have immediately apologized and backed up two feet.

          I’m not sure where you are in PA, but it is definitely different whether you live in/outside of Philly versus anywhere else. It’s really scary here. Fortunately we haven’t hit NYC levels yet, but that’s only as long as people take these requirements seriously. I have family who work in a long term care facility in NJ, and they’ve basically been in a war for the past month, with no signs of a slowdown yet.

          1. Moroni*

            Whether the coworker conducted himself well is almost besides the point because he’s not the one who wrote in asking for advice or validation. Plainly, he acted badly. But someone else’s misbehavior doesn’t give you carte blanche to act out yourself.

            I don’t think anyone on this thread is oblivious to the danger of COVID. It’s just not smart or productive to get into a back-and-forth with someone if you actually think they’re endangering your health by being in your presence. It’s also very unprofessional to call a coworker a “moron” under any circumstance and to waste your coworkers’ time by asking them to weigh in on your fights, and it would probably be a waste of OP’s time to try to escalate this thing. That’s all I’m saying.

            1. Anononon*

              I’m actually going to argue that OP used her knowledge of coworker to effectively de-escalate and shut down the situation by insulting him. He had her trapped in her office and refused to either back off or out a mask on. Instead, he stood there taunting her AND placing her in potential grave danger. I commend OP for her ability to defuse the situation without putting herself in further danger.

        3. Moroni*

          Yeah, I’m surprised by the amount of encouragement OP 3 is getting for reacting childishly and not that intelligently (if you’re actually trying to avoid illness, anyway) to a pretty common situation.

      1. bluephone*

        yeah, I sympathize with OP getting frustrated but honestly, if the other person is not being compliant, the easiest/safest thing is to just get away from them as quickly as possible. That’s easier said than done sometimes (narrow store aisles!) but you can only control your own behavior.

        1. Jennifer*

          Yep, totally agree. It’s not always possible to perfectly social distance so I just try to get away from people as quickly as possible.

    2. Laney Boggs*

      Also, while I’m years away from ever being a manager, I would not be charmed to hear that “I got sharp with him” actually meant “I called him a moron.”

      Getting sharp is one thing. Calling someone a rude name is COMPLETELY different

    3. LGC*

      In this case, though, masks were required according to company policy. (In addition, it does depend on the state.) So LW3 was actually in the right here.

      (And states do have different guidance. In NJ, we’re required to mask up in enclosed public spaces like stores and public transit. But state law here doesn’t matter, since the company has put in a higher restriction anyway.)

      1. Moroni*

        Being “in the right” doesn’t make standing there arguing with someone you fear is infectious a smart, productive, or professional thing to do. I feel like the commentariat has really lost sight of what actually matters in this situation.

    4. Quinalla*

      It says right in the letter that the employer is requiring masks, so I don’t really understand this comment. I agree the 4′ vs. 6′ thing could become a he said vs. she said, however if someone asks you to back up right now, should you argue or should you back up? That part is fairly clear cut and him not wearing a mask is in complete violation of their rules.

      1. Moroni*

        You do not understand why it is a bad idea to stand within 4 feet of someone you think can infect you with a dangerous disease arguing with that person about why they’re not wearing a mask?

        As I see it, the question wasn’t “Who’s right?” It’s, “Did I handle this situation well?” The answer is no, she acted poorly and accomplished nothing. The advice to escalate it at this point is, in my opinion, not good advice because escalating this is very likely to also accomplish nothing for OP. I’m sure calling him a moron was also a violation of one of the employer’s rules. It’s not a good idea to fight every battle, even when you’re “right.”

        1. MusicWithRocksIn*

          Where was she supposed to go? He was in the doorway, most personal offices these days are super small. He wouldn’t back away or put on a mask. Was she supposed to shove her way past him? Hide under the desk? She was literally backed into an actual corner.

    5. cmcinnyc*

      My impression was that the unmasked coworker opened an office door and was standing in it “being cute.” How does one get away? Walk toward him and brush past him to get through the door?

      Grocery store clerks came *this close* to beating up a delivery truck driver on my corner last week because he didn’t wear a mask in the store. People aren’t playing.

    6. ELK*

      OP again. In the interests of succinct brevity, I omitted some possibly pertinent details. First, the co-worker has a pretty good bit of seniority over me; I don’t report to him, but he’s higher up the food chain. I don’t have standing to force him in any way. Second, I have already admitted that I’m not proud of having lost my cool and called him a rude name. I regretted it almost instantly. I confessed it to my own manager and team within the hour – not to get them to “weigh in” but because I felt my manager needed to know what I’d done. I asked my manager if they thought I owed an apology, and they – like Alison – said they didn’t think I did. Third, there was a witness to this interaction: the closed office I was in at the time had another person in there already, one who was also (like me) wearing a mask, and we were way more than six feet apart. This witness has agreed that the co-worker was being extremely provocative and deliberately trying to push my buttons, an observation she made without prompting from me. Fourth, this is NOT the first time I have made a quick trip to the office and spotted this coworker not wearing a mask. The first time I did the same thing – asked him where his mask was and he replied with much the same sort of cuteness: “I’m six feet away, you’re wearing a mask so it’s okay,” etc., all with a smile on his face. Without mentioning his name I alerted the program manager, who responded by reminding us all the next morning that the company requires us to wear masks while in the building. Fifth, my job does require me to go onsite about once a week to retrieve items (bills, contracts, and so forth) that cannot be handled electronically; I’m not “essential” but I was not just showing up for no good reason. Sixth, please keep in mind that I was basically trapped. There was nowhere I could go to get further away from him – you’d have to see the layout of the office I was in – and the coworker without the mask was standing in the doorway, blocking it. I am not only lower on the food chain, I’m female; he’s male; he’s larger and physically imposing.
      …I recognize that my rude comment was not very mature. I wish that I hadn’t said it. My point in writing to Alison was to get her thoughts on whether I should apologize to him, given that I lost my cool but he was putting several people at risk but also violating clearly stated corporate rules about working in the building.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        IMO, you were justified. The people calling for “professionalism” and such are bullying.

  25. Numbers*

    @4- I like Alison’s wording because it opens the door for the manager to tell you whether the position is affected by the freeze. I’m a librarian and I’d say with 99% certainty it is- libraries are cutting all costs now- but just in case… AAM’s approach shows interest without sounding hopelessly naive.

  26. AndersonDarling*

    #1 If the conversation really went down the way BF is saying, it could be a trap. I’m more inclined to say that BF is just a jerky anything-goes-to-make-a-sale salesperson, but it is possible that the son asked him to lie because mom is senile or scared about hospice and son just wants to keep things moving in the least traumatic way possible. (still icky) But it’s also possible that son recorded the phone call with BF posing as a doctor, and will conveniently forget that he asked the BF to lie. Oh the lawsuits!
    Either way, it should not happen. And if BF has any decency then this confrontation will be a wake-up call to find a sales job somewhere else. Good job speaking up, OP.

    1. A nonnie nonnie non*

      I worked in sales for a short time, and this letter (while completely awful and unethical) doesn’t surprise me. I have seen a lot of shady stuff go down. Managers who turn a blind eye and reps who do really crappy stuff to get a sale.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I see this as less of a work problem and more of a relationship problem. We don’t know the whole other end of the story, but the fact that he thought it was no big deal would be a red (or at least yellow) flag to me. If it was an isolated incident, I might be able to look past it. But if this is part of a pattern, I’d have a bag packed.

    3. Perpal*

      You’d think if there was some weird hypothetical justification for doing it, and the boyfriend was aware of how shady it sounds, he’d be falling all over himself to explain or at least say there’s more going on (within limits of HIPPA, I imagine that applies to him)

  27. MissDisplaced*

    For #2: It depends what’s going on. It sounds like intermittent furlough.

    Furlough + Collecting Unemployment = You are not working and are forbidden to do any work that week for the company.

    Furlough + Company paying you = You work and are paid as normal but the Unemployment claim is open.
    The furlough is/was temporary on a week to week basis. The company may, for example, have you work 2 weeks and then furlough 2 weeks during the pandemic. Or, you may have to take a furlough week in May and a furlough week in June. You will claim unemployment ONLY for the week(s) you actually are furlough (but you may NOT do any work, even remotely–in fact you’re supposed to completely disconnect). This is a money-saving tactic.

    My company is also going with the intermittent furlough for salaried employees. We can file a UI claim for those weeks we furlough.
    However, we were told that during the furlough weeks we are to completely disconnect from the company equipment, not answer work or customer calls-even from coworkers or managers, and not conduct ANY company business whatsoever as the company could be in legal trouble if anyone does. So, I don’t know if OP’s company is trying to get the best of both worlds here by making people work but still collect UI, but if they are, then it would be illegal.

  28. Jennifer*

    #3 This guy is probably a jerk, but bear in mind many people are having a difficult time getting masks and if he’s a person of color he may not want to walk around with a bandanna covering half his face. I have just been giving mask-less people a very wide berth when I have to go out because I don’t know their situation. Could you have just moved further away from the door and then reported him for not wearing a mask. The argument just increased the likelihood of spreading the virus. Yes, you were right, but what was really accomplished?

    1. Anononon*

      From how I read the OP, he basically cornered her in a closed office. Except for backing further into the office, if that was even possible, there was nowhere else for her to go. She couldn’t leave until he moved, and he decided to play games with her about the mask rather than just put one on or leave.

      I’m willing to bet that if OP asked him to go away, he would still do his “Nyah nyah nyah, I’m not touching you, I’m six feet away” game. And then commenters would have told her to just tell him to grab a mask.

      1. Jennifer*

        That was my impression too but backing further into the office was her best option.

        I find myself equally annoyed by both parties in this exchange. The coworker for obvious reasons. The OP for valuing being right over her safety and the safety of others in the office and at home. I’m just over corona-shamers in general. Yelling at someone for not wearing a mask or getting too close solves nothing.

        1. MusicWithRocksIn*

          Most personal offices aren’t that big these days. Even the super grandboss at my company has an office so small that for two people to be six feet away they would both have to be in the far corners. Yelling at someone in public for not wearing a mask doesn’t need to happen. If someone without a mask backs you into a corner you can’t get out of and smirks at you when you ask them to back away or get a mask – that person is enjoying having power over you and deserves to be yelled at.

        2. Reba*

          What? the OP was not corona-shaming nor were they being needlessly alarmist nor arguing for the sake of being right over safety. They were arguing *for* safety and for following clear company rules!

          Their coworker did not respond to basic, reasonable requests wear a mask or move away. Or rather, they did respond but it was just to be more of an ass.

        3. Jamie*

          So telling people they need to be wearing a mask when required, or that they’re standing too close is shaming?

          Then I’m fine with shaming. Calling names in’t right, but insisting people not endanger others with their disregard of our new conventions is just being responsible.

        4. Leah K.*

          “Corona shaming” is yelling at someone for choosing to go on a quick run on an empty street to clear their head because “STAY AT HOME”.
          Telling someone to put their damn mask on when they are standing close to you and have you backed into a corner is not “shaming”.

    2. Observer*

      Could we stop bending ourselves into a pretzel to justify inexcusable bahvior?

      The office was providing masks. It’s not relevant if he’s POC, because the issue happened IN THE OFFICE where no one is going to give him grief (or worse) about wearing a mask.

      As for moving away – where to? The OP was in a relatively small space (typical offices are not that big) and the goy came in. How much space do you think that OP had to move?

    3. virago*

      Late to the conversation, but I had to respond to this.

      OP has weighed in (as ELK) and made clear that she could not have gone around the maskless co-worker — she was in a closed office and someone else was standing in the doorway. (OP identifies maskless co-worker as “male” and herself as “female” in her comment.)

      And apparently this isn’t the first time that Maskless Man has has done this sort of thing either, according to OP. Maskless Man likes to say things such as “It’s OK — *you’re* wearing a mask.”

      Plus the co-worker who was standing in the doorway saw the whole thing and said (unprompted, according to OP) that Maskless Man was trying to push OP’s buttons.

      And Maskless Man is physically imposing as well, said OP.

      If, hypothetically, Maskless Man had been a POC who didn’t want to draw negative attention to himself by wearing a mask, then I imagine he would have backed off right away.

  29. Senor Montoya*

    OP #4: Speaking as the chair of a search committee for an academic-adjacent position at a large state U: You do not have to wait a week. They already interviewed you, AND you’ll be right there at work with them. It would be bizarre not to say anything. If no one says anything to you about it when you get back, I would ask either at the end of the first day or sometime the second day. Say something like, “I know this is probably not the first thing on your mind, but I wanted to let you know I’m still really interested in the X position!”

    If you were not working right there with them, waiting a week makes sense.

    If you hear OFFICIALLY (not a rumor or speculation, but say an announcement at a staff meeting by the search chair or the boss, or a memo from the boss, that kind of thing) that there is still a hiring freeze, mention to the chair the next time you see them: “It’s too bad about the hiring freeze! Once it’s lifted, I’m still really interested in the X position!”

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      But it’s not about having to follow some rule. It’s about common courtesy. Yes this job interview is at the top of OP’s priority list, but after being closed for who knows how long, that’s not going to be the first thing the library wants to address, or should have to address. They have to get things back into working order while practicing safety standards under the new normal. OP bringing this up immediately upon returning is going to seem a little tone deaf.

      1. Senor Montoya*

        I gave the answer I did because we just restarted our search and while I keep my records in good order, I have a crapton of material to get through and it would actually be helpful to me to know person A is still interested. If I were in the office and someone in the office we had interviewed didn’t say something…I’d wonder. Of course, being me I would pull them aside and ask, are you still interested?

        We just spent the last two days chasing down our top candidates to see if they’re still interested. Some responded right away and some did not. If they’re not then I don’t want to spend the very little time I have on them. I’ve got to get someone hired *before they take away the money and give it to another dept*. If you tell me you’re still interested you have saved me a step and expedited my efforts to get someone hired.

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          The last sentence in your first paragraph is key here. As the one hiring, after an interview the ball is in your court and if things have been put on hold, it’s up to you to reach back out once things are back to “normal” and assess the interest of the candidates. If there’s a hiring freeze, I’m not going to reach out immediately when it’s lifted and see what’s going on with the position, because I’m going to reasonably assume that the hiring committee needs a bit of time to get back up to speed on the position and candidates. As a candidate you have to balance between following up and being a pest.

  30. Choggy*

    OP 3 – In these highly stressful times, the thought of someone blatantly putting my life at risk is tantamount to assault in my eyes. My husband is a nurse and one of the cleaning people was not wearing his mask, or when he was wearing it he would pull it over to speak. My husband REAMED him out royally. This is NO joke and as such anyone who thinks they are being cute by flaunting the protocols (that WORK!) are assh*les, and should be called out as such.

    1. Choggy*

      As a side note, the hospital provides masks to all its employees for this explicit purpose.

    2. WFHHalloweenCat*

      I agree! I was trying to gauge whether my anxiety was making me overreact and feel assault-y vibes… but this entire scenario is so upsetting. Being cornered in a small office by someone who has a flagrant disregard for my comfort or safety would be horrifying. The taunting, the smiling, the doubling down. . . all of it is so gross. I would probably have had a panic attack and lashed out way worse than the OP. Aside from the mask issue, coworker’s general behavior should be flagged for management IMO.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        Agreed. I have a overreactive fight instinct. If someone did that to me, this would be a very different letter.

        (I’ve always wondered if I should get one of those vests like they have for reactive dogs, but it always seems to bring out the assholes when a dog wears them, so it’s probably worse for a human.)

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          I wouldn’t have called him the m-word. I’d have cussed him out. I don’t do the passive-aggressive “professionalism” BS when I feel my health and safety are threatened.

    3. Jedi Squirrel*


      Thank you, and I hope you and your husband and family remain in good health.

    4. Curmudgeon in California*

      Agreed. People disregarding the health and safety of others so blatantly need to be chewed out, not tolerated.

  31. The Supreme Troll*

    For OP#3, please, please do not apologize to your coworker. You have absolutely nothing to be apologetic about. And if he has any common sense (hopefully), he will come around and understand why he doesn’t deserve one and won’t be getting one.

  32. HailRobonia*

    LW #3 has given me the idea for a public health slogan: “BE A MASK-ON NOT A MORON!”

  33. Amethystmoon*

    #5 – I’ve received a lot of similar phishing attempts lately, and at my work e-mail. Also I have received phishing e-mails asking me to check a list of people being fired, and yesterday I got one asking me to check a COVID-19 link. It was from a weird URL so I did not click on it and I reported as phishing to our IT. Not sure if your IT department has an e-mail address to report those, but it may be worth sending to them. If nothing else, you can make a rule in Outlook to send it to your junk folder automatically and mark as read with the subject line.

  34. ELK*

    #3 OP here – it’s still early in the morning, so I’m sure there will be more. I admit that the potential offensive power of the word I called my co-worker didn’t occur to me. It was a moment of anger and frustration, and I said a word that to me meant “you dumbass.” Knowing my co-worker, I am almost 100% certain that he did not think he’d been called anything more than that. He’s not a particularly sensitive guy, obviously. But I thank everyone who has, so far, called me out on using a word that does have some loaded connotations. I certainly know the history of using the word to describe persons with mental challenges. (He’s not one of those persons, of course.) Culture being what it is, people will often have stronger reactions to words intended to insult, and since many commenters have in fact had a strong reaction to a word that was historically applied to a category of disabled people, I will take ten lashes with a wet noodle, and next time I’ll just call him a dumbass like I should have.

    1. eepeep*

      & most insults that aren’t ableist are homophobic and/or misogynistic (asshole, douchebag, pussy, little bitch, dipshit, etc)
      We need better insults.
      I like “fuckwit” (from Shakespeare), “rude”, “cartoon supervillain,” .. I can’t think of any more

      1. Kelly L.*

        The older I get, the more I appreciate “asshole.” It’s too crude for some settings, but it’s not racist, sexist, homophobic, ableist, or anything else I can think of. We all have one, and we all can be one.

    2. bluephone*

      You do not need to self-flagellate. Your coworker was being loosey-goosey with his and everyone else’s safety. He was definitely being willfully ignorant and sometimes, you need to call people out on that stuff. He was being both a dumb-arse AND a moron. And a stupid idiot.

  35. Heffalump*

    #1: On the bright side, you haven’t married the guy.

    #3: I was once that close to saying “You stupid bitch” to a coworker, and she would have richly deserved it.

  36. Sara without an H*

    I really have nothing to say about today’s posts that hasn’t been said with great eloquence upstream.

    But wow — this pandemic is showing us human nature both at its best and at its absolute worst.

    And now I need coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

  37. Leah K.*

    I’ve been fighting with our IT about the amount of COVID related email spam I’ve been getting. I don’t know how much of it is marketing vs scam/phishing, and I honestly don’t care. I just want to be able to block them. However, apparently our IT has disabled functions in Outlook such as “Junk” and “Ignore”, and the handy “Report Phishing and Spam” button that they had installed appears to be good only for identifying the emails that IT sends out to you as the part of the spear phishing training. They suggested that they can block some of the emails at the domain level, and asked me to confirm that nobody at our organization has any legitimate reasons to receive these emails. How exactly am I supposed to know that? Apparently, protecting the company from phishing means inundating is with fake phishing emails to “train” us how to spot one, but doesn’t involve giving us to tools to actually identify/block real phishing emails.

    1. Observer*

      We wound up blocking the Outlook Junk and Clutter folders because they were so aggressive. We *DO* however, have a good spam filter in place, and it works pretty well, with a really low false positive rate.

  38. Hiring Mgr*

    I know this isn’t directly answering #3’s question, but if this guy is going to be hanging around the office, maybe just stay home for now (I assume OP is included in the “us” that’s been working remotely)

  39. Rusty Shackelford*

    The best case scenario for #1 is that the boyfriend has talked to the son enough to know that the patient’s refusal of hospice care is based on unfounded fears, dementia, etc., and that hospice would really and truly be best for her and for her family. And that, as a “doctor,” he encouraged her to consider hospice itself, not his particular employer.

    And even then, in the most flattering and forgiving light possible, it’s still a big heaping pile of NO.

  40. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

    As to OP#1, to me boyfriend’s conduct is a great big Macy’s Thanksgiving Day red flag-waving parade! Not only did he lie to a terminally ill person, in most states he committed a felony. Furthermore, he blew off OP when she commented on it. I want to say that if he’s willing to lie for his job he’s willing to lie to you. I would kick this douchebag to the curb.

  41. Anonymous Hippopotamus*

    On #5. IDK if y’all can glean my company culture from this, but my company actually sent out a fake phishing email as a test, and in it they put an announcement that basically said we were bought out by the company that already own 49.9% of us, and has an option to purchase the rest in a couple years. If that’s not dastardly, I don’t know what is.

  42. Database Developer Dude*

    For LW#3, there’s one issue here that hasn’t really been addressed: Why is it bad for the OP to have lost her shit on the guy in general? He was acting in a completely unacceptable manner, and doubled-down when called out on it. Why is she wrong for expressing even a little bit of frustration and anger? It seems like some of you are MORE concerned with the OP’s reaction than the unacceptable behavior in the first place, and to me that seems to justify the unacceptable behavior.

    It’s like if someone at work called me the n-word, and I flipped them off, and you got mad at ME….

    1. Blueberry*

      Heh, haven’t you run into pearl-clutchers who get angrier at us for responding with less than perfect grace to being called slurs than they do at those who wield slurs? I have a special grudge against people who do that.

      The discussion of the word she called him aside (it is actually a slur, and I’m glad people pointed it out) I agree with you that it’s not fair to scold her for getting angry while not acknowledging that he was being deliberately provoking. TBH, I was reminded of the letter where the LW’s coworker sprayed her with Lysol for coughing. I am not recommending that as an actual response to LW#3’s jackass coworker, but I kind of wish I could.

    2. Hapax Legomenon*

      Calling someone a word that, by OP’s own admission upthread, they regret using, means OP lost control of their temper and did something they shouldn’t. That’s more than “expressing a little bit of frustration and anger.” It’s good that OP didn’t lose more control and do something worse, but it would have been better if OP had been able to remain completely in control. I don’t see anyone defending coworker’s attitude or actions because he doesn’t need to be defended–it’s universally agreed that he’s a jerkwad and in the wrong. He’s also not going to read the comments, so why waste time restating the obvious?

    3. Jennifer*

      It just seems to have made the problem worse. The lengthy exchange just made it likelier that she could have gotten the virus. It’s similar (but not equivalent to) shoving someone because they aren’t staying perfectly six feet behind you. Now you’ve made contact with them and increased the likelihood of transmission, when you could have just given them more space. He was behaving like a jerk but she escalated the disagreement.

  43. Quill*

    I got here after the edit, but apparently several people wanted to inform Alison that she should probably not encourage calling people morons due to the ableist history of the word, in response to her using it in her reply, not in response to the literal quotation from OP. Alison has since edited her reply.

  44. PlainJane*

    #3… even if you took COVID and masks out of the picture, this is creepy behavior. Just imagine it without the health issues: Guy comes into your office and stands too close to you. You tell him to back off. He refuses and jokes about how he’s pretty sure you could defend yourself. You tell him to back off again. He says, “Oh, I’m not so close as all that.”

    This is creepy, aggressive behavior even without the added issue of possibly passing along a life-threatening disease. Adding the virus, you may as well put a knife into the scenario. “Aw, you don’t think I’d really use this on you, do you? Besides, I bet you could block it with your purse or something…” (Takes a swing.) Calling the guy a name is pretty tame. Personally, I think you’d have been justified shoving furniture at him.

  45. OP#1*

    Hi all OP1 here!

    Thanks for all of the comments and I wish I had time to respond to them all, but it’s been another hectic morning here.

    A couple of things/updates:
    1. I think it was genuinely a lapse in judgment as opposed to intentionally trying to be malicious. He’s spent 2 hours on the phone this morning trying to rehome a patient’s pets because he has no family in the country and cannot do it himself as he goes on full time end of life care. It’s well outside his job description and just another example of how much he genuinely cares about people.
    2. I did say something about it this morning and he said that he told his boss yesterday and the family also apologized for putting him in that position. I don’t know what’s going to happen with his boss, but he did own up to it.
    3. Our relationship is just fine (though it certainly would have given me pause if #2 hadn’t happened).

    Thanks again for all of the helpful comments!

    1. revueller*

      Glad to hear he owned up! It was a serious ethical breach and a blow to his potential patient’s trust (I hope he gets the chance to speak to her and apologize as well).

      Not to tie everything back to corona, but there was a Twitter Fight a while ago about how to convince people to wash their hands more often instead of buying heaping loads of sanitizer. Someone decided to claim that sanitizer doesn’t work at all — which isn’t true. Their goal was to use the lie to convince people to do the right thing. A noble goal, but directly against the ethics of science and specifically science communication. The goal of science communication is to give the public the best and most accurate information to protect themselves and act accordingly. Lying is never, never okay even if it would get the desired result, which I assume is what your boyfriend tried to go along with here.

      I hope in the future your boyfriend feels more empowered to talk to patients truthfully about their options, especially since he so clearly cares about their wellness. I don’t think he’s a bad person – we can all make bad calls when we think we don’t have other options. Wishing you both the best of luck right now.

    2. Mama Bear*

      Glad for the update. Having had to go through hospice care with a relative, I would be appalled if my dying (yet reasonably lucid) family member was mislead about their care, no matter who started it. Glad the family apologized, too. It’s hard to think clearly at a time like that.

    3. LGC*

      Okay, so I retract my DTMFA (because it sounds like he’s not a complete MFA). And I’m glad you called him out on it and he responded appropriately – mostly because even if he was under a lot of stress and even if he is a great guy, that was kind of a MFA thing (and an extremely shady thing) to do.

      That said…yeah, that’s still a pretty serious lapse in judgment, and I don’t think that should be minimized. The family put him in an awkward position, but also…like, they’re going through even more stuff (hospice is not great), so I’m a bit more willing to extend them grace here. Again, it’s probably not DTMFA-worthy given that he’s sorry about it and has taken steps to rectify it, but it’s not great.

  46. Clementine*

    As pointed out, any conversation with a too-close, non-mask-wearing person really ups the level of hazard, particularly in an indoor setting, because talking is possibly even more effective at virus-spreading than coughing. I honestly don’t know the right answer, but a protracted conversation is not it, regardless of any slur or insult used. With the benefit of after-the-fact consideration, I might move to the farthest corner and figure out who to call from my cellphone for help.

  47. Database Developer Dude*

    Blueberry, the LW whose coworker sprayed -him- with Lysol for coughing was me. (cisgender AMAB he/him/his). The very next day our office split each branch up and had us working from different locations. I got to stay in our main location. She’s in another location.

    1. Blueberry*

      I’m glad you’re well away from her and her Lysol-wielding ways! (I was using the ‘generic she/her’ that gets used on AAM, fwiw.)

  48. not neurotypical*

    #3: “Moron” is not just “sharper than I intended to be.” It’s an ableist slur, like calling someone “retarded” and should never be used.

    Historically, “moron” was one of the categories of people with what was then called “mental retardation” and now called, more accurately, “developmental disabilities.”

    There were plentiful “moron jokes” and other expressions of hurtful bias using that term, which then entered the vernacular as a term of derision.

    Allison, can you update your response to reflect this?

  49. Observer*

    On #5 – Does anyone remember the letter writer who was upset that their company had sent out a phishing email as a training exercise and had used a heading that could be potentially extremely upsetting? Well, THIS is the kind of thing we were talking about when some of us defended the company.

  50. Happy Pineapple*

    #1 Whoa whoa whoa. OP, please take that as a huge red flag. I am a non-medical volunteer for a local hospital’s hospice program and this is an enormous breech of ethics. I’m not even being paid, but if I did anything like this I would be fired so fast that it would make your head spin. In fact, impersonating a medical professional to a patient in a way that may influence their care decisions may even be illegal.

  51. BeesKneeReplacement*

    OP2 I like your subject line style. What the company is doing is unethical, I’m sorry you have to deal with it.

  52. Luke*

    Re: #3

    It is more unprofessional for them to BE an idiot than for you to call them out on it.

  53. Professional Straphanger*

    As an American, I used to cringe when I heard that word. Then I spent a year working with the British Royal Marines in Afghanistan, lol.

  54. Harvey JobGetter*

    Re OP1, I was under the impression that a significant payout could be a constructive discharge for the purpose of UI benefits. What if OP is making $60K/year and contributes the $19K max. If so, this is a pay cut of $19K off of $79K (24%). Is that not constructive discharge?

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